In this episode of As In Heaven, hosts Jim Davis and Mike Aitcheson welcome Walter Strickland as he traces the history of the black church from its formation to present day. Strickland covers origins, major developments, key figures, regional differences, misunderstood perspectives, liberation theology, and the institutional, cultural, and sociological roles the black church has played in black communities. The group discusses:
- An introduction to Walter Strickland (1:04)
- How and why the black church came about (2:39)
- Tension in the desire for unity (6:17)
- Early prominent black institutions (8:03)
- Key developments of the black church in Reconstruction (9:12)
- The effect of suffering on black theological developments (19:16)
- Why black people tend to identify with Moses (34:00)
- Differences in black-church development in the North vs. the South (36:45)
- How the Great Migration affected the development of the black church (38:59)
- Key pre-civil-rights leaders (43:37)
- Jim Crow laws and the black church (52:11)
- Black Liberation theology (56:30)
- Developments of the post-civil-rights era (1:03:04)
Explore more from TGC on the topic of race.
1. Why has there historically been a separation between black and white churches? What gave rise to this?
2. In what ways does Christ’s work on the cross give Christians hope in their daily lives? In the ways we suffer? How does the black church give an example to follow in appropriating Christ’s story into ours?
3. How do the theological commitments of the black church, which Strickland describes, affect the church’s life in this world? How does this rich theological heritage challenge or affirm your understanding of theology in black Christian tradition?
4. How might understanding this history help us as the church to fully live out the gospel and its implications for community?
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Walter Strickland: You had these African-American evangelicals, who are theologically Orthodox, who are now sort of saying, “Hey, we must apply the gospel to this stuff.” In the churches that they’re worshiping in, there was either apathy towards that, or a no, that’s not real theology.
Matt Kenyon: You’re listening to, As In Heaven, a Christian conversation on race and justice. In this episode, we’re speaking with Walter Strickland about the historical developments of the Black church. Walter brings a wealth of scholarship to the conversation as well as a very pastoral tone. As he traces the history of the Black church all the way from its formation to present day. Jim Davis is your host. Mike Aitcheson is your cohost. Mike Graham is the executive producer, and I, Matt Kenyon am the technical producer of the show.
So without further ado, please enjoy this episode of, As In Heaven with Walter Strickland.
Jim Davis: Welcome to As In Heaven, season two. My name’s Jim Davis. My co-host this week is big Mike over there, as he was known back in his college football glory days at Kentucky, Mike Aitcheson, pastor of Christ United Fellowship Church. And we are joined today by Dr. Walter Strickland. Man, your background is going to take me a minute. You have both an M.Div and a ThM from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where you currently teach. Your PhD is in theology from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Now you are the Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology, again at Southeastern. You’re also the Associate Vice President for diversity. And you’ve worked in vocational ministry at multiple churches. You’ve taught courses on systematic theology for CREW, an organization I worked for, for about nine years.
You have a new book coming out that we want to make sure people hear about in 2021, called the African-American Christian story, a theological account. And you’ve also, obviously, coauthored, edited, and contributed to numerous other volumes. Dr. Strickland is an associate research fellow of ethics and religious liberty, here aa [inaudible 00:02:13]. And your work appears in various other places, like the Gospel Coalition, Canon and Culture, Biblical Recorder, Christianity Today. I could go on. I won’t.
I just want to say thank you for your time. I can’t think of really anybody who could help us understand the development of the historic Black church better than you. So thank you so much.
Walter Strickland: Thank you for having me.
Jim Davis: Well, if our viewers have listened to earlier episodes, particularly those from Ligon Duncan and Darryl Williamson, they’ve heard some illusions to the historic developments and distinctives of what we call the Black church. And our observation here, as hosts, is that these are things that really are not frequently discussed. And we’re eager ourselves to grow and learn in the knowledge of these things. So Dr. Strickland, can you unpack for us in… I say in detail, I’m sure, you’re writing a book on it. But unpack for us how and why the Black church came about.
Walter Strickland: Yeah, so really what we see is that, in history, Blacks and Whites, prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, were worshiping in churches together. As far as seating arrangement goes, you would have either Whites in the front, Blacks in the back. In large churches, there was Blacks in the balconies watching the bottom floor. And oftentime, there was segregated Lord’s Supper. Whites would go first, Blacks would go second, which is interesting because the celebration of the broken body and shed blood of Christ is a very thing that grants us familial unity. But that was used as a means to dehumanize, to reinsert this stratification, Black and then White over top.
It was interesting, if you read about the activity that went on the pulpits as well, they would have service, they would preach the scriptures, they would give a life from the pulpit. And then, they would come back, reconvene after the church service was over, and they would read the slave codes. Almost as if to give that to utilize that space and the authority of what went on in that space, sort of prostituting it for the sake of giving counterfeit authority to the slave codes. So it’s almost as if to say, slaves, at time, might’ve been confused, is this from God, or is this from man? And so, it’s giving that weight of that space away in a very unbecoming way.
So all that to say, there was lots of repression that went on in those spaces, there was a lot of belittling. There was a lack of dignity being given to Black believers, not a lot of freedom to worship in a way that befits the scriptural encouragement and admonition. And so, what happened is that at a certain point… especially most famously, Richard Allen in his Exodus, out of the St George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. He, Absalom Jones, others, they walk into the church, they’re kneeling for prayer. They had recently changed the seating arrangements. They were asked to move mid-prayer, by those who were authorities of the church, then they say, “We will, after the prayer.” They insisted it happens then. They didn’t want to dishonor the Lord in whose presence they were entering in prayer. And then, so after the prayer was over, because of that insistence to move during prayer, they leave and everyone else leaves with them. So that’s the, that’s the kind of iconic sort of Exodus, the beginnings of Exodus. Especially in the North, it was already going on in the South. So Absalom Jones and Richard Allen are so renowned. Because from their Exodus and that group, emerged the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was the first freestanding African-American church in the nation.
Mike Aitcheson: Dr. Strickland, just to follow up with that, do you know what the climate was in terms of Black folks wanting to be in unity with White folks, even with the presence of second-class treatment? Was there a sense in which we still want to strive for unity with our brothers and sisters despite this harsh treatment?
