Royal. Bodies. #StayWokeAdvent #Ferguson

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Over a week ago, NBA basketball star LeBron “King” James found himself in hot water after breaking a rule. While hanging out with Prince William and Duchess Kate, LeBron violated British royal protocol by wrapping his arm around Kate’s back. The bodies of the members of the British Royal family are national treasures, and palace officials work to make sure that particular customs are adhered to.

Today I would like to reflect on the Advent Lectionary selection, 2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16 (NRSV). Because the personal is political, and vice versa, I purposefully chose what I believed to be the most difficult text to deal with during this season of repentance. The chapter itself brings a lot of baggage, and so if you do not understand the context (historical & theological), it becomes more about King David and his reign rather than the actual kin(g)dom of God. The prophet Nathan is approached by David and is asked whether or not David is the one to build YHWH’s temple.  Nathan at first approves of the project, but then that night, God speaks to Nathan, and tells him, hold up homey, I have other plans. Verse 6 says, “I [YHWH] have not lived in a house since the day I brought the people of Israel from,  Egypt, to this day but I have been moving in a tent and a tabernacle.”

Right away, YHWH is reminding Nathan the prophet and King David that the central story for Israel is THE Exodus. The story of God liberating the Hebrew people from the wrath of Pharaoh is the foundational narrative by which we understand God’s sovereignty. God’s freedom is a freedom for others, a releasing of the captives whose bodies are suffering affliction. The human body is of utmost importance to YHWH because in it is located the imago Dei, as well as the primary means by which God receives worship (READ: LOVE). Therefore, White Supremacist systems that value the value of one group of people over People of Color, especially Black men, are in direct opposition to the Kin(g)dom of God.

Because God has blessed humanity with embodied spiritual existence, ALL of our actions do matter. The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel are good reminders. When the Israelites reject the prophet Samuel as kyriarch Samuel first reminds them that YHWH was the divinity who reigned over them since delivering their ancestors from Egyptian oppression (1st Samuel 8:), and that with this new political structure Israel desired, there would be consequences: “He will take your male and female slaves” “He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers” “he will take your sons to be his horsemen” (1st Samuel 8:10-18). In each example that the prophet Samuel gives, he refers to the future king’s lordship over Israel’s children’s bodies. Israel’s monarch will become Pharaoh: “And in that day, you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

David is not allowed to build YHWH’s temple because he had too much bloodshed on his hands (1st Kings 8). What God does promise him however is that God “will raise up your offspring after [David], who shall come from [David’s] body” and YHWH then promises to establish that progeny’s kingdom. David’s throne will be made to rule forever (2nd Samuel 7:16). Now, it would be quite easy to spiritualize this promise, but we must not ignore the theological significance of the human body here. God’s shares God’s divine power with us human beings so that we may reign with God. The kin(g)dom of God is not some otherworldly reality in the great by and by; the kingdom of God takes place whenever the Holy Spirit is active and working within and between human bodies. The question is, what does the kin(g)dom of God look like in the here and now?

The Israelites failed to believe the words of the judge/prophet Samuel, and by the time King David rose to power in Hebron, it was too late. King David’s sexual assault set in motion events where the reign of God became absent. The murder of Uriah, the death of Bathsheba’s newborn child, and number of political conspiracies and military battles that were waged against David’s household. One must ask herself, “Where exactly is God’s kin-dom found during the days of King David?” Okay, really where was God’s reign found during Israel’s monarchies?

Might I suggest that God reigns and continues to rule through the prophets? Nathan, Samuel, Huldah, and Deborah and a number of YHWH’s prophets stood as God’s voice, re-telling the Exodus story and God’s liberating activity when it comes to human affairs. Israel could exist with a king. Israel could be perfectly fine without the military dictators in some instances that we read about in Judges. Israel could be Israel even while in exile. Why? Because God chose to execute God’s rule through the prophets.

