The Poor Among You

Poor Peoples CampaignBy Tommy Airey

Over the decades, I’ve consistently heard conservative pastors quote their Lord and Savior to dismiss policies and provisions that attempt to systematically help low-income residents. You’ll always have the poor among you (Mark 14:3-9). “See,” they say, referencing the Scripture, “Jesus, is telling us it’s a waste of time to try to alleviate poverty. He promises that the poor will always be with us no matter what we try to do.”

In this episode, Jesus is actually quoting Deuteronomy 15, one of the most crucial junctures in the history of Israel. God is preparing the former slaves of Egypt to live in a new kind of way in the Promised Land. As the old African-American proverb illuminates, it is easier to get the enslaved out of Egypt than it is to get Egypt out of the enslaved. The exodus wilderness was a school, a 12-step-program for recovery from the colonial script. Continue reading “The Poor Among You”

Soul Talk in a Neoliberal Age, Part 1

Mental Health Counseling Conference
PC: Sam Simpkins

For the next five Fridays, we will pose questions to Dr. Bruce Rogers-Vaughn (right), an ordained Baptist minister, pastoral psychotherapist and Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Counseling at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and the author of Caring for Souls in a Neoliberal Age (Palgrave, 2019). “Neoliberalism,” he writes, “has become so encompassing and powerful that it is now the most significant factor in shaping how, why, and to what degree human beings suffer.”

This is why Bruce presses for a “post-capitalist pastoral theology” that empowers people to resist the system (instead of adapt to it), to embrace communion and wholeness in relation to others and the earth (instead of functioning in accord with the values of production and consumption) and to pursue interdependent reliance within the web of human relationships (instead of accepting shame-based personal responsibility narratives). Continue reading “Soul Talk in a Neoliberal Age, Part 1”

The Subconscious Code of Instructions

PC: Joe Henson

An excerpt from Isabel Wilkerson’s just-released Caste: The Origins of our Discontents.

Like other old houses, America has an unseen skeleton, a caste system that is as central to its operation as are the studs and joists that we cannot see in the physical buildings we call home. Caste is the infrastructure of our divisions. It is the architecture of human hierarchy, the subconscious code of instructions for maintaining, in our case, a four-hundred-year-old social order. Looking at caste is like holding the country’s x-ray up to the light… Continue reading “The Subconscious Code of Instructions”

Amplifying the Conception of You

dominiqueAn excerpt from Rev. Dale Fredrickson’s interview with Denver-based poet and activist Dominique Christina.

For my children one of the things that was most useful to me in trying to curate language for them, that would give them the most room, the most space, was to explain to them that you are, we are, I am a concept. A beautiful designed concept, is where the word conception comes from. You are your parents’ best idea. You got here and constructs were forced upon you. We know that a construct is built from without. There’s a rainforest and that’s a concept. But if I clear those trees to build a nightclub, the nightclub is the construct. In creating that construct I had in that clearing things had to die. Things that were organic had to die to accommodate that construct. Continue reading “Amplifying the Conception of You”

Truly Honoring Black Women’s Labor and Fatigue to Change this Country

L-R: Thomas Jackson, Derecka Purnell

From the conclusion of a Guardian op-ed “Why Black Progressive Women Feel Torn About Kamala Harris” by Derecka Purnell (right), a social movement lawyer and writer based in Washington DC.

