Danté Stewart (Stew) Profile picture
I love my family. Country boy. Giving you Jesus & James Baldwin. @emoryuniversity. Host: https://t.co/6iuJdXzX4Z
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28 Apr
Changing America is not only right but it is loving and just when the country is unequal and unjust. "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive..," the Declaration declares, "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."
It is not a bad thing when people say those of us who want better want to "change America's identity." It is a bad thing when people can't recognize that the way things are going can't be sustained. America is not a city on the hill, it is the valley of the Shadow of death.
Sadly, when people use this rhetoric, it's clear that they don't see they want to change the country as well. They want to keep it more white, less equal, more divisive, less healthy, more powerful, less honest, more hateful, and less loving. Their ideas of "we" don't include us.
Read 4 tweets
27 Apr
Critical Race Theory does not claim to be theological nor does it claim to want to replace theology. What it will do is show you how your Christian faith looks more like anti-blackness than it does like Jesus and the ways your theology devalues, harms, and needs to be rethought.
Critical Race Theory is compatible with Christianity. Critical Race Theory is not an enemy of Christianity. Critical Race Theory is not trying to replace Christianity. Critical Race Theory helps Christianity. Critical Race Theorist are also Christians.
Critical Race Theory has become the new enemy of the religious and political Right to mask their fear of the dismantling of white supremacist power, place, and privilege. The political and religious Right needs “enemies” to feel like they matter and maintain power.
Read 11 tweets
27 Apr
Christian faith is not just about proclaiming the faith in a world that is blinded. It is also about embodying a dependable presence in a world that is broken. Our faith is not about winning, controlling, or proving. Our faith is about liberating, healing, and loving.
I wonder if the struggles we Christians have with compassion and justice is rooted in our inability to see this. "Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples," Toni Morrison writes, "are so deep, so cruel..only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning."
Morrison might have been talking about writers but this is applicable to our faith as well. The faith that Jesus embodied and proclaimed is one that "translate trauma and turn sorrow into meaning." We can only do this through presence and imagining a faith of love not control.
Read 6 tweets
26 Apr
Ma'Khia Bryant should be alive. It breaks my heart that people would rather see her as a deranged monster with a knife rather than a beautiful human who deserves to grow up and get old and make mistakes and make friends and have fun. She didn't deserve bullets. She deserved love.
But the sad reality is this: we seem to be incapable of seeing Black children, women, and men as deserving of love. In the inability to love us lies the justification for all the ways we have been devalued and destroyed. But I believe we deserve so much more. So much more.
I wonder what would happen to the country and to policing if they exercised the same grace, same restraint, same desire for safety, and the same honoring of humanity toward us as have toward white Americans? How different would this country and our experience be?
Read 4 tweets
26 Apr
I am reading my gospel reading this morning. "Peace I leave with you," Jesus says. "My peace I give you." I recently read in Toni Morrison's The Dancing Mind. She said there is a certain kind of peace that is not at the mercy of history's rule or a surrender to the status quo.
"The peace I am think of," she writes, "is the dance of an open mind." I find it interesting that she said suggests that this peace is the ability to have an open mind. Not a burdened mind. Not an exhausted mind. Not a hateful mind. Not a faithless mind. But an open mind.
When one reads the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Scriptures, we can't miss how the mind is a meaningful metaphor. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, Jesus says. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, Paul says. Get wisdom, the Preacher of Ecclesiastes says.
Read 9 tweets
25 Apr
I am reading in the Psalms this morning. “Sing to the LORD a new song,” they write, “because he has done wonderful things!” It is as if the psalmist is saying: your praise should not just be dependent on where you’re going, it should also be an expression of where you’ve been.
The song may be new, but my experience of God is not. It’s interesting to me that the psalmist words it this way. The situation requires a new song but the praise requires a familiar history. “He has done,” they write. The past is not perfect but the past can be powerful.
This reminds me of a story the late theologian James Cone told of first meeting the late pastor and spiritual leader Howard Thurman. Thurman, whom many regarded as the pastor of the Civil Rights Movement, invited Cone to visit he and his wife after speaking at an event.
Read 8 tweets
24 Apr
I was reading theologian M. Shawn Copeland’s book on the witness of Black religion today. She writes that our faith was not a reproduction of white Christianity but an experience of “Jesus Christ as the Bringer of Freedom.” Even in a slaveholding faith we met a liberating God.
Black faith and religion is not just an academic endeavor, a way of resisting whiteness, or reproductions of white theology. They are a way a constellation of Black people show the deepest love, embrace God’s image on Black bodies, and say: the Black world is a real world.
Theologian James Cone said he didn’t discard white theology, "but black theology began with deconstruction—that is, dismantling the oppressive, white theologies I was taught.” These theologies not only ignored black people but “blinded me to the treasure in the black tradition."
Read 7 tweets
24 Apr
I am reading in the Hebrew Bible. “When Daniel learned that the document had been signed,” says the writer, “Daniel knelt down, prayed, and praised his God..” It hit me: as we face injustice and deceitful plans, it’s so important to be spiritually grounded.
