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)

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A Crisis of Masculinity: a guest post by @ethawyn

Kevin is a theology student at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. He has a BA in Philosophy, dabbles in art, and has a passion for all things sci-fi. He’s also a High Church Anglican with a Pentecostal past that he’s sometimes proud of. When not writing guest posts for Political Jesus, he blogs over at Many Horizons

Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence

We have a crisis of masculinity, but it’s probably not the one you think. If you’re a complementarian, or hang out around complementarian circles, then you’ve probably heard the notion that the church has a masculinity crisis: our version of Christianity isn’t ‘manly’ enough. Our wider world, however, is awash with hopped up masculinity, reveling in myths of men who get it done with fists and fortitude. From Hollywood films where a good-hearted bad-ass (often Liam Neeson) plays a husband/father/other who gets revenge and saves the day, to the rhetoric of blood and honor on the sports field, we revel in the notion of man as warrior. This is the true crisis of masculinity.

Let me tell you two stories, both true.

The first you’ve probably at least caught wind of. On Febuary 15, 2014, NFL running back Ray Rice beat his fiancée unconscious. Initial video showed her being dragged out of an elevator. Before the full video was released, a lot of voices came out calling for caution in judgment. After all, they said, we don’t have the whole story; she might have done something to provoke it.(1) Even the NFL itself acted, until the full video was released to the public, as if there might be some extenuating circumstances

The other story comes from a year ago. On the 26th of April, 2013, a man by the name of Earl Silverman committed suicide. Silverman had been an advocate for men’s rights, and ran the only shelter in Canada for male victims of domestic abuse. He had run it out of his own pocket, unable to get funding from either government or private donations.(2) This lack of shelters for male victims of violence is despite the fact that men and women are almost equally likely to face domestic abuse and violence.(3) Male victims also underreport violence (7% report it versus 23% of women who do).

These two events have something in common. On the one hand, we have a man committing a horrible act of violence, with the reaction in some quarters being to justify his abuse. On the other hand, you have male victims of domestic abuse, who society fails to provide support for, and who often themselves fail to seek help. At the root of both of these problems is the same twisted notion of masculinity.

If men are warriors, rugged creatures of fortitude who fight to make the world right, then it is reasonable for us to expect them to fight. The only moral question is how they deploy that violence (so that the question becomes “Was he justified in beating his fiancée unconscious?”). Conversely, funding is unavailable to help male victims because men who suffer abuse are mocked or discounted because of the expectation that they should be warriors who can overcome this problem themselves. Even the victims have bought into this picture and so fail in massive numbers to seek help.

This is truly a crisis of masculinity, and the crisis is that our culture has perverse and wicked vision of what men should be. It is certainly not the vision of the victorious man we see on the cross. Our God and savior hung there naked and ashamed for the salvation of us all. In contrast, think of Peter, who like the Hollywood bad-ass took up a sword to protect his own, and was rebuked by Jesus. The contrast is telling.

There is great danger in taking on our culture’s perverse vision of masculinity and Christianizing it. Too often, we are deeply concerned to appeal to the masculinity of men who are leaving the church, rather than being willing to challenge the sin masquerading as manhood. In a culture that glorifies male violence, we ought to be very cautious about using images like warrior knights to describe what we think men ought to be.

Men should be allowed to be victims who need rescue (we all, after all, needing rescue from sin by our God), and perhaps we should be okay with women sometimes be the rescuers.

(1) Matt Saccaro, “‘It Wasn’t Ray Rice’s Fault’: The Sick, Twisted Logic of Men’s Rights Activists on Domestic Violence,” last modified September 9, 2014, accessed September 25, 2014,

(2) The Huffington Post Canada, “Earl Silverman Dead: Owner Of Shelter For Male Domestic Abuse Victims In Apparent Suicide,” The Huffington Post, last modified April 29, 2013, accessed September 25, 2014 .

(3) Statistics Canada, “Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile,” last modified January 9, 2013, accessed September 25, 2014.

