Yet with a Steady Beat: Contemporary U.S. Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation

By Randall C. Bailey | Go to book overview

TEXTUAL HARASSMENT? A HERMENEUTICAL
PERSPECTIVE ON AFRICAN AMERICAN PREACHING

Ronald N. Liburd Florida A&M University


INTRODUCTION

Inasmuch as two African American legal professionals have contributed to an astonishing degree to the currency that the word harassment has had in the American social and political lexicon,1 I find it quite appropriate to tease out its meaning in the title of our discussion of the African American use of the Bible in preaching. The article is divided into three sections, the first of which examines the method biblical authors use to interpret their scriptures. The second analyzes the text of a sermon preached by a prominent African American theologian in order to demonstrate how preaching in the black church in America can be said to follow a method similar to that of biblical authors. The third section draws on hermeneutical theory in order to postulate a reason for this similarity, a similarity that is found to be grounded in both the nature of religious experience and the hermeneutical task itself. In light of this inquiry, the conclusion offers a challenge for black preachers to extend the liberation hermeneutical project if they are to remain committed to the task of eradicating all kinds of oppression.

Before I proceed, I think it is necessary for me to provide a context for this analysis. My social location is that of a West Indian brought up in the Anglican tradition, and for a time I knew of nothing else in the form of religion beyond that religious horizon. During my teen years—that vulnerable period—I converted to an evangelical Christian community of a very conservative variety. So today, I usually represent myself as a onceupon-a-time evangelical pastor who practiced Johannine evangelism of

1 I suspect that it should be obvious I am referring to the events that surrounded the
United States Senate confirmation hearings for the now Justice Clarence Thomas.

-85-

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