From Plessy v. Ferguson to #Ferguson, Missouri

Dispelling the myth of equality in the legal system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G.R.R.

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

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

Further Explorations Into A Liberationist Theological Approach For Online Engagement

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

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

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

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

New Vocabularies And Practices

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

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

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

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

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

SURPRISE IT WAS MISSIO ALLIANCE!

SURPRISE IT WAS MISSIO ALLIANCE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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

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

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

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

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

G.R.R.

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

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An Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Videogames as Story-Telling: Anthrpomorphism as projections of race

Howdy! As promised in my last post on Videogames as Storytelling, this post  is going to be a further examination of these intersections. In this installment, I’ll be  a bit more specific.

So, last post I explained the case for videogames as a mode of narrative and story-telling and how even they can (and often do) take on white supremacist characteristics and reinforce the privileding of whiteness as “default”.  Additionally, I mentioned a fancy term , “anthropomorphism” – simply the case of giving -human-like form (upright-walking,bi-pedal, two arms and a head, neck and maybe even clothing) to animals or maybe even objects. My point in the last post, that I hope to make clearer in this post, is that racist, stereotypical tropes can sometimes be “sheathed” in anthropomorphism. Exhibit A? – Sega’s  Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.

(There are points during this post, that I understand may come across as silly. And perhaps there is an air of humor to some extent, but ultimately, we must realize that these are highly problematic, racist projections of racist myths.)

Everyone loves Sega’s blue hedgehog who can zip through levels, through flying through loops and bouncing off of launch pads, to defeat Eggman (Dr. Robotnik) in record speeds! My main interaction with Sonic franchise was through Sega Dreamcast in playing games like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Shuffle (like Sonic’s mario party). I then went on to play Sonic Adventure Battle 2 for GameCube and then Sonic Heroes – two of GC’s most successful titles!

It wasn’t until really paying close attention to the music (character themes) in Sonic that I really started to realize some racialized themes going on. So, while we know there’s Sonic, there’s also Tails ( the cheery, intelligent side-kick fox) and Knuckles (the strong, ‘defender of the Master Emerald). Knuckles was always a fan favorite for his immense strength and brawny personality. But if we go with the theory that Sonic, as the main character , on some level, represents some aspect of “default whiteness”, then it should come as no surprise, that Knuckles, is relegated to be the “other” rival. When compared witht he more “even-tempered”, yet heroic (white)Sonic, Knuckles(who I believe is supposed to be the “black man” of the series, has many descriptions as being “heroic, yet stubborn and hot-headed”

Additionally, Knuckles, (supposedly an echidna- whatever that is) has what I guess is supposed to be its “pins” styled in a way that resemble dread-locks- I mean just look at his Rastafarian color-scheme (red, gree, and yellow!)

Now, one way that a character’s “motif” may be rounded out is through music. One especially memorable component of Sonic Adventure that many fans will recall is that characters had a “theme”-song, music that was supposed to “fit” the character. Just take a listen at Knuckles':

It’s not about how “good it sounds” or even that white guys can’t participate in rap. But the fact that Knuckles ( whom I have already began to make the case is an anthropomorhpised black man) is the only character with a music score characteristic of black musical genre( originating from black musical traditions/culture) with the rapping, jazzy saxophone, harmonies,and urban beats. It is tough ot ignore that Knuckles the Echidna has a clear motif of “the brawny black man”

He actually has more themes, for the different stages where the player must play as him, and in everyone one, we hear the same rap/hip-hop jazzy themes and the “swagged-out” male voice:

You get the picture.

And, it doesn’t really stop there. Meet Rouge the Bat:

Rouge, is a morally ambiguous character who is commonly ‘grouped’ with the villainous antagonists like Shadow the Hedgehog ,etc. This seductress is also supposed to be Knuckle’s love interest. WHat’s interesting is her character is a very smooth-talking, seductive, diva-like, Jezebel – which all happen to be racist tropes versus black women. So while we have the morally questionable Jezebel Rouge, guess what the “leading lady” of the Sonic franchise is like?:

A bubbly, much-less busty Amy Rose – who appears closer to what we’d identify as an “innocent white girl”. And furthermore, we have the , once again, the character theme further the motif of Rouge the Bat:

A latin, Bossa-jazz style theme typical of what you’d expect from a black/minority female. And listening to the theme’s lyrics sounds like the Jezebel motif is furthered.

