By E. Kornegay
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Additional resources for A Queering of Black Theology: James Baldwin's Blues Project and Gospel Prose
Baldwin’s rhetorical treatment of Christianity throughout his writings focuses on what he sees as its fatal flaw, namely, a linguistic and theological anthropology of color hierarchy. Baldwin sees this Christianity exemplified linguistically in the puritanical ideal of America that “considered black people to be less human than [white Christians]” in the Calvinist scheme of divine election in which the “kingdom of heaven . . 2 Signifying can be defined on three levels. ”5 In the act of signifying, Baldwin exposes the contradictions between the profession of Christian love and justice for all and the Christian practice of hate and injustice against black bodies.
Therefore liberation constructed as black religious vernacular is an inclusive language that can be used and understood by those in the church and in the street. 13 The black church in which Baldwin first seeks safety actually lacks the moral authority to speak (black religious vernacular) for sexualized and racialized bodies that fall into the gap between sexual problem and racial protest. Rather than signify on puritanical proscriptions against black bodies, the black church reifies the gap versus confessing that everyone must cross the bridge—release from the psychological trap of metaphorical blackness—before liberation can occur.
The black church is also a reminder of the violated inheritance of black people and more importantly the inheritance of the violated message of the Christian gospel. Baldwin notes that black people’s attempt to use “Christianity to meet the needs of his brutal situation . . was a disaster. In no way whatever has it replaced . . ”37 What was the destroyed is the gateway from black depravity to black liberation, which is the use of the blues in the church. Kelly Brown Douglas’s use of a blues methodology is quite helpful here.
A Queering of Black Theology: James Baldwin's Blues Project and Gospel Prose by E. Kornegay