Tag Archives: diversity

Waiting For Krypton: Education Post for Media Diversity UK

Lee's depiction of DC Comics' Superman and Batman.

Lee’s depiction of DC Comics’ Superman and Batman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opening scenes of the documentary Waiting For Superman depict education reformer/charter school advocate Geoffrey Canada as describing one of the saddest moments in his life. When he learned that Superman was not real, he was distraught because there was, in Canada’s words, “I was crying because there was no one coming with enough power to save us.” From his perspective, DC Comics’ Clark Kent/Superman “just shows up and he saves all the good people,” “even in the depths of the ghetto.” As a fellow comic book fan, I would have to question whether Mr. Canada knows the story of Superman, and the criticism thereof from the likes of one of his allies for justice, Black Lightning (Jefferson Davis, who, in one rendition, just so happens to be a public school principal) , who noted that Superman may be Kryptonian, but he is still white, and avoids the Suicide Slums (the poor side of town where Metropolis is).

I want to lay aside that criticism, and talk about the idea of power, and what it means in eyes of education reformers. As I quoted Mr. Canada above, he was distraught that there was no one with all of the power to save what Geoffrey Canada calls “failure factories,” or schools in predominantly impoverished neighborhoods that primarily feed the community drop-outs and/or felons, and yes these are communities that are of predominantly black and Latin@ American populations. These “failure factories” are what stifle economic growth, deprive corporations of an educated workforce, and communities of stability. From the perspective of philanthropists such as Bill Gates (from the documentary and his history of being active in the Education Reform movement), children receiving education is for the purpose of the workforce, so that multinational corporations can keep up with global competition. In Waiting For Superman, the topic of power is not discussed again until we see education reformer/charter school advocate Michelle Rhee at work, who was given “broad powers” to make sweeping changes. The issue of power is an interesting topic, and to see it discussed explicitly in these two instances are what caught my attention. Where does power come from? Who has it? What does it look like?

For the rest of the essay, please go read Waiting For Krypton: Race, Ableism and Education Reform

Musical Jesus: Diversity And Worship

Worshipping

Worshipping (Photo credit: Chiceaux)

This post will be the first in my contribution to Harry’s series,Musical Jesus.

When I was in seminary, our final project for Worship class was to come up with a theology of worship. I remember working really hard to make mine, and the worship bulletin as trinitarian as possible. I recall my professor, who had did his dissertation on the spirituality of the Puritans, recommended that I alter my views of the Eucharist to reflect a more Calvinist perspective. Of course, let me just reject everything I have ever believed about the Lord’s Supper just so I can affirm Reformed sacramental theology! Yeah, um, that didn’t work out from the time before, so now, I don’t think I am going to give it a second shot. #SorryNotSorry. Ah Reformed folks are so objective, aren’t they?

What my theology of worship failed to take account back then as I reflect now, is to discuss worship, doctrine, and ethics properly, and to put worship in its proper place, as something that is Eschatological. By eschatological, I mean that worship is the purpose and end for human beings, and just I have begun to argue the past few weeks, justice work from one Christian perspective should lead to worship. It is in this light that I can re-read Soong Chan Rah’s’s The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing The Church From Western Cultural Captivity as a theology of worship.

There are two approaches to worship that USian churches primarily rely on according to Professor Rah. The paradigm from the dominant culture is the colorblind approach, which “assumes that all believers have their identity as Christians ; therefore, no concessions need to be made for cultural differences.” White ecclessial powers establish the norms of worship, while all other forms of worship are labelled “contextual.” Stepping aside the problem of race/colorblindness as dismissing POC experiences, this approach to worship essentializes problematically white Christians, as if white people like the same music, whether it be traditional hymns or contemporary. What about Christians who prefer the life of the “mind” over “emotions.” The ” ” marks are used because I just don’t believe in such a simple dichotomy. So when we talk about diversity in the context of worship, it’s important to talk about gender, class, and age as well.

Rah’s other approach that he points out is the racial reconciliation approach. In this approach, Christians are away that sin has disrupted USian’s quest for worshipping the Lord. Justice must be practiced intentionally, sin must be confessed continually, and all walks of life should be represented in worship services. Multi-ethnic worship settings should seek to embody the kingdom of God, the One Church of Many Tribes we see in the book of Revelation.

In the colorblind approach, we discover that White Supremacy is harmful to both the majority as well as racial minorities. In the second instance, we get a glimpse of Christ’s reign in the here and now. However, I think we should do well to expand the second paradigm to a General Reconciliation-oriented style of worship. Having witnessed a few worship wars from the front-lines and sidelines, I must say that I was at one point, guilty of ageism. Ageism as a response to ageism is not godly behavior. It’s actually the exact opposite.

Scripture encourages from beginning to end, inter-generational education and worship experiences. So to both sides, whether it’s the senior citizens who want to stay with traditional hymns or the fly hipster young couples who are down with CCM, I say, you’re both doing it wrong. I was doing it wrong. I am beginning to find separate worship services, the division between “Contemporary” and “traditional” as bothersome. Blended worship services, where we are able to serve Christ together should be the ideal. I don’t know how far I would go, as a former children’s minister, having a separate service for them could be a good thing, and but the lack of presence of children, thus rendering them invisible, can be seen as bad. I will have to give it more thought, in light of Jesus’ teachings.

