David Justice

Postdoctoral Fellow at Baylor University

AAM 3350/THEO 3425: The Invisible Institution: African American Religion and the Rise of Black Theology

Saint Louis University (St. Louis, MO), 2020

Scholars have described the Black Church as the single most important institution in the Black community. Certainly, the Black Church has played an influential role in the religious, social, cultural, political, and economic lives of its adherents. From the slave times through Emancipation; from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Movement; from the Black Power Movement to present day, the Black Church has been that institution which has been the bedrock of social change and social progress. This course explores the religious sentiments behind the institution of the Black Church, otherwise known as African-American religion. We will critically examine the evolution of African American religion as a religious and ethical formation and performance of enslaved persons through the intellectual articulations of that practice as summarized in what we call “Black theology.” 

Further, this course examines subversive-theological and liberative hermeneutical responses that emerge from the question of Black existence and identity in American life from clandestine theological claims of rebellious slaves to the rise of liberation movements in the American 60’s, through more current events in Ferguson and Charleston. We will examine theological responses to “problem periods” within the North American context that present a theological challenge to the Image of God in Black persons. To this end, our goal in the course will be to understand the religion of the enslaved as a theological critique upon a slave holding society, which matures in the practice of Black religion as located in the Black Church experience, and finally evolves as a theological project of social and spiritual liberation. 

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