Finally, because I don’t expect or desire the average person in our Christian communities to have to wade through waters of academic vernacular found in critical race theory or theological ethics, the entire book is written out of a pastoral voice (of which I have 10 years of pastoral ministry experience), and saturated with personal stories and experience that help communicate important themes and points. In short, Trouble I’ve Seen = antiracism theory + theological ethics + pastoral voice.
Yet, the questions I want to raise are these: what does it mean that the popularity of predominately white church plants in inner cities has grown precisely as gentrification has spiked? What does it mean that many have been inspired to seek the welfare of cities precisely as a growing number of people have been economically displaced from these cities? The theologies that romanticize this shift into the city need to be seriously scrutinized alongside the material realities.
In “God of the Oppressed,” James Cone recounts how Christian responses to the 1967 Detroit riot revealed not only an insensitivity to black suffering but a larger theological bankruptcy on the part of white theologians. As he saw it, they were not genuinely concerned about all cases of violence. Worried about the threat of black revolutionaries, they did not see the structure of violence embedded in U.S. law and carried out by the police. Cone asks: “Why didn’t we hear from the so-called nonviolent Christians when black people were violently enslaved, violently lynched, and violently ghettoized in the name of freedom and democracy?”
In 1960, when Vincent Harding moved to Atlanta, he began trying to weld together the ongoing nonviolent activism being lived out by some in the Black Church with the peace witness of the Mennonite Church. This effort became less than a decade long experiment, because Harding would eventually break formal ties with the Mennonite Church. Though his time and effort keeping a foot simultaneously in both the Black community and Mennonite community was fixed should not suggest to us that he no longer had an important role to play in for Mennonite lived faith or that he did not continue to influence the Mennonite Church deeply. In fact, his ongoing legacy for the Mennonite Church lives on today.
In the midst of all the unarmed black people dying at the hands of police and the even larger problem of anti-black ideology that has normed our society, I thought it fitting to share Moe's song. Let me know what you think about his song entitled Brown Skin.
Finding a crack in the door of patriarchy, which still patterns the life of both the church and the world, Carolyn Custis James swings it wide open, redirecting the gender conversation towards its rightful focus: the malestrom.
Most American Christians would probably say that at the center of the Christian life is the Bible, and being biblical. Most are convinced that being biblical separates the sheep from the goats, but this is not so. The problem with this framing is not that a ‘biblical orientation’ demands too much but that in reality it demands too little. It is too vague rather than too specific.
May we not domesticate the Jesus story for our own religious comfort, but in telling the story, and doing so truthfully, may we worship our crucified Christ and encounter his delivering presence, and therefore be transformed after the image of God.
Participating in what God is doing, according to this early Christian theologian, will demand breaking alignment with the dominating social order, so one can truly imitate God. If we are to be imitators of God we are encouraged to be for others in solidarity with the poor and oppressed.
In light of the annivesary of Trayvon Martin's killing, which is 2/26/12, I thought it would be appropriate to share 3 of my old posts that were written during that time. In many ways, Trayvon's death radicalized my mouth and pen to speak more truthfully and transparently about what was going on in me and our white dominated society. Each piece was different, and served various purposes and intentions. Let me know what stood out to you. If there was something you appreciated, disagreed with, or need more clarification on, please start a conversation below in the comment section. Of course, also remember these were written about 3 years ago, and so my thoughts have and are always maturing, and when necessary, radically changing directions and trajectories. May we all stand in solidarity with all the particular bodies that are more vulnerable than others in our society, as Jesus himself did in his own life.