Difference, Diversity, and Reading Choices: Blog Lists & Popularity Contests

I have written about my issues with blogging lists before so this isn’t a new topic. Running a popular blog means writing is relevant, chasing after hits and going after the latest controversy. As a blogger this means we have to keep our eyes on the 24 hour news cycle, or try to keep up with who said what publicly.

Part of the reason I chose to blog six or seven years ago, or if you want to go back to my Myspace and Facebook and Xanga notes I wrote during class in seminary, was because I wanted to express myself. I had no desire (at the time) to be a writer. But that has changed, but my approach is still the same. I know that recently I have hurt people’s feelings with my posts on here and on Tumblr and facebook, and I do not apologize for that. If you take something I have written personally, the fault may be your own especially since I have only gone after systemic forms of oppression. I know this approach does not win me any more followers, but I don’t write for the majority. What I do is write for myself, and for those who dream of justice. I realize that the words I type can give life to others, and they let me know, and that’s a reason to keep writing. For Resurrection.

An interesting conversation developed on Twitter and other blogs today. First, it started with the publishing of Christian Piatt’s 25 Christian blogs You Should Read. One of the problems was that only one person of color’s blog was posted on the list, Christena Cleveland. Cleveland responded with a list of her own making, and I suggest you check it out: People Of Color blog Too: 25 Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading. I am fortunately mentioned on the list. If you know of any other Christian blogs by POC mentioned, comment on that post or on this one, and I will submit it for Christena.

However, the trouble began when (mostly) white Christians started to criticize Christena for adding Thabiti Anyabwile, who stirred up things with his post on same sex marriage and the gag reflex. As I have noted many times, I was the first person really to criticize Thabiti, both in his blog post comment thread and in a separate blog post. Thabiti’s inclusion is problematic because his post disregarded the Imago Dei in persons who identify as LGBTQIA persons. However, I think is inclusion was probably needed for theological diversity and because he is very influential as a writer. I will go on to say a few things: Yes, I was angry this afternoon that the criticism (which I figured was coming)that a conversation on race had been once again derailed by issues of sexuality and same sex marriage. The reason I did so was because Pat Robertson prophelied an all out race war last week, and no white emergent Christian said a word. Robertson’s white supremacist rhethoric is just as harmful as Thabiti’s words.

Secondly, as Sarah N Moon pointed out on Twitter, none of the white emergents took issue with Tony Jones, among others, being on Christian Piatt’s list. This is because it is far too easy for blacks to be seen as having a culture of backwardness, that’s misogynist (people always bringing up hip hop on my facebook) and homophobic (let’s ignore all of Russia’s policies, but whitesplain progress to Africa!). This is just yet another example of white supremacist double standards at play.

While theologically I am in primarily disagreement with Anyabwile, I think it’s important to note why Cleveland added him in the first place:

Thank you for asking about this. I am so sorry that Thabiti’s comments have caused you pain. As someone who has been negatively affected by hurtful language, I think I understand, in part, how unbearably painful blog posts like Thabiti’s recent one can be.

I think of the body of Christ as a family of imperfect people who are irrevocably interconnected. Each of us is an unfinished work-in-progress with great capacity to love others and also great capacity to hurt others. Despite the risk and inevitable pain that this type of relationship brings, I believe that followers of Christ (of all persuasions) are called to be in interdependent relationship with each other, humbly informing each other’s perspectives.

To this end, I listen to and maintain relationships with many people with whom I do not always agree. It is in this same spirit that I continue to listen to and dialogue with various voices within the body of Christ who have said and done racist/sexist things. We all have blind spots (myself included) that lead us to oppress and it’s in the context of relationship and interpersonal dialogue that blind spots and oppression are exposed.
This list represents a wide variety of theological, social and political viewpoints – and not one viewpoint is perfectly complete. As iron sharpens iron, we gain better perspective in relationship with diverse others.”

