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Ivy League Professor's Remarks about Race and God Exemplify Disgraceful Leadership in America

By Michael Terheyden
July 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Anthea Butler's comments about race and God in response to the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial are not a reflection of Catholicism. The Catholic Church is about truth, unity, beauty, and goodness not division and hatred.

KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - The First Lady, Michelle Obama, may finally be proud of her country, but I am not. In some ways, I think the United States has reached a new low. I am referring to the disgraceful leadership we are witnessing in response to the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman. More specifically, I am referring to Anthea Butler, and the bizarre comments she posted on July 14 on Religion Dispatches.

Anthea Butler refers to herself as a "wiser, older professor" in her comments. She earned a doctorate in religion from Vanderbilt University and a masters in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. She is an associate professor in the religion department at the University of Pennsylvania and a regular guest on MSNBC and CNN.

There is no doubt that she has been blessed with an education and a leadership role in our society, but she has used these powerful blessings to incite people rather than enlighten them. I believe her comments exemplify the disgraceful state of leadership in America today in education, media and politics.

Her comments on race and God were in response to the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. She wrote, "God ain't good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain't my god. As a matter of fact, I think he's a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men."

She goes on: "Is God the old white male racist looking down from white heaven, ready to bless me if I just believe the white men . . . ?"  She also says that Christians are "some of the biggest racists," and that the underpinnings of racism in America are based on Christianity.

I strongly disagree with her. Her comments about God are completely ridiculous and sacrilegious. Furthermore, the fight against slavery in America and worldwide was spearheaded by Christians responding to their faith and love of neighbor. And the Catholic Church crossed the boundary of race two-thousand years ago. We only need to look at a list of her saints to know this is true. We can also look at the faces of Catholic priests and religious. They are from all over the world.  

Anthea Butler is supposedly Catholic, but her comments are not compatible with Catholicism. However, they appear quite compatible with something called black liberation theology. Black liberation theology is not a real religion. Some versions combine Christianity and Marxism into a racist social and political ideology. James Cone is one of the most significant leaders of this movement.

Cone acquired a doctorate degree from Northwestern University and was awarded the Charles A. Briggs Chair in systematic theology. In his book, Black Theology and Black Power, Cone wrote, "we can be certain that black patience has run out, and unless white America responds positively to the theory and activity of Black Power, then a bloody, protracted civil war is inevitable."
 
According to an entry in Wikipedia, Cone believes that "if God does not desire justice, then God needs to be done away with. Liberation from a false god who privileges whites, and the realization of an alternative and true God who desires the empowerment of the oppressed . . . is the core of black liberation theology." In another entry he said, "A white man who is in power cannot be a Christian, unless he gives up that power and give it to the black man."

Cone reportedly believes that Jeremiah Wright's church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, is "the best example of a church formally founded on the vision of black liberation theology." This is the same Jeremiah Wright who was Barack Obama's pastor for about 20 years and who said, "not God bless America! God damn America" in response to the terrorist attacks on this country on September 11, 2001.

While I cannot be certain that Anthea Butler's bizarre comments on race and God in response to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial are rooted in black liberation theology, they certainly reflect the same quality of thought that Cone preached. This is not intellectual diversity, it is intellectual rubbish and hatred, a kind of fundamentalism like we find among violent Islamists.

According to Fox News, Josiah Ryan, editor-in-chief of Campus Reform, said, "In tumultuous times students must be able turn to their professors for calm and wisdom. In stoking the flames of hatred, Professor Butler has betrayed her students' trust. [University of Pennsylvania] administrators ought not to allow her back in the classroom."

I agree with Ryan completely. People like Butler lack credibility and are an embarrassment to serious scholars and educators. She does not belong in a classroom or on television. If Ivy League schools and major news outlets like MSNBC and CNN associate themselves with charlatans like her, then they also lose credibility and the public's trust.

Nowhere is the loss of credibility and trust more evident than at the highest levels of government. The Obama administration is possibly the most corrupt and divisive administration in the history of the United States. For instance, as the head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to prosecute members of the New Black Panthers for voting rights violations, yet he now appears to be engaging in a flagrant witch hunt against George Zimmerman.

In an interview on the Sean Hannity radio show, Pat Buchanan said, "What is taking place now, Sean, is not the prosecution of George Zimmerman, that's over. He was found 'not guilty' on all counts. He was found innocent on all counts. What's taking place now is the persecution of George Zimmerman. This man has his life threatened. He is hiding. His family is being threatened. The Justice Department is threatening him with a second trial . . . . This is not what is supposed to happen in America."

As Catholics, we need to earnestly pray for the Zimmerman and Martin families. We need to pray that our leaders will do the right thing and that peace and civility will prevail in our society. But we also need to hold our leaders accountable for their comments and actions. They are not to incite civil unrest or encourage it.

The examples given by many of the leaders in America today are absolutely disgraceful. And one final thing: Anthea Butler's comments are not a reflection of Catholicism. The Catholic Church is about truth, unity, beauty, and goodness not division and hatred. 

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Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.

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