GODS I'VE SEEN
This is the only photography book I own. Daniel Zender posted a picture of the cover and I loved it and ordered it. The cover is indeed very perfect and very beautiful but the inside is also good. The subtitle is TRAVELS AMONG HINDUS, and Abbas's big black and white photos from India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka make Hindu rituals seem both deeply human and deeply strange. My favorite combo! The few pages of travel writing at the back are less compelling and seemed unnecessary; squinting at tiny text made for a slightly frustrating ending to a wild visual journey. Apparently Abbas has similar books on Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and I'm really looking forward to finding those.
THE BLACK CHRIST
When I saw a quote from this book that Nii posted on facebook a few weeks ago I immediately requested it from the library. Douglas traces the history of African-American conceptions of Jesus as black, starting by contrasting his description in slave spirituals with his portrayal at the hands of white slaveowners, moving on to Malcolm X's criticisms of Christianity, looking at the work of preachers and theologians like Albert Cleage and James Cone, and finally offering a womanist reading of Christ.
For the last few years, the understanding of Jesus's death that has been most resonant to me is the idea that he was intentionally radically aligning himself with the oppressed in order to mock, subvert, and dismantle systems of oppression. Were other things going on at the crucifixion and resurrection? Yeah, sure. I've heard my whole life about Jesus's blood washing away sins and that the prophets were howling about repentance; but you know what else all of em were howling about and writing poems about and doing bizarre performance art in the name of? Freedom and justice. To see Jesus's defeat of death at the hands of an oppressive empire as the culmination of the prophetic tradition of speaking and acting against unjust authorities seems to make as much sense as seeing it as the culmination of a sacrificial tradition, and to me that feels even more relevant to the world we're currently witnessing and living in.
"To claim that a minister's responsibility is to save souls and not to become involved in social justice issues is consistent with the religion of the white Christ. The white Christ is based on an understanding of Christianity that minimizes the significance of Jesus' ministry. The Christian is called to believe that Jesus is God incarnate, not to carry forth Jesus' liberating work. ... Further, the passivity in relation to social justice, which the white Christ fosters, allows white racism to go unchallenged. In essence, the white Christ negate[s] a significant aspect of black identity while it permit[s] white Christians to ignore black people's claims for freedom."
other books I read this month: