Home » Western Alternatives » Black Theology

Category Archives: Black Theology

Quote Gallery

2017. There is a lot going on in the political realm in the United States and a good time to remember that the Church has had faithful witness to the radical and revolutionary love of God in the past. Looking to the margins, we see where Christ’s spirit has been active and a challenge to us to be faithful to the same call of Christ today. I will update this page as often as I can- if you have a recommendation, please contact me.

Use as freely as you want to, attribute back to this page when possible. Hover over the images for sharing codes.WB.2WB.1DB.1
LB.1JC.1DD.1FD.1FD.3FD.2SE.1SE.2AE.1AE.2PF.1PF.2PF.3PF.4

GG1 (1)

JM.3JM.2JM.1OR.3OR.1

OR.4OR.2ES.1 (1)HT.2HT.3HT.1ST.1

 

Amos and Black Lives Matter

Pastor Eddie Anderson speaks to the congregation at McCarty Memorial Christian Church in West Adams. (Harrison Hill / Los Angeles Times)

Pastor Eddie Anderson speaks to the congregation at McCarty Memorial Christian Church in West Adams. (Harrison Hill / Los Angeles Times)

With the Bible spread before him, Anderson read from the Book of Amos — describing a scene of people chanting angrily in the streets, taking over the town square and grieving for the dead.

“Amos said until justice is established we will be forced, we will be called to wail,” he preached before pivoting from the past into the present. “We will wail and say ‘Si, se puede.’ We will wail and say ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We will wail and say ‘No Justice, No Peace.’”

In an article exploring some of the disconnect between the Black Lives Matter movement and traditional civil rights leadership in Los Angeles, writer Angel Jennings highlights response from clergy. In the quotation above, we see an example of utilizing scripture to connect a congregation with the continued search for justice.

Amos is set in the divided kingdom and he is from Judah but he is preaching in Israel. He is the outsider who is both the recipient of injustice and the herald for reconciliation. He begins by declaring the judgement that awaits the nations surrounding Israel (which would have received support and applause from any audience in Israel) before turning his message to challenge Israel itself for how the elite have oppressed the poor.

Amos uses a phrase, looking forward to the Day of the Lord when God will act to establish justice against all oppression. In this scenario, the surrounding nations are called enemies of God, but so is Israel! The prophets message is that a nation’s history is not a replacement for righteousness and covenant as God’s people. As an extension, a church’s history is not a replacement for pursuing justice and righteousness in imitation of Christ.

Read the full article from the Los Angeles Times. Read more about Pastor Eddie Anderson and McCarty Memorial Christian Church here.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of Global Theology and an adjunct professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA.

Reclaiming Jesus in Diversity

Last spring, I had the opportunity to lead a lecture series on Christology and Whiteness at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, USA, in which we discussed the various ways that Euroamerican assumptions become the default in the ways that we understand the Christian faith, scripture, and the Church. Additionally, we looked at Black Theology as a necessary critique for this dominant perspective (More on Black Theology here and here) and the need to enculturate the gospel with diversity for its full embodiment.

One of the illustrating points of how a community reclaims Jesus within their own cultural identity was the statue of “Black Jesus” at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, USA. (For our readers outside of the United States, Detroit is a major city which has experienced significant economic upheaval based on changes in factory manufacturing, which disproportionately affected African-Americans and other minority groups.)

Image Credit: David Schalliol

Image Credit: David Schalliol

The 12th Street Riot in 1967, caused by police brutality and unjust social conditions, lasted 5 days and rocked a community and a country teeming with racial friction as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining force. In the midst of this conflict, a statue of Christ in a grotto of the Sacred Heart Major Seminary was painted.

According to the Seminary:

The story of Black Jesus is moving and was at one time controversial. During the second day of the disturbance [the 1967 riots], an African American housepainter boldly painted the hands, feet and face of the white Sacred Heart of Jesus statue black. Opinions were highly polarized at the time, even among Detroit’s black residents. Some considered the painting an act of faith and racial pride; others saw it as mere vandalism. Over the years, the meaning of the landmark has evolved to almost unanimously symbolize Jesus’ love for all races, and particularly for the city of Detroit and its black citizens. The seminary has steadfastly kept the features of the landmark painted black for four decades, and intends to do so forever.

