What is Whiteness? A Provisional Articulation

Council on the WayBy Jim Perkinson

Note: this is a long working definition of Whiteness. Dr. Perkinson laid this down for a committee reflecting in the wake of The Council on the Way (right), an October 2019 gathering of white men envisioning and embodying a redemptive white male theology. The conversation over two days in Washington D.C. was conceived and coached by Ruby Sales, theologian and veteran of the Black Freedom Struggle.

What is whiteness? I would understand the paler shades of skin color that are typically referenced, when the term “whiteness” is used, as a kind of shorthand for a whole social system of infrastructure and expectation, as well as conscious/unconscious identification. It is a system that is rooted in European Christian colonialism taking land on this continent by force (either violent conquest or coercive legal imposition) from indigenous peoples and making much of that land yield “resources” by means of enslaved African peoples (as well as other coerced peoples of color, and to some degree even coerced lower and working class European heritage peoples). Continue reading

What the Waters Know: Re-Reading John 1:29-42

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Photo by Erinn Fahey

By James W. Perkinson

He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay; he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure (Ps 40:2).

I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel. (Jh 1:31)

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (Jh 1:36).

So we sit today in bit of snow here in Motown, while our news feeds show weekly pile-ups of cold precipitation elsewhere across the land—and pile-ups, as well, of twisted metal in our stupid infatuation with cars and speed—as the Great Stream of Jetting Air bends south and brutal, from the Arctic Circle to Arizona, in announcement that Change, with a capital “C’ is not future, but here.  And we wonder about the upheaval of an entire planet.  Australia become a living kiln, cooking up a billion-fold of living flesh, involuntary offerings to our wanton refusal to heed!  In Puerto Rico they sleep outside, as the fracked Earth, heaving from a thousand cuts, here, there, in Oklahoma now grinding Her teeth in warning hundreds of times per year where She used to rest soft and fecund and quiet, but in our little cousin island to the south, slipping and sliding the soil into great fear and one more sheer nightmare.  Last time—it was the sea and sky as Maria roared through.  Now it is rock and sand, all serving notice they do not plan on being raped and plundered, forever.  But it is the poor who are first forced to hear and bear the pain.  The rest of us sleep-walk in daylight and pull the covers of night over our oblivious heads.  But our time is coming as well, I am afraid.  And we are far more culpable. Continue reading

advent as the seas rise

CABy Jim Perkinson, on Matthew 24:36-44, performed on 12.01.19 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, MI

b & e lifted up as priority
an outlaw god on a mission of
correction, convection, currents
of floods, burned by fire-storms
of trees, california today,
new york city tomorrow, but don’t
worry, just party, drink up your
hot toddy, be snotty, like a donald
trump wanna be, your head in the
potty, doing karate on the future,
the scripture is naughty, sirening
night as the right time, for the
break-in to let the bodies out,
immigrants like abraham finding
oak branches prophesying like
a reckoning for sodom, collapsing Continue reading

Wild Weeds and Imperial Trees: Reading a Messianic Parable at the Crossroads of Settlement and the Wild

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wild mustard (public domain)

By Jim Perkinson, some timely scholarship for this weekend’s Gospel story

*Note: these comments from Dr. Perkinson are a summary of his “ground-breaking” essay on seeds and soils in Political Spirituality in an Age of Eco-Apocalypse: Essays in Communication and Struggle Across Species, Cultures, and Religions (Palgrave McMillan, 2015)

The seed parables of the gospels are “heirloom” for modern readers. They come across time, hard with unpacked dynamism.  As bare kernels, they sit unmoving before the eyes. But given the right nutrients from without, they may sprout with a surprising prolixity.

I want to treat these little Galilean riddles like transportable spore, and see what they do in a plot of contemporary “compost.” Continue reading

Why Faith Must Learn the Language of Flood: Water as Apocalyptic Witness of Last Resort

J Perk, ShoesBy Jim Perkinson (09.01.2019)

*Note: This is a sermon Dr. James Perkinson (right, performing spoken word at the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, MI) did  for the liturgical “season” being adopted by some churches including St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit. It is called the Season of Creation (Sept 1 to Oct 4). The focus on this Sunday (September 1, 2019) was on the oceans. J-Perk included a number of biblical passages related to the seas and water and asked a few questions/made some comments [as indicated], before getting into the sermon proper. 

Background

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and Earth. The Earth was without Form and Void, and Darkness was upon the Face of the Deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the Waters—Canaanite Mythology (Gen 1:1-2).  Continue reading