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Est. April 5, 2002
May 30, 2019 - Issue 791

Doesn’t Do Critical Thinking

"Religion takes away our mental capacity to soar
on our own to feel, to think critically about how
we as human beings want to live on this planet,
among other species, without destroying
and causing unnecessary suffering to ourselves."

“These are revolutionary times.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Time to Break the Silence”

It’s so horribly different today. It seems, everyone hates. The Christians do, out of necessity.

In my twenties, I was impressed with Liberation Theology as practiced in South America and South Africa. I was familiar with the story of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the El Salvadorian priest who assassinated while serving mass on March 24, 1980. Later I read James Cone’s Black Theology (1969) and became familiar with his work in South Africa. “When South Africans sought inspiration for a black theology of their own, they found it primarily in the writings of James Cone, a prolific author of serious theological works who was appointed a professor at Union Theology Seminary in New York after the publication of his first book in 1969” (Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa,1995).

I wasn’t seeking inspiration, having already left the Catholic Church the year Cone’s book is published. By the 1970s, Cone is situating “blackness” as “an ontological symbol and a visible reality which best describes what oppression means in America.” To say, I’m black is a symbol of liberation.

Along with the practitioners of Liberation Theology in South America, Cone’s contribution provided black activists in the 1970s a language in which to describe, at least, black incarceration within the confines of a white cultural narrative. We can agree that Cone, and many clergy like him lived the life of a resister, working to transform the steady implementation of white supremacy into an existence free of hate—the very hate necessary to maintain white racial dominance.

In other words, the work of Liberation clergy, those thinkers and activists who ignored warnings from the Catholic Church to stay clear of the peoples campaigns for justice, was useful to non-believers in the Struggle. To stand with the people against government oppression! To thumb your nose even at the Church itself whose history is a tarnished one when it comes to Church and State joining arm in arm against the people.

Christianity is there, the liberation struggle of the oppressed is here.

It’s ironic that while the Catholic Church is embroiled in the sexual abuse scandal that persisted for decades in various countries, it decides to honor Archbishop Romero’s legacy.

Christianity as preached by white missionaries “helped sustain racist and colonialist oppression.” As George M Fredrickson points out, Christianity “not only helped to justify slavery and imperialism but also taught black converts that their own cultural traditions were worthless and that resistance against white domination was sinful.”

White supremacy masquerading as divine truth, speaks of the sinfulness of, for example, those innocent boy children or those black converts, instructed to recognize themselves as an “enemy” of God, unless there’s change, submission to white authority.

Christianity has aided in the dehumanization of Africans and their descendants, making it possible to surround a people within a narrative of barbed wire fences in which the captive see out but is punished if attempting to escape. Wardens and guards have all the control, perhaps not equally. But what does it matter if the one at the top and his minions among the captive have access to the captive’s body and mind and practice with impunity white privilege.

Sanctioned by the narrative of white supremacy, the captors inform the caged of their child-like state: Never are the caged to experience themselves as anything but helpless. Helplessness then becomes, over time, accepted as a given. The way of the world. God’s wish—for his children. In turn, only the “almighty” is both free and powerful. Powerful because free to control the children who are but helpless. In the gaze of the Panopticon, the captive is watched, looked down upon. Small and weak, the captive seems no longer to distinguish the eyes of the guard (in reality) from that of the “divine” (the fantasy).

The outcome has already been written!

HelplessnessSimilar to the children made to submit to a state of helplessness by Catholic priests, submitting themselves before the powerful gods of wanton masculinity.

African Americans can’t afford the luxury of an ideology such as Christianity, with it’s insistence on subordination to a doctrine that relegates justice to the whims of very human and male deities. Just as Christianity waged war against humanity as it engaged in colonialism and imperialism, so too it wages war against non-believers whose traditions fall outside the Western Euro-American borders. In conquest mode—from individual children, mostly from disadvantaged families, to whole countries, most assuming themselves sovereign. Certainly grown up enough, if not historically ancient.

Martin Luther King Jr. would never have approved of this moment in history; and in his day, he spoke out against the waging of war in Vietnam. A victory would have seen the military receding only to be replaced by merchants of capitalism. And Christianity. King was warned by most black Baptist preachers: Don’t rock the boat! Let’s just coast now. Let’s not insist on our full participation just yet. Let’s wait!

King wasn’t buying it! The continuation of the killing, maiming, and the suffering of women and children must end. War is for the oil industry and the weapons industry. What’s patriotic or moral about killing?

But ships are blessed and sent on their way to battle. God is called on to see to destruction, the “shock and awe,” against a whole hosts of countries where the citizenry is of darker hue.

