Quitting The Progressive Christian Internet: Weeds Along The Moral High Ground part 2

Towards A Liberationist Theological Account of Difference & Community Online

In the early 1980’s, after a long struggle with the federal government, the city of Louisville, Kentucky agreed to start busing students of primarily black neighborhoods to schools that were primarily white in order to comply with national regulations regarding racial integration. It was in this context that I experienced my early formation as a student.  My favorite subject was Social Studies where the history of the U.S. begins in Europe, with the Spaniards, French, and British racing to find a faster route to India. It was during Social Studies hour in the afternoon, I had the privilege of learning about Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, and George Washington’s military victories against the British redcoats.

In addition to Social Studies lessons, some of the more memorable history lessons during my elementary education came during Library Time. It was there that two or three classes would gather into a large room in the library, and the librarian would show us a video and lead a discussion on that’s day’s topic. I can recall two specific lessons in the particular, that speak to the rather ambivalent nature of my experience. One day we had the opportunity to learn about the origins of Hanukkah (yes, that’s right, at a public school). As a third-grader, this was the very first time I had encountered the topic of Jewish history or the story of the Maccabees. The way the lesson was framed (Hanukkah being compared to Christmas…slightly problematic),

chrismukkah1

 

chrismukkah2

 

 

I was even a little jealous of my Jewish friends who had EIGHT days of “Christmas” presents. No fair!  The comparison of the Jewish holy days of Hanukkah and the Christian celebration of Christmas is problematic for a few reasons, but the two major ones are as follows: First, comparing holidays of two major religions works in favor of secularization (read: late capitalism) in the appropriation of religious symbols for a more unified national hegemony. And secondly, this comparison fails because it inhibits both nonreligious and religious persons from being able to appreciate the uniqueness and particularity of the Jewish and Christian stories.

The other lesson that has always somehow stuck with me was the video on Christopher Columbus informing us of the background for Christopher Columbus Day. It was inexplicable why we (the students) still had to come to school on a federal holiday, but we did learn that Columbus sailed out to find India with the explicitly Christian blessing of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain. The “discovery” by Christopher Columbus plus the scholarship of Amerigo Vespucci were presented to us (the students) as world changing events; however there were no mentioning of Columbus’ letters to the royal family where he shared his most enduring innovation with the world: White Supremacy.

In my first part for this series, I talked about how much of the theological debates online have occurred between essentially three parties: the view from the Top/Down Privileged, the Middle Way (still Top Down) Privileged, and the Bottom Up Marginalized perspective. Part of that discussion highlighted some of the ways that members of the Dominant culture use language to hide their power. As I continue to experiment with a Liberationist Political theology for online behavior, in this post, I plan to look at the way privileged members of our society create communities, and work to sustain their privilege and retain control of THE Narrative. Whenever privileged persons label detractors as “angry,” “agitators,” “ideological (READ: unable to be civil and objective as white people)”, and “alarmists” who write with extremist radical strokes, they are continuing the White Supremacist, Male Supremacist colonial legacy of Christopher Columbus. “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet bank on unhealthy forms of community (both in real life & online) all the while denouncing #EmpireBusiness while profiting from it.

New Communities And Spiritualities

Part of Zach Hoag’s beef with what he called, “The Progressive Christian Internet” was that “And in the attempt to be ideologically Progressive, it often fails to be substantially Christian. [...] Love for God and neighbor are nowhere to be found, overwhelmed by pharisaical posturing.” Further more, Hoag contends that social media such as Twitter and Facebook as well as the Christian Blogosphere had “fostered a disconnect between the Progressive Christian Internetter and rooted, relational church realities, such that the ideology expressed online has become an end in itself rather than a means tethered to the end of ecclesia.”

For Hoag and the “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet, Social-Justice oriented Christians have been found lacking in the area of virtue. In fact, so much so, that Hoag has described his critics as the the modern-day Pharisees who do not show love for God or neighbor. Like many evangelicals and post-evangelicals, “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet portray the Pharisee Jewish party of Jesus’ first century C.E. context as obstacles to overcome.  Pharisees are the cold-hearted legalistic enemies against Jesus’ “grace-filled”civilized ways. This popular negative depiction of Pharisees has a long history of anti-Judaism, and fails to recognize that Jesus the Messiah and the apostle  Paul were having self-critical intragroup religious conversations. The injunction of “Pharisee” as a derogatory label against one’s “enemies” not only fails to show love for YHWH or our Jewish  neighbors, but it also is symptomatic of “Quitters” of the PCI and their inability to appreciate difference.

Also according to Hoag, the Progressive Christian Internetter violates White PostEvangelical (ever-changing) rules about civility, and being “grace-filled”, and more importantly: RELATIONAL! Angry Twittervists, YALL, they just ain’t RELATIONal enough! Co-Opting on the rise of postmodern neo-liberal discourse, Missional Christians use “RELATIONAL” as a catch-all phrase to shame people who have honest disagreements with their theologies. The use of “RELATIONAL” as a weapon void of any affirmation of difference means that it (relational theology, ecclessiology, etc) is just another tool for White Hegemony.

