Tony Jones and the Need for a Postcolonial Christianity

Thought-provoking piece from Sarah Jones:

“Our preferences aren’t formed in an intellectual void. The Pentecostalism of the global South has a distinct history, greatly influenced by the legacy of Western colonialism. The relationship between the South and the West hasn’t been shaped by dialogue, but by imperialism, and if dialogue is the goal, the onus of compromise is on the West, not on the South. Additionally, dialogue is impossible as long as the West continues to assert its intellectual superiority to the South. The Pentecostalism of the Global South is correctly considered a syncretic belief system, and that syncretism ought to be viewed as a colonized culture’s attempt to retain agency in the face of Western Christianity’s theological colonialism.

“In my master’s dissertation, I argued that Western missionary and aid efforts in the South constitute a theological colonialism, an imperialism ultimately shaped and directed by doctrinal beliefs rather than the political interests of the state. I believe that Jones should be considered an advocate of this theological colonialism, and that in response, Christians committed to anti-racist work ought to consider a postcolonial theology. This theology ought to be primarily shaped by marginalized voices, and should acknowledge the influence of social attitudes on this consuming emphasis on doctrinal purity. It’s time for the Tony Joneses of Western Christianity to take a step back and allow people of color to helm the discussion. His refusal to do so does, despite his protestations, make him a racist.”


Today, I’m taking a brief break from my coverage of the Christian homeschool movement in order to weigh in on another controversy plaguing the Christian blogosphere. Yesterday, Emergent theologian and pastor Tony Jones defended himself against recent accusations of racism by noted African American pastor and psychologist Dr. Christena Cleveland. On her personal blog, Cleveland addressed Jones’ public assertion that he, and other Emergents, had identified the most accurate interpretation of the Gospel. Cleveland’s critique of this remark is based on certain incontrovertible truths: that the Emergent movement is dominated by white men, and that Jones, as a member of this class, possesses the highest possible degree of social privilege. In a theological context, this cultural hierarchy is informed by centuries of Christian collusion with political imperialism, domestically and in the developing world. Historically, white men (particularly straight white men) have enforced interpretations of Christianity that deliberately marginalize the Other…

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