Walter Strickland: Yeah, so there was a definitely a tension in that reality. So there was definitely this biblical admonition for God’s people to be together. And I think on the one hand, there was a desire to work toward that. But as those who were powerless in those spaces with no ability to begin to assert that unity, they’re always at the whim of those who were in power, always at the whim of those who were the influential in those spaces. So there was no ability to begin to live that out in any meaningful way. So it’s almost as if at the end of the day, the only recourse that they had to go worship and dignity and to actually live out more effectively the biblical calling that they’re being given as Christians, is to exit and go and do that somewhere else.
And so on the one hand, there was that desire, because it’s in scripture. But on the other hand, there was this constant tension that emerged. And eventually, they just said, you know what? We will be able to be more obedient to the Lord Jesus, establishing our own churches, worshiping in dignity, being able to serve, being able to minister to those whom look like us out of those spaces that were led by those who were African-American.
Mike Aitcheson: So you mentioned, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, the founding of AME. Were there some other prominent Black institutions that emerge during this period?
Walter Strickland: Yeah. So basically, prior to the emancipation proclamation, you had other denominations developing. The Methodist were first because they were more hierarchical in their polity and the way that they organized their church life. So you had AME, AME Zion, AME Z, CME, Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, which later became Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Because of a desire, as you were saying, to not just be for Black people, but a denomination for all people, despite the fact that it was established by African-Americans. But in the South and in the North, what you see is there’s a lot of independent Black churches being established all around, including Silver Bluff, which is where George Leile was, the first American missionary who happened to be an African-American. And then, you begin to see these associations of Black churches popping up. But never a convention until almost the turn of the 20th century with the National Baptist Convention.
Jim Davis: So one thing we’ve talked a lot about in this podcast is the Reconstruction era, and really how unknown’s that era is to most of us. Ligon Duncan devoted a whole episode to that. Carl Ellis talked about it, [inaudible 00:09:29] talked about it, Colin Hanson talked about it. What were some of the key developments in the Black church during reconstruction?
Walter Strickland: Man, [inaudible 00:09:39] already talked about it, I’ll see if I can add something new. So something that was probably already said is that, there’s this idea, not even the idea, the reality of the invisible institution. So a gentleman, a scholar, a Princeton scholar, named Albert Raboteau, said that there was this invisible institution, which is where slaves would be in the shadows of plantations, worshiping the Lord. In these hush harbors with pots overturned, which is assumed to suck up the sound of worship. Basically, being able to worship without the oversight of the slave master. So that’s called the invisible institution. But at emancipation, what he says happens is that the invisible institution becomes visible. The African-American Christian experience becomes on full display as you have this exodus of African-Americans from white-led churches, especially in the South. It had already been going on in the North prior to emancipation. But really it’s going on everywhere. And it was energized by the Emancipation Proclamation, which began this Reconstruction era.
So what I’m trying to say is that, at the beginning of the Reconstruction era, you have the full throttle establishment of African- American denominations. And so, I forget the exact stat. But if you look at South Carolina prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, they had, I think it was like 26000 Blacks in White Methodist churches. But then it was something like 650, some years later. Because they had all left and gone to AME churches, AME Zion churches, or what have you. And again, I forget the exact stat. I wish I had it here, but it’s something dramatic like that. You can read the book and find that out. But that happened both in Baptist denominations, Methodist denominations, and so on. And so, you have this establishment of the African-American church. And what happens is because that is the environment where African-Americans were able to lead themselves, it became this context that had a multipurpose reality.
There was the obvious spiritual fortification that happened there. It was in the church house, as they would call it, that you would go and you would be encouraged by the Holy Spirit. So you could then go back out into a world that was trying to essentially crush you. And so, the church provided this, as I call it, an equal and opposite force that welled up in the believers and that catalyzed them back into another week of living. And so, just as a side note, I think this is why there’s such explosive and passionate worship in Black churches. Because if there is this force of oppression that was trying to crush you, I mean individuals, systems, the vigilante justice, extra legal sort of racial protections, KKK and others that were just trying to crush you, imagined the emotional and mental struggle and strain that would put on you. But it was when they went to church that they were able to celebrate and dance and give it all over to the Lord. Because there is a God who is able, which is a theological foundation of the African-American Christian theological tradition.
And so, they would celebrate this God. So the church was a spiritual hub in a real sense. But it was also a social environment as well, because there was no Boys and Girls Club, there was no YMCA. There was these other sorts of fraternal organizations where people would hang out. But we weren’t welcome there. And so, where do you go for social activity? Well, you go to the church. You have the banquet at the church, you have the gala at the church, you have the anniversary at the church, you have just celebration of graduations, of things in the life of people were all held at the Black church.
There were some people that went too far. And it became a sort of social institution. Like W.E.B Du Bois, he said, there’s so much going on there, it’s forgotten prophetic purpose. But at the same time, it’s true that there was a lot going on there because it was the space where African-Americans could lead themselves and organize their own lives. And then just the last thing that I’ll mention then, if you guys have any follow-up, it was also a political hub, too. [crosstalk 00:14:18] It was the Black pastor who was… at that time in general, the pastor was the most educated person in the community, period. And then, in the Black community that was the same, but also, they had the oratory ability to be able to speak on behalf of their people. And in larger Black churches, they weren’t economically dependent upon white people as in their bills weren’t paid by white people. So they were answering to Black folks. So the economic reality or sustenance wasn’t dependent on a white boss garnishing wages because of their social and political stances.
And so, you had this reality going on, which is why, if you fast forward to the eulogy of Clementa Pinckney, after the Emanuel nine shooting, President Barack Obama goes down to South Carolina, and he delivers this address. And in one part of it, he says, “Some of you guys don’t understand how a civil servant can be a minister as well. It seems like there’s some dissonance to you.” But then he says, “It’s because you don’t know the history of the Black church.” Because it was consistently, and I can list name after name, which I won’t do now… but just consistently, there were those who were both in the pulpit, but also behind a lectern in Congress, pleading with the power brokers on behalf of their people. Because how are they going to be able to worship freely and work freely, both are biblical commands to do, if there are political, social adversaries out there, that are combating them at every step. So it was a posture of pastoral care for Black ministers to be politicians as well, especially at that time.
Mike Aitcheson: Dr. Strickland well said, I’m so encouraged. It’s my understanding that that legacy can actually be traced back to the plantations, where if there was an individual who could read, they would read the word and give an exhortation or encourage the people, whether privately or, as you articulated, invisibly or what have you.