Prayer, in this moment and our own, doesn’t necessarily change our problems. It doesn’t promise our safety or the solution. What it does do is change our perspective and gives us the connection that will give us courage. And Lord, in this day, we need all the courage we can get.
This reminds me of a phrase that the late theologian Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon would say. She would say, “do the work that your soul must have.” I love that. It is as if she is saying: just as much as we struggle with the world outside of us, there is also a work within us.
Read 5 tweets
23 Apr
It’s so enraging to see the same people who protested against police officers abusing their “legal” boundaries in the killing of Black boys are now justifying police officer’s “legal” boundaries in the killing of Black girls.
It is so terrible to witness the whole “it’s lawful” argument. “It’s lawful for police to kill,” some say. Y’all, we can’t fail to forget that what’s “lawful” has continued to be hostile and harmful—especially when it comes to policing and black people.
In our society, It’s literally “lawful” to do anything if you have a badge (see @frontlinepbs Policing the Police). Just because it’s “lawful” doesn’t mean it’s right or just. Let’s not forget: the state decided so many murders of Black children, women, and men were “lawful”.
Read 6 tweets
15 Apr
If we don't see America as a white supremacist empire, the institutions interlocking in a logic of nationalist, racist, gendered, and puritanical violence, as well our Christian faith as giving all of it theological, political, and moral justification, none of us will be free.
To be Christian is to be committed to embodying God's good news for the creation and the creature. It is to know we too are caught up in the violence and we too must be committed to offering better ways of being human, Christians, neighbors, and citizens. Jesus means freedom.
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is," Paul writes, "there is freedom." Christian faith must be honest about the reality that the world as it is, is not the world that God wants. Christina join Jesus in working for a world that is more loving and liberating—the kingdom of God.
Read 5 tweets
15 Apr
I’m reading in my devotion time this morning. “Here,” Baldwin says, “to be loved”. He doesn’t say “there”. Sometimes I wonder if people only know how to love us “there” when we’re gone but fail to love us “here” while we’re alive. We want our children here and loved and alive.
Though Baldwin gave up the pulpit, he never gave up the sermon. His voice still carried God’s word and his pen, God’s power. He says this love is to “strengthen you.” And don’t we know what it means to be weak? And to feel but don’t feel? And to cry but can’t cry?
It shouted me because Baldwin is in effect saying though our love can’t protect us, our love can strengthen us. I’m reminded of Nehemiah’s word in the Hebrew Bible. “Be strong,” he said. He, like Baldwin, understood the world often fails at love but we can succeed at strength.
Read 6 tweets
14 Apr
When we say Black Lives Matter or stop killing us, we are not simply calling out the ways the system is racist, exploitive, and violent. We are also saying that our Black lives are valuable, need to be seen, inspired, protected, loved, given what’s owed, and live in peace.
It is a call to change this white supremacist system that has an insatiable desire for our suffering. And it is a call to liberate our lives from the conditions that give justifications for our suffering. It is not simply to treat us as humans but also to embrace our humanity.
We can’t afford to have limited understandings of the interlocking and systematic ways this country has taken from us and harmed us and disregarded us. We want to stop white terror and evil. We also want to live, enjoy the best things of life, and be freed from our suffering.
Read 6 tweets
13 Apr
I am reading James Baldwin this morning. I am thinking about Daunte Wright and his family and his mother. “Here you were to be loved,” James writes. “To be loved, baby, hard at once and forever to strengthen you against the loveless world.” Sometimes our love can’t protect us.
But we must love ourselves and one another because, in this racist country, it neither knows Blackness, nor God, nor love, nor how to stop harming and killing and exploiting us and protecting whiteness. It knows not how to turn our dark days into mornings or give up its hatred.
“We have not stopped trembling yet,” he says. We have not. Why? Because another Black person is murdered, another’s name is tied to a trial, another’s suffering is on video, another and another. “I’m honestly afraid,” Lt. Nazario said. “Yeah, you should be,” the officer responds.
Read 6 tweets
9 Apr
I am thinking of all the wounded Black men. I am thinking of all the ways we've been harmed and harmed of others. I am thinking of all the ways others failed to love us and we failed at love. I want us to hold and be held. I believe with bell hooks: "wounded Black men can heal."
We have to find better ways of being human and finding joy and embracing love and fighting our way out of this deadly death-dealing system. I want us to cry. Weep, hold, heal together. I want us to find ways to love ourselves that don't depend on us hurting ourselves and others.
We are blamed and we are bruised and we are broken and we are bent and this country will continue to blame us and bruise us and break us and bend us in ways that are cruel, unyielding, and voyeuristic. Yet. We are beautiful and beauty and all things lovely, if we would see it.
Read 5 tweets
9 Apr
I am reading the Hebrew Bible this morning. I am in Ezekiel's story. "The LORD's power overcame me," he says, "he led me and set me down in the middle of a certain valley." This valley was full of bones, dry, deserted. It hit me: sometimes our way forward is through dead places.
