Inspecting the Wall: Toward A Recapitulation of Faith and Faithfulness Amongst Black Youth in Racial

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Youth and Young Adults in the Black community are becoming increasingly disconnected from Black churches, creating a gulf between the belief systems of the youth and that of their parents and grandparents. In fact, while around twothirds of Black millennials and Gen Z identify as Christians, it is still 10 percentage points fewer than Black Gen Xers and 20 percentage points fewer than Black Boomers.1

Black young people have admitted to growing unease with the intolerance they see in their congregations, the apparent contradictions in biblical texts, and the Christian systems that have contributed to, been complicit in, or outright promulgated anti-Black racism and oppression.2

In short, the growing disinterest, distrust, and unsatisfied curiosity of a generation have placed a task before those who desire vocational ministry and practitioners. The task is not theirs alone to achieve, but when it comes to restoring the hope and resilience that has been lost in the disparity of a racialized American society, ministers of Εὐαγγέλιον have the most to offer. American philosopher, political activist, and social critic Dr. Cornell West offers the most cogent synopsis when he says:

to talk about the depressing statistics of unemployment, infant mortality, incarceration, teen pregnancy, and violent crime is one thing. But to face up to the monumental eclipse of hope, the unprecedented collapse of meaning, and the incredible disregard for human (especially Black ) life and property in much of Black America is something else.3

1 “Faith and Religion among Black Americans,” Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, March 25, 2021, -americans/, 12, 14, 15.

2 Ibid.

3 Cornel West, Race Matters (Boston: Beacon Press, 2018), 12.

West is correct; the experience and the ill effects of racism, police brutality, microaggression, and recidivism at a rate that is unparalleled have contributed to the theodicy and hopelessness aforementioned and, thus, any attempt at reaching these youth and young adults must adequately address their core cultural concerns.

There are various biblical pericopes that serve as helpful guides for reconstruction, reformation, and recapitulation of Christian hope, faith, truth, and discipleship. If what is built does not answer the questions related to successful and holistic discipleship of these youth such as: 1) what is going on; 2) why is it going on; 3) what ought to be going on; and 4) how we might respond? It will be vulnerable to the destruction and extremely unhelpful for a generation that needs refuge and restoration at a critical time in history. This paper will use the story of Israel’s post-exilic return to Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah to guide the approach and the analysis of the contemporary issues of our day.

The Babylonian Exile is the period of Jewish history in which the people of Judea were forced to leave their historic homeland and were relocated to other parts of the Babylonian Empire. Historians place the beginning of the Babylonian Exile between 588 and 586 B.C. Like most ancient Middle Eastern people, the Jews' religious identity had been tied to their homeland. The exile brought about a number of significant changes to the way Judaism was practiced. Many of these changes are practiced in modern Judaism today.

One finds striking commonality when comparing the Ezra-Nehemiah narrative and the story of the struggle to reach Black youth. The people of Israel's social location and experience in exile are similar in many ways to that of Black America. It was amid exile that many scholars believe Judaism as we know it today was articulated. In the same way, the Black church's invisible institution was

formed amid oppression and colonial trauma. Thus, Nehemiah's narrative of rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem provides a chronological blueprint for rebuilding the ruins of the proverbial wall responsible for the emergence of alternative spirituality, religious refugees, and evangelical exiles characteristic of Black youth and young adults.

Empire and Exile: The Effect of Exile on Expressions of Faithfulness

The experience of exile can have profound implications for religious development. Displacement and oppression give rise to the need for clarification, a deepening of religious faith commitments, and redefining truth. According to Professor George Barton, PH.D. in Old Testament, the influence of the Babylonian exile is discernible in three great realms of the religious life of Israel: (1) in the apprehension of religious truth; (2) in the outward organization of the religious life; and (3) in the standards of public morals.4 These influences are equally salient in the Black community’s struggle for religious significance. Black people exiled, exiled from their native land, and forced to navigate a new culture and way of life were likewise compelled to make sense of their world. In many ways this is still ongoing.

