Anarchism, Christainity

love as resistance: the call for enemy-love in the 21st century

Washing dishes is a menial task and if you never cook at home someone else is paid (poorly, I might add) to wash them for you. Recently I moved into [another] community house where we share the responsibility of dish-washing. Although, some people take up the charge more than others, of course. I am reminded of a Crimethinc poster, that breaks down different ideological and political approaches to washing dishes. Because Crimethinc is one of the greatest contributors to anarchist propaganda, the anarchist version stands as the utopian ideal, while Marxism and Communism are fuddy-duddies. They propose that in Anarchism: “We all share in the dishwashing.” This description sounds similar to the neighbor/enemy love that Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount.

This summer, we started a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount. (I partially still long for the lectionary because there are so many different scriptures that you can choose from.) Last week I preached on enemy-love through the framework of the honor/shame system. I claimed that Jesus wants his hearers to reject the cycle of honor/shame for something I believe more radical. Christ/a’s* call, in contemporary terms, is for radical democracy.

Let me explain.

Jesus assumes that enemies exist. These are the slappers, the people who force you to walk the extra mile, and taking everything from you. Yet, Jesus teaches against retaliation. “Don’t play into their system, my hearers. No one ever wins with social, political, and judicial inequality present.” Instead, Jesus reverses the common responses of the injured/hurt and in turn disrupts the reactions of the enemies. Questions then are raised: Without the social and political system of honor/shame, who’s in charge? Who gets to be slapped around?

Usually, we answer these questions by pacifying the verses. The Sermon on the Mount has become so part of our culture that its radicalness has been suppressed. I am not suggesting that we will not have some enemies or that an enemy is someone whose story you haven’t yet heard. Of course, there are some who do not want the best for others and actively try to hurt others and the Earth. Yet, without a vision of something better, a different kind of society to strive for, we will get lost in despair. Christ/a’s call is that love will assume the position of resistance. 

Today our enemies include the powerful, the politicians, the rich, the polluters, those promoting fracking, capitalist colonizers, and CEOs.

Spread love for equality.

Practice resistance like Christ/a’s.

Pray for enemies for the sake of justice.

Do something. Anything.

 Kazuya Akimoto's Jesus Christ:a

*Christ/a is used by some feminist and body thealogians to describe Christ. Christ is the masculine version of “Anointed One” and if we believe that divinity cannot be held to the categories of gender and sex, it becomes possible to include a feminine Christ/a. There has also been a history of medieval Christian mystics calling Jesus, Mother.

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Anarchism, Beliefs, Christainity, Queer Theology

the necessity of inclusive religious language and new metaphors

Seminaries, unless on the conservative end of the theological spectrum, require students to use gender neutral language concerning God in papers and sermons. Although, not having a pronoun for God makes for extremely awkward sentences in English. For example, “God in God’s self,” or “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten child,” etc. Most churches, of course, do not follow inclusive language guidelines. Doxologies are riddled with masculine language and you cross yourself “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Working at a church this summer, I am slowing de-gendering the language in the service. You see, for me, inclusive language is a must. I believe the use of inclusive language for divinity challenges religious institutions, theology, and our concept of justice.

Using masculine language binds God in a theological box.
When the pronoun “He” or “His” is used to describe God we are bound to certain metaphors and analogies. God can only be the “Father” and we are “His” children. The “Father” takes care of us, knows what’s good for us, and unconditionally loves “His” children. Yet, these metaphors start to dissolve with one’s experience of fathers or other male parental figures.* People usually shoot back that God’s a different kind of father, but this still holds up patriarchal values. If “Father” always knows what is good for us, this makes for bad theology and allows for continuing cycles of sexual and physical abuse. There must be other imaginative ways to think of God!

Before the Christian Testament was canonized (4th century) or even finished (early 2nd century) other writers were forming theological ideas.
The apocryphal* texts and other early Christian writings, including 1st Clement, the Acts of Thecla and Paul, and the Secret Apocalypse of John, demonstrate that there were many theological ideas present in the first four centuries. Some of these texts inspired the theologies of Augustine and Origen. For example, Justin Martyr believed that the followers of Christ were fulfilling prophecy by resisting to join the Roman military. Theology was open to the imagination and it still can be.

