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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.

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.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: A Christian and a Democrat

A Christian and a Democrat: A Religious Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, by John F. Woolverton and James D. BrattA Religious Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt

A work begun by religious historian John Woolverton (1926-2014) and recently completed by James Bratt, A Christian and a Democrat is an engaging analysis of the surprisingly spiritual life of one of the most consequential presidents in US history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

When asked at a press conference about the roots of his political philosophy, FDR responded simply, “I am a Christian and a Democrat.” This is the story of how the first informed the second—how his upbringing in the Episcopal Church and matriculation at the Groton School under legendary educator and minister Endicott Peabody molded Roosevelt into a leader whose politics were fundamentally shaped by the Social Gospel.

A Christian and a Democrat chronicles FDR’s response to the toxic demagoguery of his day, and will reassure readers today that a constructive way forward is possible for Christians, for Americans, and for the world.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“This timely, inspiring portrait of the role of Christianity in the life and presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt helps us better understand one of the influential leaders of the twentieth century. Woolverton has made a great contribution here that should lead us to reevaluate our view of the role of faith in the progressive movement, the Democratic Party, and American politics generally, while also stoking our imagination for how Christian principles might guide us today.”—Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America

“Rare is the opportunity to read a biography by someone who ran in the same circles as the author but who was not an acquaintance. Through a collective biography of FDR’s many influences and their religious backgrounds, we learn that Franklin Roosevelt had the Social Gospel imprinted on his character. His boarding school teachers, as well as those of his wife Eleanor and his Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, raised him with a strong sense of responsibility toward the less fortunate. This Social-Gospel-sense of “Christian charity” drove both his concern for the poor and his rejection of authoritarian methods of establishing justice. Woolverton and Bratt depict a man whose ‘simple faith’ drove his decisions in both domestic and foreign policy. It was this faith, they suggest, that helped save the prospects for democracy in the United States.”—Janine Giordano Drake, University of Providence

“With James D. Bratt’s deft revision, this study of Franklin Roosevelt’s religious life by respected Episcopal historian John Woolverton arrives at just the right time. Woolverton’s warm but frank spiritual biography describes a president who practiced a Christianity based on hope, charity, and faith and grounded in a deep sense of mutual responsibility. This book is a reminder that American Christianity might have followed an alternative trajectory into the twenty-first century.”—Alison Collis Greene, Emory University

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 Life of Saint Teresa of Avila

The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila: A Biography, by Carlos EireA Biography

The original book entitled The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila is an autobiography of sorts, a confession written for inquisitors by a nun whose raptures and mystical claims had aroused suspicion. In it, St. Teresa details one of the most remarkable accounts ever written of the human encounter with the divine.

In The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila: A Biography, Carlos Eire tells the story of this incomparable spiritual masterpiece, examining its composition and reception in the sixteenth century, the various ways its mystical teachings have been interpreted and reinterpreted across time, and its enduring influence in our own secular age. The book has had a profound impact on Christian spirituality for five centuries, and has also been read as a feminist manifesto, a literary work, and even as a secular text. But as Eire demonstrates, Teresa’s confession is at its core a cry from the heart to God and an audacious portrayal of mystical theology as a search for love.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Carlos Eire analyzes Teresa of Avila’s Life and chronicles its reception from the late sixteenth century to the present with profound erudition, insight, and conviction. His carefully documented survey of trends in editing, translation, and artistic production makes a significant contribution to the history of the book and readership, as well as women’s writing, spirituality, and the Catholic intellectual tradition.”—Jodi Bilinkoff, author of The Avila of Saint Teresa: Religious Reform in a Sixteenth-Century City

“Carlos Eire leads readers expertly and learnedly through the composition of the Life and its fortunes over the centuries. Not only does he slice, dice, and classify with the skill of a medieval theologian, he does so with the wit of a philosophe and with an unusually sensitive understanding of the mystical Teresa. I loved this book even more than I expected I would.”—Craig Harline, author of A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation

“Eire has an uncanny ability to write scholarly work in an engaging and accessible style. He knows how to get to the heart of the matter. This is the story of a mystic and her book but also a story of how reactions to extreme religious experiences have changed—and been deployed—over centuries.”—Alison Weber, author of Teresa of Avila and the Rhetoric of Femininity

For more information on the publication, click here.

Carlos Eire is a professor of history and religious studies at Yale University in 1996. He specializes in the social, intellectual, religious and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe.

