Cornel West, James Cone, liberation

Cornel West Interview James Cone (AAR 2009)

For those of you who weren’t able to make it to Cornel West interviewing James Cone at the Montreal AAR gathering (btw, was overall a good gathering), or simply want to see another great interview of Cone, see this:

AAR has the video posted here: It sure took them a long time to get it up — I’ve been wanting to post it here for many months.

Cornel West, interview

My Interview with Cornel West is Now Up

cornel-westWelp. I did an interview with Cornel West and it is now posted at The Other Journal. I believe this counts as published…? Hello CV.

Anyways, this interview has literally been in the works since last September. Suffice it to say, very busy people have precious little time — so I am very happy to have had the chance to do the interview. So thank you The Other Journal and Dr. West. And you, the reader, should go read it.


Cornel West, Gary Dorrien, Union Theological Seminary

Timely and Free Lectures by Gary Dorrien, Serene Jones, and Cornel West, for those in NYC

My graduate alma mater, Union Theological Seminary in NYC, is hosting a class with lectures open to the public. I am unsure as to how the class itself is structured, but Gary Dorrien, Serene Jones, and Cornel West seem to be the instructors, with a few visiting lecturers. Some of the details of the class are below. If I were still in NYC, I would plan on closely following the course as much as I could: I took six courses from Dorrien in two years, Jones I heard speak a few times, and the work of West should be well known. I’m annoyed I’m missing it. I wonder if I left too early….

Christianity and the U.S. Crisis:
Gary Dorrien, Serene Jones, Cornel West

Wednesdays, February 11 – May 6, 2009
5:00-7:00 p.m., Union Theological Seminary

Course Description
As the world waits anxiously for news of the market’s every fluctuation, as artistic programs feel the purse strings of their funding begin to pull tight, as we watch global violence escalate in conflicts where religion seems to play a key role, as new poverty for some means an exponential increase in suffering for those who have always been on the underside of global prosperity, and as a new generation in North America begins to navigate waters swelling with the waves of new technology and greater human diversity – we feel ourselves caught in the web of a crisis whose origin is murky and whose voracious grasp covers all aspects of our common life.

This course will attempt to describe the various edges and contours of the deepening U.S. crisis and to chart various Christian responses to it. In particular the course will ask:

* How could the resources of the U.S. progressive Christian tradition enable Christian responses to the current crisis?
* How can Christians think theologically about markets, globalization, and social justice?
* How do structural forces of oppression – sexism, racism, homophobia, classism – undergird the crisis we are facing and what constitutes Christian social witness in the face of these structural forces?
* What role do new media and new technologies play in crafting our sense of the common good and how can we understand these technologies theologically?
* Can we think systematically and theologically about a crisis with so many overlapping layers – economic, ecological, social, moral – and what core beliefs would Christians draw on to do so?

The course will be offered to Master’s and Ph.D. students at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. In addition, all lectures will be open to the public. All lectures will be held at Union Theological Seminary, unless otherwise noted on the syllabus.

book review, Cornel West

Cornel West’s Hope on a Tightrope, Pt. 3

I have a couple closing remarks to sum up West’s new book, Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom.

1. Awesome.

2. If you want a quick introduction to his thought — by no means his entire thought — but nevertheless his thoughts on a broad range of topics and what he finds interesting and important, give Hope on a Tightrope a read.

3. I understand that West is working on his memoirs. Hope could be understood as something of a prolegomena, me thinks. It certainly has a memoir ring to it, with much that West has learned and sees for the future, but entirely in quotable lines.

4. There is a whole lot more to the book than what I did write down in the past few posts. The book has in no way been exhausted, and because the way the book is constructed, I didn’t even hit on the main point. It is amazing how much has been packed into the book. It is certainly worth every dollar.

