#BlackLivesMatter, Philosophy, Scripture

adventure time as a postmodern book of judges

If you haven’t watched Adventure Time, you’re missing out on a delightful, fun,  philosophical, and always zany cartoon. Finn and Jake, a young blonde boy and a mustard colored stretching dog, maintain the roles as the heroes in the Land of Ooo. They battle against creatures and kingdoms that harm. And uniquely, there are many kingdoms: Flame, Ice, Candy, Lumpy Space, and the list just gets stranger. Yet, Jake and Finn do not inhabit any of these kingdoms.

Finn and Jake

The connection to the biblical book of Judges did not seem obvious to me at first. It was an episode from the current season titled “Walnuts & Rain” that tipped me off. Finn and Jake fall into separate holes somewhere in a forest. At the bottom of the hole, Finn finds himself in the Kingdom of Huge. King Huge eats constantly, fed by the Food Boys. Finn asks politely to leave, but the King has the Food Boys bind him. Finn breaks free with some trickery of his own, but was caught by the King. In the nick of time, Jake falls into the same space. With Finn in the King’s giant hands, he asks Jake, “What are you going to do about it?” He said this unassuming of Jake’s stretching abilities. Jakes makes a fist and stretches it across the King’s face. Finally, Jake and Finn make their way out of the hole and travel back to the Tree House.

Finn’s hole adventure parallels the story of Judge Ehud (Judges 3:12-30). In the story, Ehud makes his way to pay tribute (taxes imposed by another empire) to King Eglon of Moab. The writer notes that Ehud is left-handed. He hides a knife on the opposite side, his right leg. (I guess this was not a place where the Ancient TSA patted). He gives the tribute to King Eglon, who also is a huge man, and then asks if he might speak with him privately. In the room alone, Ehud stabs the King, his guts fall out, and Ehud exits through the bathroom into the sewer.

Ehud

In this medieval painting, Ehud’s garb resembles Finn’s. Coincidence? I think not.

Captivity, plan-making, and King-hurting are present in both stories. While Ehud as a judge identifies and fights for the Hebrews, Jake and Finn represent wandering judges, not bound by place. As well, in the Book of Judges, God raises up Ehud. Finn and Jake have a calling, but no caller. Even Grob Gob Glob Grod, who Ooo deems as a deity, does not call creatures to a purpose. When Finn and Jake embark on their adventures and face disruptors, harmers, and just plain evil (The Lich), they perform justice without a telos other than making sure others are unharmed.

Jake and Finn are postmodern characters because they know no boundaries, walls, or patriotism. They are, in a way, part of every kingdom. Sure, they are called upon by Princess Bubblegum of the Candy Kingdom. And Ice King tries to pry himself into their lives, but it’s not as if they are private contractors for the Candy Kingdom. They are outsiders fighting for a just world. 

 

P.S. I believe the biblical tradition of judges continues with such people as Vandana Shiva, Cheryl Clarke, Cornel West, Naim Ateek, the leaderful movement of #BlackLivesMatter, Evo Morales, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Bill Wylie-Kellermann

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Advent, Christainity, Christmas, Subversive Carols

Subversive Carols: Joy to the World

This series will interpret our beloved Christmas and Advent carols not as sentimental songs, but as a challenge to the status quo. Many of these subversive themes are already found in the lyrics, yet are often not pointed out. Enjoy the 12 days of Subversive Carols! Thank you for reading and you can see the complete list of subversive carols here.

“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Advent is a time for us to prepare our hearts that God may enter. To assist with that, “Joy to the World” begins with a beautiful theological metaphor of God’s love for the world. Acknowledging that the Christmas-event occurred 2,000 years ago, we sing that the “Lord is come,” not “has come,” but “is.” In other words, Christ has never left! And with that, everything in the world and above the world celebrates. This is the subversiveness of Immanuel, God-with-us, the God-who-never-leaves.

In theological terms, this is called kenosis meaning self-emptying. God gave up God’s power that God might have a body. This body changed theology forever. When we speak of the having God enter the room in our heart, we are asking God/Her that we too may practice our own kenosis. This is why the Earth is rejoicing because no longer are we spilling toxic waste into her veins or mining her skin because we are self-empting and humbling ourselves to become nothing.

