Fundamentalism and Post-Evangelical Culture

saved faye

After the World Vision drama that spread all over the interwebs, there have been a few posts on postevangelicals farewelling evangelicalism (well, sorta?). Over at Christ And Post Culture, Hannah Anderson wrote an excellent post putting post-evangelicalism in historical context, Farewell Evangelicalism?: Not So Fast. At Canon And Culture, Rob Schwarzwalder asked, Why Younger Evangelicals Are Leaving the Church: Some Arguments Against The Conventional Wisdom

Thirdly, Dianna E Anderson posted last week, Life In The Borderlands: A Taxonomical Analysis of Post-Evangelicalism

As a guy who really digs church history, and who has studied the history of evangelicalism, let me add these thoughts. Post-evangelicals are not leaving evangelicalism, vis-a-vis actual evangelical churches and its institutions for its faults, like its anti-intellectualism, its social conservativism, and stuffy institutions. These three features aforementioned are actually found in mainline Protestant churches as well. And well, basically, U.S. American Christianity. This reputation of Christianity being a tool of right-wing politics in media is what Post-Evangelicals are protesting against. They don’t want to be seen as “not liking” the Bible like those evil Mainliners, but they want to definitely be seen as not being one of those Republican Conservative FundieVangelicals.

By now, we all know the type, the Hilary Faye’s (Saved!) hypocritical White Blonde Aryan spokeswomen for Hollywood’s view of Christianity. Sure, there’s some truth to these tropes, but I think underlying both the protest of PostEvangelicals that they are indeed different, and the ignorance of media stereotypes is the lack of knowledge of evangelical religious history. Post-Evangelicalism/The Emergent church represents the rejection of an Evangelicalism that came out of fundamentalism. U.S. American fundamentalism was, according to George Marsden in Fundamentalism And American Culture, a movement that came from the North before the time of the Civil War. The fundamentalist movement was (and continues to be) interdenominational and includes Calvinist, revivalist, dispensationalist, holiness, pietist and Reformed religionists. The Civil War was seen as a millennial event where God’s kingdom, in the eyes of some, prevailed (12-13). This millennialism, perpetuated by middle class Victorian-lite Northerners served as one of the forerunners of fundamentalism (21-22).

At that time, America was viewed as a New Israel because Jeffersonianism placed a very optimistic view of humanity. However, pre-millenial dispensationalism first advanced by C.I. Scofield rejected modern notions of progress and instead suggested true Christians withdraw from society. Scofield’s approach indicated a change that happened in evangelicalism that showed a drop in political and social activism on the part of American evangelicals from 1900-1930. The evangelist D L Moody (1837-1899), for example, was deeply set against the social gospel movement (37). The fundamentalists concerns were primarily doctrinal purity (118-123). Right ideas and thinking would lead to right action.  Not only were the first fundamentalists concerned with the purity of Protestant church teachings, they also were committed to racial purity.  D.L. Moody was a believer in the Lost Cause and defending the violent institution of Jim & Jane Crow law by hosting and preaching at race-segregated revival events.

Fundamentalism had a particular view of history. While it said it was adverse to liberal notions of progress, dispensationalist theology still held that history was on Christians’ side, and that the Rapture would be a supernatural, disruptive event where God destroys the world in order to, um save it? In a similar vein, Marxists views revolution as a man-made event (as opposed to fundamentalist supernaturalism) that has a similar disruptive effect. In dispensationalism, these acts include the promotion of perpetual warfare in the Middle East to initiate God leashing hell on Earth. In other words, the way to transcend history is by way of acts of violence.

One of the hallmarks of post-evangelicalism as it has manifested itself online is the form of tone-policing that I have written about on a few occassions.  Inherent to this fundamentalist-lite form of disciplining virtual behavior is the belief in authentic relationships yet without real risk of confrontation.  A commitment to “genuine” relationships has replaced the commitment of doctrinal purity.  Any variety of criticism geared toward post-evangelicals from the right or left is demonized as “vicious” or “aggressive” calling out culture.  Take for example myself; if I write a post critiquing Rob Bell book when it comes to race, I can expect both the comment section and Twitter to be filled with questions like, “So, do you REALLY think Rob Bell (or Wm. Paul Young, or whoever) is a white supremacist?”  Critiques aimed at institutional practices and social norms are taken personally because post-evangelicals, like fundamentalist icons  D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and  Billy Graham view sin as primarily an individual phenomenon.  It is this brand of individualism  that makes  fundamentalism and post-evangelicalism incapable of addressing their own complicities in institutional racism.

