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Resurrection Song: African American Spiritually.

Resurrection Song: African American Spiritually

By Flora Wilson Bridges

(Orbis, 2001)


Religion and spirituality are often seen as interchangeable terms but they are not. Flora Wilson Bridges, in her excellent study of African American spirituality, Resurrection Song, firmly corrects this misunderstanding. She notes that religion is a more structured concept that relates to rites, rituals, and creeds, while spirituality is a much broader term that addresses an individual's or community's experience of and response to God. Putting it bluntly, in the Black community, it is "defined as whether one knows Jesus."

Bridges responds to the critique of many Black theologians for ignoring spirituality and paying more attention to sociological, economic, and political issues instead. Her indepth analysis begins in the motherland of Africa to reveal the critical roots of contemporary Black spirituality in the United States today. She traces the holistic worldview of African peoples and explores how that spirituality was grafted onto the tree of African American culture and life by retention of sayings, music, stories, and songs, to create a new yet old spirituality.

Seeing spirituality as a "way of being" rather than just a "way of knowing," Bridges reveals how spirituality is at the very heart of the African American experience in the United States, an experience of forced migration, slavery, racial prejudice, and second-class citizenship. It is this spirituality that sustained and nurtured those enslaved, enabling them to preserve much of the past while forging new identities in the cruel new world in which they found themselves.

This work fills a serious gap in our understanding of how Africans became African Americans. It reveals the spiritual matrix from which the Black church and Black leaders emerged. It can also serve as a guide for the "return" that is needed in the Black community today, a return to the faith and spirit of our foremothers and forefathers that is in danger of being lost.

Reviewed by Diana L. Hayes, a professor of systematic theology at Georgetown University.
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Author:Hayes, Diana L.
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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