Before the Babylonian exile, Jewish religious life revolved around the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Babylonians expelled the Jews from Judea, they destroyed the Temple completely. Since the Jews lacking both a temple and the ability to go to Jerusalem, were forced to adjust to retain their cultural and religious identity. The result was the rise of the synagogue among Jews dispersed throughout the 4 Barton, George A. “Influence of the Babylonian Exile on the Religion of Israel.” The Biblical World 37, no. 6 (1911): 369–78.

Babylonian Empire. As religious leadership shifted from priest to rabbi, the focal point of worship was relocated from the temple to the Torah and worship itself went from silent reverence to impassioned rhetoric. Early rabbis compiled the Talmud, a series of writings that further explained the Torah. The biblical books of Daniel and Esther were written during the Babylonian captivity. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah detailed the end of the exile. They describe the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire by the Persian Empire, the subsequent return of many of the Jews to Judea and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

When the Babylonians expelled the Jews from Judea, they destroyed the Temple completely it was Nehemiah’s job to salvage the remains and incorporate them into a new structure that looked nothing liked that which preceded it.

The poor and downcast had been left behind in a desolate wasteland with the temple in ruins. What once stood as a strong and fortified presence, religious foundation in many ways was now utterly desolate. It was not strong enough to withstand the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The highest and richest among the people had been taken away to a strange land and had to learn faithfulness without a temple, a priesthood, nor a leader—faithfulness as they knew it, as they had always known it, was no more and in the wake of its demise and for a people called by the name of the one whose dwelling lie in ruins recapitulation was imperative.

Similarly, those seeking to reach this young adult generation in the Black community face a similar condition and challenge. What should be kept? What should be forgotten? What can be repurposed while living in the racialization that is always inherent to and a mechanism for Empire?

Up until the late 80’s. the Black Church had been necessary for survival, for community, for maturation, and insight during the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Era. Even the Black Power Movement though a little further removed from being solely anchored in the Black Church, still felt a nostalgic tethering to the institution that birthed it. However, that is not the case today. The intuition of youth today is functionally pluralistic, not static. Young adults have more anchoring in Hip Hop culture than the Black Church and it must be reckoned with. Nehemiah’s story gives us a framework showing that there is still hope for faith and faithfulness in the rubble and the remains of a forgone institution.

Inspecting the Ruins

Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall. and so returned. (Nehemiah 1:5)

American Christianity is for many Black people too firmly entrenched with racist and oppressive forces because of this enmeshment Christianity in an urban context especially among youth, represents white exploitation, dehumanization, white dominance, and Black subordination. The message and the attitude of white American Christian society has continually been that through each epoch of the American experiment that anything associated with Black ness is evil, vile, vulgar, and primitive. Anything associated with whiteness was beautiful, virtuous, godlike, and worthy of emulation by all. Besides, these attitudes were endorsed and endowed by God and his Son, white- Jesus. These are the destructive forces that have left the interest of the vast majority of the urban landscape unimpressed, disinterested, and turned off to the white man's religion.

Assessing the Damage

You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” (Nehemiah 1:7)

The Leaven of White Supremacy

America’s inner cities in the twentieth century were wrested with urban decay and hopelessness. The landscape, the ways of being, and the socioeconomic obstacles in the cities would have been a constant reminder that those who inhabited them were forgotten and inconsequential. This message has continued to resound in urban areas as issues like gentrification and police brutality test the hearts of inner-city youth and urban inhabitants. The evils of racism and oppression continue to thrust members of the community into finding alternative sources of religious meaning, ethical behavior, and religious organization. To recover the good news of the Gospel, we must examine the ways systemic racism has affected the apprehension of truth, the organization of religious life, and the development of ethical standards.

Slavery and Segregation

In her research on the connections between slavery and Christianity, Katharine Gerbner postulates that protestant supremacy5(6) preceded white supremacy in the Caribbean islands and the United States. For protestant planters,

5 Religion was fundamental to the development of both slavery and race in the Protestant Atlantic world. Slave owners in the Caribbean and elsewhere established governments and legal codes based on an ideology of “Protestant Supremacy,” which excluded the majority of enslaved men and women from Christian communities. For slaveholders, Christianity was a sign of freedom, and most believed that slaves should not be eligible for conversion. Over time, missionaries increasingly used the language of race to support their arguments for slave conversion. Enslaved Christians, meanwhile, developed an alternate vision of Protestantism that linked religious conversion to literacy and freedom.