5. It is written in typical West style: weighty topics, but easily accessible on the popular level. I am still in awe of his range and ability to condense sophisticated topics. I wouldn’t hesitate to give the book to most anyone. At the very least, it works as an excellent way of getting to the heart of black liberation theology without the undue and misinformed baggage that was heaped on by the media last spring. Again, I recommend it heartily.

black theology, Cornel West, race

Cornel West’s Hope on a Tightrope, Pt. 2

Cornel West has a new book, Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom, coming out soon. Below are some more quotes I came across that I liked quite a lot or thought important:

For me, the deepest existential source of coming to terms with white racism is music. In some ways, this is true for black America as a whole, from spirituals and blues through jazz, rhythm and blues, and even up to hi-hop.

From the very beginning, I always conceived of myself as an aspiring bluesman in a world of ideas and a jazzman in the life of the mind. What is distinctive about using blues and jazz as a source of intellectual inspiration is the ability to be flexible, fluid, improvisational, and multi-dimensional — finding one’s own voice, but using that voice in a variety of ways. (pg. 114)

American musical heritage rests, in large par, on the artistic genius of black composers and performers.

This rich tradition of black music is not only an artistic response to the psychic wounds and social scars of a despised people. More importantly, it enacts in dramatic forms the creativity, dignity, grace, and elegance of African Americans without wallowing in self-pity or wading in white put-down. (pg. 116)

Obama says Jeremiah Wright is angry because he’s part of an older generation. That’s not true. Walk the streets of Brooklyn. The young brothers and sisters are angry and full of rage right now. Katrina was just three years ago. You and I are still full of righteous indignation. We didn’t need to grow up under Jim Crow to be like Bigger Thomas in terms of the rage simmering inside.

The question is, How do you express your righteous indignation? The assumption and the dominant white perspective is that, if you have an angry Negro, that Negro’s anger is somehow unjust. That’s inaccurate. You can have rage against injustice and still recognize that not all white folk are complicit. (pg. 141-142)

Black women are going to be the crucial part of the next wave of our collective leadership. (pg. 149)

Love helps break down barriers, so even when black rage and righteous indignation have to look white supremacy in the face — in all its dimensions that still persist — the language of love still allows black brothers and sisters to recognize that it’s not all white people and it’s not genetic.

White brothers and sisters can make choices. John Brown was part of the movement. Tom Hayden is part of the movement because it’s all about choices, decisions, and commitments. No one is pushed into a pigeonhole or locked into a convenient category. That is why the ability to love and be loved in the highest sense is so crucial. (pg. 161)

American culture seems to lack two elements that are basic to racial justice: a deep sense of the tragic and a genuine grasp of the unadulterated rage directed at American society. The chronic refusal of most Americans to acknowledge the sheer absurdity that a person of African descent confronts in this country — the incessant assaults on black intelligence, beauty, character, and possibility — is not simply a matter of defending white-skin privilege. It also bespeaks a reluctance to look squarely at the brutality and tragedy of the American past and present.

Such a long and hard look would puncture the life-sustaining bubble of many Americans, namely that this nation of freedom-loving people and undeniable opportunity has committed unspeakable crimes against other human beings, especially black people.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright is my dear brother. Recently he has been anointed as the media’s latest incarnation of the “bad” Negro. Whether in slavery or in black communities under Jim Crow — bad Negroes are “out of control.” Jeremiah Wright speaks his mind. Remember, all of us are cracked vessels. Jeremiah Wright deserves criticism, but it should be justifiable criticism. For example, Reverend Wright’s claims about AIDS and HIV are wrong.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak in Reverend Wright’s church on many occasions. I’m so glad whenever his full quote is played or published because any God worthy of worship condemns injustice. When he says, God damn America — killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. That is true for any nation. We must never put the cross under the flag.

Wright is a prophetic Christian preacher, therefore to him every flag is subordinate to the cross. If you believe that America has never killed innocent people, then God never damns America. We know god damns slavery, Jim and Jane Crow, the hatred of gays and lesbians, anti-Semitism, and anti-Arab “terror” bias in America. God is a god of justice and love.

