Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Blog for Writing

Started a new blog when I realized I needed a different branding than the one I've come to be known for here. 'Cuz here I'm a little bit of a firecracker. In the pants (that didn't sound wrong at all)

Jason Dye PhDJ is where I'll be putting stories and articles related to teaching, fatherhood, parenthood, and all that other sissy stuff I like to write about as well. I'll try and divide my time equally between these two sites - while writing books at a near-feverish pace (for me, at least) and

Speaking of writing books: Shout It from the Rooftops should be - if all goes according to plan - released by the end of this week. This is the first book in the Left Cheek series and it's about how Evangelical Christians tend to read the Bible. You can check for more updates here, on Facebook, on Twitter, and at the author page here.

I'm sure you'll like it, but you might be scared to get a copy. Don't worry, I plan on introducing it for the low, low price of $1.99 over the weekend.

So, again, check out the new blog. You may like it, no?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sitting at the Right Hand

"Grant us," they said, "when you're there in all your glory, one of will sit at your right hand and the other at your left."
Luke 27:30

I'm trying to approach philosophy, ethics, and theology in a more specific, localized manner rather than general and universal. I find that this appeal that such-and-such is universally true to be a bit more imperialistic and colonial than we're led to believe. This doesn't always mean the same to everyone everywhere. Even terms like feminism mean different things in different locales. In some places, it's about access to education, or equitable health care, childcare, pay. In others, it may just be about raising the spark of independent awareness, to say that we're not all dead.

All that said, however, I find self-righteousness to be awfully common. And amongst Christians! I am struck with how counter-intuitive Jesus' humility is throughout the texts, especially as I re-read them again during Lent. It strikes me particularly personally because, despite my intense shyness, despite the fact that I try to stick up for others more so than myself, I can become awfully convinced of my own moral superiority.

Shocker, right?

And there's the rub. Even us partners and advocates can get lost in our own heroism and, as a result, become spiritually drained. And when that happens, we're more susceptible to attack and our cause loses ground, no matter how righteous it is.







This isn't all about you, Jason. It can never be.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Poverty Colonialism in Chicago and Uganda

Several years ago, a church that I was heavily involved in spent good parts of its summers bringing in youth groups from White suburban and exurban churches. This fulfilled a few needs. The need for the church to bring in some funds so it could pay its youth pastor full-time. The need for White youth a million miles removed from urban poverty to see it for a few days and feel better about themselves. The need for our neighbors to shake their heads at lost white kids in their neighborhood.

They usually did service projects, like picking up scattered trash in the neighborhoods and running Vacation Bible Schools. But, come to think of it, cleaning trash is probably a perfect metaphor for this type of poverty colonialism. White people coming to make a difference, not aware of their surroundings, not aware of who they are coming to serve, involved in futile projects that effectively shame those they are there to help. And then leaving - themselves feeling a little frustrated by the wind that blows all the trash back, by the generational sands of poverty that didn't recede during the three days of their visit, and by the humiliation of public service.

Although, I hasten to add, as far as these things are concerned, the church learned to take steps to educate their guests in a primer of urban living, using natives from the church for that task*. And I got to sit in during a screening of a local PBS documentary on the decades-long project of tearing down the notorious (but strategically located, prime real estate) Cabrini Green housing projects. The Greens were being shuttled for a mixed-income privatized project of town homes. The idea behind it is that the poor Black families that will remain (after the displacement of hundreds of families) will benefit from having upper middle class neighbors who diligently go to work every day to earn their keep and better their lives.

Some protest arose from the young viewers: How can the residents not want their help. It's obvious they need whatever help they can get!

Life in Chicago
Cabrini Green, from "Life in Chicago" by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist John White, 1982. Found on Flickr.

This all struck close to home. After all, gentrification had been happening (and is still happening) in the surrounding neighborhoods and our own congregants were finding themselves unable to live in their neighborhoods anymore nd found themselves scattered from their networks of support and family. To those with plenty of money and who can afford alternatives methods of networking and support, this may not be such a primary need and they may not recognize it for what it is. But that's the heart of the matter of Poverty Colonialism: Educated white males are trained from an early age to truly believe we know better. This belies the heart of racism. We think we know better because - whether or not we have come to grips with it - we think we are better...

