Week 4

Did I Read It Right?
Reading Scripture and the Road Out of White Supremacy

America in Crisis

Dr. Dalen Jackson grew up singing “Jesus loves the little children of the world…red and yellow, black and white,” but in white space, these teachings about “loving everyone” were disembodied and unreflective. In this session, Dalen talks about how we can be transformed in the way we read the Bible, and shares from his thirty years of working to be transformed himself.

What is the road out of southern white supremacy? American Christians assume the Bible is a neutral document, but this is not the case.  There are several white influences upon the way the Bible was transmitted, handed down, and interpreted. American Christians, especially white Christians, are thoroughly influenced in the way they read Scripture by white persons in white communities. To journey out, Christians must be intentional in reading the Bible with the voices, texts, and interpretations from Black persons and communities. Dalen suggests how to think about reading with these voices and offers resources to lean on in order to do so.

To prepare for this session, please view the video lecture and explore the suggested materials below.

 

 

Week 4: Did I Read It Right?: Reading Scripture and the Road Out of White Supremacy

Watch the video lecture (below) and then use the Zoom link below to join the live discussion at 7 pm EST on Tuesday, July 7.

 

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Link to Live Zoom Session

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Session Video

Suggested Resources

In advance of this session, please give attention to the suggested material:

Video: “How Did Jesus Become White?” The Root

Greg Carey, “Currents in African American Biblical Interpretation,” HuffPost, 06/16/2016

Music: Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers, feat. Tank and the Bangas, “Let My People Go,” Goshen (2016).  Lyrics Here.

Video: Rev. Zach Bay, “Do Not Be Afraid”, Genesis 21:8-21, Matthew 10:24-39, Sermon from 6/21/2020, Third Sunday After Pentecost, “Do Not Be Afraid”, Genesis 21:8-21, Matthew 10:24-39,  (reading the Genesis text alongside the text, Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson.Sermon begins at 23:30)

Alexander Jun, Allison N. Ash, Christopher S. Collins, Tabatha L. Jones Jolivet, (2018). White Jesus: The Architecture of racism in religion and education. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Podcast: Conversation with authors Tabatha L. Jones Jolivet and Christopher Collins about White Jesus

Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (UNC, 2012)

Syllabus:  NT 4023: African American New Testament Hermeneutics, Professor Lewis Brogdon, 2012

J. R. Daniel Kirk, “Theological Interpretation and the Problem of Whiteness, target=”_blank”” Storied Theology on Patheos, October 4, 2016.

Recentering our Reading of the Parable of the Talents:

“Listening to the third slave: An Anti-Racism Bible Study from Women of the ELCA”

“I think I’ve been reading the parable of the talents wrong all this time, target=”_blank”” Such Poetic Justice blog,

After the Session: Research, Action, and Reflection

Below are ideas for further research and activities to engage in your learning toward change after the class discussion. There are no grades! We to encourage you to try something new and learn from mistakes and successes. Let us know how it goes. Feel free to use the public question board to post your reflections or send a private note to the instructors.

A. African American Lectionary: The African American Lectionary website is organized to serve worship leaders and preachers, but anyone can draw from it for Bible reading and study. Spend 30 minutes reading through some of the Lectionary commentary selections. Use the keyword searcher to look up a book of the Bible (e.g. Psalms, Luke), a holiday (Juneteenth), or a topic (mental health). Notice:

What Scriptures are chosen, and are you familiar with them in Bible study or worship?
How do the authors describe the contemporary moment, the liturgical (worship) moment?
What biblical commentary do they offer? What other resources for learning and study do they offer?
How do they compose interpretation suggestions for sermons and worship choices, and what did you learn from them?
How and when could you return to this resource in the future?

B. Center of Scripture: When reading and interpreting the Bible, Christians carry different “Centers of Scripture” that help them seek God, follow after God, and understand theological doctrines like creation and salvation. Dalen suggested Lewis’ 8 Biblical Principles as a Center of Scripture that corrects White Christianity’s individualistic, disembodied focus. Read, pray over, and reflect on these texts. How can they become part of the center of your faith and Bible Study?

