“Church Girl… Don’t Hurt Nobody” Beyonce & the Church- Rhetorical Theology through the Lens of Black Feminist Thought

Vanessa Verner, Texas A

Buzz about Beyonce’s new album featuring a song by legendary gospel music group, The Clark Sisters, generated considerable excitement before its release. Many were in anticipation of Beyonce’s take on The Clark's "Center Thy Will" song on her track, "Church Girl." The Clark Sisters’ familial ties within the Church of God In Christ, Inc. cements their genesis affiliation with Black Pentecostal churches despite their crossover musical success. This affiliate factor spurred numerous responses either celebrating or condemning the group’s connection to the song. The song starts with a mixed version of the gospel song then quickly drops a beat sonically leading listeners to a bounce music “twerk” track. Replete with gospel chords and lyrics of overcoming hardships, proclamations of being “born free,” and resistance to judgment from others, the song culminates with the chorus emboldening church girls to “drop it like a thotty.” Proclamations of the song as “sacrilege” and petitions for a “formal denouncement” of the song have gone viral. Public and private rhetoric attached to the “Church Girl” song and Beyonce generally have illustrated the gendered responses to anyone giving voice to the interrelated nature of the sacred and profane lives of Black church women. In this work I explore the chasm of the culture wars Black Christians tend to wage using rhetorical theology while imposing epistemic violence on Black women. Additionally, I examine the shifting dynamics of women in the COGIC to understand why “Church Girl” is a reflective cultural moment for the COGIC.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 10. Constructing and Obstructing Community