Continuing our series in the ways that World Vision has gone woke, we bring you Session Eight of their May We Be One social justice curriculum, which is taught to tens of thousands of people and pastors and moderated by Dr. Soong-Chan Rah and Rev. Sandra Maria Van Opstal.
In this segment, Dr. Efrem Smith, the Co-lead Pastor of Bayside Church Midtown in Sacramento, lauds Liberation Theology as being highly transformation in his own life. This is no surprise, as last year he tweeted out that this damnable heresy is a gift to the entire church.
For those who have been doing discernment and polemic work for a long time, you may also remember Dr. Efrem Smith attacking Voddie Baucham, saying that he was a racist and that his internalized racism is black-on-black violence when he addressed the Ferguson riots in 2014.
During his World Vision segment, he shares how Black Liberation Theology is a great tool for having a proper understanding of justice and gospel evangelism:
That’s why I’m so glad that today we are exploring the Latinx, the Hispanic, the brown story and experience. As an African American Christian who grew up in the black church, and who also in seminary was invaded in a transformative way by Black Liberation Theology, I soon learned that the liberation theology, the reconciliation and justice theology within the black church, has intersections with the church of Latin America. Slave ships didn’t just hit what we know as the United States.
And so there is a deep historic connection between the black story and the brown story. And so I learned from the liberation theology of Central and South America, more about the biblical journey, that the gospel is encompassing of evangelism, discipleship, of course, and justice. Empowerment to the most vulnerable among us. Resisting, not just sin housed in the soul, but systemic sin. And so I’m so blessed as a black Christian male to have the insights, the theology, the liberation of my brown brothers and sisters impacting me, even to this day.
Another one of the panelists is Kat Armas, who has taught extensively on “the brown church” through her podcast and books. She writes for progressive publications like Sojourners and Relevant Magazine and tells the audience that the colonizers, which is the dominant culture in America today, still continue to perpetuate the myth that persons of color are colonized and are viewed as chaotic, irrational, and evil.
So why do we even need an ‘Abuelita (affectionate name for grandmother) theology?’ What gifts does it offer the Latina church? Well, the dominating culture has othered many of our Abuelitas because of the language or the dialect they speak, their accent, the pigmentation of their skin, their cultural customs, their lack of Western education, as I mentioned, their socio-economic status and/ or their gender, right?
And so while the self, the colonizer is ordered and rational and masculine and good, the other, the colonized is chaotic and irrational and feminine and evil. And we see this in how indigenous and native folks were regarded as “savage” or inherently evil and carnal compared to the white European colonizers when they first arrived to the so-called New World.
And the current dominating culture may not say this with its words or it may not be, you know, “the intention,” but what is presented as normal or common in our current culture oftentimes perpetuates this myth.
You know, for example, we see that theology done by black and brown or Asian or indigenous folks is often relegated to a lecture in a theology course, right? Contextual theology in many ways. But throughout history, the colonizer has been the one to know or theorize while the colonized can only be known or theorized about.
Therefore, when we talk about a decolonizing or decolonial or post-colonial look, we are advocating thinking with the marginalized, a thinking with our Abuelitas, rather than a thinking about them.
Bonus. Another of the panelists for this session, Robert Chao Romero, founded an organization that teaches “Jesus died not only for our personal sins, but also for the structural and systemic sins of our society which perpetuate poverty, racism, sexism, classism, and injustice of every kind (Romans 13: 8-10).”
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