 

Until next time! ;)

Harry

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

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responses to my post on kindness/civility online: a grace-filled Storify

On Thursday, I posted be ye kind one to another: civility, blogging, and social media, and a lot of people interacted with the post online. So, I decided it would be best to Storify the conversation.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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On ‘Civility’ and Privilege: a guest post

Travis Greene is a stay at home dad and occasional chaplain in Tampa,  Florida. His convictions are in the Ana/Baptist and emerging church traditions and he is passionate about the collision of the Christian faith with the American prison system and solidarity with those inside it. Follow him at @travisegreene.

First, a social location disclaimer, since I’m a guest here. I am a healthy cisgender straight white guy. I literally have all the privilege, and much of what I have to say is directed toward other privileged people.

If you follow progressive social justice-y Christian type people on Twitter, you may be aware there is often debate about “appropriate” ways to engage around questions of justice with respect to race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Usually some well-meaning white person will say something , be critiqued for it, and then push back not against the substance of the critique but the tone or manner. Alternately, a person of color may say something, then get critiqued by a more privileged person (again not so much for content but tone or timing or something).

This Sarah Bessey piece (which I like very much, even though there’s a But coming) is a rather vague reaction to all this, I think.

Or, for a not exclusively religious example (though I think there’s lots of overlap), this piece by Freddie diBoer (http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/08/21/where-online-social-liberalism-lost-the-script/). He writes,

“It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can’t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing, or if someone decides to misrepresent what you said as saying the wrong thing. There are so many ways to step on a landmine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them.”

I think this is a common reaction by people who think of themselves as allies but are concerned about maintaining kindness, civility, etc.

Later, he writes, “On matters of substance, I agree with almost everything that the social liberals on Tumblr and Twitter and blogs and websites believe. I believe that racism is embedded in many of our institutions. I believe that sexual violence is common and that we have a culture of misogyny. I believe that privilege is real. I believe all of that. And I understand and respect the need to express rage, which is a legitimate political emotion. But I also believe that there’s no possible way to fix these problems without bringing more people into the coalition. I would like for people who are committed to arguing about social justice online to work on building a culture that is unrelenting in its criticisms of injustice, but that leaves more room for education.”

Now that in general has been my basic attitude toward this whole question. The “You’re not wrong, but you should be nicer.” And I still think, at least on a purely pragmatic level, there’s merit to that. (Here’s the But…)

But.

Two recent blog posts have helped me think through this all a little better, I hope. The first is Sarah Moon’s post called “No, We Not All On The Same Side”, where she draws on bell hooks to point out how “forced teaming” has the effect of sidelining the concerns of traditionally marginalized groups. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here was the crux for me:

“…even among folks who all ultimately long for a more liberating world, there are “barriers to solidarity” (hooks’ phrasing–pg. 50) that keep us from truly “being on the same side.” Ignoring our differences–our different standpoints, goals, experiences, and needs–in favor of cheap peace, forced teaming, and shallow “allyship” does not challenge those barriers. It only reinforces them.”

It is vital not to smother potentially productive conflict with false niceness. Moon attributes a lot of this on the part of more privileged allies to conflict avoidance, which is no doubt true, but I suspect there’s more going on in the particular reaction of the privileged progressive to being critiqued by the less privileged. Underneath our reaction to this (and along with many genuinely good motives) is a rather childish desire to be affirmed as one of the good guys, to be acknowledged as Not Like Those People: your racist relatives, Sarah Palin, whoever.

I got a further insight from Rod’s post, particularly this bit:

“We hear from one side, well, yes, I know I needed to be called out, but you could have been a little bit nicer, and then the same civilized party admits later, I needed to be called out to persons who give them similar feedback, but its nicer because their interlocutor may look like them.”

I don’t doubt that this happens, a lot. Race and gender construction affects everything, evening the seemingly disembodied world of online interaction. But I suspect some of the time something else is happening (let’s take race as our example). Perhaps the white person is more responsive/less likely to tone-police the criticism of another white person because they’ve been socialized to take them more seriously (systemic racism). Or they might be more responsive because the white critic, since they are interacting with a past version of themselves, is uniquely able to help the person being criticized. That cannot replace the crucially important movement toward solidarity with marginalized people by listening directly to them, but it may be able to help that process along.

So my proposal is this: maybe those of us (white folks) who do want a more “civil” space, with, as diBoer says, “more room for education,” need to take that on as our particular responsibility – not tone-policing women or gay folks or people of color – not trying to control how they speak and act and engage – but perhaps by being the “good cop” who takes the time to educate people encountering all this for the first time (or perhaps not for the first time, but who are still resistant).

