“Welcoming the New Year with New Books”

“Welcoming the New Year with New Books”

To celebrate the coming of the new year 2019 toward self-care and intellectual formation, I am pleased to welcome five new books in my home library:

1. “The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848” by Jonathan Israel

2. “Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics” by Josef Sorett

3. “Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion and Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952” by Wallace Best

4. “New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration” by Judith Weisenfeld

5. “Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job” by Robert Fyall

*** The above books, although some of them were published three to four years ago, were in amazon’s wish list; I waited when the price was substantially reduced to order them. This is my technique or method to buy new books, which I have been practicing since I was an undergrad student. 🙂

“A Return to Toussaint’s engagement with faith”

Two years ago, I wrote a 56 page draft on the religious belief of Haiti’s founding father Toussaint Louverture, wherein I reread selected primary texts written by Toussaint himself, in which he discussed his religious sensibility and attitude through his own autobiography, the legal texts he ordered as Governor of Saint-Domingue to be instituted, and the various correspondences and letters he penned to British and French political leaders in the second half of the nineteenth century—within the historical trajectories of Enlightenment’s reason and modernity, the promotion of “civil religion,” an ensuing conclusion of the triumph of rationality by European philosophers and men of letters and a useful blend influential political leaders in the Americas such as Toussaint Louverture, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Jose Marti, and Simon Bolivar found it (civil religion) meaningful in the construction of nation-states and in legislating new laws to regulate citizens’ morality and ethical decisions and their interactions in the corresponding newly founded society and culture in the Americas.

In the year 2019, shall the good Lord continue to grace my life with physical strength and intellectual energy, I will revisit the above article and explore what Haitianists, both Haitian-born and non-Haitian scholars, have written about Toussaint’s faith. The chosen methodology is to evaluate (1) Toussaint’s faith in the context of Vodou scholarship, (2) Toussaint’s faith in the context of Haitian Catholicism, and (3) I will assess the historiography of Haitian religious scholarship in light of Toussaint’s own (religious) voice and “expressed religious piety and secular faith” through his written texts.

For me to write about Toussaint’s faith is to embark on an intellectual journey that will involve (1) the process of challenging and deconstructing “incorporated ideologies” into Haitian religious history and Haiti’s national history; (2) it is also an attempt to construct a more accurate narrative of Haiti’s founders (and the Haitian people’s) ambivalent experience with religion and faith; and finally, (3) this article is also a process to revisit and reconstruct the rapport between nationality, identity, and religious affiliation in Haiti’s national and intellectual history.

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Call for Papers: Africology: Journal of Pan African Studies (AJPAS): Special Issue on James H. Cone

Repost and Extended Deadline: January 27, 2019

“On the Side of the Poor and in Solidarity with the Oppressed: The Meaning and Legacy of James H. Cone (August 5, 1936 – April 28, 2018)”

Call for Papers

Africology: Journal of Pan African Studies (AJPAS)

Special Issue on James H. Cone

Celucien L. Joseph, PhD, Guest Editor

Deadline for Final Submissions: February 8, 2019

The Africology: Journal of Pan African Studies (AJPAS), the premier academic journal on Pan-African studies and Black thought in the world, is pleased to announce the Call for Papers for a special issue on the work of the eminent theologian, activist, and Father of Black Liberation Theology James H. Cone, who left this world for a better world on April 28, 2018. The underlying theme of this special issue pertains to the clarion call by James Cone to protagonists of human rights and freedom fighters to assume their sacred duty and public role and responsibility to be on “the side of the poor and in solidarity with the oppressed;” this twin idea underscores the meaning, relevance, and legacy of James H. Cone in the age of destructive globalization, American foreign (military) intervention, and Western capitalism in the developing nations, as well as the ongoing threats and challenges of white supremacy and white terrorism in American society, and American aggressive racism toward the black and brown populations, and the hostile xenophobic attitude toward the immigrants and political refugees under this current political administration.