Notice what Nathan says about YHWH, that Ya has been moving through tent and tabernacle. God prefers to be on the move, marching with suffering humanity in their struggles for justice. In the Gospel of John, chapter 1:14, the original greek means that YHWH set up God’s tabernacle in Jesus’ royal flesh. And where did the Logos take up residence? Christ was not to be found among the powerful, but the outcast, the sick, and his fellow first century Judeans who were being colonized and terrorized by the Roman Empire. In the wake of the #Ferguson movement, where are the prophets? The kingmakers of the world (the racist media) are vying to make Al Sharpton king once more so that they can control the narrative. Yet it is clear that there is no need for an earthly ruler when all of humanity has the potential to have the reign of God in their hearts. The Spirit of Jesus is working in the midst the women and men organizing and updating their fellow human beings on Twitter, marching the streets to #ShutItDown, to end the current anti-Christ system of police brutality and mass incarceration.

There is no need to look for messiahs to save the poor. Human beings can and must do it themselves.”- James Cone, Malcolm & Martin & America: A Dream or a Nightmare?, page 315

This has been my contribution to the Theology of Ferguson #StayWokeAdvent lectionary reflections.

h00die_R (Rod)

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To “Safeguard the Nation”: Redemption, Torture, and #BlackLivesMatter: Advent Reflections

Timothy McGee is a doctoral student in systematic theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.

The Midtown South branch of the NYPD recently tweeted (and promptly took down) an image of Jack Nicholson playing Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men, along with the full quotation that begins with the famous line, “you can’t handle the truth,” and includes the troubling statement, “You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives!”

Posted two days after more than twenty-thousand people marched in New York to protest the killings of unarmed black men and women, this quote reveals the deep cultural as well as material connection between the military and police, such that the defense of one institution serves as the identical defense of the other. It thereby also reminds us that the domestic killing of unarmed black men and women should be connected to the international killing of unarmed civilians via drone warfare, and the torture of “enemy combatants” held in secret CIA detention centers overseas.

The reasoning provided by Jessup and quoted by the NYPD was recently repeated, even more callously, by Dick Cheney. Cheney argued that he was fine with the brutal treatment of innocent detainees as long as the objective of “saving lives” was fulfilled. No tragedy even, as long as “we” triumph.

The redemptive logic displayed in the tweet and defended by Cheney collapses the notion of “saving lives” into a larger project to “safeguard the nation.” It is not simply empirical individuals whose existence has been threatened but a whole idealized mode of life that has come under threat. What ultimately connects the militarization of the police to the imperialist policing of the world by the military is the sense that “America” is under attack and its salvation requires an increasingly violent response.

Talal Asad, an anthropologist and post-colonial theorist, has pointed out that Western Christian and secularized understandings of redemption have always been accompanied by a kind of cruelty or disregard for human life. The goal of redemption is to bring out the potential humanity of those not fully human others—whether poor black urban youth or Arab Muslims—and to contain and extirpate (culturally or biologically) those internal and external inhuman others who refuse and resist being “humanized” or redeemed by the West.

The current population self-identified with this redemptive project of humanizing potential human others, that is, the middle-class white U.S. citizen, is facing a crisis of legitimacy that it perceives as a threat. No longer able to sustain the fiction that its own interests are the nation’s best self-interests let alone the self-interests of the human species as a whole, it interprets this loss as attack or threat, doubling down on the myth of “American awesomeness” in the face of torture reports, police brutality, economic downturn and instability, racialized and gendered violence, and the increasingly strained position of the U.S. as the political and economic leader of the globe.

In face of the realization that its power and prestige cannot be assumed, the salvific defense of this class and its self-interests turns violent. If torture or the shooting of unarmed black civilians happens, these are simply, at worst, tragic necessities so that this threatened way of life—America—can continue. And it must continue, it must be saved, for it, in fact, is what redemption means. As the Jamaican essayist Sylvia Wynter has argued, human redemption has become materialized and now simply is entrance into the cultural mode of life defined by and structured for the sake of white, middle class America.

These tremblings of an Empire and its way of life are happening during Advent, a time in which we Christians remember that the prophesied birth of the Jewish Messiah sent the ruling elite of another Empire into a murderous, genocidal tirade. The “tragic sacrifice” of innocent life was deemed necessary to preserve the structures that would ensure global peace, the Pax Romana. But beneath and against these tremblings of Empire, other forms of life were emerging. In the language of the Gospels, the Kin(g)dom of God was breaking in, not in the pompous glory of power, but in the birth of a child in a stable, welcomed by poor shepherds and foreign wise men.

