Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On "From the Sky"

We here (well, me here) at the Left Cheek care about following the radical message of equity and justice that Jesus Christ, the prophets and the apostles shared some thousands of years ago in some backwater provinces of the Empire's reach - where violence and complacency were means of keeping rebellious forces in line.

Empire has a funny way of making its citizens believe it's the right and natural thing - even as it destroys families and people. As long as we're a "good" nation with "good" intentions, we don't want to question it too much. We don't question rape culture in our own country. We rarely question how we treat immigrants or the homeless or criminals. And we don't question the concept of racism, war, safety, or collateral damage - as long as those concepts don't affect us directly. We rarely question how comfort and dominance is shaped by the suffering of others. Unless we are the others who are suffering.

So writer, filmmaker, critic and my friend Ian Ebright - who has featured our guest blogs occasionally at his site The Broken Telegraph - is putting together a fictional film about a father and son living under the reach of the American Empire as potential collateral damage. From the Kickstarter page for the movie (which is hoping to raise $18,500 in one month):

'From the Sky' takes viewers beneath the headlines by telling a fictional story of a noble father Hakeem and his troubled teenage son Abbas as they journey across a volatile region of the Middle East.
The story opens to reveal Abbas suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to a tragic past and the frequent presence of drones flying overhead. Soon, a turn of events forces Abbas to make a choice about which way he will go in life: the way modeled by his father, or a different path articulated by the charismatic character Dhiya.
The film will be among the first (if not the first) narrative works of cinema from the U.S. to show the impact of drone strikes on civilians in the Arab world. The film also explores the roots of extremism and ultimately asks a universal question: When we are harmed, will we take the wide road of retaliation or a more narrow path by responding in life-giving ways? (please read more at the site)

If, like myself, you believe that true education leads to freedom and that that education involves the arts because true education is not just cognitive but involves the senses. Learning about others - as we learn about ourselves - is sensual. This is a great learning opportunity. Let us invest in this opportunity and not allow it to go to waste.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hammers and Nails

I sometimes wonder if bloggers deliberately mess with me. While in the middle of writing a new book on what it means to live together as Christians, I had the idea to do a blog on cussing and abusive language. However, as it wouldn't fit into the book and I'm trying to hurry up the production of the book and don't want to half-assedly release a blogpost, I was hesitant.

And then I come down with a cold yesterday and I'm just, Eff this shit!

But then Stuff Christian Culture Likes shows me this blog on cussing. Now, I'm aware of Frank Viola, the author. I'll say one thing: he's got no qualms about directly emailing through Google +, but yet he's still good at marketing his stuff. I'm admittedly jealous of that. Outside of that, I don't really know him. He doesn't show up in my Facebook or blogger radar much at all. But I wonder about his philosophizing if it at all looks like this - even if it is off-the-cuff and one-bit, as he asserts.

Words are powerful. But that's because language and communication are powerful. And communication is powerful because they help us to establish, define, redefine, venture, end, begin, categorize, and understand relationships. Words have power and are powerful - but not on their own. The words have little power in themselves: how and why and in what context we use them is what matters.

Not the words themselves.

The author asserts that cuss words are seen by the culture (which culture? Idk.) as gross and perhaps even sinful because such words were looked down upon in the schools and some other places.

Yes. This falls under the Rubric of Appropriateness. As I tell my five year old, there are places and times to play, and then there are places and times not to play. Playing isn't wrong. Heck, talking about our sex lives isn't wrong. But there are times and places where it is highly inappropriate to do such.

Evangelicals sometimes have a hard time with this, especially those of us raised in a legalistic system, which is what Evangelicalism largely is. We think that language is either good or bad. And that messes up our appreciation for and appropriate responses to language. Which is too bad. Because it also messes up our understanding of abusive language and healing language.