Walter Strickland: And that’s definitely the case because people, especially African Americans, learn how to read with the Bible. And not only with the Bible, everyone learned how to read, to read the Bible. So it was with and for. And so, that’s such an important point because especially after the Emancipation Proclamation and the era that we’re talking about Reconstruction, there was a desire to read the Bible for myself. There’s a slave who said, “My slave masters took so many things from me, but the one thing I can not forgive is that they didn’t allow me to be educated.” And because there was no longer this mediated interpretation of the Bible to Black people. If you look around and read the literature, which a lot of it was for the purpose of keeping them subservient.
And so, there was an emphasis on the Paul in Epistles, especially in places where it was saying, slaves, obey your masters. There was an emphasis on the fact that though slavery was around during Jesus’s time, Jesus didn’t abolish slavery. That was a different kind of slavery, more of a debt slavery, not a chattel slavery with one person owning another. So that doesn’t justify American chattel slavery, but it was a different type. But still, those sorts of arguments were being used. And so, there was just all these different arguments, even curse of Ham and so on and so forth, ways in which the slave master would articulate scripture saying, in the same way God’s people left Egypt, they were in the wilderness, they left slavery, but they were crying to go back. If you leave, you’ll be crying to come back too because I can feed you better than you can feed yourself. That’s the sort of abusive and oppressive interpretation of scripture that many Black Christians were trying to read the Bible to see, what does this really say?
And so, the Bible was the means by which people learned to read. And if it wasn’t the means by which the text that they were reading to learn how to read, it was so that they could read the Bible. And so in the Reconstruction era, you have the fastest growth in the percentage of any demographic, in any era in history documented, of going from illiteracy to literacy, going from the Emancipation Proclamation to 1890. And again, I forget the exact
Walter Strickland: And so again, I forget the exact stat, but we haven’t seen anything documented like that in a census, again, an official government census, in the history of humanity, because they wanted to read the scriptures.
Jim Davis: All right. So you talk about how the suffering and the trauma that they’re experiencing even affected their worship. Can you speak to how the suffering and the trauma impacts the theological developments of various black church traditions?
Walter Strickland: Such a necessary question for us to ask and answer, because we have these… So in my view, there’s five pillars of the African-American Christian tradition. One is that there’s a big God, and this big God, a part of that is the fact that there’s a God who is able to allow them to get out of whatever situation they’re in, despite what’s going on, that you people are doing, no matter who you are, my God is able. And you see this articulation in MLK later, as he is the son of a preacher, who is the son of a preacher.
And so, then that big God reality really begins to transition into what theologians call theodicy, which is the problem of evil. That how do we explain the evil that’s happened to us? Well, there is a God who’s able, and just because he’s not working now, it doesn’t mean he’s not going to work. Just because we can’t see, we haven’t been delivered now, but there was once a time when people were in Egypt, but they eventually were in the wilderness and then in the promised land.
So people were able to situate themselves in the narrative of the Israelite people and saying, “Okay, we’re in Egypt right now, but we serve a God who was able then, he’s the same God now, and so he will work at some point because this is definitely against his will.”
So there’s a big God. And then Jesus is the next pillar that I always talk about. And so there is obviously the person and work of Christ that we talk about, and conventional theological, systematic theology classes, which I teach, so I’m not against that. But if you look at the African-American Christian tradition, there is the conversion reality. There is that Jesus died for sinners, of which I am one, which emerged when… Which was baked into the African-American theological tradition in the Great Awakenings, when the vast majority of African-Americans began to come to faith in Christ.
So that revivalist, I’m dead, I’m to be made alive in Christ for salvation, and then I walk in the spirit, that’s working the whole time. So there’s that, but there is a God in Jesus, who can identify with my sufferings. You see? This is good news. So you’re talking about the suffering. So the blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of slaves draped over barrels. So blood of Jesus does something different than the blood of somebody who was hung from a tree and beaten. So while somebody can kill us, there was one who was killed, but then he was able to rise from the dead. So [crosstalk 00:22:15] even in Christ, in Christology, what we’re talking about is the fact that even if someone like an MLK, he would say, there was Sunday, there’s resurrection day, but there was Saturday, and we’re living in Saturday right now.
And so if we look at our lives, we have to understand this is the God who is able, because Sunday’s coming. And this Jesus who died, rose, who is able to do this work, he is the first fruits of this activity. And so what we’re saying is that there’s a identification with Jesus’ sufferings that is just uncanny in the African-American Christian tradition. Not just that, hey, he suffered so that I can live, is I suffered, but not only that I suffer, my savior suffered, and he shows us how to suffer, but he didn’t stop there. He rose. And so we too will rise.
And so this is the type of work that the African-American Christian tradition gives us, which I think is something that the tradition can bequeath to all believers. How do you suffer? Well, there’s been some practice, unfortunately, at suffering because what they meant for evil, the Lord meant for good. Can turn it around, and the narrative of Christ’s death, resurrection can be used in a very fruitful and powerful way.
And so those are a couple of things. I can go on for a little bit longer, but if you have any specific questions, I can give you a little something else.
Mike Aitcheson: They call it stopping by Calvary, right?
Walter Strickland: Yeah, yeah
Mike Aitcheson: You always got to stop by Calvary.
Walter Strickland: Always, always. And the reason why that was, again, baked into the tradition, because on Friday, you start with that because somebody can always identify with Friday. Someone had a Friday on Saturday. Someone’s going to have a Friday on Monday. And so, because that good Friday, which why is it called good? I don’t know. That heavy Friday, that sorrowful Saturday, but Sunday was coming.
So in that trajectory, so the black experience is full of such of the extremes, the sorrow and the joy, this Ecclesiastes three life, back to back in such close proximity, there’s such joy and sorrow. And it’s the faith that allowed them to make sense of this reality.
Mike Aitcheson: Wow. I feel like firing up a Hammond B3 right now.
Walter Strickland: So it’s fun in my theology classes, man, we go in, sometimes. I’m like, “Y’all got to say something. I know this is the theology lecture, but…”
Mike Aitcheson: I got to ask you, do you ask them, “Ain’t he all right? Ain’t he all right?” Oh, ain’t he all right.
