Today is my birthday.  I am now 33.  For some reason…lately…I have been thinking 20 to 30 years ahead.  Its weird really.  Where do I want to be? my family? 

On February 19 I begin teaching an 8-week course at Warehouse 242.  I will be dealing with ‘racial reconciliation’.  Essentially we will be exploring what it means to be a missional community in a postmodern racialized society.

I am really looking forward to attending my first Emergent event.  This Sunday I fly out to New Haven for the Emergent Theological Conversation whose main speaker will be theologian Miroslav Volf.  I am anticipating great fellowship and food for the soul/spirit.

My kids got their report cards yesterday…all fo’ (four) of them are on the honor roll.  I am very proud of them.   



31 thoughts on “Happenings

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  1. Happy Birthday! Many happy returns. I was thinking about you yesterday, as I was listening to the mp3 of you presenting Practicing Pentecost. Every time I hear/read it, I am amazed at how close our passions in this regard are. You offer a perspective, wisdom and depth that I lack, so thank you.

    If you record your teaching or are willing to chare your notes, I would be very interested, as I am currently working on a paper (possibly book) that explores the nature of missional community in the context of the Gospel. Needless to say, the issue of racialization is a significant one.

    On a side note (feel free to email a reply if you don’t want to post it here), I would love your insight on something.

    It struck me yesterday, while listening to your presentation, that at the same time the Western Church strongly resisted integration in the local churches, missiologically, they were extremely intentional about inforcing a highly racialized/white ecclesiology on the churches abroad. Care to comment on this (seeming) contradiction?


  2. Happy Birthday…and it’s been good having your insight and participation on RBA. I’m definitely looking forward to more dialog.

    By the way, what works on “racial reconciliation” have influenced you the most?

  3. happy birthday anthony. i am both stoked for you and jealous that you are going to the Emergent Conference. praying His travel mercies on you for sure.

  4. Jamie,

    You asked:

    “It struck me yesterday, while listening to your presentation, that at the same time the Western Church strongly resisted integration in the local churches, missiologically, they were extremely intentional about inforcing a highly racialized/white ecclesiology on the churches abroad. Care to comment on this (seeming) contradiction?”

    I think that was due to the fact that racism is deeply embedded in Western culture…American liberal democracy in particular. Like many North American churches our ecclesiology is deeply tied to the American project…which has racism (white dominance at its roots) at its very roots. When I say ‘white’ I am not talking primarily of phenotype or skin color. I am talking about a “principality”. A principality or power that has had a profound political-social manifestation in this ubiquitous racial hierarchy in America. Being ‘white’ historically meant that one had a particular place in the racial hierarchy of the world. The thing about white dominance is that it renders a white racial identity ‘invisible’. That’s why many white people don’t see themselves as white. It isn’t something they think about every single day when they step outside in the world. This is because ‘whiteness’ pervades the cultural and global landscape. Which leads to an interesting discussion on the dominance of white cultural aesthetics in ecclesial structures. Enough rambling.

    Basically, Jamie, what happened is that the spread of ‘white’ ecclesialness throughout the globe was thought to be the spreading of “Christianity”. Missiologically, whites typically don’t see themselves as spreading their white racial identity around the globe…it is usually thought they are spreading a “universal” Christian message and ecclesiology. I’ll have to chew on that more…great question.

  5. Xavier,

    I really like the conversation happening over at RBA. I look forward to future dialogue.

    You asked:

    “By the way, what works on “racial reconciliation” have influenced you the most?”

    Good question brother. Honestly, I struggle with calling this ‘racial reconciliation’. For a number of reasons I’ll have to post about later. Here are some good reads that have really pushed me:

    1. Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
    2. Divided by Faith & United by Faith – Michael Emerson/Christian Smith
    3. Politics of Jesus – John Howard Yoder
    4. Gospel in Black and White – Dennis Okholm, ed.
    5. The Abolition of White Democracy – Joel Olson
    6. The Church Enslaved – Campolo/Battle
    7. The Heart of Racial Justice – McNeil/Richardson
    8. Transforming Mission – David Bosch
    9. Race Matters – Cornel West
    10. Exclusion and Embrace – Miroslav Volf

    There are some more…I might have to dedicate an entire post. Great question!