1. Genesis 1: All Humans Are Created in the Image of God
2. Amos 5: Priority Principles of Justice and Righteousness
3. Matthew 25: Care for the Vulnerable and Suffering
4. Luke 6 & 10: Love God and Neighbor & The Golden Rule
5. John 8:32: The Importance of Truth
6. Acts 4: Christians Share All Things in Common
7. 1 Corinthians 11: Self-Examination in Relation to Others in the Body of Christ
8. Philippians 2:1-11: Have a “Christ-Like” Mindset

C. Prayer of Illumination:  Practice praying for illumination before reading the Bible, whether alone or in a group. Reflect on what you are asking God for as you pray. Here is Dalen’s prayer:

Gracious and merciful God,
Give us humble, teachable, and obedient hearts. Shine a light on our comfortable and self-interested readings of Your Word. As we read, incline our ears to listen to the voices of people with diverse bodies, and abilities, and traditions, and stories. You have created all people in Your image; help us to hear your truth embodied in their insights.
Amen.

 

Questions? Comments? Ideas?

Have a question or comment about the ideas in this session? Want to ask the professors a question?

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Dr. Lewis Brogdon

Research Professor of Preaching and Black Church Studies

Dr. Lewis Brogdon has served in numerous positions in undergraduate and graduate institutions as a professor including roles at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Claflin University, and Bluefield College. Brogdon is the author of several books including A Companion to Philemon (Cascade 2018), The Spirituality of Black Preaching (Seymour Press 2016), The New Pentecostal Message? (Cascade 2015), Dying to Lead: The Disturbing Trend of Clergy Suicide (Seymour Press 2015), Hope on the Brink (Cascade 2013) and No Longer a Slave but a Brother (Scholars Press 2013). He has authored numerous journal articles, book chapter essays and magazine articles.

Dr. Laura Levens

Assistant Professor of Christian Mission

Dr. Levens oversees course development and teaching for the department of Christian Mission at BSK. 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.

Dr. Levens is currently working on a book about the mission theology and practice of Ann Hasseltine Judson, one of the earliest American Baptist Foreign Missionaries to Burma. She is also currently working with Dr. Inscore Essick on a field research interview project with rural black churches in North-Central Kentucky.

Questions, Comments and Ideas

Have a question or comment about the ideas in this session? Want to ask the professors a question?

Leave it in the comments area below.

3 Comments

  1. Thank you, Dr. Jackson, for a wonderful lecture. You opened my mind to some new insights on the Bible.

    Reply
  2. Dr. Jackson,
    Thanks for your lecture, insights, and challenges. I have a question and a comment:

    Is there any effort to translate the Bible with the “black audience” in mind? It seems to me that starting with the KJV, and it’s radical exclusivity in gender issues, ensuing translations have made modicum success in correcting or expanding textual choices, and therefore maybe it is time for a new translation that specifically speaks to the issues of privilege and non privilege, etc. I am fully aware that every “group” wants it’s own Bible, and in fact, we do read the Bible in light of our own cultural story.
    Thanks,
    Page Fulgham

    Reply
    • Page, thanks for your comment. I am not aware of any Bible translation for a general black audience. The American Bible Society did a “Gullah” translation of the New Testament which has some commonalities with African-American Vernacular (and even Southern Appalachian) English, but it is pretty narrowly focused on speakers of that southern Atlantic coastal dialect. There is also a series of paraphrases of sections of the biblical text published in the 1990’s called the Black Bible Chronicles, characterized by one reviewer as an “adaptive retelling” of the text. I agree that there would be value in translations by marginalized persons, but I can imagine a number of obstacles. First, the ranks of publishers and scholars are still overwhelmingly white; second, the non-privileged groups are diverse and would be hard-pressed to find a unified perspective for any single translation project; and lastly, I think there is still a wide-spread assumption of the “neutrality” of existing translations among privileged groups that undersmines their interest in and support for such a project. –Dalen

      Reply

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Leave your question below for Dr. Brogdon and Dr. Levens. Note that if question volume is high they may have to be selective in which questions are answered.

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