God was experienced before anything was ever written and will be after.
Through the evolution of Scripture, we understand that the divine has been experienced through various venues. In the early texts of the Hebrew Bible, God was experienced through nature, victory in (non)violent battles, and communal myths. Today, the divine is experienced through different technologies including yoga mats, music, reading Scripture(s) or nature. Experiencing the divine ever changes, so should the way we preach, the way we conduct our services, and the metaphors we use! 

God does not write theology.
Dr. James Cone taught us that God is not a theologian; rather, it is humans, who are the meaning-makers and theology-creators. It is lazy to proof-text and decide that there is only one theology! God is not only creator because we read it in Scripture. God creates continually. 

Scripture is inspired, interpretation is not. 
Clearly Scripture believes itself to be God-breathed, inspired (2 Timothy 3:16). This does not grant authority to interpretations though! Until the Enlightenment and afterward, the concept of a plain-reading of Scripture has been the norm. Up until the Enlightenment, there was a range of interpretations and one was not always over another. Until churches, ministers, and laypersons read the history of Christian theology, they will be caught in a modernist trap of plain-reading!

“Mankind,” “kingdom,” and “Lord” neglects entire social groups
Linguistically and historically, many social groups have been left out of the conversation in regards to theology. With the use of draconian language, we continue to disregard others. Language shapes who we are. It shapes how we think about the world. A great resource for how this works is Lera Boroditsky’s “How Language Shapes Thought.” Using gender-neutral language will not be easy at first, but it will be better in the long run for our churches and society. It will set up avenues for other voices and constantly remind us of others.

I am not interested in inclusive language because the liberal agenda has caught hold of me. It should be used because white men are not the only ones in the world (1/4 of the world’s population is made up of Asian women!). White men may have most of the power in the world, but they are not the end all be all. God is certainly not a white man or, I believe, even wants white men to have the power! Instead, God is the disrupter. Inclusive language is necessary for the global church and for all religions in that matter. Thankfully, many theologians have taken up the call for more inclusive theologies.

The list includes Jea Sophia Oh, Marcella Althaus-ReidWonhee Ann JohEmilie Townes, Laurel Schneider, Namsoon Kang, Andrea C. White, J Kameron Carter and Catherine Keller.

To a more inclusive language and theology!

 

PAIC

 

*I am not ridiculing fathers as much as showing that it is not necessary for God to be a parent.

**This antiquated term has become as meaningless as gnostic and no longer helpful in common biblical discourse. How can something be hidden anymore, when we know that ancient communities were using these texts as Scripture? Or how can we label texts as gnostic when many of them are as different from one another just like the Christian Testament texts?

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Anarchism, Beliefs, Christainity

radical summa: christianity and anarchism

Question: Can a Christian associate herself/himself with anarchism?*

Objection 1.“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1,2 NRSV) Thus, God, sovereign over all, should be trusted with whom God grants power over particular nations and peoples. To resist authority means to resist God.

Objection 2. Further, in the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel and Judah celebrated and respected their kings when they followed God. Anarchism rejects leadership of any kind for the will of local groups and individuals. The People of God have trusted God for their leadership. To reject leadership is to reject God’s will.

Objection 3. Further, Christianity cannot assume other ideologies. The Christian Scriptures present the only ideology that a Christian can bear. To allow other ideologies to corrupt a Christian’s conscience and way of life forfeits one’s religion and relationship with Jesus.

On the contrary, Studying the history of Christianity, one can gather that there are as many Christianities as ideologies. In the genesis of the Christian church, many of the members were platonists or neo-platonists ( Augustine, Tertullian, Justin Martyr). As history pursued, Thomas Aquinas adhered to Aristotelianism.Then, scholars in the Renaissance critiqued medieval scholarship, which  John Calvin and Martin Luther included in their theological works.

Fast-forward to today, we are products of our culture and environment. This is inescapable. There is no such thing as a pure Christianity. We choose what ideas, actions, and people to pursue and trust.

I answer that, There is no contradiction between anarchism and Christianity. Christianity is moldable and changeable as much as anarchism. It is possible for them to fit well together. With an extremely joyous and resounding Yes! I commend Christians to be open to other possibilities of political, economic, and social allegiances. The Gospel of Christ is formable, shakeable, and able to participate in most ideologies. Anarchism is an important ideology because it subverts the status quo, battles Empires, and casts down leadership for the sake of consensus. In association with Christianity, which for its early history, did all of these same things as well as practiced non-violence. Thus, Christianity and anarchism is not a contradiction, but a beautiful partnership.

