Part 5: Inspecting the Wall
Toward A Recapitulation of Faith and Faithfulness Amongst Black Students in Racialized American Society
On Recapitulation & Other Voices
There are several theological terms ministry practitioners will encounter regarding Black students and young adults, but the most appropriate phrase derives from music composition theory, rather than theological ideas.
Recapitulation is a crucial component of Sonata form in classical music, and is one of the most brilliant ways to develop a musical argument. One of the more notable examples where this form is salient and conspicuous is in Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16 in C. Sonata form can be divided into three main parts: First, the exposition, which presents or exposes all the main themes, musical materials, and seed notes. The exposition is typically made up of two groups with contrasting keys, themes, moods, or ideas. The development aspect of Sonata form follows the exposition and continues to develop the material introduced. The development portion of the Sonata is deliberately more discursive and looser in structure, and often interchanges many keys throughout. Last is recapitulation, which enthusiastically summarizes the exposition, but with a significant twist. The point is to recap the two groups of the exposition, before bringing us to the last portion, the recapitulation.
The conflict set up in the exposition is resolved in the recapitulation with distinctive, dissimilar notes that communicate the same original idea. Composer softens, using the recapitulation portion of a piece as an excuse to do something remarkable and unexpected. In other words, recapitulation is a kind of retelling of the original idea in a slightly different way.
Composers are musicians, but also architects. Therefore, Nehemiah’s rebuilding project played a crucial role in one of the most significant recapitulations, bringing all humanity to the teleological Coda of Redemption. A Pedogeological framework for recapitulation that honors Christ, as well as Black youth and young adults, must contain the following:
Change the Literature
For Black youth and young adults to feel tethered to and invited into this grand composition, they need to see themselves as part of Christian history in ways that predate colonialism. Otherwise, the pejorative of a white man’s religion will never become dislodged. There must be a recovery of ancient texts that affirm the impact of Christianity and adherence to orthodoxy in non-western contexts, such as the Hymns of St. Ephrem. Was a prominent Christian theologian and writer from Edessa. He is one of the most notable hymnographers of Eastern Christianity in the fourth century. He, and others like him, were deemed heretics because their writings did not adhere to the hypostatic union. Bringing attention to the next framework, language.
Change the Language
Continuing to refer to St. Ephrem as an example, one must consider the monophysitism controversy. Years after his passing, St. Ephrem's Christology was brought into question. The Council of Chalcedon convened in 451, to bring clarity regarding the true nature of Christ. The outcome of the council was that Christ was indeed fully God and fully man. However. The idea of Jesus being confessed in two natures was conceptually foreign to the Syriac culture. Based on the conception of essence and nature in the east, there cannot be a separation of natures. A close reading of Ephrem’s hymn on the Virgin birth makes it clear that he believed Jesus was fully God and fully man. He did not have the language of the west, and thus he was labeled heretical. This is key when thinking about engaging Black youth and young adults, because there is a string aversion to white evangelical terms and conceptualizations.
Revive the Liturgy
The recent upsurge in African spirituality, Santeria and Voodoo, comes from both a rejection of whiteness and colonialism, and a desire to participate in the scared. Another aspect of what was lost in the Great Schisms and the Protestant Reformation was the corporeal participation in the mysterious, a palpable connection with the transcendent, and a sense of agency related to manifesting reality and good in the world. Introducing rosary, Eucharist, sacraments, relics and icons as vital and viable aspects of Christianity will be a refreshing idea for those seeking ritual outside of Christianity.
Give them License:
Unhelpful binaries and false dichotomies have caused many Black youth and young adults to live bifurcated lives, because they have the wrong conceptions of sacred and secular. Holiness is mostly about posture, not proximity. It’s about what motivates a person, and what they value. Otherwise, the incarnate God would have had a hard time completing an earthly ministry to religious bigots, common criminals, and all manner of what society had deemed degenerate. If all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus? If through Jesus all things were made, and without Jesus, nothing was made that has been made? If from Jesus and through Jesus and to Jesus are all things, what is left to dismiss? Giving Black youth and young adults license to live and learn teaches them wisdom. Wisdom that those in their lives possess, setting the stage for the next framework, leadership.
Rethink our Leadership
Shepherds lead White theological evangelism and discipleship models start with an assumption, because White theology starts with an assumption. The assumption of the white theological model for discipleship is, a person does not know God at all, and it is the job of the minister to make the introduction. Thus, churches hold events, where people say prayers, that result in them stopping the bad things they are doing and seeking to do good. Recapitulated leadership model assumes and expects mutual conversion. It is fueled by cultural exegesis and what I call Antiphonal Apologetics. Antiphonal apologetics responds to where God is already speaking and moving in the life of an individual. This type of leadership celebrates the ideas and conclusions of the young person, and shows them how the wisdom they encounter or stumble upon has an ancient context. It has already written. This revives an astonishment with the timeless nature of Scripture and makes that individual feel “seen” by God.
Make Space for Lament
Black youth and young adults need to know it’s okay to not be okay. The recent release of DONDA, Kanye West’s latest album, demonstrates the desperate need in this generation to express pain, loneliness, anger, and fear. There are issues that come with adolescence that are universal to all, but for those in the Black community, the fact compounds these issues of being Black in a racialized society. Any framework of discipleship must not only create space for but also await and encourage lament related to these issues. Unless an evangelical institution infuses their evangelism and discipleship model with some recognition or anticipation of the stages of racial identity development, their retention of Black students will assuredly continue to subside. A ministry that ignores this reality loses both credibility and authenticity (the most important components of effective discipleship) because it fails to speak into the deep concerns of Black youth and young adults.
Let Legacy Lead the Conversation
Today’s Black youth and young adults are not as concerned about the lake of fire as they are about land ownership. The desire for legacy ostensibly speaks to a desire for eternality, but these concepts can be discussed in conjunction with practical help and advice about generational wealth and leaving things to their children. As it stands, an overemphasis on the heavenly trajectory was in many ways born of a dualistic hermeneutical lens that allows for the oppression of the Black body as something irrelevant to an eternal soul.
Conclusion: A New Song
17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. (Neh. 8:17)
As theologians and practitioners, we must be willing to employ postmodern, post soul apologetic approaches to fill the gap between faith and the reality of being Black in America. We must be open to retiring old discipleship modes and methods.22 We must develop and espouse new terminology that disarms the typical resistance to Christianity. We must develop a hermeneutic that celebrates the significance of ethnic identity and leads to the Black community's forward mobility and resilience. We must develop pedagogical frameworks that are holistic, sensitive to trauma, and biblically sound. We must be willing to construct a haymanot that is innovative, evocative, and speaks to the contemporary issues of our day.
The task before us looms large, but it is not impossible. The process will be difficult, but the purpose of liberation from a biblical perspective is always worship. As ministry leaders, we function as composers and architects who partner with God to do new things. That is just a retelling of the first thing: God liberates people so that they can worship. Nehemiah knew this full well, and we look to this story to give strength for the work in front of us.
 Haymanot: Ge’ez word meaning “faith,” “belief” and “religion.” As an adjective ("faithful" or "theological") the form is haymanotawi. Ge’ez is the ancient imperial language of various Ethiopian kingdoms and is the current liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Courtesy of (Meachum School of Haymanot)
 In musical composition, a Coda is the concluding section (typically at the end of a sonata movement).