Exorcising Our Demons

Posted by Melvin Bray on March 18th, 2008 filed in Useful Perhaps

This is a Home-Training essay…

If properly understood, Senator Barak Obama’s remarks today at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA, constitute one of the most significant and honest public addresses ever made on America’s 400-year struggle with race. Had we heeded DuBois’ 1903 prophetic warning, The Souls of Black Folks, it would have found voice in the 20th century. There is a conversation America has, literally in some cases, been dying to have. That conversation is not in favor of any particular presidential candidate. Please don’t relegate and dismiss it on those grounds. However, it is unlikely that we would be so inescapably confronted with such issues outside of a person of color experiencing some measure of success in a bid for the highest elected office in the land.

In her God’s Politics post, “Putting Rev. Wright’s Preaching in Perspective,” Diana Butler Bass implored us to listen better to one another. Now let me suggest something to listen for. The thought is simple, but the lesson is not: Not everyone has experienced America in the same way. And we must lay down the self-absorption that makes us think this doesn’t matter, if we are ever to begin to appreciate each other.

Permit a timely example. If you are not Black, you may not know that the Black church is the theatre in which Blacks have historically exorcised their demons—with the pastor as both theologue and thespian embodying the collective process of redemption for his/her people every week. Initially, church was the one place we could go that we weren’t under massa’s whip, which is why we relish it. Eventually, it became the center and sustainer of our community. So most of us understand Rev. Jeremiah Wright in a way that may escape others.

Church equaled life for us. Where else could we go to exorcise the demons of injustice and intransigence? Where else could we go to exorcise the marginalization and invalidation, the defeat and depression, the struggle and scorn? Where else could we go when our children asked—as my daughter did while coloring just the other day—if Jesus were brown or white? My answer was that he was born to Jewish parents, people of color, whom we usually refer to as olive-skinned. And her heartrending response at 5-years-old was: Why can’t he be white? In all the pictures, he’s white! Where else could we give cathartic voice to our inner demons in hopes of being transformed like the phoenix into “the better angels of our nature?”

Continue reading on God’s Politics blog>>> Part 1 & Part 2

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