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Race and Rhyme
Rereading the New Testament
HARDCOVER; Published: 8/23/2022
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6713-1
Price: $ 39.99
414 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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A leading womanist biblical scholar reads passages from the New Testament in dialogue with modern-day issues of racial justice. 

The narratives and letters of the New Testament emerged from a particular set of historical contexts that differ from today’s, but they resonate with us because of how the issues they raise “rhyme” with subjects of contemporary relevance. Listening for these echoes of the present in the past, Love Sechrest utilizes her cultural experience and her perspective as a Black woman scholar to reassess passages in the New Testament that deal with intergroup conflict, ethnoracial tension, and power dynamics between dominant and minoritized groups. 

After providing an overview of womanist biblical interpretation and related terminology, Sechrest utilizes an approach she calls “associative hermeneutics” to place select New Testament texts in dialogue with modern-day issues of racial justice. Topics include:

  • antiracist allyship and Jesus’s interaction with marginalized individuals in the Gospel of Matthew
  • cultural assimilation and Jesus’s teachings about family and acceptance in the Gospel of Luke
  • gendered stereotypes and the story of the Samaritan woman in the Gospel of John
  • the experience of Black women and girls in the American criminal justice system and the woman accused of adultery in the Gospel of John
  • group identity and the incorporation of Gentiles into the early Jesus movement in Acts
  • privilege and Paul’s claims to apostolic authority in 2 Corinthians
  • coalition-building between diverse groups and the discussion of unity in Ephesians
  • government’s role in providing social welfare and early Christians’ relationship to the Roman Empire in Romans and Revelation

Through these creative and illuminating connections, Sechrest offers a rich bounty of new insights from Scripture—drawing out matters of justice and human dignity that spoke to early Christians and can speak still to Christians willing to listen today.

Table of Contents

1. Race and Associative Reasoning
2. Neighbors, Allies, Frenemies, and Foes in the Gospel of Matthew
3. Assimilation and the Family of God in the Gospel of Luke
4. Sex, Crime, and Stereotypes in the Gospel of John
5. Negotiating Culture in the Family of God in the Book of Acts
6. Privilege, Identity, and Status in 2 Corinthians
7. Ligamental Leadership for the Household of God in Ephesians
8. Waking Up on the Wrong Side of Empire in Romans and Revelation
Appendix: Sample Moral Analogy Assignment

Foreword Reviews INDIES in Religion Finalist (2022)
“With Race and Rhyme, Love Sechrest has addressed a huge problem—how to help people who take their faith seriously to also take seriously how to think about race and Scripture. This is simply the best introduction to biblical hermeneutics that is also an introduction to thinking about racial justice.”
— Willie James Jennings
Yale Divinity School
“In the age of #BlackLivesMatter, the Covid-19 pandemic, and continued economic disparities in the world, this timely work is a must-read for those teaching biblical texts in theological environments. Sechrest calls for resistance so we can all become partners in justice. I highly recommend her work.”
— Angela N. Parker
McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University
“Love Sechrest navigates the complexity of interpretation for the contemporary age like few others. Utilizing associative hermeneutics and womanist values as framing techniques, Sechrest is a wise hermeneutical guide for socially, politically, and ethnoracially attentive interpreters who desire to negotiate the ancient biblical stories from the side of and for the sake of the most marginalized readers in order to attend to a justice orientation in the present moment.”
— Emerson B. Powery
Messiah University
“Love Sechrest’s book offers a new response to the question that many readers are asking: How do we talk about race while interpreting biblical texts? This book guides readers on a hermeneutical journey through the Gospels, Acts, Pauline texts, and the Apocalypse with the aid of a roadmap by which readers can courageously, critically, and analogously engage race while interpreting sacred texts.”
— Mitzi J. Smith
Columbia Theological Seminary
“Sechrest fuses her expertise in race and ethnic studies with her exegetical acumen to demonstrate (with a clarity and precision that delighted my engineering-trained mind) what she calls ‘associative hermeneutics’—a practice that might prove to be a game-changer in biblical interpretation. Immerse yourself in the experience of Race and Rhyme and consider anew how contemporary readers engage the ancient Christian text we call the New Testament.”
— Dennis R. Edwards
North Park Theological Seminary
“Dr. Love Sechrest combines rigorous scholarship, biblical insight, and prophetic precision to bring new meaning to the ethical, social, and spiritual implications of being the household of God. This book centers the Black experience in a way that invites others into a conversation that can move us toward building a coalition of justice that embodies the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of. I highly recommend it!”
— Brenda Salter McNeil
author of Becoming Brave and Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0
“In this eagerly awaited volume, shaped by many years of teaching in this mode, Love Sechrest shows how what she labels ‘associative hermeneutics’ works as an approach to New Testament interpretation. As a distinctive model for doing the work of engaged interpretation, this book deserves to be widely used and warmly welcomed—not least as a challenge to the definitions and boundaries of the (contested) field of New Testament studies.”
— David G. Horrell
University of Exeter
“By seeking a ‘liberative hermeneutics of suspicion’ Sechrest poetically engages what she calls the ugly details in some biblical narratives so that contemporary realities about race relations, the pernicious impact of white supremacy, and other social challenges are uncovered through a method of moral reasoning. This book shows how critical biblical interpretation leads to responsible acts of leadership and justice.”
— Gay L. Byron
Howard University School of Divinity
“In Race and Rhyme, Love Lazarus Sechrest issues a womanist challenge to readers of the New Testament and models how to rise to that challenge. Pull up a chair, listen, and learn from a master interpreter as she shows not just that the New Testament can be a resource for the fight against racism today, but how it can be."
— Chris Keith
St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, London
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Striking a balance between critical analysis and compassionate reflection, Sechrest’s incisive and rigorous interpretations brilliantly elucidate parallels between the biblical era and the present and convincingly lay out the moral implications of the gospels. This stirring hermeneutic makes for a meticulously argued call for Christians to fight against racial oppression.”
Library Journal
“Exhibiting a keen knowledge of the Bible and related scholarship, Sechrest’s work may be a tough read at times for those unversed in biblical scholarship, but it will appeal to those seeking fresh insights from the New Testament.”
The Christian Century
“Love Sechrest has gifted us with a unique book. . . . Few books apply an innovative reading model to a wide sample of texts. Even fewer do so by identifying a distinctive theological standpoint. Further, each chapter opens by explicating a challenging issue from contemporary life, all backed by impressive amounts of research.”
Review of Biblical Literature
“[Love Lazarus Sechrest] contributes not only to womanist biblical interpretation, but she offers another portal into biblical studies. Her employment of associative hermeneutics calls scholars to further embellish our lexicon, pedagogy, and current-day appropriation. May we not shy away from that which ‘crosses our minds and we don’t know why.’ This could be the past summoning us to represent itself in the here and now.”