Tag Archives: humanism

Christian privilege, the white evangelical persecution complex, & the Ground Zero Cross: a guest post

This post was originally submitted at the Political Jesus Tumblr, here’s a link if you would like to submit a post or a topic suggestion: PoliSyFyJesus Suggestion Box on Tumblr

“Harry Samuels is a student at UNC Asheville majoring in Environmental Management & Policy. He’s also very much obsessed with this Jesus guy – his politics, religious sensibilities, and the implications his teachings have for existential reality. Having been born in sunny Charleston , SC and raised in verdant Richmond, VA, he has spent his life in the American South- where many less-than-flattering portrayals and ideas of Jesus seem to prevail. Still, though, he has managed to “hold on to what is good” and seeks to explore , find, and maximize the intersection that lies between following Christ, sustainability of this gem of a planet, and environmental ethics.”

why the Ground Zero cross fiasco has nothing to do with “defending” the cross

defendcross

Recently, as I was idly scrolling along my newsfeed on Facebook, I happen to come across an image that, initially, struck me as prudent and ought to warrant a genuine concern from anyone who is a true follower of Christ. However, after the initial shock and some more thought, I realized that this graphic annoyed me more than anything precisely because it was shared by a friend of mine that I’m sure felt that she was being particularly prudent or watchful in posting it – like she was “warning her brothers and sisters in Christ” of the threat imminent to Christians in America. I am also sure that she and many others shared this image with the same rationale. What is this image you ask? –

As the title of this post might suggest, I am annoyed and frustrated by this image for a number of reasons.

I. This image and the rhetoric employed in the text seems to be one that further perpetuates what has come to be known as the white evangelical persecution complex. Being a white Christian (male…especially if you’re deemed attractive) is perhaps the most ideal set of non-monetary descriptors a citizen of the U.S. can enjoy. This is not to say that all in this category have an easy life or are not disadvantaged in some way, but I will say that very little of the difficulty one with such characteristics in American society would face would be because of these descriptors. Christians( of all races) enjoy the privilege of having their sacred holidays be national holidays in addition to being able to re-locate to virtually anywhere in the country and have the luxury of being able to find a place of worship. As Mr. Fred Clark of the Slacktivist blog brilliantly states in his post on the very same issue,”this is delusional, and the delusion is doubly cruel. It is cruel, foremost, to the people who are actually marginalized and disenfranchised — who are being denied full and equal participation in society because they do not conform to the majority beliefs.” In fact, this brilliant post is far more in-depth on this issue than I intend be and for this reason, I’ll place the link to the post here along with a recommendation that you read it: Do white evangelicals have a delusional persecution complex?: Barna says yes and provides quantifiable proof at Slacktivist

II. Not only is the idea behind this “crusade for the cross” delusional, politically, but it’s theologically problematic. To defend the Ground Zero Cross under the moniker of being a “follower of Christ” , one is presented with the quintessential questions of “ …So what exactly would taking this cross down do to my faith? What would this do to my ability to follow Christ, the one true, risen Son of God who came to redeem the world with His love? What does the Ground Zero Cross have to do with God’s mission in the world?” I would beg to argue that the answer to all of three of these questions is a resounding ZILCH/NADA/NOTHING! For one thing, I can’t help but think about how majority of the time , these “warriors for Christ” aren’t even thinking about the Ground Zero Cross – which , in itself, shows how little this really means to their faith, despite the almost awkward sense of urgency this image conveys. Secondly, when you’re fighting harder for a crafted, symbolic , traditional representation of Christianity harder then you’re fighting for the lowly, the forgotten, the marginalized…ya know, those who are ACTUALLY being persecuted by the systematic and institutionalized injustices of laws and philosophies of the majority and those in power, that registers to me as a bit more as idol worship. This image perpetuates a mentality that has been used against the Christian faith by many (and rightfully so) – the notion that Christianity is an “us against them” sort of faith. With love being the greatest commandment of Christ, I find it a better “defense of the cross” to sympathize with the fact many of the lives lost in the 9/11 tragedy may have been atheists or relatives, friends, or loved-ones of atheists. Perhaps instead of seeing this cross as some sort of representation of Christ on earth that’s actually accommodating the brokenness, these atheists see it as recognizing the timeless tradition of Christianity in America as somehow being the most accurate portrayal of the hurt that they feel/felt that tragic day. Maybe if more of these “Christians” spent time trying to represent the Christ alive in them and that lives among the body of Christians, they’d realize the futility and absurdity in their vain effort to defend this idol of religious traditionalism. Therefore, in my estimation, to defend the atheists and share their burdens would be the best “defense of the cross”.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own”

#Blerd History Month: Black Humanism

Doesn’t Ethelred Brown just look like a Blerd?

