Black theology has often occupied the radical edge of the Christian theological spectrum, but a spate of recent books by black theologians suggests that it is reaching back to more traditional sources, reports the Christian Century magazine (February 8).
Such theological works as Willie Jennings’ The Christian Imagination, J. Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Account and Brian Bantum’s Redeeming Mulatto “represent a major theological shift that will—if taken as seriously as it deserves—change the face not only of black theology but theology as a whole,” Jonathan Tran writes.
These books rely heavily on dogmatic texts from the patristic period to the Reformation. This is a long way from James Cone, the dean of black theology, who charged that American theology was racist and that African Americans needed to disconnect themselves from the Anglo-European white tradition and develop their own voice with their own sources.
Tran notes that many Western theologians in the last few decades have returned to premodern theological sources. “However, what is quite surprising is that persons of color and women are increasingly finding their way to these sources.” He adds that this shift will make it harder for the rest of Christians to ignore these contributions and dismiss them as just theological versions of radical black social and political thought, as many did with black theology. The new line of thought implicates the Enlightenment in a universalizing mission that led to colonialism and slave holding.
Jennings, Carter and Bantum view the source of racism as the early church heresy that sought to overturn the Jewish identity of Jesus, with gentiles and hence European Christians eventually establishing the “universality of whiteness.”
(The Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60605)