good cop, bad cop routine?: on police brutality & systemic racism

[The other day last week, I wrote this as a facebook status, but I wanted to flesh out my ideas more here, and add relevant links.

It's a common trope in procedurals and buddy cop movies to have this "good cop/bad cop" routine, where the suspected criminal under interrogation is given the false hope that the  system will show him mercy through a kind face from within the police department. The system depends on fear of retributive justice to bring about retributive justice upon the law-abiding and criminal alike. Recently in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, a police department was discovered to have "bad cops" who have been doing racist practices, and now the "good cop" union is calling for the chief's termination.

To be honest, this (facebook) status update has been on my mind for a few days, but I wanted to wait and post it. So here goes. When I talk about racism, sexism, economic classism, or any other oppression, I REFUSE to talk about individuals as "racist" etc., for the most part because oppression happens REGARDLESS of what people intend. It's like my friends say, Intentions are not magic. Our words and actions do have an impact (POWER), and so that's why systemic racism is Power+Prejudice, but it can also be Power+ Ignorance too. When one talks about the shooting of #MikeBrown as a tragedy, as an event, it does not happen in a vacuum. News reports have shown how the "riots" in Ferguson, Missouri, are the result of government overreach both in terms of militarizing the police force and over-taxation of Ferguson residents. The tension between the populace and the powers that be are not merely coincidental, but it is racial, because Black people are being unfairly targeted by bureaucrats, members of the police force, and these two groups are empowered by the U.S. Congress. Now, a few details that remain irrelevant from my perspective: FIRST: Whether or not Darren Wilson is a vicious racist or not. Irrelevant, even though the community believed he targeted African Americans, and he was transferred from another police department for being racist and corrupt, as an individual, Wilson is only a participant. Racist opinions and thoughts do not kill people. Racist practices and institutions kill people. SECOND: Whether or not Mike Brown is a respectable "innocent" victim or not. Again, completely IRRELEVANT. [EDITOR'S THEOLOGICAL NOTE!: OF COURSE MIKE BROWN WASN'T AN ANGEL BECAUSE HE IS HUMAN. GOD BECAME HUMAN AND RAISED UP THE GOD-PERSON JESUS SO THAT HUMANITY MAY PARTAKE IN THE DIVINE LIFE, AND THEREFORE BE ABOVE ANGELS, BECAUSE WE GET TO JUDGE EVEN CELESTIAL BEINGS (the apostle Paul, 1st Corinthians 6:3). NOW SIT ON THAT, PLATONIST DOUCHECANOES!] Why? Because White Supremacy as a system also involves a mythology, and part of that mythos involves anti-Blackness, and black men as perpetual, lazy criminals.

When Ferguson, Missouri and the conversations about race becomes focused on strictly the two individuals involved, then the discussion devolves into the right wing politics. What I mean by right wing politics is this, that the US by default is conservative/center-right politically, and that the games of “picking up similar incidents” in the name of being contrarian without regard for context keeps the status quo unscathed. The truth is, as studies have shown, over and again: Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs  [edit: It was Ronald Reagan+ Democratic Congressional leaders, never forget that] was and has always meant to target large populations of People of Color, the Prison Industry (politicians & multinational corporations) benefits from breaking up Black families (and so before you go into how broken “fatherless” black homes are, ask yourself who is taking fathers/mothers away from their kids), that Mass Incarceration is an unjust racist system that targets Blacks and Latinos, that crime is down while police brutality is up, and that Stop & Frisk Policies target people of color at disproportionate rates. This is not about individuals with views like the Ku Klux Klan. Participants can include your run-of-the-mill carceral feminist or businessman just wanting to make a few extra bucks. Racism isn’t about issues of “mistrust” or dead-wrong personal opinions. White Supremacy is a system, organized institutional negative, lethal, discriminatory policies by the public, private, and religious sectors versus people of color+ false myths and stereotypes to keep racial hierarchy in power

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Christ in #Ferguson: On The Theological Failure of R.R. Reno’s Comments on Race and Criminality

A guest post

Timothy McGee is a doctoral student at Southern Methodist University, working in the area of systematic theology. His research focuses on 20th century political theologies, especially as they draw on Christological themes in their analysis and critique of the political configurations of life and death.

R.R. Reno, the main editor of the religious journal First Things, recently made a series of troubling posts on Ferguson (8/25, 8/26a, 8/26b, 8/27). Having commented on some of the false and prejudicial aspects his claims, I want to entertain the possibility that, at least on one point, R.R. Reno was correct. The moment when Reno was correct is, however, a complicated moment, similar in more ways than one to that moment in John’s Gospel when Caiaphas supported the plot to kill Jesus by saying: “You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (John 11:50).

