Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas with Du Bois 4.0

When Du Bois became editor of The Crisis in 1910, he wasted little time registering religious reflections on its pages. (The first issue appeared in November 1910.) Two early editorials display how Du Bois used the holiday season and religion as a way to reflect on the political realities of early twentieth-century America. We’ll take a look at one today, titled "Good Will Toward Men," and then another in the next post.

In December 1910, Du Bois focused on Jesus’ ethical imperatives of serving one’s neighbor and loving one’s enemy. “This is the month of the Christ Child,” Du Bois began the editorial, “when there was reborn in men the idea of doing to their neighbors that which they would wish done to themselves.”

Christmas, for Du Bois, was not occasion to reflect on the wonder of the Incarnation as a theological concept, but on its manifestation in the world, what he called “a divine idea—a veritable Son of God.” Du Bois claimed to “see glimmerings of the fulfillment of the vision” as
“[i]n blood and tears the world struggles toward this Star of Bethlehem.”

Yet Du Bois sustained a realist hope, a prophetic longing that did not mince words and spoke truth to power. Far too often the fight for equality and the struggle for justice did not live up to its ideal: it “not only miserably failed, but even its truth has been denied,” he wrote.

Du Bois ended this December editorial with a prayer and a plea. “God grant that on some Christmas day our nation and all others will plant themselves on this one platform: Equal justice and equal opportunity for all races.”

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