Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mockery and Shamed Visibleness

When I was a teenager, I found out that my mother had bipolar disorder. Found out the hard way. And it was devastating. I'll spare you most of the details. Except one: What an ass I was to her.

Unmitigated, foolish, selfish, immature, impatient, ignorant ass. She, suffering untold, unspeakable mental and emotional anguish. Something she couldn't control; something she couldn't figure out; something it takes a bit of courage to make it through. Me, the "good son," not able to figure this out; believing that emotions are something that one controls, and believing that moms are made for their children.

Snap out of it, already!

That's what I told her. Because I didn't believe her feelings were tied to reality. Because I didn't believe the sickness was as real as a, y'know real sickness. Like cancer. Or a cold.

Some years later those words came back to haunt me like an avenging spectre when someone close to me said them to me during the depths of my depression. And I felt the horror, and the hurt, and the guilt and shame and helplessness.

I thought of this long after my initial shock and anger at the Onion for making a full-fledged "comedic" verbal sexual assault at a nine year old African American female actor (warning: TRIGGERS), when the next day I found that several white males were saying, You don't know how hard it is to do comedy. You should allow comedians to do comedy without being offended. Your offense isn't real. Your offense is coming from a place of privilege. Here, find something REAL to get offended about. Who we really should be concerned about are the writers (and, by extension all white males) who will not be free to make fun of little black girls anymore. And you, you should be ashamed of having feelings and feeling the way you do about the things you do. Patriarchy is dead; there is no sickness here. Be real. Snap out of it already.
Quvenzhané Wallis deserved this?

 Twitter was full of such asshattery.

From a media columnist for the New York Times:

To an activist for gay rights:

Or a senior writer for the Huffington Post:

I'm not including angry responses sent to me by a clearly frustrated 12 year old boy and/or Men's Rights Activist*. These are more-or-less progressive/liberal voices working for progressive/liberal media. Talking about the "oppression" caused by reacting in anger/frustration to horrible names. When those taunts are reflective of and public manifestations of sexist and racist (and ablist/homphobic/transphobic/ageist) put-downs and marginalizations all over. So, yes, defending the comments or attempting to silence those who speak out against such put-downs is an act of marginalization. It very much so continues the keeping-in-line and oppression of non-cis gendered / white / able-bodied / able-minded / middle-and-upper class and/or male persons.

Yesterday, while traveling with my own grade school-aged daughter, we were joking around. And I was trying to teach her how to do the thing where we make exaggerated motions and cop each other's voice. "I'm Jason and I..." And I tried to be mindful and not hurt her. And I think I may have succeeded, but maybe I pushed an emotional button - if not for her, then for me. Because then she told me a "secret." It was ludicrous and silly and preposterous. But her secret, even though it wasn't true and we both knew that we both knew it wasn't true, was still in the realm of secret. And, as such, she warned me not to blurt it out. Of course I wouldn't. But I egged her along so much that she thought that I actually did, out loud, for passersby to hear.

And she cried heartbroken tears. And I felt like a mighty jerk. As well I should. And I explained to her that I was sorry. That I didn't say her secret (you know how you expect something so shocking to come that you shut down your senses, so you may not even experience it, just the expectation? I think it was like that), and I didn't mean to hurt her. I didn't want her to cry. The reasons for her tears in this case may not have been what she thought they were, but her reasons for crying were. And her feelings sure were. They are real - they had a right to feel pushed and violated. I did push her, my precious one. I was being an ass for the sake of "comedy."

But my daughter shouldn't have to be subjected to degrading insults by infantile men getting their jollies by teasing girls.

Not just because she's my daughter. That's what makes it personal, for sure. As does the fact that joking bullies helped to make high school a repressed memory for me. But moreso because she's a human being. A girl, a child, a female. A human being and worthy of dignity and self-respect. And:

Grown men telling me that I shouldn't be insulted by such "jokes" are infantile assholes.

I'd also encourage you to read Grace from Are Women Human's response here.
*Apparently, there's a lot of overlap.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

And I Had Such High Aspirations

Timothy Dalrymple, Evangelical Gatekeeper, asks, Is the Defense of Traditional Marriage Like the Defense of Slavery?:

While [sic] I believe (and I would encourage all Christians to believe) that every homosexual individual deserves all of the same rights and protections that heterosexual individuals enjoy — and preventing gays from suffering bullying, for instance, is absolutely a civil rights issue.  

Well, not exactly a civil rights issue. More a human dignity issue. But in the case of protection in the law, yes. In terms of hate crimes and such, yes!

I believe all humans are, essentially and in themselves, equal in the eyes of God and ought to be treated as equal before the law. 

