God Loves Blackness:
Unlearning Whiteness and Building Habits of Solidarity
America in Crisis
After the death of Michael Brown in Fall 2014, Dr. Mark Medley listened to a Black student talk about the conversations he had with his two teenage sons to protect them from arrest or worse when stopped by police. Mark realized he did not have to say any of these things to his own teenage son because he had been racialized into Whiteness.
In this video, Mark explains the terms “Whiteness” and “Blackness” in American society, and describes how this has shaped White Christianity to theologize Blackness and Black bodies as corrupt and inferior. In repenting and resisting this system, Mark talks about how to confess and unlearn Whiteness, and how to take the next step to turn away from Whiteness and toward Blackness.
Session Video Lecture
Some questions to consider:
- If you are white, how have you been racialized white?
- Why is important to understand sin as systemic and structural?
- What does “God loves Blackness” mean?
- Theologically, why do Black lives matter?
- How can you practice solidarity with black people?
Brainstorming Assignment: What are two to four ways you might be able to “incarnate solidarity” with Black persons and communities in your life and in your community?
Please give attention to the suggested material:
For Further Reading:
Mikael N. Broadway, “Mistaking White for Light: Awakening to a Truthful Search for Light,” in Sources of Light: Resources for Baptist Churches Practicing Theology, eds. Amy L. Chilton & Steven R. Harmon
Live Session PP Presentation for God Loves Blackness
After the Session: Research, Action, and Reflection
Below are further research and activities to engage in your learning toward change. There are no grades! We encourage you to try something new and learn from mistakes and successes. Let us know how it goes.
A. Go on a virtual art exhibit tour. Click on the links below to see the Black iconography and artwork shown in Mark’s lecture. Spend some time (15 minutes? an hour?) appreciating these works of art and the artist statements and biographies. What catches your attention? Moves you? Disrupts you?
B. Incarnate solidarity over your lifetime. Mark challenged all of us to take decisive steps to make difference positive and normal, to be pro-Blackness, and toward profound positive change. Think of two to four steps you and your community can take. Below are some of the ideas voiced in our live session:
“If you are a preacher or a Christian teacher, I challenge you to only consult Black resources for sermon crafting and Bible study for a whole year. –Mark”
“1. Listen to Black speech and language with a heart of understanding and love 2. Consider Black arts and artists as a valid contribution and gift to the world 3. Listen to the Black story as told in Black history and histories of Black people”
“Listening to our Black colleagues and following their lead.”
“Support Black-owned businesses in your community to contribute to black economics”
“Have a true and honest conversation with black people.”
“Practice patience and forbearance.”
” Buy children’s books and donate them—books that show children of color just being regular people—not just civil rights activists or athletes.”
“I like the recommendations of attending to black authors and commentators as it reminds me on James Cones’s response to a question of why liberation theology seems so divisive ‘we live in different worlds'”
“1. Patronize black businesses.
2. Vote this fall for increased funding for public education K-12 in Jefferson County. A proposed increase in Metro Louisville property tax will include benefits for blacks who comprise 35% of JCPS students. (Originally suggested by Dennis Boswell)
3. Contribute to organizations that promote racial justice. (Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Lives Matter, ACLU, American Friends Service Committee)
4. Work with others in our church to make our church more friendly to people of color.”
“Listen to my black friends and colleagues and teach my children black history as well as studying black artists. Also, replacing my icon with a black icon. Ordering our educational resources from a black business (Oh Freedom from Woke Homeschool)”
“Give to and visit EJI in Montgomery Alabama (Equal justice initiative) Bryan Stevenson”
Assistant Professor of Christian Mission
Dr. Levens oversees course development and teaching for the department of Christian Mission. She teaches a Foundations of Christian Mission Course, exploring biblical, theological, and historical aspects of mission practice. She also teaches several mission elective courses based on student interest in topics like Social Justice, Global Christianity, Women’s Experience, Leadership and Wisdom, and Biblical Interpretation.
Her scholarly interests include Christian missions history, women in Christian history, biblical interpretation, justice and transformation, and theology and practice of mission. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the American Society of Missiology, the Conference on Faith and History, American Baptist Historical Society, and the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion.
Dr. Levens is a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and is ordained through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She has served in various Kentucky, Texas, and North Carolina congregations and para-church ministries as associate minister, youth work, camp and retreat staff, preacher, teacher, and advocate for the rural homeless. She currently serves as the volunteer Children’s Sunday school coordinator for Central Baptist Church in Lexington, KY.
Research Professor of Black Church Studies and Preaching
Dr. Lewis Brogdon has served in numerous positions in undergraduate and graduate institutions as a professor – Assistant Professor of New Testament and Black Church Studies at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and Religion and Biblical Studies at Claflin University, and an Associate Professor of Christian Studies at Bluefield College. He also served those institutions as an administrator – the founding director of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary’s Black Church Studies Program, Provost at Simmons College of Kentucky and Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Research at Bluefield College. Brogdon is the author of several books including A Companion to Philemon (Cascade 2018), The Spirituality of Black Preaching (Seymour Press 2016) and others.
Dr. Brogdon is also a popular preacher, lecturer, and panelist. He has lectured at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, the Interdenominational Theological Center, the University of Chicago Divinity School, Claflin University, and Radford University on nihilism in black America. He was the keynote speaker at a city wide Martin Luther King dinner in Dayton OH, and received an invitation to the White House in 2014. Brogdon is an ordained minister of twenty six years and has pastored churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.