I’m posting a footnote from the book I’m doing on conversion, as I think it (the note) might be of interest for discussion:
One of the more interesting instances of such a progressive narrative is presented by James H. Cone, in Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (Orbis, 1992): “As one seeks to understand Malcolm, it is important to keep in mind that his perspective was undergoing a radical process of change and development during the last year of his life. He gradually discarded his Black Muslim beliefs about race and religion and moved toward a universal perspective on humanity that was centered on his commitment to the black liberation struggle in America” (211). I find Cone’s account particularly interesting because, even as he gives way to a narrative of secularization (moving from religion, i.e. “Black Muslim beliefs,” toward a broadenened political orientation), he elsewhere insists on the importance of religion in any attempt to understand Malcolm X. For instance, he calls attention to that fact that even “sympathetic interpreters often miss the central role of religion Malcolm’s thinking,” and that this is because “religion is commonly separated from struggles for justice” (164). Cone here indicates that such separation is unfortunate, that against such separation we should attend to the link between religion and the political. But if this is the case, then why is he apparently so content to present Malcolm X’s life in terms of an overcoming of religion’s narrowness in favor of the “universal perspective on humanity” that a secular, or at least developmentally secularizing, tendency offers?