RELIGION HAS BEEN THE MOTIVATING FORCE IN AMERICA’S CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

By Promod Puri

Even now, with very few exceptions, the American civil rights movement has never been led on a political platform.

Instead, religion has been the motivating factor in the ongoing struggles and challenges, beginning with the emancipation from slavery to racism and police brutalities.

Whereas religion does not find a liking in the progressive political behaviour, but among the Black leaderships in the United States, it has been the driving force to seek justice and freedom from the White establishment.

There has been a common faith-braced thread running in the Black resistance of the earliest periods of slavery through the civil rights protests of the 1950s and 1960s. And up to now, except the current Black Lives Matter movement. But the latter too accepts, “The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight,” according to the BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullers who describes herself as “trained Marxist” (New York Times Post).

Rep. John Lewis and Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian were the recent veterans, carrying the flag of civil rights campaigns with strengths drawing from their Christian faith instead of any political ideology. (Rep. Lewis, 80, and Rev. Vivian, 95, died July 17, 2020.)

Both were the towering personalities in the post-era of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. They received their Christian theological credentials from the American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee. With that faith-embedded background, Rep. Lewis and Rev. Vivian moved forward to seek equality and justice for Black Americans.

Conviction in their religious order was more vibrant and focussed on their activism than in the sermonic lecturing within church walls.

In an interview in 2004, Lewis said: “In my estimation, the civil rights movement was a religious phenomenon. When we’d go out to sit in or go out to march, I felt, and I believe, there was a force in front of us and a force behind us because sometimes you didn’t know what to do. You didn’t know what to say; you didn’t know how you were going to make it through the day or the night. But somehow and some way, you believed – you had faith – that it all was going to be all right.”

About Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis once said: “He was not concerned about the streets of heaven and the pearly gates and the streets paved with milk and honey. He was more concerned about the streets of Montgomery and the way that Black people and poor people got treated in Montgomery.”

Religious teachings have been the guiding force of the earliest Black civil rights and anti-slavery leaderships.

“Nat Turner, a leader in the revolt against slavery, for example, saw the rebellion as the work of God and drew upon biblical texts to inspire his actions. Likewise, fellow anti-slavery campaigners Sojourner Truth and Jarena Lee rejected the ‘otherworld’ theology taught to enslaved Africans by their white captors. That very theology sought to deflect attention away from their condition in ‘this world’ with promises of a better afterlife,” writes Lawrence Burnley of the University of Dayton, in a recent article in The Conversation.

A pragmatic approach has been the basis of most Black leaders’ theological understanding of religious doctrines and sermons.

With that understanding of the scriptures, the struggle for racial justice gained its solidarity in the Black Christian leaderships.

It was Rev. Al Sharpton, whose words echoed the globe when he called upon White America to “get your knee off our necks” at George Floyd’s memorial service.

Equally compelling is the message from Rev. William J. Barber II, a known Black leader, who said recently, “There is not some separation between Jesus and justice; to be Christian is to be concerned with what’s going on in the world.”

From Mohammad to Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela and Dr. Ambedkar all had religious commitments grounded in humanism, love, compassion, and kindness to wage their political and social campaigns against slavery, apartheid, discrimination, inequality, and untouchability based on colour, class, and caste.

The Black Civil Rights movement is part of that tradition where religion has been inspiring and motivational force to erase the racial-based stigmas in a significant part of the White American society.

 

 

AT AGE 92, THE SECRET OF MY FRIEND’S HEALTHY LIFE

The other day I received a phone call from an old friend of mine after quite a long time. Old in the sense that we know each other for the past over four decades. But it is also in the context that he is now 92 years of age.

He has the same clarity and vigour in his voice as ever before, good hearing and an excellent memory. All these signs reflected while conversing with him. In his astute expressions, his mental alertness is still sharp.

Mr. Singh still goes for walks, and at least once a week hits the golf course. The testimony to his exceptional health at this senior golden age is that he does not take any of those medicines often related to old age. Cholesterol, diabetes, knee problem, etc. have bypassed him.

The secret!

It is under one medical term, called circadian rhythm. And Mr. Singh has kept it well under control with his disciplined daily regime.

A real understanding of the circadian rhythm is that all our body organs, down to their cellular levels, have body clocks working along with the brain. Together, the working of all theses body clocks is in coordination to create the circadian rhythm.

A synchronized circadian rhythm of every part of the body, especially the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain, goes well without any compromise. The entire process, when settles down to set routine is the circadian rhythm that is not only beneficial to our overall health but most important in developing a robust immune system.

The boosting of the immune system is very vital, especially when we are facing the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus. And if this body clock rhythm is not put in place or being disturbed, our health problems start kicking in along with a weak immune system.

Specialists in the field of circadian rhythm emphasize a regular and systematic pattern of good sleep, exercise, and diet. The exact timing, duration, and disciplined, healthy living day in and day out is what we need to develop a robust immune system.

Mr. Singh listens to his body clock, religiously every moment of his life. Talking to him has always been very meaningful and knowledgeable.

One of these days, when this social-distancing restraint is over, I’m going to meet him. It certainly would be an inspirational meeting as well as to revive our chess sessions with a glass of Scotch on the side, that he still enjoys every day.

By Promod Puri

 

Denialism: A Roadblock To Liberal Thinking

by Promod Puri

When things or incidents happen in front of our own eyes or reported through trustworthy sources, and we deny them as non-events, there could be a “motivated reasoning” for that denial.

Psychologists name the observed phenomenon as denialism.

A recent example of denialism is when President Trump refuted the pandemic of COVID-19 in its early stage. And when most of India’s upper and wealthy class refused to accept the plight of migrant workers in their agonizing walks back to the villages during the peak Coronavirus lockdown.

Historical events, like the Holocaust, have never happened according to those who refute the genocide. Climate change is a myth; the theory of evolution is nonsense, the earth is not round, but a flat dish, are the examples trapped in the insulated casing of denialism.

In denialism, our social behaviour, political and religious identities get rigid with the discriminatory pick of pieces of evidence. Rationalization becomes irrational in fussy argumentation. And society becomes polarized when information receiving is selective to match the perceived opinions and verdicts.

Denialism is an irrational act. So why people deny or reject the basic facts that are undisputed and well-supported by verifiable or scientifically-proven realities?

Several reasons based on their religious, political or social beliefs explain the behaviour as it confronts the uncomfortable truths. Moreover, people who stick to denialism may have personal interests, egotistical or narcissistic passions. An ideological worldview can be a factor too.

It is for these reasons, in the absence of reality and truth, denialism gets its spot that creates a mindset fanatic attitude that can cause roadblocks or deadends to free or liberal thinking.