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The Monstrous Regiment
79 minutes | Jun 27, 2020
How Should Christians Respond to Discussions of Racial Injustice?
Race and Black Theology Reading List: An Annotated Bibliography Below is a list of books that I highly recommend. They aren’t listed in order of importance, however, “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie Glaude, would be a great start. The typical set of caveats apply to this bibliography, like many others in its category, of course. Black thought is not a monolith; like any tradition, it is less a sustained echoing chorus, and more a long argument over time. Its diversity, breadth, and sophistication cannot be captured in a brief introductory bibliography like this one. The authors on this list have sustained disagreements with each other, and therefore it stands to reason that no reader will agree with the entirety of these texts. Yet we consider this list to be something of a bare minimum for serious discourse about the question of taking black experiences and contributions seriously in Christian theology and ethics. While it is unlikely that any treatment of the experiences of blacks in America will engage all of these sources, it is virtually unimaginable that any responsible treatment of those questions can proceed with reference to none of them. The education of several lifetimes can be accessed simply by consulting the bibliographies of the sources contained herein. The criteria for inclusion on this list are unsystematic and inexact, but we solicited suggestions from friends of Mere Orthodoxy for sources that are written by Christians, substantively address Christian involvement in black racial issues, or are of pressing significance that white Christians can overlook them only at great harm to the power of their own analysis and ignorance of the real issues. The commentary that follows each of these selections below is from these friends. We are grateful for and indebted to them for their suggestions. Omission of any important source from this list ought not necessarily be construed as a sleight against that source. We would be grateful for readers to suggest additional sources in the comments below. The Cambridge Companion to Black Theology An introductory handbook like this one is often an excellent place to start to understand the broad contours of a body of thought, and to find an accessible point for immersing oneself more fully in that tradition. The essays in this volume understand black theology as a global movement, not at all confined to the question of addressing racism in all of its varieties. J Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account Carter’s book is arguably the most significant theological account of race in existence. He embarks to treat race as its own properly theological concept and to show how the modern question of race “has its genesis in the theological problem of Christianity’s quest to sever itself from its Jewish roots.” The logic of supersessionism gives way to the logic of white supremacy. Christopher Cameron, To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement Cameron narrates a history of the contributions of blacks in Massachusetts to the antislavery cause before 1831. He shows how many of the strategies and tactics the later, better-known abolitionists (William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass) took up were indebted to the work of these earlier folks. He is likewise sensitive to the theological questions at play, especially for Phillis Wheatley and Lemuel Haynes. Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me” This book won the National Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Written in the form of a sustained letter to Coates’s son, the book is part coming-of-age story, part autobiography, part dystopia that is nevertheless reality. Coates has also written some of the most incisive commentary on racial affairs in America for The Atlantic. Three of those include The First White President, The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, and The Case for Reparations. Last year he gave testimony at the House Hearing on Reparations (June 19, 2019). James Cone, Black Theology and Black Power and A Black Theology of Liberation If slavery, racism, segregation, and lynching are sins, then Christianity needs to have a way of overcoming them. This overcoming needs to both secure liberation for the oppressed and justification for the oppressors. In these two books, Cone gives a theological account of how this might be possible. Most controversially, and generatively: it requires a God who is with us and for us, specifically, for the oppressed. Thus: a God who is black. James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree Lynching is the most violent and public instantiation of white supremacy and it is unfortunately still with us. The struggle with how to address it remains with us. Cone gives an excellent starting point. Charlie Dates, “The Most Segregated Hour in America“ This message was given by Charlie Dates at the MLK50 conference, a Christian conference held in 2018 on the occasion of the 50th annivserary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It echoes MLK’s message to the “White moderate” with powerful and resounding relevance for today. He employs powerful theological concepts and the prophetic preaching tradition to call white Christians to repentance: to attend to systemic racism, to take steps to learn Black history and from Black leaders, to partner