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We’ve decided to wait until the middle of February to celebrate Black History Month, not to push it off, but to spread out and celebrate Black history and culture throughout the entire month, while of course making an ongoing effort to represent a diversity of voices and perspectives the entire year, beyond simply the month of February.

Our hope with this email is to share content that speaks to both the contributions and the challenges our Black brothers and sisters have and continue to face in our world today.

As I considered what content to share for this week, the first voice that emerged for me was Esau McCauley, whose recent release, Reading While Black, has thoughtfully and carefully exposed some of the fault lines Black American Christians, especially pastors and theologians, have faced in the past hundred years or so.  His insights are particularly eye-opening and helpful for those who desire to love God and their Black neighbor.

Stu Headshot
As a Black American theologian from an evangelical background, McCauley is both a part of, and distinct from the larger evangelical movement, enabling him to understand and to see the blindspots within the movement. Here is an excerpt from the book:

Eventually I started to notice a few things. While I was at home with much of the theology in evangelicalism, there were real disconnects. First, there was the portrayal of the Black church in these circles. I was told that the social gospel had corrupted Black Christianity. Rather than placing my hope there, I should look to the golden age of theology, either at the early years of this country or during the postwar boom of American Protestantism.

But the historian in me couldn’t help but realize that these apexes of theological faithfulness coincided with nadirs of Black freedom (emphasis mine).

…How could I exist comfortably in a tradition that too often valorizes a period of time when my people couldn’t buy homes in the neighborhoods that they wanted or attend the schools that their skills gave them access to? How could I accept a place in a community if the cost for a seat at the table was silence? (Reading While Black, pp.10-11.)

These are the questions McCauley asks throughout the book, exploring what a faithful expression of the Christian faith looks like to someone who has been marginalized and silenced, telling the truth about that experience without giving up on Jesus. McCauley then shares a ray of hope in the words of Frederick Douglass:

What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference. . . . I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.

The task of distinguishing between the two, between a version of Christianity at home with slavery and the systematic degradation of other people, and the “pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ,” to quote Douglass, is really the task of all Christians.
To be able to distinguish between any form of Christianity that has been held hostage,  or watered down by any culture, and to seek the heart of the faith must remain the goal. 

 

And this is why voices like McCauley, who comes from within orthodoxy but also critique the present forms of the church from their unique perspectives, are so important. Those outside the majority culture often see what the majority culture doesn’t. This is at least in part why The Pastor’s Workshop is dedicated to both promoting and curating content from a wide variety of backgrounds, including of course the Black community.

We recognize we still have a long way to go in this regard, and we ask for your grace as we seek to proclaim the gospel through the lens of all people, including groups who have historically been marginalized and oppressed.

Blessings in Christ,

Stu

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