President Trump’s Inaugural Address and the death of America’s God

President Trump’s Inaugural Address and the death of America’s God

of The Washington Post dubbed President Trump’s inaugural speech “A most dreadful inaugural address,” which also bears the title of his opinion piece.  He also makes this important observation about President’s Trump’s inevitable encounter with this historic moment in the American experience, “Oblivious to the moment and the setting, the always remarkable Trump proved that something dystopian can be strangely exhilarating: In what should have been a civic liturgy serving national unity and confidence, he vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric about “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.”  Mr. Will’s criticism of our new President’s arrogant speech is arguably an expression of Mr. Trump’s cynicism and xenophobia. The underlying problem of the inaugural address lies in the fact that the  new American President has pushed grace and national unity, and the imperative of reconciliation and friendship aside to promote a narrative of retaliation, fear, and alienation.  It is a speech devoid of enduring human hope, sustaining love, effective human interdependence, and a politics of relationality.

President Trump could have delivered a more humane, sympathetic, cosmopolitan, and elegant inaugural address. But, he chose not to do so. In his speech, President Trump implied that it is going to be a war between the “civilized world” and the “non-civilized world,” the West (America) and the Other (Radical Islam?). He besought the blessing of the “American God” to lead the way.

It is very refreshing to know that America’s God is a different deity and not the God of all people and nations.

We must reject this idol. America’s God is not the true God. He is a deity fashioned and manipulated according to the image, desires, and the sovereign will of America’s political elite class, bourgeois Christianity, and charlatan preachers and theologians.

This God must die. We must kill him!

My new Book: Soyinka on Religion and Human Solidarity

My new Book: Soyinka on Religion and Human Solidarity
I’m pleased to announce the (re-) publication of my new book, Radical Humanism and Generous Tolerance: Soyinka on Religion and Human Solidarity (December 16, 2016) by Hamilton Books.
Description
“Radical Humanism and Generous Tolerance” articulates the religious ideas and vision of Wole Soyinka in his non-fiction writings. It also analyzes Soyinka’s response to religious violence, terror, and the fear of religious imperialism. The book suggests the theoretical notions of radical humanism and generous tolerance best summarize Soyinka’s religious ideals and religious piety. Through a close reading of Soyinka’s religious works, the book argues that African traditional religions could be used as a catalyst to promote religious tolerance and human solidarity, and that they may also contribute to the preservation of life, and the fostering of an ethics of care and relationality. Soyinka brings in conversation Western Humanist tradition and African indigenous Humanist tradition for the sake of the world, for the sake of global shalom, and for the sake of human flourishing.”
You can now pre-order the book in the publisher’s website. What a great gift for Christmas! lol

Readings in Theology and Race, and Racial Reconciliation and Harmony

In this post, I recommend a list of  42 books on the relationship between theology and race, and racial reconciliation and harmony.   These texts treat the subject matter of racial reconciliation and harmony from an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary perspective. While some of these books offer the theoretical, historical, and cultural perspective to this matter, other books on the list offer a very practical, biblicallly- and theologically- sensitive approach to this subject.

 