Walter Strickland: It is funny because there’s times I just read the traditional right into class because I’m saying something, and I’m like, I don’t think they hear what I’m saying. I say this to my own head, and I start going back through it. And I pause a little bit, and I try to give them a moment to respond to what I’m saying. So I started to get going a little bit. But it really is that…. So this is another thing that we can learn from the theology of the African-American tradition, is that the purpose of theology in the African-American church historically, is not to create doctrinal boundary lines over against other groups. There is that, for sure, because there’s different, like Baptists and Methodists, there’s different polity and what have you. But doctrine, for the most part, in the black church has been a doxological reality, a celebratory reality, and not one to say, “Okay, this is us, and that’s you.”
And so that, I think, right there lends itself to the celebration that happens when doctrine is articulated with the necessity of having to be applied in the moment that it’s articulated. Because this is not an ethereal thing. So African-Americans did theology from what we call below. And so from below, asking questions from what’s going on right now, then taking those things to the Lord and saying, “What do we do with this, God? We bring these things to you.” So in times of celebration, in times of hurt, we bring these things to you. What is our response to this, oh God? And then that’s the thing. And then because of that, then you go back into the context that generated those questions, and you live according to Christ, in those moments.
But as far as theology from above, it starts with these questions. Who is God, who is Christ, what is the church? And then sometimes it gets down into reality, but sometimes it just stops and is satisfied with the theory and not the practice. Whereas with the African-American theological tradition, it begins in the thick of it, in the dust, in the earthiness of life. And then therefore, it comes back to it, and we’re able to live differently amid it.
Mike Aitcheson: What you did was highlight what the black church can, or the tradition, the history, can bring to bear on the question of how can we sing our song in a strange land. It’s there, it’s rich, it’s filled with answers.
Walter Strickland: It’s interesting. Those songs strike the same harmonic notes, doctrinally speaking, as the white church did, in the sense that there is some harmony there. But I do think as we come together and interact, we can begin to have more harmonious engagement because there was Christ crucified. There was the necessity to be a born again. There was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All those things. This stuff is basic to Christianity. Go around the world through time, and you’ll see these things. But the way in which they were illuminated, the way that they were engaged, was definitely different stylistically, the implications of those doctrinal truths and social realities and ecclesiastical, church realities.
So the faith… this is the question I always try to get my mind around. How could a faith that was so similar at its core look so different in reality? Well, much of it was the fact that they’re living in two different worlds, in one America. And the faith was interacting in both.
Jim Davis: So I want to make sure that I have this right. You have the five pillars, big God, theodicy, which is the problem of evil, Jesus suffering, but I didn’t catch the fifth.
Walter Strickland: Yeah. So, sorry. I only did the first two, and I stopped. So big God, but theodicy is under that umbrella. Big God, what does that big God have to say about the suffering that’s going on. Two is Jesus. And in Jesus, there is we find the ability to suffer, because there was once who suffered, but he rose.
And then we have a conversion and being spirit-filled, and so that’s two sides of the same coin. And then we have, we’re a Bible focused people. Because if you go back to the reconstruction era, this era that we’re working out of right now, black folks were in the academy. And so the academy is where the systematic theologies were being produced. And so, what we had is that African-Americans, they learned the story, the story of scripture.
And so, if you go to a black church, say, “Hey, pastor, you going to tell the story?” Because that’s what matters. And at the blazing center of the story is Christ. And so anyway, I won’t go into it too much, but what I’m trying to say is that it’s a very Bible-focused people. And so if you hear black preaching, a lot of illustration, perhaps, in the epistles will be narratives from the Old Testament. Because there was a man named Ezra. You hear somebody go back to that. So, because there was a man named Jonah. You hear somebody go back to one of those narratives and just bring them to life.
And so, if you talk… Yes, I’m going on too far, but yeah, it’s a Bible focused people, Bible centric, not focused on systematic theology textbooks, not so much focused on other things like that, but really… And I think this has to do a lot, even with the way that African-Americans interpreted the Bible, even seeing themselves in the story. Seeing themselves, not holding the Bible far away, looking at it from a distance, but they were Israel. They saw themselves. So you got to get in the story.
So I’m being silly, but they were, okay, so where are we in history? Okay. We’re in Egypt. We, Israel and us. Where are we today? Well, it’s Saturday, so we still suffering, but Sunday’s coming. So there’s a participatory reality with the people of God, which gives you a very intimate engagement with the characters, because it’s almost as if you’re that person. Which this is… If you read even the insurrectionists, like Denmark Vesey or others, they saw themselves as Biblical figures. A Samson. So he was trying to get his Samson on, leading his people out.
And so, that’s the… And we could talk about some ethics and things like that, but that’s what he was doing, reading the Bible and trying to apply it, to participate in the narrative. But it happens in very productive ways, all throughout American history, that you see this participatory nature of Christian doctrine.
So lastly, there’s liberation, that’s the fifth pillar. Liberation in the tradition, 400 years speaking, there is the spiritual liberation. And then there’s the eschatological liberation, God in the end is going to free all of us from all this mess down here. And then there’s the middle part, which is the social liberation that comes along with this too, social deliverance, freedom… Are the three words, liberation, deliverance, freedom, are the words used to describe this. And really, this is a way of reading the Bible, in the sense that God who is come to the earth, rose from the dead, from the grave, has given us the ability to be free from sin, internally, the ability to work towards ridding ourselves of sinfulness, society of sinfulness. Why? Because there’s a kingdom coming that is going to be sinless. And we’re trying to give testimony to that and drag in pieces of that eschatological in times kingdom reality, where there’s no more suffering, no more tears, no more dying, and bring that into the present.
So a fully [inaudible 00:33:45] because I know there’s some parts of the African-American tradition, currently in the contemporary moment, that focus specifically on that middle part of liberation, which is social political liberation, but the tradition as a whole saw liberation as a more holistic reality.
Jim Davis: That was so well said. You actually answered three questions that I wanted to ask. That was super helpful. But because you talked about you seeing yourself in the Bible, I think it’s pretty common for white people to really identify with Paul in the Bible. And it’s more common for African-Americans to identify themselves with Moses. Can you explain that a bit?
Walter Strickland: Yeah. So, the enlightenment gave us the desire to have transcendent statements that quantify large realities, which what Paul did, he gave more didactic, line by line teaching, that was not as illuminated in daily life. But that was what he was getting at, that we should live out the Christian faith, but it’s more just objective statements that are there on the page.