Teju Cole does an outstanding job of laying out the problems of Poverty Colonialism - what he and most others call the White Savior Industrial Complex (page 2 here) - in the Atlantic. I think the article needs to be required reading for all of us would-be saviors.

Some long-ish excerpts:

I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them...

I am sensitive to the power of narratives. When Jason Russell, narrator of the Kony 2012 video, showed his cheerful blonde toddler a photo of Joseph Kony as the embodiment of evil (a glowering dark man), and of his friend Jacob as the representative of helplessness (a sweet-faced African), I wondered how Russell's little boy would develop a nuanced sense of the lives of others, particularly others of a different race from his own. How would that little boy come to understand that others have autonomy; that their right to life is not exclusive of a right to self-respect? In a different context, John Berger once wrote, "A singer may be innocent; never the song."

One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of "making a difference."...

How, for example, could a well-meaning American "help" a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments... about how "we have to save them because they can't save themselves" can't change that fact...

If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should consider evaluating American foreign policy, which they already play a direct role in through elections, before they impose themselves on Africa itself. The fact of the matter is that Nigeria is one of the top five oil suppliers to the U.S., and American policy is interested first and foremost in the flow of that oil. The American government did not see fit to support the Nigeria protests... This was as expected; under the banner of "American interests," the oil comes first. Under that same banner, the livelihood of corn farmers in Mexico has been destroyed by NAFTA. Haitian rice farmers have suffered appalling losses due to Haiti being flooded with subsidized American rice. A nightmare has been playing out in Honduras in the past three years: an American-backed coup and American militarization of that country have contributed to a conflict in which hundreds of activists and journalists have already been murdered. The Egyptian military, which is now suppressing the country's once-hopeful movement for democracy and killing dozens of activists in the process, subsists on $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid. This is a litany that will be familiar to some. To others, it will be news. But, familiar or not, it has a bearing on our notions of innocence and our right to "help."

Let us begin our activism right here: with the money-driven villainy at the heart of American foreign policy. To do this would be to give up the illusion that the sentimental need to "make a difference" trumps all other considerations. What innocent heroes don't always understand is that they play a useful role for people who have much more cynical motives. The White Savior Industrial Complex is a valve for releasing the unbearable pressures that build in a system built on pillage. We can participate in the economic destruction of Haiti over long years, but when the earthquake strikes it feels good to send $10 each to the rescue fund...

* Full disclosure, I had an opportunity to go over the script with one of the groups. I laid it in a bit heavy. I try not to be such an arse in public anymore. But anybody who follows me here or on Facebook knows where I put that energy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

H8r Crimes & White Christian Privilege

"Suspicious... These assholes are always getting away."

Fox News and other White, male, heterosexual, Christian supremacist spokespersons like to pretend that Hate Crime legislation give potential victims - particularly Black, Arab, and Latino people, females, those with mental and/or physical disabilities, homosexuals and bisexuals, trans*, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists - more rights than they have. As one of my friends put it, those people groups would belong to a special "protected class."

This type of thinking, and the acceptance of it by much of White American Christianity, belies the fact that those groups already belong to a special attacked class. But it also reveals privileged thinking.

Privileged thinking doesn't comprehend the fact - largely because privileged people are safe from these types of realities - that entire people groups are constantly, systemically, and substantially attacked. And because it can't comprehend this fact (and because we're human and if we don't need to be aware of an ugly fact that makes us look bad, we most likely won't), it has to make up silly disclaimers that minority groups are seeking extra rights.

  • School desegregation and busing? Extra rights. Black children already have their own schools; they shouldn't be allowed to overrun ours.
  • Civil rights laws? Extra rights. See, black citizens already have the right to vote; they just need to quietly apply like the rest of us. They'll get their turn when it's their time.
  • Anti-bigotry laws? Extra rights. Gays are trying to force their views on God-lovin' straights. If I want to voice my disapproval at their lifestyle in a demeaning and threatening manner, that's my Constitutionally-protected right.
  • Ramps, elevators, special bathrooms, and handicap accessible doors? Extra rights! Why do we have to accomodate them? We'll take care of them when they come, not before.
  • Same-sex unions and/or marriage? That's extra rights, right there! Straights can only get married to a person of the opposite gender. It's not fair that they get to marry somebody of the same sex! (Yes. I have talked to somebody with this view. In 2010. He must've thought he was so clever.)
And so on and so on, ad infinitum...