Readings in Theology and Race, and Racial Reconciliation and Harmony

  1. Race: A Theological Account by J. Kameron Cater
  2. From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race by J. Daniel Hays
  3. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell D. Moore
  4. Liberation And Reconciliation: A Black Theology by J. Deotis Roberts
  5. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
  6. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah
  7. Redeeming Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity by Brian Bantum
  8. Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis by Kay Higuera Smith and Jayachitra Lalitha
  9. Prophetic Rage (Prophetic Christianity Series by Johnny Bernard Hill
  10. One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology by Jarvis Williams
  11. The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey
  12. Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller
  13. The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World by Brian Bantum
  14. Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah
  15. Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah
  16. Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis by Kay Higuera Smith and Jayachitra Lalitha
  17. Open Friendship in a Closed Society: Mission Mississippi and a Theology of Friendship by Peter Slade
  18. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G. I. Hart
  19. The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
  20. This Side of Heaven: Race, Ethnicity, and Christian Faith by Robert J. Priest
  21. The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness by Raphael G. Warnock
  22. Racializing Jesus: Race, Ideology and the Formation of Modern Biblical Scholarship by Shawn Kelley
  23. Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation by Jennifer Harvey
  24. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell
  25. The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation by Stephen R. Haynes
  26. White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity by J. Perkinson
  27. Disrupting White Supremacy from Within by Jennifer Harvey, Karin A. Case, and Robin Hawley Gorsline
  28. The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches by Korie L. Edwards
  29. Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian Hardcover by John Piper
  30. Heal Us, Emmanuel: A Call for Racial Reconciliation, Representation, and Unity in the Church by Doug Serven
  31. Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We are Stronger Together by Tony Evans
  32. Transcending Racial Barriers: Toward a Mutual Obligations Approach by Michael O. Emerson and George Yancey
  33. Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience Carl F. Ellis Jr.
  34. Transcending Racial Barriers: Toward a Mutual Obligations Approach by Michael O. Emerson and George Yancey
  35. People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States by Michael O. Emerson
  36. Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions by Jason E. Shelton and Michael O. O. Emerson
  37. Grace Matters: A True Story of Race, Friendship, and Faith in the Heart of the South by Chris P. Rice
  38. The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change by Brenda Salter McNeil
  39. Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love by Grace Ji-Sun Kim
  40. Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier
  41. Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice
  42. More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel by Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice

The State of Protestantism in Haiti

The State of Protestantism in Haiti

The Haitian government is celebrating 200 years of the presence of Protestant Christianity in Haiti since its arrival in 1816, under the administration of President Alexandre Petion. However, Protestant’s activities in the Caribbean nation can be traced to colonial times and the slavery era in Saint-Domingue. Because Catholic missionaries, who have been appointed by the French monarchy, were chiefly responsible to catechize the enslaved population, the Protestant mission was quickly declined n the first one hundred years, if not less, of the slavery epoch. Also, the Catholic church was the official religion of the state and held tremendous power and influence over the religious and secular education of the Haitian people. Interestingly, Protestantism is the fastest growing religion in contemporary Haitian society; it is estimated 30 to 40% of the Haitian population is actively committed to the Protestant faith, a clear indication of the progressive decline of Haitian Catholicism and Haitian Vodou.

For more about this event, refer to the article listed below:

Les protestants célèbrent leurs 200 ans de présence dans le pays

How Now Shall We Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

How Now Shall We  Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

The American Political Constitution is a masterpiece and should be praised for its democratic and cosmopolitan language. It is one of a kind. However, the relationship between Americans of different racial and ethnic background and the attitude they express toward one another and the foreigner among them is disheartening and betrays the American democratic ideals.

How shall we then proceed to heal our national wound?

How shall we then move forward to learn to live together, accept one another, and love another as Americans?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and each other in this moment of pain, trial, and seemingly great despair.

If I may appeal to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in the sixth chapter,  please allow me to share a few ideas with you.  Although I make a sharp distinction between Christianity and American Nationalism, I would like to offer a Christian perspective on these national issues I noted above. The Christian identity counters the American identity. Nonetheless, I do believe  and maintain that Christians are called by God to actively engage their culture with the message of Christ and be active citizens who must use the Wisdom of God and biblical principles to transform their neighborhood, community, city, and their country–toward peace, love, justice, truth, equality, etc. for the common good–to the glorious praise of the Triune God . Consequently, toward these goals, in this brief post, I would like to bring your attention to three underlying propositions: listening with care and love, doing good to all, and live gently, which may strengthen human relationship, bring collective peace, national healing, and foster racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony. Ultimately, I’m interested in highlighting some basic biblical principles on how to do life together and live gently in these tragic times in the modern world.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“–Micah 6:8

  1. Listening with care and love

In such a national predicament and collective crisis we’re presently undergoing as a people, it is critical for each one of us to listen to each other and try to understand the other individual’s perspective. You will not understand somebody’s hurt and moments of troubles-both in the past and the present–  until you learn to cultivate an attitude to listen and sympathize with that person. You will ruin the possibility to move  forward toward collective progress, goal, and unity should you undermine one’s suffering and point of view.  Do not interrupt! Listen!!!

Listen with care! Listen with patience! Listen responsibly! Listen with understanding! Listen with love! Moments of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation come at the time when we offer ourselves up to each other for the sake of love and unity. As Paul encourages the Christians at Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (6:2). The imperative for social transformation, communal shalom, national healing,  social justice, and radical spiritual renewal is to be relational to all people and to bear one another’s burden.