  6. I wanted to wish you a happy bday.

    If we take disparities in mortality rates into consideration, you may already by at your mid-life. lol
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, your family news, and your ministry work. This weekend, Scot and Brian are in town and I should have the opportunity to hear them. Maybe I will write and let you know what I thought.

  7. Anthony,

    Thanks for your answer. While I fully agree with what you are saying (being in a missions agency, the historical & contemporary examples confront me almost daily), I guess I was specifically wondering why there wasn’t more of an intentional interference with black churches in America. Obviously there was a great deal of pressure and impact by the “white” principality, but I wondered if there wasn’t a discrepency between the two examples.

    Sadly, I think I am failing to be clear, so if you don’t understand what I am asking, please feel free to nudge me for clarity (or ignore me – wink).

    At any rate, I hope your birthday was excellent.


  8. Jamie,

    I think I understand. Are you asking why there was a segregation between white and black churches in America without ‘interference’? That…there was no direct interference of black churches. That’s a good question. I apologize if my previous diatribe missed your question completely.

    Basically, it is a matter of historical evolution. Initially, there were no black churches in America when slaves began to be ‘converted’. They were ‘allowed’ to worship in white churches. But one of the practices that quickly developed were ‘hush harbors’. Slaves would sneak out in the night and have their own clandestine worship meetings. The initial ‘conversion’ of slaves to Western Christianity is an interesting story. So…slaves worshipped initially with whites…then debates ensued about whether or not slaves should be baptised (conincidentally there was debate whether or not slaves should be converted in the first place). Both instances implied social equality and many whites were afraid that converting and baptising slaves could foment slave revolts and demands for social equality.

    I said all of that to say that the early history is one in which the black church was allowed to exist separately but it was closely monitored. Many black churches were given black pastors that were ‘authorized’ by the local white community leadership. The content of sermons and worship songs were closely monitored. The emergence of the black church (hush harbors aside) was one of control and opression. But even in the midst of that the black church was still a place where one’s dignity could be affirmed as the imago dei.

    So…there was little interference because black churches existed in a society that was controlled by the powers that be. There was no need to ‘interfere’ because society legally sanctioned white supremacy. There was no need to ‘interfere’ too much. Now don’t get me wrong American history is replete with those black churches that stepped ‘out of line’ in some fashion and were burned to the ground. That’s why church burnings are still a sore subject down here…especially in the American South.

    In other words, there was no need for a large scale interference if the larger society was underwraps with legally-sanctioned white supremacy.

    As time progressed blacks sort of stayed in their place and whites stayed in their place. The segregation took on a life of its own. These are my initial thoughts…i’ll post more on this later.


  9. Welcome to the 33 club Anthony! =)

    You claim that the American project has racism in its roots. That may be, but I’m wondering if you also see trace a latent critique to racism in early American theologies. As I see it, the stepping stones to philosophical (not necessarily actual) racial equality were well in place before the American Revolution.

    What’s expressed in the Bill of Rights, as I see it, is not really Enlightenment values. I think the Enlightenment curtailed social equality in Europe rather than encouraged it, since it led to an over-scientized view of humanity. The American liberal democracy is a product of religious suffrage, so in a way, it is the product of minority views grasping political ascendancy. The value of human dignity, freedom of consciousness, as the primary right of man (only later, true, of women and blacks)…is a value that is thoroughly a product of American pietism. The antidote to philosophical racism came through the back door of the theologies of displaced European religious minorities. In particular, the sparks flew when the progressive theological strains (a critical theology) of the Puritans intermingled with the pessimistic view of government in the pietistic camp (anabaptists and Quakers). They came together in the Great Awakening, and laid the philosophical foundations, for a political system that was open to critique. It’s been a slow critique, I agree, but I see it nowhere else. Quite honestly, my travels through Europe and the Middle East made that quite clear to me.