There is danger here. My idea would not be to interpret or speak for (“What John is trying to say is…”). And the point of all this is not to (yet again) center the experiences of white folks, nor to dismiss them, but to relativize them. When I respond to something on Twitter I am not doing so as a generic “reasonable person” who gets to decide what civility or kindness mean, and how all confrontation should happen and when.

Maybe we need to be the ones who engage the trolls. God knows it’s our turn.

The Political Jesus Collective

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be ye kind one to another: civility, blogging & social media

The Internet can be a cruel place. Now that we have means to be interconnected more than ever, the formation of communities is made uh, easier?, but also has the means for divisiveness and harm become easier as well. We see this for example in the sexual harassment that women celebrities are now facing, having photos stolen from their phones (for an excellent discussion on this issue, I would recommend fellow MennoNerd Ryan Robinson’s piece: Rape Culture In Celebrity Photo Theft). I observe the harassment that Women of Color educators/activists face everyday; trolls creating multiple accounts to make racist diatribes and violent threats against persons like Mikki Kendall, Sydette, Trudy, Suey Park, and others. I don’t think I can claim to have encountered a microcosm of what these brave women deal with every day, but when trolls get into my timeline, they usually leave with their feelings hurt because I do them the kindness of confrontation through sarcasm.

Of course there’s a time and place for everything, as the author of Ecclesiastes contends. My good friend Tyler Tully has a good reflection on expanding public theology to cover online behavior. As a Liberation theologian, I understand that all theological statements that are made have political ramifications. The practical is always the theoretical, the abstract really isn’t that far from the concrete. The thing is about a lot of people’s notions of civility or what it means to be “grace-filled” online in the Christian blogosphere is that, as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig suggests, it is “squishy”: Bruenig: “Anyway, one of the chief defects of demands for civility is that they rarely elaborate as to what they mean by civility.” Not only this, but the rules for civility keep changing, and one right after another, they just keep getting added. We hear from one side, well, yes, I know I needed to be called out, but you could have been a little bit nicer, and then the same civilized party admits later, I needed to be called out to persons who give them similar feedback, but its nicer because their interlocutor may look like them. The civilized party postures as if they believe that all ideas are equal, but in reality their practice reveals something quite different.

What is the norming norm for defining what kindness is? As a Liberationist, I find the Exodus story as the primary paradigm by which Scripture is interpreted. I also like the idea of God’s kindness demonstrated in the narrative. YHWH’s kindness is sort of unruly, and is mentioned a lot throughout the Hebrew Bible. Why NeoMarcionites would want to discard of the First Testament is beyond me! ;-) What is clear however starting with the first chapter of Exodus, YHWH’s kindness is defined first and foremost by observing the cruel treatment of the oppressed Israelites, and then responding to their cries. YHWH the God of Liberation hears the oppressed’s concerns; as a relational God, YHWH first spoke the Word/Wisdom at creation, and now God listens. God’s kindness and compassion are not restricted to ever-fluctuating rules of civility that give those with privilege the advantage. Rather God’s lovingkindness for all persons shines through in God demonstrating God’s preferential option for the poor. It is in the bodies and experiences of the oppressed that have the greatest knowledge of what human wickedness looks and feels like. Conversely, YHWH’s power and glory are made known greatest through those who are labelled as weak in society to shame “the strong,” the powerful, those who falsely view themselves as having the future in their hands, operating in God’s place.

Kindness, in the biblical metanarratives of liberation and reconciliation, is inextricably linked to communal justice, freedom for the prisoner and the enslaved, dignity for the impoverished.  According to the story, Pharaoh  ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill baby boys once they were born. The midwives who feared YHWH showed the infant boys kindness and spared their lives. When Pharaoh asked why infant boys were living, the midwives satirize the essentialist logic of the Egyptians, “declaring” Hebrew women to be stronger (therefore, more capable of reproducing more children, thus the population growth). The Hebrew midwives played with the fears of the oppressor. And in turn for their acts of mercy, Exodus 1:20 says that YHWH was kind to the heroic midwives.

