The Good Shepherd: Clement and Christus Victor

I have mentioned briefly on here the work of Gustav Aulen, and while I concede he needed more biblical exegesis for his case for Christus Victor, and a tighter grip on Church history, overall, I think he was right. Right smack dab in the middle of Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, Aulen only briefly mentions the image of God as the Good Shepherd rescuing the sheep from the three big bad wolves named Sin, Death, and Satan. At the same time, Aulen dismisses Clement of Alexandria as a theologian who dwelled too much on philosophy and not enough on atonement. This is why Aulen stakes his claims with Athanasius of Alexandria.

This may have been an error on Aulen’s part because the prevailing metaphor for Clement when it comes to the LORD’s sacrifice for us is the biblical image of The Good Shepherd.  For example:

“But it has been God’s fixed and constant purpose to save the flock of men: for this end the good God sent the good Shepherd.  And the Word, having unfolded the truth to men the height of salvation, that either repenting they might be saved, or refusing to obey, they might be judged.  this is the proclamation of righteousness: to those that obey, glad tidings; to those that disobey, judgment.  The loud trumpet, when sounded, collects soldiers, and proclaims war.  And shall not Christ, breathing a strain of peace to the ends of the earth, gather together His own soldiers, the soldiers of peace? He has gathered the bloodless host of peace, and assigned to them the kingdom of heaven.  The trumpet of  Christ is His Gospel.”

- Clement of Alexandria, Sermon to the Greeks, Chapter 11

Or consider this other example:

” ‘All Wisdom is from the Lord, and with Him forevermore’;—with authority of utterance, for He is God and Creator: ‘For all things were made by Him, and without Him not anything made [John 1:3]–and with benevolence, for He alone Himself a sacrifice for us; ‘For the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep;’[John 10:11] and He has so given it.  Now, benevolence is nothing but wishing to  do good to one’s neighbor for his sake. “

-Clement of Alexandria, The Pedagogue (The Instructor/Educator), Book 1, Chapter 11

Now, there are well-meaning Christians who remain skeptical about Christus Victor because of the little work done on it, plus its rise in popularity.  If something seems like it’s new or something ancient that is recovered, I would say there should be criticism, especially with very few works that focus on Scripture and Christus Victor atonement. The thing about Penal substitution is not that it is violent in God’s wrath towards us, but that it makes our human depravity the center of the doctrine rather than God’s goodness.  PSA translates very well into US American Christianity and our self-centered individualism.  What I am seeing in Clement of Alexandria’s atonement theology is that the doctrine that is founded on God’s benevolence, and making our Good Lord Jesus Christ the Center.

“As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

- Ezekiel 34:12 (NRSV)

h00die_R (Rod)

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when progressives revel in cultural ignorance #CancelColbert

For my previous thoughts on #CancelColbert, see “men at work: how sexism operates.”

Very briefly. Last post on the #CancelColbert stuff. I just wanted to go on record with this. Recently, a progressive blogger posted a “Mission Accomplished” blogpost celebrating how Stephen Colbert had become victorious over the anti-racist slacktivists who “wanted” his show cancelled. Not only does the author in question get everything about the campaign wrong unlike my friend Jason, but he also managed to show just how much he valued cultural ignorance over cultural intelligence.

A few quotes from the Mission Accomplished post in question:

“I think I’ve made myself pretty clear about my disdain for people who are overly politically correct.  While I get the need to be sensitive towards some issues, it’s gotten to a point where I feel like sometimes people can’t say anything anymore without it offending someone.  Which I always find funny in a country like the United States where both liberals and conservatives go on and on about freedom of speech – yet both sides will often throw a fit when anybody says anything that they disagree with or find offensive.”

Oh and this goodie!!!

“I just think the people who were actually offended by this need to lighten up a bit. The entire tweet was meant to mock Snyder’s foundation by using offensive language in a fake foundation to show how ridiculous it is that Snyder created a foundation for Native Americans that includes a name many of them find highly offensive.”

So basically, what we are being informed is that the author regrets not having the liberty to offend people, even in the pursuit of a just cause. Basically, right wing attacks versus “political correctness” almost always boil down to a person desiring the right to offend other people. Because he is white, the author does not have to reflect on the racial stereotypes associated with the Colbert Report’s now deleted, infamous tweet. The author does not have to consider the racist laws that were enforced in the name of White Supremacist myths levied at Asian-Americans, especially during the creation of nation-wide railroads. In Texas in those days, one judge even ruled it was LEGAL to kill a Chinese man. LEGAL. The legacies of these injustices have been passed down through today, and ironic racism is still racism. Native Americans really do not need Colbert or Suey Park’s allyship, actually, and they certainly do not need Comedy Central’s hipster racism to raise awareness of the First Nations’ cases against being made mascots. Just look at the recent Navajo Nation vote (7-2) in favor of opposing racist sports team names.

If you want a good case for being culturally intelligent, look no further than this Guante youtube video. Class dismissed:

h00die_R (Rod)

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so you want People of Color to attend Christian conferences?

Today, I feel like I am going to attempt to articulate the frustrations of a number of my friends, shared experiences that we have.  This post isn’t about me but something deeply troubling with institutional Christianity.

