Jennings, Willie James. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2010.

Author – Willie Jennings

Three major movements of the book:

  1. Displacement – Zurara and Acosta. Christianity became synonymous with an evaluative scale of whiteness. Land and place became an interior concept, bound up in racial identity, and colonized in the hegemony of European culture onto the indigenes.
  2. Translation – Colenso proposed contexutalization and universalism. However, the universal ideal was framed within the western imagination and perpetuated the racialization and colonization of European culture. Christian = European
  3. Intimacy – Jennings calls for a joining between cultures through the particularity of the resurrected Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel, not the universalized idealogical Israel.

These are his summarizing points:

  •  Rather than a way of life that illumines the God of Israel as the reality between land and peoples, colonialism established ways of life that drove an abiding wedge between the land and peoples.
  • Rather than a vision of a Creator arising through the hearing of Israel’s story bound to Jesus who enables peoples to discern the ways their cultural practices and stories both echo and contradict the divine claim on their lives, the vision born of colonialism articulated a Creator bent on eradicating peoples’ ways of life and turning the creation into private property.
  • Rather than the possibility of new identity rooted in the resurrected Son of God, an identity that draws definition from our cultural realities yet is determined by a new reality of love and belonging, colonialist new identity meant unrelenting assimilation and the endfolding of lives and cultrual practices inside processes of commodification.
  • Rather than a process of transformation that involves the enfolding of peoples and their ways of life inside one another through communion with the triune God, the goal being a social performance that announces a way of peace and love in a visibly boundary-transgressing kinship network we have been transformed into racial identities. Our racial identities enfold imagined connections to land inside our individual bodies and construct racialized boundaries and racialized kinship. Our interactions with one another and the land weave through these racial patterns of displacement profoundly and announce social performances guided by a racial imagination.
  • Rather than a vision of new life in Jesus Christ as the emergence of a new space of communion in Israel for the sake of all peoples and the reconfiguration of their social imaginations, we received a vision informed by colonialist logic of new life in Jesus Christ being wholly consumed in the social imaginations of nations. Christianity then comes to belong to peoples and is not tied in any meaningful way to Israel. Such Christian vision is also devoid of its spatial and geographic dimensions.
  • Rather than a pattern of discipleship that moves forward from the trajectory of Pentecost, that is, of entering into the lives of others in submission and tutelage–learning their language–for the prupose of binding lives together, our interactions with peoples are informed through segregationalist mentalities. In addition, our interactions with land are guided by capitalist networks of exchange. These networks enfold all peoples within the binary logic of global production and consumption, the goal being that logic’s endless repetition.
  • Rather than the emergence of spaces of communion that announce the healing of the nations through the story of Israel bound up in Jesus, spaces situated anywhere and everywhere the disciples of Jesus live together, we are now the inheritors and perpetrators of a global process of spatial commodification and social fragmentation. These processes are performed within the class and economic calulations of global real estate. They force local communities to reflect global networks of exchange in regard to private property that echo colonialism’s racial hierarchies and divisions. (292-293)

A lecture Jennings gave at Luther about this book

This is my attempt to visualize Jennings’ argument…

Some Helpful Context

Dr. Simpson gave a wonderful lecture on Aristotle so that we could better understand Jennings arguments.

I think this has deep implications for Suburban Spirituality. The suburbs are predominantly comprised of those “higher” on the “actualized” scale and embedded with White, European, Aristotelian, Colonializing imaginations that are blind to the complicity inherent within the status quo of our current Christian praxis. I’ll definitely need to process this more intensely.

Here’s my sketch from Gary’s lecture.

lecture notes from Gary Simpson’s lecture on Aristotle and Jennings

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