Black Faith and the (Im)Possibility of Christian Theology in Raboteau’s Slave Religion: A Question

Posted on May 7, 2015 by PLT Staff

Paper presented by J. Kameron Carter during meeting one of the Lived Theology and Race Workgroup in Charlottesville, Virginia. Carter, a religious studies professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, unpacks Albert J. Raboteau’s 1978 book Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South in an attempt to explore the theological questions raised by this work. In particular, Carter analyzes Raboteau’s theological use of history and his discussion of inherent biases found in future attempts at the theological investigation of Afro-Christianity.

Albert J. Raboteau passed away on Sept. 18, 2021. Read his New York Times obituary (Oct. 13, 2021) to learn more about this amazing scholar.

Excerpt: “It is from an understanding of the African heritage that one can situate the broader history of the religions of diasporic African peoples. The significance of the African heritage, however, extends beyond this for Raboteau. The African heritage also identifies an African consciousness—a certain mode of perception, indeed, a peculiar supra-historical impulse transcending, though to be sure operating within, history. In deciphering history’s ethnographic artifacts the historian recovers the story of the religious life of New World black folks precisely as the movement of an African consciousness.”

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