Recently, I had a white friend who attended a conference on Missional Christianity. From the looks of the promotions for the three day event, he was under the impression that it was going to be a diverse gathering. As a youth pastor who is working for a pre-dominantly racial minority church, my friend was hoping to become better equipped to minister to a diverse congregation and community. In the course of seeing and listening to the keynote speakers, my friend took a quick census of the attendees & speakers, and posted the results on Twitter, 99% white, 1% POC. 90% male, 10% female. Are these numbers really reflective of the Church located in the United State? Compared to the Church Universal found throughout six continents, do these numbers add up? Can we honestly say that conferences like these are truly about the future of Christianity? The backlash that my friend received was both hostile and utterly predictable. “Well, why don’t YOU DO a better job of inviting more POC and women?” or how about, “Are you trying to say that all the members of the entire planning committee are personally racist and sexist?”

A long time ago (precisely well over FOUR years ago), my good friend Drew Hart wrote about his experiences at a similar missional gathering. What brother Drew faced was what Austin Channing Brown calls a metaphysical dilemma. This is based on the fear of marginalized persons of feeling “devalued, unimportant, sidelined, monolithic, or invisible.” Will Persons of Color be able to stand out (as individuals)? Can we be made visible without any negative stereotypes hindering us? Why do justice conferences and missional gatherings persist in being focused, centered, and dominated by white persons and limit themselves to the interests of men? What did Jesus have to say about religion, and the building of brands and platforms?

In many instances, seminaries and other institutions for theological education have the same problems as these conferences. Due to the lack of diversity in the student body and faculty as well as support, Persons of Color in seminaries and bible schools are left to create their own resources and pressured to recruit more students of color on their own. This overwhelming burden placed upon POC by the institutions renders POC into further invisibility.  Having have been part of a campaign to make curriculum more cultural pluralistic, I know first hand that POC are always blamed for their own lack of resources. This “boot-straps” mentality manifests itself both in progressive and conservative institutions. Rugged Individualism, and the White Privilege defended by Christian institutions and conferences, are both unbiblical and break the law of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Racist practices unintentionally isolate POC individuals and communities, leaving POC to fend for themselves. But if we are supposed to be the Body of Christ, we are to choose the model of intercultural neighborly love over and against privileged, elitist notions of formation of Christian leadership.

Recently, I was both saddened and enraged when a close friend of mine told me yet another story of how a gathering of missional Christians had taken the time to reach out to him, and ask his advice about diversity issues. Yet when the time came to make final decisions, the meeting that was planned to be held is still going to happen in a white suburban area, safe from at-risk POC youth, and their issues. Is Missional Christianity showing itself to be another form of White flight, an escapism away from the joyous celebrations and oppressive realities of People of Color? Could this Emergent Christian movement (assuming it isn’t dead yet) be just another re-hashed version of a Post-Christendom Christian hegemony? I think that the label “Post-Christendom” itself is highly problematic. Exactly what type of Christendom are we referring to? There would have to be an assumption that the U.S. as a nation-state had practiced a some form of Christianity to begin with. Given the history of African enslavement and genocide that many good Christians are still in denial about, I believe that the belief of a US Christendom in the distant past needs to be called into question.

My friend who tried to help this Missional gathering deal with this issue was told that rather than have a conference reflect the Kingdom of God, the planning committee wanted to honor leaders who had brought the movement into being. In other words, the power players, the movers and shakers were to be given yet another opportunity for their platform. These approaches and practices are once more anti-Christ, and anti-Gospel. In Mark 10:42-43, “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” The Christian Conference Industry reads more like Corporate America and Wall Street, choosing the rulers and leaders who are already on top. Yet, Jesus said that greatness is defined not by the blogger with the largest platform and cleanest name-brand, but the woman or man who says, “NO!” to the world, and yes to humility and suffering servitude.

I think efforts to make Christian conferences and educational institutions more diverse are noble, however, we must get beyond diversity. There will be no such thing as a perfect seminary or a perfect conference , but the Emergent church should not allow worldly commitments prevent them from putting perfect love into practice. Missional Christians must work to intentionally co-create just spaces for people on the margins because that is where Jesus and His mission lied, with the least of these, the downtrodden, the despised ones.  This means actually listening to women and People of Color, valuing their input and their labor, sharing in the burdens of marginalized persons, and rejecting Thrones of Privilege(s).

h00die_R (Rod)

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Movie Review: ‘Noah’

This past Monday, a couple of friends and I had the privilege of seeing the esteemed and much and anticipated ‘NOAH’!

Honestly, I was not quite sure what to think of this film going in. In the evangelical community it seems as though the three big films to look for at the moment are Noah, Son of God, and God’s Not Dead. Son Of God seems to simply be yet another dry rendition of what ought to be called “the lie and times of white Jesus”; God’s Not Dead (as evident in the gag-worthy trailer) simply affirms the mistaken narrative of the innocent young, white, ,cheery-eyed Christian pitted against the angry, atheist  professor. So, striking these two off of my list, the only one I was even remotely interested in seeing was Noah.

With any movie even loosely based on the bible, there is going to be some degree of artistic liberty taken. One of the biggest places this is evident(almost distractingly so) is in the ‘nephilim’ passages:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

And what does this translate to:

That’s right, the image you see above is the movie’s depiction of the elusive ‘nephilim’ or, as they’re referred to in the film, the watchers. They’re essentially these rock golems who are described in the film as being angels who were sent from heaven to protect and guide humanity , but the watchers you see above are the result of those angels that have gotten too entangled with the things of the earth(sin) and quite literally the lava and solid portion of creation and so God encased their more beautiful former forms in rock as punishment. It’s an interesting concept and in the end I guess I appreciate the risk with such an artistic rendering, but it was also a bit distracting, especially if one didn’t have a passing familiarity with where the idea even came from..

The rest of my ideas about this film are essentially spot on with an article that fellow-blogger, blerd, and liberation theologian Rod had shared with me. It was an article from Greenleft Weekly, entitled  “Noah story not for conservatives“. In it, the author,Karl Hand, makes several great points that run perfectly in line with the vibes and ideas that I got from the film,

“Conservative scholars like to breeze over these unedifying details, and give a Disneyfied, PG version of Noah. But Aronofsky’s warts-and-all reading of Noah, with its “green agenda”, gets something of both the Noah myth, and the ancient Semitic mythical world-view, that the traditional, Christianized re-telling miss”

- This is a powerful, powerful statement that I agree with whole-heartedly. On the car-ride back with my friends, I remember turning to them and asking “It was subtle, but I got a bit of an ecological/environmental apocalyptic vibe from that film” and they nodded hesitantly ( so as to appease the resident rabid environmentalist- myself). Or WAS it so subtle? As Hand alludes to in his review of the film, ( and in the quote above) much of our own perceptions of ‘Noah’ has to do with the way American Christian culture has presented the story. The way it’s been presented , traditionally, was so as to emphasize and harmonize the strict , self-righteous moral code within the evangelical Church and , thereby externalize/dismiss any other part of the story that are “irrelevant” to reinforcing this moral code. This story is often taught in tandem with the Sodom of Gomorrah – need I say more?

“Creationist Ken Ham’s recent public debate with Bill Nye (“the science guy”) at the Creation Museum included a lengthy and totally perplexing section on the science of building arks, and the feasibility of one being built 4000 years ago by a 600-year-old man named Noah.

This debate fizzled about the time Nye asked Ham if there was a kangaroo on the ark, and why haven’t we found any remains of it on its journey to Australia.

As bad, if not worse, than Ham’s appalling science was his appalling anthropology and total insensitivity to the function of a good myth. Any attempt to take mythology as a record of literal events will result in this kind of absurdity.”

There was a scene in the film where Noah was reading the beginnings of Genesis to his family on the Ark as the torrential downpour had just began. As he was reading, there’s an incredible illustration of the world being formed from the beginning – however, the way it’s illustrated is awfully similar to the proto-planetary hypothesis in its display of the big bang and the formation of Earth from resultant rock bits and collisions from asteroids and the later appearance of the ocean and tectonic processes. This scene was so immensely potent because it essentially resolved (IMO) the idea that Genesis and the scientific account can coexist and achieve syncretism – but on a deeper level, for me at least, it revealed the divinity intrinsic in even the most exacting scientific account of the world’s formation. Scientific laws, theorems and properties often have very poetic rings to them – “Energy is neither created nor destroyed” , we call this science- but that’s ART!

“The power of mythology is its ability to describe the meaning of human life and resolve deep dialectical tensions (such as, in this case, the tensions between chaos and order, justice and kindness, ecological priorities and the value of human life).”

Excellent quote. I could not have said this better myself, honestly. The tension between chaos and order is certainly well-illustrated in this film and further fleshed out in cinematic finesse. I especially felt this film expertly illustrated the ecological priorities and the value of human life – the fact that the account of Noah’s story describes God as destroying a perverse humanity yet preserving the animals- the very foundations and cornerstones of our global ecology, is far more radical than most mainline evangelicals care to acknowledge. The Noah account displays the result of human wickedness- with the state our natural, physical planet being an indicator or reflection of our collective sin.

Adam and Eve’s first child Cain kills his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy, and this seems to damage the cosmic order of things as the ground cries out to God for justice (4:10). Aronofsky represents this in Noah’s dreams. On two occasions, he steps onto the earth, looks at the sole of his shoe and sees in horror that it has blood on it, which is oozing from the ground.

This is a representation of how violence and injustice affects the cosmic order — the ground itself is bleeding. Violence is not a purely individual phenomenon, it is systemic, it makes the order of things sick.

In one of the most brilliant scenes in the movie, the silhouette of this first primeval murder by Cain morphs into killings and murders from all ages in human history. It features various military clothing styles from different eras and also period weaponry.”

