#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-Capitalism, anti-war, Beliefs, Justice

the people’s climate march and hermeneutics

I’ll admit it: I’m a hermeneutics fanatic. Whenever I enter a bookstore, I head straight for the literary criticism section. There is something enthralling thumbing through Roland Barthes’ Mythologies, Edward Said’s postcolonial criticism of Jane Eyre‘s madwoman in the attic, and the overweight, almost 3,000 page, Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. I am fascinated about the different ways one can read a text and the world.

And it’s not like this is a new phenomena. Writers and critics alike have been reading and re-reading texts for centuries coming to different conclusions. For instance, in my Sunday School class, ages 6-13, I wanted to give them a hermeneutical key to read Scripture. I offered what I called a good news model, i.e. looking for good news in every passage. After explaining it, the first question posed was why we think Jesus’ death on the cross is good news? This third grader said that it sounds like bad news. I couldn’t help but agree. A man dying/dead on a cross plastered all over our churches is not good news. The good news, I explained, is God raising Jesus from the dead. God redeemed what was made deplorable. God transformed the pitiful and made right what Roman Empire deemed wrong. That’s Good News. And in a different context, I would have explained something more nuanced.

This weekend I participated in the People’s Climate March in NYC. It was hermeneutical heaven. Everyone with a sign, unless it was massively reproduced, had a varying lens in which to approach Climate Change.

fracking: little economic gain counts for nothing if you’re destroying the Earth and you can’t drink the water.

veganism: against factory farming, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest for grazing land for cows

anti-capitalism: Global Capitalism casts a deadly shadow across the whole world. it will take, borrow, and steal anything, and re-directs climate justice discussion to neo-liberal laws

personal reasons: guilt for voting and registering as Republican (saw a sign reading, “Ashamed Republican”), concern for one’s grandchildren

Climate change

It’s these various anthems that make marches great. And even if we don’t have the same platform, we can still chant, sing, and march together. And this happens everyday and is concentrated in religious worship services. Not all United Methodists congregants interpret Scripture or even the hymns the same way. The same can be said for Muslims reciting the Qur’an, Jews singing Torah, or Hindus interpreting their sacred texts.

So what can we take away with different hermeneutical perspectives? First, that we shouldn’t make sweeping assumptions about groups of people or even individuals about the way they view the world or read. Second, humanity and the cosmos are full of contradictions, blind spots, and missteps. No one approach will be perfect, it may be complete, but never perfect. Lastly, that one should explore other traditions, while at the same time going deeper in their own. In this way, one can show respect toward others and are able to articulate their own hermeneutical lens.

Interpreting texts and the cosmos should life-giving and not a burden.

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