Holy Wednesday Prayer & Mediation: HerStory & The Poor

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-Terrance Hawkins

Start this time off with a few moments of complete silence. As you sense that the clutter in your heart & the noise in your mind has dissipated offer up words of gratitude to God. Once your heart has settled itself in God’s presence offer up the following brief prayer: 

OPENING PRAYER-

We believe the Way of Jesus is a cycle of death and resurrection

Help our unbelief 

We believe  the Way of Jesus calls us to vulnerability and childlikeness

Help our unbelief 

We believe the Way of Jesus clashes with the ways of idolatry and injustice

Help our unbelief

We believe the Way of Jesus is beautiful and costly

Help our unbelief

We believe the Way of Jesus is love and truth 

Help our unbelief

Silent Confession of Unbelief- silent confession of the ways we have “missed the mark” of faithfully following after Jesus. 

SCRIPTURE MEDITATION –Read the following verses two times. After the first reading pause and meditate on its context and meaning. What word or phrase does the Holy Spirit seem to be impressing on your heart from it? Meditate on that. After the second reading pause and meditate again. What might God be inviting you to personally and the Church to corporately from these verses? Write it down. 

Holy Wednesday According to Mark  (Mark 14:1-11)

“Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

REFLECTION: “HerStory & The Poor” 

Truths, surprises, twists, turns, and socio-political commentary burst through the pages of Mark’s account of Holy Wednesday. With a conspiracy afoot amongst the religious elites of Palestine, Jesus continues to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The mis-leadership class at the top of the religiopolitical structure cannot afford to allow his movement to grow any larger than it has. Their unholy power and prestige—upheld by a Faustian bargain with imperial Rome—is under threat by his prophetic campaign. Jesus, in the tradition of the prophets before him, has brought the silenced wails of the margins to mainstream Jerusalem. His articulation and embodiment of God’s heart for “the least” & “the last” has pulled on the heartstrings of the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. The powers know that if they publicly arrest Jesus it will incite a riot amongst those who hang on his every word and long for the Kin’dom he is inaugurating.  (Mark 14:1-2) Through Jesus’s ministry they have felt seen, honored,  heard, & called higher. To see Jesus arrested in broad daylight would only re-induce their painful sense of invisibility, dishonor, & lack of voice in society. To quote Martin Luther King Jr, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Days earlier, Jesus alluded to this reality when he lamented that the power structure of Jerusalem was unwilling to “embrace the things that make for peace.” 

The scene of Holy Wednesday says a lot about Jesus’s habit of communing with the despised and rejected. He is in the house of Simon the leper. In addition to the physical pain, to be a leper in the 1st century is to endure social shame, isolation, and exclusion. In verse 3 an unnamed woman emerges as what some have described as “the first Christian.” This may seem like a stretch but there a few reasons for this assertion. First & foremost, her special place in the Gospel narrative and in church history is given by Jesus himself:

“Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

To the backdrop of failing male disciples and a soon-to-be-revealed betrayer, Jesus lifts the acts of this woman as a model of faithful discipleship. This pushes against patriarchal norms and assumptions both in Jesus’s day AND ours. Our faith is still deeply infected with the false notion that women are second-class citizens in God’s beloved community. Yet, this narrative puts a woman at the center of what it means to be a disciple in a way only rivaled by Mary of Nazareth, mother of Jesus.  Secondly,  her act of anointing Jesus with expensive perfume shows that she took Jesus’s prediction of his execution and resurrection seriously. She concretely acted on what she heard. This is embodied faith! The death of Jesus was not an “abstract idea” to ponder. It was a truth to encounter.  Lastly, she demonstrates to us that true solidarity with the poor is sustained by deep intimacy with Jesus. What she did was not a “waste” as Judas described it. It was an act of faith In God expressing itself through love. The love of God sustains and empowers the love of neighbor. Gustavo Gutierrez’s words are helpful:

“There is no easy triumphal road for the life of faith. There are those who, when they become absorbed by the political demands of the liberation commitment begin to live the tensions of solidarity with the exploited, then find themselves belonging to a church many of whose members are staunch advocates of the prevailing social order. They then lose their dynamic faith, and suffer the anguish of a dichotomy between being a Christian and being committed to political action.

More cruel still is the case of those who suffer the loss of the love of God in favor of the very thing that that love arouses and sustains—love for their fellow human beings. A love like that, unable to maintain itself in the oneness demanded by the gospel, never comes to know the fullness locked up inside itself.”

In closing, we must deal with the ways that empire religion has misinterpreted Jesus’s rebuke of Judas. 

“The poor you will always have with you.”

Time and time again this verse has been quoted to legitimize exploitative systems & to minimize the responsibility of The Church to alleviate human suffering. Read properly, “this is a statement about the social location of the church, not about the social necessity of poverty.” Tragically most western Christians have gotten it backwards because “the sight from which we read it is insulated from, rather than in solidarity with the poor.” Lastly, if we spent enough time in the 1st Testament we would know that Jesus was alluding to & quoting from the Jubilee tradition. (Deuteronomy 15) An every 50-year social tradition of debt release, slavery emancipation, & return of lost land that God set in place for the nation Israel to avoid wealth stratification, inequity, generational poverty, & cycles of injustice. 

Closing Prayer-

Guide us, O God, closer to the Cross. Keep us from betraying you on the Way. Keep us in Your love. Help us remember, honor, & imitate women who bear Your name & embody your reign.

In the Name & Spirit of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Closing Blessing-

Now unto The One who is able to forgive sins, heal bodies, liberate the oppressed, & create beloved communities out of the ashes of injustice & division; to the only wise Lord who came not to dominate, but to serve & give His life as a ransom. May His love cover, carry, & keep you til’ we meet again. Amen.

The Monument Is Down, But We Must Keep Up The Fight

 

Confederate statue

City workers take down confederate statue in downtown Winston-Salem. (via WXII 12)

Minus a few lines the following is a voice-to-text “freestyle” (flaws & all) I recorded on my way to work this morning in the car:

I had a dream last night. 

