I asked the question today, “Is it possible to come out of prayer feeling worse.” I really didn’t expect to get a lot of answers but I got two that went in the direction that I would have gone-yes it is possible. One reminded me of the story of Jesus in the Garden praying right before he goes to the cross. (Matthew 26:36-46) There is this intensity associated with his time in prayer that is unlike any other scene that I can remember in scripture. We read up many times that Jesus goes to pray but never are we allowed to take that deep of a look at him while praying. The synoptic Gospels tell the story, each one with a different twist but still the same wrenching effect, that Jesus is praying but wrestling with the outcome. How do you really pray about something that needs to happen but yet the price it will cost you will cost you your life.
Reconciliation takes on that concept in some areas for me. I read of cases of hatred, racism, sexism and classism every day and wrestle with the entire premise of reconciliation. How do you reconcile with folks who do not want to be reconciled with…? Yes the bible declares that we are minsters of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) but the price that comes with that position is tremendous. This title engenders us to a position of peace that places in right in the line of fire to be ridiculed for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We have to endure racist taunts, sexist commentary and tasteless class jokes all in the cause of preserving the image of Christ–the opportunity to participate in spreading the fame of Christ through our daily living.
Reconciliation is a revolutionary act of God with an established blueprint set by Jesus as he comes and gives his life for us. he prayer time in the garden exemplifies this struggle. His humanity debates with his divinity about the price of reconciling man back to God. This is a real dilemma and phenomena to understand because Jesus understood that not everyone wanted to be redeemed or would treat him fairly, as we would soon see with Judas. I am not sure if Jesus reconciled this within himself but I do know that he did the work. So as a blueprint for us, maybe we need to get past our own fears and trepidation and just do the work.
I am a Pan-Afrikanist with a Calvinist bent that is deeply embedded into the Hip Hop culture and I grew up in the black church. I consider James Baldwin a left of center theologian and I consider Martin Luther King the greatest public theologian we have ever seen. I make no apologies for my ontological blackness but I do have major tension with my Calvinist bent-to the point I am not really a Calvinist. Hip Hop served as my first legitimate teacher and the black church has been a part of my life since I can remember.
The above amalgam resting in one person makes for a very difficult train of thought. I reference the above characteristics because they make the very essence of the man that I am. They are essential pieces that form the core of Brian Foulks.
I grew up in the midst of racism and thought I had to accept it as if it was some fault of my own that I was black- as if blackness was wrong. I learned to smile and walk away until I got to college and meet Dr. William Gunn. Dr. Gunn challenged me to accept my blackness and embrace it with love and clarity. He introduced me to a Kemetic thought that I would some 15 years later embrace. He developed an activist mentality in me that has never died.
It was Dr. Gunn who guided me to the world of reading. Through that learned ritual of reading, my perspective started to change. I became more aware of the injustices that had befallen the black male. I was more attuned to the pitfalls that were placed in many of the black communities. He was simply developing intelligent black men and I happen to be one of them. Gunn became a permanent fixture etched in my mind on a never-ending journey of truth.
Now as I wrestle with the development of my own personal, progressive theology, I unmask this preserved blackness. A blackness that was preserved because it was protected and still is protected from the atrocities that can so easily become reality. I am unwilling to relinquish my ontological blackness because it has been abused by society. Unearthing the gift of being black has taken years of quietness and study. I had to come to the realization some 15 years ago that it was alright to be black. My blackness was not some secondary condition that I had to morph out of when I am around folks who do not look like me. I do not have to change my speech patterns to resonate with them, I can be me- and that can present a problem for some.
I am unwilling to relinquish my ontological blackness because it was taken from me for so long. To be identified as a black man is a rewarding, luminous honor. Now that is something that society will not say to many young men with my skin complexion. I unmask the fact that we have sold ourselves short because we have settled for mediocrity over brilliance and excellence. This is attached with a theological underpinning that tries its best to sideline the very movement of those working in the black church. The theological genius of many black pastors that have managed to transformed communities from a storefront church into a thriving scene-brilliance and excellence on display in areas of developed mediocrity.
My theology is embedded in a struggle just to be relevant. Relevance not predicated on what I know but on a more concrete platform of simple humanity. My blackness symbolizes grace for which black people extended to others after years of systematic oppression. Please do not be misinformed slavery has outreached it time and will continue to do so. My theology must acknowledge the fact that John Piper wrote a book about racism, which was an amicable effort, but he did not say anything different than Tim Wise has been saying for years with a lot more force and clarity.
I am a product of struggle, a product of pain and a product of love. My theology is soaked in struggle, pain and love.