Christ in Alabama (and Tennessee and Georgia)

Paul and I just finished our tour of the South (thank goodness for nice weather in Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, and Birmingham). Along the way we met up with good old friends, made new ones, and heard so many stories of Jesus and race in America (and the world) that we could almost write another book. The highlights, for me, were meeting several friends of the four little girls who were killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing and hearing their tales of dealing with loss, fear, and imagery of Christ.
"Christ in Alabama"

I wanted to draw brief attention to four of our hosts in part to thank them, but also to let blog readers know about their dynamic and fascinating work.

At Morehouse College, Reverend Matthew V. Johnson helped coordinate our discussions with several classes and the chaplaincy program. Dr. Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College and earned his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Philosophical Theology from the University of Chicago. He has done post-graduate studies in Psychoanalysis and is currently a member in training at the Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. In the ministry for thirty years, Dr. Johnson is the Pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd-Baptist and serves as the National Executive Director of Every Church A Peace Church. A novelist and a radio host as well, Professor Johnson’s first scholarly book, The Tragic Vision of African American Religion is a beautiful study of how African Americans experience, deal with, conceive, and interact with tragedy and the tragic. Thanks to Dr. Johnson, little E.Z. now has a “future Morehouse man” which my son will wear with pride (at least I’ll feel pride).

At Vanderbilt University, Dr. Paul Lim was a remarkably gracious host. He is a historian of early modern and early Enlightenment England, focusing on religious and intellectual changes which manifested as longue durée consequences of Europe’s Reformations.  He has published three books in this area; most recently, Mystery Unveiled: the Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2012); The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (Cambridge, 2008); and In Pursuit of Purity, Unity, and Liberty: Richard Baxter’s Puritan Ecclesiology in Context (Brill, 2004). Look out this upcoming AHA/ASCH. There will be a special panel on his Mystery Unveiled, which I wouldn’t miss for the world. Also, because of his wonderful discussion points on Asian American history, RiAH is putting together a forum on “Asian Americans and the Color of Christ.”

Then at Memphis Theological Seminary, Dr. Andre Johnson, who is the Dr. James L. Netters Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Rleigion and African American Studies, and the author of a wonderful new book on the prophetic oratory and performance of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, hosted a discussion with us. Dr. Johnson is also the editor of the new blog, Race, Rhetoric, and Religion, which is one of the fast-growing blogs in American religious history over the past year. In many ways, he is becoming the online Paul Harvey of African American religious history.

Finally, there was Dennis C. Dickerson of Vanderbilt University, the James M. Lawson, Jr. Professor of History. Meeting with his graduate course was a particular joy. Discussing Billy Graham, Reinhold Niebuhr, James Cone, and others on the Color of Christ, we got into discussions of region, theology, denomination, academic positioning, and change over time. Dr. Dickerson specializes in American Labor History, the History of the U. S. civil rights movement, and African American religious history. He also is interested in the social history of American medicine and Wesleyan Studies. He has written Out of the Crucible: Black Steel Workers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1980 (Albany, State University of New York Press, 1986) which chronicles the failed century long struggle of black steel laborers to attain occupational parity with their Caucasian counterparts. He also wrote Militant Mediator: Whitney M. Young, Jr. (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1998) which analyzes the leadership of a major leader in the U. S. civil rights movement in the 1960s. This book was awarded the 1999 Distinguished Book from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Dickerson's new book, African American Preachers and Politics: The Careys of Chicago (Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2010) examines the intersection between religion and politics in the careers of two clergy/politicians during most of the 20th century. Dickerson also served as Historiographer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church from 1988 to 2012.

Thank you to our hosts, the students, administrators, and all others who helped. Upstate New York, see you in a month.


Paul Harvey said…
And a huge shout out to Isaac Weiner, David Sehat, and Monique Moultrie for hosting me at Georgia State University, where I got to speak to a sizable and very lively audience.
Isaac Weiner said…
It was great having you here! Thanks again!

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