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.
Life as a black man in (a)merica is a strange predicament wedged between misery and sublime while being rushed by transcendence. The addition of a loving God would appear to deconstruct the misery that ultimately leads to a different life. Unfortunately, that is not always the cause for many black people trekking through this life in the Western world. On a bigger picture it can be assumed that God is not that fond of black people (men or women) due in part by the mass levels of oppression. We have endured years of unfairness, injustice and pure racism just for us to be seen as human. That in itself would make anybody question the intentions of a loving God.
The incarnation, Walter says in his response, means that “God will do something about the suffering.” It appears that what God did about the suffering was allow more suffering. There is not this overwhelming sensation of triumph that has overtaken the black community that signifies everything is alright –we will be alright but there is no overwhelming sensation that alerts us to the phenomenon. James Baldwin articulates, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If he cannot do this, it is time we get rid of him.” Although this reply is harsh there is some level of contemplation that can be rendered upon this statement.
The continual suffering of a group of people does not equate to love in most places. The systemic displacement of black and brown people, not to mention the Indians, has made life difficult to negotiate in america. When you have become numb to ignorance instead of vigilante, then acceptance looms as an apparent answer. This is where many black Christians live. They live on the edge of sheer apathy with comedic hope for change. They will succumb to mistreatment by standing on a faith that change is around the corner. Well, all of that is good but there also needs to be a voice that addresses the wrong and provides a plan for change. But, God must be actively present in the midst of the chaos. Now, I digress and admit that God may very well be actively present in the midst but my understanding is lacking to comprehend what is actual going on. That is my hope and but the appearance of this mayhem in the lives of black folks makes me wonder at times.
The dialog continues…
If I had to base by participation in Christendom on Christians, I would become an atheist.
The consistency of disunity plagues the body of Christ as a whole and disguises itself as friendly rebuke or being biblical. But it appears that the context of those statements only work when they are being spewed from one’s lips instead of being displayed in practical living. There is this misconception that if the doctrine is right then the behavior will model the doctrinal stance. Well, that sounds good and packaged but people are not as structured as they would have all to believe. What we get many times are folks who can communicate doctrine but have no relational capabilities whatsoever. They understand Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic but can not exegete the context where they serve.
It grieves me to see many Christians so eager to reprove without having relational authority of any kind. I have been guilty of this very thing many times in my life but I see the danger in such behavior. Relational capital allows me the leverage to understand your vocabulary before I label you as wrong. So through relationship, I have an opportunity to see you and learn your contextual essence before I say you are wrong. It is within these delicate rooms of theology that the Gospel becomes soiled in the lives of the believer. There is not animosity or discord because the relationship avails me to the understanding of your vocabulary.
Does this subvert the usage of the Gospel?-By no means. The Gospel is a relational narrative practiced in context with real, live characters. It is not the sum total of a rhetorical speech, laden with hermeneutical cosmetics to attract the unbelievers. Yes we preach, teach, rebuke and reprove but not just for the sake of displaying some pseudo-orthodoxy, we do it out of relational commitment that was first developed with Christ. If my relationship with him is solid, I re-image that relationship with others. I treat them with the same love and honor that was given to me when I did not deserve it from God.
The problem is that we have morphed our spiritual walk with God into a business plan that concludes with a success or fail agenda. Evangelical Christianity has become the spiritual prototype of the corporate world. There is more concern for numerical growth than growth in discipleship. Though I understand the reasoning for such actions the outcomes are tenuous. They have become priority for some with blatant disregard for the guidance of Holy Spirit. A plan has become fail proof and stacked upon equal footing with the will of God.
I conclude that a crooked/warp image of God leads to a dangerous pretext, context and post-text. The church has fallen prey to such a mishap where everyone anoints themselves as the epitome of truth and refuses to listen to others. This presents a disfigured-disjointed image of God- if we are truly the imago dei (image of God).
One of the most important theological dialogues of 2012.