In the recent decade since September 11th, 2001, there has been a surge of Christians in the church, the academy, and online the have taken up the label of “AnaBaptist.” For many evangelicals, this moniker is a symbol to separate themselves from their parents’ version of Christianity. The history of the Radical Reformation is an immense departure from the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. It is one of beheadings, persecution, tears, exiles, and furious debates. The sufferings of the early Anabaptists as well as the past and present oppression faced by African Americans (and persons of color) are bound up in the history of The Cross. Given the fact that the historic struggle against White Supremacist Constantinian Christendom is something that Anabaptist theologians and Black Liberationists have in common, one would think that these would be natural allies. Unfortunately, this is has not been the case.
In fact, the opposite has been true. In texts and online, many white emergent church leaders who self-identify as Anabaptist dismiss liberation theology as “inherently violent.” When pushed further, as I have on occasion, these leaders share documents from written by Joseph Ratzinger, when he served as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. What is excluded from the discussion was any mention of the imperial violence that Liberation theologians and their communities experienced, particularly by way of the U.S. American military. On the other end of the spectrum, because of the supremacist narratives guiding the contemporary appropriation of Anabaptist theology, Black liberationists have dismissed nonviolence as a theology and an ethic because of the consistent failure of Anabaptist missional leaders to remember the suffering of the colonized appropriately.
In this series for next, I hope to articulate my view about how the values of the Radical Reformation and Black Liberationist theology are reconcilable, and more importantly, why both traditions need each other. This would include an inclusive vision of what it means to participate in the Radical Reformation across racial, class, and denominational lines, without dropping any of the Anabaptist Distinctives that Tyler Tully identified: A) A Jesus Centered Lens in reading all of Scripture; B) A Confessing, Free Church of Baptized Jesus Followers, and C) Living Out Moral Agency as Participants in the Triune God’s Shalom, or as Tyler put it best the non-violent lifestyle that means “Shalom is more than the absence of conflict (Pax Christi), it is the peace that surpasses all understanding and the project of the Holy Spirit as God’s Reign fosters wholeness through reconciling the hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity, age, sex, gender, sexuality, and ableism.”
I shall examine each of these three Anabaptist Distinctives as they relate to Black Liberation theology. One may say that this series is an AnaBlacktivist Manifesto, with basic distinctives for #AnaBlacktivism.
This is the first part of 4 for my contribution to the MennoNerds Synchroblog : MennoNerds on Anabaptist Convictions. “As MennoNerds, we all have found certain distinctives of Anabaptism to be central in our expression of faith. This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog in the month of May on Anabaptism. For the list of distinctives go here. For the list of articles, go here