Resourcing Discussions Concerning Racism, Privilege, and Contextual Theology

I was asked to provide a list of resources I have found helpful in thinking and shaping issues concerning racism and privilege. I’ve added resources that also deal with contextual theology because we all read from a place, a position, a framework. Privilege is often assumed and is typically hidden from our eyes, especially when we benefit from those systems. As such, it is helpful to be made aware of our position and its underlying assumptions.

Many of these titles have been very formative for me. Some of the ones I will list have been good to read just to hear dissenting voices from my own. I don’t necessarily agree with every position taken in every book, but I have learned something from each one and therefore offer them as helpful starting points to further conversation and learning. I will also try to categorize each book so that they can be held together with other books that approach privilege, racism, and contextual theology through a particular lens (i.e., preaching, community development, etc.). Some of these resources do not deal with privilege directly, but I certainly see application and overlap. I hope these are helpful!

PREACHING

  • Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope by Luke Powery
  • Preaching as Weeping, Confession, and Resistance: Radical Responses to Radical Evil by Christine M. Smith
  • Toward a Womanist Homiletic: Katie Canon, Alice Walker, and Emancipatory Proclamation by Donna E. Allen
  • They Like to Never Quit Praisin’ God: The Role of Celebration in Preaching by Frank A. Thomas (A development of Dr. Henry Mitchell’s Celebration and Experience in Preaching)
  • Listening to Listeners: Homiletical Case Studies by John McClure
  • Decolonizing Preaching: The Pulpit as Postcolonial Space by Sarah Travis
  • Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World by Otis Moss III
  • The End of Words: The Language of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence by Richard Lischer
  • The Liberating Pulpit by Justo Gonzalez
  • The Word Before the Powers by Charles Campbell
  • Preaching at the Crossroads: How the World – And Our Preaching – Is Changing by David Lose
  • Preaching as Local Theology and Folk Art by Leonora Tubbs Tisdale
  • The Journey and Promise of African American Preaching by Kenyatta Gilbert
  • Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall by Courtney Pace
  • Dietrich: Bonhoeffer and the Theology of a Preaching Life by Michael Pasquarello III
  • African American Preaching: The Contribution of Gardner C. Taylor by Gerald Lamont Thomas

HERMENEUTICS/INTERPRETATION

  • Reading from this Place, Vol. 1 by Fernando F. Segovia (collection of essays)
  • Soundings in Cultural Criticism: Perspectives and Methods in Culture, Power, and Identity in the New Testament by Francisco Lozada, Jr.
  • Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning by Paul Riceour
  • Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith

COMMUNITY DEVELOP/ PARISH MINISTRY

  • When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… And Yourself by Steve Corbett
  • Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development by Wayne Gordon and John Perkins
  • The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Paul Spark
  • The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings by Wendell Berry
  • The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture by Wendell Berry

Theology/Ethics/Memoirs

  • Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
  • The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
  • The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
  • Naming the Powers by Walter Wink
  • Unmasking the Powers by Walter Wink
  • Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink
  • Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics by Willard M. Swartley
  • Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church by William Cavanaugh
  • Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire by William Cavanaugh
  • Theopolitical Imagination: Christian Practices of Space and Time by William Cavanaugh
  • The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender, and the Quest for God by Sarah Coakley
  • The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics by Stanley Hauerwas (collected essays)
  • Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann
  • Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible by Willie James Jennings
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by Kelly Brown Douglas
  • Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores by Dominique DuBois Gilliard
  • The Genesis of Liberation: Biblical Interpretation in the Antebellum Narratives of the Enslaved by Emerson Powery and Rodney Sadler, Jr.
  • Can “White” People Be Saved?: Triangulating Race, Theology, and Mission by Love Sechrest, Johnny Ramirez-Johnson, Amos Yong, et al
  • A New Sense of Direction” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram Kendi
  • God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time by Desmond Tutu
  • The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
  • “The Content and Method of Black Theology” by James Cone (The Journal of Religious Thought)

MISSIONS

  • Missions and Money: Affluence as a Missionary Problem Revisited by Jonathan Bonk
  • Cross-cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission by Mary T. Lederleitner
  • Going Global: A Congregation’s Introduction to Mission Beyond Our Borders by Gary Nelson
  • Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore
  • Ministering Cross-culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships by Sherwood Lingenfelter

FICTION

  • Jonah’s Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston
  • A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

POP CULTURE

  • Decoded by Jay-Z (preachers should read this)
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz

DOCUMENTARIES/FILMS

  • “Just Mercy”
  • “The Banker”
  • “Hidden Figures”
  • “13th”
  • “Schindler’s List”
  • “Le Chambon: La Colline Aux Mille Enfants”
  • “Of Gods and Men”
  • “Roots”
  • “The Mission”
  • “Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom”
  • “Selma”
  • “Mississippi Burning”

Sermons

(start around 30:38 mark)

“Preaching with Variety” by Jeffery Arthurs

The bibliographical citations are from reputable resources.  Arthurs uses ideas from several well-known preachers and theologians: Thom Long, Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, Robert Alter, and C. S. Lewis, to name a few.  Although Arthurs does quote Elizabeth Achtemeier, his sources are scantly filled by women or minorities.  This is a real drawback to the book in terms of holistic styles of preaching.

God is the “Great Communicator.”  Scripture is the means by which God communicates with us.  Within Scripture there is a variety of genres and literature types.  If God uses variety, then there is a good reason for us to use variety in our sermons as well.  The variety of literature also provides for a variety of responses in the audience.  Through these various modes of communication, we are able to look at the facets of reality.

Preaching with variety also involves preaching in the vernacular of our congregations.  If we cannot communicate in culturally appropriate ways, it may be difficult for our audience to receive the messages we send.  In our present context, we need to engage the visual senses.  Likewise, personal experience and participation is expected in our sermons.  Although sermons are auditory and oral events, we must find ways to include a holistic experience that engages the entire person.  Long-term learning best occurs in this environment.

The contents of the book are separated into several genres: psalms, narrative, parables, proverbs, epistles, and apocalyptic literature.  Each of these forms communicates in a different fashion, whether through song, story, metaphor, or logical progression.  Each form has its own peculiar way of communicating.  Sermons in some way should mimic the intention of the genre.  In this way, the impact of the genre might also be upheld.  Fred Craddock states, “Let doxologies be shared doxologically, narratives narratively, polemics polemically, and parables parabolically.  In other words, biblical preaching ought to be biblical” (166).

This might include making a brief statement to summarize your sermons over a Proverb.  Or, it might include singing or responsive readings in the sermon of particular Psalms.  Perhaps, instead, they would be poetic in describing God’s activity.  Apocalyptic might use symbols, hymns, and doxologies to convey its contents of God’s victory.  Story might be woven throughout a sermon to help the audience identify with the characters of a narrative.  Dialogue and discourse might be implemented to convey an epistle’s meaning.  The impact of the genre, rather than its exact form, is a vehicle for transporting meaning from the text to the audience.

Overall, I thought this book was extremely helpful in understanding the Biblical genres and how their forms might be implemented in a sermon.  Although we do not have to be slaves to the genres, they provide some very creative frameworks from which to construct your sermon.  And, in doing so, one can potentially keep some of the intentions of the text for the contemporary audience.

Gospel of Matthew Sermon and Lesson Outlines

Passage: Matthew 6:19-24 and Matthew 20:20-28

Reason for Choosing Passage:

There’s a larger connection with the whole of Matthew’s description of two kingdoms warring against one another.  I think this passage is one of the hermeneutical keys for understanding the difference between earthly empires and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Audience: Piedmont Church of the Nazarene (mixed audience)

Purpose: Preaching

Outline:

I.            The Power of Empire

  1. Rome
  2. Herod
  3. Tax Collectors
  4. Roman Soldiers

II.            Hoped for Power of Deliverance

  1. Exodus – God’s Past Deliverance
  2. Covenant Hope – Messiah

i.      Descendent of Abraham

ii.      Davidic King

iii.      New Moses

  1. Misunderstandings of Messiah

i.      Not another Maccabean Revolt

III.            A Mother’s Request for Improper Power

  1. Place of Power and Prestige
  2. Men of Action
  3. Jealousy and Discord

IV.            God’s Picture of Power

  1. Servanthood

i.      Jesus Came to Serve

ii.      The Crucifixion

  1. Equality – Do Not Lord It Over Others (Matt.

V.            Storing Up Treasure (Matt. 6:19-21)

  1. Two Kingdoms, Two Options (Matt. 6:24)
  2. Blessed are the… (Matt. 5:3, 10)

Exegetical Content:

            Empire exists for itself and its own self-propagation.  Once an institution does this, it quite often lives in opposition to God’s life-giving, life-blessing design for Creation.  Rome and its pawns follow this pattern of destructive behavior.  People are commodities and resources to use up for their own comfort and power.