And so, that is really why, especially a lot of those who come out of a fundamentalist or dispensationalist tradition. And I say fundamentalist because they’re responding to German liberalism, where theology became the experience within the person that you got from understanding who God was. So it was very relativistic, very emotionally driven, very… But so then they’re responding to that. They’re saying we need to have a very literal interpretation of the Bible. We have to be very plain, a plain reading of the text. And so the most explicit place and the easiest place to do that is Paul’s epistles.
And so, that was coming out of the Christian, Bible colleges, I think, and the academy, especially after the fundamentalist modernist controversy in the 1920s and beyond. But by contrast, again, African-Americans weren’t in those spaces. So that enlightenment reality of trying to create these statements that transcend and bring these truths into these little truth nuggets, that really wasn’t the thing. They were trying to participate with the people of God, in their reality, to make sense of their own experience in the world.
And so that dramatic living out of God’s law, and that dramatic living out of being the people of God. In the Old Testament, you see for better, for worse, people who are righteous, who are stumbling on through their lives. And so that illustration is really what is so important and what African-Americans were leaning towards. And so, especially with Moses and the exodus, because that story became a paradigm through which the rest of the Bible was understood.
Mike Aitcheson: Beautiful. Doc, what were some of the, as we continue talk about the developments you had alluded to, the early 20th century there, what were some of the differences between black church developments in the North versus the South?
Walter Strickland: Yeah. So especially talking about the… Again, going back to that Reconstruction period, you had folks who were from the North, who… And this is amongst black folk… Folks in the North who had closer proximity, as free persons, to white people. And so there was more ability to own land or to have stores where they were selling things. And so there was a need to carry oneself in such a way that there was more… That white folks were more apt to engage with them. And so, one of the things that black Christians, after emancipation, were after is bringing a more dignified manifestation of the faith and sophisticated culture down to former slaves.
And Daniel Alexander Payne, who I really love and appreciate him, he was born in Charleston, and then he had a school in South Carolina, but then it was outlawed that you couldn’t teach blacks-
Walter Strickland: But then it was outlawed that blacks couldn’t teach… Well, you couldn’t teach blacks, as a white person or a black person. So then he went to Wilberforce, North Carolina or Ohio, rather. And then he end up coming back down to the South after emancipation because he wanted to bring a more dignified way of worshiping. So the famous ring shout that you see, people going around in the circle and worshiping God, which has really has a lot of echoes of pre-middle passage sort of religious practices. Those African-isms that survived the middle passage, despite the brutality of it all.
So there was those African practices that they saw that were very heathenish and so Daniel Alexander Payne, and even others were trying to have a more sophisticated worship environment, you know, even with the preaching and so on and so forth. So I think worship wars was the biggest difference between churches in the North and churches in the South.
Jim Davis: What effect did the great migrations have on the black church, on the development of the black church?
Walter Strickland: I’ll try to be succinct. So the great migration for those who don’t know, it’s a time period in the early 20th century, beginning in the second decade, so 1914 through really heavy through the first world war. So it was a time in which there was lots of extra legal oppression through the KKK and other Knights of the White Camelia and other groups in the South, compound with two summers of boll weevil infestations. So basically, you had sharecroppers in the South who their crop was destroyed two years in a row, so they had nothing to live on. And so you had all these compounding things, that sort of made black folks say, “Hey, we’re out.”
And so what happened is that black folks for the most part went to two places. One is the urban centers of the South, but primarily, into the Midwest or up North. So there’s this this movement of population that really shook things up. So if you think about where population was, black folks were mostly rural at the time, because they were slaves in plantations and things like this. So they were not in urban areas. And so there was this sort of ecclesiastical substructure that undergirded all of life, again, spiritual, social, political. But when you have a movement like that, then you’re taking people out of the life patterns in which sustain life. And even economics, I mean, a black pastor would say, if someone lost a job in the service, well, they would say, “Everything you need is right here in the room.” Because the people of God were the resource, we were the economic safety net for people who lost it.
And so when you have that many people moving to urban centers, both in the South, but primarily in the Midwest, and then also in the Northeast, you sort of had these churches that were just completely overburdened by people. And so not only just with sheer number, but again, it was the pastors who were helping people find jobs. It was the pastors who were helping people connect to places to live. It was pastors who was caring for people holistically. And so then you have this sort of, millions of people moving, and especially when folks left for the war. When you have people who left for the war it left all this work available. And then, so you had jobs available now too. So black folks just left, especially this is the industrial revolution, so there’s all this industry in the cities, these factories. And so they just started to pour in.
So all I’m trying to say is that, that sort of social ecclesial sort of net, that sort of undergirded the patterns of life, the spiritual sort of cohesiveness of life, even the economic sort of help in life was ripped away all basically at the same time. And so whole churches would move from the South to the North. It was unbelievable. So, imagine you’re a pastor in Chicago and you have a congregation of about 50 people. It’s not based upon the numbers of people who migrated in the stories I’ve read, of pastors giving testimony about this time in the cities like Chicago, Gary, Indiana, Indianapolis, and so forth. It’s that those churches went from 50 to 350, 450. What do you do? And so it’s hard to care for folks, in those ways that they were caring for folks so holistically. And so what happened is that at that point, you really begin to see the government come in and sort of give out a lot more aid because that ecclesiastical safety net was gone.
Jim Davis: Man, that was good. That was one of the best concise explanations of the migrations and how they affected the church. And I think, in a white context, the majority culture context, going from 50 to 350 is no big deal, but I’m not responsible as the pastor for all the needs and burdens that you’re communicating the pastor would have been responsible for.
So a lot of us are familiar with the civil rights leaders and some of their specific contributions. Who were some of the key pre civil rights movements leaders that we really need to know about and what were some of their contributions?
Walter Strickland: So I would with George Kelsey. George Kelsey is a philosopher, eventually a professor at Morehouse College. He was Dr. King’s professor while he was there. In fact, you understand in Dr. King’s life, I grew up in the house of a Baptist pastor who was the son of a Baptist pastor. And then when he went to Morehouse, which was at age 15. So went to college at like 15, 16. It was really, really early. During his time at Morehouse, he began to question the fate of his father, like many of us do. We get out of the house, what do I really believe? Is this really my faith? Or is it the faith of my dad who was a pastor at a big church in the city of Atlanta?
