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Editor’s Pick: Decolonized Discipleship (Book Excerpt)

Ekemini Uwan

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation. Preorder your copy today!

From the chapter, “DECOLONIZED DISCIPLESHIP” by Ekemini Uwan

The irony of all ironies is that I originally wrote this essay, “Decolonized Discipleship,” years ago because an “urban” white evangelical organization reached out and requested that I write something about discipleship for a magazine they were producing. They said I had the liberty to approach the topic of discipleship from any angle I chose. 

I considered the racial dynamics of the target audience—namely, the white male evangelical pastor and founder of the organization, whose ministry is comprised of “urban” (read: Black and Brown) young adults whose ages range from eighteen to about thirty, who were on fire for Jesus. Having spoken at their national conference twice, I felt that I had enough knowledge about the racial makeup and optics of the organization to be able to speak prophetically, effectively, and practically to its founder and to its Black constituency. After praying about the opportunity, I agreed to write the essay. 

Now, if you know anything about white evangelical organizations, or white organizations in general, then I’m sure you can predict what happened next. And if you can’t, then I’ll make it plain: I submitted the essay, and in return I was paid for my labor by—and given additional bonuses of—racism, paternalism, misogynoir, and erasure. This escalated to the point where the founder decided to call me to share his consternation. He explained why he would not publish the article he had commissioned me to write. As I recall, in his milquetoast response he prattled off words about “wrestling with the content” and being “uncomfortable with posting the essay.” I knew what time it was, because the racist train is never late. I got my bag and disembarked, with an air of sorrow for my Black siblings left in that colony, because the leadership clearly lacked courage. And where cowardice resides, love cannot abide.

A colonized mind is a telltale sign that the Black disciple has been indoctrinated with a false theology that derives from the empire instead of from the Kingdom of God. Empire theology is focused on the temporal, without regard for eternal things, which are unseen. It only serves the interest of the powerful, maintains the status quo, and perpetuates the demonic narrative of white superiority over and against those in the margins. 

Empire theology prances around like an angel of light. It cloaks itself with a domesticated gospel, one that is comfortable—so comfortable, in fact, that there is no actual need for self-sacrifice and liberation. But inwardly it is a ravenous wolf. It requires nothing of its propagators, yet demands everything of those on the margins, to whom the theology is given. It ensures that the first remains the first and that the last remains the least

In contrast, Kingdom theology is governed by an inverse inertia that holds eternity in view, where the last is first (Matt. 20:16), the poor in spirit and in the world are heirs of the Kingdom (Matt. 5:3; James 2:5), and everyone, regardless of status, is to look out for the interest of others (Phil. 2:4), love their neighbors as themselves (Matt. 22:37–39), and love God in both soul and body through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that empowers sons and daughters of the Kingdom to kill sin (Matt. 22:37; Rom. 8:13; 12:1). Consider Esther, who had a choice to make: would she continue to “pass” by concealing her ethnic Jewish identity in order to reap the earthly benefits of proximity to the empire and the king of said empire, or would she forsake it all, risking her very life to reveal her ethnic Jewish identity, in order to save her people from the impending genocide? Through God’s providence and Esther’s brave act of solidarity with her people over and against the empire, the trajectory of redemptive history continued unabated. Scripture is replete with people like Moses, Rahab, Daniel, and others who aligned themselves with Kingdom instead of empire, making way for the King of Kings, Jesus Christ’s advent, and the inauguration of His Kingdom. 

Excerpted from Truth’s Table by Ekemini Uwan, Christina Edmondson and Michelle Higgins. Copyright © 2022 by Ekemini Uwan, Christina Edmondson and Michelle Higgins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.