Reading Cicero for the Good Life in 7 Days: Day 2 (Achieving the Common Good)

Reading Cicero for the Good Life in 7 Days: Day 2 (Achieving the Common Good)

To live according to divine providence:

“The Stoics believe that right is the only good. Your Peripatetics, on the other hand, hold that right is the ‘highest good’–to the degree that all other things collected together scarcely begin to weight down the balance on the other side. Now, according to either doctrine, there can be no doubt whatever about one point: advantage can never conflict with right. That is why Socrates, as the tradition goes, uses to curse men who had first begun to differentiate between these things which nature had made inseparable. The Stoics agreed with him; for their view is that everything which is morally right is advantageous, and there can be no advantage in anything which is not right.”

“The Stoics’ ideal is to live consistently with nature. I suppose what they mean is this: throughout our lives we ought invariably to aim at morally right courses of action, and, in so far as we have other aims also, we must select only those which do not clash with such courses…There ought never to have been any question of weighing advantage against right, and the whole topic ought to have been excluded from any philosophical discussion.”

Commentary: Cicero, an enthusiastic champion of Stoic worldview and way of life, believed that human beings and politicians should live up to high moral standards and should exercise self-restraint when making moral choices. When Cicero talks about nature or the Law of nature, he is referring to the things that have been (pre-) ordained in nature by the gods, what we call in philosophy and theology (divine) providence. For him, divine providence is a global human experience because every human being has been marked with the divine imprint and that the gods have universally distributed this divine spark among all people. Similarly, the Stoics held the same view.

To address the issue of right and advantage, Cicero discusses the two dominant views of his time: that of Peripatetics and the Stoics. For the former, doing what is right in life is to achieve the highest moral goodness. That would benefit all people, even one’s enemy. This is a moral obligation. For the latter, to act rightly is to do good because nature calls every man to live consistently to what is morally right. In other words, the highest good is always to do what is right that will push forward the project of human cooperation and understanding.  From both perspectives, something that is morally good will be advantageous to all people. To put it simply, when someone does the right thing, it will benefit someone’s else and contributes to the common good in society. What is morally right is always almost advantageous to society and individuals. To act contrary, that is,  to do what is morally wrong or “not right” is to act contrary to nature and divine providence. In such a case, such action will harm others, be disadvantageous to others, and defer human cooperation and flourishing in the world.  For Cicero, the aim of life is to do good always and to act rightly consistently, which is aligned with divine providence in human history.

Source, Cicero, “Selected Works,” trans. with an introduction by Michael Grant, pp. 12,  162-3

Reading Cicero for the Good Life in 7 Days: Day 1 (On Moral Obligations and Special Responsibility)

Reading Cicero for the Good Life in 7 Days: Day 1 (On Moral Obligations and Special Responsibility)

I am currently reading through Cicero (“Selected Works,” Penguin Classics) and would like to share with you some of his ideas on moral philosophy, ethics, and how to live the good life. In the next seven days, I will share brief personal reflections and commentaries. I will first cite texts or quotes from Cicero; second, place them under an appropriate heading; and finally, offer a brief commentary. Today, the first day of the series of seven conversations on moral philosophy, we begin with Cicero’s thought on moral obligations and special responsibility. Here are some of his ideas on some of the pressing issues and challenges we experience as human beings, especially when the matter pertains to making a moral choice (this is also called “Situation Ethics” in philosophy):

On moral evil and moral good: “One must not only choose the least among evils, one must also extract from them any good that they may contain.”

On the utility and goodness of philosophy: “My son: every part of philosophy is fruitful and rewarding, none barren or desolate. But the most luxuriantly fertile field of all is that of our moral obligations–since, if we clearly understand these, we have mastered the rules for leading a good and consistent life.”

Philosophy, Career, and Special Responsibility: “To everyone who proposes to have a good career, moral philosophy is indispensable. And I am inclined to think that this applies particularly to yourself. For upon your shoulders rest a special responsibility…Work as hard as possible (if study comes under the heading of work and not pleasure!) and do your best.”

Commentary and Reflection: for Cicero, philosophy, which intends to guide human beings in making wise decisions and good choices in life as they interact with other human beings in the world, contains all the essentials to help us living the good life that is consistent with nature and the moral imperative of life.Cicero believed that because human beings share common traits, they have moral obligations to each other. This is his main motive for his philosophy of human cooperation. We attain the good life by living according to those moral demands that sustain our common humanity and by actualizing the moral obligations we owe to each other.

What are the obligations that we owe to each other?

To answer this question, Cicero leads us to revisit the moral (philosophical) vision of Panaetius, who had had a considerable influence on him; In Panaetius, the questions relating to the moral responsibilities and demands of life fall under three broad categories:

  1. “Is a thing morally right or wrong?
  2. Is it advantageous or disadvantageous?
  3. If apparent right and apparent advantage clash, what is to be the basis for our choice between them?”

