Sunday, March 15, 2009
Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community -part 1
I stated in my last posting that I would post my article, "Radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black Liberation Theology & Black Nationalism: Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community" in parts for my next several postings. I feel the article is relevant for the discussion on the Belhar Confession in all manner of ways. One may understand from this article that all are sinners in need of a Savior. Also one can begin to understand how one kind of evil, white racism, breeds another kind of evil, black racism. We are all guilty and so we need to bring discernment to the task ahead.
Radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black Liberation Theology & Black Nationalism:
Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community
"I grew up in a very racist family. My mother wished for an African American cook, my father would have thrown the food away if her wish had come true. We argued about their racism though out my teenage years. Teen age rebellion? Perhaps. More than likely it was my constant reading which included stories about the Quakers and the Underground Railroad. It was also friends, the Bible and my teenage conversion to Christ.
But the truth is I am still arguing. I have been writing articles on racism for almost twenty years. My first articles about racism were on the white Neo-Nazi groups called “Identity.” The last article was on some white pagan groups called Ásatrú and Odinist. Those groups worship the gods and goddesses of old European tribes including Odin and Thor. I wrote of the pagan groups, “The factor that either, makes them racists, or gives them the potential for racism, is their insistence on religion as a genetic development as well as an intrinsic part of the human essence.”1
In fact one recent piece of hate mail I received from an Ásatrú member stated, “The word `hate' in your context is clearly an attempt to distort perception and imply some kind of guilt at the very idea of unity among Native Europeans … You would have to be living in a cave not to see that most ethnic groups unit, (sic) march, organize, for the purpose of strength, preservation of culture, religion, heritage, borders etc....” The writer goes on to write about genetics and religion and how all of civilization is due to the European peoples.
But the movement I am now writing about is different; it is about African Americans who are also either racists or potential racists. It is also about a theology that is, as one African American Reformed Christian states, “little more than a mirror of much of the racist white theology against which it posited itself.”2 The movement is theological, cultural and political and is a combination of Black liberation theology, radical Afrocentric Christianity and various kinds of Black Nationalism.
The movement affects both white and African American believers. This is true because those African Americans who hold to an orthodox and biblical faith are being categorized under the title white.3 So most of what I write about this particular movement's antagonistic attitudes toward biblical and orthodox Christianity applies in just the same manner to orthodox and reformed African American Christians.
These three movements, black liberation theology, radical Afrocentric Christianity and Black Nationalism are fed by many streams. Emotionally they are fed by anger over past wrongs, terrible wrongs.4 But they are also fed by different theological, religious and political movements. For instance when reading Dwight N. Hopkins, Associate Professor of Theology at the Divinity School, University of Chicago, one finds a combination of liberation theology and either/or both process theology and `new thought.' The first type of theology follows the writings of Professor James H. Cone, the father of black liberation theology, the latter follows the early twentieth century founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. 5
I will look at what I have defined as radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black liberation theology and Black Nationalism showing how they overlap and work together. Above all, my main focus will deal with the problem of grounding Christian theology and God's revelation in either culture, `religion' and/or race. I also want to recommend several helpful books and articles on this subject."
1See The NeoPagan Movement and Racism http://www.naminggrace.org/id59.htm Taken from, Watchman Expositor, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2001.
2 Anthony J. C. Carter, On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience, Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing 2003) 16.
3 For instance, see Asa G. Hilliard III, African Power: Affirming African Indigenous Socialization in the Face of Culture Wars,” (Gainesville, FL: Makare Publishing Company 2002), 4.
4 One excellent article dealing with both the horrible treatment of both slaves and contemporary African Americans is, “Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church: An Interview with Pastor Ken Jones,” in Modern Reformation, “Grace Over Race,” Vol 17 #1 Jan/Feb 2008.
5 See, Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity, (Downers Grove: IVP Academic 2007), 78-79. For statements that sound like new thought in Dwight N. Hopkins works see Down, Up, and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2000) For instance, “This divine nature or image of God (or imago dei) has been dormant or subject to attacks on all sides, both internal and external, spiritual and material. Jesus comes as a process of action and dynamism and literally re-turns the poor to the path of their full potential.” (226)