The Liberating LORD of Peace, part 1: Groundrules #TheNewPacifism

Rejecting the Straw Pacifist

*Editor’s note: When this series was written three years ago, I wrote it for my friend Craig who at one point identified as Christian Just War disciple, and I being a Christian Pacifist. The series was entitled The God Of Peace. I decided for the New Pacifism Synchroblog, I wanted to both update and reboot this series, and then complete it as a constructive AnaBlacktivist theology of God.*

My mission’s first task must be to eliminate the commonly held straw persons launched against pacifism, and for that I turn to Blue Collar Todd’s comments on Craig’s post from November 2010.

“What are you going to if you are walking down the sidewalk and you see a man, maybe two, harassing a young girl, even starting to beat her. What is the pacifist solution? Seems like physically inserting oneself into the situation is called for and even violence in order to stop a woman from being beaten or worse. What if you see a gay man in the same situation. How are you going to show love in this situation? I would suggest that showing love to the oppressed person in both cases would require forceful intervention, bring the wrath on oneself, so the victim in question could get away, then you could apply turning the other cheek. Someone breaks into my house and threatens my wife and children, I will do whatever I need to defend them, showing that I love them by protecting them.”

Like many critics of pacifism/nonviolence, BCT’s thought experiment is to challenge the presuppositions of a pacifist, who he believes, believes in inaction. The love of doing nothing, it is assumed, is nothing more than a mask of hatred towards the neighbor. However, it does not occur to BCT, that the so-called “thought experiment” in question is not without it’s flaws. In fact this year (2014) I and my friends had a very contested Twitter discussion about the differences between The New Pacifism, traditional pacifism, and  just war theory.  One must ask, should Christian ethics begin with questions related to situations, and should these situations, in this case violence against an innocent victim be the prevailing norm for Christian responses? If so, what are the limitations?

 That WISDOM is prioritized in the ethical decision-making process has precedent in the Hebrew Bible. Violent systems must be first NAMED, identified, and exposed. This requires an appropriation of some of the social analysis of Liberation Theologians have provided.

In addition, I question the wisdom of such overly simplistic situational approaches to morality such as Just War Theory, for in the end, there is a slippery slope of anything goes that comes with if restrictions are not in place. For one thing, Christian pacifism is not the absolute moral rule of condemning all violence, for not all violence is the same. Rather, New Pacifists, if they wish to be faithful to Scripture and tradition, believe that self-defense is a pre-supposition that most biblical authors hold. The problem is not defending oneself or others with non-lethal force; the problem is that the logic of lethal self-defense has been made the default before any non-violent activity is considered.

In my next post, I will give the Christian pacifist answer of “confronting evil in a way that stops it” by examining the heart of Christian peacemaking: The Triune God.

Recommendations

John Howard Yoder. The War Of The Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence And Peacemaking, 2009.

James Hal Cone. The Cross And The Lynching Tree, 2013.

Anabaptist Theology & Black Power: An AnaBlacktivist Manifesto

from the AnaBlacktivist Seminary Tumblr: towards an #AnaBlacktivist conversation: The Bible Or The Bullet?: A dialogue between Pilgrim Marpeck and Malcolm X

 

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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thirst.

“Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!”

– Isaiah 40:3, New Living Translation

Imagine that you were trained from youth to keep a busy schedule. You are socialized to inform others of how busy you are. Time is money. Time is precious. You’re wasting valuable time. Time is OF the essence. The time is nigh. There is no MARGIN for error. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

With this being pressed for time, you also have little space. No space available. No ROOM in the INN. Time for Spring cleaning. You need to look for a new place because you have so much stuff. Or a newborn child. Infants have to leave their cribs as they grow up to be toddlers. You’re on the EDGE of your seat. This couch is too small.

But hey, at least you get a pat on the back at school. You’ve never had your existence questioned. You always get to read books written by people who look like you. Now you get to college. Maybe grad school. You encounter students who disagree with you. Professors question your assumptions. You may begin to express yourself on facebook, or even start a blog and your audience gives you applause. There’s some pushback. Critics come and go. They may relent on their own. They may get blocked if they are considered too hostile (usually deserving it).

In each of these three instances, there’s no room for margin. In Sunday School class, we have been learning about practices for self-care. The primary text our teacher is referring is The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. One quote was shared that I liked, “When we lack margin, it is our own doing and is a sure sign we have stepped outside the kingdom.”

