I’ve been reading J. Phillip Wogaman’s Christian Ethics textbook, as well as George W. Forell’s Christian Social Teachings reader, and find both of them completely underwhelming. I understand that it’s difficult to sum up 2,000 years of (Western) Christian ethics in a single volume that’s under 400 pages, especially when you try to create the illusion of natural progression among a variety of warring parties, but maybe this is a sign that this is a topic that requires more than a single volume. The case in point is the glib and disingenuous way slavery is depicted in both books.
Most of the coverage surrounding the Rachel Dolezal controversy stems from the perceived notion that she was engaged in a 24/7 blackface routine or that she was misappropriating blackness out of some kind of deep-seated sense of confusion or emotional inadequacy. Frankly, none of that interests me. What’s incredible to me is that no one is asking how American racial politics enabled Dolezal to pull off her scheme, because in no other country would she consider her to be black, whether in her youthful Caucasian phase or in her current racially ambiguous disguise.
This is another unpublished essay that I thought needed to see the light of day, rather than be hidden away on my hard drive. It’s not about religion in the institutional sense, but about various aspects of Southern identity, which tends to function as a civic religion anyway. This essay goes with my previous posts on Southern Agrarianism and racism, but tackles the issue from a more personal perspective and includes a few suggestions for future action.
One of the odder things you’ll find in the American South are streets named after Pope Pius IX or “Pio Nono.” I know for sure that Macon, GA has a Pio Nono Avenue, and there must be others in smaller towns and cities. At the time these Pio Nono streets were going up, the United States was enduring a pretty severe culture war regarding the Catholic church, namely whether it was possible for Catholics to be “good Americans” and whether the church’s teachings were compatible with liberal democracy. Yet, despite these controversies, many parts of the otherwise anti-Catholic South decided to name things after Pius IX. If I may be permitted to use the vernacular, what’s up with that?