Tag Archives: antisemitism

I Watched #Hellbound Before I Changed It to Buffy #btvs

Last night I was pretty bored and I needed to watching something while I did some fall cleaning. Lo, and behold, I decided to watch the documentary, Hellbound?, written and directed by Canadian Christian writer Kevin Miller. From all that I had heard and read, it was supposed to be a worthwhile film, and maybe someday I will go back and finish. But just not this year. The movie was fine, I could see the direction it was going: BIG NINE-ELEVEN TWO THOUSAND AND ONE DRAMA! The Phelps and their hate speech where 99.99999999% of the people living in the world are going to burn in hell for all eternity! Mark Driscoll implying anyone who disagreed with him was not manly enough and kind of queer. So NOT authoritarian! Liar and heretic Ray Comfort even had an appearance.

Nope none of these persons were problematic enough to trigger me into watching something else. Then, Miller first started making claims like all religions are about narrative, and story is ooooh so important to what it means to be human. It’s a familiar argument, one that Brian McLaren was writing about in the ’90’s. You see, there are a variety of Christianities. There’s the fundamentalists who claim to take the Bible “literally” but never seriously. And there are also Christians who read Scripture as literature and somewhat more seriously. While the latter sounds better, at least the BIG OLE SCARY fundies are honest and forthright about the implications of their beliefs.

Then, Hellbound started interviewing the likes of Wm Paul Young and Frank Schaeffer. Throughout his few minutes, Schaeffer repeatedly referred to Evangelicals as Pharisees. This claim went unchallenged, and given the lack of racial diversity in the film (it’s a Christian documentary, so not surprising given the “nature” of the business). Frantz Fanon argues in his Black Skin, White Masks that once you find an anti-Semite, there’s not an anti-Black antagonist far behind. Part of my path down the narrow road of anti-racism was taking a Jewish-Studies course that coincided with a Black Church studies class on Exodus. It was there that I first learned of how problematic loosely calling others Pharisees was. Jesus and Paul were Pharisees,

Cover of "Black Skin, White Masks"

Cover of Black Skin, White Masks

Pharisees were some of the very first Christians in Acts, but in liberal and conservative Christianity, people continue a willful ignorance of the history of antiSemitism and anti-Judaism. I’m sorry, but the Pharisees are not the villains you make them out to be. That’s why it’s no surprise when in liberal “Christian novels,” such as Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack, anti-Judaism goes unchecked.

 

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But I think that there is something that goes much deeper. At the heart of the problem is the notion of story. I have discussed on here before the problem of seeing everything as a story here before, as it relates to postcolonial criticism.

So last night, when I changed the show I was watching on Netflix to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I decided to watch the season 7 episode “Storyteller,” the story of Andrew who was shooting a documentary about Buffy, the slayer of vampires, and I found this relevant quote:

“Buffy: Stop! Stop telling stories. Life isn’t a story.
Andrew: Sorry. Sorry.
Buffy: Shut up. You always do this. You make everything into a story so no one’s responsible for anything because they’re just following a script.”- Storyteller, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 7, Episode 16.

This is exactly the problem with emergent dudebros. They do not have to take responsibility for the histories of biblical interpretations or practices there of. They can just call it “STORY” since it sounds so much nicer. No way should they be held accountable for the real, historical experiences of the oppressed because when it comes to the Grand Narrative, only an arbitrarily limited account provided by men from the majority culture.

Perhaps then this is why the story of the Hellmouth remains truer than that of Hellbound? .

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction

This review is part of my fulfilment of an agreement with the editors of this text in exchange for a free advanced copy of this book.

