Skip to content

Whose Baby Jesus?

December 8, 2013

Here’s from a couple of pages of Standing in the Shoes My Mother Made: A Womanist Theology by Diana L. Hayes:

With the violent rebellion of Nat Turner, a black slave minister, and the growing Northern agitation against slavery, much of the slaves’ freedom to worship was abruptly ended. In a matter of weeks, harsh and oppressive Black Codes were passed in the Southern states that forbade the teaching of reading and writing and stripped black ministers of their right to preach and gather a church. These restrictions severely crippled religious freedom and activity for blacks in the South until after the Civil War. Once-thriving churches were closed, often violently, and religion in the South became white-dominated and white-oriented. The observance of black religious services took place out of sight of the masters, at night, in the fields or not at all.

What type of religious beliefs were the outgrowth of this mixture of freedom and oppression? They were beliefs expressed in terms of the paradox and mystery of God’s dealings with humankind. There was an intertwining of emotion with perception that led to a unique theology of hope. It was not a religion of complacency or compensation. Nor was it a religion that looked only to “pie in the sky when I die.” Rather, it was a faith rooted in an encounter with injustice from which sprang a theology of God’s mysterious exercise of sovereignty over human history expressed in judgment or forgiveness, but most of all, in love.

Blacks took the stories of the fall of Adam and Eve, of Moses, of Mary, and of the cross and interpreted them in the light of their own encounters with despair and hope.

Moses became the deliverer of an enslaved people as well as the bearer of the Ten Commandments. Jonah’s trembling denunciation of the sin of the Ninevites affirmed their suspicion that the rich and powerful were not necessarily God’s chosen. Biblical accounts of the conduct of believing Jews during the Babylonian exile — of Daniel, of the three who would not bow down, and of Esther the Queen — seemed to Christian Blacks, as to generations of Jews, to be allegories of promise to the oppressed. The baby Jesus, needing tenderness and care, revealed a God whose love made him somehow vulnerable and dependent, and weakness of human faith joined him forever with the meek who would inherit the earth. [quoted from “Slavery and Theology: The Emergence of Black Christian Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century America” by Timothy L. Smith in Church History]

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: