Antidarkness + Black Joy

It’s March. On this site, that means that Black History month is just starting. This is an excerpt from Bettina Love’s We Want to do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom (2019).

Antidarkness is the social disregard for dark bodies and the denial of dark people’s existence and humanity. When White students attend nearly all-White schools, intentionally removed from America’s darkness to reinforce White dominance, that is antidarkness. When dark people are present in school curriculums as unfortunate circumstances of history, that is antidarkness. When schools are filled with White faces in positions of authority and dark faces in the school’s help staff, that is antidarkness. The idea that dark people have had no impact on history or the progress of mankind is one of the foundational ideas of White supremacy. Denying dark people’s existence and contributions to human progress relegates dark folx to being takers and not cocreators of history or their lives…

…What is astonishing is that through all the suffering the dark body endures, there is joy, Black joy. I do not mean the type of fabricated and forced joy found in a Pepsi commercial. I am talking about joy that originates in resistance, joy that is discovered in making a way out of no way, joy that is uncovered when you know how to love yourself and others, joy that comes from relieving pain, joy that is generated in music and art that puts words and/or images to your life’s greatest challenges and pleasures and joy in teaching from a place of resistance, agitation, purpose, justice, love and mattering.

Unmasking a Long Crisis

By Tommy Airey, co-founder and curator of

Last Wednesday, this site propped The People’s CDC, a coalition of public health practitioners, scientists, healthcare workers, educators, advocates and people from all walks of life working to reduce the harmful impacts of COVID-19. The People’s CDC is a great resource for orgs and communities on the left committed to keeping all their people safe. Its weekly Covid “weather reports” are clear, concise and hyperlinked to back the stats. Last week, I received an email from a long-time reader who loves Radical Discipleship, but who had “great concerns” about Wednesday’s post. She referred to a recent study (Cochrane) that she claimed “summarizes that masks are not all that effective.” She was concerned that Wednesday’s post was building on a fear that is unwarranted because the “virus has gone to a much less virulent illness.”

I want to respond publicly to this email because I know that these sentiments are widespread, even on the left. Before I do, allow me to offer this full disclosure: Lindsay and I mostly work from home and we do not have children of our own. We have navigated the pandemic with unique privileges. My heart goes out to my former colleagues in the classroom, friends who are working nine to five jobs, folks I went to seminary with who are orchestrating Sunday services and parents of young children trying to make decisions about masks and gatherings in this climate of Covid denial and minimalism.

Trying to keep up with Covid-19 and make it make sense is an increasingly challenging and risky task. The problem is that ordinary people are swimming against a strong current of “open the economy” campaigns funded by white elites taking advantage of statistics that show people of color are more vulnerable to Covid-19. These stats and targeted disinformation have led white Americans to be consistently less fearful of the disease and less supportive of safety precautions for the past twenty months.

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A Prayer of Freedom

An excerpt from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s classic Seasons of Faith and Conscience (1991), on the first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness: If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

To undertake a lenten discipline, to fast or deny an appetite, is not to inflict some perverse self-punishment or to be justified by a religious act. It is a prayer of freedom: to loosen the bonds and to restore a right relation to the created order. It is so politically loaded because it breaks with the culture precisely at its main method of control.

If in his own fast Jesus is exercising a similar kind of freedom, the tempter manages to come back at a more subtle level. The temptation is to power because more than Jesus’ own needs are at issue. Can there be any doubt that in his aching need he intercedes for all those who are hungry? He bears all who suffer poverty and want. Can there be doubt that he wants justice so bad he can taste it? He hungers after righteousness.

The sharing of bread is intimately entangled with the ministry of Jesus. It is the great sign and metaphor of the kingdom. I have a friend who says if you can read the gospels without getting hungry then you’re not paying attention. The ministry reads like a gigantic floating potluck. From the opening wedding feast to to the feeding of the multitudes, by way of banquet parables or eating with tax collectors and sinners, through the last supper and the resurrection meals. Jesus can be seen with bread in his hands – blessing, breaking, offering, partaking.