In the opening of Luke’s Gospel, Mary praises God for granting her the honor of mothering this Messiah. She sings,

 

He has shown strength with his arm;

    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

    and lifted up the lowly;

 he has filled the hungry with good things,

    and sent the rich away empty.

 He has helped his servant Israel,

    in remembrance of his mercy…

If we white U.S. Christians cannot echo Mary in this song of praise, it might be that we are more interested in preserving our self-proclaimed role as universal saviors than in embracing the form and mode of life in which Jesus of Nazareth actually came, and into which he continually calls us. On the other side, I can think of no better summary of Mary’s song happening today than the refrain Black Lives Matter. Not all lives matter, but black lives matter, for in a very biblical way, we do not seek to include the part into the whole—the covenant with Israel into creation, the Jew into the Gentile, black lives into all (human) lives—but constantly challenge the proposed whole for the sake of the part: creation for the sake of covenant, Gentiles grafted into Israel, and all lives matter only because black lives matter.

Perhaps then, as one marcher in New York wrote on a sign, the black liberation theologian James Cone was (and is) right, and the Gospel can and still should be summarized for us today as “Jesus Christ is Black.” A Black Christ is not antithetical to us white people. Christ is, however, quite clearly opposed to the redemptive violence unleashed against non-white bodies at home and abroad for the sake of saving what our bodies represent: the form of life that falsely claims to enact, bring, and secure the peace that will redeem or humanize all peoples. Against this redemptive life we too must learn to shout and hope and pray and live and act and work so that God’s kin(g)dom will come and Shut It Down.

The Political Jesus Collective

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Language For God in Patristic Tradition by Mark Sheridan

Woooooo hoooo! Christmas came early for me today in the mail. Intervarsity Press has sent me a review copy of Language For God in Patristic Tradition: Wrestling With Biblical Anthropomorphism by Mark Sheridan. Words cannot fathom how excited I am, but maybe this video can! LOLS!

h00die_R (Rod)

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Upcoming #AnaBlacktivism chats: #JamesConeWasRight & Bonhoeffer

Yes, that’s right, CHATS. PLURAL. Mark your calendars for two conversations on Theology and Race. Back in June, we had our first #AnaBlacktivist chat on Anti-Blackness, Liberation, and Shalom.

On Thursday night December 18th, 2014 at 8:00pm EST, over on Twitter, @AnaBlacktivism will host a conversation on #JamesConeWasRight (using this hashtag inspired by the labor of our friends Daniel and Terrence). Given the recent discussions nation- and worldwide about #Ferguson, #TamirRice, #EricGarner, racism, and police brutality, we at AnaBlacktivist Seminary wanted to highlight the prophetic words of Dr. James Hal Cone, and how his insights remain relevant to this day. Cone’s intellectual project in advancing an Anti-racist, anti-oppressive Christianity are now needed now than ever before. From his analysis of Blacks’ experiences, to his critique of pacifist theologians from the dominant culture, we hope you will join us in this important conversation about Cone’s theology. We will conclude the discussion with challenges and pushback, and a few critiques of Cone’s project.

[TO BE DETERMINED, A DATE AFTER CHRISTMAS DAY, STAY TUNED]: @AnaBlacktivism will host a discussion on Black Theology and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For many, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is more than simply a martyr. For others, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s legacy in his writings could be seen as a possible turning point in theology in the post-Christopher Columbus ERROR Era. While many scholars acknowledge the influence of Bonhoeffer’s encounter with Black church life in Harlem, it is usually downplayed. In this discussion, we will be talking about Bonhoeffer’s views on race, Western civilization, and Protestant theology. We will also discuss whether are certain texts in Bonhoeffer’s work that are problematic, and whether or not there is a way forward in re-reading Bonhoeffer for today.

If anyone wants to get a head start in preparing for either of these conversation, we would recommend watching this video of J. Kameron Carter at Lancaster Seminary: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Failed Blackness.

Linked here

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h00die_R (Rod)

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the master’s tools #AnaBlacktivism

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.-the Apostle Paul Ephesians 5:5-9(NRSV)”

“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women;
those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are
poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an
academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For
the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us
temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about
genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the
master’s house as their only source of support.”- Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House

Whenever discussions of social injustice take place, I normally see a shorter version of Audre Lorde’s quote appear, with the phrase itself taken completely out of context. The bumper sticker version “The master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house” is invoked whenever some revolutionary purist wants to score points for quoting a woman of color and sexual minority (bonus points! LEVEL UP!)

