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In The Mail: The Future of Evangelical Theology by Amos Yong

Intervarsity Press has sent me a book to review, The Future of Evangelical Theology: Soundings From The Asian American Diaspora by Amos Yong.

It may be good idea to read this text alongside Simon Chan’s Grassroots Asian Theology.

h00die_R (Rod)

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Saying Farewell to the Angry Black Man part 2 (Rod)

Angry Black Male Living In Post-Modernity

In a recent post, I discussed my bouts with depression as a teenager, and how I all of a sudden “overcame” them and adopted a more cheerful disposition. If a naive understanding of joy was what I let define me through my late teens, it was in my early twenties that I allowed myself to become angry. It was in high school that I played the part of the entertaining Magical Negro, talking about racism in jest as if it were a thing of the past. Public education had taught me well. Race is both story and performance. According to Drew Hart, the Magical Negro is a black person who exists for the Dominant culture, submissive, never to interrogate the dominant culture’s oppressive mythologies and practices. Uncle Remus. Bagger Vance. God in Bruce Almighty. Senator/candidate turned President Barack Obama. The Magical Negro is a production of the dominant culture’s fantasies for the simple maintenance of social supremacy.

WHADDAYA MEAN YOU'RE NEVER READ EZEKIEL 25:17?????!!!!!!

WHADDAYA MEAN YOU’VE NEVER READ EZEKIEL 25:17?????!!!!!!

And yet, even as the Magic Black, I still played another role: that of the Angry Black man. This guy did not show up too often, but he normally appeared at about 2:30pm each day during fourth period, just in time for U.S. Government class. It was in this class that I would be regularly harassed by (I kid you not) a student from San Diego who identified as a Skin Head. Every day our arguments were intense as I had to endure microagressions, white supremacist taunts about the inferiority of Africa, and color-blind racist talking-points directly borrowed from Fox News. At one point, we as a class were in the library, and this skinhead wanted to go to fist-to-cuffs with yours truly. I was alone as the only Person of Color, a number of my white classmates would take this guy’s side. I would have to fend for myself each day, striving to succeed academically while white supremacy was literally breathing down my neck in the desk behind me.

I can identify the precise moment when I decide to let the anti-colonial Angry Black Man within me out of his cage. It came precisely after September 11th, 2001, and it was a turbulent time for my faith journey. I was just not getting used to the college environment, the white privilege & cultural hegemony of the Greek system, nor the bevy of misogynist jokes that I came across. To top it all off, I was very distraught over the pro-war prayers that a campus charismatic group I was a part of was praying. The moment came at a meeting of religious studies majors and professors in that department, I was asked my opinion about what I thought was the problem with the “War of Terror” and it took me no less than 15 seconds to briefly give a scathing critique of Neo-colonialism without having read any Liberation theology or critical theory. From then on, I “earned” the reputation of being the Angry Black Man. I was the outspoken dissenter, I was the Oncoming Storm opposed to what I perceived to be the corrupting and dominant forces on campus. When I campaigned for Vice President, the school newspaper called me passionate. The thing about being Angry all the time, like any other emotional imbalance is that, it will take a lot out of you. I am speaking from my own experience, and so without appropriate self-care practices, I just gave up. My rep even among white Christians, and even among a number of Black student was that of THE controversial Angry Black Man, so I tried for a few years to change myself so that I could be liked. I was tired of being singled out.

Once more, however, the Angry Black Man emerged. I graduated college, and I had gone through a year of seminary, and after initially reading Black Liberation theology, I was pretty lukewarm to the concept. I was just leaving “Cage-stage Calvinism” and yeah, after moments like a fun-filled game night turned into a display of infuriation between “emergent” Arminians and myself (again, flying solo), I became somewhat aloof to focus on my studies and started my journey as a Trinitarian and an Anti-racist thinker, in large part due to a life-changing course on the book of Exodus which emphasized both Jewish and Black Church’ perspectives. I developed an inquisitive side, and even as I asked questions dispassionately, I was still portrayed as the Angry Black Man. As a ThM student, one Brogressive colleague continued to accuse me of being “violent” and promoting violence because I dared question the assumptions of the Enlightenment. Even after graduating with my Masters, I still ran into this image of Angry Blackness. Once, I had an essay accepted, and then rejected because my writing on critical race theory and religion was considered to be by the editors too angry, far too critical, and not given to brogressive notions of color-blindness.

Oh, but there is much money to be made off of the backs of the Angry Black Man! Whether it’s a paleo-Confederate-supporting fundamentalist church-goer who wants to paint me as the Angry Black reverse racist heretic or the self-serving allies that Morgan talks about, trying to prove how much more “radical” they are. Entire brands can be built on persons who view themselves as nonconfrontational, as civilized, and as full of grace, at the expense of marginalized folks, and those people whom society will always label as inherently violent.

If I may go back to Drew Hart’s post on ‘Renouncing The Magic Negro urge‘:

“The “Angry Negro” merely needs to question in any capacity the path of assimilation as an option for their life. Basically the “Angry Negro” does not fit into these dominant cultural spaces well. They straighten their backs, uphold their human dignity, and affirm their own community’s insights, wisdom, and ways of being in ways that causes friction to those that take for granted that black people should be happy and content, since they have access into these inner circles that were originally intended to systematically advantage white people in society. That the cost of losing oneself in pursuit of the American Dream is not valued to some people, seems to be taken as an offense to many people in the dominant culture. Rather than taking time to really listen and have a human encounter filled with questions and curiosity, empathy and patience, dialogue and even disagreement in pursuit of growth and understanding, most situated within dominant culture have been more tempted to find reasons to dismiss those that refuse to live lives playing by hegemonic rules. The label “Angry Negro” is an outright dismissal of anything someone says, without trying to first seek understanding, by matter of fact that they fit this caricature.”

