To Build a Sad Land: Coloniality, Racial Reasoning, and the Imagined Built Environment of Christian Zionism

April 18, 2024

At the place where a Christian doctrine of salvation joins nationalism and private property, we meet the workings of Christian Zionism. As a form of political theology, it presents a particular configuration of the body, the building, and design calibrated to enact human participation in divine providence and sovereignty on the ground. It also creates the Jewish and the Palestinian subject, each constituted within a colonial plantation vision of existence. Yet the sad land Christian Zionism creates participates in the logics of territoriality and coloniality that shape the tragedies of our current built environments. Drawing on work from his forthcoming two-volume work on the Christian doctrine of creation, and specifically volume two on race, theology, and the built environment, Dr. Jennings in this lecture explores the challenges of thinking life between territoriality, racial existence, and a religious imagination calibrated through ownership.

Willie James Jennings is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at the Yale Divinity School. His book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Yale 2010) was awarded the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, the largest prize for a theological work in North America. His most recent book examines the problems of theological education within Western education: After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging (Eerdmans, 2020). Jennings is now working on a major monograph provisionally entitled Unfolding the World: Recasting a Christian Doctrine of Creation as well as a finishing a book of poetry entitled The Time of Possession. Writing in the areas of liberation theologies, cultural identities, and anthropology, Jennings has authored more than forty scholarly essays and nearly two dozen reviews, as well as essays on academic administration and blog posts for Religion Dispatches. Jennings is an ordained Baptist minister.