Tag Archives: classism

What @PastorMark & @TyndaleHouse Can Learn from Shia LaBeouf #fleshYGod

AFFLUENZA AND CELEBRITY PASTORS IN CHRISTIAN CULTURE

affluenza

affluenza (Photo credit: debaird™)

So I am pretty much over blogging and writing about celebrities. You thought this post was going to be about Mark Driscoll and Shia LaBeouf, didn’t you? Whoops, well, it’s not. Sorry to disappoint. Today, I want to talk about a disease that is devastating our country right now. Worse than the chicken pox and the measles, our society is suffering from what is now being diagnosed as The Affluenza.

Last week, in my beloved state of Texas, a judge mercifully sentenced teenager Ethan Crouch (mercifully) to a few years at a six-figure rehabilitation center for driving drunk and murdering four people. Poor Ethan, his parents were so wealthy that they never bothered to set boundaries. No research has ever been done on Affluenza, but let me tell you that it is real. In fact, I know a quite a large population here in the United States that is sick from its own Affluenza: its Church.

In the United States, no matter what church you are a part of, regardless of its doctrine, the one thing that makes teachings all relative is the worship of MAMMON. In seminary, I was once told that I should keep checks on myself since Black Baptist pastors have a reputation for being overly ambitious and levying a lot of power of their congregations. The funny thing is, this quest for power knows no skin color or creed. Affluenza is color-blind. Take the example of Mark Driscoll for example. He is a mega-church pastor, has a large following, and posts that STAN for him say as much: his defenders CAN’T be found disagreeing with Driscoll because he has “saved” them (ummmmm I thought only Jesus saves, SOLUS CHRISTUS???????)

Absolute power in the United States is venerated as untouchable, and what I have learned recently is that sometimes money and power DON’T go together. And I may have to write about how that works some other time, but for now, I want to discuss how power consolidates itself. Okay, so you’re an uber-popular profit of the Lord, and a publishing company makes a money from your “work,” then that publishing company is going to STAN for you. The most recent and just shameful example right now is Tyndale House, publisher of Joel Watts’ beloved NEW LIVING TRANSLATION bible. Joel, to his credit has been quite prophetic and critical towards a book corporation that has given Joel a lot of gifts. In fact, as Joel has pointed out, Tyndale House is covering up Mark Driscoll and his lying and his stealing WITH EVEN MORE LYING. They are telling half-truths like Janet Mefferd apologizing????? Ummmmm no! First of all she was sorry she didn’t go to Tyndale first, but then again, given Tyndale’s disastrous response to this disaster, I think maybe she did the right thing in the first place!

Tyndale is just one company, but they are a big example of what Christianity looks like today: the Church is dying from Affluenza. Joel is wrong. This whole Driscoll/plagiarism thing is NOT ABOUT ACADEMIC INTEGRITY. There is no need to contact Amazon. Christianity is a religion where the TEN Commandments are pretty important, haven’t you ever read, “Thou Shalt Not Steal”? I mean Conservatives use this verse all the time right to talk about taxes, but now they are STANNING for Driscoll who is stealing authors’ private property. Commitment to power and money is what causes people to act hypocritically a lot of the time. The Affluenza of Christian Celebrity culture has got to stop. But where can we find healing from this disease?

I would suggest, given this Advent season, and this first post for Tyler Tully’s and my synchroblog, #fleshYGod, that the answer lies in the dirty, straw-filled manger. In the Gospels we have a story about an infant who’s parents were too poor to buy animals to sacrifice, so they had to purchase doves instead. How embarassing that our Savior’s family was not even privileged enough to do something as normal as that. It’s sort of like families who aren’t able to afford a yearly vacation out of the country, EXCEPT IT’S not. My point is, is like liberation theologian Joerg Reiger said years ago, that we should watch the money, watch where it flows, who has it, and how it is used. We should also be watching WHO LOSES the money, who doesn’t have the power, and confront those institutions and practices that do enable monetary predators and power-mongers.

