Down, Up and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology

Article excerpt

Down, Up and Over Slave Religion and Black Theology

by Dwight N. Hopkins

Fortress, Minneapolis, 2000. 312 pp. $20.00. ISBN & 8006-2723-7.

WHAT IS THE "RELATIONSHIP between the slave religion of Protestantism and American culture, on the one hand, and a constructive theological statement about black faith, practice, and self for liberation, on the other?" (p. viii). Building on his earlier work, Hopkins addresses this question by giving theological consideration to the religious experience of enslaved Africans. First, he discusses how Protestantism and American cultural formations shaped a warped sense of being for African and Euro-Americans through which the latter reconstituted the former as less than fully human. Enslaved Africans fought this dehumanization and made sense of their existential condition through religious experience in "Hush arbor" meetings and visible black church practices.

Next, Hopkins outlines a theology based on early African American religious experience detailing three manifestations of the "Spirit of liberation"-God, Christ, and humanity. Black theology articulates, and the church helps achieve, this divine-human push toward liberation recognized by spiritual and material humanity, a "new self and anew Common Wealth" (p. …