I Still think James Cone is better than N.T. Wright!

A few months back I stirred up a lively discussion on facebook on why I prioritized James Cone over N.T. Wright as a theologian.  I STILL feel the same and this is why…

N.T. Wright is a first class biblical scholar, he is brilliant, and I have learned much from his works. However, N.T. Wright lacks the emotional response necessary to bring the full weight of many New Testament texts.  Wright dissects and analyzes with historical insight and cultural awareness but he seems to be limited in what he can offer as an exegete. While he probably could be considered semi-postmodern, his approach is one in which he attempts to bring objective reasoning (as much as is humanly possible) to the text through lively and courageous study of the ancient culture and context from which the book he exegetes arrives out of. But this is too removed and distant from the text. I believe the best reading of the text arrives out of the emotional response of the text from those at the bottom.  First and foremost, the biblical text is “good news to the poor” and to “the least of these” in society. Education is good and definitely enhances the reading (I am pro education and am finishing up my MDiv this semester.) However, it is a modernist bias to think that a scholarly interpretation trumps the emotional and intuitive response of uneducated and marginalized people.

This is where James Cone can teach western scholars much about doing theology. Some fault Cone for his anger and passion that drips of his pages. It is these apparent vices according to dominant society that actually allow Cone to stay true to Jesus’ gospel and message, which is directed first to those at the bottom rungs of this world.  He gets it, and unfortunately too often academia does not. Cone is not perfect, and I have some differences in opinions on some theological points, but I believe he is passionate about the things God is passionate about. That is where I believe we all should be moving.

I will continue to read and learn from both Cone and Wright, and will be the better for it.  However, I hope that I my own ministry has the intellectual and emotional spirit that Cone offers us. Cone is the most important theologian of the 1900’s in my opinion.  Do you agree? Why or why not?

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Now I Understand… I’m a Dad!!!

Yes I am a Dad, thank you very much. And this little guy has turned my world upside-down (in a good way, despite no sleep). I had heard comments referring to this from other fathers, they would say things like, “there is nothing like it”, and I kinda smile as I went about my business.  But from the moment my son was born, I get “IT”, and “IT” changes your life.

One thing that I definitively noticed, was when we were leaving the hospital yesterday to go home for the first time. Man, I had never driven my car so aware, and so carefully before in my life. I literally had the thought run through my head that if a car were about to hit us, that I would want to make sure my side takes the hit. It was right then that I understood now that I had “IT”, and that i’m a Dad now!!

Negro History Week – Once You Go Black…

Do you know the origins of black history month? it actually started this day (February 7th) back in 1926. It was initiated by Carter G. Woodson who wanted to make a concerted effort to incorporate the accomplishments and history of African Americans in the larger American story. Unfortunately, the black experience was systematically ignored as though black people were invisible and contributed nothing to society.  Well, I guess some things don’t change much, since a few blacks are hyper-visible while the majority of black people continue to live in the realm of dominant societal invisibility.  Anyway, Negro History Week was originally picked because it landed during the week of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Give us an inch and we’ll take a foot, give us a week, hey we are gonna take a month!

Black History: Focusing in on Bonhoeffer???

It could be seen as a bit strange to be focusing in on a white person during black history month, right? After all, the whole purpose of black history month is to finally learn about the experiences, culture, and heritage of black people in a culture that only values white history, culture, and literature.

Nonetheless, today on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday, we briefly stop and remember this man who literally gave his life because of his Christian convictions.  However, I will not spend most of your time on what he did to resist Nazi Germany (which you probably already know), but rather to remember his time in Harlem, NY.

In 1930, Bonhoeffer studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and also attended Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Very few white Christians in America have been willing to place themselves under black spiritual leadership (the opposite is much more frequent), yet Bonhoeffer did just that and was shaped significantly by those experiences. He not only loved the Negro Spirituals and culture there (which he admitted he did), but he also had his faith impacted dramatically has he began to see life “from below”.  It was here that he  fully grasped the Church’s call to pursue justice and its unfortunate participation and perpetuation of racism and segregation.

So why Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Because he offers a model for what can be. People in the dominant culture can indeed emerge themselves into black culture and community, and more than that… they can actually learn and grow from that opportunity. So, I invite you to take the Bonhoeffer challenge, and immerse yourself in black culture, community, and history this month and see how it might impact you. Let me know if you are up for the challenge.

How will you participate in Black History Month?

While most months of the year our country is consumed in white history and culture, ignoring the contributions and culture of African Americans, February (yes the shortest month) is set aside for the purpose of learning and celebrating African American history and culture. For many this month is only Black History month in name, while in reality everyone just goes on as usual. However this month I invite you to actually be intentional, listening and learning from the rich heritage and history of the black community!

How will you participate in Black History Month?