The Theory of Difference
Students of color, across the board, are now asking us about the best ways for them to challenge the canon within their respective disciplines. (Though the term canon can refer to the Bible, more broadly construed, it can refer to any discipline such as the “literary canon.” In the study of religion, we are not only speaking about religious text but also the texts of theologians that we have canonized to aid in our interpretations.)
Not only are we encouraging them to know and expand the canon, we are encouraging them to use new methodologies to support their work. My spent my seminary development at the School of Theology, Virginia Union University (STVU). There, the highly esteemed Miles Jones was our treasured Homiletician.
Homiletics is “the art of preaching.” Jones frequently told us to “sit with the text.” This process is partly instinct, but it can still be taught. To sit with a text is to re-read it and to challenge yourself to see something you’ve never seen before. Sometimes, it may require you to read multiple versions of the same text. Your engagement with the text may require you to write words that stand out, to think about authors who have made similar statements.
When studying the Bible, the words which you choose to explore might be subtle. One example that I recently encountered is the Old Testament statement, “I am Black and beautiful” (Song, 1:5, NIV). I recently read a translation of that same text which changed one word – the conjunction. When I read, “I am Black but beautiful,” in other translations, it sent me off on a hunt. Is Blackness a modifier which must be overcome, or is it a modifier which further exemplifies beauty?
Which one was true? The difference in meaning was quite significant! When we sit within our methodological frameworks, it requires the same type of patience: sit with the text. If you are using Audre Lorde‘s “theory of difference,” you sit with the text. Why does she make her observations? How is her theory different from others? What is the impact of that theory? Though her thinking is well regarded within Black Studies (see Birmingham City University as one example) and Feminist Studies, is there resistance to her theory from within the “wider Academy,” and if so, why?
Is Lorde misappropriated? If so, what are the correctives you might offer? How does her theoretical framework assist you in your study of anthropology, religion, gender, history – how is her framing relevant? Does her framework help you provide new insights for your students or your readers?
Think of these things as you read Solidarity and watch her video on “The Theory of Difference.” Let us know what you think.
As a special treat, we provided a link to a sermon by the nationally regarded homiletician, Rev. Dr. Miles Jones above in the link attached to his name.
Those who know, know. You’re welcome.
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