Saturday, April 28, 2007

Is "Black Theology" Racist?

Traditionally, “Racist” means treating one person or group of people better than another group only because of race, usually used to refer to white people treating black people badly, because that has been the main sort of racism in the world in the recent past. One of the main forms of racism is having unhelpful and inaccurate stereotypes, which is why racism is usually much more common among those who do not know many people of the targeted group well.

Increasingly, the word “racist” is also used of things that treat people differently simply because of race. This is because experience suggests that either the motivations for treating people differently are almost always from wanting to treat one group better or worse or that it ends up that way. Racism is bad, as it took someone a whole lecture to try to tell us at college.

I was having a discussion today about “black theology”, as taught at certain Anglican theological colleges. It refers to an important variant of liberation theology, which looks in particular at the way power structures are used and abused with regards to race issues. It is especially popular in England among liberals.

My suggestion is this:

Teaching ”black theology” in an Anglican context is inherently racist.

And I don't just mean because it draws a distinction between “block” and “white”.

My reasons are as follows:

Most black Anglicans do not follow black theology. Most of them are in provinces such as Nigeria and Uganda, which are generally closest to the category “high church evangelical”. To label “black theology” then as “black” is to misrepresent and ignore the many important insights of the theology most commonly held by black Anglicans. It is to say that we know what they think already, so it isn't worth listening to them.

Black theology is bad theology in as much as it does not share the Bible's emphases. That is not to say that racial justice is not important. and hence to label it as such is to tar “blacks” who do not hold to that theology with the same brush (inappropriateness of metaphor intentional). It therefore creates unhelpful and incorrect stereotypes and encourages those who reject the importance of “black theology” while affirming the importance of racial justice to reject black people too.

So teaching black theology creates incorrect stereotypes of black people, while ignoring what they actually do think.

What more would something have to do to count as racist?

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