On the Lived Theology Reading List: You Can’t Eat Freedom

You Can’t Eat Freedom: Southerners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement, by Greta de JongSoutherners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement

In You Can’t Eat Freedom, Greta de Jong explores the link between the civil rights movement and the War on Poverty through examining the history of rural organizing.

In the mid-1960s, two events were rocking the American south at the same time: the political revolution wrought by the passage of civil rights legislation, and the ongoing economic revolution brought about by increasing agricultural mechanization. De Jong focuses on the plantation regions of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi to analyze how social justice activists responded to mass unemployment by lobbying political leaders, initiating antipoverty projects, and forming cooperative enterprises that fostered economic and political autonomy.

Through this thoroughly researched book, de Jong shows how responses to labor displacement in the South shaped the experiences of other Americans who were affected by mass layoffs in the late twentieth century, shedding light on a debate that continues to reverberate today.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Beautifully written, elegantly argued, and exhaustively researched, You Can’t Eat Freedom provides a cutting-edge outlook on just how quickly it became dangerous for black southerners to struggle for economic justice in the years after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were passed. Broadening our understanding of what constituted political action in the civil rights and antipoverty struggles, this book offers a completely fresh analysis of post-1965 rural African American social justice activism, highlighting just how inextricable political and economic justice were in activists’ vision for change.”—Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth College

“One of the most important books about the black freedom struggle in a generation.”—Journal of Southern History

“With an impressive breadth of research, You Can’t Eat Freedom takes us inside communities fighting for civil rights after 1965, looking beyond the much studied earlier period to show us how these ongoing racial struggles were contested on the ground. This book does not shy away from highlighting the prevalence of black poverty after 1965, avoiding the temptation to find silver linings in what is quite a sobering–even bleak–story. This is a nice corrective to the triumphal nature of some civil rights historiography.”—Timothy J. Minchin, coauthor of After the Dream: Black and White Southerners since 1965

For more information on the publication, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Witnessing Whiteness

Confronting White Supremacy in the American Church (Oxford University Press, coming spring 2020)

By Kristopher Norris

Book Description

Witnessing Whiteness is a scholarly yet accessible book that analyzes the current racial climate of American Christianity. It argues that, due to its role in the origins and proliferation of white supremacy, the white church and its theology (and theologians) have a special responsibility to work to dismantle racism. This work begins by witnessing our own whiteness, or uncovering the ways that our theology and church practices are influenced by white supremacy. The white church must then engage an ethic of responsibility to confront our racism through practices of remembrance, repentance, and reparation.

The book uncovers this responsibility ethic at the convergence of two prominent streams in theological ethics: the predominantly white witness theology and black liberation theology, specifically examining the work of the major figures of these two streams: Stanley Hauerwas and James Cone. Then, employing their shared resources and attending to the criticisms liberation theology directs at traditionalism, it proposes concrete practices to challenge the white church’s and white theology’s complicity in white supremacy.

For a preview of some of the arguments in the book, check out his article in the Journal of Religious Ethics, “Witnessing Whiteness in the Ethics of Hauerwas.”

Bio

Kristopher Norris is Visiting Distinguished Professor of Public Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary where he works for the Center of Public Theology and co-directs its National Capital Semester for Seminarians program. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia in Theology, Ethics, and Culture, as well as Masters degrees from Duke Divinity School and Candler School of Theology. He is also the author of two previous books, Pilgrim Practices and Kingdom Politics: In Search of a New Political Imagination for Today’s Church, as well as numerous articles.

 

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more resources from our Fellow Travelers, click here. For more news from PLT, click here. Engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Rational Southerner

The Rational Southerner: Black Mobilization, Republican Growth, and the Partisan Transformation of the American South, by M. V. Hood III, Quentin Kidd, and Irwin L. MorrisBlack Mobilization, Republican Growth, and the Partisan Transformation of the American South

Since 1950, the South has undergone the most dramatic political transformation of any region in the country. The Solid (Democratic) South is now overwhelmingly Republican, and long-disenfranchised African Americans vote at levels comparable to those of whites. In The Rational Southerner, the authors explore the theory of relative advantage to provide a new perspective on this party system transformation.

