Antoinette Brown Lecture
Vanderbilt University Divinity School announces the 39th annual
A N T O I N E T T E B R O W N L E C T U R E
to be delivered by
Monica Coleman, Ph.D.
Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies, Claremont School of Theology
Iyanla Vanzant, Black Women's Spirituality and the Oprah Effect: Straddling and Merging Religious Difference
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Vanderbilt University Divinity School
As the thirty-ninth Antoinette Brown lecturer, Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman will deliver “Iyanla Vanzant, Black Women's Spirituality and the Oprah Effect: Straddling and Merging Religious Difference.” Her lecture will examine how recent polls indicate that while most Americans are less religious than ever, African Americans are more religious in a Christian context, and religiously conservative. Meanwhile, some black religious scholars have suggested that African Americans are distinctly capable of living across religious boundaries. Theories of religious pluralism consider multiple religious belonging at best challenging to its theories, and at worst an anathema to the integrity of religious traditions. This lecture investigates one example of how black women’s spirituality straddles and merges religious difference by looking at the work and popularity of motivational speaker and writer Iyanla Vanzant. Vanzant is a Yoruba priestess who is popular among New Thought religious communities and whose largest readership consists of evangelical Christian women. Vanzant rose to national recognition after being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her intentional approach to navigating religious differences can best be seen through an examination of the first and second editions of her first text, Tapping the Power Within. This example gives clues to how many individuals can identify as spiritual but not religious and/or as multiply religious.