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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!

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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.

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

20140721-000825-505305.jpg

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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Can men do theology with only half the church?

Can men do theology with only half of the church? This is question has been haunting me recently. In a recent blogpost by Roger E. Olson entitled, ” Should a theologians’ life affect how we regard his/her theology? ” Olson considers the question of whether or not a theologian’s battle with drunkeness, or extramarital affairs should shape the way we view their legacies or the truths they told.

First of all, let’s take for granted that Olson is correct. Human beings are made in the Imago Dei. We are more than our environment, we are more than our age, race, gender, class. As creations made by a good Triune Creator, we are all called to be agents of God’s grace. We aren’t defined by our works, good or bad. No label can capture the immeasureable worth of our personhood.

Now Brother Olson asks the question of whether or not he as a fan of Yoder (but not Yoderian) can just read Yoder and just think about his theories and approach to theology. Olson brings up the example for instance of John Knox, the Calvinist Reformer marrying a 15 year old girl. Certainly facts like these should be overlooked when we’re talking about Knox’s powerful arguments for predestination, surely?

As a former 4-point Calvinist who studied John Knox in seminary, Knox’s marriage arrangement is actually a possible, if not inevitable conclusion to his theology of gender, and his politics. You see, Knox is famous for opposing Mary Queen of Scots and actually surviving. One of the works he’s known for is his eisegesis on Isaiah and Judges, in “The Monstrous Regiment Of Women,” laying down the current evangelical foundation to keep women out of politics. Knox’s case is proof that his gender politics was a survival theology; since the Queen was persecuting Protestants, the best way to strike back was against her humanity.

Likewise, John Howard Yoder’s theology isn’t severed from his practice either. While he was narrowly focused on narrative of Scripture about women’s roles in Christian households, he overlooked historical practices and exegesis when it came to passages such as Ephesians 5. Had he taken women’s voices into account, he would have strengthened his case for “revolutionary sub-ordination.”

Christian theology starts with the Incarnation. Scripture and the Creeds attest to Jesus Christ as being 100% God and 100% human. They do NOT say that Jesus is fully divine and HALF human. To know what it means to be fully human, we must understand as the writers of Genesis tell us, that both women and men are made in the Image of God. Christ’s divine-personhood liberates men and women so that we can live for each other. Us male Christian theologians cannot do the task of theology without the voices, stories, and practices of women. Otherwise, we would be denying the full humanity of Christ.

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I guess I’m old fashioned but I would let my son watch My Little Pony #MLPFIM

mlp fim

OH MAH GAWDZ WHAT ABOUT THE MENZZZZZZZ! THIS ONE LITTLE CARTOON IS MAKING ALL THESE 21ST CENTURY MALES INTO WOMINZ. WHAT EVER SHALL WE DO????!!!!!

And now for the rebuttal to idiocy and opinions based off of ignorance.

First of all, I don’t know if there’s a rule book or something out there, but I know that it was up until the mid-20th century before colors like pink were assigned to femininity. Second of all, as a Brony who is also Christian and straight, let me just say that the people who are really old fashioned VALUE THE LIVES OF WOMEN AND THEIR THOUGHTS. The dogmatic view that pink means girly is RELATIVELY NEW.

Walsh:

“I’m not actually sure if this is true — and I suspect it isn’t. If the kid was literally assaulted by groups of boys, I find it hard to believe that none of the offenders have been punished.”

Myself:

No offense to survivors and current members of homeschooling, but Mr. Walsh, stick to speaking at homeschooling conferences. You have no idea what it means to work in a public education setting. You see, kids can getaway with a lot, and they find the most ridiculous ways to hide what they do. And hey, how about we not shame victims of violence? Oh that’s right, you are already doing so. 11 year Old Michael Morones, a boy who loves Jesus and Pinky Pie was bullied into feeling worthless and attempted suicide. Here is a boy who carried his Bible everyday and went to church regularly. And he liked the emotionally excessive party pony Pinky Pie. I used to carry my Bible in my backpack to school when I was his age, and I had very few options, so I watched X-Men the Animated Series and Eek the Cat, and The Tick and oh Power Rangers. Boys and Girls used to love power rangers, then they became stale and uncool. If it was okay for girls to like MMPR back in the 1990’s (something marketed at boys) I don’t see the problem with young and old fans of MLPFIM.