Have you made room for those living on the edge? Have you made time to listen to the marginated Others? Has the wilderness been cleared to hear the voice of God?

h00die_R (Rod)

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My #NaNoWriMo project this year: #TheNewPacifism

NaNoRebel

For the third year in a row, I am participating in the NaNoWriMo as a Rebel, that is I am not writing a work of fiction, but non-fiction on the New Pacifism. I am hoping to get 30,000-35,000 words with the number of posts I wrote last year/will have up for this year. The project I have titled The New Pacifism: Discipleship and the Cost of Peace. I know that I am already way ahead of last year’s epic fail, and someday I may go back to completing that one when the time is right.

Synopsis:

“Incited by the popularity of contemporary visions of intersectional justice and liberation, and provoked by the ever looming questions people have about violence, the New Pacifism project seeks a new way forward beyond the trendy pacifisms of TheoBrogians, just war theory, and the imperial horrors of the Crusading tradition.”

h00die_R (Rod)

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Intellectuals do not love the church as much as I do

It’s not really obvious, but the message is becoming more and more subtle. There are a number of Christian writers who believe they love The Church more than people who disagree with them. Who are their dissenters? They are the eggheads, the geeks, people so busy having their face planted in a 600 page book, they probably aren’t going to be able to hold a conversation with your everyday layperson. Academic language is too complicated. Theology is too difficult for THEM to understand. Philosophy? Critical Theory? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

In a speech given in Washington, D.C., Cornel West discussed the idea of “the organic intellectual,” or a public figure who linked the life of the mind to social change, with his example being Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe this approach to knowledge is really quite different from the progressive anti-intellectualism that I see online and irl. Ideas are things to be consumed, become transformed into trends, sold on t-shirts, parodied on YouTube, and most importantly, ideas are things to be mentioned in books as authors sell them. Knowledge becomes power in so far as it is power over others. In stark contrast, the organic intellectual is committed to wisdom, putting ideas into practice, and reflecting on that praxis time, and again. Wisdom is also an intelligence that is shared, never to be privatized by a small class of wannabe celebrities.

One probable case contrary to progressive anti-intellectualism took place during the time after I had finished my Masters thesis. No one in my family or circle of friends really bothered to ask me what my research was about. Months later after everything was said and done, and I had started attending worship at a local congregation after a year or so of working on staff at another church, I became re-acquainted with a few of the elderly members of the church. Every Sunday, I would make sure to say hi and have small chat with Ms. Polly, and the more we talked, the more I learned we had in common. It turns out, she had experience in theological education, and so did some of her children as well. When I told her what my degree was in, and that I had to do a thesis, Ms. Polly asked me what was my thesis on, and I explained my topic to her. It was the first time outside an academic setting that someone had cared to ask me about my research interests. It’s something that I’ll never forget, and I haven’t forgotten. Later on that year when members of the church were called upon to volunteer to repave Ms. Polly’s driveway, I was one of the first people to sign up. All because we had bonded over theological discussions. At church.

The real question should be: do these Christian writers who “love” the Church more than the “intellectuals” really love the Church? If you love someone, would not you want to share with them the best wisdom that others have to offer? If you love average person in the pew, then why would you presume that they wouldn’t be interested in the life of the mind?

Just thinking out loud here.

;-)

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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preach loudly and carry a good book! #AnaBlacktivism #TheNewPacifism

new pacifism awh

I have always had a problem with the oft-used phrase, “Speak softly but carry a big stick,” but for the life of me could only point to why the “big stick” part was wrong. I oppose War preparedness, empire-building, and “pre-emptive strikes” because I believe in Jesus, and His way of nonviolence. As a child being raised in the Black Baptist and Methodist/Holiness traditions, church services were centered on the preached Word. The Word was not only the written words of the Bible, but also God’s writing onto our daily lives, and us writing back in response during worship. Dialogue with God was to be loud and joyous. Unfortunately, many Christians who claim the label Anabaptist/NeoAnabaptist from the dominant culture have rejected part of the tradition dating back to the first Anabaptists. The Radical Reformers were argumentative and persistent in their writings, probably in the views of some Emergent Church leaders, “uncivil” or “lacking grace.” J. Denny Weaver and Gerald Mast argue in the introduction of their Defenseless Christianity, “Mild speech could be a luxury for those in charge or having the most weapons”: Stay civil and grace-filled, but always find a way to remind those on the margins you got the power! You’re still in charge of the Church’s future! “Defenseless Christianity” in Mast’s and Weaver’s view was and always has been “a contentious, quarrelsome discursive community” much like ancient Israel was (as evidenced by the disagreements we see in the Hebrew Bible).

