Monica Coleman’s Making a Way Out of No Way offers a vision for a “postmodern womanist theology.” In it, she explains that “womanist theology is a response to sexism in black theology and racism in feminist theology” (p. 6). She goes on to state that “postmodern womanist theology takes salvation away from the exclusive domain of Jesus, Christianity, and institutions” and that salvation is not an individual process directed toward an afterlife but is rather a communal activity in the here and now – “the cooperative working together of the divine and creation” (p. 170).
While in no way denying the specificity that her message is primarily addressed to the experiences of black women (p. 7), Coleman also makes it known that God is “the God of all” (p. 82). It is out of this shared understanding that write.
Part of what I find inspiring in Coleman’s theological vision – and she is clear that we are all theologians (p. 2) – is that while we are called to acknowledge and work against oppression and injustice, our primary function as humans is not critique or despair. Instead, the focus is on building communities of hope that can radiate outward. “We teach and heal so that our communities might be examples for the wider world,” she says. “We want our actions to creatively transform the world outside of our own local contexts” (p. 169).
“Creative transformation involves God’s presentation of unforeseen possibilities; human agency; a telos of justice, survival, and quality of life; and a challenge to the existing order” (p. 93).
While not operating out of an explicitly theological framework, echoes of a similar inspirational and proactive view can be found among some libertarian thinkers. Two of the authors that most clearly embody this ideal to me are Murray Rothbard and Jeffrey Tucker.
“The case for libertarian optimism can be made in a series of what might be called concentric circles, beginning with the broadest and longest-run considerations and moving to the sharpest focus on short-run trends,” writes Rothbard. “In the broadest and longest-run sense, libertarianism will win eventually because it and only it is compatible with the nature of man and of the world. Only liberty can achieve man’s prosperity, fulfillment, and happiness. In short, libertarianism will win because it is true, because it is the correct policy for mankind, and truth will eventually win out.”
In “How to find joy in an unfree world,” Tucker explains, “My whole experience suggests that personal inspiration is the ingredient lacking in the current generation of people who have come to love liberty. They have access to texts, knowledge, and theory as never before in human history. What they lack is a method for using what they know and the personal drive to do so. People are too quick to blame outside forces for failure without realizing that outside forces conspiring against progress are part of the structure of all environments in all times and places… brush away despair and unlock the inner drive to make a difference. Then join me in finding the joys of life and working to make life more joyful for others.”
Of course, it is not just certain libertarian writers who hold this view of life. In perhaps one of George Fox’s most famous quotes from his Journal, he shares that “I also saw that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God; and I had great openings.”
And how does Fox instruct us to live out our lives? In despair or in hope and joy?
“And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.”
None of this means there isn’t work to do. The task before all of us is great. But it need not be soul-crushing, and we need not be defeatist. In the face of historical and ongoing injustices, violence, and despair, how will you invite others into the joyful work of building communities of hope that have the power to creatively transform the world?