6 Gerbner, Katharine. “Christian Slavery.” Katharine Gerbner, 2018.

freedom was tethered to whiteness, and whiteness was tied to Christianity. This belief led to the initial anti-conversion sentiment of the 17th and early 18th centuries. In fact, according to Gerbner, the association between Protestantism and freedom was so strong that most slave owners came to dismiss the idea that their slaves were even eligible for conversion.7 Protestant supremacy evolved into white supremacy, and the shift from religious to racial terminology prohibited the extraction of that poison from the evangelical, mainline, and Catholic movements that would follow. Eventually, missionaries convinced planters that slaves deserved the opportunity to be converted to Christianity and, in so doing, would become more docile and diligent workers. Christianity would remain inextricably bound to whiteness, slave ownership, land ownership and citizenship until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Chattel slavery in the Americas was the byproduct of a theology based on whiteness. Southern landowners were able to justify their actions by misappropriating the scriptures for their own sinister gain. The wicked institution of slavery codified race and concretized racist attitudes of white dominance. Christianity's collusion with it made it impossible for Black s to see Christianity as anything other than an oppressive and dehumanizing ideology. After the abolition of slavery, white institutional racism persisted, as did the belief in Black inferiority. White dominant attitudes switched from manifesting in the institutions of slavery to the political and economic powerlessness of legalized segregation. In fact, the white Protestant church, was among the first groups to segregate after the Civil

7 Katharine Gerbner, Christian Slavery Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 2.

War, and in this way, it paved the way for the capitulation to racism at the turn of the century. 8 Segregation led to the establishment of independent Black churches, but in many ways, these churches encouraged Black parishioners to accommodate and accept a subordinate status in white society. Otherwise known as maneuvering respectability politics. To promote accommodation, Black preachers, encouraged members to take on an otherworldly orientation, telling them that things would get better in the by and by. E. Franklin Frazier, in his work, The Negro Church in America, describes the plight of Black clergy:

The freedom of the Negro preacher was circumscribed by the fact that members of his congregation were in debt to whites or dependent upon whites for their jobs, and the very land on which the church stood was often the property of whites. The preacher was usually easily controlled, but if other means failed, he could be threatened with violence.9

Although the Black church served as a refuge during a hostile time, it was simultaneously exploited as an extension of white control and dominance.

Complicity in Socio-Economic Disparity

Over time, new and more subtle forms of racism emerged in the United States, especially in urban areas. Emancipation, Industrialization, and War created opportunities for newly freed Black s to migrate north and west. They would come to learn through the effects of white flight, redlining, and ghettoization that they'd traded in the chains of chattel slavery to being reduced to economic and political chattel. Harold Barron writes,

The ghetto provides the base for segregated schools. The inferior education in ghettos schools handicaps the negro in the labor market. Employment

8 David W. Reimers, White Protestantism and the Negro (New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 1965), 25. 9 Edward F. Frazier, The Negro Church in America (New York, NY : Shocken Books, 1963), 44-45.

discrimination causes low wages and frequent unemployment. Low incomes limit the market choices of negro families in housing. Lack of education, low level occupations, and exclusion from home ownership or control of large enterprises inhibit the development of political power. The lack of political power prevents Black people from changing basic housing, planning, and educational programs. Each sector strengthens the racial subordination in the rest of the urban institutions. 10

While these communities allowed Black s to develop a new sense of community based on their physical proximity, the damage of centuries of trauma and dehumanization had already been done. It would begin to manifest itself in the form of the underground economy, alcoholism, and addiction, Black flight, and broken homes. The White Church during this time was unwilling and unable to reckon with the in-migration of Black s and their needs. At best, they were silent and complicit; at worst, their congregations withdrew with the first threat of Negro invasion. 11

The White Church during this time was unwilling and unable to reckon with the in-migration of Black s and their needs. At best, they were silent and complicit; at worst, their congregations withdrew with the first threat of negro invasion the church's impotence amid the destruction of the Black community added to the distrust and disillusionment of Black Americans.