What Wright was trying to address is the degree to which there is still injustice in America. Never confuse this criticism with anti-Americanism. Any resistance to injustice, be it in America, Egypt, Cuba, or Saudi Arabia, is a God-driven activity because righteous indignation against the cruel treatment of any group of people is an echo of the voice of God for those of us who take the cross seriously. (pg. 167-169)

To deny death is to deny history, reality, and mortality. We’re most human when we bury our dead, when we stand before the corpses of our loved ones, forced to bring together the three dimensions of time: past, present, and future. (pg. 184)

I think highly of the pacifist tradition in christendom. I do not agree with it. I am not persuaded by it. But I think respect is due. I do not think Christian pacifists will ever have the kind of impact on history that many of them profess to have. Yet I respect their views. So when I hear Archbishop Tutu and many others argue for nonviolence, I respect them.

One should, on the principled ground, attempt to exercise and realize all forms of nonviolent resistance before one even remotely considers the discussion of violent resistance and armed struggle. One must examine the history of a country carefully and see what possibilities there have been nonviolent resistance and what impact nonviolent resistance has had.

If we in fact, discover that nonviolent resistance in its most noble form has been crushed mercilessly by the rulers, then it raises the possibility of forced engagement in armed struggle. Indeed, this is in no way alien to the Christian tradition. On the other hand, one should never view armed struggle as a plaything. One should not romanticize or idealize it at all. On the contrary, one should carefully and thoroughly think through whether it can have the impact and effectiveness that one desires. (pg. 187)

There is always a fundamental tension between a commitment to truth and a quest for power. The two are never compatible. It could be Socrates, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Fannie Lou Hammer. You always need a prophetic critique of those in power. Power intoxicates. Power seduces. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is always a need for somebody to tell the truth to the powerful. (pg. 208)

When you talk about hope, you have to be a long distance runner. This is again so very difficult in our culture, because the quick fix, the overnight solution militate against being a long distance runner in the moral sense — the sense of fighting because it is right, because it is moral, because it is just. Hope linked to combative spirituality is what I have in mind. (pg. 209)

black theology, Cornel West, race

Cornel West’s Hope on a Tightrope, Pt. 1

Cornel West has a new book, Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom, coming out soon. Below are just some quotes I came across that I liked quite a lot or thought important:

I’m a Christian, so I have Jesus in the temple. I have a martyr against the marketeers. (pg. 18)

You’re made in the image of God. You’re a featherless, two-legged, linguistically conscious creature born between urine and feces. Thats us. One day your body will be the culinary delight of terrestrial worms. You know that. Be honest. Put on your three-piece suit if you want to, but thats not armor against death. The question is: Who are you going to be in the meantime, in this time and space? You don’t get out of time and space alive. (pg. 28)

The culture of advanced capitalist American society, the culture of consumption revolves around the market–around buying and selling this process turns everything into a commodity and undermines value and meaning in the name of ever-increasing profit.

This is dangerous because in a marketplace culture, commodification–the ability to put a price tag on everything–dominates more and more spheres of human life. This creates an addiction to stimulation, which is necessary to keep the consumer-culture economy going. (‘Terrorist attack? We’ll show ’em. We’ll protect the american way of life. We’ll go shopping!’)

The marketplace culture of consumption undermines community, undermines links to history and tradition, and undermines relationships. The very notion of commitment becomes more and more contested. Addictive bodily stimulation becomes the model for human relationships. We see it in the dehumanizing exploitation of women’s bodies in the advertising industry. We see it in TV sitcoms and reality TV shows that are fueled by orgiastic intensity. (pg. 30-31)

The vocation of the intellectual is to turn easy answers into critical questions and to put those critical questions to people with power.

