The Problems of Domination Intrinsic to Capitalism

Today we celebrate the retirement of Dr. Bruce Rogers-Vaughn from Vanderbilt Divinity School with an excerpt from his book Caring For Souls in a Neoliberal Age (2016), a vital resource for pastors, parents, social workers, therapists and community organizers.

A corollary of the claim that neoliberalism is now globally hegemonic is that pastoral care, as well as other forms of the care of souls, must undergo revision in order to have some hope adequate for both healing and protest. In this book, I will argue that the theories corresponding to this care, including pastoral theology, are generally constrained within postmodern cognitive models, as well as dwelling largely within the fabric of neoliberal versions of identity politics. Any substantial innovation in the fields of pastoral theology and the care of souls today, therefore, will require us to reaffirm our commitment to a common ground that unifies us as diverse people, and to the public good. It will also demand that we extend our analyses and critiques of oppression due to difference (identity) to include the problems of domination intrinsic to capitalism. Indeed, it will mean that subjugations rooted in difference will now be understood, and appreciated more profoundly, in light of capitalism’s current global hegemony. The time has arrived, then, to work toward a post-capitalist pastoral theology, by which I mean a pastoral theology that does not assume the normativity of capitalism.

Earthy Stories with Heavy Meanings

An excerpt from William Herzog’s Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed (1994).

…the parables were not earthly stories with heavenly meanings but earthy stories with heavy meanings, weighted down by an awareness of the workings of exploitations in the world of their hearers. The focus of the parables was not on a vision of the glory of the reign of God, but on the gory details of how oppression served the interests of a ruling class. Instead of reiterating the promise of God’s intervention in human affairs, they explored how human beings could respond to break the spiral of violence and cycle of poverty created by exploitation and oppression. The parable was a form of social analysis every bit as much as it was a form of theological reflection.

Stop to Smell the Lilacs: A Mother’s Day Reflection

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

I keep clearing space to write this piece and then finding a dozen other things to do instead. Perhaps a sign that I need to write this and perhaps a  that it is harder to do than I expected.

Over the last few years, I’ve spent hours and hours gathering a book on parenting. Although I don’t write much about my mom within, she breathes there from beginning to end. I have so much love and appreciation for how she nurtured who I am in both her living and her dying.

I know that Mother’s Day is complicated. There is joy and love and celebration, but there is also grief and pain and longing.

It has been 16 Mother’s Days without my mom now.

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Learning from the Laughter and the Trees: Tell me about Lent

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

I consider myself a lover of liturgical seasons. I might even go as far as to call myself a geek. I love the rhythm of it in my body. The way it coincides with the changing earthly seasons. The cries for justice and stillness and singing and baking. I love it all!

Yet, I have never understood Lent. I can get it with my head, but I don’t feel it in my body. I haven’t found traditions or practices that summon me deeper.

So, I began the season this year with the question “what do you love about Lent?” I threw it out in trusted circles and on social media. I didn’t have a lot of capacity to try much, but I could spend the season listening. I scratched down quotes in the margins of notebooks. I collected wisdom and words.

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These Intersections: On Writing Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection

By Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Society had developed and perfected a whole lexicon as ways of stigmatizing the wrong that threatened its wrongs. You know the phrases: to the poor – wrong side of the tracks; to a child in school – wrong question, wrong answer; to the people’s spectrum – wrong color; to the women – wrong sex; to the gays – wrong ecstasy.

  • Daniel Berrigan March 15, 1974, “All Honor to the Wrong People.”

In 1974 the War Resisters League Peace Award was given to Daniel Berrigan. The honor was conscious counternarrative, an audacious act of love and respect. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was the formal presenter, reading, “To Daniel Berrigan, for his irritating vocation as a prophet in our times, angering us in our complacency, embracing us in our humanity. Leaping beyond his own limits, he has led us beyond ours.”

The year prior Berrigan had been invited to address the Association of Arab-American University Graduates in D.C. But then the October/Yom Kippur War broke. He kept the date, speaking as the bombs fell. Confessing his own inexpertise, and excoriating all sides of the war for violence (including our own U.S, and Christian “sides”), he nonetheless came down firm in outraged love for Israel’s betrayal of what he read as its own history and tradition – one akin to his own. He did not mince words. A firestorm broke. He was accused of being wrong in every way or other. Invitations were withdrawn, awards cancelled. Hence, WRL’s honor and his own words to embrace being wrong.

Continue reading “These Intersections: On Writing Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection”

Flags, Guns and Briefcases

By Tommy Airey

For the duration of the Derek Chauvin trial, Lindsay and I posted up just north of Panhe, an Acjachemen burial and ceremonial site in modern-day Southern California at the coastal border of Orange and San Diego counties. The Acjachemen people are not recognized by the federal government—despite archaeological proof that they lived sustainably on that land for more than 9,000 years before European Christians, with their flags and guns, invaded it and stole it and forcibly converted them to the cult of Jesus, the white conquistador.

