“A Plea for Greater Inclusion of Other Voices in Gospel and Social Justice Conversations Among American Christians”

“A Plea for Greater Inclusion of Other Voices in Gospel and Social Justice Conversations Among American Christians”

The attached photo represents some of the influential Evangelical leaders and thinkers who will be speaking at an upcoming conference on the interrelated topics of the Christian Gospel, race, and social justice in contemporary American society and American Evangelicalism.

The visual representation and selection of the speakers indicate enormously on how (White and African American) American (Evangelical) Christians understand and frame Gospel and social justice conversations in this contemporary culture. Within the history of American Christianity, race and social justice issues in this country have almost always been a conversation between two groups of people: African American and White American Christians. History will not fail us if we interpret this phenomenon as a “tradition.” In fact, it is indeed a White and African American Christian tradition; one can look back at recent conferences on these matters among these two represented Christian groups to validate this claim.

Hence, if this is the only expression of the Gospel in white and black, American (Evangelical) Christians have indeed undermined the universal quality and value, and correspondingly the cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, and transnational force and intent of the Gospel. It is important that we do not allow the American historical narrative and the conflict between White and African Americans, as well as the struggle for shalom and wholeness between White and African American Christians to be the only lens to assess the relevance of the Gospel for these urgent issues and its implications for the project of social justice, peace, racial reconciliation, unity, and harmony.

When White American and African American Christians discuss the issues named above among themselves only, both directly and indirectly, they shut off the voice, agency, and the concerns of other brothers and sisters in Christ including those of Hispanic, Asian, and black Christians who are not African Americans. When other brothers and sisters are not included in these Christian dialogues, both intentionally and unintentionally, this particular form of ethnic and racial exclusion will not fully unite the body of Christ nor will it foster adequate conversations across the various ethnic, racial, and cultural lines in American Christianity in these urgent moments–which could also help heal our collective wound and restore our fragmented soul.

Moreover, the American history of racial trauma and fear, and the triumph of injustice and dehumanization of certain groups of people in our society should not dictate the meaning of the Gospel nor should the trajectories of American history be the cultural hermeneutical paradigm to strive toward human flourishing and the common good. We must first begin with the inclusive message of the Gospel followed by our careful analysis and criticism of the complexity of the human experience and life in America and the interplays and actions that define us as a people.

The hegemony of these two represented Christian groups, pertaining to the subject matter, also indicates their insensitivity to the pain, suffering, and alienation of Brown, Asian, Hispanic, and non-African American Christians in American Christian history, and the Gospel project (and Christ’s promise) of universal reconciliation and global justice through the cross and power of Christ.

May God lead us to reject tribal christianity to embrace a better and more promising vision of the Gospel and the glory of the cross of Christ!

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Postcript:

Whether this above photo is accurate or not, I’m using this picture as a symbol and metaphor of a bigger problem and more pressing issue on Gospel-centered social justice and race conversations in American (Evangelical) christianity and the (monolithic) narrative associated with it.

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(Summer  Language Classes, July 2018): Basic (Free) English and Creole Classes for the People of Fort Pierce and its Surrounding!

Announcement (Summer Language Classes, July 2018): Basic (Free) English and Creole Classes for the People of Fort Pierce and its Surrounding!

Starting in the first week of July 2018, Jesus Center Community Church will offer two language classes: a free intensive class on Basic (reading, writing, speaking) English for individuals who just immigrated to the United States, and a basic course on Creole (Kreyòl) (reading, writing, speaking) for English speakers.

Would you encourage friends, parents, or anyone (in need) you believe will be interested to sign up?

By intensive, we mean each class (English or Creole) will meet once a week, for 2 hrs.The individual course will last eight weeks.

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In order for us to launch the course, at least 10 individuals must enroll.

The free intensive English and Creole classes are open to the people of Fort Pierce, Port St Lucie, and Vero.

For any questions or concerns, contact us at jesuscentercc@gmail.com or 772 302-3118

(Medical) Mission Trip to Haiti: July 17-26, 2018

(Medical) Mission Trip to Haiti: July 17-26, 2018

A team of  individuals from Hope for Today Outreach and New Beginning International Ministries, and a team of nurses from the Treasure Coast (Florida) will be going to Haiti in July 17-26, 2018 for a mission trip.

