Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jesus and Luke like Phillis Wheatley

We may tend to read the title of this post with some objections.  We pretend that our objections will not say more about us than about these six words of text.  At the very least, we tend not to think about us thinking about the titular text.  And we say things like:

"Phillis Wheatley came after Luke.  She could not have exercised any influence over Jesus whatsoever.  Moreover, she is a she, and she was a slave, and her texts were mere poetry, rhetorical poetry at best.  That is not who Jesus is or who Luke was."

This is where our objectivity gets us.  "But we're not talking about us," we object again.  So we switch to the passive voice (our cool, passive aggressive voice):  "What must be talked about is Truth, the Nature of Time and of History and of not mixing Culture and Gender and neither neglecting Texts nor the Author and his Intention."

By my title, don't I intend something?  Yes, we've already gone beyond our position of Aristotelian objectivity to suspecting hyperbole or parable or ambiguity or narrative suspension of disbelief.  Aren't we used to Jesus doing that, and maybe Luke in a lesser way (lesser since Luke is just a recorder, right)? 

"So, okay.  We'll play along now.  But please do clarify the difference between the Son of God and the writer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ According to Luke and a little black girl who's poetry was suspect before it was even published."

By the title of this post, I intended to get to things that Emerson B. Powery says about Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, Jarena Lee, Rosa Parks, and Jesus.  By the title, I wanted us to consider very carefully what Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder sees in Phillis Wheatley and Luke.  I already, yesterday, let Vincent L. Wimbush say that St. Paul, Hosea the prophet, and his (LXX) translators write like Toni Morrison.  So now, today (below), I wanted to get us setting aside some time to recover what Phillis Wheatley has done since she herself seems to be so like the womanist writer Gloria Naylor, the 'new black [male]' writer Trey Ellis, and the older history rewriting black man Ishmael Reed.

Yes, I understand the implications:  that this puts Jesus, and at least one gospel writer (i.e., Luke), and Paul, and at least one Prophet (i.e., Hosea), and all of the Jewish translators in between Hosea and Jesus, Luke, and Paul (i.e., the LXX translators) in the later tradition of translingual African American writers.  Hear then.  Here then are a few brave African American writers:
The need to act bravely has a long history in African American tradition.  Phillis Wheatley's published poems were scrutinized by Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, and other (white) intellectuals of the day.  Sojourner Truth challenged male-only suffrage of blacks, Jarena Lee pursued her God-given call to preach.  Rosa Parks would not give up her seat on the bus.
      Just as the woman understood ("knew") changes in her body, so Jesus recognized ("knew") changes in his body.
Here's more:
Luke's actions are similar to those of African poet Phillis Wheatley.  Wheatley, a native of Senegal, arrived in Boston on a slave ship in 1761.  She was the first woman of African descent to have a book published.  Her literary and verbal skills won her much acclaim....  Some might argue that Wheatley's writings were passive aggressive and thus still oriented toward resistance.  While she did not attack slavery directly, her writings did bring attention to its brutality.  His fear of Rome's power and potential retribution forced Luke to challenge Roman imperialism in the same passive aggressive manner.
And here's that bit for later, if we like.  It's a consideration of how Phillis Wheatley (whom the gospel writers seem to write like) is just like other writers just as brave.

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