So let’s say you’re not blessed to live in the great state of Texas, and live in a state like Maine where there’s like a population of what, 1% PoC? One could say that one’s context does not allow for multi-cultural worship each Sunday. One practical idea could be working with a congregation from a nearby state, that’s minority-majority, and cooperating with them long-term (no, short-term anything in Christianity is a no-no, and yes, I’m referring even to mission trips). Intentionality is important. Don’t know where to start? That’s where denominations are useful that they can perhaps be a mediator in helping to find a good fit (ideally). As I reflect on rebooting my Theology of Worship, I want to explore the ways worship services could be multi-ethnic, inter-generational and hospitable to persons across class differences.

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Difference, Diversity, and Reading Choices: Blog Lists & Popularity Contests

I have written about my issues with blogging lists before so this isn’t a new topic. Running a popular blog means writing is relevant, chasing after hits and going after the latest controversy. As a blogger this means we have to keep our eyes on the 24 hour news cycle, or try to keep up with who said what publicly.

Part of the reason I chose to blog six or seven years ago, or if you want to go back to my Myspace and Facebook and Xanga notes I wrote during class in seminary, was because I wanted to express myself. I had no desire (at the time) to be a writer. But that has changed, but my approach is still the same. I know that recently I have hurt people’s feelings with my posts on here and on Tumblr and facebook, and I do not apologize for that. If you take something I have written personally, the fault may be your own especially since I have only gone after systemic forms of oppression. I know this approach does not win me any more followers, but I don’t write for the majority. What I do is write for myself, and for those who dream of justice. I realize that the words I type can give life to others, and they let me know, and that’s a reason to keep writing. For Resurrection.

An interesting conversation developed on Twitter and other blogs today. First, it started with the publishing of Christian Piatt’s 25 Christian blogs You Should Read. One of the problems was that only one person of color’s blog was posted on the list, Christena Cleveland. Cleveland responded with a list of her own making, and I suggest you check it out: People Of Color blog Too: 25 Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading. I am fortunately mentioned on the list. If you know of any other Christian blogs by POC mentioned, comment on that post or on this one, and I will submit it for Christena.

However, the trouble began when (mostly) white Christians started to criticize Christena for adding Thabiti Anyabwile, who stirred up things with his post on same sex marriage and the gag reflex. As I have noted many times, I was the first person really to criticize Thabiti, both in his blog post comment thread and in a separate blog post. Thabiti’s inclusion is problematic because his post disregarded the Imago Dei in persons who identify as LGBTQIA persons. However, I think is inclusion was probably needed for theological diversity and because he is very influential as a writer. I will go on to say a few things: Yes, I was angry this afternoon that the criticism (which I figured was coming)that a conversation on race had been once again derailed by issues of sexuality and same sex marriage. The reason I did so was because Pat Robertson prophelied an all out race war last week, and no white emergent Christian said a word. Robertson’s white supremacist rhethoric is just as harmful as Thabiti’s words.

Secondly, as Sarah N Moon pointed out on Twitter, none of the white emergents took issue with Tony Jones, among others, being on Christian Piatt’s list. This is because it is far too easy for blacks to be seen as having a culture of backwardness, that’s misogynist (people always bringing up hip hop on my facebook) and homophobic (let’s ignore all of Russia’s policies, but whitesplain progress to Africa!). This is just yet another example of white supremacist double standards at play.

While theologically I am in primarily disagreement with Anyabwile, I think it’s important to note why Cleveland added him in the first place:

Thank you for asking about this. I am so sorry that Thabiti’s comments have caused you pain. As someone who has been negatively affected by hurtful language, I think I understand, in part, how unbearably painful blog posts like Thabiti’s recent one can be.

I think of the body of Christ as a family of imperfect people who are irrevocably interconnected. Each of us is an unfinished work-in-progress with great capacity to love others and also great capacity to hurt others. Despite the risk and inevitable pain that this type of relationship brings, I believe that followers of Christ (of all persuasions) are called to be in interdependent relationship with each other, humbly informing each other’s perspectives.

To this end, I listen to and maintain relationships with many people with whom I do not always agree. It is in this same spirit that I continue to listen to and dialogue with various voices within the body of Christ who have said and done racist/sexist things. We all have blind spots (myself included) that lead us to oppress and it’s in the context of relationship and interpersonal dialogue that blind spots and oppression are exposed.
This list represents a wide variety of theological, social and political viewpoints – and not one viewpoint is perfectly complete. As iron sharpens iron, we gain better perspective in relationship with diverse others.”

From the comment section

Bruce Reyes-Chow’s post today also rang with me, as I thought about this discussion:

“Simply put, I refuse to give up on the idea that being community across lines of difference is holy and I remain committed to the idea that we will only get there if more if us embrace the transformational power of extending our spirit, hands and words of graciousness and not rhetorical or physical violence. Words or actions of graciousness are not weak or soft, in fact, they are powerful and strong and find a way to confront injustice without denying the humanity or stripping the dignity of the one who needs to be held accountable.

So no matter how often I am mistaken for that other Asian Presbyterian or told to go back to where I came from, or hear my ancestral language mocked, read racist blogs or feel unsafe, marginalized or excluded because of what I look like . . . I choose the power of graciousness. It may feel better to strike back hard, but that is a choice I must force myself NOT to make at every turn, every day.

A difficult choice for sure, but one I hope more of us make.”

Bruce Reyes Chow, How I Survive Everyday Racism

I would say that existing alongside difference is a very difficult choice to make, as Reyes Chow put it, but it is the right one. It is the more peaceful and just one.