“Angry” Social Justice bloggers break the great social taboo of not adhering to postevangelicals’ (misguided) definitions of relationality.  Meanwhile, there exists a double-standard of Post-Evangelical bloggers remaining free to write speculative personal attacks about their least favorite celebrity mega-church pastors.  Small-minded people talk about people.

I think that what is telling is that at the end of almost every post-evangelical post declaring the evacuation of a label they left years ago, is that there’s a sense they believe that history is on their side.  Like the dispensationalists of old, it’s only a matter of time before progress (according to them) is made.  Allusions to “resurrection” without any acknowledgement of the cross reveals nothing but bourgeoisie Emergent Christian theologies of glory.  Frederick Douglass once said, without struggle, there is no progress.  But Post-Evangelical leaders see themselves as Transcendent, Universal, & context-less, somehow beyond history, and so the focus is more on the story of progress itself, rather than concrete narratives of struggle.

When seen in this historical light, we see that indeed, post-evangelicals resemble their fundamentalist forebears more than they like to imagine. While the Calvinist variety of fundamentalism is owned by the TGKKK with their “farewells” to all heretics, post-evangelicals deploy shame versus dissidents with faux-gressive, hegemonic calls to Christian unity. Saying “farewell” and making passive-aggressive crocodile tears over “unity” are two sides of the same coin.  Sometimes, old Fundamentalist habits die hard.  

 

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Open Theism, Moltmann, Patristic Thought, & Divine Apatheia

In a recent facebook group discussion, we have gone back and forth about the meaning of what does it mean for God to be impassible?  Does God really not suffer, and therefore is not able to relate to humanity? A current stream of polemics in BOTH conservative evangelical and mainline liberal Christian academia consists of making Platonism along with any other form of Greek philosophy to be enemy of the one, true pure biblical perspective. The use of this argument is valueable but it does have it limits. As Christians, we are to experience the world Pentecostally, in that God has reconciled all nations and tongues to Himself in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the Sending of the Holy Spirit to the Church to go through out the world. Each language, philosophy, academic discipline can be used for the glory of the Triune God. The confusion of Babel comes in when Christians, for example talk about capitalism as Christian freedom, or when the early Church Fathers appropriated the Gentile, philosophical writings of their contexts with words like “apatheia,” “immutability,” “impassibility,” and the like. How can the God who died on the cross be considered unchangeable and incapable of suffering in any way?

Pentecostal Hybridity [not syncretism, since cultures and languages are fluid, and they can change], leads to language barriers and conflicts, and yes, definitely extended debates. Christian engagement with the “world” [prevailing cultures] does require something more than nuance, it requires discernment. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are must examine the prevailing texts of the day, appropriate the good, and discard the bad by measuring them with the Cross. A while back, Open theologian John Sanders wrote a post on the Early Church Fathers on Hellenism and Impassibility. While in some of his published works, Sanders took a more critical stance on the Church Fathers’ and their appropriation of “impassibility,” Sanders is now arguing (rightfully) that the way the Fathers understood God’s impassibility was really quite different from Greek philosophy. Sanders notes,

“From the second through fourth centuries there was no standard definition of divine “impassibility.”[i] For Christian writers it did not mean that God was apathetic, distant, or lacked compassion. God did experience mercy and love. Christians disagreed with one another whether God experienced anger depending on whether or not they thought this emotion “fitting” for God. The word functioned in a couple of ways. First, it was a way of qualifying the distinction between creator and creatures. God is incorruptible while we are not. But we will be made impassible (incorruptible) in the eschaton. Also, we are prone to be overwhelmed by emotions, particularly negative ones, but God is not. Hence, it was used to safeguard divine transcendence (aseity) rather than deny psychological emotions to God. Second, it functioned to distance the Christian God from the gods of polytheism. They were passible in the sense that acted capriciously and lost control of themselves. In contrast, the Christian God faithfully loved, was patient, and acted consistently.[ii] Hence, it is clear that when the fathers said God was impassible they did not intend to rule out that he has emotions or that he is affected by and responds to us.”

