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

“White Supremacy and Imagining The Crucified God”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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In at 48.

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

Biblioblog Top 50 Summer 2014

A Miracle? YOu decide!

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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On #DontShootDallas: some notes from the ground #Ferguson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Protest & the Liturgy of the Oppressed: on #NMOS14 & #Ferguson

(the Gospel of Life, Social Death, Racism, and Prison Abolition)

From the first pages of our Founding documents, the laws of this nation were never intended to protect the lives of First Nations and Black/African peoples. Spawned on the very heels of rape culture, genocide, and religious illiberalism, racism is as much as part of the bedrock of the Constitution as is the “Enlightenment” tradition. White Supremacy (and specifically anti-black racism) is both a hydra and a chameleon. Like a hydra, whenever one head gets cut off, it grows two, maybe even three more. Like a chameleon, anti-Black racism can take many shades and colors, and has spokes persons who may have be POC but still benefit from racist myths and institutions. The eradication of racism is a process, a process where anti-racists are called to PUBLICALLY identify structures that are racist, and COUNTER white supremacist narrations on Black life. The problem is that many times the “allies” who see themselves as helping Black people, are in reality doing FAR MORE HARM than good.

Last week, my pastor/activist friend Gabe and I attended the National Moment of Silence for Mike Brown in Dallas. The means by which #NMOS14 was organized was on Twitter, and I’ll discuss that later, but from what I learned, my experience at NMOS14 Dallas was similar to many Persons of Color. I decided to bring my old NIV bible to the rally, Because I planned ahead of time I was going to be silent. I wanted to hear from victims of Dallas’ police brutality, pray for them. I did get to only hear a glimpse of those stories. What I witnessed was really a shocker( but not really) for me at least. The organizers unfortunately made sure that racism/race was brought up. This in turn opened up space for a Tea Partier (I kid you not) who, while he had empathetic things to say about Trayvon Martin, he spoke twice, informing the us protestors this wasn’t about race, and he (the Tea Partier) suggested we only talk about the violence of the rioters. To make matters worse, a member of the Workers International Party took 20 minutes to read us a pamphlet how capitalism was the real problem, and this Brocialist went on (as a friend told me) to correct Malcolm X about racism. He argued that if we got rid of capitalism, racism would go to! Lastly, before we bowed our heads and prayed before we left, two guys from Anonymous covering themselves in bandanas held up signs telling the Dallas Police they are watching. OOOOOOH WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?!?!

I realize it was my mistake for not challenging the narrative of Color-Blind Racism, and I have come to the conclusion Critical Race theorists need to get more involved in the public square. Yet errors are are opportunities to DO BETTER. The two Anonymous dudes were not there to help. They wanted to claim they had more power (read: surveillance/policing) than the 5-O. They made this Moment of Silence all about their power rather than the powerless Black victims of paramilitary police brutality. The behavior of the Tea Partier wasn’t all that new, he didn’t want anyone making this a race issue in North Texas. Well mission accomplished! As for the Brocialist who took the most speaking time, he does what all marxist dudebros do when they fail to recognize the value of intersectionality. This isn’t the Oppression Olympics. What he failed to tell the Black people in the crowd is the history of racism in unions, and that White Supremacy precedes capitalism so there was racism before economic liberalism. Also, I don’t think Marxists will be paying Stay-at-Home parents of any background for their labor, will they?

The Co-Opting of anti-racist responses to White Supremacy is not limited to protests on the street. Thanks to Twitter and the Blogosphere, the Public Square has expanded. I have noticed that many Christian men from the majority culture love to use Twitter to promote their BRANDS[tm] and books, but they resent the fact that Women of Color have learned to use Twitter as a tool for political mobilization. As my friend Suey Park argued months ago, Twitter is used as a new way of writing letter campaigns. Instead of wasting paper (destroying the environment/ exacerbating setter colonialism), Twitter can be used to effectively educate others, raising awareness as well as raising funds for various campaigns.

The #NMOS14 is one of many examples of this politicization. Unfortunately, many white Christians continue to despise the ingenuity of Women of Color.

