Dispatches from Campus Ministries: Anti-Black Racism & Cru

 

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So recently, I’ve been catching wind of various cult-like tendencies of Cru – in terms of theological assimilation- this is especially problematic and hypocritical considering their aim to be an INTERDENOMINATIONAL campus ministry. You wouldn’t know of their (apparently forsaken) goal from their wholesale endorsements of their “holy” trinity – Piper, Platt, and (insert any number of young , reformed Calvinistas)

Cru, in all its attempts to function like theological gate-keepers, ends up having rather terrifying implications for race. What one will find in looking at the type of Christians that Cru draws – they tend to have this passionate, missional (uggh), relentless zeal to reach the lost and spread the gospel according to John Calvin. If you aren’t already that way upon entry to the ministry, then prepare to be whipped into theological shape! They tend to have this really youthful, politically naive spirit about them. Well, imagine a black student trying to join a theoretically interdenominational campus ministry. The leadership at CRU teaches that in the black community [and for other communities of Color], the Christian faith is more likely to be a religion that is “handed down” from generation to generation- it’s more like an inheritance or an ethno-religious community- part of their cultural heritage. This is may seem  especially true given the history of black churches in America ( and I know this being a part of the community and some facts and figures) and its heroic legacy and connotations it has in the black community and even the U.S. at large.[1] Now contrast this with the fresh, young, “on the verge of something new” , “being missional”, atmosphere that tends to engender Cru.

The narrative of Cru members tends to be one that ignores the institutional outcomes of Cru as a ministry or even the historical context of Christianity and instead would like to think that what they’re doing is somehow outside of history, politics, etc. and instead they’re commissioned by God to spread the gospel throughout the campus. This of course does not allow much room for  historic black American churches. While Cru-ites have a zeal not only on campus but globally ( Spring Break trips to the Dominican Repub, etc.) , the black churches are more focused on saving the black community and its burdens. But to the mostly white Cru, this looks like a lack of zeal and passion/focus for “the things of God”.

Many people in Cru ( at least the Blue Ridge region) tend to be more or less recent converts to Christianity who likely grew up in the church all their lives and so it did not mean anything to them . They’ll next tell you, in their testimonies, that they had what is essentially an existential crisis with the meaning of Christianity and its use to society and the purpose of church. So their “salvation experience” tends to be these really individualistic, “I prayed the sinner’s prayer and Jesus saved me from hell” sort of stories and so their resolve is to do the same for other people – spread this message of escaping hell fire. They behave as if they’re on to something new and revolutionary and even “radical!” (hint David Platt) and it essentially can be reduced to spiritual hedonism – again, contrast this to the historic black American church.

Additionally, I must note that in all my four years in Cru ( I stopped attending around last semester, but I still attend men’s bible studies every now and then), in all of the authors we’ve read and church pastors we’ve invited to come speak, not ONE has been black. And there is not at ALL a shortage of black churches in the Asheville area. Cru doesn’t realize how their problematic approach to theological assimilation is not only hypocritical but ends up being anti-black given the nature of the black church in America.

Additionally, a friend of mine at Cru notified me that they are launching a ministry (requiring more money and resources/staff) for the specific purpose of drawing black people- I think it’s called something like “Impact” or some similar type name…. It would be a whole branch dedicated to black student ministry – talk about separate but equal!  The fact that you aren’t drawing black students in is telling in and of itself. Have they ever stopped to think that the fact that they aren’t drawing in the number of black students that they want into the MAIN Cru ministry is indicative of a shortcoming in their approach to ministry – instead of spending all this effort to making this ludicrous extra black student ministry? 

Have you worked in a campus ministry setting and experienced racism? Are parachurch organizations located at colleges and universities speaking out against institutional racism at their schools? Are these groups working towards racial reconciliation? 

