Candice Marie Benbow
Convergent Books, 224 pages
Published January 18, 2022
In Red Lip Theology, blogger and public theologian Candice Marie Benbow offers an invitation to create theologies that speak to our personal experiences of church, God, heartache and true fullness of life. She writes out of her experience as a Black woman — a refreshing divergence from the written theologies of men, particularly White men, that have shaped not only our public imaginations but our churches, our histories, and our ways of being and thinking.
Perhaps above all else, this is a love letter to the mother who raised her. As a womanist, Benbow follows the truth-telling traditions of her Black foremothers. She writes: “Red Lip Theology is the lens through which I understand myself as a millennial Black woman of faith. It creates a space for both my upbringing in the Black Baptist Church of the South … [and] is the space in which young Black churchwomen can sit with the parts of ourselves and be honest about all of them … there are boundless possibilities for who we can become and how we can live into our faith.”
Benbow centralizes modern narratives in Red Lip Theology whether it is learning to live with family realities, devastating journeys with mental health, the battle for humanity in the religious academy, growing into comfort as a sexual being, fumbling through and into LGBTQ+ allyship, life-altering heartbreak, giving up regular church attendance or choosing who we allow ourselves to be in religious community with. While this book could be for every Black girl or woman who rocks a killer red lip (not just to work but also to church), it is not and should not be for every Black girl. Personal theologies can be hard to connect with as they speak to an individual understanding of God. There is no Black monolith.
The chapter “God Made Me Black” is the book’s jewel. Benbow speaks to her experiences of race growing up in the South and dealing with White institutions. Some of our churches are only just beginning to understand and even validate how White supremacy has decimated our denominations. She writes, “If anyone should give their identities over to the Divine, it definitely has to be White people. What would this world be if the daily prayer of White people was to be made less White?”
It’s a big “YAS” from me!
One could argue that a theology that is illustrated by a 10-step skincare and makeup routine (no doubt costing hundreds of dollars to maintain), might be another elitist approach for girls who can only “serve face.” Perhaps the only critique is that this theology is tied to capitalism and physical aesthetics.
Red Lip Theology is a perfect offering to the canon because it’s real — funny, messy and serious in all the appropriate places. Benbow delivers now and will surely continue to in the future.
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