But first with the symptoms of legalism in potty-mouth words:

Frank laments that Christians do all the same things that the worldly do. I know this argument well. That is why many of us Evangelicals weren't allowed to dance or play face cards or play pool or listen to rock and/or roll, or go to movies - because it would "wreck your witness." "Wrecking our witness" is what we do when the "world" looks at Christians to see what makes us different and then notes on its checklist that we do all of the same things it does and therefore dismisses us with a, "Why would I want to become a Christian? They do all the same things we do. They're even gay sometimes. Yuck."

That scenario is comically outlandish and preposterous. But that didn't stop Frank Viola from using it here. And then jumping up with a list the likes of which I have not seen since Josh McDowell further complicated my already-overwhelming teen years. One point needs to be transplanted here in full:

Do your spiritual instincts tell you that profanity/vulgarity is wrong? Before you answer that, determine if your conscience is operating or if it’s seared in that area. (A person’s conscience becomes seared when they keep ignoring it when it nudges them about something that’s not in line with the Holy Spirit.) One way to determine this is to ask if it ever bothered you in the past.

Sometimes it's hard for one to devise between "spiritual instincts" and what would be socialized shame. This is one of those moments. And Viola's movement here is actually quite harmful. In short, he then replies that if your conscience isn't bothered by swear words, it may be broken.

You see, these questions aren't honest. And neither is this game.

Which is kind of upsetting. I thought Frank trusted his readers with some modicum of intelligence.

To wit, Frank relies on the Apostle Paul's oft-quoted lines on wholesome speech.

Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

How he gets "cuss words" out of "corrupting communication" beats me. Do certain words corrupt? Are we this childish? Hell, children don't respond like this. What does corrupt children?

Abusive language.

Abusive language towards others, towards themselves, is language that de-humanizes a person or group of people. If someone acts in a repulsive or ignorant way and we call him or her some form of "retarded" to signify that, we are not merely mocking the person we have made that comment to, but those whom the comment originated and is associated with. We equate having cognitive disabilities with acting insociably, inhospitably, even monstrously*.

In nearly every instance, hinting that someone is dumb is far more harmful than saying "Fuck yeah!"

I don't see why Christians don't understand this. Let's close out with a third example:

In saying that marriage should not extended to same-sex couples, conservative Christians are basically telling homosexuals, "Fuck you, shitty assholes!" Yeah. It's like that.

Healing language sometimes sounds like, "Here," "Welcome," "We accept you," "We travel together," "I'm sorry," "Is there a way I can help," and, yes, "I'm sorry for the shitty words that came out of that person's mouth. They were wrong and I'm ashamed."

* This goes more so for those of us on the Left side of the political fence. Just. Please. Stop. It. It's not funny to compare Rush Limbaugh with my dear aunt. She is not malicious and purposefully ignorant - nor is she making hundreds of millions off of some purposeful ignorance.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Shout It from the Rooftops in Print!

In honor of the print edition of Shout It from the Rooftops (along with an even more handsome cover because it doesn't feature my scrawling on a tablet over a distorted image of an unshaven moi looking straight ahead), I thought I should re-print some of the promotional interview I did for the book here. I was interviewed, btw, by the very capable me. Quite captivatingly, I must add.

What was the impetus for this tome?

It originated with an ongoing series of articles I was doing on my blog, Left Cheek, on American Evangelicals, what they believe and how that affects their view of the world and how that affects those around them.

And it affects....?

Pretty negatively. I've come to believe that the bible - if we read it as God's word to us - is, to cop from Donald Miller, story. And if it is, it moves in certain order. I don't want to fit this whole Ancient Near East text written over a several hundred year span and tackling many different eras and from the perspective of many different authors and superimpose a modern and Western meta or mode of talking about narrative over it, but to me it seems to be talking about relationship, loss, and then redemption. I don't know how universal that is, though...

Is this gonna be a long answer?

Don't interrupt me.


