Tag Archives: intellectuals

Hard Knock Life (Church Anthem): The Christian Intellectual

I am not much of a Jay-Z fan, but in the late 90s, his Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) was one of my fave tunes on the radio. Today, I had a conversation with a fellow blogger and the topic at hand was the tragedy of Christian anti-intellectualism. Now, this is not a post to bash this or that layperson who is uninterested in my or your fields of discipline; this post is a protest against those fellow Christians who are openly hostile to those of us as Christians who love God with our minds as well as our bodies and souls. I do not believe that this hostility is started by a hatred of religious scholarship per se, but it is a reaction against individuals who are involved in theological, biblical, and religious academic tasks. In other words, to put it bluntly, it is the religious studies scholar who is seen as threat to a churchly anti-intellectual’s religious life. It is just the presence of someone who asks the hard questions that causes the churchly anti-intellectual to behave in a negative manner, for that person seemingly wants the community to know that they have all of the answers. Michael Halcomb & Madeleine of ManM wrote post today, based on their real life encounters with churchly anti-intellectuals (churchly because I refuse to call those who despise the life of the mind Christian).

I know what it is like to be told to shut up during a Bible study, or to remain silent during Sunday school when perhaps I hear a statement that I know not to be true or contrary to what I have learned in my studies.  Yes, I have even laughed either during or after a worship service for hearing truth claims that I do not affirm. And Yes, I have encountered hostility about the content of my blog posts, especially the one promoting non-violence [yes, I know, glory be!].  Being a Christian thinker is a hard knock life, because the very community that nurtured you, the Church, has people who see you as a barrier between them and their Jeebus. On the other hand, to be openly Christian and an intellectual, the mainstream of academia does not take to kindly to persons who associate with the laity and the religious.  So, no high church communitarians, I will not be glorifying THE CHURCH as the end all and be all of the Christian intellectual task (why should I pay homage to a community that continues to marginalize myself and others like me who enjoy reading and debating?); and no to you, secular, mainstream naysayer, I will not disassociate myself with Layperson A & B or C just because they are not “enlightened” enough for you.

So, this re-hashed version of Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) is for you, Christian thinkers who have experienced the pain and rejection distributed by churchly anti-intellectuals:

“From sittin in the library boppin
to reading some of the hottest ya’ll  ever seen
For droppin some of the hottest verses rap has ever heard
From the dope spot, so you won’t mock
fleein the churchly scene, you know me well
from nightmares of a lonely cell, my only hell
But since when y’all people know me to fail? Heck naw
Where all my peeps with the  fast lips, cheap shots
And if you with me, read a book and what-not
I’m from the school of the hard knocks, we must not
let outsiders violate our blocks, and my plot
let’s stick up fo’ others and split it fifty/fifty, uh-huh
Let’s help the po’ and stay real jiggy, uh-huh

(the children’s choir sings the hook):

It’s the hard knock life, for us
It’s the hard knock life, for us!!
Steada treated, we get tricked
Steada kisses, we get kicked
It’s the hard knock life, for us
It’s the hard knock life, for us!!
Steada treated, we get tricked
Steada kisses, we get kicked
It’s the hard knock life!!
.. It’s the hard knock life!!
……………. it’s the hard knock life!!

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Moses as Fanon’s Colonized Intellectual: Wretched of the Earth and Exodus

So today for Leo Perdue’s Postcolonial Biblical Interpretation course, I presented on The Wretched of The Earth by Frantz Fanon and I came across some interesting points between Fanon’s concept of the colonized intellectual and the story of Moses.

1. Fanon argues first that :

The colonized intellectual has to assimilate to the ways of the colonizer and that this is most apparent in the colonized intellectual’s incapacity to engage in dialogue (page 13).

Go back to Moses in Exodus 4 where he is talking to the angel of YHWH. He says, “But  my Lord , I have never in the past  nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow  of speech and slow of tongue.”-Exodus 4:10 (NRSV)

The conflict for Christians starts with the apostle Stephen’s rendering of Moses’s speaking eloquence in the Acts of the Apostles: “So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22, NRSV).

The question becomes: is Moses unable to speak because he has a stuttering problem, for instance? Or, is Moses incapable of communicating with the oppressed Israelite elders because he has been educated by the Egyptians.  If we apply Fanon’s analysis to the text, I would say it is the latter.

2. Fanon continues, arguing for the contextual and communal nature of truth.

—  “Nobody has a monopoly on truth, neither the leader nor the militant.  The search for truth in local situations is the responsibility of the community”(139).

In the Exodus narrative, Pharaoh clearly believes he has a monopoly on the truth.  He orders the Hebrew midwives to work to reduce the number of infant males born to the Israelites due to the  Hebrew women extraordinary ability to breed (Exodus 1:19).  Also, Pharaoh tells the Israelite leaders to ignore the lies of  Moses and Aaron (who speaks for his younger brother), on the falsehood that the Hebrew people are “lazy” (Exodus 5:7-9 & 17-18).  Later in the story, Moses receives the Decalogue, of which Ninth commandment forbids the giving of false testimony and that includes the spreading of false reports or aiding the wicked be malicious witnesses (Exodus 20:16;23:1).  In this context, the midwives  (by resisting Pharaoh’s orders) are being truthful to themselves  as well as their oppressed community (a Fanonian concept) and to the law of God (even before it was revealed?).

3. Fanon also contends:

—  Mothers help the propaganda of nationalist parties by passing on stories of heroic warriors who died ages ago to their children by way of song (69).

—  As the revolution gets under way, the banner is waving in the air, the activity of the peasants frightens the colonialists, and the women cheer on the men headed to fight in guerilla warfare (70).

If one examines the song of Miriam the prophetess, one would recognize this Fanonian truth in the Exodus story as well.

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” –Exodus 15:20-21 (NRSV).

—  YHWH is the new hero of Israel, along with Moses.  Miriam, like the women in Fanon’s revolutionary ideal, expresses the beginning of a new heroic story to be repeated down to the generations as the nation of Israel is coming into existence.

4. Lastly, there is a small contrast in the Exodus tradition and Fanon’s recommendations for revolution.

In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the trend of the United Nations to encourage the Western nations to withdraw from their colonies.  The colonialists would withdraw, leaving the the nations in hellish states of starving and impoverished populations as the newly independent nations would call on their citizens to do the impossible (54).  Fanon recommended moral reparations for the colonized nations since the colonizers benefited economically from the colony’s resources.  In stark contrast, it seems that the Egyptians, without hesitation, gave the Hebrew people silver, gold, and clothing as reparations.  An interesting variation, indeed.

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Truth and Peace,
Rod