http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLaYBhwwyoo On the classical account of strong theology, Jesus was just holding back his divine power in order to let his human nature suffer. He freely chose to check his power because the Father had a plan to redeem the … Continue reading
You need to read this. Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert has atomized his company to the point of open warfare between beleaguered factions . “Siloed” doesn’t begin to describe the relationship between business units and their relationship to the overarching … Continue reading
I can’t speak to the meat of this piece, and the piece it opposes, as it relates to post-blackness.
On the other hand, ethnographically, I do know something about the immigrant experiences of my own kin, and people like them, in the history of 20th century Americanization. Clearly, I cannot and have no reason to try to equate the struggles of my brownish Italian ancestors, who came here in the figurative chains of the most extreme forms of European poverty, with the experience of black slaves and their (and their descendants’) struggle for community and freedom. At the same time, it seems to me that the expatriate experiences of slave and immigrant narratives have in common what the writer at Liberator identifies as the longing of the expatriate community to retain ancient values that stand in sharp contrast to the political and economic machinery of the America they were sold on or sold to. In these ways, post-blackness might be something like what classically poor and marginally white ethnic communities have long mourned in their third, fourth, and fifth generations. I know something about that. These experiences are far from identical. But for the vowels in my last name, which are changeable, and the radical values, which are not, I could blend into the WASP elite largely unnoticed. Color, and, I take it, blackness, is something different and has been something different since the beginning.
As a white man with an ethnic memory and as a follower of the radical called Jesus, I’ve thought a lot about what’s being said in the Liberator piece about the possibility and necessity of maintaining cultures and communities that stand in opposition to the neo-liberal or libertarian modes of capitalism destroying our poor (increasingly more of us) and our planet. The instinctive drive of expat communities to retain their cultures and values is not unlike a religious witness: we can and do oppose you forces of injustice that seek to rend our families, exhaust our world, and feed us, all of us, like so much fodder to the socioeconomicpolitical array.
There’s a saying, which I think goes back to James Cone, that “all theology is black theology.” These are reasons why. In the American context, black people are and always have been the most marginalized of expatriated groups. If Jesus is for the margin, and if, by God, Jesus is what the early first-century hymn says:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
and if those who follow are to use this model as a basis for treating each other with this same mindset (Philippians 2:5), then we must follow Jesus into quintessential Otherness vis a vie the power structures of our day. In a figurative way, Jesus followers of every background must be made cruciform. Is it too much to say we must all retain a kind of blackness?
In my own ethnic context, Robert Orsi notes that “Vecoli has portrayed Italians as fierce anti-clericals, angry at the church and looking for leadership to the radical political thinkers who emigrated with them and took up residence in the Italian colonies [in American cities].”
Among other things, I’m an urban minister. Those who know me best probably wouldn’t call me clerical. The important part of this quote, for me, is the alignment of Italian American immigrants with the radical political thinkers expatriating with them, and their penchant for living their spiritualities in the home and in street. In The Madonna of 115th Street, Orsi shows the political/spiritual unit of the the domus (the family, the home life), standing in contrast to the demands of a newly industrialized West and in American urban settings. Our cities were and are rife with abject urban poverty, an experience made even harder to bear by the grim contrast it bore against the comparatively wistful graces of abject rural poverty in Southern Italy: generational connections to domus, piazza, culture. This is not to say that pre-Columbian or pre-industrial cultures were uniformly just and good (far from it) or that it was better to die of hunger in Campania than of a broken heart in Brooklyn. It is to say, however, that in the rush to Americanize, my people have lost something vital, something ancient, and something that might serve as an alternative to the money-loving monoculture we’re relearning to resist.
All Christians must be expatriates. All Christians must, like Christ, be immigrants. This is what Paul means when he talks about being in but not of the worldy power structures. This is no raptured absence from the realities of the the mess we’re in. Instead, it’s a stubborn, radical insistence that there are other ways of doing things: black ways, Italian ways, Latino ways, Polish ways, Middle Eastern ways, Asian ways, and diverse seas within them. There are Old World ways worth reexamining, the teachings of our ancestors — and the teachings of Our Lord — among them.
“When I was growing up in Texas, when you were growing up in South Carolina, we didn’t pray ‘give me this day my daily bread.’ That’s the law of the jungle. The powerful take what they want and everyone is left to get what they can. We prayed ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ That’s the prayer of civilization. We’re all in this together.”
Watch the rest here.
Two things crossed my desk in the past few days that I need to share.
The first is a small piece by Reza Aslan at CNN (Losing Christ, Finding Jesus) in promotion of his new book about Jesus.
