Deirdre Jonese Austin is a minister, writer, scholar, and womanist whose work focuses on the intersec-tions of religion, race, gender, and sexuality.

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Pleasure Is a Sacred Gift

by Deirdre Jonese Austin 02-24-2023
Lyvonne Briggs' ‘Sensual Faith’ ​​​​​​​brings our bodies into the light of God.
The book 'Sensual Faith' is cast over a light purple background, hovering in the air. The cover features a painted illustration of the lower half of a woman's face.

Sensual Faith: The Art of Coming Home to Your Body, by Lyvonne Briggs

HAS RELIGION ALIENATED you from your body, demonized your sexuality, or caused you to see your body as a source of shame? If so, it’s time to come home. In Sensual Faith: The Art of Coming Home to Your Body, body- and sex-positive pastor Lyvonne Briggs invites Black Christian women and femmes to reconnect with and feel at home in their bodies, sexuality, and sensuality: “You see, Sis, home is not an address; home is where you feel safe.” Finding home in our bodies is important because, all too often, Christian spaces have deemed our bodies “temptations” and our bodily processes “nasty.” And historically, American society has tried to control Black women’s bodies and sexualities, denying our humanity and womanhood through slavery, sterilization policies, and degrading stereotypes such as the asexual Mammy and the hypersexual Jezebel. So, the type of bodily reclamation Briggs writes of is an act of personal and societal justice.

Similar to theologian Candice Marie Benbow’s Red Lip Theology (2022), Sensual Faith is a womanist work that centers the experiences of Black women of faith. “Womanism” is the term coined by writer Alice Walker in the early 1980s to honor the experiences of Black women, who were often overlooked and excluded by the feminist movement. By utilizing a womanist interpretation of the Bible, Briggs challenges harmful religious messages around women’s bodies: “Womanism says: Your sexuality is a sacred gift. Your body is holy. Just as it is. Pleasure is your birthright.”