Tuesday, August 4, 2015

No struggle without faith

It's been said that Richard Nixon once viewed life through the prism of struggle. Nothing good can come to a man from a life of ease it is believed. What one obtains through dogged patience and persistence, it fulfills the struggle because it provides meaning and definition to it. The goal at the end is what's important and obtaining it defines life itself.

Author and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates puts a twist on this thinking in his latest book Between the World and Me, one in which will not satisfy his readers (although Coates is not interesting satisfying anyone's wishes other than what he sets for himself and it is how it should be with anyone's work, take it or leave it). The book is in the form of an open letter to his son and while Coates has plenty of thoughts to offer, when it comes to what's next, it's a akin to child getting a carton of cigarettes on his birthday along with a card.

If struggle by itself is all Coates can offer his boy, then what's the point? Struggle without even the possibility of fulfillment is simply a sentence: the same thing day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. The Greeks defined by Sisyphus condemned to rolling the same rock up and down a hill for eternity. Prisoners do the same too. Meaning and definition would be robbed from it. Sometimes the journey is best documented by how far you've come or gone, you look back and wonder in amazement. Coates doesn't offer this as even a favorable review said: "Coates hope feels stark and brutal." 

This is largely due to the fact Coates is an atheist which allows him to rob faith from struggle. He believes it can stand on its own, secularly, with secular saints providing inspiration. If the next generation can even remember who such people are, read their words or hear their music, then bully. God however, is everlasting and does not have to worry about the bargain basement bin and erasure of time and memory.  

Without faith there simply is no struggle, because to have such faith is a struggle. Condemn a man to his fate in a society you believe brutally unfair and what have you given him but one-way ticket to blowing his brains out to save on time? What's the point, I ask again? Why waste one's time living unless there's something better to live for? Where would the struggle have been without the faith of the slaves, both Jew and black, without the black Christian church providing the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement? or faith of the Mormons, the Irish Catholic victims of the Famine, the Armenians slaughtered by the Turks, the Christian prisoners in Communist cells? Nowhere.  If Christianity can be criticized for promoting heaven over earth, what does the atheist have to offer? Struggle and then you die? Where does that journey go to? Again, nowhere.

I can hear the retort: Why did did it take so long for justice to be done, 400 years?! Are you asking God or the humans who claimed to worship him but sinned against him by being so cruel to their brothers and sisters? Where was man? This ultimately flawed creature. Yet Coates has faith in man to keep up the struggle alone, like Sisyphus on the mountain.

Coates said something interesting in an interview in New York Magazine. He immediately called for the removal of the Confederate flag after the shootings in the black church in Charleston. He stated he said this because he didn't think it would happen. And yet it happened. In matter of weeks, it happened. Did he think to ponder as to why or just stop at "Shit!"?  Well, such things show us even throughout the "struggle" life and the universe still have a way of surprising us. Dylann Roof could have shot at black people anywhere in Charleston or South Carolina for that matter. He chose the church, the African Methodist Church, for a reason, a specific reason, because he wanted to extinguish it, destroy its struggle. But he couldn't, because of faith, which in this case let to it moving mountains. Who knows what it can do next?  The struggle continues of course, but faith makes it continue.


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