Wow. That was just... I'm amazed! I'm floored, really; I can't believe such a prominent member of the religious right is making such a bold declarative statement on behalf of the rights of LGBTQI.


Ah, daggannit. Spoke too soon, didn't I? I shouldn't be surprised, of course. Just, I...

...just as it does not follow that every human action is equal in the sight of the law (the state has every right to treat people differently on the basis of their actions), so it does not follow that every human relationship need be equal in the sight of the law.

SMDH.. One can assume just from this that Dalrymple isn't arguing that homosexuals are equal before God. Certainly I'd expect him to say that same sex/queer relationships aren't "God's plan for our best" or some such argument that the Christian church should continue to shun, alienate, and perhaps belittle non-heterosexual relationships. But this goes the extra step to say that such relationships should also not be recognized as on equal level with heterosexual relationships.

not equal
I can see why gay rights advocates make the comparisons in their plight to the struggles of Black slaves and unwilling-participants of Jim Crow, and I can also see why such incomplete comparisons are troubling to African Americans (in that making such comparisons is belittling to both struggles with their unique identities). But Dalrymple here brings up a very familiar argument I hear in studying Black US history: Of course they are equal before God and before the law. Except in practical terms. And they're not really human, too.


Oh, and the short answer to Timothy's question? The same biblical exegesis used to promote freedom for slaves is the same used to liberate Christianity from homophobia. The same exegesis used to promote slavery is the same used to entrap Christianity within homophobia - and thus teach that White, heterosexual Christianity serves a God who can't see outside White, heterosexual Christianity, and is afraid and hateful of those outside the gates.

Oh yeah. Gatekeeping.

Come on, Timothy. Surely you can do better. I believe in you.

There is much more to say about this. I know that many would argue that Timothy - who is a Facebook friend of mine, though we never interact - is a good guy and that others would argue that there isn't a homophobic bone in his body, etc., etc. The truth is, whether or not he, personally, is a bigot is not the point. I don't blog just to point out the errors and the prejudices of specific people - that would take too long and that's what HuffPo is for. I'm also not interested in whether or not this person has a good heart and is kind to homosexuals/kittens/undocumented/little old ladies. I mean, it'd suck if he wasn't and be nice if he was. I'm taking issue with his stated words which have power. I'm interested moreso in patterns and particularly the patterns of Evangelicals that are used to silence, shame, sequester, ostracize and, yes, oppress those who are different than they. And Mr. Dalrymple is but one of many, many, many within that movement - that I myself am a native son of and still love and want to identify myself with - that make such alarming and disastrous mind-bends. It is a very, very, very unloving and unChrist-like and bigoted position and posture to publish to take against people while at the same time say that you're NOT taking such a position against people. This is not to mention how the guest post was all sorts of wrong, using a tradition that has not been kind to women, the poor, slaves, and people of other faiths and ethnicities as a rubric for how we should now treat gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans* people.

Not cool. Not cool for Dalrymple. And not cool for Evangelicals who read and agree with his positions and further along marginalization and oppression in the name of a man who affirmed, invited and welcomed all outcasts and outsiders.

Not. Cool.

Proudly Union Free and Immoral

workers of the world, unite!

From Michael Lind's article, Southern poverty pimps, at Salon:
The essence of the Southern economic model is not low taxation, but a lack of bargaining power by Southern workers of all races. Bargaining power at the bottom of the income scale is created by tight labor markets; unions; minimum wage laws combined with unemployment insurance; and social insurance, such as Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. 
Naturally, the 21st-century descendants of Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun want to weaken everything that strengthens the ability of a Southern worker to say to a Southern employer:  “Take this job and shove it!” 
Tight labor markets are anathema to Southern employers.  They want loose labor markets that create a buyer’s market in wage labor.  That is why, at a time of mass unemployment among low-skilled workers in the U.S., most of the calls for expanding unskilled immigration in the form of “guest worker” programs are coming from Southern and Southwestern politicians.  Guest workers — that is, indentured servants bound to a single employer and unable to quit — are the ideal workers, from a neo-Confederate perspective.  They are cheap and unfree.

The article is worth a read. But it contributes to the malaise of false dichotomies. As if the North and the Rustbelt weren't taking on these same practices. Wisconsin, Indiana and even Michigan have elected pro-big business governors and legislatures who are working hard to dismantle worker's rights to bargain and act as professional organizations to temper corporate malaise affecting both the public and private sectors. Even union-happy Chicago is under attack from our overwhelmingly-elected mayor, a Democrat who was former Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama.