In other words, for Cicero, to know exactly what the moral demands are, we must be able to answer these questions honestly and responsibly. Evidently, there seems to be an established binary of relations between them: the rapport between morally right and morally wrong choices, and the rapport between advantageous and disadvantageous decisions. So far, Cicero is making the following deductive arguments or reasonings or at least, he wants us to think in that direction:

A. Human choices could be labelled as morally wrong or morally right.

B. Those choices could be characterized as advantageous or disadvantageous.

C. A human choice or decision could be construed as apparent right or apparent advantage.

D. Right and avantage are not the same.

E. Wrong and disadvantage are not the same.

F. As a consequence, a human choice or decision could be understood as apparent wrong or apparent disadvantage.

The heart of the threefold questions take us to the foundation of human ethics or moral philosophy. In other words, what is the driven motive when someone chooses what is morally right or advantageous? Or what is the source of a person’s decision to choose what is morally wrong or disadvantageous? Morally right to whom? Morally wrong to whom? Who gets to decide the final characterization of one’s actions and decisions? Or why is a moral characterization (of human decisions and choices) already there before a decision is actualized?

Source, Cicero, “Selected Works,” trans. with an introduction by Michael Grant, pp. 159-161

“A Brief History of Presidential Assassinations in Haiti”

“A Brief History of Presidential Assassinations in Haiti”

Haiti is one of the birthplaces of democracy in the modern world. To put it another way, as one of the oldest democracies in the Western world, the Republic of Haiti put an end to the unholy trinity of chattel slavery, colonization, and white supremacy in the French colony of Saint-Domingue through the watershed world and successful event known as the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). Haiti has also contributed enormously to the projects of universal emancipation, human rights, and human subjectivity in modern times. Yet since its birth on January 1, 1804, the people of Haiti have struggled to live peacefully and democratically and to maintain national sovereignty and political freedom. Overall, the country has experienced a number of orchestrated crises and tragic political events, including the history of totalitarianism, despots, authoritarianism, dictatorship, and various coups and coup attempts.

Correspondingly, many Haitian Heads of state have died through well-planned assassinations. At least, four Haitian presidents have been assassinated while in power; below, I offer a brief account of these tragic events in the history of Haiti.

  1. Jean-Jacques Dessalines is known as the Founder of the Republic of Haiti and the Liberator of the Haitian people. He served as Governor of Haiti for nine months and subsequently became the country’s first Emperor, adopting the monarchial title Jacques 1er. He was Emperor for two years and nine months (1804-1806). His administration had faced strong opposition or resistance in the Southern part of the country, and many of his top generals had turned against him. On his way to the capital, he was ambushed by a group of officers and violently gunned down at Pont-Rouge on 17 October 1806.
  2. Sylvain Salnave served as President of Haiti for only two years and six months (June 1867-December 1869). When the opposition troops were causing chaos and violence in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Salnave attempted to escape the country and eventually fled to the east side of the island: Dominican Republic. He was seized and brought back to the capital, where he was executed on 15 January 1870.
  3. Michel Cincinnatus Leconte experienced a short-term presidency that lasted for only one year (August 1911-August 1912). As the grandson of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, he was named President of Haiti on August 14, 1911, after a violent insurrection. The opposition against him grew rapidly in the country; while he was sleeping in the National Palace (the presidential home), the building “mysteriously” exploded on August 8, 1912.The President, his grandson, and 300 Haitian soldiers perished in this catastrophic event. Many believe it was the act of the opposition, and thus concluded that his death was an assassination.
  4. Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, who succeeded President Davilmar Theodore who spent only three months in power, served as President of Haiti for only four months. In fact, before the U.S. military invasion of Haiti on July 28, 1915, the country had experienced six short-lived presidencies or Heads of State, whose overall term lasted only three years (August 1912-July 1915): Cincinnatus Leconte (1 year: August 1911-August 1912); Joseph Antoine Tancrède Auguste (9 months: August 1912-May 1913); Michel Oreste (8 months: May 1913-January 1914); Oreste Zamor (8 months: February 1914-October 1914); Joseph Davilmar Théodore (3 months: November 1914-February 1915); Vilbrun Guillaume Sam (4 months: Mars 1915-July 1915). Dr. Rosalvo Bobo, an influential political leader and medical doctor who opposed Sam’s complicated dealings with the United States. He was a well-respected leader of the anti-U.S. movement in the country and mobilized his allies in the countryside and Port-au-Prince to overthrow President Sam. To counter the opposition, President Sam executed 167 political prisoners, and the tension against his presidency escalated in the capital. As a result, while he fled to the French embassy for refuge, the angry crowd dragged him into the street and tore his body in pieces.

