“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.
Because I like to go against the grain, I wanted to try to stick up for Tony Jones (or sympathetically deconstruct him?) since he’s taken a lot of heat (here, here, here, here) in the progressive Christian blogosphere lately for his exhibition of white male privilege, most recently a rant about “being called a racist.” I’m less interested in arguing with anyone else’s criticisms or reflections which have generally been useful and thoughtful than I am in looking more deeply at the specific context that got Tony into trouble for better diagnostic and learning purposes. Basically, the “emergent” theology that appeals to post-evangelicals who grow up in a privileged context is very different than the theology that attracts the poor in the Global South, with whom emergent post-evangelicals desperately want to be in solidarity and whose theological dissonance is a huge source of anxiety. This is what I would call the white emergentsia’s “Pentecostal problem.” Continue reading
I found a direct application that fleshes out a little better what I stumbled through writing last night about critique and dismissal. The latest hot blogosphere topic was triggered by an interview on the Patheos Religion Now blog with Christian ethics professor Yvonne Zimmerman in which she claims that there are colonial dimensions to the anti-trafficking movement. Unsurprisingly, this presented the blogosphere with some low-hanging feminist/academic fruit to be swatted first by Timothy Dalrymple and John Mark Reynolds on Philosophical Fragments and then examined in a more measured way by my friend Derek Rishmawy at Christ and Pop Culture. I’m interested in looking at how this exchange illustrates the interaction and sometimes conflation of critique and dismissal in blogosphere conversation. When critique and dismissal are conflated, then nothing can be criticized about any aspect of the implementation of a noble enough cause, which has some clear potential danger. Continue reading
Isaiah 61 was the Daily Office Old Testament reading for today. Some of you will recall that Jesus read this text as part of his first sermon in Nazareth in Luke 4. The first two verses read: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” What in the world is a “day of vengeance” doing in the same line as the “year of the Lord’s favor”? Jesus stopped his sermon before the vengeance part. But it’s still there in Isaiah 61. What does God’s favor have to do with His vengeance? Everything, if you’re one of the oppressed and God’s favor means victory over your oppressors. Continue reading
I’m continuing my travelogue through Willie Jennings’ Christian Imagination as a way of coping with the tedium of Virginia’s Annual Conference. Chapter two of Jennings’ book is called “Acosta’s Laugh.” It concerns the perspective of 16th Jesuit theologian Jose Acosta who was one of the first Europeans to develop theology within the context of the New World, in Acosta’s case Peru. Continue reading