Written more than six decades ago, V. O. Key’s seminal work on the region highlighted the fact that the politics of the South was permeated by the issue of race. The central finding of his work is that race was, and still is, the locus of political change in the South. This conclusion stands in stark contrast to recent scholarship that points to in-migration, economic growth, or religious factors as being more pivotal agents of change.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Scholars have long been fascinated by the transformation of the South from a Democratic bastion to a Republican stronghold. Hood, Kidd, and Morris develop an innovative theoretical argument, denoted relative advantage theory, to explain this transformation, and they document convincingly the causal pas de deux that has taken place in the South over time between the growth of the Republican Party and the mobilization of black voters. The authors have written a superb book that will quickly become a major work in the study of southern politics, political realignments, and racial politics.”—James C. Garand, Emogine Pliner Distinguished Professor and R. Downs Poindexter Professor, Louisiana State University

“Southern whites found a comfortable new home in the GOP. Unable to dominate the Democratic Party after Jim Crow fell, whites found a home where political compromise was Unnecessary. As The Rational Southerner shows, this trend toward ‘white flight’ was also an act of political flight that enabled a two-party South.”—Ronald Keith Gaddie, The University of Oklahoma; co-author of The Triumph of Voting Rights in the South

For more information on the publication, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Voice of Conscience

The Voice of Conscience: The Church in the Mind of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Lewis BaldwinThe Church in the Mind of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In The Voice of Conscience, Lewis V. Baldwin  points out that although Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated widely as the quintessential model of Christian activism in his time, his understanding of and vision for the church has been surprisingly neglected. By taking the reader on a tour through King’s theological life, Baldwin contends that King was fundamentally a man of the church.

Beginning with King’s roots in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Baldwin traces the evolution of King’s attitude toward the church through his college, seminary, graduate school, and civil rights years. Baldwin persuasively claims that King challenged the church over the need for a higher spiritual and ethical ideal, and emphasizes King’s concept of the church as “the voice of conscience,” showing how King’s moral leadership and eventual martyrdom did much to reestablish the credibility of the church at a time when some theologians were declaring the death of God.

Baldwin concludes by critiquing the contemporary church on the basis of King’s prophetic model, and insisting that this model, not the entrepreneurial spirituality of the contemporary megachurches, embodies the best potential for much-needed church renewal.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“I have read many volumes on Martin Luther King, Jr. over the past decade. Voice of Conscience eclipses them all. Impeccably researched and masterfully written, it propels Lewis V. Baldwin to the rank of top King scholar in the world. King lives in this lively and instructive book.” —Rufus Burrow, Jr., author of Martin Luther King Jr. for Armchair Theologians

“Dr. Baldwin’s work places Martin Luther King, Jr. at the forefront of ecclesiastical life and thought. That in no way detracts from his standing as a champion of freedom. Dr. Baldwin is uniquely qualified to see the two as belonging together.” —Rev. Will Campbell, Civil Rights activist and author of Robert G. Clark’s Journey to the House

“A uniquely complete and brilliantly documented contribution to our understanding of the actual roots of the theology of Martin Luther King, Jr., both directly stated and implied. Baldwin writes from the position of one who shares King’s angle of spiritual vision from deep inside the Black Church of the deep South, frankly facing its faults, and lovingly affirming and adding to its immense contributions. This work is without parallel, for thoroughness and authenticity in its field.” —Rev. Dr. Henry H. Mitchell, author of Black Church Beginnings, 1650-1990

For more information on the publication, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Can I Get a Witness? The Podcast: Update

If you are trying to listen to our wonderful new podcast, you have likely discovered that the program disappeared from iTunes. This is a technical issue we are addressing and will be resolved soon. Thanks for your patience, and in the meantime you can still access the podcast on our site and on many other podcast platforms:

Can I Get a Witness? The Podcast

For more news from PLT, click here. Engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Helping Hands

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken pride in the idea of being able to do everything by myself. When I was a child, I used to throw tremendous fits when my mother tried to teach me how to practically anything. Later when I began learning music, I refused to play if anyone imposed practice schedules on me. These days I dream of being able to perform maintenance and repairs alone on my Chevy S-10, and I also operate a sewing machine so that I can design and repair my own clothes. I cling fiercely – perhaps irrationally – to the idea of being ‘self-made.” I can be a bit of a libertarian, and this image of a self-made, autonomous individual may never lose its appeal to me.