[1] EDITOR’S NOTE:  The false racist mythology that the religious habits of people of color are remnants of things passed down rather than a “genuine” conversionist form of Christianity is part of the colonial legacy that is Orientalism. People of Color are categorized as *naturally religious* and therefore more like to be submissive in a national economy.  When white evangelicalism teaches that Christianities from African-American, Asian- and Pacific American American, and First Nations contexts are not “real” Christianities, that is part of the White Supremacist gaze. It is one of the major reasons why racism blocks good evangelical organizations like the Gospel Coalition from recognizing that religious revival is going on in the North East, particularly Boston.

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)

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#GodsNotDead and Neither Are The Biblioblogs!

Patristics Carnival XXXII

After a conversation with Brian LePort a week or so ago, he wrote the following post, Are The Biblioblogs Dying?

I have my own words on this on the cause of this concern, but that’s for later. I will say that new religious studies and Bible bloggers are rising to the occasion. And that’s good news to read about. Abram Septuagint Studies Soiree has been a breath of fresh air. and now Jonathan is adding The Ancient Languages Blog Carnival. Go to the link to find out more.

I like Jonathan’s style, especially since he’s not blogging for the fame. Let’s not kid ourselve though! Patheos ain’t interested in helping out religious studies! Ha! :-) :-) :-) :-)

While I’m at it, don’t forget to start writing or sending your articles for the Patristics Carnival 34 for April 20th, on Easter Day!

h00die_R (Rod)

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Streets are paved with: problems with open theism

This is a follow up post to Thursday’s post on Open Theism.

There’s a question I asked myself a long time ago in seminary. What in the world am I looking for in a theology? If I am going to be a pastor or a professor of church history or historical theology some day, what is my standard for judging a theology? Late in my junior year in undergrad (December to be precise), I first picked a theology that claimed to understand the Sovereignty of God. When asked by an elderly Christian what did I believe was important in the Bible at a wedding a few years later, I responded with two doctrines, Predestination, and The Holy Trinity. The Christian would go on mumbling to himself that I didn’t need to worry about those things. (fun factoid: he’d of preferred I worry about the end times, the rapture, and dispensationalism— so much less abstract!).

As I grew in my spiritual journey to understand that my theology as a Gentile should start with Jesus, and his calls for repentance. Whatever we make of these, it’s certain for me that God is love, God’s love is genuine, and so are God’s calls for us to return to God, and turn our lives over to Christ. My theological preference for theological determinism began with speculation (much like Calvin’s Instituties— yup, I read them), and then everything else worked itself out. Calvinism is a fully-developed theological system. Because I had read the works of Abraham Kuyper, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, and John Calvin, I believed in a particular brand of ecclessiology, ethics, and politics. For all the criticism people throw at Calvinism, no one denies the fact that it is coherent and thus that’s the power in its persuasion.

As I stumbled onto Trinitarian theologies and Open Theism, it was apparent that because Open Theism was a different take on God’s Being, over and against classical understandings of theism, that the Open Theist had a bias in favor of academic work, and less favorable to ministerial, grassroots endeavors. This is actually a shame, because the reverse should actually be true. When I was lost and confused, Liberation Theology found me. I had read it before and left unimpressed, but then Cone’s words began to speak to me. I summed it up like this, “What does it matter that well-funded archaeologists who can afford trips to Egypt have “found” evidence that Pharoah didn’t drown in the River Nile; what matters is that we do theology to save the lives of actual, real people who are drowning (economic oppression, white supremacy, generational curses of violence and abuse, etc). Theology needs to be informed by the YHWH Incarnate who walked the streets, preaching grace and justice for all of us in need of healing.

The first problem with Open Theism, then is that far too many conversations take place either on-line or in the Ivory Tower. Yes, a lot of books deal with how Open Theism impacts the way we pray or how we preach or how we do this or that. That’s all really nice. There’s isn’t a traditional systematic theology or ecclessial body that one can identify and say , this is Open Theist. This can be a positive. But because of the lack of volumes on constructive theological endeavors or commentaries on the Bible, Open Theists are left to fend for themselves without vital resources necessary for discipleship in churches. With folks like Tom Belt, I want there for be renewal for churches in the United States, with Open Theism as ONE of the guiding principles that open up the way.

