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Bethlehem Books

Claiming God, Reclaiming Dignity: African American Pastoral Care

Claiming God, Reclaiming Dignity: African American Pastoral Care

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This book attempts to answer two perennial questions: What does it mean to be persons of worth and value in our contemporary culture? And, how can a relationship with God give us a renewed sense of our worth and value?

The thesis of this book is that we become persons by internalizing the conversations in which we take part, but we become holy persons by giving conversation with God a privileged status over all other conversations. Even though persons are labeled worthy and valuable by our culture, we are judged in our culture by market values that are antithetical to Christian values. In the marketplace persons are deemed worthy and honorable if they are, for example, a particular color, age, gender, class, or religion. Persons are considered shameful if they aren't. Worthy persons are invited in and shameful persons are shut out.

Following the African American tradition of drawing on biblical material, this book will use Biblical narratives, but also contemporary African American autobiography and fiction to show pastors how to enable the transformation that comes when persons learn to put conversations with God in the forefront. For example, the book of Job is about a person who suffered staggering losses, who was shamed by well-meaning friends, but who still talked and listened to God. Throughout the book, we see Job sorting through different levels of conversation about human value and worth until God's voice breaks through with sound and fury. The Book of Job gives us no answer to the reason for suffering, only that God is present and that a relationship with God is always possible.

Wimberly offers an elegant tool to help pastors understand how persons come to a renewed sense of their value and worth. Understanding how and why transformation occurs is a fundamental issue in psychology and religion that is studied in most pastoral care classes. By using the term "conversation", Wimberly can describe complex psychological phenomena and processes simply. Part of the beauty of this concept is that it can be effectively used in both religious and secular counseling contexts by professionals interested in faith development and spiritual formation.

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