This quote is essentially the main punch for me. This quote sums up why, though trippy at parts, I ended up enjoying the film and its message overall. The notion that our very planet bears witness to our wickedness is certainly an idea that Christians today must understand and is not hard to believe (i.e. to what extent is the  abrupt shifting of our climate, rapid deforestation, loss of biodiversity, etc. telling of our problematic relationship to one another as a collective humanity- whether it be greed, racism, xenophobia, etc.?) The most brilliant scene in this film, that actually enhanced my understanding of the passage, was , in fact, what Hard described, as “the silhouette of this first primeval murder by Cain morphs into killings and murders from all ages in human history. It features various military clothing styles from different eras and also period weaponry” – all this so as to say we as a humanity, like Cain, are quite guilty for killing our brothers and sisters.

 

All these great things having been said – I did NOT appreciate the pale British-accented casting; let us remember that people who were essentially desert nomads would not have looked nor talked as European as they were depicted- but of course this is of no surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with Hollywood’s race problem. And with a film geared towards white evangelicals (along with Son of God and God’s not Dead), it can really be of no surprise that this is was the result.

If I had to rate this film, anything, I’d give it  a 7/10 – it was a solid film and one I think anyone who even thinks they might enjoy, in fact, would. While this film was probably more for the Emma Watson fanboys if anyone (lolz) and often displayed trippy/distracting cinematography and character traits ( Methuselah is a stoner- for lack of better words) along with (chronic whitening of biblical characters, the ideas this film confronts its mostly evangelical audience with are sure to reinvigorate a conversation that must take place within the Church today regarding the connection between environmental, social, economic ( and ultimately, spiritual) problems.

P.S. By the way, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this film was so trippy – the director, Darren Aronofsky, also directed perhaps the most mind-numbing portryal of drug addicts in film history: Requiem for a Dream:

 

 

 

Race-ing Toward Nicea part 2: Constantine, DuBois, & Lynching

                                                                                                                                    Whither, Eusebius of Caesarea?

For part one see: Race-ing Towards Nicea part 1: The Incarnation

I am continuing to wrestle with Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom. Simultaneously I am working through James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree and today I would like to present a potential inter-textual reading of both works.

In Defending Constantine (Chapter 10 “Justice For All”), Peter Leithart goes through the nitty gritty details of Constantine’s views on justice as well as his executive decisions when it came creating laws. Among some of his peculiarities was Constantine’s contention, much like Liberation Theology, that justice must be served to the oppressed. In those days, the Roman court system was oppressive and heavily biased towards the rich and powerful. Some of Constantine’s laws worked against this. In addition, Constantine outlawed crucifixions. The theological imagination for the secular philosopher/emperor Constantine was attracted to Christianity, and in that move, ended a murderous practice. However, Constantine still kept capital punishment itself around; Leithart just notes that Constantine just found more “creative” ways of executing criminals.

Torture and gory body-policing activities sponsored by the state such as the cutting off of thieves’ hands were acceptable Constantinian practices. Back then, these were social norms. It was expected that Constantine not to be able to transcend his cultural milieu. Like the Christian realists of the mid-20th century and even today, Constantine achieved what they would consider a “proximate justice.” The death penalty was such the norm back then that Constantine joked with Arius that the Emperor considered Arius and his fellow dissidents to be “gallows rogues,” or persons who found ways, time and again from being hung from the gallows ala Mordecai in the Book of Esther.

One interesting move that Leithart makes (as part of his larger Dominionist agenda in looking at the theological & social conservativism of the Global South) is to point out the African context from which the Donatist and Arian cotnroversies arose. In both instances, Christian bishops INVITED Emperor Constantine to help resolve these disputes. In the case of the Donatists, property rights were at stake. Radical Libyan Christians who took an uncompromising stance against bishops and laity who gave in to Roman persecution by denying Jesus as their Savior to save their own hides. The conflicts were so intense that Donatists were sometimes murdered for their beliefs. Appealing to political powers that be (an outside third-party) seemed to be the realistic approach to these issues.

James Cone’s The Cross And The Lynching Tree is written at the intersections of atonement theory, theodicy, and the struggle against White Supremacy. As Cone is making his argument in favor of USian Christians looking at the Cross through the history of the lynching tree, he notes that it was poets and artists during the Harlem Renaissance that first made the connection. Jim and Jane Crow was institutional, legal white supremacy maintained by placing black bodies on the gallows. One such writer, novelist and Christian scholar was W.E.B. DuBois DuBois’ Christian anti-racist imagination enabled him to use theological imagery to work to dismantle White Supremacy. Lacing his Christian prayers with appeals to the Prince of Peace, commenting on the race riots started by White Supremacists by referring to the book of Psalms, DuBois lived as an example of liberating Christian orthopraxis.

A few years ago in seminary, a group of African American students (including myself) protested against the injustices done to the Jena Six. The Jena Six situation was a high school fight started because someone hung a noose around the tree where the white kids usually sit. Under the murderous threat from the history of imperialist, racist KKKristianity which includes Emperor Constantine who himself had threatened an African man (as a joke) with lynching, the black high schoolers had little choice but to STAND THEIR GROUND.