Israel finds themselves once again under an oppressive regime, enslaved.  They look forward to a day of deliverance, one like they had experienced in the Exodus and remembered each Passover.  The Maccabean revolt had also been a deliverance of similar magnitude.  Judas Maccabeus used his military prowess to defeat the enemies that had desecrated the Temple.  But, it had only been a momentary reprieve.  Now, the people waited in hopeful expectation for the Messiah to come again and deliver God’s people.  They looked forward to another Judas-like leader to come and lead Israel to deliverance.

            James and John’s mother asks Jesus for a favor: that her two sons would be seated in the place of power and prestige by Jesus’ side.  James and John were men of action: Sons of Thunder.  They were ready to act and join in the military coup.  But, they don’t fully understand God’s Kingdom coming.

God’s use of power is inherently and vastly different than Empire’s use of power.  God empowers Creation.  God limits God’s power.  Jesus’, as God’s divine representative, models this picture of proper power.  Jesus comes to serve, cares for the least of these, and is ultimate obedient unto death.  He uses the power granted him to give life, rather than to use people to serve his own means.

The Beatitudes reflect the tension between these two kingdoms: Empire and God’s Kingdom.  Where are treasure is that is where our heart is also.  We cannot have divided loyalties.  We either serve one master or the other, not both.  That ultimately means that power cannot be the end goal.  Rather, it is a tool in which we reflect God.  To maintain power, to seek “earthly riches”, and to serve something other than God is to choose a master that then enslaves us.  James and John want earthly types of power because they don’t fully comprehend God’s Kingdom come.  That Kingdom is found in the “poor of spirit” and in those who are “persecuted because of righteousness.”

Bibliography:

Blomberg, Craig. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997. Print.

Borg, Marcus J. Conflict, Holiness & Politics in the Teachings of Jesus. New York: E. Mellen Press, 1984. Print.

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Print.

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. New York: Geneva P, 1986.

Brueggemann, Walter. (1999). The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity. Christian Century,

116(10), 342.

Fretheim, Terence E. Exodus. New York: Geneva P, 2003.

Gammie, John G. Holiness in Israel. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2005. Print.

Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon: Smyth & Helwys Pub., 2001. Print.

Greenman, Jeffrey P., Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer. The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007. Print.

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 1-13. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1993. Print.

Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans , 1994. Print.

 

Passage: Matthew 7:24-27 and Matthew 2:1-23

Reason for Choosing Passage:

This pericope ends the Sermon on the Mount.  In a way, it summarizes and concludes everything that comes before within the Sermon on the Mount.  However, it also has larger implications for the tension between Jesus and the various power brokers within the Gospels (i.e. Herod).  As such, I want to use this as a hermeneutic to understand the conflict between Jesus’ Kingdom and Herod’s Kingdom.  Ultimately, if one is not in alignment with God’s plan, their “house” is doomed to fall.

Audience:  Piedmont Church of the Nazarene (mixed audience)

Purpose: Preaching

Outline:

  1. Wise and Foolish Builders (Matt. 7:24-27)
    1. The Waters of Chaos (Matt. 7:25, 27)
    2. House Built Upon the Rock (Matt. 7:24-25)

i.      Hear and Obey (v. 24)

ii.      A House that Stands (v. 25)

  1. House Built Upon the Sand (Matt. 7:26-27)

i.      Hear and Disobey (v. 26)

ii.      A House that Falls (v. 27)

  1. Pharaoh and Egypt
    1. Slaughter of the Innocents (Ex. 1)

i.      Anti-Creation Acts (Ex. 1:16)

ii.      Chaos (v. 22)