From the comment section

Bruce Reyes-Chow’s post today also rang with me, as I thought about this discussion:

“Simply put, I refuse to give up on the idea that being community across lines of difference is holy and I remain committed to the idea that we will only get there if more if us embrace the transformational power of extending our spirit, hands and words of graciousness and not rhetorical or physical violence. Words or actions of graciousness are not weak or soft, in fact, they are powerful and strong and find a way to confront injustice without denying the humanity or stripping the dignity of the one who needs to be held accountable.

So no matter how often I am mistaken for that other Asian Presbyterian or told to go back to where I came from, or hear my ancestral language mocked, read racist blogs or feel unsafe, marginalized or excluded because of what I look like . . . I choose the power of graciousness. It may feel better to strike back hard, but that is a choice I must force myself NOT to make at every turn, every day.

A difficult choice for sure, but one I hope more of us make.”

- Bruce Reyes Chow, How I Survive Everyday Racism

I would say that existing alongside difference is a very difficult choice to make, as Reyes Chow put it, but it is the right one. It is the more peaceful and just one.

h00die_R (Rod)

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9 thoughts on “Difference, Diversity, and Reading Choices: Blog Lists & Popularity Contests

  1. I hope you read my follow up comment to that question? Are all views valid?

    Certainly, the conversation on the morality of same sex relationships is an important one to have and many of the voices on this list, which I respect and admire, hold to a traditional ethic… the difference with Thabiti is that he wrote one of the most hateful posts I have ever read. If you put him on your blog as a must read, you are making an endorsement of his work.

    Micah and I discussed this today about the double standard given to Cleveland, all the rationalizing of her decision by others appears to be because she is a woman of color, so she gets a pass. Marginalized people can marginalize others.

    I can’t imagine what the response would be if I put a gay christian racist on my blog as a must-read.

    • RR,

      Yes, I read your response to Christena’s apology. While I find the list helpful, there are 2 sites I probably will avoid.honestly, i only follow Thabitis blog for his posts on neoconfederate Doug Wilson. I believe Cleveland should take a similar approach.

      I am listening, sir, and I read what you had to say. You are right. People ARE not the sum of their actions. We are not what we do. As being created in the image of God, we are infinitely valueable and all of sacred worth. On this point, you are correct. Cleveland would have been wise to offer a trigger warning, to go with the link to Thabiti.

      In the same light, please realize that Christena is more than a Woman Of Color. She never gets a pass at anything because of those 2 facts. She is also a Christian social psychologist and consultant working towards an ideal of reconciliation. Does reconciliation entail living with an enemy who uses violent rhetoric? CC may say yes; i say no, exclusion/marginalizing violent voices must be a practice to invite nonviolent dialogue. There is liberation there, and right now in this moment, I’m more concerned about liberation & justice than reconciliation.

      Speaking of double standards, why havent white Christians been equally angered by Tony Jones inclusion? Does he get a pass as a white male ally? Justice means discernment, Jones’ & Thabiti’s colonizing gazes are problematic, their perspectives are not equally valid. Lists are not about validation or 100% endorsement. Lists for blogs recognize a bloggers’ presence on the internet. I doubt most of the voices on Piatt’s list need anymore validation; otherwis their agents arent doing a good job!

      As someone myself who values the traditional sexual ethic, I feel obligated to listen to victims of homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexist privilege. I dont think lists are the answer to diversity in blogging (linking regularly & conversations are), but CC’s list is a start nontheless.

  2. I think the first problem is assuming that these lists are the same as endorsements. There are lots of things I read regularly that I don’t endorse, but I think are important to read.

    I would never have phrased Plait’s list as he did. But I think we need to allow for contrary voices within the Christian world without condemning them as Christians. Not everything that Robertson says is wrong (although he is getting pretty close). And not everything that Tony Jones or Thabiti says is wrong. Yes they all say some things that I think are wrong. But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from them.

    Although I would never recommend people watch (or listen to) Robertson, I do think that there are others that are worth reading even when I often think they are wrong.

  3. Pingback: I Hate Blog Lists or Bruce’s Top 10 Blog List | Bruce Reyes-Chow

  4. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival: August, 2013 | NEAR EMMAUS

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