“A womanist is a Black feminist or feminist of colour. Black American activist and author Alice Walker used the term to describe Black women who are deeply committed to the wholeness and well-being of all of humanity, male and female. According to Walker, ‘womanist’ unites women of colour with the feminist movement at ‘the intersection of race, class, and gender oppression.” Robert Longely
My Label? New Thought Womanist
I am a New Thought Womanist.
Came up with that back in 2014. Labelling is not my thing neither are boxes. Yet, so often people would ask what are my beliefs, worldview, etc so a “tag” simplifies my response.
Let me define my understanding of New Thought and “Womanist.”
Long before going to the former USSR for seven years to attend University, my religious beliefs were wavering. There was a knowing in me that I was more than an unwanted child (by my father), more than my mother’s punching bag and more than a worthless sinner every preacher spewed on from his pulpit.
Going to the motherland of communism, where atheism was god, I got a reprieve from religion. The yearning for “something more,” as Sarah van Breathnach entitled her book, burrowed but only for a while.
Thoughts Are Creative
My belief is that thoughts are creative. Standing fully in my identity as a woman of colour, with the passing time and life lessons, I have relinquished radical feminism. The need or desire to burn my bra or hide my head in false guilt regarding politics or religion have long died for me. As my life unfolded, unravelled even in some ways, like the groundhog my hibernating spirit quietly awakened many years ago.
In the early 2000s, following a ‘heads up’ from a friend, I found myself enthralled in the front row of a church. At the time, said church held its services at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. “We are New Thought Christians,” the beautiful African-American Minister announced.
“New what Christians?!”
I would spend the two years studying those words, reading The Bible, listening to speakers from around the world – and the more I heard the more my heart said, “Yes, finally!”
Considered a cult by some, at least heretics by others, the New Thought Movement is:
“…rooted in Socrates’ notion of universal science…early New Thought leaders shared a Romantic interest between metaphysics and American Christianity. In addition to New Thought, Christian Science, transcendental meditation, theosophy, and other movements were born from similar interests, all in the late 18th and early 19th century. Early New Thought leaders were influenced by Calvinistic belief in the absolute sovereignty of God; John Locke’s belief that anything that existed in the mind that could be expressed through words; and the transcendentalist belief that ideal spirituality “transcends” the physical and is realized only through individual intuition, instead of through religion.” Wikipedia
The deeper the dive into these ideas the more excited my ever-curious mind became. With time, my embrace with a Divine entity tightened. Why? Finally, it was affirmed that I was loved. Nothing else mattered to me. Not my then marketing communications career and not the paltry sum of money in our family bank account. The “horrendous” state of the Jamaican economy at the time no longer scared me.
Nothing mattered but getting to know this God once and for all.
My then partner did not agree nor was receptive to this zen-metaphysician-Jesus lover that was emerging. The banshee was gone. I who was once glued to every radio, television or any other broadcasting device, was no longer listening. My then-partner was a broadcast journalist and 8+ years prior, I was the unofficial, unpaid producer, researcher and/or coordinator whenever that microphone was turned on or the camera was about to roll.
Added to that, I was breathing, eating, drinking and even scuba diving in politics since my ninth birthday. The upper echelons of the party that my mother handed over my birth papers to were frequent guests in our humble house. I worked, campaigned and did anything else assigned for this party since I turned 17 years old.
However, none of that was a match to the delicious “bread” (sustenance) that I began receiving from this strange but so right for me church.
It was more than a teaching, more than a philosophy. It was my life being returned to me – if I wanted it. Yes, I wanted it but “could you pause it just a bit so that I can ensure my relationship didn’t fall apart?” was the question on my lips.
I remember crying in my minister’s office a few days before we migrated to Canada. For the first time, I was confessing that the decision to leave Jamaica was not mine. My partner was a passive-aggressive personality type and the subtle ultimatum was issued. “Either me or this @$%& church.”
Four years later, after migrating to Canada, there I was lying on the bed in my darkened room one October evening (2006) waiting for Death to come. My partner had left me. I was unceremoniously dumped and suicide was the way my weakened self chose.
In the intervening years between our migration to Canada and my attempted suicide, I went to theological college. Pursuing my second Master’s degree, this time in Theological Studies, I met some brilliant minds. One such was my professor in Social Justice.
Although my raging flame for politics had ebbed to a few sparks (Canadian politics in those days did nothing for me either), it was enough to get me heated in this Catholic, male-dominated University.
The women’s movement in Jamaica was my passion so the genteel and oftentimes too proper struggle for equality within Christianity was too much for me to ignore. My professor saw the fire returning to my eyes when the feminist perspective arose in class discussions. It was he who guided me to “Womanist Theology” as he knew how much my Jamaican-African identity meant to me.
Who Is A Womanist?
Womanist” is a word coined by Alice Walker in her book, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: A Womanist Prose,” and:
“Womanist theology is a religious conceptual framework which reconsiders and revises the traditions, practices, scriptures, and biblical interpretation with a special lens to empower and liberate African American women in America.
Womanist theology associates with and departs from Feminist theology and Black theology specifically because it integrates the perspectives and experiences of African American and other women of colour. The former’s lack of attention to the everyday realities of women of colour and the latter’s lack of understanding of the full dimension of liberation from the unique oppressions of Black women require bringing them together in Womanist Theology.
Some of its tasks are excavating the life stories of poor women of African descent in the church and to understanding the “languages” of black women.” Source: Wikipedia
Like a fish returned to the water, I swam to the deep for dear life! Here was a merging of my beings, my 4-P’s as I used to say: The personal, political, professional and pastoral Claudette became one.
For six years, through the halls of the University, in retreat centres, on the palliative units and in the chapels of the hospitals and in the prisons where I served, Life moulded me. Some times it was pleasurable, some occasions it was heart-wrenching and other times my soul begged for it to end!
What Do I Know Now?
Ten years have passed since those days of working as a chaplain, and the words that carry me through, helped me heal my dark places include:
You have to die to all that was, could have been or wanted to be. The only constant is change AND Love. Yes, Love.
Have I given up on politics, social justice issues? No, but as Jesus said, “I am in the world but not of it.” Therefore, I no longer rise with clenched fists to human trumpets. The empty promises of human beings no longer interest me. My thoughts then actions are guided only by Love’s voice.
That is what led me, out of the tragedy of my last husband’s murder, to create the Daughters of Sheba Foundation.
Be Blessed and Be A Blessing,