Instead, these “allies” would rather center their feelings and notions of shame and guilt rather than be de-centered and allow the margins to speak for themselves. One such example of co-opting on matters of race comes from writers like Zach Hoag. Citing Osheta Moore’s post,
, Hoag appropriates Moore’s subversive message to promote his Third-Way middle-ground tone policing. He insists that we THE CHURCH (whose church?) must both pray and protest as if these to things are diametrically opposed. No, protests are the prayers and liturgy of the oppressed, much like the Sorrow Songs were during African enslavement. I believe Osheta’s point in her post was that anger is valid, but sometimes anger is not enough, and words cannot encapsulate our raw emotions when it comes to the horrors of White Supremacy.

Here’s Osheta further down in her essay, “Today I raise my hands in surrender. I can’t do this work on my own. I can’t even pray for reconciliation on my own—I need to the Holy Spirit to come and take my jumbled, incoherent words and turn them into something powerful. Lord, place a terrible fear in the heart of the Enemy, and advance your Kingdom of Peace where Violence has made it’s camp.” For Christians, we believe we have help, that the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf when we cannot speak. The Advocate becomes our adversarial politics against the Adversary and its Prison-Industrial Complex. This is why Osheta concludes, she raises her hands in surrender, in prayer, and anger. Osheta and Black Christian traditions present a Truly Nuanced view of social action: Protest is prayer, and prayer is protest.

As I think about it, staying quiet/wanting to listen was not a complete mistake. While the voices who wish to outnarrate the margins won the day, they did not completely. Towards the end, the last prayer was that of a middle-aged Black woman, who brought up racism in her prayer (again protest is prayer). In her prayer she mentioned Jesus as Savior, and consistent with Black theological traditions, Jesus’ saviorship is not about fire insurance. It is about his teaching, and the Way Of Liberation. What I had witnessed was the Liturgy of the Oppressed. This is the true piety where Jesus works as our contemporary, being present with us in our midst in our struggle against modern racism. Many missional writers like to talk about both Jesus’ work and racism as things of the past, see for example: this

So as Christians, it is important for us to realize the domestikkk terrorism that is the Prison Industrial Complex. It is a mistake for Color-Blind racists who claim to read specifically the Old Testament laws as horrendous and yet claim our system is much more “enlightened” and “progressive.” Prisons are only mentioned in the Bible when the Judeans are either under imperial Gentile forces or the rule of monarchies; neither of these are seen as ideal governments in Scripture. Furthermore, the purpose of prisons back then were for two primary purposes: to hold prisoners until they are executed or until they are freed. In today’s world, how can we even consider the torture of flesh for years under surveillance, & social death as more evolved? When the Psalms refer to bondage and prisoner. its mostly in the context of discussions on Sheoul, a place for the dead (see Psalm 107 for ex.). When Jesus tells us in Luke 4:18 that he came to set the prisoners free, we cannot separate that from His words according to John that he came to give life everlasting and abundant. Like the African man who rescued the prophet Jeremiah from prison (and the death sentence on his head) so too did Jesus the Liberator come to rescue us from the bonds of human infliction.

For more theological voices on #Ferguson, read:

By Their Strange Fruit

Austin Channing Brown

Professor Richard Newton

h00die_R (Rod)

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White Guilt Will Not Save Us From Police Brutality #JusticeForEricGarner

This weekend, I was on Twitter, and there it was again. Another hashtag, #EricGarner, #JusticeForEricGarner. Much like in the past #Justice4Trayvon, #JusticeForRenisha, #RememberRenisha. I saw the horrorifying, gory headlines, and I was afraid to click the linkbait. What happened this time?

According to newsoutlets, Eric Garner was being racially profiled by New York Police. They were practicing the Stop & Frisk white supremacy enacted originally by former mayor Rudy Giuliani. Now some “news” sources will point to Garner’s history with the police, drug possession. The War on Drugs is a satanic manifestation of White Supremacy, and it is looking like it’s end will be just as racist. Just last week, in Colorado, there was a business convention for teaching White middle class folks how to get into the business of selling legal marijuana. My point is two fold: the hypocrisy of white libertarianism to claim to be helping Blacks be wanting to end the Drug War. Not true. The conclusion of the Drug War if it ends with all 50 states legalizing pot, will still have its casualties: the thousands of black and brown bodies thrown in prison, the poor neighborhood who faced militarized police squads, families destroyed. The lack of acknowledgement of these casualties is revealing of society’s persistent anti-blackness.

