William R. Jones, author of the book Is God A White Racist? , was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Jones is currently a professor of religion and director of black studies at Florida State University. Licensed as a Baptist Preacher, he brings forward strong religious backgrounds that allow him to intimately analyze the question of his book. Jones poses two major themes in his book Is God A White Racist? ; Whether or not God is for the oppressed or the oppressor, and viewing secular humanism or humanism as a theology that will suffice for black’s religious needs today.
Jones analyzes many theologians on their standpoint and views of ethnic suffering and the role God plays in the suffering of the oppressed. Jones uses intricate vocabulary to elaborate on his disposition with the theologian’s work; Therefore making his work unclear and difficult to grasp for an individual who does not have the level of vocabulary used. Jones gives an over view analysis of divine racism in part one by reviewing individuals work such as Sartre and Camus, also using the poetry of Countee Cullen to display the grief of black men and women torn between denying the reality of God and accepting him as the real enemy.
Jones presents five propositions to define his overview of divine racism. Jones begins his overview with the work Thomas Gossett’s Rig Veda. Using the work of Gossett, Jones describes a God that is hostile to the dark skins and flat nose, which are all characteristics of blacks; Therefore, properly giving a reader of an example of divine racism. Jones presents five propositions to give an overview of divine racism. First, Jones successfully explains the system of an “in” and “out” group of mankind that God sanctioned himself. He explains the divine benevolence toward the “in” group, and divine hostility toward the “out” group.
Proposition two of Jones states that “God makes the out group suffer more than the rest of the population”. Posing that God has less affection towards the “out” group. Although this proposition was clear and understandable, it unfortunately repeated the same idea of the first proposition. Jones states that “God is responsible for the imbalance suffering of the “in” and “out” group”. Jones successfully states his meaning of this proposition, “the imbalance of suffering expresses God’s will or purpose”. God’s wrath and hostility toward the blacks Jones uses as his fourth proposition.
In addition, “the idea of racial inequality is the work and will of God” is Jones’ fifth proposition. Jones successfully breakdowns the basic concept of divine racism and what it entails. Furthermore, Jones goes on to describe the different appearances of suffering. Golgotha, a symbol of Jesus’ suffering, is one appearance of suffering Jones touches on. Jones states “this to be the love and self sacrificing of God to the salvation of mankind“. Unfortunately, Jones does not take into fact that the death of Jesus was to save all that believed he was the savior.
Therefore, not all mankind saw this as salvation or the love of God, i. e. The Jews. Jones also uses Camus’s interpretation of Golgotha, in which he also doesn’t see Calvary as the salvation of mankind as a whole. Jones “multievidentiality” of suffering standpoint is not well supported; He fails to give an adequate definition of “multievidentialy”. Also, his vocabulary made his work hard to understand from a common view. However, Jones does go on to analyze God as the sum of his act. This is an important part of Jones’ book, because this is where the concept of divine racism comes clear.
To fully understand this idea, Jones analyzes Sartre’s doctrine of man to support his thought with counter evidence. First, “a man’s character is defined by the sum of his acts”. To speak of a man as loving and caring, his past actions will have to demonstrate activities that are kind and caring. Therefore, ones individual acts past and present will determine his future and his character. In result, Jones use’s this same principle to describe Gods actions in ethnic suffering. God’s past and present acts are the suffering of the oppressed.
Therefore, one is not permitted to speak of a divine motive of character that is different from God’s actual Past and present actions. To speak of God as benevolent to blacks, Jones states that one must prove benevolent acts in the past or present of God. Jones successfully gets his view across about God’s past and presents acts on ethnic suffering. In the context of Sartre’s doctrine of man, Jones is correct. In result, the issue of God supporting the oppressor rather than the oppressed arises. And because God is on the side of the oppressor and has been for centuries, the question is God a white racist?
Is properly brought about. Although the conclusion of this principle places God on the side of the oppressor, the question why ethnic suffering comes about. This is the point were Jones moves toward a biblical view of suffering. An understanding of the biblical perspective helps to clarify the relation between suffering and divine racism. Jones states suffering as an expression of divine disfavor or deserved punishment, divine favor, and neither favor nor disfavor. At this point Jones is at the point where he must explain the points of departure between the different types of suffering.
Jones recognizes divine punishment as the consequence for man’s sin. Jones uses the example of Adam and Eve being banished from Eden, as divine punishment. Consequently, Jones fail to state that the reason Adam and Eve were banished is because their disobedience to God and how this example is relative to blacks. Jones goes on to analyze the suffering servant theme to demonstrate the relation of divine favor and suffering. Jones analysis is that suffering is not a punishment, instead suffering is a glorious and essential aspect of man’s salvation.
This theme here affirms suffering is inherent in the life of the Christian. This is the view of most black theologians, because it gives them a reason to the centuries of ethnic suffering and the lack of liberation. However, in the whole analysis Jones fails to cite passages in the bible where this concept is supported. Another face of suffering analyzed by Jones is the neither favor nor disfavor aspect. In his analysis Jones goes on to state that suffering is simply a part of being human. To be human is to suffer, regardless of one’s divine status.