In his writings, Cone articulated a Black politico-theology of liberation in the historical trajectories of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power in the 1960s and within the tragic narrative of the Black experience and Black suffering in the United States. He conceptualized his theological ideas and moral demands as a corrective rejoinder to the triumph of white supremacy in the American society, white violence against Black citizens, and the silence of White American churches and theologians to promote brotherhood and safeguard the humanity and dignity of Black people against Police Brutality, dehumanization, and racial oppression and terror. In an article entitled, “Black Theology and the Black Church: Where Do We Go from Here?” (2004), Cone articulated the Black theological discourse as a “radical response from the underside of American religious history to the mainstream of white Christianity.” For Cone, Black Liberation Theology is an urgent call to white American Christians and churches to exercise radical transformation of thought, behavior, and actions toward the oppressed and the poor. The goal of Black Liberation Theology is to fight against all forms of human oppression and assault, and all evil forces of alienation and destruction against the underrepresented and marginalized populations—toward their full emancipation, human flourishing, and the realization of their human potential as Imago Die. Correspondingly, in his second and seminal work, A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), Cone argued that Christian “theology cannot be separated from the community it represents. It assumes that truth has been given to the community at the moment of its birth. Its task is to analyze the implications of that truth, in order to make sure that the community remains committed to that which defines its existence.”

Consequently, the five-fold objective of this special issue is (1) to highlight the politico-theological ideas and ethical demands of James H. Cone for the advancement of human rights, life, and freedom of the marginalized populations and races, and the economically-disadvantaged groups in the United States and in the world; (2) to underline the intellectual contributions of Cone’s writings to the advancement of knowledge and understanding in the academic disciplines of Christian theology and ethics, African American Theology and Biblical Hermeneutics, Postcolonial Theologies and Biblical Hermeneutics, and Black and Pan-African Studies, and their cognate areas; (3) to use Cone’s writings and thought as a form of intellectual criticism to and moral outrage against the American Empire and Western Capitalism in the world, (4) to revisit Cone’s intellectual legacy as a critique and series of jeremiads about the failure and silence of the American society and American Christianity in the mistreatment, suffering, alienation, and death of the black and brown populations; and finally, (5) to accentuate the intellectual impact of Cone’s writings and ideas on Black and African American theologians and Biblical scholars, Womanist theorists and ethicists, and Womanist Biblical scholars and theologians, and Postcolonial African thinkers, theologians, and leaders in the developing nations.

We welcome articles, both in English and French, within these five broad categories, that articulate fresh and innovative readings and interpretations of Cone’s ideas and writings. Interested participants should submit a 250-word abstract along with a 2-page cv by Friday, December 28, 2019, to Dr. Joseph, Guest Editor of the Special Issue on James H. Cone, at celucienjoseph@gmail.com. The deadline to submit the final article or completed manuscript is Friday, February 8, 2019.

About the Guest Editor: Celucien L. Joseph (PhD, University of Texas; PhD, University of Pretoria) is an intellectual historian and Christian theologian. Currently, he serves as an associate professor of English at Indian River State College. He published seven academic books and more than two dozen peer-reviewed articles on the intersections of literature, history, religion, race, and history of ideas; his recent book is entitled Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa (Lexington Books, 2018) His academic research and teaching interests include Black Religion, Black Liberation Theology, Black Theological Ethics and Anthropology, African American Intellectual History, Black Internationalism, and Comparative History and Literature of the Black and African Diaspora (both Francophone and Anglophone). He is currently working on two books: the first is a a volume on Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former President of Haiti and Catholic-Priest Liberation Theology entitled Aristide: A Theological and Political Introduction to His Life and Thought (forthcoming in 2019, Fortress Press), and the second is on the Haitian Pan-Africanist and Haiti’s reigning intellectual in the twentieth-century Jean Price-Mars, entitled Jean Price-Mars: An Intellectual and Religious Biography (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2019).

Dr. Joseph currently serves on the editorial of Africology: Journal of Pan African. He served as the Guest Editor to the AJPAS special issue on Wole Soyinka entitled “Rethinking Wole Soyinka: 80 Years of Protracted Engagement” (2015). He reviews manuscripts for various journals and has presented papers at conferences, both nationally and internationally.