As I was saying... One thing I've come to find while working and developing the blog, from reading biblical scholars and reading about early Christian history is that American Evangelical Christians tend to have an outlook on society that contradicts what Jesus, the prophets and the early Christians had. And that this contradiction is actually very harmful to the Christian witness, to the name of Jesus, and to society at large.

When you say "harmful"...

I mean actually, physically, spiritually, and violently harmful to other people also made in God's own image. Sometimes those other people live next door, sometimes they live remotely, sometimes our own family - but always our neighbors. Like stuff you don't expect the Good Samaritan to do. Stuff that's hurtful, that may or may not be intentional. I actually don't think it is intentional. But I believe that Christians need to be above the defense of, "But I meant well."

The book is $5.50 print and roughly $2.99 for an e-book. Also, check out the author page on Amazon for other titles.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jesus Looks Like Us

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
- John 1

via Episcopal Intercultural Network on FB

I love the culturally specific pictures of Jesus. All of them. Tea Party Jesus. David Chappel's Jesus. Kanye's Jesus. Some of them I've featured here. I think it is Mark Sandlin of the God Article* who refers to the white, blonde versions that I sometimes use on my Facebook pages (like Hipster, Know-It-All Jesus) or that color the world that Cage Fighting Jesus inhabits as "Surfer Jesus." That Jesus is a white dominant, consumer-culture, happy-shock, confident-through-conquering Jesus.

I'm fascinated with the fact that many of us prefer to think of Jesus as a little baby with cute little fat cheeks in his holy swaddling diaper, as the lead singer of Van Halen, as (and I had dreams about this) Superman, as a businessman, as a mystic, as a shaman, as an executive with business advice (ok, this one confuses me, to be honest. You really have to read into the guy who gave the Beatitudes in order to read him as a Lee Iaccoca type), as a laughing man.

Of course they don't depict how Jesus actually looked. Of course, Jesus was a real man of real blood and flesh and color, with eyes of a certain hue and nose of a particular type. And we knew he was Jewish, of Middle Eastern descent and we know he wouldn't be White - well, not Northern European White - much less blonde. He probably wouldn't have a button nose, or straight hair. It may have been nappy. But then again, his hair may not have been long anyway. At least according to some Fundamentalists (one preacher is known for saying that Jesus wore pants because there's no way he wore a freaking dress).

I'm also well aware of the fact that Jesus has been, for millenia, over-represented in the West and then in the rest of the world through White Dominant Missionarism as being Northern European and male and straight and handsome (according to the cultural specifics). Other cultures were then encouraged to worship the Jesus behind the image - not the Jesus of the Gospels which revealed the God of the Scriptures, but the Jesus OF the image: White, European, Male, Privileged. As a result, I know that having a homogeneous, Euro-normative near-monopoly of misrepresentations of a Middle Eastern man bent on inclusion is not just troublesome but contrary to the very vision of the man we are supposedly depicting**. The answer, though, isn't to censor out the various readings of Jesus, but to contemplate what they say of the various cultures - to contemplate what they say of those doing the depictions, including us.

For the Jesus of the Conquering People is a Conquering Jesus. And that is not a good thing. But it's a necessary thing to recognize it for what it is, to see the trends of murder in the name of Jesus and recognize how that reflects back on ourselves as representatives of Jesus but also Jesus, to see the signposts of the Empire - where it is coming from, where it is going, what is its name, and what does it require?

The fact that a God would come to earth, in flesh, in poverty and dirt and muck and among sickness speaks resoundingly to me. The fact that most of our depictions feature a sparkly, triumphant, other-worldly Jesus also speaks resoundingly to me. The first is what I want - a healer God for the sick, a comforting God for the afflicted, a meek God for the abused, a peacemaking and bread-making God for the oppressed and hungry.

The second vision of God is indicative of what my culture wants - or wants to believe in. Victory without turmoil. Peace through war. Prosperity amongst starvation. Comfort at the cost of others' affliction. These are what these images of Jesus depict of us.

