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Six Open Access Journal Articles on Race and Political Theology

The journal Political Theology is pleased to announce that six academic articles on race and political theology published in the journal over the past two decades are now available for free. We hope these articles help provide frameworks for thinking about racial injustice in the world today. For further reflections on these issues, you may also want to consult the scholarship of Political Theology editorial board members Keri DayEmmanuel KatongoleGeorge Shulman, and Ted Smith.

1. Katie Grimes (Villanova), “Breaking the Body of Christ: The Sacraments of Initiation in a Habitat of White Supremacy

Since the racially segregated space of the United States operates as a habitat of white supremacy, the vice of white supremacy pervades the church’s corporate body and thereby permeates all of its practices, including those of baptism and the Eucharist. Rather than turning to the church’s sacraments as an antidote to the vices of a presumed external culture, this paper chronicles the way in which these very practices have been corrupted by it. The church cannot reform itself from within. In order to enable these sacraments to build the body of Christ, the church must work to dismantle regnant patterns of white supremacist racial segregation in the world.

2. Kyle Lambelet (Emory), “Lovers of God’s Law: The Politics of Higher Law and the Ethics of Civil Disobedience

When Sister Cynthia Brinkman took the stand at her 2004 trial for trespass, with apocalyptic imagery and a theatrical sensibility she spoke of her love of God’s law and the binding force of relationships of solidarity that compelled her to “cross the line” onto the US Army base at Ft. Benning. Brinkman and her fellow agitators justified their actions through appeals to a higher law. I argue that implicit in these appeals are two heuristically separable accounts of the higher law, natural law and messianic. These two modes of theo-political reasoning are implicit in activists’ trial statements and I make them explicit through critical juxtaposition with Vincent Lloyd’s account of black natural law and Ted Smith’s messianic political theology. I demonstrate that such an exercise not only imparts a better description of moral action but through immanent critique can generate a normative evaluation of perennial issues confronting civil disobedients.

3. Vincent Lloyd (Villanova), “For What Are Whites to Hope?

Before directly addressing the titular question, this essay examines how conceptions of hope often lead us astray, reaffirming rather than challenging the status quo. In analytic philosophy, hope is often understood as a desire that is not entirely justified with reasons. In critical theory, hope has recently been looked upon suspiciously, as an affect the circulation of which is intensified by neoliberal economics. In mid-twentieth-century German theology and theory, hope is viewed as entirely other-worldly. In liberation theology, the object of hope is identification with the poor. This article argues that each of these views produces antinomies, and each of these views ends up perpetuating the status quo: in a racial context, white supremacy. After exploring the antinomies of hope, the article urges that whites are to embrace these antinomies. They are to hope for despair.

4. Kristopher Norris (Wesley), “James Cone’s Legacy for White Christians

This article explores James Cone’s lesson and legacy for white Christians. Specifically, it analyzes Cone’s claim that whites can “become black.” Cone insists that a process of conversion to blackness “means that white people are prepared to deny themselves (whiteness), take up the cross (blackness), and follow Christ (black ghetto).” In this essay, I will draw upon Cone’s writings and original interview material to construct an outline of these three steps of becoming black. Making sense of what it means to convert to blackness begins with first analyzing his specific challenge to white theology, then his concepts of blackness and the Black Christ, and finally, the praxis of these three steps – that is, what does it look like, practically, to follow the black Christ as a white person.

5. Anthony Reddie (Oxford), “Politics of Black Entry into Britain: Reflections on Being a Black British Person Returning to the UK

This paper seeks to address issues pertaining to the positionality of Black people in Britain vis-à-vis our arrival, interrogation and, on occasions, detention at airports. The author, who is a Black British theologian, utilizes his own experiences as an initial point of a departure in order to analyse the reasons for the disproportionate levels of suspicion, negative invective and, ultimately, the detention of Black bodies as they seek to gain entry into Britain. The author argues that an inherent dynamic of White normality and Black “othering”—a facet of British societal thinking that has existed for centuries—is the root cause of the often demonization and vituperative discourse that surrounds Black people as they seek to gain entry into Britain. The final part of the essay outlines some basic theological markers for contesting this basic fault-line in the broader consciousness of Britain in terms of her relationship to those who are often deemed as the “other.”

6. Michelle Wolff (Augustana), “Madonna and Child of Soweto: Black Life Beyond Apartheid and Democracy

South African artist Laurence Vincent Scully’s 1973 painting, Madonna and Child of Soweto, offers an analytical tool for understanding the capacity of public religion to advance black life. The author argues that this image censures apartheid violence against black persons and reimagines a just sociality by displaying sacred, black motherhood and infancy in the figures Mary and Jesus. Their temporality and corporeality, when analyzed with a queer womanist method, gestate sacred public religion that exceeds both the apartheid governance of the past and also the secular, post-apartheid democracy of today.

2 thoughts on “Six Open Access Journal Articles on Race and Political Theology

  1. Thank you for helping us to discern contemporary theological issues. I believe that at this moment, some voices outside our culture would allow us to have different and more useful perspectives, ie Latin America and Asia.

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