Tag Archives: grace

Hugo Schwyzer, Cheap Grace, and Narratives of "Redemption"

Redemption (Angel novel)

Redemption (Angel novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oftentimes, I feel unbearably guilty about posting on issues dealing with the Culture Wars or what’s referred to as “Identity Politics.” Should someone as myself invested in the discipline of Church History take an interest in “worldly” things? I struggle to reconcile these interests from time to time, but I try to take theological approach to inter-sectionality, or how we as a society govern ourselves and others according to race, sex, and class. This is something that I learned from my mentors, from Womanist theology and ethics, as well as post-colonial theory.

I am guilty of remaining silent, about how predators roam free and victims’ and their experience with abuse goes unheard. There is something deeply twisted about the way our culture understands redemption. At its core, it is a theological claim that is heretical as it is privatized. Dietrich Bonhoeffer articulated perfectly what USians understand as “redemption:” He referred to is as cheap grace in his The Cost Of Discipleship:

““Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” “

Redemption, in other words, requires that a person is, #1, willing to freely turn away from evil, and #2, willing to sub-ordinate themselves to a liberated community. Cheap grace means meaningless apologies, the “I’m sorries” said over and over to victims as perpetrators roam free without accountability. Cheap grace is when a celebrity makes a racial slur and they are sent to “racial-sensitivity counseling” all the while having the stigma of being a bigot for the rest of their career. But again, there’s no taking responsibility, it’s more like, oooooops, I’m sorry I got caught. Redemption in USian media culture, which is thoroughly idolatrous in its glorification of capitalism, means that I get to save myself on my own terms, without regard for the victims of my behavior or for welfare of my neighbor.

This is why I am so sick of hearing “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry” are two words born out of privilege; you briefly acknowledge your victims have suffered, and then go back to your abusive behavior. Today, I was at a local restaurant. I was the only other person in line, but the person in front of me was paying with all coins. Looked at me with my bored look, and softly whispered, “I’m sorry.” How about instead of “I’m sorry,” how about a “thank you for being patient!” See the difference. The difference is my agency is acknowledged, and it’s not about you (the apologizer and your experience). That’s the problem with derailers who want to make this about Hugo and about mental disability. It’s not, it simply isn’t. This is about human agency and privilege. I would love for the students I work with who have mental disabilities to be able to earn a PhD and to “earn” a voice as influential as a Hugo Schwyzer. Again, this all boils down to particularity.

Whether it is Sovereign Grace Ministries protecting child abuse, KKKristianity Yesterday (Christianity Today) & John Piper & The Gossip KKKoalition defending confederate bigot Douglas Wilson, or Relevant Magazine, Christian conferences, and white feminist media all who gave Hugh Schwyzer a platform, USian Christianity as well as its Civil Religion has Cheap Grace as one of its favor doctrines right along side White Supremacy.

Right now, the Women of Color, that risked themselves to confront and engage Hugo Schwyzer’s abusive ways, SEEM to be the enemies of him, opposed to his “redemption.” And that they should; “redemption” purchased with the Almighty Dollar is the very definition of cheap grace. This is more than about Professor Feminist (who, btw, has a PhD in Medieval Church History). This is more than about Paleoconfederate Racists. This is more than about Pastors Gone Wild. This is about how apathetic our culture is to the vulnerable. I mean, for crying out loud, the current government shutdown is probably one of the blatant examples of this ill-compassion.

English: CJ Mahaney, founder of Sovereign Grac...

English: CJ Mahaney, founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a way, “redemption” as it is conceived in the 21st century USian neoliberal context, always functions as a code for “sympathy for the devil.” This soteriology is harmful to both the victim and the abuser. The victim is isolated and ridiculed, and her story is ignored. The abuser is also not given the community he needs to learn that he is in need of repentance, and therefore becomes neglectful of the responsibility which he needs to own up to. Salvation in this light is short lived, paid for with the tears of the oppressed. The best friends that persons like Hugo Schwyzer have right now are “his enemies.” My commitment to Christianity, and to the teachings of Jesus, allow me to see these labels of “allies” and “enemies/opponents” as fluid, because Christ taught that we should love both. In particular as our example (but he is not alone), Hugo’s quest to regain his influence after losing it (because he deserves it right? he already apologized, what more does he need to do?) by joining probably more religious blogging circles— he already has/not gonna link is an unhealthy quest given the state that he admits he is in as mentally ill. The last thing he needs to do is to make a “comeback” all on his own. So things can go back to the way things were. No, my friend, repentance means that things will never be the same. Apologies in our cultural religion of cheap grace allows for such, but not the freedom that is given by our Liberator Christ Jesus.

Relevant Magazine

Relevant Magazine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those who are entralled with power, they *will continue to disregard* the plea of the victim, as churches as white feminist media have time and again chosen to do. We must come to learn to lend our ear to those on the bottom, to let those on the margins, the abused, the rape victims, the culturally despised “savages,” to uplift the powerless, and to reject cheap grace, and “I’m sorry.”


