AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL CURRENT AND FUTURE EDITORS
Dear aspiring editor of the next great volumes in religious studies,
Thank you for your outstanding work in the fields of the Bible, theology, and the scientific study of religion. If you are receiving this letter, it is because I have sent this out of concern for the current state of academia and my love of history. Recently, while you have been doing ground-breaking work, there seems to be a bit of a bad habit of reading your values and anachronistically lining them up with little known marginal figures in history as a counter-narrative. While this approach may be accurate in some circumstances, this is not the way to go. If you say that such and such believed in rugged individualism before it was en vogue, please make sure to back up your claims with quotes and citation. I should not have to take your word for it, and better yet, I refuse to.
Take for instance William L. Andrews’ Sisters of the Spirit a text that contains the first-person spiritual narratives of three black women evangelists. Andrews, in his introduction, calls all three of these women feminists and proponents of independence. However, this is far from the truth. A serious and close reading of Zilpha Elaw’s Memoirs shows that she is not only more closely aligned with evangelicals who are complimentarian but that she takes on independent women head on. “The laws of Scripture invest parents with the trust and control of their daughter” hardly seems like a case for indepedence (61). “That woman is dependant on and subject to man, is a dictate of nature” (ibid). Although I could go further, this close reading of the text quite simply means one thing: Zilpha Elaw was not what the editor says she was. She does not have the same lens as the editor. Although her views on gender are more complex than I have spelled them out here (I will have some posts coming up in the coming days on Zilpha Elaw), she certainly was not a fan of Miss Independent. Sorry Beyonce!
So please future editors of the world, please do not say too much in your introductions or you’ll just wind up being refuted in a blog post like this or essay someday. Don’t make me send you this letter again as a reminder.