Through collaboration with our active partners, we will provide the following resources to the Haitian people: medical clinics; distribution of school supplies and backpacks; distribution of food, clothing, and literacy materials; leadership and educational conferences; ministerial training; community evangelism and prayer walk, etc.

We will provide free medical consultation to families and children and be distributing first medical aids/over-the-counter medications. We will also provide hot meals, food, clothing, and shoes to Haitian families, and school supplies to Haitian students for the academic year, 2018-2019.

school

If you are unable to join us this year, we hope you will consider donating supplies and resources toward this mission trip; here are the list of the items we are collecting:

1. Backpacks

2. Notebooks & Binders/Composition notebooks

3. Pencils, pens, color crayons, erasers, glue sticks, rulers, pencil sharpeners, etc.

4. Socks–any size for elementary to high school students.

*Our goal this year is to provide school supplies to 400 Haitian families. The deadline to provide any of the items listed above is May 31, 2018. We will ship the items in the first week of June to get there on time.

You can contact me directly at celucienjoseph@gmail.com (Dr. Lou). We would love to hear from you. We can be reached in a number of ways:

• By Mail

Hope for Today Outreach (HTO)
P.O. Box 7353
Port Saint Lucie, FL 34985

• By Phone

772-985-0696

• By Email

hopefortodayoutreach@gmail.com

Have an Awesome day!

Pastor Joseph

 

“Black Theological Education and Liberalism, and The Shortcomings of Conservative and Evangelical Seminaries and Divinity Schools (Part I)”

“Black Theological Education and Liberalism, and The Shortcomings of Conservative and Evangelical Seminaries and Divinity Schools” (Part I)

The majority of black theologians and biblical scholars, and clergy in the United States are trained in the nation’s most liberal seminaries and Divinity schools, resulting in serious weaknesses in theological thinking, biblical exegesis, and ministerial practices in black congregations.

While those institutions may provide considerable advantageous resources, better networking, and human support and connection, contributing to a solid intellectual (theological) education of the future black scholar and minister towards the common good, some of these theological and ministerial centers have fostered in modern black theological education a distinctive expression of black theological liberalism and a crisis in black theological thought that bluntly reject biblical authority and the exclusive salvific message of the Gospel through Christ’s satisfactory atonement through his shed blood, and interrogate the relevance of the historic confessions of the Christian faith in black life and black ethical practices in the contemporary moments.

Nonetheless, as any theological worldview, there are many merits of or good things we can learn from Black theological liberalism. First, Black theological liberalism in the contemporary intellectual enterprise accentuates the imperative of black freedom and black agency in a society that constantly doubts the value of black existence and challenges the merit of black dignity and humanity. Second, this theological category or system seeks to promote the hoslitic welfare of black people and sustain the notion that the black life in the modern American society is worth safeguarding and that black people as a collective (human) race deserves the protection and care, not the constant surveillance and monitoring of the black body or existence, of the American government. Third, black theologians operating within the tradition of black theological liberalism embrace the promises of the Social Gospel Movement to envision an alternative life for black folk in America in which equal opportunity and access to better employment and housing opportunity, better education, healthcare, job promotion, and economic mobility are also granted to them. Fourth, Black theological liberalism draws from a wealth of sources and traditions for theological reflection and imagination, and the Bible is not its sole authority in matters of faith and practice. Finally, this theological tradition in black highlights black voices and agency, as well as those of non-European theological traditions and canons in the theological exegesis of the Biblical text and theological eisegesis of the contemporary American culture toward black and human flourishing.

Moreover, the five-fold tenets of Black theological liberalism, which I proposed above, are both the direct and by-products of non-conservative and liberal seminaries and institutions, which train most of black theologians and clergy in the United States. In the same line of reasoning, there are at least five major reasons accounting for the (Black) preference to be educated and formed in non-Evangelical and conservative schools:

1. Lack of racial diversity and inclusion, and faculty and leadership representation in the faculty-staff body of these schools.