*Sentence has been editted to address problematic ableist language.*

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Cowboys And Aliens


Daniel Craig

Cowboys and Aliens.

Cowboys and Aliens was a film recommended to me by some kids at school. I had high time decided it was time to RedBox a film I had meant to see in theaters. In the spirit of Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity, Cowboys And Aliens was a science fiction work set in the Western Frontier, and apparently, word has it from friends on Facebook (they know who they are) it was a politically subversive graphic novel by Fred Van Lente. Similarities to Firefly include: a dead preacher, a prostitute with a heart of gold, a wimpy doctor who can’t fight if his life depended on it, and a femme fatale with paranormal abilities. Oh, yes, and hideous creatures that threaten the existence of humans, minus Firefly’s cannibalism. And that’s about it.

I think that Julie Clawson had it right in her review: the film remains unable to get past negative stereotypes of First Nations people. In fact, it is the slaughtering of Indians that give several characters status. At the beginning of the movies, as poor rancher Roy was bashing his boss, the Colonel, he says, “I don’t care how many Indians the Colonel put under neither.” Later, the Colonel to his Indian worker, “You get it through your thick Indian skull. Those stories weren’t for you.”The more Indian scalps you earn, the more larger than life you are in the Old West. This was exactly the case, as the Colonel and his son Percy have their way with the town. Their violent bullying not only represents hostility towards Native Americans (and our U.S.American history thereof), but also shows a lack of notion for an ethic of hospitality. Cowboys And Aliens promotes White male vigilante justice versus the dark Stranger. Before the last stand scene, Black Knife (the Apache leader) argued with Colonel, which leads Colonel to say, “There’s no reasoning with them [the Apaches].” The disagreement centered around Natives’ belief that the whites had brought the monsters. On the other hand, Colonel says that Black Knife, Apache leader IS the Evil One. Of course, we can’t accuse our beloved Newt Gingrich Colonel a racist, because he has a token Native friend, Nat Colorado, who vouches for him in the end, convincing the Apaches and members of the other tribes follow the Colonel’s military strategy by telling them of the Colonel’s kindness imperial paternalism.

Let me suggest that the community’s reception of the Apaches as well as Jake Lonergan and his gang is symptomatic of their individualistic religious sensibilities. As the aliens are invading, the preacher suspects it was demons; “a bunch of Bible stuff,” in the words of Doc. Doc continues to receive advice from the Preacher, who says that he needs to get a gun and learn how to shoot it (read: adopt rugged individualism and violence as a way of life). While “Reverend” Meacham is teaching Doc to shoot, he says that Doc has to earn God’s presence, recognize it, then act on it (by doing good). Grace is eliminated from the equation. What “Reverend” Meacham says is simply not true, from a Christian perspective. God freely sends God’s presence where God chooses. It is not by our actions that the Triune God is with us, but in the mission of the Incarnate Son and in the sending of the Holy Spirit. Meacham’s worldview reads more like an Enlightenment Deist, which went hand in hand with U.S. American rugged individualism. It is this Enlightment religion that advances a closed notion of the self, where the self works to over come the Other, and closes itself off from Others, to have life, liberty and the pursuit of property, ala John Locke. It is little wonder that an ethic of hospitality and openness is missing in this movie, and in communities that still adhere to such a view.

“Reverend” Meacham’s last words to Jake Lonergan, our protagonist, “God don’t care who you were, son. Only who you are.”


*Although I was highly critical and ripped this movie’s representation of First Nations peoples a new one, it was highly enjoyable, and I would recommend it, with a few qualifiers.

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Booker T Washington as the Negro Moses

Just How Do Southern Whites Look at Black Conservatives? Or How Do White Audiences look at Black Male Leaders?

I find it interesting that as I finished Booker T Washington, not looking for theology or the Bible, I kept stumbling upon it. He, like other narratives written in his time, allows for scriptural imagery to interact with his real world experiences.

From the New York World, September 18th, 1895:

“a Negro Moses stood before an audience of white people and delivered an oration that marks a new epoch in the history of the South; and a body of Negro troops marched in a procession with the citizen soldiery of Georgia and Louisiana.”

The article goes on to say that Washington “electrified the audience,” “his face lit with the fire of prophecy,” as the Atlanta Exposition Address was deemed as “the beginning of a moral revolution in America.”

It is quite interesting to think about and compare Washington with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and even today, President Barack Obama and Herman Cain, a candidate for the GOP Presidential nomination and business man. What is the compliment given to all of these gentlemen of African descent? That they are good speakers. They can electrify white crowds, tell them what they want to hear, yes?

But when they say something, ya know, a little controversial, they can be demonized. Take MLK Jr and his stance against the Vietnam War, or Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments that we have been “cowards” when it comes to racial issues.

Representation in the public square is nice; now, the question I seem to ask myself nowadays, just what type of representation do I recognize? Do I appreciate progressive black anti-racist thinkers over black conservatives? Or do I hold them equally? I would say I have always sought the latter right position.