In 2007, Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint’s book Come On, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, began a candid conversation exploring the state of pathologies deemed destructive to low-income black neighborhoods. Though some charged them with publicly airing dirty African America laundry, the authors reinvigorated a discussion lying dormant in some American intellectual circles.
The dialogue they initiated gave rise to a plethora of voices within the black community—some sympathetic, some bordering on outrage. It is refreshing to have a generation of black evangelicals in Keep Your Head Up: America’s New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation wading into this milieu.
Anthony B. Bradley, associate professor of theology and ethics at King’s College, has assembled an admirable cast of contemporary black evangelical leaders and charged them with sensitively entering Cosby and Poussaint’s dialogue to engage it from a committed evangelical stance. What results is a tremendously stimulating read that promises to inform and incite the reader to serious thinking on issues far too often neglected by the broader Christian community.
At the heart of the book burns the hope of providing perspective and direction for the black church. Nevertheless, any Christian desiring to better understand the plight of African Americans would greatly benefit from giving the book a thoughtful read.
One of the most commendable qualities of Keep Your Head Up is the sheer breadth of perspective residing within the contributors. The cast—including Anthony Carter, Ken Jones, Vincent Bacote, and others—comprises an admirable blend of academics and practicing pastors, lending a wide range of theological thinking, yet from a generally Reformed evangelical stance. Each writer engages Cosby and Poussaint’s dialogue with biblical orthodoxy. The contributors share appreciation for the black church’s contribution to the black community and a conviction that this church isn’t dead but still has an important role to play in the black community.
The writers leave little untouched in the way of the subjects they treat: issues of identity, victimhood, family dynamics, sexuality, hip-hop, black-on-black crime, the role of the black church within its community, and its enslavement to the prosperity gospel.
Bradley passionately concludes:
Without the church, the black community is doomed. The black community would not have persevered through slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, or the civil rights movement without the leadership and moral formation offered through the church. To think of a future black existence in America without the church would simply be unprecedented.
In the final analysis, Keep Your Head Up offers hope. Its pages are copiously laced with the kind of hope one only finds in the gospel the black church has been entrusted with by God. It makes a compelling case that Cosby and Poussaint’s fundamental flaw is asking the black community to do what simply cannot be done. They’re asking the black community to wage war against sin in its own wisdom and strength. Bradley’s book attempts to remind the black church of the power she forfeits when she strays from the gospel, while pointing the black community to its only true hope, Jesus Christ.
Bradley’s aim is for a careful reading that serves to promote a national dialogue about the black church and her place in the black community. Keep Your Head Up is a well written and stimulating read that has potential to advance this much needed discussion among evangelicals of all races.