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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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.

h00die_R (Rod)

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men at work: how sexism operates #CancelColbert

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I have written on the Tone Argument before this year, and I’ll leave you with this here link. What I want to very very briefly talk about is the problem of Tone Arguments and Patriarchy.

For anyone who not living under at rock, writer and activist Stewy Suey Park started a hashtag: #CancelColbert to confront the ironic racism of Stephen Colbert’s supposed call out of Washington [enter racial slur for Native Americans here] owner Daniel Snyder.  The point was not to take away Colbert’s means of employment (hey, it’s always about the allies, #amirite!!!), it was about how ironic racism is not the answer to addressing the racism of white supremacist mythologies perpetuated by making First Nations peoples our mascots.  White liberals and conservatives alike continue to view the problem of racism and institutional white supremacy as that of being one of private, individual sins.  It is this continued failure of listening to the stories and the actual arguments that Persons of Color make that perpetuates the White Supremacist talking point that the anti-racists are the real racists.

The way the conversation about #CancelColbert has been framed, has been, per usual, one that favors the White Supremacist and Male Supremacist Gazes. Take for example the Washington Post’s story on Suey Park’s interview on HuffPo Live. Her interviewer is portrayed as the civil, objective, reasonable host: “Josh Zepps is a host on HuffPost Live. He presides over many interesting and civil conversations with guests on a wide variety of topics. Generally they end in a civil manner.”

Meanwhile, Suey Park is described as “the Korean-American Twitter hashtag activist” who “roared again” in protest of ironic racism. The author of the report, Erik Wemple doesn’t even bother to name the race or gender of Josh Zepps. Because he doesn’t have to. Zepps is the default for what it means to be a human being, and therefore, HE represents all that is universal and rational and good in journalism. Suey is not an anti-racist activist or social justice activist, but “Anti-Colbert” activist, because ironic racism is all about the individual according to the worldview of white liberalism. And once more, just as we discussed with Twitter’s White Supremacist Toxic Wars, Women of Color are once more dehumanized and made more animalistic [READ: dangerous, angry, more subjective, irrational]; Suey doesn’t argue, contend, debate; she “ROARS” which is less a compliment given the way Wemple frames the discussion.

The interview was not that lengthy for the simple fact of Zepp’s vehement sexism, as seen in his denial of Stewy’s Suey’s agency and capacity to reason, you know, and in general, her experience; Zepps’ responded in defense of white liberal men everywhere: “No one’s minimalizing your experiences, no one’s minimalizing your right to have an opinion.” Ummmm Really Zepps? Did you follow the hashtag #CancelSueyPark [frell no, I am not bothering to link that garbage], the Male Supremacist and White Supremacist response to #CancelColbert? Have you ever bothered to read the timelines of Women of Color who are academics/activists/both and see the trolls they have to deal with? So, I think it’s rather a bizarre claim to make, unless of course, Zepps, being the rational objective dude that he is, meant the EXACT OPPOSITE of what he was claiming. Which of course, seconds later in the interview:

“It’s just a stupid opinion.”

And there you have it. The thoughts and labors of Women of Color don’t matter for moderate objective journalists like Zepps. What matters is that his progressive Male Supremacist narrative be kept in tact to silence women speaking out on gender and racial oppression. And Park’s response was appropriate: “You just called my opinion stupid, you just called my opinion stupid. That’s incredibly unproductive. And I don’t think I’m going to enact the labor of explaining to you why it’s incredibly offensive and patronizing.” Frantz Fanon observed in Wretched Of The Earth that the media is always ALWAYS ALWAYS going to oppress the colonized in the name of objectivity, FAIR AND BALANCED reporting. In other words, Objectivity is a weapon by the Oppressor to deny the agency of the Oppressed, in this case, Women of Color. Civility then is usually a White Supremacist dog-whistle that is utilized to shut down the voices of anti-oppression.