Walsh:

“They say the school is wrong, the boy should keep wearing the backpack, and we should all celebrate the individuality and self-expression of a male who watches a TV show about unicorns.”

and

“It isn’t fair or right that a boy’s enthusiasm for a show called My Little Pony – featuring unicorns named Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie”

Me:

YO DAWG DON’T YOU KNOW THAT UNICORNS ARE IN THE BIBLE! YES THE BIBLE ACCORDING TO THE BONAFIDE LEGIT INTERPRETATION OF THE PEOPLE FROM ANSWERS IN GENESIS, UNICORNS ARE IN THE BIBLE. YOU MATT WALSH SIR, HAVE AN UNCHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW!

Also, the show (which has great animation and storytelling btw), has more than just unicorns. It’s filled with Earth Ponies, Pegasi, Alicorns, Dragons, Dogs, fairies, Griffiths, and Buffaloes, just to name a few other creatures. Any show with Dragons should definitely begin a chance. Except for Game Of Thrones.

Speaking of Game Of Thrones and why I don’t watch it.

MLPFIM is a cartoon that does not show violence. “Boy stuff” G.I. Joes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can glorify violence at times. Why must masculinity be defined by violence? Enter Walsh once more:

“If Grayson were my son, I certainly wouldn’t tell him that he deserves this treatment — far from it. I’d take him aside, as my dad did with me, and tell him that he must always be prepared to stand up for himself. I’d tell him that nobody ever has the right to abuse him. I’d tell him that he may even need to respond physically, and I’d give him the two caveats that my dad gave me: 1) You may hit back in self-defense. 2) You may hit back in order to defend some other innocent person.

Never instigate. Never provoke. But always stand tall with conviction and courage.”

Well, way to vaguely approve of violence, my friend! See, the positive feminist values taught by My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, are that from a relational perspective. I would prefer to teach my son (if and when I ever get married and we choose to have kids), the way of persuasion and dialogue. See, just because MLPFIM is a cartoon does not mean it can’t teach anything. In fact, one of the things about books, television, and other media is that they have a teaching function, since all media is value-laden. There’s really no such thing as a neutral sphere. I mean when I was a kid, The Flintstones and The Jetsons learned us about family, The Smurfs about communism, G.I. Joes about Patriotism, He-Man: Masters of the Universe about well, just plain awesomeness. I want to teach my son to love his enemies, and forgive those who persecute him, just like Jesus would. This means a complete rejection of worldly (read: violent) definitions of manhood. I also plan on teaching my daughter(s) and/or son(s) to be anti-racist as well; and as I have mentioned before, MLP:FIM has a few episodes dealing with race and empire. If a show like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic makes it that much easier for me to do so, then a show like that is okay by me!

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The Power Of Love part 2: Gendering Black Theology & Black Power

CHRISTIAN NATIONS AND SLAVE NARRATIONS

white heart

To keep up with this series, please read the first post: James Cone’s Relational Theology

In my first post of this series, I took on the burden of showing how U.S. Black liberation theology, and therefore possible all liberation theologies, should be rightfully called part of the emerging schools of relational theologies. Using James Cone as my example for this thought experiment, I looked at how much his earliest writing, the underrated text, Black Theology and Black Power, hid beneath its confrontational and angry tone, a loving God who shared God’s power with humanity. James Hal Cone’s particularly Wesleyan/Holiness Neo-Orthodox [Barthian] understanding of the Creator’s movement in Genesis 1 & 2 allows him and subsequent liberation theologians to do critical power analysis by starting with God in se. By [correctly] locating God’s presence among the crucified persons of history, Cone systematized a theology of God’s love with God’s special election of the oppressed as a fixture. I want to make my purpose for this series clear; this is not an attempt to make liberation theology “palatable” as some Public Relations stunt done in hindsight or reveal anything on my part for Liberation Theology to become “MainStream”; what I intend to do is to look at liberation theologians’ understanding of love and how we continue a refusal to severe our understanding of what it means to be loving from what it means to be just. I am doing this as part of a pushback of what I see frequently being done today in the academy, in churches, and online, with pastors and bloggers wishing to silence voices for justice in the name of being relational [nice & civil], love.

