Lent, Liberation Theology, Philosophy

on the cross hung jesus, the historical materialist

Holy Week opens the space for us to be sad, mad, and lonely. We can look to the blooded Christ, abandoned by his closest friends, and recognize that hope’s flame has been extinguished. Unfortunately, too many churches over-spiritualize the cross showing how Jesus knew the events surrounding his death. Even the letter to the Hebrews seems to say something similar: Jesus, “who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). Through all the pain and anguish, Jesus knew, hanging there, that this was not going to last forever. Was the writer to the Hebrews saying that Jesus transcended pain altogether? I don’t know, but certainly the Gospels do not try to hide the flogging, crown of thorns, carrying a heavy cross up a hill at the weakness point of his life, then being hung and nailed to it. That’s just gruesome.

Jesus, according to the Gospels, was a victim of history. 

It matters that he is seen as such.

Between the two world wars, Walter Benjamin lived as a Jew in Europe. He was interested in art, culture, history, politics, literature, philosophy, and theology. And they were never separate categories for him, but would mixed together into beautiful essays and theses. In his famous “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” he wrote that each generation has a “weak Messianic force” (Thesis II). We have the power to remember the victims of history. He commanded Historical Materialists to “brush history against the grain” of the elite and victors (Thesis VII). As well, we cannot understand time linearly as the “beads of a rosary,” but that we must “establish a conception of the present as the “time of the now” which is shot through with chips of Messianic time” (Thesis XVIII A). In other words, when we remember, recall, re-historicize the victims of history, we are giving them another chance in the present. In this way, we are weak Messiahs because its only the Messiah(s) who can re-member these victims, to restore their bodies and lives.

When the criminal hanging next to Jesus on the cross asks him to remember him, he’s asking Jesus to become a Historical Materialist. He’s asking him to not let the victors dominate the story. He’s asking Jesus to not forget him, to not forget those who have been killed by the Empire, to re-vive his life through stories although it may be nothing compared to world history.

It matters how we remember the victims of history, whether it’s Jesus, Michael Brown, the Trail of Tears, Laura and L.D. Nelson, Andy Lopez, Aiyana Jones, and the millions more oppressed through slavery, colonization, and killed by the powers-that-be.

Let us remember them that we might change the present. 

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#StayWokeAdvent, Scripture

riot gear will collect dust: a proclamation from the prophet isaiah of america

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Ferguson, to Brooklyn, to Staten Island,
and cry to them that they have not been forgotten,
they are loved deeply and from the Lord’s hand hope shall be given.

A megaphone cries out:
“In the streets prepare the way of justice,
make straight in city parks a highway for our God.
Every empty lot shall be a home,
and every Trump Tower–rent controlled apartments;
unfair minimum wages shall be living wages,
and riot gear will collect dust.
Then the presence of God shall be unveiled,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of God has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry out?
Is it for the unjust deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley or Tamir Rice?
Or the giant gap in economic inequality?
Or that America’s democracy is owned by the Koch Brothers and other corporate elites?”
All people are fragile; their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of God blows upon it: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
The grass withers, the flower fades; but hope for the end of police brutality and the rise of caring communities transcends life.

Get us up to the main streets, O Ferguson, bearers of another world;
Shout with strength, O New York City, heralds of justice, shout louder, do not fear;
say to the police departments across America,
“BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK LIVES MATTER!”
See, the God of justice comes with might, and her hands serve the lowly;
her comforting presence brings about change.
She will bring water for those too tired to shout anymore;
she will rub the feet of those too tired to march anymore,
and she will carry all in her bosom,
and gently lead us to a new heaven and new earth,
one without murders by choking or trigger happy cops.

i cant' breathe

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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, Poem, Prayer

somewhere between prayer and revolution

The Flobots penned this lyric, in my title, in the opening line of “Same Thing.” The lyrics continue with “between Jesus and Huey P. Newton.” And on this particular Sunday in the month of October, we find ourselves holding these same tensions. This weekend is #fergusonoctober and I am grateful that many of my peers from Union Theological Seminary are there participating in these actions. As well, yesterday was National Coming Out Day, when those who identify as queer come out as their true selves to family members, friends, and their communities. Last and certainly least, tomorrow is columbus day. Thankfully, a few cities are renaming this day to Indigenous People’s Day.

This weekend raises our awareness that we are not close to having a just society.

Hands Up, Don't Shoot

So I wanted to write a prayer:

God of our world,
We look around us and see injustice everywhere
Our society is overripe with white supremacy,
racism, sexism, ableism, and hatred of the poor.
We ask for your forgiveness because we recognize through scripture
that Jesus cared for all and repented when he did not (Mark 7:25-30)

We pray for those in Ferguson this weekend with #fergusonoctober
our hearts are on fire for Michael Brown and his loved ones.
our hearts are on fire that Darren Wilson will feel convicted and turn himself in.
our hearts are on fire for a movement that rejects colorblindness for real talk about racism.

We pray for the strength for those who come out to their family and friends
we pray that queer persons find supportive communities
we pray an end to queer youth being kicked out on the street
we pray that queer person know that they are beloved by God

We pray for Indigenous communities living in the US and around the world
may their cultures stand firm in the face of colonization
may they continually decolonize from white supremacy
may they find hope in their communities

God, we pray for the end to all war
an end to poverty,
and an end to apathy.
May we follow you in the ways of justice and peace. Amen.

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