Ground-level conversations online have lead to an up-tick in conferences pertaining to Open Theism. This is great news. Unfortunately, the status quo of abstract ivory tower hegemony still prevails. In a recent conversation online alluded to by my friend T.C., the conversation turned into one about what is “Open Theism Proper?” *The general agreement by most parties was that Open Theism was an Ontology* (a view of God’s Being, based on what God did, and is Doing through God’s Son Jesus Christ, and by the Power of the Holy Spirit). *say that 10 times fast! I sooooo dare you!* The disagreement lied in what sort of necessities are there to being identified as an Open Theist, claims that come from Systematic/Constructive theologies. What type of Christology should an Open Theist have? Moltmannian/kenoticist? A Barthian Creedalist? Should an Open Theist affirm Creation Ex Nihilo necessarily?

For me, as a Christian, the answer is lies in the fact, well, we have no answer because not one single major volume of Open Theology has been written, and not many pastors OPENLY admit to believing in the Openness of God. The first question we should be asking is, “What are the critical differences that Open Theology makes in our lives?” The second question we as Open Theists should ask is, “what would a Open Theist theology look like systematized and instituionalized?” Or perhaps, there are dangers in said systematization and institutionalization? Could it be that Open Theism remains a more effective threat to theological determinism as a Rogue movement, as something beyond the control of the Powers-That-Be?

*editors note: the general consensus was that OT was an Ontology, an approach to God’s activity in the the world, divine freedom and dynamic sovereignty. The Trinitarian language I used after *ontology* was me placing the theological dressing, and reveals my own bias*

h00die_R (Rod)

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Race-ing Towards Nicea part 1: The Incarnation

*Editors Note*: This is a Re-Post of my contribution to our Preaching Chalcedon Tri-Blog event. I am turning this into a series

THE IMPURITY CODE:How Liberal & Evangelical Christians Both Can Affirm the Nicene-Chalcedonian Tradition

First, I would like to take the time to commend Amanda Mac for this intriguing conversation that has stirred up a lot of interest apparently. Optymystic Chad deserves commendation as well for his brave stance, for not many Christians are willing to challenge tradition, and in such a provocative manner, no less.

Honestly, I come to this conversation without a dog in this fight. As a young pup growing up, I was Baptist, and the only creed we recognized was the Lord’s Prayer.  Like many folks, I did not encounter the Nicene-Chalcedonian formulas until graduate school. Honestly, for some reason, there is something magical about the ancient Creeds. As a children’s pastor at a church I once worked for, after they recited the Apostle’s Creed, I felt more alive and ready to give my children’s sermon, without a moment’s hesitation.  Perhaps it was a reminder that I am part of something larger than myself, that there is a cloud of witnesses that transcends any community I partake in. So as a matter of transparency, I come from a non-creedal tradition, and this is my defense (sorta) of the Chalcedonian Formula. On to the questions!

Homoousios As Hegemony

He asks,

“Further, the language of Christ’s two natures, while taken for granted by Chalcedon, is a Greco-Roman construct. Homoousios vs. Homoiousios is not Biblical language. It is simply one culture’s way of framing the earlier Hebraic faith. I oppose Chalcedon because it gives the appearance of divine approval to an outsourcing of theology to a 4th and 5th century Greco-Roman group of people who admitted no agenda, but clearly had one.While claiming to affirm a certain level of mystery, Chalcedon only does so after it has already said more than it should have. ”

Then Chad also inquires,

“Further, why does Christ have to be both Divine and Human? Or more to the point, if scripture only approaches this teaching narratively, why do we insist on understanding it mathematically? Economically? Through a Roman lens? Is it not enough to understand Jesus as being fully human, yet paradoxically doing and saying things only God could say and do? Why not let many theories abound?”

