Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 11
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

Chauncey DeVega's Links

FEBRUARY 22, 2012 2:03PM

What is Rick Santorum's Beef with Black Liberation Theology?

Rate: 17 Flag

To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, we acquire the qualities of the things that we do. Some of these traits and deeds matter more than others. If you were caught stealing as a child, that label may follow you for years to come. Likewise, if you were the kid who pooped in the swimming pool during a field trip in elementary school, and never left your hometown as an adult, that fecal slip could follow you years, or even decades, later.

Rick Santorum is a race baiter. He believes that black people are parasites who live off of whites. His trafficking in the dog whistles and air raid sirens of white supremacy for political gain is not something that can be easily shrugged off. These are habits which speak to Santorum's values, traits, ethics, beliefs, and personality--even if done for short term mercenary political gain. Why? to play such a game involves a choice, one that Rick Santorum ought to be held accountable for. His mouth utterances are not mistakes: they are cold calculations designed for electoral gain among a particular subset of the American voting public.

By playing in the political scatology of white racial resentment, Rick Santorum is stained and marked. This will gain him credibility in some circles; it will be a liability in others. To point, this week Rick Santorum suggested that President Obama is not a "true Christian," is Hitler, a closet Muslim, in league with Satan, and practices a "phony" brand of Christianity.

Do not be mistaken. Rick Santorum is not talking about Barack Obama. He is talking about African Americans in mass, as a means to advance a political end, by triangulating them relative to the country's first black President.

Because he is marked and stained as one who traffics in white racial resentment for electoral gain, I would also suggest that Rick Santorum is a priori assumed to have hostility and malintent towards non-whites. This is a set of values which are central, and not peripheral or coincidental, to his worldview. Racism and racial resentment are part of a bundle of attitudes and values, which in total, constitute populist conservatism at this political moment. Racism is not separate and apart from Republican politics in the Age of Obama. By implication, Santorum's racial animus becomes a standing rule to be disproved, as opposed to an allegation to be demonstrated by the totality of the evidence, and/or as a stand alone empirical claim.

Lest his defenders cry foul, Rick Santorum made that bargain when he got in bed with the devil of white racism and chose to use it for political gain. The burden is his to prove or disprove.

For example, in the days prior to suggesting that President Obama practices a fake version of Christianity, Rick Santorum gave a speech stressing the values of home-schooling. The latter is not necessarily problematic if done because our schools are failing, and parents have the skill and training to do better than overworked public school teachers. However, in the constellation of Santorum's views on American theocracy, Christian Nationalism, and race, his support for such a movement is particularly illuminating and problematic.

The home-schooling movement actually gained strength and credence as a white reaction to school integration and the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown versus Board of Education. White Southerners practiced home-schooling, and established "segregation academies," precisely because 1) they did not want their children going to school with African Americans, and 2) for them to be exposed to teachings which suggested that white supremacy was a social ill, as opposed to a social good.

In his signaling to the Culture War faithful, was Rick Santorum also reinforcing his bonafides as one who is sympathetic to white racists who support school segregation? I do not know. But, given the ugly waters in which he bathes, I would not at all be surprised if this were the case.

Days later Rick Santorum made the following claim about President Obama's Christian faith:

It's not about your jobs. It's about some phoney ideal, some phoney theology — not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology...obviously we all know in the Christian church there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity.
As I have noted here, I believe that the phrase "dog whistle" politics is much overused. However, Santorum's turn of phrase is pregnant with meaning for those who study politics and language. There are two concepts central to Santorum's suggestion that Obama's religion is somehow inauthentic, and by implication anathema to "real Christianity," i.e. white Christian Nationalist Dominionism.

Language has both an implied and explicit meaning. Political speech has power as much because of what is said, as because of how it is stated. Borrowing from folks like Wittgenstein and Bourdieu, Santorum's observation about Barack Obama speaks to his white Christian Nationalist audience precisely because of how it establishes boundaries of community, inclusion, and authenticity. He does not have to explicitly label President Obama a black, traitorous, evil, Muslim impostor: Santorum's audience takes such facts as a given. Consequently, the signal only has to be sent in a subtle and implied way in order to validate what is already taken to be the truth among that speech and discursive community.

As the Culture War (redux) heats up, I am also reminded of the centrality of Christianity and its curious relationship to white supremacy in the United States. As comedian Paul Mooney has sharply observed, black folks don't have the luxury of pretending that race doesn't matter in politics. Ironically, we are both strengthened and damaged by our keen awareness of this fact.