To add insult to injury, the white Christians raped their women and infected them with their diseases. Panhe was the epicenter of a genocidal cocktail of disease centuries before the novel coronavirus came for a country trying to make itself great again in every colonial way possible. The people of Panhe were victims of a COVID-19 on steroids. As more than 90% of the Indigenous population of Turtle Island were killed off, white Christians spurned social distancing for profit-making.

Panhe is the crucified wound of a people still surviving, but totally unrecognized. In fact, its sacred quality is soaked in the surreal statistic that .0001% of those who call California home drive by Panhe thousands of times and never even know it exists. Some of the ancient Oak and Sycamore trees of Panhe remember a time when white people were not around. They are still standing despite the encroachment of a military base, nuclear power plant, state campground and Trestles, one of the most legendary surf beaches in the world.

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Breathing room

By Ken Sehested

As I pulled out of our driveway, the NPR radio host said that the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial had reached a verdict and would be announced shortly. I immediately felt my stomach tighten and swallowed an inhaled “oh no.”

Like most, I thought the evidence against him in the death of George Floyd was irreproachable. But history said otherwise, particularly given the massive loophole provided by the Supreme Court’s ruling granting “limited immunity” to law enforcement, for “breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions.”

Each Tuesday I perform taxi service, getting my granddaughter to and from her gymnastics team workout. I was grateful the news didn’t break until after dropping her off. That came as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot on the way home, to pick up an item for dinner.

Entering the store, it seemed I was the only one who knew that a rare moment in US history had been announced. If I were more of an extrovert, I might have shouted out a few exclamation points.

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Part of a Long Line of Prophetic Perishing

An excerpt from Dr. James Perkinson’s 2001 essay “Theology and the City: Learning to Cry, Struggling to See.”

The Christian tradition that underwrites the theology elaborated here offers — as its primary icon of “how” and “where “God is present in the world and “who” God is in the world — an image of a human being hanging on an instrument of state torture, crying out to God, against God (Mark 15:34). That God is not ripped down miraculously from that piece of wood (Mark 15:29-30). That God does not make it into comfy old age. While still alive “in the flesh,” that God did not always have a full belly (Matt. 12:1-4), did not live in the posh quarters of the city (Luke 9:58), was not greeted with acclaim by the movers and shakers of his day (John 7:45-52), did not have a good retirement policy. “He” regularly angered the foundations like the Sanhedrin or the Herodian Temple Corporation that would otherwise have funded his ministry (Mark 3:11-6). He publicly blessed the welfare queens, hookers, day laborers and beggars, and other assorted “rabble” who had been downsized out of legitimate livelihoods (Luke 6:20-23). He publicly cursed the banquet-givers (Luke 6:24-26), and conference-goers, and upright, uptight stalwart citizens, who, as the pillars of their community, continuously expropriated land from the “people” by means of the debt-code in order to reemploy them as tenant farmers on their own lands (Matt. 20:1-16; see Herzog, 1994, 79-97). He loudly and loquaciously denounced the lifestyle supported by such exploitative practices and labeled “abomination” what the elites claimed as “God’s blessing” (Herzog, 1994, 53-73; 2000, 90-108; Myers, 1997, 125). He openly charged the scribal ideologues and their judicial patrons with privately wrestling widows’ last pennies away from them (Mark 12:38-44) even as they were publicly encouraging the sons to give their mothers’ estates away “to God” through the Temple apparatus called “corban” (that, in effect, transferred such endowments from the marginalized elderly to the Temple’s rapacious high-priestly high-livers) (Mark 7:5-13).

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Do I Believe in the Resurrection?

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, Editorial from Geez magazine’s Signs of Dawn.

Many years ago now, when I was still a teenager, I fell upon my mother’s dead body and wept. I clung onto her when the life was gone, but the warmth still remained on her skin.

We carried her body downstairs and then into the living room. With the help of women in our neighbourhood, I washed her body. I ran my fingers along her surgery-scarred head, her eyes that had loved me so well, and her mouth that I would never again hear sing. Behind the blur of tears, I can still smell burning sage and hear Taizé chants playing on the CD player. She lay on dry ice there for two days and nights. We told stories. We prayed. We cried. We vigiled.

Several months later as we approached Easter, scripture shapeshifted before my weary eyes. My heart clung to the women as they carried spices and travelled toward Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body. Violated and brutalized on the cross, his body was now guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet, here came these women full of bravery, carrying grief and love, to honour his body and ritualize their mourning.

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