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The Last Optimist Left

One of the most remarkable passages in Bill Moyers’ book Genesis is an exchange between two feminists, Karen Armstrong and Carol Gilligan, and a black theologian, Samuel Proctor. The women do their best to convince Proctor that God is murderous, angry, vindictive – and they imply, immature – a God who in a fit of pique brought on the great flood that is described in Genesis. But he keeps asserting the black experience: “Black people identified themselves with Daniel in the lion’s den,” he says, “the Hebrew boys in the furnace, the Israelites coming out of the Flood. They saw the Bible in the context of their own experience, and they kept it alive. … They took … the Hebrew Bible saga, and made it their own story.” Where the women see nothing but a false reassurance in the sign of the rainbow as the flood ends, Proctor insists that “it’s not just a rainbow” but a sign of hope for oppressed people. “Black people could have put God on trial,” he says, “but instead we put white supremacy on trial. … People had gunpowder and ships, and they used their freedom [to go out] and enslave others. But … in time, we can correct these things. I’m living with that bow in the cloud right now. And if I’m the last optimist left, I don’t mind that at all.” –Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Riverhead Books, 1998), 320-321
As quoted in Forum Letter, Volume 47 Number 7 July 2018

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