Here’s the thing, though: I also realize what an illusion complete autonomy is.  All the examples I just listed of my supposed self-sufficiency are all really just fractions of the whole truth. I may have had the drive to advance musically, but I never could have started had my parents not funded my lessons and instruments. Any repair I make on my Chevy is in part thanks to my boyfriend, who already knows so much about cars and engines. I didn’t even buy that sewing machine — my grandmother gifted it to me. Really, when I think of all the ways I’ve been supported and encouraged, my mind starts to spin. I mean the list goes on and on.

So, when no one showed up to my first community dance workshop — the creation of which is a center piece of my summer internship — I realized very quickly that I had to ask for help. This project is not something I can go at alone. Ultimately, I learned that the process of communicating my workshops to others is not a simple instance of me offering a product or service; when trying to spark someone’s interest in my workshop, I had to also ask for their help. I began to tell friends, coworkers, and acquaintances that I needed their help with a project that I am trying to carry out, and that their presence would make all the difference. Basically, I had to communicate on a more intimate level which demonstrated that I recognized them as a person who could make a difference in my life, rather than some passive, replaceable participant.

Five of my friends showed up to my second workshop, and though I was nervous to lead, I considered the evening a great success. Most of all, I felt immense gratitude for my friends who, after only knowing me for less than a year, decided to come out and support me. On the third workshop, nine people showed up, and some of these people I had never met before! New friendships were made, people danced, laughed, and all the while I was overflowing with thanks for everyone who has encouraged, directed, and supported me so far. In the end, this project is not of my own making and doing, it is the product of an entire community’s effort to connect and serve amongst one another.

Service and Humility

There is no better way to say it — I have loved my time serving in the kitchens at The Haven. The work is hard and physically demanding, and at times my patience has definitely been tested.  The joy of preparing, serving, and sharing food with others, however, has made me happier than I’ve felt in a good while. I think this joy stems in large part from the opportunity to work and serve with so many different kinds of people, all in one place. I have worked with doctors, lawyers, med students, nurses, mennonite women, bakers, former chefs, contractors, artists, housewives, educators, reverends, recent college graduates, and recently married couples. Where else in Charlottesville can you find such a cornucopia of community representation? It’s just amazing to me the variety of staff, guests, and volunteers who come together over a plate of food, and the opportunity to get to know such a diversity of individuals from across Charlottesville has been an amazing gift.

Part of what I find so fascinating about this phenomenon is that each individual forfeits a part of their identity before serving in the kitchen. Of course, these people don’t completely abandon their roles and identities as doctors, Mennonites, bakers, etc, – they just don’t let their outside roles and identities bar them from fully communing. I think our personal identities necessarily take on a sort of limbo-state whilst serving, and I think it has something to do with humility.

I thought it was rad, for example, when a buff, male surgeon asked me how to cut a tomato. I knew someone else in his position would never ask for help with something so simple, being so accomplished and highly educated. This man, however, was able to pocket his pride and reach out for my assistance. He left his pride at the door in order to enter into community for the benefit of others, and I respected his humility.

I’ve started to read the New Testament as part of my internship, and, as a newcomer, I was struck by the following verses: “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:10-12). This humility is present in everyone who comes to serve at The Haven, and it’s this humility which I think helps us all to work with one another. No one is too educated, too good, or too accomplished for service, and it’s a pity for those out there who believe themselves to be above service, because they’re really missing out on a joy and a gift.

