The Cross, Predestination, and Emmett Till

One of the interesting things about the academy is in the way Black Theologians strive to engage Hip Hop culture. While I personally don’t do so, I think this move is necessary for a few reasons. Priests and prophets in the Hebrew Bible as part of their vocation were to help God’s people remember God’s story correctly, and live it out faithfully. Unfortunately in the 21st century, “secular” corporate-driven hip hop is used as a tool to colonize children from all backgrounds. One instance was the case of a rap “artist” who made a rhyme sexualizing the lynching of Emmet Till. I believe this is where Black Liberation theology needs to intervene.

In James Cone’s The Cross And The Lynching Tree, he discusses Till’s story at length and its impact on radicalizing black youth to protest Jim/Jane Crow segregation. Contrary to the criticism that Black theology is too academic and thus disconnected from black churches, James Cone reflects on the religious experiences of Emmet Till’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley. As Cone put it, “She exposed white brutality and black faith to the world and, significantly, expressed a parallel meaning between her son’s lynching and the crucifixion of Jesus. ‘Lord you gave your son to remedy a condition,’ she cried out, ‘but who knows, but what the death of my only son might bring an end to lynching.’ ” Young black teens like John Lewis who would grow up to be Civil Rights heroes, were shaken at the news of Till’s monstrous fate. It was “a horror etched in black memory forever.” (Page 67-68)

Part of what lead Mamie Till Bradley to crusade was her belief that her son’s lynching had become part of God’s plan. “Mrs. Bradley was not left alone in her agony. She spoke about a strange experience, a voice said to her: “Mamie, it was ordained from the beginning of time that Emmett Louis Till would die a violent death. You should be grateful to be the mother of a boy who died blameless like Christ. Bo Till will never be forgotten. There is a job for you to do now.” (P 68)

A few things to take away from this mysterious experience. First, like Martin Luther King Jr., God spoke personally to Mamie Till Bradley. The Christian God of suffering love is a personal God who communicates with humanity. God had called Mamie to preach the Good News of Christ’s triunph over death, and eventual victory over White Supremacy.

This leads me to my second point: “the job” Bradley was called to do was to serve the White Supremacist system on notice. White Supremacy and lynching are not part of The Triune God’s good plan for humanity. Emmett Till’s death is interlocked with Jesus’ sacrifice, the blameless victim made Victor. In one of the THREE places the New Testament bothers to mention the mystery of predestination, Acts 2:23, it only mentions that Christ was predestined to be crucified. Christ’s death alone brings salvation, and so predestination must be understood Christologically as well.

Predestination isn’t about us being saved or depraved. It’s about God’s goodness and grace, that when God has a plan, God remains faithful and keeps His promises. Unfortunately in Christian culture, in the Holy Hip Hop industry, there are Calvinist artists who have made predestination about human beings. They also have adopted an ideology where black women should be made second-class citizens in the name of a “new manhood.” Indeed, this is where Black Liberation theologians need to stage an intervention. By remembering and teaching correctly the story of Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till Bradley, may the Church realize that the Execution of the Exodus God is the birth pangs of the Church Militants.

h00die_R (Rod)

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Abortion, The Cross, And The Lynching Tree

tcatlt

Content note: white supremacy, lynching, infantcide

In James Cone’s, The Cross And The Lynching Tree, he shares the story of Mary Turner. She was the wife of a Georgia lynching victim, Haynes Turner. “Mary, who was eight months pregnant, protested vehemently and vowed to seek justice for her husband’s lynching. The sheriff, in turn, arrested her and then gave her up to the mob. In the presence of a crowd that included women and children, Mary Turner was ‘stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.”- page 120.

No, not even black fetuses were safe from the claws of white supremacy. Cone notes that the “strange fruit” in Billie Holiday’s song is not a black adult male body. In fact, Holiday’s take on Abel Meeropol’s poem included a sexless black body. “No black person was exempt from the risk of becoming the scapegoat of white supremacy in America, not even the unborn, whose mothers, like Mary Turner, were lynched while trying to protect their families” (121).

