In conclusion, Black Theology shapes Christian ministry by showing the true distinction between “Daddy Rich” and the “Revolutionary” and compels us to choose the latter by focusing our ministry towards those who need it most: the oppressed. It is through preaching and teaching, participating in spiritual disciplines, and becoming involved in conscious social engagement that we can equip congregations to liberate the oppressed locally and globally. This means that we take a definite stance of negation against the existential five D’s-death, dread, despair, disease, and disappointment-and the isms of the larger society, namely racism, sexism, classism, and homophobism. At the same time, black theology can help create a new way of being and living as a liberated people. Using the sources mentioned above, Black theology can give us the spiritual depth and practical tools to fight against the real life issues of the prison industral complex, inadequate housing, education, and health care etc. Through these and other means, Black Theology shaping Christian ministry can provide concrete examples of “God as a way out of no way”1
Archive for the ‘materialism’ Category
Tags: black history month, Black theology, cornel west, Five D's, ministry, prison industrial complex
Tags: Africa, Black theology, history, prophetic, white man's religion
Black Theology?!?!? Yes. Theology is not God. Theology is people speaking about God. This means that it can be formed and shaped by a variety of perspectives. One perspective that most do not know about or have a misunderstanding about is the African American or black perspective. I have had the privilege of studying black theology under a great teacher Dr. Ralph Watkins at Fuller Theological Seminary. This class stretched me and pulled me in very good ways. In honor of Black History Month I am going to publish my take on black theology from it’s sources in the cultural and religious roots of Africa, the faith tradition of African Americans, the emphasis on scripture and revelation, and the social/analytical tools and political praxis of prophetic Christian thought:
The sources of black theology are the cultural and religious roots of Africa, the faith tradition of African Americans, the Black Hermeneutical school’s emphasis on scripture and revelation, and the social analytical tools and political praxis of prophetic Christian thought. All of these sources combined inform the definition of black theology which is a multifaceted interpretation of Christianity as a black struggle against oppression and an unwavering faith in the liberating activity of God. First, the sources of black theology and their purpose will be explained. Next, the definition of black theology will be given in light of its sources. Lastly, an agenda shaped by black theology will be given for Christian ministry.
The first sources of black theology are its African cultural and religious roots. These sources of black theology help to correct culturally constructed Western Christianity with its blind spots and biases. In Tribal Talk, Will Coleman digs into the West African roots of slave religion especially how the ancestral memory of the Vodun influenced the cosmology, epistemology, mythology, and ontology of African American spirituality. This approach shows that African slaves did not come to the United States as blank slates but had their own religion, theology, and spirituality. Going back even further in history than Coleman, Oden’s book, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind challenges the assumption that Christianity is a Western religion that is foreign to African soil. In reaching back to the patristic period he provides a link between Africa and Christianity that has previously been muffled. One of the important concepts that stand out in Oden’s book is that the early Christian church of Africa was a church of the persecuted and martyred who were influenced and energized by a unique understanding of the Hebrew and Christian stories of oppression and liberation. In this light, early African Christianity can be seen as a “countercultural, risk-laden, sacrificial, pre-Constantinian struggle for integrity in the face of overwhelming political power.”1 Although the relationship of West African traditional religion to early African Christianity and Early African Christianity’s relationship to the rest of the African Diaspora remains to be investigated; the sources given by Coleman and Oden are a much needed contribution to Black Theology. To be continued……..
Tags: ghetto, Martin Luther King Jr., micro aggressions, Racism, vocabulary
I am going to be doing something a bit different here in the next couple of weeks. One of the advantages of the Internet is that not only can you give voice to your own thoughts and opinions for millions to view but it also gives you the opportunity to connect to other voices which you may be geographically separated from. Throughout this month I will be exploring the topic of racism through the guest posts of some fellow bloggers who I have connected with over the last few years. I chose them because they are thoughtful and intelligent and they come from a different backgrounds than myself: They are all European American. I did this intentionally in order to give voice to those who have the option to avoid the topic but instead dive into it with wisdom, humility, and solidarity.
