anti-war, Prayer, Prison Industrial Complex, Scripture

my prayer for ferguson, brooklyn, and the school of the americas watch

This weekend, a group of students from Union Theological Seminary and myself travelled to Columbus, GA. We gathered with over 1,000 others to protest for the closing of the School of the Americas (SOA). For nearly 70 years, the SOA has trained soldiers in South and Central America in starting coups, mass murdering los campesinos (poor folk and farmers), and killing political and religious leaders (Allende, Che, Oscar Romero). All of this filters through the ideology of anticommunist propaganda. Thousands of people, named and unnamed, have been killed in the name of freedom and democracy. They have been killed because the powerful want to stay powerful and poor lives do not matter.

As the US military teaches oppressive tactics to the South Hemisphere, we enact it on our own soil by killing black women and men. Law enforcement use their power to rule over communities and, more often than not, get away with it. They get away with tearing lives apart with a modern day lynching. For the killings of Michael Brown, Akai Kareem Gurley, and Shantel Davis, we must continue to cry out for justice. Because unless there is justice for Brown, Davis, and Gurley, there won’t be justice for us all.

justice for mike

My prayer is simply that we use our legs to protest to show our government and police officers that they are unjust in how they treat people of color in the US and around the world. Black lives matter! Brown lives matter!

My prayer is that we use our words to encourage one another. Movements die quickly when their members fight over petty differences.

My prayer is that we use our hands. With one hand, we care about the immediate needs of our neighborhoods and communities. You can’t end global poverty without first knowing and lending a hand at local shelters, soup kitchens, and Catholic Workers. With the other hand, to learn, lead discussions, and think globally about racism, sexism, ableism, etc.

Lastly, my prayer is that we use our hearts to connect with one another. In many movements, the key to being in the in-crowd is to know as much as you can about the area of interest. What if we not only focused on knowledge (How does memorizing statistics on NYC poverty help the person sleeping on the street?), but found empathetic ways to connect with one another.

Let us continue to fight against police brutality.

Fight against racism in the US.

Fight against groups that hinder our causes: the KKK, fascist and racist policies.

Fight for all people to have a decent chance at life.

ferguson

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Christainity, Justice

madonna of the smokestacks: embodying the nobodies of the world

Madonna of the Smokestacks

Though Mary is poor and lowly, and a culturally insignificant woman, the powerful living holy God is doing great things to her. And God does this not only to her but to all the poor: bringing down the mighty from their thrones; exalting the lowly; filling the hungry with good things and sending the unrepentant rich away empty. And all of this is happening in fulfillment of the ancient promise—and in her very being. For she embodies the nobodies of this world. – Elizabeth Johnson S.J. 

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Justice, Liberation Theology, Politics

justice conference

This video highlights my view of justice, postmodern, of course. We must always fight for a better world, yet understanding there is always so much more that must be done. If we are going to fight for the oppressed and are not in communion with them, our fight is shallow.

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Liberation Theology, Philosophy, Politics, Scripture

the good news of post-structuralism

On my good days I have some certainty to what good news looks like. Today is not one of those days, so I am depending on the prophetic tradition to aid me. According to Second Isaiah (61), good news is for the marginalized, those who have no luck, or certainty for tomorrow. The good news presented is liberation in the materialistic* sense. Justice will come to those who need it most. Their voices will be heard and they become active members in their community just as the rich and powerful have always been. This is in contrast to their position currently in society, which they are either demonized or pitied.

Good news, at least, in the monoculture of US society recognizes technological advance. This progress is waited upon by many in the US, as their desire for entertainment overwhelms their paycheck. Relating this to church, technology and ideas rarely have anything to do with materiality. Churches want the best new Christian book study or video series. Or listening to a testimony about how Jesus changed one’s mind about what they think of people with tattoos. I know these are extreme examples, but all too often are true. We live too much out of our minds. If philosophical concepts recycle every century or so; then we as a country, listen far too much to Hegelian philosophy, than to post-structuralist philosophies of the prophets.

Post-structualism can be of Good News to the Church as well as the world. First, it allows us to not focus only on ideas or your mind. During the 60’s and 70’s, Deleuze and Guattari wrote texts against the psychoanalysis movement, Anti-Opedius. They described how capitalism causes schizophrenia in society, individuals are sucked into what they become in consuming and in consuming they become machines. Deleuze and Guattari believed that this made one’s mind and body fascist. Meaning that we do not have control over our desires, which is for them freedom. Second, post-structuralism deconstructs power. Out of this movement came critical theories including critical race theory, queer theory, deconstruction, etc. They question and they question often. For example:

-Who has power in the text?
-Who agree the ones without a voice in this text?
-Since language is flimsy, words/sentences have potentiality to have various meanings, then how do we know what we are reading into a text and what the writer intended?
-We are still waiting for justice (Derrida), what are we expecting and is this good news for all?

Questioning helps us to read text carefully, and allows our circumstances to persuade us toward different directions according to context. Lastly, post-structuralism gives us hope that metanarratives do not have the last say (certainly there is much more I could say, but I think this is the most important). Narratives shape the way we view the world, universe, divinity, the other, etc. If we allow oppressive narratives to fester in our bodily activities, we may lose hope. Recently, this happened to me after watching all those Youtube videos about the truth behind the Sandy Hook “Tragedy.” These videos made me upset, in two senses. First, these videos present harmful ideas to the general public. Here I am much more pastoral in when people should be told information that is contrary to what everyone believes. These ideas cause confusion as to who to trust and dismisses theodicy. Second, the creators of these videos are not perusing any kind of legal action or seem to have many other things to do with their time, than to scare Youtube watchers. The Good News of post-structuralism is that there are thousands of micronarratives that make the world go round. These micronarratives are in our community. Some of them are based on misinformation, others on myths, but all based in community. It’s communities that can comfort and care for us. Micronarratives should be questioned as long as we are open with others etc. Thus allows me to reject the truthers movements of Sandy Hook and talk with my youth about theodicy, and what God’s kin-dom looks like.