No one can do an honest assessment of the Nicene-Chalcedon tradition without acknowledging its enforcement through, at minimum, the threat of violence (i.e., the anathemas and damnations and exiles etc.).  However, the Nicene-Chalcedonian formulas are not beyond the liberating grasp of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, Nicea & Chalcedon & the Apostles’ Creeds are are important to the extent that they remind  us Gentile Christians of our metanarrative that we find in Scripture, and that our stories are not our own, and that THE story is not about us. Tradition (with a capitol T) ideally should be used to keep our nationalistic desires in check, but when it fails to do so, history and Scripture witnesses to the fact that God uses outsiders, the rejects to prophesy deliverance to the Body of Christ.

No one represents this moreso than the the U.S. American prophet W.E.B. DuBois.  Living in the 20th century context where white Christians could recite the Creeds by rote memory, and then in the very next breathe, call a black person n*gger before lynching her, W.E.B. Dubois embodied Nicene-Chalcedonian orthopraxis as a testimony to Jesus Christ Our LORD and Liberator. In his essay, “The Gospel According To Mary Brown,” Dubois writes the Gospel narratives for his time, with a mulatto man portraying Jesus. Joshua is lynched because of his message of peace and anti-White Supremacy. As his mother Mary is found weeping, Joshua appeared to her, with his hair shining, white clothes (biblical language for holiness of the martyrs), “for his voice was the Voice of God.” When Mary asked where did Joshua go, Joshua tells her, “I was crucified, dead, and buried. I descended into Hell. On the third day, I rose from the dead. I ascended into Heaven and sit on the right hand of my Father, from whence I shall come to judge the Quick and the Dead.”

In an earlier post, I was mistaken to suggest that Constantine and Athanasius represent two different kinds of Christianity. It would be better for me to have said that Eusebius of Caesarea and the bishops and presbyters that made room for the devil by inviting Constantine to the table represent the imperial version of Christianity, the one where the nation-states’ story matters more than the Resurrection itself.

Eusebius and Athanasius represent two types of Christianity that we all have to struggle with. Eusebius and the Christian empire/dominionist tradition that Leithart favors is obsessed maintaining power over others (coercion, violence, war, white supremacy, lynching). The Nicene-Chalcedonian orthopraxis of Clement & Athansius of Alexandria and W.E.B DuBois offers a different way of being & doing in the world, that of living on the margins of exile, and pointing to the Logos as our Teacher & Prince of peace.

Other posts of interests:

Nestorianism Returns: Tea Party Politics vs Hypostatic Unity

Book Review: W.E.B. DuBois: American Prophet

Emperor Constantine and the Conservative Case for Reparations

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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African children are not your pawns: World Vision and Evangelical Imperialism

Can World Vision save Starvin Marvin?

(image provided by South Park Studios)

Post-Evangelicalism, White Saviorism, and PA$$ING FOR WHITE [EVANGELICAL]

I’ve noticed somewhat of a trend that’s pretty problematic that I wanted to draw out. You can call this my official response to the World Vision / White Evangelicalism drama that went on last week.  At the center of the storm, there lied a Christian charity organization that decided to, then reversed on the decision, to hire Christians from denominations that affirmed same sex marriages.  The narrative goes: on one side, there’s the conservative evangelical wing and their Calvinist Popes who farewelled WV and on the other side, there’s the evangelicals who were lead to believe that evangelicalism was a Big Tent camp filled with Progressives, Emergents, and Missional folks. Both sides (in their blog posts), were more than eager to press this story as one where we had to “save the children.”  At no one point were the problematic practices of World Vision, its advancement of White Saviorism  through its advertisements or its questionable method of “child-sponsorships” (but not really child-sponsorships) ever put under scrutiny.  In fact, White conservative evangelical bloggers and post-evangelical bloggers did not hesitate to add numerous images of brown-skinned children (probably with disabilities as well) in their blog posts.  BECAUSE YOU KNOW, THIS DEBATE WAS ALL ABOUT THEM. UM HUMMM!

If I may wax Propaganda in “Precious Puritans,” it reeks of privilege, wouldn’t you agree? In reality, the money for the sponsorships do not go to the child directly, but to the community where they live (indirectly). The promise of these sponsorships not only promise meeting the material needs of children overseas, but also to ensure that these kids get to learn American Standard English.  Isn’t that just wonderful? We can do charity so that we can shape you in our own image! Nope. Not imperialist at all.

African and other nations populated by darker skinned people are represented time and again as the passive recipients of white benevolence.  This “help” however, is just a re-hashing of old Western-style colonialism brought to those countries by missionaries. Instead of Soviet and capitalist governments directly influencing the futures of these places, what is happening instead is that corporations such as SHELL, which will work as “monitors” for these “developing” communities, to aid in things like guiding “the communities is setting priorities” [robbing agency and human dignity from people of Color a national past-time!].  The problem with representing wholesale countries as “Needy Others” by discussing poverty outside of history (that is, remaining silent on the various political histories, economics, and regional trends) objectifies these children as Things. This is one of the primary reasons why White Evangelicals as well White Emergent / Postevangelical/ Nuanced Missional Christians were able to make flesh and blood children pawns for their White National culture wars.