I think I affirm about 95 percent of what Aslan says. I happen to feel drawn to both the Jesus of history Reza Aslan proclaims and to the Christ of faith, and that may be in part because, like Aslan, I no longer regard the Bible as literally infallible or believe it needs to be in order for the Jesus story, which existed before the Bible, to be true. Freed from the need for the Bible to be some perfect record of spiritual debt and dessert, my love of Jesus the radical has brought me into step with larger spiritual realities that, for me, show the work of the God that Jesus proclaimed, the provision of the Spirit that Jesus promised to send, and, in the end, the reality of Jesus as the living Christ himself. On the days when I doubt the latter, I’m as much of a Christian as I’ve ever been. There’s room in Jesus’ company, and certainly in mine, for questions, doubts, and denials about what it means to understand him as the Christ, but what doesn’t seem negotiable to me is that to call yourself a follower of Jesus, you must at some point take up his teachings, commit to them…something I think he called “taking up your cross.” Our cross is his cross. His cross is our cross. Indeed, “follow me” is predicated by “take up your cross and…”
For me, coming to see Jesus the marginalized peasant with a radical vision of the egalitarian kingdom of God also as the Christ, as God in flesh or something somehow like it, is part of a journey we share in common with his earliest followers. His radicalism is far more interesting, and far more relevant to life in the 21st century, than the story of purely spiritual salvation most often told by those made nervous by the so-called Social Gospel. Jesus ended up dying, sacrificing himself to the 1 percent of his day, because he needed to tell the truth about what power does to the powerless, about what empire does, finally, to those with whom it disagrees, those whom it fears, those whose ideas about equality and peace its war machinery can’t finally abide. On one hand, his death says, is the deadly array of empire. On the other is a choice to live within a different kind of kingdom, a nationless network of communities dedicated to God’s preferential option for the poor and to the prophetic tradition of Jesus vis a vis massive and wholesale injustice. I also happen to believe a number of other things about the death of Jesus, and about his Resurrection. For me, now, we need not lose Christ to find Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus continues to bid me ever toward Christ. That may or may not be a common experience. I suppose part of what I want to say is that if Jesus is in fact the Christ, he’s probably more concerned with you following his teachings than with your ability to embrace his Godhood. The idea of God enfleshed and coming to grips with the shitty situations most of the world is made to live in, and responding as Jesus did…that’s one of those things that I’ve said elsewhere ends up feeling so holy it must also be true. Jesus is the beating heart of my work and my life.
The second piece is the first part of an interview with Chris Hedges. Again, for me, the idea of the “real” Jesus pushes up. Ideally, our churches should be places where these kinds of discussions are happening as often as we gather, or where they’re welcomed. Hedges grew up wanting to be an urban minister. I am one, and I see people following Jesus all the time who may or may not know the Nazarene as Christ. At some point, I want to engage that conversation in a meaningful, regular way. It may not be enough that my spiritual sensibilities are tickled pink by my own perceptions of what others have called “anonymous Christians.” Or maybe it is. Doing Christ’s work should be enough, shouldn’t it? And part of that work was gathering regularly with communities and teaching them about the nature of real freedom, about the real love of God, about the real moral arc of the universe.
As always, these thoughts are provisional. Share yours below.
Many of you know that I’m part of the team behind the broken liturgy gatherings. This past Monday, we did our first Philadelphia event and were blessed to have Peter Rollins with us. My new friend Keith Anderson offers a … Continue reading
I’ve been a fan of Emily Badger’s work at Atlantic Cities for a while. She finds really interesting things to write about. Today’s piece struck me in particular because these findings mimic exactly what Robert Orsi reported 30 years ago … Continue reading
Elevated from the comment spam because I just like how it sounds:
“Asking questions are actually fastidious thing if you are not understanding anything completely, however this post gives good understanding yet.”
PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release June 19, 2013 GENERATE MAGAZINE WELCOMES NEW MANAGING EDITOR SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — As GENERATE Magazine prepares its re-launch after a year long sabbatical it welcomes Chris Cocca as managing editor. A past contributor to … Continue reading
Bummed about the Spurs? There’s still baseball. Read my new essay, freshly published at Hobart, about how I learned everything I know about postmodernism from the Phillies. If you’re feeling dejected about last night’s Big Game, you’ll find some succor … Continue reading
Reblogged from CBS Philly: FURLONG, Pa., (CBS) – Residents reported a bear sighting in Bucks County on Wednesday – in a neighbor’s backyard! The sighting was reported at Springtown Road and Winter Bridge Lane in Furlong. Eyewitness Kelley Fitzpatrick Simkiss … Continue reading
I don’t know Luke Pearson, but I love this piece. This is basically what Karl Rahner called original sin. This is why Jesus says not to judge. It’s a fine predicament we’re in, isn’t it? How to make sense of … Continue reading