For Jesus has always been at the intersection of humanity and divinity - and it is in him where we see our best, and our worst.

Sometimes, I like to picture Jesus as an angry badger.

What is one of your favorite depictions of Jesus?
*Mark and the fine folks at The God Article have some fantastic ones of Things Jesus Never Said - which inspired my own Things Martin Luther King, Jr. Never Said.

**That vision can be seen clearly when we see what Jesus did and said in proper context - which includes poverty and exclusion and dirt and empires and death. Much of contemporary, and especially White, North Atlantic, Christianity has continued a legacy of removing him from the world in which he lived and placing him in strictly philosophical and other-worldly garb. To get a good idea of who Jesus is, I'd consider some New Testament scholars. Most helpful to me, however, have been NT Wright, Marcus Borg, and John Dominic Crossan. Or you can buy my book. *wink* *wink*

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Gun Appreciation/MLK Weekend!

We will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can't reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Imagination of the Forgiven

 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector...

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

To play Captain Obvious, it's hard trying to find a job in this economy. Add to that fact that companies have increasingly shown disloyalty to their employees - a trend that noticeably come to the fore in the 90's. And when work places tank (as they have for a friend of mine repeatedly and tend to do in urban communities with high turnover rates), it gets harder and harder to find more work, to stay afloat, to continue pushing. For finding work is basically a matter of proving one's self, one's mettle, one's faithfulness, attentiveness, ethic, proclivity, , time and again.

Within three years of their release, about a third of US prisoners end up back in prison.

About two-thirds of ex-cons are arrested again within three years of their release.

In recognizing these brutal numbers (how many of us have been arrested within the last three years?), we must confront ourselves with some facts that should lead us down a revelatory pathway.

Convicted criminals tend to come from poor communities with high-crime rates. For a moment, let's forget that the real crime is the fact of poverty - the reality that we live in a world where most live in poverty and where poverty is becoming more and more what it was in pre-industrial times - a death trap. Let us also forget for a moment that the poor are held accountable and blamed for trying to survive or to live for moments like the wealthy ("What are they doing eating steak?" "Why do they get to ride around in cars?"), particularly in areas with high wealth disparity.

Let us look at the unmistakable and regrettable fact of post-convict life: For the poor, there is hardly such a thing as a post-convict life. Parolees return to the very communities in which they made their crimes (or wherein the crimes were committed which they allegedly took part of) and almost inevitably run into (if not directly in) the same circles, the same places, and the same predicaments that lured them into the criminal background in the first place. They, with their criminal records, are rarely trusted with the resources needed in order to survive. Jobs, already scarce in their communities, are denied to them on the basis of their past - a past which society has already punished them for beyond most of our imaginations.

A past, they are told, that justice needs to cleanse them of through incarceration, through denying them sunshine and community and family and freedom of movement. A past that they should be ashamed of, but which the punishment is to shame every step of their existence, to break every will and hope they have (sometimes, it seems, this "justice" works). The imprisoned must then find alternative methods of being, of doing, of communing, and then of getting by in the world.

We can say what we want to about "career criminals" and all that, and the Department of Corrections can talk about programs they use to reduce recidivism, but the pragmatics are that such programs are woefully underfunded and really could never be adequately funded or implemented. Not when the current prison population in the US makes up nearly one percent of the entire US population, and prisons are at 110% capacity (p 2. via).

What does it mean to be released? Not just released in the sense of how we release convicts in the US: out into the streets with the reputation of an untouchable, the baggage of several lifetimes worth of nightmares, and damage that they rarely are able to recover from. But to release them in earnest as a society that is earnest about freedom as we say we are would: expunged, free, capable, trained, prepared, fresh.