So, yeah, there's that. Meanwhile, capital created by workers continues to climb back to the top - or rather, flow back to the lowest levels- the ultrarich. But it's the working poor who are blamed for being poor and demanding anything of worth for their work. Got it.

Oh, and there is this from Lind's article for my fellow Christians who either hear or peddle the nonsense that charities should take care of the poor, not government (and for whom the words "economic justice" do not ring a bell):
In order to maximize the dependence of Southern workers on Southern employers in the great low-wage labor pool of the former Confederacy, it would be best to have no welfare at all, only local charity (funded and controlled, naturally, by the local wealthy families).
We've dealt with that nonsense here and here and here, though

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.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Compromise IS American, And That's the Problem

James Wagner, the president of Emory University, wrote an editorial on how compromise is a good thing, is fundamental to how the US operates, is a higher order for a good cause. It's important, he states, for getting by, for learning how to negotiate, and for political discourse.

He outlines this all in his Letter from the President, “As American as … Compromise.”

He's wrong about pretty much everything. Citizens and students don't become better and wiser citizens and students through compromise. We do through listening and experience and higher ordered thinking and going through the wringer of experience and critical thinking and listening again and again. And we learn through history, especially history of the marginalized. And we make connections and we consider again and again how these connections are relevant to not just ourselves but those inside and outside our neighborhoods, those who work for us, those who make our products, those who are in our prisons, those the majority society consider less-thans.

And we repent where we need to repent. We recognize the evil and the grave mistakes that we as a society and a people have done and in many ways continue to do and we take that evil seriously in order to exorcise it from our collective and individual actions.

But James Wagoner demonstrates that White America has yet to repent. Has yet to listen or make connections or consider history or the present through non-privileged perspectives. Has yet to consider amends because it hasn't made a conscious choice yet to repent of the very horrible sins that made it phenomenally rich.

To much of White America, the three-fifths compromise was a necessity in order "to form a more perfect union." The ultimate compromise on slavery - which allowed it to operate mercilessly for generations and allowed its primary stakeholders undue influence in US politics - wasn't appalling, wasn't a sign that the United States was based more on slavery and destruction of human beings and families than on its alleged "freedom." No. According to Wagoner (and many textbooks from my own childhood), the need to bring the two opposing sides together for the lofty goal of making a United States was a "higher aspiration."

Higher, apparently, to minds in the 21st Century, than an unequivocal call for the end of any form of slavery, than for an end to the slave trade or the end to considering human beings as chattel.

Compromise may sometimes be a negotiable we have to work through. But consider what there is to negotiate. The so-called "Third Way" isn't necessarily a better way because it's more expedient. In the case of the Three-Fifths Compromise, the lives of millions of African and Black slaves were disregarded and then monetized for political "purity" of white folks. That's not a good thing. Not back then. Not now. In the case of the so-called Fiscal Cliff, the lives of millions of poor people hang in the balance of a highly politicized scandal of American-styled "justice."

It is a great evil that rich, white men can claim the stakes for everyone else and then dress up their card game as a noble pursuit.

Card game. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, CA. 1932
Insert tired Frenchie joke here.

The underclass is not something to "balance" or compromise on, are not tokens, are not poker chips.

With his response/clarification, Wagner apologizes for his insensitivity, makes some profound statements that gave me pause to think that he would retract his earlier statement, but then doubles down on the "higher aspirations" language and reprints the original.

Why not just admit it was a complete failure? Are the "chattel" not worth it?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thin, Ephemeral, Light, Profoundly Unsatisfying

For a decade I worked at and became contextualized in a conservative Bible college. We understood ourselves to be true to the Bible (that was in the name of the school and the church I centered my life around. And my Bible was dog-eared, so it must have been true) and thus to God. And we understood that other types of Christians were classified under a few different labels, but they were all like hell-bound heretics. Not necessarily - for God could save anyone. Just most likely. I, quite honestly, didn't understand why they even bothered with the name "Christian." That was OUR name.

First were the old orders: Catholics and Orthodox. Then were the liberals. After that, and less on the heretical slide, were the weirder denominations (y'know, like Charismatics) and then the liberal Evangelicals (those who, like some from Wheaton, thought the world to be more than 6,000 years old!).

And I was pretty good at this safeguarding. I couldn't tell you that you were going to hell for your sins, but you were probably on not-safe ground traveling around in your Liberal Hippy Christianity Bug. On the way to hell, of course.

