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Toward a Womanist Homiletic

Katie Cannon, Alice Walker and Emancipatory Proclamation


Donna E. Allen

The sermon is a major theological voice in the Black church; it carries enormous influence and is traditionally and predominantly a Christian-based theoethical construct. Through the sermon, the preacher negotiates the contours of African American sacred and secular culture. The congregation is invited to examine social morals and values according to the faith claims of the sermon.
Toward a Womanist Homiletic builds on the work of Katie G. Cannon and Alice Walker to offer a womanist paradigm for analyzing the sermons of Black women and proposes the content of a womanist homiletic. This womanist homiletic is a foundational construct that includes an examination of theological language, the insights on the ‘trans-rational’ nature of preaching and the function of embodiment and performed identity in preaching. It also includes insights from a womanist critique of language in Black preaching, particularly the prevalence of derogatory language about women in the sacred rhetoric of Black preaching.


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Chapter II. Pathos, Ethos, and Embodiment 29


Chapter II Pathos, Ethos, and Embodiment Effective preaching is more than the well-chosen words of the preacher. “Good speakers shape how listeners view them as speakers (ethos), and involve listeners emotionally (pathos), in the preaching event.”1 In mov- ing toward a womanist homiletic, it is helpful to revisit Walker’s defini- tion of womanist to move beyond logos and examine pathos and ethos and their implications for a womanist homiletic. The Rhetorical Stance of Pathos Pathos is an appeal to the emotions of the audience. Pathos in rhetoric refers to understanding how to create a particular mood or feeling in order to solicit a specific response. Developing pathos in a sermon requires creating presence.2 Hogan and Reid cite what homiletic scholar David Buttrick describes as the three intentions of Christian rhetoric, which form “the task of creating presence.”3 For Buttrick, the three intentions of Christian rhetoric are a bringing out, associating, and disassociating: Christian preaching involves a “bringing out” or a “bringing into view” of convictional understandings—understandings of God, of God’s mysterious Allen_Book.indb 29 03/12/12 3:23 PM 30 toward a womanist homiletic purposes, and of unseen wonders of grace in human lives. . . . Christian rheto- ric also associates. In preaching, we put together Christian understandings with images of lived experience. . . . Christian preaching will also disassociate. We are being-saved-in the-world and, . . . Thus, again and again, preaching will distinguish Christian understandings from our common social attitudes— the “isms,” “ologies,” popular slogans, and tacit assumptions which may be fashionable.4 In...

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