One of the risks of the Word-centered approach that I am all too familiar with is the cult of personality. I can understand the appeal of Eucharist-oriented worship services; there’s little room for one individual (the pastor usually) to get all of the glory. Yet such approaches can be just as hierarchal and authoritarian. The other risk of having a vision where contesting worldviews is the norm is that the “free” market of ideas can get co-opted, especially given the fact that what often passes as the postmodern is often a reflection of late capitalism. What winds up happening is that many religious ideas are appropriated by the nation-state at the expense of others. Holiday celebrations. Public displays of the Ten Commandments. The Bible being interpreted heretically and taught in public schools. You name it. The Anabaptist commitment to the Separation of Church and State presupposes a freedom to defend the community’s right to practice a non-competitive religion. An AnaBlacktivist and more biblical view of free speech would be one that enables communities and individuals to speak out on behalf of the defenseless and marginalized.

So, I say, in the spirit of Defenseless Christianity, preach loudly, and carry a good book!

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h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Synchroblog Returns! #TheNewPacifism: The Cost of Peace

new pacifism awh
(banner provided by my friend Alan Hooker, who you can find blogging at here; feel free to use the banner if you participate in the Synchroblog, the link to the googledrive file can be found here: banner)

Back by popular demand, after last year’s success (and by success I mean the creation of a new dialogue), we are bringing back the The New Pacifism Synchroblog, and this year’s theme is The Cost Of Peace. In light of this year’s events, from the Protests in Ferguson to the actual riots during a Pumpkin festival, to the terrorizing menace ISIS, it’s time to do some theological reflection on what would be a New Pacifist response to these issues. Part of this year’s theme is inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, and his distinction between cheap grace and costly grace. Likewise, in a similar vein as one of my mentors, Keri Day wrote about concerning Ferguson (for Syndicate Theology), when we speak of cheap peace, we

“refer to a temporary calm that comes from sweeping the hard truths of injustice underneath our societal rug so that such hard truths are out of sight and out of mind. It is a peace that is cheap because it costs us nothing. It bypasses the hard work that comes with truth telling and correcting deep systemic injustices. When there are calls for cheap peace, one must ask, “For whose benefit?” Does avoiding hard truths help to protect the marginalized and suffering or does it protect an abusive and oppressive system?”

What does a refusal of cheap peace look like in the face of ISIS? The xenophobic and racist Ebola crisis? The failure to push through immigration reform by the Obama administration and Congress? What are the possibilities and limits of joining Christian peacemaking efforts with a focus on intersectionality? With these questions in mind, I am now proposing this 2014 New Pacifism Synchroblog on The Cost of Peace. Tell us how your own view of peacemaking has developed or what you what the New Pacifism has to offer in today’s world. Here’s how to participate:

1. You can write your own blog post, telling us your own views on pacifism. The post can be written, it can be an assortment of GIF’s, pictures, a video, a video blog (vlog), a short quote. Don’t be afraid. Take a side, Pick a side, any side.*

2. Please link back to this original post so your readers and other readers can find your post to be collected in two weeks. Synchroblog collection ends December 9th, 2014 at 11:59PM Central Standard Time, USA.

3. Share your views on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag: #TheNewPacifism. I will try to collect as many facebook statuses and tweets using the #TheNewPacifism hashtag and Storify it in the final New Pacifism Synchroblog post.

4. Interact, engage people who you agree and disagree with. Show love and encourage one another peaceably, and above all, don’t be a troll!

*Side note if you don’t have a blog or social network or don’t want to share, but would like to participate, please use the PJ contact page to make a submission:

Contact Political Jesus

Meanwhile, if you want to go back and look at last year’s synchroblog goodness, check it out here!:

#TheNewPacifism Synchroblog & Storify

My own planned posts for this year’s Synchroblog include:

1. I plan to do an AnaBlacktivist update on a Series I once did for co-blogger Craig’s former blog, once entitled The God Of Peace, under a new title (to be determined)

part 1: ground rules; part 2: revelation (the Hebrew Bible); part 3: the Revealer (Christ Jesus); part 4: revolution (the chosen community of the Revealer, and nonviolence) ; part 5: resisting daily (concrete political & ethical proposals/practices)

2. Further reflections AnaBlacktivism, Christology, doing contextual Christology and ethics.

3.A Post on Micah 4, Jonah 4, and ISIS on forgiveness, repentance, costly grace and costly peace.

4. A post on Becoming An Unsettled Killjoy during Thanksgiving.

5. 1-2 posts on “My Peace I Leave With You”: Eschatology, the New Creation, and The Sabbath which will have implications for economic justice.

I plan to make all of my contributions to #TheNewPacifism to be my NaNoWriMo project for this year as well.

