Venus & Serena Vs. Politics & Religion

By Wendell P. Simpson
Updated: June 30, 2008

ORLANDO – Karl Marx said ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses.’

Well, I’m going to take it a step further and say, ‘Religion is the opiate of them asses.’

I refer, in this particular case, to the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Recently when questioned about the significance of the Obama candidacy, these ladies emphatically said they would not vote because their religion strictly forbids any involvement in politics and political activity.

I have to admit up front that I have a huge bias when it comes to the trappings of formalized religion. In my worldview, formalized religion — particularly the Western variety — has little to do with God or spirituality. In fact, my feeling is, it has failed in everything it has proclaimed to be.

It polarizes rather than unites; it eschews reason in favor of dogma and reaction; it demands piety and chastity from its believers while it colludes with power to undermine and repress the aspirations of the people; and it cloaks apathy and inaction under a convenient veneer of faith in arcane mysteries.

Again, that’s just my take on it, and, my nihilistic, communistic aside aside, I concur that neither I nor anyone else has the right to suggest to folk how or what they chose to believe.

That being said, we stand on the brink of two diametrically opposed but relevant historical firsts: the possibility of an African American president, and a social and economic state under which a generation of Americans will not do better than the one preceding it.

Hence, this election becomes one of the most significant in this country’s history. The hopes and dreams of millions ride on its results: the promise of inclusion, of equality, of peace, of livability and of future possibilities for all Americans is at stake.

Now its easy for you, Venus and Serena, insulated by your wealth and an elitist philosophy that positions you and your 43, 998 compadres as the only ones worthy of salvation, to sit on the sideline and comfortably watch the world come apart from the soul out and say ‘We won’t participate.’

But then ask Arthur Ashe about having to pursue his dream under the aegis of Southern segregation before the power of the people, exercised through the political process, broke down the evil, immoral, and artificial contrivances of Jim Crow, and allowed that brother to shine.

You owe everything you have to the political process and the sacrifices of those who came before you — without them, you two would still be in your Compton backyard batting a half ball back and forth across a clothesline, wondering “What if…” — and if your religion is going to nurture your apathy and elitism and advocate that you extract yourself from the very processes that helped to facilitate your success, then it is in my opinion, to paraphrase brother Malcolm X, ‘a criminal religion.’

“Faith without works is dead.” — James 2:20.