In my dream I woke up in my house on Patterson Ave & walked outside on the porch to behold a beautiful, thriving, flourishing neighborhood marked by peace, justice, & beloved community. I did my morning run from one end of Patterson to the other & somehow the intersection at Martin Luther King Jr Drive was no longer a marker by which we distinguish the haves & the have nots. Innovation wasn’t for a select & mostly white few, but it was for everybody and the city had even found the moral courage to center our economic development on the needs of the most vulnerable. In my dream Highway 52 was no longer the symbol of racial apartheid because a huge tidal wave of healing justice had swept over to the east, northeast, & southside of Winston-Salem bringing with it deep transformation. Though I could tell I was in the mostly black & brown side of town, it no longer told the tragic story of the unaddressed wounds of chattel slavery, Jim & Jane Crow. In this dream our children were going to public schools that were nurturing, life-giving, dignity affirming, non-punitive, & well-funded springboards to a life calling & not a pipeline to prison or jobs with non-livable wages. My dream was beyond some neoliberal notion of “progress”. In this dream we had dismantled the enduring & always morphing social constructs of the slave/master relationship. In this dream politicians were servants of the people & not capital. There were no more accommodationist “black faces in high faces” willing to sell their people up the river. The leaders of the people were lovers of the people. 

But I woke up from that dream and did my morning run from one end of Patterson to the other. There were still two Patterson Avenues symbolic of the reality of “two Winston-Salems”, and “two Americas”. Shortly after I got home from my run I hopped on Facebook (as is my custom) & saw that I had been tagged in a post by my sister in the struggle Miranda Jones saying that the confederate statue was indeed coming down. Not long after that I got a text from one of my white accomplices in the struggle saying that the monument was coming down & that we were going to celebrate.

If I’m being honest, down deep in my soul I felt an immediate TENSION.  On one hand there was gladness & on the other hand there was a kind of sadness. I do believe that “we the people” (not the politicians who will use the symbolism as a smokescreen) have a right to celebrate, BUT I also believe it is our duty to remain sober & vigilant in this fight for freedom, and to even create space for lament.

This idea of celebration & lamentation might sound paradoxical, but I come from a Jesus worshiping, sun-kissed, peculiar people who taught the world a lil bit about havin’ “joy in sorrow” & how to cling to a hope-soaked realism about the possibilities for a brighter tomorrow. So yes, taking down this monument to white supremacy was the right thing to do. Its presence in downtown Winston-Salem was a proverbial spit in the face of locally enslaved ancestors like Abraham, the Mandingo warrior. After each of several escape attempts Abraham was brutally flogged. The confederate statue was a spit in the face of my great great aunt Betty Lyons who was born the year that slavery was “abolished”. It was a spit in the face of the black women who organized unions in the face of RJ Reynolds racist, classist, & sexist work conditions. That monument was a spit in the face to the 100s of black women in Winston-Salem who suffered sterilization at the hands of a racist & classist eugenics movement. It was a spit in the face of living elders like Norma Corley who as little girls desegregated our school system as confederate flag waving white folks hurled bigoted insults at them. It was a slap in the face of Darryl Hunt, who was unjustly imprisoned for 20 years for a rape & murder he did not commit. It was a slap in the face of Kalvin Michael Smith. It was a slap in the face of Carl Wesley Matthews, the black man who started the local sit-in movement on the very same street it stood some 50 years ago. So yes, it had to go. 

But, as I said at a previous rally:

“We don’t just want the symbolism of a removed statue. We want the substance of eradicating systemic injustice in Winston-Salem. ITs very possible to remove the statue while the ideology that it represents is still running amuck in our hearts, homes, houses of worship, & halls of power.”

Mother Fannie Lou Hamer once said “we are tired of symbolic things, don’t yall realize we are fighting for our lives.” And we are fighting for our lives, for the lives of our children, & our children’s children. I don’t want them to look at me & say, “Grandad, you mean to tell me y’all just settled for the monument being removed without a push for monumental & radical social, spiritual, & cultural change?” Nah, I can’t have that on my conscious. If the city removes, breaks, & bends the statue without bending our city’s structures towards LOVE & JUSTICE this was only “a renovation project” to keep the so-called “downtown renaissance” going on as scheduled. We don’t just want renovation. We want REPAIR-ation. We need healing justice to repair the wounds of racism in this city! I’m willing to fight for fight it. I hope you are willing to fight for it? Our fight is in the name of love & for me personally I fight in the name of Jesus. 

The statue may be down, but we must keep the fight up!

by T. Hawkins

 

 

The Prophet & The Evangelist

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“The gifts He gave were that some would be…..prophets & some evangelists….to equip the saints for the work of ministry…..”  

-Paul of Tarsus (Ephesians 4:11-12)

“Billy Graham [and Norman Peale], the high priests of Middle America, the word of God came to Martin King in the wilderness of America.

-Gardner C. Taylor, “The Strange Ways of God

What does the interplay between the evangelist & the prophet look like? Is there a rhythm, a harmonic symphony, a divinely  choreographed dance they are called to perfect with each other? What happens when the evangelist steps on the toes of the prophet in this dance of redemption? Should the beautiful feet of those who carry the Good News be permitted to scar & bruise the feet of the ones who call us to “do right, seek justice, & defend the oppressed”? What does it mean to ask Jesus into your heart in a society that disciples you to not let “the other” into your home, your business, your economy, & your church, even? Can the evangelist tell us to walk down the aisle & receive salvation but be apathetic, indifferent, hesitant, or outright resistant to the prophet who marches & calls a nation to “let JUSTICE roll down like a river”? Is preaching the “pure Gospel message” a call to duck our heads in the sand & ignore socio-political corruption? Did not Jesus-the holy & pure One-in His life-acts clash with the power structures of 1st Century Palestine? Is not salvation from a hebraic perspective grounded in the anti-imperial narrative of the Exodus story? 

Can the evangelist seek the safe & status quo upholding middle ground  in situations of oppression & be worthy of the cross they preach? Who will settle the score when the evangelist—full of “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism”—tells the prophet that he is “too extreme” in his call that a nation’s structures must be born anew? Is the Great Reversal that Mary sung of subordinate to the so-called Great Commission? Is the prophet’s radical  dream of the last becoming first, the enslaved become free, the dehumanized being dignified, & hungry being filled with good things too lofty a vision for the evangelist to concern himself with? (1) Can the evangelist’s mission of “saving souls” be honored without dishonoring the prophet’s mission of “saving the soul of a nation”? What does it mean when the evangelist who preaches “that God is Love” willingly shares the platform with those who hate, dominate, & segregate? How can the evangelist co-sign pharaoh but malign Moses? What does it mean when the evangelist invites the prophet to the crusade to pray but does not give the prophet space to prophecy? Is the evangelist quenching the disruptive Spirit of Christ? The Spirit that turns over tables & drives out empire religion? Can the evangelist have his feet fitted with the readiness of the Gospel of Peace & coach the empire towards war & violence? Did he not hear the prophet say in the Name & Spirit of Jesus “we must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means“?