***It is good to note the United States exploited these series of unfortunate political crises to invade and occupy Haiti for 19 years (1915-1934).

5. Jovenel Moïse served as President of Haiti from February 2017 until his assassination in July 2021. On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, at 1:00 a.m., President Moïse was fatally wounded and assassinated in his private residence by a group of 26 heavily-armed individuals. The first lady, Martine Moïse, was shot in the attack and is now receiving medical care at a hospital in Miami, Florida. It is reported that the Haitian Police (Police Nationale d’Haiti: PNH) forces arrested 15 suspects, killed 4 assassins, and are now pursuing the remaining 8 criminals associating with the murder of President Moïse.

Haiti might be a small country, but the Haitian people are a great people who have changed the world through the power of the popular will and collective determination. The people of Haiti never lose faith in the power of freedom and the general will of the people, and the triumph of democracy and human rights in their own society and in the world. They are a resistant and optimistic people who are always trying to reinvent themselves, to craft a new destiny for themselves and their country, and to explore future possibilities for the next generation.

***This article is also appeared or published in The Haitian Times: https://haitiantimes.com/2021/07/11/a-brief-history-of-presidential-deaths-in-haiti/

The Haitian People Are Tired!

The Haitian People Are Tired!

• We are tired and ashamed of our collective failures and shortcomings to live up to the democratic ideals and the legacy of the Haitian Revolution.
• We are tired and ashamed of the history of our bankrupt democracy and human rights abuse in the Haitian society; our African ancestors stood up against the enslavement and trafficking of human beings and proclaimed boldly that all people were human beings and should live and die free.
• We are tired because we have not truly tasted and experienced true and full democracy nor have we enjoyed genuine national unity and harmony as a people and nation.
• We are tired and ashamed of bad political leadership and corruption traditions in Haiti; we are tired of unhealthy political practices that continue to produce despotic governments and authoritarianism in our society.
• We are tired and ashamed of the internal systems and structures that produce violence and death in our nation, and the institutions that work against the general welfare of the general masses and all Haitian citizens—toward the common good and human flourishing; we are tired of the foreign institutions, systems, and governments that help maintain and finance such cruel political life and system in Haiti.

• We are tired of being kidnapped and robbed, dragged, burned, raped, violated, and shot in the streets.
• We are tired and ashamed of living in dire poverty, living in fear of extreme starvation, and of cultivating false hopes of better future possibilities; we are tired of foreign and domestic policies that continue to produce such inhumane and intolerable life.
• We are tired of the powers and forces that support the ongoing violation of the human rights, personal and collective peace, and the personal and collective freedom of the Haitian people.

• We are tired of false religions that enslave us, shady missionaries that dehumanize us, and NGOs that misappropriate our resources.


• We are tired of the powerful individuals and institutions that are callous to our collective suffering, pain, and dissipation.
• We are tired and ashamed of corrupt Haitian politicians and the selfish Haitian bourgeoisie class that employ violence, fear, and weapon to defer national progress and economic development, silence the voice and will of the Haitian people, and undermine democracy and human solidary in the Haitian society.
• We are tired and ashamed of crooked Haitian politicians and leaders (i.e. the Haitian oligarchy) who have exchanged participatory democracy for personal power, collective freedom for personal authority, and national sovereignty for personal wealth and greed.
• We are tired of all the forces and systems that devalue Haitian life, treat Haitian orphans as slaves/restavek, and dehumanize the Haitian poor and marginalized communities.
• We are tired of foreign news reporters and journalists that create (mis-)information and (pseudo) knowledge about Haiti and the Haitian people to advance their own careers abroad.
• We are tired of intellectuals, researchers, scholars, activists, and writers who exploit Haiti and her resources and misinterpret Haitian history and culture to get (personal) research funding, gain acceptance into secret societies and prestigious academic organizations, and to write self-centered books and narratives about Haiti and her people while neglecting the interests and needs of the Haitian people.

• We are tired and ashamed of powerful and influential people who have been silent about the plot of the Haitian people and have withheld their resources, abilities, and power to fight injustice and corruption, eradicate oppression and all forms of social evils in the Haitian society.
• We are tired and ashamed of the so-called reasonable people and public intellectuals who appeal to human reason and the art of rhetoric to rationalize and counter the evidence (and the fact) in order to maximize their cultural and political power and lead the Haitian people away from the truth and existential realities.
• We are tired and ashamed of coward Haitian citizens who are not brave enough to walk in solidarity with the Haitian masses, to defend their right to exist and eat, their right to education and healthcare, and their right to democracy and live free.
• We are tired of Haitian citizens who are not peacemakers and nation-builders; rather, they have created an intolerable situation within the country’s civil and political societies and fostered an atmosphere and culture of division and alienation in the Haitian society.
• We are tired of being traumatized by fear: the fear of death, fear of social alienation, fear of personal and collective future, and the fear of life itself.
• We are tired and afraid of the prospect of democracy and justice and the future of our children and the generation yet to be born in Haiti, and the diminishing value of the enduring heritage of the Haitian Revolution in our own society and political practices.

