Theologian Esau McCaulley joins the show to talk about his new book Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host, Mark Moore. And I’m so excited to be able to sit down with Dr. Esau McCauley professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and author of reading while black, African American biblical interpretation as an exercise in hope. It is such a powerful book. And in Dr. McCoy has such a powerful voice in this conversation. I hope you enjoy the show.
Dr. McCauley, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Really excited to have you on the show and excited to kind of continue this conversation on on race and particularly with your book. Yeah, through the lens of biblical interpretation. And what the Bible has to say to us and I, I love at the beginning of your book, and in that initial chapter, your your nod to 90s hip hop, so so I’m, I’m a product of the 90s as well, I felt well as I was reading it. I was like, I think we had some similar, you know, similar music tastes happening in the 90s. And I loved how you weave that in So, so I thought I’d kind of start with a question. What did 90s hip hop teach you about? biblical interpretation? the black community?
Yeah, what what Thank you. I mean, what I wanted to do, I began to book that way intentionally, because I wanted people to think this is a different kind of theology book. Yeah, I wanted to kind of give myself space to do my own, do the work that I felt like God had called me to do. And so when I talk about what, like 90s hip hop did is that it was a soundtrack that reflected that things were going on in my community. And so it helped me to put voice to the kinds of questions I was trying to answer. And what I mean by that is, is sometimes we think about, well, what does Christianity mean? If I am raising a family? What does Christianity mean? If I’m single, and I want a spouse? What does Christianity mean? If for my job, and you know, climbing the corporate ladder? And I said, Well, what does Christianity mean? If you’re young, black and southern, and you try to make sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the world. And so for me, the conversation partners that I dealt with rare forms of sometimes nihilism, or hopelessness, and sometimes music reflected that. Sometimes it was about real critique what was going on in society, and the music reflect get that. And so what I wanted to say is, though, that portion of the black community, we’re in part, a dialogue partner that oftentimes isn’t taken seriously, in the wider kind of Christian world, as people were asking important questions that deserve answers.
Yeah, definitely, as I did a Grammy, right from the title of that first chapter, I was like, okay, Hey, where are we going with this? And it was it, I think, a great beginning, because like you’re saying it was starting a theology book in a different way.
Yeah. That was one of the first things that I wrote, I actually wrote, I knew that I wanted to start this book off with that story. And with that analogy, now, I wrote it much later, the first chapter that I actually wrote was a chapter on policing. But that idea of starting with the sounds got something to say, was something like, my own personal declaration of scholarly independence.
Yeah. Oh, my God, I was hearing loud and clear like that. And so in the book, here, you’re looking at the tradition, the black ecclesial interpretation, tradition. And so just wondering, like, how do you understand that tradition? And how, how does that tradition help us read the Bible better?
Yeah, I think it’s really important to put that tradition into conversation with the other communities that are kind of out lots of people understand what I mean. So when I talk about ecclesia, that’s just a fancy word for for church, right? You know, that I grew up in the black church, surrounded by black preachers, who articulated to me a vision of God and the scriptures that on the one hand, emphasize salvation from sin and personal holiness. And that was a part of what it meant for me to be a Christian. But it also, you know, talked about things like injustice, and I grew up, you know, in the shadow of the civil rights movement in Alabama. So things like the governing bus boycott, and Selma and Birmingham was part of what it meant to be a Christian, instead of me to be a Christian meant to see the Bible as a whole, speaking both to the struggles that we’re facing as people under oppression, and for the need to trust in Jesus. Now, when I when I got to college, those tradition that union of those two ideas were often fought apart. And I encountered for the first time, kind of white progressive Christians who had a strong emphasis on social action, and I agree with that, that’s like, that’s really good. But there were theological differences. And then there were elements of evangelicalism once you’re sure I love to take the scripture seriously. But these, the scriptures aren’t just the passages that you saying are important. It’s the entire Bible. And I found myself in different ways alienated from both of those traditions. And so I use the black church tradition to talk about the ways in which I felt like the piety that I experienced, push back on both those binaries, and had a distinct gift to offer to the church. And and I could say more about that if you want, but because of the way in which the African American church was born, and the world into which it came into being, it has certain interpretive habits are not unique to them, but our points of emphasis in our tradition.