I am reluctant to say that Biden and Harris can be pushed. My hope of being wrong is greater than my fear of being right. That hope comes from countless activists who organize across the state and local level, who are vigorously defending democracy on their blocks and creating care in their families and communities. That hope comes from studying Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, who, facing impossible odds and considerable violence and no resources, decided to forge an alternative to the political establishment. Hamer asks, “Is this America, the land of the free and home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?” Continue reading “Truly Honoring Black Women’s Labor and Fatigue to Change this Country”

Weeping Permits Newness

WalterFrom Walter Brueggemann’s classic The Prophetic Imagination (1978):

I used to think it curious that, when having to quote scripture on demand, someone would inevitably say, “Jesus wept.” It is usually done as a gimmick to avoid having to quote a longer passage. But now I understand the depth of that verse. Jesus knew what we numb ones must always learn again: (a) that weeping must be real because endings are real; and (b) that weeping permits newness. His weeping permits the kingdom to come. Such weeping is a radical criticism, a fearful dismantling because it means the end of all machismo; weeping is something kings rarely do without losing their thrones. Yet the loss of thrones is precisely what is called for in radical criticism.

Black August

Black AugustFrom Kayla Reed, Co-Founder and Political Strategist, Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives (in an email sent Friday, August 7, 2020).

Fifty years ago, today — August 7, 1970 — Jonathan Jackson was killed in northern California while attempting to liberate a group of Black freedom fighters known as the Soledad Brothers, of which his brother, George Jackson, was a part. The Soledad Brothers inspired hunger strikes and protests, bringing attention to the atrocities of the prison industrial complex and its architects. George was killed by the state a little over a year later on August 21, 1971 as he, too, attempted to liberate folks from prison. Continue reading “Black August”

Five Loaves, Two Fish and a Rack of Ribs

riot ribsBy Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin, Salt and Light Lutheran Church, Portland, OR (Sunday, August 2), Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus, a young movement leader, desperate to be alone, grieving, raging, mourning the state-sponsored murder of his cousin, John. A crowd gathers. Thousands upon thousands. They are there so long, learning and listening and longing for change, that it gets late into the night and they are hungry. Some want to say, go home! Fend for yourselves! Go to the store and buy your own food! You’re on your own! But that is not The Way of Jesus. That is not The Way of this movement. And suddenly, seemingly miraculously, food for thousands appears. And the hungry are fed. They feed one another. Because when the system fails or it isn’t designed to care for you in the first place, you have to care for one another. And from that place, create a new way of being in the world. Continue reading “Five Loaves, Two Fish and a Rack of Ribs”

Mother Earth’s Pandemic

indigenous values initiativeFrom the Indigenous Values Initiative. They are hosting Mother Earth’s Pandemic, a conference that starts tomorrow. Register here.

The “Doctrine of Discovery,” better described as the “Doctrine of Christian Discovery and World Domination,” established the worldview that not only brought devastation to the natural world, but also impaired the ability for human beings to live in proper relationship with the Earth. 15th century Papal Bulls, issued by the Vatican, justified the assault upon Indigenous Peoples as an artificial justification to take possession of their bodies, lands and resources in order to finance their New World Order. This worldview advanced the Age of Discovery as an extension of the Crusades, and was the conceptual framework behind the Protestant Reformation, the establishment of Nation States around the world, and later secularized to define colonialism, white supremacy and global capitalism. Continue reading “Mother Earth’s Pandemic”

Racism, Exorcism + Baptism

PIPFrom the conclusion of Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s chapter on racism (“Exorcising an American Demon: Racism is a Principality”) in Principalities in Particular: A Practical Theology of the Powers That Be (2017):

William Stringfellow’s source of authority and hope at the Chicago
conference was tied to baptism:

[Racism] is the power with which Jesus Christ was confronted and which, at great and sufficient cost, he overcame. In other words, the issue here is not equality among human beings, but unity among human beings…The issue is baptism. The issue is the unity of all humanity wrought by God in the life and work of Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of that unity.

As the Ephesians letter (which itself may be read as a baptismal meditation) puts it: the new humanity in Christ’s body breaks down the wall of hostility (2:14–16). In this new humanity which baptism seals and affirms, our relationship to every other human being, every human community, indeed to every creature, is renewed. The wall has no
claim upon us. The powers do not rule in our lives and community. We
have died, with Christ, out from under their spirit and dominion (Eph
2:1–8). Continue reading “Racism, Exorcism + Baptism”