And if you disagree with them, then it's reverse racism. And if you tell them that they're supporting a racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, classist system, they take it personally and deny the fact that they've ever had a hating bone in their body.*

Of course they missed the point. They're privileged. Not only can they afford to ignore the very institutions that don't challenge them, but they also profit from ignoring those systems.

A number of young Christian slacktivists, like myself, have done a good job of cataloguing oppressions of the US empire overseas. We recognize the horrible costs of war, cheap oil, and cheaply-produced consumptives. We call it by its name: murder.

JUSTICE for Trayvon Martin!
Yet, are we recognizing the implications of this murderous system when it's at home and so obvious it smacks us in the face with its obviousness?

Trayvon Martin's murder - instigated by racial fears and racist subjugation - is one such obvious case.

For more:
GraceIsHuman (where I first was made aware of this travesty): "Look, I don’t give a shit how George Zimmerman or Bill Lee personally feel about black people or what their personal relationships with black people are like. I am not in the least interested in whether they’re “really racist” or not. I care what they did. I care about the cultural and institutional realities that made what they did (and are still doing, on the part of the Sanford PD) possible, and made them think – with very good precedent for thinking so – they could get away with it."
Sarah Over the Moon argues that White Christians love to patristically defend African children - as if we were their only hope - but we ignore racism in our own backyard.
And Fred at Slacktivist does a journalist's job of consorting and compiling - in an effort to amplify - the voices of those who understand oppression and privilege.

*Much like the KKK and White Citizens Council did in the 50s and 60s.

Monday, March 19, 2012

You're My Brother, You're My Sister

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 
Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

When did the all-guiding, moral-making Free Market work?

In 1492, when Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue and found himself what he thought were Indians? And enslaved them in efforts to find gold? And worked them to death until the population was a few percentage points what it was before?

Or when Cortes and his crew of marauders scampered through the Americas, wholesale slaughtering anyone who stood in his way of finding vast resources of gold, which would economically enrich his burgeoning capitalist country?

Or when the intercontinental slave trade was in full swing? It must have been then, because it brought tremendous ROI's to the traders, despite the fact that they lost a third of their "goods" on the sea route.

Or when the tribes and societies in eastern Africa captured and sold slaves from deeper within the continent?#

Or when the pious New Englanders made some pretty bucks using their ships for the trade? They were also beneficiaries of the capitalist system of chattel slavery. The free market seemed to work wonders for them...

Or when those working for Nike, Apple, WalMart, Target, or any number of fine contemporary capitalist corporations that are raking in billions of dollars are paid a couple dollars a day (if that) while chained to their desks?

Capitalism didn't start with Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. It started with Machiavelli's The Prince. The idea that to build and accumulate wealth through competition through any means was now accepted as a virtue.

This is not to say that communism - as practiced by states - is the solution or so much better. In efforts to throw off serfdom and capitalist systems of oligarchy and oppression, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro and others have turned to excessively violent force - sometimes committing outright genocide themselves, killing millions. And repressing, as authoritarians make their practice, any form of dissent by expulsion, criminalization,

This is also not to say that capitalism doesn't work. Obviously, it's worked quite well for a lot of people over time. And it may be argued that it's benefited the vast majority of individuals in both the US and the world.

But I don't buy that. Capitalism, at its core, is about the necessities of inequality. In order for it to work, some will get most, most will get some, others will get just enough to survive on - if they're lucky. Capitalism is about the fact that we are not all equals.

And I have nothing but embarrassment for my fellow Christians who would argue that we aren't all of equal value. That some people are worth more than others.

That kind of imperial thinking has crept deeply into the American church. And surprisingly, I see it mostly amongst contemporary Baptists. The same movement where members introduce themselves and greet others as Brother or Sister. The same meta-congregation that has refused a hierarchical institutional structure. The same one where church government tends to be a democracy within the congregational members.

This is the movement, however, in its White American incarnation, that has long had the largest association with slavery and Jim Crow. And now, in its most prominent form in the states (as the largest non-Catholic denomination), woman are not allowed to preach or share their gifts. And they are encouraged to strictly take homemaker's courses. In seminary.

Jerry Falwell, long before his political days, used his pulpit to preach against the evils of racial integration. In doing so, Falwell was also preaching against communism. Not so much because of the gulag. Nor because of the massacres or the repressions of free worship or free speech.

