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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Theological Bankruptcy


In his groundbreaking work, God of the Oppressed, theologian James Cone describes moving to Detroit in the midst of a series of insurrections.  He noted the silence and indifference of white Christians to what was happening in urban centers across America in the late 1960's.  He writes that their lack of response to what was happening in their own nation "was not only humiliating but wrong. It revealed an insensitivity to black pain and suffering but also, and more importantly for my vocation as a theologian, a theological bankruptcy."  Cone's words have never been more prophetic than they are today when faced with the deafening silence of American Christianity in the face of racialized violence.


I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent when unarmed black people are murdered by the state and their killers shielded from punishment.

I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent when black grandmothers are beaten unconscious by law enforcement officers as they seek shelter across a busy highway.

I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent when black teenagers are gunned down like animals, but rushes to promote campaigns against "indecent" music.

I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent about black pain and suffering, but wants to rally to boycott a fictional television show.

I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent when pregnant black women are placed in chokeholds by police, but campaigns outside of abortion clinics to "protect" life.

I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent in the face of urban violence, poverty, and joblessness, but wants to figure out how to plant an urban church from a suburban bubble.

I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent about racial disparities, but keeps singing hymns in which one has to be washed "white as snow."

I charge theological bankruptcy to a Christianity that is silent about racism, white privilege, and white supremacy, but wants to have conferences about doing "multicultural" ministry.


What will your liturgy on Sunday morning say about Renisha McBride?  What sermon will be preached that speaks out for Mike Brown?  What benediction will be pronounced that considers Marlene Pinnock?  Can you "pass the peace" if you only mean peace for your own neighborhood or community?  I believe our theological bankruptcy, our hypocrisy, our lukewarmness, and our indifference is an affront to God.  We are the richest nation in the world with a deeply impoverished theology. How can we claim to love God, whom we have not seen, but fail to love those we have seen: Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Marlene Pinnock, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Aiyana Jones, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Johnathan Ferrell, Miriam Carey, Tyisha Miller...and the list goes on.


© Yolanda Pierce

7 comments:

RevALGesq said...

Dr. Pierce, I agree wholeheartedly. The good news is that not all bankruptcies are fatal--some are for reorganization. Perhaps this is the opportunity for the church/Christians to restructure and reorganize so that it/we can come out stronger and better than before. We profess to be followers of Christ. He spent most of His ministry in the streets, speaking truth to power. It is time for us to become imitators of Christ. Rev. Arnette G

CBranch said...

Dr. Pierce. We hear you in Los Angeles California. I would like to invite you to join us in January 2015 for Theology In the Hood. Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, Bethel AME Church and Bryant Temple AME Church are hosting our third annual TIH revival/teaching meeting. We welcome your perspective among other local theologians. holla back.
i can be reached at 323-273-4586.
bless you.

John Fudge said...

Clear and forthright enough to cross the Atlantic.

Is there nothing good in US theology? There are some out here who carry a healthy respect for Campolo, YWAM Compassion, the Azusa compelled saints that took the Gospel to Burkina Faso, and many many more. Yes you face issues but not without capital.

Anonymous said...

[Speech: Dr. John Henrik Clarke] / Nearly all religions were brought to people / And imposed on people by conquerers / And used as the framework to control their mind / My main point here is that if you are a child of God / And God is a part of you, then in your imagination / God is supposed to look like you / And when you accept a picture of the deity assigned to you / By another people, you become the spiritual prisoner of that other people

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post - I'm personally convicted of the many ways I daily choose to look away from injustice and instead profit from the struggles of my black brothers and sisters.

(One teeny-tiny tangent, not meant to detract from the heart of the post by any means: In our current cultural context, should we no longer sing hymns about cleansing ourselves "White as snow," if that imagery comes from Scripture?)

Hasan McWhorter said...

So refreshing to hear this! I really appreciate your passion and accepting your mission with so much courage. I have been thinking and talking about the same thing with anyone who will listen. Again, thank you.

Jean Nicole said...

Solid. Churches avoid it because it means action and it requires work after the benediction and that is not the always the goal of church.