A Black Theology of Liberation by James Cone was the first theological text I ever read. I cherish the writings of Dr. Cone because he has the ability to articulate what it means to be pro-Black and Christian. He was the first theologian I was introduced to of any color. He remains the most important and influential theologian in my life. Because my community/heritage and my faith have always meant a lot to me I was and continue to be fascinated by the intersection of those worlds.

Not long after I read that book by Dr. Cone, I enrolled into the religious studies program at Oakland City University, a small General Baptist school in southwest Indiana. None of my classmates had ever read any Black theology. In fact they didn't even know who James Cone was. If it was not for my professors' ability to engage in discussions about race and social justice I probably would've went crazy during my two years at that school.

It seems that since about 2011 I have been unable to escape the White evangelical world; a world extremely unfamiliar to me for the first 24 years of my life (I grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal tradition in Baltimore, MD). While immersed in the White evangelical culture I have become increasingly frustrated by White folk's inability to decentralize their whiteness, especially in circles where diversity is supposedly made a top priority. A key component of whiteness is racial privilege; the privilege to assume that whiteness is the norm against which everyone else should be compared and the privilege to live one's life without ever needing to be aware of one's whiteness and how it might be impacting their life.

I see this most prevalent in theology. White theologians are held as the standard of theological thought while theologians of color are seen as contextual. This bothered me throughout college, but I didn't know how to articulate my concerns. I also, admittedly, was unaware of just how many theological works have been produced by people of color.

Recently, I was inspired by some conversations I had on twitter to get back into reading theology. The discipline of reading, for me, is similar to how many people treat the discipline of staying physically fit. I will read a lot over a short period of time, then go a long period of time without reading at all. After reflecting on those twitter conversations I made the decision to only read books by Black theologians for the next year.

I have decided to embark on this journey for three reasons. The first reason is that I am tired of the fact that in an ever-browning society and Church whiteness is still being normalized. One specific example of this is InterVaristy Press's Fall 2014 catalog which will not include a single author of color (read more about this here).
The second reason for my decision is because my study of and knowledge about Black theology is simply inadequate. Outside of the usual suspects of Cone, Thurman, and Cleage, I really haven't read much from other Black theologians. That inadequacy leads me to my third reason, which is the love I have for my community and the work of liberation I wish to engage in. The Black faith community has been involved in liberating its people here in America for a long time. As a person that looks to my faith to inform me of what I must do to dismantle systems of oppression, it would be foolish of me not to study how my ancestors did the same. The concept of sankofa has always been important to me.

History shapes identity. Therefore, I find it absolutely necessary for Black Christians to know and understand how Black folk have historically understood their Christian faith, interpreted scripture, and how the Black church has influenced the Black community. If we do not lift up our own work, our own thinkers, and our own traditions we are stuck in this world with a spiritual identity and a thought process that is not ours and that is ultimately not helpful given the conditions of our community within American society.

I have started the process of compiling resources. I will most likely review the books after I finish reading them (despite the age of some of them). I am also open to recommendations.

Here is the list (so far):

The Black Christ by Kelly Brown Douglas

In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness by Emilie Townes

God of the Oppressed by James Cone

Black Awareness: a Theology of Hope by Major J. Jones

Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk by Delores Williams

Power in the Blood? The Cross in the African American Experience by JoAnne Marie Terrell

The Search for Common Ground by Howard Thurman

Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective by Kelly Brown Douglas