The complicated moment in which Reno says something right as long as we read it against the grain is this: “We’ve all—black and white—decided to accept the fact that the culture of poor blacks is violent, dangerous, and dysfunctional. The best we can do is keep the violence under control with aggressive policing and incarceration (8/25).” The “we” is the point at which Reno is both terribly wrong and in another way, completely right. For this “we” is not the “we” of all but rather the respectable we—black and white—formed through the denunciation and exclusion of the “violent, dangerous, and dysfunctional.” Reno is completely at one here with his liberal opponents. They may offer different explanations for what causes the problems facing African-Americans: collapse of family values or past and present forms of racist discrimination. They may also offer different solutions: restoring nuclear family or providing governmental remedies for causes and effects of discrimination. But both agree—and the “we” of the nation is formed out of this agreement—that the cohesion and security of the nation depends on monitoring, separating out, and eradicating (civilizing/incarcerating)those deviant or delinquent black others here: for instance, recall how much effort liberals spent to identify “looters” as “outside agitators,” and thus not part of the respectable we.

It is also at this precise point that Reno begins, in a deeply troubling theological moment, to echo the logic Caiaphas expressed: the logic of sacrifice. Reno’s overall point is that the criminal culture of poor blacks necessitates the aggressive policing that targets them, thereby making the black community responsible for the racial disparities in who suffers the inevitable mistakes and shortcomings of police. Policing, therefore, always brings with it the sacrifice of some, but ultimately these sacrifices are what keep the whole nation from being destroyed by this criminality, until this criminal threat—“the culture of poor blacks”—is overcome.This logic of containment, control, management, and transformation through (cultural) death is the logic of the “we” of the U.S., a logic that, as we know, has simultaneously included and excluded—or included as excluded—black bodies ” (most obviously but not only in the three-fifths clause). Conservatives and liberals are at one in that the solution to “black violence” is to increase the inclusion of blacks into this “we,” into us, the respectable law-abiding and law-giving citizens. What Reno cannot imagine—which is, I think, the theological problem at the center of his troubling remarks—is that the Christian community is bound together as a “we” not through a “nobility of faith” that is placed equally alongside “the dignity of work” and “marriage and family.” Rather, the Christian community is formed as those whose lives are bound together in and through the body of the poor, marginalized, unwanted, un(re)productive, criminalized, and crucified Jesus of Nazareth. Christian community is not formed among those justified by the law but among those who are brought into the body of the one condemned by the law (Gal 3:11-14).

And so, with this failure of theological imagination, Reno is unable to imagine poor black bodies as the figure of Christ. At best, he can do so in the same way as liberals: only insofar as these bodies are docile and respectable—i.e., submissive to or tragically murdered by the law (of whiteness). What neither can imagine is black violence as figuring Christ for us (as Nyle Fort has recently argued). For neither can imagine the foundational anti-black violence—the simultaneous exclusion and containment—at the core of our national identity. Or, to put it in more traditional theological terms and from the other side: neither can imagine that only the rupture of our
national identity—the “death” of the we in which Reno speaks—can be a sign of our salvation through this God’s broken body (cf. Phil. 3:4-11).

By his refusal of this rupture, Reno cannot imagine the lives of those crossed out by this we as existing—living and loving and fighting—as a parable for how God comes to us in Jesus of Nazareth. Precisely at the site of exclusion internal to the production of the nation, God has identified God’s own life not with the respectable “we” but with those James Cone calls “the oppressed,” granting them possibilities for life that exceed a world structured by their containment and death. To put it again in more traditional theological terms, if Christ is for and with them in the Spirit, who can stand against them (cf. Rom 8:31-39)? And we—yes, I place my respectable white self clearly in Reno’s we—cannot imagine we have a future with this God without attending to and entering these ruptures created by the struggles and movements of black Americans. That Reno cannot imagine this possibility—the Christological work of joining—but instead rushes to excuse the inevitability of sacrifice while blaming black Americans for their suffering is the theological failure at the center of his deeply troubling remarks on race and Ferguson.

The Political Jesus Collective

Guests posts by friends of Political Jesus ---OR---- Group Announcement from the Bloggers of PJ

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#Negrophobia, Spiders, and America’s Fear of Talking About Racism

trayvon-miles-640x256

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So rather than have an actual conversation on race, the editors of Time magazine decided to publish a post on their Web-exclusive online site entitled “Negrophobia: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and America’s Fear Of Black People.” A number of persons on Twitter suspected that Time magazine was taking aim at #BlackTwitter, and I think they’re right to suspect so. This article was so atrocious, however, and hardly persuasive at that, that I would have to call this one of the worst attempts at being both anti-racist while trolling for hits.

Let’s start with the actual content of the essay. Mr. Hill starts out with some basic Carl Jungian psychology 101, talking about “phobias,”: “Phobias are extreme aversions embedded deep in our psyches, activated when we come face-to-face with the thing we fear. Some people are afraid of black people.” True to the classical liberal fashion of our society, Mr. Hill opts to discuss racism on an individual level. Anti-Black racism and violence is a problem of interpersonal interactions between powerful individuals and black persons. Our psyches, our subconsciousnesses, our very souls are for the most part, unknowable, and we are left often times to irrelevant pseudoscience. Hill repeats, “Phobias are extreme aversions. They are embedded deep in our psyches, activated when we come face-to-face with with the things we fear. For me, spiders trigger overreactions. For others, it can be people.”

