An Introduction to Black Theology

Black Theology can be broadly understood as the self-conscious attempt to undertake rational and disciplined conversation about God and God’s relationship to predominantly Black of African descent across the world, looking at the past, the present and imagining the future.

The God that is at the centre of Black Theology is one who is largely, although not exclusively, understood in terms of God’s revelation in ‘Jesus Christ’. The relationship with God in Christ is understood in light of the historical and contemporary reality of being ‘Black’. The understanding of Blackness or indeed, of being Black, is one that is often seen in terms of suffering, struggle, marginalisation and the oppression of Black people.  Black Theology is understood as a branch of the wider family of ‘Theologies of Liberation’. This title refers to a group of socio-political theologies that seek to re-interpret the central meaning of the God event within history, particularly, in terms of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. They provide a politicised, radical and socially transformative understanding of the Christian faith in light of the lived realities and experiences of the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed.

Black Theology begins from the reality of being ‘Black’ in the world and the experience that grows out of one’s treatment as a person of darker skin. This reality is then explored in dialogue within the overall framework of the Christian faith. This relationship between Black experience and Christianity continues, for the most part, to be the effective conduit that constitutes the ongoing development of Black Theology across the world.

Black Theology has grown out of the ongoing struggles of Black peoples to affirm their identity and very humanity in the face of seemingly great odds. The continued struggles of Black people that arise from the era of slavery can be seen in the overarching material poverty and marginalisation of Black people across the world. Black Theology as an academic discipline and as a form of concrete faith based practice takes as its point of departure the reality of Black suffering in history. For many Black theologians, the brutal realities of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade provide the essential backdrop against which the ongoing drama of Black suffering in history is played out.

In addition to the structural and disproportionate material poverty of Black people, is the more psychological phenomenon that is the continuing tendency of Black people to internalise the damaging effects of such racialised demonisation within the confines of the fragile human psyche. Black Theology, as a theology of liberation, seeks to critique White privilege and reaffirm Blackness as being legitimate and important to God, who in Christ, identifies with Black suffering.

Revd Anthony G. Reddie is a Ministry Development Officer for the Methodist Church and is the author and editor of 16 books. His more recent titles include Is God Colour Blind? Insights from Black Theology for Christian Ministry (SPCK, 2009). He is editor of Black Theology: An International Journal, the only academic periodical of its kind in the world.

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