The quest for truth, the quest for the good, the quest for the beautiful, all require us to let suffering speak, let victims be visible, and demand that social misery be put on the agenda of those with power. So to me, pursuing the life of the mind is inextricably linked witht he struggle of those on the margins of society who have been dehumanized. (pg. 37)

Humanistic intellectuals are being marginalized in our society by the technical intellectuals, such as physicists, computer scientists, and so on, because they receive funding from huge private enterprises, from the state, and from the military-industrial complex. Why? Because the products they provide are quite useful for a market-driven society. (pg. 38-39)

I am no way optimistic, but I remain a prisoner of hope. (pg. 41)

The very discovery that black people are human beings is a new one. This question of what it means to be human affects each and every one of us. Thats why all of us have so much at stake in black history. (pg. 43)

If you view America from the Jamestown Colony, America is a corporation before it’s a country. If it’s a corporation before it is a country, then white supremacy is married to capitalism. Therefore, white supremacy is something that is so deeply grounded in white greed, hatred, and fear that it constitutes the very foundation for what became a precious experiment in democracy called the U.S.A. … Brother Barak Obama refers to “…this nation’s original sin of slavery.” No, the original sin was the dispossession, subjugation, and near extermination of the indigenous people prior to the founding of the United States. We must never allow black suffering to blind us to other people’s suffering — in this case, our American Indian brothers and sisters, and especially their precious babies.

White supremacy — now that’s the real original sin that grounds American Indian and African oppression. That’s the precondition for a nation that could then be founded on the exploitation, subjugation, and hatred of African people. (pg. 45-46)

Any time you make the cross subordinate to the flag, you have idolatry. Americanized christianity is shot through with forms of idolatry, making it difficult for people to keep track of the blood at the cross, the need to love, sacrifice, and bear witness to something bigger than nation, race, or tribe. (pg. 80)

Cornel West, Gary Dorrien

Gary Dorrien on Social Ethics and Cornel West

My old adviser from Union, Gary Dorrien has put out a 48 page article in Cross Currents on Cornel West. Among the many things Dorrien does well, in doing histories, particularly theological histories, he has made quite a name for himself. In fact, in November Dorrien has his next book, Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition, coming out. It will fill a major gap in scholarship — finally we will have a book intended to be a history of Christian Social Ethics in America — and it’ll stand quite well on its own right. If you don’t believe me, read the comments below, copied from the Blackwell site.

After hearing about the book from Dorrien while he wrote it (actually in his class on the history of social ethics while he was writing the book) and looking at the table of contents for the book, I suspect that this Cornel West piece he wrote is part of a chapter from his forthcoming book. And let the reader take note, there is a free pdf link at the bottom of the page that lets one download the rest of the article, which by the way, is a jewel. So if you want a brief, but thorough history of Cornel West, or simply a taste for what this important book will be like, go read the article.

Table of contents for Social Ethics in the Making:
1 Inventing Social Ethics: Francis Greenwood Peabody, William Jewett Tucker, and Graham Taylor
2 The Social Gospel: Washington Gladden, Josiah Strong, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Harry F. Ward
3 Lift Every Voice: Reverdy C. Ransom, Jane Addams, and John A. Ryan
4 Christian Realism: Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr, John C. Bennett, and Paul Ramsey
5 Social Christianity as Public Theology: Walter G. Muelder, James Luther Adams, John Courtney Murray, and Dorothy Day
6 Liberationist Disruptions: Martin Luther King Jr., James H. Cone, Mary Daly, and Beverly W. Harrison
7 Disputing and Expanding the Tradition: Carl F. H. Henry, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, Michael Novak, and Jim Wallis
8 Dealing With Modernity and Postmodernity: Charles Curran, James M. Gustafson, Gibson Winter, Cornel West, Katie G. Cannon, and Victor Anderson
9 Economy, Sexuality, Ecology, Difference: Max L. Stackhouse, Dennis P. McCann, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Marvin M. Ellison, 10 John B. Cobb, Jr., Larry Rasmussen, Daniel C. Maguire, Sharon Welch, Emilie M. Townes, Ada María Isasi-Díaz, María Pilar Aquino, and David Hollenbach
11 Borders of Possibility: The Necessity of “Discredited” Social Gospel Ideas

