God & Race

As you read this post and view the short video clips, consider the following points and feel free to email me or leave a comment as part of the discussion.

1. Based on the historical makings of American culture, can one study contemporary society as it relates to religion without a discussion about race and class?

2. If the world is indeed religious, why do some fail to conflate various faiths and ideological views into one conclusion, as MLK JR and many of his followers have done?

3. Is Christianity indeed socialistic at heart? Feel free to view a previous post on Liberation Theology (click here).

Mark Noll, a prominent scholar of American religion and one that I have heard deliver conference papers before at historical society meetings, contends that the black civil rights era took hold circa 1960 once the black church organized and used Christianity to articulate change to the American segregated way of life. However, many black academics such as  students of Martin Luther King Jr., advocated socialism and Hinduism too, as a method to eradicate American racism. As I have noted before here at The Professor, I have long  admired the intellectualism of King, which is often lost among many. King’s complexities, are at times, subject to a mere conversation about his great speeches, but I believe his thoughts on the economy and war are more impressive.

King was heavily criticized by some for being an advocate for the distribution of wealth; I am not sure why that surprises so many seeing that blacks encompass a large body of the poor. Moreover, advocating a welfare state that merges with the ideology of the black church, allowed for radical activism in a pacifist way. Furthermore, this attitude shaped by elements of Hinduism, socialism, and Christianity created a birth of change. This was a clear reflection of black intolerance to global imperialism that collapsed due to decolonization, as well as the demise of Jim Crow America.

King believed that the plight of  poor whites and poor blacks would create a unified construct that would push society pass the element of race and class, and closer to a more egalitarian society. Some contend that it is at this point in which various religious faiths and socialism are conflated.

Moreover, Noll goes on to address the relationship between blacks and the federal government that promulgated a systematic change; he contends that Americans excepted the expansion of government in this arena, but not in its decisions that created a greater gap between  church and state.


5 thoughts on “God & Race

  1. This is an excellent point from “How Should a Christian View Communism?” (pp. 93-100). I found this most:

    While insisting that “no Christian can be a communist,” King calls on his congregation to consider communism “a necessary corrective for a Christianity that has been all too passive and a democracy that has been all too inert.” Frustrated by the church’s unwillingness to take a stand against racial discrimination, he complains, “This morning if we stand at eleven o’clock to sing ‘In Christ There Is No East or West,’ we stand in the most segregated hour of America.” King also admonishes individuals unwilling to commit to social justice: “If you haven’t discovered something that you will die for, you aren’t fit to live.”

  2. Based on the historical makings of American culture, can one study contemporary society as it relates to religion without a discussion about race and class?

    Not in America. As Mark Noll stated, religion by us black folks had to be used in order to make changes. Race is has always been a subject of conflict in both the NT and OT. The nice thing about religion is that it permits us to have conversations about why we behave the way we behave.

  3. The US is too far at times to the right to engage in topics such as this away from the academy. When people say they do not see race, I say they are full of it. There is nothing wrong with seeing race. There is a problem when a person is a racist. The church is a great forum to have these discussions. Why not? By doing this, normal people might get a better understanding as to how critical faith, race, gender and ideology are in the choices we make.

  4. Interesting post, Eddie. A few thoughts:

    (1) I’d be interested to hear more about this notion of Hinduism as a corrective to race. I’m not familiar with that particular argument by MLK’s successors. It seems to me that the caste system would disqualify traditional Hinduism as any sort of egalitarian corrective.

    (2) It is impossible to separate the issues of religion and race in the United States. This is not particular to the U.S., however. A careful reading of the New Testament and especially Paul will show you that the Greco-Roman world in the 1st century was full of questions about race. Paul, for example, splits the human population into two, broad, racial categories: “Jew” and “Gentile” (aka “the nations” —  ta ethne).

    (3) There is no doubt that a Marxist reading of the Bible makes some sense. A great deal of class conflict is encapsulated within its pages. One need only look at the prophet Amos, the Gospel of Luke, and the Epistle of James, for example, to see three very different authors dealing with the oppression of the have-not’s by the have’s. I would contend that the Jesus of Luke advocated a radical social agenda that sought “freedom for the captives” and “liberty for the oppressed”; Jesus envisioned a world in which “the last shall be first” and that would be inherited by the meek.

  5. Hebert:

    I find it interesting though, that some biblical scholars reference the role of government in religion when bringing up matters regarding reforms. This was true in Rome. The Romans even addressed matters of race and religion as noted by historian Edward Gibbons. Thus, I find it interesting that today it is seen as unusually wrong. This, of course, brings about the ideological differences among various groups. King and others saw fit to use both the church and the state to shape the reforms needed regarding Jim Crow. To me, his use of Hinduism makes sense, seeing that he was a pacifist. Hinduism advocates this to a greater degree than that of Christianity. However, Christ advocated this, too.

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