dear friends, call an ambulance! we’re missing some limbs!
“It would be wrong for the eye to say to the hand, 'I don’t need you,' and equally wrong if the head said to the foot, “I don’t need you.” In fact, the weaker our parts, the more vital and essential they are.”
1 Corinthians 12:21-22
Dear Christ-Following Friends,
It’s been a bit of a rugged cross-bearing sort of day. I spent most of the day working on a new project that is so exciting, yet at the same time so scary, that I had to keep swallowing my heart to keep it from running away from me. It was an ache-in-my-chest kind of a day.
As I was doing research for this new project I stumbled across an article called 25 Theologians to Help Broaden Your Faith. Intriguing, right? So promising, I thought. So, I clicked and read through the list of 25 white theologians that were going to help me—black me, with my heart collapsing in my chest—broaden my faith.
The article asked 30 Canadian pastors to name theologians and/or Christian authors that they would recommend to the people who sit in their church pews. Of the 25 theologians who made the cut, 25 out of 25 were white, 16 out of 25 were male, 6 were dead, and one didn’t even claim to be a Christian!
Oh, my tired, battered, black-girl heart!
Lately at my church there’s been a huge interest in spiritual gifts. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with earnest folk wanting to talk about prayer, prophecy, wisdom, and all the rest. These are conversations that make my heart tap dance. God gives us gifts. Everyone gets one, like Oprah handing out keys to brand new cars. But why does He give them to us? Is it just because He's good? Or, could there be something more to it?
The apostle Paul wrote some of the most beautiful passages on spiritual gifts, but they are also some of the most challenging. He flat-out says that when your gift is speaking the language of angels and yet you don’t love others, then your gift is nothing but noise. He goes on to say that if you have the gift of teaching, or encouraging others, or praying, but you don’t acknowledge that other people's gifts are vitally connected to your gift, then you’re walking around like an amputee without a leg, or an arm, or a finger.
Our global Church is suffering because we have decided that we don't need kidneys. Toes are optional. Those blood vessels that pumps blood to our heart? Those are discretionary. Great if you've got them, but otherwise unnecessary. We've decided that all we need is one body part because it's more precious and more crucial than all the others. In fact, this one part can speak for the whole body.
This, friends, is white supremacy, which is nothing more than a system that supports the belief that white thoughts, white ideas and white culture are better for the whole of humanity. Somehow, 30 pastors collectively agreed that white theologians and Christian authors are somehow more critical and more valuable than Christian authors and theologians of color. The scary thing is that they probably came to this conclusion unconsciously, because they've been missing parts of the whole body of Christ for decades. They've learned to walk with a limp and use only one hand.
In full disclosure, this article was written in 2011. So perhaps things have changed and the church body isn’t as mutilated as it had been back then. By now, haven't we triaged our wounds? My friends, check your bookshelves, your social media feeds, your browsing history. Do you have all your fingers and toes? Are you missing some veins and a bit of skin? What voices of color are you listening to?
If you find that your faith is missing some vital parts, here is a list of 26 theologians and authors of color:
1. Barbara A. Holmes
2. Howard Thurman
3. James H. Cone
4. Kosuke Koyama
5. Soong-Chan Rah
6. Ravi Zacharias
7. Gabriel Salguero
8. Kathy Khang
9. Kaitlin Curtice
10. Miguel H. Diaz
11. Lena Doolin Mason
12. Thabiti Anyabwile
13. Dr. Kevin Jones and Dr. Jarvis Williams
14. Austin Channing Brown
15. Priscilla Shirer
16. Dr. Tony Evans
17. Chrystal Evans Hurst
18. Michelle Higgins
19. Eugene Cho
20. Karen Walrond
21. Carlos A. Rodriguez
22. Dr. Christina Edmondson
23. Dr. James Earl Massey
24. Michael Curry
25. Absalom Jones
26. Vernon Johns
There are no links because I want you to explore for yourself. Perform the necessary surgery. Find a match for what needs to be transplanted into your spiritual body. Also, this list isn’t definitive. Case in point: it doesn’t include some theologians that I have listed on my contact page under other black female voices. Plus, there are other lists out there of authors and theologians of color who are thinking, writing, and talking, coming from a dazzling array of theologies and displaying a wide spectrum of spiritual gifts. These are just some that I've found whose voices and stories are compelling to me. You might find others. As you search, remember Paul was writing to the church of Corinth when he spoke of different parts, different gifts, all in one body. Corinth was the mecca of diverse cultures, statuses, ethnicities, and philosophies. Perhaps this was the reason he spoke so eloquently about God’s intentions for working together as one with many differences. Which makes me wonder who would have been on Paul's list? I doubt it would have been a list of 25 Jews from Tarsus.