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In 1982, Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, the next year she won the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1985, Steven Speilberg made it into a movie with Danny Glover, Whoopie, and Oprah. Alice Walker was born in 1944 to sharecroppers and grew up in rural Georgia. Her work centers on the experiences of black women in the US, stories that have largely been forgotten or ignored, bringing honesty and vulnerability and empathy to through her characters and exposing generations of young people to a world that they were unaware of.

The book opens with the words “Dear God…” and the story is told through the protagonist’s prayers. The musical opens on Sunday morning with a gospel song and the character’s understanding of God and themselves remains at the center of The Color Purple.

               Our story is about Celie. She’s 14 and pregnant with her second child, by her step-father. Even so, she is excited, she names him but just like her firstborn, he is taken from her as soon as he is born, he is taken away.

No one speaks well of Celie, it’s her little sister and closest person Nettie who is called beautiful and smart. When a local widower and father of 3 children wants to marry Nettie, their step-father gives him Celie, who only knows him as Mista ____.

Celie and Nettie are separated. Nettie works for a missionary family, raising their children as they serve in Africa. Celie endures physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of Mista ___, raises his children, and keeps his house.

Years pass. Mista’s son, Harpo, marries Sofia, and Celie gets her first friend since Nettie. Sofia refused to be made small and refused to just take orders, things Celie had never imagined being able to say or do.

Mista __’s occasional mistress came to town, which might have made things uncomfortable, but Shug Avery refused to let that be so. From Shug, Celie learned about love, sexuality, kindness, and intimacy, they loved each other. Shug was a preacher’s daughter, despite her jazz ways. She is the one who says the title’s line:

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

Shug speaks to Celie of God, that God might not be the old white man that Celie had learned about, or thought God was, God wasn’t like those who abused her. God is in everything.

It was the example of Sofia, Shug’s love and understanding of God, along with finding years of letters from Nettie that Mista ___ had kept from Celie, that finally gave Celie the courage to say no to Mista ___, to leave him. She curses him–that until he does right by her, everything around him will crumble. In the movie musical, you see that; in the stage production, he gets his own song as he begins to change.

Not to spoil the ending of a book that is more than 40 years old, but Celie gets her family back–Albert becomes a friend, Shug remains a love, Sofia a friend, and Nettie comes home, along with the now grown children that had been taken from Celie when she was a child.

The Color Purple is a story about God, love, sisterhood, trauma, healing, about Black women’s audacity to make a way in a world that tried to make them small. The Color Purple is a uncomfortable and true and a gift in the way Mary Oliver wrote:

Someone I loved once gave me

a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.



As quickly as the book, The Color Purple, became a beloved, it also was added to a list of banned books in many places, where it remains to this day. There have been different reasons for the book being banned, including religious objections, homosexuality, violence, African history, rape, incest, drug abuse, explicit language, and sexual scenes.

But folks are Banning The Hobbit for satanic imagery so I don’t really understand anything that’s going on.

But to be really fair, and the color purple is unsettling. It should be upsetting to see a story the story of a young girl going through years and years of abuse

What we heard today is just a portion of Hagar’s story. She does in fact go back to the house Sarah and Abraham, who received again their promise of lineage that they will be a great nation, and their name change from Abram to Abraham from Siri to Sarah. For 4 years Hagar lived with Abraham and Sarah and in that time, the Covenant was fulfilled. Sarah became pregnant gave birth to Isaac and could not allow Hagar and Ishmael to hang around and possibly the promises, The Inheritance that Sarah knew was Isaac’s away from him. So in chapter 21 Hagar doesn’t run away he’s in fact sent Away by Sarah with her son who she has just weaned so he is four, with a little water and a little bread into the Wilderness.

And we know the Wilderness is a terrifying and treacherous place.

When the food has been eaten and the Water Runs Out, Hagar gives what little is left to her child places him under a tree, Full of Tears and grief she walks away because he is dying so is she and she cannot watch.

Hagar is a side character. Hers is not the story that we will follow for centuries and generations down till they are made of people. Hers is not a name of Victory and Valor. Her story is never given as one of faithfulness. In fact throughout most of Christian history and tradition Hagar is synonymous with faithlessness and wrath and sin. Many a male Christian Theologian has held Hagar and contrast with Sarah a faithfulness and virtue.

So the question that comes up for me is why do we have this story of Hagar anyway?