Isn't it easier to call this man an Angry Negro rather than listen to what he actually has to say?

Isn’t it easier to call this man an Angry Negro rather than listen to what he actually has to say?

Rather than listen and hear out marginalized persons as HUMAN BEINGS, many times, members of the dominant culture in a desperate attempt to control the narrative, depict their conversants in a negative light, using tropes that are continually used to silence dissent. The Angry Black Man, The Angry Black Woman, the Angry Korean Professor. These are all stereotypes used time and again to deny the full humanity of Persons of Color [the same can be applied to women,gender: Angry Shrill Feminist, etc]. The Angry Black Man [SIC] is a false Myth inherited by People of Color from White Supremacist narratives. Just as Christena Cleveland pointed out that the StrongBlackWoman traps Black women in an essentialized view of Black womanhood, so too does the Angry Black Man represent a hegemonic masculinity defined by racial violence.

In conclusion, if I may, I want to go back to my friend Tristan’s post in part one:

“The Blackness of ancient Egypt is a means of dismantling ‘civilization’ – a concept so dear to the White gaze. It cannot fathom a role where it is not in power. When we refuse to fit or compromise ourselves for whiteness we are uncontrollable (e.g. militant, angry). Whiteness can only see its de-centering as an act of reverse racism because they cannot fathom a world where they do not control us. You see, the only ‘peace’ and ‘balance’ for the White supremacist is one where people of color know their place, or else they are nothing but angry savages in the chaotic realms of otherness.”

The dominant culture has a two-pronged approach to the Exodus narrative: on one hand, the anti-oppression value of the story of the mid-wives and Moses is devalued. The lives of Moses, Miriam, Zipporah, Aaron, and Joshua were all treasured by enslaved Black Christians because the Invisible Institution could identify who Pharaoh was. Pharaoh does not like being exposed for who he is. The way of Pharaoh is forcing the oppressed to construct brick buildings with only batches of straw, take them away from their land, destroy their families, and then turn around and shame their subjects for becoming angry. The other part of the dominant culture’s appropriation of Exodus is to still make claim to the Exodus as cultural territory. When you think of the Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston comes to mind, yes? And in the latest saga of cultural appropriation, Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods And Kings not only has a basically all white cast, the Persons of Color who are included as cast members? Well they fit the very essence of the uncivilized Angry Black Man trope: thieves, servants, assassins, lower class citizens. Why is this the case?

The Exodus as White Cultural territory becomes one of several key pieces of the origin of Western Civility Civilization. Without the Exodus, the Puritans could not claim to be the New Israel, and they could not in turn name the First Nations peoples as the Canaanites waiting to be conquered. In order to sustain the the myth of White progressive innocence, the economy needs a guilty party; a party that is perpetually enraged, someone who is destined to be the prisoner-victim of the nation-state. This is the legacy of The Angry Black Man.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Forthcoming Essay: The CW’s #Arrow, #DCComics, & Race

arrow cfp

A few months ago, on Twitter (that blessed place) I had just happened to come across a friends’ timeline announcing a Call For Papers to submit proposals for a forthcoming book by McFarland on the CW’s ARROW. I don’t think I have made it any secret my love affair for this show, the diversity of the characters, the progressive message, the realism that is now turning into a more fantastic storyline. The Call For Papers was post on the Facebook Page for the Horror Area of the Pop Culture Association/ American Culture Association. My proposal was accepted and is due the first week of next year. Here’s the premise:

Tenative Title: Robin Hood Wears A Hoodie: a comparison of representations of People of Color in CW’s Arrow, “Green Arrow: Year One,” and “Green Arrow: Hunter’s Moon”

From its very inception, the comic book genre and its mythology have had to deal with the issues of race and ethnicity. After World War II with the return of African American veterans wanting to fight for freedom here in the U.S., as well as Japanese-American families being released from internment camps, the Ku Klux Klan attempted to regain its once formidable power in local and national politics. The producers of The Adventures of Superman radio show were contacted by activist Stetson Kennedy who had investigated the KKK’s activities. The producers subsequently wrote a series of episodes where Superman fough the Clan of the Fiery Cross in 1946. Concerning the other half of DC Comics’ Worlds’ Finest duo, Batman, scholar Chris Gavaler argues that Batman’s probable origin can be found in shadow novels that inspired works like the film “Birth Of A Nation.” Comic book historians point to the Comics Code of the 1950’s which began the comic book industry’s withdrawal from politics. DC Comics once again began to address the issue of racial injustice by teaming up its out-of-this-world galactic guardian, Green Lantern with the grounded, fellow Justice Leaguer Green Arrow.