This observation holds especially true, particularly when one looks at the corpus of one Clement of Alexandria. Clement worked really hard to distance the God of Christianity from the Roman imperial Egyptian divinities of his day. Clement understood the gods of that pantheon to be greedy, lustful, sexually immoral, and controlled by their desires; and of course, their worshippers followed in their footsteps. What Clement did was argue that God is apathetic to what these gods desired, that the God revealed in the Divine Logos-Person of Yeshua the Messiah was fully capable of controlling himself, and also served as the source of our holiness, our own participation in the divine apatheia.

Often dismissed often as a pantheist heretic and for his kenotic Christology, Juergen Moltmann in his The Crucified God: The Cross Of Christ as the Foundation And Criticism of Christian Theology, made similar arguments as John Sanders and Clement of Alexandria concerning divine apatheia. Our conversation starts on page 269,

“An examination of the discussion of apatheia in ancient Greece, Judaism, and Christianity shows that apatheia does not mean the petrification of men, nor does it denote those symptoms of illness which are today described as apathy, indifference, and alienation. Rather, it denotes the freedom of man and his superiority to the world in corresponding to the perfect, all-sufficient freedom of the Godhead. Apatheia is entering into the higher divine sphere of the Logos. [...] Love arises from the spirit and from freedom, not from desire or anxiety. The apathetic God therefore, could be understood as the free God who freed others for Himself.”

For Moltmann, it is essential for Christian theology to have both apatheia and pathos (which we find in the Old Testament). Thus, Moltmann concludes about apatheia, “Christian theology can only adopt insight and the longing of Hellenistic apathetic theology as a presupposition for the knowledge of the freedom of God and the liberation of fettered man” (page 275) Contrary to the popular saying “freedom isn’t free,” freedom is free, and its source is found in the Open God of Liberation. Just as no one desire or emotion is able to claim the Triune God as its own, neither can any oppressive tradition or institution possess the freedom that the Christian has been given by the Creator.  In the words of Clement of Alexandria, “For God bestows life freely, but evil custom, after our departure from this world, brings on the sinner unavailing remorse with punishment.” (Sermon to the Greeks, Chapter 10).

The Crucifixion of God’s Son is the one true source of humanity’s liberty.  The God-Man’s death on the Cross must be seen as God opening up God’s covenant for all humanity. Undergirding this premise for Moltmann is his CORRECT observation that the downward pathos movement of YHWH can only be understood as part of the special revelation in the Hebrew Bible, and in God’s communion with Israel.

“Therefore, there is for it a direct correspondence between the pathos of God and the sympatheia of men. On the basis of the presupposition of election to the covenant and the people it is necessary only to develop a dipolar theology which speaks of God’s passion and the drive of the spirit in the suffering and hopes of man. This presupposition does not exist for the Christian, especially for the Gentile Christian. Where for Israel immediacy is grounded on the presupposition of the covenant, for Christians it is Christ himself who communicates the Fatherhood of God and the power of the Spirit. Therefore, Christian theology cannot develop any dipolar theology of the reciprocal relationship between the God who calls and the man who answers; it must develop a trinitarian theology, for only in and through Christ is that dialogical relationship with God opened up.”- Page 275, once more (Bold Emphasis My Own)

Moltmann’s move is a significant gesture, a critique of the Gentile imperial arrogance we know as natural revelation. Moltmann at once contextualizes himself in the story of the Crucified God as a German Gentile, and at the same time is able to articulate the narrative of God’s people (Israel) and God’s Messiah. Now, Moltmann goes on to argue that the beginning of Trinitarian history happens at Golgatha; I disagree. God’s own Trinitarian history begins with liberating Exodus event and the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word made fetal flesh. The history of full human participation in Trinitarian history begins with the Crucifixion, I would contend, since God sovereignly chose to embrace us ragged Gentiles into the salvific equation. The Openness of God for us begins with the sweet embrace of Jesus nailed to the tree.

h00die_R (Rod)

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Postmodern Scholastics And Their Theologies Of Glory

