Malcolm X and Mormon Studies: Some Reflections on Comparative Religion
I hadn't seen Paul's post on Manning Marable's Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention when I posted my own brief thoughts on the book this evening at the Juvenile Instructor. My reading of the book led me to consider the potential usefulness of comparing early Mormonism with the Nation of Islam. Thinking readers here might be interested, I thought I'd throw up a quick post highlighting it and soliciting feedback (especially from you religious studies folks with training in comparative religion). Feel free to head on over to JI and read the whole post, but here's the relevant excerpt:
Don’t get me wrong—I’m a historian and am adamant that all individuals and communities deserve to be studied and understood as products of specific historical contexts. Mormonism emerged as both a product of and challenge to the emerging evangelical order in 1830 upstate New York. The Nation of Islam appeared almost exactly 100 years later in the heavily-populated urban centers of the Midwest. Each responded to distinct social and cultural environments, targeted their message to radically different groups of people, and emerged from very different Abrahamic religions. I couldn’t help, however, noticing what they had in common [prophetic claims, alternative myths about America's racial order, secretive sexual liaisons among the group's leadership, and an uneasy relationship with the tradition from which they each emerged]. ...
Forgive me for wading into the waters of comparative religion—a subject in which I maintain an interest but possess little to no actual training—but I think an article, or a book, or a course comparing the two movements (especially in their early manifestations) might be both interesting and useful to scholars of each movement. And here’s where I open it up to you, the readers: What does reflecting on the NOI’s relationship to Islam add to our thinking about Mormonism’s relationship to Christianity? Beyond consideration of their respective relationships to the larger movements from which they were birthed, what might we learn from such a comparison? Are there other religious groups that might be worth including in this conversation?