Time magazine has called him President Barack Obama’s “pastor-in-chief,” but Joshua DuBois is not coming to Chautauqua Institution to preach.
DuBois will deliver a lecture titled “Human Dignity, Rage, and Grace After Charleston” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.
“It would be disproportionate to the magnitude of this tragedy to reach pat conclusions and then move along,” DuBois wrote in an op-ed for The Daily Beast after the June shooting in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. “We need to mourn first. We need to sit with the rage and pain, and mourn. But then we have to come back to this … sickness … [this] pervasive, gnawing illness that affects [the shooter] and others in our country in varying, curious ways.”
DuBois led the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during Obama’s first term. He is now the head of Values Partnerships, a consultancy that works to create faith-based partnerships.
He is also the author of The President’s Devotional: Daily Readings that Inspired President Obama. The book consists of Bible passages that DuBois sent via email every morning to offer solace, perspective and wisdom to the president.
“In many ways we are all engaged in the same daily battle, whether it is the president of the United States or a single mom trying to get by or anyone else in this country,” DuBois said in an interview with frequent chautauqua lecturer Paul Brandeis Raushenbush for Huffington Post. “It’s a battle to find joy every day, to find meaning in our lives, to live lives with real purpose.
That is what this book speaks to. It is about providing those spiritual principles that that cut across those lines of division and allow us to get closer to God.”
In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, however, DuBois has called for more productive conversations about race relations in the United States.
“How many times have we explicitly asked Black folks to address the ‘problems’ of Black culture, from fatherlessness to violent music to shootings in Chicago?” DuBois wrote in his Daily Beast op-ed. “African-Americans engage in these conversations regularly. Now it’s time my White brothers and sisters lead their own conversations as well. We need conversations about why, the moment an African-American man was elected to the White House, some people wanted him to ‘fail’ and others desperately sought to ‘take our country back.’ My brothers and sisters from the majority culture — White Americans — need to have the courage to drive this dialogue, and help us find some answers.”
While these conversations are formulated and held, DuBois wrote that he foresees continuity in the black community’s response to the tragedy.
“In the meantime, Black folks will continue to go to church,” he wrote. “We will worship and restore ourselves and mourn …We will console and pray and hope that this sleeping country up wakes up. That others — self-aware, non-black folks — will see the full horror of Charleston and desire to exorcise the demons of our history and present culture.”