Flesh Made Beautiful: African American Humanism and the Celebration of the Body as 'Salvific' Act
In this presentation I argue that African American humanism as a religious orientation (within the United States) rethinks the typical African American Christian discomfort with the body, or disciplining of the body, as required act for salvation. This form of humanism (a 'religious' humanism) buttresses the worth of African American humanity ('saves' it in a sense) through a rejection of standard theological anthropology and Christology found in African American Christian churches - denial of disciplining the body or keeping it 'in line' as the method of transformation. The distinction between the traditional African American Christian relationship to the body and that found in African American humanism is similar to the distinction between the biblical figures Nimrod and Jesus the Christ. In place of suspicion concerning the body, drawing in part on the work of Richard Wright, I suggest African American humanism proposes a radical embrace of the black body - warts and all - as proper life orientation. This embrace takes the form of irreverence, and is articulated through a theology of immanence that gives greater weight to aesthetics then to original sin. African American humanism in this sense, I propose, pushes for recognition of the beauty within the irreverent and within the grotesque: flesh is made beautiful.
Keywords: African American Religious Studies, Black Theology, African American Humanism
Dr. Anthony Pinn
Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Rice University