And secondly, the mark of criminality imposed on black bodies still remains. Any black persons whose lives are ended by the police, the white supremacist media will find in their records to justify the lethal action taken. This leads our discussion back to Eric Garner, a husband, and a father of six with a history of health problems. One officer used an illegal chokehold on Garner. What type of an environment creates a situation like that? One that tacitly accept racist policies, Stop And Frisk, as well as the national War On Black People, I mean Drugs.

The above social analysis I just gave could be seen as a possible sobering presentation of facts plus the victims’ stories. Stories remind us that victims are real flesh and blood, and not just nameless statistics. Unfortunately, there are would-be “allies” out there who take a less helpful approach. One progressive pastor made Eric Garner’s death an opportunity to talk about the guilt of white churches.

And then, for all the shaming he did, his conclusion wasn’t even helpful. Simply praying on Sundays to end police violence versus Black persons is not enough. Prayer means getting involved in the life of God, which means enjoying God’s presence in the midst of the oppressed. Far from being liberating, guilt trips by white progressives make the stories of victims of racism more about the dominant culture rather than the actual direct sufferers of White Supremacist violence. Unfortunately, advocates of White Guilt more often than not, center their own feelings and narratives, rather than the pain of Others; which, in the end leads White progressives to take no action at all!

That’s the problem when White Brogressive saviors try to discuss racism, because they cannot speak from experience. Guilt is a necessary neutral thing, neither good or bad, but it becomes bad when whites use guilt to shame others and hold them hostage, while at the same time, erasing the agency of People of Color. I agree with Christena Cleveland that guilt can cause the comfortable to feel much needed discomfort, but feelings of guilt, from my perspective cannot be made the center or foundational.

Recently, I’ve been re-thinking the subject of empire studies. While the historical data does add up, there is a risk involved in focusing solely on how bad empires are (collective guilt). This act in and of itself re-centers the narrative on the dominant culture once more, albeit it places it on the defensive, but still Whiteness remains the center of attention. With Austin I agree, the stories of the marginalized are not made for Whiteness. In an essay on Oliver C. Cox and economics, Katie G. Cannon observes, she points out that for Carter G Woodson and Cox, racism was a mis-education. “Black people are presented as negligible contributors to the substantive interpretation of the world, whereas Whites are depicted as the source of all the worthwhile intellectual accomplishments.” (For more see, Racism and Economics: The perspective of Oliver C Cox)

In short, white supremacy denies moral agency to People of Color. To the extent that white guilt centers whiteness and white individual persons’ feelings, the cycle of violence of white supremacy continues. In his opening chapter of Black Theology and Black Power, James Hal Cone addressed White Guilt this way: “White Americans dare not know that blacks are beaten at will by policemen as a means of protecting the latter’s ego superiority as well as that of the larger white middle class. For to know is to be responsible. To know is to understand why blacks riot at what seems slight provocation. [...] they must believe blacks are in poverty because they are lazy or because they are inferior. Yes they must believe that everything is basically all right.”

The problem of Police Brutality and White supremacy is a theological problem, through and through, specifically one of atonement. As Samuel Logan accurately hinted at in his Good Punishment? An American society inspired by a version of Calvinist Christianity is somewhat committed to Substitutionary Atonements. The Guilt of the Criminal Element of our society must be placed on the bodies of those who are in prison, or resemble them. The bodies of People of Color must perish so that the whole can be experience redemption. The Wrath of God is bestowed upon the power of the state, and Black bodies are His sacrifice.

I realize that many White progresives are still growing out of this theological context, where the transference of guilt is made central. Liberationist Christianity provides a way forward. The preference for the biblical and historic doctrine of Christus Victor is an appropriate response to racist systems of violence. Christ came that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. Jesus came and rescued us from the powers of Satan, oppression, and death. The Crucifixion is not a passive acceptance of human or divine brutality; it is the path to true resistance. Christian anti-racist praxis should be modelled in Christ’s Victory is founded on God’s goodness revealed in God’s own praxis.

