ONCE LIBERATED, NEVER CONTAINED
Without the knowledge of the past combined with knowledge of culture, one would have a very vague understanding of how the faith of African-Americans has been affected through history to the modern age. I have been deeply affected on this immersion; not always with the amount of work and energy that it takes to be involved in this type of contextual learning experience, but rather with what I didn’t expect.
I didn’t expect to be hit in the face with how the reality of Pope Alexander VI signing a document known as the Papal Bull in 1493 which stated that any land not inhabited by Christians was available to be discovered, claimed, and exploited by Christian rulers would clarify my understanding of the role I have in uprooting a hegemonic that is still thriving even in spaces that are dedicated to being progressive and forward thinking. In short, this doctrine holds that when European nations “discovered” non-European lands, they gained special rights over that land, such as sovereignty and title. Not only did this Bull ensure exclusive right to the lands discovered by Columbus, it justified the similar theft of the Native Lands we now call the United States of America.
It is in light of this Doctrine of Discovery, which instilled the sanctioning of Christian enslavement and power over my own ancestors by denigrating them with no justification save for supplying the New World with its major workforce, that I realize viewing the prisms of a Christian reality by means of a theological lens of exploration exposes another layer of physical and emotional anguish of oppression. Oppression is extant even in the spaces of radical inclusion and hospitality; Christianity is still lacking a liberative, environmentally safe, and spiritually attuned paradigm for the greater good of all humankind because historically and culturally the root of empowerment which begins in suffering is not ideologically comfortable for a faith based and steeped in cognitive dissonance.
In walking through this city I have discovered how the theological expression of a people deprived of social and political power is authentically manifested; true faith and understanding of democracy cannot be divorced from the black social experience that begins with the Middle Passage and the transportation of those deemed to be pagan and enemies of Christ. The language of “vanquish”, “capture”, and “subdue” is the mortar that holds the bricks of this city and all other cities across this country together. For the last week my engagement with the transformative aspects of this immersion has uncovered the need for pulling that reality out of the shadows of the hallowed halls of academia and theological pontifications into the light of day.
I am the sum total of many parts seen and unseen; known and unknown. I am God’s beloved; a survivor; the remnant of a legion of fighters that lived and loved so that I might live and love. One of the most profound...