'Hippie VW 3' photo (c) 2006, Marshall Astor - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Weeeee! Jesus may or not be the Son of God, but I'd be on my way to hell if I believed in such an ontological destination!
This is fundamentalist Christianity 101. We take the Bible seriously and we know and are sure of what the Bible teaches! The Bible is the Word of God and it teaches what is true and if you don't believe what we believe about God through our understanding of the Bible, you don't take the Bible's revelations seriously! And if you don't take the Bible seriously, you don't take God seriously! You have no faith and your non-faith will send you to hell!

But I wasn't a strict fundamentalist. I was a conservative Evangelical. So that meant I was nicer in my fundamentalism. You're not necessarily going to hell... Just more likely to.

Roger Olson, post-fundy Evangelical New Testament professor, reminded me of those uncharitable descriptions in his post, Why I Am Not a "Liberal Christian." He gives several rubrics to identify if a person or church is a liberal Christian by what she, he or they believe. And that, in itself, is instructive. The first, for example:
How do they approach knowing God? Do they begin with and recognize the authority of special revelation? Or do they begin with and give norming authority to human experience, culture, science, philosophy, “the best of contemporary thought?”

As Tony Jones says, this is bunk. Neither I nor you nor Pastor Jack nor Roger Olson can "recognize the authority of special revelation" without having begun with (and giving "norming authority" to) experience, culture and other contextualizations.

But there's the awareness. The awareness of context and how that enables and helps and stifles and gives us room to build or not build - but mostly to be. And with the awareness comes the acknowledgement - according to a traditional theological view, if not a correct one - that we are adversarial to faith. Knowledge is forbidden in many corners of Christianity because knowledge diverts from this traditional view of faith. Knowledge could cause us to see that maybe things aren't the way we're led to believe they are.

The rest of Olson's checklist also sets up these dichotomies, though not quite as contradictory. Although the age of the earth and whether or not one accepts evolution isn't on Olson's list, the virgin birth and literal resurrection of Jesus are. In such a list, one must be sure of either the veracity or the nonsense of such claims - one can only be sure that it did happen or that it did not happen. Such a list based on what one is sure of in doctrinal terms fails to make sense to me anymore. Since in many of these positions, I find myself in between one point or another. And I sense very much the same position that I myself limited myself and other Christians to just a scant few years ago.

But then there's this definition, which struck a chord:
Historical theologian Claude Welch... boiled it (viz., “liberal Christianity”) down to a phrase: “maximal acknowledgment of the claims of modernity” in theology.
But of course my approach to viewing the bible and theology and Christianity and acts of faith is informed by modernism. Of course it is. How could it not be?

So is yours. So is Roger's. So is the pastor of the local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church. And the Church of Christ across the tracks from it. As well as any atheist. That's because that is where we live and how we are contextualized: In modernism. My postmodernism is contextualized in modernism. Fundamentalism is a rejection of modernity - but it's contextualized and fully a product of modernism.

So a liberal Christian, then, is aware and accepts the fact that we live and breathe and think in a landscape thoroughly influenced by modernism. However, I - and most progressive Christians I know - would deny many of the claims of modernism: that we can become better people simply through knowledge, that the world evolves towards a more enlightened sense, that knowledge is fundamentally moral. But I won't deny that living in a post- modern world shapes my reality fundamentally. It shaped everything.

So I guess by this standard, I am a liberal Christian. Scare quotes optional.

But in case one would think that this is a neutral or positive label to the Evangelical Gatekeepers:

If I ever wake up and find that I think like a true theological liberal, I hope I will be honest enough to stop calling myself “Christian.”

This conviction - one I shared just a scant decade ago - is based on some idea that a liberal Christianity is weak and lacking distinctive features. Which is odd to me, at least on this edge of "liberal Christianity" (or whatever it is I am).

I and those like me follow a religious practice that is, in Roger's words, "[T]hin, ephemeral, light, profoundly unsatisfying." We lack prophetic voice and identity, apparently. (Post-Evangelical Eastern Orthodox Frank Schaeffer apparently argues the opposite, claiming that all Protestants, and at the height of that, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, lack Christian identity because they don't hold to liturgy. None of this surprises me, I suppose. In building and maintaining our own tribes often we tear down others that are less recognizable). My actualization of my faith has been called many things, but lacking in prophetic utterances has hardly been one of them.

But here I stand. Thin. Ephemeral. Light. Profoundly unsatisfying.


We are Eucharist wafers, apparently.

The fundamental problem I have with all of this is that Roger defines us all by what we "believe" - ie, what we profess to or acquiesce to as being real or true. And when I say "all", I mean "all." We all, according to this theology, this perspective, will enter or be denied entry to heaven and the presence of God by whether or not we agree with and can check off certain beliefs that are, frankly, not consequential to our current reality. Does it - in the grand scheme of things - matter whether one can agree with the Nicene Creed? Is that what Jesus required to enter his Kingdom? Did he ever mention those as prerequisites, as keys to the gates, as the entrance points into which one comes into the sheep fold?

