RAISING CLARITY’s focus on ‘Working “Racially,” Claiming Grandeur’ exists to clarify white racism not only to eliminate it but to get white folks to claim our full grandeur as human beings. We aim to get whites to realize where our interests really are (hint: not where we seem to think they are sometimes). We do this is so our Love and what we do with that Love are no longer limited by our racism. (That’s why I like this image of the Library of Congress for these posts: it’s grand, and it belongs to everyone.)
Today’s messy, vulnerable post is offered with humility about a book that changed me: Dr. Obery Hendricks’ Living Water.
Here is the publisher’s description of the book, a richly layered imagining that takes off from a very few lines in the Gospel of John (4: 7-29) in which Jesus meets the woman at the well who says she has no husband. You may remember Jesus responds to her something like, “And how! You’ve had five. And the man you are with isn’t your husband.”
This would have been a serious opportunity for a man to write something other than feminist fiction, but feminist fiction is what Dr. Obery Hendricks has written. Here is an image of him, used (as is the bookcover image) without permission but I hope with blessing:
My favorite thing about this picture is how much Hendricks looks like he wants to laugh. I like a Professor of Biblical Interpretation* who can laugh.
The book is about so many things–healing from white racism, men healing themselves and their relationships with women, a woman healing herself by coming into her own power–and the Divine Within all these things.
Obery’s Jesus seems a lot like my Jesus: a (mostly) gentle agitator and satyagrahi, healer, guide. The one I read in the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Thomas as well as the bedpost gospels (“Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, bless this bed that I lay on…”)
But Jesus doesn’t even come into the book til the very end. The book is about who this woman at the well might have been with her five husbands. How did she get that way? And who is that last guy, if not her husband?
Dr. Hendricks tells us her life in fiction truer than most truth. If I tell you much directly, I will destroy the impact of how wisely Hendricks has structured the book. There is an amazing surprise–and I fancy myself an alert reader–at the start of Part 2. It transforms how we see the woman we have followed for three-quarters of the book. And how much we miss.
There is a powerful theology implicate and explicate in the book as well, for our further learning and deepening: a twofold experience of the Divine Feminine, as Wisdom–called “She” in the Book of Proverbs (Hokhmah in Hebrew)–and as “womb-spirit,” as Hendricks’ female characters term it, illustrated in Jesus’ merciful tenderness.
I found myself and my own healing in this book. I think I was supposed to! You will as well. Yet the hard truth is that if I hadn’t read about this book in April Silver’s email newsletter Put On BLAST!** I would likely never have known about someone so good for our societal healing and my own. I would never have known just and only because Hendricks is African-American and I am white. That is a crime. And I am tired of being that kind of criminal.
So while I could post about this book in many categories on this blog, I chose this one because working “racially” and claiming my own grandeur has wrought for me this particular miracle: a Black and proud theology of Jesus that WORKS. FOR ALL OF US. That shows us who we can be–for good and for bad. (All the bad guys in this book are not white, but all the whites are bad guys. Let’s deal with it. It’s warranted in the book. Read it anyway.)
See what this book does within you, including, if you are white, what it does to your sense of who you are, and with whom you/we identify. (You are not alone. Healing is possible. We can recover ourselves.)
This post is dedicated to my soul-colleague B., and his serious womb-spirit.
**I was drawn to read more about and by Obery Hendricks by April Silver’s Put On BLAST! featuring Hendricks’ Huffington Post blog post on single fatherhood. Hendricks is a regular columnist to the Huffington Post; here is how to find him there–for example on same-sex marriage and capitalism in posts that may surprise you. His Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted (2007) has also caused a nice furor.
To learn about April Silver’s work, you can click right there on her name, or see our recent post on her special offer, dig into its links, and learn about who she is and the renewal of culture and thought she is inspiring.