by Rashad Grove
Rhetoric Race and Religion Contributor
Carter G. Woodson in his seminal text The Mis-Education of the Negro saggiously describes the inability of educational models to properly educate Black Americans by saying, “They can’t accept the old ideas, and they don’t understand the new.” Written almost eighty years ago, this phraseology can also be seen as a prognostication that accurately depicts the Republican political strategy. The New York Times has reported the proposed “Super-Pac” strategy by Republican strategist Fred Davis that links President Obama to the prophetic oratory of his former pastor, Dr. Jeremiah Wright. At its core, the GOP would rather resuscitate old ideas because they fail to understand the new. The proposed attack ads seek to show the linkage between President Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright is an overly racist, inflammatory, no-holds barred attempt to smear President Obama as the “Other” and further polarize the country by reformulating this failed political narrative. The proposal is a 54 page document (the ads were to be bank rolled by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Pickets who later backed out of the idea) with the sole intention of destroying, discrediting, and ending the presidency of Barack Obama. With evangelical zeal, the Gospel of fear is on the brink of being disclosed, materialized, and spread throughout the nation.
To authentically engage the idea of the Gospel of Fear one must first understand “whiteness” as an ideological and philosophical construct. The creation of race as it has manifested itself in these “yet to be United States of America” (as Maya Angelou would say), is built foundationally upon the premise of the unequivocal supremacy of whiteness and the inadequacy of everyone and anybody else. Eurocentric motifs and therefore “whiteness” became the standard, the benchmark, the point of reference and the measurement for everything deemed as legitimate and authentic. Shedding light on this, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante once said,”Eurocnetricty, which is being advanced in the U.S. as if the particular experiences of Europeans are universal.” As the doctrine of White Supremacy accelerated with jet-like velocity, the extermination of Native Americans from their own land and the enslavement of Africans became the necessary fuel for the journey of Manifest Destiny. All of this was accomplished under the guise of a triumphalistic adaptation of Christianity. Another feature of the theory of “whiteness” is that in the presence of non-whites, whiteness still has to maintain its comfortability, safety, and complete control over everyone else. Black liberation theology is a challenge to the status quo of whiteness and Jeremiah Wright embodies this. Even though he is retired, the Gospel of Fear has the anointed audacity to project Dr. Wright’s into the modern political discourse because it galvanizes the base and paints President Obama as anti-American and anti-Christian. The Gospel of fear is in motion.
Black theology in the words of James Cone, “theologically sees God on the side of the oppressed.” This is the theological modality and pedagogy that was central to ministry of Jeremiah Wright when he pastored Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and also to its current pastor Dr. Otis Moss III. (Oddly enough, the United Church of Christ is a mostly white protestant denomination. The UCC has been historically more progressive in the areas of social justice and equality then most historically Black denominations).The “scarlet thread” of the Biblical narrative is that the sacred scriptures were composed in midst of some form of imperialistic, state sponsored oppression. There is Egyptian oppression, Babylonian oppression, Assyrian oppression, Medo-Persian oppression, Grecian oppression, and Roman oppression. And no one understands American oppression quite like African-Americans. Black liberation theology draws connectivity with historically oppressed people in the Biblical narrative and sees Jesus Christ as Lord and Liberator in the midst of dehumanizing and systemic oppression. Liberation is always a threat to the enslaver and to the power structure that perpetuates this inequity.
Innate in the formation of the Gospel of Fear is that anyone who is not white or does not have a Eurocentric, fundamentalist, theological perspective cannot possible be American or Christian. Black theology falls into this category. The hermeneutic of the Gospel of Fear allows the public discourse to paint President Obama as Muslim, anti-Christian, and extreme liberal and according to the Gospel of Fear, this makes you an illegitimate American. This political and religious juxtaposition is flawed to say the least. If Sen. John McCain didn’t travel down this dead end road to win the election four years ago, Willard Romney candidacy just might self-destruct before his very eyes even if the proposal never sees the light of day. Just because it was considered makes Romney look desperate and will cause the public to question him on his Mormon faith. I stand in sacred solidarity with Jeremiah Wright, Otis Moss, Trinity UCC, and every Black and Womanist theologian, preacher, prophet, scholar, pastor, and laymen who engage in the rigorous process to ultimately set the captive free.