“The 100 Most Beautiful Songs in the 1990s”

“The 100 Most Beautiful Songs in the 1990s”

Folks: I have been wanting to settle this issue for a long time. I have put together a list of “The 100 Most Beautiful Songs in the 1990s.” In fact, these are the most beautiful love songs ever writte. This is it!
There is no more argument! I do not want a fight nor shall you seek one from me 🙂

***I actually put this list together for a special girl I really love. On August 3, a month from now, we will be celebrating 19 years of marriage. These 100 most beautiful love songs is an early anniversary present from me to her 

  1. “For You,” Kenny Latimore
    https://youtu.be/5fZzrE97GXo
  2. “These Hands,” All 4 One
    https://youtu.be/C-YH1a9q768
  3. “Truly Madly Deeply,” Savage Garden
    https://youtu.be/WQnAxOQxQIU
  4. “Can We Talk,” Tevin Campbell
    https://youtu.be/3SoYkCAzMBk
  5. “Un-break My Heart,” Toni Braxton
    https://youtu.be/p2Rch6WvPJE
  6. “Wanna Be Loved,” Buju Banton
    https://youtu.be/YwSU0rcVTaE

7.“Brown Sugar,” D’Angelo
https://youtu.be/H_WzjiTzZBA

  1. “Practice What You Preach,” Barry White
    https://youtu.be/br-Dy3puDoc
  2. “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That),” Meat Loaf”
    https://youtu.be/9X_ViIPA-Gc
  3. “Please Forgive Me,” Bryan Adams
    https://youtu.be/9EHAo6rEuas
  4. “Always,” Bon Jovi
    https://youtu.be/9BMwcO6_hyA
  5. “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” Michael Bolton
    https://youtu.be/YFood_bTOX4
  6. “This Ain’t A Love Song,” Bon Jovi
    https://youtu.be/-nlDy6h-v9c
  7. “Crazy,” Aerosmith
    https://youtu.be/NMNgbISmF4I
  8. “More than Words,” Extreme
    https://youtu.be/UrIiLvg58SY

16.”Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Elton John
https://youtu.be/KjgWWjkNbhU