The question I wish to address in this particular post is: What went wrong with James Cone’s revolution? Excuse me if I dismiss the right wing U.S. American politics of the 1980’s with ‘Merica’s several invasions and overthrows interventions in Latin America and in places like Haiti where a liberation theologian was popularly elected as head of state.  Staying in the academic context, James Cone’s awe-inspiring efforts to oust white supremacy were ultimately undone by his own doing.  The popular narrative that we hear in seminary is Tillich and Barth neglected Men of Color, James Cone neglected women, and Womanism supersedes both of them.  This divide and conquer approach to theology is quite unhelpful for those of us who seek to work for liberation. This approach to theology is part of a White progressive metanarrative that conveniently works to dismiss criticisms of racism and is more than eager to return to the status quo (Tillich and Barth, with a little bit of white Lean-In feminism mixed in).  As a Trinitarian, I envision theology and tradition as being done in a circle, with Jesus the Word at the center, and writers, theologians, pastors, bloggers, and laypersons dancing and dialoguing, partaking in Christ’s life, mutually exchanging ideas and our encounters with the Risen King.

Let’s not pretend like our run-of-the-mill mainline Protestant theologian is doing theology by studying the intersections of race and gender too.  He’s not using or writing theological works by Womanists or other Women of Color. Studies have shown the POC most cited by white theologians is the late Reverend Dr. MLK Jr.  The White Progressive Relational narrative of supersessionism keeps the status quo virtually in tact with a few qualifications.  The prophetic challenge made by Cone well over three decades ago goes silently into the night, so one would seem to think.  I have been considering Cone as a relational theologian for quite some time, and even presented a paper on it at a regional American Academy of Religion meeting, in dialogue with Womanist and Patristic theologies.

It was not until recently had I took the opportunity to consider James Cone as a theologian of gender as well.  I had bought hook, line and sinker to the [false] narrative of how Womanist God-talk overcame Black liberation theology [and therefore shutdown anti-racism critiques via academic derailing].  That was until I read, and re-read over and again Amaryah Shaye’s awesome post  Reconsidering Cone: Gendering Blackness. Before you read the rest of this post, please read Amaryah’s post, because this essay is in dialogue with some of her insights. My plan is to move from Amaryah’s points about blackness being gendered into a different direction (or maybe it is the same direction?).

THIS IS A [ANGRY BLACK] MAN’S WORLD

First things first, I am not going to dismiss the criticisms that James Cone’s theology in his early work was patriarchal. In fact, I plan on embracing this weakness as part of this discussion on gender and blackness. With Shaye, I recognize the limitations of Cone’s work, and how Womanist Theology has been offered in the academy as a trump card; Amaryah puts it this way,

“Black women as situated at the intersection of multiple oppressions (race, gender, and class) become the starting point for doing this theology. This move seems to suggest that blackness, which Cone defines as “ontological symbol” and “visible reality”, is limited as a starting place to liberative theology because it is not particularly gendered. It is interesting, then, that womanist theology is often cited as a way of both intervening in and disabling discussions of race, gender, power, and theology which seems to have the unintended effects of recentering white women as proper subjects of gender analysis and black men as the proper objects of racial analysis.”

If you recall, I noted in my previous post for this series that Cone does not believe blackness to be a category that is natural, biologically determined set of traits and personalities. Blackness as a symbol is an orientation towards being in solidarity with the oppressed. If Blackness is indeed a symbol born out of racial and gender violence, then blackness as a way of being, doing and thinking has implications for not only racial performance, but also gender performativity as well.

