The End of White Christian America: A Conversation with E. J. Dionne and Robert P. Jones

91:25
Just two quick points.
One is I think there has been a tension
throughout American history between prophetic religion
and what you could call the alternative.
Liturgically, you could call it law-based.
And the African-American church has always
partaken of the prophetic.
And I’ve always found that you can–
if you’re talking about talking to a Christian,
you know which side they are on by whether they quote Micah,
Isaiah, and Amos or Leviticus.
And whether they–
[LAUGHTER]
–quote– whether they quote the social passages of the New
Testament or the conversion passages of the New Testament.
And I think you saw that in the fight over slavery.
You saw that over social justice issues
in the progressive era in the ’30s.
I mean, you saw it in the Civil Rights years.
I think that’s a deep tension that’s always running
through American religion.
100:21
that obviously, slave owners wanted their slaves
to be Christians, but that they were–
I remember reading this.
I haven’t seen evidence of it.
That they actually had Bibles printed up
for slaves, in which the Bible was printed,
but the Book of Exodus was left out.
Yeah.
Oh, OK.
I’ve heard that, yes.
I want to get that on display somewhere.
I’ve heard that, as well.
And what’s fascinating is how deeply important the book
of Exodus is in every African-American church,
and how central it is African-American preaching,
for obvious reasons.
I mean, “let my people go.”
But yes.
I’m going to try to remember where I have found this
because there were very–
the first slave owners tried to keep the slaves illiterate,
and actually didn’t want them reading the whole Bible
because the Bible is very dangerous.
And there was often a tradition of one slave, at least,
becoming literate.
And the original African-American churches
were in the woods, and they were–
and the slaves were very conscious of those parts
of scripture that pointed to the freedom.
And so I think, in some cases, they were limited Bibles.
But in a lot of cases, the effort
was to keep the slaves illiterate so
that they would only hear the parts,
say, of Saint Paul, that said slaves, obey your masters,
and that sort of thing.
Which was the part that influenced Billy Graham when
he spoke in Moscow— in Russia.
Spoke in Russia, yeah.
Thank you.

ABOUT THE NBN BECOME AN NBN HOST LAUNCH AN NBN PODCAST PITCH US YOUR NEW BOOK! PARTNER WITH THE NBN Arts & Letters Peoples & Places Politics & Society Religion & Faith Science & Tech Books Received DONALD BERRY Glory in Romans and the Unified Purpose of God in Redemptive History

In this program, we discuss Glory in Romans and the Unified Purpose of God in Redemptive History (Pickwick Publications, 2016), a revision of Donald Berry’s doctoral dissertation. With this publication, Berry fills in a gap in Pauline studies, setting forth the glory of God as central to Paul’s theology. Not only does his book cover a significant motif in the New Testament, but it also provides crucial insights into the Epistle to the Romans and to the field of biblical theology. Donald Berry is a pastor at Christian Fellowship in Columbia, Missouri. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament from Amridge University in Montgomery, AL, and an M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Journey of Conversion (Richard Rohr)

Surely the biblical writer who most helps us discover the Christ Mystery is the Apostle Paul. Letters by Paul or influenced by him form one third of the New Testament. Paul is a foundational teacher for what became Christianity. [1] Yet he hardly ever quotes Jesus. Paul never met Jesus. He did, however, encounter the risen Christ.

This is not as strange as it may seem at first. After all, the Jesus that you and I participate in, are graced and redeemed by, is the risen Christ who is no longer confined by space and time. God raised up Jesus and revealed him as the “Anointed One” or the Messiah (Acts 2:36). I believe it was not until the Resurrection that Jesus’ human mind fully realized he was the Christ. It seems to have been an evolving awareness, as “he grew in wisdom, age, and grace” (Luke 2:52) and lived in faith just as we do.

