Monday, March 27, 2006

God Bless the Child...

It was the irrepressible Billie Holiday who sang, "Papa may have...Momma may have...but God bless the child who's got his own." The more I reflect upon and engage with the broader Reformed community, I am becoming more and more inclined to believe that the growing African-American Reformed community may have to consider whether or not it would be more advantageous and beneficial to our calling and cause to have our own. At current, we are a culture within a culture. The predominantly white reformed culture, while welcoming to our public embracing and articulation of Reformed thought, demonstrates a reticence to speak on the nature of this embrace. This is because of old presuppositions and stereotypes. This has lead to an unwelcomeness of us as equals at the table. I don't say this as an indictment, only as a matter of conscience. It is not coincidental that the Reformed community is not more diverse than it is. It is not coincidental that the major voices in Reformed thought all look and sound the same. It is not coincidental that the majority of African-American reformed voices are more likely to address socio-economic issues rather than theological or ecclesiastical issues. It is not coincidently that African-American Reformed voices are more likely to be heard and quoted by the majority Reformed community when speaking on socio-economic issues than on biblical-theological ones. All of these and other situations were fostered and are perpetuated by a community that is very slow, and at times even hostile, to change or the admission of wrong. To this I say "Fine." I don't embrace Reformed thought because of who embraces Reformed thought, though I am not ignorant of the brilliant minds who have gone before me and have so eloquently set forth Reformed truth. Nevertheless, I embrace Reformed thought because I am convinced that it is the thought expressed in the pages of God's infallible Word. And yet I am not so myopic in my approach to theology and Christianity as to believe that my theology and beliefs have not cultural baggage attached ( unfortunately, many in the majority culture either consciously or subconsciously operate as if they don't). Having experiences that define who we are in the world that God has created is not a bad thing. Denying these experiences or not recognizing that these experiences pull us to extremes if not continually being informed by the Word of God is a bad thing. Therefore, I am inclined to suggest to my African-American brothers and sisters who embrace Reformed Theology that rather than being nudged or pushed into denying who we are, or being pulled into the extreme of over-emphasizing who we are, God's blessing to us and our subsequent contributions to the broader Reformed Community may come in our deciding to have our own.


kristie said...

Thanks for your thoughtful posts. I've been checking your blog to "listen and learn" for awhile.

So as not to misunderstand, what exactly do you mean by "have our own"? How do you see that being practically played out? How does that serve the church and glorify God?

ajcarter said...

Hello Kristie,
Thanks for checking in and listening, learning, and even lending your questions and thoughts. Your question concerning "having our own" is a great and obvious question. It is the one I anticipated and the one that I will be addressing in future post. Please continue your checking in and your lending.

Anonymous said...

Scripture teaches us that it is possible for three distinguishable persons to enter into relationship together - a beautiful, mysterious one at that. Why should Reformed folks have to be the same? Isn't it possible for Reformed folks to display their differences and still share common beliefs?

It's the unwelcomeness and unequalness at the table that concerns me. Will you explain how you've come to this conclusion? By "us" do you mean African-American Reformed voices or "any" voice that is not what you describe as the "predominantly white reformed culture?"

Thanks. I enjoy your posts and look forward to your response.


ajcarter said...

Your point concerning the Trinity (at least that is what I believe you are saying) is well made, and it illustrates my point. There is a difference among equals in that beautiful, harmonious relationship. It is to this type of relationship we must be striving with each other. The display of our differences and yet common beliefs is what i believe is most honoring to God. You are spot on, my friend!

The unwelcomeness and unequalness is a concern, but it is also an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to rise above our perceptions of ourselves and others and to realize our place, gloriously ordained place, in the kingdom of God. This is a good thing!

Yes, by "us" I do mean Reformed African-American voices. I mean this because this is the perspective from which I am coming. Nonetheless, it is also with the hope that others, not so African and not so American, will hear a voice with which they can resonate as well.

Please check back soon. I will explain how and why I have come to this conclusion, and why it is a good and necessary thing. Thanks for your input. I do look forward to hearing from you again on this issue.

curtlove said...

Amen Brother Carter Amen!

Anonymous said...

"The predominantly white reformed culture, while welcoming to our public embracing and articulation of Reformed thought, demonstrates a reticence to speak on the nature of this embrace. This is because of old presuppositions and stereotypes. This has lead to an unwelcomeness of us as equals at the table."

i'm not sure what you're getting at. i would be greatly helped if you spoke in specifics, rather than generalities. i have usually found the leaders among the black Reformed movement to be insufficiently critical of their white Reformed brethren, despite the fact that i think there is much for black Reformed Christians to be critical of (and i'm not just referring to slavery). IMHO, Reformed theology is better on paper than in practice. Our white Reformed brethren are often more concerned with right doctrine rather than right practice (love). They are condemned by 1 John and James. Also, IMHO, the tone of worship among our white Reformed brethren is inappropriately reserved/stoic. This is viewed as biblical, however, i see it as unredeemed culture.

ajcarter said...

I am not sure whom you would consider to be among the "black reformed leadership." However, I would be interested in knowing.

You should know that it is not my intention to criticize my reformed brothers and sisters of the lighter hue, but rather to spur on my Reformed Black sisters and brothers to greater works and a lasting legacy. The statement which you quote is simply a statement of true experience. I did not linger in those specifics because being critical is not my intention, rather being constructive is. Throwing stones is easy. Taking those stones and building a legacy is not. I desire to take the road less travelled.

You say that Reformed Theology is better on paper than in practice. Well, no duh. All theology is better on paper. There is not the element of the sinful nature to contend with.

Concerning worship, "inappropriately reserved/stoic" is a relative statement. It is "inappropriately reserved/stoic" compared to what? Speaking of generalities, nothing in more general than that.

You say that our white reformed brothers and sisters are condemned by 1John and James. Are you not?

Lastly, being kind anonymously is a virtue. Being critical anonymously is not.