WHO WANTS TO BE RELATIONAL? ANYONE? ANYONE?

WHO WANTS TO BE RELATIONAL? ANYONE? ANYONE?

One example of “Relational” as Weaponized Discourse is the story I referred to in part one of this series. I had two friends write an email to Missio Alliance, and the response by Missio Alliance leaders included framing the discussion as my friends being the “angry rabble rousers.” The racist and sexist version of AnaBaptist Christianity that the PostChristendom conference was advertising was said to be only an “accidental” outcome. Predictably, Missio Alliance’s response to my friends called for a more “constructive and relational conversation” on these “issues.” While claiming to be advancing peace between brothers (Romans 12:8), there was a different story being told behind the scenes, as I demonstrated in part 1, that of referring to my friends’ actions as vengeful, violent, and lacking humility. I hope you (the audience) had a chance to reflect on what it means to call an e-mail campaign “violence,” because this can only make sense within the logic of Christopher Columbus-bred White Supremacy/Male Supremacy.

One of my friends was asked to provide consultation in regards to making the Missio Alliance more diverse and more reflective of the AnaBaptist movement worldwide. The original letter that was filled with concern for MA’s conference that was held last week, pointed to five suggestions by my friend:

“a) The hegemony of the all-white male organizing committee members take a step back so that minority members could be a part of the planning process, so that a committee more representational of the diversity in Anabaptism would be reflected

b) That the location of the actual conference be somewhere outside of the suburbs and therefore more accessible to persons of color as well as whites. Since from the get-go, the idea was to host the conference in Pennsylvania, there are a myriad of choices in this regard. c) That its presenters specifically tackle issues that disproportionately affect non-whites, such as shooting, mass incarceration, poverty, etc.–all important issues of peacemaking, and since these issues will not be addressed until the dominant culture has skin in the game they must be taken seriously by the dominant white culture. d) That the demographics of those presenting as Keynote Speakers truly represent the vast diversity found in the larger Anabaptist movement in North America e) That these diverse presenters not be tokenized, but genuinely appreciated as expert speakers on the issues presented at the conference”

The original intent of the letter’s authors was to work to ensure that “the Anabaptist movement in North America is not dominated by white male hegemony and homogeneity.” What were the “acts of violence” advocated by the authors? Their desire: “we are encouraging all of those interested to respond to this email (and to disseminate it to friends and allies)” in order to place institutional pressure on Missio Alliance since it was claiming to speak for AnaBaptists in North America. These simple suggestions would be reasonable considering the fact that denominations such as Mennonite Church, USA’s Central District is committed to racial justice and celebrating cultural difference with events such as Black Mennonite Women Rock! and the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium next month. Progressive Christian Internet “Quitters” And Forced Teaming When I look back on my socialization during Social Studies hour or Library Time, I think back to all the times I could hear, “Christopher Columbus did it for us. We did it! Yeah US!” (my apologies to the First Nations people and Leif Erickson) I remember all those times I was never allowed to ask, who is “we”, and why should I trust this “us”? I think back to learning about the Declaration Of Independence where the Founders wrote, “WE” hold these truths to be self-evident that ALL MEN are created equal. Who was this “we” and why should I trust “us”? The “WE” was and still is White men who own property, Christopher Columbus writ large. Some of the critical feedback I received from my first post in this series was that it was very America-centric in orientation. Having been told by a famous British theologian that all discussions pertaining to race have America at the center, I am familiar with this line of argument. This assumes that racism is not a problem in Western Europe. On the contrary, White Supremacy & Anti-Blackness is a global phenomenom and will always rely on a narrative of White Saviorship. It seems like Social Studies hour just isn’t for elementary students anymore:

Because my love for Social Studies grew into a love for Political Science, I became familiar with the term “hegemony.” Oppressive Institutions are fueled by oppressive mythologies plus practices. Part of what helped me as a kid to break out of accepting hegemonic forms of storytelling is to read the stories of the marginalized, the histories of First Nations peoples, biographies of renowned Black persons, and women. I had up until recently articulating the hegemonic mindset of the (actual) Progressive Christian Internet until I came across a post by my friend Sarah Moon: No, We’re Not On The Same Side, in which she talked about the notion of forced teaming. Forced Teaming is like political hegemony, but take place on primarily an interpersonal personal level. According to Moon, “Not everyone who uses forced teaming is intentionally trying to manipulate you, but that does not mean it is not a manipulative tactic that we should be careful to avoid using and be aware of when it is used on us.” In many ways, Political Hegemony and Forced Teaming intersect.

I gave the example of The Declaration of Independence earlier “We” hold these truths (whose truth? where was it presented?). The questioning of the “We,” “this universal US” is always the most dangerous questions. If you ask these hard questions, not only will you be labelled “rude,” but unloving, judgmental, angry, hypercritical, oversensitive. Whether it is Michelle Goldberg bemoaning the dark toxic twitter wars because her sense of sisterhood has been disrupted by those uppity Women of Color, or white male Christian bloggers having the sads because not all Christian feminists think alike, the forced teaming rhetoric of “We The Sisterhood of Feminists” or “We The Formerly Conservative Evangelicals Now Progressive Christians” facilitate the Columbusing of online discourse. OH MY GAWDZ, LOOK A BLACK TWITTER!

