A Reflection on “Abuelita Faith”

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, I have been reading Abuelita Faith by Kat Armas. She has done a masterful job reflecting on the integration of Latinx identity and faith. As someone from a mixed Afro-Latina and white heritage, this book has been essential in voicing the complexities of integrating marginalized identities and the personal journey of faith.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12030

I’m not sure how this idea became so prevalent but I hear it everywhere now and it really concerns me. I’m 100% Hispanic, both parents were born in poor families in Central America. I am not white and my home was absolutely a very “Hispanic” home. But the idea I see in religion, politics, education etc is that we can only relate, learn from, be inspired etc by someone that looks like us. I get that culture pots a role in how we view the world, but I believe we are allowing far too much emphasis on race, ethnicity, and culture in our religious and societal conversations.

The author makes it seem that they couldn’t learn from a white person. Or a rural person. Etc. I am Hispanic but that doesn’t mean I have to look at every single thing in my life as a “Hispanic” male. No one in the Bible shared my culture or race, they were by race almost all “white” and Jewish. But the principles presented and stories are what motivate and inspire us! The Bible teachers were teaching form a Jewish perspective, I don’t see how that’s different from the professor in this article teaching from their perspective and the author then applying it to their life.

When we get to the point where race and culture are the dominant lenses and filters through which we see the world and by which we evaluate whether we can learn from someone or not, we’ve lost our way. Jesus was a Jewish male, does that mean a black female cannot relate to Him? Paul was a Jewish male, does that mean i as a Hispanic cannot learn from him.

Yes we’re all influenced by our culture etc, but I think we’ve crossed the line where race and gender and culture are now the only things we see and we look at a person first by whether they belong to our same group and if not then we dismiss their opinion as not relatable because they don’t see the world thru my cultures lens.

I’ve been inspired and I’ve connected with black women as well as white men. I’ve learned a lot from very educated people as well as from completely unschooled people. We always talk about The US being a melting pot and being diverse but it seems we’re going backwards. The push in the 50’s and 60’s was integration. Now it seems everyone wants to go back to being mainly with their group. Black students association, Hispanic employees association, Chinese students association etc. I’ve never liked the idea of these formal groups because although I see the need or desire to be in our own culture (which I do like) but formalizing all these separate groups tends to lead to the idea of us va them, and I’m seeing this more and more in the church and it’s making relations worse not better.

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I just liked the idea of the Holy Spirit being female. I’ve suggested that for years. Jesus–obviously male. God the parent–well, perhaps gender-neutral (oops, that might offend someone!). Humanity made in the image of the Godhead. Holy Spirit–female.

Actually, I think the Godhead is so much more complicated than we can imagine! Yet they gave us the gift of imagination.

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If I’m not mistaken, I don’t believe Kendra is saying she has nothing to learn from those who are different from her. It’s just that, in many theological circles, there is a dominant perspective that overwhelms all others and assumes “universal” status while remaining largely unaware of its biases. I am quite certain that Kendra welcomes all voices to the theological table and wishes to de-center the conversation and make it a more heterogeneous one. Indeed, I think that is her point: abuelita faith is no less legitimate or insightful than, say, the faith of the “white self-sufficient man.” [BTW, Willie Jennings’ book is an important read for all seminarians and seminary professors.]

It seems to me that the professor’s race/gender/culture were key factors in the author not being able to relate or learn. The second quote above specifically says BIPOC (a term I don’t like but I’ll use it as the author did) have difficulty learning from white people. The author didn’t say “white people” but if people of color are the ones not being able to learn then it’s implied. And this is the idea I have an issue with. Why is learning so difficult just because the teacher isn’t my race?

What the author is unintentionally saying is that white people would struggle to learn anything from people of color as well. It goes both ways…and if a white person dropped a class because the professor was black and they couldn’t relate or felt the professor wasn’t teaching in a way they could connect to, I can’t imagine we’d be ok with that.

Yes, we all connect most naturally with those most like us, that includes race, culture etc. but the ideas presented in the article go too far for me. I see your point, but I don’t agree that that’s the authors main point. Blessings.

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