Tag Archives: Enlightenment

Myths, Tropes, and Narrative: The Signifigance of Story

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been captivated by the art of story-telling. I’ve been known to have quite a vivid imagination ( I guess I still do…?) as a child and would funnel this creative energy to conjurring some of the most bizarre, outlandish, yet charming stories for my friends, family and classmates.

But children are not the only one’s who tell stories, however. I would argue that the act of story-telling has been embedded in the consciousness and minds of human kind since the earliest civilizations. From the elders to the griots (story-tellers/historians of the Malian kingdom) and everything from then on, human civilizations have been founded upon story. The Christian faith is about one grand story of a peculiar people, the Israelites, through whom a peculiar God would show Himself to the world, all leading up to the redemptive narrative of the Logos, Christ- the compelling story of the vulnerable shepherd God-in-flesh.

Story informs our cultural heritage, our faith, and our history. The Ancient Egyptians and the cosmic gods of Ra, Osiris, and Horus- the gods that walked the lands of the eternal sands… ANd what a clash it was between these gods- this story, this narrative of the celestial gods who roamed the lands and justified the predominance of Egypt over Israel. The clash of the God and narrative of the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the Gods and narrative of Potiphar..

The Greco-Roman myths. Their myths so strong we see the names of their gods in modern cosmology- Jupiter, Mars,Neptune; the Pelopponesian, Hellenic wars inspired by the mythicized masculinities of Hercules and Oddysseus…

The myths crafted by the enlightenment thinkers- the fetishizing of certainty and control, the ‘invisible hand’ motif, whose authors-  Locke and Smith would become the new Gospel – the nexus of this new story that would provide the backdrop for the protagonists- the white, shiny, beautifuls ones- the heroes, the expeditionists, the “captains”, the businessmen,manifesters of their own ‘destiny’, the explorers, the racists, the rapists, the pillagers. And it’s this story that would inform and have pre=emption over all other stories. What more is colonialism is this anyways? – the erasure of pages of a people’s story,narrative,identity, and copy and pasting another, “more glorious” one- in aggression.

Yes, indeed, stories are not just little bedtime tales for children , they are full fully grown adults as well, and one could say all the world is one big clash of stories…the struggle for self-acceptance, development and thriving is the legitimizing of your story- the story of a people,attempting to create what was erased through colonialism, what was erased through their own words being subverted for one more dominant.

The clash of the storyline as a black man as worthy to be loved, masculine by nature of being created as a man( not being swagged out or violent) vs. the story-line of the black man being the ‘wild young buck’ whose hypersexuality is something to be feared by white women and and whose criminality knows no bounds , thus justifying their murder at the hands of a militarized police troop.

Which one will win?: the story of a black female as a dignified, loved being created in the Imago Dei, or the storyline that places them as “loud, ghetto and ratchet“- or maybe sexually deviant, Jezebels?

The negative tropes and stereotypes against POC – the story fo white supremacy- are lies. A lie is, afterall, a false account- it is a story that’s not true- a bad story. We’re told in Scripture that Satan is the Father of lies. These toxic tales.

Why does everyone ‘love a good underdog’ story? The  stories of rags to riches, the triumphing of the oppressed? They represent the greatest hope of humanity- everyone finds they don’t fit into the dominant story of society, or do not like their role, they know it’s a lie.

And what Christ’s atonement represent for the oppressed is that their story, ultimately cannot be erased – rather, it can be brought back to life.  This newness of life is a newness of story- a new sort of presiding myth that is benevolent to all mankind.

 

 

Sunday Funnies: Farewell, Thomas Edison

An Ode to the Incandescent Light Bulb

How many politicians does it take to turn off a light bulb?

193.

Because that is how many U.S. Congress persons voted against repealing the REPUBLICAN supported ban of the Thomas Edison’s invention. Guess who signed it into law in 2007? Yup, George W. Bush.

Growing up, I liked Louie the Lightning Bug.

And now he has to get a make-over too? Really?

Farewell, Thomas Edison! How I will miss learning about you in history class.

Farewell, incandescent light bulb! Never meaning anyone any harm.

Postcoloniality and Theology: Barack Obama, Brian McLaren and Forbes Magazine

Sunday, I came across Dinesh D’Souza’s article in Forbes’ magazine via Craig Carter’s blog. As anyone who knows my libertarian politics via Facebook and Twitter, I am hardly a defender of the current administration, *cough cough* PUMA, *cough, cough.  However, to claim that Obama is a postcolonial professor in the White House carrying on his father’s legacy not only makes Obama The Other, as conservative online magazine First Things pointed out, it also maintains the “insider-outsider” for persons of color in comparison to cultures from European descent. (And by my use of the term, color, I mean race as a social construct).

By any stretch, D’Souza’s article racializes the debate, especially when it comes to American imperial foreign policy preferences. By his definition of anti-colonial/post-colonial, non-white persons who critique empire building are Marxists, but say, what about the historical William Jennings Bryans, the Ron Pauls, and the Henry Cabot Lodges of American history?? At least the last two are the great protesters against empire building and DEFENDERS of the free market. It just does not make any sense why D’Souza went out of his way to NOT place Barack Obama within the strain of historical Woodrow Wilsonian progressivism unless his goal was to, as mentioned earlier, point out how un-American, and there-go, how Africans are so much unlike US citizens by implication.

Dr. D’Souza should be honest; both he and the President are just as committed to the principles to the Enlightenment as the next person; all of us are in some capacity or another. We just simply need to recognize that and be honest, resisting attempts which re-inscribe hegemonic dichotomies such as West/East (East according to who? Where westward?). If anything, anti-colonialism is American as baseball and apple pie; should we forget that the original “tea-partiers” and founders, the freed enslaved Africans, and women in the 18th century were all part of the most successful and inspirational anti-colonial struggle of all time, making the transition from colony to the first democratic-republic in human history.  It was called the “American Revolution,” was it not?

Very rarely do I side with former evangelical Christian now mainstream emergent/emerging thinker Brian McLaren, but I must commend him in his recent efforts to understand the post-colonial conversation. In his latest piece,  he explains his understanding of how he sees the relationship between knowledge and power.  Using McLaren’s description of what colonizing Christian theology looks like, D’Souza’s article is an example of an apology for the colonization of, for example, African peoples much like his fellow conservative Enlightenment theist John Milbank who I highlighted last week. It seems that some conservative Christians confuse the sharing of the good news of God’s commonwealth with empire building and a top-down racial hierarchy.