In all, there is no space for a politically sophisticated, aware, and intelligent black voter to not ask the following questions: "how does race play into this election, is this a good white person or a bad one, will they serve my interests, or are they out to get us/me?"

To point, in the year 2012 we have a group of Republican presidential candidates who have at one point or another suggested that black people are monsters, zombies, parasites, natural janitors, addicted to food stamps, prone to laziness, and are not "real Americans." The Tea Party GOP candidates have also argued that that the Confederacy and Secessionists were on the correct side of history, and that the Civil Rights Movement was a tyrannical crime against white freedom.

In addition, some of these Republican candidates practice a religious faith which dictated that black people are natural slaves, that Birtherism is correct, and that there are people, most of them of color, who practice a fake religion. The latter is especially compelling, as this "phony" and "heretical" religion--taken in the context of all that we know about the Republican Party and its mining of white racial animus--is one more wink back at Obama's evil mentor, Emperor Palpatinesque, black nationalist, white folks hating, Reverend Jeremiah Wright:

“You’re a liberal something, but you’re not a Christian.” He continued, “When you take a salvation story and turn it into a liberation story you’ve abandoned Christiandom and I don’t think you have a right to claim it.”
As he indicated here, a Christian Faith of liberation and struggle is not "authentic." In that quote, Rick Santorum is explicitly talking about Black Liberation Theology. You see, "those people's" Christianity is flawed, fake, and inauthentic because they dare to imagine a Jesus, a "black man," who speaks back to Power. What nerve!

As has often been alluded to, Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. Blacks and white do not worship together. As one who is not religious, I nonetheless remain struck by how one group of folks could claim Christ, dress in their Sunday finest, burn black people alive, and then dismember their bodies for sale as souvenirs.

Moreover, one should never forget that the KKK was a Christian organization, and that white Christians thought that they were doing god's work by enslaving black people. Likewise, I remain stupified and fascinated by how black folks in the same historical moment could take Christianity and use it as a tool for their own liberation and freedom struggle.

There are some folks who navigate these waters with deft skill. He is one of the pantheon of bad, scary names, such as Alinksy, Fox, and Piven, which white Right-wing propagandists throw about to their knuckle-dragging faithful in order to scare them about the liberal-progressive bogeymen coming to kidnap their babies.

James Cone, one of the founders of Black Liberation Theology authored a great essay a few months on "the cross and the lynching tree," where he explored the binary of white supremacy and black faith within the Christian religious tradition.

As we think through Rick Santorum's racist appeals, Dr. Cone made a series of observations which are particularly rich and useful. He notes:

“Many Christians embrace the conviction that Jesus died on the cross to redeem humankind from sin,” he said. “Taking our place, they say, Jesus suffered on the cross and gave his life as a ransom for many. The cross is the great symbol of the Christian narrative of salvation.

Unfortunately, during the course of 2,000 years of Christian history, the symbol of salvation has been detached from the ongoing suffering and oppression of human beings, the crucified people of history. The cross has been transformed into a harmless, non-offensive ornament that Christians wear around their necks. Rather than reminding us of the cost of discipleship, it has become a form of cheap grace, an easy way to salvation that doesn’t force us to confront the power of Christ’s message and mission.”

...Cone sees the cross as “a paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last.” This idea, he points out, is absurd to the intellect, “yet profoundly real in the souls of black folk.”

The crucified Christ, for those who are crucified themselves, manifests “God’s loving and liberating presence in the contradictions of black life—that transcendent presence in the lives of black Christians that empowered them to believe that ultimately, in God’s eschatological future, they would not be defeated by the ‘troubles of the world,’ no matter how great and painful their suffering.”

Cone elucidates this paradox, what he calls “this absurd claim of faith,” by pointing out that to cling to this absurdity was possible only when one was shorn of power, when one was unable to be proud and mighty, when one understood that he was not called by God to rule over others. “The cross was God’s critique of power—white power—with powerless love, snatching victory out of defeat.”

Rick Santorum does not believe that God and Christ are critics of power. No, their God is one of the powerful, the rich, the 1%, and the elites. In furthering this belief, Santorum and his ilk will only continue to bundle white racism and Christianity in an American Taliban approved script of intolerance and nativism. He is a culture warrior. Said label has always been about race, generational change, class, sexuality, gender, geography, and other markers of "authentic" American identity.

Black Americans can never be part of this story--even if they are Christians. As the anti-citizen they can never find belonging or acceptance; the only thing that Barack Obama can do to win over the Right-wing Christian faithful is to turn himself into a White person. And even then, Obama would have to be the "right" type of White man to win their approval. Barring George Schuyler's science come real, that is not going to happen anytime soon.