A lot of scholars in the theological academy are under the presumption that their theologies are neat and squeaky clean, that the categories that they rely on, the labels such as “heretic” and “orthodox,” “pantheist” and “biblical,’ whatever the case may be. I think that they are sadly mistaken. Much like the current state of Hollywood where producers have no original stories to offer, theologians today fear radical breaks with tradition out of fear of being made outcasts. If scholasticism was and is the continuous time-honored intellectual pursuit of Christians working to reconcile special revelation (Christ + Scripture) and the prevailing philosophies of their/our days, then ultimately, these efforts should be considered projects informed by Gentile hubris. Systematic theologies’, especially of the classical variety are not as stable have we have been lead to believe, especially when confronted with the story of Exodus and Exile from the First Testament. Wanna claim that God is ineffable? Sure, go ahead! But we as Gentiles can only do so from a Gentile perspective. Moses, the judges and prophets were friends of God, and as such they had personal conversations with the personal deity YHWH. Once we Gentiles are able to finally recognize Jesus is The Center of our knowledge, and not Gentile arrogance, then, and only then are we able to speak of the Creator God of Israel.

One primary example I would like to give as an example of Gentile arrogance (as much as us Gentile Protestants love to talk about humility, right?), is the case of the Reformer Martin Luther. Martin Luther begins with a Theology of the Cross, the Crucifixion of YHWH’s Son on his mind, being in solidarity with the peasants (my reading of the 95 Theses). Luther’s Reformation sparks the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, and the Radical Reformation. However, in his pursuit to win over persons (most likely on the fence) of his position, Luther decides to hold to a few “mediating positions, such as ‘con-substantiation.” It is this idol of the middle ground that continues to be a problem for would be Christian revolutionaries. The “middle ground” is this folk-loric place where change-agents through out history “compromise” in order to look RESPECTABLE. In other words, acceptance becomes the prevailing value rather than revolutionary change. A number of theologians (from all denominations) today I feel are stuck in the mode of the Scholastics prior to the Reformation, where everything they write is to preserve the traditions of the Cornelius Van Til’s, Martin Heidegger’s and Paul Tillich’s.

I am sure you can name more, but for brevity’s sake, I would venture to say that the way of the “Middle Way” inevitably leads to an affirmation of the status quo. Always has. Always will. This is why this so-called “Radical Center” is always going to be at odds with Theologies of the Cross. You see, because the apostles saw Jesus’ death as being OUTSIDE the camp (much like the Scapegoat in Leviticus), theologies of the cross will always be out on the margins. Becoming mainstream, respectable, or powerful is the direct anti-thesis to theologia crucis. There is nothing respectable about the Cross, only wretched ugliness. There is nothing that speaks to power-over/dominating others at the Cross; there is only the power of meekness and love for the powerless. There is nothing mainline or mainstream about the cross; only rejection and abandonment.

h00die_R (Rod)

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when progressives revel in cultural ignorance #CancelColbert

For my previous thoughts on #CancelColbert, see “men at work: how sexism operates.”

Very briefly. Last post on the #CancelColbert stuff. I just wanted to go on record with this. Recently, a progressive blogger posted a “Mission Accomplished” blogpost celebrating how Stephen Colbert had become victorious over the anti-racist slacktivists who “wanted” his show cancelled. Not only does the author in question get everything about the campaign wrong unlike my friend Jason, but he also managed to show just how much he valued cultural ignorance over cultural intelligence.

A few quotes from the Mission Accomplished post in question:

“I think I’ve made myself pretty clear about my disdain for people who are overly politically correct.  While I get the need to be sensitive towards some issues, it’s gotten to a point where I feel like sometimes people can’t say anything anymore without it offending someone.  Which I always find funny in a country like the United States where both liberals and conservatives go on and on about freedom of speech – yet both sides will often throw a fit when anybody says anything that they disagree with or find offensive.”

Oh and this goodie!!!

“I just think the people who were actually offended by this need to lighten up a bit. The entire tweet was meant to mock Snyder’s foundation by using offensive language in a fake foundation to show how ridiculous it is that Snyder created a foundation for Native Americans that includes a name many of them find highly offensive.”