Let us first start with how James Cone identifies himself before he moves forward with his Christological arguments against White Supremacist Religiousity. In Black Theology and Black Power, Cone says,

“This work, then, is written with a definite attitude, the attitude of an angry black man, disgusted at the oppression of black people in America, and with the scholarly demand to be “objective” about it.”

(page 2)

James Cone’s task for his post-Civil Rights movement theology of love is to form a people. It is in this desire for people-formation, that of a Black Church that practices anti-Racist Christianity that James Cone injects gender into the equation of Black liberation. In another place in BT&BP, Cone claims, “If in this process of speaking for myself, I should happen to touch the souls of black brothers (including black men in white skins) so much better.” (ibid) Another point to be taken away is that Cone locates himself in the United States, and makes sure we know where his anger and love is directed to: “I am critical of white America, because this is my country; and what is mine must not be spared my emotional and intellectual scrutiny.” (page 4)

Black Theology & Black Power is one of a few theological responses written by black male systematic theologians to Black nationalist movements and factions such as the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense; Two other examples include Liberation And Reconciliation: A Black Theology by J. Deotis Roberts and  The Black Messiah by Albert Cleage.  As a post-colonial writer, I know that there are a few schools of thought pertaining to nationalisms and how they function in domination systems when it comes to anti-imperial resistance.  Ranging from seeing nationalism as cautiously good , to something we should hold with ambivalence, as well  as seeing nationalism and the nation-state as concepts that remain necessarily hegemonic and violent.  In his essay, “DissemiNation: time, narrative, and the margins of the modern nation,” Homi K. Bhabha writes that the notion of “peopledom” or “the nation” are not historical events or” patriotic body politics,” but remain part of a “complex rhetorical strategy of social reference where the claim to be representative provokes a crisis within the process of signification and discursive address.”

Cone wrote in Black Theology and Black Power to create a national culture that would be be centered in the Black Church.  By claiming to speak only for himself, Cone conversely re-positions himself as a representative of the U.S. Black radical tradition.  It is difficult for us to conceive of a discourse on national culture where love and hate do not occupy the same psychic space, as Homi Bhabha argues because nation-states need an Other in which to assert their aggression.  However, because James Cone adopts Anders Nygrens’ theology of love, whereby God imputes agage-love into creation through the election of Israel and the Incarnation of Christ, there is no need for any hate or bigotry in Cone’s relational theology.  Instead, what we have is a revolutionary struggle for the sake of saving the souls of both White Supremacists as well as victims of racism.  Cone’s community does not exist for some imaginary, law and order nation-state; it lives and breathes for the Kingdom of God, which is always on the move with the liberating presence of Jesus.

If It Wasn’t For The Womanists

You would think that this Jesus Juke you just witnessed above gets James Cone off the hook for his patriarchal presentation of blackness. NOPE! It is precisely because Cone relies on the rhetorical strategies of Black nationalist movements that Black theology’s sexism must now undergo scrutiny.  What I am saying is that it is just not enough [and feel free to vehemently disagree with me in the comments] to say that Cone is in the wrong simply because he excludes black women’s experience from his work.  The valuing of inclusion is something that neoliberal institutions such as universities and corporations love to talk about, but they only seem able to talk about inclusion as the end all be all, and not the violent natures and histories of their exclusions.

I have lost count about how many times I have written about negative stereotypes of Black people but Cone defines Black Power as the capacity for black men to not be “poisoned” by the negative tropes White Supremacist narratives have placed on him (page 8).  White Supremacist systems demonically sexualizes black bodies while erasing their genders.  The purpose that dark bodies serve is to be at the pleasure of their Masters all the while remaining threats to their Masters.  I side with Amaryah Shaye’s take on Cone,

“It is precisely because blackness is gendered as ungendered that the violence of violation and exploitation that constitutes black bodies is worked.  Instead, of saying Cone’s theology doesn’t have anything to say about gender, we might say that Cone highlights the ungendered nature of blackness primarily through his engagement with blackness as a struggle against the gratuitous violence that visits black bodies on the regular.”