Just as Christ got up on the Cross in spite of his fear, we should go and do likewise. Act in spite of our doubts, our anger, our overwhelming guilt. Do good now, and then reflect later. Let us work to end the War On Black People.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Why The Church Can’t Wait: on women’s ordination #faithfeminisms

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve probably always affirmed the gifts of women for ministry. In college, in a discussion with a Hebrew Bible scholar and feminist, I was told I was a “bad inerrantist” for accepting even her authority as a professor. Closer to my senior year, my Calvinist friends from Reformed University Fellowship and I would also argue over women’s ordination. Back then, I was ill equipped to defend my position even though I managed to point out women who were in leadership in the early church. My points were dismissed, and I was “scandalized” as an Egalitarian Christian who voted DEMOCRAT. OH NO’s!!!!

Fortunately, I also had a closer circle of friends at the Baptist Student ministries and the local baptist church I attended. To put it politely, Al Mohler named this church a group of heretics for ordaining women a long time ago. So while I was shamed by one group, I was affirmed (in my Egalitarian Dudebroism) in another community.

I was happy with the results of last Monday’s vote by the Church of England to ordain women bishops. Ecclessial theology disputes aside, it was the right thing to do. I agree with Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Kampala/Primate of Uganda , “The most important matter in selecting Bishops is their personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, an apostolic calling, and a demonstrated commitment to living and leading under the authority of God’s Word written.”

The problem with all of what I just mentioned is: WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER? As my friend Sarah Moon says, men are heavily invested in patriarchy, so us commenting on the timing, whether it was too late or too soon is irrelevant. The only time that matters is NOW. You are either for women’s ordination or not.

Now, there are African-American male writers who argue that Black men didn’t practice patriarchy because they did not have any economic or political power. These same writers however are far from being invested in mutual relationships with women. Whether it is Gaslighting women’s experiences of sexual assault or claiming anything women say to be a “power move” this doth not look like advocacy for equality.

The view Black men have not benefitted from patriarchy is absolutely false. Black male leadership rarely goes questioned in politics ( Charlie Rangel, ahem!) and in the church ( Bishop Edde Long, for ex.). Black men like myself are as seen as the defacto leaders and spokespersons for our race, as if Black women haven’t experienced racism. In fact, a concrete example of this is during the Civil Rights Movement a number of women were in leadership roles and were activists, only to be overshadowed by the men. For more on the history, see the book, Freedom’s Daughters by Lynne Olson. A contemporary example today is the Neo-Calvinist Movement and its selection of Holy Hip Hop artists and black male authors who hold complementarian and anachronistic views of the history of black families.

Abolitionist and suffragist activist Frederick Douglass argued that absolute power concedes nothing. In his book, Why We Can’t Wait, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily” (80). Now, there are many ways men hold on to privilege and positions of power over others, which really should be service because of the nature of Christ. One is the open and honest complementarian denial of women’s ordination. I know where Al Mohler and John Piper stand on this issue. They aren’t backing down anytime soon, and neither am I.

Truth be told, I would rather work with complementarians mentioned above than men who are lukewarm about their position. In a post over at Patheos “Progressive” Christian entitled 3 Reasons why The Church Of England Decision Is Right On Time, Zach Hoag concluded,

” If our ecclesiology is too low, we might scoff at a lack of progress. We might compare this with liberation happening in other corners of the Church and deem it lame. But if our hearts are oriented toward the totality of God’s liberating work, then we will see in this not just the political dimensions but the beautiful and lasting effects for the Church universal.”

The common criticism that “radical” egalitarians and feminists have “too low” of an ecclessiology is one usually argued by NeoAnaBaptist (mostly white, male) writers trying to follow in the footsteps of Stanley Hauerwas. One basic premise is that sociological cues show us that progress is inevitable, and so churches have to be slow and patient in implementing social changes. The other premise is the ever beckoning call to unity. White NeoAnabaptists never give us details about what this unity requires, and whose terms this unity is going to be on, BUT THEY SURE DO LOVE TO TALK ABOUT IT!

Enter Hoag:
“That’s another way of saying that faithfulness entails unity. Yes, there are some issues that justify division, but those issues, again, must be painstakingly discerned.”

Whose understanding of faithfulness do we go with? What if being faithful means thought-provoking critiques and peaceable but “not-so-civil” engagement with the status quo in line with the prophets during Israel’s monarchy and exile? There are some folks who like to call themselves “prophets” but they don’t like talking about the difference between false and true prophets. While Jeremiah was preaching doom and gloom, false prophets were pointing to the temple (their ecclessiology) as the safe, foundational point of reference.