Yes, the evangelist & the prophet can love one another & speak kindly of each other. But public praise & niceties do not interrupt the atrocities of idol worship & injustice. Yes, the evangelist can pay for the prophet’s bail, but does that mean he can “bail” on the call to embody peace & justice? The evangelist can nobly desegregate his crusades but is that enough? Must he not join the holy crusade against social oppression? 

The evangelist can be pushed. The evangelist can repent. The evangelist can clumsily learn how to dance with the prophet.  The evangelist can years later lament his historic missteps; wishing he had marched, wishing he had raised his voice, regretting that he slept through a great revolution. Grace is vast enough for that. But don’t leave it there. We must learn from the evangelist’s mistakes. We must refuse to join him in the post-mortem domestication of the prophet. We must ask ourselves the question: What would have happened if the evangelist truly listened to the prophet? How might the evangelist’s proclamation have been shaped to give voice to a more WHOLE Gospel.  A gospel that confronts, challenges, & heals the sinfulness of souls & the sinfulness of systems. A gospel that frees us from both spiritual & physical poverty. 

A Gospel like Martin’s, like Fannie’s, & like Corretta’s. 

A Gospel like Jesus’s.

 

written by T. Hawkins

 

1.) Michael G Long, Billy Graham and the Beloved Community: America’s Evangelist and the Dream of Martin Luther King Jr. (Palgrave Macmillan; 2006 edition)

 

New Year, Same Me: Resisting Naive Optimism & Embracing Hope-Soaked Realism in 2019

2019 New year greeting card with fireworks

You can take the people out of 2018, but you can’t take the 2018 out of the people.

Both individually & corporately we carry the good, the bad, & the ugly of 2018 with us into 2019.
Minus the observance of  “Freedom’s Eve” for the descendants of enslaved Africans in the US, there is nothing particularly sacred on God’s timeline or “magical”  about the turn of the dial to a new year on the Gregorian calendar we have inherited. 

New year, same me.

New year, same you.

New year, same man in the White House.

New year, same ole unjust America.

Of course, we can repent & resolve to be better & do better in the new year. Yes, there are experiences in God’s presence that radically change our life’s trajectory in a moment!

Holding space for all the above, it seems to me that a hope-soaked realism about the possibilities of 2019 serves us better than a naive optimism. Let’s be honest—many of our grandiose declarations of new year change quickly devolve back to the mediocre status quo.

I wonder if somewhere hidden in all of our “new year, new me” announcements is a misplaced desire for value & significance. Are we seeking to cover our insecurities, shame, & guilt with the fig leaves of “sick-cess & achievement”? To be clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve goals.

My concern here is two fold:

First, most of our resolutions are not “radical”; meaning they do not “get at the root”. True personal & social transformation does not come via surface level “redecoration” it comes through a deep reorientation. To quote one philosopher:

“Moving a few rocks around on the surface, but not the riverbed itself isn’t change. The river still runs the same way.”

New endeavors in 2019 may appear to be taking us in a “new direction” but in many cases our souls & societies remain bent towards the same toxicity.

My second point of concern is how the cultural winds of the new year often carries with it an unhealthy pressure to pull off amazing feats. Even when its couched in “for the glory of God” language, the feverish demand to PRODUCE, PRODUCE, PRODUCE in the new year fosters a crippling anxiety in some of us & it further enslaves others into an identity centered on “what they do” versus “who they are”. Unfortunately, too many of our faith leaders exasperate this pressure with sermons animated by hyper individualistic “wish fulfillment” theology that re-images Jesus as a “life coach” who helps us accomplish our will, not His.

But what if we went at this thing another way? What if we took a LONG deep breath & said to ourselves:

It’s ok to be unimpressive.
It’s ok to be broken.
It’s ok to lament.
It’s ok to rest.
It’s ok.
Rest in the Grace of Jesus.

At the end of the day (and this new year), your worth is not be rooted in what you produce or achieve. Your worth comes from being made in God’s image. You are loved with an everlasting love by a God who through Christ & by The Spirit is already at work in our world, bending it towards healing justice.

May the “unforced rhythms of grace” propel us into every good work God has prepared  for us in 2019.

Happy New Year!

 

 

blog written by Terrance Hawkins

 

John Chau & Why We Need A Deeper Conversation About Missions

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John Chau.

Who do people say he is?

To some he is a Christian martyr. To others he was a misguided religious zealot. Some say he is a heroic missionary. Others say he is an example of all that’s wrong with Christianity. There are those that mourned his death. There are others who ‘celebrated’ his killing as a life-saving act of resistance. (It is reported that contact with outsiders could have potentially put the entire population at risk of a deadly epidemic of measles, flu, & other diseases.) Some have juxtaposed “Chau’s passion for the unreached” with what they describe as lazy Christians who critique from the comfort of their couches. Others have pointed to the hypocrisy of those who would on one hand cheer Chau’s illegal crossing of a border to evangelize while jeering the caravan of asylum-seeking Christians at our southern border.

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But, what do you say about him?

What you say about Chau’s effort reveals a lot about your theological commitments, sociological assumptions, historical awareness, & understanding of what the mission of God is. My objective here is not to debate about what was wrong or right about Chau or the Sentinelese people’s actions. I do not wish to contribute to the dehumanization or demonization of the Sentinelese people or to John Chau. My aim is simply to get us to think about the broader context of this story.

As I’ve watched the vastly different responses to this tragedy it has once again confirmed to me that we need a deeper conversation about “missions”. One that doesn’t begin & end with the “good intentions” of individual missionaries, but deals honestly with the collective, historic, & present *IMPACT* of their work. We need to wrestle with how often the version of Christianity imported into places like Africa, The Americas, & Asia the last 500 years was in the words of Willie Jennings, “diseased in form & distorted in performance.”