  1. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” George Michael
    https://youtu.be/RsKqMNDoR4o
  2. “Someone to Love,” John B.
    https://youtu.be/3geit04i9DY
  3. “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” George Michael
    https://youtu.be/QbWJO8RMg1A
  4. “ Water Runs Dry, Boyz II Men
    https://youtu.be/9N9opF-PK5k
  5. “ Said I Loved You…But I Lied,” Michael Bolton
    https://youtu.be/bv5vMJKBAbo
  6. “ I’m Still In Love With You,” New Edition
    https://youtu.be/RT1MAzyUkJE
  7. “You Sang to Me,” Marc Anthony
    https://youtu.be/MY4YJxn-9Og
  8. “When You Love A Woman,” Journey
    https://youtu.be/idE1lsqG2Vc
  9. “Here and Now,” Luther Vandross
    https://youtu.be/0u_u4nlYmNs
  10. “Because You Loved Me,” Céline Dion
    https://youtu.be/O3XGynvy_V4
  11. “ Back for Good,” Take That
    https://youtu.be/N2ICtCO8TCw
  12. “Remember the Time,” Michael Jackson
    https://youtu.be/LeiFF0gvqcc
  13. “Vision of Love,” Mariah Carey
    https://youtu.be/tov22NtCMC4
  14. “ My Love Is Your Love,” Whitney Houston
    https://youtu.be/kxZD0VQvfqU
  15. “ I Don’t Wanna Fight,” Tina Turner
    https://youtu.be/lSRMiC75Vws
  16. “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” Tina Turner
    https://youtu.be/oGpFcHTxjZs
  17. “ End Of The Road,” Boyz II Men
    https://youtu.be/zDKO6XYXioc
  18. “Baby Can I Hold You,” Tracy Chapman
    https://youtu.be/DqoLMGSBGYc
  19. “Save The Best For Last,” Vanessa Williams
    https://youtu.be/5EdmHSTwmWY
  20. “ Don’t Wanna Lose You,” Lionel Richie
    https://youtu.be/Nm-Tdfo2Tas
  21. “This I Promise You,” NSYNC
    https://youtu.be/6thmPrTxBtI
  22. “Breathe Again,” Toni Braxton
    https://youtu.be/pRFEz2MjZgg
  23. “I Can Fall in Love,” Selena
    https://youtu.be/XBCDvINm0Vo
  24. “ I Can’t Get Over You,” Lionel Richie
    https://youtu.be/qlwe5l5JQws
  25. “ When Can I See You,” Babyface
    https://youtu.be/Ee9SCW91urE
  26. “Back At One,” Brian McKnight
    https://youtu.be/rXPfovXw2tw
  27. “Iris,” Goo Goo Dolls
    https://youtu.be/NdYWuo9OFAw
  28. “Think Twice,” Céline Dion
    https://youtu.be/vGwIaL0jOUg
  29. “Don’t Speak,” No Doubt
    https://youtu.be/TR3Vdo5etCQ
  30. “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Sinead O’Connor
    https://youtu.be/0-EF60neguk
  31. “No Ordinary Love ,” Sade
    https://youtu.be/_WcWHZc8s2I
  32. “Jesus to a Child,” George Michael
    https://youtu.be/zNBj4EV_hAo
  33. “ Love Takes Time,” Mariah Carey
    https://youtu.be/FkDpwF6-QiA
  34. “ I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I),” R. Kelly
    https://youtu.be/DmDyBUSAIt8
  35. “When A Man Loves A Woman,” Michael Bolton
    https://youtu.be/MUuNDb-nm5M
  36. “My Heart Will Go On,” Celine Dion
    https://youtu.be/fGU7NMxboNE
  37. “ Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder),” Maxwell
    https://youtu.be/D7rm9t5S4uE
  38. “Everything I Do,” Bryan Adams
    https://youtu.be/Y0pdQU87dc8
  39. “I Can Love You Like That,” All 4 One
    https://youtu.be/FEHQnTXC3SI
  40. “On Bended Knee,” Boyz II Men
    https://youtu.be/jSUSFow70no
  41. “ You’re Still The One,” Shania Twain
    https://youtu.be/KNZH-emehxA
  42. “Kiss from a Rose,” Seal
    https://youtu.be/yivLt9cTaio
  43. “Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” Elton John
    https://youtu.be/B93Tir6l5FA
  44. “Sixpence None the Richer,” Kiss Me
    https://youtu.be/hII0JXUJNDo
  45. “Love is All Around,” Wet Wet Wet
    https://youtu.be/h3gEkwhdXUE
  46. “ Down Low,” R. Kelly
    https://youtu.be/fXdu3pwT4ps
  47. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Aerosmith
    https://youtu.be/JkK8g6FMEXE
  48. “How DO I Live,” Leann Rimes
    https://youtu.be/MUFasKZcH_c
  49. “Dreaming of You,” Selena
    https://youtu.be/VRU2qs82DAg
  50. “I’ll Make Love to You,” Boyz II Men
    https://youtu.be/fV8vB1BB2qc
  51. “ It Must Have Been Love,” Roxette
    https://youtu.be/k2C5TjS2sh4
  52. “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” Eagles
    https://youtu.be/GdXAOrz6aeQ
  53. “This Kiss,” Faith Hill
    https://youtu.be/dls_cBmUt7Q
  54. “ Don’t Let Go (Love),” En Vogue
    https://youtu.be/mwhwGmoYv1s
  55. “All By Myself,” Céline Dion
    https://youtu.be/i3_WqPVfBF4
  56. “Exhale,” Whitney Houston
    https://youtu.be/wrTuV4Szxzo
  57. “ Forever and for always,” Shania Twain
    https://youtu.be/IpT-FW_G8-A

75.”As Long As You Love Me,” Backstreet Boys
https://youtu.be/0Gl2QnHNpkA

  1. “It’s Your Love,” Tim McGraw
    https://youtu.be/2AJ4i4S_fP8
  2. “Anytime,” Brian McKnight
    https://youtu.be/A1kzG9Ld1kI
  3. “ I Have Nothing,” Whitney Houston
    https://youtu.be/FxYw0XPEoKE
  4. “ I Live My Life for You,” Firehouse
    https://youtu.be/aY2sBDPgOXU
  5. “I Love You Always Forever,” Donna Lewis
    https://youtu.be/SqdWTeXWvOg
  6. “ Bed Of Roses,” Bon Jovi
    https://youtu.be/NvR60Wg9R7Q
  7. “Nobody,” Keith Sweat
    https://youtu.be/FMar1ifzdmk
  8. “ Something About The Way You Look Tonight,” Elton John
    https://youtu.be/B93Tir6l5FA
  9. “2 Become 1,” Spice Girls
    https://youtu.be/FA5jsa1lR9c
  10. “I Need You,” Marc Anthony
    https://youtu.be/jCenKodU3Qk
  11. “ All That She Wants,” Ace of Base
    https://youtu.be/d73tiBBzvFM
  12. “I Swear,” All 4 One
    https://youtu.be/25rL-ooWICU
  13. “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman,” Bryan Adams
    https://youtu.be/hq2KgzKETBw
  14. “ Have I told you lately that I love you,” Rod Stewart
    https://youtu.be/HZxzZFddmTg
  15. “Just Another Day,” John Secada
    https://youtu.be/B6LhWbQthAI
  16. “Angel,” John Secada
    https://youtu.be/pz3ZOxJOyFA
  17. “I’ll Stand By You,” The Pretenders
    https://youtu.be/bLpmj059JFA
  18. “ Now & Forever,” Richard Marx
    https://youtu.be/OeDiK2uy3DU
  19. “All of My Life,” K-Ci & JoJo
    https://youtu.be/DXvMT_mVbqw
  20. “Every Time I Close My Eye,” Babyface
    https://youtu.be/ftrzfBYtecQ
  21. “I’m Your Angel,” Céline Dion & R. Kelly
    https://youtu.be/Qnuwuk4cVbg
  22. “All I Have To Give,” Backstreet Boys
    https://youtu.be/pj6FCKm8dhM
  23. “Angel of Mine,” Monica
    https://youtu.be/3eOuK-pYhy4
  24. “You were Meant for Me,” Jewel
    https://youtu.be/4WW4qcmrJ3E
  25. “I’ll Be,” Edwin McCain
    https://youtu.be/5qrTmNDZ-nc