And so he begins to write all these kinds of papers exploring, did Jesus really rise bodily from the dead? Is the scriptures, the word of God? All the pillars that we talked about were essential to the African American Christian tradition. So he begins to question all these things, but then a professor by the name of George Kelsey, who had a PhD from Yale in philosophy, begins to help to reassure him of the veracity and the truthfulness of the Bible. And so his philosophical impact is profound, not only in King’s life, pointing him back to the scriptures, but also, even as we’re talking about Morehouse being this sort of pillar for education, along with [Spellman 00:57:03] there in Atlanta, which then affected the country.
Another name that you have to know is Benjamin Elijah Mays, who was, I know I’m staying in Morehouse. I’m the dude who wanted to go to Morehouse, like every black, young man, but I didn’t go. So anyway, I applied there, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. So anyway, Benjamin Elijah Mays, he was the president of Morehouse while King was there. And he was also really good friends with daddy King and they would have breakfast and lunch. And so after chapel, you would have Martin King Jr. following Dr. Mays back to his office asking all these questions about, how does faith in society work together. And he would just wear him out. But he was such a wonderful organizer and thinker, and they called him the school master of the movement, of the civil rights movement. So he was the one who was the educator of the bunch.
I sort of see myself in him, and this is me sort of being retro introspective. I see myself in him, because perhaps I’m not the guy who’s out there, out there, but at some point, someone by God’s grace might come through my class. That’ll be the guy who’s out there. The girl who’s out there. Really doing it for the Lord. So I might write a couple of books here and there. Okay, whatever. I’ll be a guy in my stale classroom lecturing for the next 25, 30 years if God allows that. And so he sort of created this environment where folks were trained and sent out. So he’s definitely one.
Someone that I would say is just dear to my heart is Charles Octavius Booth. He was actually born a slave in 1845. Some of you guys might be thinking, “Oh, he’s pumping his own book.” But it’s Charles Octavius Boots’ book.
So he was born a slave in 1845. He learned to read in the shadows of a plantation with the letters on a tin plate, by teachers who were boarding at a plantation who taught him illegally. So they’re actually risking their own necks, teaching this young kid. He then, because he can read, was an errand boy at a law office. And then, as you know, the law at that time was based upon biblical sort of logic, especially the Book of Romans. He’s reading Romans and other biblical books. He gets saved. And then after he gets saved, emancipation happens. And then he establishes two churches. One of which is Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of which the 20th pastor is Martin Luther King Jr. And so he established these two churches. He actually is in partnership with the Alabama Baptist, which is the Southern Baptist State Convention.
So he was interacting with Alabama Baptist saying, “Hey, help fund me so I can go around to all these rural pastors and do theological training.” And so, as he was doing that, he was reading [BB Warfield 00:00:57:03] . He was reading all these folks, the old Princeton guys. And he was like, “This stuff is too heady. We’re a bunch of sharecroppers out here. We need a very succinct, logical statement of the faith and plain language.” And so he wrote a book called, Plain Theology for Plain People, that was published as the first systematic theology written by a black man in 1890. Had one publishing. It went away forever.
And then, I ended up getting a copy of it in like 2015 or something like that. Kind of like in a shady way, someone gave it to me like, “Hey, don’t tell anybody I give it to you. I don’t know what the copyright law is.” It’s public domain, but they didn’t know what it was. So I had to get it in a Word document on a thumb drive, like who has thumb drives anymore? They were really trying to be hands- off. And so the guy gave it to me and hood down low, behind the library kind of thing.
So I read it in a day. I was like, the world has to know about this person. Why doesn’t the world know about Charles Octavius Booth? Why doesn’t the world know that he’s the one who established this church. I mean, African Americans were doing mission in the 1890s. And I can mention missionary after missionary, Lock Kerry, Daniel Coker, Zipper Allow. The names go on and on, but African Americans were doing this kind of work.
All I’m trying to say is that Charles Octavius Booth is another sort of window into this tradition that’s just getting completely lost. And so Booth is a great figure, James W. Hood, which I got to give props to him because he’s a North Carolinian. He had a profound ministry down in Fuquay, which is about 30 minutes south, 45 minutes south of Raleigh. It may be farther. It’s probably a little farther than that. And he wrote a great book called, The Negro in the Baptist Pulpit. Another book that is an edited volume is called, the Negro Baptist Pulpit. It was edited by Ian Brawley.
And so just a quick story behind that. I’m way outside of what your question now, but I’m just going.
Jim Davis: But I’m enjoying it.
Walter Strickland: So publishing also suffered the same sort of racism that crippled every other area in society. And so what you see that in the fact that Booth wrote this book and where did it go? Because only a small publisher took a chance on him and that was it. A lot of the editorial boards for publishers were white. All of them are white owned. And they had a certain populous they were after, keeping their business. And nobody saw a black man as a authority on spiritual matters. So they’re like, “Well, as an economic viability decision, we’re not going to publish African Americans.” And so the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board approached E.M. Brawley to get the best and the brightest Baptist minds together to write a book, to help them understand the doctrines of the faith and what have you. So he goes out and gets the best of the brightest, including white men, black men, to write in this book, he handed to the publisher and they said, “We’re not publishing these black people.”
So, publish the white ones and we won’t post the black ones. And he said, “We’re not publishing anything.” So he goes to a different publisher and hands those essays over in a book and they call it, let me see, it’s called, The Negro Baptist Pulpit. And so wonderful statements on Christian doctrine, a wonderful statement on scripture, atonement, and the list goes on and on that really gives us a window into the richness of this sort of theological heritage. And so all the folks in there are all in this sort of latter 19th century going into the 20th century, sort of leading into this period.
Then you’ve got Emanuel Turner, then you got a whole bunch of others. I can keep on going, but, you know, Francis Grimke-
Jim Davis: Before we land the plane with post-civil rights era, and we’ll do that briefly, but you made me curious, you talked about the slave codes and how the slave codes were used to black Americans, how were the Jim Crow laws used during reconstruction? We talked with Dr. Ligon Duncan, basically there was basically slavery under another name. How did the Jim Crow laws affect the development or the impact the black church?
Walter Strickland: Yeah. So to not just kind of go back over what he said, perhaps, if I think about it, I think it enhanced the impact of the black church. In the sense that, it became a beacon of light in the midst of darkness. What other organization was established with a message that was used to manipulate the people who began it? So if you look at the beginning of African American Christian faith, and what have you, not only was there a context of oppression, but the gospel itself was used to oppress it. And so if we think about this, and so we have sort of re-imagined the faith to be not that which oppresses, but that which sort of delivers and brings about freedom. So the testimony to that is the Church.
