Religion and womanism in the lives of Central Texas African American Baptist women
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African American Baptist churches are not known as bastions of sexual equality. The dominance of males in the pulpit and the conservative and literal interpretation of the Bible often support this idea. African American women, however, were influential in building and expanding the role of the African American church as well as their role within the church, and they remain the greatest percentage of the congregation. African American women, particularly those with a high level of religious commitment, utilize their religious beliefs to construct their ideas of womanhood and those religious beliefs may be shaped by an underlying womanist ideology. This dissertation offers insight into understanding the tension between the perceived sexism in the African American church and women’s continued work in their congregations and utilization of their religious beliefs. Twenty women between the ages of 25 and 55 were encouraged to tell their stories about their experiences with religion in interviews. Each woman’s interview focused on her religious beliefs and church involvement past and present, how her beliefs and activities affected how she felt about herself, and her opinion of women’s influence in the church. Transcripts of the interviews were analyzed for perceptions of self, inequality, power and a connection with womanism. In speaking to each woman could be found the tenets of womanism wrestling with conservative religious beliefs. Despite their church’s conservative environment, the participants attributed their positive self-regard to their faith. Strength, independence, leadership, independent thinking and being community minded were attributes these women sought to emulate and pass on to others. While the participants understood themselves to be equal to men and capable of wielding the power of influence, at the same time there is contentment with or tolerance for the current male dominant structure of their church. This is due to a belief in a hierarchical system of control at home and church, referred to as the ‘God-head hierarchy’. God controls all, man answers to God and woman answers to man. The complexity of womanhood shows as they try to negotiate and interpret their religious ideas with their personal experiences.
Turner, Deidra Rochelle (2007). Religion and womanism in the lives of Central Texas African American Baptist women. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from