A couple of problems with this sentiment. First of all, when we talk about personhood and face-to-face confrontations, what Hill avoids discussing is the number of practices that make black persons remain fa celess subjects at the bottom of the well. The “triggering” encounters that individuals with anti-black phobias (supposedly) have is not one of face-to-face, but of face-to-faceless, the citizen shunning the fugitive, the civilized keeping the barbarian at bay. Secondly, the comparison of Black people/anti-black racism (even on the individual level) to arachnophobia is highly problematic. Black people are not animals. White supremacist narratives animalize Black bodies, especially Black men as Wild Bucks, in order to justify racist practices such as police brutality. Lastly, if I may make myself an example and come clean. I am not afraid of spiders, or roaches, or bees or wasps. These insects do not BUG me. What insects do scare me, especially when I was in third grade, are crickets. That’s right, crickets. I would see them everywhere in our back yard, and when our basement flooded back then during tornado season, I had crickets in my room hopping around, not leaving me alone. I had not learned anything about what crickets actually were, and what value they had in the food chain. However, I did find out one day that in some cultures, crickets are signs of good luck. From that day on, I tried really hard not to bother them. Who wouldn’t want to have good fortune?

Just as #NotAllSpiders are dangerous, #NotAllCrickets are scary. The thing is, is that I had been socialized to ignore the crickets’ worth. Coincidentally, when Mr. Hill highlights the police officers calling Ferguson residents “animals,”

“I hate to think this is what the police see when they approach any unarmed black person- a predator that has escaped captivity that must be tranquilized before he or she wreaks havoc.”

It is because the officer has been socialized to be anti-black through White Supremacist story-telling, and the practices that reinforce those stories. The idea that there is a “lens of phobia,” a fear that is natural as the hair on our head that plays a major role in anti-black racism is actually a FALSE MYTH that sustains the story of White Supremacy. Racism is not natural and is immoral. It is not a “deep aversion” to be excused for, but a set of practices and beliefs to be torn down. The liberal notions of “diversity” that Mr. Hill refers to at the end of his article will not suffice; only a complete rejection that blacks and the difference we represent have to be “intimidating” in order for justice to pave the way for greater human intimacy.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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#XMenDOFP and the Nuances of the Human vs “Not Human” paradigm

Blink from the movie, X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Image from i09

The X-Men has long since been my favorite group of super heroes. I have often wondered what it was during my childhood that attracted me to the X-Men more than any other group of super heroes in the Marvel or DC Universe. Was it that I thought they had the best powers, did they have the coolest characters, or was I most intrigued by their story lines? I found myself most readily able to identify with the X-Men because I saw myself in the mutant species. It is no secret that the X-Men series is rich in metaphors for the Civil Rights struggle. In both the X-Men comics and in X-Men TAS Charles Xavier is an allusion to the Civil Right leader Martin Luther King Jr. Even though the X-Men save the world on a weekly basis they struggle to find acceptance, for no other reason than because they are mutants. It was this connection that fueled my intrigue with the X-Men film franchise. Indeed the most recent film X-Men: Day of Future Past is rife with analogies and parallel to both past and modern Civil Rights struggles. For the record the X-Men series in all forms has great limitations in its use as an analogy to the struggle for Civil Rights. Nevertheless, as I reflected on the film and the history of the film series I found that the most provocative feature of the film was the deeper meaning found through how the film questions what it means to be human and perhaps more importantly what it means to be “not human.” In light of this question it becomes important to examine what factors have motivated ethical treatment for those considered human and “not human.” As I reflect on the realities that depict “humans” and “non-humans” I am reminded of the writings of Giorgi Agamben and his work entitled Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Agamben describes the process by which groups of people become labeled as “not human” using the term homo sacer. In ancient Rome the homo sacer was a criminal who was declared an unperson. They were deemed inadequate as a form of sacrifice, while simultaneously not receiving any protection from the law.

Without any form of protection from the law through being stigmatized as the unperson, the homo sacer is left with no recourses and thus is a bare life. Agamben analysis of the homo sacer as the unperson, who is without protection, rights, or official recognition. The nation- state is capable of labeling undesirable people within a particular context as the homo sacer. This adequately describes the treatment of the mutants throughout the X-Men film series. They are not given the provision of protection by the government through the legal system. There is no vote on their systematic extermination the perceived fact that they pose a great threat to society far outweighs any rights of humaness that they may have. This feature is exemplified by Bolivar Trask initiative to exterminate all of the mutants because of the threat that they pose in X-Men Days of Future Past, and through the passing of the Mutant Registration Act in X-Men the Last Stand. Both acts are guided by a conscious decision to protect the “humans” from the “not humans.” The distinction between who is considered human and “not human” is clear. It resonates with the treatment of the immigrant population who are forced to “prove” their citizenship and in many instances seen as a threat to our borders. It also resonates with racial and ethnic minorities living in an Urban setting, who are disproportionately killed by our justice system to keep our “streets safe.” In both instances government protection and human status are sacrificed for the perceived safety of the community. Merely examining Agamben’s notion of the homo sacer as the “not human” falls short of a nuanced understanding of examining ethical treatment of humans and “not humans.” To do this one must look at some of the root causes of how one receives the label of homo sacer. Again the X-Men series is helpful towards examining one of these causes as well. An implicit message that pervades the entire X-Men film series is that both mutants and humans fear what they do not completely understands.

