A manifesto by the author of The Black Messiah (1968) who heads the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit. He provides doxological and organizational perspectives: Jesus the revolutionary and Moses the nation-builder, both black, as well as Marcus Garvey, whose failure Cleage never discusses, and Malcolm X, whose reflected glory he seeks, are promoted as the precursors of Black Christian Nationalism. The black church must become a truly black institution and stop peddling ""slave Christianity."" Cleage claims that ""inherent in the concepts of separatism and nationalism are confrontation and conflict with the oppressor"" -- he does not explain government and business financial support of various nationalists; indeed, he proceeds in general by assertion, not explanation and he says nothing pro or con about the Panthers, whose Newton wing has recently moved closer to black church activity. The BCN program is outlined; the main purpose seems to be organizing more shrines, like the Muslims; the BCN's separatism parallels that of the Muslims, of course, though it replaces Muslim cosmology with revolutionary rhetoric plus ""pragmatic realism."" Cleage elaborates no real political perspective beyond ""vote black"" and community control of schools; no solution to blacks' living conditions and unemployment is offered beyond regional cooperatives to can southern tenants' crops. The appended papers from the first BCN convention have to do with ancient ""Black Christianity"" in vacuo. Certain of Cleage's ideas have classical Fascist elements: down with individualism and materialism, up with ""group values""; might makes right and ""Truth is that which serves the interests of a people."" Some of these notions will be more readily understood as efforts (like Malcolm X's and the Muslims') to instill self-discipline and fellowship among atomized, demoralized black people -- but to push the relativity of truth by equating morality with ""moralism"" is hardly compatible either with Malcolm X's views or with any vestige of Christianity. Sociologically, the book is best appreciated as an expression of and appeal to black ministers' fears of losing their base as the number of old-fashioned Christians dwindles and competition increases from the Muslims and secular activists. But it will gain some attention.
Pub Date: Feb. 25, 1971
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1971
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