Another example of the way we men passive-aggressively embody our Male Supremacist narratives is in the area of religion. Growing up Baptist, I experienced from a very early age how powerful male pastors were and the abuses of power thereof used in the pulpit. Recently, my friend Katie Grimes wrote a post criticizing a local parish priest for using his bully pulpit to make a hostile atmosphere for a family with young children. According to Grimes,

“In view of the entire congregation, he chastised the parents, telling them that it was inappropriate for their children to be eating, drinking, and playing with toys during mass. Even though they were well-behaved (a parishioner sitting within earshot of this exchange had not even noticed the children’s activity until the pastor descended to condemn them), he said the children were “distracting” him.”

Now, the theological assumptions behind this display of Male Power is highly problematic. Children distracting the HOMILIST! Is this really what the ministry of Jesus was about? It was about our sermons? Correct me if I am wrong, but really, aren’t only Protestant worship services supposed to be centered on the Preached Word [andro-centric Logos theology that it is]? Secondly, rather than addressing children as free human subjects, as Jesus and the apostle Paul did, the priest made them objects, mere things that distract HIS LITTLE HOMILY. Christianity is not about MEN standing up in front an altar, reading from our little notecards or Amazon Kindles, sermonizing and lecturing; Christianity is the religion of the Pentecost, where the Spirit fills women and men to preach the Good News of the Resurrection, and God’s love for everyone.

The performance of THE sermon, apart from any notion of Pentecost, remains a Male Supremacist ritual. The Male Supremacist gaze neglects the humanity of women and children, and we see this in the incident that Katie talked about quite clearly. Men are not supposed to take care of children. Children and women are not meant for the public square, i.e., the teaching offices in Christianity. They are only meant to be taken care of at home. That is their sphere. What makes Katie’s story even all the more shocking is that rather than make amends for the damage to the family the priest had done; today Katie updated us (via facebook), that the priest actually called out Katie WITHOUT NAMING HER. Referring to Katie’s work as something written by a student with a Masters’ Degree in Theological Ethics, the father of the parish went on to use the time that’s supposed to be set aside to focus on Christ to talk about his disagreement with a congregant. Now, I’ve seen pastor’s sermons briefly refer to personal disagreements, and it just doesn’t sit well. By failing to make sermons Christ-centered, and instead objectifying dissidents within your congregations, male pastors wind up making the Church the face of Male Supremacy.

Just as Suey Park was not introduced to the audience first as her name in the Washington Post article ["Korean-American hash-tag activist"], Katie went unnamed (but recognized probably) and therefore dehumanized.  By not naming, and therefore not addressing women as moral agents,   Male Supremacy narratives continue to function as truth regimes, especially in the worlds of journalism and religion.To wax James Cone in Black Theology And Black Power, “HE who does not affirm me, OPPOSES ME.”

h00die_R (Rod)

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

CHRISTIAN NATIONS AND SLAVE NARRATIONS

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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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The Half-Baked Cake of Tony Jones’ Misappropriated Cultural Oppression: guest post by Gabe @Gabe_Pfefer

Editor’s note (Rod): I was outraged about how wrong someone gets slavery and church history; that’s all I wanted to say. ENJOY!

“Gabe Pfefer is a graduate of the M.Div program at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, TX and a part time pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He’s originally from Western Missouri and he grew up around farmers. He loves to cook, but can’t bake to save his life. You can see his post from February here