Sometimes God does the work in us and around us by taking us, as God did earlier with the Children of Israel, around places of struggle. Sometimes God does the work in us and around us by taking us, as with Ezekiel, through the places of struggle. We just don't know.
Ezekiel is in this dead places. He didn't choose to be there. He didn't ask to be there. But God has him there. God asks, "Human one, can these bones live again?" Ezekiel responds, "LORD God, only you know." Haven't we felt like that? God asks things of us and we have no answers.
Read 9 tweets
8 Apr
I am reading James Baldwin. When we were told to love everybody, I had thought that that meant every body,” he writes. “But no. It applied only to those who believed as we did.” I’m convinced, we would be better Christians if we practiced Baldwin’s theology of love.
In reality, Baldwin’s theology of love is rooted in a deep faith that takes seriously the story of Jesus. Baldwin was a theologian in the truest sense of the word: he made divine possibilities intelligible and offering an alternative world of love, freedom, hope and joy.
His theology of love was so powerful because he knew, and in quite haunting ways, the way the Church could be unloving. He knew the ways white supremacy and hatred of Blackness was justified, denied, and evaded in the name of Jesus. He knew how hard it was to love oneself.
Read 7 tweets
7 Apr
James Baldwin just might be the greatest writer in American history. He mastered essays, non-fiction, fiction, plays, interviews, and more. He gave us theology, political theory, history, literary criticism, and more. He did it all through deep pain. He really loved us all.
I remember the first time I read Baldwin. It was 2016. We had just witness two public lynchings: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Donald Trump was in office. I was in a white evangelical church, preaching and leading. White Christians chose Trump over Jesus and over us.
I was in denial. I kept leading. I kept preaching. I kept returning, again and again. Then I started to feel the angst. I started to feel, through every meeting, through what was not said, through what was said, that Black people didn’t matter. It was quite a revelation.
Read 10 tweets
7 Apr
One of the dangers of Christian theology is that our frameworks we inherit will make us see life as an academic endeavor, neighbors as enemies to be conquer, and the life of faith as a battle to be won. Sadly, our journey with Jesus will be less about love and more about fear.
Christianity’s theological history is full of communities who tried to imagine better ways of loving, being together, and being human. Yet also at work in our history are traditions of faith that made Jesus the warrior of our dreams and the community foot soldiers of control.
An ironic thing is that much of this has been centered around ideas of “purity” and nostalgia that rarely takes the world live in seriously, or history honestly, or image-bearers around us truthfully. “Purity” and “orthodoxy” were convenient ways to hide arrogance and insecurity.
Read 4 tweets
6 Apr
Black literature, Womanist, and Black theologies are not just an academic endeavor, a way of resisting whiteness, or reproductions of white theology. They are a way Black people show the deepest love, embrace God’s image on Black bodies, and say: the Black world is a real world.
Theologian James Cone said he didn’t discard white theology, "but black theology began with deconstruction—that is, dismantling the oppressive, white theologies I was taught.” These theologies not only ignored black people but “blinded me to the treasure in the black tradition."
Christians must take seriously the Black experience and make room for Black people to speak of and for God, and faith, and Jesus,and love, and hope out of our experience. Any theology that devalues, dismisses, or destroys the voice of Black people is not a theology of Jesus.
Read 6 tweets
5 Apr
Many of you are new here! I’m so happy to have you follow me. It’s so dope. So here’s an introduction.

🖤 People call me Stew. I am from the Black rural South. South Carolina. Between Swansea, Sandy Run, and St. Matthews to be exact.

🖤 I am the youngest of 4. I smile. A lot. Image
🖤 I went to Clemson University, where I earned my BA in Sociology and played football.

🖤I met my wife at Clemson. We’ve been married for what will be 7 years this May. We have a beautiful son, Asa Elijah, and beautiful daughter, Ava Elyse. ImageImageImageImage
🖤 I’m a minister at the historic Tabernacle Baptist Church, Augusta, GA

🖤 I’m a masters student at @CandlerTheology at @EmoryUniversity, where my emphasis is modern religious thought and experience. My work is at the intersection of Black literature, embodiment, and theology. ImageImage
Read 5 tweets
4 Apr
Be clear: not everyone responded to the story of resurrection the same way. "They left the tomb with fear and great joy," the gospel writer says. "They worshiped him," it was said. "Some doubted," another says. Jesus doesn't police their response but in love embraces them.
I imagine Jesus looks on our responses to so many today with great sadness. I imagine one of the reasons people struggle with our stories of faith is because those stories, sounding more like fairy tales, must always have good endings with responses of triumph, cheer, and joy.
The power of these stories, the power of the story of Jesus, is this: we are neither heroes nor are we villains, but we are human and embraced with a story that holds us and holds out better for us than many of the stories around us. And Jesus is quite patient with us in this.
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