The midwives provide a glimpse of YHWH’s own compassion. YHWH sees, observes, hears the misery of Abraham’s children, and makes it God’s mission to “rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:7).  If kindness involves listening to the voices of the silenced first in the Exodus, the same principle should be applied to our public ethics of civility online.  It is also important to note that the Hebrew midwives, Pharaoh’s daughter in Exodus 2, and YHWH– all three recognize their positions of power.  Their truthful analysis in each case meant a recognition of difference in power, between the lowly and their earthly superiors. The Exodus brand of Kindness requires, #1, listening, and then #2, a joining in the solidarity with those in bondage with a viewpoint that starts from the bottom-up, and neither the top or “the middle way.”

For Christians, Jesus is the Exodus God Incarnate, and embodied an untamed kindness and solidarity with the least of these. The civility party I mentioned previously wants to bracket Jesus as a feminist or civilizing European socialite above his Jewish community. If a public theologian online seeks to be one who wishes to practice lovingkindness and follow the Golden Rule, then the more faithful view point is the kindness we learn of in Exodus.  The marginated do not need other persons, even allies who seek to throw stones; rather, they need accomplices who will join them in the valleys to speak to the mountains, and make them move. 

 

 

 

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Posted in political theology, technology, virtue | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Do You Hate Your Enemies Enough To Love Them?

A VERY QUICK THOUGHT EXPERIMENT USING RIGHT WING CONTRARIANISM

In the latest edition of What Nonsense Is NeoCalvinism Preaching today, an employee for John Piper’s Desiring God, referring to Piper’s works, Do You Love Your Enemies Enough to Hate Them?| Desiring God, wants Christians to believe Jesus told us to hate our enemies. A hate, which in turn, will enable Christians to adopt a Crusader theocratic mentality to enact violence upon those we disagree. HATE IN THE NAME OF LOVE YALL. Enter Mr. Parnell:

“And when Jesus said “love,” we should be clear that he didn’t mean hollow good will, or some bland benevolence, or a flakey niceness that hopes our enemies stop being so cruel. Jesus never talks about love that way.”

Good will? Benevolence? Flakey niceness? “Surely now goodness and mercy will FOLLOW me all the days of my life” or “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you”; the concept of forgiveness means nothing but fire insurance? Oh Parnell probably just means any worldview that endorses nonviolence over bloodshed, and any man (literally) who isn’t a Just War Crusader is probably lacking in the area of masculinity. Did I get that right? Wanna know how many times Mr. Parnell quotes Jesus in his post? ABSOLUTELY ZERO! That’s right! Let’s talk about how Jesus discussed love without actually referring to the Gospels. Makes sense to me.

The one passage from John 5 that the author refers to is concerning the resurrection of the dead, and was completely irrelevant to the subject of Jesus “teaching hate.”

Parnell continues:

“Evil belittles God’s holiness and evidences that his name is not hallowed. We hate evil because it is wrong. But on the other hand, if this hatred is part of loving our enemies, we must hate the evil of our enemies because of what the evil means for them.”

If evil “belittles” God’s holiness, what an absolute puny god you must believe in.

HULK smash PUNY DETERMINIST GOD-LOKI!!

HULK smash PUNY DETERMINIST GOD-LOKI!!

Parnell’s theology (NeoCalvinism) is a god that remains distant, aloof, far above us, with a holiness that stresses separation rather than acts of goodness and redemption. What Piper and other NeoCalvinists are trying to do is to co-opt a set of harmful words usually geared toward the LGBTQIA community, and also apply them to radical Muslims. In both instances, they fail and will continue to fail. Love the sinner but hate the sinner is not only an unbiblical concept, but within the context of NeoCalvinist theology and its view of Total Depravity, it is incredibly harmful. Total Depravity is the extreme version of Augustine’s concept of Original Sin. If we are born inherently sinful, and that sinfulness is (as Original Sin argues) is passed down BIOLOGICALLY, then there is no separation between the sin and the sinner. Since then human fallenness is a natural phenomenon, a person who hates the sin also hates the sinner in Original Sin logic.

Now, not only does Jesus actually talk about what enemy-love looks like, the earliest followers of Christ like the apostle Paul did too. Let’s take a glance, shall we!

Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)

I know Calvinists love Romans a lot, except for that 12th chapter thing. Ethics just gets in the way of everything. Here’s the apostle Paul, as recorded by his secretary, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord” (verse 19). Say it isn’t so! Pauline Christianity also means really trusting in YHWH’s justice rather than our own. Looks like Paul takes his cues from Judaism rather than pagan practices. The living, sacrificial love that Piper and NeoCalvinists completely get wrong is not about calling evil good, (warmongering, violence versus Muslims as a necessary evil to bring about “the Gory Glory of God,” but it is overcoming evil with good. It is engaging the defeated powers of death with the awesome, life-giving peacemaking of Christ Jesus. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head”

Well, now, that’s awkward. Seems like the apostle Paul is saying we are hoping for our enemies’ wellbeing.