Given the rise in popularity of comic book movies and television shows, it is my intention to examine the ways that people of color are represented in the CW’s Arrow in comparison to two very important Green Arrow story arcs: Andy Diggle’s “Green Arrow: Year One” and Mike Grell’s “Green Arrow: Hunter Moon.” I am particularly interested in scrutinizing the narrative tropes of CW’s Arrow’s take on DC Comic villains Shado and China White, as well as the introduction of the character John Diggle, the first member Oliver Queen’s crusade for justice. With Fanonian lens, I will point out how the character arc of John Diggle both fits and makes significant departures from what Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks, called “the-brave-fellow-who-knows-how-to-obey.” I shall contend that while Diggle was originally introduced as a Magical Negro/the Black Friend, the arrivals of Floyd Lawton/Deadshot and Lyla Michaels/Harbinger have managed to alter Diggle’s character into someone more complex. These changes to Diggle’s character has been well received by DC Comics fans, so much so that he has been officially canonized during Jeff Lemire’s current run of the New 52 Green Arrow comic.

Next, I plan to look at the differences of people of color in two crucial Green Arrow stories, “Year One” and “Hunter’s Moon.” At issue in “Year One” besides China White who I have already mentioned, is Oliver’s relationship with Taiana and how his encounters with her transformed him from being an apathetic billionaire playboy into a social justice warrior. Lastly, I will give close attention to depictions of blackness in the final two books of “Hunters’ Moon,” looking closely at Dinah and Oliver’s friendship with Colin, as well as Green Arrow’s battle versus the WarHogs. My conclusion will involve practical implications for how Green Arrow stories can be used to facilitate race conversations.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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on ableism and progressive politics #txgov #txlege

abbot ableism

As long as I have lived in the state of Texas, the one thing that stood out had to be the toxic nature of personal attacks when it comes to state politics. Attack ads, the atmosphere of negativity, and hateful rhetoric when these are lifted up as the norm, only benefit the powers-that-be; in this case, the Republican party. It was really disheartening for me to see candidacies dismissed in public because of candidate’s race (governor’s race of 2002 comes to mind, with the “affirmative action campaign”). Racial diversity was delineated as something that was divisive, even if the candidate at the time was reflective of what Texas will look like in the very near future.

General questions of enfranchisement aside, after boring governor races the past decade or so, this year’s race (which is at the moment getting close, with Wendy Davis within single digits) is becoming far more vicious than I can remember during my time here. It all started last year with the sexist monicker the GOP gave Wendy Davis “Abortion Barbie.” The label of “Barbie” of course is a commentary on Davis’ looks. Texas politics is a good ole boys club, where men would prefer to play with G.I. Joes rather than, ew, girly Barbie dolls. If you want to have a debate on abortion, fine, but how about criticize people for their ideas rather than devalue them for their gender.

Unfortunately, far too often, the cycle of personal attacks is also perpetuated by by Texas liberals and progressives too. The latest ad by the Wendy Davis campaign simply atrocious. I won’t share the video here, because, google is your friend, but the ad starts out, “A tree fell on Greg Abbott.” At that point, you know this campaign video will not be about ideas; it was going to be an ableist personal attack. With all do respect, ableism is NEVER OKAY, first of all. Secondly, ableism is never the answer to sexism. This is why intersectionality is important. Just as the “Abortion Barbie” is derogatory and plays into the mythology that sustains the exclusion of women from Texas politics, so too do the harmful image & oppressive story told by the Davis maintain the system that denies basic access to churches and private businesses to persons with disabilities. In the end, when it comes to Texas’ toxic state politics, all Texans lose.

For more:

Davis Ad with Empty Wheelchair Sparks Firestorm- Texas Tribune

If Wendy Davis Thinks She Can Win an Election by Pointing Out Her Opponent’s Disability, She’s Wrong- Mother Jones

‘I’m a successful biped’! Tweeters predict Wendy Davis’ next campaign ad- Twitchy

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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The Umbrella Revolution, #FergusonOctober, & the Social Order

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

Over the past couple of months, Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has written a few provocative posts on Christian perspectives of the moral order and revolution: Apocalyptic and creation: why I changed my mind ; Christianity and Social Vision: once more on creation and the apocalyptic; politics, society, & institutions: a theological outline#FergusonOctober, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss my own theology of revolution (which , albeit, is still in process).

1. I, for one, respectfully disagree with Meyers (and other Radical Orthodox writers) when they argue things like “The sole rationale for politics is original sin. The principal aim of political order is not to produce justice but to restrain injustice; not to cultivate the spirit of the law but to enforce the rule of law; not to create love but to set limits to self-interest [...]” The art of politics in the original sense of the word, working toward the good of the polis, finds its ground and being in the goodness of the Creator. Yes, I assume that humanity and creation are fallen, but sin does not reign, and nor should the dictates of our human pride be considered the sovereigns of the world. If in fact Jesus IS LORD, and if Christ Jesus is the Creator who sustains all systems of the world (Colossians 1), then politics is humanity’s act of co-creating with the Holy Trinity. It is not the eschatological society {THE IDEAL CHURCH OF RADICAL ORTHODOXY, NO DOUBT!} but rather Christ Jesus himself who just as Deborah and Gideon did in the days of Israel’s judges, maintains justice between just and unjust parties.