Level up scott pilgrim

In context, Audre Lorde is describing her situation, and critiquing white feminism that centers the Academy and the middle class, and straight. The event she critiqued which took place almost thirty years ago was one in which “difference was merely tolerated.” For Lorde, “Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our
personal power is forged.” It is the exclusion of this difference by white feminism that is exactly the way that it (white feminism) reinscribes White Supremacist Kyriarchy. One of the interesting questions that Lorde asks in this essay/speech,

“Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference? Why were
two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names
of Black feminists? And although the Black panelist’s paper ends on an important and
powerful connection of love between women, what about interracial cooperation between
feminists who don’t love each other?”

Or for in a different context, why isn’t there any discussion for People of Color who desire for racial justice at Christian conferences? One of my friends a few months ago received a few phone calls as “a consultation,” and his voice was further devalued. The problem with the bumper sticker version of “the master’s tools” is that these discussion still center “the masters,” the dominant culture with its male supremacy. Even when members of the dominant culture find themselves wanting to discuss issues of white supremacy, privilege, classism and sexism, the starting point unfortunately seems to focus on the perspective from those at the top.

Then, there is this “demand” for marginalized people to “supply” privileged persons with education to be better allies. The choice by those from the margins to take the lead and inform the dominant culture of its wrongs should be a free, noncompulsory choice, on the terms determined by the marginated. Dialogues such as the Southern Baptist Convention partaking in the LORD’S Supper with members of the LGBTQIA community is a start, but again, it was on the SBC’s homefield. The calls by the majority, those in power, for the minorities to educate them, are, as Lorde argues, diversion tactics that lead to a repetition of white supremacist kyriarchy.

The way to decenter these discussions is to #1, stay focused on the margins, #2, not stray away from the topic of structural oppressions which can get derailed by persons who wish to make it “all about the individual,” and #3, recognize that whatever our visions of liberation are, whether they are religious or political, that these transcend as “the master’s tools.”

h00die_R (Rod)

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In The Mail: Kenneth Bailey’s The Good Shepherd

My friends at Intervarsity Press sent along Bailey’s The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament. Psalm 23 was one of the first Bible passages I memorized as a child. As an adult, I discovered just how prominently political the language of “shepherd” was. I hope to put this book to good use.

h00die_R (Rod)

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Christians and Gaming Pt 1: Games of Lies and Deception

Today, I want to start a series of posts on how Christians should approach gaming. In this series, I will look at both tabletop and video games.

Growing up in the church, I was taught at an early age that lying and bearing a false witness was a sin.

You must not steal nor deceive nor lie to each other. (Leviticus 19:11)

 

Do not testify falsely against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16)

But what is a lie? A lie is defined as “a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.”

With that in mind, what implications does this have for Christians who play games where deception and lying is not only encouraged, but required to win the game? And I’m thinking beyond poker here. I’m also thinking of games like Geek Out!, The Resistance, Battlestar Galactica.


Games are designed to be fun. Fun is usually maximized when everyone play by the rules. Now, in some games, behaviors like lying, deception and false accusations are written into the rules. In Geek Out!, bluffing is encouraged to get other players to bid higher than they want to try to prevent them from correctly providing the proper responses in the category. Games like Battlestar Galactica and The Resistance encourage lying, deception, and false accusations to make people second guess your true intentions. If you’re a traitor in Resistance, you want to make people think you are part of the resistance and cast doubt on the other players so you get picked to go on the missions. (Battlestar Galactica has a similar aspect in that 1-2 players are Cylons trying to sabotage the fleet.) Part of the fun of games like The Resistance and Battlestar Galactica are trying to figure out who the traitor or Cylon is. There would be no game if I answer truthfully when another player questions me about being a Cylon!

