Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. i-xii

Contents

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

Many individuals assisted me in very important ways during the process of writing this volume. Readers should know who they are. I must begin by thanking my editor, Michael West, for his commitment to this project and his work to help me polish it. I would also like to thank other staff members of Fortress Press: David Lott for his encouragement and Julie Odland Smith for the final production work. Closer to “home,” I am grateful for the kind words from the chair of my department, Calvin Roetzel. The other...

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Note on Orthography

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pp. xix-xx

Maintaining consistency with respect to terms that have undergone the transformation marked by the middle passage is difficult. However, I have attempted to address this by presenting names and terms as they appear in the various contexts with which I am concerned: Africa, the Americas, the United States. When quoting other sources, I attempt to maintain as best I can the spelling used by the various authors. In most cases, this entails presenting simultaneously several...

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Introduction

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pp. xxi-xxxii

Black (Christian) church centered dialogue dominates academic Black religious thought. Consequently, much additional religious ground needs to be covered in order to recognize Black religious expression’s full complexity....Exploration and dialogue must eventually encompass traditions beyond those presented if a full spectrum of Black religion—in its broadest sense—is to surface.1

The above rethinking of African American religious experience’s content, scope, and meaning is the challenge I posed in Why, Lord?....

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New Preface

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pp. xxxiii-xxxviii

The effort to present humanism as an alternative to theistic orientations raised questions for me concerning how one does theology. In 1995, I worked to build on (and correct what I perceived to be shortcomings of) the groundbreaking ideas of William R. Jones’s Is God a White Racist? A Preamble to Black Theology (1973; repr., 1997). At the end of the book, Jones indicated he planned to present a more thorough discussion of secular humanism in his future work. Unfortunately, he passed away before this was completed, although he did...

PART I: Case Studies: Traditions and Their Existential Link

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Serving the Loa: Vodou, Voodoo, and the Voodoo Spiritual Temple

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pp. 3-58

The small and independent groups that lived in what is now Benin were replaced by a complex system headed by a king. It is said that the royal line, the first ancestor of the royal dynasty, originated in Adja-Tado (1300). The royal family moved from Adja-Tado before the beginning of the seventeenth century. In the genealogical story, the daughter of Adja-Tado’s king was impregnated by a leopard. The child was named Agasu and is remembered as the ancestor of all the Fon of Dahomey. The children of Agasu ultimately attempted to rule...

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Ashe!: Santería, Orisha-Voodoo, and Oyotunji African Village

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pp. 59-114

The Yorùbá represent roughly 30 million inhabitants of southwestern Nigeria, Togo, and Benin, and they are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria.1 The Yorùbá are an urban people who have lived in cities for centuries by means of agriculture and trade. Although the Yorùbá share a common language, their government model is based upon independent city-states.2 Exercising a strong degree of independence, each city-state developed in keeping with its resources and the strength or weakness of its leadership. Early in its history,...

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The Great Mahdi Has Come!: Islam, Nation of Islam, and the Minneapolis Study Group

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pp. 115-174

As Alfred Guillaume has noted, much of the history of Arab society during the time of the Prophet Muhammad is known only through study of the Qur’ān and the Muslim writers who wrote about the pre-Islam Arabic world. Economic life within Arabic society before and during the time of the Prophet Muhammad was characterized by trade routes and raiding by nomads.1 These trade routes were matched by a religious landscape marked by animistic leanings toward a variety of nature based gods, male and female, and lesser...

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What If God Were One of Us: Humanism and African Americans for Humanism

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pp. 175-212

Humanism, although not defined as such until the nineteenth century, developed in Europe as early thinkers, many of whom were Christian clerics, attempted to enhance the process of intellectual inquiry and its relationship to life issues by bringing Christian doctrine and “pagan” resources together. In this respect, early humanistlike thought as well as humanism of the medieval period were geared toward problem solving within the framework of a strong and determined church.1...

Part II: Toward a Comparative Theological Framework

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How Do We Talk About Religion?: Religious Experience, Cultural Memory, and Theological Method

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pp. 215-234

The foregoing chapters of this book promote a sense of religious diversity that calls into question traditional understandings of theology and theological method as necessarily grounded in a Christian community of faith. Up to this point, a response to this challenge has only been intimated. But in this chapter, a revised sense of theological reflection is explicitly presented by giving attention to four points: (1) a discussion of current uses of cultural production in African American theology; (2) a rethinking of collective memory and cultural...

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Theological Categories Twenty Years Later

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pp. 235-254

In the previous chapter, I gave some attention to a theory of African American theology premised on religious overlap and some degree of mutuality related to a shared concern with moral evil, as well as the posture toward such a mode of theological analysis. In this final chapter I offer thoughts on a comparative African American theology in a less-direct fashion by offering a sense of my current theological vocabulary.

My theological sensibilities have changed over the course of the years, moving solidly into the realm of a humanist orientation, but...

Bibliography

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pp. 255-270

Index

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pp. 271-277

Back Cover

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