But because communism fundamentally teaches that we are all equal.

To Falwell, all people are equal as souls before God. But that's where equality ends. For him, being made in the likeness of God and being people ready for the salvation pitch (like the Africans that his church sent missionaries out to preach to and convert) did not equate, in the

To Falwell, a capitalist Christian who saw his faith as an activity of marketing, branding and broadening his reach - marking his city on a map at the beginning of his pastoralship like a salesman marks out his territory - equality is wrong because equality breaks down the art of capitalism and the structure he had learned, as a young man and the son of a businessman, to be essentially moral.

Even though it wasn't.

And isn't.

Ban The Teletubbies
Ban the Teletubbies - DidbyGraham on Flickr

#Note that while Africa also practiced slavery, their forms of slavery were not comparable to the European slavery in the New World. It was more like the classical slavery of ancient Greece or Mesopotamia. Which is to say it was bad, but not effing inhumane. So the Africans who who engaged in this slave trade - for personal gain - were doing something immoral for profit. But they were misled, to put it succinctly. Some argue that they wouldn't have done it if they had an idea

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Birthday Gift to You

Tomorrow, March 14th, I turn 37! And I'm giving out the gifts this time.

Your gift to me, my dear friends, is to accept this gift.

Get my book These Mornings Are Rough on March 14th for absolutely free!

From the description:

An acerbic yet idealistic young man wants to save the world through teaching. He fails miserably - and hilariously - but learns more than school has ever taught him in the process. For fans of the writing style of David Sedaris and Robert Wilder, as well as of the teaching mockumentary Chalk. But most definitely for those weary of the depictions of the Lone Teacher Savior in such films as Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds.

And, best part: It's absolutely true... -ish. And it's about me. It's my sacrificial gift to the world...

Now, I didn't post any reviews here because I don't have any. So, if you get the book and like the book, I do ask that you post a review. And pass along the good word to your friends.

Now, at this point, it's only available at Amazon as a Kindle e-book. Sometime later I'd like to turn a couple volumes of this into an honest-to-goodness paper book.

Yeah, that'd be nice...

But in order to get the free book, you'll need to download a Kindle App reader (also free) to your desktop, laptop, smartphone, iPad, iPod, iPhone, iRobot, tablet (I have mine. It's wonderful),

Once again, FREE (and I would add, nice) book.


Spread the word and come and get your lovin'. :-)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pro-Life: Death and Control (IDMWYTIM, pt. 3)

This is third in a series on Evangelicals and abortion

About four years back, "America's pastor," Rick Warren, asked America's President, Barack Obama, at what point he believes that life should be protected.

His non-answer went down in infamy in some quarters.

"That answer is above my pay grade."

By this, he meant that only God really knows when we can say that human life actually begins - when what many would consider the soul would enter in through the uterus and into the embryo to grant it humanity - so only God can grade when life should be protected by government intervention. .

Despite the drubbing from the "pro-life" lobby, and perhaps despite his own (genuine) interest in deflecting the question, Obama was right. Ask most evangelicals and conservative Catholics and they'd most likely tell you, "Life begins at conception."

And they wouldn't flinch in saying that.

Here I think I should clarify a bit: I have trouble with abortion. As a parent, as an oldest brother, as a (admittedly male) human, I've tried to go over the option of abortion and wrestled with it for a very, very long time. But even during the darkest periods of my deepest depression (largely set off by major life changes that occurred during a relatively short span), even when I was angriest and most despondent at my dissolving marriage, and despite her various and chronic health complications, I've never regretted my daughter's birth.

I have, however, been constantly cognizant of the fact that it would have been much easier if the situations were different. I am also pretty darned aware that I'm a male, and thus incapable of giving her birth in the first place. Alas, from my perspective, waiting for the right time would have given me a completely different child. Too many variables and all that.

Now, however, these are my beliefs. And they influence how I live and act. They, for better or worse, influence and help make me which I am. But in this scheme, I also find it hard to believe that life begins the moment a seed enters into an egg.

Perhaps life begins in the first trimester. I am willing to go along with that. Maybe it begins when the egg is planted in the womb. Maybe after the ears fully form. Maybe at the moment the fetus is able to function outside of the womb. Maybe at birth, and not before. I have to acknowledge that for some cultures, life isn't fully recognized until the age of five or so.

