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Why White Christians Should Listen to Black Christians

A Theology of Suffering

Dr. Carl Ellis Jr. has eloquently summarized the thoughts above in his explication of the African American “theology of suffering.” In another post on RAAN he says, “The southern theology of suffering addressed the need for salvation by grace through faith. The church was seen as the ‘ark of safety’—a place for slaves to get away from the suffering that so dominated their lives. That is why, in the historic African American church, personal salvation also had community implications. This view is very similar to the way the Israelites looked at salvation in the Old Testament (Exodus 14:13 NIV).”

Herein is the heart of what many White Christians can learn from Black Christians, especially those from the South. Despite generations of oppression, Black Christians have learned how to hold on to hope and joy in the midst of suffering. Moreover, we have learned to rely on each other in a sense of solidarity and community that supplies strength during the struggle.

None of these thoughts intend to give the impression that White Christians have never suffered. But African-American Christians have learned Christianity in the crucible of injustice and have many resources to survive in spite of it. Although theology needs to be continually done in order to address new questions and contexts, let us not neglect the hard-won wisdom African Americans have developed through suffering.  

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Jemar is the President and Co-Founder of the Reformed African American Network (RAAN) where he blogs about theology, race, and culture. He also helped start the African American Leadership Initiative (AALI), a program at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi to help recruit Black students as well as train Christians of any race for cross-cultural ministry. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame and is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree. Jemar serves as a pastoral ministry intern with Redeemer Church, PCA where he guides their small group ministry. His wife is Janee’ and they have one son, Jack.