And how the church can help nurture their desire to integrate spirituality and social justice in fresh ways.
In the course of her research into adolescent spiritual development, Almeda Wright has heard numerous stories and testimonies from young African Americans experimenting with new ways of relating spirituality to their protests against racial injustice. Her book, The Spiritual Lives of Young African Americans, explores what this population can teach the wider body of believers about integrating faith and activism. Chicago-based writer Nilwona Nowlin spoke with Wright, assistant professor of religious education at Yale Divinity School, about how the church can better equip, engage, and embrace young African Americans in their faith journeys.
How would you sum up your work studying the spirituality of young African Americans?
I’m trying to give serious consideration to the voices and stories of young African Americans, who are facing all kinds of challenges. But in the midst of those challenges, they have something to teach Christians and the world at large: a way of being Christian that requires us to rethink some of the disconnects between our love of God and our love of justice, or our ability to talk about personal spirituality without also talking about social transformation.
For me, that’s the core. I use a lot of terms like “pushing them towards an integrated spirituality” or “pushing us to a vision of abundant life.” But at the core, without using that Christianese, I’m really saying that in order to walk with African American youth and young adults in more helpful ways, we need to bring these realms back together.
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