Bottom line: the White NeoAnabaptist arguments of claiming to have a “high ecclessiology” are elitist, and show a rather low view of the laity to be persuaded on women’s ordination. It’s a Top-Down #EmpireBusiness approach. I don’t think one can claim to actually talk about liberation if they prefer their abstract, hierarchal ecclessiologies over the very real, concrete livelihoods of women. The choice of Liberation always involves the choosing of the concrete over and against the abstract, praxis over the theoretical.

The right time is always NOW. The Kingdom is here NOW in the present as well as future. THE HOLY SPIRIT empowers women and men in the here and NOW.

*this is my first post for the #faithfeminisms synchroblog

h00die_R (Rod)

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The #faithfeminisms project and synchroblog

This week, a group of my friends including Suzannah Paul and Austin Brown have launched a writing project on feminism and faith. This will include a synchroblog and 30 second podcasts. As a U.S. Black CisHet male theologian in dialogue with womanist and feminist theologies, the diverse setting and promising goals of the project are exciting. Some of the questions the #faithfeminisms project will be asking:

“How does feminist thought or theory shape your faith expression? How has your theology stirred you to work for liberation? What tensions do you experience, and how do you navigate them? How are you complicit in oppression within and outside the church? How have you failed as a feminist, and what are you learning? What challenges does the future hold for our daughters and sons who will carry on this work? Does fighting for justice make way for peace? What does healthy conflict entail? How are privilege and power wielded for good and ill? How can we honor a multiplicity of voices without perpetuating further marginalization? How can ministries seek liberation and shalom? What does a robust, intersectional, liberative feminist theology look like in practice? What is the relationship of contemplation to activism? Who teaches and inspires you? What brings you hope? How do we grow as a movement for justice and as communities and people of faith?”

I plan on working on at least 2 posts focusing on a few questions: “What does a robust, intersectional liberative feminist theology look like?” And, “What does healthy conflict entail?” And “How am I complicit in oppression inside and outside the church?” If you’re interested in doing a guest post for this synchroblog, comment below.

The synchroblog ends Friday, July 25th, here is a link to the #faithfeminisms website for more details about the synchroblog.

h00die_R (Rod)

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the forgiveness of sins….and life everlasting

On The Sign Of Jonah, Forgiveness, Repentance, and Reconciliation

The last few lines of the Apostles’ Creed reads:

“8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

10. The forgiveness of sins:

1l. The resurrection of the body:

12. And the life everlasting. Amen.”

While I do plan on doing a series on me being historic creed-affirming and what that means as an outlier, very much Free Church Baptist, I want to focus on the last three lines today. I think it’s of most urgency to talk especially about “the forgiveness of sins” part in a violent, unforgiving world with a 24-hour news cycle. Unfortunately, many mainline and evangelical churches discuss “forgiveness” without talking about repentance. As for myself, I know I have personally been in error of talking and writing about repentance while neglicting forgiveness. Specifically in concrete terms, when pastors and Christian celebrities make mistakes or break the law, our very first reflex is to accept apologies in the name of forgiveness, and then once again put that person back up on a pedastal. “Forgiveness” has become redefined as letting the person who has sinned live as if nothing ever happened. Things go back to the way they are. Apologies make a mockery of repentance.

At the same time, the sinned against feel outraged. The sinned against, the victims of the powerful, rightly continue to call for true repentance, that metanoia where the sinner changes not only her/his mind, but also her/his habits. No, things cannot go back to the way they were before. But the Church insists Things Must Stay the Same. But the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, calls out, saying to us, no sinner, everything must CHANGE.

On anger, very briefly. Anger is a legitimate emotion in Scripture. The problem occurs when we stay angry, when we allow our perpetrators to define us. In a way, by allowing the sun to set on our wrath, the Law and Sin (the Old Creation) continue to remain in power as a stronghold. In Christ, we are New Creations, being conformed to the Image of God. The Great Commandment and the New Creation reconstitute us into new selves, selves determined by the grace of God. Anger can inhibit us from taking action just as much as any emotion can. Frustration is not a guarantor of social change, no more than joy, no more than apatheia, or empathy.