Yeah, no, and no, it’d be great to expand a little more on that.
Yeah. So So let me give you an example. This is, um, I talked about, because of slavery, and we and we often it is very hard for us, even though we know it, to remember this slavery was a law, we think of it as a moral issue. Right. And Christians can be for or against this moral issue. Slavery is good or slavery was bad. But when so when the when the black church is born, like slavery existed as a law, like it was legal to hold slaves. And so when the African American Christian is pushing back on slavery, they are pushing back on an established legal practice that we think needs to be changed in order for us to gain freedom. And so for us, the idea that we should just preach the gospel and slavery, I mean, like social justice, social injustice will just go away is alien to our tradition, because there were Christians who were slave owners. And so we’re gonna say, not just let’s preach the gospel. But let’s understand how the gospel touches on the lived experiences of people. And so because of that, there’s a strong union, between social action and like, piety. So today, when you hear people say, well, the church needs to just focus on the scriptures in the gospels, Oh, hold on. This was what was told to us when we’re in slavery. Right? We don’t worry about your actual freedom, but just worry about what you’re going to get in the by and by. The other thing that happened was because oftentimes, the the, the pro slavery faction focused on just a few texts, you know, First Timothy, you know this until right to respond to that what the African American Christian tradition did, is it engaged in a much more canonical form of argumentation. And so instead of saying, let’s just argue just about First Timothy, I call that the Lord of the Rings, theology, the one verse to rule them all. Let’s look and see what happens when we read the entirety of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. And you say, Well, you know, instead of starting with like the question of First Timothy, how does our understanding of slavery change? We begin with the book of Revelation, not the book of Revelation, the book of the Exodus. And so you see how this tradition of looking at the canonical witness or even saying something like, Well, what does it mean to love your neighbor, there’s actually there’s a letter that I quote, in the book, we’re a group of slaves, quote, Paul’s word in when Paul says, You need to bear one, bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ, and a slave to asking, Well, how can I bear my brother’s burden? If I’m forced to bear this burden? How can I How can a husband love his wife as Christ loves the church, if a master can step into their relationship and sell them? And so they’re looking at all the ways in which the variety of the Christian tradition pushes back on this issue? And not just a question of a few Pauline slave text? And so that’s what I mean, when I talk about the canonical instinct of the African American Christian tradition, even talking about I don’t want to go through all the different elements, I talked about the theological, the importance of theological interpretation. So they begin to ask questions, what, once again, not just what are these two verses say? What does the Bible reveal to us about the character of God? What we understand about the character of God impinge upon the question of black freedom. And so these ideas of thinking theologically, and thinking canonically aren’t unique to the black church, other people were doing this as well. But the unique ways in which that was deployed, as relates to issues of injustice, are gifts that I think to the African American tradition can give to the American church in particular in our day.
Yeah, and with with that, why do you think maybe so many evangelicals have trouble with the tradition or seem skeptical of black theology or black, the black interpretation tradition? Well,
I think there’s a variety of reasons. One is, it is it is a distinctive history and narrative within which evangelicals live and move. Yeah, and this narrative is the it’s a largely and that only people understand what I mean when I say this. This is like, empirically true, not, you know, politically true, is a largely white narrative, and this is what I mean. We like especially the roots of evangelicalism go Back to the fundamentalist modernist debate, post Industrial Revolution, there’s tons of suffering in the world. And Christians are arguing what’s the relationship between my faith and access in the public square, this generation, that when this first occurs, especially in places like England, where there are evangelicals who say, No, let’s get involved in things like child labor laws. But what’s happening at the exact same time, is the rise of higher criticism, and the kind of deconstructive readings of the Bible. And for a variety of reasons, we don’t need to be traced here. The people who engage in a deconstructive reading of the Bible, are also the ones who engaged in social action. And the people who are conservative reading the Bible, were the people who kind of stepped away from social action. And so in the white Christian context, to care about social action, strangely enough, was seen as being linked to liberalism, and being drawn from that we seem to be linked with conservativism. Now, the important part to me when I say this is like a white concern, largely, because they know black Christians at this point engaged in the conversation. This is the rise of Jim Crow. So