Giving God A Break: Accepting Responsibility for the WorldBy Dr. Maulana Karenga
The conversations around the absence, presence and putting of God in the platform at the Democratic Convention immediately raised questions and invites reflection on the ways ritualized references to God become a substitute for a more substantive engagement and honoring. Clearly, it could be read as recurring signs of putting God on paper, in platforms and in play moves against opponents, but not necessarily in the way we live our lives. Indeed, it could be read as convenient and calculated professions of faith without the follow-up in prac- tice, which a living, vital and vibrant faith requires.
After all, what is the value or meaning of words—secular or sacred, if they are un- attached to the way we live and relate among ourselves, to others and to the world? Thus, the critical issue, the sacred teachings of our ancestors tell us, is not whether the word “God” is in the platform, but rather the place the spirit of God, as the divine embod- iment of good made manifest in human practice, has in our lives, our relations with each other and others, and especially the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.
Certainly, there was no expressed con- cern for the vulnerable, no serious mention of social justice which is central, even indispensable, to any real and relevant talk of God and good. The poor were unreferenced, passed over and put to the side like shoes or clothes no longer fitting for fashion or fad. We are all, by edict and consensual under- standing, miraculously made “middle class,” regardless of homes lost, debilitating debt, and lack of adequate income to qualify or claim such a central source of reference and meaning-making.
In the 60s we engaged in a rigorous and relentless criticism of those false faiths and racialized religions that Rev. Martin Luther King called moribund and unworthy; Messenger Elijah Muhammad classified as mystification and will-misguidance; and Min. Malcolm X called racist, irrational and disempowering. We did not follow in the footsteps of our oppressor, nor let them in- struct us in how we lived our lives, worked, worshiped, raised our children or waged our struggle for the good, the just and the prom- ising. On the contrary, we saw ourselves as a moral and social vanguard, whose struggle would not only benefit us, but expand the realm of freedom and justice in the country and the world.
Thus, as we followed the conversation and discussed its implications and hidden meanings, we thought also about this histor- ic role we once self-consciously embraced and performed of being an uplifted light and mirror to America, a moral and spiritual vanguard that dared teach and struggle for a new way of living and relating in this coun- try and the world. And as we discussed these things, we seemed to sense a progressive losing and letting go, among our people, of what defined and defines us as a people. That is to say: a dignity-affirming communal and cultural conception of ourselves; an au- dacious assertion of our uniqueness once called soul and applied to a wide and varied range of things we did and do—from the way we worship to the way we walk; dance, do music, march in bands; speak and do sports; be and become men and women; and muse over “how we got over” thru the most trying and horrific times and tests.
Other Articles by Dr. Maulana Karenga
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