Recently, Transformers star and actor Shia LaBeouf was caught plagiarizing a comic book for an “independent” film that he “made.” Shia admitted his fault on the Twitterz, and more than that, has taken down the video. Now Shia must face ADDITIONAL shaming from movie fans (in addition to being a part of Michael Bay’s Transformers trilogy, am I right???). Tyndale and Logos Bible Software have yet to do the same with Driscoll, as Driscoll has yet to admit any wrong doing other than the ole “blame the intern/plebian routine.”

LaBeouf said it best,

“Copying isn’t particularly creative work. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work. In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation. I’m embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration. I was truly moved by his piece of work & I knew that it would make a poignant & relevant short. I apologize to all who assumed I wrote it. I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work. I f***ed up.”

The thing is, Shia LaBeouf doesn’t have to claim he stole “for the Glory of God;” Hollywood might be white supremacist and suffer from just as much Affluenza as the church, but at least these artists follow through on their own ethical code. Meanwhile, Christians? We have the Decalogue. Let’s, ummmm look to it, maybe?

Jesus Presented in the Temple

 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.- Luke 2:22-24 niv

Unfinished Business by Keri Day

If you would like to download the PDF version of this book review, please see the following link to Scribd:

Book Review: Unfinished Business by Keri Day: Scribd

Unfinished Business on Amazon.

Book Review: Unfinished Business: Black Women, the Black Church, and the Struggle to Thrive in America by Keri Day. Orbis Books: Maryknoll, NY, 2012.

I would like to thank Orbis Books for sending me a review copy of this book. In the first part of this book review, I offer a brief summary of Day’s work. I don’t want to give to many spoilers away, just enough for the audience to want to read more as I highly recommend this text. In the second part of my review, I would like to offer a brief theological proposal as it pertains to transcendence, economics, and ecclesiology.

Summary:

When I first met Dr. Day, it was at the student interview. Brite Divinity School was searching for a Black Church Studies professor and ethicist, and I had concerns about an assortment of economic justice issues in the Fort Worth area, and yes, even the Texas Christian University community. After Day gave her presentation, we the students were allowed to have an question and answer time. I asked Dr. Day what were her thoughts on the prosperity gospel. Although I do not recall her answer at that time, I would like to believe that this book, Unfinished Business is an answer to my inquiry. Day introduces her project by defining terms such as Black Church; in this case, Black Church means the activity of Black churches in the United States (3). Right away, I think that this definition establishes an inclusive ecclesiology and history. Rather than strictly defining Black Church/Black Church traditions as monolithic or as only those denominations established by African Americans, one could include in Day’s definition of Black Church, the number black churches within predominantly white denominations. Keri Day questions historians in their view that the Black church has always served as a prophetic witness (Chapter 1), and whether it is a Wilderness Experience or Surrogate world, Day argues these terms have been over-utilized when discussing Black Church. Whether we are talking about radicals like Adam Clayton Powell or Dr. Rev. MLK Jr. or the Reverend Jesse Jackson, at the forefront of civil and economic rights struggles have been the progressive strain of Black Baptist tradition. I wonder if there is something theological here, that makes Black Baptist both the most radical and possibly regressive (when it comes to women’s ordination especially) more adaptable to political activism. I’ll give you a hint: the Free Church tradition!

I like the term that Day uses for the Black Church, as a community of transcendence. While I will talk further about the theological implications of this notion, the way that Day and Victor Anderson understand transcendence, as seeing ultimate value in the world, being open to this value, and rejecting Ayn Rand selfishness in order to work for the good of others (28). While this use of transcendence does allow for womanist and liberationist theologians to be open to the experiences of others outside of the church, the use of the term “church” itself is exclusive to the Christian experience. Transcendence, in this light however, can be very helpful in discussing the Church’s relationship with the World, other social institutions that are non-confessional but that have become spaces for poor black women to use their agency.

