Flights of Faith

Monday, January 22, 2007

God as Liberatator (Part 1): Dual Freedoms

Fredrickson’s quote from his book, Racism, completely ignores resistance and revision done by populations of color to find the truth through experiences of oppression in the Constitution, but more importantly, the Bible and Christianity. Fredrickson’s quote assumes that white men colonizing ethnic populations are followers of the Bible and that their logic is frozen never to be challenged. Moreover, he is asserting that white men define teachings of the Bible over colonized populations while these colored bodies silently agree to every word. Finally, his quote assumes that the entire white population co-opted Christianity and that this unfortunate real existence of Biblical manipulation did not occur through individuals spreading a message of hatred and separation. Alternatively, Fredrickson rejects any possibility that there were multiple components attached to accepting this “white Christian” ideology besides Europeans simply having blind contempt for people of color. By relying on endless assumptions of white behavior and the dormancy of populations of color, Fredrickson does not deconstruct Western racism; instead, he builds more walls by accepting a hegemonic white supremacist world that allows no room for contestation within that group or outside of it.

Fredrickson’s model is not only superficially problematic, but it also affects living populations of color that are practicing Christians. If the call to decolonize these populations is to strip them of their religions and replace them with foreign ones regardless of the brutality that brought about this loss, then how would that be any different than any other form of benevolent supremacy? Instead, scholars like Fredrickson need to acknowledge the resistance and negotiation that occurred as populations were introduced to Christianity. This specific conflict, in turn, sheds light on how these populations navigated secular aspects of society and provided ideal models for the dominant society in the process.

One of the most obvious examples of religious negotiation is African-American Christian’s dual call for salvation and equality. While this statement may bring about images of the Civil Rights movement, these beliefs were present since slavery. After all, this horrific experience of slavery is what connects African-Americans to enslaved Israelites. Although this ideology is grounded in the Bible, it has always existed in secular forms of protest. As Sherman Jackson notes, “Black Religion is an instrument of holy protest against white supremacy and its material and psychological effects” (25). Jackson calls this theory black religion as opposed to black Christianity because he found that its existence comes from the terrible circumstances blacks were placed in as opposed to the theology of any individual religion. Black Christianity, though, has the power of revising one of the most dominant aspects of Western society and exposing its faults and revealing false promises. It is probably this experience that made challenges against other dominant theories, like the Constitution, possible. This is also not isolated to a Black experience. Mexican and Fillipino workers, “sons of the same God,” use religious discourse in Plan de Delano calling their poverty a sin. In fact, any oppressed members of ethnic populations go through a similar process of establishing agency through this negotiation process.


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