Philosophy in the City: intersectionality of race and religion

Brandon Flanery

bflanery@uccs.edu 

 If there are any two hot topics that are becoming more and more polarizing, they are race and religion, and the UCCS Department of Philosophy decided to tackle them both head-on at this month’s Philosophy in the City. 

     Philosophy in the City is a UCCS-sponsored event that is open to anyone and everyone. It happens every first Friday of the month and was designed to work in tandem with Colorado Springs’ First Friday Art Walk. While it is hosted at UCCS’ downtown campus, anyone can join via YouTube by registering here.  

     When I learned about the event, I knew had to go. First, as the Scribe’s culture editor, I felt obliged. But more than that, I nerd out on philosophy. If I could get paid to do it, I would — but I do not have a trust fund. Instead, I will attend free events on YouTube. 

     But in all honesty, the event was quite interesting and was facilitated very well in the virtual/in-person setting (that is more than I can say about 90 percent of the virtual or hybrid classes I have been attending this semester). 

     The event consisted of four panelists from UCCS and Colorado College (CC): Paul Harvey, professor of history at UCCS; Michael Sawyer, professor of race, ethnicity and migration at CC; the Reverend Stephanie Rose Spaulding, professor of women and ethnic studies at UCCS; and Jeff Skulls, professor of religious studies at UCCS.  

     The moderator, Jenn Cling, assistant professor of philosophy at UCCS, started off the evening with a basic question: What has been the historical relationship between race and religion? 

     In classic, philosophical fashion, the four panelists sat still, with legs crossed and arms relaxed. When they spoke into the mics, their voices were like jazz radio hosts — smooth, calm, and controlled. Other than lifting their mics, they barely moved, commanding attention with their heady knowledge, rather than their voice or demeanor.  

     We were obviously in the presence of people who paid far too much money to think about things us mere mortals have given up on. 

     Throughout the night, Cling took questions from the audience sitting behind a pane of glass and from those watching on YouTube through the live chat feature. 

     The night weaved between Christianity and Islam, race and slavery, justification and vindication. By the end of the night, barely anyone argued, and Christianity was the culprit for all the racial problems across the world. It was obvious that the panelists had either given up on God or given Him the bill for the racial inequities we have bought… that is, all except Spaulding. 

A Black woman praying with her hands on the bible.
Stock photo courtesy of PixaBay.com

     Toward the end, Spaulding refused to believe that faith does not offer solutions — like every other panelist said — but that it has been twisted to serve humanity’s selfishness. 

     In spite of my jest, I would recommend this event to anyone that dares to think about the unthinkable. While the topic of race and religion has been talked about and talked about, so much so that one may think there is nothing left to be said, I learned so much. 

     How the Black church has been not just a religious space, but a space of freedom and social movement. A safe space.  

     How Black faith is communal and justice-oriented in nature and has been this way from the beginning. 

     How white evangelical Christianity is more individualistic in nature and commands people to change their life by their own fortitude and faith.  

     How religion was often connected to viewing someone as human, and to take that away was to de-humanize. 

     How modern readers of the Bible viewed the slavery in its pages through their perspective of slavery and not the slavery of the Bible. 

    You get the point: there were a lot of smart things said by smart people who know how to deconstruct and reconstruct again these age-old questions that the rest of us often do not have time for. 

     If you want to make your brain hurt and you do not need to hustle at the beginning of the month to pay rent, join the next Philosophy in the City. It is every first Friday of each month from 5:30-7 p.m. Next month, they plan to tackle another light topic: hypocrisy, followed by the future of war in November.