Tag Archives: scholarship

Intellectuals do not love the church as much as I do

It’s not really obvious, but the message is becoming more and more subtle. There are a number of Christian writers who believe they love The Church more than people who disagree with them. Who are their dissenters? They are the eggheads, the geeks, people so busy having their face planted in a 600 page book, they probably aren’t going to be able to hold a conversation with your everyday layperson. Academic language is too complicated. Theology is too difficult for THEM to understand. Philosophy? Critical Theory? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

In a speech given in Washington, D.C., Cornel West discussed the idea of “the organic intellectual,” or a public figure who linked the life of the mind to social change, with his example being Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe this approach to knowledge is really quite different from the progressive anti-intellectualism that I see online and irl. Ideas are things to be consumed, become transformed into trends, sold on t-shirts, parodied on YouTube, and most importantly, ideas are things to be mentioned in books as authors sell them. Knowledge becomes power in so far as it is power over others. In stark contrast, the organic intellectual is committed to wisdom, putting ideas into practice, and reflecting on that praxis time, and again. Wisdom is also an intelligence that is shared, never to be privatized by a small class of wannabe celebrities.

One probable case contrary to progressive anti-intellectualism took place during the time after I had finished my Masters thesis. No one in my family or circle of friends really bothered to ask me what my research was about. Months later after everything was said and done, and I had started attending worship at a local congregation after a year or so of working on staff at another church, I became re-acquainted with a few of the elderly members of the church. Every Sunday, I would make sure to say hi and have small chat with Ms. Polly, and the more we talked, the more I learned we had in common. It turns out, she had experience in theological education, and so did some of her children as well. When I told her what my degree was in, and that I had to do a thesis, Ms. Polly asked me what was my thesis on, and I explained my topic to her. It was the first time outside an academic setting that someone had cared to ask me about my research interests. It’s something that I’ll never forget, and I haven’t forgotten. Later on that year when members of the church were called upon to volunteer to repave Ms. Polly’s driveway, I was one of the first people to sign up. All because we had bonded over theological discussions. At church.

The real question should be: do these Christian writers who “love” the Church more than the “intellectuals” really love the Church? If you love someone, would not you want to share with them the best wisdom that others have to offer? If you love average person in the pew, then why would you presume that they wouldn’t be interested in the life of the mind?

Just thinking out loud here.

😉

Publishing News: A Forthcoming Essay on Fairytales, Religion, Race, and Politics

Brer Rabbit from London Charivari

Brer Rabbit from London Charivari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago in April, TheoFantastique had a call for papers, for Fairytale Collection, asking for a new critical engagement with fairy tales and how they have become popular in fairytales.

“Due to the popularity and familiarity of the tales, not only the layman, but also people inside many academic fields, who are concerned with such works, will find this book more than interesting. Given that this book will consist of a collection of handpicked essays concerning various aspects of these diverse adaptations of the literary fairy tales, an assortment of readers should find this book and its topic of great interest.

While our interests are broad and inclusive, we are particularly interested in papers that discuss fairy tales in contemporary popular culture (TV shows, movies, graphic novels, advertising, toys, video games, popular literature, etc), revisions and adaptations of fairy tales, and pedagogical uses of and approaches to fairy tales. Still, we are interested in as wide an array of papers as possible, so please do not hesitate to send a submission on any fairy tale related subject may it be on cultural significance, on gender, aspects of masculinity and femininity, theory, etc.”

Today, I am happy to announce that I received word that my controversial proposal was accepted to be added to the collection. It was well worth the time and effort. The title of my article forthcoming: “The Soul Of Black Folktales: Race, Class, Ethics, and Humanism in NBC’s GRIMM and Brer Rabbit

My proposal is really too long and complex for a blog post, but I will sum it up with my thesis here:

“I believe that this return of European fairytales to prominence in U.S. American culture is worthy of a critical investigation as it pertains to race, ethnicity, and class difference. In particular, I will examine ideas of European particularity and identity as well as class struggle in NBC’s GRIMM. First, I intend to observe the reception history of the folktales recorded by the Brothers Grimm in their 19th German context and what the implications are for European national identities. By way of comparison, I will also examine Joel Chandler Harris’ dissemination of the folktales passed on by enslaved Africans located in the Antebellum South, and what that meant for black racial identity formation. In both instances, Brer Rabbit and the Brothers Grimm’s stories as folk tales function as secular pedagogical tools aimed at teaching adults and children what it means to be a member of their given culture. I argue that NBC’s GRIMM serves as a hybrid text, as both an other-worldly supernatural (in the tradition of old European fairytales) horror show as well as a this-worldly folktale that addresses contemporary political issues, such as economic inequality and histories of racism, (much like the tales of Brer Rabbit).”

I believe that this article is important for a couple of reasons. First, there has yet to be a comparative study of the politics behind black folktales and European fairytales, and why this is important for the reception of these stories. Secondly, I think it is a good opportunity to have a dialogue with Black humanist and atheist traditions, and their views of black folktales as religious works. Are the politics and histories of black bodies ignored in our readings of Brer Rabbit? What kind of moral agency does Brer Rabbit possess that could be useful for today, and does anti-racist horror tv show like GRIMM have a shared trickster ethic with black folktales?

These are the things I am interested in, and I will keep you all updated!

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