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction

What I enjoyed about this book:

Relational theology is a Protestant phenomenon, that is it is primarily an intra-communal conversation between Protestants, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, nondenominationals and the like. What is Relational theology? It is a theology that emphasizes God‘s interaction with humanity and creation, as well as the Creator’s capacity to be affected by the creation. In this theology, the passage, “God is love,” is invoked repeatedly.  Nothing is predetermined or foreordained in this perspective, and both the divine and humanity have more or less, libertarian free will, but for the sake of community.  My favorite essay from this collection SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT (it ‘s about postcolonialism) was “The Cross Or Caesar?: A Postcolonial Query” by Gabriel Salguero. I don’t know how many times I have said that the post in post colonialism is about hope more than anything else, but this quote is golden: “The ‘post’ in postcolonial is a call, a vision, a prophecy. ‘Post’ means that we hope. We can dream about and work for a day in which God’s shalom reign of Isaiah 11 is a reality. We can anticipate the lion and the lamb dwelling together. ‘Post means that love conquers our appetites to colonize, enslave and control. ‘Post’ in postcolonialism means that God’s love will bring to its knees all the kingdoms of this earth and establish a reign of love and justice for all of creation.”

WHAT I DID NOT ENJOY ABOUT THIS TEXT:

First of all, the chapters were too short for my taste, but this was an introduction geared towards probably laypersons. Okay, fine. I get why the brevity. Still, some ideas need to be explicated. My other dislike about this text was that it severed completely, as Dirk von der Horst said, discussions of oppression and suffering from God’s relationality.  In fact, probably the fact that this conversation is a white Protestant male lead book on relational theology is part of the reason that the work of Catholic feminists such as Elizabeth A Johnson’s work is overlooked significantly.  We can’t talk about God relating people without talking about God’s suffering with persons in specific contexts, i.e., gender, race, and class injustice.  One of the more problematic essays in this collection, “Worship As Relational Renewal And Redemption of the World” by Brent D. Peterson is probably an example of what happens when male relational theologians  turn a blindeye to suffering. This essay is very problematic with the claims it made, and in only FOUR pages! First, Peterson ignores significant biblical texts in the Jewish canon where God accepts sacrifices (animal and produce), and where YHWH punishes for wrong sacrifices. But no no no no, Peterson argues, that “the Israelites‘ worship was inauthentic” and that it was like a “Wal-mart transaction.’  In other words, the rituals and ceremonies that Jesus himself participated had no meaning, that intentionality is something that God detests. This very brief but succinct argument is typical in white evangelicalism and white liberal protestantism. It is supersessionist, and anti-Jewish (not to mention a-historical). Peterson has privileged his (white) Gentile place above the Hebrews in his reading of the biblical narrative.

Peterson goes on to argue that because God is relational, we cannot “earn healing” by caring for the poor. (There’s one major religion that argues this, I’ll let you take a guess, even though Peterson gets them wrong hint hint). “The church cares for the downtrodden as an act of doxology:thankful worship.” See, relational theology leads back to conservative political notions of charity.  When you take away notions of duty (Christ’s commands, as well as all of the oh say relevant Hebrew Bible passages about justice), relational theology then become nothing more than a deity with a nicer image, smiling with the heart of Wal-Mart.

Relationality when separated from suffering, makes conversations about solidarity impossible.  The poor just remain charity cases to remain dependent upon the good graces of “THE CHURCH.”

 

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The Parable-Driven Life: The Parable(s) of the Fig Tree(s) Judges 9:10-11 & Luke 13:1-9

JUDGING THE HEBREW BIBLE INTO THE NEW TESTAMENT

Judges 9:1-15: The Reign Forest

A young general, (whose name meant my father is monarch), who was son of a man nicknamed ‘Byelobog Will Defend Himself’, stood before the political elites of a farm town in Eastern Europe and asked, “Is it not better to have one military dictator over you rather than all seventy of my half-brothers? Let us covenant together since we are from the same village.”  The townspeople received word about what was the general wanted to happen from their town leaders.  Seventy Euros were taken out of the village’s large famous cathedral in order to hire hitmen to got with the general to take out the seventy.  The seventy brothers were gathered together, taken into a dark forest, where subsequently, each were shot in the back of the head twice and buried in a very old ditch.  Fortunately, the youngest son, whose name means “May God Complete,” was able to escape, and like his father before him, mastered the art of hiding.

