Tuesday, May 5, 2009

W. E. B. Du Bois on Religion (4): Edward J. Blum's theological conversion of Du Bois

Written 20-21 April 2009:

Check out the publisher's description of:

Blum, Edward J. W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. viii + 273 pp. Notes, index, acknowledgements. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8122-4010-3. http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14316.html

You should note something very fishy here.

Now the fact that Du Bois wrote sermons, poems, etc., and that he recognized the "spiritual" qualities of religious culture, does not make him a religious person whose secular thought should be re-spun in religious terms. And if you doubt that there's something dishonest about Blum's agenda, see this interview:

RD10Q: W.E.B. Du Bois, American Prophet
By Edward J. Blum
June 19, 2008 (Religion Dispatches)

Blum's agenda is overtly religious. I'm nauseated to read this interview. Furthermore, it is symptomatic of an intellectual degeneration permeating every area of thought. Important fields of study are being corrupted by either postmodernism or a theological turn. The very secularity of scholarship is under de facto assault by irrationalism.

The irrationalist colonization of academia proceeds apace. Du Bois is being converted from a secular to a religious thinker in the most disgusting fashion. Another example: a new book titled The Souls of W.E.B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections, edited by Ed Blum and Jason R. Young.

See this blog puffing the book:

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Du Bois and Religion
by Phillip Luke Sinitiere

Reportedly this volume has been praised by both James Cone, architect of black power theology, and Manning Marable, veteran Marxist scholar.

This blog is a document of a long-standing campaign to spiritualize intellectual history including Du Bois' intellectual achievements:


I have unearthed some more positively sickening examples of Edward Blum's agenda for recasting Du Bois as a religious thinker, enlisting him in the service of theocratic progressives.

W.E.B. Du Bois and Religion
Revising perceptions of the influential African American thinker.
Reviewed by Kathryn Lofton | posted 12/15/2008
Books and Culture: A Christian Review

Religion and the Sociological Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois
by Edward J. Blum
Sociation Today, Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2005

7-16-07, History News Network
What Barack Obama (and the Democratic Party) Can Learn About Religion from W. E. B. Du Bois
By Edward J. Blum

What Would Du Bois Say?: A Response to Hitchens and Dawkins
Penn Press Log, May 11, 2007

I think I'm going to barf. Now here is an extensive review:

W. E. B. Du Bois: A Spiritual Prophet and Religious Sage?
Reviewed for H-Amstdy by Curtis J. Evans, University of Chicago Divinity School.
Review of: Edward J. Blum. W. E. B. Du Bois: American Prophet. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.
Published by H-Amstdy@h-net.msu.edu (October 2007)

The reviewer acknowledges the extensive engagement with religious metaphor on the part of Du Bois but questions Blum's premises. Note:
"By paying attention to the performative aspects of Du Bois's autobiographies and writings, Blum is able to avoid traditional biographical questions such as whether or not Du Bois "believed" in God, the psychological and social bases of his belief or unbelief, and how his personal religion changed over time (pp. 15-16)."

"Although Blum successfully makes the point that most historians and biographers have been too eager to depict Du Bois as a dogmatic atheist or agnostic, I am not sure that Blum appreciates why Du Bois has been regarded as an atheist or agnostic. Blum's own analysis indicates the persistent criticisms of religion that Du Bois uttered throughout his long life. Although, he accounts for this by making a few remarks about Du Bois's normative or idealized conception of "true Christianity," I do not think this will persuade most specialists that this is the best way to understand Du Bois's animus against religion as it existed during his lifetime (not as "religion" may have been in some idealized ahistorical realm). At one point, Blum comes close to getting at a better description of Du Bois and his religious sentiments when he briefly notes that Du Bois regularly minimized the supernatural in his reimagining of religion and should therefore be seen as a religious modernist (p. 160). I have always felt that this is a much more fitting description of Du Bois in light of his constant criticisms of black churches for their alleged backwardness and puritanical prohibitions, and his scathing critiques of white churches for their failure to treat blacks fairly.[2] Du Bois's emphasis on ethics at the expense of traditional doctrines and theology places him firmly in the religious modernist or Protestant liberal camp. If Blum had set out to argue that Du Bois was a religious modernist rather than an atheist or agnostic, I think his book would have been richer and this approach would have taken the unnecessary edge off the book in its strong stance against those who reportedly have underappreciated Du Bois's religiosity."

"Attention to Du Bois's literary works, his "religious imagination," and religious sentiments and descriptions expressed by those at his funeral and admirers of his books, while important and enlightening, does not satisfactorily demonstrate that he was a religious prophet (not to mention the problem of gaining any consensus on this ambiguous and highly personal term). After all, religious language and rhetoric are enormously difficult to link to personal behavior and religious practice (as modern-day elections and campaigning clearly indicate)."
This brief critical review seems to me like it sums up the issue very well, and is enough to discredit Blum's agenda as a liberal theocrat.

Finally, here is Blum's autobiographical confession:

Interview with Edward Blum on Du Bois, Posted by Eric Redmond on May 12, 2007.
Edward Blum: "I grew up in a small white middle-class suburb of New York City where I attended a Presbyterian Church. I was active in the youth group and went to college intending to become a minister. The Christianity of my youth was inspiring. We were taught to think deeply about the sacred; to care about our community and others; we were taught to share the good news. What I did not realize, though, was that we were also being taught, subtly, that the people of God were all white. With all white people in the church and with visual depictions of white angels and Jesus in mass culture, I think I went to college with a subconscious belief that white people and white souls mattered most to God. I would not have said that at the time, but I think it was there. In college – at the University of Michigan – and then in graduate school – at the University of Kentucky – my entire religious view was changed. I encountered women and men of just about every national background, every hue, every persuasion, and I found that they had so much to teach me about God, about community, about justice and injustice, about how the world really was. At that point, I began a new spiritual pilgrimage: to find the faith that had been shielded from me in white suburbia. And, since I was always interested in history, I did so through historical texts. I began with Frederick Douglass, reading his grand personal narratives of slavery and freedom; I moved on to the liberation theology of James Cone and J. Deotis Roberts; I then read white evangelicals like sociologist Michael Emerson who were searching for ways for true racial integration. Then I found Du Bois and my entire mental landscape was opened. He seemed to unlock the doors separating religion and American society. He showed the connections between what and how people practice their faiths and the implications on society. So, in many ways, I am a white man who practices a black-based Christianity; politically, I am a Democrat; I focus on community over individualism; I see the work of God in the marginalized of the nation and of the world."
White liberal guilt explains it all!

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