No. But Jesus wasn't a very good gatekeeper, I guess.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love and Race and Blindness

So I guess my very existence gives hope to White Christian male bloggers obsessed with the sex habits of women?

Bi-racial couples give me a bit more hope for the human race.
(h/t to Dianna Anderson)

The human race is saved because black and white people can be sexually attracted to each other! yay...

Kim Kardashian gives me hope for the human race!

Now, being the product of interracial couples (notice the plurals), I can say that this is in some ways more positive approach than that of, say, a Focus on the Family newsletter I read as a kid that said that although interracial relationships aren't sinful, per se, they could be unsettling to the faith community and other families so it may be unwise to pursue that relationship with that other-colored person.

We wouldn't want to upset the sensibilities of good Christian folks, now would we?

But I hate this idea that, for one, interracial coupling is new, unique, or bold and progressive. It may be fairly unique for Anglo-dominated cultures, but it happens in any society where races mix - no matter the conditions. Particularly for Latin America, there is nothing unique about this (which is why I find the racial qualifiers in the US so troubling. Am I White/non-Hispanic, Hispanic, Native American? Yes!). In fact, it is White Supremacy that has created, maintained, and promoted this horrible myth of "racial purity" - of which the surprise of interracial love (or anything interracial) is a product.

I also detest this notion that any relationship I am a part of (when you're bi-racial, after all, every relationship you enter into is interracial) is a sign in itself of progress against racism. Especially, as Grace from Are Women Human points out, the poster is part of an entire culture that denies the present and brutal reality of systemic racism.

As if sexual attraction could fix educational, social, class issues related to racial-apartheid, could effect the criminal justice system, could fix the so-called "achievement gap" between white students and those of color, could silence the jokes implying inferiority, could spur investment  in Black and Brown neighborhoods and businesses, could curtail ethnic violence, could make one NOT racist (This would be news to Sally Hemmings, to slave owners that raped their female "property." Or Jesse Helms).

Nope. But sometimes it helps to ease guilty White consciences.

So... happy Valentines?

Ashes of Pride

It was somewhat weird and unsettling, going out of my way to find someone from my church who I've never met before on a street corner I haven't been to since Lord Knows When, in what is generally referred to as Lakeview but commonly as Boystown, to have this stranger, in the middle of this busy intersection in the middle of rush hour in a gay neighborhood, recite cryptic Middle Eastern poetry at me while he wipes my forehead with his dirty thumb print of ash.

Newspaper financial ashes - Remsphoto 

It was somewhat unsettling to have to bend down, and stop for just a few seconds in the midst of the bustle. To accept this sign, one vertical swipe and one horizontal one that I have never, ever received before - it is a bit unsettling. This sign of mortality, this badge of identity in a once-persecuted community, touches me and shakes me up way down to the back of my spine.

I know my religion is the majority religion - but I also live in a place where this tradition of marking myself is rarely seen - certainly not by white males. It is the yearly ritual of the "superstitious", of ethnic minorities who are already branded by the color of their skin. And I rode on the train and people looked at me odd - as if I exploded on my head. And then I recalled that I am a tall, white, curly-haired male with soot etchings on my head. And then I recalled that I couldn't help but stare at the markings on other passengers just a few minutes earlier.

And it's all unsettling.

As it should be. I'm used to unsettling things happening to me that are out of my control. I'm used to winging it - and a bit too used to worrying about money and work. But I needed someone or something to touch - physically - my soul. And unnerve it, just so that I may feel that I still have one.

And I do.

And that, remarkably, is very settling.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

On a Sunday Morning Chatfest in a Parallel Universe

If this world were a just one, my friend Don Washington (aka, Mayoral Tutorial) and others like him - interested and knowledgeable about the public good, not the laughable rotting riot of clueless pundits and warmed-over politicians - would be welcomed every week on Sunday morning talking head shows, not (just) on public access tv.

Not that there's anything wrong with public access, except for the exposure. If it weren't for Public Access TV, we wouldn't have this, for instance. This being an informative and rather delightful discussion about the public good and the need for a space and a government that is specifically looking for the public good (which is not happening in our city and certainly not with our mayor). There is also a brilliant deduction by Don as to why we need to raise the minimum wage several times over: We're paying for whatever we don't fund directly anyway. But, the typical mainstream media once again shows little-to-no-regard for the lives of poor people, so they keep running to business leaders (who do not want to pay increases and so will tell you how something that is good for the working poor is automatically bad for business).