Diego Blanco

I mentioned the rate or re-arrest earlier to demonstrate something fundamentally important in this conversation of liberation, freedom, stigma: Those who have "done time" (as the kids call it) - and particularly those of color - tend to be viewed as "fitting the description" (as the cops call it). What would it mean to not be viewed at as a suspect every time something came up missing? What would it mean to not only have a free conscience and to feel good about yourself, but to know that the community isn't watching your every step, certain that you will fail and hedging their bets against you?

What does it mean to be forgiven of all debts? What does it mean to be able to earn trust in a level - and safe - playing field*? What does it mean to walk as a person without burden, without baggage, without shackles? To be unfettered, to walk in the sun? To live free?

*As last time, I want to stress that this is meant within reason. A pederast cannot be trusted to work or be alone with children, but that should not preclude him from being welcome in communities, with necessary safeguards (and what those safeguards look like, I don't necessarily know outside what is listed above there). A thief, likewise, shouldn't be in charge of finances. Etc, etc.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blessed Christian Patriarchy and Blessed Pennies on the Dollar

A lot of the arguments used in Hobby Lobby’s defense can be brokered down to an overwhelming sense that Hobby Lobby is actually a good, caring employer and takes care of its employees. The government – and especially the OBAMA government – is just forcing them to buy baby-killing pills against their good, Christian conscience.

None of which is actually true, of course. These are statements – on abortion, on religious rights, on employment – that belie a fundamental concern of Conservative Christianity – one that undermines Jesus’ own commandments: patriarchy.

In other words, the conservative Christian defense is one supporting Christian Patriarchy. Christian Patriarchy being an oxymoron. In Aristotle, Greeks were above non-Greeks, males above females, free-borns above slaves. There is order and dominance; dominating and ordering. “In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor freeborn.” “You are not to lord over others,” Jesus demands of his followers. We Christians are to serve. Not force. Not rape. Not act as the parents of our employees. Not force them to go along with our religious convictions. Not gloat about paying certain ones a near-living wage while forcing others – in another country who look different from most of Hobby Lobby’s state-side employees and customers - to make pennies on the dollar for their work.

The pennies on the dollar phrase comes from a glowing Forbes profile on David Green, Hobby Lobby's founder, CEO, and patriarch. Here, Green is valued as a pious hero of capitalism who claims that it’s religious devotion and God’s favor that has raised his capital worth to well over $3 billion. Forbes, being the capitalist cheerleaders they are, could smell Green’s veiled business plan a few thousand miles away. In China, for instance.

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes with the founder, walking through a local Hobby Lobby store, to see the reason he has been able to expand his company into a well-oiled, moneymaking machine without bringing in any outside investors.
Stopping at a display marked 30% off, Green explains how a kitschy rooster ornament is produced overseas for pennies on the dollar, then sold as part of an in-house brand of home accents.

Father David Green / had many employees /
Many employees had Father David Green...
Hobby Lobby doesn’t usually like to divulge such reasons, so Forbes had quite the scoop here. Usually, David Green answers questions about Hobby Lobby's success with religious pablum along the lines of “God has been faithful,” or, “I was full of pride and God heard me when I humbled myself.” Neither of which I buy – not that they are not true. But lots of good Christians are faithful and humble and decent and don’t exploit overseas workers for pennies on the dollar. And they end up with miscarriages and early deaths and sick kids and behind bars. Most of them – contrary to what conservative, mostly white, mostly suburban churches imply – are living in sub-poverty and hand-to-mouth conditions. Many, many lack clean, running, potable water. Most lack adequate food. Very few are comfortably middle class. And only, out of over a billion, probably fewer than I have fingers for, are billionaires.

This intensely unique blessing, of course, entitles Hobby Lobby to be relatively generous to its full-time employees. They pay a starting minimum wage of $13 for FT workers (closer to state minimum wages for most part-timers, though) and even offer them health care insurance. Where, we have been told, they cover contraceptives. But just not the Morning After Pill. Because that would be killing babies.

Even though that's not what it is.

