Musings of a Postmodern Negro

"During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism."- Howard Thurman

Location: United States

Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Litany for Bank Town (Charlotte, NC)

There is a deep spiritual crises in my town Charlotte, NC. Major U.S. banks are headquartered here. Which has led me and my friend, Rod Garvin, to buy into the nickname for Charlotte, Bank Town. The spiritual crises that I see is the normality of social/economic displacement that occurs here due to the fairly consistent layoffs of the Banks here. Recently it was reported in a local paper here that they are about to make another round of layoffs. Here is the kicker. This particular bank has reported record profits. That's just half the story. What I and my friend see is the rampant displacement of people. Like sheep without a shepherd. Layoffs and the social/economic displacement that it causes in Bank Town has inspired me to write a litany:

This day O God of mercy and justice

We bring before you all those who despair in displacement

Who feel helpless and at the mercy of social/economic forces larger than themselves

Who have no community to help them weather market-driven storms

And desire meaningful friendships, based on love not just career ambitions and utility

Deliver us from these Powers

These chains that seek to prevent us from walking in the salvation that should belong to every Child of God

Frustrate all the plans that are driven by idolatry and greed

And lead all people in Banktown to operate in love, mercy, and justice.

Grant us the power to be faithful witnesses of Your kingdom.

So be it (Amen)!

Terry Schiavo has passed...lessons to be learned?

Here is an article from MSNBC about the passing of Terry Schiavo. There has been alot of debate within the Christian community. Some have been mature and some of have been downright nasty. What can people, especially Christians, learn from this? Especially when Christians are attempting to find fresh and creative ways to give witness to gospel in post-post-modern society. Any thoughts.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Remembering Attorney Johnnie Cochran

Noam Chomsky (Gifford Lecture): Illegal but Legitimate: a Dubious Doctrine for the Times

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Family Resemblances Part 2

My man Steve Bush over at Harbinger has been talking about finding family resemblances as a way to further enrich the Emergent discussion. I am down wit dat. Lord knows I have been immensely enriched by engaging various Christian traditions (peace church traditions, liberation theologies, post-liberal, and post-evangelical types) for the past couple of years. Traditions and ways of doing Church that are normally outside the orbit of the Christian world I inhabit.

My niche or dwelling place has been prophetic Black Christianity as exemplified by people like Cornel West, James Cone, Gayraud Wilmore, J. Deotis Roberts, and many others (I apologize for not mentioning the sistas...we have those too.). I have been quite reluctant to join in on this Emergent discussion. But it seems as though I was bound to run into this. After reading a Stanley Hauerwas, a John H. Yoder, or a James McClendon you become aware that the quest for the Body of Christ to be formed into a just people is shared broadly within the broad matrix of American Christianity. You just have to look for it. And after reading some of these theologians and pastors you begin to ask questions like: are there people out there trying to do church in a post-modern (and in my case a post-Civil Rights/post(neo)-colonial world)? Then I stumbled upon Brian McLaren's book More Ready Than You Realize. It is a short little book painting evangelism in the post-modern world as a dance rather than a duel between abstract proposition. I found this encouraging. A pastor really trying to do this. Then I discovered that there were others all over the country and that this 'conversation' was getting more and more voices (and apparently by the recent negative response by particular conservative evangelical voices... getting louder). And upon reading more reflective and thoughtful people engaging this Emergent Conversation I found white boys reading James Cone (godfather of Black Liberation Theology), revisiting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reading Liberation theology (Gustavo Guitterez?). My man Zossima over at Forgetting Ourselves has a tribute to Bishop to the Poor, Oscar Romero. I found this to be quite encouraging. And I wasn't just delighted about seeing white evangelical Christians reading stuff I have been reading and reflecting on, but that we share a similar passion and concern that the Church be on missio dei (something I learned from David Bosch and Bishop Leslie Newbigin) to embody the love, mercy, and justice of God in our generation.

Not only does prophetic Black Christianity share these concerns with the heart of Emergent Churches it also shares similar challenges. These challenges are to be expected if these traditions and voices both share cultural/social space in the heart of North American society.

