Race is Religion in US Politics

I have a short essay on the issues of race and religion in the election (it was written the day before the election).

Here’s an excerpt:

Regardless of who wins the election, we’ve seen and will continue to experience how race is religion and both are malleable given the exigencies of U.S. politics in the 21st century. Malleable by whom? That’s the question, and for a starter, we can point to that room in which Mitt Romney was, in the words of the Slate article, ‘speaking fluent White,’ where dinners cost $50,000 a plate, where Palestinians could be said to have ‘no interest whatsoever in establishing peace,’ where everyone could laughingly agree that Romney’s campaign would be easier if he were Latino, and where the 47% of U.S. citizens who pay no income tax could be dismissed as irresponsible. That is who decides, and that power is what is under threat and reasserting itself in new racial-religious-political configurations.

The short essay (four pages, double-spaced) can be downloaded as a .doc or .pdf from their site. I highly recommend spending some time on their website: it is filled with great resources and commentary.

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Whose Circus? Which Democracy?

Stanley Hauerwas has recently said that elections are coercive, that we shouldn’t take them too seriously, and that they are more like the circus during the time of the Romans (entertainment and distraction for those kept out of the real work of political discussion).

Here are a few quick responses: Continue reading

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Defending Marriage, Saving Civilization, and Eradicating the Gay Threat: the road to hate speech

You might have seen the terrifying video of a NC pastor expressing his disgust of the LGBTQ community and his proposed solution to quarantine them behind an electric fence, drop some food over, and let them die out. You can read more or watch the video, though I warn you, it is hate speech, proclaimed from the pulpit.

I am left wondering though, is it really surprising? In the fight up to Amendment One, the discussion turned from the actual amendment and questions of equal protection to a vote for or against “gay marriage” and then, even more broadly, to a vote on whether homosexuality should be socially acceptable. The actual people whose lives would be negatively impacted were lost in the abstraction of a cultural war.  Continue reading

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Trayvon Martin, Looking at the Scene of Violence

With George Zimmerman released, much of the attention on the trial surrounds Florida’s “stand your ground” law and determining who “instigated” the violence. Much of the case is seen to hinge on this question, for, so it is assumed, whoever threw the first punch is the aggressor here.

I want to suggest otherwise, that Martin entered a scene of violence and aggression from the moment Zimmerman laid eyes on him. Minimally, I will show that the “script” of the scene–revealed in the transcript of Zimmerman’s 911 call and the account of Martin’s phone call to his girlfriend–is filled with indicators that Martin had already been reduced to the status of mindless, hostile flesh, devoid of will and reason, or subjectivity, from the outset. He existed in this scene, before Zimmerman’s eyes, under negation, as a negation, as that which has no part in but threatens the civilized order of law and of life.  Continue reading

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Amendment One and Reading the Bible as Outsiders

In NC, an amendment is on the ballot that will read to ban same-sex marriage, saying it is a constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

Critics have pointed out that the law has all sorts of unintended consequences, especially as  same-sex marriage is already illegal here. Here is a poster image of 10 reasons to vote against it; below the image, I’ll try to engage the question of homosexuality and the Bible in a way that might allow conservatives to see the need to exercise caution here and also vote against the amendment. First, the image: Continue reading

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White Presence and the Interruption of Space (The Christian Imagination, Ch 1)

Before moving onto the next chapter, I need to tell an important story from this first chapter: the story of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. She was part of a family that lived in southern Africa with the Ju/wasi and /Gwi peoples. They weren’t officially anthropologists but they lived with the people, respected them, learned from them, and wrote about them.

Her writings about the Ju/wasi are important for Jennings as they capture the deep intertwining of land and identity. As a mobile group, they–particularly the women of a family–possessed a deep, intimate knowledge of the land, the pattern of animals, the changes of seasons, the locations of water, the kinds of edible plants and their precise location. As Jennings says, “in careful detail Marshall Thomas depicts how a sense of identity can flow directly from the land” (49).

In 1998, at the showing of a film, a person in the audience intimated that the Marshall family had “initiated the spoiling of the Ju/wasi way of life by bringing the Western world to their doorstep” (50). She snapped back but later reflected on the merit of the criticism. Jennings says, Continue reading

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Kony, New (White) Activism, and Playing in the Dark (Continent?)

Instead of discussing “Kony 2012” directly, I want to quickly look at one peculiar defense of it. Recently, Brian McLaren defended Kony 2012 and Invisible Children, saying Continue reading

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The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Ch 1, an interaction)

I’ve decided to start a series of blog posts on Willie Jennings book, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, as a way of transitioning away from Duke / Durham and preparing to begin PhD work (!) at…SMU! I’ve started reading some of the books by the faculty I’ll be working with there but it seemed fitting to mark this exciting transition by reading Jennings’ book, finally.

So, enough of the exciting news…and onto the exciting book.

“Mary, my mother, taught me to respect the dirt.” Jennings opens with this statement and it sets the tone for this first chapter (and presumably the book): theological arguments emerge within the context of stories and histories, specifically, histories of dirt, land, earth, ground. I can’t do justice to Jennings complex retelling and interweaving of multiple stories here, so please, pick up his book.

In tracing the opening moments of Christian colonialism and slave trade (the book begins  by analyzing an account of a Portuguese slave sale in 1444), Jennings seeks to discern and interpret the theological contours of this new, emerging, racialized, dominated, and commodified world. In these moments and at these sites, theology reconfigures itself and the world, the body and the land.  Continue reading

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On Violence: James Cone and Martin Luther King Jr.

In the last post, I quoted James Cone, who had this critique of Martin Luther King Jr.’s perspectives on violence and nonviolent:

[Martin Luther King Jr’s] dependence on the analysis of love found in liberal theology and his confidence that the ‘universe is on the side of justice’ seem not to take seriously white violence in America. I disagreed with his conceptual analysis of violence and nonviolence, because his distinctions between these terms did not appear to face head-on the historical and sociological complexities of human existence in a racist society. James Cone, _God of the Oppressed_, 203

Tyler asked if I’d comment further on this critique, and as it connects to some previous posts of mine on nonviolence (I, II), I thought it’d be worth lingering on this criticism.  Continue reading

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James Cone on the Liberation of Love

[Martin Luther King Jr’s] dependence on the analysis of love found in liberal theology and his confidence that the ‘universe is on the side of justice’ seem not to take seriously white violence in America. James Cone, _God of the Oppressed_, 203

Koinonia is limited to the victims of oppression and does not include the oppressors. ibid, 189

If violence versus nonviolence is not the issue [b/c nobody can be nonviolent in an unjust society] but, rather, the creation of a new humanity, then the critical question for Christians is not whether Jesus committed violence or whether violence is theoretically consistent with love and reconciliation. We repeat: the question is not what Jesus did…but what is he doing. ibid, 204, 201

The ethic of liberation arises out of love, for ourselves and for humanity. ibid, 199

For Cone, the hesitancy to speak of love, especially love of the oppressor, arises from the temptation to treat Christ’s love as if it were “indifferent to social and political justice” (208). Continue reading

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