2. As fallen human beings under the kingship and judgment of Jesus the Messiah, technically we are all in revolt versus the one true King. The only Law that truly matters is The Golden Rule [a summary of the Ten Commandments], given to the Church and the World by God’s Son Himself, the Second Person in the Trinity. Given the fact that Christians recognize One Lawgiver, Christians’ preference should be for freedom as a rule, rather than the Law and Order of Whiteness. For example, let’s take the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. There, an alliance of Christian ministers calling themselves the “Clergy for Peace” were making calls for reconciliation, slow revolution, and pretty much softer versions of Law & Order churchianity. While these slow revolutionaries were acting in the name of a false peace, their neighbors were having tear gas thrown in their eyes, being denied the basic right to worship and assemble, and suffering under the repressive curfews. While Meyers and others might argue, “Civil disobedience is not rebellion against political authority but an act of political responsibility in which some particular law is broken for the sake of another (more basic or more important) law, or for the sake of some widely shared value in a society,” I say with James Cone and others, that there needs to be an upheaval in values. Also, while yes Civil Disobedience can be a responsible political act, it is not a choice of choosing between a “more basic or more important” man-made laws, but between the conflicts of divine law of neighborly love that Christ revealed over and against the tyranny of the status quo.

3. Lastly but NOT LEAST, probably most importantly, the shape of revolution should not look backwards while walking slowly; rather, Revolution as a concept should follow in the hope-filled forward-marching paths set forth by the LORD of Hosts. Revolution as a future-oriented concept will not rely on abstract, celestial visions of a transcendental moral order. Rather, a would-be revolutionary must have a theology of the cross, and that means that in order for there to be a morality, there must be human bodies. God shows God’s goodness in the act of creation, Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. If a revolution is oriented towards hope, this means that the revolutionary moment must be tied to the pedagogical moment. Revolutions must exist for the sake of the future, for the sake of future generations. Without such a view, the present realities of oppression are lifted up as the norm, and our responses to those realities remain limited. My friend and fellow KillJoy Prophet Justin Tse has two excellent write ups on Occupy Central: EXAM REVIEW: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central with Love and Peace and Benny Tai As Political Theologian. (side note: check out this post by my friend Valerie on what she’s learned from being in Hong Kong and observing Occupy Central ) One of the important takeaways from his pieces is the fact that Benny Tai, the organizer of Occupy Central, sees the Occupy Central movement as an educational movement. In a similar vein, a number of scholars and activists are using Twitter and the #Ferguson hashtag to educate others about police brutality, the militarization of the police, racial profiling, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. If indeed, knowledge is power, perhaps a more appropriate measurement of how successful a revolution is in how many persons from around the globe find that revolution to be an important learning moment for humanity? Perhaps this a way forward, but it is only a sketch for now.

Until next time, class dismissed.

h00die_R (Rod)

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The Good News about God’s Emotions. And Ours.

More thoughts On The Patristics, Divine Apatheia, & Divine Freedom

Content Note: brief discussion of depression

When I was a teenager, I battled depression for several years. I was unaware of God’s purpose for my life, I had few friends. I really didn’t go out that much. I struggled to reign in my emotions especially whenever my parents’ divorce was brought up. I was disappointed in ecclesial bodies and equally frustrated with the law system. At one point I was desperate, and I had no idea what to do. My mother suggested I read this book, and so I did. The first step I had to take was to recognize I was depressed, and admit that I needed the LORD’s help. While that particular book was a nice step in the right direction, it was actually a Bible passage that helped me to learn how to control my emotions rather than they control me:

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

– Isaiah 40:28-31

But really, reading and memorizing the last half of that chapter was life-changing, and I consider my experience, that summer after my sophomore year, to be one of my many conversion experiences. I really did feel like I was a new person. My Bible reading in the morning had a rather narrow focus on Bible passages that dealt with joy Yes, I even had Nehemiah 8:10 referenced on the cover of my High School Year book:

schs yrbook1

While I loved politics and U.S. government class and student council and all that jazz, in my inner-life I was oddly fascinated by celestial realities, what would it be like when I got to heaven. This was the only form of Christianity I knew, and while I was friendlier and happier, I was also just as distant from others. It’s difficult to relate to others who have real world concerns if you’re focused on trying to be optimistic all the time in order to avoid being the person you once were in the past. The problem was: I was still letting my past determine who I wanted to be, who I was.

Unfortunately today in theology where “relationality” has run wild, there are all sorts of unchecked claims being made about God, especially in the U.S. No I’m not denying that the divine is relational. What I am rejecting is the set of terms that God’s relationality is being discussed to begin with, for theological and political reasons. For example, process theologians contend that God is morally neutral, does not take sides, and to simplify the argument being made, “our tears are God’s tears.” On the more traditional side of things, unfortunately, there are a number of evangelicals and post-evangelicals who are eager to impute our desire for eternal bliss onto the Godhead as well.  This view of the Trinity is not new, but it has been popularized since the days of Jonathan Edwards, and found itself in renewal in the U.S. and abroad in the “Christian hedonism” movement.

During the Spring season of this year, I dialogued with Richard Beck’s series from seven years ago on divine apatheia and the Christian tradition.  I also discussed how Juergen Moltmann and Clement of Alexandria wrote about divine apatheia as God’s own self-sufficient divine liberty.  Now, what I want to do is to address what does Clement of Alexandria (a Church Father) have to say about is called divine equanimity as people call it, and how does this related to Moltmann’s theology of the cross. The evidence might surprise you.

