I’ve been up since about 5:30 a.m. Unable to secure a round trip ticket to Durham, North Carolina for what I would consider a reasonable amount, I had to wake up early to make a flight departing from Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) at 8:40 a.m. Unfortunately, I was not scheduled to be at the Avila Retreat Center until 2 p.m., the other downside of purchasing the cheaper ticket. What would I do until then? Surf the internet: $7.95 for unlimited access. Sleep: uncomfortably while worrying that persons would be looking at me. Read: I brought several books and an article that I desperately wanted to read.
I chose to read the article. “The new black theology” is the cover article for Christian Century and documents the directional change of what has been referred to as black theology according to the recent publication of three books: The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie J. Jennings, Race: A Theological Account by J. Kameron Carter, both Duke Divinity School professors and Brian Bantum’s Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity, who studied with both Jennings and Carter. It is considered new not for its content but its sources: traditional theological texts that had not been employed by black liberation theologians because they felt that the materials did not speak to the unique experience of Africans in America. This the author, Jonathan Tran, argues, has prevented these theologians from being considered authentic among European American theologians.
I’m tired and I have been for some months now but it is occasions like these that remind me of the importance of the journey and that there are markers along the way that remind me that I am going in the right direction. The words and works of all three of these men have strengthened me and I am determined to run a little bit harder despite the gaps when nothing seems to connect and all I can do is wait, much like today’s trip. When I consider the way that Carter talks about the Jewish body: “Jewish flesh is most authentically itself when it welcomes the Gentile. This hospitality enacts what Carter calls ‘the theodramatic constitution of existence.’ In the same way that God elects and receives Israel, elected Israel receives the Gentiles as an extension of God’s reception history. ‘Israel’s meaning and significance,’ writes Carter, ‘arises out of its being related to the nations before whom the drama of the Jews’ election unfolds. The drama of Israel thus is not insular, for it unfolds in such a way as to enfold the nations into its drama'”; the manner in which Jennings talks about the compromise of imagination due to colonization: “Beauty, intelligence, piety and every other mark of personhood are indexed along a spectrum of whiteness”; and the mind- renewing perspective of Bantum who says “Jesus ‘was mulatto not solely because he was a ‘mixture’ (of human and divine), but because his very body confounds the boundaries of purity/impurity and humanity/divinity that seemed necessary for us to imagine who we thought we should be,'” it reminds me that I have not only a great cloud of witnesses but a cadre on this terra firma. Theology does not have to be black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ red for it to be liberating. Selah.