The point being that there has never been a universally understood standard for when human life begins. And until the 1980's, there was no consensus even amongst Evangelicals.

There certainly wasn't in the bible.

So when the anti-abortion forces mandate that abortion a) is murder and, b) should be outlawed at any stage, they (we) are being presumptuous, to say the least. Coupled with our track record on women's rights, we are being downright cynical and controlling.

To attempt to legislate our views on abortion upon the populace is akin to trying to legislate religion*. And we all know how that ends, right?

Spanish Inquisition poster photo by Ben Sutherland on Flickr

We have every right to hold the view that all life is sacred. I believe that this is consistent with the Christian view of Creation and humanity. But then we need to follow through with that. That includes all life. That includes female life. Which includes the acknowledgment that they are fully-developed human beings and that they are to be guaranteed full access to all their rights. To do otherwise is to control - which is a form of active death.

As long as the Contemporary "Pro-Life" movement continues to fight a woman's right to self-determine, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to allow victim-blaming, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to shame and ignore the voices of women, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to be silent while the US continues atrocious wars against Middle Easterners, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to lobby for laws limiting abortion - and through deceptive, backdoor practices - we deliver a message of death and destruction.

There are better ways, and we'll discuss them next time.


* I would suggest a much more anarchist view, which I think is also the answer to most of our other societal issues, including access to healthy, whole and affordable food and shelter.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Pro-Life: It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means (pt. 2)

Second in a series on abortion and Evangelicals

The anti-abortion movement is now setting its sights on birth control and labeling it a Religious Freedom issue. Rather than what it is, a Religious Tyranny issue.

Just like with same-sex marriage laws, this has nothing to do with the ability of religious practitioners to follow their conscience without the constraint of government upon them. This is about their right to impose their morality onto others - even if they have to entirely devise new definitions in order to do so.

'DSCF2384' photo (c) 2006, Ben Sutherland - license:
Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition!

But this isn't anything new to Randall Terry, Chuck Colson, Richard Land and other leaders of the contemporary "pro-life" movement. They're used to flubbing and fibbing when it suits them. They do this every time there's a new same-sex marriage equality bill going around. "The government is trying to determine who churches should marry," they say in a horrible chorus of horribleness. "The gays is trying to get special treatment," ignoring the fact that they are the one given this special treatment to live life as married individuals without being persecuted for it.

Preventing every last form of abortion, to them, is caring for the least of these. Poverty reduction, pacifism, any other type of activism that leads to protection of any other post-born life - according to the Contemporary Pro-Lifers, these are mere distractions and cannot be solved before Jesus comes back.

So don't even bother. The only fight worth having is against abortion - and related areas. Like homosexuals.

Seriously. That's the response.

They worry incessantly that through universal healthcare they may someday, possibly, through their taxes, have to pay for contraceptives and even some abortions. 

Even if those abortions turn out to be medical emergencies, it's still a non-starter.

Which brings us to another point. The CPL leaders deny that abortion is ever a viable option. Even when the woman's life is at risk. They are committed to the idea that, not only is the fetus a human life, but it is a superior life - superior to criminals, superior to soldiers, superior to civilians of foreign states, superior to the poor, superior to immigrants. And certainly superior to the women who would give birth to them.

This commitment is justified by the theological concept that the pre-born have yet to sin. So, unlike their slutty mothers, they have no right to die if at all preventable.

That is, until after they are born and they sin.

Then they're allowed to starve...

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

That Term Does Not Mean What You Think It Does (pt.1)

First in a series on abortion and Evangelicals

In this time of national confusion, I'd like to clarify something. The term "pro-life" - like the term "Christian" - has been co-opted and carried away by the violent.

To be pro-life originally meant to be actively pursuing for the protection and good of all of human life. When we hear that term today, it is used to self-describe those who are merely against abortion - usually in almost all cases. Often they are against euthanasia, but not necessarily. And usually against all forms of that as well.

Most of those that proudly carry the label "pro-life", however, are pro-expansionism. The Evangelical Christian Neo-Con mouthpiece WORLD Magazine, for example, was cheer-leading the War Upon Iraq (I'd be surprised if they weren't currently pushing for war at Iran as well) before and throughout the attack. So was honorary Evangelical Rick Santorum. And the vast majority of staunchly Contemporary Pro-Life Evangelical churches, including the one I was heavily active in at the time. With few regrets towards that war or, really, any other war enacted upon by the United States. They are all "Just Wars" because the United States is a "Just Nation."