So basically, what we are being informed is that the author regrets not having the liberty to offend people, even in the pursuit of a just cause. Basically, right wing attacks versus “political correctness” almost always boil down to a person desiring the right to offend other people. Because he is white, the author does not have to reflect on the racial stereotypes associated with the Colbert Report’s now deleted, infamous tweet. The author does not have to consider the racist laws that were enforced in the name of White Supremacist myths levied at Asian-Americans, especially during the creation of nation-wide railroads. In Texas in those days, one judge even ruled it was LEGAL to kill a Chinese man. LEGAL. The legacies of these injustices have been passed down through today, and ironic racism is still racism. Native Americans really do not need Colbert or Suey Park’s allyship, actually, and they certainly do not need Comedy Central’s hipster racism to raise awareness of the First Nations’ cases against being made mascots. Just look at the recent Navajo Nation vote (7-2) in favor of opposing racist sports team names.

If you want a good case for being culturally intelligent, look no further than this Guante youtube video. Class dismissed:

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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so you want People of Color to attend Christian conferences?

Today, I feel like I am going to attempt to articulate the frustrations of a number of my friends, shared experiences that we have.  This post isn’t about me but something deeply troubling with institutional Christianity.

Recently, I had a white friend who attended a conference on Missional Christianity. From the looks of the promotions for the three day event, he was under the impression that it was going to be a diverse gathering. As a youth pastor who is working for a pre-dominantly racial minority church, my friend was hoping to become better equipped to minister to a diverse congregation and community. In the course of seeing and listening to the keynote speakers, my friend took a quick census of the attendees & speakers, and posted the results on Twitter, 99% white, 1% POC. 90% male, 10% female. Are these numbers really reflective of the Church located in the United State? Compared to the Church Universal found throughout six continents, do these numbers add up? Can we honestly say that conferences like these are truly about the future of Christianity? The backlash that my friend received was both hostile and utterly predictable. “Well, why don’t YOU DO a better job of inviting more POC and women?” or how about, “Are you trying to say that all the members of the entire planning committee are personally racist and sexist?”

A long time ago (precisely well over FOUR years ago), my good friend Drew Hart wrote about his experiences at a similar missional gathering. What brother Drew faced was what Austin Channing Brown calls a metaphysical dilemma. This is based on the fear of marginalized persons of feeling “devalued, unimportant, sidelined, monolithic, or invisible.” Will Persons of Color be able to stand out (as individuals)? Can we be made visible without any negative stereotypes hindering us? Why do justice conferences and missional gatherings persist in being focused, centered, and dominated by white persons and limit themselves to the interests of men? What did Jesus have to say about religion, and the building of brands and platforms?

In many instances, seminaries and other institutions for theological education have the same problems as these conferences. Due to the lack of diversity in the student body and faculty as well as support, Persons of Color in seminaries and bible schools are left to create their own resources and pressured to recruit more students of color on their own. This overwhelming burden placed upon POC by the institutions renders POC into further invisibility.  Having have been part of a campaign to make curriculum more cultural pluralistic, I know first hand that POC are always blamed for their own lack of resources. This “boot-straps” mentality manifests itself both in progressive and conservative institutions. Rugged Individualism, and the White Privilege defended by Christian institutions and conferences, are both unbiblical and break the law of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Racist practices unintentionally isolate POC individuals and communities, leaving POC to fend for themselves. But if we are supposed to be the Body of Christ, we are to choose the model of intercultural neighborly love over and against privileged, elitist notions of formation of Christian leadership.

Recently, I was both saddened and enraged when a close friend of mine told me yet another story of how a gathering of missional Christians had taken the time to reach out to him, and ask his advice about diversity issues. Yet when the time came to make final decisions, the meeting that was planned to be held is still going to happen in a white suburban area, safe from at-risk POC youth, and their issues. Is Missional Christianity showing itself to be another form of White flight, an escapism away from the joyous celebrations and oppressive realities of People of Color? Could this Emergent Christian movement (assuming it isn’t dead yet) be just another re-hashed version of a Post-Christendom Christian hegemony? I think that the label “Post-Christendom” itself is highly problematic. Exactly what type of Christendom are we referring to? There would have to be an assumption that the U.S. as a nation-state had practiced a some form of Christianity to begin with. Given the history of African enslavement and genocide that many good Christians are still in denial about, I believe that the belief of a US Christendom in the distant past needs to be called into question.