with Black churches to address racial inequality and undo centuries of oppression and discrimination. It is steeped in gospel richness and in loving rebukes, and it is a call the church must heed. Keri Day, Religious Resistance to Neoliberalism: Womanist and Black Feminist Perspectives Day has a sophisticated analysis of (1) the structure of neoliberal economics, (2) its underlying logic, and (3) the way this logic threatens to extend to all areas of our lives. Though she doesn’t reduce racial questions to economic ones, she has a compelling account of how they are connected. She then offers a bricolage of responses that involves weaving together resources in theology and political theology, white and black, male and female, but with a special focus on womanist authors. Katherine Gerbner, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World Gerbner centers religion in her discussion of how racialized slavery developed in the Atlantic world. Christian slaveholders initially believed that slaves could not convert. Protestant missionaries insisted on the necessity of evangelizing slaves, which brought them into conflict with slaveholders. Race came to function as a very useful marker for the boundaries of slavery, religion a useful tool for managing slaves: blacks were marked as ideal candidates for slavery and conversion came to be seen as a way to make them loyal slaves. Eddie Glaude, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul The central idea in Democracy in Black is that of the ‘value gap.’ Glaude identifies a disconnect between our expressed values of racial equality and the way in which our social practices and institutions reflect a commitment to inequality. Thus, despite civil rights efforts, race “still enslaves the American soul.” Glaude thinks that the right response to the value gap is a revolution that goes deeper than most have gone; right to the heart of American ideology: “American democracy has to be remade.” C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution The Haitian revolution was one of the most successful slave revolts in history. The Black Jacobins is a history of that revolution, told with a central focus on its leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture. James’s interest is very clearly in narrating a history that highlights the agency of the slave revolters. This is also a classic text in, and exemplar o,f Black Marxist historical analysis, weaving racial and economic analysis together without being reductionist about either. Worth reading alongside Oliver Cromwell Cox’s Caste, Class, and Race (which was written by a Christian and focuses on America, though it is perhaps one more reductionist about race) and/or Cornel West’s Prophesy Deliverance (also written by a Christian with a focus on America, and is not reductionist about race). Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race Jennings argues here that “Chrisitanity in the Western world lives and moves within a diseased social imagination.” Racism is not, then, merely personal biases or even an errant political and social structure, but a sustained metaphysical distortion of the created world. Emmanuel Katangole, Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa, and The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa Katangole is Professor of Theology and Peace Studies at Notre Dame, and also holds a joint affiliation with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. His scholarship focuses on African theology, its religious leaders, and its movements, with particular attention to the interaction of lament and hope. Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America Kendi’s definition of terms, advocacy for anti-racism, and comprehensive look at American history, the development of racist ideas, and the roots of racist policies is required reading for anyone who seeks to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. It is also important to note that as yet, no Christian has yet rivaled the clarity and comprehensiveness of this text. Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait. This collection includes his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” among a collection of essays and sermons from King. This text has stood the test of time as one of the most powerful articulations of the Christian gospel and the urgency to pursue justice in our time. It is as relevant now as it was then. Vincent Lloyd, Black Natural Law African American political thought is not typically understood as part of the natural tradition. But Lloyd argues we can see Natural Law reasoning as central to some of its key figures — Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King. Not only are these figures exemplars of natural law discourse, they also correct many of the errors in traditional natural law reasoning (e.g., its obsession with rationality to the exclusion of emotion, and its hyper-masculinity). Black natural law is thus an important resource for all natural law. Mary Beth Mathews, Doctrine and Race: African American Evangelicals and Fundamentalism between the Wars Dr. Mathews’ book remains my favorite account of the fundamentalist modernist controversy, placing at the forefront the fact that it is a racialized movement. The historical reminder that much of American history is racialized and that the cries for justice from Black Christian communities has been loud and constant yet unheard must drill its way into the hearts of every American Christian. John Perkins, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race