Although they are often active in impoverished communities throughout the world through such charitable agencies as Compassion, Int'l and Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, they rarely ever accept a call for global justice (as Compassion tries to nudge them towards) as that would mean giving up their relative comforts.

So, while millions die yearly from preventive causes, these Contemporary Pro-Lifers actually advocate against broader justice concerns that would save those lives.


They also overwhelmingly defend the death penalty. This is another area where the original pro-life constituents fundamentally, overwhelmingly disagreed. They understood that pursuit of vindictive punishments lead to trials not pursuant to justice but to guilt and appeasement of the lust for blood. They know that not only are there many innocent people on death row, but that the capital punishment does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of lethal violence. The current crop of "pro-life" individuals and institutions has cheered on the multiple dozens of executions that Texas Gov Rick Perry oversaw.


The currently co-opted pro-life movement tends to be also be pro-guns rights. They advocate for looser gun control laws. Guns, by the way, not used for survival or even gaming. Guns used to kill or maim another human being. One "pro-life" commenter at a pastor friend of mine's Facebook page said that it's practically a moral obligation to shoot off the head of someone who breaks into his house. I'd hate to see the gun rack he's put under his bed, or think about the very real danger he's putting his family in. Which is much more real than the dangers of a night-time raid on his house by a bandit. Does it matter, though, as long as he labels himself...


It seems that, to the majority of those that label themselves pro-life, it is okay for the US government to be involved in taking lives, but not in sustaining them.

This is the bastardized current version of Pro-life.

I can't even say it's Orwellian. Newspeak would corrupt a term by implying the its intended end results - so the department overseeing war would be the Dept of Peace, and the department overseeing brainwashing would be the Dept of Love.  If that method were used here, the contemporary pro-life movement would be described as pro-death.

And that would sadly but actually be a more accurate descriptor.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Full Force of the Kingdom of God

Some of you standing here are going to see... the Kingdom of God arrive in full force.

Mark 9 (The Message)

They did. Some of those within earshot of Jesus witnessed the Kingdom after Jesus' death and resurrection, after the Spirit came upon them. As Jesus ascended into the heavens, the disciples began not just to travel together (which they did do, too), or fight amongst each other (ditto that), or share some things in common.

In the second chapter of Acts, we have the scene at the Pentecost. The Holy Spirit comes upon the gathered disciples like something out of Joseph Campbell influenced scifi/fantasy, sans centaurs. They start speaking in other languages like they took Rosetta Stone courses via the Matrix. They share the Kingdom Message, a new king, a new way of living, a new life. The Jesus Movement grows exponentially.

The Kingdom of God comes upon them.

And most of these people live fully together, sharing everything out of abundance and need.

This euphoric moment doesn't last forever, however - especially as it becomes insular rather than expanding. But it is then that we got a glimpse of pure heaven on earth. Something we Christians long to recreate - and for brief, fleeting moments, we succeed in pockets.

Something that I'd argue non-Christians also long for. We see glimpses and pushes for it in socialism, in the various Spring and Occupy movements - the idea that we are all in this together, that we share not just earth, but her goodness. That we can indeed fight against the corrupting influence of impericism and its resultant death culture.

This was Jesus' way. His movement. And he alluded to how to get there just before, at the end of chapter 8:

Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?


The Arawak Indians understood this long before Columbus and his anti-Christ Christian men - informed more by the fledgling imperialism of European nationalism than by the teachings and life of Jesus - killed them off. All of them. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.

"Yet though he slay me, thus shall I share with him..."

May we Christians demonstrate what it means to live in the self-sacrificial and other-centered Kingdom, even in the face of the self-centered and other-sacrificial empire.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Life at the Big House

A fierce but height-challenged young lady stands atop a soap box to be position herself above eye level with a masked, shielded, heavily-artilleried, full-body-armored police officer surrounded by dozens of other masked, shielded, heavily-artilleried, full-body-armored police officers.

She's obviously a threat, right? I mean, that's what we're being told by the police state and its apologists. All protesters anywhere that protest against corporate powers and on behalf of the rights of women and minorities are a threat to civility and democracy, amirite?

