Floyd, thanks for your response and your insight. Nevertheless, the use of God as a means of establishing Evil as Other and American Exceptionalism has become the norm in presidential, Congressional and media propaganda. It has become an increasing plague upon us since Obama's presidency. The depth of Obama's religious proclivities I am uncertain.
I usually give educated and intelligent persons a pass, as in other persons like Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson. But too many of these public intellectuals are such political opportunists who operate in a rarefied status. Of course, they are not as God-awful and cynical as Mitt Romney and his Tea Party followers, who have no balance whatsoever in their Christian rhetoric. But still the god-jingoistic language poisons our politics.
What's sad is that Obama has gained little or nothing by his use of religious rhetoric. Nor do I think today's black preachers with DDs and Ph.Ds and JDs gain anything other than an entertained clients and congregations whose race-soaked egos are assuaged from daily torment by an ongoing white supremacy underbelly in American social politics.
But this language has always been in American evangelism, since 18th century slavery justifications. Maybe it has been in all of Christian evangelism, since the Crusades. Surely, we get our black doses in those evangelists that we like, as in Nathaniel Turner and Jeremiah Wright. At least Turner had the moral and ethical equilibrium to give himself over to the authorities as a means for paying at the end of a rope for his crimes against humanity.
What troubles me most is those who boast of their crimes and try to make political hay by their criminality. They make theirs seem better than those who commit similar crimes shouting the words Allah -u- Akbar (God is Great), e. g., as in the case of the so-called Libyan revolutionaries that John McCain praises every chance he gets, pleased how they butchered Gaddafi.
But I shall have none of it. We must learn a new language, one that skirts political ideology and theological dogma, a much more wholesome one that has little or nothing to do with the Old Testament or a militaristic Koran. If we must use religious language, let us steep it in the personal as can be found in Luqman or in the Sermon on the Mount.
Loving you madly, Rudy
Rudolph Lewis, Editor
ChickenBones: A Journal
I have read your discussion regarding Rose Mezu’s response to Ure Mezu, her daughter—all springing from the mass murders and shootings in Aurora, Colorado, that took place last Friday, July 20. Allow me to approach these exchanges by discussing briefly these three issues: (1) US civil/savage society; (2) the identity of mass murders; and (3) the problem of post-metaphysical evil. I do not wish to over-intellectualize these concerns, but I do want to clarify the conceptions for myself.
Perhaps I want or need to stand off stage and not identity with the dominant discourse and its articulators. Hence, I am calling for a more critical perspective. First, in my judgment, conventional modern political science in the USA is a historical and social science discourse located predominantly among highly educated white men, and produced by such men for each other. I am struck by the fact that modern white political and social theorists, who are forever discussing the ambiguous concept civil society—largely its framework of social institutions and structures of general laws and basic rights—but without any attention to the issue of civility or notion of civilization.
Second, we know, or should know, that the USA actually is an uncivilized society conceived in the cauldron of savagery, violence, and brutality: annihilating wars against Native peoples, the trade and enslavement of captured Africans and their descendants, imperialism, rape, lynching, exploitation, and racism. Now, white Americans have tried to say otherwise, but we should know by now that the USA is based upon a culture of pretense!
Finally, how do we, how can we, think about the problem of contemporary evil within the orthodox theological understanding or framework of God? For if God is all powerful, all knowledgeable, all everything, how do we think in this moment of human disaster and destruction? First, must we look at these white mass murderers as individuals and their acts as “isolated incidents”? Second, should we exempt these white mass murderers from the responsibility for their evil acts by holding God responsible (i.e., God made them do what they did)? I want to argue for a post-metaphysical conception of God and evil. Perhaps we need the freedom to think God and evil without God, liberated from the weight of traditional formulations.
We as Blacks are Americans, it is true, but we scarcely should identify with white Americans, who have conceived and constructed a US society that is uncivil and savage—a white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, as bell hooks has so perceptively declared.
Floyd W. Hayes, III, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science
Coordinator of Programs and Undergraduate Studies
Center for Africana Studies
The Johns Hopkins University
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218