The second reason I chose them is because of a problem that I have been seeking to untangle. I have heard a lot of people say that racism is over and since MLK Jr. marched and Obama is president we should leave it in the past. I think the problem with this line of thought is that it ignores the power of an “ism”. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life fighting against racism, classism, and materialism. That’s so much bigger than getting to sit anywhere you want on a bus or at a restaurant. As I have said in earlier posts the problem with “isms” is that they take on a life of their own. They are much more powerful and pervasive than the spaces they inhabit. Kind of reminds me of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church where he writes:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)
I believe that these “isms” are spiritual forces and if that is the case we need to know how to fight it and we also need to know when we have actually won. Take racism for instance:
It’s institutionalized. It’s not just in people’s hearts. It is very much a part of our institutions. This country was built on it and many (like my First Nation brothers and sisters) are still paying the price.
So many questions come to mind when we think of engaging racism:
Does developing personal relationships change it? Some would say that it doesn’t matter if you can say “some of my best friends are black”
Does regulating institutions change it? We have “regulated” everything but people’s hearts.
Where do we go from here?
I believe the first thing that we need to be aware of is the power of words. The words we use in our everyday speech carry the power of racism. Let’s just take the word ghetto for example. It once was used for the enclosed neighborhoods primarily resided in by Jews. Then it morphed to be a noun used for the inner city, crime ridden, impoverished areas inhabited by African Americans. Somewhere along the way this noun became not only an adjective but a negative adjective.
“That’s so ghetto”
“He drives a ghetto-$&@!? car”
“You know you ghetto when…”
It has become a negative adjective associated with an aspect of African American life and culture. How do you think it affects the minds of young kids growing up in the hood who use this word to describe thugs negatively? How do you think using this word shapes the minds of people from other ethnicities? This is the power of words.
In the next few weeks I will feature guest posts that attempt to define racism in the 21st century. I don’t know how to fight an “ism” but I believe this is a good place to start.
Tags: lower class, middle class, pittsburgh, Public policy, Racism, Residential segregation
As I dig deeper into the history of residential segregation I begin to see that although we can change laws and institutions we cannot change people’s hearts. Many make the assumption that those who live in the ghetto are there because of their own bad choices. In one sense this is true. Everyone is responsible for the choices they make in life. That being said all of our choices have a historical context and some people’s context expose them to only a few options.
So here is over 100 years of history in a few paragraphs…
The Historical context of Residential Segregation
Overt discrimination. From the early 1900′s blacks faced increasing discrimination in Northern cities. This usually turned into violence and at its worst race riots. This was often due to African Americans being used as scabs during employee strikes. This was because African Americans were also discriminated against when it came to employment. This rise in violence on te borders of black and white neighborhoods made many African Americans fearful. I personally have experienced this fear in California and now here in Pittsburgh (I wonder if folks in Black Mecca AKA the ATL have to think about this). There are places where I hesitate to move because of the threat of violence not just to me but also to my children.
Public policy. The track record of United States public policy on the federal and local level is also a main suspect when it comes to the creation of the black ghetto. We will focus on two policies for right now although there are many others. The first policy is urban renewal AKA Negro removal. Many cities sought to revitalize their business and cultural centers and this translated into moving people into the projects to make it happen. The result was a whole group of people isolated from the rest of society not only by race but by class.
The second policy is very indirect but it still affected the creation of the African American ghetto. Remember the War on Poverty??? Let’s just call it a misdirected skirmish. First off, Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty targeted white rural areas. After the Civil Rights movement began to gain ground the focus changed to inner city African Americans. Secondly, this “war” never got started due to Money being diverted to the War on Vietnam. As a result many families remained trapped in a cycle of poverty. Let’s explode the myth that America tried to help African Americans in poverty and nothing could be done. Kaboom!!!
Economics. Lastly, the historical context of the ghetto is heavily influenced by economics. After 1970 there were no longer as many jobs for unskilled workers. Companies began to manufacture outside of the U.S. for a cheaper cost of labor. The loss of jobs in the ghetto meant a loss in wages which meant a loss in taxes which meant a loss in quality of education. It ends up being a never ending cycle as the lack of jobs for laborers with no skills and education contributes to more laborers with no skills and education and on and on and on.
These are just a few factors influencing the historical context of the African American ghetto but the biggest present factor is people’s hearts:
Why is it that when the African American population rises to 8% white people move out?
To be continued….
Much of this knowledge came from a book called Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen by David Hilfiker. If you have the time check it out. Very good read.