In that era, while someone like Gayrod Wilmore and James Conan was said that there’s this de-radicalization of the black Church and it lost its prophetic voice, I think it’s still there. I think it sort of morphed a little bit during Jim Crow. So you’re talking about, what’s that? 1896 through the Civil Rights Acts in the early sixties. And so there is a very helpful sort of development here that I think is very powerful and necessary for us to see. I’m stealing this from Martin Knoll. He doesn’t use this with reference to this movement, but I see it. He says there’s, in a religious movement, there’s always three major developments that you just kind of see happen over and over again.
One is an institutional awakening. So you see that at the beginning of reconstruction, when the invisible institution becomes visible. Second is an intellectual deepening. So in my view, when you see the new Negro as we see the intellectual development happening, especially in Harlem, coming down and even the faith was beginning to be sort of re-imagined in awesome ways out of that movement. And you begin to see people like the George Kelsey’s, Benjamin Elijah Mays, and then Howard Thurman. That’s like a five hour conversation on him because… I’ll say this. He didn’t end where he started because he ended up mystic, but he actually was… Anyway. But even folks like him, folks like Ian McNeil Turner, they were all sort of pouring into this intellectual deepening that emerged with no third phase, which is social impact.
So institutional sort of establishment, intellectual deepening and social impact. The social impact is the Civil Rights Movement. And so what I’m trying to say is that people were like, “Oh, so King, he had the personalism.” Which is his ethical construct that he got and his doctorate at Boston University. He had the African American Christian tradition. He had this… So all these things, even some [inaudible 00:55:47] and some other stuff mixed in there. He’s like a 25 week class on all his own. But there was lots of things going on there. But a lot of it was the sort of culmination of this intellectual deepening, getting these tools that can even create somebody like an MLK to do the work that he did in public like that.
So pre-civil rights, there’s a lot going on. And that, in my view, is the most understudied and misunderstood time in the African American Christian tradition, which is why right now I’m taking THM, master of theology, and doctoral students in that area. So if you want to come study that era, come on.
Jim Davis: Wow. Yeah, well, I’m sold. I’ll be on the next thing out of here. As we come on towards the post civil rights era, could you just briefly touch on us and you alluded to this with the God of the oppressed, delivering people from Egypt. Could you give us a succinct understanding of liberation, theology and black liberation theology, but then also help us understand what are some helpful things and where some areas that might be prone to error. If you could just give us a little quick-
Mike Aitcheson: … some areas that might be prone to error. If you could just give us a little quick-
Walter Strickland: Definitely, definitely. I’ll do my best. The reason why I laugh because I wrote a dissertation on this. Especially on the black liberation theology side. So, essentially, if you look at liberation theology, starting with Gustav Gutierrez and Latin America, he was basically trying to figure out how do I do theology on behalf of the people who are extraordinarily economically disenfranchised?
And so for him, it was primarily about economics and what have you. He was Roman Catholic. And so there’s a lot of Catholic implications there. But as it pertains in America, so black liberation theology was officially established, many scholars would say, in 1969 with the publication of James Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power. And so one thing that’s interesting about Cone, and I’ll go explain what he’s after, is that he is seen, oftentimes, as the voice for African-American Christianity. Because he’s the one who was the first one to write as a PhD in such a public way in the Academy.
And he wrote prolifically, meaning that he wrote a lot of books. And he was fairly intense. He had a very intense message. And so, oftentimes, people look to James Cone, seeing him as the paradigm of the African-American theological tradition. But I would argue that he actually is not. And so a lot of the voices that we’re talking about previously, like Charles Octavius Boothe, Absalom Jones, John Chavis, and so on and so forth. There’s a lot of folks. They’re the ones who carried the dearth of the tradition.
So what was Cone after, and why did he write what he wrote? James Cone, he looked at the African-American church, the black church. So a summary of what the mission of the black church was is the priestly and the prophetic. So the priestly and prophetic mission of the black church is what the church was after. So priestly, like prayer, spiritual developments, salvation, spiritual formation, those things. But also the prophetic is its implications in public life. So that was the summary, two-part summary, of the black church.
So Cone, his take was that he saw the prophetic voice of the black church waning after the death of Henry McNeal Turner in 1915. And so he’s trying to reinvigorate the prophetic voice of the black church. And so what he does, in my view, is that he begins to focus solely on liberation, not in the salvific sense, nor in the eschatological sense, but the social sense. Because before, I talked about liberation. And the tradition was viewed as salvific, salvation from sin. And then the eschatological reality that God is ultimately going to bring all things to rights, as NT Wright would say. And then there’s the social, but all those things held together.
But Cone focused in on the social reality. There’s not much spiritual formation conversation at all in his writing. He doesn’t talk about eschatology, besides to say that, “I’m not talking about that because the slave master used it to keep slaves docile, saying you’re soul is free, but your body belongs to me, and will be free in the sweet by and by. But now, you have to stay. I own you.” And so, because of that, he said, “I’m not talking about eschatology because that’s an escapist, Christian faith.”
And so he focused his liberation that he’s talking about is about social and political realities. And because of his sole focus on that, it begins to impact how he reads the Bible. So his hermeneutic is really just one about social/political liberation. And then there’s not much to fully form the concepts and topics that liberation ought to be applied to. Because he just focused on liberation socially and politically primarily.
So for me, the way I teach my classes is that you’ll never understand a movement until you understand its anxieties. So Cone’s anxieties are really what, I think, are very helpful for us to understand. He was anxious about a society that kept killing. And people in society were getting killed, who were black. He was writing right after the assassination of MLK. He was writing with Emmett Till, that picture in Jet Magazine, on replay in his mind. He was writing with the very recent killings of those three boys who were trying to sign up people to vote in ’63, that long, hot summer. So all of that was in his mind as he’s doing this. And so his anxiety is all that stuff.
And so he’s seeing that there’s a problem. And he’s like, “The black church is not answering to this as it was in the Reconstruction era where you had the pastor as a primary political voice of the black community.” And so he’s trying to get that back. But in doing so, he focuses so much energy on political/social liberation, it becomes a totality of what he does. And so I understand why he did what he did. I resonate with his anxiety, but I would say that we have to go about it in a different way that encompasses, yes, the prophetic, but also rooted and anchored and guided by the priestly realities, and the exegetical realities, of the Scripture.