In turn, if Jesus speaks and urges blacks to wait, then something is wrong.

King warned the nation that black people couldn’t wait decades ago. There was too much violence then here and abroad. That was the message he delivered in a speech after the Sunday School bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and after the death of JFK. There’s too much violence still now.

We’ve been in the space where we once waited and now we can’t go back.

Undeniably, the Negro had been an object of sympathy and wore the scars of deep grievances, but the nation had come to count on him as a creature who could quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently wait” (“Why We Can’t Wait”).

And Martin Luther King is our Archbishop Romero.

Our nettlesome task is to discover how to organize our strength into compelling power so that government cannot elude our demands. We must develop from strength, a situation in which the government finds it wise and prudent to collaborate with us. It would be the height of naivete to wait passively until the administration had somehow been infused with such blessings of good will that it implored us for our programs. The first course is grounded in mature realism; the other is childish fantasy” (“Time to Break the Silence,” 1968).

Here’s an attitude, a path, a course of action that rejects the notion of submission.

If “god” has a plan, there were or are blacks and other people of color in this master plan? What course of action is to be taken up by this majority of humanity to confront global challenges, including the most pressing—that of global heating? To what end is the necessity for war, if not profit for the few and loss of any notion of values worth pursuing and passing down to future generations—assuming we humans have future generations? How do we solve the political problem humans create around the availability of food and water for all?

What about a plan to end the plans that are supposedly originate from a “heavenly” entity?

The plans that seem to turn our world upside down are those implemented by the corporations that routinely dump chemical waste into our supply of water, for openers, while denying any such change in the way Earth is responding to the violence of human stupidity heaped on it—for profits. Christians watch and repeat, after each other—it’s all in the Bible!

The corporations along with the banks represent, collectively, the divine right of money to be the god all humans live and parish by.

King became an enemy. Demonized in Hoover’s narrative of criminality in America, King was believed by most Americans to be the “most dangerous man in America.” It said so right there one page one of the FBI crime bulletin!

A heathen!

Not fit to live!

Few Americans thought King an ideal Christian preacher!

King’s subsequent “resurrection” within the American narrative of useful martyrs, services to dislodge the human being from the message of justice—on Earth!

Oppositional thinking, on the other hand, is still very much demonized.

Decades ago, King witnessed the cruelty inflicted upon the Vietnamese as they watched Christians poison their water. They watched “as a million acres of their crops are destroyed, as bulldozers roar through their area preparing to destroy precious trees.” And now we watch as Christian embargoes destroy water, crops, and trees—as if none of this activity over decades done in the name of an “almighty” deity will ever have to come to an accounting.

What have you, the righteous ever contributed beside suffering?

Living (or as blacks would say in days past, staying) in a town like Kenosha, Wisconsin, I’ve become familiar with a segment of white Americans for whom Christianity service as a shield to protect the collective memory from any claim that they are racist and in anyway responsible for the historical millions upon millions slaughtered as a result of Euro-American conquests. With a collective memory lose, it’s easy to proclaim innocence loud and clear with every righteous nod to the teachings of the Bible.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as out enemies” (King, “Time to Break the Silence”).

Because it would be “sinful” to stop and read any book that might inform those whose heads reside with the ancient humans who interpreted the world as they saw fit with knowledge about the world of 2019.

Sinful, is it—to blow the myth of innocence?

We must speak out, King told his adversaries. “This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions” (“Time to Break the Silence”).

Questions must be asked of each of us as a community of humanity, and our answers must not end up dismissed, left to the imaginary, created from our past, a hand-me-down from ancestors trying to explain to themselves the events that confronted them.

In turn, our questions must reflect our evolution as a species or else we are truly doomed as species. I would pose the same question Wallace-Wells asks, when he discusses fictionalized stories of the end of days presented to us by Hollywood. “What does it mean to be entertained by a fictional apocalypse as we stare down the possibility of a real one?” Only there’s nothing entertaining about Christianity’s narrative of the apocalypse. Nothing at all.

Real people suffer. Real people are tortured and die for the sake of this imaginary story that restrains the human imagination from think itself out of it’s current political crisis (the rise of right-wing politicians and hate groups) and most importantly it’s environmental crises (global heating).

Religion takes away our mental capacity to soar on our own to feel, to think critically about how we as human beings want to live on this planet, among other species, without destroying and causing unnecessary suffering to ourselves.

Religion shackles. I thought African Americans, in particular, were done with this phase of our Struggle for a transformed world in which justice rules. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels.




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