PC: Michael Smith
By Tommy Airey
Decades ago, Alice Walker suggested that the White House should be run by twelve grandmothers. I spent my Wednesday at the state capital bearing witness to the obvious brilliance of her proposal.
It was almost two years since my first visit to Lansing, days after the Flint water poisoning scandal broke out like an upper respiratory infection. The brutal part: both viruses still linger.
Back then, business brought my friend Mike to Michigan. But his heart and his camera prodded him all the way to Capitol with me to brave a single-digit-wind-chilled protest during the Governor’s annual State of the State address. A year later, the state’s Civil Rights Commission issued a scathing 135-page report naming “systemic racism” as a major factor in Flint’s water contamination. Redlining, white flight to the suburbs, intergenerational poverty and “implicit bias” were all chronicled as contributing to the unnatural disaster. Fifty years after the Kerner Commission report, history came full circle. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey
May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Thessalonians 5:23
Back in the 80’s and 90’s, vintage Advent passages about “the coming of our Lord” were infused with the rapture theology of my fresh Evangelical faith. I eagerly anticipated an End Times scenario when Jesus would triumphantly return to rescue us from the sin of the world. I remained vigilant as the Left Behind series of books and movies filled in the blanks of what this letter from Paul assured us would soon happen:
For the Lord himself, with a word of command,
with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God,
will come down from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Our Evangelical pastors repressed our sexual imaginations, but they gave us full permission to fantasize about the End of the World. It was almost too much for my adolescent mind. I conjured images of mass disappearances, freeways suddenly littered with empty cars and football stadiums with fans flying into the heavens. Researching the historical context, though, zoomed me back down to earth. Literally. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey
Earlier this month, I started Bayo Akomolafe’s recently-released These Wilds Beyond Our Fences seeking spiritual solidarity. Like most, my soul has been squeezed by concentric circles of cacophony. Climate catastrophe rages (globally) while a major political party (led almost exclusively by white men) denies it all and “successfully” utilizes weapons of voter suppression, legalized bribery, gerrymandering and Russian collusion to take full reigns of power (nationally and state-wide). Meanwhile, water shutoffs and home foreclosures pelt a city cloaked by leaders calling it a “comeback” (locally).
These rings of austerity and white supremacy have formed the ice rink of an epic institutional collapse. Families, faith communities, foundations, the “free” market and finance—these fail to offer compelling solutions for any of it. Instead, they drive the Zamboni. These are maddening times and no one, it seems, is really sure what to do about it. Confusion reigns. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey, an excerpt from chapter nine of Descending Like a Dove: A Journey of Radical Discipleship (to be released Spring 2018)
Like every good Evangelical, my adolescent faith was about giving all glory to the Lord. I sang praise songs to a “high and lifted up” Jesus and always concluded my prayers “in Jesus’ name” (I signed off my emails “Fool For Christ,” but that’s a story for another time). I was taught to utilize “apologetics” to defend the faith and prove that Jesus was, in fact, Divine. I revered C.S. Lewis whose Mere Christianity made a water-tight case for my beliefs. Lewis left readers three choices for who Jesus really was: a lunatic, a liar or the Lord Himself:
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.
Lewis claimed that, when it came to the people who actually met Jesus, they responded in three ways: hatred, terror or adoration. There was no middle ground. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey, adapted from a sermon on Matthew 10:1-16
Most interpretations of Jesus’ “parable of the landowner” equate the vineyard owner with God and the workers with God’s People or humanity at large. God is seen as “generous” and “equitable” with the people and expands the population of those who, by grace, are ushered through the heavenly gates. The grumbling worker at the end of the story is representative of Israel at large or the Pharisees, chief priests and other Jewish leaders who confronted Jesus during his life and ministry—the lesson being that we should all be thankful for God’s equal treatment and unconditional generosity and kindness.
Infused by the scholarship of William Herzog and his former student Ched Myers, there is a more compelling and contextual interpretation of Matthew 20 flowing out of the “minority report” of the radical discipleship movement. Fortunately, nothing in the parable forces us to assume that the vineyard owner in the parable is God! Instead, like a political cartoon, the parable is an exaggerated representation of what life was actually like during the time of Jesus and in the culture of the very first hearers of the parable five decades later. Instead of offering us heavenly principles that permit us to rest easy, the parable functions as a jarring illustration that prods us to face reality. Continue reading
Walking the Stations of the Cross at the Abundant Table Food Project in Oxnard, CA.
By Tommy Airey, co-editor of RadicalDiscipleship.net
*This post kicks-off a new series on Wednesdays exploring the movement of Spirit during mealtime.
Give us meat for our food.
Sometimes I sneak inside the local gym here in Ypsilanti and spend thirty minutes on the elliptical. The AC is on and a half dozen TVs are right in front of me. A few weeks ago, I was sweating to a sports talk show host lamenting his wife’s newfound veganism. It is the oldest, most tiring go-to in the counterfeit masculinity playbook. I knew exactly what he was going to say next: “I just want to go out and have a steak with my guy friends.” And then he droned on about the whole pathetic ordeal for the entire segment.
Seven years ago, Lindsay and I became vegetarians after watching the Academy Award winning documentary Food, Inc. and then reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I attribute this conversion mostly to Michael Smith, a former traveling salesmen now living in Iceland snapping photos of the Northern Lights with his girlfriend Inga. I was Michael’s freshman basketball coach. I taught him how to ball fake and skip pass. Now he feeds me the latest on the state of the heavily corporatized meat and dairy industries. I got the better end of the bargain. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey, co-editor of RadicalDiscipleship.net
On Friday, in preparation for this past weekend’s neo-fascist march and rally in Charlottesville, Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia, cited “the right of every American to deny those ideas more attention than they deserve.” He strongly encouraged people to stay away from the counter-protest. As if oppressors and abusers just go away if we don’t confront them with our humanity. As if level-headedness and moderation have ever saved those catching hell.
However, this was far from the first time that McAuliffe has distanced himself from the militant nonviolent tradition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, while in a Birmingham cell, rejected “the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea” of white moderate clergy. Jyarland Daniels, the founder of the racial equity organization Harriet Speaks, reminded me recently that, in the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential election, McAuliffe, a huge Hillary Clinton supporter, worked tirelessly to ensure that (mostly black) ex-felons could get the right to vote. This is significant because McAuliffe’s support (with most of the Democratic Party establishment) for mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders and felon disenfranchisement laws have crippled black families and neighborhoods for decades. Continue reading