2. Doing good to all

Secondly, to work toward the common good and human flourishing in our society, it is crucial that we do good to all–with no exception. Doing good to everyone one meets means to be inclusive in one’s generous outreach efforts and activism; it also means that to deliberately extend acts of kindness, compassion, and love to those who cannot give back or do not have the means to return your favor. The ethical aspect of this biblical command and notion of goodness compels us all to forgive and love even those who refuse to love and forgive in return. Doing good to all is an act of justice and a form of loving activism and participation in the life of people or individuals in crisis. It provides a terrific opportunity to the Christian community to condemn social sins and human oppression–the antithesis of good–and to stand in solidarity with those to whom we have called to perform acts of goodness. According to James, the failure to do good and condemn what is unjust (or “not good”) contradicts the Christian ethic and the Jesus Creed: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).  The Christian community is also called to be exemplary models of goodness: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7-9). For  Prophet Micah, goodness includes both social responsibility and spiritual development. The prophet associates good with justice, kindness, and humility.  Doing good is also interpreted as a divine imperative, that is what God requires of his people and the community of faith. Social justice is integral to the spiritual life of God’s people and the Church in the modern age.  When we dissociate Christian discipleship and (or from) the call to justice, it will ultimately lead to a life of obedience and a life that dishonors God.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”–Micah 6:8

Moreover, in Galatians 6, Paul implies that acts of goodness should not be premised on a spirit of  aggressiveness and comparison, but rather should be framed within a  spirit of humility and gratitude. Paul characterizes the Christian life not only as relational living but as a life that pursues the best interest and welfare of others, and the common good. Christian discipleship or the Christian life for Paul is not (and should not be) measured by an attitude of competition and comparison: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (6:4); rather, it is/should be characterized by an attitude of selflessness, sacrificial doing, and  an attitude of  deliberate service and sustaining good : “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:9).  Even in the midst of unwarranted criticism, Christians in contemporary society should not be weary of doing and defending what is just, righteous, loving, and good.  Such attitude toward life and other individuals is a pivotal marker  of an exemplary and Christ-like discipleship.

“So then, we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).

3. Living Gently

Thirdly, the call to do life together and live  gently in this chaotic world and in this  life of uncertainty is not a free pass  nor is it the absence of weakness. This is a high calling for the Christian to engage the world and culture meaningfully, relationally,  and graciously.  In other for the Christian to foster such an attitude toward culture, life, and the world, his/her life must radically be refined by the Spirit of God and shaped by the wisdom of the community of faith  in Christ Jesus. Paul comforts us Christians that we should not be despair nor lose hope in these tragic times; for Apostle Paul, the Christian life that produces genuine spiritual transformation and growth is reciprocal, interconnected, and interdependent upon the community’s active collaboration and sustaining support: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (6:1). The christian life is lived in community and with the community of faith. This life of relations is in active solidarity with the community of Christ’s disciples–what we call ekklesia, “the church.” It is also a life in active solidarity with the oppressed, the disinherited, and underprivileged individuals and families. Genuine Christian discipleship means  the courage to follow Jesus Christ, the courage to love, the courage to forgive, and the courage to take upon oneself the suffering and trials of another individual. The cross of discipleship is not only a call to bear the cross of Christ continually; it is also an imperative to bear the cross of both the weak and the strong among us.

Paul’s articulation of these radical ethical principles of the new  community of grace in Christ and in the Spirit of love has tremendous implications for constructing a life characterized by the ethics and art of listening with care and love, doing good to all, and living gently. It is God’s desire for us to do life together, accept one another, and love another. It is only through the moral vision of the Kingdom of God that Christians and the Christian church in the American society and elsewhere could contribute meaningfully and constructively to a life of optimism, collective participation, a spirit of democratic communitarianism and humanitarianism, and a life of  collective solidarity and racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

To be generous and kind to everyone is a cosmopolitan attitude and human virtue to be praised and coveted; xenophobia or the fear of the “other” or even the immigrant is the antithesis of human kindness, generosity, and hospitality.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (James 6:10).

 

May we become the Gospel we proclaim!