The paint on the head, hands, and feet of Jesus occupy a small part of the statue’s surface, yet their contrast speaks volumes to the common depiction of Christ. For a community facing injustices, this becomes a reminder that Christ is present with them and not the sole property of the privileged and powerful.

The significance of cultural groups reclaiming the image of Christ in themselves teaches us a few lessons.

We understand the incarnation better.

  • To believe that God entered into the human story and was entirely present within a human form endows an extreme amount of cultural particularity. Jesus of Nazareth was, quite simply, a Jewish man, living in and around the Galilee region in the first century of the Common Era. He spoke Aramaic at least, ate a lot of salted fish, dressed in a common fashion, read Hebrew scripture exclusively, maintained Jewish religious customs, and fit within his social context as the son of a carpenter and, later, a religious teacher. Despite all of these unique cultural factors, neither Jesus nor Christian traditions have required their followers to honor the cultural practices of its leader! For God to inhabit a human is for God to inhabit humanity, in all of its diversity and complexity. (This becomes a running challenge in the first-century church as some Jewish-background Christians want to retain cultural practices as a core component of the faith, while Gentile-background Christians bring their own former religious practices, like ecstatic speech and disassociation with the physical body, to the community. Acts 15 is one of the flashpoints of trying to reconcile these differences.) Christianity has been a translated faith since its inception and continues to adapt to new communities and concerns today. By engaging with how different cultures have applied the gospel in their context, we are inspired to see how to reflect the spirit of Christ in our own communities. To look for and value diversity is to see how Christ is incarnated again and again in different ways.
  • We are challenged to reveal where we have made our own social preferences a stand-in for faith.

    • Taking the time to examine our own cultural conditions is similar to a fish studying water. Because we are unconsciously shaped by so many factors, it is easy to assume that those factors and our experiences are universal. This is especially true if we inhabit social locations of privilege or power. (In 2013, a major news representative crystallized this assumption in an on-air segment arguing that Santa Claus and Jesus were white. Her reasoning? “They just are.” – Video Link) When we assume that Jesus belongs to White culture, discipleship means becoming more White to the exclusion of other diverse and valuable identities. When we assume that Jesus belongs to White culture, discipleship means becoming more White Click To Tweet Once we are aware of this tendency, we can see where they have infiltrated our leadership structures, worship styles, spiritual direction, and have distanced others and their ability to live fully into their identity as a disciple of Christ.

    We learn to see Christ as present in our neighbors and are moved to action.

    • Despite the divisions which may exist due to geography, language, economics, education, there is the possibility to find commonality with people who are, otherwise, complete strangers. Through this association, Christians of one social location can see in another the presence of Christ, if they choose to look! We can see our sisters and brothers affected by adverse weather, or political posturing, or living under threat of violence and injustice. By cherishing their Christian identity first, we protect against the pressures to divide based on social hierarchies. When we see our sisters and brothers treated unfairly, we are motivated to become involved in their struggle because it is no longer their issue, but a family issue. We cannot gaslight and dismiss their experiences, but need to listen, learn, and follow their leadership. As a white, American male, I believe that #BlackLivesMatter as a necessary societal improvement, but I also believe that Jarrett, and Stanley, and Ramon, and Delonte, and Troy, and Gary’s lives matter and that they have something to teach me about living the Christian life. Of course, these influences come from all types of diversity- people of every national origin, economic status, gender expression and orientation, physical ability, political affiliation, language and literacy, and creed. The community that grows despite these differences will look truly peculiar to those outside the Church and creates invitation to share the radical influence of the Gospel. These relationships are also an entrypoint for responding faithfully and thoughtfully to the calls for justice and reconciliation.

    What has been your experience in seeking diversity in the Church? What barriers have you encountered or benefits enjoyed?