What I love about Jesus is that he teaches us how God is in control of God’s emotions, and how we can be too. Christ Jesus was proceded by the prophetic tradition we witness in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. One such prophet was Jonah. In Chapter 4, Jonah reveals why he ran away from YHWH’s call on his life. “I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in love, a God who RELENTS from sending calamity.” Did Jonah have a right to being angry? What was his beef with the city of Ninevah? I was always curious why until I read Miguel De La Torre’s Liberating Jonah: Forming An Ethic of Reconciliation. “The Assyrians were the conquerors, rather than the people in some distant place waiting to hear the good news of their salvation. There are clear parallels that link the United States with the empire of Assyria, and Jonah and Israel represent those who exist at the margins of empire and are subject to its mercy or domination” (27).

So we see that God had chose a member of one of Assyria’s victims to call them to repentance, and coincidentally teach them about God’s forgiveness. In the New Testament, like in Matthew 12:38-41, Jesus talks about the Sign Of Jonah. The former enemies of Israel, the Assyrian oppressors, are far better off than Jesus’ generation (under the Roman Empire). The people of Ninevah recognized the goodness and mercy of God, and that brought them to repentance.

What I want to point out is not an androcentric message how dark the hearts of Jesus’ opponents or the ancient Assyrians were. What I want to say is that many Christians pat themselves on the back for making calls to repentance by pointing out how totally depraved everyone is. What would stop a person just turn around, and not affirm a higher power at all, after hearing that message? So with the Apostles Creed , and the witness of Scripture, we can say, we believe in the forgiveness of sins AND the Resurrection of the Body, i.e., the goodness and mercy of God.

Granted, I have often dismissed the cliche “God is good all the time,” because of all the suffering around us. It’s really actually one of the most difficult divine character traits for me to affirm. But the story of Jonah reminds us that God is merciful, God can choose to RELENT, that God is OPEN to our cries. Our suffering does not determine who God is. God’s Goodness, grace, is what defines The triune God.

In the words of Karen Baker Fletcher, “The logic of the Crucified God in Jesus the Christ, who forgives those who kill and offers hope for redemption, points to a better path. It is in this second more difficult and challenging, path that one becomes more than forgiven but more fully in the image of God. The promise of God in Christ is the restoration of full humanity in God’s own likeness deliverance from ALL DISTORTIONS and corruptions of that likeness” (Dancing With God, p108).

The act of forgiveness is an act of hope. God sent the Son to call for our repentance/teach us about the One True, Merciful God in hope for everyone to know God (Acts 17:30). Forgiveness is NOT the act of accepting apologies so things can go unchanged, the status quo in tact. Forgiveness is opening ourselves up to the possibilities of our enemies’ repentance, so that we may be reconciled in restored fellowship. Thus, forgiveness, repentance, and the hope for reconciliation should never be severed. Just as justice and righteousness go together, so too repentance and forgiveness.

Now, I know haven’t gotten to a lot of concrete implications but let’s start with God’s forgiveness. On one hand, Scripture repeats God will forgive our sins and FORGET. God will relent from God’s memory our trespasses. On the other hand, Jesus the Son of God returns in Revelation with his raised heavenly body, filled with scars. The cheap adage “time will heal all things” is not true. That is fatalism and works righteousness, something opposed to grace. Only the Cross of Christ heals, and God doesn’t keep a grudge. So the implication for our own actions is that we as New Creations are called to forgive sins, but always remember the sinned against. As the apostle Paul says, “remember the poor.”

So we should keep in mind the most vulnerable when our church bodies are deciding how to handle issues of corruption, abuse, or integrity. Just as God has given us our free will (the space for genuine repentance and loving relationship with God), churches and communities too should set proper boundaries and safe spaces for the sinned against, for the sake on the whole body.

In this way, we can affirm the Creed, “We believe in

10. The forgiveness of sins:

1l. The resurrection of the body:

12. And the life everlasting. Amen.”

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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is Christian Capitalism a heresy? #HobbyLobby

STOP! PAUSE! I already realize there will be people on both sides of this debate arguing that “well Christian communism” or “Christian socialism” is also wrong, yada yada. Sure I’ll concede this but these concepts aren’t the status quo or relevant to this discussion.