In the second chapter, Day gives an overview of the history of Faith-Based initiatives and arguments for and against charitable choice programs/FBIs when it comes to public policy. As a strict church/state separationist, I find the Faith-Based Initiative whether it is ran by President Bush or Obama to be offensive and more likely a bribe from the state to religious institutions to silence them. Day is right that the danger of the Faith-Based Initiatives lies in the promotion of neoliberal values as absolute, without any challenge or critique. I think that’s the danger in charitable choice/FBIs in the first place; since the state and the economy are tied together since there has not been, as Optimistic Chad noted months ago, a separation of corporation from state, CC/FBIs silence criticisms of both the government as well as the economy.

My favorite chapter was chapter 3, which included a critique of Dinesh D’Souza. Day recognizes that D’Souza is an example of how free market values get racialized into racial social Darwinism, that the poor black people are this way because their culture is naturally inferior (page 52-53). Ronald Reagan’s attack against black welfare queens was a purely racially ideological move; it is ideological because it goes against all logic, and the facts. Whites have had the most benefits from social programs. Especially during legal segregation and the New Deal, whites received their Social Security checks on the backs of poor blacks. Day also ends her criticisms by exposing the new Jane Crow, how the state invests money in imprisoning black women (page 79-80). I was also shocked to learn that some states are going out of their way to link forced sterilization of black women with welfare policy (81-82). In the culture wars, social conservatives are the ones who oppose sex education classes in public schools and they are the ones who want cut backs in welfare. When it comes to race, however, commitment to whiteness, neoliberal values and advanced capitalism are to be preferred over pro-birth/anti-sex ed religious commitments.

Keri Day’s constructive proposal is found in the last three chapters. She has a discussion on the Poor People’s Campaign (its history and its failures in terms of gender inclusion), a discussion on redefining the prosperity gospel informed by the womanist principle of wholeness, and lastly an informed chapter on asset-building for the impoverished here in the U.S.

Overall, I would recommend this text for academic and church audiences.

A Brief Theological Proposal On Ecclesiology

I would like to return to the idea of Black Church as a Community Of Transcendence. The conversation about the “Woman Thou Art Loosed” portion of Bishop T.D. Jakes’ ministry gave me a lot to think about. To be honest, I actually felt convicted since I see it has highly problematic, but given the state of the world, where Don Imus can be a racist/sexist bigot and still have his own tv show on Fox Business, there are some benefits to the idea of women seeing themselves as “God’s leading ladies.” However, this is only a short-term solution to the long enduring problem of racism and sexism in America. What may need to happen is that the Black Church see itself as being in the Image of the Triune God, a Community of Transcendence initiated by a God who is Infinite, Incomprehensible, and at the same time Incarnation. The Black Church must resist things like racial stereotype of being the large group of angry black men (“prophetic”) and the Faith Based Initiative because that means others have defined our role in the world. The Black Church should be the community of the “I Am Somebodies”; for the Black Church, as it is for the Church Universal, it is YHWH the Redeemer and Liberator who sends Christ to give us meaning in the world.

TV Series Review: BattleStar Galactica

A Few Random Musings on Race, Class, and NeoConservative Politics oh, and maybe that Religion and Science thing

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My love affair for the BattleStar Galactica world started when two years ago, when I first became a fan of its spin-off, Caprica. I know there are a few people out there that started backwards like I did, but apparently it’s a bad habit of mine (I finished Angel the spin-off of Buffy before Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  So, the following are some thoughts about my favorite episodes and characters from BSG, and what it all meant to me.

Season 1:

My favorite episodes were “Bastille Day,” “You Can’t Go Home Again,” and “Colonial Day.” Both “Bastille Day” and “Colonial Day” played out political dramas were very intriguing, especially in the eyes of a former political science minor like myself. Of all of the BSG episodes, I have seen “Bastille Day” the most because of the political ideology of Tom Zarek. Imagine that the world has just ended, there has been an enormous holocaust of billions of people, and the of the 50,000 people or so who have survived, the Presidency falls into the hands of the Secretary of Education. If the survivors are following the law (the Articles of Colonization, then elections need to be held. What better way to highlight political conflict, and to force people  (like Apollo) to take sides. Of course, Zarek, as a mysterious figure, has a bad habit of violence, and is on the prison ship, the Astral Queen because of his terrorist activities. He claims to fight for democracy, free elections, and collectivism, and will use murder to achieve his ends, as we found out in “Colonial Day.”