First of all, I just want to state up front that I think it is rather unhealthy for scholars to argue that they are using apatheia the same way the Church Fathers did while #1, claiming to making their own private definitions of apatheia, and #2, being motivated themselves by their experiences. Nicene-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy is not something to club your opponents over the head with; it is just one starting point for engaging in dialogue with historic Christian thought. Now unless you have been living under a rock, you (the audience) should know by now that my favorite Church Father is Clement of Alexandria for a myriad of reasons. His influence has been marginalized, his Egyptian context neglected, but his writing, his exegesis, remain all the more relevant and provocative. For Clement, there are two things of worth noting before getting into his writing: #1, God’s goodness (character) is what makes God immutable, & #2, divine impassibility is a characteristic from God that is to be shared with humanity. 

As I have mentioned in the earlier posts, like most church fathers and mothers, Clement of Alexandria had to be in conversation with Greek philosophies such as Stoicism and the various Middle Platonisms (CoA preferred Jewish Middle Platonism > “secular”, other middle platonisms).  Here is what Clement has to say about God’s nature as it relates to God’s emotions:

“But God is impassible, free of anger, destitute of desire. And He is not free of fear, in the sense of avoiding what is terrible; or temperate, in the sense of having command of desires. For neither can the nature of God fall in with anything terrible, nor does God flee fear; just as He will not feel desire, so as to rule over desires.”- Clement of Alexandria in The Carpets (The Stromateis), Book 4, Chapter 23

At the end of this chapter, Clement even goes on to argue that at the Cross of Christ, The Logos that bled took away both wrath and lust (for wrath is the lust for vengeance). Now, also essential to this discussion of God’s freedom to inhibit any emotion God so chooses is the way in which Clement of Alexandria describes the life of the Christian mystic , the believer whom God shares God’s own impassibility with. In a chapter where Clement of Alexandria lists cheerfulness, hunger, anger, fear, desire, zeal, and courage as anxieties of the soul, Clement argues that the Christian mystic should practice IMPASSIBILITY, and not merely moderation of passion. “The Gnostic [Christian mystic] does not share either in those affections that are commonly celebrated as good, that is, the good things of the affections which are allied to the passions: such, I mean, as gladness, which is allied to pleasure;  and dejection, for this is conjoined with pain; caution, for it is subject to fear.”  (The Carpets, Book 6, Chapter 9) Clement goes on to add wrath to the discussion, which has been already conquered by perfect love that was revealed on the Cross. Just as Jesus our Lord and Savior was entirely 100% impassible (apathes), the Christian mystic has no need for “cheerfulness of the mind” or rage, nor envy.  Rather, in being assimilated to Christ, even the desire for joy is overcome by God’s immutable goodness that Christ has passed along to the Elect.  

In a U.S. American context, Clement’s ancient and bizarre message is next to impossible. Clement’s word to us is very disconcerting, because we have always learned as Americans that happiness is something to be pursued. We as U.S. Americans are socialized into Lockean values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of property happyness. Mainline and evangelical churches proclaim a false gospel with a politics of respectability, that believers should always have a smile on their face, while those who are depressed who suffer from chemical imbalances and external circumstances should live in shame. In the context of the Gospels, Christ uses the parables to teach us that the Holy Trinity does indeed rejoice when a person repents and is received to partake into the divine life.

hi 5 angels

 

God is not some PollyAnna in the sky. Neither is God a wrathful monster, or merely a “co-sufferer” of our afflictions. Rather, God is Spirit who is an overflow of unchanging, unsurpassable benevolence. Just as God can use the cheerful giver of the Pauline letters, God can also use the Elijahs of the world, angry prophets may struggle depression. The suffering love advocated by theologies of the cross (such as Moltmann) are not primarily determined by questions of theodicy, but rather are initiated by explorations into God’s own freedom to define Godself (revelation). 

“And the blood [Abel's] that is the Word cries to God, since it is intimated that the Word was to suffer.”-Clement of Alexandria, The Educator, Book 1, Chapter 6

“[YHWH] brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.”- Isaiah 40:23

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology & an Ethic of Resistance

bonhof black jc

Reggie L. Williams, assistant professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary, has a new book out from Baylor University Press: Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology And An Ethic Of Resistance. Recently there’s been a push to mold Dietrich Bonhoeffer to make him more palatable to conservative evangelical sensibilities, mostly overlooking his involvement with Black churches and its leaders in Harlem. I for one am glad that scholarship like Williams’ is becoming available. I hope to get a copy, either a review or purchased copy of the text.

h00die_R (Rod)

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Nonviolence For When Life Happens #TheNewPacifism

As far as I can remember, I have been a lifelong pacifist, at least since I was in second grade. It was then that the first War On Iraq interrupted my morning cartoons to bring the U.S. American audience updates. Upset with the generals that were wasting my time, taking away “Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes” and what was once known as the “World Wrestling Federation,” war just never sat well with me. In college, I was an outspoken critic of the second Iraq War, and even gave speeches in Political Science classes on how aggressive imperialist foreign policies were incompatible with conservative notions of “humble” approaches to international relations. I will admit that for a time during my senior year, I do not recall why, I assumed that ideas such as Bill Clinton’s realism + multilateralism were more politically expedient than my “unrealistic” pacifist idealism.