Anybody who’s kept even half an eye on the progressive Christian blogosphere this week will have no doubt encountered Tony Jones’ latest outrageous bid for attention. In his crusade to combat misogyny and complementarianism in the church, he called for an outright schism between complimentarian and egalitarian factions of Christianity. Mr. Jones brogressive jihad was met with disbelief and alarm by many, but that never stops good old TJ from doubling down on being scandalous. His latest salvo was this blog post (insert link here) in which he compares those who disagree with his idea of fragmenting the church to slaveholders and medieval torturers.
Now let me be clear, I am a vehement opponent of complementarianism, patriarchy, and anything less than full egalitarianism in the body of Christ. I understand Jones’ fury at those who remain stuck in the stone ages of oppressive attitudes about gender roles. I oppose with all my being any attempts to deny full inclusion to women in every aspect of the church. Where I and all but Jones’ most ardent fangirls and fanboys part ways with Jones’ thinking is in the idea that the church should schismatically separate over this issue. Yes schisms are historical and have at times led positive change, but they ALWAYS represent a wounded brokenness of the spirit of Christian unity. A schism over this issue would only deepen those wounds.
Aside from the debate over the appropriateness of a schism is the question of why Jones believes himself to be qualified or powerful enough to declare such an action. Yes it’s true he has written many well received books and has contributed a great deal to the archive of progressive theological thought. It’s also true though that he’s been a historically contentious figure with a reputation for causing conflict even within his corner of the Emergent movement. He’s hardly the most diplomatic fellow and although he presumes to often speak prophetically, his demeanor has frequently distracted from his message. Jones is never one to listen to or consider even the mildest of critiques without an excessive amount of bristling defensiveness towards his critics.
Even beyond my questions about his assumption of the mantle of would-be schismatic leader are my questions and outrage about his latest accusations. I was highly disturbed to see him resort to a slavery analogy to attack his critics. The horrors of the slave trade like the horrors of the holocaust should be, in my opinion, beyond the pale of access for use as weapons in casual battles of rhetoric. As a white male from a middle class background I was appalled to see Jones (another white middleclass male) so casually employ the images and symbols of African American oppression in this manner. He might as well have invoked the idea that his critics were akin to Hitler while he was at it!
It seems Jones has never gotten used to being challenged or not being seen as the brightest kid in the room. When his brilliance (in this case in the idea of a schism) was questioned he couldn’t take it and lashed out. I assume he believed that by comparing his critics to slave traders and sympathizers he would automatically cause his fellow progressives to reflexively distance themselves from these critics in their midst. His casual and completely basis appeal to racism falls flat however since he’s comparing apples to oranges and his analogy falls flatter than a Bundt cake without the baking powder.

The Political Jesus Collective

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

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A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 14, Black Canary

A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 14, Black Canary

Posted on November 18, 2013 by 

Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine. Check out part 4: Power Girl. Check out part 5: Aquaman. Check out part 6: Luke Cage. Check out part 7: Iron Man. Check out part 8: Spider-Man. Check out part 9: Wonder Woman. Check out part 10: John Constantine.Check out part 11: The Incredible Hulk. Check out part 12: Batman. Check out part 13: Static.

Black Canary

Black Canary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Black Canary is still relatively unknown to most common folk, but has been a staple of DC comics since 1947. Although she has been part of the Justice League, Justice Society, Birds of Prey, and a number of other groups, I don’t believe Black Canary has ever been well received as the hero she is.

Who is Black Canary?

Originally, Dinah Drake was a hero in the early days of super hero comics. However, it was her daughter, Dinah Lance who eventually became the more popular and long lasting hero. The second Black Canary not only became of the world’s foremost martial artists, but also is possessed of a super human ability to emit supersonic sounds from her throat called her “canary cry.” While she was most often seen in the company of Green Arrow for a number of years, their on again/off again relationship has mostly been off lately, allowing Dinah to come into her own as a really powerful and respectable hero.