Contact Info:
Interested participants should submit a 250-word abstract along with a 2-page cv by Friday, December 28, 2019 (the deadline is now extended to January 27, 2019), to Dr. Joseph, Guest Editor of the Special Issue on James H. Cone, at celucienjoseph@gmail.com. The deadline to submit the final article or completed manuscript is February 27, 2019.

About the Guest Editor: Celucien L. Joseph (PhD, University of Texas; PhD, University of Pretoria) is an intellectual historian, literary scholar, and Christian theologian. Currently, he serves as an associate professor of English at Indian River State College. He published seven academic books and more than two dozen peer-reviewed articles on the intersections of literature, history, religion, race, and history of ideas; his recent book is entitled Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa (Lexington Books, 2018) His academic research and teaching interests include Black Religion, Black Liberation Theology, Black Theological Ethics and Anthropology, African American Intellectual History, Black Internationalism, and Comparative History and Literature of the Black and African Diaspora (both Francophone and Anglophone). He is currently working on two books: the first is a a volume on Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former President of Haiti and Catholic-Priest Liberation Theology entitled Aristide: A Theological and Political Introduction to His Life and Thought (forthcoming in 2019, Fortress Press), and the second is on the Haitian Pan-Africanist and Haiti’s reigning intellectual in the twentieth-century Jean Price-Mars, entitled Jean Price-Mars: An Intellectual and Religious Biography (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2019).

Dr. Joseph currently serves on the editorial of Africology: Journal of Pan African. He served as the Guest Editor to the AJPAS special issue on Wole Soyinka entitled “Rethinking Wole Soyinka: 80 Years of Protracted Engagement” (2015). He reviews manuscripts for various journals and has presented papers at conferences, both nationally and internationally.

New Article on Jame H. Cone Submitted to Journal!

I just submitted another article on James H. Cone to one of my favorite journals on Black religion and theology. I hope it will pass the rigorous test of the peer review process 🙂

For the year 2018, I wrote three detailed articles on James Cone exploring different, but interconnecting themes in his theology. (Both of them were supposed to come out in December. I am not sure why both journals are delaying the publication of their next issue. Well, I am not in a hurry. I suppose that both articles will now be published in 2019, not 2018 as the editors have previously informed me.) From my perspective, the two cardinal and inseparable themes in Cone’s theological corpus is arguably his articulation of a robust theological anthropology and a revolutionary doctrine of God; both theological formulations have departed from the traditional Western-European theological methodology and theological diction. This alternative way of doing theology in/from the margins and establishing the rapport between theology and anthropology has now become an intellectual tradition in modern contextual and constructive theologies, both in the developing and developed worlds and among the religious thinkers that promote them.

While Cone has invested a lot of intellectual energy in developing with greater theological precision and clarity a comprehensive discourse on (black) theological anthropology, his doctrine of God is the bedrock that sustains Cone’s theological understanding of humanity and all of his theological subsets. I believe his theological anthropology is more expressive than any other theological topics he wrote about.

To express it concisely, Cone articulated a God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ with the intended purpose to free the oppressed (i.e. black people) and deliver the poor from their oppressors and abusers. In Cone’s theological logic, God makes use of his transcendence and power to humanize and recreate the fragmented lives of the world’s poor and the economically-disadvantaged populations in the world. God’s revelation means good news to the vulnerable and freedom, life, and recreation to those who hope solely in Him–not in the powers and systems of this world–and concurrently to those (the miserable) whom God has chosen to grant justice and show his loving-kindness–by demolishing the powers, systems, structures, and forces of this world that alter their existence and dehumanize the Imago Dei in them.

“Seeking the Dead among the Living:On the Real and the Unreal”

“Seeking the Dead among the Living:On the Real and the Unreal”

Why are some people in this generation seeking for reality and words of affirmation to boost up their self-esteem and humanize their humanity from the virtual and unreal world?

Evidently, there’s a crisis of character formation and a profound conflict within the self and the collective soul in our culture.

We are confused about the difference between the real and the unreal, fiction and truth, the world of forms and the world of the real, the sphere of robots and the sphere of humans.