    Michael Shepherd is an adjunct professor at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA and editor of Global Theology. He can be reached at editor @globaltheology.org or on Twitter at @Global_Theology or @mchlshepherd

     

     

     

    Black Catholics Searching for Recognition, Identity

    The Brooks family — Joe, Desiree, Gabrielle and Alyssa — pray after arriving for Sunday Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va., in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

    The Catholic Church in the United States likely encompasses every cultural group. African Americans, who comprise about 3% of the membership, bring a unique perspective, yet also face challenges of identifying with leadership and contemporary societal issues.

    Anthea Butler (Twitter | Bio), Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (USA) shared with AirTalk, a program of Southern California Public Radio, about the relationship between Black Catholics and the Catholic Church at-large in America.

    Interview summary and audio link | Audio only 

    Introduction of the segment and Anthea Butler (0:00)

    African American Catholics have a long history in the [United States], tell us a little about that. (0:54)

    Is there still a connection between the Catholic Church and Black America? (1:40)

    AB (2:15) I do think, for Catholics, there’s a sense in which the universality of the church makes you, in one way, try to overlook some of the ethnic things that are happening. On the other hand, you have to deal with them because of the different ethnic communities and parishes.

    What role does racial identity play in Catholic worship services? (2:32)

    AB (2:35) It plays a very big role- if you think prior to Vatican II, there wasn’t a lot of racial identity. Everybody was forced into the same kind of worship styles and all of that. Post-Vatican II, Black Catholics were able to explore different musical styles with gospel music…so there’s a lot of different ways in which Black Catholics have put forth their culture within the Catholic Church.

    How is it different from the way that other Catholics conduct services? (3:08)

    AB (3:31) I think the difference is in how Black Catholics were perceived by other Catholics in the church. If you think about immigration and all the ethnic Catholics we have — Polish Catholics, Irish, Germans, Italians, everybody always focuses on them for a culture within the Catholic Church, but nobody looks at Black Catholics, and I think our unique history has a lot of cultural implications, because we’ve had to straddle the line between being Black Americans and being Black Catholics.

    What effect has [the rise in Latino demographics in the US] had on black parishes? (3:59)

    Has [this effect] led to a number of Black Americans, maybe, not identifying as Catholics? (4:51)

    AB (5:10): I do think, however, that by not paying attention in some places- I’m not going to say all- to the needs of Black Catholics, especially with the kinds of priests that are assigned to diocese and parishes, that has caused a real problem. Let’s say you have a priest that does not understand the unique kinds of cultural needs for African American Catholics and they’re, say, from the Philippines or even African priests. That causes a lot of problems.

    AB (6:18) It’s really hard, sometimes, to integrate Black Catholics into other parishes if those parishes don’t have Black people already in them, if you know what I mean. It’s hard to put together people and just say “Well, because you’re all Catholics, that’s going to work”. Enculturation just doesn’t mean that you can just throw everybody together and it’s going to be okay. Sometimes, people are really upset about that. That can create a lot of tension.

    Pope Francis has spoken out a lot about poverty, corporate greed- he’s remained silent, though, on issues like use of force or recent civil unrest that we’ve seen in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri- what do you think Black Catholics are hoping to hear from the Pope during his visit? (6:40)

    AB (6:56): I think that they hope to hear several things: One is, I think they would like to hear some comment about racism in America. The Catholic Church’s history with race has been a troubled one in a lot of ways. You have to think about missionary activity and slavery- even though popes spoke out against slavery and issued papal bulls, slavery still happened. This racial situation we are currently in in America right now, especially with mass incarceration and police brutality, I think would be something very important for the Pope to say that Black Catholics want to hear.

    Second, I just think that Black Catholics would like to be recognized. We have a huge history here in the United States, the first black Jesuit in the country, Patrick Healy  was the president of Georgetown [University], we have an order which was started by Henriette Delille, the Sisters of the Holy Family, people are hoping that maybe the cause for her sainthood could progress. There’s lots of different ways in which Black Catholics could be recognized by the Pope and I am hoping that we hear something from him while he is here in the United States.


    Discussion questions:

    What problems can arise from leadership that is not aware of the cultural needs and contributions of a segment of the congregation?