The injunction of RELATIONAL as an adjective to notions of justice and reconciliation is one of the ways that “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet manipulate audiences and critics in favor of forced teaming online. From a Liberationist perspective, a Bottom-Up approach to online communities would first of all, be forth right about as well as affirming of the variations of human experiences rather than presuming THE ONE GENERAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE. This would also mean a commitment to honesty, a truthfulness that is not sugarcoated in the name of preserving personal brands. Indeed, such a view requires a taking of risks on the part of people of privilege. In order for more just relationships to take place both in the virtual world and real world, privileged persons must be informed of what are the barriers to them being considered trustworthy accomplices in the struggle for justice.

In the words of Austin Channing, “Diversity without justice is assimilation.”

In my third and final offering in this series, I will take a look at the Progressive Christian Internet and its approaches to Leadership.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter

Martin Luther King Jr. on divine goodness & human responsibility

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as relational theologian

Throughout many of his sermons Dr. Martin Luther King expounds on a variety of issues related to racial equality and social justice. He is explicit in his condemnation of social inequality and racial injustices that were happening during his lifetime . More specifically, he condemns these as not in line with either biblical teachings or true Christian values. King argues that only through truly representing the Christian faith can we finally go about the work of social justice to bring God’s kingdom on Earth. For him Christianity and the example of Christ can serve as a beacon of hope for all oppressed groups but more specifically for the experiences of racial discrimination by African Americans in the United States. Thus King’s notion of Christian hope in midst of evils that plague society comes from the way understand the connection between love and justice.

Specifically King wants to be clear in his ability identity the pain and suffering of the African American condition in 1960’s America. He writes: “Is there any one of us who has not faced the agony of blasted hopes and shattered dreams?” (Strength to Love, 87). The relevance of the hostile environment that many African Americans lived in cannot be understated. Try and try as they might, the tension between a world that is aspired to and reality continued to persist. Hope is thus found in God’s activity in the world that we live in. For King, God is not simply some primordial being who places the world into action. God is an active part of our daily lives. Evil does not exist in this world as attributed to God’s beingness. Rather evil results as of the action of human beings, of whom God has given free will to. Accordingly we are all made in the image of God and thus are actions are a reflection of the power that God has given to us. Thus even in the worst aspect of humanity King is still able to see the work God’s image of goodness. This sets out the divine imperative to both love and to forgive. We choose to love because we see the love God in everyone and we choose to forgive because not only did Christ first forgiven us but we recognize that Christ in everyone. I would take this sentiment further and extend it to the field of ethics. King’s notion of God and his ability to understand God in the world also sets out an ethical perspective.

Much of the problems that King addressed in the 1960’s are still relevant in our society today. Institutional racism, discrimination, socio-economic injustices, and a vast array of other issues can be addressed by applying King’s notion of God’s work in the universe to our ethical perspective. If God is both reflected in our humanness as well as gives us the power to create social change then these two concepts are not separate. Thus for Christian practitioners the very foundation of the Christian faith is based on seeing the image of God in everyone. Furthermore, through seeing this image of God in everyone requires and ethical responsibility to those people. That responsibility is act as God’s servants and image on Earth through showing love and being advocates of justice. Again love and justice are not two separate concepts. They are deeply connected. For, example one can show love and justice about the tragic events that have happened in Ferguson. There have been various commentators and analyst who question the need to protest the events of Ferguson. Often the expression is that true Christians show the love of Christ and are able to forgive the officer for his action. While this may well be true love must also include just in this context. We can recognize that God’s image in everyone but we must go beyond that moment to also help other recognize God’s image in everyone else. To truly do this we must be advocates for social and systemic changes that do not seek to recognize this image in everyone. Thus by participating in protest, advocating changes, and educating others about a social order that does not recognizes God’s image in everyone we become advocates of both Christian principles of love and justice simultaneously.

 “The Christian faith makes it possible for us nobly to accept that which cannot be changed, to meet disappointments and sorrow with an inner poise, and to absorb the most intense pain without abandoning our sense of hope.” (Strength to Love, 97)

G.R.R.

Godaime Raikage Richard. Sociology of Religion. Japanime. Sports. Liberation. Brother of h00die_R.

More Posts

October Series: Demons & Spiritual Warfare

Fall is here and October is starting in a week! The season of pumpkin-flavors, changing leaves and Halloween is here to stay for a while. With the season of witches and goblins stead approaching, I find no time better than now to dive deep into a topic that has always been of interest to me and that I’ve wanted to explore here at PJ! And that’s.. demons/spiritual warfare..

Having been raised in the pentecostal tradition (and still very much a part of it) ,  demonic strongholds and spiritual was always been stressed in the life of a Christian. I would like to take the next 4 weeks or so to explore different aspects. I will do so using the various forms of spiritual captivity we see represented in pop culture- film, shows, comics, etc. It will also include an examination of the “pop-culture” demonology of our time and comparing how that really holds against what is taught in Scipture and the experienes of the oppressed/margins. It will be a fun and informative series for sure! Feel free to give your input and suggestions on the matter!

