Book Review: If God Still Breathes, why can’t I: black lives matter and biblical authority

Dr. Angela Parker managed to create an academic/theological work for the Black church, for such a time as this. Her womanist viewpoint is not something that should be considered ancillary to the faith, but should be used to reframe the Black church’s modus operandi. The Black church has operated in a state of assimilation into the white Eurocentric evangelical religion called Western Christianity. Her parsing of Biblical Greek throughout demonstrates the potential for non-white, non-male scholars to see themselves as a part of the Imago Dei. Dr. Parker exposes the human-inspired canonizations within the canon of sacred scripture.

The introduction lays the basic foundation for her arguments in the remaining chapters. Parker highlights how centering biblical understanding on Black and Brown bodies is a contentious point in white spaces (3). Her points on the issues with inerrancy and infallibility of biblical scripture are thorough and thought-provoking.

Chapter 1 (Stifled Breathing: Trained to Be A White Male Biblical Scholar) cuts to the heart of the matter about how theological training focuses on creating white male Bible scholars (13), even if they are neither white nor male. Throughout the chapter, Dr. Parker explains how the tension with her humanity as a Womanist scholar and white male biblical scholarship creates the inability to breathe.

Chapter 2 (White Supremacist Authoritarianism is Not God’s Breath) is where she takes the concepts of inerrancy and infallibility and builds on them to show how they are necessary to create and maintain the doctrine of protective strategy. In her conclusion, Parker proposes that protective strategy is about maintaining control of one group over another (43). In other words, it is all about who controls the narrative, in this case the understanding of the Bible and the resulting orthopraxy.

Chapter 3 (Stop Gaslighting Me) explains how the acts of micro-aggression and gaslighting coupled with the White supremacist authoritarian views of inerrancy and infallibility are a dangerous combination. The danger lies in not just the historical gaslighting of the women by the men in the text but by the contemporary male scholars who interpret the text.

Chapter 4 (Moving from Stifled Breath to Full-Throated Faith) goes into detail about the importance of translating from Biblical Greek is to Dr. Parker. She goes on further to talk about how her Womanist sensibilities will always lead beyond the academy’s training and scholarship to “center the experiences of embodied Black folk” (70). The remainder of the chapter dissects the implications of conventional Eurocentric framing of the Galatian context.

Conclusion (Breathing Womanist Air) is about telling us what she has told us. Parker does not simply leave us there; she reiterates how “White supremacist authoritarianism is often embedded in Christian notion of biblical authority, stifling God’s breath” (92).

Overall, If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I: Black Lives Matter & Biblical Authority, is an excellent addition to any library, whether or not you have a seminary degree or are a new Christian or a “seasoned saint.” I highly recommend this as mandatory reading for any Black pastor/minister to help see themselves and their congregants and know when dogma, doctrine, and scholarship can be suffocating. Angela Parker challenges us to not just settle for the status quo but to allow our very being play a role in how we see things and not discount our intersectionality, especially as a Womanist scholar and theologian.

Rev. Corey L. Brown, MDiv

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