Is this character heroic? Yep. She has shown that not only is she the consummate  team player, but constantly goes out of her way to train young heroes and constantly strive to do the right thing. (1 point)

Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? Well, as a vigilante, she works quite outside the law, and in fact in the most recent stories, she is shown to be wanted for some kind of crime. Given that she and Green Arrow have been so close for so long, it is also somewhat a safe bet that she can’t be too firmly on the side of the powers. (1 point)

Does this character kill? In the comics, Black Canary has been shown to prefer not to kill. Her most recent incarnation in the TV show Arrow, however, has been shown to have no problem with it. Still, this is about a comics hero, not a TV one, so we’ll go with no at this point.  (1 point)

Does this character have a spirituality? No. Black Canary is one of the few heroes that have been around for over 6 decades, and has never once discussed religion or spirituality. She has been respectful of other’s beliefs, but has been resolutely neutral regarding politics and spiritual things.
(0 points)

Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? Sometimes. Often, Black Canary can feel like she is more of a supporting character herself. She doesn’t have a solo book, and ion the past, has only had mini-series, never her own book. Which is a shame. As such, she is many times just there to further other’s stories, not her own, which doesn’t really have a dramatic arc of any kind that I can think of. (0 points)

Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? No and yes. She doesn’t have much of a supporting cast at all, at least that aren’t already established heroes. She is part of the Justice League and the Birds of Prey currently, but none of those are supporting her. Rather the opposite.  (0 points)

Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? none that I know of. (0 bonus point)

Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? Not sure. Like I said earlier, she doesn’t really have an engaging story of her own, at least in her current incarnation. (.5 Point)

Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Very much so. She has been shown to be able to go up against Batman in terms of martial artistry, but also having her canary cry gives her the slightest edge when fighting other street-level villains. She really does come into her own when shown in these situations, and often gets a bit lost when with other super-humans, which can lead to interesting stories if done right.   (1 point)

Verdict: 4.5 out of 8 points

Tune in next time for a discussion of Superman…

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Optimistic Chad

Chad really really hopes things are going to turn out ok. He loves his wife - with the passion of 1000 exploding suns, and is a diligent, but surely mediocre father to his brilliant and subversive children. He likes Chinese food.

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My #NaNoWriMo Project: A Curriculum on Mutuality #NaNoRebel

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping an LED flashlight over the scene. clickthing.blogspot.com/2008/10/tennish-anyone.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November is National Novel Writing Month and the goal is 50,000 words, but just like last year, I plan on being a NaNo rebel yet again. Last year, I started on a book on church history and I do plan on finishing. Someday.

This year, the cat is out of the bag. Look, on thing that gets on my nerves about egalitarians is that we have all of these critiques we level at complementarians, but guess who has all of the resources? Yup, it’s the comps! So, for this November, I hope to work everyday (in addition to working 7 days a week, and blogging) on a curriculum, tentatively entitled, “Together Forever: A Christian Curriculum for Singles, Relationships, and Marriage.” I have already gotten great feedback from one Facebook group. So, I am open. What questions and/or problems need to be addressed in a text like this?

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 4, Power Girl

A Comic Fan Searches For A New Hero: Part 4, Power Girl

Posted on November 1 by 

Check out the introduction for background on this series of posts!
Check out part 1: Green Lantern. Check out part 2: Captain America.Check out part 3: Wolverine.

Power Girl

Power Girl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Power Girl is relatively unknown outside of comic circles, but she is very well established in the lore of the DC universe of comics, and has a very distinguished history as a fan favorite, which, in this particular context may actually be problematic, as I will explain below. Comics can tend to be a male-dominated industry in more ways than one, so I wanted to bring in as many female heroines as I could.

Who is Power Girl?

 Power Girl is… complicated. Her name is Kara Zor-L, and she is the cousin of Superman, who was sent by her father to Earth in order to take care of the young boy as he grew. Unfortunately, things went a little wrong, and by the time she got here, Superman was a grown adult superhero. So, she took Superman as a mentor and became Supergirl. Wait, what? I thought this was Power Girl? Right. Let me explain further. All of that happened on what we call Earth-2, a parallel universe version of our Earth. Eventually, the two Earths crossed over a bit, and Kara became trapped in our world. Too bad for her, there was already a Supergirl, who was about a decade younger than her. So, adapting to her new environment, this Supergirl of Earth-2, lost on a world not her own, became Powergirl. She changed her legal name to Karen Starr, and also runs a successful and powerful corporation.