Call for Papers: September 3, 2021/“Religions for Peace, Democracy, and Mutual Understanding: Vodou and Christianity in Interreligious Dialogue”

Call for Papers: September 3, 2021
“Religions for Peace, Democracy, and Mutual Understanding: Vodou and Christianity in Interreligious Dialogue”
by Celucien L. Joseph, PhD (Lead editor)

Scholars, researchers, and faith practitioners have characterized the history of Haiti’s two dominant religious traditions: Christianity—both Protestant and Catholic— and Vodou as antagonistic, conflicting, and unproductive, and a lack of mutual understanding. Historically and practically, the problem between these two faith traditions lies in the resistance of the two groups to build bridges and constructive channels toward mutual understanding and peace, and to engage in interfaith dialogue and participate in interreligious collaboration and partnership. These pivotal concerns not only had had a tremendous impact on nation-building in Haiti; they have weakened Haitian democracy, challenged the importance of religious freedom and expression, and delayed human development and flourishing in society.

This book project on religions for peace, democracy, and mutual understanding in Haiti is premised on a two-fold interrelated question: how can faith leaders and practitioners of both traditions unite to speak and act together and to build strong communities in Haiti and improve the human condition for all Haitian citizens? How can these faith leaders and practitioners of both traditions mobilize and join hands to fight violence, injustice, and corruption in Haiti, and to hold together public events, including press conferences, networking events, award ceremonies, charity events, fundraising events, conventions, public dialogues, and interfaith trainings—leading to the advancement of a truly democratic life and the safeguarding of religious rights and freedom? There are three philosophical and practical ideas underlying this book project: (1) it is grounded on the belief that religion has value, and it could bring social goods to different communities and enhance human dignity and justice; (2) it is premised on the idea that dialogue and cooperation are necessary for nation-building and human development (as democratic ideals), and that one of the leading functions of the world’s religious traditions is to promote both cooperation and dialogue through mutual understanding and for the common good; and (3) that the power and public role of religion (i.e. Vodou, Christianity) in society can be used as a major force of unification and peace-building among divergent factions and schools of thought, and to promote reconciliation, mutual respect, and friendship in the world.

The aims and objectives of this book on interreligious dialogue between Vodou and Christianity in Haiti could be summarized into a five-fold objective or purpose:

(1) promote dialogue, understanding, and a sense of belonging and to work collaboratively to foster cultural, social, educational, and economic progress and justice through Haiti’s faith traditions in collaboration with other organizations and institutions.


(2) use the wisdom, principles, and teachings of both religions to strengthen democracy, eradicate poverty and violence in Haiti, and to improve the country’s civil and political societies toward a more just community.
(3) work together through the ethics of coalition-building and interrelationality to produce constructive religious literature and curriculum about both Vodou and Christianity and engage in sustaining interreligious advocacy and intervention.


(4) use the channel of interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding to prevent interreligious tensions, reduce death threats and violence, and counteract rhetorical discourses about Vodouphobia and Christianophobia in Haitian society and literary productions.


(5) use religion in conjunction with the knowledge from other disciplines of study in Social Sciences and the Humanities to address and cure Haiti’s ecological crisis and to foster sustainable and positive dynamics between Haitian citizens and nature/the environment toward the overall safety of the Haitian people and the protection of the earth.

