Youth ministry, race, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s beloved community: a practical theological critique of post-racialism
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The study offers a practical theological examination of three congregational youth ministries located in three different multi-racial and multi-cultural contexts in the Northeastern region of the United States. In the first move of this study, I present findings from ethnographic research in the three congregational youth ministries and argue that each congregation displays a disconnect between their practices of evangelism and discipleship and young people’s questions about and experiences with race, racism, and racial identity. In the second move of this study, I argue that this disconnect is due to the pervasiveness of post-racialism in the church and society, understood as a collection of social practices that promote colorblindness as a virtue and perpetuate systemic racism as a habitus by fostering an aesthetic of forgetfulness regarding racial violence and oppression. In light of this, I suggest that a way forward in congregational youth ministries in multiracial and multicultural contexts requires a disruption of and resistance to post-racial aesthetics for the sake of meeting students’ needs. In the third move, I turn attention to Martin Luther King, Jr. to forge a way forward, as King is often taken to be a normative source for interracial congregations. However, while such interracial congregations tend to rely on a limited view of King that interprets him as an inspiration for embracing post-racialism, I argue that King’s theological praxis can be a critical resource for discerning how to resist post-racialism. In concluding the dissertation, I offer suggestions for how current practitioners can begin taking steps toward resisting post-racialism in their work with youth and young adults.
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