Last year I went down close to the San Antonio area with my church’s singles group for a Baptist conference for singles. I had some good memories, and also some not-so-good memories that I live-tumblred. Even wrote a song.

At that time I was working two part-time jobs, 1 in retail, the other substitute teaching. I wanted a little bit more stability so I attended the “manage your finances” seminar. The lesson was taught based on the premise that one was full-time employed, with benefits, and earning $40,000 at minimum. The lesson was irrevant to the needs of the working poor/unemployed and to the message of the Gospel. Jesus’ liberating mission (Luke 4:19) was completely ignored. God’s favor for the oppressed was dismissed in favor of free market talking points clothed in religious piety. Just because our lecturer, a white collar worker at an investment firm, was at the top, did not mean he had the clearest view. But again, that’s the problem with the Church’s marriage to Capitalism; there’s very little space to hear the voices of those who are suffering.

In Christianity, we have a bad habit of hiding behind power. The 4th century bishops hid behind Emperors like Constantine; Martin Luther had his princes, John Calvin had his city councils; church going slave owners had their Bibles and plantations; the abolitionists had Lincoln, later Woodrow Wilson; the Moral Majority had Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In today’s world, the culture wars are almost out of the hands of politicians, and in the hands of businessmen through the media, social media, and various institutions. Who are the Defenders of the Faith today? Christian celebrities from Duck Dynasty, and the owners of Chik-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, respectively. #NoShade

Systematic theologian Joerg Rieger asked it best, “what if our theologies and our churches have, at least unconsciously, become part of the religion of the market? What if the God worshipped on Sunday mornings looks more like Mammon everyday?” For more see Rieger’s Liberating The Future.
What I see happening is the cycle of Christians coalescing around the powerful, placing their hopes on them. This adoration of money and influence isn’t limited to the church of course; what I am saying is that this is happening in spite of our Savior’s teachings on the subject of money. Yes I already know the Parable of the Minas (Talents) and you’re wrong. When a person has the audacity to speak up and compare Christ’s teachings to the American church’s economic practices, they are labelled “communist.” Such red-baiting only exemplifies how much people are willing to go to cling to their idols.

One practice that happens in mainline and evangelical churches that goes unchecked is denominational structures investing their money in stocks and futures. About two weeks ago, the Presbyterian Church USA applauded itself and its white saviorism for divesting from THREE corporations implicated in destroying Palestinian lives. At the general assembly, America was seen to be the “real” Promised Land and anti-Jewish propaganda were first placed then taken down from the PCUSA website.

What doesn’t go questioned is WHY ARE CHURCHES INVESTING in the stock market in the first place? Why not the lives of the poor? Why not homes for Palestinian refugees? This paternalistic white saviorism is part of the legacy of capitalism. James Baldwin said it best, that Israel was created for the salvation of Western interests.

Neoliberalism and neocolonial empire is built upon the history of divide and conquer among conquered groups, the Palestinians and Israelis being just two of those. The imperial missionary religion transplanted overseas said, “love your neighbor at home, except if she was black or First Nations. Love your neighbor in a foreign country, except if she is a woman of color.” This hypocrisy remains today. Take for example, “Christian” business Hobby Lobby. As Tyler pointed out, we think it’s great that HL is paying a living wage. However, they are inconsistent in their “pro-life” ethic by expoiting Chinese workers and investing in abortion pills still here and abroad. The Supreme Court ruling given on Monday was not about religious freedom. It was about economic liberty and power as understood by the Christian capitalist managerial class. In the words of Bill Clinton, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

There are ways towards resisting the Church’s sacramentalizing the free market, and that starts looking back with the teachings of Jesus, and being present in the here and now with the least of these. One of my favorite Gospel passages our mother had us to memorize was Matthew 6:21, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. If you value fellow human beings as all being made in the image of God, from fetus to factory worker, you will show them love, struggle against the systems of death with them, and bring them life. This may mean church may have to stop giving in to the status quo, take risks, and in a rare moment of agreement with Wayne Grudem, invest in people, not corporations and power.

In the words of James Cone, from hid A Black Theology of Liberation,

“Embracing the world is a denial of the gospel. The history of traditional Christianity and recent secular theology show the danger of this procedure. Identifying the rise of nationalism with Christianity, capitalism with the gospel, or exploration of outer space with the advancement of the kingdom of God serves only to enhance the oppression of the weak. It is a denial of the lordship of Christ. To affirm Christ as Lord means that the world stands under his judgment. There is no place or person not subject to his rule.”