As a pro-life progressive, I found the above quote fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, the unborn are included in Cone’s definition of person. Recently, in politics, the GOP has been pushing “personhood amendments” to work towards bans on abortion/overturn Roe v. Wade. The conservative view of personhood is faulty because they deny its sociality. The current conservative approach to the abortion debate includes an individualistic, privatized notion of sin, that makes women and doctors the lone scapegoats. And Given the fact that evangelicals are being more friendly with heresies like “conditionalism” where the immortality of the soul is dismissed, there are even more problems theologically. It is easy to consider a doctrine where souls are annihilated if you come from a culture where you’ve never been told that you are a soulless beast.

The second reason why I found Cone’s quote to be excellent is that Cone names the system of death responsible for the termination of Mary Turner’s fetus: White Supremacy. As a system of death, White Supremacy is a complex mixture of Anti-Black bigotry (the history of lynching sugarcoated, for ex.), male supremacy (a man rips outs the unborn child from Mary Turner), and social practices (mob rule & political officials not doing justice). Abortion is not an individual right to be celebrated or an individual sin to be punished for; it is a social tragedy that we should all lament over, and work for its reduction.

Pro-life progressives take a lot of slack for not being “strong enough” on abortion. But ask yourself, are the legalisms of the pro-choice and pro-life movements really benefitting the common good?

I leave you with Efrem Smith’s response to people on facebook questioning his Kingdom Approach to the abortion debate: Ephrem Smith’s abortion response

h00die_R (Rod)

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AnaBlacktivist Chat: Anti-Blackness, Liberation & Shalom #AnaBlacktivism

This week on JuneTeenth, the 2 minds behind AnaBlacktivist Seminary (Drew Hart & myself) are hosting a Twitter chat on race: Anti-Blackness, Liberation, and Shalom. In continuing the conversation that MennoNerds had on Race, Mutuality, and AnaBaptist community, AnaBlacktivist Seminary would like to talk specifically on Anti-Black racism and its function in up and coming Neo-Anabaptist & Christian peace theologies.

Anti-Blackness manifests itself in several ways. First, as Drew points out, why are neo-Anabaptist writers more privy to engage Latin@ liberation theologies, but not Black theology? Why are Neo-Anabaptist writers more likely to use Black history as props when it comes to issues outside of race, but there’s no reading of Black religious texts? This neglect and ignoring of Black religious life is part of the legacy of White supremacy, AnaBlacktivists would argue. How can Neo-AnaBaptists claim to be working for racial reconciliation but consider Black presence unnecessary? Such reconciliation in the name of “peace” turns out to be yet another form of hegemony.

The other way that Anti-Blackness shows itself is in the idea that protest traditions and Black liberation theologies aren’t “liturgically grounded.” One renowned white NeoAnabaptist scholar has remarked about a black church lead political movement here in the South that theres not enough liturgy for the movement. When pushed whose liturgy are we talking about, no answer is given. In order for Black Christian politics to be seen as legit, they must be grounded in the religious languages anf practices from the Dominant Culture. In short, more hegemony.

Join us Thursday at 8pm EASTERN STANDARD TIME for this conversation, using the hashtag #AnaBlacktivism

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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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In the Mail: The New Jim Crow

Will all of the books I have stacked in my living room ready for me to review them, buying a book would not make much sense. Not unless it’s Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  I have done preview reading on the Prison Industrial complex from Christian theological perspectives: The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America by Mark Lewis Taylor  and Good Punishment?: Christian Moral Practice And U.S. Imprisonment.

 

From everything I have read, this is a must read for those who wish to do activism and critical race theory in the first decades of the 21st century. Looking forward to engage this work! If you have time, do yourself a favor and watch this video with author Michelle Alexander:

h00die_R (Rod)

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womanist theological perspectives: biblical inerrancy

“Scripture is authoritative and inerrant in the sense that it is a witness to the infinite and inerrant nature of God and to the finite and fallible nature of human beings.  Scripture witness to God who is truth. [...] We who interpret scripture are fallible.  Many have used biblical texts to rationalize their own errant desires and lust for power, sometimes fully convinced they were following God.  Yet, others have more rightly interpreted its authoritative guidance for authentic participation in divine goodness.  Biblical literature is as much about human imperfection, sin, and preferred cultural practices as it is about divine power, goodness, righteousness, love, relationships, and justice.”- Karen Baker-Fletcher, Dancing With God: The Trinity from a Womanist Perspective, page 26.