After all the declarations of “I’m done with Evangelicalism” and aspiring hopes for renewal  and quotes about following Jesus and not the Church of the Pharisees [oh, that bit is problematic too, taking the Pharisees out of history, and yeah, that anti-Semitism thing]. Honestly, I always get a little squeamish when even the most progressive and high-minded Christians compare their opponents to the Pharisees because of the history of CHRISTIAN anti-Semitism we believers are guilty of. And you know what Fanon said, behind anti-Semitism, there’s anti-Black racism right around the corner.

It’s interesting how cabals of White Evangelical and Post-evangelical bloggers can arrogantly think that they have the future of Christianity in their hands.  And let’s not kid ourselves with Emergent/Emergence Christianity,etc.; the same people who appropriate the language of “liberation” from Christians of color are the same exact folks who talk about “civility” and “objectivity” as means of silencing most notably Women of Color. Evangelicalism has a bad history when it comes to race relations. Heck, all of Christianity does.  Social Justice critiques from within contemporary Evangelicalism did not start with Brian McLaren and Rob Bell; it started with the work of people like John Perkins and Tom Skinner. Unfortunately in White Evangelical institutions, John Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association were denounced as “liberals” because they dare suggest that White ministers could not properly do urban ministry unless they were discipled by persons who came from urban populations. THE NERVE! THE AUDACITY!

So here we are, rather than exploring and listening the ACTUAL over-looked party of Evangelicalism (Evangelicals who are racial minorities), we have a group of now (I guess?) former evangelicals who use their privilege to rejecting the label of Evangelical.  While there are others who can articulate this idea better than I (I got this idea from a book club meeting this week), Evangelicalism comes not only as a theology but also a history and a culture.  The history of evangelicalism in the North American context is a tale of both the social justice minded-abolitionists and the slave-holding Confederates.  Not wanting to be implicated in the social sins of the latter, many Emergent / Post-Evangelical Christians tend to focus on the former, while well, for the most part, many Conservative Evangelicals continue to glorify the problematic history uncritically.  Evangelical culture in general comes with an accomodationist approach to laizze-faire economics where every brand and marketing trend just needs a little Jesus sprinkled on it.  This is also leads to evangelical culture making charity the norm rather than solidarity

 It seems a little suspicious to me that on one hand, a number Post-Evangelicals want to keep the evangelical label, to retain the brand, the capitalist success, and access to higher social positions that it comes with, but on the other, now want to simply leave it when its convenient. In the United States of America context, in which a watered-down Protestantism turned deism has basically been the civil religion, White Evangelicalism means that a Protestantism that’s above other Protestantisms (this includes mainline churches, historically black churches, Chinese, Korean and other Protestant bodies worldwide).  These other communities are only found acceptable if they believe like, worship like, and vote like White Evangelicals.  Rather than take responsibility for their own history, the blogging bishophoric is now leading the way into a new kind of evangelical hegemony.  Indeed it would seem that the label of post-evangelical / emergent was nothing more than a way for Generation X’ers and Millenials to pa$$ as white [evangelicals], profiting while persuading others to join them on their journey into mainline Protestantism.

So what do you think? Are African, Indian, South American children being used as pawns in the White Culture Wars?

 

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Cesar Chavez, Refusing Reconciliation and Anti-Blackness

from Biography.com: http://www.biography.com/people/cesar-chavez-9245781

Tomorrow is Cesar Chavez Day in Texas. Brian LePort not only has a movie review, but also a nice reflection on sacrifice and what it means for humanity to be in communion together: Fourth Sunday Of lent: Chavez of Self-Sacrifice.

As I look and reflect on the lives of activists such as Chavez, I keep asking, “What must Christians sacrifice to achieve racial justice and reconciliation?” The same white supremacy that leads Texas politicians to try to prevent Chavez’s story from being told in public schools is the same one that keeps making anti-blackness a part of reconciliation efforts in churches. I would recommend, and I cannot stress this enough, Amaryah Shaye’s three part series on Refusing to Reconcile. I’ll close the comments so you all can read her posts and interact with her there.

Refusing To Reconcile: Against Racial Reconciliation

Refusing to Reconcile Part 2: Spatiality, Fugitivity, and Blackness as Wild(er)ness

Refusing To Reconcile Part 3: The Best Man Holiday and The Besideness of Blackness

h00die_R (Rod)

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men at work: how sexism operates #CancelColbert

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I have written on the Tone Argument before this year, and I’ll leave you with this here link. What I want to very very briefly talk about is the problem of Tone Arguments and Patriarchy.

For anyone who not living under at rock, writer and activist Stewy Suey Park started a hashtag: #CancelColbert to confront the ironic racism of Stephen Colbert’s supposed call out of Washington [enter racial slur for Native Americans here] owner Daniel Snyder.  The point was not to take away Colbert’s means of employment (hey, it’s always about the allies, #amirite!!!), it was about how ironic racism is not the answer to addressing the racism of white supremacist mythologies perpetuated by making First Nations peoples our mascots.  White liberals and conservatives alike continue to view the problem of racism and institutional white supremacy as that of being one of private, individual sins.  It is this continued failure of listening to the stories and the actual arguments that Persons of Color make that perpetuates the White Supremacist talking point that the anti-racists are the real racists.

