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Episode Info:

“How can you know flourishing if you don't understand loss? How can you know liberation if you don't understand what it's like to have your freedom taken away? So, I think that is the hermeneutical entry point for black people of faith, the role that suffering says that something has to be gotten from it or snatched from it.”

Given the fractured state of society, the church very much included, along racial and ethnic lines, we need to seek a deeper understanding of the question of redemptive suffering. That's why we invited Stacey and Juan Floyd‑Thomas to The Table. Stacey is associate professor of Ethics in Society, and Juan is associate professor of African American Religious History, both at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. Stacey's research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of ethics, feminism, womanism, black church studies, critical race theory, and postcolonial studies. Juan's work focuses on the intersections of racial identity, religion, popular culture, and political activism in American society. We cover problems of consumerism, pop culture, how we can cure the loss of cultural memory, and a deeper dive into black and womanist perspectives on flourishing, suffering, and theodicy.

Show Notes

  • 0:47—Can suffering be redemptive? (With the help of Ivan and Alyosha Karamazov)
  • 5:45—The art of quilting. “That's what we realize in our work, that it's at those places that are life affirming, that spark cultural memory, and that transcend people out of what might be a miserable or a mundane stage to something that is larger than them, to something that gives them life.”
  • 8:42—On consumerism in America. “Consumption is our worship. Consumption is our spiritual discipline as Americans. It doesn't matter whether that is a super size McDonald's Happy Meal that will kill us and not make us happy.”
  • 11:50—St. Augustine, disordered loves, and people as property. “To find yourself in a situation that your standard of what it means to be successful, of what it means to be a human who flourishes at every extent is to covet what you assume other people want and to take ownership of that, losing yourself all the while.”
  • 16:30—Stacey on art as a spiritual practice. “Art is about that utopia. It's about that new world making. It's about taking refuse and making something divine, using utility for the purpose of making stained glass where there aren't even windows.”
  • 23:05—Ad Break: “Charting a Course Through Grief” A free 8-week ecourse with a variety helpful resources on grief.
  • 25:03—The thorny terrain of theodicy and the problem of redemptive suffering through the lens of black experience. “So where theodicy in the typical Christian constructed theological moment is the end of faith for most, it's the beginning for black people.”
  • 32:17—“The womanist entry point of suffering.”
  • 34:07—Ad break: “Seeking Christian Wisdom for Life’s Biggest Questions” via Biola LEARN (15% off your next course)
  • 35:38—Women’s resilience in the face of oppression and suffering.
  • 37:36—“In many ways, the black church exists off of the suffering of black women because there's this notion of black women, oftentimes single mothers, who are giving their all to the church… That kind of suffering becomes a virtue for black women, by which black women are kept subjugated and oppressed.”
  • 38:06—Can suffering be redemptive? Exploitation, ignorance, re-victimization, and radical enemy love. “What happens when you turn a blind eye to the needs and the miseries of others, but then, to make matters worse, you make them have to relive over and over and over again that source of deepest pain or most awful and miserable state of being.”
  • 43:36—Moral exemplars: redemptive suffering through prophetic witness. “It's looking at those who have suffered the most not as property. Not as people without virtue or character or people without value or as problems, but looking at them as moral exemplars who can best diagnose our deficiencies.”
  • 44:04—“Black people have been able to, through their suffering, because of their suffering, and seeing the backside and the underside of America, they've been able to clearly articulate the reality of our times, yet show us the promise of our ideals. Suffering is that conscience laden place of knowing the wickedness and depravity that you are presently facing, yet having a realistic hope, not that the art will just miraculously bend towards justice, but if I don't bend it, or like Bree Newsome: if I don't climb that pole to take down that flag, who will?”
  • 46:17—“If we don't exemplify, quite literally, what we believe and how deeply we believe these things to be true, who will ever understand or know what the capacity for human transformation really is in this world?”
  • 47:50—The sin of not bearing witness and the need for inter-generational conversation. “The greatest sin that we've realized is when there aren't those who are willing to bear witness… And there aren't people who have the audacity or the courage to speak truth to power, or in the words of my grandmother, to tell the truth and shame the devil.”
  • 49:28—“If we don't have these intentional conversations, suffering will be for naught because we won't allow for the reality of our situation to help better inform the possibility of our futures.”
  • 49:50—“Patchwork redemption”: closing thoughts.


  • Hosted and produced by Evan Rosa
  • Resource of the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, which is sponsored by generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, and The Blankemeyer Foundation
  • Theme music by The Brilliance
  • Production and Engineering by the Narrativo Group. More info at
  • Edited and mixed by TJ Hester
  • Production Assistance by Kaleb Cohen
  • Follow: @EvanSubRosa / @BiolaCCT /

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