We need a conversation that de-centers the heroic tales of missionary movements (past & present), and centers the experiences of those who had missions done TO them. To quote womanist theologian & anthropologist Linda E. Thomas, we need to see ourselves as “guests privileged to privilege the voices of Africans and their histories of Christian mission. I do not look to the colonists or European priest. I look to the people who did not need to file reports detailing how many people they baptized. I listen to the voices that can save me & you from repeating inexcusable violence that so dominates what we call Missio Dei.”

We need a conversation that decolonizes our understanding of God’s sovereignty. One in which phrases like “God was in control” and “at least they got the gospel” are not flung out to excuse genocidal imperialism in “missionary garb.”

“When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “let us close our eyes and pray.” When we opened them, we had the Bible, and they had the land.”

We need to talk about how “conspicuous humanitarianism” hides the reality that those doing the “missions work” are, to varying degrees, complicit in upholding the very structures that CREATE the need for their efforts. Metaphorically, it’s like setting our neighbor’s house on fire & showing up the next day to bandage burn wounds & take selfies as if you had no hand in causing the damage.

We need to talk about how missionaries often import their cultural & political distinctions into The Gospel & thereby call people into assimilation to western white norms. To paraphrase the late Lakota theologian Richard Twiss:

“If Jesus can’t be expressed & experienced equally in all cultures you have preached a foreign religion, not the Good News of God’s Kingdom.”

This convo may ”un-house” and unsettle some of us, but the cognitive dissonance won’t kill us. It may in fact heal us & change how we understand & practice the Missio Dei (Mission of God). For too long, the so-called “Great Commission” has subverted the Greatest Commandment: “love God & neighbor”. This is what I call the Great *Omission. It gives cover to those who want to “preach Christ” while omitting what Christ actually preached/embodied. Jesus preached & practiced good news to the materially poor, freedom for the incarcerated, healing embrace for the disabled/sick, liberation for the oppressed, & jubilee for the economically exploited.

As long as these elements of the messianic movement founded by Jesus of Nazareth are omitted, colonialism will continue to fly in on the wings of missions efforts.

“…triumphant reports by the missions in fact tell us how deep the seeds of alienation have been sown among the colonized. I am talking of Christianity and this should come as no surprise to anybody. The Church in the colonies is a white man’s Church, a foreigners’ Church.”

-Frantz Fanon

written by T. Hawkins

Christ & Our Border Crisis: A Call to Fasting, Prayer, & Resistance

Combined Flyers fasting for families & families belong together
Join the Drum Majors Alliance as we lift our voices privately in prayer this Friday (#FastForFamilias) AND raise them publicly in prophetic dissent this Saturday. (#FamilesBelongTogether)
#FastForFamilias is a campaign lead by a national collective Latinx faith leaders! (For more info on this campaign go HERE.) In calling us to a time of fasting & prayer for asylum seeking families who have been separated at our borders they are lifting up a rich, but forgotten tradition found in our scriptures: fasting as RESISTANCE. Fasting does not call us away from the material conditions of the vulnerable in our midst in the name of some hyper-spirituality. To the contrary, it calls us to concretely challenge, confront, & disrupt the soul’cial idols & systems that perpetuate injustice, despair, & trauma. The left AND right side of our bibles are filled with examples of fasting as resistance. Esther fasted & prayed before she engaged in a love-rooted act of civil disobedience as her people faced the threat of genocide. Nehemiah fasted, prayed, & engaged in deep repentance for the sins of his nation before he began his ‘advocacy work’ for his then decimated nation. The prophet Isaiah declared that the brand of fasting that God chose requires that the faithful “loose the chances of injustice…set the oppressed free, provide shelter for the poor wanderer!” Isaiah teaches us that our love & devotion to God expressed in fasting is authenticated by *acts* of love for disinherited neighbors. (See Isaiah 58) This tradition of fasting as resistance is taken to the highest of heights in the life of Jesus. Before he began his Spirit-empowered messianic campaign of bringing “Good News to the poor” & speaking truth to power Jesus fasted & prayed 40 days in the wilderness.
Furthermore, when we fast & pray we resist the world that is by asking God to empower us to work for the world that could be. When we cry “Your kin(g)dom come” we are implicitly asking that the empires of this world be undone. As we fast & pray we are asking God shatter our numbness & replace it with sensitivity & compassion. When we fast & pray we are repenting of the sins of a nation that has separated black & indigenous children from their families for centuries! When we pray we are asking The Spirit to help us resist the imperial bastardizing of biblical texts like Romans 13 while reclaiming the radical threads of scriptures that tell us that:
“the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Fasting recalibrates our worship & reorders our affections. It reminds us to worship, serve, & bear witness to the borderless love of Jesus & to resist the satanic lure to worship & serve the Nation-state & its arbitrary borders.
So join us as we fast & pray tomorrow, but don’t stop there. We ask that local people of faith come out en masse this Saturday for the #FamiliesBelongTogether demonstration in downtown Winston-Salem. (see above flyer for details.) This local effort is connected to nation-wide demonstrations calling for a complete end to the practice of separating families, the reunification of families that have already been separated, the defunding of ICE, immigrant workers rights, ending for-profit detention centers, & a fix for the DACA crisis! In raising our voices for social transformation alongside people from various walks of life we are living into The Church’s prophetic vocation. Too often we have sold our prophetic birthright for the “pottage of empire” but now is the time to stand & be counted amongst those who believe in justice, peace, & the beloved community of God’s reign! During his childhood, our Savior was a poor, oppressed, asylum-seeking refugee. We betray the very story we claim to have oriented our lives around when we are silent or missing in action in moments like these.
Now is the time to proclaim the radical love of Jesus in this moment of rabid hate, racism, xenophobia, & inhumanity. In the words of America’s greatest prophet, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr:
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
-The Drum Majors Alliance

#ActionForAshley: Ashley Elementary & The Compassion Deficit Plaguing Winston-Salem

Group demands new school for Ashley

Drum Majors Alliance members Crystal Rook & Thomas Lees deliver a statement on the Ashley Elementary School mold & air quality issues at Forsyth County Public School Board Meeting. (Photo Cred: Winston-Salem Journal)