 

Chukwuka–“Chukwu is Supreme”: When Religious Beliefs Collide, and “Things Fall Apart”

“Neither of them succeeded in converting the other but they learned more about their different beliefs.” —Chinua Achebe, “Things Fall Apart” (1958)
 
Chukwuka–“Chukwu is Supreme”:
When Religious Beliefs Collide, and “Things Fall Apart”
I guess that I have not succeeded in convincing my students in my literature class–in which we have read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the most influential novel in the Anglophone Africa, written by Chinua Achebe in 1958– that the Igbo people of Nigeria are monotheists just like the Christians, Muslims, and Jews, they “worship” one God. Those how have written their final essay on the subject of religion in the novel or have done a comparative analysis of African traditional religion and Christianity as their subject of research have emphasized that the Africans are polytheists and believe in strange religious customs and traditions. (Not all of my students made that claim, but most of them do.)
Interestingly, in the story itself, there’s an important debate on the very nature of God in African theology, as well as what is deemed religious; this conversation about faith occurs between an important Igbo character and intellectual named Akunna and the British missionary named Mr. Brown who, along with the colonial administrators, came to “civilize” and “Christianize” the Igbo people. According to Akunna, Mr. Brown misses the mark and misinterprets both the nature of religion and the nature of God in Afrian religious tradition. Consider the following conversation:
“You say that there is one supreme God who made heaven and earth,” said Akunna on one of Mr. Brown’s visits. “We also believe in Him and call Him Chukwu. He made all the world and the other gods.”
“There are no other gods,” said Mr. Brown. “Chukwu is the only God and all others are false. You carve a piece of wood–like that one” (he pointed at the rafters from which Akunna’s carved Ikenga hung), “and you call it a god. But it is still a piece of wood.” The tree from which it came was made by Chukwu, as indeed all minor gods were. But He made them from His messengers so that we could approach Him through them. It is like yourself. You are the head of your church.”
“No,” protested Mr. Brown. “The head of my church is God Himself.”
“I know, said Akunna, “but there must be head in this world among them. Somebody like yourself must be the head here.”
“The head of my church in that sense is in England.”
“That is exactly what I am saying. The head of your church is in your country. He has sent you here as his messenger. And you have also appointed your own messengers and servants. Or let me take another example, the Disctrict Commissioner. He is sent by your King.”
“They have a queen,” said the interpreter on his own account.
“Your queen sends her messenger, the District Commissioner. He finds that he cannot do the work alone and so he appoints kotma to help him. It is the same with God, or Chukwu. He appoints the smaller gods to help Him because His work is too great for one person. “
“You should not think of Him as a person,” said Mr. Brown. “It is because you do so that you imagine He must need helpers. And the worst thing about it is that you give all the worship to the false gods you have created.”
“That is not so. We make sacrifices to the little gods, but when they fail and there is no one else to turn to we go to Chukwu. It is the right to do so. We approach a great man through his servants. But when his servants fail to help us, then we go to the last source of hope. We appear to pay greater attention to the little gods but that is not so. We worry them more because we afraid to worry their Master. Our fathers knew that Chukwu was the Overlord and that is why many of them gave their children the name Chukwuka–“Chukwu is Supreme.”
“You said one interesting thing,” said Mr. Brown. “You are afraid of Chukwu. In my religion Chukwu i a loving Father and need not be feared by those who do His will.”
“But we must fear HIm when we are not doing His will,” said Akunna.” And who is to tell His Will? It is too great to be known.” (Things Fall Apart, 178-281)
For Chinua Achebe, Christian missionaries from Western countries who have set their foot on the “dark soil” of the “Black Continent,”  have misinterpeted African traditional religion (s) and, as a result, misunderstood the African people, their culture, cosmology,  and worldview. Achebe has underscored this phenomenon as one of the major failures of (historic) colonial Christianity in colonial Africa in the project of mission civilatrice and christian evangelism. Sometimes, the real enemy is within. Unhealthy religious ideology just like cultural supremacy can be an arrogant thing, especially in the case that when one’s religious confession or piety becomes the very hindrance that blocks communication and defers understanding between people of different religious persuasion. Arrogant faith could be the most dangerous weapon that destroys faith itself, and hinders  interreligious dialogue and religious conversion.
I wish my students would have read the passage noted above more critically and responsibly. Indeed, Chukwuka–“Chukwu is Supreme.”