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Breaking the Chains of Chattel Teamwork: The Future of Black Liberation Theology

Barbour, Amy; Wickware, Jr., Marvin E.

"No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard."

—President Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama closed his address with "God bless America," thereby giving divine sanction to the myth of U.S. American exceptionalism, that the people of the United States compose "the one indispensable nation in world affairs." Before you write off this explicit mention of God’s blessing as stock presidential rhetoric, note that Obama offers this affirmation in the context of his citation of the prevalent "cynical" mood among the U.S. American public. He attributes this cynicism to lagging faith in U.S. American economic and political institutions. Obama characterizes the people of the United States as struggling to find meaning in a country that is disappointing their hopes and falling short of their values. These issues of faith and meaning warrant theological reflection. The President seems unable to grasp the religious question hiding behind these issues. President Obama’s characterization of U.S. American history as an extended exercise in teamwork required a blatant whitewashing of history. To offer solace to the wayward people of the United States, Obama recast more than three hundred years of chattel slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow segregation into the mold of chattel teamwork.

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Union Seminary Quarterly Review

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Union Theological Seminary
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September 22, 2015
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