AAExodusAmericanIsrael

AAExodusAmericanIsrael - AFRICAN AMERICANS, EXODUS, AND THE...

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AFRICAN AMERICANS, EXODUS, AND THE AMERICAN ISRAEL Albert]. Raboteau DurioG the past two research on African American religious beliefs and practi~es has challenged an aider focus on the institutional and in!eilectual life of white, middle-class Protestantism. This research demonstrates that African religious life has been an integral part of American religious history. At the same time, an oider scholarship that emphasized the .:: /wiencies ,lacK lire, compared \0 the middle-class has been overtaken by a new approach that, whiie underscor;ng the heavy toii of ,vnite racism, nevertheless stresses the capacity of African Americans to adapt creatively to their hostile environment. Perhaps more than any other scholar, Albert Raboteau has led this contemoorary emergence of African American religious history. in the foiio'Ming 25'::1Y, Raboteau dernonstl dtes how African slaves found within European American Protestantism a theology of history that they adapted to help them make sense of their enslavement. In the Exodus story, in particular, African slaves found a narrative V-lith broad implications for their own situation to which tney gave a radically new meaning. Canaan land is the land for me, And leI' God's saints in. There was a wicked man, He kept them children in Egypt land. Canaan land is the land for me, And let God's saints come in. God did say to Moses one da}\ Say, Moses, go to Egypt land, And tell him to let my people go. Canaan land is the land for me, . il.nd let God's saints come in. -Slave Spiritual Reprinted by permission from Albert J. Raboteau, "African Americans, Exodus, and the American Israel," in African American Christianity: Essays in History, Paul E. Johnson, ed. (Berkeley: California, 1994), 1-17. . Ibl I I I n l I i: ~ II I J I I I I I I 1
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4~ A.. FRICAJ>.f AMERICANS, EXODUS, AND THE AMERICAN ISRAEL Albert J. Raboteau IN THE ENCOUNTER with.European Christianity in its Protestant form in North America, enslaved Africans and their descendants encountered something new: a fully articulated ritual relationship with the Supreme Being, who was pictured in the book that the Christians called the Bible not just as the Creator and Ruler ofthe Cosmos, but also as the God of History, a God who lifted up and cast down nations and peoples, aGod whose sovereign will was directing all things toward an ultimate end, drawing good out of evil. As the transplanted Africans reflected upon the evil that had befallen them and their parents, they increasingly turned to the language, symbols, and worldview ofthe Christian holy book. There they found a theology of history that helped them to make sense of their enslavement. One story in particular caught their attention and fascinated them with its implications and potential applications to their own situation: the story of Exodus. What they did with that ancient story of the Near East is the topic of this essay. I begin by surveying the history of evangelization among the slaves in order to situate and define the Christianity that confronted them in North America. Then I
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course HUM 191 at San Jose State University .

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AAExodusAmericanIsrael - AFRICAN AMERICANS, EXODUS, AND THE...

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