We are looking for papers from religious leaders and scholars, faith practitioners, social scientists, educators, anthropologists, curriculum designers, theologians, activists, environmentalists, public intellectuals, cultural critics, psychologists, philosophers, politicians, and others that will take into consideration the five objectives of the book and will interact with the pertaining issues addressed above. In addition, we also looking for papers that will offer guidelines for interfaith conversations and dialogues between Vodou and Christianity, and those that will maximize our democracy and citizenship/social responsibility. We are looking for curriculum designers who could produce interreligious literature to foster a better understanding between the two corresponding faiths. Similarly, we are seeking for papers that will address how these two religions in conjunction with other resources and fields of knowledge could be deployed to address responsibly and ethically the “problem areas” in the country at the service of humanity and democracy in the Haitian society.

The deadline to submit the 300-word-proposal along with a brief biography to Dr. Celucien Joseph, celucienjoseph@gmail.com, is September 3, 2021. Paper acceptance notifications will go out to contributors on October 1, 2021.

About the editor:
Celucien L. Joseph (Ph.D.) is the lead editor of the book project. Currently, he serves as an associate professor of English at Indian River State College. Dr. Joseph is a leading scholar and researcher in Haitian, Black, Caribbean, and Africana Studies. He received his first PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas, where he studied Literary Studies with an emphasis in African American Literature, African American Intellectual History, and Caribbean Culture and Literature. His second PhD in Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics is from the University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa). He has done additional academic studies in Religious Studies and the Humanities at the University of Louisville. He is a prolific writer in the areas of religion and education, religion and race, Liberation Theology, Theological Ethics and Anthropology, Theological Interpretation and Hermeneutics, Literary Theory, Postcolonial Studies, Africana Studies, and Haitian literature and intellectual history. His most recent publications include “Theologizing in Black: On Africana Theological Ethics and Anthropology,” “Revolutionary Change and Democratic Religion: Christianity, Vodou,” and “Secularism, and Reconstructing the Social Sciences and Humanities: Anténor Firmin, Western Intellectual Tradition, and Black Atlantic Tradition.”

“The Intolerance of Tolerance or the Tolerance of Intolerance: Thought on Belief System and Practice”

“The Intolerance of Tolerance or the Tolerance of Intolerance: Thought on Belief System and Practice”

Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to be desired and appreciated. Everyone wants to live in peace and unity and in communion with other individuals in their surroundings. What is desperately needed in our communities and concentric circles is for us to strive together to build together a more compassionate, relational, tolerable, and understandable world in which everyone could flourish regardless of their belief system and lifestyle. This life could be better if we can learn to accept people for who they are and what they want to become in life. Our prejudices toward people could easily distort our perception about them or life—in general. I may not tolerate your lifestyle, but I can still like you and show compassion toward you. Learning to live together in this world as friends will create a meaningful life for all of us, and it will give our personal and collective lives a purpose—leading to both personal and collective growth and success now and then. Toward these life goals, we will work together to increase human dignity and worth in our communities, cities, and workplaces. We will then fulfill our dreams and desires, and attain the good life toward the common good and human flourishing.

  1. If you do not eat French fries, that does not mean you want all (fast-food) restaurants that sell French fries to be closed or burned down.

***It is okay not to like French fries, but you could be friend with the people who do, and that you can respect their preference for fries—not for fried fish which you savor.If you are not a religious person, that does not make you anti-religion or anti-clerical nor do you desire all churches, temples, or synagogues to be shut down.

2. If you are not a religious person, that does not make you anti-religion or anti-clerical nor do you desire all churches, temples, or synagogues to be shut down.

***It is bearable to tolerate people’s religious belief or their commitment to a particular faith tradition; that sentiment will not make you a less dignified individual if you do.If you do not believe in same marriages or homosexual/LGBTQ + relationships, your position or belief does not categorically qualify you to be homophobic.

3. If you do not believe in same marriages or homosexual/LGBTQ + relationships, your position or belief does not categorically qualify you to be homophobic.

*** You may not approve of same sex relationships or same sex marriages; yet you could be a friend to a gay guy, a lesbian, or a transgender. It is not fair for those who support same sex marriages or relationships to call you homophobic just because you take a contrary position to theirs.If you do not think Islam is a good religion, it is unfair for people to characterize your standing Islamophobic.

4. If you do not think Islam is a good religion, it is unfair for people to characterize your standing Islamophobic.

*** You may not agree with the tenets of Islam or its ethics, even the evils committed in the name of this religion, but you could have a Muslim friend and show compassion and understanding to those who practice Islam.If you are not a democratic voter, it is unwarranted for people to qualify your political position as anti-Republican.

5. If you are not a democratic voter, it is unwarranted for people to qualify your political position as anti-Republican.

*** You may not subscribe to the principles and doctrines of the Democratic party; yet you could date the most beautiful Republican girl or the most handsome Republican boy in your neighborhood, church, or at your job.

A Few Ideas on Retirement!

I would like to retire when I am 60 yrs old (preferably, I would like to retire at 55.) . What would you like to do when you retire? In other words, what are your plans?

