Met with Dancing: The Changing Faces of African Christian Women -- By: Lynn Cohick

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 21:3 (Summer 2007)
Article: Met with Dancing: The Changing Faces of African Christian Women
Author: Lynn Cohick


Met with Dancing:
The Changing Faces of African Christian Women

Lynn Cohick

LYNN H. COHICK is Associate Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has published on women in Early Judaism and earliest Christianity, as well as the second-century figure Melito of Sardis.

Introduction

Gender does not exist alone, but is, in fact, a social construct.1 A woman is part of a community that defines and shapes the definition of gender. It is not enough just to focus on gender, as though that will reveal all there is to know about African Christian women. In fact, even the qualifiers “African” and “Christian” are at one level too broad. For example, a woman from Rwanda will have experienced life much differently than one from Nigeria because the social and political situations of each country are quite different. Again, an Anglican raised in the church will have a different perspective on the faith than a newly converted pentecostal. Those differences need not discourage, for they provide the spice which enriches the entire meal. As Denise Ackermann explains, “Difference, once acknowledged, opens the way to participation and inclusiveness.”2

I hope to accomplish several things in this article. First, I want to allot space for the African Christian woman to speak her thoughts. In the past, African women have been silenced, or, if they did speak, no one bothered to listen. Now, after these women were told for so long to keep quiet, some in the West are a bit presumptuous in their expectations, shoving a microphone under an African woman’s mouth and turning the stage lights on. I recognize that it is not always easy to speak when one’s voice is not warmed up, so my intention in doing short, private interviews was to allow for a free exchange of ideas, and then to give those ideas a careful hearing.

In focusing on African Christian women’s identity, one is faced with establishing just what is meant by the term “identity.” I would suggest that there is no single, elusive identity waiting to be discovered, but, rather, several identities that interact in various social settings. Govinden Devarakshanam notes that the search for a “true” identity is futile. “We need to affirm many identities, to challenge colonial, imperialist paradigms of our identity which make us think of ourselves one-dimensionally, in ways that reinforce and sustain white supremacy.”3 Women are assigned identities such as wife, mother, daughter-in-law, job holder, and housekeeper. All these shape her own per...

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