Rick Santorum's racist Christian Nationalist appeals have a ready made audience. This same audience is one that would have found a way to justify Jim and Jane Crow and the lynching tree as evidence of Christ's love, divine will, and providence for White people.

Ultimately, the Age of Obama is one of absurdity and surprise. Thus, do not be surprised if a Republican candidate trots out either the Curse of Ham or the blessings of Bartolome de las Casas as the election nears, for racism, plus obsolescence, breeds political insanity. 

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you got a there/their/they're issue in the last section.

you also could have just wrote - Rick Santorum is an idiot douchebag hypocritical blasphemous racist prick.

would have saved you a lot of time, and economy of words is an important concept in effective writing.

just sayin'.
funny and thanks. indulgence is good too.
Keeper . . . You may like a New Belgium Brewery's beer that's brewed in Fort Collins, CO.
To be honest I may.
You are to blame too!

A 'Dig' beer is a Spring release.
It's got a artistic `red sneaker,
blue genes, farmer pants, the
garden with a picket fence, and
a shovel.
Maybe you cancan gargle a bottle.
'Dig' is a pale ale that unearths the:
hops that help folks nod out after
listening to the daily (idiocy) news.
I am a private person but I'll share:
I took few courses on Mass Ave in DC
I considered Prison work etc., and beer.
I knew I'd be a awful theologian and sin.
Wesley Theological Seminary is a school.
Mental gymnasium (Place to learn/drink
I was married and took a Black History Course.
The professor's name slips me. I've not sipped
I worked with a Chaplain who influenced me.
Folk can have a healthy Anger that is sweet.
I have questions no one ask me for idiocy.
huh . .
I have no answers to life's riddles/depravity.
I was pondering a word that embraces awe`
The word is sorta Idiocy/dementia/looney.
I need to walk away from great reads soon.
If I am here @ Salon I'll comment to a loon.
Minds need clarity, and peace/quiet/rest.
a child . . .
wonders . . .
and ask the vet
if black labs turn white
as they grey
Respect . . . Chauncey DeVega
I always recall brother in `Nam
They taught me the 'Dap' etc.,
If we were in the perimeters
(somewhat safer than jungle)
I'd always go talk with blacks.
We white farm boys and black . . .
pause . .
Someone is knocking at the door.
She paints and cleans messes.
She works at a neighbors garage.
She's a part-time mechanic.
She sip
She no sin . . .
She's cute . . .
No tease . . .

I took another course on Liberation Theology.
I am not a 'minister' assigned to bury/merry.
After war I had answers. I now have no answer.
If Santorum does emerge as the Republican candidate for POTUS, it is my hope then that he be seen by all as the fabricating person he is and gets himself a thorough and proper thrashing at the polls.
Well done indeed. I'd love to know more about your takes on Wittgenstein and Bourdieu as they apply here. Are you a member of Rev. Wright's church, by chance, or affiliated with one of Chicago's many fine academic communities? I continue to enjoy your allusions to "air raid sirons" vs. dog whistles. Nice contrast.
I'm loving your posts and learning much from them. Thank you. Oh, and I agree with Malcolm - 'Rick Santorum is an idiot douchebag hypocritical blasphemous racist prick'. I would add that I think he is a bit off in his attempts to read God's mind.
So glad I didn't do go the Black Liberation Theology route in my last piece because I certainly was reading Cone yesterday. But I thought I would do a little digging on this Dominion Theology that Evangelists subscribe to as well as the ties between Republicans and the captains of industry. It ain't pretty I can tell you that. Very nice piece.
I am sorry, I could not read all of this because of my eyes. But it is disturbing to the max that the extreme right would suggest that Obama is not a "true Christian." is Hitler, or is Satan, or a closet Muslim. My sense that these right-wing extremists are lacking in conscience. The problem here goes far beyond racism. All Americans, of whatever race, are in deep trouble if these right-wing extremists gain political ascendancy--beyond their current status. Anyone who thinks for him/her self, who believes in freedom and justice for ALL, or who does not conform to fundamentalist Christianity is at severe risk.
Your post has convinced graciousjanesmithie to use her vote rather than sit this election out. Congratulations!
In the latest poll, Obama leads Santorum by 40 points, which shows how many hard core douchebags there are in 'Merka.
If I get anything from this incredible post it's perhaps that Santorum's "beef" with Black Liberation Theology is in the word "Liberation".
And his problem seems to be an extension of issues beyond race to "class" as well.
Scary time, my friend. Keep thinking. Keep writing. Keep making the rest of us think too.
i never knew that there was such a thing as black liberation theology. one of these days someone will have the courage to say what they they really mean. like, there's a nigger in the white house. i like your fred sanford and colt 45, and the way you refer to yourself as a negro. a lot going on here. a profile in contradictions and sterotypes. yet the truth come out. how did that happen. i'm digging it. like cornel west.
Chauncey, Chauncey, call it with divine precision. Rick Santorum gets play because he gives voice to the desire to "take the country back" to pre-civil rights; to resurrect Jim Crow. We have mass voter suppression, a movement to revise history books, a challenge to affirmative action....
Mr. DeVega, you're correct, but this is like saying "water is wet." Santorum is probably not the most racist candidate the Republicans are pitching this year. I'd put Gingrich into the Klan robes (although finding one in his size would be a trick) and Romney would probably be willing to employ black people every once in a while, as long as they didn't try to talk to him.
Faved and Rated. This should be EDITOR'S PICK. Excellent job all the way around. I'll be archiving this. You're a man after my own heart. You named SATANORUM for the Aryan sociopath that he is. (When you get chance check out my latest tome on him too). Cheers. Ron
Ah, what a tangled web we weave ...