Lastly, let us never forget that God does not die for His enemies (the ungodly as Romans 5:6 says) in Calvinism; since the Elect are predestined, they were chosen to be God’s friends since the beginning of time. So God in Christ cannot exhibit love for his enemies in the least, especially since the reprobate have not a chance in hell of getting into heaven (it’s been foreordained, folks!). Enemy-love as defined by Christ and the Good News gets redefined as worldly acts of needless retributive violence in PiperCalvinism.

God loves the righteous and the unrighteous. I mean, if Romans 3 is understood to be saying that we are all sinners, the logic of “love the sinner, hate the sin” turns on itself. I love myself but I also hate myself, and yet there is not one Bible passage that tells us that we lose the Image of God in us during or after “the Fall”? Even in the context of Matthew 5 (verse 22), Jesus condemns his followers if they rely on namecalling (distorting the Image of God in others)to the pit of Hell. Jesus seems pretty intent on us loving others, yes in a BENEVOLENT, HOPEFUL manner. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that NeoCalvinists would prefer to affirm a god as hateful rather than any form of divine benevolence. They’ve held that error for well over five centuries, and they can keep it!

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Posted in apostle Paul, New Testament, nonviolence, pacifism, the Gospel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#DoctorWho: Robot of Sherwood: Justice and Doubt

Image provided by Screen Rant

For the past couple of years, I had been rather embarassed to call myself a Whovian. I felt (and still feel) that Stephen Moffat’s writing is just ruining the show, and that they tried to make Number 11/Matt Smith too much like the 10th Doctor, David Tennant. The raw reactions of Doctor Who fans to antiracist critiques led to even more facepalms by me.

Fast forward to this season. As a fan of “The Oncoming Storm” 9th Doctor, I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. I love the surly, ironic change in the humor. The show’s cast looks like it is looking to get more diverse with the character Daniel Pink. Through the first three episodes, I am indeed here for Number 12, Clara, and Pink.

We start at the beginning of the episode, the Doctor tells Clara they can go anywhere she wants. She talks about her dream of meeting Robin Hood, Earl of Locksley. At first the Doctor refuses the request because he tells her that Robin Hood isn’t real. Finally, 12 gives in, and when they land in Sherwood Forest with no person in sight for a few seconds, the Doctor brags, “No damsels in distress. No pretty castles. No such thing as Robin Hood.” Immediately after he says this, an arrow hits the T.A.R.D.I.S., and lo, and behold, it’s Robin Hood himself!

Robin Hood stakes his claim to the Doctor’s ship: “Don’t you know that all property is theft to Robin Hood.” The Doctor questions if Robin is serious, and Hood responds, “Robin laughs in the face of all.”

After their comical duel, the Doctor acts on his skepticism even after having won over RH’s trust. The Doctor cuts a piece of Robin’s hair and tries to take one of his sandals. “This sandal isn’t real.” The Doctor is suspicious of Robin for about 95% of the episode. When they both find out that the knights working for the evil Sheriff are actually alien robots, the Doctor argues, “Isn’t it time you came clean with me? You’re not real and you know it. Perfect eyes. Perfect teeth. No one has a jaw like that.” Still sadly, no go. It is not until the Doctor sees Robin Hood bleed from being attacked by the robots does 12 begin to be less skeptical.

Stories about the possiblities of justice are really difficult to believe in. In a fallen world filled with injustices and disasters, it can be pretty easy to give in to all of wrong that need to be righted. Even after 12, Robin, and Clara, team up to become victorious over the Sheriff and his “knights,” the Doctor denies himself the right to laugh and enjoy their feat. The Doctor has placed far too much responsibility as the “white savior” of time and space. Robin, meanwhile, puts everything in to perspective. He asks whether in the future, people will just remember him as a legendary myth, 12 answers in the affirmative. Robin replies, “Good. History is a burden. Stories can make us fly.” [....] “Perhaps we will both be stories. And may those stories never end.”

Indeed, narrative can open up our imagination for us to be open to that which we have not experienced, and motivate us to work for a more just society. A different world is possible.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Posted in Doctor Who, movies, music, & television, science fiction, television | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments