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An article donated by Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys:

A word to the wise:

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Actually, two words to the wise:

  • Don’t be too quick to jump on the Band Wagon.

AND

  • What is Christian Localism?

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Charles C. Camosy wrote an article for the Religion News Service website titled: “Five things Kanye knows.”

"Kayne" refers to Kanye Omari West, (1977-) an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer. According to Wikipedia:

"His music has spanned a broad range of styles, incorporating an eclectic range of influences including hip hop, soul, baroque pop, electro, indie rock, synth-pop, industrial, and gospel."

It seems as though Kanye West has turned to traditional Christianity. According to Camosy this was an “improbable and dramatic turn.” I know West is a pop musician, is he a rapper?

I listen to classical music. So, though I have heard his name, I don’t listen to his music or follow his career. I really know nothing about him.

Some folk on Internet chat groups question Kanyes’ motives and think that his religious involvement is all a publicity move for a lagging career.  Time will tell if this is true or if his conversion is sincere.

This is why I warn Mr. Camosy to be careful about jumping on the Kanye Band Wagon. He may -- and I stress the “MAY” -- find out his enthusiasm has been ill placed -- just as many who were quick to jump on President Trumps’ Band Wagon have lived to regret their support for him.

As the articles title states, Camosy makes five points about Kanye’s comments. It is the third point that I think deserves a deeper discussion: 

Point #3 states: “There are deep problems with our disconnected secular (sub)urban lifestyles.”

In this section he states that:

“Kanye went full Christian localism, a movement that works to counteract globalism by working to better our communities.”

(Emphasis in both quotes is mine.)

There is no doubt that the United States faces many problems AND it is important that we all do what we can to better our communities.  BUT to claim the problems stem from secular (sub)urban lifestyles is just plain WRONG. My opinion is that Kayne's belief has actually created many of the problems we face. That is because it helps reinforce the “us” versus “them” dichotomy that has torn -- and continues to tear -- our world apart, by implying that there is something wrong (as in immoral?) with secularism and/or (sub)urban lifestyles.

There is also something wrong about thinking that you can “better” communities by counteracting globalism.

For better and worse, globalism is a fate accompli. It is here to stay. We can make it work for us. Or we can do nothing, and it will work against us by leaving us behind. Globalism has been brought about by consumer demands for -- more variety, greater quantity, and better quality products --- all at CHEAPER prices.

Globalism has led to the development of -- or been enhanced by -- (this is sort of a chicken and egg issue as to what came first) global communication networks (telegraphs, telephones, radio and television and now cell phones and smart phones and the Internet), global transportation systems (you can travel anywhere in the world), and the interconnectedness of supply chains -- where

  • raw materials for a product can only be found in certain places in different countries;
  • parts for a product may be made in several different countries;
  • and the final product is put together somewhere else.

There was a song at the OG Follies of 1936 by the Brian Sisters: " 'How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm' -- after they have seen Paree!"  Globalism is here to stay because consumers want what it has to offer.

There are problems with globalism: manufacturing, low skilled, jobs are being moved overseas to countries without the health and safety regulations and wage controls that protect U.S. workers on the job and the environment where they live. BUT this is a problem because our country has refused to take action to address the problems.  Removing health and safety regulations (on the job and environment) and wage controls as the Trump administration is doing, is not the solution to the problem. American workers won’t settle for less than what they had before. 

This is part of the Yin and Yang reality of life: In everything good there is an element that is not so good. In everything bad there is an element that is good. American folk wisdom has also recognized this ancient Chinese philosophy, though it is worded differently: “Look for the silver lining whenever dark clouds hide the sun” AND “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” 

There are many things that happen to us in life over which we have no control. The one thing we can control is how we choose to deal with whatever life sends our way. We can work to make globalism and the diversity that comes with it work for us or do nothing and let it work against us. The choice is ours to make. Either way, diversity and globalism are here to stay!

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Mr. Camosy states that Kanye “proposes a living arrangement in which the things that really matter are intentionally put at the ideological -- and sometimes literal -- center of our lives.”

Nothing wrong with this.

However! He later states that Kanye believes the best way to do this is:

“To think of communities where the church is at the center of the community, the school, the cafeteria, sustainable gardens, and then the homes.”

This is what is meant by Christian localism. 

Camosy and Kanye  seem to be endorsing the idea of creating segregated communities â€" segregated by religious beliefs. Though (to give them the benefit of the doubt) I suspect they don’t see what they are calling for in that light. I suspect they want everyone to abandon their previous religious beliefs and become a part of their utopian Christian community.

This is the PROBLEM that has torn and continues to tear our world apart and create the problems with those “(sub)urban lifestyles”. The US, and many other countries, is culturallydiverse. We are populated with people who have come here from all over the world, all with their own rich cultural and religious heritage. This great diversity has been, and should be, seen as our nations’ greatest strength. Though there are many I admit that see it as something to be feared and resisted, a danger to all they hold dear.

There is NOT one church that can be placed at the center of community life -- even in America’s small towns -- without offending and driving away all the others that don’t buy into the teachings of that church. For example. I once lived in a small Central Illinois community with a population of about 1,000. Within a 10 mile radius of town there were two different Baptist churches (one independent the other Southern), two Methodist Churches, a Christian Church, and a non-denominational Evangelical Church. The closest Catholic Church was about 20 miles away. None of these churches would ever agree to step aside to let one of the others be the “church at the center of the community, the school, the cafeteria, sustainable gardens and then the homes.”

This is why secularism is so vitally important for solving the problems our nation faces. ONLY through secularism can ALL people be made to feel welcome and an integral part of the community they live in. Secularism concentrates on solving problems, on meeting the needs of the whole community, by leaving religious beliefs, doctrines and dogmas out of the discussion. 

I have been to many committee meetings and city council meetings in rural America where a prayer is offered that always ends with “in Jesus name we pray.” Those five words are very offensive to people who do not pray in Jesus name.

Does this mean that a religious person has to abandon “the things that really matter”? NO it means they have to clarify what really matters, what really makes a community a good place to live and work and play.

I suggest that what really matters are our day to day words and actions:

  • How we treat other people. Especially those who aren’t a part of our church or who look different because of the clothes they wear or their skin color or sexual orientation. Do we force them to listen to our doctrines and dogmas, religious prayers, follow our religious rules, or can we show respect for them and their beliefs by keeping religion out of our community discussions and projects?

  • How we treat other living things (plants, animals and our planet), and

  • How we treat ourselves. 

It seems to me that the troubles we see today in the Middle East, Ukraine, Turkey, and Russia stem from the self-imposed isolation of folk demanding their own ethnic and cultural state/community. Shiite Muslims can’t seem to live alongside Sunni or Sufi Muslims. Turks can’t seem to live alongside Kurds. In Africa ethnic Hutus can’t live alongside Tutsis. In the U.S. many Christians isolate themselves in predominantly Christian small towns partially I think because those (sub)urban areas have such thoroughly mixed populations. Jews all across Europe were forced into Jewish Ghettos because Christians didn’t want to live alongside of them. This self-isolation -- or in some cases isolation imposed by others -- can lead to the fear and hate of the “other” all of those that aren’t like them.

This fear and hate can be stopped by formal Education. (I wrote an essay recently about why we need Religious Education about the basics of ALL the world religions in our Public Schools.) They can be stopped when people from diverse religious and ethnic traditions live alongside of each other, in the same neighborhoods/communities, and have the opportunity to meet and get to know each other without fear of being forced to convert to someone elses' Religion or forced to live by someone elses' religious rules. 

Then they can set aside their differences to work on projects that benefit everyone in their community. I wrote an essay about during 2016: “The Power of WE.” This states that: alone we aren’t much, but when we set aside our differences and join forces, WE can accomplish great things.

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Original posting: 2019-NOV-2
Latist update: 2019-DEC-02
Author: Susan Humphreys
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