RELIGION, POLITICAL DEMOCRACY, AND SPECTERS OF RACE.
Indeed, the national struggle with race has been wholly baked into the genetic code of U.S. political life, which harbors astounding measures of religious zeal for better or worse, since before the inception of the republic. Indeed, race and religion continue to mark distinctive central features of American life. This reality notwithstanding, national discussions and debates around the intersections of religion, political democracy, and race ought not, and do not, preclude concomitant intersectional and transnational complexities and subtleties, which include inextricably tied considerations of sexuality/gender, class, ethnicity, and geography. It is with such truth in mind that this volume aims, in the words of Muhammad Ali addressing the nation, to be (at least a small) "disturbance in the sea of your complacency," after the "post-racial" democratic disappointments, hopes, and promises that imbued the, now gone, Obama presidency. In this spirit, this issue of Crosscurrents is dedicated in celebratory remembrance of James Hal Cone, Katie Geneva Cannon, Aretha Franklin, and all others, passed on now, who exemplified the liberating intellectual and faith-filled rhythm, blues, and soul of life and history.
This volume begins with one of the most important emerging national voices, the constructive political theologian and scholar of Black religion, Keri Day. Day's contribution to this volume offers a compelling voicing of the intersections between anti-black racism, black patriarchy, and the prospects for political democracy as these are interrogated from the standpoint of sexual inclusion.
Day recounts Barack Obama's personal moral evolving in support of LGBTQ persons and communities during the period leading up to the legal 2015 Supreme Court decision to reject the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). With clarity, she notes the contrasting moral conundrum between Obama's eventual support of sexual justice over against the opposition to such justice, especially with respect to support for same-sex marriage, by both white and black Christian conservatives alike.
Day details critically important contours associated with the realities of black disenfranchisement, which, along with often-cited concerns related to housing, unemployment, education, and other social challenges, compel us to give serious moral and political attention to marriage equality. Indeed, not only does Day offer a sound accounting of the Trump administration's introduction of executive orders aimed at undermining sexual equality, she demonstrates well why and how Obama's moral and political evolution caused black clergy to withdraw their support from him. Highlighting many of the political and religious culture wars that reign over feuding interpretations of sexual freedom throughout society, Day ponders the provocative, paradoxical, and new conversations, which, she rightly contends, "raise different kinds of concerns in relation to LGBTQ enfranchisement and inclusion as well as the future of political democracy.
Undeniably, Day's intersectional perspective on justice in a nation both racist and hyper-heteropatriarchal deftly alerts readers to the contemporary religious and political arguments mounted by the Christian right to combat LGBTQ inclusion under the banner and mantra of "religious liberty" or "religious freedom." In particular, this conservative combat against inclusion misappropriates the moral righteousness of the Civil Rights Movement (Martin Luther King, Jr., in particular) as a religious and political guide. As Day mounts a case study against such a misappropriation, she also speaks of a "more mitigated position" which has emerged among Christian conservatives in their discourse and civil battles over religious liberty. Highlighted here is the interesting, constitutionally inspired, and pluralistically empathetic, "fairness for all" approach of the Mormon Church, which grants the freedom to marry for same-sex couples while preserving the right of conservative Christians to publicly hold (without "reprimand or lawsuits") their traditional views of marriage. Day notes that this Mormon approach to religious freedom (even beyond the issue of marriage equality) has found a hearing within a "vast number" of other white and black churches.
Perhaps most provocative about Day's essay is her query to readers regarding how our political democracy--which "involves thinking [and deep listening] through the quality of our political culture"--might assess "this turn in conservative churches' rethinking concerning religious freedom and LGBTQ concerns."
Indeed, Day's final musing understands that while the fairness for all approach advocated by some conservative Christians might entail good political and moral possibilities for charitable citizenship, serious difficulties remain. She knows well that such possibilities continue to ring hollow as conservative Christians continue to employ the central message that LGBTQ identities (along with other subaltern persons) are morally pathological, abnormal, deviant, and thus socially unfit for the political, economic, and other material riches of true, life-affirming, liberty. Even the liberty of life itself.