Mutants such as Rogue and others fear the humans not only because of whatever damage they can do to them but also because there lack of understanding of the human race. Rogue in a physical level can never understand the ways of humans as she is not able to even touch one without killing them. She still suffers from the the trauma of from touching her first boyfriend and rendering him unconscious. She is also afraid of her own powers because of the damage it can down, her inability to control them, and how little she really knows about her power. More obviously, humans fear the mutants not solely because of the power but also because of they can not fully comprehend the mutants power. Despite the X-Men consistently saving the world humans still question their intentions and the extent to which they use their powers. Even in X-Men TAS the phrase “people fear what they do not understand” is stated twice in the first two episode to make even more explicit this motif in the X-Men series. This at a very basic level alludes to what can be deemed as the chimeric quality of ethical treatment. In Greek mythology the Chimera is a mythical creature sort that is a hybrid of several different creature and is a fire breathing dragon. However, more importantly it as creature that has never been. No one in Greek mythology is said to ever encounter it through personal experience. It exists through fear and the imagination. Despite this in Greek mythology it provokes a very real and visceral emotional reaction. Thus the chimeric quality of ethical treatment is the way people are treated based on the fear of the unknown. Whether it be Mark Cuban’s comments describing his reaction to seeing a black man in a hoodie on the street or a white man covered in earrings. In both instances he said he would cross to the other side. Although there are definite racial undertones to this statement he is also very specifically alluding to the fear of the unknown. In both instances he is not afraid to admit that he is scared of what he does not know about either person.

Unfortunately, in 21st century America the unknown is too often equated minorities and people of color. Whether it be Trayvon Martin walking in a predominantly white neighborhood, or John Crawford III ( fatally shot because he was playing with a toy gun in Walmart and someone got suspicious), the chimeric quality of ethical treatment is a major threat to the bodies of people of color. Just as mutants both good and bad are murdered in the X-Men series on the basis of their perceived threat because of their unknown abilities; scores of minorities are also murdered daily and deemed as “not human” because of their unknown qualities. Realizing the dangers posed by the chimeric ethical treatment model can serve as one way to begin to form a more nuance understanding on how to distinguish that which is considered human and “not human.” Humaness as a general category should imply the fair and ethical treatment of all people regardless of perceived chimeric qualities. While the “not human,” is that which does not provide this basic ethical treatment for everyone. This articulation of humaness is exemplified in several instances in the X-Men film franchise. Perhaps most poignantly is at the conclusion of X-Men Days of Future Past. Mystique finds her own humaness by saving the life of Bolivar Trask. Trask, one of the major antagonist of the film commits a plethora of act making deserving of the title “not human,” including being responsible for the Sentinel program aimed at totally annihilating the mutant population. He appears to not be worthy of such ethical treatment by Mystique. However, by seeing the humaness in everyone she is able to find the humaness within herself. She simultaneously dismisses the chimeric quality of Bolivar Trask as well as the uncertainty of what will become of the mutants in the future. Although both she and the X-Men series do not provide an explicit solution to understanding way of providing the ethical treatment to that which is considered “not human” both certainly provided a starting for this discussion. 

For a possible Foucauldian take on the original X-Men trilogy, see Rod’s 2010 post: Re-Watching the X-Men Trilogy.

G.R.R.

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

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Environmental Justice Pulse: Alabama Coal Ash dump

 

With this post shall initiate a series I’m starting called “Environmental Justice Pulse”! As the title would suggest, this series will be about the many instances where communities of color/low-income communities are pitted against hegemonic corporate/city-planning entities for the sake of capital gain. A basic macro/micro-economics course teaches us that more often than not, the environment – what occurs to our water, air,soil and our people that live on it- are often after-thoughts ,external to the economic decision making processes for the sake of profits or “economic development” – “externalities”.

