Early in the morning on May 14, Ada Marìa Isasi-Díaz, the woman who coined launched an entire field of study known as “mujerista theology,” written for, by and about Latina women, passed away after a journey with cancer. Isasi-Díaz was a long-time teacher, an advocate for women’s ordination within the Roman Catholic church, and a friend and mentor for many female scholars, many of them Latinas themselves.
What I learned from reading Dr. Isasi-Díaz’s work was that women’s stories are themselves theological texts. That listening to others share their stories and journeys and ideas about God is, in and of itself, an excercise in “doing theology.” And that mujerista theology must grow out of the stories and reflections of Latina women themselves, and if a theology develops that isn’t relevant to their lived realities, then it is not mujerista theology.
So today, in honor of Isasi-Díaz and her life and work, I offer you some of her own words, from En La Lucha: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology. If you would like to read more about her life and work, and check out this lovely article by Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado.
“Our lived experiences have to be the building blocks of our self-understanding and of our morality if we are not to
lose ourselves in the process. We have to depend on how we understand and live in the events of our daily lives. We have to consider our own stories in order to bring understanding out of the choas created in our lives by the many forces that pull us in different directions. This chaos, this uprootedness, this not-having-a-place-to-call-home–these are the main reasons why our central preocupation in this society is and has to be survival.
The lived experience of Latinas, which deals mainly with the struggle to survive, is not only the locus theologicus which situates mujerista theology. Our lived experience is also the primary source of mujerista theology. This understanding validates our struggle and enables the development of the moral agency of Latinas. This understanding calls into question the whole issue of “objectivity.” The need for a hermeneutic of suspicion regarding “objectivity” and “validity” is intrinsic to any theological enterprise arising from oppressed communities. For too long theology done by those belonging to the dominant culture, the dominant race, the dominant sex, has claimed to be objective. Those of us who belong to marginalized, oppressed groups have come to understand that what is called “objective” is simply the understanding of a given group of people who have the power to impose that understanding as normative in society. This so-called objectivity arises from the lived-experience of dominant groups of society and ignores the lived-experience of the oppressed to the point of considering it deviant.
As mujerista theologians we claim that eventhe attempt to be objective is flawed. Though we do not deny that the truth does or might exist, what we are insisting is that our theological enterprise has to do with the reality Hispanic women create and confront every day. For mujerista theologians it is clear that theology is not so much about God as about how we understand and relate to God. And that is precisely one of the reasons for our insistence on the lived-experience of Latinas as the source of our theology. We insist on our lived-experience as central not because we think that our reality is necessarily unique. This insistence should not be understood either as an attempt to claim a clearer or better understanding of the truth. We do it because we believe that what needs to be done is to identify the perspective from which we are writing and to state clearly the goal of our theological discourse. This will make it possible for those who engage us to understand and to analyze what we are saying.”