*** My retirement plans: move back to Haiti; work in the education sector to teach, mentor, and empower young Haitian people and the future generation; collaborate with investors and the private sector and various local communities to improve the country’s infrastructures toward permanent holistic development; continue to work with religious leaders and institutions in Haiti to improve interreligious literacy and education in Haiti, and to guide better interfaith conversations between two major religious traditions: Christianity and Vodou; write more books.

“The Divine Message and World Politics in Acts 12 or the Death of Herod and the Triumph of the Word of God”

“The Divine Message and World Politics in Acts 12 or the Death of Herod and the Triumph of the Word of God”

“21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish” (Acts 12:21-24).

The sudden death of King Herod marks the end of a powerful political era in the Roman Empire, and the beginning of a new trans-political force: the birth and triumph of Christianity in the ancient world. Interestingly, Luke, the theologian-historian, and the author of the book of Acts—a historical book about the beginning and spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire and beyond coupled with the activities of various Christian communities or groups—articulates a high view of Scripture in relation to the local and global politics of his times. Luke does not exclude the early Christians from political engagement in the Empire nor does he present explicitly the birth of this new religion, that is, Christianity, in the Roman Empire, as a rival to cultural politics. Ideologically, Luke intends to offer a divine perspective about the cultural phenomena and political events of his times without denigrating the relevance of culture and politics in the life of the early Christians and the citizens of the Roman Empire. Paradoxically, because Luke’s primary goal in Acts was to show the fulfillment of the “Plan and Word of God” and the “Works and Promises of Jesus,” the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the World, he presents the Word of God in opposition to any human thought and action and political administrations and interventions that contradict the divine plan and message communicated through the divine Word. Yet the Roman Empire and its transnational politics helped the spread and triumph of Christianity in the ancient world.

In Acts 12, Luke recounts two major events that took place in the Empire, and both transformed Roman politics and foreign relations with the surrounding nations: the successful death of King Herod and the end of a brutal and corrupt administration, and the continuity of the Word of God and the spread of Christianity in the ancient world. In other words, when Herod dies, the Word of God continues. (This double-event is analogous to the powerful story Prophet Isaiah recounts in Isaiah 6: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” For Isaiah, there is only one sovereign King-Ruler in the universe: Yahweh the eternal King; similarly, for Luke, there is only one sovereign message in the world: the triumphant message of the Good News. Yahweh is sovereign, and his Word has a dominant characteristic. Both Isaiah and Luke give a God-entranced vision of human history through the lens of divine revelation and the divine Word.) No political forces or cosmic powers could withstand the influence and propagating message of what he has rightly called, “the good news” (The Gospel) to the nations. While the reader might see two powers in display in this passage or two opposite poles here, Luke, however, stresses the dominance of the Message of God, which he interprets as a spiritual power over the political world.

Further, Luke wanted to emphasize the success of the Word of God amid cultural uncertainty and chaos and political instability and misjudgment. By implications, he also sought to highlight that world’s leaders, even the most powerful ones, will fail and eventually die, but the Message of God will live and prevail in moments of crisis like the one he described in Acts 12. Most importantly, Luke presents the divine Word as a radically cosmic event that is against (all evil) empires and earthly powers and all of that which is against the will and plan of God in global history and world politics. For Luke, the Divine Word will always prevail over empires and (powerful) political forces, and cultural ideologies. In the remaining part of Acts, Luke provides supporting details how the early Christians in the Roman Empire and surrounding nations were not cultural conformists and fundamentalists; rather, they were radical framers of a new cultural and political era in the ancient world. Luke’s Christianity confronted evil empires/governments and destructive cultural ideologies deferring human progress and human flourishing in society and the world. Correspondingly, the early Christians in Luke’s book remain committed to the transforming and liberative power of the Divine Word.

In summary, I conclude this short reflection with three chief ideas in the book of Acts that establish an interesting rapport between the divine Message and world politics, and Luke’s high view and vision of Scripture in this historical and theological text:

  1. Luke, the historian-theologian, maintains that when politics fail, the Word of God can be trusted. While he believed that good politics could lead to the good life, but the divine Word will lead to a better and more promising life in this world and the one beyond—what he calls the “eternal life.”
  2. Luke sustains the idea that when political ideologies and philosophies no longer work in society, the Word of God is still relevant. In other words, political affiliation has an end and is not adequate for the holistic enrichment of life and the welfare of citizens. By contrast, the wisdom of the divine Word should inform political decisions and interventions.
  3. Finally, Luke believes that when human powers lose strength or weaken, the Word of God empowers and stays firm. All human powers and political governments are temporary, ephemeral, and will not succeed the best of times—as rightly observed with the eventual fall of the Roman Empire, the most powerful political force in the ancient world; for Luke, however, the divine Message is relentless, unswerving, and will stand the best and worst of times, including the most aggressive empires and political governments in contemporary times and post-colonial moments.