The way the conversation about #CancelColbert has been framed, has been, per usual, one that favors the White Supremacist and Male Supremacist Gazes. Take for example the Washington Post’s story on Suey Park’s interview on HuffPo Live. Her interviewer is portrayed as the civil, objective, reasonable host: “Josh Zepps is a host on HuffPost Live. He presides over many interesting and civil conversations with guests on a wide variety of topics. Generally they end in a civil manner.”

Meanwhile, Suey Park is described as “the Korean-American Twitter hashtag activist” who “roared again” in protest of ironic racism. The author of the report, Erik Wemple doesn’t even bother to name the race or gender of Josh Zepps. Because he doesn’t have to. Zepps is the default for what it means to be a human being, and therefore, HE represents all that is universal and rational and good in journalism. Suey is not an anti-racist activist or social justice activist, but “Anti-Colbert” activist, because ironic racism is all about the individual according to the worldview of white liberalism. And once more, just as we discussed with Twitter’s White Supremacist Toxic Wars, Women of Color are once more dehumanized and made more animalistic [READ: dangerous, angry, more subjective, irrational]; Suey doesn’t argue, contend, debate; she “ROARS” which is less a compliment given the way Wemple frames the discussion.

The interview was not that lengthy for the simple fact of Zepp’s vehement sexism, as seen in his denial of Stewy’s Suey’s agency and capacity to reason, you know, and in general, her experience; Zepps’ responded in defense of white liberal men everywhere: “No one’s minimalizing your experiences, no one’s minimalizing your right to have an opinion.” Ummmm Really Zepps? Did you follow the hashtag #CancelSueyPark [frell no, I am not bothering to link that garbage], the Male Supremacist and White Supremacist response to #CancelColbert? Have you ever bothered to read the timelines of Women of Color who are academics/activists/both and see the trolls they have to deal with? So, I think it’s rather a bizarre claim to make, unless of course, Zepps, being the rational objective dude that he is, meant the EXACT OPPOSITE of what he was claiming. Which of course, seconds later in the interview:

“It’s just a stupid opinion.”

And there you have it. The thoughts and labors of Women of Color don’t matter for moderate objective journalists like Zepps. What matters is that his progressive Male Supremacist narrative be kept in tact to silence women speaking out on gender and racial oppression. And Park’s response was appropriate: “You just called my opinion stupid, you just called my opinion stupid. That’s incredibly unproductive. And I don’t think I’m going to enact the labor of explaining to you why it’s incredibly offensive and patronizing.” Frantz Fanon observed in Wretched Of The Earth that the media is always ALWAYS ALWAYS going to oppress the colonized in the name of objectivity, FAIR AND BALANCED reporting. In other words, Objectivity is a weapon by the Oppressor to deny the agency of the Oppressed, in this case, Women of Color. Civility then is usually a White Supremacist dog-whistle that is utilized to shut down the voices of anti-oppression.

Another example of the way we men passive-aggressively embody our Male Supremacist narratives is in the area of religion. Growing up Baptist, I experienced from a very early age how powerful male pastors were and the abuses of power thereof used in the pulpit. Recently, my friend Katie Grimes wrote a post criticizing a local parish priest for using his bully pulpit to make a hostile atmosphere for a family with young children. According to Grimes,

“In view of the entire congregation, he chastised the parents, telling them that it was inappropriate for their children to be eating, drinking, and playing with toys during mass. Even though they were well-behaved (a parishioner sitting within earshot of this exchange had not even noticed the children’s activity until the pastor descended to condemn them), he said the children were “distracting” him.”

Now, the theological assumptions behind this display of Male Power is highly problematic. Children distracting the HOMILIST! Is this really what the ministry of Jesus was about? It was about our sermons? Correct me if I am wrong, but really, aren’t only Protestant worship services supposed to be centered on the Preached Word [andro-centric Logos theology that it is]? Secondly, rather than addressing children as free human subjects, as Jesus and the apostle Paul did, the priest made them objects, mere things that distract HIS LITTLE HOMILY. Christianity is not about MEN standing up in front an altar, reading from our little notecards or Amazon Kindles, sermonizing and lecturing; Christianity is the religion of the Pentecost, where the Spirit fills women and men to preach the Good News of the Resurrection, and God’s love for everyone.

The performance of THE sermon, apart from any notion of Pentecost, remains a Male Supremacist ritual. The Male Supremacist gaze neglects the humanity of women and children, and we see this in the incident that Katie talked about quite clearly. Men are not supposed to take care of children. Children and women are not meant for the public square, i.e., the teaching offices in Christianity. They are only meant to be taken care of at home. That is their sphere. What makes Katie’s story even all the more shocking is that rather than make amends for the damage to the family the priest had done; today Katie updated us (via facebook), that the priest actually called out Katie WITHOUT NAMING HER. Referring to Katie’s work as something written by a student with a Masters’ Degree in Theological Ethics, the father of the parish went on to use the time that’s supposed to be set aside to focus on Christ to talk about his disagreement with a congregant. Now, I’ve seen pastor’s sermons briefly refer to personal disagreements, and it just doesn’t sit well. By failing to make sermons Christ-centered, and instead objectifying dissidents within your congregations, male pastors wind up making the Church the face of Male Supremacy.