My friend who tried to help this Missional gathering deal with this issue was told that rather than have a conference reflect the Kingdom of God, the planning committee wanted to honor leaders who had brought the movement into being. In other words, the power players, the movers and shakers were to be given yet another opportunity for their platform. These approaches and practices are once more anti-Christ, and anti-Gospel. In Mark 10:42-43, “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” The Christian Conference Industry reads more like Corporate America and Wall Street, choosing the rulers and leaders who are already on top. Yet, Jesus said that greatness is defined not by the blogger with the largest platform and cleanest name-brand, but the woman or man who says, “NO!” to the world, and yes to humility and suffering servitude.

I think efforts to make Christian conferences and educational institutions more diverse are noble, however, we must get beyond diversity. There will be no such thing as a perfect seminary or a perfect conference , but the Emergent church should not allow worldly commitments prevent them from putting perfect love into practice. Missional Christians must work to intentionally co-create just spaces for people on the margins because that is where Jesus and His mission lied, with the least of these, the downtrodden, the despised ones.  This means actually listening to women and People of Color, valuing their input and their labor, sharing in the burdens of marginalized persons, and rejecting Thrones of Privilege(s).

h00die_R (Rod)

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African children are not your pawns: World Vision and Evangelical Imperialism

Can World Vision save Starvin Marvin?

(image provided by South Park Studios)

Post-Evangelicalism, White Saviorism, and PA$$ING FOR WHITE [EVANGELICAL]

I’ve noticed somewhat of a trend that’s pretty problematic that I wanted to draw out. You can call this my official response to the World Vision / White Evangelicalism drama that went on last week.  At the center of the storm, there lied a Christian charity organization that decided to, then reversed on the decision, to hire Christians from denominations that affirmed same sex marriages.  The narrative goes: on one side, there’s the conservative evangelical wing and their Calvinist Popes who farewelled WV and on the other side, there’s the evangelicals who were lead to believe that evangelicalism was a Big Tent camp filled with Progressives, Emergents, and Missional folks. Both sides (in their blog posts), were more than eager to press this story as one where we had to “save the children.”  At no one point were the problematic practices of World Vision, its advancement of White Saviorism  through its advertisements or its questionable method of “child-sponsorships” (but not really child-sponsorships) ever put under scrutiny.  In fact, White conservative evangelical bloggers and post-evangelical bloggers did not hesitate to add numerous images of brown-skinned children (probably with disabilities as well) in their blog posts.  BECAUSE YOU KNOW, THIS DEBATE WAS ALL ABOUT THEM. UM HUMMM!

If I may wax Propaganda in “Precious Puritans,” it reeks of privilege, wouldn’t you agree? In reality, the money for the sponsorships do not go to the child directly, but to the community where they live (indirectly). The promise of these sponsorships not only promise meeting the material needs of children overseas, but also to ensure that these kids get to learn American Standard English.  Isn’t that just wonderful? We can do charity so that we can shape you in our own image! Nope. Not imperialist at all.

African and other nations populated by darker skinned people are represented time and again as the passive recipients of white benevolence.  This “help” however, is just a re-hashing of old Western-style colonialism brought to those countries by missionaries. Instead of Soviet and capitalist governments directly influencing the futures of these places, what is happening instead is that corporations such as SHELL, which will work as “monitors” for these “developing” communities, to aid in things like guiding “the communities is setting priorities” [robbing agency and human dignity from people of Color a national past-time!].  The problem with representing wholesale countries as “Needy Others” by discussing poverty outside of history (that is, remaining silent on the various political histories, economics, and regional trends) objectifies these children as Things. This is one of the primary reasons why White Evangelicals as well White Emergent / Postevangelical/ Nuanced Missional Christians were able to make flesh and blood children pawns for their White National culture wars.

After all the declarations of “I’m done with Evangelicalism” and aspiring hopes for renewal  and quotes about following Jesus and not the Church of the Pharisees [oh, that bit is problematic too, taking the Pharisees out of history, and yeah, that anti-Semitism thing]. Honestly, I always get a little squeamish when even the most progressive and high-minded Christians compare their opponents to the Pharisees because of the history of CHRISTIAN anti-Semitism we believers are guilty of. And you know what Fanon said, behind anti-Semitism, there’s anti-Black racism right around the corner.