Harry

Like a Lotus: Born into the murky, muddy waters I was, l ived, I breathed In awe of starry veil above me and the verdant radiance around me I gazed, I glowed, I gasped Striken with gale winds I braced, I fell, I felt Like a dove He descendeth He is, He lives, He breathes Like a lotus summoned by the sun’s rays I opened, I blossomed, I live

More Posts - Website

Clement of Alexandria on women, once more

“From these considerations, the unity of faith is clear, and it is shown who is the perfect man [Christ]; so that though some are reluctant, and offer as much resistance as they can, though menaced with punishments at the hand of husband or master [Clement here is referring back to his discussion of wicked husbands.masters], both the domestic and the wife will philosophize.”

What is the nature of this philosophizing one may ask? Clement goes to discuss the Sermon on the Mount, the Wisdom Literature, and that anyone can philosophize regardless of age (taking his point from Greek philosopher Epicurus). I mean given Clement’s inclusion of prophets such as Huldah, I think that complementarians have watered down his legacy. I believe I said this a little over four years ago too: Clement of Alexandria on Women, a few more thoughts.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter

MLK Jr., the Two Kingdoms and the Politics of Love

“In these days of uncertainty, the evils of war and of economic and racial injustice threaten the very survival of the human race. Indeed we live in a day of grave crisis.” (p.Xiii, Strength To Love) These are the words that begin Martin Luther King’s work Strength To Love. Although these words were published in 1963 it is certainly not a stretch to note their relevance to the state of current socio-political issues in the United States. Whether it is President Barack Obama’s recent declaration to send troops back to Iraq, the continued fight for socio-economic equality throughout the states, or the continued injustices that take place in cities like Ferguson throughout the country, we do indeed live in turbulent times. Furthermore at stake here is the survival of the human fabric. How can the Christian community address these dire circumstances? What response can theology offer up to these concerns? Although there is no comprehensive answer to this question Dr. Martin Luther King can offer some insight on the ways theology can address current crisis such as the racial injustices that happen far too often in our world today. Ultimately the solution lies in showing the love of Christ to all of the communities to which we belong. I believe to create a theopolitics of love one must understand the true nature of their citizenship in the world, incorporate the capacity for altruism, and become aware of humanities shortcomings.

As a member of the Christian community it can become difficult to navigate the world of both the sacred and the secular. Christians belong to both of these worlds. King notes: “Every true Christian is a citizen of two worlds, the world of time and the world of eternity. We are, paradoxically, in the world and yet not of the world” (p.12). Thus we are citizens of both the temporal world that we live in on Earth as well as our heavenly citizenship to live eternity with God. This is complicated because we have citizenships in both of these worlds at the same time. We are thus not allowed neglected the concerns of one in favor of the other and vice versa. This can be interpreted that because we have dual citizenship, we are also have dual responsibilities that are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, our responsibility on the temporal world is to bring about the peace that we seek from our eternal union with God. This task can only be fulfilled through the fight for justice for all of God’s creation.

Beyond realizing the nature of Christian dual citizenship it is equally important understand what it means to show neighborly love. Reflecting on the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 25:10-37) is helpful here. Before examining this parable it is important to understand the context of this parable. A law expert has asked Jesus’ advice on how to enter heaven. In other words it is a question regarding how to obtain dual citizenship. They eventually reach the conclusion that it is through loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. However, the discussion does not end there. The law expert proceeds to ask Jesus who is one’s neighbor. This leads to Jesus’ reply using the famous parable in which the Good Samaritan acts the most neighborly. Both a priest and a Levite pass over a man who has recently been robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is only the Samaritan who has the courage to help him and to truly act like a neighbor. On the surface it seems as if the other two were merely acting out of their own selfish interest without concern for the life staring them directly in the face.

It is entirely possible that they may have had great reasons for not stopping. However, what makes the Samaritan neighbor is his ability to exercise his capacity for altruism. King states “true altruism is the capacity to sympathize. It is the personal concern that demands the giving of one’s soul (p.27)” This form of altruism involves feeling for the person in need, including their pain, agony, and burdens. It is the personal concern that allows us to recognize the humanity that we all share. All too often we focus on only those issues that concern a particular group that we associate with. It is hard for us to be concerned for issues outside our context. Only through recognizing the humanness of everyone are we able to truly exercise our capacity for altruism. The Samaritan was able to exercise his altruistic capacity because he saw the man on the road first and foremost as human. He did not see his race, ethnicity, gender or other socially constructed categories. He was able to identify the shared humanness that both of them possessed. Our capacity to be altruistic is the motivating force behind our ability to show neighborly love. This in turn allows understanding that connection between our responsibility as citizen of the eternal God as well as our responsibility to the temporal world.

I can think of no better example than the call to fight for racial justice in America today. While the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford III have garnered recent media attention they are far from the only victims of institutional racism in the United States. Part of truly realizing dual citizenship is the very real practice of social justice from American Christians. Living out a social justice ethos can take a variety of forms. Whether it is the individual Christian or the entire church community advocating social justice is important. From supporting protest rallies, to playing an active role in helping to change institutional policies that create a system predicated racial inequality Christian communities must take an active role in realizing the responsibility to the temporal world as part of a theopolitics of love.