Reply to Objection 1. Paul’s theological and ethical advice in Romans 13 may have been a standard for the church in Rome; although, we do not know this for certain. Yet, Paul did not follow his own teaching! Paul and his friends called Jesus king (Acts 17:7), which mocks political and religious authorities. As well, Paul faced much adversity for preaching the Gospel, which is anti-Roman Empire and was tortured for it (2nd Corinthians 11:23-29). Hence, Paul believe it was far more important to stand for one’s beliefs in another world than to blindly obey the Roman Empire.

Reply to Objection 2. Before kings ruled Israel and Judah, there were judges. From 1200-1000 BCE, judges fought for justice in the land. They were the ones who killed or stopped other tribe’s military and political leaders. When confronted with the idea of a king to rule over all the tribes in Israel a theopoetic exclamation emerged with the “Parable of the Trees” (Judges 9:8-15).* The “Parable of the Trees” demonstrates the multi-vocal nature of Scripture. The Hebrews did not always have kings. They were sometimes not happy when they did have a king. Before Israel’s first king Saul, God proclaimed that God did not want them to have one (1 Samuel 8). Thus, social and political hierarchy cannot be placed on God or Scripture as tradition.

My Kin-dom Is Not of This World

*Those unfamiliar with Thomas Aquinas’ style in the Summa Theologica, this post may seem odd. New Advent has the full Summa for those wanting to further investigate.

** It is one of two parables in Hebrew Bible, the other told to David by the prophet Nathan (2nd Samuel 12:1-6) concerning the rape of Bathsheba. Resistance in Scripture always finds creative means.

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I'm nobody

Anarchism, anti-war

taking a stand

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Anarchism, Christainity, Justice, Liberation Theology

theologians don’t fear atheists, it’s actually bodies

“When incarnation figures in the basic theological premises of faith, the body’s complicated implication in divinity cannot be wholly spiritualized or wholly denied. Put another way, the body–bodies–always return to disrupt theological attempts at containment.” – Beyond Monotheism by Laurel Schneider

Yuta Onoda illustrated a first-person article for The Progressive by a woman married to a transgender man.

Yuta Onoda illustrated a first-person article for The Progressive by a woman married to a transgender man.

Bodies cause most theologians to tremble.* Systematic theology books ignore the subject of bodies altogether; instead, emphasize subjects such as christology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. These books demonstrate the stagnation of doctrines because bodies cannot be contained. They are ever changing, moving, losing and gaining cells, dying, breathing, crying, bleeding, and being birthed. No essence can be found here.

Nonetheless, philosophers and theologians love to discuss human nature. The idea that somehow every human in the world has the same essence behind/beyond the body, that every human can be reduced to one thing. Chiefly, Protestant theologians cast human nature into the abyss of total depravity. In other words, humanity cannot do anything good unless it is the Divine through them who does it; albeit, crickets chirp on body discourse. Now there is nothing new or interesting here, yet when it comes  to social legislation, Conservative Christians demand sovereignty over health care and birth control, essentially women’s bodies. This cannot be re-worked until we start to have a theological discourse on bodies.

Moving to the biblical, the most important events we hear about in church concerning Jesus is those moments when he is silent. During Christmastime, we call Jesus king and lord, yet he can’t affirm or deny these titles because he can’t yet speak! Jesus, as a baby, cried, pooped, and was breastfed. There is nothing miraculous about this child, but we place such high attributes on this tiny one.

The next event we find Jesus is on the cross. With Jesus’ cross, we add massive theological depth to his experience. In total, out of all the Gospels, there are only seven statements made by Jesus while on the cross. We ignore his dying and bleeding body for atonement theories. This is true whether one adores the  moral influence theory or the penal substitution theory. Jesus endured and died in extreme suffering and all we can do is essentialize the event.

During Christmas week, I came home and attended my parents’  non-denominational Pentecostal church. I was saddened that the Christmas message of Jesus in a manger was overshadowed by a theological understanding of the cross. For example, the pastor would pray “Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to be born for us. He would soon grow up and die on a cross for our sins. In Christ’s name, Amen.” These theological assumptions reduce Jesus’ life to one thing, death on a cross. Similarly, one of my favorite artists, Williams Blake, seemed to have thought the same thing when he painted Nativity.

Nativity by William Blake

Bodies are dangerous to theological discourse and often ignored. My own body has been through the effects of lyme’s disease and gallbladder removal. No longer does my body fit into any kind of theological discourse because it does not have all of its parts. In Catholic Theology, Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” is more of a moral commentary on the body in social life, rather than something that addresses bodies. Bodies rupture theological and moral essences, and all for the better.

