James H. Come starts off by discussing the important role that black theology has had in the liberation of African American, and that it was something that was created out of necessity because white Christian theology was not invested in the rights of African Americans. Yet, still with the ever changing social situations it is important for churches to alway be aware and engaged with the current political climate. Come, I believe rightly so, makes the argument that it is not possible to discuss the issue of racial oppression without addressing the other systems and institutions of power the lead to that hierarchy. Racial oppression, national issues, and economic issues are all part of the same web. Racism and capitalism are the systems that are codependent on one another. That is not to say that simply one is the result of the other, but rather that each one helps uphold the other. One can not discuss the issues of capitalism without discussing systemic racism, and one can discuss systemic racism without discussing the issues of capitalism.
I thought it was very interesting in the Sernett reading that the speaker focused on the physical needs of the people. It focused on what they pragmatically needed in order to live a healthy, stable life. This mentality allows them to avoid an attitude that might be dismissive of these needs and simply used religion as a temporary escape as they wait for the afterlife. It does well in trying to find that balance between both spiritual and physical needs and the interplay between the two, discussing how simply because fullfilment of physical needs is the first step is does not mean that it is the most important one.
One of the most interesting things about Voodoo that I learned from the readings, is that unlike Christianity, Voodoo does not follow the mentality of good versus evil. Instead it goes by the idea that there are actions that are constructive and actions that are destructive. This seems to be a far more pragmatic and nuanced worldview to me. It seems like a system that is less interested in steeping morality with simply traditions and religious practices, but instead simply wishes people to do what is best for their own community. This would also make it much more difficult to use this religion as a political tool. Instead of creating division of good groups and bad, to use to shape relationship that they might have with outside communities in order to force some type of authority or morality over them, it is instead more interested in much more immediate relations and decisions connected to their own well-being.
Miles Mark Fischer take on cults was initially surprising to me, because of the connotation that this term usually carries. And Fischer is certainly aware of this term, but uses it throughout the text in an attempt to reclaim and re-contextualize the word. He is critical and concerned of the formal attitude of the traditional church, which he thinks sometimes are too steeped in the idea of tradition and organization that it does not do enough to really speak to the people and address social issues. The cults are not held by these chains of bureaucracy and consequently seem to be able to do much more and are more willing to challenge the statue quo. Fischer reminds his reader that at some point every religious organization was a cult, and that people should focus more on the core ideals of an organization rather than whether they are considered official by an authority.
Booker T Washington’s Atlanta Compromise speech is one that can definitely be read as degrading, and I will not disagree with that. Though even with the considered, I can understand the pragmatism of such a speech. It is a speech, as the title implies, that is steeped in compromise. He references the slave labour that black American were forced to do on the farm, but rather than drawing attention to the injustice and oppression of this situation, he focuses on how dilligent and hard working the slaves had been. Washington is working within a system where he believes in order to progress and gain power as a race, they do have to appease those who are currently within power, that being the white oppressor. It is one that continues the idea of black American as subservient to whites, but is within a context where Washington seems to believe that is the best option.
Marcus Garvey’s selections of texts made for an interesting read. He highlights not just his own beliefs, but the push back he experiences from others for it as well. And yet despite the fact that Garvey’s arguments in the texts provided do talk a decent amount about his experiences and the social structure that exist wtihin America, he does not do the same when it comes to the subject of creation a Nation in Africa. Garvey’s pessimism about African American’s ability to gain any political leverage within America can not be entirely dismissed, yet there still remains the question of why he never bring up these same possibilities when it comes to his planned nation state in Africa.
William Wells Brown’s piece certainly stood out to me among the other texts that we have read so far this semester. This was one of the few documents that was not focused on racial power dynamics and the role that religion played in that. Instead it was more focused on African American churches themselves and how they function. It was interesting how Wells when quoting other African American in the work, wrote them in dialect. I recalled the discussion we had earlier in the semester, discussing how this was a tool used to dismiss the voices of African Americans. While it is possible that Wells is simply quoting them in this way out of a desire for accuracy or simply tradition, the context that it is in seems to give credence to the notion that this is also an attempt to dismiss and trivialize them. While the overall idea of the article is something that I certainly understand and can even agree with, the way that he goes about it seems to have a slight air of elitism and condescension to it, separating himself, “a man of letters” from “less educated” individuals.
James Farmer seems surprised by something.
The article by Richard Allen was certainly a refreshing one in comparison to what we have read previously in this class. We have seen how religion was used as a tool to continue to support the system of slavey. We have seen how slaves used their own forms of religion in order to cope with their situation. But this time, religion was actually depicted as an effective tool for challenging the existing inequalities, even if it was somewhat limited.
The collection of readings in section two of Sernett covered a variety of ways that slaves in the south used religion. I found it extremely interesting how slave owners would punish slaves if they would pray to the Lord while they were being whipped. This shows that owners did take the power of prayer incredibly seriously, and were afraid of slaves using it as a weapon. This was not even an incident of organized religion. This would be an act of a slave simply acting as an individual. The fear and concern that owners had about this situation might mean they had even an iota of a belief that God would assist them and their acts of slavery went against his will.