Collisions

Lately, I feel like I’ve been living a double life. Mornings you’ll find me working, serving, and being a busybody. Afternoons, you’ll probably find me in a dress on a garden bench or in a rocking chair alone on the lawn. In the mornings I’m very chatty; I’ll ask you about your vacation, your weekend, your grandchildren, your shoes… and I’ll listen to whatever you want to tell me! In the afternoon, however, I like to quietly focus on reading theological texts, passages from the bible, or existential ruminations on dance. Sometimes, I’ll even paint my nails in the evening, even though I know the polish won’t last through the next morning’s dishwashing.

By 12:00, I begin my bike ride up the hill, away from my kitchen duties, and toward a slower afternoon of reading, writing, and planning. After working 4-6 hours in the kitchen, that midday heat is just enough to make a girl feel like a slime monster. Luckily I’m able to hop into a cool shower every afternoon, in which I can wash off the slime and become a girl once more. By the time I’ve dressed for the afternoon, the whole morning suddenly feels very far away.

On one of these afternoons as I was walking down along The Corner, I saw a woman desperately asking for help. She needed allergy medicine, and she was obviously frustrated that no one seemed to hear her. As I drew near, I recognized this woman as one of the guests who frequent The Haven. She often asks for benadryl and anti-itch cream at the help-desk, to no avail. That morning, she was particularly grieved at not having been able to have taken a shower. She relies on these showers to wash away the pollen and pollutants causing her eyes and sinuses to itch, swell, and ooze. She was only in her 20’s, but she looked much older.

Immediately, I approached this woman and brought her into the CVS to buy her some benadryl and nose-spray. As we walked through the aisles, she thanked me profusely. When I approached the self-checkout station, she pressed me for something to eat or a little cash. A small voice inside my head reproached me for my generosity. It said, “You serve this woman food every morning, you just dropped 30 bucks on her allergy medicine, and now she’s asking for more?!” I told her I didn’t have the money for her food, bought her the medicine, and politely wished her a good day before leaving.

For days, I was troubled by my sensitivity to her request for food. Why did her request make me feel used, like some blundering, naive, soft thing who would throw down thirty dollars without hesitation? But also, should I have bought her that food? What kind of responsibility do I have for guests outside The Haven. How do I dictate the boundaries of my compassion?  My generosity troubled me, but my being troubled by my own generosity troubled me too.

That encounter made me realize just how narrowly I had heretofore perceived the sphere of service in my daily life, and how unprepared I still am, despite my daily service, to reckon with the amount of need that pervades our daily lives. The moment my two, tidy worlds collided, I fretted for days about the virtue of my decision. I am privileged enough to have the ability to organize my schedule into times to serve and times to study, but the reality is that need, and therefore service, is unending and pervasive – it doesn’t only exist before noon, and its call beckons even as I sit in the garden to study. Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for rest, and a time for work. However, the Old Testament begins by placing Adam in The Garden to till the soil, or to serve the soil, as the original Hebrew indicates. Therefore, even in rest, we should remember that work and service are, as Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler note, “a part of the divine plan”.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: The Wretched of the Earth

The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz FanonAn Analysis of the Psychology of the Colonized

The Wretched of the Earth was originally written by Frantz Fanon in 1961, and explored the psychology of colonized people and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of post-independence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other.

Fanon’s analysis has been a veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations. A distinguished psychiatrist from Martinique who took part in the Algerian Nationalist Movement, Frantz Fanon was one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history. The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anti-colonialism, and black consciousness movements around the world, and this bold new translation by Richard Philcox reaffirms it as a landmark.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“The writing of Malcolm X or Eldridge Cleaver or Amiri Baraka or the Black Panther leaders reveals how profoundly they have been moved by the thoughts of Frantz Fanon.” —The Boston Globe

“Have the courage to read this book.” —Jean-Paul Sartre

“This century’s most compelling theorist of racism and colonialism.” —Angela Davis

“This is not so much a book as a rock thrown through the window of the West. It is the Communist Manifesto or the Mein Kampf of the anti-colonial revolution, and as such it is highly important for any Western reader who wants to understand the emotional force behind that revolution.” —Time

For more information on the publication, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.