In “You Can’t Go Home Again,” our Hal Jordany pilot, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace has crashed her Viper and needs to find a way out before the Cylons find her. She manages to find a Cylon Raider, and learns that not only to fly the Raider, but also that the Raiders (cylon technology) were organic specimen similar to animals. So, has Starbuck found a weapon or a pet? That’s the question that lingers in the following episodes, and leading into the Season 2 episode, “Scar.”

Out of Season 1, my favorite characters are Cally and Executive Officer Lieutenant Saul Tigh , played by Michael Hogan and whose presence gives a realistic military feel as well as a vulnerability that people can identify with.  Zarek is also in my top three for Season 1 because I see his violent brand of left-wing politics are a reaction against President Laura Roslin‘s neo-conservativism.

Season 2:

The second season sees President Roslin use “the religion card” over and over again, to the chagrin of Commander William Adama, the commander of the BattleStar Galactica. The situations that lead to Tigh ordering martial law put civilians on the defensive, and some of the civilian fleet decides to split off from Tigh’s military dictatorship. Of course, in the middle of the split and getaway is Zarek, and while he is in it for political reasons, Roslin continues to claim that she is being lead for religious reasons.  My favorite episode by far in Season 2 is “Farm”; as I watched it, I felt devastated for Starbuck and the other women and how the Cylons were abusing their bodies. Throughout the remainder of this season, along with parts of Season 3, Starbuck’s scars are highlighted, and not by accident. The viewer is reminder of her torment and experience back on “the Farm.”

Religion and politics were mixed once again in the two-part season finale, “Lay Down Your Burdens.” While President Roslin uses the hope to find a new home called Earth, a group of pilots find an inhabitable planet they named “New Caprica.” So Roslin’s opponent in the election, Baltar, collaborating with Zarek, run on a platform to make the humans’ new home on New Caprica. Baltar manages to win the election out right and, his first executive order is for the entire fleet to move to NC. Adama and a few others decide to stay behind.

My favorite characters from this season were Cally, Tigh, and Starbuck. Zarek by this time had showed his hand as someone really desperate for power, and willing to hop along onto any agenda to get that power. Starbuck became more a suffering servant type figure; with her and her ovaries crucified on the Farm, her character changed dramatically.

Season 3:

I was informed that I would be disappointed or bored with Season 3. To the contrary, I enjoyed it like I did the others. In context, BSG’s creators were informed they would only be given 4 seasons instead of 5, and so 3 is a conglomerate of two seasons, and it shows.  If left with 5 seasons, I see real potential for in the first three episodes of S3 as 1 season, Occupation/Precipice, as well as Exodus Parts 1 and 2. An entire season of New Capricans resisting Cylon occupation would have been intriguing, and then for the following season to have the trial of former President Baltar. My favorite episode of S3 has to be “The Woman King,” where Helo confronts a doctor for his racism; the physician had been poisoning the medication of a group of refugees from a planet that was looked down upon (Sagittaron, ironically, the same one Zarek was from).

Given the way the season played out, Cally, Tyrol, Helo, Sharon, and Tigh were my favorite characters to watch.  Tyrol as labor leader further exposed the class differences between the Caprican elites and the lowly workers from other planets. In “Dirty Hands,” the last remaining humans are shown to still have biases according to place of birth, thus, meritocracy did not exist. Of all of the problems I had with the BSG world, I felt sickened by the favoritism dealt to the few at the top, especially the nepotism. But I think that was part the producers intent (in my mind), to make us think critically about the nepotism and cronyism around us.  Just because someone is born the son/daughter of a senator does not necessarily mean she/he is qualified to be one himself/herself.

