Medium Post 5
Before reading this week’s materials, I believe I read Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham jail in my 11th grade American History class. I believe I read it during the unit about civil rights and how it related to that era. In the letter, what interested me most was how Dr. King identifies the white moderate as the biggest obstacle to justice and equality for black people, and as being more detrimental to progress than organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. His note about how white moderates are more concerned with maintaining order than getting justice for black people was very thought provoking. Today, the black lives matter movement has been met with much criticism by people who would not identify as a racist, due to the perception of the movement as unlawful. Dr. King also criticizes the white churches for not actively pushing for social justice.
After Monday’s discussion, what initially struck me was how Cotton Mather, Dr. King, and James Cone all derived their sense of morality from religion. Interestingly enough, they all used Christianity as a basis for their views of morality and value. However, what each person saw from the same scripture proved to be different. Mather believed that it was the duty of a white slave owner to christianize their slaves and treat them well. He believed that black people were inherently more sinful and inferior than whites and it was the white owner’s duty to lead them towards salvation. Although there is nothing specifically talking about the role of white people and black people in the bible, Mather’s personalized view of the religion caused him to have these ideas. Cone’s view of Christianity is one that rejects white theologians and the idea that their religion is universally applicable to everybody. Cone believes that since black people have been living as the oppressed in America, god must be on their “side”. He relates the crucification of Jesus to the lynching of black people and how god will always stand on the side of the oppressed and for white people to truly be Christian, they must relinquish their status as oppressors and superiors. Although both Cone and Mather used the same scripture as a foundation for their beliefs, the way they practiced religion was very different. Also, both Cone and King have similar ideas about white Christianity as King is critical of the White church’s passiveness towards social issues and Cone believes that by staying in the position of oppressors, white people cannot truly be Christians.
The two differing practices of Christianity made me recall our class’s discussion with Syracuse Professor Biko Gray. It was interesting to me how he believed Mather would be a “white ally” in today’s society. Mather, who at the time believed white people were unequivocally superior to black people, still seemed to have the best interest of black people in mind (lead them to salvation). Therefore, Professor Gray’s claim that Mather would make a white ally in today’s society can hold true. However, due to the systematic racism that has been keeping black people oppressed, Mather’s ideologies may still be based in the idea that white people are superior to black people. Therefore, according to Cone, he would still not truly be a Christian due to his inability to relinquish his status as an oppressor or superior.