War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration

In addition, Black church leaders found themselves seeking to change their communities' streets, but the souls of the youth were left untouched, and thus their effectiveness dwindled over time. The presidency of Ronald Reagan marked the

10 Owen Blank et al., “The Web of Urban Racism,” in Institutional Racism in America (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970), pp. 142-143. 11 Gibson Winter, The Suburban Captivity of the Churches: an Analysis of Protestant Responsibility in the Expanding Metropolis (New York, NY : Macmillan, 1966), 50.

start of a long period of skyrocketing rates of incarceration, largely thanks to his unprecedented expansion of the “War on Drugs” started by Richard Nixon in 1971. Public concern about illicit drug use continued to increase throughout the 1980s, largely due to media portrayals of mostly Black people addicted to the smokable form of cocaine dubbed "crack." These individuals were termed "super predators," and a furious amount of legislation related to crime and law and order took place during that period. These laws resulted in stop and frisk laws, three-strikes laws, and mandatory minimums.

While no one questioned how the drugs came into the neighborhoods, the War on Drugs culminated in a school-to-prison pipeline and evolved into what Michelle Alexander refers to as the New Jim Crow. In her book, Alexander paints a grim picture of how the United States' criminal justice system has functioned as an agent of contemporary discrimination.

Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you are labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a Black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”12

Alexander’s assertions are undergirded by the 1994 confession of a top Nixon aide named John Ehrlichman,

You want to know what this was really all about. The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black , but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Black s with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and

12 Michelle Alexander, “The New Jim Crow,” in The New Jim Crow (New York, NY : New Press, 2012), pp. 2-3.

vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.13

Both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan had presidencies embroiled in scandal, and both presidents had the overwhelming support of white American Christians. These factors created a faulty foundation that could not keep belief, hope and trust in Christianity from crumbling under the weight of the dead Black bodies like those of Elijah McClaine, Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor, and George Floyd bodies which seem to incessantly pile up with little to no accountability.

In the wake of these destructive realities and the absence of a robust epistemology that speaks to the Black community’s dignity, plight, and purpose, Black religions have emerged to fill the empty space. The Christianity Black youth and young adults have been exposed to, even in their own churches, was unwilling and incapable of providing socio-economic justice, equity, or positive selfassessment.

In an ethnographic study of cult formation in the urban north at the turn of the twentieth century, anthropologist Arthur Fauset identifies important factors that seemed to attract individuals to the new Black gods. He lists: 1) spiritual hunger, 2) dissatisfaction with Christianity and orthodoxy, 3) mental relief, 4) racial and nationalistic urges, and 5) desire for instruction,14. These descriptors are not dissimilar to Barton's assertions on the formation of new faithfulness, truth and praxis in the Exilic period.

13 Harpers, Harpers, n.d.

14 Arthur Huff Fauset, Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1945), 121.

New leaders like Noble Drew Ali and Elijah Muhammad spoke powerfully to the community's core cultural concerns. The various spin-offs of Moorish Science Temple and the Nation of Islam religions would attempt to correct the absence of a positive self-image by elevating Black ness to a level of divinity. Black Christian cults provided practical, pragmatic solutions for the neighborhood. In these arenas, American Christianity had been weighed and found wanting. New religions based in urban areas preached messages about love, truth, peace, freedom, and justice. Noble Drew Ali in fact, would go so far as to say that these must be proclaimed and practiced by all citizens of Moorish America.15 Elijah Muhammed would directly target Christianity as the cause of the continued oppression and stifled mobility in the Black community. For Muhammad, the Black man in America, as well as the Black man abroad, had never been able to provide good leadership for himself under Christianity, because “Christianity is not the true religion of God."16 At the core of each of these Black religions were a rejection of white Jesus, a distrust in the Bible, a desire for justice, and a longing for a gospel with immanent social implications.

