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date: 21 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

African American religious experience refers to conscious responsiveness to the holy or to divinity or to an existential sense of mystery and ultimacy. It emerges from complex religio-cultural terrain, and the study of its formation is problematized by several challenging and interrelated methodological, philosophical, and hermeneutical issues. These issues relate in part to academic studies of African Americans and their culture, the preeminence of the religious, the occurrence of religion and religious experience within the contingencies of history, and the slave trade. This essay frames the problematic study of the formation of African American religious experience by setting out some basic recurrent issues pertinent to the study of African American religious consciousness. It examines meanings of experience, religion, and religious experience; constructs a genealogy of the formation of African American religious consciousness and experience using a phenomenological method; reviews two major approaches to the study of African American religious experience in contemporary religious thought and theology, hermeneutical approach and womanist analysis; and raises some questions for contemporary lived expressions of African American religious experience.

Keywords: African Americans, religious experience, religion, slave trade, religious consciousness, religious thought, theology, hermeneutical approach, womanist analysis

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