Kenosis runs through the whole song. People are singing, and the Earth is sounding with joy. Together we are practicing a form of mutual aid by caring for one another and the Earth. In the third verse, the ancient curse of sin is destroyed when God becomes a body. The curses that societies have found in us, of low self-worth, of being a “lesser sex,” of having the “wrong skin color” is changed and transformed. We can live judgment free and love one another with respect and dignity!

Finally, the last verse sings us out with a new version of globalization. We don’t need to trade goods to be good neighbors; we preform this new globalization through justice. Brother Cornel West once said, “Justice is what love looks like in the public.” This song is not necessarily about the US, or us but about the Earth and countries that do not have global power. The joy extends around the world and begins when we practice kenosis and neighborliness.

Joy to the World

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Beliefs, Philosophy, Politics, Prison Industrial Complex

stitching together a new us narrative

All ancient and contemporary nations form myths of their genesis. Specifically in the ancient world, myths were written as creation narratives. The ancient Babylonians wrote the Enuma Elish in which the god Marduk killed Tiamat, another god, and created the world out of her disassembled body. Later in the story, humans were created out of the murdered blood of Kingu, the top general of Tiamat. Violence began their nation and guided their society and culture. This rings true in the US.

In our national anthem, we sing of bombs exploding and a battle won. Every year we reenact battle scenes from Revolutionary and Civil Wars. We remember the greatness of our founders, not because they were upright and moral people, but precisely because they were fierce leaders and battled well. We uphold the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as documents of freedom and liberty. Yet, it is in these documents that slaves were counted as 3/5ths of a person and freedoms are suspended for prisoners (13th amendment).

American Poverty

What we remember in our past, we inevitably pursue with our future. In the book, Vilnius Poker, one Lithuanian post-concentration camp survivor speaks to another in a library owned by the Soviet Union in the 1970’s saying:

“Listen, Vytautas, hasn’t it ever occurred to you that we have no past?”

“It depends on what we call the past. On who those ‘we’ are.”

“Me, you, that bowlegged babe outside the window. And that laborer on the scaffolding…We have no past, we never were. We just ARE, you know? We’ve lost our past and now we’ll never find it. We’re like carrots in a vegetable garden. After all, you wouldn’t say a carrot has a past?”

“So what of it?” I growled. “If we don’t have it, we don’t have it.”

“Whoever doesn’t have a past, doesn’t’ have a future, either. We never were and we will never will be, you know? We’re a faceless porridge, we’re nothing but a void. We don’t exist, you know? We don’t exist at all. Absolutely! Someone has stolen our past.”

This conversation could happen anywhere in the world. If we don’t have a past, or do not remember our past, then we are at a loss for a future. Biblical theologian, Walter Brueggemann, writes in the Prophetic Imagination that we live in the eternal now. We are blocked from any sense of time, and in its place is consumption. The eternal now has no past or future.

It is in the corners of the eternal now that we find the counter-narratives to violence and consumption planted. They have been planted by hopeful guerilla gardeners, who believe that the future is just as important as the present and past. These seeds sprout in the concrete cities overrun with violence. They grow in the homes where tragedy strikes, in the farms owned by Big-Ag, in the hearts of the abused-abuser, and in the outfield of PNC Park where players make more money than whole sections of fans.

In the heart of the Babylonian Empire, radical Jews wrote the poem of Genesis 1. The Babylonian Empire conquered most of the known world through violence and deportation. Refugee camps like neighborhoods were set up in Babylon to hold the thousands of Jews deported from their homeland. Psalm 137 rhetorically asks “How am I suppose to sing the song of YHWH in a foreign land?” They answer it by composing the theopoetic song in Genesis. Their story starts with the Divine calling, moving, breathing, and loving. God/She orchestrates everything and calls it good. At the end of the poem, God/She stands back and names the whole as very good.

The ancient exiled Jews pursed hope and justice in the face of oppression. Today we have the same predicament. America was built on the backs of slaves and graveyards of Native Americans. We should always remember our past and never let this happen again. Yet, we need to encourage new narratives to shape our future as the US. Our current posture as a surveillance, war-mongering, poor oppressing nation must change. Guerilla gardens are everywhere with seeds of hope and love planted. Let us water these plants and change our culture to sharing, transparency, and making sure people get what they need.

Some people and groups who are reshaping the American Narrative:

Howard Zinn Education Project

The Peaceful Uprising

Cornel West’s Democracy Matters

Bread and Puppet

Democracy Now!

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