Next we find a contribution from one of the English-speaking world's most highly esteemed theological ethicists, Stanley Hauerwas. Hauerwas offers to a provocative reflection on the subject of race a half-century after his first published essay was penned for the Augustana College student newspaper in 1969; he began teaching at Augustana in 1968. Hauerwas offers here a "reproducing" of that very first paper, "An Ethical Appraisal of Black Power," as both a positive and negative marker, "indicating where I (we) have been, where I (we) still may be, and how I now think I (we) need to think about race," fifty years past his first attempt to defend black power.
To be candid though, Hauerwas admits to penning his piece in response to criticism this editor laid out twelve years ago in the Winter 2006 volume of Crosscurrents in an essay titled "Liberalism, Race, and Stanley Hauerwas." Be this as it may, Hauerwas offers readers here a valuable window into his often unseen views concerning race in America, including some accounting of his (alleged) past silence on the matter. Very briefly addressing the editor's past essay notwithstanding, Hauerwas moves on to offer a constructive view of race. With some stated concerns about the submersion of class, Hauerwas outlines the challenge and promise of black power (i.e., the new racial freedom) within a democratic society committed to extending participation to all who dwell within it.
Noting that "I got some things right in 1969," and adding that "even some of the things I wrote remain relevant," Hauerwas goes on to link Black Lives Matter to the story and memory of "what it means to be part of a people who have suffered a terrible injustice"; indeed, he understands that "the reality of slavery cannot be lost." It is wonderful to see Hauerwas tie the call of Black Lives Matter to many of the same presumptions that gave birth to the Black Power Movement, namely that African Americans resist white supremacy as we recognize and share a common story of survival, care, and enemy identification. Indeed, it is commendable that Hauerwas confesses that, at root, America is a slave nation, a
notion that is anathema to many of even the most well-meaning white people. Drawing on the primary and secondary voices of numerous Black religious (and political) leaders and scholars--James Cone, Martin Luther King, Jr., Joe Winters, W. E. B. Dubois, Barak Obama, Jeremiah Wright, and Reggie Williams (all males)--Hauerwas' contribution is a challenge to offended white people, even those white people who claim to be very sympathetic to the cause of African Americans while insisting on a broader recognition of "all lives matter."
Winner of the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for The New Abolition: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel, and among the most lucid and lauded American social ethicists and theologians of his generation, Episcopal priest Gary Dorrien's "The Backlash this Time" brings to mind the title given by the great Black literary social genius James Baldwin to his epic 1963 classic The Fire Next Time.
Offering outstanding thick and clear description of the political scope and depth of working-class white resentment, Dorrien reflects on, and past, the historical presidency of Barak Obama. In particular, he traces the now mainstream outrage against the rainbow coalition that propelled Obama's rise to the White House, an outrage which now powers a hellishly resilient political and cultural indignation in the post-Obama age of Trump.
Jumping off the page to grab the reader by the eyes is Dorrien's recounting of the false descriptions of Obama penned and spoken by conservative authors and politicians, which then fueled and refueled the worse of nationalistic-tribal rage against Obama among a vast majority of whites who make up the Trumpian cultural-political base. False descriptions include Obama as illegitimate socialist born in Kenya; Obama as a fraud of the highest Black order set to destroy Western Civilization as an expression of racial revenge and vengeful arrogance; and Obama as harbinger of authentic dishonesty. All of this and more are laid out by Dorrien as the cultural roots from which sprang the rise of Trump--and the subsequent demonization of immigrants, dark-hued urban dwellers, traditional international trade partners, Muslims, Mexicans, Haitians, and Africans in general.
Offering waves of examples that channel the awesome force of rage-filled backlash against everything thought to be tainted by the triumph of Obama, Dorrien paints for us a painfully bleak political portfolio that belies his ultimately, and still substantial, grasp on audacious hope. And this is despite his contention that "I fully expect that Trump will always outperform his poll numbers."
