If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I?: Black Lives Matter and Biblical Authority by Angela N Parker

If God Still Breathes, Why Can't I?: Black Lives Matter and Biblical Authority by Angela N Parker cover imageSummary: An introduction to hermeneutics through the lens of Womanist Biblical methods.

Generally, when I read a book, I try to write about it within a few days. This has become a spiritual practice of mine, not just because I like to encourage reading but also because I want to incorporate what I am learning. Part of that incorporation is writing about the book so that I can put on paper what was important to me. But sometimes, I get busy with my paying work or other aspects of life, and at some point, I am just too far away from a book to do it justice. In the case of If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I? I read it in February 2022 and then again in December 2022. It was certainly one of my favorite books of 2022, but because I hadn’t written about it, it was hard to talk about why succinctly.

I have had a running book club since 2020 or 2021, depending on whether you count the Be the Bridge groups that it grew out of or the later discussion of Color of Compromise that started an actual book club. Since then, I am told we have discussed 12 books. I have wanted to get a group to talk about If God Still Breathes for a while, and this spring seemed like a good time.

If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I? is a fairly short book, only 128 pages and about 3 hours. But there is some weight to it. It was the most challenging book we have tackled so far. Most of the group was new to Womanist thought, so there was that aspect of difficulty. Only a couple of other group members had taken formal college-level Bible classes either. Mixing womanist thinking and biblical hermeneutics introduced many in the group to a lot of new vocabulary. One of the members expressed how happy he was to be reading on Kindle because there is a built-in dictionary.

As someone with a seminary degree who has read Womanist theology as part of my seminary education, I did not think this was a hard book to understand. Still, the group’s reaction did help me understand where there were ideas I had come to think of as ordinary but not common. I knew that the discussion of her being trained as a “White Male Scholar” and the discussion of Hagel and other German scholars would be a bit challenging. Still, the fourth chapter, where she talked about translation theory and the Greek language, was more difficult than I remembered. There are a lot of subtle nods to other things that, if you have some background, show the brilliance of the writing. If you don’t have the background, you don’t need to know it to understand the main point, but I did find myself wanting everyone else to understand what was under the surface.

There are a lot of things going on in a very short book. She introduces a lot of biography in part because she is introducing the concepts of Womanist biblical interpretation, and those biographical elements are a really good way of showing why Womanist is not just appropriate but is an essential corrective to what some would consider more traditional biblical interpretation.

Chapter Four is the longest and most constructive of the chapters because, after having laid out her background, she shows how the womanist biblical interpretation works through the discussion of Galatians. I wanted the book to be longer because I wanted to see other examples of Womanist biblical interpretation. But I also read Wil Gafney and other womanist theologians, so I was not completely new. And I think writing a short introduction was the right choice because it does something different from a long biblical interpretation. If God Still Breathes is about introducing the method, not a longer commentary on scripture.

Because I have read it so many times and because I was leading a group through it, I have entirely too many notes and highlights. However, if you are interested in nearly 70 notes and highlights from a 128-page book, you can see them here.

If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I?: Black Lives Matter and Biblical Authority by Angela N Parker Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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