“Reprobation is not simply a state of existence opposite of election; it is also a judgment upon the trajectory of a life, gauging its destiny from what can be known in the moment. Reprobation joins the black body to the Moor body and both to the Jewish body. All are in the sphere of Christian rejection and therefore of divine rejection.”
–Willie Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, page 34
How is this trajectory possible, you may ask? In short, Jennings’ starts with the premise that the formation of the nation-state as well as the colonial moment–where persons like Christopher Columbus came to see people of color as objects to be used for the glory of the Spanish empire–depends on Gentile Christians searching for their identity apart from the story of Israel. To sum up Jennings’ arguments, the Gentiles (all of us) have no hope apart from YHWH; colonialism and nationalism are false hopes outside of a covenantal life with the One True God. From this perspective, the particular doctrine of election and reprobation described above (which may sound familiar to many readers) is inherently a supersessionist project, especially considering the notion in many Christian circles that the Church replaces Israel.
The notion of a “stereotype” of blacks as criminal has deep theological implications; in this understanding, blacks are predestined to live lives under suspicion. The Prison-Industrial Complex becomes an appendage to the divine will.
- Book Review: Willie Jennings’ The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (politicaljesus.com)
- Willie Jennings: We Need A New Theology of Israel (politicaljesus.com)