Monday, October 15, 2007
Pie In The Sky
What in the world does reformed theology have to do with Jamal and TaKeisha? They’ve grown up in the hood with a single mom, poor education, few prospects, little hope and a single-minded focus on survival. They need a theology that deals with the here and now, not some pie in the sky pipe dream of the hereafter. We need a theology that will address their issues, not one that dealt with the issues of some long dead white guys in a country and time far, far away. I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. It’s an old (if misplaced and off target argument.) Central to this line of reasoning is that J and T need a theology that prioritizes their temporal needs, issues and challenges. The argument is off base because it has a mistaken view of the real nature of the hypothetical J and T.
Those who promote a ghettoized theology that concentrates on J and T’s physical/economic needs seem convinced that increased economic prosperity translates into increased godliness. This conviction fits in with the long held and trans- cultural belief that rich people are overall more moral and godly than poor people. Armed with this conviction we’re told that the message we must take to the hood isn’t the message of the cross but the gospel of the pocketbook. Once more am I advocating that the church neglects the biblical command to advocate for the poor and work to break the cycle of poverty? Absolutely not. I am saying that a ghettoized theology that focuses on the economic issues of black America while enticing and no doubt popular is not the primary message of scripture. While it may address some of the temporal physical/economic needs of Jamal and TaKeisha it won’t bring them any closer to the living God and might actually serve to drive them away from Him. Though J and T are poor, black, under-served and marginalized they are still sinners. I know that may sound harsh, out of touch, uncaring and maybe even racist but it’s the truth. Whether they or we like it or not their main problem isn’t the injustice of a racialized society but the justice of a righteous God. On the flip side their greatest blessing isn’t the trinkets offered by the American dream but a thriving relationship with the living God in whom they can pour their souls into and delight in forever.
And this is exactly the kind of theology Jesus offered to people who too were poor, oppressed, conquered and occupied. In the Sermon on the Mount He refused to push a ghettoized theology that focused on the here and now and declared that the blessed ones are blessed because of the reality of their future. And you can bet your shiny brand new Lexus that this was not a message your average first century Jew living in Palestine wanted to hear. They wanted a powerful messiah who would preach a powerful, relevant message on how they were the chosen ones destined to rid their country of the Romans and enjoy all of the blessings of the kingdom of God here and now. Yeah the meek might inherit the earth but they wanted theirs here and now.
I hate to be crass but the bottom line is this: The emerging black reformed community has a choice. We will either follow the model of Jesus or Joel Osteen. We will either lead our people to pursue the living God as and end in and of Himself or we will teach and encourage them to prostitute Him in an absurd effort to gobble up the baubles of this culture for a few short years. We will either lead Jamal and TaKeisha to the true life found in Jesus Christ or like drug pushers feed them poison, congratulate ourselves on our relevance and stand by mystified as we watch the death of blackness.
To Him Who Loves Us…