Of course, lots of companies and organizations offer selective coverage. And I suppose they are entitled to that. Of course, if we truly had universal health care, this would not be an issue. And that is an underlying issue here - no mistake about it. But then it was the Evangelical culture of which Green is a part of that fought universal health care tooth and nail - under, again, the misguided notion that their opposition was saving babies' lives, rather than killing more lives. Truthfully, the "pro-life" movement is responsible for more abortions by not supporting universal health care and for risking the lives of women everywhere by both not supporting universal health care and trying to forcibly block abortions, rather than try to persuade people that they're serious about life*. But I repeat myself again...

Another point here is the fact that Hobby Lobby is not providing health care for all eligible workers - which is why it is supposed to comply with the Affordable Care Act in the first place.

Yet, his position as Blessed Employer/Billionaire entitles Green to know what God wants. And Green's version of God doesn't want him to participate in a health care plan that would give working class women options over their own bodies or health and which Green finds religiously offensive - despite the fact that the science isn't there to support his claims to the contrary and his employees don't have to share his religious obligations over their own bodies. The Morning After Pill is abortion, Christian Patriarchy logic says, because every spermed egg is sacred. (Not sacred enough to keep the human body from flushing from 1/2 to three-fourths of them, but sacred enough that the idea of a pill that negates it is boogey-monstering them up all hours of the night).

Keep on swimming, swimming... Must not fail daddy...

More to the point, his position as Blessed Employer/Billionaire endows Green with the green light to tell his employees how to live.

There is a notice to vendors on the wall at Hobby Lobby headquarters prohibiting "gifts of any value" to employees, who must "pay their share of lunches" and shouldn't be expected to accept dinner invitations no matter who's paying, "as they will be with their families during the evening." 

It's business ethics to have employees turn down gifts from vendors, of course. It's unethical, to say the least, to tell either vendors or employees what employees will or should do in the privacy of their homes.

That includes, I argue, cases of rape, health, domestic violence or whatever other reason that a woman may need to take a Morning After pill. Even against what Father David Green argues.

The rate of abortion doesn't go down when abortion becomes legally restrictive. It comes down when there is less of a need for it due to poverty and domestic violence. There are other reasons, but those are two of the biggest - and ones I think the pro-life movement, if it really wants to be considered Pro-Life imho, should concentrate on limiting.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Hobbled Lobbyists

This is what my train ride looks like. A cartoon.
Right now, on the train on the way to work, in the middle of flu season, a woman is hacking. Those near here have moved away for fear of contracting a sickness – on their way to work. I want to tell her she should just stay home. If it gets any worse, she should go to her doctor’s. But the truth is, she’s probably like me. She may not have sick days. She may not be able to afford to take a day off. And she probably doesn’t have an affordable way to contact her doctor.

Now, you would think that Christians would be the first to rise up and say, “That’s unjust. That is a travesty. That is not right. Someone allow this woman to go home and take care of herself. And, if not possible, for a highly-trained capable doctor to treat her without her losing her home.” But then you probably wouldn’t be the “fine Christians” responsible for writing or endorsing this piece by Liberty University’s Karen Fellow Swallows and published by Christianity Today, the flagship American Evangelical publication.

I don’t have enough energy or creativity to express my outrage at Christianity Today for publishing this blog post by Liberty U faculty on how the billionaire “good Christian” owners of Hobby Lobby are JUST LIKE St Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Or about how having them pay into and help provide insurance for their employees is JUST LIKE forcing Quakers to buy assault rifles from a gun dealer, or forcing an anti-porn professor to buy Hustler for her students. Of about how taking contraceptives is JUST LIKE getting an abortion.

No one should be forced to answer such stupid, anti-science, greedy-defending, ignorant bullshit. Jesus had nothing nice to say about the wealthy, about those who shore up their grains while their neighbors are starving, or those who refuse to pay their workers justly and abundantly*.