From the perspective of one raised with traditionalist Christian dogma, but who has since learned that the unexamined faith is not worth having, I weep for my country and for what is left of my faith.

That anyone takes any of the current crop of R candidates seriously -- with the possible exception of Romney, who isn't taken seriously by the Rabid Right because of his adherence to an even more preposterous religion (which is hard to imagine, but nevertheless true) deemed to be outside the bounds of accepted as gospel fairy tales -- that anyone takes any of these men (and as always, it is only white men on the Right) seriously, boggles the mind and troubles the soul.

Politics aside -- as if that could ever be possible again, thanks to the Rabid Religious Wrong -- what these people have done to corrupt the teachings of the Prophet of Peace is just cause for eternal damnation.

Onward Christian Soldiers defile Jesus' pacifist teachings with OT vindictive, xenophobic New Chosen People warmongering. They defile "as you have done unto the least of these, so have you done unto me" and "feed the poor" with the blasphemy of the Prosperity Gospel, and Mefirstism.

Woe unto you, you nest (and nation) of vipers! Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.
Thanks again, Chancey.

As Posted Elsewhere:

Fundamentalist Evangelicals OBVIOUSLY know what's best for the rest of us, aren't the least bit hesitant about stating that ENDLESSLY to anyone who'll listen. As Dana is apparently aware.

Yet those same Evangelicals have what most of us recognize to be twisted values, they'll quote Jesus and the New testament ONLY to the extent that it aligns with their NEW IMPROVED value system, a system that's morphed well outside of the new testament framework.

An IMPROVED value system that without hesitation decries Wealth to be "Godly", and Immense Wealth to be representative of the "Blessings and Approval" implied by that.

Doesn't matter where the money came from, right? Cumulative Wealth is the equivalent of "Absolution" for that purpose under these rules ;-)


Right Wing Fundamentalists assure us that current supporters of Jesus needn’t REALLY follow his example, their worldly wealth should NOT be given over to the poor, for instance, since under current Evangelical Fundamentalist standards Excessive Wealth among church members (AND Church Leadership) represents APPROVAL from and by God.

Thus TAXES are (by WingNut logic) an imposition equivalent to giving money to the poor, can’t have THAT, can we?

Because $ are of greater importance than GOD (or people), Greed is Good to paraphrase ;-)

And by current Fundamentalist standards, Immense Wealth is GODLY.


And on the specific topic of Mr. "Satan" expert Santorum, he certainly should know the specifics of blending Politics/Religion/Campaign Money, for obvious reasons ;-)

Militant Evangelicals (Santorum Et Al) speak out of "Both sides of their mouths" as the saying goes.

And don't hesitate to use the religious faith of others in support of their own Political Ambitions.

With the rest of us paying the hidden "Costs" of those opportunistic, cynical manipulations.