Are we breaking God’s commands against lying and bearing false witness by playing these games? If we answer in the affirmative, then we as Christians must doe a lot of soul searching. Let’s face it, we all know good Christians who tell those little white lies to their kids about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and/or the Tooth Fairy. If we were consistent in our application of Scripture, we’d have to start demanding repentance every time a kid was told Santa was real. If we answer in the negative, then how do we reconcile our actions with Scripture? Are we hypocrites for saying don’t lie except when you’re playing a game that demands deception or to keep your kids on their best behavior near Christmas by telling them that Santa is checking his list?

The way I see it, there are a few options that Christians have when it comes to these kind of games.

  1. Don’t play them.  Politely excuse yourself from the table and leave while the game is being played. You might get some strange looks from your friends but you won’t be placed in the awkward position that is option #2.
  2. Be honest. If you’re playing The Resistance and someone asks you if you are the traitor, tell them the truth. Of course, you will ruin the game for everyone else and probably won’t get an invite to the next game night, but your conscience will be clear.
  3. Realize that this is just a game, that your eternal soul will not burn in hell for all eternity because you didn’t tell the truth while playing a game, and enjoy the time with your friends.

From my perspective, there is no sin in playing these kind of games. The argument could be made that lying and false accusations are a part of the rules of the game. And if you don’t play by the rules, then what’s the point in playing that specific game? Believe me, no one’s feeling will be hurt if lie or throw around false accusations while playing these games because it is expected. And also, it’s a gameThis isn’t real live we’re talking about where real actions have real consequences.

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The Liberating LORD of Peace, Part 3: the Revealer #TheNewPacifism

Reading the New Testament as a Continuation of the Hebrew Bible

Previous posts in this series-

The Liberating LORD of Peace, Part 1: Groundrules

And

The Liberating LORD of Peace, Part 2: Revelation

In order for me to argue that the New Testament is not that new in the sense of Jewish moral theology, allow me to review my counter-arguments to uninformed claims that advocates of Christian non-violence avoid the Old Testament.

On the contrary, it is several Old Testament theological claims that remain at the root of Christian pacifism and Christian peace-making efforts. 1. The Decalogue, specifically The Second and Fifth Commandments read together are calls to reject violence.  By knowing the name of God, we avoid linguistic violence towards God and are able to have inner peace that manifests itself outwardly in a peaceful relationship with our neighbors.  The negative command to avoid killing is a logical conclusion from the directive to love God. 2. The Image of God: If one understands the doctrine of being made in the image of God as where humanity’s worth is seen as immeasurable in the eyes of the Triune God, then it follows forth that all of human life is sacred because of the Creator, and second, only God has the right to take away life. 3. Blood as Sacred: Various legislation in the Torah informs readers that the blood of every creature is sacred, for the blood of the creature is its life. 4. The Wars of the Holy One: Rejecting the Holy wars in favor of the far more accurate term, Wars of the Holy One, one can see that theologically the God of Israel, the YHWH Armies is the lone sources of military victory.  Any prideful attempt on the part of the Israelites to take away God’s glory is to be rejected, as was with prophets such as Elisha’s rebuke of the king of Israel (1st Kings 6). 5. Diaspora Judaism: The Maccabee’s violent revolution was rejected, even excluded from the canon at one point.  Nehemiah and Ezra’s noble yet ethnically exclusive experiment should be viewed as a failure, and falling short of God’s command to “seek the peace of the city,” according to Jeremiah 29:5-7.

How Jesus and the Apostles Passed Down the Non-violent Jewish Ethic

Jesus embodies the entirety of the nonviolent morality as it relates to Judaism. It is in his life, death, and resurrect that he creates a new covenant, a better testament (Hebrews 8:6) through his obedience.  The New Covenant is a better one, not because of any principles are laws but simply because the Covenant has been made available to all nations for it was first to the Jew, but now to Jew and Gentile (John 4:22; Romans 1:16). The healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2) is part of the mission of God as well as the healing of the soul.  The incarnation and mission of the Logos points toward reconciliation God with humanity, as well as making possible a greater human fellowship.