if you kind of turn your gaze from like that argument that we learn about, like the scopes, Trumps it, what’s going on, actually, in black communities, we’re undergoing Jim Crow. We experiencing like legalized segregation. Until right, we’re not actually and then the interesting thing is the people who are opposing segregation, are often the same people who have the Conservative Party in the Bible. So that means that black Christians in particular, when they begin looking for allies, they don’t find allies among evangelicals, they find allies among the progressive wing of like the white church. And so for that reason, there is a historic suspicion between African the African American church sometimes and kind of evangelicalism. The last thing is, and this is really important, precisely because evangelicalism wasn’t concerned with issues of social action, they weren’t actually interested in promoting black voices. And so because black voices were only largely accepted into institutions, in more progressive universities and seminaries, most of the African Americans who you saw in publications from the progressive string of the stream of the black Christian community, so becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, evangelical, and traditional seminaries and colleges won’t hire black people, because they don’t talk about justice. That means that the black Christians who, who kind of are closer theologically to them have no places where they can work. So they remain in the church, black ecclesia theology, and then Black academic theology becomes the dominant form of discourse. And so people then begin the story of black theology with Mike, someone like James Cohn and the entry into the academic world. But what they don’t recognize, and this is not to talk about James Cole today, but when I realized that there was actually black theological reflection that preceded that. So what becomes the analysis of this isn’t too confusing, is there is the kind of mainline evangelical fight that goes on for 60 or 70 years. And then they go, Oh, here comes like black theology, and they put in a category, and then they kind of go on, instead of realizing that the entire time there was black theological reflection going on. And those are some of the least historical reasons why that there tends to be a fear of the black tradition, because you think it’s linked in inherently, to some deconstructive readings of the Bible.
Yeah. And do you see yourself trying to maybe bring those two together within the evangelical world, which to the you refer to? So kind of bringing in that kind of in the book, you talked about looking and understanding the the evangelical sense of, of Orthodoxy or, you know, conservative theology in that sense, but also bringing then justice, and those themes of justice and liberation?
Well, what what I was trying to do in the book, and it’s kind of it’s it’s funny how it echoes in different places. What I felt like was because of the ongoing experiences of injustice in this country, many black Christians were starting to kind of check out of the Christian tradition. Yeah. And so the book, African American biblical interpretation is an exercise and hope was first in the first place, like directed towards those kinds of Christians who feeling disillusioned and say, No, you can still, you know, care be a Christian who values the things that Christians have always believed and cared about justice. So in the first place is not directed to like convince evangelicals to like care about justice. Right. It also serves as an example, then, in some cases that fears of evangelicals are not founded. And the fear is if I care about these things, injustice, poverty, racism, Good, I’m gonna somehow I’m going to end up like not believing the Trinity, or something like that. And so it’s served that purpose. But that wasn’t his natural intent.
Yeah. And it is, I think, a sad thing that has happened where we’ve had to, for some reason, in the evangelho community, those two have been separated by the Trinity and justice, and right. Why can’t we believe in both of those?
It’s one of the things where, and this is what this is important, because people think this is all you know, politics, Luke, chapter four, Jesus’s first sermon, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach, good report. Now, of course, that’s that’s important. But let’s go back and look at Isaiah, the two Isaiah passages that he cites, one of which of us is Isaiah 58. So Jesus is setting the agenda for his ministry. And he begins by quoting a passage that in the context, rebukes false religiosity. Why do you fast? We do not hear it? Why do we kind of why don’t why don’t you attend to our religious ceremonies, and God says, because your religious ceremonies are emptier, apart from your real concern for the people who are suffering. So then when I say that is a part of being a Christian to care about those who are suffering, it’s not because I’m engaged in some kind of sophisticated form of Cultural Marxism is because I believe the Luke chapter four is actually important. Then when Jesus started as a 58, he did it because he says, I’m not going to be about a religion that has to perform as a religious performance, that doesn’t actually care about the lived experiences of people. And so what I want to say there is that it’s important to remember that all of this stuff that is occurring, is a manifestation of what I think, and what many African American Christians things are, like the major emphases of the Bible that we’re trying to put into practice in our day