    How can a congregation meaningfully engage with different cultural communities within its membership?

    Whose cultural identity is most prevalent in your worship service? How do you see this?

    How can a congregation appropriately relate to its complicity in past injustice and respond to contemporary challenges?


    Good News for the City: Urban Apologetics

    Friend of the blog, Ramon Mayo of Urban Ministries Inc. and UrbanFaith.com has an interview with Chris Brooks about his new book, Urban Apologetics: Answering Challenges to Faith for Urban Believers. In the interview, Mayo and Brooks explore the need for thoughtful articulation of the faith to respond to the distinct questions that people are asking. Doing Apologetics from an Urban Perspective opens a conversation about how best to engage the living contexts of our cities with the gospel–acknowledging that both the questions and responses may differ from those of prior generations of apologists.

    Chris Brooks is the senior pastor of Evangel Ministries and also the founder and president of the Detroit Bible Institute. He also hosts a Detroit-aired daily radio show, “Equipped For Life,”and is the newly appointed Campus Dean of Moody Theological Seminary-Michigan. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Chris over about his new book “Urban Apologetics” and apologetics in general.

    What inspired you to write a book on apologetics?

    Two things. First it comes from a passion for the gospel in the urban community. People have intellectual barriers and need answers to their questions about life, so I wanted to provide the answers from Christ and scripture because most people assume that we don’t have answers.

    Secondly it stems from our members being sent out to do evangelism and coming back with the questions and objections of the urban community they were sent to. I took it upon myself to develop a specific ministry of equipping Christians to answer people’s objections regarding the faith.

    Why do you believe apologetics are important for the urban context? (more…)

    World Cup of Theologians: USA – Cornel West

    The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

    westCornel West (1953- ) is the Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at the Union Theological Seminary and an outspoken public academic, philosopher, and activist.

    He uses philosophy, Christian practice, and Marxist thought to bear witness and influence in love and justice. Much of his work has grown out of studies on race, class, and gender within American society, as well as the ways in which people interact based upon racial conscientiousness.

    As a public intellectual, West’s dream of keeping alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. takes shape in the ways in which he writes and participates in current events, asserting that theology must be expressed in one’s social and political life. In Race Matters, he examines moral authority and racial debates regarding skin color in the United States and focuses on progress through what unites man in love and justice as he points out the differences that divide humanity.

    In these downbeat times, we need as much hope and courage as we do vision and analysis; we must accent the best of each other even as we point out the vicious effects of our racial divide and pernicious consequences of our maldistribution of wealth and power. We simply cannot enter the twenty-first century at each other’s throats, even as we acknowledge the weighty forces of racism, patriarchy, economic inequality, homophobia, and ecological abuse on our necks. We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation–and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately. Do we have the intelligence, humor, imagination, courage, tolerance, love, respect, and will to meet the challenge? Time will tell. None of us alone can save the nation or world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.

    Currently, Cornel West contributes to the radio show Smiley and West and has authored a memoir, entitled Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. For more information, you can find his official website here.

    Phillip Sturgeon is a graduate of Chapman University. He writes at his personal blog, phillipotamus.com and lives in Southern CA, where he almost always drives with the windows down.

    The History and Future of Womanist Theology (Video)

    Union Theological Seminary recently hosted a documentary about the origin of Womanist Theology through the perspective of some of its early adherents. The 12-minute video below is a preview of the full documentary, Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, which will be shown at the American Academy of Religion meeting this fall in San Diego, California, USA.

    A social and spiritual look at female theologians and ethicists of African descent…Union Theological Seminary will premier Journey to Liberation, a 50-minute documentary on the founding of Womanist theology, an African-American feminist liberation movement. Filmmaker Anika Gibbons takes a deeper look at the radical spirituality and scholarship within the lives of the founding mothers of Womanist theology and Womanist ethics. She focuses on their significance as figures in African-American theology and history, and on the role played by Union in that founding.

    For a summary and commentary on the event, see Womanist Theology at Union: A Past, A Present– A Future? by Jamall Calloway (H/T to Jason Harris and Postcolonial Theology Network Facebook Group)

    For more videos, including an introduction to the film and resulting panel discussion about the current state of African-American women in theology and Womanist perspectives, follow this link.

