Session 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.


Session Video

Some questions to consider:

  • What images come to mind when you picture Jesus, the disciples, Paul, Mary, or other biblical characters? Are those images shaped by racial stereotypes?
  • What information can you find out about the translators, editors, publishers, and authors associated with the Bibles and/or Bible study materials you use most often? How much diversity do you find there?
  • What voices, texts, and interpretations of white persons and communities can you identify that have shaped the traditions of reading the Bible you are most familiar with?
  • What strategies might you employ to be intentional to read the Bible with voices, texts, and interpretations from Black persons and communities (and other communities different from your own)?

Suggested Resources

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. 

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.


Dr. Laura Levens

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.

Dr. Lewis Brogdon

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.

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