Chad is not the first to make these charges against the Chalcedonian Council. Neither do his pre-cautions go unwarranted. For instance, in her work, The Black Christ, Christian theologian and womanist Kelly Brown Douglas, who herself affirms the Nicene-Chalcedonian tradition as an Episcopalian, says, “Black Christians tend not to consider it relevant to their own beliefs about Jesus” (p 112). She adds, “By ignoring Jesus’s ministry and focusing on his “being,” He is seen as someone to be worshipped, believed in, but not followed or imitated” (112-113). Seeing the face of Christ in the oppressed, specifically, black women is part of Brown Douglas’s Christology, but no where (at least from her viewpoint) can one see that in the N-C tradition.

The hegemonic nature of the Chalcedonian Promulgation also stands as a barrier for Christian bible scholar and feminist Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. She, too, finds it way too problematic that Graeco-Roman terms were used as a fixed formula for attributing imperial economic labels onto Christ’s life. She says,

“This Christological doctrine thereby inscribes into Christian orthodox self-understanding and identity the “mysterious economy” of kyriarchal relations and imperial domination. By associating fatherhood/masculinity with divinity and eternity and by firmly placing motherhood/femininity in the temporal realm of humanity, it introduces not only gender dualism, but also the dualism between church and world, religion and nature, heaven and earth.” (Jesus, Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet, page 22).

The Essential(isms) of The Faith

It would be impossible for Kelly Brown Douglas to speak for all persons of African descent at all times, and I doubt that she was doing that, but without qualifications, one finds themselves into Essentialism Land, that magical place where everyone knows who you are ‘cuz of what you look like. Brown Douglas forgot to mention that there is a significant population of Black Catholics who, like M. Shawn Copeland, who could attest to their black Christianity emphasizing the importance of the creeds. By the same measure, my apologies, Chad, but there is no such thing as THE Hebraic faith. Come on, friend, you know that Second Temple Judaisms thing? I would not say that one Jew is more “Hebraic” than another, for who am I, as a Gentile, to say such a thing. Is Philo somehow less Jewish because he wrote in Greek? Yes, the whole “Homoousios vs. Homoiousios” controversy is extra-biblical, but I don’t affirm that strict version of Sola Scriptura, and I doubt that you do either. Furthermore, to understand the Covenant Pentecostally, a believer has little choice but to affirm multi-lingualism. J. Kameron Carter understand Irenaeus’s writing to be pointing in this direction. In his Race: A Theological Account, Carter argues, ” In Christ, then, language is liberated from the fiction of purity and thus from every structure of dominance and slavery [.]” (30)  The notion of a pure biblical language, a pure race, a purely feminine/ masculine person comes unraveled in the covenantal Jewish flesh of Yeshua. There is no dualism or monism in Christ, but there is Reconciliation.

In order to understand Carter’s logic, one must go back to look at his theology of Israel, a theology that is anti-racist and anti-supercessionist. One cannot speak simply of Christ as purely human because Jesus’ humanity “constitutes a new intrahumanity.”  Christ’s existence is unique in that the Logos and Spirit are en-fleshed and in communion with the Father.  For Carter, “Christ’s flesh is mulatto flesh. [...] The covenantal people of Israel witnesses to creation its own fruitful ‘contamination’  before YHWH as its life-giving limit” (30).  As Carter articulates so very well  Yeshua’s intrahuman fleshly existence , which supercedes space and time to receive the worship of Jews and Gentiles alike, is forever bound to impurity, therefore, the ethnic lines and classes set up by white supremacists and Social Darwinians alike are exposed for what they are: PURE FICTION.  Christ Yeshua is what it means for creation to exist in the presence of the Triune Creator, and no language can fully encapsulate that very miracle, but at the same time, every language and culture articulate it in their own unique way.

