In part 1 I indicated my desire to imagineer a church where a negro can feel at home. I want give some of my thoughts on being missional. Here is a portion of writing (rough rough draft) from my presentation I will be giving at the After-Evangelicalism conference next month in Grand Rapids. I am talking about Pentecost:
The pouring out of the Spirit makes way for us to participate in the reality or new creation that has come about through Christ’s cross and resurrection. This is dangerous. For this participation is much more than an inner private experience with God. It is also a social-spiritual and, dare I say it, political reality that witnesses to the inner life of God. We are to be “one” as Father, Son, and Spirit are one. The apostle Peter once said that we are to be partakers (I read as dynamic participation) of the Divine Nature. The Spirit-led church is a community, a particular social embodiedment that witnesses to God’s intent for human communities.
This participation in the life of God is energized by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Such a gift clothes us with power from on high to be communal sign-posts that point to the kingdom of God. Such a participation is often thwarted by what Paul calls the principalities and powers.
‘They [the powers] seek their own goals; they build their own structures; they establish their own domains. Human ambitions, desires, hopes, and fears are their driving forces, and just because of this they become superhuman systems, demonic spiritual opponents of God that subject human beings to their own domination.’ (Stormfront, p.89)
The powers, though created by and for Christ, manifest a rebellion against God’s salvific will for humanity and creation. For the purposes of this paper one of the powers that has rebelled against God in divers ways is the power of ethnicity (or what a cadre of European scientist during the Enlightenment came up with, the category of ‘race’). One of the ways that race has rebelled against God is the emergence of ‘whiteness’ becoming synonymous with ‘universality’ and ‘normativity’. This has a long history dating back to early modern Europe when cultural elites engineered conceptions with concomitant political and economic practices that buttressed European global hegemony.
This history of universalizing whiteness was embodied in ecclesial practices (e.g. liturgy, church art, worship styles, preaching styles) that were and are assumed to be normative for ‘all’ Christians. There resides in this practice of ecclesial whiteness a long history for which we don’t have space to cover. My point in bringing this up has to do with how the powers of whiteness, as universal normative ecclesial culture, plays itself out in churches where non-European American Christians are told, “forget about color and worship Jesus.” What many European Christians don’t realize is that such a ‘call to worship’ is a call to non-European Christians to join in on this universal ecclesial whiteness. Most of the time this is not done intentionally, but done with a sincere desire to see diversity in worship. But such ‘worship’ is not a diversity I would think is Spirit-led.
Spirit-led worship is a worship that displays the unity in diversity that images God’s nature. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit gifted the worshippers (who displayed a wide array of ethnic backgrounds) with tongues of fire. In these tongues each participant heard his own language being spoken from a person not from their cultural/ethnic background. They were speaking in tongues. What were these tongues?
I said all that to say this. A place where a negro like myself will feel at home will be a place where fellow worshippers learn to speak in tongues. We will be learning about speaking in tongues in part 3 of this series.