‘They know not what they do’: James Baldwin and the crime of innocence

Jesus says of his crucifiers ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34)... I’ve been helped to read these words by the writer James Baldwin. In his book ‘The Fire Next Time’ (1963) Baldwin offers an important perspective on the crime of ignorance, the crime of not knowing what we are doing.

Book Review: ‘The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race’ by Willie James Jennings.

The community formed by and around Christ should be one of strangers brought into intimate communion, a new kind of family. But what has happened to this original vision of the Church?... The Church has moved from being a community of intimacy to a community of strangers, strangers who don’t even recognise one other as fellow Christians. In his book ‘The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race’, Willie James Jennings describes the roots of this ‘distorted relational imagination’.

What does ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ say about sin and evil?

In ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’ (Qf&p), the ‘book of discipline’ of Quakers in Britain, there is no chapter dedicated to sin or evil. Quakers are not known for their sin-talk. Early Quakers would accuse the Calvinists of ‘preaching up sin’. In Qf&p, there are Edgar B Castle’s words that ‘to contemplate evil is a poor way of becoming good’ (26.69). However, Qf&p does have quite a bit to say about sin and evil, and I’ve put this summary together as part of my work on Quakers and racism.

Institutional Racism and Quakers

If we are going to foster a Quaker culture that can name racism and discrimination, and move quickly to the defence of the victim, we have to rethink our understanding of sin. White Quakers like me have to acknowledge that, however good our intentions, we will ‘naturally’ perpetuate institutional racism. We will do this unconsciously, but we are still responsible for the damage we do. Our ability to act in a non-racist way has been perverted. Without our choosing, we are sinners.

James Cone’s ‘A Black Theology of Liberation’ and white liberal Quakerism

Every now and again I encounter a book that gives me such a jolt it demands to be talked about. I've just finished James Cone's 'A Black Theology of Liberation', first published in 1970, and it has stirred me up. I found it both exciting and disturbing, and I need to process what I've read.… Continue reading James Cone’s ‘A Black Theology of Liberation’ and white liberal Quakerism

Setting aside white guilt

In my work around issues of race and whiteness with Quakers, it’s not uncommon to hear white people express an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Learning about whiteness – discovering your nation’s history of colonialism, realising how you’ve benefitted from the  privileges of whiteness , remembering the times you didn’t challenge a racist comment, facing your… Continue reading Setting aside white guilt