1. Jesus as the Logos, or Word of God in many of the early Christians thinking was the Ten Words made Flesh or the Law Incarnate. Their understanding of John 1:1-18 was that God’s teaching had to take on a human body in order for God to teach human being holiness.  What the Patristics understood is that Jesus as revelation cannot be separated from understanding God disclosing God’s Will in the Decalogue.  When New Testament passages allude to the reality that all persons will confess Christ as Lord while every knee will bow, it does so because there is no other name by which human beings receive the gift of salvation (Philippians 2:10).  If one knows Jesus, one will know the God of peace, thus continuing the promise of the 2nd Commandment.  Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew as well as his Sermon on the Hill in Luke are the re-iteration of the Ten Commandments as well as their Jubilee interpretations in Leviticus. These laws are not for a chosen few (ala Reinhold Niebuhr) but for everyone who wishes to follow the Lord Jesus. In Liberation Theology, as I have contested a number of times this year, the Exodus narrative is absolutely essential to understanding the whole metanarrative of Scripture. Without the story of YHWH redeeming enslaved Hebrew bodies from the wrath of Egypt, one cannot grasp a proper understanding of God’s Word. Jesus as the Incarnate Son of God partakes in the prophetic tradition of which Moses was the first human participant.

2. Jesus as the Image of God is the norming norm for human behavior (Colossians 1:15). As fully God and fully human, Christ is what it means to be a person. As Yoder articulates quite well,

“When Paul spoke of Jesus as image, or when the author of Hebrews , or the signers of the hymn cited in Phillipians 2 used similar expressions, they were practicing the opposite of freewheeling image making.  They were affirming the abiding normativeness  of the work and words of the man Jesus as revelatory of God’s being and will.”

(1) That the exclusive imagery of Jesus as some Nordic looking hippie is something that ought to be destroyed. Honoring Christ as THE Image of God means the destruction of ALL idols. In A Black Theology of Liberation (chapter 2, “The Norms and Sources of Black Theology”), James Cone criticizes those who would use the image of God as love as a ground for nonviolence. Theologies that are born out of whiteness (the powerful, the dominant culture) serve the interests of the majority including disingenuous calls for Blacks protesting injustice to be “peaceful” like Governor Jay Nixon last night. An AnaBlacktivist theological ethics would call for recognizing the Just Divinity from the Hebrew Bible as the impetus for religious peacemaking with Christ Jesus being that very Deity’s enfleshed self.

3. The Sacred Blood of Jesus: The author of 2nd Peter makes the death of Christ Jesus the reason for our righteousness, and because Jesus’s blood is sacred, we are called to a new life (much like Abel’s blood cried out for justice). Note that 2nd Peter 2:24 says that the two-fold reason for the death of the God-man is for human beings to turn from sin and live in cruciform holiness– both substitutionary atonement and moral exemplar. It is not an either/or when it comes to divine reconciliation. Jesus was victorious in his obedience, representing humanity and taking the punishment what we deserve; our act of worship should be the life of sacrifice, of self-giving, of living in humility, residing in solidarity with the crucified peoples of this world. In Black Christianities, Jesus’ bloodshed connects God in se to the history of blood that has been shed on U.S. American soil: African enslavement, the genocide of First Nation peoples, lynching, the death penalty, police brutality, the poor being sent to unjust wars ordained by the wealthy. While this idea may be offensive to many persons’ sensibilities, traditional hymns spirituals such as ‘Oh, The Blood of Jesus’ and ‘Nothing But the Blood of Jesus’ or ‘Were You There When They Crucified My LORD?’were/ are still sung in Black churches do NOT point to a retributive God. Rather, Christ’s atonement is at once salvific, sanctifying, and a symbol of solidarity with the oppressed.

4. Wars of the Holy One in the New Testament, i.e., Exorcisms: When one recognizes that it is not broken human beings who we are not struggling with, but what the Pauline/pseudo-pauline letter of Ephesians calls ‘the powers of this dark world” and evil from the heavenly realm, one must understand the testimony of the Gospels as they tell us of Jesus healing persons such as Legion [Mark 5; Luke 8] as well as other daemon-possessed persons as going to war. In fact, at the cross, Christ himself alludes to YHWH his Father as the YHWH Armies (Matthew 26:53). How God reigns is on the cross, and through suffering throughout creation. Christ fights our battles for us, and he has already conquered at his death and resurrection; God does not have a social strategy outside of these two events. Yoder puts it this way, “The church does not attack the powers; this Christ has done. […] By existing, the church demonstrates that their rebellion has been vanquished.” (2) The Johannine literature, such as the Apocalypse (the revealing), purposefully depicts Jesus as a warrior king. Specifically, it is the crucified Christ whose very words function as the sword that conquers the rebellious powers (Rev 19:21. Waiting upon the Lord, trusting in Christ’s teaching (Rev 13:10) is the key to victory, and not any human tradition. A possible reframing of this notion of Christus Victor is what Joerg Reiger, in Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times, calls a Christus Victor from the Margins. Rather than a CV that is from above, which can give into triumphalism and nationalism, this view of Christus Victor “stands a chance to be more real and push toward resistance” against empire (page 259).

