“Reading While Black” by Esau McCaulley is a challenging book for me to review. It is brilliant and I highly recommend it! I am not American or Black so my experience of the book was different to perhaps the journey Esau intended. However, he sets out to give hope and I definitely got that and I found the Biblical interpretation insightful and beautiful.

The Black experience in America is heartbreaking, slavery is chilling and the reality of the pain and suffering made me angry on the behalf of those enduring it. South Africa has many problems and in no way do I believe racism is behind us (just today Twitter is on fire with a local brand being criticised for negatively stereotyping our beautiful Black women’s hair) but I have not personally heard the Bible twisted to condone racism. The concept of manipulating the God of love’s Word so is just horrifying.

Esau tackles a different theme in each chapter and each stands alone in being moving and compelling but as a whole, it is a book which enlightens the reader about the Bible, America’s history and current events and is incredibly relevant in 2020. I love this explanation of why multicultural contributions are essential.

“What I have in mind then is a unified mission in which our varied cultures turn to the text in dialogue with one another to discern the mind of Christ. That means in the providence of God, I need Ugandan biblical interpretation, because the experiences of Ugandans mean they are able to bring their unique insights to the conversation. African American exegesis, then, precisely because it is informed by the Black experience, has the potential to be universal when added to the chorus of believers through time and across cultures.“

From “Reading While Black” by Esau McCaulley

From the outset, Esau didn’t have to sell me on the value of the Black voice but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it highlighted in my Bible and I learnt an incredible amount from His explanations. I sincerely hope this will be the first of many such books from Esau and other African Americans.

“Instead God’s sees the creation of a community of different cultures united by faith in his Son as a manifestation of the expansive nature of his grace. This expansiveness is unfulfilled unless the differences are seen and celebrated, not as ends unto themselves, but as particular manifestations of the power of the Spirit to bring forth the same holiness among different peoples and cultures for the glory of God.“

From “Reading While Black” by Esau McCaulley

It is a five out of five on the enJOYment scale, don’t miss this one!

P.S. read the footnotes, not only are they packed with great information but some made me laugh out loud, Esau has a great sense of humour!

From the back cover:

Growing up in the American South, Esau McCaulley knew firsthand the ongoing struggle between despair and hope that marks the lives of some in the African American context. A key element in the fight for hope, he discovered, has long been the practice of Bible reading and interpretation that comes out of traditional Black churches. This ecclesial tradition is often disregarded or viewed with suspicion by much of the wider church and academy, but it has something vital to say. Reading While Black is a personal and scholarly testament to the power and hope of Black biblical interpretation. At a time in which some within the African American community are questioning the place of the Christian faith in the struggle for justice, New Testament scholar McCaulley argues that reading Scripture from the perspective of Black church tradition is invaluable for connecting with a rich faith history and addressing the urgent issues of our times. He advocates for a model of interpretation that involves an ongoing conversation between the collective Black experience and the Bible, in which the particular questions coming out of Black communities are given pride of place and the Bible is given space to respond by affirming, challenging, and, at times, reshaping Black concerns. McCaulley demonstrates this model with studies on how Scripture speaks to topics often overlooked by white interpreters, such as ethnicity, political protest, policing, and slavery. Ultimately McCaulley calls the church to a dynamic theological engagement with Scripture, in which Christians of diverse backgrounds dialogue with their own social location as well as the cultures of others. Reading While Black moves the conversation forward.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from InterVarsity Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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