This is a very timely book; a race resource with a practical approach.
Pages: 113 + notes and index
Revised and updated with an afterword on why Black Lives Matter, Reddie’s book is a theological work aimed mainly at preachers and church leaders, but readable, accessible and suitable for any Christian wanting a biblical insight into how God views matters of race.
Reddie is currently Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, but he describes his ministry “as that of a participative Black theologian.” As a black man, Reddie is seeing the topic from the inside (and often the anger shows through); as a theologian, he works strongly from a biblical basis, and “participative” explains his natural approach.
Part One of this book is largely taken from exercises that he has developed in taking courses, a method that seeks to involve course members in understanding what it is like to be black – or part of any minority, as he often expands the outworking of these principles to any oppressed group. He tries to convey what it feels like in practical terms to be black in a white world, and how that affects people‘s attitudes and actions. He also asks his readers to deconstruct their whiteness to see more objectively how their worldview affects their reading of scripture and consequently their lifestyles.
Part Two is more specifically aimed at preachers. Reddie takes several New Testament passages and interprets them from the standpoint of black theology. He also offers a sermon that takes “a dim view” of the concept of original sin and makes a big point of offering a black theological perspective of sin that is more tangible. His take is scriptural and, from this reviewer’s perspective, can sit alongside original sin. The nature of sin does not change; it merely differs here in terms of its theological handle.
While he probably feels that he needs to get his readers inside a black person’s skin early in the book to motivate them to empathy, I often found this section somewhat padded. His later interpretations of biblical texts were far more absorbing, and illustrated how differently various people groupings can view the same words. His extended interpretation of the Parable of the Talents is particularly eye-opening (spoiler alert: the master is not God in his reading of the text).
The afterword claims that the BLM movement “presents the Church with one of the most significant ethical challenges to have confronted the Body of Christ in our times.” It is a great opportunity to display the heart of God for all people equally, and one that the Church should surely have been taking a lead in. This book will help underline that.