The entire biblical revelation involves gradually developing a very different consciousness, a recreated self, and eventually a full “identity transplant” or identity realization, as we see in both Jesus and Paul. The sacred text invites us, little by little, into a very different sense of who we are: We are not our own. Your life is not about you; you are about Life! We gradually find ourselves part of the Great Vine, eventually realizing that we have never truly been separate from that Source (John 15:1-5). Once we are consciously connected to the True Vine, our life will bear much fruit for the world.

Paul seems to understand this well because it happened rather dramatically to him. He writes, “I live no longer, not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Like Paul, the spiritual journey leads us to know that Someone Else is living in us and through us. We are part of a much Bigger Mystery. We are recipients, conduits, and gradually become fully willing participants in the Christ Mystery (which is not to be equated with simply joining the Christian religion).

No biblical writer had yet named what theologians now call “Trinity,” but Paul has a deep intuitive conviction about the Trinitarian flow—Love—passing through him. He comes to know that he is hardly “initiating” anything, but instead it is all happening to him. This is the same transition we all must make. Like the divine conception in Mary, we will eventually realize it is being done to and within us much more than us doing anything. All God needs is our “yes,” it seems, which tends to emerge progressively as we grow in inner freedom.

This understanding gives us an utterly different sense of self; this person is truly a “sounding through” (per-sonare) much more than an autonomous being. This identity transplant is true conversion. It is not about joining a new group or church; it is coming to know a new and essential self that is interconnected with everyone and everything else. Just as in Paul’s conversion, it takes quite a while for the scales to fall from our eyes (see Acts 9:18), with plenty of help from friends like Ananias (Acts 9:17) and others, lots of failures (1 Corinthians 11:17-22), and long quiet retreats in “Arabia” (see Galatians 1:17). His is the classic pattern of real but gradual transformation.

Christ Since the Beginning: The First Bible (Richard Rohr)

Sacred writings are bound in two volumes—that of creation and that of Holy Scripture. —Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274) [1]

Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and deity—however invisible—have been there for the mind to see in the things God has made. —Romans 1:20

I think what Paul means here is that whatever we need to know about God can be found in nature. Nature itself is the primary Bible. The world is the locus of the sacred and provides all the metaphors that the soul needs for its growth.

If you scale chronological history down to the span of one year, with the Big Bang on January 1, then our species, Homo sapiens, doesn’t appear until 11:59 p.m. on December 31. That means the written Bible and Christianity appeared in the last nanosecond of December 31. I can’t believe that God had nothing to say until the last moment of December 31. Rather, as both Paul and Thomas Aquinas say, God has been revealing God’s love, goodness, and beauty since the very beginning through the natural world of creation. “God looked at everything God had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Acknowledging the intrinsic value and beauty of creation, elements, plants, and animals is a major paradigm shift for most Western and cultural Christians. In fact, we have often dismissed it as animism or paganism. We limited God’s love and salvation to our own human species, and, even then, we did not have enough love to go around for all of humanity! God ended up looking quite miserly and inept, to be honest.

Listen instead to the Book of Wisdom (13:1, 5):

How dull are all people who, from the things-that-are, have not been able to discover God-Who-Is, or by studying the good works have failed to recognize the Artist. . . . Through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.

Sister Ilia Delio writes in true Franciscan style:

The world is created as a means of God’s self-revelation so that, like a mirror or footprint, it might lead us to love and praise the Creator. We are created to read the book of creation so that we may know the Author of Life. This book of creation is an expression of who God is and is meant to lead humans to what it signifies, namely, the eternal Trinity of dynamic, self-diffusive love. [2]

All you have to do today is go outside and gaze at one leaf, long and lovingly, until you know, really know, that this leaf is a participation in the eternal being of God. It’s enough to create ecstasy. The seeming value or dignity of an object doesn’t matter; it is the dignity of your relationship to the thing that matters. For a true contemplative, a gratuitously falling leaf will awaken awe and wonder just as much as a golden tabernacle in a cathedral.