A big reason for my choosing to do this is to push back against the mainstream environmental activists in what I’ve come to see as their own hegemony: white, liberal, anti-Christian, agnosto-atheist, priviledged-yet-denying-it, and in many ways anti-black. Going through college – especially a liberal , PWI majoring in ENVIRONMENTAL studies, I’ve gotten a heavy dose of all of this rhetoric. This combined with the common notion that “blacks don’t care about the environment” was quite disconcerting for a while to me. But what I’ve realized over time is that blacks DO care about the environment, just differently and ultimately more holistically. At risk of repeating what I’ve already written in my post, “Do Blacks really care!?” , it’s essentially more about starting where you are and becoming attuned to that which is immediate to you – a long-term committment to living with the Earth as opposed to just targetting (almsot exclusively)climate change through bombastic , short-sighted and ultimately ineffective instances  of environmental advocacy.

Speaking of living with the environment – today’s EJ Pulse comes out of Uniontown Ala.! The article, which may be read here.

essentially tells of the citing of a coal-ash waste landfill near a poor, predominantly black community. It turns out, the coal ash being transported near this community comes from a plant in Tennessee and is the result of a disaster that occured there -hundreds of miles away from Uniontown ! So , essentially waste coal ash- which is incredibly toxic- is being placed near a community as a result of a disaster they had nothing to do with – talk about EXTERNALity..

Furthermore, it is stated that “Residents have reported headaches, dizziness, rashes, nausea and vomiting, symptoms they believe are related to the coal ash at the site”

The article also states the tension between a local activist who has allegedly reported arsenic ( a toxic component of coal ash- in addition to mercury) in water at incredibly high levels. A professional with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management who has been operating moniorting wells just outside of the landfill ( to ensure groundwater quality integrity) says he has yet to have seen this.

There are numerous instances in environmental justice history where industry has clearly done communities wrong and regulatory officials set up “monitoring” schema to ensure the protection of some environmental media- as if this washes away the sins of these industries against the burdened community lying in the trenches of poisoned watersways, airways, and soil. As Matthew Baca, a lawyer for Earth Justice states, “There’s a real question of why the landfill was put there in the first place, in this community that’s predominantly poor and African-American,” . We can complicate the issue further with legal jargon and monitoring schemes but at the end of the day this goes back to the famous three words of real estate- “location, location, location” , and when it comes to the citing of environmentally harmful nuisances/stressors that degrade at a community’s quality of life, it seems the three criteria are often, “Black, poor, helpless”:

“We’re a small group, we’re poor, and we’re black, so no one is going to help us,” said Ben Eaton, a 55-year-old retired schoolteacher who lives a few miles away from the facility. “People here just learn to accept whatever happens.”

This hopelessness characterizes many black neighborhoods that have been burdened by such instances of environmental negligence. When this is the case, your biggest environmental issue worth rallying for may not be protecting pristine forests or global climate change, but threats within your own community that cripple your way of life. Yet, these typically aren’t the sorts of issues we see young white (hipster) liberals fighting for on the front lines. When they are all worn out rallying, they have the luxury, more often-then-not of coming home to a nice, comfortable home in a neighborhood that’s probably not near toxic dumps and having adverse affects on their health. Such cases as presented in this article may not be the more “glamorous” environmental issues, but I believe this is where true environmentalism starts- it starts with identifying with those whose habitat has essentially been rendered a deep , dark trench- not worthy of pride of love.

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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the white supremacy of “silent piety” (part 2)- rod #Ferguson

“White Supremacy and Imagining The Crucified God”

**editor’s note: I am indebted to Kelly Figueroa-Ray for this post, and for articulating in our conversations things that I was not able to**

The question raised by Leary in the CaPC piece is “what precisely does the biblical narrative have to say in events of crisis?” Embracing a “third-wayish” tone where “both sides are equally” bad, Leary sets himself up as the objective observer who just happens to have Scripture on his side.

Leary: “it is easy in the meantime to be seduced by the ease of labels. In one narrative, the policeman is the oppressor and Michael Brown the victim. In the other narrative, the policeman made a judgment call in a difficult situation, and Michael Brown could have made some better choices that day.”

Actually Leary is presenting a narrow-sided individualistic narrative here, one that is far from “biblical.” He assumes that “both sides” are simply choosing Mike Brown as a good person vs Mike Brown as a bad person as their narratives. Let that sink in for a second. The context from which anti-racist, anti-police militarization are far more nuanced than Leary would give that side credit. From a Christian Critical Race Theorist perspective, the events happening in Ferguson are not about the individual Mike Brown versus one isolated bigoted individual. See, White Supremacy exists as a system, a set of rules and myths, roles to be played, a counter-narrative as you will to the Good News. As I have written about White Supremacy as a Religion in the past, it is the Demon that will not be named  .  Refusing to confess sin (naming it) is a refusal towards taking the first steps of repentance. Indeed, I do side with Leary in pointing to the prophets like Joel and Jeremiah, about a world whose builder is God. However, an unnecessary narrow focus on metanarrative derails from the particularities at hand.  A relevant text is found in Jeremiah, where a man out of Africa rescues the prophet from prison (an institution associated with death).  The Bible lifts this man up as a liberator, and God is just not celebrated as mere creator in this story, but as Supreme Judge, watching and involving Godself in our day to day affairs for justice. Later in this particular story, YHWH commands Jeremiah to tell the Cushite, whose name was Ebed-Melek, that because he trusted in God (in rescuing Jeremiah, God’s oppressed prophet), God promised to save this African man’s life (Jeremiah 39:17).