They have to be a threat to democracy. What, with their loud voices and their demonstrating and opinions and perspectives down our earlobes.

You would think that's what democracy is all about. A "marketplace of free ideas" and some such communist bullshevik propaganda, right?

But, nope. The common folk can't be trusted with such powers. We are not smart enough to know what's best for us.

And it turns out what's best for us is aually what's also best for BP, GE, Citicorp, McDonald's, Bank of America, Boeing, WalMart. They're the smart ones! That's why they're making so much money and we're not.

Ha ha. We're just sooooooo stupid it hurts.

So, when political leaders like Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell throw machine guns and SWAT teams in the face of women protesters, they just need to realize that he is a benign, good-hearted man who only wants what's best for them.

Chicago Mayor Ram Emanuel is also a kind, benevolent soul. Out of his inner-gentleness, he is making sure that the world is safe for the backdoor dealings of the world's largest financial states and their wonderfully kind beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries. Now, doesn't that word have the ring of goodness to it?

I mean, why else would he draft a law that effectively outlaws protest? And if he weren't such a kind-hearted, wise man, why would the city's elected aldermen overwhelmingly and with little protest sign the bill into law? And then why would the people's watchdog, our television and print media practically cheer the law?

It must be because our leaders are so good to us...

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Legion and the Pigs

Today's rumination is on Mark chapter 5

They arrived on the other side of the sea in the country of the Gerasenes. As Jesus got out of the boat, a madman from the cemetery came up to him. He lived there among the tombs and graves. No one could restrain him—he couldn't be chained, couldn't be tied down. He had been tied up many times with chains and ropes, but he broke the chains, snapped the ropes. No one was strong enough to tame him. Night and day he roamed through the graves and the hills, screaming out and slashing himself with sharp stones.

This man was hurting, to say the least.

When he saw Jesus a long way off, he ran and bowed in worship before him—then bellowed in protest, "What business do you have, Jesus, Son of the High God, messing with me? I swear to God, don't give me a hard time!" (Jesus had just commanded the tormenting evil spirit, "Out! Get out of the man!")

And he's conflicted by his demons.

Jesus asked him, "Tell me your name."

He replied, "My name is Mob. I'm a rioting mob." Then he desperately begged Jesus not to banish them from the country.

DemonS. A mob of them, taking on this one poor dude. In other translations, he refers to himself as "Legion."

But here's where it gets a bit murcky. The demons know that Jesus wants to rescue the man. And that he's going to do it. So they ask for some mercy in how he does it. He grants their wish, but it doesn't end up as they had hoped. There's a lesson in that too, I'm sure.

That the bad impulses, the easy-way-out isn't necessarily the best way. And that evil gets its cummenpance, even when it seems to get everything it wants.

A large herd of pigs was browsing and rooting on a nearby hill. The demons begged him, "Send us to the pigs so we can live in them." Jesus gave the order. But it was even worse for the pigs than for the man. Crazed, they stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned.

I'm not an animal rights activist by any means, but what's done to the pigs here is unsettling. I recognize I'm imposing a fairly modernistic perspective back to an ancient text, but even in the Old Testament there were passages about treating your dogs well. It's perfectly fine to ask, "Was this a proper response? Could there have been an alternative way to ve the man without killing so many pigs - and in the process hurting the local economy?"

Chasing a pig at Gatton College

Those tending the pigs, scared to death, bolted and told their story in town and country.

They freaked. They're day workers and they witnessed their livelihoods going off a cliff. I'd have freaked too!

Everyone wanted to see what had happened. They came up to Jesus and saw the madman sitting there wearing decent clothes and making sense, no longer a walking madhouse of a man.

Those who had seen it told the others what had happened to the demon-possessed man and the pigs. At first they were in awe...

Wait for it... wait for it...

and then they were upset, upset over the drowned pigs. They demanded that Jesus leave and not come back.

Now, here's my question. And maybe this will shed some light on the cunnundrum here.

Jesus, being an observant Jew, really didn't care for pigs, did he?

In what other passages in the Gospels was Jesus confronted with pigs? How did he view them then?

In one sense I'm truly curious. I understand that pigs are considered unclean by the Abramic faiths well, the other two), but this seems to be an honest issue of actual contemptuous disregard for the pigs lives as well as disregard for the economic well-being of a town that needed that pig money.