Even in terms of lives lost, regarding limitless Middle East war ventures.
Chauncey, sorry for the misnomer ("Chancey"). Short term memory is given to wandering these days, guess I've lost some "Focus" over the years ;-)

And if the number of links on my last post exceeds polite discussion, let me know and I'll reduce them, we guest comment posters shouldn't impose on our polite host :-)

Thanks Again.
Intelligent. I too agree that for enslaved people to use the very religious symbols and ideas that their oppressors used is a concession towards their enslavement. Blacks should have run so far opposite to Christianity and instead drawn on the Sun and perhaps pagan symbols in nature to draw strength from. Of course the pre-dominate them with Christianity is suffering, as is with it probably seemed the perfect fit for what they were going thru. Upon emancipation however, I would have destroyed every vestige of white domination and control that remained, and taken the offer to return to Liberia at once. The big mistake that was made was staying behind to co-mingle with white people who did that to them. But alas' Amerikkka is now paying for its mistakes in karma. Please, don't tell me that the angry black male phenomena is not directed against the injustices of the past, because we both know you'd be lying. Notice with so many Black males being imprisoned, who is winning that karma battle? Like I said, freed slaves should have returned to Liberia and demanded reparations to build up their new nation. American guilt would have been glad to oblige.
Hey Chauncey, just wanted you to know that I had previously cited and hot-linked your great piece,

"The Rotten Heart of White Conservatism: The Nonsense Argument That is White People are Oppressed in the Age of Obama."

It's in my piece:
"Herman "Bigsby" Cain: "Black White Supremacist"

Check it out when you get a chance and give it some love :)
MJGott wrote: "one of these days someone will have the courage to say what they they really mean. like, there's a nigger in the white house."

I think it was Cornell West, or maybe Michael Eric Dyson (I saw them on C-Span, and I can't remember which one said this) that said 9/11 was the niggerization of America. No matter what color we were, we all knew how it felt after that day.

We all became Black Panthers. When it came to terrorists, or Muslims, we finally understood what Malcolm meant by "any snake will do".

I did a lot of phone banking and door-to-door in 2008, and I heard "I'm not voting for that nigger" many times. What I heard more often was the polite form: "I'm not ready for a black President". A lot of people already knew before the election they had to call him a communist or a socialist, because they figured that allowed them the right to express full-on hatred while providing cover for their racism.

Some of my co-workers earned my perpetual disrespect and antipathy one day by giggling over an email they were circulating: a photo of Michelle Obama next to a photo of a chimpanzee, with some juvenile remark like "look how similar". I cried in the parking lot that day, to realize what an awful place I was in.

What we see is only the tip of the iceberg. Racism is alive and well in America. No matter how much people tell themselves they aren't racist, there are way too many that just cannot have respect and affection for a black president, and they cannot defer authority and accord superior status to a black man. They just can't do it, while at the same time being unable to admit to themselves that it's racism.

One story I heard, which was either from Virginia or one of the Carolinas, was that an Obama volunteer phoned a home to ask if they were supporting Barack Obama. The volunteer heard the woman talking to her husband, and he called out from the background: "Tell her I'm voting for the nigger". So even though some people can't break old habits, maybe they could still see how bad McCain and Palin were.
I found your quote from James Cone to be very interesting. I always felt that the preoccupation with redemption was a misunderstanding of the crucifixion. I wonder if Jesus wouldn't chastise Paul for missing the whole point.

The easy get-out-of-hell-free aspect of saying "Christ died for my sins" seems like a shallow marketing campaign. T-shirts and bumper stickers triumphantly declare "I'm Forgiven". It's all too simple and easy: one man does all the suffering and everyone else is off the hook forever.

It seems to me the true meaning of the crucifixion is more like a call to duty, an example to be followed that says no amount of sacrifice and suffering is too much if it serves God's purposes. I always read the crucifixion as an invitation to disciples to give up every selfish need and to bear any burden for the cause of compassion and justice and forgiveness of others, not a free ticket for one to claim forgiveness for one's self.

It looks to me like Dr. Cone has grasped the meaning Jesus wanted the crucifixion to have, as opposed to the easy good news Paul gave it.
I agree with Jeff J's last statement. It's why I absolutely loathe the fat, lazy Christians in America who have latched on to something they know very little about. They hijacked someone who was more Buddhist and ascetic than their McDonald's eating asses could ever comprehend. It always gets me how the United States military was able to correlate what they do with Christ. Did Christ raise up an Army to defend his band of followers? No. He stopped Simon from using his sword, and allowed himself to enter into captivity. Why? Because he believed that you must give up everything in this world to reach God, even to the point of losing your home, liberty, and safety. Americans are Christian only up to the point where their fierce independent values are compromised...then they revert to what everyone else does in this world to survive. They kill to eat, and they kill to deter.
Hey MalcolmXY -- It's "could have written," not "could have wrote."

I won't mar an excellent essay with anything but 'bravo!"