Post-structuralism gives theology another chance in society and we must not lose our chance. As long as we are not taking an exclusivist approach, theology will survive. On a practical level, participating fully in these narratives means speaking with and knowing our neighbors, caring for the ignored, and being open to others.

*Think Marx, not shopaholics.

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Beliefs, Christainity, Politics, Scripture, Spiritual

questioning theodicy and the sandy hook tragedy

The past two Sunday’s lectionary readings have dealt the John the Baptizer narrative in the Gospel of Luke. John the Baptizer is recognized as the caller/preparer for Jesus. Last week’s reading painted John the Baptizer as an Elijah type who called out in the wilderness for people to repent of their ways. Politically and socially minded people should first think of repentance as changing one’s ideology or converting from one belief system to another. Yet, John the Baptizer was pushing (as Jesus did) for a different way of life, a change of mind, body, and spirit, and for people to change the direction of their society to be shaped by God’s kin-dom.

Today’s lectionary reading, Luke 3:7-18, read as follows

“John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.”

John the Baptizer

John the Baptizer called for a fair society. His good news was triple fold. First, all people will have the necessities to live, e.g. a coat for all, a place to call home. Second, there is one coming who will give a more monumental baptism of fire and God’s Spirit. Lastly, the good news for the one coming will be even more topsy turvy than what the Baptizer was claiming. John the Baptizer called for fairness, but

Jesus preached beyond fairness,

and charity,

all the way to the radical notion of justice.

Jesus was calling for the kin-dom of God. Where love will be as common as this world’s violence. Where people go beyond tolerating their neighbors and love them. Where as the ancient prophets who preached that cities will not be built on injustice, but built on peace with architects, labours, and bosses treated with dignity in pay. Injustice will not find its home in the kin-dom. Praying for enemies and reconciliation will abound in conversations, and people. The people will co-create  society focusing on justice rather than profit and gain. God will be the Light, which keeps darkness away. And yet, the kin-dom of God is still coming and not fully realized yet.

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School makes us recognize even more so that the kin-dom of God has not come. During this Advent Season, we are told to wait, to have patience for Christ’s birth and the Eschatological End. What happens when it feels that God is not coming fast enough? How are we to react?

One answer comes from the minor prophet Habakkuk. First some background. Habakkuk’s oracles were concentrated at the the end of the 7th century, 620-600BCE. Judah was caught in the middle of two Empire-builders: the Babylonians who were gaining strength in numbers, and the Egyptians who were friendly with Judah, but did not side with Judah in their most desperate times. Habakkuk’s cried out:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
 So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Habakkuk complained to God that God is not listening to him. He poetically proclaimed for justice, for the end of violence, and that God’s Law* may be respected and followed. The Kings of Judah after the great revivalist Josiah, who coincidentally during his time found Deuteronomy, were his children who were political puppets of Egypt and eventually Babylon. Josiah was brutally killed in 609 BCE. Jehoahaz, Josiah’s eldest son,reigned for three months then was disposed. Jehoiakim, Josiah’s second son, followed and lasted for 11 years. Josiah’s two other sons, Jehoiacin and Zedekiah, were the last Kings of Judah until the Exile in 586 BCE.

In the midst of tragedy, Habakkuk did not hold back from calling God out. Essentially, Habakkuk called God an old blind person, who did not see the injustice happening. Habakkuk’s response resonates with the emotions that I felt on Friday. Since I work with youth, I kept thinking to myself “Why would anyone want to hurt the little ones?” I know that many children around the world are killed, especially by the hands of the U.S. Empire.  Yet, my context has me bound to the U.S.. If I were to see all of the horrible tragedies that happen each day, I could not handle it. So I must take the Sandy Hook massacre at upmost importance and fight for this to never happen again in the U.S. and around the world.

Today in Sunday School, I lead the youth in a prayer walk for those involved in Sandy Hook massacre. We walked to stations titled Healing, Wholeness, and Redemption. We prayed to be the change in our society so these tragedies never happen again. We prayed for people with mental illnesses that are beyond anyone’s control. After the prayer exercise, I quoted Frederick Douglass who said “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” Let us wait for God, not by sitting in the pews, but by being co-creators for the kin-dom of God. Let us also not be afraid to question, challenge and pray frantically.

These are the names and ages of those lost in this brutal tragedy.

These are the names and ages of those lost in this brutal tragedy.

I feel sorry for those who come up with answers to tragedies in a flash. Those who claim Christ, and have an answer to theodicy are only fooling themselves. To read through the book of Job and come out with a satisfying answer is fanciful. The students and teachers of Sandy Hook were brave to see that terror and still be a sane human. We must be empathetic and know that theologies fall short when it comes to theodicy and it’s okay to accept that. Remember this: God always sides with the oppressed.

*Most of the Law/Torah was not written until after the Exile, 538 BCE. Habakkuk is certainly referring to the book of Deuteronomy.

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