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Generational Shift in Black Christianity Comes to Harvard

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Generational Shift in Black Christianity Comes to Harvard

By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN Published: November 11, 2012

Ministers and theologians who came of age during the civil rights era are being replaced by those, like the Rev. Jonathan L. Walton, of elite universities, the diversity movement and hip-hop culture.

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Black ministers and theologians of Mr. Walton’s generation have inherited an African-American church trying to serve both the entrenched poor and the upwardly mobile educated class. It is also pulled between the liberation theology most notably articulated by Dr. King and the so-called health-and-wealth gospel promoted by contemporary megachurch pastors like the Rev. T. D. Jakes.

Mr. Walton criticized that approach in his book about black televangelists, “Watch This!” [Watch This!: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism, (NYU Press, Feb, 2009)] His Harvard pulpit, he said, will also afford him a forum for registering such concerns.

“It’s important not just in black Christianity but in American Christianity to hold onto the progressive strand of evangelical Christianity — the social gospel,” he said. “To hold accountable this hypercapitalist and radically individualist strand of Christianity in American religion.”

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