Christmas, Liberation Theology, Radical Commentary

christmas on the margins

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. Christ’s place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world. Christ is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst … With these Christ conceals himself, in these he hides himself, for whom there is no room.

– Thomas Merton

 
The manger scene was never meant to only be lifted up as a story of humble beginnings. The Christmas story is about survival under an Empire. Mary and Joseph could not find a room because they did not fit anywhere else but in a barn. And I wonder how many other people, not including the animals, were present for Jesus’ birth. How many others were displaced on that holy night? And how many people continue to be displaced today through climate change, governments abusing their citizens, and the long arms of global capitalism forcing whole societies to be reconfigured under its gaze?

This Christmas I am praying for Syrian and all refugees that they may find a safe place to reside.

I am praying for those caught up in the prison industrial complex that we can begin to abolish prisons in 2016.

I am praying for immigrants everywhere that they might start again wherever their destination.

I am praying for those struggling for another world, where black lives matter, where direct democracy reigns, and the Earth is treated with dignity that I too may be part of the struggle.

I pray for the poor and the poor in spirit that they may find communities of love and resistance.

May you encounter the manger scenes that surround you everyday and be transformed by them.

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Christainity, Philosophy

middle class economics and the industrial reserve army

During his State of the Union address, President Obama coined the term “middle class economics.” Days later a blog post appeared on the Huffington Post further explaining what he meant. He opened by asking

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and rising chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

These two generalized questions demonstrate our economic and political discourse. He softly recognizes that the wealthiest 20% people in the country own 85% of the wealth and resources. If the economy does not change, they will continue to increase their wealth. Additionally, he insinuates that if one works hard that our government and capitalist economy will assure that one is rewarded with by her or his efforts. Yet, those President Obama missed in his address are ‘the industrial reserve army’ and those who work hard at several part-time jobs making minimum wage only to scrape by. Karl Marx describes this underclass as a symptom of capitalism.

The economy in capitalism must grow and multiple or it cannot survive. Marx in the Communist Manifesto described that capitalists continually must revolutionize their technology, labor, and other modes of production to make a higher profit. As well, competition among businesses is often a zero-sum game with larger companies absorbing smaller ones. In this way, “the big capitalists grow bigger and fewer.”* For example, in the US, two cable companies, Time Warner Cable and Comcast, dominate one’s ability to access the Internet. Like wayward lovers, they’ve created territories with what city each one can occupy. As a result, the underclass suffers as these companies gain more business.

Marx wrote that the finished is not the only commodity, but also the labor of the worker. He would go on to theorize this as the fetishization of commodities. And as capitalism forcibly travelled around the world, it exponentially created more commodities. Call centers were set up in India providing customer service and paying workers small wages. Sweatshops landed in Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh providing slave wages for the underclass and children (in those countries who turn an eye away from this horror). Answering phone calls half way round the world, sowing fashionable clothes by people who cannot afford to wear them, and child labor became commodities within the last fifty years. And these all affect the lower classes.

Karl Marx wrote on, systematized, and enlightened the world when he described the destructive nature of capitalism, yet few listened. Today’s discourse of middle class economics blatantly ignores the industrial reserve army. It tries to inspire people to work even harder to achieve the mythical American Dream. Until the monster of capitalism is slain, we will continue to have unemployment, people without homes, peopleless homes, people without healthcare and refugees.

poor of the world

*Wielenga, Bastiaan, Introduction to Marxism, Centre fro Social Action (Bangalore, India) 1984, p. 62

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Christainity, Homelessness, Liberation Theology, Politics

unexiled and the us

The Prophet Jeremiah preached before and during the Exile. During this time of turmoil, Jeremiah cast down the hierarchies in Judah, decrying them to allow Babylon to take over. In spite of Jeremiah, King Zedekiah had other plans and started to build up the army to ward off the Babylonians. Yet, an unexpected problem occurred: Egypt, Judah’s ally, no longer wanted to aid Judah by pushing back the massive Empire. Needless to say, after a while the Judean forces could no longer handle the immensity of the Babylonians. And in 587/6 BCE, the Babylonians pushed their way into the city of Jerusalem, destroyed it, and took many of its citizens.