prior. And that was I mean, I feel like this summer, working through these issues in the church that I’m at, and even in school was, it was like, we were immediate when people were like, why do we talk about this? It’s like, yeah, you go to look for me, like, Hey, what did Jesus just say, and, and start or the Psalter,
I mean, one of the things you should predict into the Psalms, because in the Psalms, sometimes, we talked about God, the defender of order orphans, and widows, or God is the one to whom I turn to for justice. That was because if you lack power, if you lack political power in the in the court in the king doesn’t help you. There’s no one for you to turn to. But God until you see over and over and over again, this idea in the Old Testament, that I’m going to trust my vindication to God, because there is nowhere to help. In God glories in being the kind of God who says yes, I’m going to help. And so it’s not just like proof texting like, Luke, it’s about God’s own character, as revealed in the Psalter, or even God’s own characters is revealed in the, in the prophets. I told the story of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar This is one of the examples of how so much of this stuff hides in plain sight. I’m assuming that you this is a Christian college or at least a lot of the listeners know about their story and when that whenever condesa is about to go I’m about to go insane because of his pride. And then we know their story that Daniel comes and he gives the prophecy because you bring hottie you’re going to like lose your mind for a period of time. But what people don’t this is just like, literally go to Daniel for go down to the end. My lot. Can I read Bible verses in this thing? How you’re allowed to I think, this time, let me see. I’m gonna see if I can, cuz this is a printed Bible isn’t printed Bible. I know Michael printing Bible. I don’t even know that these things exist. Hold on one second. It’s not my normal printed Bible. So I gotta like, you know, like when you have your own Bible that you memorize, yeah, no, no, exactly. We’re certain. So this is like, this is the end. This is Daniel. Right after and it’s only gonna be one verse. And I won’t do this is the first time I’ve read a Bible verse and a podcast interview, but I really like it. I like it struck me. So this is the end of that part. And Daniel, in Africa is going to get judged. This is verse 27. In everybody’s Bible, I’m sure no one’s paid attention to it. Right? Therefore O’Kane may might counsel be acceptable to you atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities, with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged. So he says, look, look never confessor. You’re in big danger. Yeah. So what you need to do is care for the oppressed. In that brokenness, this is important. He’s not Jewish. He’s not he’s not in the covenant people of God was not a member kanessa should know more because he he said, he said, No, no, even a pagan king is in danger judgment by God because it was unjust This. So what does this mean for the Christian witness? That even someone who doesn’t share our values? Right, is responsible for justice. And so part of what I’m trying to do in the book is point out all of the ways in which these kinds of ideas are just facts hiding in plain sight.
Yeah. Yeah. When you actually then read the text, and there’s so many verses like that, I feel like that we don’t read it that way.
Because I’ve heard I’ve heard never condenser talked about 1000 times. Right. It was always how prideful he was. Like that he was arrogant, he put himself in the place of God, therefore, God drove him mad. Now, that’s definitely there. If you read Daniel chapter four, but then you see another problem attached to that is injustice. So what happens when you put Jesus his first sermon alongside the Psalter, alongside the profits, and we could go, we had time we will go to Neil, we talk about how Isaiah does the same thing. And Jeremiah does the same thing of holding foreign, pagan kings responsible for injustice, within then you start to say, Well, hold on, it feels like the whole of this book, from Genesis to Revelation deals to this issue. Yeah, so that part of the Christian witness is being concerned with these things. Now, a lot of times what happens to the people want to want to argue whether or not it’s a part of the gospel, right? Like people say, like, Is it a part of the gospel? And that’s the argument. So we feel like if I can define justice into the gospel itself, and people have to do it, if I can exclude justice from the Gospel, if I can say, love, God is more important than love your neighbor, then I’ve kind of, I’ve kind of removed my responsibility. But you know, I say to people, I don’t necessarily care about including it in the definition of gospel, right? I’m asking, Is it biblical? Yeah. And if you’re going to talk about we’re Christians who care about the scriptures, as God’s Word to us, then it doesn’t have to be defined as gospel for it to be our responsibility. Right. And I think it’s really hard pressed to kind of look at things like the profits and look at the Torah laws, like compassion, and look at, um, the the Psalms in the western literature and Jesus’s ministry and Paul’s ministry in the book of Revelation and say, it’s biblical. So that’s the language that I use. It’s biblical. I don’t care about, you know, the word games. Is it part of the gospel to talk about the kingdom or not? That’s not necessarily my concern. I have opinions. But it’s not mine. Yeah.
