American politicians are eager to use the Catholic church when it comes to certain topics related to sexuality. But what about when the pope calls upon the whole world to fast and pray for peace in Syria, which is what Francis has asked us to do today? Is it just the impotent, ceremonial gesture that the pundits will make it out to be, since Obama knows that his foreign policy legacy will be “toast” if he doesn’t make good on his promise to blow up a certain quota of Syrian buildings? Or could the worldwide prayer and fast actually exert the same power that an insignificant Galilean carpenter wielded on a Roman cross 2000 years ago to change the course of history? What will you choose to believe? Continue reading →
“The White Man’s Burden” was a poem written by a British poet Rupyard Kipling in 1899 to describe the way that white people have made ourselves responsible for bringing civilization and democracy to the entire world at least for the last several centuries. In the 1800’s, this responsibility mostly belonged to the British Empire. Since World War II, the US has been in charge of the world’s salvation. If black conservative pundit Crystal Wright is correct in assessing that “Obama is not black like Dr. King,” it is because he has accepted the responsibility of the white man’s burden in the Middle East, which will soon involve bombing the crap out of Syria because of legitimately hideous things that happened there which are nonetheless not the U.S.’s responsibility to fix.
You can’t say the N word anymore. You get sued if you racially discriminate in your hiring process. White kids grow up listening to rap music and (if they’re not too “Christian”) going to public school with the black kids. We have a black president. How dare you say that racism still exists in America? Right? White people are very defensive and paranoid about racism, which has come to mean little more than saying “politically incorrect” things when you’re drunk or otherwise off-guard and getting Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to bring their beloved TV cameras to your front door. This trivialization of racism as having to do with little more than “speaking correctly” is one of the reasons that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream has been deferred. But the main underlying problem is that the backlash against the civil rights movement that began in the early seventies has created a radically individualist moral vision in which Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself is basically meaningless.
Sometime in the last couple of weeks, I got wind of the John Howard Yoder sex scandal. Yoder is a hero in the Christian pacifist community and a key influence on Stanley Hauerwas, one of my key theologians. Anyway, Yoder sexually assaulted, harassed, and/or had adulterous relationships with a lot of women. A Mennonite commission was just formed to investigate cover-ups that happened. A whole lot of radical Christians in our Despised Ones bloggers collective have been heavily influenced by Yoder’s teachings. And then somebody asked a question about the sex scandal and the fit hit the shan. So I wanted to offer some reflections on our messy conversation. I’m not sure how interesting this will be to people outside of our little club, but I’ll try to write it in such a way that you can get something from it.
So what’s the big deal with making people flash a photo ID at a poll before they vote? You have to have a photo ID to buy beer; why shouldn’t you be required to have one to vote? And how dare you call it a racist Jim Crow law! Since I know I have readers who have thoughts like these in their heads when they hear the criticisms of the voting law NC governor Pat McCrory signed yesterday and because I love you and want to have a more productive conversation with you than just flaming and shaming, I thought I would try to calmly go through the problematic portions of the law and explain why I and other people see them as problematic.
An official clown at the Missouri state fair wearing an Obama mask with a broom stuck up his butt. The announcer whipped the crowd into a frenzy asking if they wanted to see the Obama clown get run down by a bull. Nope, no racism going on here. None at all. The Missouri state fair by the way is a taxpayer-subsidized event, but it’s not socialism because it involves cowboys.
Should Christians “stay angry” at the injustice in our world? That’s a question raised in two different blog posts this week. Rachel Held Evans says she “can’t stay angry” even while she stays committed to her prophetic witness while my friend Rod the blerd (black nerd) theologian explains why he does “stay angry,” particularly at patronizing white moderates who presume to tell black people when to “just let it go.” I don’t see these two pieces as point and counter-point, nor do I interpret Rod’s piece as a dig on Rachel since she wasn’t telling black people what to do. Reading the way that Rachel and Rod accent and nuance the issue differently has forced me to really wrestle with what it means to be a genuine ally to people of color and others who have been marginalized in our battles against injustice.
I recently read a post by fellow Methodist blogger Talbot Davis critiquing the pursuit of “inclusivity” in United Methodism, which he interprets to be a strategy for church growth. Davis shares that his church has achieved a large, inclusively diverse population because of the exclusivity of their doctrine. Well I wanted to raise the ante on Davis’s claim. I don’t think churches should have inclusivity as a goal at all; I think faithful kingdom living requires that we exist exclusively for the excluded.
I learned a hard lesson today. Some of you saw my post where I had developed a contemporary version of our United Methodist communion liturgy Word and Table and recorded it on my iPhone. A friend informed me that there was a copyright issue with doing that, so I wrote the United Methodist Publishing House and was promptly ordered to take down the video and the blog post. I’m not meaning to be snarky, but wow, communion liturgy is intellectual property? Continue reading →