Unsettling Preaching: Toward an Unthought Homiletic

“What if the word and practice of Requirimiento (The Spanish Requirement of 1513) was interpreted as America's Original Sermon? ”

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About this dissertation fellowship

In her groundbreaking essay “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom,” Sylvia Wynter reveals that the invention the non-West/non-White as subhuman, irrational, and savage is a continuation of theocentric vision that classified humans into world-organizing binary of properly Christian vs pagan/enemies/damned. The Catholic Church used this framework to justify the taking of land and the enslavement of “pre-classified populations” in the New World most notably seen in Requirimiento.

The Requirimiento was intended to ensure that the pre-classified indigenous populations literally heard the gospel so they may be re-classified as having rejected it, making them enemies of Christ and thereby damning them to conquest, slavery, and annihilation. This ritual of reading this document before slave-raiding and land-stealing colonial expedition must be seen as a preaching moment. I aim to analyze the theological-juridical document of Spanish Requisition of 1513 as a homiletical performance, as America’s Original Sermon that inaugurated a white Christian supremacist heteropatriarchal ecclesiology in which non-whites are baptized into the state of the damned/zone of nonbeing.

Preaching must be seen in the wake of this moment that continues to affect the present order. Instead of perpetuating the discursive, historical, and structural condemnation of minoritized bodies by speaking from the subject position of "Man," the field of homiletics has much to gain by attending to the unimaginable position of the slave (Philippians 2) and to a Word that comes from the despised body of a woman. This dissertation gestures towards an unthought homiletic, inspired by the subject position and the performance of the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus’ feet and whose loving act Jesus says will be told in memory of her “wherever the gospel is preached.”