There has been some great discussion on race and Emergent (actually American Christianity at large). This has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks. I am glad to be able to throw out some of my thoughts about the issue of race and American Christianity. But I want to throw out some random thoughts that I jotted down on the plane while flying out to Seattle last week. Don’t hold me to these thoughts…they just sort of came up. One of the pathologies I find in mainstream black culture and church is a lack of self-criticism. Bill Cosby makes a few comments about some of the negative pathologies happening in the black community he becomes a lackey for the Neocons and an instigator of class struggle in the black community. The dude is a comedian for God’s sake! Of course Cosby is more than just a comedian…he is a cultural icon. But still I think we can be over-reactive sometimes. Of course my little rant that I’m about to spit may very well be reactionary as well. I guess reacting is inescapable. Here’s my thoughts riding on a beam of the black Christian experience…at least mine.
1. Perhaps the black church and black theology are over-determined by the attainment of personal and individual liberty. What some may call “freedom”. It could very well be that the quest for freedom, which has serious merit given America’s racist past and present, has overdetermined the missional self-understanding of the black church and its theology.
2. In doing so the ideology and consequent beliefs and practices of American-styled individualism has screwed up a communal and missional understanding of the black Church’s role in American society.
3. This is displayed in the growing insurgence of neo-conservatism in some wings of the black Church.
4. What some of my Emergent brothers and sisters don’t understand is that the black church has not been immune to the individualism prominent in Western culture. As evidenced by theologies of self-fulfillment and materialism that are gaining a larger audience in the black Church.
5. While there still remains a trace of solidarity and communal resistance practices within strands of the black Church it is becoming quite obvious that the quest for a particular kind of freedom has messed up and eroded contemporary black Christian life from its rich legacy.
6. The quest for a particular kind of freedom has opened the back door to the negative pathologies of capitalism. The break up of community(and family), the deformation of desire, and the reduction of the gospel to individualistic/consumeristic accounts of salvation.
7. The gospel becomes baptized into the ethos and pathos of American individualism and capitalism un-critically. Salvation gets reduced to an issue of personal financial success and achieving human potential. Thus privileging the individual over the common good…something foreign to the African contribution to American Christianity. Rosa Parks could have stayed home and read Fulton Sheen.
8. Such over-determination makes it difficult to create social spaces where empathy and solidarity towards others can be cultivated and formed.
9. In the black Church’s quest for American freedom we have cut ourselves off from a rich theological/ecclesial heritage that sustained us during slavery up until the Civil Rights movement.
What to do?