John Perkins may be most famous to evangelicals of a certain age on account of being quoted in a Switchfoot song. But that is the least of his accomplishments. He protested during the Civil Rights movement, and continues his work as the founder of several non-profits and the author of multiple books. He summarizes his Christian ministry in “the three Rs — relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation.” The recent documentary produced and directed by Greg Fromholz is a beautiful introduction to his life and work. Al Raboteau, Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South Raboteau combines slave and ex-slave narratives and autobiographies, missionary reports, and contemporaneous journals of whites to tell a story of how African religions were transformed into evangelical Christianity. Slave religion also provides stirring and moving accounts of daily religious life of slaves. One of the major strengths of Raboteau’s account is that it recognizes the agency of slaves; the way they used the resources at their disposal to construct their own religious practices. Lamin Sanneh, Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa, and Summoned From the Margin: Homecoming of an African When Lamin Sanneh died in 2019, his memorial service at Yale Divinity School was attended by statesmen, ambassadors, members of congress, and prominent Islamic and Christian theologians. He is one of the rare theologians to receive an obituary in New York Times. A convert from Islam to Christianity, his scholarship focused on the history and interaction of Christians and Muslims in Africa Christian Smith and Michael Emerson, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. This book demonstrates enduring features that have remained true since it was published in 2001: white evangelicals oppose individual racism but do not see systemic racial injustice or persisting inequalities. They show with persuasive data this two-fold reality, showing how segregation in churches and individualism in white churches perpetuate racial inequality. For white Christians, this is an important read to better know the truth and better be equipped to repent. Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race Sowell is perhaps the most prominent representative of a small segment of American society: a black libertarian conservatives. He is known for his contrarian opinions on a wide number of race-related issues. Foremost among them is his claim that government assistance offered to minorities communities typically produces the opposite of its intended effects. Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism Jemar’s book ought to be required reading for the Christian. His relatively short, readable account of American Christianity and race plunges you into the deep end and leaves you with some practical suggestions. Jemar’s work is always worthy of engagement! Eboni Marshall Turman, Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation: Black Bodies, the Black Church, and the Council of Chalcedon Turman works in the Womanist tradition with, among others, Katie Geneva Canon, Kelly Brown Douglas, and Delores S. Williams, which attempts to integrate the wisdom and experiences of black women as a source for theological reflection. In this work she argues that bodies have always been of concern to Christians on account of the doctrine of the incarnation, whose various articulations and puzzles she examines to shed light on the position of black church women.
47 minutes | Jun 5, 2020
On Tribes, Ethics, and Enemies
We know we’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. Y’all may have noticed that there’s been a lot going on! Plus, we have all been busy working hard at our various callings. But we still have a lot to say, and you are not going to want to miss this one. Join Monstrous Host Elisabeth for a compelling discussion on tribalism: what it is, how it impacts Christian discourse and behavior, and what its implications are in a “culture war”.
35 minutes | Jun 5, 2020
Spiritual Warfare 101
The devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, as the Bible says. But what does this mean for Christians today, and more to the point, what (if anything) can we do about it? Cover some of the basics of spiritual warfare with Suzannah Rowntree in today’s episode!
52 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
The Pagan Roots of Insisting Christmas Has Pagan Roots
Every year in Christian circles, there’s an ongoing debate about whether Christians should celebrate the incarnation of Christ on December 25, and what that has to do with ancient pagan idolatry. Joint monstrous host Kate Robinson to take a closer look at the origins of the Christmas holiday, what scripture says about pagan worship, and the implications for us today.
88 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
The Secret History of Romance
Assigned Reading: “Love in the Western World” by Denis de Rougemont (available on the Internet Archive as “Passion and Society”) “Agape and Eros” by Anders Nygren “Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village, 1294-1324 “The Yellow Cross: The Story of the Last Cathars, 1290-1329 “One Hundred Middle English Lyrics” edited by Robert D Stewick “The Portable Medieval Reader” edited by James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin
48 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Power and Parenting
Liz explores the idea of service based authority and how it applies in a parenting context in today’s episode.