Just as Suey Park was not introduced to the audience first as her name in the Washington Post article ["Korean-American hash-tag activist"], Katie went unnamed (but recognized probably) and therefore dehumanized.  By not naming, and therefore not addressing women as moral agents,   Male Supremacy narratives continue to function as truth regimes, especially in the worlds of journalism and religion.To wax James Cone in Black Theology And Black Power, “HE who does not affirm me, OPPOSES ME.”

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Updated Calendar For The Patristic Carnival for 2014

Patristics Carnival XXXII

April 20th- Easter Hosted by me

June 8th- Pentecost hosted by Jonathan

Either: September 3rd- Gregory The Great or September 13th- John Chrysostom: Hosted by Me

Either: November 1st- All Saints or November 23rd- Christ The King / Clement of Alexandria Feast Day [Western Calendar] Hosted by Mike Skinner

December 25th- Christmas Hosted by me

If there is a Feast Day or Holy Day that fits in between these dates (does not have to be part of the Western Liturgical calendar), and you would like to host the Patristics Carnival, let me know.

In this carnival, posts on historical theology prior to the Catholic and Protestant Reformations, articles on these topics, new developments and news, book reviews will all be eligible for this carnival.

To submit nominations for the carnival, place a comment on this post (the call for submissions), email the carnival at PATRISTICSCARNIVAL [A] HOTMAIL.COM, or send a message to the Political Jesus Facebook Page. You can even do a submission for this carnival on the PJ Tumblr: Just fill out, submit with your name and/or pseudonym here: PJ Tumblr Suggestion Box

The deadline for submissions is April 19th, 2014 at 11:59pm.

h00die_R (Rod)

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The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable of the Shining Pearl (Matthew 13:46-47)

MERCHANDIZING THE GREAT PRICE OF CHRIST’S TWO NATURES

It’s been well over four years since we have continued our Parable-Driven Life series, but like all good things, I want to bring this series back from time to time. I have been inspired by reading excerpts of Clement’s take on the parables. I say in some cases they are brief glimpses, because we don’t have some of the full texts. They are citations from lost works. Unlike many commentaries today, Clement of Alexandria postulated allegorical interpretations of Gospel texts that were Christ-centered. I will quote what we have of his comments on The Parable of the Pearl [of Great Price] found in Matthew 13: 46-47, and then add some commentary on my own.

From Niceta’s Catena on Matthew:

“A pearl, and that pellucid and of purest ray, is Jesus, whom of the lightning flash of Divinity the Virgin bore. For as the pearl, produced in the flesh and the oyster-shell and moisture, appears to be a body moist and transparent, full of light and spirit; so also God the Word, incarnate, is intellectual light, sending his rays, through a body luminous and moist.”

For Clement, Jesus the Messiah is the Picture Perfect Image of YHWH. In The Educator (Pedagogue, Book II, Chapter XIII), Clement spends an excessive amount of time discussing beauty, fashion and the like, but here again he repeats his rendering of The Parable Of The Pearl Of Great Price:

“And the wretched creatures are not ashamed at having bestowed the greatest pains about this little oyster, when they might adorn themselves with the sacred jewel, the Word of God, whom the Scriptures has somewhere called a pearl, the pure and pellucid Jesus, the eye that watches in the flesh,–the transparent Word, by whom the flesh, regenerated by water, becomes precious. For that oyster that is in the water covers the flesh all around, and out of it is produced the pearl.

Now, if I may move on to further excursis, if Christ is the Reign of God, (the pearl), then the merchant who is searching for him must be the Elect, the chosen body of Christ that continues to live lives of repentance, seeking out to involves itself in the life of the Triune God. The illuminous Revelation that is Christ reveals God’s true nature perfectly in the person of Divine Wisdom Enfleshed. The Elect are those persons who are baptized first by water, as a sign of repentance and their accountability to the Body. The merchant is the community of believers who know and realize the Cost of Discipleship [Matthew  13:47 & 19:21 on the Jesus and the Rich Young Man].

What may be a little more interesting is that Clement’s interpretation of this Parable read a lot like early Church Baptismal formulas, and the Nicene Creed (in bold)

A pearl, and that pellucid and of purest ray, is Jesus  |

 JesusChrist, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light,

AND

whom of the lightning flash of Divinity the Virgin bore. For as the pearl, produced in the flesh and the oyster-shell and moisture, appears to be a body moist and transparent, full of light and spirit; so also God the Word, incarnate, is intellectual light, sending his rays, through a body luminous and moist. |

 

he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human. 

And

the transparent Word, by whom the flesh, regenerated by water, becomes precious. For that oyster that is in the water covers the flesh all around, and out of it is produced the pearl. |

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The theology of the Church, then, can never really be separated from its worship praxis.  The neat wall separation that we have created between orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxis  (right practice) should come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

By Rod:

The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-28)

The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable(s) the Fig Tree(s) (Judges 9:10-11 and Luke 13:1-9)

 By Chad:

The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-18) 

The Parable-Driven-Life: Lazarus and The wealthy C.E.O. (Luke 16:19-31)

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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