Varieties of African American Religious Experience

Varieties of African American Religious Experience

Varieties of African American Religious Experience

Varieties of African American Religious Experience


"Anthony Pinn's engrossing survey highlights the rich diversity of black religious life in America, revealing expressions of an ever-changing black religious quest in four non-Christian religious movements. Based on extensive research, travel, and interviews - and embellished with photos, bibliographies, and case studies - Pinn's work provides a fascinating look especially at Voodoo, Santeria, the Nation of Islam, and Black Humanism in the United States. Focusing less on institutional and doctrinal history and more on the varied popular religious practices and sites, his volume highlights, for example, the influence of Caribbean religions in the United States, practices of divination and healing, the surge of black Muslim religion, the emergence of black humanism, and the religious influence and ethical practices of black women." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Black (Christian) church centered dialogue dominates academic Black
religious thought. Consequently, much additional religious ground
needs to be covered in order to recognize Black religious expression's
full complexity… . Exploration and dialogue must eventually encom
pass traditions beyond those presented if a full spectrum of Black reli
gionin its broadest senseis to surface.

The above rethinking of African American religious experience's content, scope, and meaning is the challenge I posed in Why, Lord? Having thrown out the challenge in that book, I attempt to address the demands of this challenge in subsequent efforts, most notably this volume.

It is my contention that African American religious experience extends beyond the formation and practice of black Christianity. That is to say, historically African Americans have participated in a variety of traditions, such as Yorúbá religious practices (attention to the orisha or deities), Voodoo (Vodou), Islam, and humanism. Much of the discussion concerning these traditions has been conducted by anthropologists, sociologists, historians of religion, and those in the arts. African American theologians have not, in large measure, understood the ritual structures of these and other traditions as anything more than resources for the construction of a syncretic black Christianity, sources whose dynamic nature was lost to the fervor of the two Great Awakenings. This is tragic in that theologians are best equipped to explore the theological issues underlying the practices of these traditions. Without attention to these traditions by theologians and others scholars of religion, our understanding of religion within African American communities contains an unhealthy limitation on its scope and vision.

The narrow agenda and resource base of contemporary African American theological reflection troubles me because it limits itself to Christianity in ways that establish Christian doctrine and concerns as normative. It has considered the church its sole conversation partner. Resulting from this is a problematic allegiance to Christian churches and their doctrine and dogma as theology's benefactor. One notices this in James Evans'

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