Which is why such alternative, non-commercial news is so important. Not to mention insightful and sometimes even delightful. As it is here.

If you haven't had the chance to, check out Mayoral Tutorial - as a blog and a Facebook page.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Bad Scholarship, Bad Theology

Let's be perfectly clear here: Eric Metaxas is nothing but a political hack. Nothing. But.

A writer for Culture Warrior Chuck Colson's Breaking Point and a current hack author and talking head for evil political network Fox News and hack news network CNN, Metaxas read some stuff on the complex German theologian and Nazi-resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer and wrote a book about how Bonhoeffer would have written for Breaking Point and commented at Fox News if he were alive now. Or something like that.

Metaxas, like much of White Evangelicalism, takes an iconic and rebellious figure like Bonhoeffer and whitewashes him. White Evangelicalism - particularly the more conservative wings, but not solely - consistently does the same with other radical movements and figures.

White Evangelicals claim the abolitionist movement as their own*, and the Civil Rights movement as their own. And Martin Luther King, Jr. as their own.

And if Dr. King were alive today, he would be against Affirmative Action and pro-color blind. Because restorative justice is racist, apparently. 

Jesus would want us to buy guns and shoot bad people.

And the same guy who wrote the radically egalitarian anti-hierarchical statement, "In Christ, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free-born," would want women to be subservient, want the rich to control the earth, and Americans to control everything else.

Not only do they defang these leaders, re-haloing them for their purposes, they completely co-opt them for a double-negative impact - both taking away from their messages of radical inclusion and justice and re-purposing them towards an agenda that is exclusionary and privileged for a small minority of people - particularly those who can afford privileges. And so Metaxas compares Bonhoeffer and his Barmen Declaration with conservative Evangelicalism and its Manhattan Declaration (this, by the way, is old hat for this group. They've already compared the MD, which is a religious-cloaked cultural assault against homosexuals and the poor, to "Letter from a Birmingham Jail").

[W]ere he alive today and living in America, costly grace for [Bonhoeffer] would likely mean preaching what the Word of God teaches about human sexuality**--even when activists and their allies in government try to suppress his work and attack his church***. Costly grace would mean standing against churches that mix radical new doctrines about marriage with Christian truth. Costly grace would mean standing up to a government attempting to force him to buy health insurance that violates his beliefs—even if it led to his arrest.
And costly grace would, I believe, lead him to sign the Manhattan Declaration in defense of human life, marriage, and religious liberty, just as he signed the Barmen Declaration, which I quote at length in my book.
Now I must say that Chuck Colson had the Barmen Declaration in mind when he co-authored the Manhattan Declaration. Chuck saw many parallels between what the church faced in Nazi Germany in the thirties and what faithful Christians are facing today in America.
Nazi cat forces you health care and gay marry.

Such views are based on bad scholarship, as Victoria J. Barnett, the editor for the English edition of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, and the Director of Church Relations for the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains. She speaks of Metaxas' book on Bonhoeffer as "badly flawed."

There are two central problems [with the subtly-named Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich]. The first is that he has a very shaky grasp of the political, theological, and ecumenical history of the period. Hence he has pieced together the historical and theological backdrop for the Bonhoeffer story using examples from various works, sometimes completely out of context and often without understanding their meaning. He focuses too much on minor details and overlooks some of the major ones (such as the role of the Lutheran bishops and the “intact” churches). The second is that theologically, the book is a polemic, written to make the case that Bonhoeffer was in reality an evangelical Christian whose battle was not just against the Nazis but all the liberal Christians who enabled them.
But Metaxas also misunderstands the type of teaching that he promotes here:

All of this, however, leads to a selective misreading of Bonhoeffer’s theological development and a profound misunderstanding of what happened to the German churches between 1933 and 1945. The failure of the German Evangelical Church under Nazism was not that it was filled with formalistic, legalistic Lutherans who just needed to form a personal relationship to Jesus, but that it was filled with Christians whose understanding of their faith had so converged with German national culture that it tainted both their politics and their theology. (As an interesting aside, when I first interviewed Eberhard Bethge in 1985 he explicitly compared this kind of Protestantism to what he had seen of the American religious right. A thoughtful evangelical reading of the development of Bonhoeffer’s extensive writings on the church-state relationship and the public role of religion would be a major contribution to the field, but Metaxas doesn’t even mention that aspect of Bonhoeffer’s thought). What Metaxas fails to grasp is that there were many devout, well-educated, Bible-reading Christians in Germany who read their Losung each morning and fully supported National Socialism.
You can read the whole review (and these critiques are just the tip of the Nazi iceberg) here. And then read Clifford Green's critical review here. Green, by the by, is the executive director of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.