This is actually important for the fact that expresses the truth that man is not the creator, but merely the creature meaning that man is not God. Also, Jones imposes suffering as God’s special method of testing man. This is where Jones fails to give adequate support on suffering. He fails to mention why God will be testing an individual and how one is to distinguish between the other forms of suffering. Furthermore, Jones goes on to state four essential features that constitute ethnic suffering. Uneven distribution, negative quality, enormity, and non-catastrophic character are all features of ethnic suffering.
Jones analyzes John Bowens observation of uneven distribution of suffering to get his point across. The problem is not the fact of suffering, but its distribution. This refers to suffering seeming to only afflict black people and no other race. In addition, Jones goes on to describe the negative quality of suffering. Negative suffering is described as a suffering without essential value for man’s salvation. This feature of suffering leads away from ones highest good and moves them further from liberation. A third feature of ethnic suffering Jones reviews is its enormity.
The factor of numbers in suffering in relation to the class. For example, the large amount of suffering blacks and the minor amount of suffering Jews today. The fact of numbers raises the issue of divine racism at the point where the level of suffering and death makes the interpretation of genocide feasible. Enormity also designates suffering unto death. Ethnic suffering reduces the life expectancy or anticipates the immediate death of the individual. The importance of that feature is that it nullifies various explanations of suffering and thereby narrows the spectrum of possible theodicy.
The final feature to be discussed by Jones is the non- catastrophic aspect. Jones explains that ethnic suffering does not strike quickly and then leave after a short period of time. Instead, it extends over a long time period. Ethnic suffering strikes farther, the son, the grandson, and the great grandson; Therefore making it Transgenerational. In result, One is to question are we being punished because of are ancestor’s sin. With his analysis and overview of what divine racism is, Jones transition in to part two. Jones performs an internal critique of black suffering and black theology in part two of his book.
Jones analyzes five major theologians and their theodicies of black suffering and black theology. First, Jones analyzes Joseph Washington and his suffering servant stance. Washington’s theodicy is to claim blacks as God’s suffering servant. He argues that the doctrine of vicarious suffering is the only biblical model that can accommodate the black experience in America. Washington states, “As a result of this suffering by a whole race of people for four centuries and placed in the perspective of the Bible, the negro cannot be understood or understand himself except as the chosen people”.
Washington portrays black’s as the suffering servant and the chosen people, resulting in the death of divine racism. However, Jones contends his argument. Jones states, “Washington’s classification of blacks as the suffering servant is a mythical hope with precious little relationship to reality”. Jones points out the failures of Washington’s argument. Washington fails to identify the requisite exaltation-liberation event, which is indispensable for the biblical model of the suffering servant. In addition, He does not refute the claim that black suffering is deserved punishment.
By failing to mention the exaltation-liberation he misses the whole point of a suffering servant. Not only must the suffering servant suffer, but he must also be vindicated. The suffering-servants suffering must be replaced by the opposite of suffering. Therefore, Washington’s explanation of the suffering-servant fell short due to his lack of mention of a exaltation-liberation event. However, Jones strays away from his previous intentions by stating that Washington may meant to regard the exaltation-liberation event to occur in the future. This saves Jones from future contradiction.
However, Jones still affirms that even if the event is in the future it doesn’t help Washington‘s claim. Contrary to Jones statement, this future much indeed does assure the suffering-servant claim. As stated previously a suffering-servant’s suffering must be replaced with the opposite of suffering. If the exaltation-liberation event is in the future this insures the replacement of the suffering-servant. The time the servant has spent suffering may not have sufficed the will of God, therefore, suffering will still be present in the servants life until the time is fulfilled.
However, Jones goes on to state that Washington doesn’t make clear whether or not the suffering of blacks is deserved punishment. Washington’s failure to demonstrate such a claims weakens his material. In addition, other points of Washington’s position lead to the conclusion that blacks are in the hands of a divine racist and are not His agents of salvation. Washington describes the role of blacks as agents in God’s plan to save mankind. Jones compares this claim to the mission of the Jews. The mission of Jews, according to Jones, was to inform the human life that there is one and only one God.
Similarly, the universal mission of blacks is bring humanity together under one God. This is a bold statement of Washington and has questionable features as soon ass it is presented. According to Jones, Washington’s view is that black’s task in America is to save the white oppressor from the chains of his irreligious white folk religion and to release him from his idolatrous bondage to racism. Therefore, black’s are to liberate the ones who have oppressed the for centuries. The task seem unattainable, therefore, the suffering of blacks will be endless.