BattleStar Galactica: Razor

Battlestar Galactica: Razor

In between Season 3 and 4 is the miniseries Battlestar Galactica: Razor; I would highly recommend it. I watched it after I finished the series and it cleared up somethings for me.

Season 4 & Concluding Thoughts

I really don’t want to give away the ends of the arcs of my favorite characters, so instead for season 4, I will talk about my favorite episode (besides the finale), and some of the ideas behind BSG’s philosophy. Baltar interestingly enough became an interesting source of inspiration on the Galactica. His movement from popular and witty scientist to reluctant politician to a Dictator from a ‘developing’ country to prisoner of war to religious prophet is intriguing and highly problematic for me to say the least. In “Escape Velocity,” Baltar the rich elitist Caprican is now living with the downtrodden in Dodgeville after a miracle takes place in “He That Believeth On Me” in which Jeanne’s son is healed, after Baltar teaches about the One true god.

Now, onto some concluding thoughts. First, I wish to say that more important than the technology versus religion theme in BSG is the play of race and racial formation. The Cylons are the constructs of the humans, and yes the Cylons do rebel, but consider this. Following Helo’s story arc, if the (human-like, sentient, organic) Cylons are the racial Other, does not that match up with scholars’ arguments that racial is a social construct, that we create Racial Others in our own minds, we project them onto other bodies? And the idea that these Racial Others are called things or labelled anything other than their name, I think is quite apparent throughout the series.

The problems that BSG presents for religion and science is personified in Baltar’s character. Should we adopt a purely scientific world view, where everything has to be verifiable by evidence? Can we prove that angels and demons exist by looking through a microscope? I think BSG somewhat is telling us to stop and think critically at these issues. If the religious overtones and metaphysics seem a bit of a stretch for a sci-fi show, it is only because it had to remain a little faithful to the BSG of 1978/1980, which was overtly religious. We are left to conclude in BSG that God has a plan, and that plan keeps changing and that everything works out accordingly. However, I don’t buy that explanation. The idea that “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again” when taken too literally can be seen as fatalist, that history is circular and our choices do not matter.

However, I have a different view. It was Baltar’s choice to date a lab assistant (who was really a Cylon) that cost the human race. It was Baltar’s choice to become Roslin’s Vice President that lead to his eventual politicization. Baltar chose to listen to the Messenger Six (sort of a gimney cricket of sorts) and he ends up being a religious leader who firmly believes in having bigger guns than his opponents as a part of god’s will. Think on that for a second. A scientist armed to the teeth, leading a small militia. I can think of no better imagery for what imagery looks like. Scientists in the name of pseudo-science justified the racism on the law books with their “research.” Their studies was a war against the bodies of the Racial Other. Baltar, as he is scouting a group of people by the end of the series, objectifies them (in the series finale DayBreak Part 3), with a colonizing gaze. Like the Articles of COLONIZATION that he was elected under, Baltar is a symbol of empire, human domination over others. In the end, it is the very fact of being a member of the “12 Colonies” themselves under the “Lords of Kobol” that is the problem for each of the survivors. It is their choice to make: to go back and keep the old ways of being colonized, or de-colonize and liberate themselves, and live to free others from oppression, as Helo does.

 

BattleStar Galactica: The Plan  was a made-for-tv movie that, while giving some spoilers, I was still surprised by how the series ended. It was just a group of clips from different episodes, and not really all that worth it unless you want to just have some feeling of completion. As for Caprica, my opinion has changed somewhat, I will stick with my original assessment about where it could have really gone: see my review linked: Caprica, the season finale, but I judged Caprica more on potential instead of what was, even though I liked the legal drama/science fiction blend. However, in order to have a good legal drama, you need politics; BSG had it, Caprica didn’t.

In all, I highly recommend BSG as one of the best science fiction tv series ever, along side Firefly and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

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