5. Diasporic Jewish Christianity: The New Testament authors understand Christian existence as one being in exile, foreign to the surrounding nations in which followers of the Way resided in. Paul places Christian citizenship in the realm of God (Phillipians 3:20). In the midst of living in the violent and oppressive “Pax” Romana, the NT writers wanted to emphasize that we are in the world, but not of it, and our actions should show likewise. As I mentioned in part 2, Black communities have faced histories of alienation and systems of death. Part of learning how to navigate being Christian and Black as a descendent of enslaved Africans as well as a U.S. citizen meant being an actual “resident alien.” Living in exile is not just some metaphor that Christians from the dominant culture can appropriate just because they have a few less votes in the U.S. Senate. The experience of exile is first and foremost a material reality, wrought with feelings of human betrayal and Godforsakeness. If God has deemed it appropriate to show God’s universal love for all through God’s own preferential option for the marginalized, then what should a Christian ethic of nonviolence look like. For part 4 of this series, that is where I will turn, looking at ideas of community, revolution, and responding to Just War theorists.

(1) John Howard Yoder. The War Of The Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence And Peacemaking. Editted by Glenn Stassen, Mark Thiessen Nation, and Matt Hamsher. Brazos Press, Grand Rapids Michigan, 2009, 168

(2) John Howard Yoder. The Politics of Jesus : Vicit Agnus Noster. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.Carlisle, U.K.: Eerdmans ; Paternoster Press, 1994, 150.

Recommendations:

James Cone. God Of The Oppressed. 1975.

John Howard Yoder. The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Agnus Noster. 1972.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Myths, Tropes, and Narrative: The Signifigance of Story

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been captivated by the art of story-telling. I’ve been known to have quite a vivid imagination ( I guess I still do…?) as a child and would funnel this creative energy to conjurring some of the most bizarre, outlandish, yet charming stories for my friends, family and classmates.

But children are not the only one’s who tell stories, however. I would argue that the act of story-telling has been embedded in the consciousness and minds of human kind since the earliest civilizations. From the elders to the griots (story-tellers/historians of the Malian kingdom) and everything from then on, human civilizations have been founded upon story. The Christian faith is about one grand story of a peculiar people, the Israelites, through whom a peculiar God would show Himself to the world, all leading up to the redemptive narrative of the Logos, Christ- the compelling story of the vulnerable shepherd God-in-flesh.

Story informs our cultural heritage, our faith, and our history. The Ancient Egyptians and the cosmic gods of Ra, Osiris, and Horus- the gods that walked the lands of the eternal sands… ANd what a clash it was between these gods- this story, this narrative of the celestial gods who roamed the lands and justified the predominance of Egypt over Israel. The clash of the God and narrative of the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the Gods and narrative of Potiphar..

The Greco-Roman myths. Their myths so strong we see the names of their gods in modern cosmology- Jupiter, Mars,Neptune; the Pelopponesian, Hellenic wars inspired by the mythicized masculinities of Hercules and Oddysseus…

The myths crafted by the enlightenment thinkers- the fetishizing of certainty and control, the ‘invisible hand’ motif, whose authors-  Locke and Smith would become the new Gospel – the nexus of this new story that would provide the backdrop for the protagonists- the white, shiny, beautifuls ones- the heroes, the expeditionists, the “captains”, the businessmen,manifesters of their own ‘destiny’, the explorers, the racists, the rapists, the pillagers. And it’s this story that would inform and have pre=emption over all other stories. What more is colonialism is this anyways? – the erasure of pages of a people’s story,narrative,identity, and copy and pasting another, “more glorious” one- in aggression.