Ferguson, police brutality, and white supremacy are NOT failures of language games (read: the preferred Euro-centric liturgy of white churches); rather each fall within the realm of idolatry, the idols of extremist gun culture, the military, and the myth of an immutable rational self.  Juergen Moltmann’s The Crucified God was a response to the U.S. American triumphalism that disturbed him after his first work, Theology of Hope. In both mainline and evangelical circles, it is the norm for suffering God orthodoxy to be upheld, but I wouldn’t really call these as returns of theologies of the cross. D.L. Mayfield connected The Crucified God to the Ferguson protests, “I feel far from the people in Ferguson, but not as far as I was a few years ago; I feel like I see the wounds of Christ bright red in front of me, but I am still not able to feel them.”  Note here that Mayfield is referring to Christ’s immanence as transcendence here, that the Crucified God continues to present a paradox is something that Martin Luther would approve of.  Christ’s passion surpasses human understanding, and it is in that mystery as a colonized Jewish rabbi suffering under Roman imperialism, that the Son of God chooses to identify with the least of these (Matthew 25). As J Kameron Carter so eloquently put it, “in asmuch as you did it to MikeB, you did it to me”

Mayfield concludes, “He is the one offering us his own scars, pleading with us to look at our own.”  Yet Christ’s suffering not just portrayed as a passive acceptance of victimization.  More than this, as Moltmann rightly argues, the Cross is the central revelation of the Triune God who exists in self-giving, suffering love.  It is this suffering love that pours out from the Holy Trinity and overflows into the life of the human bodies who experience the world’s hatred, and Christians can only give testimony to God’s love by involving themselves in the lives of the widows, the orphans, those that are fugitives. This isn’t just about us being “civilized” and “hospitable” and “Christ-like”; rather, it is in discovering the image of the Crucified God in the crucified peoples of the world that the faithful can become, as Luther would say, “little Christs.”  

 

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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the white supremacy of “silent piety” (part 1)- a guest post #Ferguson

US and THEM: Breaking the silent white piety

Kelly West Figueroa-Ray, M.Div. White United Methodist layperson. Graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.

Dear similarly ridiculously privileged people suffering from the guilt of your lot,

Have you ever noticed how often we, white, Christian bloggers, write as if we live in a vacuum?

Building off of David M. Schell’s discovery the “white evangelical twittersphere” and its overall silence on the shootings of unarmed black men John Crawford, Michael Brown and Ezell Ford, I’d like to begin a conversation about certain problems that arise when white Christians — evangelical or otherwise—try to talk about race.

This is not in an effort to quiet white Christians even further, but rather to bring awareness to the fact, that maybe the people of color we write about, might actually read our posts.

Let’s take one example: Michael Leary’s post entitled “Compassion: A Better, Biblical Narrative for Ferguson.” Leary is sincerely bothered by the situation in Ferguson. Yet, the overall message—to “listen and wait” as being a “compassionate” and “biblical” response to this crisis, is ultimately disturbing. WHO, after all, is supposed to sit, listen and wait?

Leary states: “…I have never so deeply felt the burden of [Ferguson’s] fears, its hopelessness, and, right now, its suffering.” Leary is moved by this situation, but this statement is disingenuous in light of what is happening there, i.e. actual death, actual struggle. It is made by someone who has not been burdened by the particular burdens of the people who are struggling in Ferguson.

Leary speaks of “Ferguson” as having fear, as “Ferguson” having hopelessness and suffering. This reduction of all that is happening into the personification of a place is problematic. The result of such rhetoric is the erasure of the actual humanity existing there in all its messiness. “Ferguson” is not a feeling thing; Ferguson is a place where a diverse population of feeling humans live. Yet, Leary takes this one step further by encouraging US to have concern for “the Fergusons nearer to us.” So according to this logic… THEM = the Fergusons, but who = US??

“US,” are people who have never been to jail, since Leary and his readers need the Bible to experience what that might be like: “As a story about prisons and prisoners, the gospel allows us to enter into this suffering—and, like Christ, seek ways to share its burden” (emphasis mine). Just going out on a limb here… but… US = a privileged white, Christian folk.
Do all of US (i.e.white Christian-types)… just by reading the gospel really hope to share in what it means to be in an actual prison?

Leary uses the Bible–God’s Word–to suggest a response of “listening and waiting”–to authorize a silent distant piety. This perpetuates the myth that we, white Christians, are ultimately powerless and it facilitates the unfettered continuance for our current corrupt system that favors and profits from the incarceration of overwhelmingly non-white bodies. This is a dangerous discourse that needs to be debunked.