2. A closed theological curriculum or program that does not represent the rich diversity and plurality of Christian scholarship and thought, considering the manifold contributions of a wide-range of Christian thinkers (i.e. Black, Hispanic, Asian, non-White European descent) to the Christian ministry and the discipline of theology and religious studies–even within the Orthodox theological (Evangelical) tradition.

3. The human dynamic and atmosphere in those schools are not often welcoming and friendly to the so-called minority students and students of color; some black students believe their presence is not wanted in these closed circles.

4. Black students and students of color are interested in non-Evangelical and non-conservative schools because of the promise of future and better employment opportunity (especially to those who are preparing for a career in the academia as professors and school administrators), greater financial funding and support, the educational and intellectual prestige associated with those schools such as Harvard Divinity schools, Union Theological Seminary, Boston School of Theology, Candler School of Theology, University of Chicago Divinity School, etc., and the close affiliation of (named) seminaries and divinity schools, for example, with renowned (named) universities and world-class faculty.

5. Unlike most Evangelical and Conservative seminaries and Divinity schools, most non-conservative and liberal schools intentionally pursue greater gender and racial inclusion in their faculty-staff make-up, promote and incorporate greater ethnic diversity and plurality of thought, worldview, and praxis in theological education and ministerial formation, and they train their students in the highest rigor of the social sciences and the humanities, critical theory, and multicultural education; also, these schools strategically and ideologically prepare their students to become cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and intersectional Christian activists, human rights advocates, public intellectuals, social critics, scholars, and ministers and pastors.

As a black Christian minister and (Evangelical) theologian who embraces the historic confessions of the Christian faith, I value many of the merits and benefits of Black theological liberalism, as they address serious issues of equality, fairness, justice, representation, and equity in our culture and theological schools. These are also Gospel issues. On the other hand, there lies a profound dilemma in black theological education, black theological thinking, and ministerial practice, which are arguably a direct failure of Evangelical and conservative seminaries and institutions.

I hope the leadership of those (conservative) schools would be intentional about the theological training and ministerial formation of black seminarians and students of color, which could eventually contribute to more effective and biblically-centered black christian leadership and ministers, as well as strong and healthy black and ethnic churches in this country.

“A Morning Prayer to God for Consolation”

“A Morning Prayer to God for Consolation”

Lord, I’m tired. We are tired.

How long will we know the way of peace?

How long will we experience unity and grace?

How long will our suffering, tears, alienation, and pain be ceased?

How long will we be treated with love, dignity, and as your Image Bearer?

How long shall we wait for You, Oh Lord?

How long?
How long?
How long?

I am tired. We are tired. Do not be silent about our tears and complaints!

How long, Oh God the Sovereign Lord of the universe and all people?

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I am an intercessor. I pray for peace and unity in our country and the world. I pray for justice, and I pray for racial healing and reconciliation in our nation. I pray for God’s reign to go unrestrained in our hearts and in the world. I pray for the Spirit of God to move in our community, in the city, and every home without any human interference. I pray to God to restore our hearts and make us new again. Most importantly, I pray for the light of Christ to penetrate every heart and transform every soul. Our prayers to God are always shaped by our social realities and circumstances; God hears the prayers of the saints and respond quickly to the prayers of the vulnerable, and especially those who trust in Him, those have been/are being mistreated, dehumanized, as well as those who have no hope in the justice system of this society and the world.

The Gospel for the Whole Life!

These two actions contradict the essence of the Gospel:

1. You’re trying to save the soul of the poor & the vulnerable by illuminating their life with the light and power of the Gospel of Christ.

2. Concurrently, you’re making moral choices, supporting public policies, & substantiating political laws and choices that are detrimental to the very well-being and existence of this very group of individuals and families.

The Christian Gospel is for the whole life, the whole person, and the whole world. It must transform how you live, how you think, how you choose, and how you relate to people and everything around you.

Since the Gospel is a story about God’s redeeming love and amazing grace in Christ for everyone and the cosmos, it must bring balance and coherence to life. Those who practice it must show grace and live a life of love.