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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carter's RACE 7: Perpetual Peace for Our Kind of People

As the Enlightened European race moves toward its destiny, its political development is driven by two poles, and advance toward both makes advance toward either possible. The first pole is humanity’s development toward a cosmopolitical universal history. Reason, as the selfsame character of the species in all persons of the species, drives humanity toward this necessary outcome. On the other hand, the distinct nation-states must develop toward democratic polities. Such democratic polities are hindered by the infighting among Europeans.

In both cases, the emergence of an Enlightened race of human beings is the critical task. Yet in both the remote orient and the central occident, the unenlightened alien remains a problem. Carter says,

To reflect on the problem of the alien body, whether without or within, is to attend all along to the perfection of the white, occidental body.


This problem gives Kant the task of articulating a political structure and process by which whiteness can be perfected. It will require the subjugation of the racial alien within and without. Again, quoting Carter,

Race controls Kant’s ostensibly egalitarian politics of global civil society and a domestic civil society.


A political theory emerges. Kant will ground it in his new science of anthropology. It becomes, as Carter shows, the predominant research and teaching project of his entire career as a professor. It links together his “1780s critical phase” and his “1790s postcritical phase.” He seeks the answer to how the purified reason of his critical work might emerge as the perfected humanity of Enlightenment, a destiny borne by whites and the emergence of reason in their transracial humanity.

In an unpublished, and incomplete, essay on Baptist ethics and race relations in the U. S., I undertook to examine baptist historiography and how it affects baptist theologizing, and in particular how it has engaged topics of race. My analysis of one historian led me to compare his methodology for describing baptist identity to Kantian use of polar logic, as in the antinomies. Perhaps most fascinating to me now in reflecting back on that essay is Carter’s emphasis here on how the polar logic becomes a driving force toward progress in history. Unlike Hegelian contradictions, the Kantian antinomies do not struggle until one overcomes and absorbs the other, but they remain in antinomic relationship as an engine of progress. Both law and freedom drive the advance of human rationalization of society. Both remain established in the vision of any end, even though they seem to stand in contradiction.

If baptist identity affirms both the authority of Scripture and liberty of conscience, some would argue that it maintains a sort of Kantian antinomy. I gained from Carter’s argument something that I did not recognize in my original analysis of the historical approach. This antinomy drives progress. It identifies a field in which the internal teleology of baptist existence develops. In part, one might recognize just such a teleology in certain baptist historiography. I do not intend to say that such teleologies are driven by race in the same way that Carter has shown Kant’s to be. On the other hand, it may be that such reasoning, widespread beyond the teaching and writing of any particular historian of baptists in the US South, may require further examination toward identifying the residue of race-driven theories of universal history that may have shaped baptist historiography.

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