    Birthday Cheers!


  10. eric,

    I am wondering about those early American theologies you refer to as a latent critique of racism. You mentioned Puritanism and pietism as laying a foundation for later minority voices of protest within American liberal democracy. I think they laid foundation inasmuch as they appealed to the biblical narrative regarding humans being as the imago dei and particular appropriations of the Exodus story as a way to narrate protest and emancipatory projects here in America. But more importantly their protest had a strong pragmatic element to it. Especially during the Civil Rights movement. For I don’t see much of the ‘success’ of the Civil Rights movement a straightforward appeal to Puritain or pietist ideals or practices (that may be in the background). What I see in the ‘successes’ of the Civil Rights movement (I am using this movement as an example for it is the closest thing to us) is the embarassing of American liberal democracy in the midst of Cold War politics. For example, much of the Civil Rights movement was economic and political protest against the power structure. People like King embarassed the hell out of the powers in their quest to gain moral and global hegemony over the Russians during the Cold War. That’s why American politicians would be inflamed when they would see Kruschev point out America’s hypocrisy in claiming to be an exemplar of democracy and freedom and point to racial oppression in America. It is subtle nuances like this that need to be a part of our discussion on race in America.

    I think my assessment that American liberal democracy has racism at its roots is overdetermined by a particular reading of liberal democracies and American in particular. Here’s a quote from two scholars on the democratic project:

    “It is not so much that racial discrimination is a ‘dilemma’ for white Americans or that liberal citizenship coexists with ascriptive traditions that exclude people of color. Rather, the very structure of American citizenship is white, to the point where, for most of American history, to be a citizen was to be white and vice versa. Racial oppression makes full democracy impossible, but it has also made American democracy possible. Conversely, American democracy has made racial oppression possible, for neither slavery nor segregation nor any other form of racial domination could have survived without the tacit or explicit consent of the white majority. American democracy is a white democracy, a polity ruled in the interests of a white citizenry and characterized by simultaneous relations of equality and privilege: equality among whites, who are privileged in relation to those who are not white. The burdens of white citizenship–particularity on efforts on efforts to expand democracy–remain with us today.” –Joel Olson, “The Abolition of White Democracy”

    What Dr. Olson is suggesting we should have contention with is the very notion of what constitutes ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’. We have been taught, in the West, that these are ‘self-evident’ truths. I am not convinced that they are. I believe that concepts like ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ are tradition-dependent concepts that arise out of particular historical communities. In the case of America…it was a racial caste system whose conception of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ was very limited. As Dr. Olson it was ‘equality among whites’. Another Scholar/theologian makes the same point:

    “A society based on individual freedom and equality cannot recognize that that very language privileges one culture over another, for the language itself is one culture’s imposition over others. It creates a putative universal culture, but it is actually a sinister form of imperialism that subjects other cultures to its own hegemony. This is the tragic pathos of liberalism; it is a hegemonic discourse that cannot recognize itself as such…The pathos of liberalism results in an inability to address the question of racism. This is in part due to the inability to describe and confess the sin of racism well. What is racism?…the liberalism upon which America is predicated instantiates a doctine of white supremacy. Therefore, its language of freedom, inclusivity, and equality cannot seriously address the history and politics of race. Such language assumes a norm (whiteness) against which terms such as inclusivity and equality can work. Those terms cannot be used without the assumption of such a norm. That’s why they will always fail as an effort to address the sin of racism.” –D. Stephen Long “The Goodness of God”

    My argument or claim is that American democracy is a tradition-dependent concept that arose out of the bossom of white supremacy. I would like to think that there are within America deep theological sources to counter racism in our culture. But how is this possible when much of white Christianity is apathetic to dealing with the issue? We have bought into popular narratives that suggest that the racial walls of Jericho have fallen down since King and the Civil Rights movement. I think you are correct in stating…and I agree with you that there are deep resources such as the pietist traditions (e.g. the Anabaptist…hence my love for John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas). But the project of many of these marginal traditions was not the liberal democratic project…it was the kingdom of God. The state of America was a secondary issue…or a tertiary issue at best. That’s how I read it…I could very well be wrong.