Well, and if we were only going by just a definition of the gospel that would cut out a lot of things that the church talks about, like marriage. The church talks more about it in the Gospel,
this would I mean, this would I mean, so this is important. I don’t, I never want to downplay the gospel, and what this does and allows Christians, what I want us to do is to think consistently about what we say, yeah, so we will say, let’s just preach the gospel. And then hearts will change as relates to racism. And this is the way that we deal with it. But like, we don’t say that about marriages, right? We don’t say just preach the gospel, and your marriage problems will be changed that Okay, now that you’re Christian? Yeah. Here’s some practical tips about how you should treat you, right. Here’s the actual advice. Now, if you’re a Christian, and you have kids, you don’t just say, just preach the gospel. Everybody intuitively know how to parent, right? No, no, you’re a Christian. Now, let me disciple you to how to be a good father. Yeah. Then we disciple you like, let’s just preach the gospel and input Whoever believes the gospel and charter youth ministry say, No, no, you might believe the gospel. But I don’t want you watching my kids. Right. And so the idea that just preaching the gospel, solves societal problems, is something that is something that we don’t sometimes you have to just preach the gospel, and they’ll tie Well, no, no, no, you got to say, now that you’re a Christian, this is what we do with our finances. And so what I’m trying to articulate is that just like, our finances, our relationships, and even our parenting, require Christian discipleship, information, dealing with racism requires our explicit articulation of the problem in ways in which we might move forward. And that’s something that we recognize in other areas of life. They for some reason, because I know why because of the emotion attached to it, we want to deny that the way that we need to do things as relates to racism.
Yeah, cuz in the church, we’d have a marriage seminar. Yeah, parenting seminar,
and nobody would. Nobody would say like, you know, the crown financial ministries, or What’s that? What’s that? What’s the name of that guy who does the money? Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey? crowner those Yeah, like they rant no one’s like, you know, just preach the gospel and you know how to pay your credit card bill like no, no, no, it’s like, right because and this is the reason this is important because Even though you’re a Christian, you live in a world that the site was you in anti God practices. Yeah, you got to learn how to consciously reject those things. And so as a Christian, we live in a world that has fallen. That means there are habits and customs as relates to race, that are death giving, not life giving. So the idea of and this was this, what I tried to say to people, the United States is not exempt from the fall, right? racism is not exempt from the fall, right? Every generation isn’t born. We don’t believe in evolutionary morality, it is born and all of the previous moral gains are, like downloaded into new babies, such that racism was a problem last generation, but then the new baby is born is born, like free of all taint, the original said. And so No, it was a No, no, in each society, we must choose again the things of God. So each generation of Christians, we have to, again, reject materialism, we have to again, reject lust and greed. So every generation as Christians, we have to again, reject the opportunity or the desire to put people in a hierarchy in order to give ourselves self worth. And in the same way, there’s something like materialism, because of the culture in which we live. It’s something that Christians have to fight forever. I have my this, they can’t see it at my Apple Watch. And I saw the new Apple Watch coming out. And I said, Do I need it? And I thought that I needed it cuz there’s nothing wrong with my current Apple Watch. Because I like something about this society, I need the newest shiny thing. And I have to preach to him, I’d remind myself to disciple my mind. Don’t chase after that. So if that’s the case, and we we grew up in a culture of with the racial bias, and the Christian has to be vigilant, and saying, how is the society and the culture discipling me into hostility? Because the world benefits from us hating each other? Yeah. The world benefits from I mean, social media, and I’m a part of it, right? I mean, existing? I’m not a part of this part. It’s fueled by animus. Yeah. Right. The more that the people who are the most popular on social media are the people who hate people the best. Who can be the most cruel, and community of people who kind of choose the representatives who talk about the things that they hate the most, right? So like the person who is like, you know, I hate Republicans. And so like, the more you yell, tweet, Republicans, the better you are, or you hate Democrats, the more you yell at Democrats, and there’s a whole community of people not centered around the love of Christ, in the contending for the vision of the Christian society, but who simply just hate people who disagree with them. So being discipled out of that polarizing hate, and being people of truth and justice, and goodness, and beauty, is a spiritual discipline, that isn’t simply an inevitable fruit of this hearing that Jesus died for your sins, that people who believe that Jesus died for your sins, and who slay people. Right? That meant they didn’t understand the implications of their confession. That means somebody had to tell them. No, do we have to do the same thing in a hard day?