We, white Christians, do have the power to dismantle this system… but instead we often choose to cower behind convenient biblical tropes that soothe our souls. Here’s one that should jolt us awake: Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Matthew 16:24-26)

At what cost do we, white Christians, maintain this “silent piety”?

Silent piety of the privileged is not the cross Jesus orders us to take up, it is more akin to branding ourselves with the mark of the beast in Revelation–with this mark we can buy and sell… we can continue to seamlessly participate in the dealings of this world, while we silently and piously witness from a distance the death and violence brought upon mark-less folks by the system that benefits US (Rev. 13:15-17).

It might seem that only those white Christians writing from a distance would fall into the US and THEM discourse found in Leary’s post, but this is not the case. D. L. Mayfield offers her confession about the things she learned as a white person living in a diverse neighborhood. She does a much better job addressing issues of race, yet, as in all cases when more liberal white Christian writers bring out the “Crucified Christ” trope, I wonder…

“Hey, do you ever think the non-white, non-privleged people you speak of (and idolize) are reading this? Are they… who teach you so much… a part of this audience? If not, and I think they are not, then perhaps, each of these type of confessions should start — “Dear similarly ridiculously privileged people suffering from the guilt of your lot,”

It is the “universality” of these posts that bug me the most — as if they are speaking the Truth… when really they are just speaking a truth, and a truth that although compelling for the life of the writer (and folks that look/act like them), these confessions do nothing in terms of changing the US and THEM discourse—especially when the discourse actively excludes the voices of those who represent for these authors the “crucified Christ.”

A young black teenager in this Time video has written on the middle of his protest sign: “Its a conversation” (minute 3:45). When will the US (white Christians — evangelical, liberal or otherwise) allow THEM to enter in to it?

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In at 48.

Peter Kirby has been doing a yeoman’s job keeping up with the Bibliobloggers Top 50. In spite of me not having a laptop for two months, myself and the Political Jesus team, we earned 48th place. So, still top 50.

Biblioblog Top 50 Summer 2014

A Miracle? YOu decide!

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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On #DontShootDallas: some notes from the ground #Ferguson

On Monday, my friend Gabe alerted me to a protest that was being organized via Twitter. I didn’t know what to expect. There weren’t any details about the event except they were going to meet up on Main Street, at a dog park. Oh the subversion! After my experience the previous Thursday, I had a feeling very few people would show up. Was my realism getting the best of my imagination? At first, it looked like I was going to be right, at 8pm CST, there were about 30 people when the organizer was “hoping” for 2,000. The organizer himself couldn’t even be found. Then, protesters started pouring in. I was feeling this inner angst because I had read the fearmongering news articles, about the Huey P. Newton Gun Club. Honestly, guns freak me out no matter who is wielding them; however, after going to a shooting range a few years ago, I am less fretful of them. I get the same feeling around guns that I do the police. After having experienced being there, seeing two of them pull out two pistols on my unarmed brother over a year or so ago, I trust the police even less. This is so much so that if I see any police officer walk into a restaurant, no matter how hungry I am, I will walk away and find somewhere. My insides cannot bear the memory and pain.

I was hoping to hear more of the Liturgy of the Oppressed,and I was not disappointed. Two ministers of the gospel, a Black woman and a Black man, preached to us that Jesus himself was leading this resistance versus police brutality, and we didn’t have to wait for famous clergy. Affirming the priesthood of all believers, the descendents of Adam and Eve were being called by Christ to participate in the New Creation, a resurrection of fretful, tortured black bodies. One Ferguson native who had moved to Dallas talked about his experience, and why we shouldn’t trust the media. Should we ever, really? A non-traditional student next to me whispered that she was from St. Louis and that she had three sons. I encouraged her to share her story, and a few minutes later she did. After several other speakers, a representative from the Huey P. Newton Gun Club spoke, she smirked, informed us of our own naivety in believing in social protest rather than self-defense.

What was I to think? Is it true that black Americans lack of arms puts them in harm’s way? Was the National Rifle Association right? What does revolution look like? Does it involve dressing in military-like green and brown camouflage? At that moment, I thought back to James Cone, in his Black Theology and Black Power, and how he was calling for a revolution of values.

“But for black people, the call for a new value system must not be identified with Nietzsche, the death-of-God theology, or even the underground church. When Black Theology calls for a new value-system, it is oriented in a single direction: the bringing to bear of the spirit of black self-determination upon the consciousness of black people. It is the creation of a new cultural ethos among the oppressed blacks of America, so that they are no longer dependent on the white oppressor for their understanding of truth, reality, or—and this is key—what ought to be done about the place of black sufferers in America. [...] To be free means to be free to create new possibilities for existence.” (page 130)

Revolution cannot just mean a changing of the guard; there must be a real assessment about where our values come from, and what sort of practices those values require of us. Jesus the Liberator calls the oppressed to show the privileged elite the way of a prophetic subaltern ethics of nonviolence, a nonviolence that goes against the grain of Pacifist DudeBro moral purity or the Law and Order conservativism espoused by the “libertarian” Tea Party. Even Persons of Color calling their communities to arms are questioned, not because self-defense is **wrong**, but the logic behind that type of self-defense. In this case, self-defense and right-wing gun culture are closely aligned with Enlightenment principles, and its notion of private property without the common good. For the most part, these values are held dear by the anti-Black anti-Christ system that is keeping Black people in bondage.