  1. Death of Pharaoh (Ex. 14)
  2. Herod and Rome
    1. Slaughter of the Innocents (Matt. 2:16-18)

i.      Anti-Creation Acts (v.16)

ii.      Chaos (v. 18)

  1. Death of Herod (v. 19)
  2. God’s World, God’s Way
    1. God Subdues Chaos (Gen. 1:1-2)

i.      Creates Space for Life (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9; 2:3)

  1. Creation: Life-giving, Life-blessing (Gen. 1)

i.      Be Fruitful and Multiply (Gen. 1: 28)

ii.      It is Very Good (Gen. 1: 31)

  1. God Empowers Creation (Gen. 1)

i.      Sun and Moon Govern (Gen. 1: 16-18)

ii.      Human’s Govern (Gen. 1: 28-30)

  1. Stewardship
  2. Acknowledging Our Foundation – The Rock (Matt. 16:16-18)
    1. Peter’s Confession of Messiah (Matt. 16:16)
    2. Church will be Built Upon the Rock of Peter’s Confession (Matt. 16:18)
    3. The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail (Matt. 16:18)

Exegetical Content:

            In order for a house to weather a storm, it is essential that it has a sturdy foundation.  The foundation is the most vital part of a building.  Rock was the surest foundation upon which to set a house.  This was especially true compared to sand, which was likely the worst base a house could have as a foundation.  The waters of chaos are bound to rise up, but will the house stand?

Two archetypes for “faulty foundations” in Matthew 2 are Herod and Pharaoh (by memory of Pharaoh’s slaughter of Israelite males).  These two show the ultimate result of these ways of power and dominion in the world: death and destruction of the innocents.  The treachery and malicious intent of both of these rulers cannot be sustained.  Pharaoh ends up dead by drowning (ironic) and Herod dies and passes his throne (which he had tried to keep at all costs, but ultimately could not defeat death) on to one of his sons.  The “Pharaohs” of the world are doomed to be like houses built on sand.

God’s picture of Kingdom and reign looks drastically different from Herod and Pharaoh.  God subdues chaos, creates space for life, and then fills that space with life.  God then empowers Creation to continue to create life (i.e. be fruitful and multiply).  And, God also shares God’s power with Creation.  He sets the moon and stars to govern over the day and night and he sets humanity in the garden to govern over the whole of Creation.  God’s use of power is inherently different than Pharaoh or Herod: it brings and sustains life.

A solid foundation is based upon the recognition of who is really King.  Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ.  Upon this “foundation” (Rock) Jesus will build the Church.  Upon this recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, the Church will have a sure foundation that will be laid, unshakeable.  Herod and Pharaoh’s houses were doomed to fall because they failed to recognize who was truly God and to use power in ways that were God-like.

Bibliography:

Blomberg, Craig. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997. Print.

Borg, Marcus J. Conflict, Holiness & Politics in the Teachings of Jesus. New York: E. Mellen Press, 1984. Print.

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Print.

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. New York: Geneva P, 1986.

Brueggemann, W. (1999). The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity. Christian Century,

116(10), 342.

Fretheim, Terence E. Exodus. New York: Geneva P, 2003.

Gammie, John G. Holiness in Israel. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2005. Print.

Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon: Smyth & Helwys Pub., 2001. Print.

Greenman, Jeffrey P., Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer. The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007. Print.

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 1-13. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1993. Print.

Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans , 1994. Print.

 

Passage: Matthew 5:17-20 and Matthew 7:15-23

Reason for Choosing Passage: 

This is an often quoted passage from the Gospel of Matthew.  I would like to explore some of the possible connections of this pericope within Matthew’s Gospel and the further connections with Moses and Jesus.