    Now see Eric…you made me say more than I wanted. Thanks for pulling that out of me. I have been reluctant to pull out all the stops on this issue but as I engage this issue I am beginning to see the importance of digging deep down in those Christian theological resources to wrestle with the ‘power’ of racialization.

  11. Anthony, thanks for the response…I hope you do pull out all the stops on us.

    You are right that those marginal traditions cared little about state power (they were communitarian). But the Puritans certainly did–this is why the Great Awakening was the doorstep to the Revolution. One indeed can look at that Calvinistic-pragmatic social ethic at work in such a figure as John Adams, universalizing Protestant ethics in the national project.

    There is, in my opinion, only a limited hope in appealing directly to those American traditions. Still…the Great Awakening has made Billy Graham possible. And the unifying social force it bequethed us is a deep part of American consciousness, e.g. the American Jesus. It is no accident that American Jesus, as a Jesus, has more charismatic appeal than any other predecessor before him. In America, your denominational sect has become irrelevant. American Jesus pulls no sectarian baggage. Incidentally, this is why Emergent-type people feel wonderfully absolved in checking “Christian-other” or just “Other” (instead of “Protestant”…which indeed they are) when pressed to identify their sectarian leaning.

    One thing I will point out about the social ethic of Great Awakening Puritanism. There is no greater social leveller than the thought that absolutely no one is worthy of salvation.

    But you probably well know, Anthony, what tradition I would appeal to. =) Nobody has been forced to appreciate the virtue of liberty as much as the Jews. The concept of egalitarian “liberty” is not Greek, but was born in Judaism–perhaps even before Socrates. What was understood as “Liberty” (a term used by Jews at the latest by the late first century–think about that) was to live under the Law of God, as opposed to men’s. Certainly this was the rhetoric at the time of Jesus, in Pirke Avot 6:2. “The Truth shall set you free” is a restatement of that tradition:

    …it says, ‘And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.’ Read not charut (graven), but cherut (liberty), for no man is free but he who occupies himself in the learning of Torah. But whosoever labors in the torah, behold he shall be exalted, as it is said, ‘And from Mattanah to Nachaliel, and from Nachaliel to Bamot.'”…Avot 6:2

    (‘Bamot’ means ‘high place’).

    In short, I believe our missional critique of the American project begins by re-pietizing American protestantism. That is why I am here Judaizing. 😉



  12. Anthony,

    I look forward to meeting you at Yale this week. I’ve followed your blog on and off for some time now. You have important things to say. I pray for more people with the ears to hear.

    BTW, one of my professors, J. Kameron Carter, has a forthcoming book with OUP called “Race: A Theological Account” that I think you might be interested in. He considers the modern construction of race as fundamentally a theological problem rooted in the Church’s rejection of the Jewishness of Jesus.

    Safe travels. See you in New Haven.

  13. Happy Birthday! Mine’s next week and I’ll be a year older than you! But for 7 days, we can be 33 at the same time.

    Thanks for your blog. I love reading it and really enjoy your writing.

  14. Happy belated birthday! Mine is on the 19th and I will be 32. My niece had her 6th birthday on the 1st.

    Sounds like you’ve got very interesting things going on. Looking forward to reading about the trip.

  15. Anthony,
    Happy Birthday. I was in Ukraine for 3 weeks so I am now catching up on all the blogs. I hope you have (or have had) a great time at Yale. Your kids must take after you–bright and articulate!

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