“Joy to the World:The Poor at the Beginning of Christianity, and the True Meaning of Christmas”

“Joy to the World: The Poor at the Beginning of Christianity, and the True Meaning of Christmas”

Christianity started in the Roman Empire as the Religion of the poor, the oppressed, the economically-disavantaged people, the socially-outcast folks whom God in Christ has chosen to begin this radical Movement and to whom Jesus the Messiah and Savior of the World has come to save spiritually, give them life abundantly, and rescue them from oppression. God has a special affection and passion for the poor and the weak in our society.

Christians ought to keep this population closely connected with modern Christianity and its evolution in our contemporary society.
Followers of Christ need to always be mindful about the life of the poor and their participation in the life and actions of modern Christian churches. This relationship is vital for human flourishing and necessary in the survival of Christian churches in the twenty-first century, and no Christian church is a biblical and apostolic church if it is neglecting this segment of individuals and families in our population. God is on the side of the weak and the least among us.

Don’t you ever forget it was the oppressed population that began the Christian movement in the Roman Empire and zealously spread it beyond the Empire to places like Africa, Asia, Europe, etc.–in that order–just because they believed that God loves the poor and the humble and was doing something remarkably different and new in the world redeeming other poor and outcast people elsewhere and everywhere! That’s the true meaning of Christmas and the central message of the Christian faith!

If your favorite theologian, religious scholar, or even your own pastor tells you something different, tell that person he or she is talking about a different religion and that he or she is/has been reading the wrong Bible or is currently reading the Bible wrongly!
If it is possible, buy him/her a new Bible for Christmas! 🙂

“Remember the poor!” (Galatians 2:10)

Merry Christmas!
Joy to the World!

“The Gospel and Social Justice in Public”

“The Gospel and Social Justice in Public”

This brief note is intended for some of my Evangelical friends who separate the Gospel and justice issues; it is also beneficial for many American evangelicals who do not believe that the Gospel is intrinsically connected with social justice and human rights issues, especially the rights and freedom of women in society.

Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege is a new recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his tremendous work in healing rape victims and defending the dignity of women in his native land, the Republic of Congo. He is a “Christian” and a medical doctor. It is impossible to divorce the biblical understanding of justice and love for one’s neighbor from the heart of the Gospel or Christianity itself–that is to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, to do justice, show mercy, and love God and love your neighbor. This is exactly what this Christian doctor has done for the oppressed women and the poor in his country;these Congolese women have been raped, abused, exploited, killed, and tortured. Dr. Mukwege showed them what love and justice look like in public. He defended their cause and their right to live with dignity as bearers of God’s image.

The gospel is not only the exposition of the Word one hears on Sunday morning or Wednesday night Bible study; it is both word and action, and is about how we love and care for our neighbor, and how we intentionally pursue their interests in matters of social justice–such as feeding the hungry, healing the sick, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, defending the rights of the oppressed and the poor, providing hospitality to the unknown such as the undocumented immigrant.

There is no valid biblical reason why a committed christian or a serious Christian congregation cannot and should not work towards both ends: the faithful proclamation of the Gospel and the public acts and demonstrations of the Gospel in deeds. This is not “social gospel,” but a Christianity that willingly engages the culture and the people responsibly, ethically, and morally by working together to alleviate the social concerns and ills of our society, and to heal the wound and oppression of the people. A lot of people in our society are hurting spiritually and existentially. They need the spiritual food; they also need food for their body; they need shelter, hospitals and clinics, healthcare; they need educational and literary programs; they also need jobs; they also need to live in peace in their homeland. Similarly, women need to feel safe in their homes and workplaces without having to worry about the threat and act of sexual abuse and violence from men.

As the doctor asks these pivotal questions in his speech:

How can we have communal peace without respect for human life and rights?

How can we have peace without justice and reparations?

How can we have peace without truth and reconciliation?

There is no sustaining peace without justice, truth, reconciliation, and reparations.

I wish there was an English translation available of Dr. Mukwege’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which he delivered in French.