Far more dangerous than gun violence, and even actual police brutality itself is an even worse form of violence: that of exploitation. There were a few persons in the crowd, people who are addicted to protests and activism who desired to exploit the realities of black rage for their political benefit. I am referring here to leftovers from the Occupy Dallas movement, who were seen WhiteSplaining communism to various protestors. These ***Manarchists*** wanted to confront the police, get arrested, disappoint their politically powerful mothers and fathers. In short, Manarchy is a stance for the status quo, desiring more violence against black bodies in order to satisfy their own hegemonic desire for a “revolution”, a revolution which would pit anti-poverty movements over and against anti-racist ones. Any revolution that is denial about the persistence and existence of White Supremacy can only be considered counter-revolutionary, and empty words for the black U.S. population.

As we marched, I was surprised by a liberating hope. In seeing police officers functioning as ministers of the peace, even what seemed to being insulted, and people of color, politically downtrodden here in North Texas, I sensed a transformation taking place. But does liberation really need to take place after a tragic event? In some ways, the Way of the Cross may look like that. Violence and suffering, from the perspective of affirming God’s goodness, are never necessary. Yet liberation also looks like the Resurrection, of a King raised up by the divine community of Father (Galatians 1:1) and Spirit (Romans 8:11). The Resurrection of our Jewish rabbi gives birth to all Gentile insurrections.

**Note: a commitment to Christian nonviolence from below requires both a truly nuanced understanding of Scripture as well as its presuppositions for self-defense, as John Howard Yoder pointed out in his earlier works. For more, see Charles Hackney’s article, “A Christian Approach to Martial Arts Part One“.**

***Male-centered pseudo-politicos calling themselves “anarchists” have been critiqued by my friend Sarah Moon. Just as these “jesus radicals” ignored the plight of the poor while “fighting sexism,” these would be feudalists desired to appropriate the pain of black people as a prop for their OWS (failed) agenda.***

h00die_R (Rod)

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Consistently Inconsistent: A look at the #MikeBrown “riots” #Ferguson

Anomie—The condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals. It is a pathological condition by which the social bonds between the community and individuals are broken down causing social disorder. In other words, the social mores used to construct right and wrong, justice and injustice, law and order are influx. This term aptly applies to the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Rioting in the city over the death Michael Brown at the hands of police officers is a result of anomic conditions caused from the social confusion created by tensions that are pervasive the criminal justice system. Routine injustices towards African Americans at the hands of police officers have contributed to the anomic state that has been expressed in the form of rioting by creating an antagonistic state in which citizens cannot trust their police force.

For those who have not heard the story Michael Brown, and 18 year old African American male and recent high school graduate, was shot dead in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday August 9th, 2014. Reports state that there is no indication that he neither provoked the officer nor was the young man armed. While at first this may seem like an isolated incident the tragic reality is that it has happened far too often. Other recent incidents include Barry Montgomery Jr. (a paranoid schizophrenic African American male, who was beaten by 20 officers on July, 14) and Eric Garner (another African American male, who was murdered by a police officer using an illegal choke hold). Perhaps one of the most famous recent examples is Oscar Grant III. The 2013 feature film Fruitvale Station, starring Michael B. Jordan as Grant, tells the story of how another unarmed African American male was shot while on his back in handcuffs. Although police brutality by no means is a new phenomenon, especially in the eyes of African American, these recent accounts have made it necessary to examine the discord created by the inconsistencies that permeate policing culture in the United States.

As recently as yesterday Fox News reporter Brian Kilmeade with the support of Alveda King condemned the civilian protesters in Ferguson as criminals who had forgotten Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of non-violence. Both claim that if King were around today the he would not engage in the forms of protests happening in Ferguson today. Who can say what King would or would not do today? For that matter is this question even relevant? What is relevant is the fact that in making such claims both King’s niece and Brian Kilmeade have overlooked the root cause of protests and it’s societal implications. They overlook the fact that continued police brutality destroys the social bonds between officers and the communities they serve. Furthermore, this bond is further weakened by the lack of consistency in within the judicial process. How does one resolve the conflict between the rules and regulations that are to be followed and the ones to be ignored. How much more so when the ones who create or enforce the laws do not follow them themselves. This is the case with pathological violence that has been perpetuated against African American males and its subsequent effect on their communities. In Les Miserable Victor Hugo writes: “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.” This statement holds true for rioters in New York, California, and Missouri. What is worse the crimes they commit or the flaws in a system that has helped to perpetuate the crimes? Before we criticize the protesters or their choice for actions we must first examine the system that has created them.

G.R.R.

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

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