While Shaye is reflecting on A Black Theology of Liberation, I return once more to Black Theology and Black Power with a few examples.  Pointing to the economic violence of white racism,

“A black theologian wants to know what the gospel has to say to a man who is jobless and cannot get work to support his family because the society is unjust.  He wants to know what is God’s Word to the countless boys and girls who are fatherless and motherless because white society decreed that blacks have no rights”

(page 43).

Enter James Cone’s anachronistic, a-historical reading of black experiences during Jim and Jane Crow law.  Cone portrays the black familial experience of one ideal, nuclear family beaten at the hands of White Supremacy, where the black man is unable to be the breadwinner.  Reality is from the time of African enslavement on these shores to legal segregation and up until today, black women have always shared the title of “breadwinner.”

Waiting To Exile

Cone also argues that America’s racism is “biologically analogous” to women’s pregnancies, either a country is not racist or it is [he's arguing along the same lines as Frantz Fanon in Towards The African Revolution].  Fanon’s line of argumentation was that all imperialist nations are racist because the creation of colonies requires racist logic. Fanon successfully makes his case without the need for a gendered understanding of nations. Unfortunately, James Cone epically fails in this regard.

With nationalist rhetoric, the bodies of women are quite frequently used to represent nation-states; this further perpetuates rape culture, and male ownership over the female body.  Issues of territorialism, war, and economics come to mind, particularly when we are dealing with issues such as the raping of wives, mothers, and daughters as a tactic for war.  Indeed James Cone is at war with White Supremacy, and depends on militaristic language to resist the white supremacist conservative and liberal churches.  Denouncing white intellectual arrogance, Cone questions whether white men’s ability to have the answer to the problem of race:

“Why must the white man assume that he has the intellectual ability or the moral sensitivity to know what blacks feel or to ease the pain, to smooth the hurt, to eradicate the resentment? Since he knows he raped our women, dehumanized our men, and made it inevitable that black children should hate their blackness, he ought to understand  why blacks must cease from listening to him in order to be free.”

(page 21)

Cone goes on to depict White Supremacy as a system that gave “whites’ freedom to beat, rape, and kill blacks” (41). Cone’s concern for gendered experiences are limited to the extent sexual violence is occurred upon black bodies. While Cone remains problematically silent on violence as particularly gendered, what he does do is names rape culture as part of the experience of black oppression. Part of the problem with the so-called victory of relational theologies is that many white Christians, specifically emergents, feel like they need to relate their experiences to everyone else’s when this should not be the case. For clarity, what I am trying to say is that relational theology is both about God’s interrelation with the world as well as God being All-present mystery. Because human beings are made in the Imago Dei, we cannot fully know how each other feel. To know is not only to be responsible as I wrote in the previous post, but to know that we just will never know the other, and respect others’ boundaries and differences because that is what divine love looks like.

James Cone’s use of Blackness as a religious symbol does come with its problems. If Jesus is essentially black, what does that mean for persons in the Black atheist tradition? Are all blacks essentially theists and religious? I find Delores S. Williams’ Wilderness Experience as a nice corrective to such an Exodus/Nationalist approach. The Wilderness Experience is easily reconcilable with Liberation theology, and may look something like what many theologians call an Exile approach to religion, with Christianity’s natural place as one of radical marginality, and always on the move. This is a Christianity without borders, without an attachment to a nation-state, like the story of Hagar and Ishmael, is a story that is as Williams hopes for “male/female/family inclusive.” Finally because Cone works with Blackness as a symbol, he frees up theology from relying on anatomical and biological understandings of humanity’s original sinfulness, and opens up the possibilities for immense human change through repentance.  As a relational theologian, Cone’s theology of gender affirms all human bodies as essentially good.