It’s interesting how cabals of White Evangelical and Post-evangelical bloggers can arrogantly think that they have the future of Christianity in their hands.  And let’s not kid ourselves with Emergent/Emergence Christianity,etc.; the same people who appropriate the language of “liberation” from Christians of color are the same exact folks who talk about “civility” and “objectivity” as means of silencing most notably Women of Color. Evangelicalism has a bad history when it comes to race relations. Heck, all of Christianity does.  Social Justice critiques from within contemporary Evangelicalism did not start with Brian McLaren and Rob Bell; it started with the work of people like John Perkins and Tom Skinner. Unfortunately in White Evangelical institutions, John Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association were denounced as “liberals” because they dare suggest that White ministers could not properly do urban ministry unless they were discipled by persons who came from urban populations. THE NERVE! THE AUDACITY!

So here we are, rather than exploring and listening the ACTUAL over-looked party of Evangelicalism (Evangelicals who are racial minorities), we have a group of now (I guess?) former evangelicals who use their privilege to rejecting the label of Evangelical.  While there are others who can articulate this idea better than I (I got this idea from a book club meeting this week), Evangelicalism comes not only as a theology but also a history and a culture.  The history of evangelicalism in the North American context is a tale of both the social justice minded-abolitionists and the slave-holding Confederates.  Not wanting to be implicated in the social sins of the latter, many Emergent / Post-Evangelical Christians tend to focus on the former, while well, for the most part, many Conservative Evangelicals continue to glorify the problematic history uncritically.  Evangelical culture in general comes with an accomodationist approach to laizze-faire economics where every brand and marketing trend just needs a little Jesus sprinkled on it.  This is also leads to evangelical culture making charity the norm rather than solidarity

 It seems a little suspicious to me that on one hand, a number Post-Evangelicals want to keep the evangelical label, to retain the brand, the capitalist success, and access to higher social positions that it comes with, but on the other, now want to simply leave it when its convenient. In the United States of America context, in which a watered-down Protestantism turned deism has basically been the civil religion, White Evangelicalism means that a Protestantism that’s above other Protestantisms (this includes mainline churches, historically black churches, Chinese, Korean and other Protestant bodies worldwide).  These other communities are only found acceptable if they believe like, worship like, and vote like White Evangelicals.  Rather than take responsibility for their own history, the blogging bishophoric is now leading the way into a new kind of evangelical hegemony.  Indeed it would seem that the label of post-evangelical / emergent was nothing more than a way for Generation X’ers and Millenials to pa$$ as white [evangelicals], profiting while persuading others to join them on their journey into mainline Protestantism.

So what do you think? Are African, Indian, South American children being used as pawns in the White Culture Wars?

 

h00die_R (Rod)

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sometimes, the angels are in the details

I have began to notice something recently in discussions online.  Comments, blog posts, tweets, facebook threads, while many may dismiss these as “it’s just the internet,” these conversations do matter.  Let me give an example from the meat world, then make my way back to my point about online.

When I was in high school, one of my teachers taught us a *limited* amount of poetry by writers such as James Baldwin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.  On a personal level, the teacher was likeable, but there was nothing I learned about Emerson (back then) that would convince me to go read his works. Also, I was more interested myself in American government classes and U.S. history.  I have recently been reading Cornel West’s Democracy Matters, and he talks about how Emerson opposed the removal of First Nations people from states like Georgia, and how he criticized the Slave Fugitive Laws. If I had been aware of this, knowing that I believed in social justice then as I do now, I would have been more invested in Emerson, and probably U.S, literature much more earlier than grad school.

Sometimes teachers avoid these teaching moments because maybe they are afraid of the details of a writer’s political life may say about their own politics or biases.  Is teaching particularity something to be avoided? Transition now to online discussions.  I can think of one past and one more recent discussion.  In the former, there was a commenter who is highly educated as I am, but with some of the comment he left, you couldn’t really tell. At the same time, this commenter wrote a book on a theologian who has an affinity for Eastern Orthodoxy, the openness of God, and an engagement with natural sciences.  You would think that this person and I would get along, and we do.  But some comments just don’t go away, like being told  that I should choke on the brand of philosophy I preferred to read, or only being seen under a gaze where the only two possibilities are a faithful Barthian Church-loving orthodox Christian, or A Heretical Schleirmacher-loving liberal who is only about experience.  This seems like an unfortunate form of dehumanization; I was being objectified and not addressed as a person.

