Carter focuses on the work of Charles H. Long, a historian of religion in the school of Eliade and Corbin, but with a political bent towards the oppressed rather than directed to the probably racist kind of higher man you find in Eliade (and to a lesser extent Corbin). As in the preceding chapters the purpose of engaging with Long is not so much a commentary on Long’s work, but using the work of that figure as a test-case for some aspect of dealing with the problem that arises in theology concerning race. That is what is it that makes theology white. I’m not very familiar with Long’s work and so my remarks will focus on Carter’s casting of this test-case, rather than assessing his reading of Long as such, but that seems faithful to the methodology of the project anyhow.
Long provides a corrective for Carter to Tillich’s theology, for it challenges the dominance of theology over religion. This challenge is what both appears to attract Carter to Long’s theory and what he wants to ultimately reject. The difference between theology and religion is understood here to be analogous to the difference between language and act, such that theology is the language that expresses the meaning of religion. Where the religion is always more than this expression, being the experience, expression, motivations, intentions, behaviors, styles, and rhythms of a community. Like Eliade, Long values the myth and expression than symbolic expression more than the theology or structure of thought that attempts to organize more clearly that community’s beliefs. Carters problem with this ultimately will be that Long’s theory of religion cannot account for the other, signifying both God and other creatures for Carter, and instead the other is always just a way to gain self-knowledge. In other words, for Carter, Long isn’t Christological (i.e. Kenotic) enough. Read the rest of this entry »