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Mike Skinner’s Patristics Carnival 36: All Souls’ Day edition

Patristics Carnival XXXII

Over at Cataclysmic blog, Mike Skinner hosted the Patristrics Carnival XXXVI: All Souls Day edition. Head over and check it out!:

 

Link: Patristics Carnival 36

h00die_R (Rod)

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Demonic Strongholds & Spiritual Warfare: Ghosts of Environmental Past Pt. 2

In today’s edition of Eco-Demonics, today’s story is a one that should be far more well known than it is. It is the story of Warren County NC. It is the story of how a predominantly black town in rural North Carolina was essentially reminded of their low-standing in society when industry sited their land as PCB dumping sites. PCB that stands for Poly-Chlorinated Bi-Phenyls and they are one of many waste products as a result of heavy industry, spelling nothing but deleterious health effects of those exposed ( mainly cancer). This story means so much to me because it represents the intersection of liberation theology and environmental justice. I could go on an on, but this recent 8-minute documentary says it all best:

Harry

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

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co-opting the co-opters #AnaBlacktivism

It really is an exciting time. Inspired by bell hooks, as I wrote at ecclesio, excitement can be the source of transgression, and ultimately resistance versus White Supremacist Kyriarchy. It is my hope that emergence of the Killjoy Prophets and AnaBlacktivism collectives are able to create more spaces for the marginated. At the same times, while all of these positive, constructive things are occurring, I realize that whenever People of Color create their own spaces that are welcoming accomplices from the dominant culture, such excitement runs the risk of being co-opted. I’m all to familiar with this feeling; as the Teaching/Office assistant for the Black Church studies program for a few years, the Black Church Studies program, other POC spaces were treated by Whites as things to be consumed. People of Color were there to serve nice meals on a platter, and put on a good show in the name of “diversity.” It would be a mistake, to assume these spaces are here to center Whiteness.  Such collectives such as Killjoy Prophets (which is working to center Women of Color feminism),  host these conversations to decent the majority . Unfortunately, would-be Allies often times request much from our labor and they feel entitled to access this space. It is an attempt of inversing the role of host and guest, and thus replay the colonial arrangement: Whites being the “hosts” while people of color are the unwelcome guests. If un-doing empire is God’s calling for the Church, then co-opting is something to be resisted. 

h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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Why The Church Needs A Political Theology

In my last post, I wrote about why the church needs a theology of pop culture. Today I want to discuss a part of a theology of pop culture, political theology. Specifically, I will be discussing US Politics as it relates to political theology. Some might ask why does the church need a political theology? If you’re naive enough to ask this question, all I have to say is, “Wake up and take a good hard look!” In US culture, political theology is one of the most used and abused theologies out there.

In his book, Political Theology, Michael Kirwan writes

Christians who take their faith seriously know that it has political implications – that the gospel calls us to imagine and work for a transformed world. However – here is the anguish – the Bible leaves no blueprint or manifest for this transformation; only lots of opinions (some more feasible than others) about what kind of society Christians should be struggling for, and by what means. (Kirwan, 3-4)

But one wouldn’t know this from the scores of voices coming (mainly) from the Religious Right. (Note: I say mainly because there are those on the Religious Left whose voice adds to the abuse of a political theology, but they appear in a much smaller number.) One only needs to turn to Twitter or Facebook to see this in action. See the Twitter feeds for Bryan Fischer, John Hagee, Matthew Hagee, the IRD, or the Christian Post for proof. Can’t bear to have them on your Twitter feed? Check out Right Wing Watch. And this abuse of political theology just trickles down from there.

Here’s a recent example of the kind of theological abuse I’m talking about.

The reason the church needs a political theology is due largely in part to the prevailing thought in the Religious Right, mainly the Tea Party; that only “true” conservatives are Christian and only “true” Christians are conservatives. Basically, if you’re a Democrat, you are not/cannot be a Christian. And then there’s the mindset about government.  According to “conservative Christians, government is a bad word. The problem with this prevailing mindset is that an ideology (conservativism) is placed about Scripture and tradition. In essence, it is a form of idolatry. Sadly, I expect things to get worse over the next few years.

The good news for us is that I’m not the first one out there to wrestle with the question of how the church should handle a political theology. Carl R. Trueman has written an excellent book, Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative. For those who don’t know, Dr. Trueman is a theologian and church historian and he teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also regularly blogs at Reformation21. Let me be clear, Dr. Trueman and I probably disagree on a number of theological points, but I think his analysis of the intersection of US politics and religion is spot on.

Additional Resources
Christian Political Witness edited by George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee
Political Theology by Michael Kirwan
Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative by Carl R. Tureman