     If you are interested in sharing your perspective and becoming a writer with GlobalTheology.org, find more information on our Get Involved Page!

    Michael Shepherd is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University. He is the editor of GlobalTheology.org and lives in Fullerton, CA, USA with his wife and son.

    Black History Devotional: His Story, Our Story

    hsosIt is my firm belief that God works through all cultures of the world and uses them to reflect his attributes and ways. This is definitely true in the case of African American culture. In writing this book, I have written about the journey of a people as they have sought freedom and equality in a land that was not their own. In spite of all this, they maintained a level of dignity and humanity in the face of suffering and showed the world that tragedy can be turned into triumph. I wrote this book because I love two things: God and myself. I am an African American male and the product of the black church. One thing that frustrates me is the lack of literature and resources that highlight my heritage and my faith. Black History month has been a time to celebrate the rich legacy of African Americans and their contribution to the world, but it has been divorced from one of the things that has made that contribution so rich: the faith of African Americans, which is largely found in Jesus Christ.

    This book is for all those who have an interest in African American culture and history. It can be used to enlighten and give understanding to African Americans and it also can serve as an introduction to Black History for those who are not African American. So if you are curious about Black History then this is a small taste of the historical figures and accomplishments that have made a great impact in the world.

    Secondly, it is for those who are hungering for a way to integrate their faith with their heritage. This is to show the ways in which God is not divorced from the African American experience and he is not divorced from your life as a black person in the United States. In the same way that he was with your ancestors he will be with you when you face the fiery trials and weighty burdens of life. Your faith is not “the white man’s religion ” but something that is uniquely yours.

    Lastly, this is for all those who are on a spiritual quest. Wherever you are on your journey this book has something for you. If you are spiritually curious then you will find in these pages something that will get you thinking and meditating. The Christian faith of African Americans provides a unique spiritual legacy. It was a resource that helped to bolster them in the harshest conditions . This rich spiritual tradition is something that can benefit anyone who is spiritually hungry or curious.

    (Introduction. Mayo, Ramon. His Story, Our Story)

    His Story, Our Story is a 31 day Black History devotional. It is a collection of biographical sketches on great figures in African American history along with devotional thoughts, discussion questions and prayers on themes from the Bible. It connects the journey of African Americans with the God who sustained and liberated them. Containing biographical information on a variety of different characters in Black History, His Story Our Story uses the heritage of African Americans to help you go forward in your spiritual journey.

    His Story, Our Story is available in paperback and as an ebook download. You can find out more about Ramon Mayo and his work at his website.

    James Cone on a Black Jesus and the White Church

    Black Jesus by Stanley Rayfield

    Black Jesus by Stanley Rayfield

    In the 1960s, theologian James Cone was writing in an era of civil unrest due to racial disparity in the presence of a majority church largely unaware and unconcerned with the injustices common to his experience.

    Rather than postpone the triumph over injustice to some abstract, heavenly future, he stresses the incarnation of Christ into the lives of the oppressed. This emphasis empowers the oppressed as well as challenges the privileged. This hermeneutic introduces reconciliation as a necessity for mature discipleship.

    Below is an excerpt from James Cone’s book, Black Theology and Black Power:

    “The way of the church is related to the fact that the Kyrios Lord himself is on his way in the world, …and the church has no choice but to follow him who precedes. Consequently obedience and witness to the Kyrios require the discernment of the opening which he provides and the willingness to step into this opening.” –Thomas Weiser

    The opening has been made and the Church must follow. To follow means that the Church is more than a talking or a resolution-passing community. Its talk is backed up with relevant involvement in the world as a witness, through action, that what it says is in fact true.

    Where is “the opening” that Christ provides? Where does he lead his people?
    (more…)

    Welcome!

    Welcome to Global Theology- a blog dedicated to exploring cultural expressions of Christianity around the world, diversity in the Church, and contextual theology!

    Find out more about the project and how you can be involved!
    We welcome contributors!

    Categories

    Subscribe via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.