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The Christian Ethics of #BlackLivesMatter: An Interview with Dr. David Gushee.


Christianity has had such a long and terribly tangled history of how Christianity is implicated in issues of race.

But the same religion in the hands of the oppressed themselves — the indigenous peoples, Africans, or African Americans — became the vehicle of empowerment and liberation and dignity. I think we need to be aware of that and to realize when we say the word Christian or the word Christianity, we’re not just talking about one thing. We’re talking about different versions, often related to where people stand in the social hierarchy. No version of Christianity worth anything can be indifferent to the injustices experienced by African Americans in our society for 400 years, including today. But all too often Christianity is indeed — that is, some kinds, some forms of Christianity, are indeed indifferent to that injustice and that suffering.

That’s exactly where a lot of white Christians remain, in essentially homogenized, set apart white communities without meaningful contact with black Americans.

“It’s happening to somebody else, it’s remote from my experience and I’m able to move on the day after Michael Brown gets shot.”

That patience may not last forever, and I would understand if it didn’t.

Repentance is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. You know, of course when I was originally exposed to the concept it meant turning away from being a lost sinner and now believing in Jesus. But now I see that repentance is a changing of mind and heart that is at least as much about heart as it is about mind. A lot of times it is a breaking of the heart where it has been hardhearted or indifferent and entering in to the suffering of others, like I was talking about earlier. That certainly happened to me in relation to LGBT Christian brothers and sisters and it has happened to me…in relation to injustice experienced by African Americans in our society. I think it should be the pattern of Christian discipleship.

There’s a lot repenting still to do.

RKK: In your work Righteous Gentiles of The Holocaust: Genocide and Moral Obligation, you document the stories of some of the “righteous gentiles,” as you call them, who did not stand by while their neighbors were being persecuted, but who risked their own selves in that kind of outpouring you described, who engaged to create positive change and really opened themselves to the other.

The greater honor…goes to African Americans themselves who in many times and places risk their freedom and their lives just trying to go about their daily business in America.

RKK: Now, you also recently wrote on Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man in Immoral Society and quoted him saying “however large the number of individual white men who do and who will identify themselves completely with the Negro cause, the white race in America will not admit the Negro to equal rights if it is not forced to do so.” You observed that this was said 82 years ago and agreed with his quote. I was wondering if you could talk about what it would look like to “force,” or encourage, or foster those conversations, on the part of black Christians.

Protests become absolutely necessary to force awareness of the injustice and to force some kind of change eventually.

RKK: Now when you say “continue to happen,” I just want to follow up on that: some have claimed that the conversations about women’s ordination that happened in many denominations some years ago and current conversations over LGBT affirmation (particularly in the evangelical tradition) have often served to derail issues of racial injustice.

These are conversations that are not over.

In some ways I think we can now see what the civil rights movement did was a very costly series of battles that led to some provisional victories, but did not lead to the complete transformation of American society and a society of racial justice. The struggle continues, and the conversations need to continue as well. I think that the only thing one can be at all even a little bit happy about coming out of the sad events of 2014 on the criminal justice front is it has caused a lot of people to pay attention to the continuing existence of racial injustice in our society, so that it’s become harder just to say “well, everything was taken care of in 1965 and so now we can move on.”

“I want you all to experiment with not being the majority, and with not having your perspective privileged, and I want you to listen a whole lot more than you talk.” -James Cone


Theology of Ferguson

Protest, action, justice, and faith on the streets of…

Theology of Ferguson

Written by

Exploring how our faith, race, justice, and activism intersect. Standing with #ferguson Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. DM for more info.

Theology of Ferguson

Protest, action, justice, and faith on the streets of America.

Theology of Ferguson

Written by

Exploring how our faith, race, justice, and activism intersect. Standing with #ferguson Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. DM for more info.

Theology of Ferguson

Protest, action, justice, and faith on the streets of America.

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