Sometimes this week, I posted a detailed article about his work on restoring women’s dignity in his country.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/october/denis-mukwege-congo-nobel-peace-prize.html

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=532843877192956&id=1514153295507495

Here’s Dr. Denis Mukwege’s Nobel Prize Speech with English Entitles.

“Ten Words about the Reality of Death and Living Dyingly, and the Dignity of the Dead”

“Ten Words about the Reality of Death and Living Dyingly, and the Dignity of the Dead”

The Haitian national anthem unapologetically glorifies heroic death, patriotic death with its famous and memorable line every student in Haiti proudly memorises in school and sings: “Mourir est beau,” “To die is beautiful.” Accordingly, the death that earns our tears and calls for our grief is the patriotic death; dying for one’s country is truly worth remembering and celebrating because it will ultimately contribute to human flourishing and the dignity of the country. “To die is beautiful” carries a sense of patriotic ritual and zeal, and a passion for sacrificial love and the unflinching commitment to love one’s country sacrificially. “Mourir est beau” is a story on its own, a written narrative that says a true patriot is willing to undertake the greatest human sacrifice: to die for one’s country and to risk dyingly for one’s ancestors.

However, there’s something special about reading words on printed pages and meditating critically and responsibly upon (the ethics of) words that have the potential to alter our values and our perception about life and death. We are changed by words and similarly, we readers and writers have the potential to modify the impact of language in our lives. Words that transform our vision of reality are words that we tolerate and embrace, and that happens (only when and if) we willingly surrender the sovereignty of our mind to the power and force of language. There has to be an intentional “let go” from our part and of our control if we want to experience the transformative change a novel, a play, or a poem can/may introduce to our lives. The individuals who have experienced the radical change and evolution of the mind through a book, whether a fiction or non-fiction, are those who have submitted the authority of their reason and psyche to the authority of the text and its author. Without this act of voluntary submission, the power of the text will be dull and null to the reader.

Reading Edwidge Danticat’s latest book, “The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story” (Graywolf Press, July 11, 2017), a moving tribute to and personal account of (their shared stories and memories) her mother living dyingly and dying with dignity, makes me realize how much I love my mother and how much I want to spend more time and quality time with her before she transitions to another and better world, where there is no grief, no death, no pain, no suffering, and where one’s life or existence does not expire, but continues to blossom. My mother is 71 years old, and for the past six to seven years, she has endured various medical complications; her health continues to deteriorate. Danticat has helped me to imagine life differently and to rethink about the importance of presence and time, and the significance of absence and fragmentation in the human experience. This book has had a tremendous psychological impact on my thought-process and drastically brought back to life the sweet memories I shared with my mother when I was a little boy and the memories we continue to create and archive as she continues to live meaningfully and optimistically. Below, I draw ten statements–that have left me with a mental scar–from Danticat’s emotional text about the reality of death and living dyingly, and the dignity of of the dead:

1.“There are websites devoted to memorializing the dead, virtual cemeteries where our life stories continue.”

2.“My mother has given birth to more women than me, and perhaps in her death she will breed even more.”

3.“When you’re young, your parents can seem immortal, then they get terminally ill and they remove the possibility of either you or them being immortal. When they die, you realize what it’s like to suddenly occupy an ambiguous space in the world.

4.“If both your parents, who are the people who created you, can die, then you too can die. With this in mind, you become acutely aware that we are all ‘living dyingly.’”

5.“We cannot write about death without writing about life…The act of writing, or talking about one’s death, makes one an active participant in one’s life.”

6.“Even when we are not writing about death, we are still writing about death. After all, death is always the eventual outcome, the final conclusion of every story.”

7.“We want to write not just of our mother’s deaths, but of their lives too and of the ways, beyond the obvious, that our lives and theirs were linked.”

8.“The final moment of death, especially when a prolonged illness is involved, is one of many deaths, anyway. Smaller deaths precede it, including, among other things, possibly one’s loss of autonomy and dignity.”

9.“The zombie’s inner spiritual geography has been erased by death, but the body is still forced to wander the earth. This is the kind of life and death nobody wants, a painfully eternally living death.”

10.“We are all bodies, but the dying body starts decaying right before our eyes.”