Culturally Churchy, Theologically Complicated™

I realized that I kept coming back to these words in the greater context of some of my work. So, I’d like to offer a fuller explanation here in the form of a snippet from an in-progress memoir:

My theological formation pulls from various interpretations of Biblical text & context, other spiritual practices, traditions & texts, as well as the culture & context in which I live. This does not betray or even imply that Biblical text is trite. Let me be 100% clear. This is the ability to unpack, read thoroughly, deconstruct, contextualize, & hold Biblical text in sacred tension with understanding, appreciating, and applying salient knowledge from other (formal or informal) systems of discussing the Divine. This is moving out of “simple faith” to “This shit is complicated and beautiful and we have to acknowledge that”.

Being theologically complicated (meaning: the synopsis of my lived theology cannot be readily defined by a quick phrase, cliche, or list) can also include what I’m calling “cultural churchiness”, defined here as:
1) The fluid ability to immediately pull from (and deeply appreciate) the lexicon, phrases, movements, dances, gestures, and cultural expectations associated with the Black church* at large.

Examples include:

  • Understanding the fine art of call-and-response & understanding nonverbal protocol for when the preached word isn’t resonating
  • Understanding the varied definitions of what “I won’t be before you long” implies
  • Directly accessing sense memory on the scent of the infamous ‘Church Punch’ in my dreams
  • Accessing a range of hand-claps (all of which mean different things)
  • Choosing whether or not to integrate the spiritual practices therein into current faith understandings… at each point of the process (i.e. quickening, tarrying / soaking, shouting, glossolalia, and other denominational practices)

2) [Donna’s definition]: “To be culturally churchy is to (at some level) understand sayings and actions that come from the culture of church-goers but don’t always have to deal with the religion itself. Example: Some man stepped in front of my moving vehicle causing me to stop short & CJ automatically said “Oh my… *sigh* Bless him, Lord”

3) Illustrated examples include the canon of work by Karlton Humes aka @NotKarltonBanks

This definition is important to add to the site because many of my other pieces deal with these themes. It is my hope that this provides necessary context.

Photo Credit: My dear friend, Kenya Cummings, made this care package for me based on the saying & I appreciate it so! Pictured here:
Hard candy which refers to church mothers
Amethyst points for crystal work
Lavender rock sugar for aromatherapy work
Frankincense & lavendar oil
(and more)