“Never must the church tire of reminding ‘humanity’ that they have a moral responsibility to be intelligent” (p 39)

Related article from the archives: How Dietrich Bonhoeffer Redefined the Two Kingdom’s theory

G.R.R.

Godaime Raikage Richard. Sociology of Religion. Japanime. Sports. Liberation. Brother of h00die_R.

More Posts

Videogames as Story-telling: Protagonist Love Interests & Race

Well, last time we saw how racist myths can be kept afloat in videogames, even through anthropomorphic means. This post will be different , but yet the same, in that the central issue uniting all these problematics in these virtual narratives is one that sets that which is white as “default” and admirable.

There are myriad videogames one could choose to illustrate any of this. However, I’m going to stick with my experience and what I know.  As with the last post, I mentioned playing a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog games, in this post, I’ll feature a game whose narrative had a great impact on me and that I greatly enjoyed – Custom Robo!

I’ve always been into the battling robots  concept for as long as I can remember. Whether it was Gundam, Power Ranger’s MegaZords ( they looked like robots) , Medabots (which more people need to know about!), I seemed to have always been enamored with the concept of commanding/controlling a mecha-robo to engage in futuristic combat. Perhaps I’ll save what I think the significance of the mecha-robo combat is for another post…

Continuing with my interest in robot-combat fiction/games, I first played Custom Robo around Middle-School and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the futuristic aesthetic in the graphics and the music and character designs, etc. The story ( which, again I may cover in another post because it has significance) was captivating and I still remember it all so vividly. But what I also remember vividly, was the main character , called ‘Hero’ by default, looking like this:

He’s supposed to be the archetype of the honest-eyed, bon-homme (good-natured boy) – and he also happens to be a jolly white boy. And so being the honest, impressionable, and oft-naive bonhomme your main character is made to be, you naturally will need aside-kick, who may need to be a bit more worldy to round him out. Enter, Harry:

Yup. This is Harry (*sigh*..) Now we can go and deliberate all day as to what his race/ethnicity actually is because of his blond hair, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know the motif of blackness being a side-kick to whiteness- Custom Robo isn’t the only place we see it.

Now, in Custom Robo, he serves as more of a guide/mentor to the hero joining the local Custom Robo mercenary squad. He’s a charismatic, entertaining character to interact with,although he is portrayed as a wily, sloppy, lazy, womanizing guy. You know, like many black man side-kicks we see….

His character actually doesn’t bother me as much as another one… or rather what seems to be the game’s disposition towards her.. Harry’s sister, Mira

She’s the head commander of the Police Squad in this game and she’s a black female. And much like her bro, Harry, she’s got a sweet funky hair color! Anyways, in some ways her character makes me happy- it’s good to see a strong , black female who’s actually reverred and respected in the story. What I don’t like, however, is the message her character sends about black females being perceived as beautiful and objects of male affection- esp. when they have natural hair styles.

Throughout the game, these are the women that the womanizing Harry and all the other gentlemen of the game are gawking over are the white, flowy-haired women, wearing more effeminate clothing. It’s almost as if to say that black women , with their natural hair texture, cannot possibly be seen as effeminate and desirable to men. I find it interesting that virtually every other female in this game wins the affection of a guy except Mira. And before someone would like to wrestle me concerning the colonialistic gaze on black natural hair and beauty, perhaps I should remind you (or bring to your attention) Meteorologist Rhonda Lee :

 

If you’d like to check out some of the game’s lunacy for yourself, with good commentary, I recommend you follow the youtube user who actually inspired me to do this post, Black Preon:

Until next time!

Harry

Like a Lotus: Born into the murky, muddy waters I was, l ived, I breathed In awe of starry veil above me and the verdant radiance around me I gazed, I glowed, I gasped Striken with gale winds I braced, I fell, I felt Like a dove He descendeth He is, He lives, He breathes Like a lotus summoned by the sun’s rays I opened, I blossomed, I live

More Posts - Website

From Plessy v. Ferguson to #Ferguson, Missouri

Dispelling the myth of equality in the legal system

This is a re-post from the Uprooting Criminology blog.

Two weeks ago I attended a rally in Dallas, Texas to protest police brutality during the death of Michael Brown. There were many impassioned speeches and heart felt rallying cries. One of those chants “No Justice, No Peace; No Racist Police,” caused me to pause and reflect on the statement. I simply could not bring myself to repeat the phrase. Perhaps it was because addressing the individual racist police officer does not address the real issue.

Incidents such as Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner in New York are symptomatic of the larger issue of institutional racism that permeates the legal system in the United States. The myth of equal treatment in the legal system has endured for centuries. Whether it is through the Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896 until the shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson Missouri in 2014, rhetoric continues to proclaim fairness and equality in the legal system, when all of the evidence speaks to the contrary.

In 1896 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the doctrine of “separate but equal.” It effectively ensured legalized segregation. Under this doctrine, the government was allowed to require that services, facilities, public accommodations, housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation be separate provided that the quality of each group’s public facilities was equal. This ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education (1956).

