Portrait of a Liberation Scholar
John Henrik Clarke
Almost from the beginning as a child I started to raise essential questions inside myself about the things I observed and about the things people declared “true” and literally dared me to question. These who would impose the “truth” on me had no control over me when I was alone. I would question their truth and keep my conclusions to myself. I did not argue with them about what I thought or felt because I never told them. I lived inside myself seemingly forever and hoped for the day when I could speak my mind.
The earliest and most persistent question that came to my mind while growing up in a strict Baptist household and a very religious family was why do we use God to excuse so many man-made things, so much manmade misery? People in my family, community, and race attribute to God a lot of things, which are ungodly, and then claim that God will straighten them out in the by-and-by. We seem not to want to understand that God did not mess things up in the first place. We have made folklore out of this limited view of God and out of God-dependency as a spiritual necessity when we gave up on others or ourselves. We say that we have done all we can for them and then leave them alone. God will fix it by-and-by. Why must God fix something that God did not initiate and did not cause? What kind of God is this, or more precisely, what kind of faith is this?
I believed that if God was merciful enough to give you a brain, two functioning hands, and two legs where you put one in front of the other, then God has given you the facility to take care of yourself, to be responsible for your actions and for what happens to you. This is as self-evident to me as the ability to taste and to distinguish between a flower and an ear of corn. We use God as an excuse for not taking responsibility for our lives. This is not an anti-God argument. We have drawn the wrong conclusions from religion. Instead of being a source of liberation, our religions have become psychological traps. It is ironic that people have to leave religion as it was