Goodbye, Every True Scotsman!!!

 

An Impure Orthopraxis

Amanda asks:

Should we preach Chalcedon today?  Is Chalcedon useful today?

I would answer, without a shadow of a doubt, yes, and more yes, but with a few qualifications.  As I alluded to in my response to Chad, one must understand Yeshua in light of what the formula says,

“but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;
even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us”

I would argue that the Chalcedonian Formula is more of a Code, yes a Code. A Code is, for the most part according to Dictionary.com, a system of rules and regulations. It is an Impurity Code because it recognizes that the reconciling mission of the Savior is programmed into his very being: “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” Once one understands the Chalcedonian Impurity Code in this manner, minus the anathema threats, it becomes a weapon against closed societies that regulate humanity according to “gender” and “race.”

I suggest that we listen to the wisdom of J. Kameron Carter in his theology of participation, where “Chalcedon is to be conceived as witnessing to a theology of covenantal participation in which the life of YHWH is throughly implicated in and suffuses the life of Israel. [...] It is precisely this participatory transcendence, this ecstasy, by which God is God for us, that makes creation transcendent within itself in its ecstasy back to its Creator” (191).  In other words, Christ’s intrahumanity in reconciling creation to its Creator, makes all of creation more than just material. Corporeality is the reality in which God has been revealed, for the Transfiguration, as testified to by Moses and Elijah, reveals that all creatures have been placed under a new social rubric.  The mathematics of Chalcedon is quite simple, really: Christ + All=1/ All – Christ= 0.  Bodies, therefore, become the very vehicles by which God is magnified.  Just as Moses and Elijah stand witness to that blinding light on Mount Tabor representing the legal and prophetic word, so must one recognize that Christ is the hermeneutical key to our open creation.  Becoming involved in the logoi of the prophets is to become involved in the life of God.  Contrary to Kelly Brown Douglas’s claims, Yeshua is not a person to be followed, for we do not live in the 1st century, nor do I wish to “imitate” Yeshua the Messiah because the scriptural witness informs me that his death ends all sacrifices and what good does it do the oppressed to live a life ordained with suffering? Is not that the reason womanist theology had to distinguish itself from J. Deotis Roberts’ and James Cone’s Christology?   If Christianity is just another story like Harry Potter where the hero gives his life for others, I want a new religion.  Thus, it is important to realize that the early churches speculated that it was possible that Christ is the door to life in God, and therefore our agency is not our own, but Christ’s.  Yeshua the Messiah, as what Latin American Liberationists call The God-Poor, existing in solidarity with the oppressed empowers humanity to join in God’s redemptive love for the cosmos.

Do our congregations, which are steeped in a largely biblically-illiterate culture, just “know” that Christ is fully divine and fully human when we preach?

Ummm. Depends on who you talk to.  Sometimes there are congregation members who do their homework and read, and there are others that do not.

What would happen if we dropped the “shorthand” and began using the full sentence in our preaching?

I think people will start to walk out and leave. Long sermons are never popular, well, unless you grow up in the Black Baptist tradition. Sigh.

How do we guard against the tendency towards either Docetism or Nestorianism in our churches?

Pray.

Should evangelical churches, that are largely creedless, begin to re-examine and find ways to adopt these ancient statements in a post-modern context?

I would say this is the very last thing that evangelicals need to do if they want to reach out to a post-modern context.  So, no. They should first re-discover their own history before trying to explore historical Christianity.

To conclude, I will end with a passage from Scripture that is a short version of the Nicene-Chalcedonian Tradition:

“Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature” (2nd Peter 1:4)

 

 

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h00die_R (Rod)

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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)

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Wonder Woman saves the day: On Being An Open Theist

There’s a saying among comic book fans who like DC Comics. If you need someone to save the world, call Superman. If there is a mystery to be solved, call Batman. And if you need to end a war, call Wonder Woman.