The hope Dorrien sees lies (only partially) in the demographic fact that Trump's base (old, white, and shrinking) offers potential for a political "seesaw" correction that he finds likely. Yet, Dorrien quite wisely does not count on political "a seesaw correction" as the wellspring of hope. Indeed, in the context of presenting Obama as "a liberal-leaning liberal" in 2008 whose "only radical position was that he could be elected president," Dorrien muses on the colossal difference Obama could have made, but did not, on issues of such magnitude as braking up big banks, agitating for a public health option in the Senate, immigration reform (where he broke George W. Bush's record for deportations), and a second stimulus for job creation and clean energy. And in relation to all of this, Dorrien wants readers to truly consider the problem of the white working class, which "looms large in our national trauma." This class of persons (into which Dorrien himself was born as white and part Cree) populate neighborhoods across the country that are "convinced that America society confers blessings on everyone except them," that eight years of Obama speeches about "economic progress" (for the wealthy donor class) failed to see and acknowledge their pervasive and ongoing suffering.
In the end, Dorrien places considerable hope in the political disposition of a person like Bernie Sanders with his single-payer-rebuilding-the-country-curbing-Wall-Street kind of progressive politics on behalf of persons who, like Trump supports though aimed differently, share political outrage against both Democrats and Republicans. Concomitant with a progressive politics, and in view of the guiding title of his contribution to this volume, Dorrien reminds us of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s admonition to justice seekers against the employment of "backlash talk." Expecting the worse of Trump's narcissistic disrespect for democracy to lie ahead, Dorrien's political hope for racial, sexual, and economic justice lies in the advancement of the none-pessimistic moral example of King, who saw the social grammar of "backlash" (even in an era of fiercely bitter backlash) to be a "species of denial" and wholly superficial in the face of persistent racial hostility.
Indeed, Dorrien's contribution, beyond any "backlash talk" in the service of progressive politics, remembers and follows King to that something-more place of risky, controversial, chaotic, life-affirming, and spirit-inspired hope and love. Which was the very place King found himself against the odds toward the end of his life while fronting a mass Poor People's Campaign, a Campaign which Dorrien rightly understands was embraced by King and waged in companionship with the "poorest of the poor and afflicted"--and compelled as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Undergirding so much of what is written in this volume is the question of, and quest for, emancipatory dignity. This is to say that human worth and value ought to be, and ought to have been, the inherent right of every human being there ever was. Indeed, Vincent Lloyd turns us to a call toward the democratization of dignity, that is, "the inherent, incalculable worth," of every human being, in particular and in this instance, African Americans.
Writing as one of the most preeminent scholars of Black political theology and religion alive today, the real force of Lloyd's vision of "Black Dignity" lies in his constructive hypothesis, and proposal, that if dignity took center stage as the common sense language of collective (though varied) black struggle, then black political movements seemingly at odds with one another might better collaborate and agitate for justice animated by "the same fundamental impulse," namely the quest for dignity. Embedded in Lloyd's proposal is an insistence that dignity be examined from the vantage points of marginalized communities as they correct and dispense with the errors found in European Christian and post-Christian sources that have been concerned with the language of dignity in human life and history. To put things more bluntly with respect to Lloyd's advocacy for the vantage point of marginalized communities' approach to dignity, he boldly asserts that "The black perspective of dignity is not just one more perspective, it is better." In building a case for this better black perspective, Lloyd seeks to bridge our understanding of Christian theological reflections on dignity in contradistinction to that of secular political theorists and intellectual historians as they now more readily engage (beyond Christian theology) "Jewish, Islamic, and other religious thought." Here, Lloyd reminds us of the common frustrations with the language of "human rights," which tend to advance the interests of the powerful and ebb and flow depending on the fleeting concerns of the day. In short, Lloyd presses to ground the language of "human rights" under a clearer moral language and promise of dignity.
The reader of Lloyd's very well-crafted work will be reminded of a number of important representative primary and secondary sources, which animate and inspire both intellectual and on-the-ground life-affirming expressions of black dignity: #BlackLivesMatter and its founding black female organizers (Alicia Garza, who first put the famous words into circulation, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi), Nelson Mandela, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Michelle Obama, and Brittney Cooper). That Lloyd's work on black dignity prominently evokes the critical power of black women's voices makes it a contribution to a critical black-truth that upends the misogynistic disparagement of women's dignity in the present age of Trump. And as important, Lloyd's work also upends the narratives of American and world history where men (yes, black men too) continue to wantonly and routinely terrorize and neglect embodiments and practices of dignity where women (and I would add, other than cis-gendered) persons are concerned.