“This book is a skillful tour de force and an indispensable resource. With his encyclopedic knowledge of the field of social ethics and his seasoned and fair analysis of issues and authors, Gary Dorrien is uniquely qualified to gift us with this masterpiece.” Daniel C. Maguire, Marquette University

“This book amplifies the canon while also providing ethical understandings, regarding both content and method, through which to look at the classical texts in the field. Written in a spirited style, the book will be used by students and scholars for years to come.” Dr Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Drew University

“Gary Dorrien once again has produced a magisterial volume that deserves to define a field. Social Ethics in the Making begins in the late 19th century with thinkers who sought to understand the “human condition” in social terms employing the emerging discipline of scientific sociology, concerned to embrace cultural, if not biological, evolution and yet desperate to distinguish social ethics from social Darwinism’s conservative congratulation of the dominance of the fittest. The pivotal figure in Dorrien’s account is Reinhold Niebuhr, who triggered reactions, in different senses, from both liberationists such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mary Daley, and Beverley W. Harrison, and conservatives and progressive-conservatives such as Carl Henry, Stanley Hauerwas, and Jim Wallis. Beginning primarily as a settlement-house/pro-labor movement, social ethics now is diversified into economic, sexual, ecological, and ethnic studies. Where many have seen the loss of power in social ethics’ ‘progressivism’, Dorrien documents its increasing power in diversification of attention. This is a brilliant, nearly comprehensive, study of an important historical movement in American religion.” Robert Neville, Boston University

Social Ethics in the Making is a masterly overview of a field with immense importance for today’s North American intellectual and political scene. Dorrien sorts out the complex trajectories of over a century of Christian ethics. He skillfully places scholarly currents within the cultural and ecclesial trends so essential to their interpretation. Looking forward, the book reclaims the vitality of a distinctively American brand of Christianity, one that promises to be just as energetic, provocative, and practical in this century as in the last. The scope and coherence of Dorrien’s achievement find no parallel among other treatments of the subject.” Lisa Sowle-Cahill, Boston University

black theology, Cornel West, J. Kameron Carter, James Cone, Jeremiah Wright, modern nation-state, obama, political theology

The Recent Posts on the Media Fiasco and Race and Theology

I figured it would be good for readers to be able to see all the posts I’ve done recently on this whole fiasco surrounding Wright and Obama. Heres the list so far in chronological order:

1. Obama, Race, and Theology: A theological analysis of Obama’s speech.

2. Cone on CNN?: A rumor that hasn’t seemed to have panned out unfortunately.

3. A Humble Suggestion: Suggesting a book along the title of Religion Still Matters for Cornel West.

4. Wright’s Sermon: A longer video of Dr. Wright’s sermon where he utters the infamous phrase “God damn America.”

5. Understanding Wright by Understanding Cone: Black Liberation Theology from Cone: A very short introduction to reading Cone.

6. Carter on Obama: Citing J. Kameron Carter’s response to Obama’s speech.

7. Cone Explained: How the Media, Politicos, and Others Like Them are Stupid as a Brick and Got it All Wrong: Explaining the significance of Tillichian symbolism in Cone’s work, how one should rightly understand what Cone does say, and a link to Carter’s critique.

black theology, Cornel West, Jeremiah Wright, obama

A Humble Suggestion

In light of the recent, and still continuing, ill informed media “backlash” that seems tantamount to a mindless feeding frenzy by a school of sharks – stupid, stupid sharks – I have a suggestion for Cornel West. Cornel WestHe has written Race Matters. He has also written Democracy Matters. How about writing, Religion Still Matters to round out a trilogy.

Despite how much I do I like Jon Stewart, even he recently bought into the idea that this whole fiasco is not a topic on religion, but one on race. Its both actually, that and people attempting to score cheap political points off of racial fear.