Yeah, I think that’s so good. So good. We keep going on there. Sorry. I got I got on a rant. Forgive me. I love their I love it is so good. I did want to move to towards the end of the book, one of your last chapters, you deal with anger and pain. Yeah. In the black community. Yeah. And, and I thought that was really good of how of what the Bible can say to that, first to the black community about that. But I think that also helping the white community on maybe understand or empathize with that pain and rage because it seems to be, or some some people in the white community get get uncomfortable about the anger and pain that exists.
Yeah, I’ve been surprised by the response to that chapter. In particular, I think of all of the chapters that I’ve been, you know, in the book, I get asked about this chapter in every single interview by black and white readers. And I think for the black reader, it’s like, thank you for saying that. And for the white readers, like, Oh, I didn’t know. And it’s one of the ways in which social location influences how we interpret the Bible. So like, I have a lot of pastors and friend or readers who said, I’ve never really thought about how the Bible helps me deal with this kind of anger because I don’t experience it is alien to me. And so what I wanted to do in that chapter, and the reason i’m i’ve been pleased by it is I was afraid that I’m so some black Christians might not like it because it ends on forgiveness. And I knew and I knew that as a Christian, what I had like where we had to land, but the process Getting there is always a, you know, it’s a bumpy flight to get from where you want to where you feel like God wants you to go. Yeah, so what I wanted to do was a couple of things. One, I wanted to make sure that articulated as clearly as I possibly could, the reasons that African Americans feel angry about what happens in America and wanted people to understand that when I’m talking about this, I’m not talking about in the abstract, but I know the depths of the problem, right. And then I wanted to talk about how God Himself, the scriptures themselves know about the sufferings of innocent people. And that the people of Israel oftentimes complained about experiencing injustice, especially in things like the songs. And so that I what I wanted to do is give people the emotional space to say, it’s okay to say the guy what’s going on in your life, we sometimes think that, like, we can only pray, we can only say prayers, like, God, thank you for the sunshine, and thank you. And that’s important, we should be grateful. But it’s also the same God, my co workers are really, really bothering me right now. Like, I wish they would just quit and leave me alone. And like, I get hurt. I wish that, you know, the, the main thing is the ones who were hurtful to me, and I want them to feel that pain. Now, that doesn’t mean that God’s gonna say, Yes, I’m gonna like, you know, afflict your enemies and boys. But it does mean like, since God knows what we’re thinking about, we should at least tell him and be honest in our own prayers. And I found myself, especially in this season, finally beginning to get the resources, even in this context to pray for my enemies. Because we talk about racism in America. In the church, there’s always going to be certain Christians who say, well, oh, he’s a critical race theorists, or he’s abandoned orthodoxy. And so I’ve learned how to genuinely as a Christian, pray for those people. But what I wanted to say beyond that, is that the American of the Bible is not that it articulates like frustration, the American of the Bible is taken into account after that frustration, and the old end and the New Testament, and this is I just don’t think we feel this. Isaiah, who’s speaking to people who are going to return for the Babylonian exile, is saying, there’s something beyond our return, there is God’s salvation reaching to the entirety of the world. But the question that I think is unresolved, that kind of sits side by side in the Old Testament, is, there’s this anger, and then there is hope. And the question of how we get there, I say, as answered by Jesus. And the cross allows me to say, and you got to read the rest of the chapter, but I’ll try to be brief, this is important. The cross allows me to say that God takes in utterly seriously that what happened to me was real. And what happened to us was real. And it was it was a manifestation of society sufficiently broken, that God had to send His Son to redeem it. But it also means that if I recognize that I, myself, have seen and fallen short of the glory of God. And despite the things that I’ve done, God has forgiven me, it gives me the theological and spiritual resources, to begin to imagine a world on the other side of justice, it doesn’t mean that I have to pretend like the things that have happened to black people didn’t occur. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have to contend for like, accountability and justice, it does mean that there’s more to me to look forward to in the future than simply vengeance. And one of the great things about the Christian, the African American Christian community is it’s like, like the motto, that became the motto of the AMA, God, our Father, Christ, our brother, humanity, our family. And that is the Christian tradition that allows me to see a future beyond vengeance, in which we’re all together united under the Lordship of Christ. The last thing I talked about, this is just like how a Christian eschatology then begins to influence you, right, that, that in the end, we believe that there is a writing of wrongs, and it’s in this judge, because that precisely because I believe sin is judged.