Another compelling (and highly provocative) impulse presented in Lloyd's clarion call to democratize dignity is his insistence that the political language of dignity is to be "ascribed [as an attribute of performance, only] to those who struggle against domination." With respect to African Americans, this means thusly for Lloyd that ".. .dignity is properly ascribed to black artists and entertainers, black religious practitioners, black dancers, and ordinary black folks who subtly commit to resisting white supremacy." Indeed, one does not embody the virtue of dignity absent the character of their performance.
Lloyd ends up understandably cautious about "dignity's status as a common denominator of black political movements, from Frederick Douglas to Black Lives Matter." He understands clearly (offering compelling evidence from black life and history) that the language of "black dignity" can be (and has been) employed to denote a range of ideas from high rank to inherent worth to elite status, to black acquiescence to white culture's repressive insistence on "respectably politics." Cultural insistence on respectability politics in particular, as noted by Lloyd, is opposed by today's young black activists who reject internalized and overt consent to white supremacy.
So a supreme question (inspired by Lloyd and more than touched upon by all the contributions presented within this volume) is: What are the possibilities for a performative and democratizing language of dignity sufficient to truly realize the (always in a state of becoming) liberation of black folks (and not just men) against the complex and subtle tentacles of white supremacy?
Intersecting firsthand accounts, memories, and racialized symmetries between her extended southern family, white churches, and the fiery challenge of whiteness in America, Jennifer Harvey offers a superb account of self-interested white complicity in the political subjugation of Black (and other) minoritized populations.
Indeed, Harvey offers a white woman's view into the willful passivity and duplicity of even the most well-meaning white folks as the conditions that led to the election of a white supremacist president emerged and gripped the nation. In the whiplash of the Obama presidency which has given way to Trump, Harvey (with outstanding perception and insight) sees the deep betrayal of Black, Latino/a, Native America, and LGBTQ persons, indeed betrayal of the most sacred values of humanity and dignity--including white humanity.
Against such a violence, which includes the flesh-and-blood personal violence of a devastating white apathy as well as the systemic political violence of white political self-interest, Harvey wholly seeks to explicitly not come to terms with, and set a clarion fire upon, well-meaning White churches' too often "fleeting impulse toward humanity." On Harvey's account, this highly problematic fleeting white impulse makes white supremacy overtly consistent with the Christian gospel.
Of particular force is Harvey's spirit of "truth-telling lament-filled rage," which draws on Emilie M. Townes' articulation of the formative nature of lament, as well as William Stringfellow's brutally honest polemic that "My people is the enemy." It is in the context of such forthrightness that Harvey offers a compellingly robust survey of white women's political, psychic, and self-absorbed collusion in the election of Trump, the anti-Black president. Of particular note in this regard is Harvey's highly adept deconstruction of white women's claims of righteous "intersectionality" as shield from charges of collective white blame and ill-gotten racial privilege. Harvey tells the ugly truth that even the most liberal white women's relationships with women of color (relationships that have never been all that robust to begin with) have been obliterated with their too-silent opposition (thus, complicity) in the election of Trump. Therefore, on Harvey's account, any hope for a "post-white supremist nation" will require a tenaciously focused commitment on the parts of white women to "pull the support of other white people away from white supremacy." Nor are white Christian churches, in particular white evangelicals who are willing to support racist and sexually predatory politicians like Roy Moore of Alabama, spared from Harvey's indictment and charge to white folk.
Lamenting that "racist violence against communities of color and religious minorities has intensified since Trump took office" (think Charlottesville and DACA), what Harvey wants to know is this: Will white Christians forthrightly confront and deal with the many open questions concerning various dimensions of white supremacist complicity that "sit squarely in the center of the sanctuary?"