Last night, members of the Drum Majors Alliance lifted their voices at the Forsyth County public school system’s board meeting with a larger collective of concerned community members, organizations, parents, & teachers who are demanding #ActionForAshley Elementary School. The following is the transcript of an official Drum Majors statement delivered to address the issue of air quality, mold, & educational inequity at Ashley. We hope that you will read, share,  sign the petition, & be moved to action. Now more than ever, we must confront the severe compassion deficit plaguing Winston-Salem:

“It should stand as a basic principle of any community that all of its children, no matter their address, income, or skin color, should be provided with equitable opportunities for education. This much has been affirmed by the North Carolina Supreme Court in its decision in Leandro v. State (1997), declaring that “all children residing in the state have a fundamental state constitutional right to the ‘opportunity to receive a sound basic education.’” Such “opportunities” to a sound basic education are not limited simply to a standing building and ready teachers, but include among other things access to resources and technology, nutritious meals, and a safe, healthy learning environment.

It is in regards to the provision of a safe and healthy learning environment that we find Forsyth County’s commitment to this fundamental constitutional right to be hollow. The conditions of Ashley Elementary School are appalling, not only in their current state, but in the underly negligence and disregard for communities of color that they make blatantly clear.

The issues of air quality and mold have been repeatedly raised by teachers and administrators with little to no action taken by the school board. We do not believe this to be simply an oversight, but a manifestation of Winston Salem’s living legacy of racial, economic, and educational apartheid. It is unimaginable that these conditions would been allowed to arise and go untreated in any predominately white school in the county. That North Carolina as a whole has failed and continues to fail to provide equitable opportunities for education across race and class lines has been affirmed repeatedly by our state’s courts.

As followers of Jesus, we believe that all people are created in the image of God and endowed with immeasurable worth, dignity, and value. And as such, we affirm in the strongest possible language – alongside of people from various faith traditions & beliefs- that the well-being of every single child should be of the highest priority for a community and that the school board has the utmost responsibility to ensure that every single school in its district is equally well-maintained so that no matter the school a child attends, he or she will truly have an opportunity to receive a “sound basic education.”

We ask the members of the school board to remember your commitments and obligations. We ask that you remember your oath to serve the children of Ashley Elementary School. According to the North Carolina School Board Association, one of the primary duties of a school board is to provide adequate school facilities. Therefore, we demand that you fulfill that obligation and provide an adequate building for Ashley Elementary School. In short, we demand of the School Board of Forsyth County that Ashley Elementary be closed immediately until the issues surrounding air quality and mold be fully and totally addressed.

This is not a matter of charity but of justice, and we, as people of faith, stand for justice. Micah 6:8 states, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Our school board has neglected the cry of those in our city who do not have economic or political power. But we stand with the students, parents, & teachers of Ashley. We affirm and magnify their voice. We affirm their equality under the law, the fullness of their humanity, and their dignity and beauty as bearers of the image of God.”

-The Drum Majors Alliance

#ActionForAshley #NotAnotherBrick #NotAnotherBond

 

 

Can’t We All Just Resist Together: Building ‘Multi-Racial’ Coalitions Against Gun Violence

CHicago Peaace March.jpg

Student activists in Chicago during last May’s “March for Peace” demonstrations.

In late May of last year thousands of students in Chicago organized a peace demonstration. Prior to the march they staged a sit-in in which they layed down on the street to highlight the 100s of lives lost in their community due to gun violence. These incredible kids channeled their pain into a powerful call for change, but their efforts went largely under-the-radar & unheard. As Chicago activist Ja’mal Green put it in an interview:

“The youth that I mentor every week are going through deppression. I don’t call it PTSD. (post traumatic stress disorder) I call it CTSD. It’s continuous! And then we look to our leaders to actually figure out ways to solve this problem & what do we get? We get the mayor who shut down all the mental health facilities…”

Fast forward almost a year later & the nation has been rocked by the anti-gun violence activism of amazing students in Parkland, Florida who have been raising their voices for change in the wake of the tragic school mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High. Like their Chicago counterparts, they have valiantly fought through their trauma & grief to stage “die-ins”, student walk outs, & are gearing up for a national #MarchForOurLives on the 24th of this month.

The Compassion Deficit

In one sense, America suffers from a lack of compassion & moral will across the board to confront & cure the violence coursing through its national veins. We are the United States of Amnesia & Denial. We quickly move on as if nothing happened once the most recent mass shooting news headlines begin to fade. When powerfully confronted about this reality too many of us slip into delusional displays of denial.

A few weeks back I read an article entitled “Why We’re Underestimating The American Collapse”. Author Umar Haque really seems to get at the very distinct nature of the soul’cial disease ravaging the so called “land of the free & home of the brave”. We are indeed exceptional….just in all the wrong ways. Hague writes:

“Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.
Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.”

Given that America has always been & continues to be, “one nation under white supremacy”, these issues tend to have a racialized (and gendered) component to them. White (male) mass shooters enjoy “lone wolf” status while people of color & religous minorities endure the woes of “wolfpack” status when an individual from their ethnic/racial or religious group commits heinous acts. The young man who killed 17 people allegedly had swastikas embedded on his weapons & there are contested reports that he had recently trained with a white nationalist militia group. Still, he is humanized by speculations about how childhood trauma & mental illness contributed to his actions by some of the same people  who could not employ similar empathy for black victims of state & vigilante violence like Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, or Mike Brown. Their records & flaws are dug up as they endure what one writer calls “post-mortem media violence” as known white mass shooters & terrorists get post-massacre trips to Burger King. *deep sigh* 

Back to the Chicago student movement & the Parkland student movement…….

Quite a few folks have undertaken the task of showing the tragic disparities of how the anti-gun violence work initiated by working class & poor students of color across the nation has been received versus the response & major support garnered by the predominately white middle & upper class students in Parkland Florida. One sad example of this is the full-throated vocal & financial support recently given by the likes of Oprah & Obama. Though mainstream conservative media would have you believe that Obama was the founder & chief supporter of Black Lives Matter, the truth is that both he & Oprah struggled & stumbled in their attempts to respond affirmatively to the young activists leading these charges. There are reasons for this. Assistant professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, recently wrote:

“Black movements are never popular because they reveal the ugly underbelly of American history and society. Even liberals who recoil from what they perceive to be the “imperfections” of U.S. society often reject the systemic critiques that arise from the struggles of working class and poor Black movements.”