Heart & Head: Black Theology--Past, Present, and Future by Dwight Hopkins

Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion by Charles H. Long

1. In Memory of Dr. Vincent Harding, a 'Prophetic Voice for Justice and Vigorous Nonviolence'
Dr. Vincent Harding, a theologian, historian, author, and civil right activist, died at 5:11 p.m. on Monday at the age of 82. Dr. Harding worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as friend, speechwriter, co-collaborator, and served as a mentor and advisor to many of the members of the Student Non-violent Coordination Committee... continue reading
2. Guilt is Good
For most of January, I taught a cross-cultural psychology study-abroad course in northeastern Brazil. I was a last-minute substitute for the professor who had organized the trip but needed to back out. Goodbye Minnesota winter, hello Brazilian summer. So there I was, in Salvador the blackest city outside of Africa (it’s 89% black) leading 21 lily-white Midwestern college students on educational excursions... continue reading
3. UNlearning
I grew up the daughter of two college graduates. My entire childhood, I knew that my education would not end until I, too, had gone to college. It wasn't just the next logical step, it was the only step. When I was a sophomore in high school someone asked me if I was already thinking about college. "Are you going to go?" they asked. I paused for a moment. It had never occurred to me that people didn't go to college. That was never presented as an option to me- to go or not go… For my parents (and then for me), college was a must... continue reading
4. Anabaptist Theology & Black Power: Intro #AnaBlacktivism
In the recent decade since September 11th, 2001, there has been a surge of Christians in the church, the academy, and online the have taken up the label of “AnaBaptist.”  For many evangelicals, this moniker is a symbol to separate themselves from their parents’ version of Christianity.  The history of the Radical Reformation is an immense departure from the Protestant and Catholic Reformations.  It is one of beheadings, persecution, tears, exiles, and furious debates.  The sufferings of the early Anabaptists as well as the past and present oppression faced by African Americans (and persons of color) are bound up in the history of The Cross.  Given the fact that the historic struggle against White Supremacist Constantinian Christendom is something that Anabaptist theologians and Black Liberationists have in common, one would think that these would be natural allies.  Unfortunately, this is has not been the case... continue reading
5. Evolution of Hell
In the synoptic Gospels, Hell is usually described as a realm of fire, a place that seemingly judges and punishes at the same time, (Matthew 5:22, 29–30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). The most commonly used word for “hell” in the scriptures is the Aramaic word “Gehenna” that passed directly into Greek. Gehenna literally means “Valley of Hinnom” (In Hebrew, “Geh Hinnom”). The Valley of Hinnom was originally a piece of the Promised Land, a lowland (now to the southeast of Jerusalem’s Old City), given to the Hinnom family after whom it was named (Joshua 15:8 and 18:16)... continue reading

Anabaptist Theology & Black Power: Intro #AnaBlacktivism - See more at: http://politicaljesus.com/2014/05/17/anabaptist-theology-black-power-intro-anablacktivism/#sthash.9LHkhm2Q.s46U3Obk.dpuf
Anabaptist Theology & Black Power: Intro #AnaBlacktivism - See more at: http://politicaljesus.com/2014/05/17/anabaptist-theology-black-power-intro-anablacktivism/#sthash.9LHkhm2Q.s46U3Obk.dpuf

"An enemy is one whose story we have not heard."

Over the past few months I have constantly been confronted by the power of personal narrative. I have been greatly moved by hearing others share their stories, whether it be through film, in written form, or by conversation. As a Christian, the importance of narrative is not an unfamiliar topic. The single most common form of writing in the Bible is narrative writing or narrative history. Narrative, a.k.a. story telling, is a powerful learning tool and also a powerful connecting tool. A story is the shortest distance between people.

Our stories are often what connect us as Christians. For example, we share our personal stories of how we came to the faith; our personal stories of our trials and tribulations; and our personal stories of how Christ has impacted our lives. All of these serve to strengthen our bond as the body of Christ. Jesus's prayer is that the Church is, "one as He and the Father are one." However, it is not just the Church, but all of humanity that we must commit to loving as ourselves.

Two thousand years after Christ and we still have yet to get this right. We have gone back to creating barriers between one another that Jesus spent a lifetime tearing down. These barriers are not only evident in society, but also in the church where we still deal with issues such as racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia within the nearly 40,000 denominations that currently exist worldwide.