The problem lied specifically in this writer being taught that his perspective was universal, and that anyone who started with particularity was a experience-driven, theologically liberal, Jesus-dissing heretic.  But fortunately, by way of providence, I have other friends who I am in conversation with, and they have encouraged me to read the late theologian in question in spite of this interlocutor’s behavior.  A similar situation arose during grad school.  In a Christian ethics course, I learned about virtue ethics and Thomas Aquinas.  Given the text that was selected, and the extremely limited focus on Aquinas as a Trinitarian ethicist (from a Protestant interpretation), I had difficulty seeing why Thomists loved Aquinas.  I do recall on Facebook during that semester, or somewhere about that time, in a very active (now really defunct) theology group, there was a philosophy student who identified as a feminist, and she was a Thomist.  I thought that was an interesting combination.

And then last Sunday night, in a long Twitter conversation with two or three friends, I learned how Thomas’ view of human flourishing may be compatible with liberationist and feminist theologies. Perhaps the problem with the class that I learned about Thomas Aquinas was that the professor did not teach specific details of Aquinas’ life or work, just generalities along with secondary texts.  It probably would have been more useful if we had access to primary texts as well.  Maybe, after all,  it’s not the devil, but the angels who are in the details, specificity, particularities, the nitty-gritty and that’s why these are all so important when it comes to learning, teaching, reading and writing.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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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!

cutie mark crusade solidarity

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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In The Mail: Beyond Ontological Blackness

The other day, I received in the mail Victor Anderson’s Beyond Ontological Blackness: An Essay in African American Religious and Cultural Criticism. I spent most of my afternoon today re-reading this text, and I realized how influential this text has been for me. I plan to share my thoughts on this work in the near future.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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how come?

I don’t care about your fames, your name brands, or your titles.

The following post was inspired by this essay from Trudy of Gradient Lair Not Here For The Fame.

You should get your PhD. When are you going back to the Academy?

Right now, I am on hiatus from institutionalized academic writing. That being said, I am open to returning, but not right now. One of my objectives in life is to get a PhD in some point, it always has since I was in third grade, but not right now. Besides, if you can find a program that will accept my dissertation idea AND not require me to GRE again, that would be, like great! I’m also going to need you to dismantle all of the white supremacist practices found in the religious academy and seminaries. KThanksByeee.

You have your Masters? You should work for a church!

Yeah, I am happy where I am right now. I love working with at-risk youth and students with disabilities. I learn from them everyday, things like the theologies and abstract theories you learn in grad school, are for the most part irrelevant to these kids lives, and especially did not have their experiences in mind when your textbooks were written. I’d rather wait on the right church or may be even start a church of my own someday, but not right now.

You want to contribute a chapter to our book project?

I love writing for me. I have written a two particular essays that were scheduled to be published. These two essays however, have not been made public. Why? In one instance, it probably had to do with disorganization of the editor and theological disagreements the editor had with my work even though he continued to be upfront about his hesitancy. The other essay was rejected because it was deemed too angry in tone and the editors could not a critical race perspective. In both cases, I learned a lot about who to not trust with my work. There’s a third essay out there, and I am waiting on the results. That being said, for the time being, I am done with answering Calls For Papers / Contributions.

I love your blog. You should write a book

In due time. But not right now.

You should put yourself out there. Put a Selfie as your AVI. Make yourself a brand. Here, I can help.

Writing as h00die_R is important to me (besides the fact I am a public servant),it is crucial because it allows me to be the same person I am In Real Life as I am online. I don’t want to be someone who has to compromise his voice for the sake of a brand. I don’t want my writing to be all about me. I want it to be about Christ and Christian notions of justice.

I really didn’t understand [this blog post] one time. Sometimes your writing is incomprehensible.

Ask the high schoolers who have commented on here if my writing is so incomprehensible. Ever think the problem is you not wanting to really read?

How about you do an interview for our e-book/book/YouTube show/pod cast sometime?

No thanks, but feel free to properly cite any relevant essays for your projects.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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