Shared-challenge #1: American-styled Individualism

I come from a tradition that is rapidly becoming prey to a particular form of individualism that is slowly eroding theological convictions surrounding social justice. A hold over from the age of the Enlightenment, American Individualism has infiltrated Black churches by creating reductionist accounts of the gospel. The gospel simply becomes fire insurance, a personal belief system, and a Anthony Robbins-styled success seminar. I know this is a oversimplification of the situation, but this is getting quite serious. Something is wrong when Martin Luther's emphasis on 'justification by faith' becomes a five-step program for personal success. What I see in Emergent is a return to community language. Not community for its own sake but the missional understanding that the community of Jesus is to be a sign, foretaste, and instrument for Christ's kingdom. This fits perfectly with the historical legacy of prophetic Black Christianity. The Emergent emphasis of the community of Christ being an ancient-future eschatological community that reflects, in the present, God's intent for human flourishing deeply resembles prophetic Black churches that sought to reclaim black humanity in the midst of social/racial oppression. The prophetic black church tradition provides an object lesson of an unique brand of American Christianity that sought to embody this eschatological tension between the present age and the age to come. This eschatological understanding I see at the root of Emergent theology. Especially as it continues to conversate with liberation theology, post-liberal/evangelical theology. Especially the theology of past Christian leaders like Bishop Newbigin.

Bishop Newbigin, from what I understand, seems to exercise alot of influence on Emergent thinkers as they attempt to discern the role of the Church in a post-modern/post(neo)-colonial context. What has come about is the place of an particular eschatological view of the coming kingdom of Christ. This particular witness goes against the pervasive power of American-styled individualism. I believe the conversation between Emergent and prophetic Black Christianity can give witness against this pervasive force in our culture that is a deep cause for the social fragmentation that we see in African-american communities. This conversation can also be a witness FOR something as well. A witness that points to the eschatological community or kingdom of Christ that encompasses every nation-state, ethnic group, family, and neighborhood. A kingdom that witnesses to the inner life of the Trinitarian God.

Enought rambling. I will add more later.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

What is Emergent?

Here are some links provided by my good friend Steve Bush over at Harbinger:

What is emergent?
In the coming weeks, as I have time, I intend to develop and promote a positive conception of "emerging Christianity." That means I need resources to refer my readers to who are unfamiliar with the term, since I'll be using it regularly.
So this post will serve as to provide a small selection of resources to better understand various interpretations of emergent. I'll add to it as I see fit. It will be a relatively short list, but if anyone has resources they recommend, including for example, your own blog, feel free to leave it in the comments.
I will focus almost entirely on emergent in the US context, since the US is such a unique animal when it comes to religiosity. But of course I recognize and appreciate that emergent is not at all a uniquely US phenomenon.
Articles:Hip New Churces Sway to a Different Drummer, NY Times (purchase)The Emergent Mystique, Christianity TodayThe Emergent Matrix: A New Kind of Church?, Christian CenturyWhat is Emerging?, Worship LeaderLeaders Call 'Emerging Church Movement' a Threat to the Gospel, Baptist Press News
Churches:Jacob's Well Three Nails Solomon's Porch Cedar Ridge Community Church Church of the Apostles Ecclesia Bluer Vintage Faith
Websites:Emergent VillageA New Kind of ChristianThe OozeThe Next Wave
Blogs:Emergent-USTony JonesKaren WardWill SamsonDoug PagittJen LemenBrian McLarenPlanet-Emergent
Books:A New Kind of Christian, by Brian McLarenGenerous Orthodoxy, by Brian McLarenThe Post-Evangelical, by Dave TomlinsonRenewing the Center, by Stanley GrenzReimagining Spiritual Formation, by Doug Pagitt

He is Risen! So What?