Jeremiah sided with the Babylonian Empire. Of course, pragmatically speaking, Jeremiah was right in claiming that Judah should abandon all of its forces to Babylon so that they may live in peace, at least the kind that Empire’s grant: peace through force, and loyal obedience. Yet this is the opposite of when I think of the prophetic tradition, logic and pragmatics does not come to mind. Immediately, I think of something that God/She hopes for in the world, like Second Isaiah or Amos, etc. Yet, Jeremiah speaks the language of the Empire.

In contrast, the kind of logic that Jesus taught was the logic of the kin-dom. God/She cares about humanity and the world, rather than a type of political gain, ultimately his was topsy turvy. Jesus claimed that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Those who think that they are first in the God/She’s kin-dom will be last. Certainly not the way of the world, especially during election season.

In the centre of his book, Jeremiah created a dichotomy between bad figs/good figs. The good figs are those in the Exiled community. In Second Kings 25:12 it read “But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vine-dressers and tillers of the soil.” The people who were exiled were the wealthy, those who had power, and influence in their communities. The homeless, the downtrodden, the impure were left. Jeremiah suggests that God left the bad figs to be no more (Jeremiah 24:10). This hints that the land was barren.

Thankfully, because of historical-criticism, we now know that the land was not barren during the time of the Exile. This raises many questions: Why did the author write that the land was barren? Was it because s/he was embarrassed of who was left? Did these Exiles only believe that they were the Chosen Ones of God? Those who wrote and stored the Hebrew Scriptures were those situated in the Exile. The people left in the land had to fend for themselves, they were forgotten people. The book of Lamentations probably written during the Exile in the land of Judah gives a perspective of what was happening after they were left.

Lamentation 5:1-10; 20-22 (NRSV)

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;

look, and see our disgrace!

Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,

our homes to aliens.

We have become orphans, fatherless;

our mothers are like widows.

We must pay for the water we drink;

the wood we get must be bought.

With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven;

we are weary, we are given no rest.

We have made a pact with Egypt and Assyria,

to get enough bread.

Our ancestors sinned; they are no more,

and we bear their iniquities.

Slaves rule over us;

there is no one to deliver us from their hand.

We get our bread at the peril of our lives,

because of the sword in the wilderness.

Our skin is black as an oven

from the scorching heat of famine.

Why have you forgotten us completely?

Why have you forsaken us these many days?

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;

renew our days as of old—

unless you have utterly rejected us,

and are angry with us beyond measure.

The lamenter believed that God gave up on them, that God utterly rejected them. They had no hope of one to come and redeem them from their plight. Today we are faced with the same challenge. Our myth in the US is that the only people who matter are the upper and middle class. Those who are poor and marginalized are left to fend for themselves. Thus political platforms are only for those with money. In the recent political conventions, the word God was infused in their lexicon, but homeless, poor, marginalized, were not granted such a measure.

The kin-dom of God/She contradicts the ways of the world. Any section of the ancient Scriptures, God’s love for the people on the margins can be found. The good news about Jeremiah is that he never left Judah, he stayed with the marginalized. If those in power do not care about the poor and their voice is silenced because our politicians ears are stuffed with money, how can we not, but help? We must give up the myths taught to us, and practice the truth of God/She’s love. This truth is beyond charity, this is about solidarity and compassion (to suffer with). We must seek to change the system, the metanarratives, and our habits to create a better world. While doing this, we must pray, pray for the impossible, pray with our feet, and pray with our hands.

Al Jazeera wrote and recorded a wonderful piece called the US ignoring the poor.

 

Killer Mike composed a song called Reagan that speaks of the 1980’s, drugs, and how people treat others specifically African American males. (profanity used)

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