Descending to insult, even insulting the subject of his own book, is a sure sign that an author is in trouble. Why does he do this? Ostensibly because the death-of-God theologians, those "liberals," have "hijacked" Bonhoeffer. But why whip a few writers who made a brief splash 40 years ago and who have had little or no influence on theology or the church? Because they function as straw men in his polarizing narrative about "orthodox Christians" and "liberals." His real target is liberals, and not just theological liberals, but political liberals too.
Metaxas insults Bonhoeffer throughout his book by misrepresenting him. And he continues the insults on every given opportunity with bad scholarship, bad analysis, bad politics.

Such bad scholarship is based itself on bad theology - a theology that teaches its adherents to displace and de-contextualize whatever it is studying to fit our own prejudices. The bible, according to such theology, wasn't written by men and women who live in a specific time and addressing specific issues for specific audiences and specific times - it was written, they believe, in a placeless heaven and has the same impact for White Conservative Evangelical Republicans as everybody else at all times. Which then means that other readings of the bible are incorrect because they are not understood through the particular lens of White Conservative Evangelicals. 

Metaxas' "scholarship" leads conservative Evangelicalism to deny poor and marginalized people common rights and access under the guise of the "true" "Confessing church" - which he misrepresents.

But the true Confessing Church will not deny access. It will swing wide open the Kingdom of Heaven for all to enter. It will seek healing. It will feed. It will clothe. It will forgive debts.

That's what the Kingdom of Heaven is about. Not White, Middle Class Christian Hetero privilege.

*Yesterday, on a shared link from the Left Cheek page, I saw a woman argue that white Christian women were the ones most responsible for protesting slavery and freeing slaves in America. No shit. Guess all the black slaves were too busy enjoying their slavery to protest it.
Also, you know who the second largest proponents of American slavery was? White Christian women. Right behind White Christian men.
**ie, Gays can't marry other gays! That's gross and ungodly somehow or another!
***ie, Allowing gays to marry gays is persecution!!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Guns and Race in Chicago

Let’s talk about the second amendment. Let’s talk about the fact that it was never meant to be about individual rights to carry whatever weapons one wants. Let’s talk about the fact it was never written with the idea of semi-automatics or tanks. Let’s talk about well-regulated militias, which eventually became state guards, but which at least one purpose was for the regulation and keeping in line of slaves to guard against the very real threat of slave revolts. But it was never, until recently, meant to be constitutionally interpreted as being a right for individual firearms owners to own whatever weapons they wanted.

Let’s talk about the NRA. Let’s talk about the fact that they’ve spent the last three decades not just actively blocking through legislative bullying, but torturing and threatening the lives of any who would dare study the effects of guns and weapons of mass destruction and effective methods of gun control that would save lives without taking away our rights. Let’s talk about Wayne LaPierre, the cro-magnun carrying rhetoric too insipid, vomit-inducing, and warmed over for even Fox News. And Fox News is the Hot Pocket of media rhetoric.

Let’s talk about white people hyperventilating about the widespread violence in Chicago’s West and South Side neighborhoods as if it was a place in which they had any involvement, investment, or concern. And here I don’t want to just limit the scope to the Second Amendmenters, the TP, the gun fetishists, the neo-cons, or Republicans. I want to consider such auspicious Democrats as Rahm Emanuel and most of White Chicago. For if we cared about the people and neighborhoods of color in Chicago, our crime prevention would have a hell of a lot more involved, intricate, and inspired investment than locking up significant percentages of the young-to-middle-aged black and brown male populations. There is work, there is money. Lord, there sure is a lot of wealth accumulating in this city – but it accumulates at the White Center: The Loop, Lincoln Square, gentrifying neighborhoods like my own Logan Square and Humboldt Park neighborhoods. Those areas largely unaffected by red and yellow dots.

Courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times

This money is set aside by venture capitalists for venture capitalists. The rest of the city (“Brown Chicago”) gets token scraps here and there. But even those are threatened. Union jobs for the city? Not if some in White Chicago have their say. Unions are made of the rabble, and therefore not dependable to keep their money circulating where its immediately valuable to the center of WC.

