A Market-Driven Soulcraft

A recent report from Matthew Albright on Dr. Cornel West’s recent speech at University of Delaware, originally posted at The Delaware News Journal:

America is facing a “Westspiritual blackout” because of its obsession with money and must recommit to “soulcraft,” Cornel West preached to a crowd at the University of Delaware in Newark on Tuesday.

“A society ruled by big money, big banks, big corporations, the commodification of culture, the commercialization of our culture,” he fired off. “How do you talk about integrity in the face of that ubiquitous cupidity?” Continue reading

A Struggle of Interpretation

ElsaDay 46 of our Lenten Journey beyond “Beyond Vietnam.”  From Costa Rican biblical scholar Elsa Tamez, an excerpt from an article entitled “The Bible and Five Hundred Years of Conquest” (2005).

We see that for five hundred years we have been involved in a struggle of interpretation: some from a liberating perspective and others from a legitimating perspective of oppression. The struggle for a liberating reading of the Bible is good, nevertheless, it seems to me. After taking a look at history and seeing ourselves there as in a mirror, we need to go beyond the hermeneutical struggle. We should revise the discourse of our written canon and the logic of Christian thought; maybe there is a deeper problem that facilitates the rapid inversion of values. I am referring to aspects such as the biblical conception of time, that is, infinite progression toward the final victory (the Day of the Lord, the battle of Armageddon, the crushing of the enemy). These can be a double-edged sword—or the idea of a universalist, tolerant, egalitarian God, which is projected in the following scheme: “God is good for all; for that reason, all are good for God.” There is no distinguishing the difference. The sacrificial discourse, principally christological, sometimes degenerates into demands of unnecessary sacrifices or into the logic of crucifying the crucifiers; others such as the Elect of God, the Holy War, and so on need to be reworked. This is a matter not just of intellectual concern but of honesty before unjust practices that are easily legitimated with the Bible and theology. All of this leads us to rethink popular hermeneutics and to rework in great depth the significance of biblical authority.

Those Most Othered

KBDDay 45 of our Lenten Journey beyond “Beyond Vietnam.”  A Good Friday meditation from theologian Kelly Brown-Douglas, excerpted from a post on the Feminism and Religion blog.

In Jesus’ first century Roman world crucifixion was reserved for slaves, enemy soldiers and those held in the highest contempt and with lowest regard in society. To be crucified was, for the most part, an indication of how worthless and devalued by established power an individual was.  It also indicated how much of a threat that person was believed to be to the order of things. There was a decided crucified class of people. These were essentially the castigated and demonized as well as the ones who defied the status quo of power. It is in this respect that I believe Jesus’ crucifixion affirms his identification with the marginalized and outcasts. Indeed, on the cross Jesus fully divests himself of all pretensions to power and anything that would compromise his bond with those most othered in the world. The reality of the cross further affirms the profundity of god’s bond with put-upon bodies.. Continue reading

Here’s the Rub

michelleDay 44 of our Lenten Journey beyond “Beyond Vietnam” continues.  An excerpt from Michelle Alexander’s recent comments on Mark Lewis Taylor’s re-release of The Executed God (2001), part of a longer back-and-forth dialogue that is well worth reading.

The truth is that I am still struggling to figure out what I believe about the nature of God and what it means to say that anyone has a “personal relationship” with God. I am just beginning my journey with theology, and therefore I have mostly questions — not answers or critiques.

What I do know is that I can no longer proceed as though mass incarceration is a purely political or legal problem that can be solved through forms of organizing, advocacy, movement-building and protest that lack a strong moral and spiritual foundation. The fact that Taylor offers a rigorous argument for spiritually-grounded actions that will force a national reckoning with our criminal injustice system is a cause for celebration. I wholeheartedly agree with him that political organizing and movement-building among faith communities is essential, and I also agree that political insurrection can be healing and transformative for those who have been traumatized, abused, and violated. Continue reading

More Spending, Of Course

Sharon KyleDay 42 in our Lenten Journey beyond “Beyond Vietnam.”  From Sharon Kyle, publisher of the LA Progressive and a professor of law at Peoples College of Law in L.A., excerpted from “Is Racism a Racket?” in the L.A. Progressive:

What struck me was that Dr. King almost laid bare the notion that racism is a racket. Not to say that racism doesn’t exist but that it’s continued existence serves an elite few.

In a similar assertion, Smedley Butler—a career military man who received 16 medals, five for heroism, and is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice— wrote a book entitled, “War Is a Racket” because he felt that his years of experience showed him that American corporations and other imperialist motivations were behind our wars. He came to see through the PR campaigns that prime the public — that set the stage for war.  After retiring from service, he became a popular activist, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists, and church groups. Continue reading

What My Soul Sings

LenyDay 41 of our Lenten Journey beyond “Beyond Vietnam.”  From Leny Mendoza Strobel (photo right), Professor of American Multicultural Studies at Sonoma State University, in her Foreword to Ethnoautobiography: Stories and Practices for Unlearning Whiteness, Decolonization, Uncovering Ethnicities (2013):

A long-time colleague asked me, for the first time the other day: Why did you become interested in the Indigenous?  My answer was an academic one: When I started doing research on Filipino Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices.

What I really wanted to say was: I have always been interested in the Indigenous worldview; it’s what my bones know and what my soul sings. Continue reading

You Either Are or You Are Not

AdichieDay 40 of our Lenten journey beyond “Beyond Vietnam.”  Excerpted from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recently released Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions (2017):

Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite; the idea of conditional female equality. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.

Teach your daughter to question language. A friend of mine says she will never call her daughter “princess”. The word is loaded with assumptions, of a girl’s delicacy, of the prince who will come to save her. This friend prefers “angel” and “star”. So decide the things you will not say to your child. You know that Igbo joke, used to tease girls who are being childish – “What are you doing? Don’t you know you are old enough to find a husband?” I used to say that often. But now I choose not to. I say, “You are old enough to find a job.” Because I do not believe that marriage is something we should teach young girls to aspire to.  Continue reading