The court ruled in this case that segregation was inherently unfair and that policies that separate race denote inferiority among those races. Problems of inequality persist in the criminal justice system today to an even greater extent than what was outlined by the doctrine of “Separate but Equal.” Through various ways minorities are treated separately and unequally. The dilemma arises because many fail to acknowledge this separate treatment and even worse the disproportionate effects on minority communities. So the first step is to finally acknowledge some of the factors that have led to the unequal treatment of minorities in the United States.

Institutional inequality is in part due to the make-up of the law makers. Law makers are disproportionately white (over 85%), male (over 80%), and are usually more than 20 years older than the average American. More important than demographic information however, is the way crime is constructed in the legal system. This construction of crime has had a direct effect on urban cities like Ferguson, MO; which has a populous dominated by people of color.

Crime is not labeled based on the degree of harm it causes but rather the illusion that street crime is the most dangerous form of crime. This emphasis causes a disproportionate focus on crime based on urban areas, particularly ones with minorities as the overwhelming demographic. If police are heavily focused on street crime and disproportionately located in urban areas, it is inevitable that there will be disparities in stop and arrest rates between whites and people of color. It is also certain that force will be more likely to be used against people of color than against whites.

This is verified by statistics that show blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to report run-ins or harassment by officers. They are 3-4 more likely to be arrested and have force (including lethal force) used against them (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2007). The shooting death of Mike Brown fits well into these statistics.

So beyond dispelling the myth of inequality in the legal system what else can be done to address the unequal treatment of minorities? Much research has been conducted to find empirical data to quantify to some extent the effects of institutional racism in our legal system. The Baldus Study and research from the Kirwan Institute on implicit bias to name a few. However, further research combined with legislative change offers a more effective solution. In any case, John Powell in a recent interview said it best, “We still have not come to full recognition of blacks and other people as full citizens, as full people. And one way we can demonstrate that is that when we see another human being, our brain is actually wired so that part of the brain lights up, just from recognition of another human being.” When our policy making finally reflects this sentiment we will have a more equitable legal system.

G.R.R.

Godaime Raikage Richard. Sociology of Religion. Japanime. Sports. Liberation. Brother of h00die_R.

More Posts

Quitting the Progressive Christian Internet: Weeds Along The Moral High Ground part 1

Further Explorations Into A Liberationist Theological Approach For Online Engagement

When I made the fateful decision to start blogging I was nervous at first. What were the chances others would be reading my work? Why was I even going to try? It was 9 years ago that I would write Facebook notes and post on Xanga and MySpace as well. Remember those? I don’t want to!

The vast majority of Christian blogs I read were overwhelmingly either Calvinist or biblical studies. The center of these conversations focused on the dominant culture, the prominent megachurches (Yes Mark Driscoll, but also Kenneth Copeland). If the Christian blogosphere was a cliquish high school prom, conservative Republican evangelicals would be considered the life of the party. In 2007, I decided that in addition to working two part-time jobs during seminary, making the Dean’s list as a full-time student, and being active in several campus organizations, blogging would be my outlet. I figured, what was there to lose? I had just began thinking about what I wanted to cover for my ThM thesis — early church history and black liberation theologies — so why not blog about these topics? My aim became to network with other writers and scholars who loved liberation theologies and/or early Christianity prior to the 4th century. Since I intended to appeal to a broader audience, I also decided that I could occasionally discuss nerdy pop culture items as well. My audience, as I had intended, would be both”the Church” and “the World.”

If it were not for this blog, Twitter, or Facebook, I would not have met friends like Drew Hart, Austin Channing, Christena Cleveland, Emily Rice, and who could ever forget my homey Joel Watts, (one of my first commenters on my blog, and we still talk to each other on the phone at least once a week!). It was always sort of my dream to at least  take part in an online conversation that focused on articulating Black Liberation and Womanist Theologies, and as the years have gone by, I am definitely seeing more and more of this take place. Real dialogue can be intentional in origin, but can have unintended consequences. Perhaps there is no better example such as this than when it comes to talking about notions of civility and kindness online as I did last week.

Explaining the liberationist approach to theology and ethics in general is difficult, given the hostile environment that it is placed within (Read: racially segregated, class-stratified, kyriarchal economy, church and academy). The logic of Liberation Theology is one of viewing the world from the bottom up. It is this posture that remains the primary source for the refusal to view things from “the middle way” or “the top-down approach.” In fact, from a Liberationist perspective, given the way ideas and practices happen, “the middle way,” by default is still a Top-Down vision of the world. The differences between the Top-Down/privileged, the Middle Way/Privileged, and the Bottom-Up/marginated views of society are very real. However, there remain many persons who ignore this reality. Liberation theologians seek to emancipate the oppressed and the oppressors who are located in BOTH “the Church” and “the World” for the sake of reconciliation and love. The dominant culture resists and suppresses the voices of the marginalized because it cannot see reconciliation  in anything but its own terms: hegemony, assimilation; some call it “diversity,” others name it “THE CHURCH.”

