Spiritual “Corporate Solidarity in Christ” as Model for Pure Practical Human Solidarity and Racial Justice and Unity in Christian Churches in America

Spiritual “Corporate Solidarity in Christ” as Model for Pure Practical Human Solidarity and Racial Justice and Unity in Christian Churches in America

I’m thinking about a few theological imaginaries and their repercussions for the possibility to construct a robust Christian ethic of unity and human interdependence. In the theological sense, Apostle Paul has argued relatively in most of his letters, which he sent to newly-established (Jewish-) Gentile Churches in the Roman Empire, by the virtue of their trust in and allegiance to Christ, that followers of Jesus the Messiah now share a “corporate identity in Christ.” This Pauline mysticism is associated with the symbolic interplays of baptism, burial, death, and resurrection, and that both Jewish and Gentile believers have died with the Messiah through baptism and are resurrected with him so they could enter in the new life and enjoy the new eschatological age (Paul’s idea of the new creation).  Paul establishes some important points of connection and parallel between the believer and Christ through past, present, and future events. The believer is united with Christ in every intersection of life, and this union in relationship with Christ is the basis of the believer’s corporate identity and the new hope and life in Christ; this spiritual affiliation is also significant for the believer’s present sanctification and future glory with the Messiah-Christ.

For example, in Romans chapter six, Paul employs slavery as a metaphor to describe the dialectics of the (believer’s) life before Christ and the (believer’s) life in Christ. Paul also utilizes slavery to represent dominion under sin and dominion under Christ (For example, read Rom. 6:11-12, 14, 17-18, 19-20, 22-23). In Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification (1998), theologian Sinclair Ferguson articulates a few propositions about this important unity between Christ and his followers; thus, the believer shares

  1. “in his death (we were baptized into his death),
  2. in his resurrection (we are resurrected with Christ),
  3. in his ascension (we have been raised with him),
  4. in his heavenly session (we sit with him in heavenly places, so that our life is hidden with Christ in God), and we will share in his promised return (when Christ, who is our life, appears, we also will appear with him in glory) (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:11-12; 3:1-3).” (page 58)

For Paul, the notion of “corporate identity in Christ” is not just a state of mind or state of being, but an existential reality which should radically transform the identity of the Christian in the world and radically shape the Christian experience in the faith community; the concept is not just a theoretical framework to think spiritually and metaphysically about the Christ-believer relationship and intimacy. It bears moral and ethical implications how should Christians relate precisely to people outside the Christian community. For specific textual references on the doctrine of union with Christ and corporate identity in Christ, see the following Pauline passages: 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:17, 12:2, 13:5; Gal. 2:20, 3:28; Eph. 1:4, 2:10, 3:17; Phil. 3:9; 1 Thess. 4:16; Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10).

It is evident in our analysis that Paul establishes a strong connection between two natures and two beings: one is divine and spiritual (Christ); the other is material and fleshly (humanity=man and woman), and the corporeal (man and woman) and the spiritual (Christ) in one life; the rapport between the body and the soul is firmly established in Paul’s theology of the believer’s union with Christ.  How should we then imagine or think about the repercussions of this “union with Christ” to foster collective solidarity and nurture collective unity in (Evangelical) Christian churches and among Christians of all races and ethnic groups? In other words, how should this Pauline theological imagination may assist us to reason more rigorously and act more responsibly and compassionately, yet in a practical way, about the effective practicality of racial justice and unity in (Evangelical) Christian circles and congregations? Should we not be concerned about the possible effects of genuine Christian love as justice and peace in public: in the general American society.

Furthermore, I would like to frame this same question differently: why does it appear to be a convincing matter for American cultural Evangelicals and American Christians to embrace this difficult and theoretical doctrine of corporate identity with a spiritual being, who is the Christ-Messiah, and hold to the notion to the “collective union in/with Him,” then to imagine the prospect for Americans of different skin tones, cultural dynamics, and linguistic difference to be united in one mind and spirit in matters of race and ethnic relations, as Paul has urged us to do, and to be protagonists of Christian love and reconciliation in the churches and in our society?

Moreover, the Pauline notion of “corporate identity in Christ” does not heighten the individual integration into the sphere of the Christ, but of the collective incorporation into the realm and life of the Messiah. The collective experience is what is prized in Paul, not the Western libertarian preference nor the individualistic option. If that is the case, Paul then presupposes a lot of things among the members of Jewish-Christian Churches and communities in the Roman Empire, including the following:

  1. in Christ’s death, all” Gentile and Jewish believers give their complete allegiance to the Messiah (Rom. 1:1-6;3:25-6);
  2. in Christ’s resurrection, “all” believers were baptized into the Messiah’s death (Rom. 6:4-5);
  3. in Christ’s burial and resurrection, “all” Gentile and Jewish Christians were buried and resurrected with the Messiah (Rom. 6:6-10);
  4. In Christ’s ascension, “all” Jewish and Gentile followers were raised with the Messiah;
  5. In Christ’s heavenly session, “all” Jewish and Gentile believers sit with the Messiah in heavenly, and their collective life is hidden in Christ (Rom. 5:15-20).
  6. Finally, in the age to come, “all” will share the promises and glories of the Messiah.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue to be silent on racial, justice, and reconciliation issues so the grace of God in the Messiah may abound?  How can we who share a collective identity in Christ and exist corporately in him and with him are reluctant to empathize with those who are victims of racial injustice, human denigration, and racial discrimination? May it never be!

What shall we say then? How can we whose destiny—black, brown, white, red, mixed-race followers of Christ—in Christ has been sealed and our common future is assured remain indifferent to the predicament of racial and ethnic segregation in our churches and churches? By no means!

