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Jesse Jackson and the Symbolic Politics of Black Christendom

James Melvin Washington
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 480, Religion in America Today (Jul., 1985), pp. 89-105
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1045337
Page Count: 17
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Jesse Jackson and the Symbolic Politics of Black Christendom
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Abstract

This article examines the significance of the Reverend Jesse Jackson's bid for the Democratic party's presidential nomination. Jackson's candidacy represents a new use of political revivalism, an old evangelical political praxis recast in the modalities of African American Christian culture. This praxis is an aspect of American political culture that has often been overlooked because of past misunderstandings of American folk religion in general, and black Christianity in particular, as captives of an otherworldly and privatized spirituality. This article contends that black Christianity has an identifiable and coherent political style with both passive and active moods. The dominant manifestations of these moods are, respectively, political cynicism and political revivalism, which are the consequence of the correct folk perception that it is impossible to reason with the purveyors of the absurdities of racial injustice. A critical assessment of black Christianity's political symbolic capital seems appropriate.

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