The daily experiences of micro-aggression, micro-invalidations, and microinsults send messages to Black Americans that go beyond character judgments. These experiences have an ontological impact. These are the very issues that drove author and poet James Baldwin to declare that “to be Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time”.17 The treatment and subconscious assumptions about Black ness over centuries of overt and covert racism have permeated much of the church. White evangelicals have consistently taken a posture of color blindness and indifference in the face of global outcries

15 Drew Ali, Official Proclamation of Real Moorish American Nationality: Our Status and Jurisdiction as Citizens of the U.S.A (Place of publication not identified: Califa Media, 2018). 16 Elijah Muhammad, “On Crime,” in Message to the Black man in America (Chicago, , IL: The Final Call Inc., 2012), pp. 109-138. 17 James Baldwin et al., “The Negro in American Culture,” Cross Currents 11, no. 3 (1961),

against police brutality and the rise of white nationalism. Due largely to the overwhelming support of Donald Trump by evangelicals during the 2016 U.S. Election, the Barna Group conducted a study called Black Lives Matter and Racial Tension in America. The research showed that the church is a large part of the problem with regard to conciliation efforts in our country. According to Brooke Hemphill, Vice President of research at Barna Group, “if you are white, evangelical, republican, you are less likely to think race is a problem but more likely to think you are a victim of reverse racism. You are also less convinced that people of color are socially disadvantaged.”18 Hemphill continues, “More than any other segment of the population, White Evangelical Christians demonstrate a blindness to the struggle of their African American brothers and sisters.”19 Robert P. Jones echoes these sentiments in his fantastic work, White Too Long, American Christianity’s theological core has been thoroughly structured by an interest in protecting white supremacy. While it may seem obvious to mainstream white Christians today that slavery, segregation, and overt declarations of white supremacy are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, such a conviction is, in fact, recent and only partially conscious for most white American Christians and churches. The unsettling truth is that, for nearly all of American history, the Jesus conjured by most white congregations was not merely indifferent to the status quo of racial inequality; he demanded its defense and preservation as part of the natural, divinely ordained order of things.20

The Task Before Us

Then they said, "Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work. (Nehemiah 2:18)

18 Megan

19 Ibid

20 Robert

Hemphill, “What the Research Means,” in Black Lives Matter and Racial Tension in America (Nashville, TN: Barna Group, 2016), p. 11. P. Jones, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity (New York, NY: SIMON SCHUSTER, 2020), 6. Kindle Edition.

Today’s ministry practioners, like Nehemiah in his day do well to shift questions from what to why. This is the purpose of the Babylon exile in Israel’s history. The knowledge and the revelation of God they possessed was not enough to withstand the contemporary landscape and pressure. YHWH sent the prophets to guide and to make sense of what was happening, but it ultimately boiled down to a need for reformation. In her book The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle argues that Christianity is currently undergoing a massive upheaval as part of a regular pattern that occurs every 500 years, in which old ideas are rejected and new ones emerge. These new ideas are the basis for a recapitulated expression of faith.

The Black religions that have emerged filled gaps that the previous theological explanations inadvertently created. At the time, God raised up prophets of truth from outside the Christian Church tradition to challenge the current expression of faith.

As in Nehemiah's day, the arduous work of rebuilding the ruins of Christianity's relevance and splendor stands before the people of God today. As in that day foundational acts of truth telling, and repentance are paramount to the process.

Toward Recapitulation

There are several theological terms ministry practitioners will encounter regarding Black youth and young adults, however the most appropriate phrase derives from music composition theory, rather than theological ideas.

Recapitulation is a crucial component of Sonata form in Classical music and is one of the most brilliant ways to develop a musical argument. One of the more

notable examples where this form is salient and conspicuous is in Mozart’s Piano

Sonata No. 16 in C. Sonata form can be divided into three main parts: First, the exposition, which presents or exposes all the main themes, musical materials, and seed notes. The exposition is typically made up of two groups with contrasting keys, themes, moods, or ideas. The development aspect of Sonata form follows the exposition and continues to develop the material that was introduced. The development portion of the Sonata is deliberately more discursive and looser in structure and will often interchange many keys throughout. Last is recapitulation which enthusiastically summarizes the exposition, but with a significant twist. The point of this is to recap the two groups of the exposition, before bringing us to the last portion, the recapitulation.

The conflict that was set up in the exposition is resolved in the recapitulation with distinctive, dissimilar notes that communicate the same original idea. Composer soften use the recapitulation portion of a piece as an excuse to do something remarkable and unexpected. In other words, recapitulation is a kind of retelling of the original idea it in a slightly different way. Composers are musicians but they are also architects, thus Nehemiah’s rebuilding project played a crucial role in one the most significant recapitulations brining all of humanity to the teleological Coda21 of Redemption.