It was in seminary that I was introduced to Peace Theologies, that I began to take the politics of Jesus seriously; rather than an irrelevant autocrat stuck in the sky, Christ became an ever-present Teacher. Where there had once been a disconnect between my pacifist Christianity and my moderate politics, I experienced what can be described as a radical conversion, a recognition of not only Jesus’ “spiritual” authority, but also His Lordship when it comes to the public sphere as well. Christian witness is always political because it was designed from the earliest churches to be public. Because this testimony should be first and foremost Christ-centered and Spirit-led, the idea of a Free Church is necessary for the congregation of the faithful to work out their faithfulness with trembling. This is why for many nonviolent Christians, the separation of church and state is of utmost importance. The neat thing about being a Christian pacifist is that it is an ongoing process. I mean, we are all persons in process anyhow, and my understanding of what it means to be nonviolent has grown considerably.

Recently, Rachel Held Evans (a writer who I have learned a lot from) reiterated her sentiments from a 2011 on the War On Libya, about being a “terrible pacifist.” Actually, I think the post is an example in taking steps of being a TERRIFIC pacifist. I especially liked the list on how Rachel (and really, how we can all) become better pacifists: “I can meditate on the teachings of Jesus”; “I can pray for our nation’s enemies”; “I can educate myself on foreign policy”; “I can study the imaginative work of peaceful activists like Mother Teresa and [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King Jr.” For me, pacifism starts as a process of discernment, raising questions, and not trusting nationalistic propaganda we are fed by the media. Christian pacifism starts with the teachings of the Jewish rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ sermons, sayings, and ministry are dismissed by mainline and evangelical Christians, much to the shame of the Church. The only way forward to a peaceable religion is to take Jesus seriously, The Word at His word. And not only should we as Christians study well-known peace activists from the last century, but also go back and read the anti-war arguments of the first Christians, the Church mothers and fathers, and ingest these teachings as beneficial for today’s world.

Recently, a fellow MennoNerd, Ted Grimsrud gave Evans some constructive feedback from her facebook page post on ISIS, war, and pacifism: Is Pacifism For when life happens?”. I have so many points of agreement with Grimsrud’s thoughtful and thought-provoking post that I do think it really challenges what we consider to be “realism.” Grimsrud accurately points to European imperialism as the cause of the First World War, and the Second World War, and thus finds the question of “What about Hitler?” to be suspicious.

“I’ll just say here that one big “option” specifically for the British would have been to abandon their empire. The conflict between Britain and Germany actually was mostly initiated by the British through their treaty with Poland that required them to go to war if Germany tried to take Poland by force. This treaty did not originate in Britain’s commitment to humane, democratic values (ask Indians and Kenyans during the colonial era about those values), but in the fear that the on-going viability of the Empire required it. Germany did not attack Britain because the Nazis wanted to conquer Britain and make the British Empire part of the Third Reich. The Nazis hoped the British would be their allies in a fight against the Soviet Union, and only attacked Britain through the air (with no intention of trying a ground invasion) to buy time until they turned east for the Soviet war.”

It is this kind of power analysis that is required (in my opinion) to practice pacifism. Unfortunately, many persons do not apply this same power analysis when examining situations of interpersonal violence such as domestic abuse. The possibilities that Grimsmud offered for these potential situations are limited by a lack of power analysis, the very same observations on power that were applied on the national scale of Great Britain versus Germany. More important than “developing skills at de-escalating conflict, learning better to detect danger signs that could prevent the violence from happening,” how about the Church teaching men that sexual and gender violence are not okay? Placing the onus on the individual without doing the preventative work of educating perpetrators comes awfully close to victim-blaming. In cases such as this, as a last resort, IMO, non-lethal, and if possible non-injurous forms of self-defense should be employed in case of an attack. Such a commitment to nonviolence means having a vulnerable space for victims, while retaining the Imago Dei in both the abuser and the abused. For advocates of Christian nonviolence, the sanctity of life, and the biblical idea that the human body is a temple of the Most High God takes priority over abstract notions of what it means to be pacifist.

For more posts similar to this, I would recommend checking out our #TheNewPacifism Synchroblog from last year, as we plan to bring it back next month, so stay tuned!

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Quitting The Progressive Christian Internet: Weeds Along The Moral High Ground part 2

Towards A Liberationist Theological Account of Difference & Community Online

In the early 1980’s, after a long struggle with the federal government, the city of Louisville, Kentucky agreed to start busing students of primarily black neighborhoods to schools that were primarily white in order to comply with national regulations regarding racial integration. It was in this context that I experienced my early formation as a student.  My favorite subject was Social Studies where the history of the U.S. begins in Europe, with the Spaniards, French, and British racing to find a faster route to India. It was during Social Studies hour in the afternoon, I had the privilege of learning about Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, and George Washington’s military victories against the British redcoats.

In addition to Social Studies lessons, some of the more memorable history lessons during my elementary education came during Library Time. It was there that two or three classes would gather into a large room in the library, and the librarian would show us a video and lead a discussion on that’s day’s topic. I can recall two specific lessons in the particular, that speak to the rather ambivalent nature of my experience. One day we had the opportunity to learn about the origins of Hanukkah (yes, that’s right, at a public school). As a third-grader, this was the very first time I had encountered the topic of Jewish history or the story of the Maccabees. The way the lesson was framed (Hanukkah being compared to Christmas…slightly problematic),

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I was even a little jealous of my Jewish friends who had EIGHT days of “Christmas” presents. No fair!  The comparison of the Jewish holy days of Hanukkah and the Christian celebration of Christmas is problematic for a few reasons, but the two major ones are as follows: First, comparing holidays of two major religions works in favor of secularization (read: late capitalism) in the appropriation of religious symbols for a more unified national hegemony. And secondly, this comparison fails because it inhibits both nonreligious and religious persons from being able to appreciate the uniqueness and particularity of the Jewish and Christian stories.

