Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation (Prophetic Christianity)
Peter Goodwin Heltzel
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012
219 pp., $25.00
Edward J. Blum
Decolonize Your Theology
This book should never have been written. The author should have died. Instead of taking the subway downtown to his Fidelity Investments job at the World Trade Center Towers, Peter Goodwin Heltzel spent September 11, 2001 writing his dissertation prospectus. When two jets reduced the skyscrapers to an inferno of ash, Heltzel was safe at home. The next day he went to Ground Zero as a volunteer from Riverside Church. He remembers now that as he worked "amid the acrid smoke" and in the "wasteland," he experienced a call to put theological flesh to the improvised love he witnessed. Ten years later, he encountered another form of that community as part of the Occupy Movement. Discussing his journeys, presenting his theological insights, and calling evangelicals to tap into the prophetic Christianity of African American theological and musical innovations, Heltzel offers a new book that inspires hope amid troubled times.
Heltzel, whose previous book Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics (2009) investigated the role of race in evangelical politics, has several aims for Resurrection City. First, he wants white Christians, particularly evangelicals, to own up to how European and North American theologies and lived religions have benefited from and, at times, sanctified white power. He urges white Christians to recognize their history of violence and to rid themselves of theological tendencies that distance Jesus from his Judaism and, in so doing, whiten the gospel.
Next, Heltzel calls Christians to embrace Jesus through the African American prophetic tradition. This is a tradition that identifies with the covenant people of Israel, that extolls Jesus as a poor Jew from Galilee who was crucified on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, and that searches for and builds up resurrection cities that stand against the idols of whiteness, colonization, and patriarchy. Heltzel seeks a mystical-prophetic consensus that builds on the theologies of Howard Thurman and ...