Sojourner Truth, Embodiedness, and the Erotic

Sancta Colloquia Episode 301 ft. The Rev. Dr. Kate Hanch*

In this episode of Sancta Colloquia, my first ever guest, Kate Hanch (@katehanch), allowed me to talk with her (again) to celebrate the 3rd season of Sancta Colloquia. What a crazy and wild ride it’s been since we first talked. So much has gone on, so many conversations had, so much has changed due to growth. This time Kate discussed Sojourner Truth and her influences and deification of the erotic, specifically intersectionality and black feminism. Kate explains who Sojourner Truth was and her vital impact in preaching and embodiedness. Kate shares about Truth’s own embodiedness when she walks away from her slave master with her son; she doesn’t run, Kate stresses, she walks. And there is everything embodied and present in walking, specifically walking away. Kate emphasizes that there is humility in the lives of women that is not humiliation or shame but more about vulnerability and openness to God and to others. In this way, bodies can become as God (deification).  We have bodies and we experience the world and God in our bodies; we experience others through our bodies. Kate explains that sanctification, through the lens of Sojourner Truth’s life and preaching, is an ongoing process and a coming together with the erotic. Kate pushes the erotic energy of connection of this mystical union toward God and toward others. In a world that is (too?) obsessed with the erotic only as sexual gratification of taking from an other, Kate, with Truth, allows for a broader and more robust definition which see the erotic as self-embodiment and not just sexual gratification. Self-embodiment goes hand in hand with self-awareness (being in your body and aware of it, the intentionality of being) and this self-awareness is, for Kate, part of the erotic. As the conversation moves, Kate exhorts the listener toward waking to the image of God within. That this awakeness is about being powered (from the self) and not empowered, which implies that the power is coming from without–your power is coming from within. And you are not merely given a body (embodiedness) but you are bodied: you are a flesh and blood creature experience the divine sensations of the body and this fuels your substantial presence in the world (living into ourselves and enjoying ourselves with our bodies–minds connected to a body–erotic connecting to coming closer to God in sanctification). Sojourner Truth reminds us that we live and love (agape, philos, eros) in our bodies, we receive and take into our bodies, we give from our bodies…we self-give with humility and interdependence.

 

Intrigued? You should be. Listen here:

 

Kate recently defended her PhD dissertation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. It is entitled “Prophetic Humility: A Feminist Theological Account.” She reads medieval women and 19th century black women preachers as theologians, tracing a humility that is not humiliating from their work. Kate grew up Baptist in Missouri. She attended Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where she received her MDiv. She was ordained at Holmeswood Baptist Church, a Cooperative Baptist Church in Kansas City, where she served on staff before starting her doctoral education. While working on her dissertation, she has taught at the graduate, undergraduate, and continuing education levels through multiple institutions. Her scholarly work is published in the Liturgy JournalThe Review and Expositor, and Perspectives in Religious Studies. She has a chapter entitled “Light from Pre-Reformation Women’s Theological Contributions” in the book entitled Sources of Light: Resources for Baptist Churches Practicing Theology that was released in 2020. She also has two other chapters under contract in edited volumes about women and theology.

Kate currently serves as an associate pastor at a Methodist church in St. Charles, Missouri. She lives in the exurbs of Missouri with her husband Steve. She likes laughing, hiking, and singing along with Weird Al Yankovic. Follow her on twitter at @katehanch or Instagram at @kate_hanch.

Recommended Reading:

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Joy Bostic,  African American Female Mysticism: Nineteenth century religious activism
Margaret Washington, Sojourner Truth’s America
Jeroen Dewulf, The Pinkster King and the King of Kongo: The Forgotten History of America’s Dutch-Owned Slaves
Kelly Oliver, Witnessing: Beyond Recognition
Sojourner Truth, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Compiled by Olive Gilbert and Frances W. Titus, With a History of Her Labors and Correspondence Drawn from Her “Book of Life.” Also a Memorial Chapter, Giving the Particulars of Her Last Illness and Death. Battle Creek, Mich., 1884
Nikki Young, “Uses of the Erotic” for Teaching Queer Studies,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 40, no. 3-4
Keri Day, Religious Resistance to Neoliberalism: Womanist and Black Feminist Perspectives (New York: Palgrave Macmillan US: Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

White Supremacy, Mysticism, and Feminism

Welcome to Sancta Colloquia episode 101 ft. Kate Hanch

In this episode, I talk with my friend and colleague Rev. Kate Hanch (Twitter: @katehanch) and we discuss mysticism, feminism, and white-supremacy.  It’s clear that in this conversation I am wading into unknown theological waters, and Kate proves to be a good swim coach and life guard. She deftly moves me from my default to skepticism of mysticism into a “hot-damn!-Maybe-I-should-rethink-this” mindset. The way in which Kate engages medieval female  mystics rightly challenges my average (mis?)conceptions about Mysticism. She reveals that mysticism isn’t only about our vertical relation with God, but also about participating in the horizontal actively and politically. So, if you’ve ever thought mysticism was merely a means for Christians to “Jesus-Juke” out-of-body experiences, think again. Mysticism has been and continues to be a means to combat and overhaul oppressive systems in society and challenge the status-quo.

Intrigued? You should be. Listen here via Screaming Pods (https://www.screamingpods.com/):

A huge THANK YOU to my friend and producer Sean Duregger (Twitter: @seanCduregger) and Screaming Pods (Twitter: @ScreamingPods) for hosting Sancta Colloquia (Twitter: @SanctaColloquia). Also, a big hug to my friend Danielle Larson (Twitter: @DanielleELarson) for helping me record a test run.

To hear (and see) more from Kate about medieval female mystics, specifically on Julian of Norwich, watch this video by Dr. W. Travis McMaken (Twitter: @WTravisMcMaken):

The Rev. Kate Hanch is studying theology at Garrett Evangelical seminary, and is also ordained in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  Kate specifically studies medieval female mystics and 19th century black female mystical preachers.

Here are some resources from Kate for further reading and studying:

Andrews, William. Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.
Bostic, Joy R. African American Female Mysticism: Nineteenth-Century Religious Activism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.  This is the book, more than any others, that challenged and changed my view of mysticism.
Crawley, Ashon T. Blackpentecostal Breath: the Aesthetics of Possibility. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.
McGinn, Bernard, ed. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. Modern ed. New York: Modern Library, 2006.
Newman, Barbara. “Annihilation and Authorship: Three Women Mystics of the 1290s.” Speculum 91, no. 3 (July 2016): 591–630.

Pelphrey, Brendan, and Julia Bolton Holloway. Lo, How I Love Thee! Divine Love in Julian of Norwich.  Spring Deer Studio, 2012.

Ruffing, J.K. ed. Mysticism and Social Transformation. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2001.
Washington, Margaret. Sojourner Truth’s America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011