New Vocabularies And Practices

On New Year’s Eve last year, Zach Hoag wrote about his concern for what he regularly calls now, “The Progressive Christian Internet.” I, too, share concerns with all of the Christian Internets, but since many lump me in as Progressive, I guess the Progressive Internet is my home whether I want it or not. Hoag describes one part of the PCI as:

The Progressive Christian Internet is perpetually collapsing on itself in a series of its own mini-schisms, where the other is not subversive/anarchist/feminist/womanist/affirming/allied/inclusive/academic
/philosophical/whatever enough. And these judgments of inadequacy are typically made solely on the basis of 140 character “conversations” which often begin with the other’s accidental or mistaken use of certain words or phrases, and then spiral into raging fits and subtweet rants and block wars from there.

It’s rather unfortunate that these Social Justice Warriors use of Twitter is just so toxic and damaging to Hoag’s ecclesiology. If only they could be more relational and stop the subtweeting, and making secret facebook groups, then everything would be a bunch of roses! I know I joked earlier that the Christian blogosphere was like a high school prom, and I wish I were just kidding about the PCI but these things happen.  Anyhow, when a person creates a neologism (like a made up word), there has to be some concrete examples to go along with it. I learned that in my education from a really great Black theology professor, and for that I am grateful. So again, a new word/concept that has been defined by a writer must have a visible example, otherwise that writer is throwing flatulence to the wind.

In the days since Quitters of the Progressive Christian Internet have left behind the subtweeting and vaguebooking and all that jazz, Hoag has nevertheless returned to comment on the Progressive Christian Internet:

Subtweets are such a strange creature, but as someone once said, they always hit their intended target. A few of my friends had a few days prior writtten a letter and a few emails to an organization that Hoag works for, asking questions about the lack of racial and gender diversity for their forthcoming event.

SURPRISE IT WAS MISSIO ALLIANCE!

SURPRISE IT WAS MISSIO ALLIANCE!

There you have it. The Progressive Christian Internet are a group of “Survivor-esque” alliances making anti-sexist and anti-racist criticisms of gentrified missional Christian organizations. Not a coincidence to see that the Missio Alliance’s content/blog curator would harbor resentment — and a dismissive attitude — toward an anti-racist, anti-sexist letter writing campaign geared towards the organization. Missio, by partnering with think tanks that teach that People of Color suffer from pathologies and that the colonial church that endorsed the enslavement of Black people was good for the marginalized, has likewise shown its true colors and “commitment” to reconciliation.

I also think that part of the problem with Christian Conferences & that industry is that persons are far more concerned about platforms, and the money they have invested in them, than their investment in the lives of people. This is a problem at the congregational and denominational level. Rather than discussing what we have put in financially or how many minutes this or that speaker deserves for “leading” the movement, our questions should be, what does the Kingdom of God look like? Are we really pushing towards the “One Church, Many Tribes” model described in Revelation? The stances I see in churches and online are exactly the ones that Drew Hart criticized in his post on White Privilege last week as well as my friend Amaryah Shaye in her post “White Privilege as Inheritance.” I find the theme of even “The Once And Future Mission” (references to King Arthur, Merlin, and even C.S. Lewis) as slightly problematic because from the get-go, the idea of a “post-Christendom to begin with, as I continue to argue, is based off a narrative centered on whiteness, to exclusion of Christians who are POC who suffered under the cruelty of what emergents call “Christendom.” It wasn’t “Christ”-endom to begin with, perhaps SatanDom, in the eyes of persons like Frederick Douglass and others.

If I may quote Christian anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells, who today be cast as an angry Social Justice Warrior,

“Why is mob murder committed by a Christian nation? What is the cause of this awful slaughter? The question is answered almost daily, always the same shameless falsehood, that Negroes are lynched to protect womanhood.”

If the very notion that America is a Christian nation is a falsehood, then so must the concept of Post-Christendom when this country is gazed upon from the Bottom-Up. When my friends critiqued Missio Alliance for their all-white-male-lineup, it was one of Missio Alliance’s employees who labelled them with the dubious distinction of “Progressive Christian Internet.” My friends were called angry, impatient, prideful antagonists, violent and retaliatory. The act of writing a letter/email was seen as an act of violence. Think on that for a second. Challenges to the Brogressive status quo, the nonviolent writing of letters, is framed as an act of coercion; not only is this problematic, but it is indicative of the Top-Down approach of the Imperialist world order. It is clear American Christianity has a racism and sexism problem. Neo-Anabaptists, Missio Alliance, emergent churches are no exception to the rule.

In the second part of this essay, I shall take a critical look at the Incarnational ecclesia that Quitters Members of the [actual] “Progressive Christian Internet” have formed.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter

Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, Lyotard and the power of discourse

This week for those follow the sports world there has been much ado about the video that has recently surfaced about Ray Rice concerning his assault cause on his then fiancé ( current spouse) Janay Palmer. While the details of the video are indeed graphic one does not need to see it to imagine what happened to Janay Palmer in the video. However, judging from its constant replay from various media outlets it would seem that the video completely changed the situation. Whether it is players who have now openly condemned Ray Rice and his actions or NFL who has suspended Ray Rice indefinitely for his actions it would appear that video evidence has changed everything. Examining the way video evidence has effect public perception of both Ray Rice and his actions reminds me of the Jean-Francois Lyotard’s writing on figurative discourse.