Rather, I’ll let you read a couple responses from Fred Clark, aka, Slacktivist – first on the martyr complex, and then on the company town that Hobby Lobby and its defenders are defending. And then there’s the abortion nonsense, which I think was perfectly covered by Love, Joy, Feminism a few months ago.

And there’s this wonderful succinct analogy, far more sensical (because it compares apples to apples, rather than to space craft, as Evangelical logic on this topic is wont to), by Rebecca Trotter that I found in the comments in the first Slacktivist blog:

[V]egans often hold very strong ideals regarding the immorality of using animals for food, products, research and the like. So does the vegan business owner have the right to decree that their employees not use their paychecks to purchase animal products? Can they offer health insurance which doesn't cover any medical treatment involving the use of animal products or animal research? I think any rational person would say no. The vegan can make their own choices and try to win others to their views. But they don't have the right to dictate that others conform to their practices by reason of their employment.
*For a regular dose of what Jesus and the prophets had to say about wealth, see Commie Pinkos Wrote My Bible 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

LSR: A Theology of Liberation

Peruvian professor, author and theologian Gustavo Gutierrez wrote a primer on Latin American Liberation Theology, A Theology of Liberation five years after the first conference of Catholic bishops met in Medellin, Colombia to talk about this emerging theology from and of the poor and indigenous of the regions south of the United States. Some years after the groundbreaking work had begun to be cataloged by Gutierrez, the movement thoroughly expanded to other continents, and to other repressed people - including those within Latin America. And Gutierrez recognized this and added a chapter-long introduction called "Expanding the View." It is from this introduction that we present our Lazy Sunday Reading.

In the final analysis, poverty means death: lack of food and housing, the inability to attend properly to health and education needs, the exploitation of workers, permanent unemployment, the lack of respect for one's human dignity, and unjust limitations placed on personal freedom in the areas of self-expression, politics, and religion. Poverty is a situation that destroys peoples, families, and individuals; [the Liberation Theology conferences of] Medellin and Puebla called it "institutionalized violence" (to which must be added the equally unacceptable violence of terrorism and repression). 
At the same time, it is important to realize that being poor is a way of living, thinking, loving, praying, believing, and hoping, spending leisure time, and struggling for a livelihood. Being poor today is also increasingly coming to mean being involved in the struggle for justice and peace, defending one's life and freedom, seeking a more democratic participation in the decisions made by society, organizing "to live their faith in an integral way" (Puebla), and being committed to the liberation of every human being. 
All this, I repeat, goes to make up the complex world of the poor. The fact that misery and oppression lead to a cruel, inhuman death, and are therefore contrary to the will of the God of Christian revelation who wants us to live, should not keep us from seeing the other aspects of poverty that I have mentioned. They reveal a human depth and a toughness that are a promise of life. This perception represents one of the most profound changes in our way of seeing the reality of poverty and consequently in the overall judgment we pass on it.
Various experiences of being a part of the world of the poor have brought me to a less theoretical knowledge of that world and to a greater awareness of simple but profoundly human aspects of it, apart from which there is no truly liberating commitment. The struggles of those who reject racism and machismo (two attitudes so deeply rooted in the culture and custom of peoples and individuals), as well as of those who oppose the marginalization of the elderly, children, and other "unimportant" persons in our society, have made me see, for example, the importance of gestures and ways of "being with" that some may regard as having little political effectiveness. 
In addition, the experience of these years has shown me that generous solidarity with the poor is not exempted from the temptation of imposing on them categories foreign to them and from the risk of dealing with them in an impersonal way. Sensitivity to these and other dangers is part of a human and Christian praxis whose truly liberating effects extend to those also who are trying to carry on such a praxis for the benefit of the poor and exploited. If there is no friendship with them and no sharing of the life of the poor, then there is no authentic commitment to liberation, because love exists only among equals. Any talk of liberation necessarily refers to a comprehensive process, one that embraces everyone.