When it comes to religion and politics, there are always going to be factions. With persons who identify as Open Theists, things aren’t going to be any different. First of all, let me be upfront. I believe in the freedom of the Triune God who freely decides to give humanity free will so that we can have genuine relationships. I have for the most part always believed in this with the exception of the 3 or 4 years I was a 4 point Calvinist. Even when I was Calvinist, I got into arguments with liberals and evangelicals and postevangelicals IRL and online on Facebook. The worst arguments happened in Calvinist groups themselves. I couldn’t believe there were so many different varieties of Calvinism. Come on, someone claimed to be both an anabaptist and Calvinist! That was ridiculous (I thought in my mind).

When I left Calvinism, it was not any of my Arminian, liberal, or emerging church friends who convinced me to eventually leave Calvinist theology. It was one of the Five Point Hardliners who sent me a 20 page paper (I kid you not) via a Facebook message explaining to me why I was not a REAL Calvinist (and therefore not a real Christian) since I didn’t affirm ALL FIVE POINTS. I was so angry, I first started re-reading the Bible without Calvinist interpretation, learning historical contexts for things like the story of Jacob and Esau. It was around that time I transitioned to identifying as an outspoken Trinitarian and Open Theist.

When I first learned of Open Theism, I was unimpressed. In Baptist Theology class, the teacher abused his authority, using polemics and demonization to demonstrate his fauxgressive take on Open Theism. He would regularly cite C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle and the story of the servant of Tash. Not. Impressed. It’s not as if the Tash story doesn’t have problems, like Orientalism, which is one of the three stools of White Supremacy’s throne. Plus, C.S. Lewis does not equal the Christian Canon or Tradition. So there was that too.

It took a combination of prayerful reflection on the Scriptures, familiarizing myself with continental philosophy, as well as forging friendships with people like T.C. Moore to help me grow as an Open Theist. What other theology dared begin with Jesus’ call to repentance as the start of theological introspection? Whose the politician outside George W. Bush that actually made Jesus the number one philosopher? Much like John Howard Yoder [whose silence and embodiment of male supremacy is problematic] who is said to have brought back Jesus’ teachings as central to Christian ethics, Open theists made free will theology anew, grounded in Jesus, contemporary hermeneutics and traditional evangelical theology such as God’s triunity and the trustworthiness of Scripture. At Brite Divinity School, I could have followed suit with everyone else and hopped on the process theology bandwagon, but I chose not to.

Instead, I wanted to take the risk of being different. Open Theism is some of the best that Evangelicalism has to offer. Honestly, part of my goal at trying to be the best theologian and preacher I can be, I wanted to dialogue with evangelicals, and the Openness of God movement was, and is a good way to do so. The Open Theist community has folks who are also Pentecostal, Baptist, Mennonite, heretical political libertarians, six-day Young Earth Creationists, theistic-evolutionists, inerrantists, proponents of cruciformity, Anglicans. As with any theological movement, it is going to have its various factions. Yes I [personally] believe Open Theism is necessarily Trinitarian, but I respect other’s approaches to seeing the future as partially open. This isn’t relativism or being “overwhelmed” with diversity; this is me working in the hopes of persuading others to my side. That side does include a commitment to traditional creedal Christianity, Charismatic traditions, and open theology, much like Tom Belt offers.

One caveat. A unified voice for renewal must not be hegemonic, and it must match the gender inclusive vision of Pentecost, women and men preaching the Good News. Any renewal movement must also look to pay attention to the margins. Yes formally, open theism was made a systematic alternative to calvinist evangelicalism in 1994, but there have been persons who wrote and preached about God sovereignly choosing divine self-limitation and the partial openness of the future for centuries. Major J. Jones in the 1970′s (a classmate of Rev. Dr. MLK Jr.) wrote about a personal, holy Triune God and he had Openness leanings. Open Theism cannot be a Small Tent Revival kind of movement. It needs the biblical model of Pentecost if it is to open up space for a Spirit-led renewal.

h00die_R (Rod)

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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)

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Doctor Who’s Alternate New Calvinist Timeline

*The only way I could respond to this TL is with humor.

