A few weeks ago I signed a contract with InterVarsity Press to write the book I've been thinking about for the past decade, tentatively titled Communities of Caretakers. Like many others, when I first read Willie Jennings' book, The Christian Imagination, I found a world of hopeful and creative questions opening up. I could cite any number of paradigm-shifting passages, but this one, from the first chapter, is exemplary.
People today continue to live in a dual trajectory of constantly shifting geographic spaces made more mutable by the dictates of capitalistic logic and racial identities that are free-floating and changeable, yet constantly stabilized through the reciprocity of racial being... without land functioning as identity signifier, racial designations historically understood and politically activated continue to be compelling sensible ground on which to envision collective agency. Until one begins to reflect on the interconnected turnings of space and the formation of racial being as mirrored process, every attempt to destabilize racial identity, argue for a common humanity, and claim race as fiction, social construction, or essentialized nonsense will be superficial at best.
It was Jennings' insistence that we cannot understand the history and impact of race as a system without grappling with Creation - land, earth, place, geography, etc. - which captured my imagination. As he notes in this paragraph, any attempt to address the harm of race without reclaiming our creaturely interdependence on the rest of Creation is bound to fall flat. Such attempts have already conceded the exploitative logic of race.
So, why has it taken me ten years to begin writing this book? I'd actually pitched this idea to IVP back in 2015 and they had graciously asked to see a proposal. But then the 2016 election happened and I got very interested in why the discipleship practices of so many white churches were forming Christians who were content with racial segregation and injustice. So I set this project aside for the past five years. But more honestly, the reason it's taken me so long to begin writing this book is because I've been aware of how much I don't know about the intersection of Creation and race. For years now I've been reading, studying, and talking with people far wiser than myself who are helping me to see connections and relationships I'd previously only been able to guess at. And while there's still so much to learn and a lot I'm still learning to see, I do feel as though I finally have enough of a platform from which to begin.