Monday, April 23, 2007

Milestones and Modalities

Well, I turned 30 yesterday. A milestone, and now a perspective from a new modality. I've entered a new decade. Had a great time with friends and family, and their presence, to me, was the gift. I did get several other gifts, including The Bible Experience. It is interesting to hear familiar voices in a whole new context -- reading the New Testament.

In addition to working on my dissertation, I've been reading some W.E.B. Du Bois, mostly inspired by the work of Edward J. Blum. Blum teaches at San Diego State University and has a very impressive arrary of projects completed, underway, and in the works.

I'm looking forward to his biography of Du Bois, out next month with University of Pennsylvania Press, and his article on Du Bois's relationship to and with Christianity is, I hope, a taste of things to come.

Blum also alerted me to a collection of prayers by Du Bois, published in 1980 (17 years after Du Bois's death) under the title Prayers for Dark People. I've been reading through them, thinking not only about the times and places that inspired these reflections, but about their resonance with and application for contemporary times.

Here's a sample, composed on one Christmas day during Du Bois's lifetime:

"O Thou Incarnate Word of God to man, make us this Christmas night to realize Thy truth: we are not Christians because we profess Thy name and celebrate the ceremonies and idly reiterate the prayers of the church, but only in so far as we really comprehend and follow the Christ spirit -- we must be poor and not rich, meek and not proud, merciful and not oppressors, peaceful and not warlike or quarrelsome. For the sake of the righteousness of our cause we must bow to persecution and reviling, and again and again turn the stricken cheek to the striker, and above all the cause of our neightbor must be to us dearer than our own cause. This is Christianity. God help us all to be Christians. Amen. Luke 2:8-14" (p. 63).

And Amen.


Anonymous said...

what a beautiful prayer; glad you are enjoying Du Bois's prayers. i often find myself drawn to them during this time of war.

Anonymous said...


Hey Phil,

Du Bois as a prophet huh? If this is so then I imagine he must be one of the likeness as Jonah. When things didn't turn out the way he expected then he became sour and dejected. I am certainly not an expert in this field, but I seem to remember that Du Bois got so frustrated with the white power structure here in the US that he renounced any further aspirations for integration and racial justice and then moved to Africa (Ghana) where he eventually died. Is this correct, and if so, then what do we make of its meaning for us? Is there a message of hope that I have somehow missed?



Phil said...


Good question, though I don't know the full answer. He was certainly justified in his posture toward white supremacy. As for Du Bois as a prophet, I'll have to read Ed's book and respond.

I'm still familiarizing myself with Du Bois's full biography. I do know Kwame Nkrumah invited him to compose the Encyclopedia Africana toward the end of his life, and that he and his second wife had passport trouble, so this responds, in part, to your query. Maybe Ed might respond more fully if he reads this.