Citing the political realism inside Barack Obama's own musings on race relations, and notwithstanding a Black man having been elected president of the United States, Ruben Rosario Rodriguez presents a sobering legal, social, and intimately personal view into the limitations of the Obama presidency with respect to substantially advancing racial justice as a core aim of American Democracy. It is no surprise then, on Rodriguez's account, that Black Lives Matter "was born during his presidency."
Offering a sketch of that fateful day in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a mass "Unite the Right" rally ignited brutal, deadly, conflict with progressive justice seekers, including many of peaceable Christians, Rodriguez implores "the nation's progressive white Christians" to "deal more frankly and openly with realities of racism in the post-Obama America after the election of Donald Trump."
It is in the aftermath of tragedy at Charlottesville that Rodriguez ponders if he might develop a "spiritual Turing test" (inspired by the artificial intelligence work of English philosopher and mathematician Alan Turing) to determine if any spark of humanity dwells within "the hateful bigots" who fight for white supremacy on the one hand, and yet possess some deeper humanity amenable to a conversion capable of exercising their racial hatred. Indeed, a central concern of Rodriguez's musings is the extent to which racial bigots are capable of becoming better twenty-first-century humans. Rodriguez wisely dispenses with the idea of an "imitation game" consisting of a variety of theological and moral questions for white supremacists, understanding that such thinking, "however tempting," is a shibboleth down a slippery slope demonizing, objectifying, controlling, manipulating, and/or eliminating "outsiders." Instead, Rodriguez ultimately argues for a well-informed "dialogic approach" to engaging, even befriending, the enemy. Such an effort is to be rooted in the ongoing cultivation of trust-building among racial adversaries within the intersecting domains of community life: for example, between the personal, local governmental, law enforcement, civic-organizational, and religious spheres of St. Louis County, MO, where Rodriguez lives and teaches as a liberation theologian.
Applying his message and pedagogy of progressive and risky justice work to the teaching of nineteen-year-olds at the Catholic St. Louis University, Rodriguez affirms the rugged truth that Black Lives Matter as he centers Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 letter From a Birmingham City jail among other "other perennial favorites"--Augustine, Anselm, Bonhoeffer. And understanding correctly that it was foolish to expect the election of Barack Obama to solve all the persistent racial and ethnic frustrations facing the United States, Rodriguez's contribution calls forth the Apostle Paul's vision of the Christian churches, holding together both an affirmation of racial and ethnic particularity and a holistic embrace of a spiritually inclusive vision that challenges and implores white Christians to actively and collectively confess that Black Lives Matter. As a Latino/a theologian living in this particular time and place in history, Rodriguez's voice offers a strong personal testimony to the truth that Black Lives Matter. A truth, which he confesses, "deserves the support of brown, yellow, red, white, straight, gay, trans, poor, rich, working class, and all other lives" on the way to building the ever-elusive "more perfect union."
Focusing the pervasive presence of black death, the gifted constructive theologian, Antonia Daymond, offers a view into literal, figurative, and social specters of Black life. Daymond haunting yet sublime rendering speaks of the vexing and ever-evolving archive of American democracy as it grapples with the ways the nation continues to rely upon Christian claims, logics, and myths to support its tragic rationalization of black death. Drawing from black liberationist and feminist thought, she positions blackness as unique and singular resulting from the historical continuity of slavery and its afterlife. Daymond suggests that black bodies remain bound within the violent, necrotic precincts of anti-black racism and white supremacy despite the multifarious differences in black subjectivity, despite the alternative ways black people have embraced life in the midst of pain, and despite as the vague progress made in American public and political life. At core, she advances a thesis which suggests that both exclusionary and so-called progressive sociopolitical discourses in our contemporary society depend upon racist deities (that are often informed by the Christian social imaginary) to romanticize, normalize, and neutralize black suffering and death. This, in turn, sustains America's racial and gender hierarchies disallowing any instance of equilibrium or just liberation for black folk. By grounding the violence levied onto black bodies and bringing the theodicy concern of black suffering to the fore, Daymond aims to provide theological redress by proposing a Christology and Soteriology of praxis as that which calls for a temperament of refusal that defies any attempt to rationalize black death. Against such a rationalization in the profound theological context of theodicy and the on-theground horror of black execution at Mother Emmanuel, Daymond draws upon a wide range of interlocutor voices to cement the thesis of her convictions: Achille Mbembe, Hortense Spillers, Jared Sexton, "Duboisian peculiarity," Frantz Fanon, Saidiya Hartman, Sylvia Wynter, David Marriot, Harriet Jacobs, etc. Certainly, Daymond's contribution offers an important theo-political view into the necrotic terror that U.S. democracy, as an expression of diasporic white supremacy and brutal female subjectivity, inflicts on black bones.