And

“The doctrine of biblical infallibility reinforced and was reinforced by the need for social legitimization of slavery. Thus, racial slavery was accepted as the necessary fulfillment of the curse of Ham. This had the effect of placing the truthfulness of God’s self-revelation on the same level as Black slavery and White supremacy. The institutional framework that required Black men, women, and children to be treated as chattel, as possessions rather than human beings, was understood to be consistent with the spirit, genius, and precepts of the Christian faith.”- Katie Geneva Cannon, Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community, page 41

I think that without a reference to Christ as our inerrant Rabbi/Priest/Teacher, definitions of biblical inerrancy/infallibility fall flat. Without Christocentrism, inerrancy becomes a cover for Christians who want to view their interpretation of the Bible as perfect. I argued this in the 2011 post: Katie’s Canonnization: Problems With The Chicago Statement. That was my position then as it is now. I was more apt to referring to Scripture as fully trustworthy, but I am open to using the language of inerrancy with the appropriate qualification: Christology.

h00die_R (Rod)

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womanist theological perspectives: God’s Goodness

“Affirming the goodness of God asserts that God’s vision for the common good of the world. After all, God is offering Godself to us in God’s calling. God’s vision is known by its principles, the ideals that God promotes with then world. This vision for the common good precedes any particular thing we say or do. It is informed, but not determined by, the events of the world.”- Monica Coleman, Making a Way Out of No Way: a womanist theology, page 76

And

“The context of theological praxis is not evil, death, and violence but the goodness of God in the land of the living. The goodness of God in the land of the living is present even in the depths of earthly and cosmic hell. Evil cannot overcome it. The context of God is present in the midst of the war-ridden,crime-ridden, hate-filled world, forever calling us to “the more” of rigorous loving and healing.”- Karen Baker-Fletcher, Dancing With God: The Trinity from a Womanist Perspective, page 38.

In the theologies of early Church writers like Clement of Alexandria and Athanasius of Alexandria, God’s goodness was an attribute worth defending. If I can be honest, this is really one of the points of Alexandrian theology I haven’t necessarily bought into yet. At the same time, I recognize that a lot of Christians are willing to throw God’s goodness under the bus to exclusively talk about God’s glorifying Himself and exerting His power unilaterally. Other theologians will prefer to talk about the divine as a neutral, impersonal force in the world for similar reasoning: theodicy.

However, when one talks about the context of God (God’s emplacement), should we talk about God being in creation (a fallen, violent world filled with suffering) or the creation that God calls good in Genesis?

h00die_R (Rod)

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Patristics Carnival XXXV: Pentecost Edition

Patristics Carnival XXXII

My friend Jonathan Homrighausen was gracious enough to host the Patristics Carnival for the Holy Day of Pentecost. Go check it out:

Patristics Carnival XXXV: Pentecost Edition

h00die_R (Rod)

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In The Mail: Out of My Mind

From WIPF & STOCK, I received a review copy of W.J. deKock’s Out of My Mind: Following the Trajectory of God’s Regenerative Story.  I plan on reviewing  this text. From the looks of it, the topic is on theology and epistemology (ways of knowing). I think it may be relevant to a series over the summer I plan on doing on constructing an epistemology grounded in more emancipatory ways of knowing, being, and doing.

 

h00die_R (Rod)

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2 free online events on race and Christianity #MennoNerds #AnaBlacktivism

There are two exciting conversations on race and Christianity I wanted to highlight.  First, my friends over at MennoNerds will be having a dialogue entitled, “MennoNerds on Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community” on June 12th. 2014 at 6:30pm Central Standard Time. For more see the MennoNerds site, as well as participants such as my friends Drew Hart and Katelin Hansen. You can register for free at the following link: link here on Google plus: MennoNerds on Race

Secondly, to commemorate JuneTeenth, the blerdy scholar-activists at #AnaBlacktivist seminary have decided to host a Twitter Chat on Anti-Blackness, Liberation, and Shalom on June 19th [Time yet to Be Determined]. Please join us by following the hashtag: AnaBlacktivism

june19th

h00die_R (Rod)

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