39 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Sexism in Middle Earth? What You Have Wrong About Eowyn
Is Tolkien a Misogynist? Is Rohan a sexist culture? Did Eowyn give up war to be a wife? Monstrous host and medieval history scholar Suzannah Rowntree addresses (new wave) feminist critiques regarding everyone’s favorite shieldmaiden.
39 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
How to Recognize Predators and Victims
Wouldn’t it be amazing if the church was a safe place to run to for those who have been abused and exploited, and the people of God were wise as serpents, and gentle as doves, able to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted and recognize wolves (EVEN when they’re wearing sheep’s clothing)? We have to start somewhere. Let’s start by talking about it. Check out Rebecca Robinson and Toni Kolb digging into how to recognize red flags of a predator.
73 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Interview with Tim Yarbrough
Many thanks to special guest Tim Yarbrough for joining Cheryl Ann Hannah Nicholson to share his thoughts with us in episode 18.
52 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Why Are You So Emotional?
It seems Christians are constantly exhorted to ignore, subdue, and dismiss emotions. We are told that thinking and decision-making must be, above all, rational. But is this dichotomy Biblical, reasonable, or reven real? In Episode 17, hosts Suzannah and Liz discuss what the Bible says about emotions.
49 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
A Wind From the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree
Let’s talk about the crusades! In Episode 15, Kate Robinson interviews our own co-host Suzannah Rowntree Author about her recently released novel, A WIND FROM THE WILDERNESS, an historical fiction fantasy novel about the first crusade, and we discuss the crusades themselves and what really happened.
77 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Interview with Joseph Foreman
In Episode 15, Monstrous host Cheryl Hannah Nicholson interviews Joseph Foreman about how Jesus overthrows all our ideas of power and authority in the upper room, and what we have to look forward to in the future when we finally grow up.
35 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
How the Sins of Adults Always Roll Down on Children
In Episode 14, hosts Kate and Rebecca discuss how the sins of adults always roll down onto the children, and the responsibility of Christians to take the heart of Jesus toward children seriously.
36 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Truth vs. Tribe: How Should Christians Respond to Assault Allegations?
In Episode 13, Monstrous host Elisabeth discusses the the importance of taking an ethical/judicial approach to examining and responding to assault allegations in a charged political climate.
28 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
On Human Trafficking: Interview with Erika Collins, Children’s Rescue Initiative
In Episode 12, Monstrous host Toni Kolb interviews Erika Collins, the Sponsorhip Director for Children’s Rescue Initiative, on human trafficking: where it happens, how to recognize it, and what we as Christians can do.
49 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Dorothy Sayers Part 2: On Art, Theology, and Work
Cheryl and Suzannah are back for part 2 in our conversation about Dorothy Sayers, exploring her views on what is and what isn’t “Christian” art and the importance of finding one’s work as the means to obtaining purpose and meaning in God’s Kingdom.
73 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Dorothy Sayers Part 1: Life and Works
In part 1 of this two-part episode, hosts Suzannah Rowntree and Cheryl Hannah Nicholson discuss the tremendous works and insight of novelist, poet, theologian, and cheroot aficionado Dorothy Sayers.
25 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
How Idolatry Destroys Human Rights Movements
Host Liz Sachs gives a brief history lesson on some of the pitfalls faced by human rights movements of the past, and how failure to stay consistent directly contributed to human rights atrocities of today.
67 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
All the Single Ladies
In which Suzannah, Kate, and Becky try to find a man. (JUST KIDDING) Hosts Kate, Rebecca, and Suzannah discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a single woman in Christian culture, and the vital importance of individual calling and purpose for single women.
55 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Intrigued by Queen Victoria? Can’t wait for Season 3 of THE CROWN? (Us either). Ruling queens seem to turn up regularly in Christian cultures. Ever wondered why? Join Suzannah Rowntree to find out.
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