Liberation Theology for Singles

Christena Cleveland:

Now that I’m “35 and alone,” I’m beginning to formally construct a liberation theology of singleness. This article is just a beginning — and I’m hoping for feedback from single people.

Even though the term “liberation theology” makes some people (especially conservative Christians) uncomfortable, I’ve chosen to use it because liberation theologies seek to free people who have been oppressed by dominant theologies. Liberation theologies accomplish this by uncovering the ways in which the oppressed people’s identities have been tarnished by the dominant theologies, and defining a new reality, in which the image of God in all are honored. For example, Mujerista (e.g., Latina) liberation theologian Ada María Isazi-Díaz described liberation theology as bringing “to birth new women and new men…knowing that such work requires the denunciation of all destructive sense of self-abnegation.”

Additionally, liberation theologies are typically written by and for people of color in opposition to dominant theologies. Due to brutal societal forces like mass incarceration, heterosexual brown and black people experience singleness at disproportionately higher rates than whites. For example, according to a 2009 Census Bureau study, 60% of college-educated black women have never been married compared to 38% of college-educated white women. Since brown and black people experience singleness at higher rates than whites, they are also more likely to be marginalized by the dominant Western church’s marriage-centric theology. In other words, in addition to dealing with racism and sexism (and other -isms), single black women like me also have to deal with being marginalized as single people in our churches.

There is much work to be done. In order for single people to be free and empowered to follow the path before us, we must reject the dominant theologies that oppress us and forge a new way of thinking, living and relating. In other words, we need a theology of singleness that liberates us.

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