But as long as the Loop, Lincoln Park, and Wicker Park are operating, the poverty and gun violence of Brown Chicago barely registers as a problem in White Chicago. So the mayor can shut down schools and after-school programs and community-based mental health clinics and homeless transitioning programs – what little that has worked to reduce violence and increase safety for children and adults – while touting a broken-windows crime-fighting system that does not work (unless the effectiveness we’re looking for is how much of BC can end up locked-up for non-violent offenses). He can close down those schools and open up non-union charter schools run by unprotected teachers and as a business – a business that, incidentally, is run like many other businesses in Chicago. Which means there are plenty of jobs and money for the city and even for minorities! As long as you’re connected to influential politicians in the city. The rest of Brown Chicago can, apparently, suck it.

You see, as long as blow-hards like Wayne LaPierre and states like Indiana, Arizona and Louisiana continue to justify and act as points of access for guns in Chicago, it really doesn’t matter how tough the gun laws are in Chicago. We have too many guns with too much access for too many people. As a result - mixed in with racial and class violence that is top-down by its very nature - dozens of innocent children and young folks are gunned down every week, long before God has kissed their lives.

So though Chicago can do little about the gun culture (thanks to back-ass gun fetishists), we can do much to alleviate violence in our city. We can supply meaningful, living wage jobs in our economically depressed regions, we can support grassroots collaborations between neighbors, we can entreat the mayor to expand schools rather than close them, we can support affordable housing over homelessness and displacement. We can open hospitals and trauma centers near the centers where trauma tends to take place.

We, in WC, can partner listen to (and patronize the businesses of) BC and partner with them to see effectual, transitional, substantial, lasting change.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

If They Get Rights, Then Nobody Gets Rights

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Rand Paul (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and James Risch (R-ID), I don't think, are blocking the Violence Against Woman Act on the grounds that they hate women. I'm sure they'll all tell you that they love women. And that they treat their wives well and want their daughters to grow up to be strong and capable and even independent.

Their objections arise because they refuse to allow undocumented immigrants, internationally trafficked sex slaves, transgendered*, and indigenous women who live on tribal lands the same protections that other American women receive from domestic abuse - which, sadly, is very limited as it stands.

So, Cruz, Lee, Scott, Rubio, Johanns, Paul, Roberts and Risch hate immigrant and First Nation women. And they hate them so much that they're willing to dismiss the needs of all other women in the United States.

No, wait.

I guess they DO hate all women.

Courtesy of FB's One Million Vaginas
Feel free to print this poster out and defecate on it.

*When I first wrote this post, I had forgotten about the language that would also protect international sex slaves and the transgendered people as well (additionally, men who are also victims of domestic and sexual violence). I apologize for those glaring omissions.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong

No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end.
Image courtesy of Wiki.
More on Ali and the US opposition to War Opposers, including popular, black ones at a time when war was more popular than US citizens:

In 1964, Ali failed the U.S. Armed Forces qualifying test because his writing and spelling skills were sub-par. However, in early 1966, the tests were revised and Ali was reclassified as 1A.[10] This classification meant he was now eligible for the draft and induction into the U.S. Army during a time when the United States was involved in the Vietnam War. When notified of this status, he declared that he would refuse to serve in the United States Army and publicly considered himself a conscientious objector.[10] Ali stated: "War is against the teachings of the Holy Qur'an. I'm not trying to dodge the draft. We are not supposed to take part in no wars unless declared by Allah or The Messenger. We don't take part in Christian wars or wars of any unbelievers." He famously said in 1966: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Congs..."
Widespread protests against the Vietnam War had not yet begun, but with that one phrase, Ali articulated the reason to oppose the war for a generation of young Americans, and his words served as a touchstone for the racial and antiwar upheavals that would rock the 1960s. Ali's example inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. – who had been reluctant to alienate the Johnson Administration and its support of the civil rights agenda – to voice his own opposition to the war for the first time.[62]
Rare for a heavyweight boxing champion in those days, Ali spoke at Howard University, where he gave his popular "Black Is Best" speech to 4,000 cheering students and community intellectuals after he was invited to speak by sociology professor Nathan Hare on behalf of the Black Power Committee, a student protest group.[63][64]
Appearing shortly thereafter for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967 in Houston, he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, he was arrested and on the same day the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Other boxing commissions followed suit. Ali would not be able to obtain a license to box in any state for over three years.[65]
At the trial on June 20, 1967, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, the jury found Ali guilty.[10] After a Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. During this time, the public began turning against the war and support for Ali began to grow. Ali supported himself by speaking at colleges and universities across the country, where opposition to the war was especially strong. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court reversed his conviction for refusing induction by unanimous decision in Clay v. United States.[10] The decision was not based on, nor did it address, the merits of Clay's/Ali's claims per se; rather, the government's failure to specify which claims were rejected and which were sustained, constituted the grounds upon which the Court reversed the conviction.[66]