The other lesson that has always somehow stuck with me was the video on Christopher Columbus informing us of the background for Christopher Columbus Day. It was inexplicable why we (the students) still had to come to school on a federal holiday, but we did learn that Columbus sailed out to find India with the explicitly Christian blessing of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain. The “discovery” by Christopher Columbus plus the scholarship of Amerigo Vespucci were presented to us (the students) as world changing events; however there were no mentioning of Columbus’ letters to the royal family where he shared his most enduring innovation with the world: White Supremacy.

In my first part for this series, I talked about how much of the theological debates online have occurred between essentially three parties: the view from the Top/Down Privileged, the Middle Way (still Top Down) Privileged, and the Bottom Up Marginalized perspective. Part of that discussion highlighted some of the ways that members of the Dominant culture use language to hide their power. As I continue to experiment with a Liberationist Political theology for online behavior, in this post, I plan to look at the way privileged members of our society create communities, and work to sustain their privilege and retain control of THE Narrative. Whenever privileged persons label detractors as “angry,” “agitators,” “ideological (READ: unable to be civil and objective as white people)”, and “alarmists” who write with extremist radical strokes, they are continuing the White Supremacist, Male Supremacist colonial legacy of Christopher Columbus. “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet bank on unhealthy forms of community (both in real life & online) all the while denouncing #EmpireBusiness while profiting from it.

New Communities And Spiritualities

Part of Zach Hoag’s beef with what he called, “The Progressive Christian Internet” was that “And in the attempt to be ideologically Progressive, it often fails to be substantially Christian. [...] Love for God and neighbor are nowhere to be found, overwhelmed by pharisaical posturing.” Further more, Hoag contends that social media such as Twitter and Facebook as well as the Christian Blogosphere had “fostered a disconnect between the Progressive Christian Internetter and rooted, relational church realities, such that the ideology expressed online has become an end in itself rather than a means tethered to the end of ecclesia.”

For Hoag and the “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet, Social-Justice oriented Christians have been found lacking in the area of virtue. In fact, so much so, that Hoag has described his critics as the the modern-day Pharisees who do not show love for God or neighbor. Like many evangelicals and post-evangelicals, “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet portray the Pharisee Jewish party of Jesus’ first century C.E. context as obstacles to overcome.  Pharisees are the cold-hearted legalistic enemies against Jesus’ “grace-filled”civilized ways. This popular negative depiction of Pharisees has a long history of anti-Judaism, and fails to recognize that Jesus the Messiah and the apostle  Paul were having self-critical intragroup religious conversations. The injunction of “Pharisee” as a derogatory label against one’s “enemies” not only fails to show love for YHWH or our Jewish  neighbors, but it also is symptomatic of “Quitters” of the PCI and their inability to appreciate difference.

Also according to Hoag, the Progressive Christian Internetter violates White PostEvangelical (ever-changing) rules about civility, and being “grace-filled”, and more importantly: RELATIONAL! Angry Twittervists, YALL, they just ain’t RELATIONal enough! Co-Opting on the rise of postmodern neo-liberal discourse, Missional Christians use “RELATIONAL” as a catch-all phrase to shame people who have honest disagreements with their theologies. The use of “RELATIONAL” as a weapon void of any affirmation of difference means that it (relational theology, ecclessiology, etc) is just another tool for White Hegemony.

WHO WANTS TO BE RELATIONAL? ANYONE? ANYONE?

WHO WANTS TO BE RELATIONAL? ANYONE? ANYONE?

One example of “Relational” as Weaponized Discourse is the story I referred to in part one of this series. I had two friends write an email to Missio Alliance, and the response by Missio Alliance leaders included framing the discussion as my friends being the “angry rabble rousers.” The racist and sexist version of AnaBaptist Christianity that the PostChristendom conference was advertising was said to be only an “accidental” outcome. Predictably, Missio Alliance’s response to my friends called for a more “constructive and relational conversation” on these “issues.” While claiming to be advancing peace between brothers (Romans 12:8), there was a different story being told behind the scenes, as I demonstrated in part 1, that of referring to my friends’ actions as vengeful, violent, and lacking humility. I hope you (the audience) had a chance to reflect on what it means to call an e-mail campaign “violence,” because this can only make sense within the logic of Christopher Columbus-bred White Supremacy/Male Supremacy.