I don’t want anybody to come before God unrepented. You know, even when I’m most angry, I am. I talked about how there’s hints of like eschatology and in God’s God’s own judging power that want people to avoid anything that even shaped it. And so what I really want as a Christian now is not for my enemies to be destroyed, for my enemies to change. And I think that’s, I think that’s the way in which I can move through the world in a way that’s not destructive for me, because a life consumed by bitterness and anger ultimately consumes us.
Right? And I love how you really center the whole book around that idea of hope. And I like what you’re saying you’re you’re on social media, on Twitter, and I think it was a surprise maybe in the summer you tweeted out having an ironic experience of writing a book about finding Helping the Bible and then actually finding hope. And
I know it’s weird because I write I wrote a book called an exercise and hope. Because in I mean, it’s so, so weird how words take on meaning. So I don’t know about the like, I don’t like exercising all the time. Yeah, I’d much rather sleep. But I realized that in order to stay healthy, I got to go out and run. And sometimes I’m just like running so that I don’t die of heart disease. And I found myself in the midst of the run, like, Oh, this is actually not that unpleasant. And you get the runner’s high. Well, this actually feels good. And so the so I found I encounter hope along the way. And so I wanted to say the process of Bible reading the fact that I opened up the Bible, the very fact that I can open it up physically. Sorry, I think you just actually physically still own Bibles. Yeah, I like it. I like it, that expect God to speak to me through those texts, is an exercise or practice of hope. It’d be amazing thing is like, I said that. But I was saying it to other people. I was studying the Bible one day, and I was just down. And I said, and I just, you know, I got up that morning anyway. And I pray and I’m reading, oh, God has done it again. Yeah, I wrote a book about an exercise and hope. And I’m reading the Bible, simply as an act of spiritual discipline. And I encounter Whoa, this is why I think church and Bible reading are so dangerous. Because we can go to church, or we can open the Bible expecting nothing. Yeah, that thing, nothing. And the next thing you know, like the heavens are ripped apart, and you’re face to face with the glory of God. So every single time you open the Bible, every single time you close your eyes to pray, every single time you walk into a certain force of worship. You are at an encounter between God and humanity and eternity. And you never know. You never know what you’re going to experience until like, I think it’s a dangerous thing. Yeah, so I never know like, I’m not one of these people who for like, every single morning, it’s just like, spiritual high where you got to go. No, it’s just like, yeah, I’m going through my life. It may be once a month, maybe once every six months. What? Oh, God, you real What can I do a fall on my face? So yeah, that’s that happened to me this summer, I encountered uncounted Oh, this is like recently, just recently, it’s been this passage in Ephesians. I’ve been thinking about a lot for the last week, because I’m preparing a lecture. And it was like, you once were children of darkness, but now your children of light, and the children of light, it’s something along the lines, you should be oriented towards that which is righteous, good and true. And that’s the thesis like five, nine and 10. Then he says this, he says, trying to discern what the will of the Lord is. And that’s so basic. Yeah, so basically trying to discern what the will of the Lord is, I was like, You know what? That’s, that’s like, that’s 99% of the Christian life. Hey, what does God want me to do? Right here? I think he’s talking with the church broadly, he’s talking about the church in Ephesus. Yeah, what would God have the Christians in emphasis, do? And then do it? I said, what I can actually apply to me too. Like, I’m trying to figure this out all the time. What does God want me to do? In this moment? What does God want me to do with this tweet? What do God want me to do with this article? And then it batches I can do it.
Yeah. That’s so good. Thank you so much. He’s out for joining us on the show. I think he’s given a lot of people good stuff to think about and good promo for the book. So we’re gonna be we’re gonna be promoting your book all over campus, and I know, even using it in classes next semester. So thank
you. I thank you, hopefully, hopefully, it is of use to your students. And maybe one day post pandemic God had invited me out.
That’s right. We’ll definitely have you out here. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.
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