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A Theology for Wellness: We Are Saved. But Are We Well?

In his seminal work, And We Are Not Saved, the late legal scholar and civil rights activist, Dr. Derrick Bell, calls for a deeper understanding of how African Americans have reacted to the vicious forces of racial resentment, inequity and injustice in America, and how integral to American society such forces are.

The title of Dr. Bell's book is telling alone.

Salvation is the hallmark of the Christian faith and the hope of our eternity. It is the basis of our everyday living and the means by which we tap into an ineffable power.

When Paul writes, "I have complete confidence in the gospel", he attaches his explanation: "for it is God's power to save all who believe". (Romans 1:16)

The key words 'power' and 'believe' are bookended by 'save' in the above translation.

Salvation is to be delivered from something. In this context, the Greek word points to a righteousness attained only by the work of Christ. In other New Testament contexts, though, 'salvation' carries a meaning of 'get well', as if recovering from a disease.

The fundamental question facing us at the cusp of a new millennium and on the heels of tremendous change, momentous challenge and stupendous complexity is this:

Do we believe in the power of our salvation?

Even more, do we believe in the efficacy of our salvation? That is, do we believe that God is working through the means of his salvific grace to produce desired results: the building of His kingdom on earth? Lastly, what do those results look like?

We believe and accept that God desires our salvation, but the real question is do we believe that God wants us to be well? If so, what is wellness? And, what is wellness as it relates to the believer and the building of God's kingdom on earth.

To begin with, we know that while salvation is an 'action', wellness, even on a spiritual line, is a process. God births us into a new life in Christ and launches the believer into a developmental cycle.

At the beginning of black theology in America, as our ancestors wrestled with the reality and effects of slavery, that theology was future-oriented; thus, it pointed to a home in heaven. Some would derisively refer to it as "pie in the sky".

We were just trying to keep our sanity!

In the twenty-first century, the consequences of slavery are still with us. Our community is atop most negative health, wellness and education outcomes and at the bottom for positive ones.

Which brings me back to my initial question: We are saved, but are we well?

Read: Are we losing our sanity?!

Our willingness to answer these questions produces three (among many) wellness inflection points:

One: The overall physical health of our community. A recent article highlighted by the publication, The Lancet, suggests black people are experiencing morbidity at higher levels than the general public. The culprit: centuries of racism. Racism kills.

Two: The spiritual, educational and social wellness of black boys. The black boy demographic is the hardest hit of all demographics in the black community.

Three: The mental health of black people in light of the progressive effects of financial, economic and relational stress.

All three of the aforementioned have one thing in common: the repercussions of living while black in America.

What's scarier is the impact of such realities on our faith. Polls show that the black Protestant grouping - the most religious demographic in America - is losing belief in astounding numbers. Weekly church attendance has dropped alarmingly on the heels of the recent pandemic, but further evidence suggests the trend began even decades before the pandemic.

Our history demonstrates an incredible survival story against all odds. Over time, those pillars that held us up - our faith the most - are showing signs of wear and tear.

Our theology must meet the moment.

Pastor W. Eric Croomes is the Believers Coach. Raising awareness. Inspiring change. Influencing faith.

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