It has been my experience that the people who harbor the most prejudiced and biased views toward another group of people have never spent much time around those people or engaged the story of that group. They exist to them only in the abstract. When we allow ourselves to turn entire people groups into abstract beings it becomes much easier to absorb the negative stereotypes and caricatures that are given to us. A good example of this is the controversy surrounding the name of the Washington professional football team. Many people have never met a Native American person. They exist to the general public as mere sporting mascots and for decades we have paraded and celebrated several offensive and hurtful slurs that serve to further remove them from the fabric of this nation and to uphold and promote colonial and imperialistic mentalities.

In this country, we allow the dominant narrative to inform us about marginalized and oppressed groups of people far too often. What that means is that the way the dominant culture views the marginalized and oppressed in society is what becomes reinforced through the news, the film industry, and all the other mediums in which we receive information.

"If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people."

Telling our stories is vital to our humanity and dignity. Sharing our stories with one another is perhaps the greatest device we have to destroy the barriers that have been created and sustained throughout history. That is why the executors of systemic oppression wish to co-opt the stories of the marginalized and oppressed and control the way in which their stories are told. There is undeniable power in our stories.

When we share our stories we allow for others to share in our experiences. Christena Cleveland, in her book Disunity in Christ, writes, "Research shows that sharing an experience with another person---sometimes called 'I-sharing'---causes people to feel a profound sense of connection with others, even others who are otherwise dissimilar." Research also suggests that people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set.

I was moved by hearing other people share their stories because in their struggle, I saw my struggle; in their despair, I felt my own despair; in their cries, I heard my own cries. Our humanity is bound up in one another. We can not afford to silence the voices of our neighbors. God has called us to create a community where our differences are celebrated, not used to vilify one another.

It is perhaps the most difficult of the spiritual disciplines to retain: the daily reading of God’s word.
It is not that the exercise itself is particularly hard. You simply crack open the pages of scripture and let your eyes roam across the jots and tittles. No, it is not the mechanics of the daily devotion that is so challenging, it is the consistency... continue reading
2. Does Jesus Love African-American Males?
Does Jesus love African-American males? Then why aren’t we telling them so?!
I recently held a Town Hall Meeting at my church in my hometown of Madison, Wis., regarding the blaring racial disparity between whites and African Americans. This gathering attracted about 650 people who wanted to hear my thoughts after reading my "Justified Anger ” cover essay in a local newspaper. It appears that when one considers the economic, academic, arrest and incarceration disparities between African Americans and whites in Madison (and surrounding Dane County), there is no bleaker place for African Americans to be in the entire country than Madison. Although Madison — with its great university, beautiful lakes, bike paths, and educated residents — typically receives high marks as being among the best mid-sized American cities in which to live, it is now developing a different reputation about life here. Sadly, our community has been nationally deemed as ground zero for the disintegration of African-American males!... continue reading
3. Are We Christians Good Neighbors?
Mrs. Bea was my mother’s best friend. The two of them used to laugh together as if they were the only two in the universe. They spent a lot of their free time together, which was easy since they lived half a block apart... continue reading
4. Do You Need To Stop Reading That “Christian” Blogger?
Your local church pastor is not as edgy and provocative as your favorite blogger or writer, and that’s a good thing.I’m the first guy to advocate Christians preachers and teachers have thoughtful, bold, and worthwhile words to say. I bristle when I hear speakers hunt and peck around important, yet touchy, topics for the sake of their own advancement, brand, pedigree, or future opportunities. I believe it a form of cowardice. It’s not worthy of the gospel. Yet….
There is great benefit to Christians leaders and teachers keeping their mouths shut. (Tweet That)Here’s what I mean… continue reading
5. “i don’t like black people”
Last Sunday, I took my boys to our new black Church. When we pulled into the parking lot, Ransom (8.5) sighed. “Ugh. Mama, I don’t want to go this one. I wanted to go to Daddy’s (white) Church!” Rhysie (4.5), of course, followed suit. “Yeah, Mama. I didn’t want to go to this one.” I lug them out of the car, pontificating about having a good attitude and being thankful for all things blah blah blah when I realize I need to tell them the truth. “Look boys, it’s good for Mama to be around other black people. Mama needs more black people in her life...continue reading

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