Dr. Wright constructed his sermons out of a complex tradition and to pull a Davis:

I personally regarded many of Rev. Wright’s sermons as filled with hate words and bigoted generalizations base on race (in this case, all Whites). One could even call them racist. His remarks post-9/11 were nothing short of reckless and unforgiveable.

…1. If a white minister preached sermons to his congregation and had used the “N” word and used rhetoric and words similar to members of the KKK, would you support a Democratic presidential candidate who decided to continue to be a member of that congregation.

or a Ferraro:

‘To equate what I said with what this racist bigot has said from the pulpit is unbelievable,’ Ferraro said today. ‘He gave a very good speech on race relations, but he did not address the fact that this man is up there spewing hatred.’

is spectacularly uninformed, or racist, or both. Religion still matters, no matter how much people on the political trail want to act like it does not.

For instance, Obama in his speech would not abandon his former pastor (well done), but however, in distancing himself from his pastor, he made his pastor his “spiritual advisor,” which seems to reject or question the possibility that Christianity is inherently political. Quite simply, Christianity becomes defanged and subservient. And as far as I can tell, Obama is the most charitable of the three presidential contenders which is why I even mention him.

The good news is, there are some in the media (actually just one so far) that I’ve seen approach this issue with a critical eye and actually want to understand what Wright was saying.

[Wright’s] sermon thesis [from September 16, 2001]:

1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.

2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)

“We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society,” he said.

Wright then said we can’t stop messing over people and thinking they can’t touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.

“Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Jeremiah WrightMaybe we need to declare war on the nation’s healthcare system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation.”

3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.

By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said “God damn America.” I’m not sure which sermon that came from.

Yes, oh my, can you believe it, such a “crazy pastor” said those sane words. Religion still matters.

Cornel West, def, hermeneutic of suspicion, maher

Cornel West, Mos Def and the Hermeneutic of Suspicion

I am a great believer in cognitive dissonance. I also believe that when it comes to dialogical studies like theology, one cannot simply read someone – we must get to know the people that we are supposedly in conversation with. With that said, I came across this video that, with a little preface to situate it theologically, could work well for an introduction to liberation theology’s hermeneutic of suspicion. This video of Cornel West and Mos Def is the very voice and action of suspicion because this community has been beaten down for centuries. Now while you watch this, imagine this language in theology. This is why theology changed so much thirty years ago and will continue to change.

As a side note, interestingly Mos Def and Cornel West disagree with Maher’s Enlightenment assumption that religion is the root of conflict. In fact, I think there is a great many parallel’s between Def, West and Cavanaugh/McCarraher: the state and the market colonizes. So if the black community is colonized, perhaps the church is as well? Yeah. I think so. You can see it in our ecclesiology – in our churches and how we understand ourselves as Christians.

constantine, Cornel West, Eugene McCarraher, John Howard Yoder, political theology, Stanley Hauerwas, William Cavanaugh

On Cornel West, Constantinianism and Adjusting Hauerwas

This post are some thoughts from my reading of Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.

I have heard Cornel West speak before from recordings on the internet, and those were certainly engaging if not impressive, but admittedly, this is the first time I have read him. I found West’s writing style to be similarly engaging, smooth and impressive. In fact, his book seemed to function well as a written text, but also was organized in such a way as to stay with the reader long after the audience has left, like an oral presentation. His ability to distill concepts seemed very good on the whole and his thesis of calling for the embodiment of Socratic questioning, prophetic witness and the honest tragicomic hope certainly highlighted both his ability to distill complexities and to communicate well. It seems that the impression of the oral nature of his book, while maintaining the integrity of a text engaging with complex ideas, was in the end due to his ability to categorize the distilled complex issues into threes: three dominating and antidemocratic dogmas, three nihilisms, and three democratic actions of being – Socratic questioning, prophetic witness and tragicomic hope. On the basis of communicator alone, I have a great deal to learn from Cornel West.