 

Is this character heroic? Totally. While she pretends to be shallow and not care about others, when the kryptonite hits the fan, she is always the first to jump into danger on behalf of others. She has joined with numerous super teams in the past, including the Justice Society of America, Infinity Inc., Birds of Prey, and the Justice League, but at the moment, she seems comfortable to stay out of the limelight and usually teams up with her best pal, the Huntress. (1 point)

Does this character represent the “powers” or fight against them? While it is likely that on her home world, she would have represented the powers in some form, her new life on our world has shifted her perspective. She has a general attitude of distrust about our world, and on some level, tries to remain apart from it. She does not get directly involved however, unless innocents are in danger or if those she loves are threatened, and so she seems, at least for now, to be neutral towards the powers. Distrustful, but not opposing them, either.  (0.5 points)

Does this character kill? Not that I can think of. Throughout the years, she has largely stayed true to the tutelage of the Superman from her world, which was fairly non-violent, although he also was sort-of pro-USA and all that. There have been hints that Karen has a harder edge to her, she has never shown herself to be very willing to kill.  (1 point)

Does this character have a spirituality? Not really. The closest she comes is having a really intense and deep-rooted chronic existential crisis. She does not know where she belongs, or what her place is in a world where she is very much “the other.” Even the role that she had made for herself on her home world is taken by Supergirl. So, without a narrative to tell herself, she struggles with the meaning of life, constantly struggles with relationships and community, and loss is a constant theme in her life. But there is never any open talk one way or another about God, religion, or spiritual things.  (.5 points)

Does this character have an interesting (and sustainable) story to inhabit? Very much so. The story that she has is complex, and often leads to very interesting meetings with characters she had once known in different contexts, etc. The story of being on a world that is not her own is doubled in her case, as she not only lost krypton, but lost her adopted homeworld as well. She has strong roots, but is far away from the soil that sustained them. Her constant drive to both find a way back home and protect this world from the bad guys who crossed over with her is a very compelling story.  (1 point)

Does this character have a supporting cast that isn’t just around to make them look good? Yes, actually. Powergirl shares her comic (World’s Finest) with the Huntress, who is every part the co-star of the book that Power Girl is. They are also doing a great job of building up Karen’s corporate employees as supporting cast members, who have motivations and lives of their own. They often play as a foil for Power Girl, but never feel just like props. In addition, those she has relationships with seem to be heroes in their own right (Mr. Terrific, the Justice Society). (1 points)

Does this character have a T-shirt I can buy in size XL? No. Not really… (0 bonus point)

Does this character represent, in broad terms, an outlook on life that I can support? Mostly. I find myself empathizing with her and her “otherness” while at the same time wishing she would stop looking back and embrace what is in front of her. She does project arrogance and ambivalence to the world around her, but it is clear on every front that this is a mask for deep loneliness and longing for purpose. At one point, she is discussing her choice of attire, which can be seen as problematic, as she has a gaping hole in the chest of her costume. While most men who like Power Girl do so for this reason alone, Karen adressed it by saying she used to have Superman’s logo on her chest, and she had tried to replace it with other symbols, but now she feels she has no story and no purpose, and until she finds something to stand for, she will leave a hole in her costume to mimic the one in her soul. Poignant stuff. I can resonate with that, but only to a point. Deconstruct all you want, as long as it leads to better creation…  (0 Points)

Are this characters powers (or lack thereof) interesting? Yeah. She has essntially Superman’s powerset. Flight, heat vision, cold breath, super strength, invincibility, super speed. Of course, as she is finding out, her powers often don’t work like they should on this new Earth. She finds herself either vastly overpowered for the job at hand, or lacking her powers when she really needs them. With no explanation in sight, this continues to be a compelling take on an otherwise boring set of powers. (1 point)

