Gods, Gays, and Guns

Religion and the Future of Democracy

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Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
  • St. Louis, MO: 
    Chalice Press
    , August
     2017.
     144 pages.
     $14.99.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780827212855.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Gods, Gays, and Guns: Religion and the Future of Democracy is the 2nd edition of a collection of essays in which Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou explores the many dimensions of his life and history as a “radical preacher.” Rev. Sekou adopts a prophetic critical perspective that highlights what he views as the tragicomic nature of working for justice through love within the context of injustice and oppression. He denounces the suffering caused by the enduring legacy of idolatrous white supremacy, the God of Empire that represents the interests of white cis-gendered men, and the shallow progressivism of neo-liberal movements for social justice. These essays represent Rev. Sekou’s response to what he sees as the failures of dominant forms of American Christianity and ideas of God in so far as they either actively suppress the expansion of genuine democracy or fail to adequately attend to the voices and interests of those who have the most to offer if society is to move toward the realization of true justice. 

Organizationally, the essays are grouped into three main categories: “Gods,” “Gays,” and “Guns,” with an opening prologue entitled “Worshiping Whiteness.” In the opening essay of the prologue, Rev. Sekou rejects the religiosity of right-wing evangelicals, which he believes is rooted in an idolatry of whiteness that results in restricting democracy. In contrast to this false religion, Sekou links genuine religious faith and practice to the expansion of democratic opportunity—a practice that he believes is deeply rooted in African American religiosity. The essays included in the “Gods” section provide insight into how Rev. Sekou positions himself as a public theologian rooted in an often unrecognized and underappreciated tradition of prophetic African American democratic socialism. Sekou describes himself as someone who strives to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. as he engages with the complex political and theological challenges of contemporary life that are exposed especially in the face of catastrophic events like Katrina. 

The second section of essays present Rev. Sekou’s reflections on the problem of homophobia in the Black Church and an essay that sheds light on the connection between the fight for civil rights in the Church and the fight for gay rights. In these essays Rev. Sekou calls for the recognition of a common cause shared by all who suffer from prejudice and bigotry. The third section of essays, though titled “Guns,” is less thematically coherent. The final essay critically examines responses to mass shootings like that which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary. The other two essays are seemingly unrelated to “guns” in particular. One of the essays is a letter Rev. Sekou addressed to God that describes his reactions to witnessing life in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010, and the other reads a bit like a book review in which the author shares his reflections on the contributions made by a number of thinkers to shaping a broad understanding of why and how the crisis of Katrina occurred. 

On the whole, the essays are only loosely bound together, and the collection itself has no formal introduction or conclusion which makes it a challenge to identify a clear common thread other than the author’s voice. His voice is strong, however. In these essays, Rev. Sekou shares what is on his mind and in his heart. These essays are the reflections of an author who writes with passion and mission to challenge injustice. In his writing you can see him wrestling with complex theological and social questions as he crafts his own prophetic voice and strives to stir the spirit of his reader. 

The essays in this collection will most likely  speak to those already deep in the fray of challenging social injustices who might turn to Rev. Sekou for insight into how a new generation of public theologians is thinking about the challenges of our times. For those interested in the academic study of the relationship between religion and politics, these essays could be interesting for students (graduate or advanced undergraduate) to analyze as examples of a contemporary liberationist vision. One concern regarding the use of this text in a classroom setting, however, is its lack of formal citations or a bibliography. The style of the essays is deeply personal and not traditionally academic. Many of the impassioned claims made (like those about the limits of other strands of liberationist thought and the perspectives of conservative evangelicals and progressive liberals) need more support. It is unfortunate that they are not accompanied by relevant footnotes or citations to encourage readers to deepen their understanding. 

About the Reviewer(s): 

Abbylynn Helgevold is Instructor in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions at the Universtiy of Northern Iowa.

Date of Review: 
October 30, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is an emerging leader in the new Civil Rights Movement and an acclaimed activist, theologian, author, documentary filmmaker, and musician. Sekou has studied at the New School, Union Theological Seminary, and Harvard University. He lectures widely, including at Princeton University, Harvard Divinity School, the University of Virginia, University of Paris IV - La Sorbonne, and Vanderbilt University. He is a former Professor of Preaching in the Graduate Theological Urban Studies Program at the Seminary Consortium of Urban Pastoral Education, Chicago. 

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