As the forces of Black death (bodily, civil, economic) reigned during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, a collision of political style and substance emerged in the struggle for Black survival and flourishing. Represented by the nonviolent Christian racial egalitarianism of Martin Luther King, Jr. on one end of the intergenerational divide, and by Stokely Carmichael's emerging and fervent cry of "Black Power" on the other, the highly gifted scholar of religion Terrance Johnson brings a substantial clarity of intellect to Barack Obama's political inheritance and refashioning of the spirit of the American Jeremiad.
Understanding Obama's rise to the American presidency as a potent political embrace of a new theo-political vision, hope, optimism, and lamentation, Johnson brings the debate between "Black liberalism (traditional civil rights voting rights strategy) and Black leftist politics (the inheritors of Black Power)" into present-day political focus.
Noting Obama's potent-yet-distinctive retrieval of the American jeremiad--one soaked in the lyrical style and narrative testimony of Black preaching--Johnson really captures the specter, the sublimely brilliant-yet-haunting essence, of Obama's ability to seize the public imagination and revitalize national conversations around politically charged race relations. Johnson rightly sees the power and ironies of Obama's "striking theological and political reorientation of the jeremiad," a reorientation where inspirational lamentation and "an unyielding faith" would promote social change in the service of justice that corrects social harms rather than tout American exceptionalism.
Indeed, Johnson's contribution to this volume does great service to the notion that Obama's distinctive American jeremiad was a rebuke of the nation's commonplace and widespread moral complacency and complicity in the neglectful oppression of neighbors, strangers, and foreigners. And within the political reading of this new jeremiad, Johnson flags (in particular) what some found in Obama to be a problematic "rejection of representational leadership and possibly.. .a sign of his dubious relationship to Black male leadership."
Whatever discussions and debates might emerge from Johnson's writing here, his is without question a fascinating exploration and commentary on the moral imagination of Barack Obama. Such imagination was a recasting (or "reconfiguration"), so Johnson argues, that signaled a new American Jeremiad that disrupted political affiliations and corrupt institutions, and was an indictment of both representational racial politics and conservative ideologies of antiblackness, xenophobia, bigotry, and sexism. Indeed, we have here a brilliant laying out of the political jeremiad of the Obama's years, years influenced and informed not only by the Black church and its homiletical social cadence, but also formed and fashioned by an earlier colonial Puritan jeremiad tied to conceptions of America's sacred history. And, not to be overlooked is Johnson's profound understanding that the contours of the American political jeremiad dwells within the hires of competing Black liberals and Black leftists, symbolically and respectively represented by two Black men, King and Carmichael.
Perhaps the greatest import of Johnson's voice concerning that Black presidential hope that, in 2008, appeared in the flesh, is the reminder that by reinvigorating the Black sermon motif in public life, Obama set front and center a dynamic appeal for collective responsibility in concert with individual transformation throughout this political democracy. Indeed, with the election of Donald Trump Johnson embraces the moral responsibility to remind us that post-Obama America is one where the demons have been unleashed. And not only with a realization that the Empire will strike back, but also with the difficult truth that Black people are as "human, normal, and fragile," as any people striving for hope, enfleshed.
And speaking of enfleshed hope, a hope that inspires and instills concrete everyday intimate love for those marked as the pariahs among us, Laura McTighe together with the Reverend Doris Green, who founded Men & Women In Prison Ministries (MWIPM) more than three decades ago in Chicago, offers an important contribution to Crosscurrents focused on the intimacy of "reassembling the social in a time of mass criminalization."