Before I go any further, let me be clear: I am 100% behind & excited about the work that young folks in Parkland are doing & believe they should be getting the support they have received so far and more. (Full stop!)

However, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t shed a couple tears lamenting the fact that black, brown, & indigenous student-led anti-gun violence efforts have gone unheard for YEARS. This is just another example of America’s severe compassion deficit” as it relates to people of color. Until we close this deficit the gaping wounds of violence & injustice will go unhealed!

Can’t We All Just Resist Together?

The point of this post is not to challenge readers to a “duel of outrage olympics”.  My aim is to provoke people to think about what it would look like for collaboration across these lines. It is to ask the question: “Can’t we all just resist together”? Seriously. What possibilities for change could emerge if students representing the predominant social demographics of Stonewall Mountain High linked arms with movements against gun violence led by socioeconomically marginalized & racially oppressed people? What blindspots in analysis & weaknesses in activism would be addressed?

For too long folks have assumed that their predominately white suburban enclaves could shelter them from the grief, pain, & tragedy that runs amuck in oppressed communities of color. Could this be a moment in which we learn that what “affects one (community) directly, affects all (communities) indirectly” & that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Metaphorically speaking, sailing bullets flying from AR-15s in socially engineered spaces of deprivation like the hoods of Baltimore, St Louis, Cleveland, Ferguson, East & Northeast Winston-Salem eventually land in the Newtowns, Sandy Hooks, Parklands, & West Winston-Salem’s of our nation. US. predator drone strikes that tragically kill civilians overseas also strike down chances for the poor in our own back yard to experience conditions ripe for human flourishing. (The billions & trillions of dollars spent on militarism could easily be redirected to the uplift of marginalized communities.) There are eerie correlations between the the flooding of Black & Brown communities with guns & drugs by law enforcement agencies and the US’s practice of financing & arming insurgencies in foreign nations. The subsequent destabilization of nations abroad  tragically mirrors the post-civil rights era destabilization of oppressed communities in our own nation.

Beyond Binaries, Beyond the 2 Party Duopoly 

This moment demands that we center the insights & cries of the most vulnerable & seize the opportunity to create comprehensive solutions for the various forms of both civilian & state violence that run through the very DNA of this nation! We must #demandtheban of semi-automatic weapons like the one used to destroy lives in Parkland, Florida while also demanding resources for the traumatized, economically distressed, & socially oppressed that experience the brunt of the violence in our nation.

Binary thinking & solutions play right into the hands of the 2-party duopoly. Too often Republicans want to demonize & criminalize resistance movements while Democrats want to co-opt & “neoliberalize” them!

Unbound by any party’s platform we must offer holistic solutions that address mental health issues AND gun control, individual evil AND cultural pathologies, personal responsibility AND social justice, anti-domestic violence work AND gang prevention/intervention work, white supremacy AND toxic masculinity, capitalism AND militarism.  It’s BOTH and! It’s always been BOTH and! Souls interact with systems & systems interact with souls, individuals interact with cultures & cultures interact with individuals. The world cannot be compartmentalized into neat black & white categories.

Can we resist together? I hope & pray that we can! I wrote the first draft for this article last week but yesterday I hopped on twitter only to find this hopeful sign:

parkland chicago

Yesterday Parkland, Florida student activist Emma Gonzales tweeted this pic with the following caption: “Yesterday, the members of @AMarch4OurLives got to meet up with some of the most wonderful and most strong spoken students of Chicago. “Florida’s safest city” and one of the cities in America most affected by gun violence came together to share stories, ideologies, and pizza.”

(Written T. Hawkins)

10 Ways We Betray the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr

King Corretta

Today is a day that Americans of all colors, cultures, classes, & creeds (mis)remember the life & witness of Martin Luther King Jr. MLK remains one of the most well known but least understood figures of U.S. History & perhaps even of human history. For the past 12 years or so its been my personal ambition to recover, recapture, & reclaim the authentic King. Far too many Americans (& more specifically American christians) consciously & unconsciously betray the legacy of the man whom they profess to deeply revere. Today I want to briefly unpack 10 specific ways that we betray the legacy of Martin.

1) The “Mr Rogers-ification” & “Santa Cluasification” of Martin                             

Americans have domesticated, sanitized, & as Cornel West has put it, “santa-clausified” King.  Contrary to popular belief, King should not be characterized as a jolly, happy, black preacher with a big sack of cheap grace & forgiveness for guilt-ridden white folks & colorblindness for the masses. We have re-imaged MLK & “Mr. Roger-ized” his social-political project. In the minds of too many, King was a southern preacher whose obsession with “racial integration” drove him to crusade the nation in a docile Mr Rogers-like manner begging white sisters & brothers:

“Wont you be, please won’t you be, please won’t you be my neighbor!”

This version of Martin is more devoted to making white folks feel “comfy” than he is to telling the truth about America. It’s this image of King that fuels those who evoke his legacy to derail honest, painful, serious dialogue & work to dismantle white supremacy.

In the final analysis, the real Martin was not a chocolate Santa Clause trying desperately to fit down the chimney of white America. King was a disruptive prophet who spoke hard & bitter truth for the cause of love & justice!

“….the “white backlash” is nothing new. It is the surfacing of old prejudices, hostilities & ambivalences that have always been there. It was caused neither by the cry of Black Power nor by the unfortunate recent wave of riots in our cities. The white backlash of today is rooted in the same problem that characterized America when the black man [sic] landed in chains on the shores of this nation. The white backlash is an expression of the same vacillations, the same search for rationalizations, the same lack of commitment that has always characterized white America on the question of race.”  MLK

2.) Multi-racial Churches That Orbit Around Whiteness      

How many times have we heard pastors & partitioners of self-identified “multi-racial” or multi-cultural congregations claim Martin as one of their architects. Quick to quote King’s lament that “Sunday mornings are the most segregated hours of the week” they say that their mere existence is proof that “The Dream” is alive & well. For everything that can be celebrated about these churches there is much to critique. Too often they betray the colorfulness of their pews with mostly white leadership & a white cultural orientation. Research demonstrates that instead of being a space in which momentum is created to overcome structural racism, they actually reify it through the transmission of a weak & white-centered understanding of what “life together” requires. These congregations tend to incorrectly assert that the spatial separation of racial groups is the root problem, instead of seeing it as a symptom of a much deeper spiritual & social issue. Hence, they tend to place a strong emphasis on cross-racial relationship building & place very little emphasis (if any) on building collective memory of America’s dark history & overcoming present forms of systemic racial injustice. It must be said that mere multiculturalism does not equal anti-racism. King was an anti-racist pastor-activist who deeply cared about the Body of Christ. For that reason he wanted to see diverse followers of Jesus worship & bear witness together as the family of God but his desire did not end there. King’s vision of beloved community was an other-worldly, justice-laced, love-rooted oneness, not a thin unity that conforms to the world’s patterns of racial hierarchy. 

