The Church and Radical Jesus

In a very early draft, I noted the church — both the Negro church and the white church cannot fully reconcile their racial differences because at the heart of their differences exist capitalism. It was capitalism that transformed the Negro church after 1970 from an agent seeking radical change to one procuring materialism. And because churches love capitalism, they continue to fall short of being revolutionary change agents. Capitalism promotes racism and divides the black and white working class from an achievable world. The white church fails at transforming the weak, poor, and oppressed in their space. While “some” provide food and shelter, they have yet to challenge the status of oppression that keeps the soup lines open. Others have conformed to blaming those who struggle, giving in to the solution of liberalism, as a measure in which capitalism favors them and their paternalism.

The 21st century church must disavow its complacency and promulgate equality through radical preachers who love people more than capitalism, and who will subscribe to what Psalm 82: 3-4 notes: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Black academic and radical organizer Melvin Tolson once noted, “Jesus didn’t believe in economic, racial, and social distinctions…. You talk about Karl Marx, the Communist! Why, don’t you know Jesus was preaching about leveling society 1,800 years before the Jewish Red was born?”

Melvin Tolson above discussing Jesus as a radical.

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Trump Trumps God in 2016

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An August 2007 article in The Economist titled Is America Turning Left? gave a historical draw on the role of the right, especially the Christian right, in shaping American politics. It started off by stating:

            The most conservative president [George W. Bush] in recent history, a man who sought to turn his  victories of 2000 and 2004 into a Republican hegemony, may well end up driving the Western world’s most impressive political machine off a cliff.

In 2004, the Republican Party aimed to distract voters from a slipping United States economy and two foreign wars by making faith a part of its platform. That year many states put issues such as gay marriage on the ballot, urging faith-based voters to cast a vote defining marriage between a man and a woman. Such 2004 right-wing fervor still exist in politics and churches, but the post-Barack Obama era appears to have weakened the base of Christian-Republicans. Traditional Republican candidates quickly dissipated in this past election season. And though Donald Trump promises to appoint conservative judges to the bench, many suspect this is a ploy to maintain Christian Republicans.

If one turned their television to a religious station or attended a church service, they might hear how America is moving down an immoral path to being the next Sodom and Gomorrah. Trump, however, has placed distanced from such language in electing to use nationalism over religion, as noted by his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again”.

Trump’s jingoistic language differs from the Puritanical faith-based thinking of past, which has garnered historical attention for centuries, starting with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, movers of the First Great Awakening, which also cemented the South as the Bible Belt. Starting in the late 1970s, those who supported Barry Goldwater in 1964, unified to shape mass politics. Goldwater was the standard-bearer of the New Right Republican Party. Goldwater engineered a disgruntled white Conservative population fearing the United States was becoming too liberal. This emerging Republican population consisted of conservative ideologues, fundamentalist Christians, and populist voters who deplored the liberal social, political, and economic trends of the 1960s and hoped to change it. Many of them were against the civil rights legislation, arguing that they were unconstitutional as they undermined states’ rights.

Just like the First and Second Great Awakening of the 18th and 19th century, evangelical leaders were content to combat what they called the forces of Satan, by asking all believers to join in an attempt to save the souls of the lost. This action took place during religious crusades and revivals. By the Fourth Great Awakening, there was no need to rally the troops at revival camp meetings. A quick hit of a TV button had the religious right advocating for political candidates and against what they saw as the sins of liberalism. It was Richard Viguerie, a right-wing publicist, who marshaled the power of the computerized direct-mail advertising as a New Right unifier. This, as well as the message of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, served as an impetus to fighting leftism.

Yet in 2016 the religious right has given their soul to Trump – not God. As I recently noted, Evangelical Christians in America must decide if they really value religious freedom or just the religious freedom of Jesus. If they value the latter — there will be a generational rebellion against them, and thus their purpose of Jesus sharing will die, as far too many right-wing Christian evangelicals have not sided with the love and empathy of Christ, but identity politics.

My Classroom Visit

I spent my AM visiting the English Department. Steph Holmes — a friend and colleague invited me into her III rd form English class to discuss race and religion. Her students were great. She was great as she connected my talk to their study of the “Color Purple.”

Holm's Class

Above is a picture she shared and her thoughts on social media about my visit:

“A big thanks to Mr. Edward Carson for his lesson “Jesus was a Black Man from the Hood.” The conversation enhanced our study of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and more importantly, he challenged us to consider the relationships between religion and race, power, class, gender and sexual orientation–as well as the origins of those relationships, how they are depicted in art and literature, and the impact on contemporary American culture. You’re always welcome in my classroom, Eddie!”

Post-Blackness

Yes there are those who feel Obama aims to heighten the racial notion and benefits of black people. However — my essay points to a president who has evaded the topic of race  — see The Christian Century magazine Then and Now, as I noted that

As Obama’s term comes to an end, black Americans have realized he is not the hoped-for savior. Hence the tension: between the expectations of a historically oppressed race and the ushering in of America as post racial.

You can find my article here.

Jesus, Race, and Ideology Lecture and Book Review

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I am excited about my talk at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge. This talk draws from my research in developing my American Jesus course. The above announcement recently went out; I am hoping to have a great conversation with folks who attend. The last lecture I gave there saw 20 – 25 people who attended. Here is my description of the talk: The Black Christian Communist in America starts with an address by the now defunct Knights of Labor’s Constitution, which opened with a biblical verse from Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread.” The workers believed Jesus Christ’s teachings promoted a central socialist narrative of love and sacrifice for all people – not one against socialism, the poor, and marginalized, which has long been a construct of American Calvinists, who purported that Christ and his teachings were capitalist. The historical transformation of Christ, as a blond haired blue-eyed capitalist, will be juxtaposed to a darker skinned Christ, who was a socialist and thus marched with the poor, with sinners, and communists. This engaging discussion addresses the relationship of the American church and religion, its members, and the importance of race and socialism in eradicating societal inequalities dating back to the black power movement of the 1960s to ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ in the 21st century.

book

H-AmRel (History of American Religion) invited me to write a scholarly review for publication of the book “Black Power in the Bluff City: African-American Youth and Student Activism in Memphis, 1965 – 1975.” I am excited about finishing this work and grasping the complex historical narrative of Memphis — as presented by Shirletta J. Kinchen.

American Jesus 2015, part II

Professor Edward Blum traveled to Brooks School to work with my American Jesus class. Blum, noted historian on topics of race and religion, is one of those people who inspires me. We spend hours talking about our teaching, research and writing, and books we are reading. It is like bringing a historical conference to me. Further, my students are intrigued by the diverse setting. I have devoted my adult life to becoming a better teacher and scholar. Blum motivates me to find the time to do the research, which allows me to be a better teacher. Thus, I am spending today reviewing my archival notes and categorizing them in my data base.

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