Yes, indeed, stories are not just little bedtime tales for children , they are full fully grown adults as well, and one could say all the world is one big clash of stories…the struggle for self-acceptance, development and thriving is the legitimizing of your story- the story of a people,attempting to create what was erased through colonialism, what was erased through their own words being subverted for one more dominant.

The clash of the storyline as a black man as worthy to be loved, masculine by nature of being created as a man( not being swagged out or violent) vs. the story-line of the black man being the ‘wild young buck’ whose hypersexuality is something to be feared by white women and and whose criminality knows no bounds , thus justifying their murder at the hands of a militarized police troop.

Which one will win?: the story of a black female as a dignified, loved being created in the Imago Dei, or the storyline that places them as “loud, ghetto and ratchet“- or maybe sexually deviant, Jezebels?

The negative tropes and stereotypes against POC – the story fo white supremacy- are lies. A lie is, afterall, a false account- it is a story that’s not true- a bad story. We’re told in Scripture that Satan is the Father of lies. These toxic tales.

Why does everyone ‘love a good underdog’ story? The  stories of rags to riches, the triumphing of the oppressed? They represent the greatest hope of humanity- everyone finds they don’t fit into the dominant story of society, or do not like their role, they know it’s a lie.

And what Christ’s atonement represent for the oppressed is that their story, ultimately cannot be erased – rather, it can be brought back to life.  This newness of life is a newness of story- a new sort of presiding myth that is benevolent to all mankind.

 

 

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

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Political Theology Reconfigured

Vincent Loyd’s work, The Problem With Grace discerns some of the complex interplay between African American theological perspectives and modern political estates. His first aim is to dispel the methodology that relies upon supersessionist foundations to oppose law and grace. He accomplishes this by analyzing specific religious concepts within both the Jewish and Christian faith. He also relies upon heavily sources outside of traditional conception of theology using both theoretical and literary texts. Lloyd questions the notion that the world is composed of some fallen world in need of redemption. This grace and law narrative is allegorized for the African American context through the story of Grace Mulligan on the Manderlay plantation. The story begins in 1933 when Mulligan stumbled upon a plantation in which the African American living there did not know that slavery was abolished. Grace abolished the plantation law that had governed the slave’s lives and instituted a democracy. While initially successful, the community after a period of time delved into a system predicated on rivalry, suspicion and bloodshed. Grace, who had come to replace the law, eventually flees the plantation because of the unintended consequences that she created. According to Lloyd it is supersessionist logic that led to the demise of the community which was most evident when grace replaced the law. Thus he finds it more relevant to examine society relative to social norms as opposed to a society in need of grace to fulfill the law. This examination occurs through a robust description of various religious concepts and theological virtues relevant to the Christianity such as: faith, hope, love, liturgy, prophesy, and tradition. One concept that I found his analysis particularly relevant to was the virtue of faith.

Lloyd states that love is an exercise for navigating the social world. The challenges and frustrations of social and political life are condensed into how we view the love relationship. Simply stated to truly love is difficult and full of uncertainties. For him what forms the basis for love however is faith. Faith gives us the ability not to walk away from loves despite all of the trial and tribulations that accommodate it. Faith entails a commitment to love even when there are good reasons not to. He strays away from the notion of faith that is commonly associated with a belief in something or someone. In his words “faith is about improper beliefs, beliefs that go beyond what ought to be believe.” Most importantly faith runs counter to social norms. This faith accordingly is able to trump all authority that is generated from societal norms. It even calls for reprimand of those societal structures and norms. I find this view of faith helpful especially when addressing the myriad of issues that we face in our contemporary society. It is possible using this view that we can challenge social and systemic structures that oppress a variety of issues.

Faith as a virtue goes beyond a mere belief in a deity or a higher power. True faith is critical of socio-political structures. This virtue has particularly been important for African Americans in the United States. Whether it was Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights struggle or modern Civil Rights leaders who struggle against the militarization of police states, policies that perpetuate racism, classism, sexism, and heteronormativity; faith has played an important role in countering these structures. Faith can promote social action and change. It is the backbone behind the love ethic that is necessary to fight for these changes. Martin Luther King fought for equality and gave his life for the freedom of all people out of love. However, deeply rooted in his love ethic was his faith that love creates the changes necessary to transform society.

G.R.R.

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

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