I found the chapter “Forging New Jewish and Islamic Democratic Identities” both interesting and informative. While the Jewish section proved to helpful, the Islamic section was certainly the more engaging of the two and with certain reason for it intersected with my Christian-Muslim dialogue class that I am also taking. In fact West quotes from Khaled Abou El-Fadl (West 133-134), who I have previously made a link between him and William Cavanaugh from reading Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism. Khaled Abou El-Fadl writing on the chaos within the Muslim communities, particularly in the Arab world, seems to parallel William Cavanaugh’s theopolitical interpretation of the nation-state (El-Fadl 46). El-Fadl asserts that the jealousness of the state obliterates alternative social space, having “formally dismantled the traditional institutions of civil society, and Muslims witnessed the emergence of highly centralized and despotic, and often corrupt, governments that nationalized the institutions of religious learning and brought the awqaf under state control,” for the state seeks to assert power over its citizens and justify its raison d’etat (El-Fadl 47). El-Fadl also attributes the appearance of the state and its deconstruction of “traditional institutions of religious authority” to the rise of groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The call by the state for the necessity of the state and the need for violence to ensure the state became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I actually dislike Constantinian history. From afar Constantinian history makes sense and indeed can be supported, however, upon close inspection (which I did in a paper for a McGuckin class) I found that the history is quite literally lacking – there is a void of sources. Before the McGuckin paper I was already sympathetic to Cavanaugh’s understanding of history for numerous reasons and after the paper, along with the theopolitical and theoeconomic conclusions I have found from Khaled Abou El-Fadl and Farid Esack that seem to affirm William Cavanaugh and Eugene McCarraher (“The Enchantments of Mammon: Notes Toward a Theological History of Capitalism” in Modern Theology, July 2005), I am reticent to support a Constantinian history. Not only is Constantinianism vague where clarity is needed, but it also does not speak sharply enough towards today’s evils of the nation-state functioning as savior and the market as an alternative enchantment which then in turn colonize and oppress. Interestingly, El-Fadl and Esack seem to function as liberationists within the Muslim world, however, El-Fadl and Esack criticize liberal Muslims for working within the systems that obliterate religious social space by colonizing their community. However, many liberationists I have encountered here in the states, more specifically at Union, have accepted a great deal of Niebuhr – particularly on the idea of power and the need to attain it. I find it helpful that both Muslims and some specific Christian groups (i.e. Witness Against Torture, which comes from the Catholic Worker) understand the need for liberative salvation, but also seek to pursue that as a faith community, instead from within nation-state channels.

Interestingly, the convergence of Muslim and Christian scholars can occur, not only on the issues of liberation, but also the infusion of liberation within the Cavanaugh historical reading, McCarraher economic reading and the Yoder/Hauerwas communal ecclesiology. Muslim scholars stand against the colonizing system while holding to their identity and not entirely work within the system, but also work towards both public action and social justice. The combination by Muslim scholars seems to show that both communal identity and nonviolent social action can work hand in hand. In fact this combination is already evident in Christianity in groups like Witness Against Torture that are found within the Catholic Worker, although I do anticipate some alteration and tension to occur when entire families become involved in such work, for we now live in a time where simple peace workers and protestors are being put on FBI watch lists.

I find it ironic that my solution to Cornel West’s (and one of Gary Dorrien’s in Soul in Society) critique of Hauerwas – the lack of social justice and visible, loud movement by the church into public sphere (as opposed towards only quietly subversive hospitality, care for the poor, etc.) – is for Hauerwas to leave one of the similarities between him and West which is one of the foundations for Hauerwas, and for Hauerwas to move towards a more radicalizing narrative and outwardly focused critique. In the end, while Hauerwas and West may differ on issues they previously agreed upon, I believe West would welcome the improvement of adding Hauerwas’ voice and the communal church into the visible fight for justice.