A Pedogeological framework for recapitulation that honors Christ as well as Black youth and young adults must contain the following:

Change the Literature

For Black youth and young adults to feel tethered to and invited into this grand composition, they need to see themselves as a part of Christian history in ways that predate colonialism. Otherwise, the pejorative of a white

21 in musical composition, a Coda is the concluding section (typically at the end of a sonata movement).

man’s religion will never become dislodged. There must be a recovery of ancient texts that affirm the impact of Christianity and adherence to orthodoxy in non-western contexts such as the Hymns of St. Ephrem. Was a prominent Christian theologian and writer from Edessa. He is revered as one of the most notable hymnographers of Eastern Christianity in the fourth century, He, and others like him were deemed heretics because their writings did not adhere to the hypostatic union. Bringing attention to the next framework, language.

. Change the Language

Continuing to refer to St. Ephrem as an example one must consider the monophysitism controversy. Years after his passing, St. Ephrem's Christology was brought into question. The Council of Chalcedon convened in 451, to bring clarity concerning the true nature of Christ, the outcome of the council was that Christ was indeed fully God and fully man. However. The idea of Jesus being confessed in two natures was an idea that was conceptually foreign to the Syriac culture. Based on the conception in the east of essence and nature, there cannot be a separation of natures. A close reading of Ephrem’s hymn on the Virgin birth makes it clear that he believed Jesus was fully God and fully man, he did not have the language of the west and thus he was labeled heretical. This is key when thinking about engaging Black youth and young adults because there is a string aversion to white evangelical terms and conceptualizations.

Revive the Liturgy

The recent upsurge in African spirituality, Santeria and Voodoo comes from both a rejection of whiteness and colonialism and a desire to participate in the scared. Another aspect of what was lost in the Great Schisms and the Protestant Reformation was the corporeal participation in the mysterious, a palpable connection with the transcendent, and a sense of agency related to manifesting reality and good in the world. Introducing rosary, eucharist, sacraments, relics and icons as vital and viable aspects of Christianity will be a refreshing idea to those who are seeking ritual outside of Christianity.

Give them License:

Unhelpful binaries and false dichotomies have caused many Black youth and young adults to live bifurcated lives, because they have the wrong conceptions of sacred and secular. Holiness is mostly about posture, not proximity. It’s about what motivates a person, and what they value. Otherwise, the incarnate God would have had a hard time completing an earthly ministry to religious bigots, common criminals and all manner of what society had deemed degenerate. If all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus? If Through Jesus all things were made, and without Jesus nothing was made that has been made? If from Jesus and through Jesus and to Jesus are all things, what is left to dismiss? Giving Black youth and young adults license to live and learn teaches them wisdom. Wisdom that those in their lives possess, setting the stage for the next framework, leadership.

Rethink our Leadership

Shepherds lead White theological evangelism and discipleship models start with an assumption, because white theology starts with an assumption. The assumption of the white theological model for discipleship is, a person does not know God at all, and it is the job of the minister to make the introduction. Thus, Churches hold events, where people say prayers, that result in them stopping the bad things they are doing and seeking to do good. Recapitulated leadership model assumes and expects mutual conversion. It is fueled by cultural exegesis and what I am calling antiphonal apologetics. Antiphonal apologetics responds to where God is already speaking and moving in the life of an individual. This type of leadership celebrates the ideas and conclusion of the young person and shows them how it has already been written. This revives an astonishment with the timeless nature of Scripture and makes that individual feel “seen” by God.

Make Space for Lament

Black youth and young adults need to know it’s okay to not be okay. The recent release of DONDA, Kanye West’s latest album demonstrates the desperate need in this generation to express pain, loneliness, anger, and fear. There are issues that come with adolescence that are universal to all, but for those in the Black community these issues are compounded by the fact of being Black in a racialized society. Any framework of discipleship has to not only make space for but await and encourage lament related to these issues. unless an evangelical unless an evangelical institution infuses their evangelism and discipleship model with some degree of recognition or anticipation of the stages of racial identity development, their retention of Black youth will assuredly continue to subside. A ministry that ignores this reality loses both credibility and authenticity (the most important components of effective discipleship) because of its failure to speak into the deep concerns of Black youth and young adults.