Let’s disrupt theological discourse from its binaries, contained essences, and Platonism for a contextual, radical, non-binary, and pro-love theology.

Won’t you join me?

*Queer and LGBTQQII+ theologians have embraced bodies in their fullness. One text I recommend, if you want to learn more about this subject, is Controversies in Body Theology edited by Marcella Althaus-Reid and Lisa Isherwood. Any book from the Controversies series is wonderful and contains succinct, well-researched material.

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Anarchism, Anti-Capitalism, Beliefs, Christainity, Liberation Theology, Philosophy

desert ascetics in the land of plenty

God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse released last year and was co-written by Slavoj Zizek and Boris Gunjevic. Re-reading it again for a third time, I am enjoying the chapters written by Gunjevic even more. Gunjevic uses St. Augustine’s City of God as an ethical playbook to destroy capitalism. In the quote below, Gunjevic writes that to subvert capitalism one must follow the way of an ascetic. Walter Benjamin points us that capitalism is a religion; Gunjevic believes that the way to dismantle this religious system is though religious asceticism.

“This is why a measured dose of voluntary, disciplined asceticism is necessary, from which rough fragments of efficacious truths may surface and heal our desire, as Augustine says, since we will guide our desire not to something beautiful, desirable, and transitory, but to Beauty itself, immutable Truth itself, and Bliss itself. This is why we need asceticism, as only asceticism can redirect desire towards eternal plenitude. For ascetic exercise is not the destruction of desire as is suggested by various forms of Buddhism. Augustine’s understanding of ascetic practice begins with a voluntary renunciation of submission to pleasure the renunciation of a weakening of the soul and body, and renunciation of the avaricious aspiration to greater wealth. The lust for glory is a nasty vice and an enemy of true devotion, says Augustine, calling on the words of the carpenter from Nazareth and the Apostles whose practice was to place the love of God above.” “Babylonian Virtues–Minority Report” (100-101)

God in Pain

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Anarchism, Beliefs, Christainity, Liberation Theology, Scripture

god of inclusion

I was raised in a religious denomination that had no concept of the lectionary or the Christian calendar. Sunday’s Scripture was based on whatever the minister was thinking about that week. Once I started to attend a church rich in liturgical fervor, I fell in love with the rituals, holidays, and lectionary. I love the lectionary because every three years, a congregation will hear the majority of Scripture and it presents good challenges to the preacher for that week. For now, I regularly attend a United Methodist that is quiet liberal with their use of the lectionary so when it is used, I get very excited. For the first lesson this past weekend it is one of my favorite texts in Acts because God talks back and to help Peter interpret the vision.

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:1-18

These verses speak highly of inclusion. John Dominic Crossan wrote in his autobiography, A Long Way from the Tipperary, that if Jesus is to the right of the God then that means that God is to the left of Jesus. Crossan clearly making a political joke, but one that seems accurate of the overall picture of God in Scripture. God is for the outcast, marginalized, forgotten, but God is also trying to push the oppressor into love. Thus making God a Leftist beyond Leftist.

Peter’s vision spoke of the inclusion of the Gentiles and just in its infancy stage for the followers of the Way. This is radical, but not rare for God since hints came as early as the prophet Micah who declared that God will be praised even by the Gentiles. These new converts do not need to be circumcised, but baptized. The text reads that Peter remembers the early words of the Jesus that all shall be baptized by God’s Spirit.

If we take this text to its radical end it means that God’s love is for all and in all. God tells Peter “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” God thus broadens who’s in and who’s out, meaning all are in! Yet, even if this is true theologically, which I believe to be very much so, our social constructions point us in other directions.

Since the Boston Bombings, the Right Wing has upped their anti-Islam rhetoric. Republicans made a statement immediately after the suspect was found that the FBI and other law enforcement should keep a closer eye on Muslims and their mosques. First, there is no need to create fear in a group where no fear is typically found. I should know, I live in an area in West Philly that is mostly made up of Muslims and we all live peacefully together. Second, have we forgotten our past of putting Japanese and Asian Americans into work camps during WWII. Are we heading back to that? I sure hope not! What we need is love for those we have silenced and fear.

The way we move forward is through relationships. These are always uncomfortable at first, but like most things we get use to them and feel comfortable. May we be like God and include all people. We should see others as sacred as we believe ourselves to be.

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