Irma and La Tuna, Charlottesville and North Korea: The Voice Under the Voice, Still Unheard

KidRockTrump

Detroit, Michigan: Six sold-out shows to open up the new $800 million Little Caesar’s Arena

Dr. James Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary (Detroit, MI)

The signs of our time shout! Harvey hammers Houston and the entire Gulf Coast camps out in a boat or a grave. Then comes Irma with Jose and Katya in Her wake, raking an entire peninsula with rebuke. While fire ungraced with gendered traces of naming, blisters the west. All on top of Charlottesville, itself evoking Trump, chopping restraints militant and policing, channeling a large chunk of the dominant demographic of the country! As I write, Kid Rock readies his concert of hate in downtown Detroit, as front for the Ilitch family take of Motown turf, faking concern, raking in tax dollar support, celebrating white vituperation in the gala opening of a new ice hockey stadium at the core of an 82 % black city. Little Caesar indeed! But what do all of these events have to do with each other? How might a community aspiring to some measure of humanity and morality “hear” what these events sound out? I do not yet even dare to say, “Respond.” Continue reading

Whose Violence? Which Insurgence?: White Supremacy in the Mirror of Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation

Nat TurnerBy Dr. James Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary (Detroit, MI), prepared comments presented at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church’s “Social Justice Forum,” October 21, 2016 in response to the film

It was a Jewish man, Walter Benjamin, during WWII, who once said, “Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if [it] wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious” (Benjamin, 255)

Nat Turner’s spirit is buried beneath the shouts and cries (Cone, 61)

It is a deep honor to be asked to offer a few words in memory of so courageous and clear a spirit of resolve as Nat Turner. It is an honor doubly difficult to measure up to in that my skin is white and my life circumstance therefore privileged with respect to Turner’s color and condition and the people whose struggle for justice he represented with such determination and daring that it presaged the only resolution of the institution of slavery white people would accept. War. And it is a war that has never yet ceased. And so my standing here today is not innocent. Continue reading

Sermon: The Wheat and the Weeds: A Riddle of Love?

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Photo by Jessica Rose

By Jim Perkinson, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, July 23, 2017

Such a rich lectionary offering this morning, I am hard put to choose among the Hebrew scripture, the Greek epistle, and the Aramean gospel.  I could easily focus on Jacob’s experience with a dreaming-stone, propping up his tired head on his way upstream from Isaac’s abode in Canaan, charged with not taking a wife from among the indigenous Canaanites, but going north and east to Aramean kin, from whence his ancestor Abraham had fled originally (Gen 28:10-19a).  The stone, likely a meteorite, births vision—Jacob seeing a ladder like a cosmic tree, granting movement between this world and the Spirit-World for angelic folk, the Powers in their proper role, and hears, speaking from the rock, the same great I AM that Moses will hear much further down the road speaking from a bush.  Continue reading

Place-Based Resurrection

PerkBy Dr. James Perkinson (right), a sermon on Luke 24:13-35

I want to begin with a word of prayer before we jump into the gospel for today, but to facilitate that, first—a story about prayer and some necessary preliminaries. I have a half-Filipino poet friend in Detroit who tells of his first experiences of the Lord’s prayer, while growing up. Whenever he heard “Our Father who art in Heaven,” his five-year-old vernacular ears could not compute “art” as anything other than what happened when you put paint on paper, so his five year-old mind supplied a little slurred “n” in there, and what he actually thought he heard was “Our Father, who aren’t in heaven.” And it rattled him; he couldn’t figure it out; he says he kept thinking, “Well, where is he then?” If not there, then where? But he gradually came to hear it as a positive affirmation: a God who “aren’t” in heaven, because that God’s “place” is really right here, with us. A deep intuition, I would say, for all—what I would call place-based confession. Continue reading

Trumpeting More Whiteness

j-perkBy Dr. James Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Detroit, MI

So I am reading the left alt-press for insight on what just happened with the election of Donald Trump, and find myself yet one more time provoked at our white blindness. No less than Glenn Greenwald—whose typically razor-sharp analysis I have relied on so often in the past—quotes Nate Cohn to the effect that “Clinton suffered her biggest losses in the places where Obama was strongest among white voters. It’s not a simple racism story.” And offers further: “Matt Yglesias acknowledged that Obama’s high approval rating is inconsistent with depictions of the U.S. as a country ‘besotted with racism.’” How little we have learned for all of our supposed “learning.” Continue reading

Somewhere Between Sturgeon, Graffiti, and Jubilee

jimBy James W. Perkinson. Written in preparation for the Detroit Spirit and Roots Gathering this upcoming weekend in Detroit hosted in part by Word and World. Published on On the Edge, a Detroit Catholic Worker Paper.

This summer in Detroit, some of us will attempt a new thing. Tentatively, slowly deliberately—we will convene a dialogue among three communities of inspiration. One is rooted in postindustrial soils, breaking street savvy into spit finesse, spun bodies, and tagged walls. Another is deeply historical, born of peasant resistance against ancient Roman might, itself gone genocidal and colonizing. The third, most rooted, is embedded in soils and waters, seasons and weather, enculturated by the place itself. Hip-hop, Christian, and indigenous by other names—three constituencies roughly demarked, will make common cause in concern for the future of de troit, the strait. We have named it the “Detroit Spirit Roots Gathering” and seek to serve a re-spiriting of the city in part by learning from each other’s stories. Continue reading