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.

Julian Bond Transcribe-a-Thon

By Eduardo Montes-Bradley – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Virginia is embarking on a project to make social justice and civil rights icon Julian Bond’s collection of documents accessible to the world through a crowdsourced transcription effort. #TranscribeBond is the first stage in the ultimate production of an online, digital edition.

The Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Center for Digital Editing, UVA Scholars Lab, and Virginia Humanities are collaborating on this transcribe-a-thon. A reception introducing the scope and goals of the digital project will be held at the Carter G. Woodson Institute on August 14 in room 110 of Minor Hall. On the following day (August 15) from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., registered participants will head to one of five locations on Grounds and in Charlottesville to transcribe a wide and varied sample of his papers, starting with his speeches.

Join us to contribute to this historic project by transcribing a wide and varied sample of Bond’s papers!

RSVP here

Locations:

  • The Woodson Institute, 110 Minor Hall, UVA
  • The Scholars’ Lab, Alderman Library, UVA
  • The Virginia Center for the Book at the Jefferson School, 233 4th St. NW, Charlottesville, Va.
  • Shenandoah Joe, 945 Preston Ave., Charlottesville, Va.
  • McCue Center, Virginia Athletics, 290 Massie Rd, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903

In addition to the transcribe-a-thon, UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library will hold an exhibit of original materials related to Julian Bond. The exhibit will be held on Thursday, Aug. 15 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 p.m. in the Byrd-Morris Room of the Special Collections Library.

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.

Summer Internship in Lived Theology Celebrates 10 Years!

Summer 2019 interns begin work in Charlottesville and New York City

The tenth year of the Summer Internship in Lived Theology has begun. This internship sends UVA students into immersive service experiences with the unique opportunity to think and write theologically. Kate Parker (Col ‘20) will be working in Charlottesville at The Haven, a multi-resource day shelter where she will volunteer with daily operations and create a series of free, movement-based, community workshops. Nan Marsh (Col ’21) will be coordinating programming in New York City at Arts and Minds, a nonprofit which provides museum experiences for individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. Zoe Larmey (Col ‘21) will also be in New York City where she will be working at City Seminary, a seminary that seeks to develop leaders in ministry through experiential learning and applied theology. There Zoe will work with the gallery team to produce, install, and design programs around an exhibition titled “Planting for Peace.”

Kate, Nan, and Zoe mark the tenth consecutive class of the Summer Internship in Lived Theology. During the previous nine summers, students have worked domestically in Washington, DC; Richmond, Virginia; Durham, North Carolina; Oakland, San Francisco, and Charlottesville; and internationally in the countries of England, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, and Kenya. We have coordinated with dozens of community organizations and involved more than a half dozen UVA faculty in mentorship roles. Internship alumni have gone on to graduate studies, seminary, Teach for America, and to professions in areas of ministry, nonprofit work, nursing, community organizing, global health, finance, media, and social justice.

For updates about the PLT Summer Internship, click here. We also post updates online using #PLTinterns. To get these updates please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

 

Disrupt the Narrative

Centering African American Perspectives on Religious Freedom

On Friday, June 7, the Religious Freedom Center presents a public conversation exploring the ethics and complex politics of race and religious freedom by centering the issues, narratives, and experiences of African Americans in the United States. Disrupt the Narrative: Centering African American Perspectives on Religious Freedom is part of the Religious Freedom Center’s continuing exploration of the intersection of race and religion in the United States.

During this program, participants will hear from scholars, practitioners and community leaders who are making invaluable contributions to this critical discussion. This program is also designed to encourage participants to think through practical ways to take action around religious freedom issues in their community. Participants will engage in small group discussions, a community talkback session and explore opportunities to think through next steps together.

Speakers include Teresa Smallwood, J.D., Ph.D., director of the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative at Vanderbilt University; Iva Carruthers, Ph.D., general secretary for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference; Mandisa Thomas, president of Black Nonbelievers; Rahmah Abdulaleem, executive director of KARAMAH: Women Muslim Lawyers for Human Rights and more. The keynote speaker is Dr. Tisa Joy Wenger, author of “Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal.”

Friday, June 7, 2019
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Knight Conference Center at the Newseum
555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.   Washington, D.C. 20001

Registration is required and open now through May 31, 2019 for the June 7 symposium. This program is free and open to the public. Seats are limited.

This program is possible due to the generous support of The Henry Luce Foundation.