Doctor Who’s Alternative New Calvinist Timeline

To see the full timeline, download the PowerPoint here: Doctor Who’s Alternate New Calvinist Timeline

kanye-interrupts-god-w-sega-genisis

3616 B.C.: In the Beginning, The Doctor hears God say “Hip Hop Music is good.”

First written in 1175 A.D.

1175 A.D.: Joshua Harris writes “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and is placed under a sleeping spell by The Doctor (who used his Sonic Screwdriver) to wake up in the 20th century. As Harris brings back courtship, he ruins the lives of desperate Christian men everywhere.

1721 A.D.: Revivalist Jonathan Edwards tells the Doctor that he is going to bloody hell but Jesus loves you. But he really, really, really wants to destroy you. And if you’re white, God wants you to own black people as slaves!

1845 A.D.: In Augusta, Georgia, a group of slave owners decide to start their very own denomination called the Southern Baptist Convention.

nazi confederate flag

1866 A.D.: The Doctor witnesses God putting His stamp of approval on The Lost Cause.

2005 A.D.: The Doctor discovers that Paleoconfederate Doug Wilson’s rewriting “Southern Slavery As It Was” as the still White Supremacist propaganda “Black And Tan” is a fixed point in time and cannot be erased by John Piper’s 2013 declarations that Wilson “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.”

*Several thanks a few friends who helped inspire me to write this post.

h00die_R (Rod)

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The Power of Love: Interlude: James Cone & the Church Fathers

WORSHIP, SOCIAL TRINITARIANISM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

white heart

To keep up with this series, please read the first two posts: part 1: James Cone’s Relational Theology and part 2: Gendering Black Theology and Black Power

This is the first of two interludes (excluding one postlude). While I hope these interludes are helpful, they are probably going to be less organized and the other soon to be 3 other posts.

For many contemporary proponents of historic Christian orthodoxy, liberation theology is looked upon as something that is disconnected from the Nicene-Chalcedonian faith. Indeed, the point of departure of LT since it is a relational theology, is not tradition or the creeds, but the contemporary experience of oppressed people groups. The point of this post is not to apologize for this position, or that the Liberationist view passes some orthodoxy test. My objective here is to contend that the divide between “orthodoxy” and Liberation theology is not as neat as theologians make it out to be.

Which Trinity?

First, let me point you into the direction of recent conversations I found helpful on the Trinity: Fr. Aiden Kimel’s Can analytic philosophers be saved? and Can analytic philosophers fix the doctirne of the Trinity? and Dale Tuggy’s responses: against despising analytic theologians and more on despising analytic theologians.

To sum up these readings, this is a classic example of Tertullian’s question, “What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Shall we do theology by studying the worship practices of the early Church, their hymns and formulas, and the creeds? Or shall we do theology by talking with speculative philosophical thought? One side argues, if Christians start with philosophy, they will eventually over-stress the working of the economic Trinity, or how God reveals God’s self to us, leaving very little room for mystery or awe when it comes to worship. The other side argue that Jesus is the Revelation from God, and we need to know exactly who we are in relationship with (the Triune God) before knowing how to properly worship.

As a lifelong fanboy of the Trinity, I have a few questions for both sides, like for the Immanent Trinity side, if we can’t speak of God other than some great mystery, what was the purpose of the Church Fathers’ metaphysical claims about God? For the social Trinitarian side, given the fact of God’s self-sufficiency is assumed in Scripture, what is it that can stop us from being arrogant and having ownership of the deity?

Is Liberation necessarily ANTI- Nicene?

