Monday, October 08, 2007
Jesus: Mystic, Maverick, Revolutionary, Messiah.
Drug abuse, gang violence, single parent homes, mis-education, lack of opportunity an over zealous justice system, an apathetic political system, poor health care homelessness, frustration, grief, hostility, despair, nihilism and lostness. The challenges that affect many black people in America are legion. For some the answer is simple: we need a black messiah. Now in the ordinary course of theological discussion most black evangelicals wouldn’t use that term. But there are other ways to suggest that what black people need is a revolutionary black messiah. We can say for example that African-Americans need a black theology to address the issues that affect us. We can believe (I think erroneously) that since theology is always simply a product of one’s own cultural, social and political situation that the prime directive for black theologions and pastors is to craft a theology that addresses what in our estimation are the most pressing needs of black people.
The question I wish to pose is this: Will a black theology (whether liberal or conservative, Arminian or Reformed) be the catalyst for the resurrection of blackness?
There are many reasons I believe the answer to this question is no. For one, can the church genuinely proclaim a universal salvation if our understanding of God is limited by our own time, culture, social and political situation? (that’s the natural conclusion to the position that theology is merely a reflection of one’s circumstances and situation) Wouldn’t that mean that we’d have to define and redefine what salvation is to suit each culture and each people group? Also if the church cannot agree on some universal truths regarding Scripture, God, mankind, sin, salvation, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit etc. then we cannot carry out our mandate to make disciples of all ethnic groups. I mean what’s the use of baptizing people into one church if the church in the Ukraine is qualitatively different from the church in Ghana which is qualitatively different from the in Bolivia?
But let’s examine the man/mystic/maverick/revolutionary/messiah Himself. For starters what was the Jewish social, cultural and political situation during the time that Jesus ministered? What were the issues that most affected the Jewish people He taught? What might they have said was their most pressing felt needs? What did they want to hear from their theologions and pastors? I have a guess that of all the things they wanted or expected to hear from this new Galilean mystic/maverick/revolutionary/messiah the message they got on the Sermon of the Mount wasn’t one of them.
Jesus begins by defining what true spiritual and thus by extension psychological, emotional and social well being is. The funny thing is according to Jesus the blessed ones aren’t blessed just because they’re Jewish, or oppressed. Even more startling is that they’re blessedness isn’t contingent on the Romans leaving their country and allowing them to control their own land. Am I arguing that oppressed people should remain oppressed? Come on folks of course not.
I do want to highlight the truth that Jesus didn’t deliver His people their expected dose of ghettoized theology. This is the kind of theology that plays on the felt needs of a particular people and can deceive them into believing that their real issues, problems and challenges are due to racism, classism, sexism or any other kind of ism. Instead of dealing with the sin that is within it moves the focus to those sinners who are without. It was a ghettoized theology that infected many American churches as they railed against the evils of communism even while giving moral backing to segregation and racism.
And if we give into a ghettoized ‘black’ theology then we’ll only have ourselves to blame when ten to twenty years from now we wring our hands while still mourning the death of blackness.
To Him Who Loves Us…