The People’s CDC

Instead of working to prevent harm, so much of this era is marked by casualty management, leaving the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. Communities committed to radical mutuality are grappling with creating Covid-19 protocols that cut against the grain of conventional neoliberal wisdom. The People’s CDC is a compelling resource. Organizers are using their Safer Gatherings toolkit to convince conferences to shift their policies. The National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference featured layers of protection including KN95 masks, daily rapid tests, outdoor meals and more. The People’s CDC advised on their COVID protocol and created this poster for them to hang.

A Refusal to be Deformed

An excerpt from an interview with Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto. She was asked what comes to mind when she hears the word “violence” and how this understanding shapes her writing style.

Violence is more than just a word or even an attack. Violence is atmospheric. Like the weather, it’s a condition that covers over every choice, every human process, and is integral to how we gauge and navigate daily life. To have some consideration toward violence requires that we account for these climates of action and emotion, and I suspect that’s always been the case.

Even when I was very young, before I had so many personal encounters with violence, it still was atmospheric. It was always spoken about. It never left, even if there were sunnier or darker days, you always felt its pressure. Violence for me has always been there, on the minds of everyone in my family. I would even go so far as to say it was the biggest consideration to life. How to live in an environment where violence is ever present and has shaped who I have become.

I have of course always tried to keep a distance, and that’s part of the coping strategy. We try not to let violence in. But sometimes that’s not possible. It can seek you out like a slowly building storm.

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A Call to Gospel Nonviolence

Another compelling event from Will O’Brien of the Alternative Seminary in Philly.

Dear friends, 

I am reaching out to many friends and colleagues of the Alternative Seminary with a request that you help promote our upcoming program.

We are once again doing the special Advent program, “The Cross of Christ: Justification for Redemptive Violence or a Call to Gospel Nonviolence?” on Saturday, February 25.

As those of you who have participated in the past know, the program offers a critique of how atonement theology has bred terrible suffering by offering a vision of sacred violence that justifies actual violence, especially again women and minority communities. Starting with resituating Jesus’s crucifixion in historical context, we explore how the cross can be seen as a symbol of nonviolent resistance to oppressive powers. The themes continue to be urgent, especially with the rise of Christian nationalism, in this country and around the world.

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The Birth of Aya – Harbinger of of Lent’s Staggering Promise

By Ken Sehested

The birth of Aya – Harbinger of Lent’s staggering promise
Reflecting on the implausible news of finding an infant—alive, literally born amid the earthquake’s rubble

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Invocation. “When in the dark orchard at night / The God Creator kneeled and prayed / Life was praying with the One / Who gave life hope and prayer.” —English translation of lyrics from “Wa Habibi” (performed by Fairuz), a Christian hymn of the Syriac/Maronite rite. Also known as the Mother’s Lament, the hymn has been performed every year on Good Friday.

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It is staggering news: The birth of a baby girl, born as her mother, father, and four siblings lay crushed among the earthquake rubble of a five-story apartment building in northern Syria. When rescuers found her, they had to cut the umbilical cord attaching her to her mother, who died sometime in the 10 hours between the building collapse and the rescue.

Continue reading “The Birth of Aya – Harbinger of of Lent’s Staggering Promise”

Her Brilliant, Full, Dynamic Life

This is a powerful statement from the friends and family of Jen Angel who was tragically killed last week. Thank you to longtime contributor Nichola Torbett for posting on social media.

It’s with very heavy hearts that we announce that Oakland baker, small business owner, social justice activist, and community member Jen Angel has been medically declared to have lost all brain function and will not regain consciousness. Her official time of death was 5:48pm (PT).

Friends and family of Jen hope that the story of this last chapter of her brilliant, full, dynamic life is one focused on her commitment to community, on the care bestowed upon her and her family by the people who loved her, and on the generous and courageous role of countless health care workers and public servants who fought to preserve her life. We know Jen would not want to continue the cycle of harm by bringing state-sanctioned violence to those involved in her death or to other members of Oakland’s rich community.

As a long-time social movement activist and anarchist, Jen did not believe in state violence, carceral punishment, or incarceration as an effective or just solution to social violence and inequity. The outpouring of support and care for Jen, her family and friends, and the values she held dear is a resounding demonstration of the response to harm that Jen believed in: community members relying on one another, leading with love, centering the needs of the most vulnerable, and not resorting to vengeance and inflicting more harm.

Continue reading “Her Brilliant, Full, Dynamic Life”