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Confessing Race: Toward a Global Ecclesiology after Bonhoeffer & Du Bois


The fact that today the “black Christ” of a young Negro poet is pitted against the “white Christ” reveals a destructive rift within the church of Jesus Christ.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Protestantism Without Reformation”

Writing as a refugee in New York in the Summer of 1939, Dietrich Bonhoeffer uses W.E.B. Du Bois’s image of the “color line” to critique racial lines drawn between churches. The broader purview of Bonhoeffer’s essay, “Protestantism without Reformation,” places sociopolitical observations about the black church among American denominations into dialogue with German philosophical assumptions and ecclesial memory. His comments reveal that although a great deal of his deliberation during those two months is focused on an imminent return to Germany, he remains compelled by the witness of the Harlem community that had accepted him during his research fellowship at Union Seminary in 1930–31.…
 
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God(s): A User’s Guide

The recent exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization [December 2, 2011 – September 3, 2012] rightly conveys that religion takes practice, not merely observation.  But does it “use” God towards other ends–human sociality, the aesthetics of ritual, inexhaustible discourse?  This article, co-authored with Stuart Miles, originally appeared on December 21, 2011 in Comment Magazine Online, a publication of Cardus: www.cardus.ca

Four calm, dignified faces at prayer introduce the recent exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, ambitiously titled God(s): A User’s Guide. In the hallway approaching the show, the striking black and white portraits morph on the screen from one practitioner to another—Muslim to Christian woman, Orthodox Jew to Buddhist monk.

The portraits communicate that religion is not merely about objects and texts behind glass; faith, they would suggest, takes practice. And such practice, as we are increasingly aware, takes place amidst a plurality of others. The figures at prayer are peacefully intent, heads slightly bowed and eyes shut. Although their inner lives might seem thus enclosed, the show nevertheless boldly bills itself as an “insider’s view” of the faiths.…
 
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© David Robinson, 2017