My Monday night group is discussing Kelly Brown Douglas’s Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. The book is an indispensable theological response to black people’s corporate experience of violence and brutality, while also offering a historical narrative out of which such injustices emerge.
Our small group discussion has so far taken us through United States of American history as it relates to race, strong and illuminating conversations about how easy it is to be black and to not see one’s self spoken of or spoken to in the scriptures, detailed discussions about education and youth and poverty, and quiet but pronounced conversion happening among us.
Today’s chapter is “A Father’s Faith” and here are some of the quotes that I’m turning over in anticipation of seeing my friends this evening:
Faith is a response to God. Faith is possible only if God has acted and has initiated a relationship with human beings. Faith is the human response to God’s invitation to be in a relationship. Black faith represents a resounding yes to God’s offer. (p. 139)
Spirituals, essentially, reveal the foundation for a faith that will sustain black people through the paradox of being faithful in a society defined by the Anglo-Saxon myth. (p. 141)
According to the enslaved authors of the spirituals, the freedom of God concerned the very nature of God’s presence in their lives as well as God’s very nature. Theologically speaking, the freedom of God as expressed in the spirituals bore witness both to the economy of God (God’s movement in human history) and the aseity of God (who God is in God’s self). The spiritual’s testimony concerning the freedom of God suggested at least two interrelated things. First, God was by nature free, therefore, complete in God’s self and dependent on no other being or power for existence. Second, God’s movement in human history reflected God’s freedom. (p. 143)
…This African principle maintains that everything the Great High God creates has sacred value because it is intrinsically connected to God. It is the belief that undergirds an African worldview that all reality is sacred. (p. 150)
The freedom of God that the enslaved experienced became the adjudicating principle of their very faith claims. This has implications for the black faith tradition. (p. 162)
…Thus, if the norm of black faith is an understanding of a God who is freedom, then that also means there are certain stories within the Bible that cannot be given authority. If black faith means refusing to capitulate to or compromise with any situation that violates the very freedom of God, then this principle must be maintained even when it comes to the Bible. Therefore no story that compromises the freedom of God, and thus the freedom of those whom God created, can be given authority in the black faith tradition. (p. 163)
As for the black faithful, the best response is indeed a response of faith, which means being relentless in the fight to dismantle this culture of death. (p. 166)