This past week me and the kids have been having this discussion about Jesus' resurrection. Of course we all know that Christians, all over the world, will be celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth this weekend. And there will be a plurality of ways in which Christians will be doing this, whether Catholic or Protestant or Eastern Orthodox, or whatever in between, they will be celebrating God's raising of Jesus from the dead. This morning we climaxed our week long conversation with why Jesus' death and resurrection has significance. My kids understand the basic outline of Christ's passion and resurrection, but when engaged in that 'so what?' I got blank stares. Which is quite indicative of my discipling skills as a Christian father. But I pressed them on about it. Which led us to some thinking about scripture. I told them the key to understanding the significance of Jesus' resurrection lays in how they understand his life and his death.

What was his life in the gospels about?

In the gospels Jesus preached about the coming kingdom of God. He proclaimed repentance and trust to be requisite for entrance into this kingdom. And in the gospels Jesus lives out the implications of this coming kingdom. He engages in many things in the gospels that point to and were an embodiedment of that kingdom. In the gospels Jesus is presented as a coming king proclaiming the good news of victory of his coming kingdom. But his kingdom was of a very different nature and character from other kinds of kingdom. To get a picture of how his kingdom is different read the Gospels.

Why did he die?

Typically Christians will give the short, easy, and lazy answer "he died for my sins." That's too easy and it doesn't require one to think hard about the very deep reason why Jesus died. We don't want to unpack what it means to say that Jesus died for our sins. Jesus was killed primarily because of the kind of kingdom he preached, taught, and lived about. There was something about this kingdom he so much talked about that it got those in power very scared. They were somehow threatened by his message of the kingdom of God. So what do all 'sincere' rulers and kings do to people they feel are a threat to the established 'order' or 'kingdom'? They get rid of them. Jesus was killed because of the message and life he lived. A life that pointed to a heavenly order that transcended the order of men and would-be kings. The present age, as it is ruled by the flesh, the world, and the devil, killed Jesus. Jesus was killed by spiritual forces of wickedness, as embodied by Jewish sympathizers to the Romans and the Roman Empire. Jesus was killed by a political/social/spiritual order (Rome) as it was possessed by demonic forces. Why? Because Jesus presented a different order that simply said your time of rule is almost up! Jesus was essentially saying, "there is a new Sheriff in town!" But what do you do to a new Sheriff that wants to change things, get people to live differently than the older order, challenge the legitimacy of the older order? You kill that nuissance of a Sheriff. In that day, you crucified nuissances. So they did. That's is why we celebrate Good Friday. The new Sheriff in town was killed by demon possessed outlaws.

"so what?" my kids asked. The new Sheriff was killed. And?

But something strange happened. The Sheriff is killed, yet he re-appears again. They can't seem to get rid of this new Sheriff. Which is even more scary because of what this new Sheriff represented. This new Sheriff represents a new order, a new kingdom, a whole new way of living in God's world, a way of life that is not determined by the deceptions and illusions of the older order or sheriffs. So it wasn't just that this new Sheriff was somehow brought back to life that was scary, but what this new Sheriff represented...the coming of a new kingdom and city whose builder and maker is God.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Family Resemblances

I have been following the Emergent conversation for a couple of years now. To be quite honest I initially thought it was simply a bunch of white dudes seeking to make fundamentalist forms of Evangelical Christianity more appealing to a younger generation. But after reading and dialoging with some of the good people participating in this Emergent conversation I have learned that the wells are very deep here. I was also taken by the hospitality that is typically displayed by those that are serious about having this conversation. As one coming from the prophetic Black church tradition I realize that there are some family resemblances between my particular tradition and what many in the Emergent conversation are attempting to bring to the table of North American Christianity and in American Evangelicalism in particular.

1. That the gospel calls us to a much more broader concern than personal salvation. The gospel calls us to concern for issues in society.

2. That the church is God's vehicle to witness to God's justice, mercy, and love in a fallen world not only in individual moral piety but in our alignment with causes and concerns for the marginalized, poor, and oppressed in society.

3. That the church has been called by God to model proper stewardship over God's creation. Which means that Christians should be leaders in concern for care of the environment.

These issues and more I find to be family resemblances between the prophetic black church tradition and the Emergent conversation. There are some more that I will get into later.