Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, contributed to the chapter “At the Table: The Next Generation” in the book Blow the Trumpet in Zion. Moss’s contribution is entitled “Discerning among Theologies in the Black Church. There Moss writes of “three prevalent theologies in the Black church.” These are a: “theology of pimps, a theology of prostitutes, and a theology of prophets.” Moss sees the theology of pimps as reduced to preaching “what can you do for me.” Here the preacher is seeking to extract from the people benefits for the preacher. Moss sees a correlation between that mindset and the mindset of a pimp.
The next is the theology of the prostitute. Here the preacher serves the people without any respect for the preacher’s own needs spiritual or otherwise. The preacher asks “What can I do for you?” The final one is the theology of the prophet. Here the prophet asks, “What can we do together?”
God will Hook You up
As I thought about this, I decided to riff on the idea. The product is largely consistent with Moss’ presentation, but it is a different one. I ask what are messages in the Black church. There are certainly more, but these demonstrate much of the message. The first message is “God will hook you up.” This is the narrative where good things happen to good people. This message sometimes comes in during the celebration phase of a message. The preacher will say good things will happen, you will find that job, your son will come back to church, your mother will be healed of cancer. Pay your tithe and you will be guaranteed money. If not money, you will be guaranteed blessings that your room will not be able to hold. In addition, if you don’t get a blessing down here, you will get one in the bye and bye. God is gonna hook you up with a mansion where you will eat milk and honey hanging out with Jesus.
Possible Errors in the Message
Certainly there are blessings to Christ’s followers. However there are two errors that sometimes crop up into this message. First, we sometimes do not recognize that everybody don’t get hooked up like we would think. We can ask John the Baptist who’s head was displayed on a plate or Stephen who died preaching the gospel. Sometimes we don’t always get what we think we should or what this message may betray. Your child may not come back, you may not get that job, and your mother may die of cancer. You even may lose your house even though you tithed faithfully. That is the truth. So sometimes we paint a picture of a fairytale world. Now it is true that many of us know how to interpret such messages as not being a certain promise of healing for cancer or the like, but there are some among us who do not have the expertise to interpret what is happening in the Black church.
We Need Balance
Another error that crops into this message is that when it is all you preach it can cause problems. We are not called to JUST preach the benefits, but some of the responsibilities and the like. So another problem is a problem that is possible for all these messages, is one of balance. We must be balanced between them all. After having said that, we certainly must continue to preach this message, let us just do it responsibly.
In the next post we will look at the other two messages of the Black church namely, “God will fix it up”, and “God will clean you up.”