Lytorad in his early writing states “What is important in a text is not what it means but what it does and incites to do.” (Lyotard 1984b: pp. 9-10). For Lytorard what a text does is to transmit a message that has a certain effect on the recipients. Furthermore, a text incites transforms energy into other texts such as paintings, photographs, film sequences, political action, decisions, erotic inspiration, and even acts of insubordination. In this way text can broadly be conceived as particular story that is being told through a narrative in discourse. Thus according to Lyotard the video evidence of Ray Rice’s assault also serves as a form of text. When examining this text though we can see what it has done and what it has incited us to do. For starters this text has portrayed a different picture about domestic violence. As many people from various media outlets have already noted domestic violence is not pretty, it presents the very worst in humanity. Video imagery of this has caused many people to no longer leave the portrait of domestic violence to the imagination. This in turn has evoked a very visceral reaction from many people. Previously, those who were calling for Roger Goodell to lose his job over his handling of this incident were minimal at best. Currently, these voices have grown so loud that Goodell has hired and independent firm to investigate the way the NFL has handled this issue. Furthermore, Goodell in recent weeks has openly admitted his egregious mistake with his original two game suspension of Rice and has also adapted new policies and procedures to address domestic violence in the NFL. Not only has the video incited the NFL and the Ravens into action it has also affected other teams as well. Where previously the Carolina Panthers had not given a second thought to playing Pro Bowl linebacker Greg Hardy (convicted of beating and threatening to kill his girlfriend), deactivated him for their week two matchup. I think Lyotard has rightly stated the important of the form of a text within a given context. This evident through looking at narrative stories through the various forms of texts and the reactions that they have elicited.

He elaborates on his notion of text in his work Discours, figure. Lyotard in this work notes that the nature of discourse has primarily been shaped by written text and the language used within a given text. However, he believes that there is another layer to every given form of text. There is a constitutive difference which is not to be read but to be seen (Lyotard 1971; p.9). It is this aspect of discourse that has continually been forgotten. In other words, for any form of discourse Lyotard wonders why it is only the language and the written of a text that perceived by most people. This brings us back to the Ray Rice domestic violence case. Prior to the release of the video written testimony of incident had already been revealed. We had heard from Ray Rice and various other outlets what had happened. However, despite this there was seemingly no consensus on how to view the situation. More importantly those who possessed the power to rectify the situation such as the Baltimore Ravens organization and Roger Goodell did not believe they had enough evidence to enforce a harsher punishment. They privileged the written discourse over the other figures and forms that tell this specific narrative of domestic violence. One could convincingly argue that the first video released along with Rice’s original apology (which did not include his wife) are sufficient forms of text to necessitate a harsher punishment of Rice’s actions than the two game suspension he received in July. The privileging of the discourse as written text is precisely what Lyotard argues against in his discussion of binary opposition in his work Discours, figure. Binary oppositions are the conflicts between figure and discourse.

In this sense discourse is used to describe written text and language while figure implies the various other forms that a text can have. All too often saying is privileged over seeing, reading over perceiving and universality over singularity. He stresses figure, form, and image in semiotic theories over language. It leaves one to question why there is such an emphasis on the written/ linguistic nature of discourse instead of the various forms that discourse can occur in. For the Ray Rice case it begs the question why must video evidence be necessary to truly begin to address the issue of domestic violence in the National Football League. Should not the other forms texts that tell this story also have substantial weight? In any case reflecting on the writing of Jean Francois Lyotard can provide a way to reflect on a myriad of socio-political issues including domestic violence and how we often fall into the trap of binary oppositions. Perhaps the texts we should start with is the stories of survivors and victims of domestic violence themselves, and allow their stories to transform our views and practices.

G.R.R.

Godaime Raikage Richard. Sociology of Religion. Japanime. Sports. Liberation. Brother of h00die_R.

More Posts

An Introduction

Being the new contributor here, I thought I’d jump right in with a little about my background: I was raised In the church. Growing up, I attended a slightly fundamentalist American Baptist church. In college, I began to question my faith and spent much of my undergrad study identifying myself as an agnostic. During my senior year I was introduced to the Lutheran tradition. I like to joke that I went for the wrong reason and stayed for the right reasons.

After several years of working in the private sector, I felt the call into ministry and moved from Pittsburgh, PA to Columbia, SC to begin seminary. I graduated from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in May of 2009.

My wife and I moved to Seattle, WA where I had accepted a job as a youth director. For a myriad of reasons, that job ended in 2011.

My area of interest is the intersection of faith and pop culture and my posts will reflect that interest. Expect to see posts on TV shows such as Dominion and Sleepy Hollow, a variety of books including the Warhammer series, comic books, movies, gaming and current events.

I am a member of the ELCA. Theologically, I am an evangelical catholic (more on this later), an Open theist, and I fall into the just peacemaking camp (I am not a pacifist or a supporter of the just war tradition).

Prior to joining Political Jesus, I blogged at TheoNerd. From time to time, I also blog at UnsettledChristianity.

If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.