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Race: A Theological Account
Race: A Theological Account
J. Kameron Carter
Oxford University Press, 2008
504 pp., $40.95

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Peter Goodwin Heltzel

Jesus the Jew in America

Why race is first and foremost a theological problem.

J. Kameron Carter's Race: A Theological Account breaks new ground in contemporary theology; Carter's contention is that the problem of race is first and foremost a theological problem. Indeed in some sense, the problem of race is modern theology's greatest contemporary challenge. Carter goes beyond the familiar platitudes about white racism, unveiling a promising post-colonial trajectory for contemporary Christian theology.

He tackles this problem directly through a theological meditation on Jesus' Jewish flesh. Reflecting on Jesus' Jewishness exposes the whiteness of modernity and hails a new creation where all people are reconciled and redeemed, regardless of their race and ethnicity. This truth emerges in its clearest form in the slave narratives of prophetic black Christians in antebellum America. It was by reflecting on the human life of Jesus the Jew that Africans in the Americas were able to find meaning in their suffering under the oppressive regime of slavery and segregation.

In part 1, Carter provides a theological account of modernity in which he establishes the practice of the racism of the West as fundamentally a Christian invention. The racialization of persons of African descent as "black," Carter argues, was based on the racialization of the "Jew," which has its roots in Christianity's origins as a Jewish sect, often finding its identity in opposition to Judaism. In part 2, Carter engages African American religious studies, focusing on the work of the historian Albert J. Raboteau, theologian James H. Cone, and philosopher Charles H. Long. Carter finds all three of these approaches to black religion inadequate in dealing with the theological distinctiveness of Christian theology, and he builds on Raboteau and Cone to develop his own constructive Afro-Christian theological vision in part 3 of the volume.

Carter frames his deconstruction of the racial logic of modernity with an epigraph from Howard Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited:

How different might have ...

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