Let Legacy Lead the Conversation

Today’s Black youth and young adults are not as concerned about the lake of fire as they are about land ownership. The desire for legacy ostensibly speaks toa desire for eternality, but these concepts can be discussed in conjunction with practical help and advice about generational wealth and leaving things to their children. As it stands an overemphasis on the heavenly trajectory was in many ways born of a dualistic hermeneutical lens that allows for the oppression of the Black body as something irrelevant to an eternal soul.

Conclusion: A New Song

17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. (Neh. 8:17)

As ministry practioners we must be willing to employ postmodern, post soul apologetic approaches to fill the gap between faith and the reality of being Black in America. We must be open to retiring old discipleship modes and methods.22 We must develop and espouse new terminology that disarms the typical resistance to Christianity. We must develop a hermeneutic that celebrates the significance of ethnic identity and leads to the Black community's forward mobility and resilience. We must develop pedagogical frameworks that are holistic, sensitive to trauma, and biblically sound. We must be willing to construct a haymanot23 that is innovative, evocative, and speaks to the contemporary issues of our day.

The task before us looms large, but it is not impossible. The process will be difficult, but the purpose of liberation from a biblical perspective is always worship. As ministry leaders we functions as composers and architects who partner with God to do a new things that is just a retelling of the first thing: God liberates people so that they can worship. Nehemiah knew this full well and we look to this story to give strength for the work in front of us.

23 Haymanot: Ge’ez word meaning “faith,” “belief” and “religion.” As an adjective ("faithful" or "theological") the form is haymanotawi. Ge’ez is the ancient imperial language of various Ethiopian kingdoms and is the current liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Courtesy of (Meachum School of Haymanot)

Alexander, Michelle. “Introduction.” Introduction. In The New Jim Crow, 2–3. New York, NY : New Press, 2012.

Ali, Drew. Official Proclamation of Real Moorish American Nationality: Our Status and Jurisdiction as Citizens of the U.S.A. Place of publication not identified: Califa Media, 2018.

Baldwin, James, Emile Capouya, Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, Nat Hentoff, and Alfred Kazin. “The Negro in American Culture.” Cross Currents, Summer 1961, 11, no. 3 (1961).

Barton, George A. “Influence of the Babylonian Exile on the Religion of Israel.” The Biblical World 37, no. 6 (1911): 369–78.

Baum, Dan, and John Ehrlicman. Legalize it All. Other. Harpers April, no. 2016, n.d.

Berlin, Adele, and Marc Zvi Brettler. The Jewish Study Bible: Torah, Nevi'im, Kethuvim. New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2014.

Blank, Owen, Louis L. Knowles, Kenneth Prewitt, and Harold Baron. “The Web of Urban Racism.” Essay. In Institutional Racism in America, 142–43. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1970.

“Faith and Religion among Black Americans.” Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, March 25, 2021. -americans/.

Fauset, Arthur Huff. Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1945.

Frazier, Edward F. The Negro Church in America. New York, NY : Shocken Books, 1963.

Gerbner, Katharine. Christian Slavery Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.

Gerbner, Katharine. “Christian Slavery.” Katharine Gerbner, 2018.


Jones, Robert P. White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. New York, NY: SIMON SCHUSTER, 2020.

Muhammad, Elijah. “On Crime.” Essay. In Message to the Black man in America, 109–38. Chicago, , IL: The Final Call Inc., 2012.

“Nehemiah 1:3.” Essay. In The Holy Bible ESV: English Standard Version: Containing the Old and New Testaments. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007.

Reimers, David W. White Protestantism and the Negro. New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 1965.

Solomon, Akiba, and Kenrya Rankin. “God Is Good All The Time.” Essay. In How We Fight White Supremacy: a Field Guide to Black Resistance, 109–38. New York,, NY : Bold Type Books, 2019.

TICKLE, PHYLLIS. Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters. S.l.: BAKER BOOK HOUSE, 2021.

West, Cornel. Race Matters. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018.

Winter, Gibson. The Suburban Captivity of the Churches: an Analysis of Protestant Responsibility in the Expanding Metropolis. New York, NY : Macmillan, 1966.

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