#BLACKOUTTUESDAY: Reading While Black




Among the causes that unite Christians is that of dismantling racism.

If humanity is made imago Dei, in the image of God, then assaults on human dignity are assaults on the God we worship. Therefore, perpetuating racism is anti-Christ in nature. It is a tri-fold sin that distorts others, ourselves, and our portrayal of God.

For Black Out Tuesday, an idea sparked by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang in which we pause to highlight works made by those of color, I want to highlight the forthcoming book Reading While Black by Dr. Esau McCaulley.

You read that right: the book is not out yet. And I rather like that. Pre-ordering the book says, “I’m leaning toward a future encounter. I’m anticipating something.” Rather than, “Yeah, I bought it. But I never opened it.”

Anticipation is not only a Christian virtue but a minority virtue. While my white self says, “I have,” my black counterparts say, “I don’t have yet.”

What I perceive in the activity playing out on the world’s stage is a personification of frustration. To put it in Biblical terms, I see a sick heart due to hope differed (Prov. 13:12). If there is a Christian cause in this, it is to bring hope back and transform “I don’t have yet” into “I have.”

Among the things that have caused me to grow in my understanding of my fellow humans’ hopelessness, two stand out. They are interconnected as different forms of listening.

First, I needed to hear the stories of others without talking back. We all tend to speak more quickly than we listen (James 1:19). Instead, I endeavored to build trust, over time, with those who are different than me. Once they trusted me enough to share their hearts, I decided to listen and ruminate. Such seeds are powerful and, if well-planted, produce fantastic fruit. Wine doesn’t taste good unless you tuck it away in a dark place for a while.

Second, I needed to read from those who have journeyed to places I have not physically and intellectually. Learning is not just about having new information. Instead, it is about accumulating, distilling, synthesizing, and then proposing better ways of living—of being imago Dei.

In both story and reading, Dr. McCaulley’s teachings had a profound impact on me in school. Not only did they change how I saw people of color, but how I read scripture and related to God. The book of Romans, as one example, is no longer a “road” to codify a four-point sinner’s prayer. Instead, it is a vibrant and beautiful treatise on first-century racial reconciliation exemplified in the communal church.

In his forthcoming work Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope, Dr. McCaulley helps gives black and white audiences a new set of lenses through which to see the world around us. It is not so much an answer as it is a guide. And if there was ever a time we needed proper guidance, it is now. 

Since my heart is Christo-logical as much as it is humanitarian, my recommendation for Black Out Tuesday is one that I hope challenges the way we think about God, scripture, and the treatment of our fellow humans. And it’s one we’re going to have to wait for. Pre-order today: https://amzn.to/2ZYWexr.

Sicut facies hominum, ut tractare Dei. As I treat man, so I treat God.

Christopher

#blackouttuesday #theshowmustbepaused

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The Rev. Esau McCaulley, PhD serves as Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. He completed his doctorate at the University of St Andrews where he studied under the direction of N.T. Wright. His research and writing focus on Pauline theology and the intersection of race, Christian identity, and the pursuit of justice. He also writes popular pieces for numerous outlets including Christianity Today, The Washington Post, and  The Witness: A Black Christian Collective. Read more: https://esaumccaulley.com

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