Audience: Piedmont Church of the Nazarene (mixed audience)

Purpose: Preaching

Outline:

I.            Law and Prophets (Deut. 6:4-19)

  1. Obedience to the Law (Deut. 5:32-33)
  2. God’s Call to Israel – Be Holy (Lev. 19:2)

i.      God is Holy

ii.      Israel is Called to Holiness

  1. Representing God to the Nations (Ex. 19:5-6)

i.      Royal Priesthood

ii.      Holy Nation

II.            The Prophet Moses (Ex. 3)

  1. Giver of the Law (Ex. 19-20; Deut. 5:1-21)

i.      Teaching from the Mountain

ii.      Decalogue

iii.      Expounding the Decalogue

  1. Deliverance from Enslavement – New Life (Ex. 14)

III.            False Prophets and Disciples (Matt. 7:15-23)

  1. False Fruit (Matt. 5:20; 7:19-23)
  2. Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing (Matt. 7:15)

IV.            A New Prophet Like Moses (Deut. 18:15; Matt. 4:1-11)

  1. True Giver of the Law (Matt. 5:1-2)

i.      Teaching from the Mountain

ii.      Beatitudes

iii.      Expounding the Beatitudes

  1. Deliverance from Enslavement – Repent (Matt. 4:17)

V.            Law and Prophets (Matt. 5:17-20)

  1. Obedience to the Law (Matt. 5:19)
  2. Jesus’ Call to His Disciples – Be Perfect (Matt. 5:48)
  3. Representing God to the Nations (Matt. 5:19, 28:19-20)

Exegetical Content:

Moses, for the Jewish people, was the great prophet and giver of the Law.  He had led Israel out of Egyptian bondage, led them through the wilderness, and was a mediator between God and the people.  Moses traveled up Mt. Sinai and received the Decalogue.  Moses would also regularly meet with God at the tent of meeting and would wear a veil to cover the fading glory of that encounter.  Deuteronomy foretells the coming of a prophet like Moses to lead Israel.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is exhibited as a “new” Moses.  He teaches from a mountain and re-interprets the Law and the Prophets.  He doesn’t negate the Law and the Prophets, but calls for a deeper observance that aims for the purpose of the Law and the Prophets.  And, Jesus teaches this with authority.  Matthew’s Gospel also has Jesus escaping to Egypt to avoid death by a powerful ruler (just like Moses escaped Pharaoh’s slaughter of young Jewish males).  Jesus exits out of Egypt and journeys in the wilderness, just like Israel after being freed from Egyptian bondage.  Matthew is at pains to make as many connections with Jesus and Moses as possible.

Observance of the Law was understood as a primary and important function of the community.  Holiness was of great importance.  Some believed that if all of the Jews observed the Law perfectly, God would send the Messiah to deliver them from Roman oppression.  Some envisioned this leader as a Davidic King who would wipe out these overlords.  It was hope in the midst of a desperate reality.

            The Pharisees are in constant tension with Jesus in the book of Matthew.  Pharisees were “aggressive” in their observance of the Law.  Jesus even tells his disciples to obey what the Pharisees teach while on the seat of Moses, but do not do what they do.  We understand from the Sermon on the Mount why this is so.  Namely, the Pharisees have manipulated and distorted the original intentions of Torah, which Jesus comes to restore and re-initiate for God’s people.  The Pharisees seek the recognition of humanity, rather than living out the intentions of the Law to please God.

Jesus re-issues the call originally given at Mt. Sinai to the Israelites.  However, Jesus is now calling his disciples to fulfill Israel’s intended purpose: “be perfect.”  The intentions of the Law will be accomplished without any of it disappearing.  Jesus comes preaching the Kingdom and repentance.  This Sermon is a re-capitulation of the Law back to its God-oriented purpose: to glorify God and make God known to the world through God’s people.  One must not only “know” the Law (as the Pharisees did), but must live by the Spirit of that Law.

Bibliography:

Blomberg, Craig. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey. Nashville: Broadman &

Holman, 1997. Print.

Borg, Marcus J. Conflict, Holiness & Politics in the Teachings of Jesus. New York: E. Mellen Press, 1984. Print.

Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Print.

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. New York: Geneva P, 1986.

Brueggemann, W. (1999). The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity. Christian Century,

116(10), 342.

Fretheim, Terence E. Exodus. New York: Geneva P, 2003.

Gammie, John G. Holiness in Israel. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2005. Print.

Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon: Smyth & Helwys Pub., 2001. Print.

Greenman, Jeffrey P., Timothy Larsen, and Stephen R. Spencer. The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries: From the Early Church to John Paul II. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007. Print.

Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 1-13. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1993. Print.

Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans , 1994. Print.