James Cone has made a few comments about the Church fathers, and granted, he has praised theologians such as Athanasius for taking a stand against Arian heretics. Given his Methodist Protestant background, Cone is less enthusiastic about the creeds and Church Fathers. In God of The Oppressed, Cone asserts,

“The Nicene Fathers showed little interest in the Christological significance of Jesus’ deeds for the humiliated, because most of the discussion took place in the social context of the Church’s position as the favored religion of the Roman State. Therefore, it became easy to redefine Jesus as the divinizer (the modern counterpart is “spiritualizer”) of humanity. When this happens Christology is removed from history, and salvation becomes only peripherally related to this world. “

Because Cone appropriates some of Juergen Moltmann’s theology, it seems that Cone would fit neatly in the category of a “social Trinitarian,” much like an analytic theologian. Some of the intellectual descendents of James Cone have come to similar conclusions about the Church Fathers and Mothers. Kelly Brown Douglas, a Womanist Theologian in The Black Christ, contended,

“Finally, there are aspects of the Nicene/Chalcedonian formulation that appear inconsistent with Jesus as he was portrayed in the Gospels. For instance, this formulation establishes that Jesus is Christ by focusing on God’s act of becoming incarnate in him. In so doing, it diminishes the significance of Jesus’ actions on earth.”

- The Black Christ, page 112.

It seems as if there is not room for the Nicene/Chalcedonian formulas to be used as normative theological resources by black theologians. On one hand Kelly Brown Douglas as an Episcopalien knows the Nicene Creed backwards and forward. Yet, Brown Douglas, as a relational theologian, writes about a Christ who relates to black women and who is made accessible in his ministry to the least of these. Rings of social Trinitarianism, for sure!

Ah! But not so fast, analytic theologians, just you feel safe in assuming that Cone’s project is on your side! In A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone does commend analytic philosophy for keeping theologians in check,

“The rise of analytic philosophy, with its investigation of the relationship between language and truth, has caused many theological nightmares as religionists have sought to defend the validity of theological speech. Religionists can be thankful to the philosophy of language for subjecting theological speech to the analytical test. Even though we [black theologians] insist that truth is determined only by an oppressed community asserting its existence in an oppressive world, and not by an ‘uncommitted’ philosopher of language applying an ‘objective’ test, the logic of analytic philosophy does make us more sensitive in our use of language and forces us to subject our own language to tests devised by the community itself. Every community must ask, How do we know that our claims about God are valid?”

Chapter 3, page 42.

For Cone, oppressed community’s have inherent religious practices “a sense of the presence of God, a feeling of awe” (page 61) while ideas such as “the death-of-God” arise out the the communities that hold the powerful majority’s (white) perspective (page 66). For Cone, analytic philosophy used as a tool for liberation is only useful to the extent it aids in the elimination of the concrete realities that the oppressed who struggle to survive everyday (page 88). Like the Immanent Trinitarians, Cone shares an overriding concern for the concrete, the daily religious practices of the marginated to be more precise.

The Trinity and Liberation?

When I first started reading Patristic theology, I was pleasantly surprised by the words of persons like Gregory the Great, and their exegesis of parables, and their concern for the poor. I eventually settled with choosing Clement of Alexandria was my favorite, and I continue to learn about his probably influence on the Cappodocian theologians, who did have abolitionist leanings. That being said, I have a generous reading of the Apostles’ Creed when it says, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell.” I understand that the “suffering under Pontius Pilate” to include the ministry of Jesus, and his preaching the Gospel as a way of peaceably resisting the violence of the Roman Empire. The fact is that the Church Fathers and Mothers taught on Jesus’ ministry as an entrance into the divine life of Trinity because the early church controversies were theocentric and Christological in nature, whereas today, contemporary churches split over anthropological controversies like sexuality and worship styles. So when it comes to this so-called “barrier” between Ancient Christianity and modern Christianity, I just don’t buy into it so easily.

h00die_R (Rod)

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