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“A community that does not analyze its existence theologically is a community that does not care what it says or does. It is a community with no identity.”
Dr. James Cone
Traditionally, black churches have emphasized spiritual renewal, social justice, educational uplift, community improvement and civic engagement in addition to individual achievement. The fact that the church was the locus for community and personal advancement was what made it such a powerful force for hope and survival. Leaders like the late Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, Effective Black churches emphasized religious and secular education as keys to economic progress for Black people . Strong church institutions, not fabulously wealthy individuals were the foundations for social and civil change in America, initiating the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Since slavery, the black church has served as a primary place for moral and social formation in the black community. The black church provided a refuge from suffering and a place to hear the hope of God’s plan to redeem all things because of what was finalized at the cross.
Teaching that desire for more material possessions is a sign of one's religious piety is simply offering a justification for crass consumerism. Prosperity theology elevates greed to a virtue instead of leaving it as one of the seven deadly sins.
June 23rd on OUR COMMON GROUND we explore the theologically poisonous tentacles which have found their way into many Black churches and is now a major force in the black expression of Christianity in America, Latin America, and Africa. How can we restore church leadership and engagement in the civic, political, social service our communities once again?
The Black Church On Fire.
About Dr. Matthew V. Johnson, Sr. PhD
Our guest, Dr. Matthew V. Johnson Sr., PhD joins us to discuss the decline of Black church engagement in the matters of Black community socio-economic, cultural and governmental affairs and the surging popularity of the Black prosperity gospel movement is Dr. Matthew V. Johnson.
Matthew V. Johnson, Sr., is a graduate of Morehouse College and earned his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Philosophical Theology from the University of Chicago. He has done post-graduate studies in Psychoanalysis and is currently a member in training at the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. In the ministry for thirty years, Dr. Johnson is the Pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd-Baptist and served as the National Executive Director of Every Church A Peace Church. Dr. Johnson lives, writes, teaches, and practices ministry in the Greater Atlanta area.
Books by Dr. Matthew Johnson
“The Tragic Vision of African American Religion”
An analysis of African American religious subjectivity suggests the tragic, understood as an ontological category, as the seminal hermeneutical lens through which one can deepen one’s understanding of the experience and its theological implications.
A hauntingly beautiful, deeply southern African American journey into the soul. The narrative is suffused with the often unnamed deeply resonant spirituality that permeated African American life during the Jim Crow era. The idiom, rhythm and poetic breadth of vision conspire to lay bear the African American soul through the Cunninham's [main character] tragic loss. The sweeping narrative conveys a depth of humanity in the African American experience often lost in preoccupations with protest and racial conflict.
“The Passion of the Lord: African American Reflections”
The book presents the biblical, historical, and theological roots of African American views. Issues include black embodiment and the reality of suffering, the forsakenness of Christ and African American experience, and the passion as reflected in black hymnody and biblical reading, and Jesus' suffering as seen in slave religion and since then.
“Onesimus Our Brother: Reading Religion, Race, and Culture in Philemon”
In “Onesimus Our Brother”, leading African American biblical scholars tease out the often unconscious assumptions about religion, race, and culture that permeate contemporary interpretation of the New Testament and of Paul in particular.