Today's column returns to my series on black theology. Last week I received an email from a friend who reminded me that some churches make identification with the suffering the primary plank of their theology and as a result beat up their parishoners with 29 lashes of guilt simply for being born white and into privilege. They manage to make working for justice the impossible endless task that evangelicals make missions and saving the lost.
My intention in this series is not to add a new burden to anyone's life (God knows I am not yet living the ideals put forth in black theology). Rather, I'm drawn to the critique that reveals a misplaced spirituality among the middle class church - our emphasis on ideas rather than practical action or even awareness that Christianity ought to be about relevance to a moment in history. It is easier to transcend history when you are not on the oppressed side of it.
As I work on my MA thesis paper, I'm conscious of how much Bonhoeffer predates any of us in his thinking. His insights are like a scalpel, cutting through churchianity and requiring us to give up our notions of "faithfulness to doctrines" for "suffering with God."
In an America where poverty is hidden from the suburbs, where the international crisis of AIDS is far off, and where mega-churches are models of successful Christianity, I think Cone and Bonhoeffer prophetically remind us that real faith has to do with involving ourselves in the sufferings of God, ergo, the sufferings of human beings.