Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lenting Towards Radical Hearts

Those with power want order to retain and work to make as little change as possible so that the structure and flow of power continues in their favor as much as possible. Wherever rights are granted and wherever the money flows, conservatism wants to continue that.

This is most evident in the hashtag/flimsy excuse for rape jokes and sissy-liberal mockery that is #LiberalTips2AvoidRape. And that is of the same air - and allows for horrible crap like this - where a defense attorney seriously claims that raped students just had a case of "buyer's remorse."

Conservatism is dead intent that The Powers That Be should remain The Powers That Be. Ergo, TPTB are always correct and , then it's your fault for not understanding or accepting their sage benevolence, not the fault of TPTB for being wrong or abusive or for using abusive language.

King Louie
It's YOUR fault for putting your body underneath the horse!

But conservatism also acts in much more subtle and even acceptable ways, with tones that aren't as nearly outlandish. Ways that I've encountered and sometimes accepted, sometimes outright rejected, but more often just shook my head at but sat silently in my own churches and among the literature from those churches. Like the number of times I've heard pastors - even friends - accuse Bathsheba of seducing King David rather than allowing that the tragic hero David raped Bathsheba. Crystal S Lewis has a great break down here of the read from a conservative study bible (a bible with a built-in commentary).

(Italics are from commentary in the Life Application Bible Study):
"David put both Bathsheba and Joab in difficult situations. Bathsheba knew adultery was wrong, but to refuse a king’s request could mean punishment or death… We sometimes face situations with only two apparent choices, and both seem wrong. When that happens, we must not lose sight of what God wants. The answer may be to seek out more choices. By doing this, we are likely to find a choice that honors God. ([Life Application Bible Study] pg. 521, emphasis mine) 
Bathsheba’s Weakness and Mistake: She committed adultery 
Lessons from Her Life: While we must live with the natural consequences of our sins, God’s forgiveness of sin is total. (Profile of Bathsheba, pg. 555) "
...Contrary to any of the dialogue in the story and contrary to the context, the editors interpret Bathsheba’s post-menstrual ritual bath as an act of seduction. 
They don’t bother to consider that Bathsheba likely thought she was alone and unseen while bathing in the courtyard. After all, as James Freeman notes in Manners and Customs of the Bible, “the bath in which Bathsheba was washing was secluded from all ordinary observation”… The LASB’s editors also don’t consider that Bathsheba likely missed her husband and longed for him (after all, she grieved when he was killed later in the story). Finally, they don’t consider that she may have been terrified when David’s messengers came for her. 
Instead, the LASB’s editors write that she “may have been rash in bathing where she may have been seen,” and that upon hearing the king’s request, she should have “sought another option” to avoid committing her sin. (What kind of “other option” could a woman– a piece of property with no status of her own– have presented to the most powerful and most ruthless human being in the land?).
In order to save face for a king already accused of murder and adultery, the editors here - as many within the patriarchal conservative church continue to do - put the onus of the blame on the woman and victim. I remember bible studies where Bathsheba was portrayed as a gold digger, out tempting the king to get to him and his earned wealth.

"She knew what she was doing."

That's conservatism. Keeping in place.

And then there's the ways that Christians are implicit in negative portrayals of the Third World(s) in gloating terms. As if to say that we are better than they because we did this and are better for the wear.

An African American pastor writes a glowing review of a White Colonialist Atheist in The Gospel Coalition because he is amazed that the atheist would speak so glowingly of Christendom's influence in Africa. Of course, the atheist sees Christianity's effects to "civilize" tribal and "superstitious" people as being its selling point.

This is a problem within the more respectable parts of conservatism, and this pastor is but one example of it, defaming non-Christian Africans as "pagan, tribal witchcraft," as if this were King Kong. When confronted (via twitter and through Political Jesus) about the implications of the language, he tells us he understands that the terms have been negative, but that he means this in a "Christian" sense. I should, he says, "allow me the freedom to speak in what I understand to be Christian terms," and take it for granted that he did not mean what he just said in its pejorative sense - even though that is how they are commonly understood. Even as he refuses to refute what he just said.

But then conservatism is, at heart, reactionism against the tides of change - a sharp rebuttal to the idea that people can be equal and that those attacking the villagers from their high horses may not deserve being up there in the first place, and certainly need to come down for the crimes of stomping on people.

The more reactionary factions of conservatism (the overt racist attacks on Obama, for a clear instance) are just that, reactions. I prefer not to react to the reactions - but that's the nature of the Beast, right? To continue the cycle in such a way where the work of equality, fraternity, liberty (ie, equality) is limited. It is good to be angry, when the point is to head somewhere (being angry in itself does not operate in some opposite footing from dichotomy). The political left and right brim with reactionism. Someone does something, someone else points it out as THE. WORST. EVER. And the cycle continues.

And I am not above that. In some ways, I don't want to be above that. It's human (natural and good) to be upset at something that strikes against our sensibilities. My question would be, what is our sensibility towards?

In being a radical, I want to dig at roots in society and in myself. This blog is a chance for me to ponder and dig a bit deeper through restorative and also inflammatory language. I want to incite, if no one else, myself to see the inequality - to perceive, as the kids say, the violence inherent in the system. And how that violence permeates all - how it affects, impacts and is carried out and against us all in one form or another. How we can be anti-racist but still sexist, or feminist but sexist, or liberal and "color blind", or even feminist but still perpetuating female subservience and violence against women. Or tell and defend racial domestic violence jokes because, after all, people don't like Chris Brown.

DustyAnd then I want to move away from that, while recognizing the evil within my heart and recognizing ways that I - or our collective silence - hurt people or oppress or silence people because of their race, sexuality, beliefs*, class, mental / physical / social / psychological disabilities, sex, age. I have to be able to recognize the violence inherent in me. I have to be able to not just react to what I see in others, but use that energy as a force to weed out and de-root that violence that has dug its way into my heart over a period of nearly forty years of constant commercialization and violent depictions of a DJesus Uncrossed.

I want to be a part of a movement - one of several that is happening through the world - that creates a safe space, a burgeoning political, economic and social realm where each can be fully realized and actualized for talents and skills and work. And just being.

My radical structure, after all, is based on the radical notion that all are created in the image of God and are loved unequivocably by God. So much so that God became one of us, died for the sin of upsetting the balance of power, and humbly walks with us.

Radical, dangerous notion, that.

*My conservative Evangelical friends often tell me that they're hurt by accusations of being homophobic for believing that homosexuality is a sin. I want them to consider how much it hurts to be consistently treated as a sub-human. I do not agree with them that same sex attraction or impulses are sinful, or that consensual sex between adults is inherently wrong - though I think there are healthy and unhealthy modes of sexuality that the Christian witness should pull towards. However, Christians should consider what kind of message we send when we say that our beliefs as Christ-followers allow us and compel us to marginalize any people group. When we consider that, maybe we'll better understand why there is so much vitriol against traditional understandings of Christianity. As a wise man once said, first we must clear order in our own house.

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