The essence of being incarnational, in a system that practices such heinous oppression, would appear to be asinine. The missional ethos of coming to a place that has no perimeters and no appreciation for life registers as blatant stupidity. Suffering in such as place would be and is inevitable – (a)merica is just that type of place. A place where black folks experience high levels of suffering without the benefit of promoting privilege to soften the impact of such suffering. It is within the incarnation, where we can see God’s love for a people that consistently reject God.
I return back to the thought that the incarnation is dangerous. The incarnation pushes the oppressed to love people who will not return that love back to them. It is then, that we can say that the incarnation is a sacrifice predicated upon love, still extremely dangerous but promulgating robust love. Black folks in (a)merica extend this type of love every day, in a world where systemic racism has become the norm. We are incarnated into a system that does not play by a fair set of rules, but expects us to be satisfied that we are just able to be in the game.
The incarnation for the oppressed and those in the margins of society has the potential of being imprisonment. The good news is that Jesus did not work from this perspective. He worked from the perspective that the incarnation would benefit the world regardless if the world wanted it or not. The “word becoming flesh” (John 1:14) should revolutionized how we understand love. The incarnation becomes a radical move of love with major implications that transformed the entire world. Leaving privilege to endure suffering does not constitute intelligence but it sure does highlight love in a special way.
This written by Walter Strawther in response to Incarnation- Incarnation, Perichoresis and Racism.
So yesterday my friend and brother, Brian Foulks, asked a question: How the Incarnation influences how we interpret the cross as African Americans? After much contemplation here is my first attempt to answer.
First of all, I am hesitant to sound exclusive, limiting my response to being African American while at the same time recognizing that theology is contextual. I offer this response as a way of adding to the dialog, so that as we share our experiences and context we grow more and more in the truth of who God is and what God does.
This question reminded me of growing up in the Fire Baptized Holiness Church and attending worship services each Sunday that included a testimony service. There are many phrases and words that seemed formulaic, then and now, but were grounded in the experience of those bearing witness to God’s goodness. One phrase that comes to mind, in response to this question, is “the God who makes a way out of no way.” This is the essence of the incarnation. Jesus comes to do for us what we cannot do. Jesus comes in human form to do what would otherwise be impossible, making a way out of no way. Through his life Jesus associated with and legitimized those who were outcasts. The experience of African Americans as outcasts and marginalized throughout a significant portion of this country’s history, and there is still work to do today, resembles that of those who Jesus spent time with during his life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
The incarnation for African Americans is more than just the presence of God but, as Brian Foulks writes in his blog, it is an “active presence.” Jesus does not just encourage the oppressed to see a new reality but participates in making that reality come into being. It is not enough for the oppressed to know that God is there. There isn’t any hope in God only being a witness to the oppression. The meaning of incarnation in light of the cross is that God will do something about the suffering. Yes, Jesus participates in the suffering by dying on the cross but three days later God makes a way out of no way and raises Jesus from the dead giving final victory to those who are suffering. This is a beginning to this difficult question.
One of the most important theological dialogues of 2012.
I wrote this in 2011 and these men still have my utmost attention when they speak.
These five men have said something in my life that changed a direction for me…
1)My Pops, Talmadge Foulks- He gave me a real example of what hard work looks like…He set a standard that I can’t come close to for being a man…my hero…Famous words to me,” If you are going to do something do it because you want to not because you were following someone.”
2) Dr. William Gunn- He showed me it was alright to be intelligent and settled for nothing less than my best…Famous words to me, “They say if you put it in a book that you young black males will never learn it.”
3) My Uncle Duane Everett- outside of my parents was one of my biggest fans during my athletics years but also challenged me to be even better in the classroom….Famous words to me, “If you ever decide to use your mind, you will be dangerous.”
4) James “Everett” Tillman- My cousin but we grew up like brothers. One of the few people in the world, if not the only person that I will not question if he tells me something. The smartest person I know and the person whom I try my best to emulate because he is a fantastic dude….still to this day he gives me the best guidance…famous words to me…”Finish strong…”
5) Allen Love- Man we grew up together from young boys, through college, through craziness to manhood. Hands down one of the most intelligent cats I know. While I was in college, the brother practically feed me every day and never said a word or asked for it back. Always encouraged me to stay in school regardless of what was happening. Famous words to me, “If that is what you want to do then you need to go and get trained through a school.”