A Storm Blowing From Paradise…

By Ched Myers (4 Pentecost: MK 4:35-41)

Note: This is an ongoing series, re-posting Ched’s brief comments from 2015 on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B.

This Sunday’s gospel text is the poignant story of Jesus and his disciples caught in a storm at sea, which threatens to drown them. It is a profound, archetypal scenario that Mark narrates twice (again in 6:45-52). Because today is the day that Pope Francis’ historic encyclical on climate crisis is being published, I will focus on how this appeal addresses the storm that is Climate Catastrophe. A month from now I will return to Mark’s sea stories for Pentecost 8 (on which day the Lectionary inexplicably hops over the second boat journey in its piecemeal gospel selection, which we’ll rectify!).

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Sowing Hope

By Ched Myers, for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Mark 4:26-34)

Note: This is an ongoing series of re-posts of Ched’s brief comments from 2015 on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B.

This week the lectionary gives us the last third of Jesus’ parables sermon (hopping over the famous parable of the Sower and its allegorical interpretation, Mk 4:2-23). This section begins with a sober warning:

And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear: ‘The measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away’.” (Mk 4:24-25)

Mark’s Jesus cautions his audience to “beware” of the anti-Jubilary ideologies they hear from elites, which counsel resignation in the face of injustice (4:23). The assertion that the gulf between haves and have-nots will inevitably grow was the “realism” advanced by wealthy landowners to justify their privilege (4:24). These two verses are omitted by the lectionary portion, but in fact are the point to which the next two parables serve as radical counterpoint, as Jesus repudiates such rationalizations of economic stratification (in the spirit of another parable-spinner, Ezekiel, see Ez 18:1-9).

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White Evangelical Racism

An excerpt from an interview with Anthea Butler, the author of the new release White Evangelical Racism. The full interview with Eric Miller at Religion and Politics can be read here.

I chose this title because I wanted to set certain parameters for the book. I specified white evangelicals to show that I’m using the term in the way that it is used colloquially by the media and the political pundits, rather than in some academic sense. That popular understanding of evangelical can be traced to self-identification, to the demographic of white, Christian conservatives who consider themselves evangelical. And I included racism because it is a very particular type of racism that I am discussing. That is, the racism that hides behind “moral” issues.

I address these questions at some length in the book, exploring how the meaning of evangelicalism has changed over time, and recognizing that there are a lot of people out there who don’t realize they’re in this thing because their self-concept leans heavily on theological considerations, allowing them to pretend that they’re not political. But nobody cares about your commitment to the Bebbington Quadrilateral when you’re arguing about the Supreme Court or judges or abortion. They care about how your belief informs your politics, which candidates you vote for, and what they stand for. So I wanted to pull evangelicals out of this safe little realm in which they’ve placed themselves and press them to confront how other people see them.

Binding the Strong Man: Jesus’ Master Metaphor

By Ched Myers, for the 2nd Sunday of Pentecost (Mk 3:20-35)

Note: This is re-posted from a series of Ched’s brief comments in 2015 on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B.

The first major narrative cycle in Mark’s gospel (1:16-3:6) ends with Jesus’ rejection by the authorities in a Capernaum synagogue. The following episodes serve to regenerate the story by a withdrawal and summary scene (3:7-12) and then by a reconsolidation moment (3:13-19a). The latter mountaintop scene boldly re-contextualizes two of the most revered traditions of Israel: God’s covenant with Moses on Sinai, and Moses’ founding of the free tribal confederacy in the wilderness. Jesus, who has taken the torch from the prophets, prepares to pass it on to twelve disciples he has called, named, and commissioned to proclaim, heal and exorcize (3:14f). Shortly they will be sent out to practice this charge – a second regenerative episode that follows upon another synagogue rejection (6:1-13).

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An Alternative Version

By Tommy Airey

A year ago, police responded to a call from a convenience store employee who accused George Floyd of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Before every single one of us witnessed this Black man forty days younger than me face down on the street pavement calling for his mother while a white man in uniform with his left hand in his pocket took his life by kneeling on his neck, the Minneapolis Police Department issued a press release describing what happened:

Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later. At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.

This ordering of facts was the official account.  

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Holiness Entered Suffering

A recent social media re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination.

At its best, Christianity isn’t about redemptive suffering. Suffering isn’t sacred. This is the classic mistake. That, somehow, enduring suffering is, in and of itself, something holy. This sort of thinking leads to the horrid idea that a soldier’s death renders their service holy. It is a lie that empires spin.

Rather, the way of Jesus tells us that holiness *enters* suffering. On the cross, God suffered. Holiness entered suffering, not to glorify suffering, but to be with those who suffer.

It is life that is sacred. In our suffering, God is present.

This is the powerful insight of liberation theology. God is uniqely present with the oppressed.

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Zionism, Christian Zionism and White Supremacy

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, DC

People who are interested in the bible are tempted to read it literally and seek to follow its every word. This has been the conditioning of fundamentalism.  Fundamentalists have taught that every word in the scripture is true and the bible is inerrant. This point of view has permeated believing constituencies and have generally not been challenged as preachers and teachers choose to leave well enough alone; not want to rock the theological boat, or to roil up their followers. 

This means that scriptures are not questioned, and blanks are filled in where there seems to be glaring inconsistencies in the text or where the prophecy is yet unfulfilled. This has resulted in Christians believing that Jews are God’s chosen people, gentiles are grafted into the promise of God, and the land of Israel belongs to the Jews as promised to them by God. Furthermore, it is argued that not only does the land belong to the Jews, but Jews must be repatriated for Jesus to return, and then Jesus will judge the righteous and unrighteous, and Jews must recognize Jesus as the Christ so that the promise of the reign of God can be fulfilled.  In general, this is known as Christian Zionism, and Christian Zionism is a distortion of scripture used for advancing a colonial Zionist state in Palestine.

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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.

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.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/03/the-supreme-courts-message-on-police-misconduct-is-changing/618193/

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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