The two events I attended were From Just War to Peacebuilding: Lessons for US Racial Justice lecture by ethicist Lisa Sowle Cahill and Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin Truth! Writing about ‘Fundamentalism’ in the Age of Trump. A discussion between Brandon Ambrosino, journalist, and David Harrington Watt, the author of Antifundamentalism in Modern America.
Mrs. Cahill discusses the importance of pacifism and peacemaking to combat the ongoing trend of war and violent activities in the world. Thus, with proper research and studying of how other cultures deal with conflict, Cahill looks to convey the same ideals of peacemaking in regards to combating violence towards African Americans, and peacebuilding efforts in the US. In her book, Cahill examines the Christian ethics of war and peace. In opposition of just-war theory, peacebuilding is committed to a movement for non-violent alternatives that in turn invoke social change and justice. Cahill begins by discussing the issues with Catholic social teaching, in that, they have avoided the inevitability of conflict as a component of social change. Cahill demands that Catholic social teaching and social ethics must come to accept and work with conflict. Cahill suggests that U.S. Christians must confront violence, specifically race-based violence. This problem demands more from theological ethics to not just condemn evil but rather push forth the path to social change. Furthermore, Cahill disagrees with the just-war theory, because she does not consider the justification of violence to be the basis of the Christian mission. But rather in the efforts of combating violence Cahill suggests that for social change to occur Christians must use formative and reformative efforts to increase participation in social efforts. In essence, the argument that Cahill presented in the lecture was that both just war theory and pacifism present us with a moral dilemma because there is something always morally problematic about taking a human life.
Cahill’s argument complements Raymond Williams’s discussion of culture. Williams discusses the various uses of the word culture, and in particular, I wanted to examine the second use of the word. Williams describes culture as “the independent noun, whether used generally or specifically, which indicates a particular way of life, whether of a people, a period or a group” (Williams 1976, 80). Although Williams writes about the definition of culture this relates to Cahill’s lecture because it showcases the primitive nature and lack of social progression of white supremacy. Thus, with relevance to Williams’ definition of culture one can come to assume that U.S. culture as a way of life that is shaped by white supremacy. Williams suggests that culture can communicate the significance of moral and ethical values and thus through analysis it is easily clarified. Moreover, Williams is essentially suggesting that the people’s response toward society and its conditions, will change as they will look to cultivate their values and personalities. However, through Cahill’s lecture, it is clearly apparent that racist sentiments have a continued presence throughout society. This can be shown through the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement in response to the recent killings of unarmed African-American men such as Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Tanisha Anderson, and Botham Jean. Furthermore, Cahill would go as far as to say that prejudice and racism toward African-Americans have certainly become a fabric of U.S culture. Copeland contends that “living within a system built on violence, disenfranchisement, and white supremacy… with self-hatred, anger, and identification with the aggressor’ (Copeland 2010, 46). Furthermore, Copeland conveys the detrimental effects of slavery in that “slavocracy attempted not only to prevent enslaved people from thinking about freedom but also to check their freedom of thinking” (Copeland 2010, 41). However, Copeland affirms that slavery completely disregarded these notions in that ‘it aimed to deface the imago Dei in black human beings, constrain black human potential, and debase black being-in communion with creation. Slavery sought to displace God and, thus, is blasphemed. Its sacrilegious extension in white supremacy has had fatal consequences for all people-black people’ (Copeland 2010, 24). With this in mind, ‘these two ideologies raise substantive issues for Christian reflection’ (Copeland 2010, 24). Cahill presents a way to solve the systematic and social engrained problem of racial prejudices through six lessons of pacifism: (1) Nonviolence resistance works, (2) Violent conflict leaves deep wounds, (3) Peace-building is a multi-dimensional and gradual process involving internal tensions, (4) Women are essential peacebuilders, (5) Formative and Reformative social practices are key to lasting and just peace, (6) Interreligious and intercultural cooperation are necessary to revise personal and social identities and exclusionary practices. Furthermore, Cahill showcases the urgency of peacebuilding movements in the effects that it has on African-Americans. Evidence has shown that there is a racial disparity of income, education, and arrest rates within the U.S. The necessity of these movements is echoed by Volk’s article Racial Profiling on the Main Line. Volk uses anecdotal evidence to display the sentiments of how African-Americans feel they have been treated in their communities, and thus the effect it has had on them. ‘‘White kids openly taunted the Fridays, using the n-word around them and challenging them to object: “Aw, you aren’t going to get offended now, are you?” … One can attempt to camouflage this as the behavior of children. They can be so cruel. But the kids at Tredyffrin behaved according to their own feeling of superiority” (Volk 2015, n.p). Additionally, Cahill further claims in the six lessons of pacifism that women are essential because for the better part of history women can empathize with the struggle and plight of African-Americans as women have also been embroiled in their struggles for equality. In Michelle Voss Roberts’ lecture of comparative theology in Christianity and Hinduism, she quotes Aquinas in that ‘The image of God, in its principal signification, namely the intellectual nature, is found both in man and woman. … But in a secondary sense, the image of God is found in man, and not in a woman: for man is the beginning and end of woman; as God is the beginning and end of every creature.’ Furthermore, in the context of Cahill’s lecture ‘by attending to black women’s understanding and interpretation, judgment, and evaluation of their condition, we may understand more adequately their determination to reclaim their bodies…. especially those intellectual, moral, and aesthetic labels that objectify, exploit, and deface God’s image in black womanhood’ (Copeland 2010, 25). And lastly, Cahill examines the sixth element of pacifism in that Interreligious and intercultural cooperation is necessary to revise personal and social identities and exclusionary practices. Forge new patterns of trust and cooperation. This sentiment is complemented by John Hick’s discussion on complementary pluralism. Hick acknowledges that “the aspect of God’s nature of central importance to the question of other faiths is his universal saving will. If God wishes everyone to be saved, it is inconceivable that the divine self-revelation should be affected in such a way that only a small portion of humanity could be saved… thus drawing the conclusion that it is necessary to recognize that all religions lead to the same God. However, Hick wants to show “The shift from Christianity at the centre to God at the centre, and to see both our own and the other great world religions as revolving around the same divine reality” (Hick 2011, 517). With this in mind, I think it is important to take into account the functionalist approach towards defining religion. The approach “does not assume that religion is characterized by certain core elements, but by its ability to perform certain functions for individuals or wider society… a transcendent function: religion provides a medium through which people are able to experience “God,” the numinous or transcendent (Lynch 2005, 28) Thus, with the understanding of pluralism, interreligious and intercultural cooperation can further the cause of peacemaking efforts.
At the event, Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin Truth! Writing about ‘Fundamentalism’ in the Age of Trump, Brandon Ambrosino, and David Harrington Watt had an informal conversation on fundamentalism and its presence in today’s world religions. Brandon Ambrosino’s article Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence, gives insight into the inner workings of the university. Liberty University is an extremely conservative, predominantly white, Christian college. Jerry Falwell Jr., current president of the university. On the surface level, Liberty University appears to be a religious/ faith-based school. However, Jerry Falwell Jr. has used the non- for-profit money to purchase and sell properties for personal profit. Furthermore, because Falwell Jr’s father was a famous televangelist Falwell Jr. has garnered support from Evangelists even though he is not a religious figure. Similarly, Trump’s political views has allowed him to align himself with the Evangelist platform. And Ambrosino and Watt discussed how fundamentalism is intertwined with Christian nationalism.
Fundamentalism can be described as the strict interpretation of someone’s religious beliefs or the scriptures. Thus, there is no room for doubt in fundamentalism because fundamentalist has an unwavering commitment to their religious beliefs. The fundamentalist view contradicts what Elizabeth Dickson writes because ‘we tend to think of faith and doubt as opposites, but if we examine these concepts in more detail it becomes clear why this is not the case. If we lived in a world of certainty, without mystery or the challenge if infinity, then why would we need faith?’ (Dickson 2015, n.p.). Although the fundamentalist represents an unshakeable belief, Dickson’s explanation of doubt is in complete opposition to this notion. Furthermore, during this event, the speakers spoke about when Falwell Jr. addressed the San Bernardino attack. Stating that if people had concealed-carry permits the attack would’ve never happened and ‘then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.’ Not only are comments extremely disturbing but also, they are troubling because he is the assumed leader of the Evangelist movement. Hence, it’s important to discuss how the media represents religions and religious figures. “Western popular entertainment typically portrays Islam in negative terms, e.g., as repressive, backward, and intolerant. The notion of the ‘Islamic terrorist’ has become an increasingly common one in Western film… yet the connection between an entire faith and violent activity is never made outside the context of Islam’ (Lynch 2005, 24). Similarly, on numerous occasions, Trump has directly blamed Muslims or Islam for violent or terroristic acts. Lynch also suggests that “Films never refer, for example, to “Christian terrorists.” Indeed, when Islamic figures are represented positively in Western films it is usually only if they have been Westernized or “made civilized” by exposure to a Western character” (Lynch 2005, 24). Lynch’s arguments of Western popular culture portrayal of Islam, can be related to Trump and Falwell because they both use their platforms to not only inaccurately portray Islamic culture but also program Americans to justify these beliefs. This leads me to my next point about Christian nationalism. Karl Rahner proclaims that “Christianity is the absolute religion, founded on the unique event of the self-revelation of God in Christ. Rahner allows that non-Christian religious traditions are valid and capable of mediating the saving grace of God… after the gospel has been proclaimed to the adherents of such non-Christian religious traditions, they are no longer legitimate, viewed from the standpoint of Christian theology” (Rahner 2011, 511). Also, Rahner contends that the divine grace can be found in other religions, and thus Non-Christians should be regarded as “anonymous Christians.” Granted, Rahner is by no means a Christian nationalist, however, propositions such as these are troubling because “persistently negative representations of [other world religions] become particularly dangerous when they limit citizens’ ability to think critically about Western foreign policies that damage [other religions and cultural groups]” (Lynch 2005, 24).
In conclusion, these events relate to discussions held in class because it showcases the intersection and interconnection of politics, religion, and culture.