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A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity
By Brian Bantum
The theological attempts to understand Christ’s body have either focused on "philosophical" claims about Jesus' identity or on "contextual" rebuttals—on a culturally transcendent, disembodied Jesus of the creeds or on a Jesus of color who rescues and saves a particular people because of embodied particularity.
But neither of these two attempts has accounted for the world as it is, a world of mixed race, of hybridity, of cultural and racial intermixing. By not understanding the true theological problem, that we live in a mulatto world, the right question has not been posed: How can Christ save this mixed world? The answer, Brian Bantum shows, is in the mulattoness of Jesus' own body, which is simultaneously fully God and fully human.
In Redeeming Mulatto, Bantum reconciles the particular with the transcendent to account for the world as it is: mixed. He constructs a remarkable new Christological vision of Christ as tragic mulatto—one who confronts the contrived delusions of racial purity and the violence of self-assertion and emerges from a "hybridity" of flesh and spirit, human and divine, calling humanity to a mulattic rebirth. Bantum offers a theology that challenges people to imagine themselves inside their bodies, changed and something new, but also not without remnants of the old. His theology is one for all people, offered through the lens of a particular people, not for individual possession but for redemption and transformation into something new.
Renunciation: Racial Discipleship and the Religiosity of Race
1 I Am Your Son, White Man!
The Mulatto/a and the Tragic
2 Neither Fish nor Fowl
Presence as Politics
Confession: Christ, the Tragic Mulatto
3 Unto Us a Child Is Born or “How can this be?”
The Mulatto Christ
4 I Am the Way
Mulatto/a Redemption and the Politics of Identification
Immersion: Christian Discipleship or the New Discipline of the Body
5 You Must Be Reborn
Baptism and Mulatto/a ReBirth
6 The Politics of Presence
Prayer and Discipleship
"A remarkable piece of work that explores how the tragic character of mulatto existence not only illumines but also is decisive for helping us think through some of the fundamental Christological affirmations of the Christian faith. This theologically sophisticated book will assuredly make a difference in how we break out of some of the perennial debates of the past."
—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke University
"Bantum not only incisively argues how mulatto life critically exposes the deceit of whiteness and the black struggle for wholeness but envisions constructive theology through the lens of Christ's own mulatto existence. Redeeming Mulatto overcomes the prevailing myth of a post-racial society and stirs 'in-between' the life of the Spirit and the mission of mulattic discipleship."
—Dale P. Andrews, Distinguished Professor of Homiletics and Social Justice, Vanderbilt University
"A significant work that fuses the discourses of theology, critical theory, literary theory, and critical race theory. Redeeming Mulatto evidences a respectable breadth of engagement and a surprising facility with bringing seemingly disparate discourses into constructive dialogue."
—Stephen G. Ray Jr., Neal F. and Illa A. Fisher Professor of Theology, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
"Bantum moves beyond [Milbank] by arguing that white racism is religious in outlook, leaving no place for mulattos. But Christ transgresses racial boundaries in assuming human nature. The Calcedonian definition defines Christ as uniquely mulatto.... Seminary libraries should have [this book]."
—Religious Studies Review (2011, 37:3)
"Bantum invites us into a new existence, an interstitial or in-between Christian life beyond race. ... this is an important book that makes a genuine breakthrough in discussions of theology and race. Bantum succeeds in taking us beyond the binary impasses of black theology and the racial (if not racist) indifference of white Christianity."
—Christian Century, February 8, 2012
Brian Bantum is Assistant Professor of Theology at Seattle Pacific University School of Theology. He lives in Seattle, Washington.