16 Dec

Black theology: Serena and the Gee-gee

If you were invited to vote for sports personality of the year, would you cast your ballot for Serena Williams or a champion racehorse? This was the issue discussed in this morning’s Thought for the Day by Robert Beckford, professor of theology at Canterbury.

Like Serena Williams, Professor Beckford is black. I don’t know the colour of the champion racehorse.

He was brought up in in the Pentecostal church and says that his “white, middle-class” religious education teacher “turned me on in a big way to RE and sowed the seeds to think about religion and culture”, while his Communist maths tutor introduced him to politics and the work of Malcolm X, who is still a hero.

After a “year in the community”, Beckford became Britain’s first tutor in black theology.

I find this a bit fishy. How can there be such a subject as black theology when the Bible says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, bond nor free? Like Professor Beckford, I am qualified to teach theology. Unlike Professor Beckford, I am white. Imagine the reaction if I were to set up a department of white theology. The message of his TFTD – insofar as I could discern it – was that everyone ought to vote for Serena rather than the horse – because a vote for her would show that you were the sort of person who believed in the coming of Christ in the flesh, while a vote for the horse would get you classed as a Gnostic.

This was quite the barmiest TFTD I’ve heard in forty years

I’m only surprised that The Today Programme’s racing tipsters did not predict that, after his eccentric performance on TFTD, Professor Beckford would go on to win the 2.30 at Plumpton – and so prove that he isn’t a Gnostic.