“In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” MLK

3.) The Sentimentalizing of MLK’s Love Ethic

MLK once said “I have decided to stick of love, hate is too great a burden to bear.” This quote & others like it are often ripped from the lived witness of King & made to mean almost anything. What was this way of love he spoke of? For King, love was something to be radically embodied in a particular time, space, & place with attention to the on-the-ground spiritual, cultural, & political realities.  It was not an “ethereal goo” of warm & fuzzy feelings. Far from being abstract, love *concretely* faces & seeks to overcome every barrier to liberation, community, & human flourishing. Love provokes compassion for both enemies & friends, but does not sit by idly in situations of oppression & state violence. “The way of love” demands a fierce commitment to stand in solidarity with those who are catching hell. King understood love as a call to cut through the numbness of the status quo with disruptive protest! We betray him when we demonize protest movements like The Movement for Black Lives for making us feel uncomfortable. We betray him when we think “loving our neighbors” is completely disconnected from the work of social transformation. For King, “justice is what love looks like in public.”

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best i power correcting everything that stands against love.” -MLK

4.) Trapping King Inside the “I Have A Dream Speech” Loop     

Nothing has proven a more powerful tool in the “post-mortem domestication” of MLK than the attempt to trap him inside of a loop of what is known by most as the “I Have a Dream” speech.  The U.S. has imprisoned one of its greatest freedom fighters inside of a strange ‘space time continuum’ in which a short clip from that speech is the totality of his witness & existence. This does two tragic things: First of all, King’s thoughts, speeches, actions, & books beyond that moment are marginalized or erased. Secondly, it distorts the very nature of the speech AND the demonstrations from which those famous lines emerged. King’s speech originally titled “The Cancelled Check” was the climax of the March on Washington for JOBS & FREEDOM. The demands connected to this march in their original form were nothing short of radical. Here are a couple less popular quotes from the speech:

“The Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality” 

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”  MLK 

5.) Anemic Solidarity with The Poor & Capitulation to Neoliberal Capitalism

We can’t scapegoat, brow beat, & in live in self-righteous isolation from poor people in one breathe while celebrating Martin Luther King in the next. King’s critique of capitalism can be traced back as early as the 1950s in love letter exchanges with his then girlfriend Corretta Scott. In his latter years King moved his family into a slum apartment in Chicago & was working on a national multi-racial alliance called the “Poor People’s Campaign”.  We can’t be deeply committed to the values of a neoliberal capitalism that “demand endless sacrifices from the poor & creation”, while claiming commitments to the eradication of poverty, both at home & abroad. “Neoliberalism is the triumph of the market over all social values”, but King declared that “we must rapidly begin to shift from a thing oriented society to a person oriented society” & warned us that transformation cannot happen when “machines, computers, profit motives, & property rights are considered more important than people.”

“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, here and abroad.” MLK

6.) Silence on the Violence of U.S. Militarism & Imperialism

King’s commitment to non-violent civil disobedience & protest is well known. What’s less known, is that King argued that it was hypocritical to demand that black folks protest peacefully while not demanding that the U.S. take a posture of non-violence & peacemaking in the world. Against the advice of many of his close colleagues in the struggle for racial justice, King came out publicly against the war in Vietnam on April 4th 1967 in a speech at the Riverside Church. A year to the date, he’d be gunned down on the balcony of the Loraine Motel in Memphis. During that year King increased the volume & veracity of his condemnation of U.S. militarism & imperialism. Calling America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” King questioned the notion that God had ordained it as some kind of “divine messianic police force”. With the current ongoing bi-partisan support of gargantuan military budgets, war crimes, & excessive amounts of military bases across the world its amazing that an ant-war activist like MLK is even evoked by the political establishment. Martin teaches us that any nation more willing to invest in instruments of death (militarism) than instruments of life (health care) is morally & spiritually bankrupt.:

“The peculiar genius of imperialism was found in its capacity to delude so much of the world into the belief that it was civilizing primitive cultures even though it was grossly exploiting them.”

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”  MLK
                         

7.) The Symbolism of Representation w/o The Substance of Transformation                 

One of the ways in which King’s legacy has been co-opted is the advancement of a (false) version of his vision that fits neatly within liberalism.  To assume that any slice of the the black radical tradition is in step with liberalism (or conservatism) is a gross misreading.  At his best, King was wholeheartedly in opposition to the idea that mere tweaks of the current system & inclusion within it was the ultimate aim. Therefore, the fulfillment of King’s vision is not merely “black faces in high places” who willfully or inadvertently contribute to the momentum of systemic oppression. King was calling for a revolution of values & boldly proclaimed that “that the whole structure of America must be changed” & “born again” into something entirely different. Yes, representation is important, but it does not necessarily equal transformation. A close look at the emergence of the black political leadership class as mayors, senators, police chiefs, judges, & DA’s, & president reveals how ineffective a strategy of mere inclusion has been. Placing an accommodationist black, brown, queer, immigrant, or women face in front of an oppressive system makes it no less oppressive. In the words of Eduardo Bonilla Silva, “In the post civil rights era you can get false positives; folks who have the “RIGHT” skin color but the wrong politic & therefore we need to move beyond (mere) “epidermic” notions of race to political notions of race.”