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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the divine feminine: God the Father

My intention for this series is to come from a perspective that gives weight to Scripture and church history. Before I do that, I must share this story. My first year in seminary had its ups and downs. I was a Barthian four-point Calvinist with progressive politics. In one practical theology class, the professor made it compulsory to write inclusive language about God. Distressed, I called the first disciple of Jesus I ever knew: my mother. If she was to fit a category theologically, she’s Arminian and gender wise, complementarian. I complained, “But mooooom! They’re just enforcing THEIR agenda!” She responded, “Rodney, God is Spirit, God is greater than what you or I can imagine.” Then it hit me, yes God is transcendent. I alluded to that in my final paper for undergrad. I would go on to become a better theologian because of this friendly reminder. And well write my Master’s thesis on the topic.

The Gospel of John chapter one, verses one through eighteen, functions as a Jewish-Christian anti-polytheist, anti-imperial critique. As an announcement of Good News, the Johannine author (John for short), writes of a creation account whereby the Word/Wisdom of God echoes the creation theology of the book of Exodus (Chapter 33-34for ex.). “The vocabulary of 1:1-18, “word….light….life….God…testimony….glory….grace….truth,” is reminiscent of the epiphany that attends the law at Sinai”- Dwight Callahan. Fascinatingly enough, Clement of Alexandria in his commentary on the Decalogue, argues that the Logos Inarnate is the same spoken word of God from Sinai to Moses and Israel.

The way that we understand the Parenthood of God is by first looking at the sources that name YHWH as FATHER. What type of Parent is God?

In the Torah, starting with Genesis, Moses refers to GOD as El Shaddai. Now as J.R. Kirk points out, most of our American Standard English translations of the Bible sanitizes biblical language. They are not “literal” as many claim; more like literary. El Shaddai like in Genesis 17:1 the covenantal God who demands the practice of circumcision (of all practices), is El Shaddai, the God of Many Breasts.

This God is not simply “God of the mountains.” That comes from reading extra-biblical sources, which are then re-read into the text. God El Shaddai alone is the source of humanity’s fruitfulness (Genesis 35:11, 49:25). The Bible’s condemnation of Ashera must be seen just as John 1 is, as prophetic critiques against idolatry. God doesn’t need a wooden Ashera statue or pole to represent God. God is Spirit, God is Holy and faithful, and expect us as human beings to do the same.

Revert back to Exodus 34, specifically verse 13, Israel is commanded to break down the Asherah poles and “sacred stones.” Again, verse 17,” Do not make cast idols.” Contrary to what the complementarian Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood teaches, the concern for Asherah poles was NOT about Asherah’s gender. It was about the actual poles and statues themselves being barriers to the Israelites worshipping The One True God.

Now, as El Shaddai, God our Nurturing Parent makes room within herself as God of the Patriarchs, the God identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Feminist scholars find the divine election of Abraham and the covenantal practice of circumcision to be a male-centered discourse (Genesis 17). What would it mean to examine this text in light of God as nursing Mother/Father? Perhaps one implication would be that since God is transcendent, God is capable of opening Godself up to the Other.

In several of his writings, Clement of Alexandria refers to God as God our Nurturer. Unfortunately, many complementarians essentialize fatherhood to simply providence (men being the breadwinners). This explains why CBMW president Owen Strachan can use shame to call out stay-at-home fathers as “MAN-FAILS.” The God of the Bible is great, God is holy, and God cannot be contained by anything according to Clement. The protest against gender essentialism is a protest against idolatry. And this protest actually works both ways. The Holy Other God who worked in the lives of the prophets Deborah and Huldah, warriors like Jael, and apostles like Junia and Phoebe, is also the Warrior God of the Exodus (Exodus 34:11).

God the Nurturing Parent, the Mother and Father of all creation was revealed to the Jews and Gentiles in life, death, and Resurrection of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. It is in Christ’s return we see in Revelation 1:13, that Jesus recieves the Church as the Son Of Man with nursing breasts (mastoi). And if we see the Son, we have also seen the Father. It is the Second Person of the Trinity that I shall turn to next.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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