The mini-series Blerd History Month starts with a few, randomly selected topics that I wish to cover during Black History Month. In pop culture and in society, black are essentialized as religiously conservative Christians. Sure, black Christians are in the majority in the United States, but that does not mean that we get to ignore those persons on the margins who offer constructive criticism from the outside. One outsider in Blerd History I would like to discuss today is Ethelred Brown, a Jamaican expat who became a minister in Harlem. Right now, Brown’s story is told as a token in the Unitarian Universalists of America diverse pantheon of saints. Fact is, as progressive as the UUA was on the abolition of slavery as a whole [except for that John C Calhoun guy], Ethelred Brown’s ministry was not welcome in white Unitarian circles.

The difference between white humanism and black humanism is not a matter of the amount of melanin in one’s skin, but that, as Juan Floyd-Thomas puts it, “white humanists operate in a realm governed by several key presuppositions, namely that: people of European descent are human beings upon birth.” Frantz Fanon, a black humanist from French Algeria and a number of other black critical thinkers in their work, call into question the notion of humanism all together, and whether or not there is a universal definition of what it means to be human. Once one gets into what makes us generally human, wellllll, then that’s when she has stepped into the realm of religion.

As a Trinitarian and Christian post-colonial writer, I take heart at the story of Reverend Ethelred Brown, how he overcame racial discrimination in the UUA to receive a theological education, as he went on to preach liberation and justice to the downtrodden. An interesting fact about Reverend Brown’s biography that stood out to me was his “conversion” story to Unitarianism, was that he began to disagree with the congregation where he attended. The congregation apparently cited the Athanasian Creed every Sunday, and he became sick of it. After leaving Jamaica and going to seminary, Brown’s Harlem Community Church made a positive impact on the citizenry of Harlem in combatting racial and economic injustice.

What makes me wonder about Brown’s story is the practices he rejected, the recitation of the Creeds, and the Athanasian Creed was all about the Trinity. Just how prominent was this teaching of creedal Christianity, and what were the approaches to social issues in Jamaica at that time? I submit to you that Blerd History Month is not about regurgitating facts, but asking questions related to Blackness and history.

For more on Reverend Ethelred Brown, read The Origins of Black Humanism in America: Reverend Ethelred Brown and the Unitarian Church by Juan Floyd-Thomas

Publishing News: A Forthcoming Essay on Fairytales, Religion, Race, and Politics

Brer Rabbit from London Charivari

Brer Rabbit from London Charivari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago in April, TheoFantastique had a call for papers, for Fairytale Collection, asking for a new critical engagement with fairy tales and how they have become popular in fairytales.

“Due to the popularity and familiarity of the tales, not only the layman, but also people inside many academic fields, who are concerned with such works, will find this book more than interesting. Given that this book will consist of a collection of handpicked essays concerning various aspects of these diverse adaptations of the literary fairy tales, an assortment of readers should find this book and its topic of great interest.

While our interests are broad and inclusive, we are particularly interested in papers that discuss fairy tales in contemporary popular culture (TV shows, movies, graphic novels, advertising, toys, video games, popular literature, etc), revisions and adaptations of fairy tales, and pedagogical uses of and approaches to fairy tales. Still, we are interested in as wide an array of papers as possible, so please do not hesitate to send a submission on any fairy tale related subject may it be on cultural significance, on gender, aspects of masculinity and femininity, theory, etc.”

Today, I am happy to announce that I received word that my controversial proposal was accepted to be added to the collection. It was well worth the time and effort. The title of my article forthcoming: “The Soul Of Black Folktales: Race, Class, Ethics, and Humanism in NBC’s GRIMM and Brer Rabbit

My proposal is really too long and complex for a blog post, but I will sum it up with my thesis here:

“I believe that this return of European fairytales to prominence in U.S. American culture is worthy of a critical investigation as it pertains to race, ethnicity, and class difference. In particular, I will examine ideas of European particularity and identity as well as class struggle in NBC’s GRIMM. First, I intend to observe the reception history of the folktales recorded by the Brothers Grimm in their 19th German context and what the implications are for European national identities. By way of comparison, I will also examine Joel Chandler Harris’ dissemination of the folktales passed on by enslaved Africans located in the Antebellum South, and what that meant for black racial identity formation. In both instances, Brer Rabbit and the Brothers Grimm’s stories as folk tales function as secular pedagogical tools aimed at teaching adults and children what it means to be a member of their given culture. I argue that NBC’s GRIMM serves as a hybrid text, as both an other-worldly supernatural (in the tradition of old European fairytales) horror show as well as a this-worldly folktale that addresses contemporary political issues, such as economic inequality and histories of racism, (much like the tales of Brer Rabbit).”

I believe that this article is important for a couple of reasons. First, there has yet to be a comparative study of the politics behind black folktales and European fairytales, and why this is important for the reception of these stories. Secondly, I think it is a good opportunity to have a dialogue with Black humanist and atheist traditions, and their views of black folktales as religious works. Are the politics and histories of black bodies ignored in our readings of Brer Rabbit? What kind of moral agency does Brer Rabbit possess that could be useful for today, and does anti-racist horror tv show like GRIMM have a shared trickster ethic with black folktales?

These are the things I am interested in, and I will keep you all updated!

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