“I’m tired of hearing about the “first negro” this & the “first negro” that!”            Martin Luther King Jr

“One of the ways of making sure you sanitize any talk about racism is to talk about diversity. We lost sight of attacking issues of poverty, class––with the death of Martin—and moved into an obsession with having black faces in high places. As long as we had those black faces in high places, the poor could live symbolically through them, vicariously through them. Or those black faces themselves, middle class and upper middle class, could claim that somehow they were the index of progress.”

Cornel West

8.) Discipling Our Churches into a Justice-less Gospel

The Gospel of The Kingdom of God is the righting, reordering, renewal, & reconciliaton of ALL THINGS through the life, teachings, death, resurrection, & enthronement of Jesus. Within the scope of God’s redemptive aims in the world is both the reordering of souls AND societies. Sadly, even though Jesus of Nazareth pronounced a blessing on those who “hunger & thirst for justice”, large swaths of the American church label those who hunger & pursue it as unfaithful, unspiritual, & “unbiblical”. The themes of justice & the call to faith-rooted activism for & with the pushed down, left out, & overlooked of society in both the old & new testaments are collapsed into an understanding of The Faith that keeps the unholy status quo in tact. We betray King when we do not disciple followers of Jesus into the work of social justice as a spiritual discipline.

In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” MLK

9.) Resisting Trump without Understanding The Systems That Created Him

While its true that we need to keep track of & push back on the ways in which President Donald Trump is narrating & legislating a climate of bigotry, lies, hate, & oppression, that is simply not enough. Donald Trump is the ugly symptom of a soul-cial sickness that has ravaged the American body politic for years, decades, & centuries. He does not appear on the political-landscape ex-nihilo (out of nowhere). No, Trump is the explicit personification of unjust structures, oppressive systems, & cultural idols that have animated U.S. life for centuries. Trump is rightly understood as the most undiluted (presidential) embodiment of what Bell Hooks calls “imperialist white supremacist (hetero)patriarchal capitalism” in the post-civil rights era of hollow civility. He voices out loud what is said in private in the halls of American power. Obama quietly deported over 2 million undocumented people, Trump does it loudly while hurling xenophobic rhetoric. Obama silently dropped 26,000 bombs his last year in office (a rate of 3 per hour) and Trump continues this project while brashly threatening North Korea that “there will be fire & fury the likes of which no one has ever seen”. This is not to say that there aren’t real differences between president 44 & 45. Obama for all his flaws is NOT Trump. However, if we do not take a Kingian lens that understands the deeper issues that gave us Trump, our movements will flatline & simply reproduce what came before him. The following excerpt from King’s eulogy for the 4 little girls killed in the 1963 racial terrorist attack on the church in Birmingham is relevant in this regard:

They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats  and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.

MLK

10.) Refusing to Acquire an Internationalist & Intersectional Lens of Oppression   

The height of King’s socio-political analysis is found in what he called the “triplet evils” of “racism, militarism, & poverty”. King had come to see the interconnectedness of structures of oppression that create the climate for injustice. Refusing to allow his concern to be barricaded by U.S. borders, King was vocal about the plight of the poor, oppressed, war-torn, & exploited people & nations across the globe. Though he was radically committed to justice for black people within the U.S. empire he resisted the temptation to allow that to be the totality of his concern. When we fail to see the “chilling parallels between overseas drone programs and how police treat America’s non-white citizens, with the slightest suspicion escalating into official violence and even death”  we betray the thrust of King’s work in his last days. Martin’s internationalist & intersectional lens was the fruit of his long held belief that:

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

MLK

(Article written by T. Hawkins)

 

Jesus of Norway & The Gospel of Sh**holes

Jesus of Norway

I’ve often playfully said that The Church needs to abandon (white) “Jesus of Norway” & embrace (brown) Jesus of Nazareth. This is not an original or new thought at all. The essence of this argument has been powerfully communicated by theologians like Jacqueline Grant, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, & James Cone.

“Jesus of Norway” is the Eurocentric False God who oversees & fuels the mission of white colonial power.

Jesus of Nazareth, is the poor, oppressed, brown Palestinian Jew living under Roman occupation who came to abolish idolatry & injustice & make all things new. Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Matthew wrote of him:

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name all nations will put their hope.”

(this includes the nations labeled as sh&%holes.)

The worship of the former & the disregard of the latter has had very real implications for the last 5 centuries. 45s most recent remarks illuminate this. When he reportedly said that the “US should stop accepting immigrants from sh#%hole places like Haiti & Africa & start bringing in people from places like Norway” he was articulating a white supremacist narrative of what the “ideal human” is & who has the birthright to claim dominion & access in the world. The narrative of white supremacy has been encoded into every aspect of U.S. political structures & systems, including immigration policy. As is his custom, 45, has just AMPLIFIED the (post-civil rights era) covert bigotry of dog-whistle politics to a blaring, overt volume. Its important to note as theologian J Kameron Carter points out, that Trumpism predates Trump. Yes, Trump is unique as the first “tweeter-in-chief”, but he is participating in a political project that can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson.

One of the most important tools for this ongoing & ever-fluid project of racism is the whitewashing of Jesus & the Gospel. As one theologian points out,

“Beneficiaries of systemic injustice can only envision religion as a reproduction of their own socio-economic privilege.”

This has meant for some that God is the cosmic power behind wall-building projects, deportations, predator drones strikes abroad, predator policing at home, neoliberal wealth extraction & redistribution of resources from Africa & South America to the white, rich, & powerful “Christian nations” of the world. In subtle & not so subtle ways, it means that conformity to Jesus = assimilation to whiteness.  In other words, the Gospel of Jesus of Norway to black, brown, red, yellow peoples of the earth is that “God wants to wash you white as snow.”
To this we must say NO in word & in deed. As we keep track of Trump’s activities we must not lose sight of the reality that his foul hard-heartedness is the ugly symptom of a nation whose bowels of compassion have been stopped up by its insatiable appetite to feast on the weak & vulnerable. We must be honest about the historic & present political arrangements that have lead to the devastation of places like Haiti & the continent of Africa. Ultimately, we must worshipfully live into the (re)arrangement that the unwed, pregnant, soon-to-be refugee Mary of Nazareth imagined that her Son would usher in:

“His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.  (Luke 1:50-53)

Mary’s worship-fueled declaration of God’s great reversal is in no way, shape, or form congruent with “Jesus of Norway & the Gospel of Sh**holes”……….

 

(Article written by T. Hawkins)