Next week, in part three, I shall look at James Cone’s theology of the cross and the Culture of Death, and what constitutes Modern-Day lynching in 2014.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Reconsidering Cone: Gendering Blackness by Amaryah Shaye

Europe’s MAD MEN: Don Draper, Norway, Race, and the Rise of the Right

Ephesians 6 and Dominionism

On Utopian Christianity: Rick Perry’s The Response, The Nation-State, and the Bible

Ishmael and Immigration: A Postcolonial Reading of Genesis 16

Origen of Alexandria: the Third Commandment and the Pledge of Allegiance

Recommended Reading:

Sisters In The Wilderness: the Challenge of Womanist God-Talk by Delores Williams

Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion and Society editted by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas

Black Theology and Black Power as well as A Black Theology of Liberation both by James Cone

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Dispatches from Campus Ministries: White evangelicalism and Minstrelsy

Video Linked

^ Hot off the presses of Blue Ridge Cru Assembly everyone!

That’s right, this episode of incredibly problematic PWI Christian campus ministries features a topic that is on the heart of many mainly white females that compose the group – RELATIONSHIPS! I won’t go into detail how ridiculous it is that many of them have this “genie-in-a-bottle” theology of God just granting them their prince charming in mind to be happily ever after. Suffice it to say that for many, it’s like a full time job.

The issue I am pointing out the way that this video I posted is being used. I have a feeling that my own campus ministry isn’t the only instance. This video is deeply disturbing to me because it’s so representative of what white evangelical ,complimentarian, neo-reformed folks tend to say about the matter. It’s as if the message is sanitized, universalized, etc. because they’re using a black man dressed in urban clothing with rhythmic speech patterns to relay the message. It’s their way at saying ” see? Even he’s saying it, so it’s not just for old white folks!”
What this man says is no different than what the likes of John Piper or David Plat would say – matter of fact, if I dug deep enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found that he got his “inspiration” from them. In my four years being involved in Cru ministry ( to a much lesser extent now, though), I can attest that this has been the biggest issue I’ve had. I can’t tell how many times I’ve walked into the Cru large group to be greeted by Lecrae or Trip Lee. The use of black bodies to relay a message for the sake of making neo-reformed white-saturated theology seem more accessible. Black guys ( and it’s really only been men- and why is THAT!?) can be reformed rappers making “holy hip-hop” and make these cute little videos about pursuing a girl , but we rarely see these same black men as the brains behind the theology. They’re used… much like in black face. They’re confined to that role, while white male neo-calvinists theologians cook up the concepts. Essentially: 

Black lingo is harmless but black thoughts.contributions to theology ..let’s leave that to white men.

Harry

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

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why men do share feelings

donald glover emotions

One of the things I am sick and tired of hearing and reading in “Christian” dating advice books and columns is the whole line of “men want to be respected, women want to be loved” drill. This brand of argumentation (and I do mean brand in every since of the word—complementarian, gender essentialism is a keystone of the Christian publishing market). Because I, for example am male, that does not mean I have some internal and irresistible desire to have power over members of the opposite sex.  Patheos blogger and author David Murrow basically claims that women are to blame for men’s sex addictions, for the inability to BUY A BOAT YALL!!!, and being tempted by other women.

These concerns given are not the fault of women at all. If anything, Murrow pointing out the money issues (not being able to buy a boat, starting a new business) is a symptom of an US American consumerism that prioritizes the self over others, and in the process, objectifies persons as things.  This objectification is found in one of the other examples Murrow provides, the criticisms about the wife’s weight and her sense of fashion. Rather than view spouses in the Imago Dei, something that is immeasureable and intangible, women are posited as things, objects to be talked AT.

The best response I have read to Murrow’s nonsense has been Bob Edwards’ post,What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You: Is this Book telling women the truth about men?. Here are some of my favorite replies:

Murrow:

If a man is not allowed to be the spiritual leader in his home, he won’t know what role to play because “men are hierarchical thinkers” (p. 152).