Jones also contradicts Washington’s stand for it’s opening to encourage quietism in the face of white oppression. Another theologian Jones analyzes is James Cone. Jones finds the validity of Cone’s basic assumption, that black liberation is central to God’s essence, to be inadequate. For Cone, any theodicy that reconciles the oppressed to unjust treatment committed against them must be rejected. Cone presupposes in his theology that God is automatically on the side of blacks with out supporting his statement with the event of exaltation-liberation. Cone’s standpoint is that God has not chosen blacks for redemptive suffering but for freedom.
Cone continues by stating that blacks are not the elected to be Yahweh’s suffering people. Rather, blacks are elected to because they are oppressed, against their will, and God has decided to make their liberation his own. Jones fails to mention exactly who Yahweh is, and what entails redemptive suffering. However, Jones goes on to critique Cone with out giving an adequate definition of the content in his own work. Jones moves on to critique Albert Cleage’s stand point in his chosen people doctrine. Jones states that the doctrine can not cope with massive and continuing amount of black suffering.
Cleage’s theodicy were a collection of sermons which purpose was to provide a theological rationale for specific goals and strategies for black liberation. Jones takes the fact that the sermons could be under the framework to move its audience to sacrifice everything for liberation of the black nation. Cleage is on the side of God being committed to oppressed blacks and God’s total identification with them can be guaranteed only by establishing that God and the oppressed blacks are physically and physiologically the same color. God being black is a necessary condition to support Cleages claim of God’s allegiance to black liberation.
However, as Jones states, Cleage fails to provide an adequate amount of evidence of this claim. Actual facts tell us that black suffering is widespread and over four centuries old. For Cleage to make such a claim with out providing actual events of God showing divine favor in black’s lives in absurd. Jones goes on to agree with his claim being inadequate. Furthermore, Jones critique of Major Jones was the most gutsy of them all. Major claims God to be helpless is a self contradiction of a God in control of history. Major Jones thought contradicts itself between opposing concepts of God’s sovereignty as it is manifested in human affairs.
On the one hand he affirms a traditional view in black religion, “God has the whole world in his hand”. On the other he purposes a helpless God that simply unable to stop ethnic suffering to occur . Major uses this resolution of ethnic suffering to avoid making God responsible for the crimes of human history. God is not responsible, because He is powerless to eliminate it by His own might. This view also effectively eliminates that God is acting in human history in a controlling way. He doesn’t overrule or transmute the acts and decisions of man to obtain His own will and purpose.
Rather, God enters history as a man, utilizing only that the power that is consonant with His human status. Regrettably, Jones once again fails to realize the humanizing of God. One can place a God as a man. One is either man or God, and to be man you must have a creator so therefore it is incorrect to place God in the category of being man. However, Jones does explicitly depict the problems in Major’s views. Lastly, Jones critiques J. Deotis Roberts. Jones analyzes Roberts theodicy, because of his lack of criteria and distinction between redemptive and non-redemptive suffering.
With Roberts lack of description, Jones gives a cloudy explanation, therefore making his work questionable. Although Roberts fails to mention the meaning of redemptive and non-redemptive suffering, Is the duty to of Jones to give a definition of the two and their points of departure. With the examination of these theologians Jones is able to move on to part three of his book smoothly. Jones purpose in part three is to move toward a black theology that would suffice for black religion today. The author offers humanocentric theism as a stand for black religion today that offers a basis of liberation.
The author uses the concept of a God who has gave co-determining power to Humankind as his basis for expanding on his view point. Jones states that Selecting an adequate theodicy for black theology is a complicated task. Several demands control one’s choice. On the one hand the theodicy must establish a specific criteria to be honored. It has to account for the suffering, explain and the relation that suffering has with God. In addition, the theodicy must relate the fact of suffering and its character to a honorable interpretation of the nature, power, and moral quality of God and the nature of His activity in Human Affairs.
The author successfully depicts humanocentric theism as a religion that will hold to all criteria’s. The author states that Humanocentric theism assigns an exalted status to man, particularly to human freedom, but this status is God’s will and is all apart of his ultimate purpose for mankind. The author goes on to indicate the values of this theism and its framework. It provides a consistent for accommodating the freedom of man, an essential aspect of a theology for liberation. Also, Hmanocentric theism provides a steady disapproval of divine racism.
The fact the God is removed from the power of overruling power over human history and place it in human hands makes human responsible for racism not God. Humanocentric theism also cuts off a theological and moral escape for the oppressor to the point the finger elsewhere. The author does an excellent job of explaining his point and purpose of humanocentric theism, and the components that entail such a theism. However, the author uses vocabulary that makes the book difficult to understand for a low level reader. Also, the author once again places God and humans on the same level.
The issue ethnic suffering could be questioned today. November of 2008 a black man was elected president in the country where blacks were despised at one point in time. Jones fails to account for the success and progression of blacks today as apart of his argument. Today blacks are present in executive corporate positions more than any other minority race. Although many blacks still do suffer, as Jones states earlier “suffering is apart of being human”. This era of greatness for blacks one is to question whether or not ethnic suffering is still the case for blacks.