McTighe sets out to tell a story of the "the raced and religious underpinnings of our nation's collective obsession with punishment" while also excavating the religious ideas and practices of MWIPM as a counter imagining and generating concerning the love-soaked justice in family and communities hardest hit by mass criminalization. This contribution invites us to jettison many of the commonsense ideas concerning "religion" and "criminalization" that focused on an alienating, socially atomized, exclusionary, and terrorizing spirit of punishment against the hope of Black freedom. Of significant import here is the authors' rendering of mass criminalization as a system of forced migration as inmates, families, and communities must routinely move (psychically, emotionally, and bodily) "across lockups." Counter to such migratory forces, we learn here of MWIPM's "reimagining of the social" grounded by a love which binds and holds together that which mass criminalization severs: families and whole communities yearning for care, service, healing, and restoration. In short, we are summoned to consider and heed the intimacies of relationships, which are central to the idea of instilling "love for our people." Such a love cast over the spirit of in which McTighe and Green write ends the scourge of mass criminalization rooted in the entrenchment of something "worse than slavery," and theologically grounded in the Christo-religious mis-logic of white supremacy.
Indeed, one might experience a deep sense of Toni Morrison's seminal novel Beloved, as this contribution takes readers through the trapdoor of religiously justified racial expulsion, recounted here by way of Ida B. Wells' documentation of American lynching and other racially ritualized "terror, murder and expulsion," all wicked testimony to the rendering of Black people as ".. .trespassers among the human race." (1)
Ultimately, this contribution (not unlike other contributions to this volume) lifts up "the spirit of struggle." In this most profound instance, it is the work of Rev. Green and MWIPW rooted in the spirit of Wells and in what Wallace Best understood of the earlier migration period to be the creation of "a new, and especially female, sacred order in Chicago" (as paraphrased by McTighe). Indeed, McTighe grounds her work here in a long and sustained friendship of collaboration with Rev. Green, whose inspired work in the city of Chicago calls forth a reassembling of the social in a particular geopolitical context that houses one of the nation's largest jails alongside, "a soaring murder rate, gun violence, over medication, unsupported trauma, [and] overdose deaths." In fact, Green's journey to the work of MWIPM's work of intimate communal love is a personal story of ministry to people in prison as a path to saving her own life.
The collaborative Black-White female voice rendered here is profoundly suggestive of the ongoing active, and so often invisible and unsung, detailed attention that must be paid the daily social operations of organizing labor. For hidden and active behind the veil of many public intellectuals are innumerable persons working against the tragic and exclusionary migrations of mass criminalization and its consequences for Black families and communities.
People of faith, in particular, ought to embrace the story of MWIPM as a model of daily activism and religious witness, for the intimacy of its world-work teaches us, as McTighe so profoundly notes, that religion in a time of mass criminalization means being and staying on the move "to churches, to community centers, to food pantries, and to a longstanding black radical basement meeting on Chicago's South Side."
Certainly, this final contribution to this volume demonstrates the life-affirming truth that "instilling love for our people" means a day-to-day religious thereness of mutual ties in family and community. Such everyday thereness is embodied by the faith-work of Reverend Green, MWIPM, and the multitudes of unsung and unrecognized others "whose enduring work [stretches] across prison walls and keep people connected when they come home." Indeed, this final contribution to the volume (a contribution that makes no mention of the term "political democracy," or Barak Obama, or Donald Trump) is a tour de force in support of "reassembling the social" against the forced migration of mass criminalization no matter the reigning political order of things. Although contextualized to a particular deleterious social issue, time, and place, McTighe and Green do offer with this writing both a specific and general witness against "the disruption--the severing--of social ties" and the death of whole communities, including the attempted destruction of Black humanity through the "brutal 'magic of the state' ritualized through expulsion."
As one comes to this fitting conclusion of this volume focused on religion, political democracy, and specters of race, recall the words of the great Black literacy genius Ralph Ellison in his seminal novel Invisible Man:
"... the end is in the beginning and lies far ahead." (2)
(1.) Toni Morrison, Beloved (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 125.
(2.) Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (New York: Random House, 1952), 5.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2018|
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