And so that even gives us an ethic that would differ from Cones. Because we ought not to do anything in pursuit of liberation that would then nullify the possibility of reconciliation.
Mike Aitcheson: A well-deserving season itself. What are some other developments in the post-civil rights era that we should be aware of?
Walter Strickland: Yeah. So it’s interesting. Mega churches are something that really pop up. If you think about the mega church reality, think back to the reality that pastor in Chicago during the Great Migration. So pastoring and the church reality was this, “Hey, we do spiritual care. We do soul care. We help people get jobs. We marry people. We bury people. We’re all up in your lives all the time.” But then that reality of the church of 50 going to 350, that’s the same pastoral care reality as we see what the black mega church.
And so that’s been an interesting development. And a lot of those churches are not in the seven historic black denominations. And so you have the Potter’s House with TD Jakes. You have a Creflo Dollar’s church. The list goes on. So there’s lots of larger churches that are, I’m trying to figure out what the affiliation that Tony Evans has. I think he’s an independent.
Mike Aitcheson: Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.
Walter Strickland: Which is not National Baptist. It’s not Progressive National Baptist. It’s not CME, AME. So those were the historic denominations. So there’s growth out of that. And to be honest with you, I think that’s something to look at. Also, there’s the emergence of the black evangelical. I think is profound.
But this is a big one.
Mike Aitcheson: Yep. It is.
Walter Strickland: Because even in 1963, the National Black Evangelical Association emerged. And so prior to that, you had black evangelicals and white evangelicals and the National Evangelical Association. And folks like John Stott were there, and others, who were really pushing this [inaudible 01:05:17] reality. But then African-Americans were there saying, “Hey, as we’re pastoring our people, we have to be able to talk about these issues that are pressing in on us, like where sin is manifest, and the ways in which it’s manifest, in particular, in our churches, in our people’s lives, which is racial injustice. So we have to begin to apply the Gospel to these things.”
And so what happened was is that there was this tension there. So they established the National Black Evangelical Association to have the historic Orthodox, theological underpinnings yet turning and facing the communities in which they ministered and saying, “Now, we can begin to engage this as a loose coalition of churches where we can support each other.”
And so that’s a fantastic development. It really began to pivot in 1970, which is right around the time when James Cone’s book came out. And they were in dialogue with the James Cone. James Cone wasn’t talking to them. They were talking to James Cone saying that we get his angst, but his theological formulation needs to be altered. And so they were trying to really engage the black experience. And so they were looking out at what was going on and at their white brothers and sisters, and saying, “You all are fallen off one side of the horse, and you’re just not seeing bodily realities as they’re happening.”
And then they looked at Cone and said, “All you see is bodily realities. But we have the grapple with the seen and the unseen, the priestly and the prophetic.” So I think guys like Ronald Potter, guys like William H. Bentley, they were doing the work. But they were pastors, not academic. So they didn’t write enough to rival something like the black liberation theology reality that was nurtured in the Academy. So everyone who was doing that work was a part of the Academy. In fact, black liberationists have distanced themselves from the black church.
And so you have all this writing activity that’s not quite conversant with what’s actually going on in the average black church. But those guys, Ronald Potter, William H. Bentley, and others, Carl Ellis is actually one of those guys on the ground floor. So I’m trying to pick up their legacy and run with it.
And then I’ll do this, and I’ll stop. So post civil rights developments. So in my book, I wrote about this Trayvon the Trump era. And so as being the initiation of a new something for African-American Christians. And so you have prior to Trayvon, you got Rodney King, you got the Jena Six, you got the Beer Summit at Obama’s place with the cop, and with the historian at Harvard. What’s his name? I have his book behind me, too. So yeah. All that to say there was this, “Hey, we’re making progress here.”
And then the flood gates open. Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and really, not to say who’s right and who’s wrong. But there’s this racial tension that emerged. And then it mushroomed, especially in the Christian context, with the, whatever, that 80% is voting for Trump. And so in between the Trayvon, the Trump, era, moment, there’s all that racial tension that was going on. And so what you have is that it emerges into the Exodus of the black evangelical. The divorcing black evangelical movement.
New York Times, Washington Post, are talking about this. And it’s basically, you have these African-American evangelicals who are theologically Orthodox, who are now saying, “Hey, we must apply the Gospel to this stuff.” And the churches that they were worshiping in, there was either apathy towards that, or a, “No, that’s not real theology because this is real theology.” And it’s really just a different contextualized theology, but it was by Caucasian pastors and theologians.
And so what is going on right now is that you have Orthodox African-American Christians who are saying, “We have to be able to bring our joys, sorrows, fears to our faith and answer directly to them. Because that’s what the faith does.” And so now you have this new thing emerging, which is like a return back to the tradition, is what I’m saying. And you’re seeing folks writing, like Esau McCaulley. You’re seeing folks write like Jamar Tisby. You’re seeing folks writing out there. And again, even myself. I throw myself in there. And so it’s so new, there’s a spectrum of people in here. But it’s a thing that’s going on. Even a passer, like CJ Rhodes, who’s down in Alabama, or Mississippi rather, in Jackson, Mississippi at a historic black church, but he is an Orthodox pastor who’s trying to get back the prophetic edge of the black church. Because it was one of those that went more priestly than prophetic in the early part of the Jim Crow.
So all of the say, there’s something going on. And it’s still forming. I’m not sure what to make of it. But what I do see is that there is this demand for an Orthodox faith that engages with the best and worst of the black experience. And now, we have people with PhDs, and who are now writing the books, to give voice to that movement.
Jim Davis: Well, you’re making me want to go back to school.
Mike Aitcheson: Absolutely.
Jim Davis: This has been really… I’m jealous of the people who get to take your class. I can’t thank you enough. Man, I want to hang out with you. When you come to Orlando-
Mike Aitcheson: Yes.
Jim Davis: … the three of us need to hang out. This has been a joy. This season of As In Heaven would not be complete without this episode. So I can’t thank you enough for all the obvious work that you’ve done, as you just saying all this stuff off the top of your head. I’m really genuinely thankful for you, for your voice, that you’re carrying on the torch. And I’m just excited to watch and see what God’s going to do with you. Man, thank you for joining us today.