Undoubtedly, the doctrine of Christian corporate solidarity in Christ should serve as a model for Christians of all races and ethnic groups to exercise pure practical Christian solidarity and love, and to be forerunners of racial justice and unity in our churches and the greater American culture. We must be an alternative community to which we are called to be in Christ and with each other. We must embody the message, attitude, and ethic of the Gospel of Christ!

Call for Panelists: Contemporary Religious Thought in Haiti and The Religious Traditions of the Haitian People

Call for Panelists:

Contemporary Religious Thought in Haiti and The Religious Traditions of the Haitian People

“Haiti: Then and Now” will have a panel at the 29th Annual Conference of the Haitian Studies Association around this theme: “Contemporary Religious Thought in Haiti and The Religious Traditions of the Haitian People.”

If you are interested in joining our panel, please email an abstract of 250 words and a brief bio by Monday, May 29, 2017 to Dr. Celucien L. Joseph , celucienjoseph@gmail.com

*I know this is a brief notice. I apologize for this inconvenience

Thanks,
Celucien L. Joseph, PhD (“Doctor Lou”)

About the Conference

The last day to submit an abstract or paper proposal for the 29th Annual Conference of the Haitian Studies Association is Thursday, June 1, 2017.

Theme: Haiti: “Paradoxes, Contradictions, Intersections in the Making of a People”

Where: Xavier University of Louisiana
Tulane University Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies (New Orleans, Louisiana)

When: November 1-4, 2017

 

http://haitianstudies.org/callforpapers/

 

Five Theses about God, Christianity, Jesus, slavery, and colonization

Five Theses about God, Christianity, Jesus, slavery, and colonization

  1. The God of the slave masters and European colonialists is not the true God of the Bible nor the God whose preferential option is for the poor and oppressed.

*The Biblical God is a God of love, freedom, and justice. God’s ultimate desire for every individual is to experience freedom, peace, and love—in relationship with him and in relationship with each other.

  1. The Jesus of the slave masters and European colonialists is not the real Christ nor the biblical Jesus.

*While “Christ” means “the anointed one” or “messiah,” the Christ was a historical person the same was Jesus was a historical figure. Interestingly, both early and contemporary Christians believe that “Jesus was/is the Christ/Messiah.”

  1. Colonial Christianity is a false religion and not true or biblical Christianity.

*Colonial Christianity enslaved people and did not liberate them from oppression and the labyrinth of slavery. Colonial Christianity was an oppressive religion that failed to promote equality, justice, human dignity, reconciliation, and shalom.

  1. Christianity as a religion was misused to enslave, subjugate, and colonize African slaves and other colonial subjects.

*One should not equate the use of a religion as a tool or instrument with the essence and teaching of that religion.  Any system or institution could use any religion to carry out any desirable goals or intended objectives. This principle also applies to the misapplication of the name of God and the name of  Jesus. Therefore, it is a logical fallacy to state that black people in the African Diaspora, whose African ancestors have been victims of colonial Christianity and Christianity of the slavers, should not become Christians or worship the God of their ancestors’ masters.

Black Christians do not worship a “dead Messiah,” but one who is living and has conquered death on the third day. Correspondingly, Black Christians do not follow a “blind faith,” but one that is grounded both in faith and reason, what many thinkers have phrased “reasonable faith.”

  1. One should separate the cultural construction of Christianity and biblical Christianity; in the same vein, one should not equate the cultural construction of the person and deeds of Jesus Christ in Western societies and history of thought with the biblical and Palestinian Jewish brown-skinned male named Yeshua.

Ten Theological Truths about God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Briefly, here are 10 theological truths that all three Abrahamaic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) confess about God:

1. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in the unity (oneness) of God and that there is only one God (both Jewish and Christian theologians call that the doctrine of monotheism or “tawhid” in Islamic theology).

2. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God is transcendent and uncreated (that is, God has always existed; he has no beginning and no end. Theologians use the theoretical concept “aseity” to describe this phenomenon about God)

3. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe God is Creator of everything and Sovereign Lord of the universe.

4. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God’s knowledge of the present, past, and future is comprehensive and exhaustive.

5. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God created the first human beings: Adam and Eve.

6. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God created human beings to serve, worship, and honor Him.

7. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God is love, just, and compassionate.

8. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God cannot be known by human beings; rather, God himself has revealed Himself to humanity—through chosen individuals known as prophets.

9. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God has also revealed Himself through a Book; Jews call this sacred text the Hebrew Bible/Scriptures (Old Testament); Christians call it the Bible—which includes both the Old Testament and New Testament—and Muslims call their book the Qur’an.

10. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that God has reserved a judgement day in which he will judge all people, punish all evildoers, and rewards everyone according to his/her deeds.

* There are also great theological divides and differences between Jews, Christians, and Muslims about the same God they confess. For example, Christians believe God exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Christian theologians call this special aspect about God the trinity. Both Muslims and (orthodox) Jews reject the doctrine of the trinity. Orthodox Jews are still waiting for God to send the Jewish Messiah; Christians believe that Jesus is/was the Jewish Messiah promised by God in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament); and Muslims do not believe that Jesus is/was the Jewish Messiah. Further, Christians confess the full deity and humanity of Jesus; that is Jesus is God, and that God incarnated in the historical person named Jesus. Christians also believe that Jesus is the final revelation of God and that no one can come through God except through Jesus (that is Jesus is the only way to God). Both orthodox Jews and Muslims reject the finality and supremacy of Jesus. Muslims believe Mohammed, not Jesus, is the final revelation of God.

Happy New Year!