[Bob/Edna] Response:

This is only true if a man has been exposed to a patriarchal social environment, and has internalized this culture as normative. He may even believe that “his” normal is “God’s” normal. Simply put, this comes across as an egocentric perspective that seems unaware of the dynamics of gender-socialization. Some men are socialized to be hierarchical; others to be egalitarian. Even men who internalize hierarchical norms can learn to be more collaborative. This has more to do with nurture than nature, and it has nothing to do with God’s design.

Murrow:

“Modern Christianity has begun morphing into a ‘woman thing’” (p. 134). “Today’s church offers the things women crave: safety, relationships, nurturing and close-knit community.” Men “feel unneeded, so they go passive or leave the church altogether” (p. 138).

[Bob/Edna] Response:

If men do not recognize their emotional and relational needs (for safety, relationships, nurturance and community) and seek to have them met in healthy ways, they are prone to try to get them met in unhealthy ways (e.g. through addiction).

Murrow (makes a number of comments about sex):

Men are like “chocoholics” when it comes to sex. If a man is unable to come home after work and “indulge [his] fantasy,” he will believe his wife is saying, “get your ya-yas somewhere else, buddy.” Wives shouldn’t be surprised to later find their husbands “engaged in masturbation, porn, or an extramarital affair.” Men, according to Murrow, need wives to be “generous with the chocolate” (p. 118).

“Men actually get a cocaine-like shot of pleasure from looking at a beautiful woman. So here’s your assignment: Give your husband as many cocaine shots as possible. Satisfy his addiction by looking your best” (pp. 163-164).

“And why are looks so important to men?” “Men compare. Men compete. Men size each other up by their spouses” (p. 164). “Having a knockout wife raises your social standing at work, among your relatives, and even a bit at church” (p. 165).

“First realize that sex is one of the cornerstones of the male psyche. If a man has a satisfying sex life, everything is right with the world.” “Here’s something else your husband hasn’t told you: It’s his greatest source of comfort. Sometimes it’s the only way he can access the emotions trapped deep in his heart” (p. 167).

“You are competing for your husband’s body. It’s you versus a thousand foes—food, drink, drugs, illicit sex. Fight for his body and you’ll win his heart” (p. 171).

[Bob/Edna] Response:

Women are not responsible for their husbands’ behaviour. They are not responsible to give him enough sex so that he won’t fall prey to gluttony, alcoholism, drug abuse or sexual immorality. Men are responsible to regulate their own impulses and manage their own appetites. We are encouraged to “walk in the Spirit” so that we will not fulfill the “lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

If sex is the cornerstone of a man’s psyche, if it is his greatest source of comfort, if it is the only way for him to access his emotions, he may have a sexual addiction. He should be assessed by a qualified psychotherapist.

If he has married his wife because he believes her beauty enhances his social standing at church (or anywhere else), he should seek to understand his worth as a loved child of God and friend of Jesus Christ. If he measures his status by comparing his wife to someone else’s, I believe he should prayerfully consider the words of Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (NIV).”

For the rest, I would highly recommend you read the rest of Bob’s and Edna’s post.

But back to men and sharing and feeling and loving. Christians affirm that humanity is made in God’s image, MALE and FEMALE, God made us in God’s likeness. Many Christians including myself confess the belief in the Trinity, and that it was in Jesus Christ, in his Life, Death, and Resurrection, that God shared himself with the world in order to save it. Christians are called to be imitators of Christ, sharing and giving of ourselves is a part of our call to discipleship.  John 1 claims that Jesus is the Word of the Father, God’s shared self-communication to humanity.  Jesus’ tears are God’s tears; Jesus’ joy is God’s joy.  In Christ, God provides the model for humanity. Men and women were created for mutual relationship with each other. Dialogue and compassion are some of the markers of YHWH living in covenant with Israel. Women do share feelings because they are beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of a personal and loving God. Men do share feelings too because we are also beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of a personal and loving God.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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