A note about image: Power Girl is somewhat problematic as a character because she had been written by men and frankly exploited because of her sexuality. The hole in the chest of her costume has become something of an inside joke in the comics, as the men therein seem virtually unable to resist looking at her chest rather than her eyes. He attitude about their varies from “well, if the enemies are distracted they are easier to hit,” to “My eyes are up here!”, but it seems that she is never allowed just to wear the costume she wants without people seeing her body rather than her self. The paradox is that the writers often use this to sell books while decrying it within the actual pages of the book. It is an unfair abuse of the character, in my opinion, although I am not sure that the solution is.

Verdict: 6 out of 8 points

Tune in next time for a discussion of Aquaman…

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Optimistic Chad

Chad really really hopes things are going to turn out ok. He loves his wife - with the passion of 1000 exploding suns, and is a diligent, but surely mediocre father to his brilliant and subversive children. He likes Chinese food.

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RE: White Supremacy And Beauty Pageants: Cyber racism & Nina Davuluri

Anti-Racist Action banner from Art Against Racism

Anti-Racist Action banner from Art Against Racism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Right now, you’re probably like, oh no, not another POC whining on the interwebz because of a few racist tweets. They are just “tweets” after all, nothing more. #amiright? Rather than “whining,” POC in the USA should be celebrating and not give into the “negativity!”

First of all, it must be grand to never have had to encounter racism for yourself. Why don’t you take multiple seats, and check your privilege. Victories when it comes to representation (winning pageants, etc) are always ambivalent at best, so there should both be joy and critique to go along with it.  Representation is not enough.  The challenges to white supremacy must be ever vigilant in the struggle to debunk white supremacy where-ever it rings its ugly head, and in this case, it’s both in the definition of what it means to be an American, and white supremacist definitions of beauty that have been readily embraced by the general populace and the media.

I believe that an engagement with Cornel West’s Prophesy Deliverance would be fruitful here, particularly his first chapter outlining a genealogy of white supremacy.  From the Renaissance Era on, European pseudo-scientists and phrenologists appealed for a return to the Greek ideal body of blue eyes, round chin, horizontal forehead, and Graeco-Roman noses defined the faces of white people as the faces of conquerors.  White supremacy starts with hierarchal classifications of bodies that are first catalogued as fact, and then put into practice by way of conquest and discriminatory public policies.

Fast forward to today, with the white supremacist media, where talking heads can get away with promoting racist views of what it means to be an American like CNN’s Todd Starnes. What makes a white woman from Kansas more American than an Indian-American woman? Oh, that’s right, the color of her skin! Miss Davuluri is a USA citizen, which is a requirement for this “scholarship” program, so what exactly is a real American? Am I missing something here? Or did I already say it [white supremacy]? It is not the tweets of individuals who just happened to be bigots that are the problem. Bigotry by persons is not the problem. Systems, institutions, and racist mythologies that justify them are.

I leave you with a quote from a post I did on Pageants and US American politics from almost four years ago, pretty relevant today eerily:

“What is more disturbing than Palin’s or Prejean’s involvement in an ambiguously moral event that parades as a scholarship contest is the Church’s views on the value of human bodies, and which human bodies are valued. Are American temples of God’s Breathe more valuable than Afghani or Iraqi temples of God’s Breathe? Are there certain human bodies we are more likely to execute via the electric chair or go to war with simply because of the color of their skin? American politics, sadly enough, has become not about what a person stands for or has voted for, but what a person looks like, who that person appeals to. Do we trust governors who claim to be conservative because he looks the part, but has never once voted that way in his career? Do we elect a progressive politician who promises to rule from the “center” when in reality he nominates radicals to her administration? This is the real tragedy that the pageantry in North American politics has become. Because looks can be deceiving.”

- The Pageantry of North American Politics: Palin, Prejean, and Priesthood

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h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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