The general became leader of the military junta over the entire nation.  When the lone survivor, Joe was his name, heard this, he climbed a mountain and confronted the dictator with a parable:

“There was a group of trees who had determined for themselves that they wanted a king.  The olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine; all three refused for they did not want to rule over any other tree, but to produce fruit to honor and please both the gods and the humans alike.  The trees’ offer was accepted by a black berrybush, whose wood is only good for burning in fires. The trees anointed the bramble; yet, after three years, the entire forest was burned down.”

[three years later, God apparently stirs up the people of the village revolt against the tyrant]

Luke 13:1-9: Jesus Warns that everyone, High and Low, Must Repent!

The cruel Italian mobster Pilate had a reputation for despising local religious traditions, and he struck fear into the Irish population. There were a few in the crowd with Jesus, a fellow Mick. He had heard that Pilate had executed some Irishmen and women in cold blood as they were praying. Jesus asked them, “Were these Irish people any worse of sinners than all other Irish?  Did they deserve this treatment?  No, I tell you, but unless all of you repent, you will perish as they did. Or those who we killed with the World Trade Center fell—do you think they were worse offenders than anyone living in any other part of New York?” No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will surely suffer as they did.”  Then, Jesus told them this parable:

“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and when it came time, he tried to find fruit, but could not. So, he said to the gardener, “Look here!  For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and it has yielded none.  Cut it down!  But the gardener answered softly, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it; if it bears fruit, it was worth the wait. If not, I will destroy it as you asked.  The owner of the vineyard agreed.”

Excursus

 

The traditional Christian understanding of Luke 13:1-9 would have us believe that Jesus is using the parable as a polemic against the nation of Israel.

It suggests, that because Israel, in a scant few instances, is referred to as a plant, abacadraba, Jesus preaching repentance (although the call is futile since Christianity ends up superseding Judaism) to only the people of Judah and Israel.  However, the understanding of the imagery of fig trees in the Hebrew Bible (and Septuagint for that matter) do not really point to Israel as a nation, but rather could be associated with the righteousness/wretchedness of the ruling classes in Israel.  For example, in Zechariah LXX 3:9-10 as I have argued here, as well as Micah 4:1-5 (as Walter Brueggeman argues) there is an implicit critique of the false prosperity during the reign of the monarchs (which happens at the expense of the oppressed).  Eschatologically speaking, the notion that everyone will have her/his own vine and fig tree is a dream of universal shalom; in terms of Christology, Christ fulfills the visions of the prophets in passages such as John 1:48 (Jesus talking and summoning others underneath a fig tree).

Given the fact that figs/fig trees have far more instance of prominence when Scripture discusses the royal lines, I must reject the traditional interpretation of this parable.  In addition to leaning towards anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, normal readings of this passage also let someone off the hook for his actions: Pilate.  Verse 1 clearly says that Pilate murders worships while they are giving devotion to God.  Do not the Ten Commandments matter in our reading of the New Testament?

I argue, given a reading of Judges (along with the rest of the First Testament) into the New Testament, that Jesus is more of a Gideon/Jotham-like figure.  Christ Jesus’ prophetic call to repentance is part of his office as Judge (normally not talked about in churches).  Both stories have tyrannical political leaders over-stepping their God-given authority.  They are repressive, and unrepentant, as well as useless as unfruitful trees.  The language in the Judges 9 passage suggests that Abimelech is not exerting royal power, but military power.  He rules by coercion over others, much like Pilate as he exacts arbitrary terror over his subjects.  Jesus, in his subversive use of parabolic language, is suggesting that Pilate as well as his subjects are in need of repentance, or they shall all be chopped down.  Jesus, as usual, has precedent in the Hebrew Bible, just as it was YHWH’s desire for Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar to turn away from idolatry and injustice, so too did the Triune God want Caesar and the Roman Empire to change their wicked ways.  As for the identity of the gardener, who is usually ignored in the parable, my thoughts are it is the Church, standing in the tradition of intercessors such as Moses whose relationship with God is so strong that he can influence God to have mercy on a nation.

To see similar account of figs and fig trees, see Walter Brueggeman’s A Social Reading of the Old Testament.

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