I understand Sarah’s desperation for a child and the Fulfillment of the promise, but I don’t think this story makes Sarah look very good. In fact I think it makes her look cruel she forced this woman to have sex with her husband to have a child and that immediately regretted that decision, treated her cruelly, and would ultimately send the two out into the Wilderness to die. But also, Abraham and Sarah were from Ur think southern half of Iraq, and Hagar was from Egypt. Abraham and Sarah were nomadic and wealthy with many slaves and animals traveling and meeting Kings throughout the area, Hagar was Sarah’s slave, one of many.

Having the narrative of a Slave is incredibly uncommon. Having their perspective, their movements, their voice is unusual. Slavery Indiana was in the United States after the printing press existed, well literacy was on the rise in the world, and still most of the slave narratives we have were those passed down given as oral memories and either hand scribed or recorded in the waiting years of people’s lives. They say history is written by the victor; the history is written by those who have the privilege of time, resources knowledge, even power. The stories of people living in deep poverty or deep trauma who are just trying to get by every day are rarely given ink to paper unless it’s coming from a place of privilege.

The stories are unpleasant. They are uncomfortable.

Hagar when she ran pregnant Into the Wilderness

I don’t know what God or God’s Hagar worshiped but she met the god of Abraham and Sarah.

No, the god of Abraham and Sarah met a foreign slave not part of this adopted family that God had Chosen and was going to be the central Narrative of all of the drama Yet to Come God meant Hagar In A wilderness place, and Desperation, and saw her. That’s all her pain her grief her fear. God heard her laments her cries probably anger. God not even her.

And I wonder what she had known of Abraham’s God. Was she required to worship alongside Abraham and his family? Did she think their God cruel like Sarah or complacent like Abraham? When Hagat spoke of or to the God of Abraham and Sarah, was it said with bitterness in her mouth for the suffering she had gone through?

And yet, God met her in the wilderness, in her need, in her tears and lament. God saw her. She was seen by the God of her masters, her owners. And when you know who worships a God, you can often make assumptions about the God… that why would Abraham’s God care about the people Abraham doesn’t? And yet. God is more, God sees.

Before Moses hears God’s name on a mountain from a bush on fire, Hagar names God the god who sees. This is the God who see and is moved, the God who sees and cares, the God who see and answers, the God who sees and gives promises, the God who sees the outcast, the marginalized, the neglected, the abused, the lonely, the forgotten, the used, this is the God who sees and loves.

For Celie, God looked like the powerful, like men who abused her, like men of power, like men who seek to control, it’s the 1920s and 30s in the south, like white men.

And it was Shug who met her in the wilderness, when she did not feel God cared, and saw her, told her about The God who is everything, in everything, loves everything. The God who wants our delight. The God who makes purple, surprises us with flowers, and music of birds and tress, and dance and love.

“Celie … is based on the life of my grandmother, Rachel, a kind and loving woman brutally abused by my grandfather,” Walker said in a statement in 2019. “It is safe to say, after a frightful life serving and obeying abusive men, who raped in place of ‘making love,’ my grandmother, like Celie, was not attracted to men. She was, in fact, very drawn to my grandfather’s lover, a beautiful woman who was kind to her, the only grown person who ever seemed to notice how remarkable and creative she was.

“In giving Celie the love of this woman, in every way love can be expressed, I was clear in my intention to demonstrate that she too, like all of us, deserved to be seen, appreciated, and deeply loved by someone who saw her as whole and worthy,” the statement continued. “Because I believe, and know, that sexual love can be extraordinarily holy, whoever might be engaging in it, I felt I had been able to return a blessing of love to a grandmother who had always offered only blessing and love, when I was a child, to me.”

In the Celie’s final song, her final prayer to God in the story we have, she prays:

Dear God, dear stars, dear trees, dear sky

Dear peoples, dear everything

Dear God

God is inside me and everyone else

That was or ever will be

I came into this world with God

And when I finally looked inside

I found it

Just as close as my breath is to me

Being seen, being known, being loved, well that changes everything. That changes each of us. That changes where we see God and I hope it is in all of creation, in the face of every friend and neighbor and stranger. That we see what God see, that we see as God see, that we live as those who follow the God of love.



How have you thought about God at different times in your life? Who or what taught you?

What name for God with you give?

What do you want people to know about God from the life you live? Is there anything you’d change to help reflect that?