Dr. Serene Jones, President Of Union Theological Seminary, in discussing the historic Christian belief in the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ, has chosen unwisely to refer to these beliefs as "bizarre." Dr. Jones' reasoning leaves a lot to be desired, and frankly is surprising to me as an ordained Pentecostal minister who has taught at Union, and whose ministry has received support from her during her leadership at the seminary. Once more, the position she has taken says a great deal more about her own viewpoint than it does about historic Christian belief in the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ.
First, it seems her claims reflect the attitude of the white Eurocentric mindset that has shaped both church and society, particularly in defining what is normative and authoritative. It is interesting and fascinating to me that both the white progressive or liberal church and its theologians and the white evangelical movement and its theologians demonstrate a colonial attitude when it comes to their various pet doctrines and claims in the name of the Christian church.
Dr. Jones is quite certain that Christianity, among other religions, is in some kind of crisis. She says she senses something "apocalyptic" in the state of Christianity. However, this is not the experience of Christians of color, who often live in a context of crisis, but who find in the Christian faith and its teachings a source of encouragement and hope. The ever growing number of Christians of color in the United States and the Global South simply do not feel it is necessary to deny the virgin birth or the resurrection as does Dr. Jones, nor do we think them as "bizarre."
From the beginning, Christianity has always been a religion of mystery, but the "messiness" of the resurrection narratives is not the problem. In fact, they show authenticity, just as they explain the dynamic growth and expansion of the church based on the claim that Christ had risen from the dead. Christians of color have always had the ability to "reconceptualize" and "recontextualize" the Christian faith in keeping with the gospel. Despite slavery, colonization, and genocide, we have never felt it necessary to deny the core beliefs of Christianity, while Eurocentric theologians in a context of privilege curiously have been too quick to dismiss the gospel story as "bizarre."
Perhaps, if any group is in crisis, it is the Eurocentric church, whether progressive or evangelical, both of which have set themselves up as the norm for communicating Christianity. Christians of color have observed this tendency, particularly as it continues to dominate our theological discourse. Although she has good intentions, Dr. Jones speaks for her Eurocentric progressive tradition, but not for millions of Christians of color in the United States and throughout the world. To the contrary, we find it "bizarre" that in seeking to reform the Christian church, a theologian would choose to uproot its core beliefs.
In peace and freedom,
Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera
Latino Pastoral Action Center/Sanctuary Church
14 West 170th Street
Bronx, N.Y. 10452
Phone: (718) 681-2361
Fax: (718) 681-2360