One of my friends was asked to provide consultation in regards to making the Missio Alliance more diverse and more reflective of the AnaBaptist movement worldwide. The original letter that was filled with concern for MA’s conference that was held last week, pointed to five suggestions by my friend:

“a) The hegemony of the all-white male organizing committee members take a step back so that minority members could be a part of the planning process, so that a committee more representational of the diversity in Anabaptism would be reflected

b) That the location of the actual conference be somewhere outside of the suburbs and therefore more accessible to persons of color as well as whites. Since from the get-go, the idea was to host the conference in Pennsylvania, there are a myriad of choices in this regard. c) That its presenters specifically tackle issues that disproportionately affect non-whites, such as shooting, mass incarceration, poverty, etc.–all important issues of peacemaking, and since these issues will not be addressed until the dominant culture has skin in the game they must be taken seriously by the dominant white culture. d) That the demographics of those presenting as Keynote Speakers truly represent the vast diversity found in the larger Anabaptist movement in North America e) That these diverse presenters not be tokenized, but genuinely appreciated as expert speakers on the issues presented at the conference”

The original intent of the letter’s authors was to work to ensure that “the Anabaptist movement in North America is not dominated by white male hegemony and homogeneity.” What were the “acts of violence” advocated by the authors? Their desire: “we are encouraging all of those interested to respond to this email (and to disseminate it to friends and allies)” in order to place institutional pressure on Missio Alliance since it was claiming to speak for AnaBaptists in North America. These simple suggestions would be reasonable considering the fact that denominations such as Mennonite Church, USA’s Central District is committed to racial justice and celebrating cultural difference with events such as Black Mennonite Women Rock! and the Urban Anabaptist Ministry Symposium next month.

Progressive Christian Internet “Quitters” And Forced Teaming

When I look back on my socialization during Social Studies hour or Library Time, I think back to all the times I could hear, “Christopher Columbus did it for us. We did it! Yeah US!” (my apologies to the First Nations people and Leif Erickson) I remember all those times I was never allowed to ask, who is “we”, and why should I trust this “us”? I think back to learning about the Declaration Of Independence where the Founders wrote, “WE” hold these truths to be self-evident that ALL MEN are created equal. Who was this “we” and why should I trust “us”? The “WE” was and still is White men who own property, Christopher Columbus writ large. Some of the critical feedback I received from my first post in this series was that it was very America-centric in orientation. Having been told by a famous British theologian that all discussions pertaining to race have America at the center, I am familiar with this line of argument. This assumes that racism is not a problem in Western Europe. On the contrary, White Supremacy & Anti-Blackness is a global phenomenom and will always rely on a narrative of White Saviorship. It seems like Social Studies hour just isn’t for elementary students anymore:

Because my love for Social Studies grew into a love for Political Science, I became familiar with the term “hegemony.” Oppressive Institutions are fueled by oppressive mythologies plus practices. Part of what helped me as a kid to break out of accepting hegemonic forms of storytelling is to read the stories of the marginalized, the histories of First Nations peoples, biographies of renowned Black persons, and women. I had up until recently articulating the hegemonic mindset of the (actual) Progressive Christian Internet until I came across a post by my friend Sarah Moon: No, We’re Not On The Same Side, in which she talked about the notion of forced teaming. Forced Teaming is like political hegemony, but take place on primarily an interpersonal personal level. According to Moon, “Not everyone who uses forced teaming is intentionally trying to manipulate you, but that does not mean it is not a manipulative tactic that we should be careful to avoid using and be aware of when it is used on us.” In many ways, Political Hegemony and Forced Teaming intersect.

I gave the example of The Declaration of Independence earlier “We” hold these truths (whose truth? where was it presented?). The questioning of the “We,” “this universal US” is always the most dangerous questions. If you ask these hard questions, not only will you be labelled “rude,” but unloving, judgmental, angry, hypercritical, oversensitive. Whether it is Michelle Goldberg bemoaning the dark toxic twitter wars because her sense of sisterhood has been disrupted by those uppity Women of Color, or white male Christian bloggers having the sads because not all Christian feminists think alike, the forced teaming rhetoric of “We The Sisterhood of Feminists” or “We The Formerly Conservative Evangelicals Now Progressive Christians” facilitate the Columbusing of online discourse. OH MY GAWDZ, LOOK A BLACK TWITTER!

The injunction of RELATIONAL as an adjective to notions of justice and reconciliation is one of the ways that “Quitters” of the Progressive Christian Internet manipulate audiences and critics in favor of forced teaming online. From a Liberationist perspective, a Bottom-Up approach to online communities would first of all, be forth right about as well as affirming of the variations of human experiences rather than presuming THE ONE GENERAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE. This would also mean a commitment to honesty, a truthfulness that is not sugarcoated in the name of preserving personal brands. Indeed, such a view requires a taking of risks on the part of people of privilege. In order for more just relationships to take place both in the virtual world and real world, privileged persons must be informed of what are the barriers to them being considered trustworthy accomplices in the struggle for justice.

In the words of Austin Channing, “Diversity without justice is assimilation.”

In my third and final offering in this series, I will take a look at the Progressive Christian Internet and its approaches to Leadership.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Clement of Alexandria on women, once more

“From these considerations, the unity of faith is clear, and it is shown who is the perfect man [Christ]; so that though some are reluctant, and offer as much resistance as they can, though menaced with punishments at the hand of husband or master [Clement here is referring back to his discussion of wicked husbands.masters], both the domestic and the wife will philosophize.”

What is the nature of this philosophizing one may ask? Clement goes to discuss the Sermon on the Mount, the Wisdom Literature, and that anyone can philosophize regardless of age (taking his point from Greek philosopher Epicurus). I mean given Clement’s inclusion of prophets such as Huldah, I think that complementarians have watered down his legacy. I believe I said this a little over four years ago too: Clement of Alexandria on Women, a few more thoughts.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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