Tag Archives: law vs. grace

Political Theology Reconfigured

Vincent Loyd’s work, The Problem With Grace discerns some of the complex interplay between African American theological perspectives and modern political estates. His first aim is to dispel the methodology that relies upon supersessionist foundations to oppose law and grace. He accomplishes this by analyzing specific religious concepts within both the Jewish and Christian faith. He also relies upon heavily sources outside of traditional conception of theology using both theoretical and literary texts. Lloyd questions the notion that the world is composed of some fallen world in need of redemption. This grace and law narrative is allegorized for the African American context through the story of Grace Mulligan on the Manderlay plantation. The story begins in 1933 when Mulligan stumbled upon a plantation in which the African American living there did not know that slavery was abolished. Grace abolished the plantation law that had governed the slave’s lives and instituted a democracy. While initially successful, the community after a period of time delved into a system predicated on rivalry, suspicion and bloodshed. Grace, who had come to replace the law, eventually flees the plantation because of the unintended consequences that she created. According to Lloyd it is supersessionist logic that led to the demise of the community which was most evident when grace replaced the law. Thus he finds it more relevant to examine society relative to social norms as opposed to a society in need of grace to fulfill the law. This examination occurs through a robust description of various religious concepts and theological virtues relevant to the Christianity such as: faith, hope, love, liturgy, prophesy, and tradition. One concept that I found his analysis particularly relevant to was the virtue of faith.

Lloyd states that love is an exercise for navigating the social world. The challenges and frustrations of social and political life are condensed into how we view the love relationship. Simply stated to truly love is difficult and full of uncertainties. For him what forms the basis for love however is faith. Faith gives us the ability not to walk away from loves despite all of the trial and tribulations that accommodate it. Faith entails a commitment to love even when there are good reasons not to. He strays away from the notion of faith that is commonly associated with a belief in something or someone. In his words “faith is about improper beliefs, beliefs that go beyond what ought to be believe.” Most importantly faith runs counter to social norms. This faith accordingly is able to trump all authority that is generated from societal norms. It even calls for reprimand of those societal structures and norms. I find this view of faith helpful especially when addressing the myriad of issues that we face in our contemporary society. It is possible using this view that we can challenge social and systemic structures that oppress a variety of issues.

Faith as a virtue goes beyond a mere belief in a deity or a higher power. True faith is critical of socio-political structures. This virtue has particularly been important for African Americans in the United States. Whether it was Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights struggle or modern Civil Rights leaders who struggle against the militarization of police states, policies that perpetuate racism, classism, sexism, and heteronormativity; faith has played an important role in countering these structures. Faith can promote social action and change. It is the backbone behind the love ethic that is necessary to fight for these changes. Martin Luther King fought for equality and gave his life for the freedom of all people out of love. However, deeply rooted in his love ethic was his faith that love creates the changes necessary to transform society.

#DuckDynasty, Grace, and White Supremacist Gods #fleshYGod

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

[…..]

of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”- John 1:14, 16-17, NIV

I didn’t mumble a single word when the truth about Paula Deen’s white supremacist desires were made public, and BIG SURPRISE, she’s making a comeback. Real. Shocker. I really don’t bother with private individual’s racism because these conversations ultimately derail conversations about the history of white supremacy as a worldwide system. Color me shocked once more when GQ Magazine asks a 67 year old conservative patriarch what he thought was sinful. Really? Is GQ Magazine replacing Christianity Today? Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if this whole controversy was cooked up to get even higher ratings for A&E as well as further entrench the white conservative evangelical base as a means of profit. Disaster is always bound to happen when religious movements are strictly viewed as people groups to be marketed to.

The interview and the consequences of Phil Robertson’s comments are not the product of a First Amendment debate; this is a battle created for and by the Free Market. Social conservatives love free market capitalism except when things don’t go their way, sorta like “Christian movies.” What I find appalling is that white evangelical Christians want to claim all of these celebrities out in the “secular” for themselves, the Sarah Palin’s, Phil Robertson’s and Paula Deen’s, but they do not want to take ownership of these celebrity’s racist comments. I can understand why persons come to reject Christianity in this age, (let’s put aside sexual ethics for a second), when all of these outspoken representatives of KKKristianity continue to perpetuate the white supremacist mythology. KKKristianity in the eyes of outsiders seems less like a group of followers of Jesus who love our neighbors as ourselves as they are more in love with the idea of swimming in cultural ignorance.

There is absolutely no excuse that appeals to folksy political incorrectness and whitewashed distortions of history should be tolerated. Contrary to popular defenses of him, Phil Robertson is not some country bumpkin who happened to make it rich like The Beverly Hillbillies. To denigrate Robertson’s intelligence in assuming the worst, is to essentialize not only poor white persons who live in the swamplands, but also to ignore the fact that he has his Master’s in Education from Louisiana Tech. Educated, well-meaning people from all different backgrounds are capable of holding onto white supremacist religions and tellings of history. One example of this is Patheos religious blogging site. Supposedly the concept is to be progressive, with a site “Hosting the Conversation” but, they have TWO (YES TWO YA’LL) channels for white Conservative Christians (Family and Evangelical), and there are barely any bloggers of Color; one could probably count that number on one hand [see FOOTNOTE 1]. See, the myth is that Blacks have nothing value to contribute to culture because we are lazy and dependent by nature.

image from the Christian Post

Going back to Phil Robertson’s quote:

“I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

PRE-ENTITLEMENT AND PRE-WELFARE. Okay a little bit of a history and politics lessons, sir, “entitlements” have been around since the beginning of the Republic. Ever heard of the 3/5th Compromise? Secondly, during Jim and Jane Crow segregation, whites stole money from black people in the form of Social Security (among other things), taking our tax dollars and benefitting from “separate but equal.” The idea that blacks are lazy is once again preached by a white Christian celebrity from his bully pulpit. Nothing new to see here. EXCEPT, he also had to add during Jim and Jane Crow segregation, Black people were happy and no one was singing the blues. EXCEPT for the fact that black people invented the blues during the time of legal segregation because life was miserable. Blacks haven’t done anything for American society EXCEPT build it with their bare hands and scarred backs.[see FOOTNOTE 2].

The notion that black people are not people to be valued is a deeply held belief in a graceless, white supremacist society. The God of pop culture Kkkristianity is a White Supremacist. People of Color, in general, are not shown the same grace that they are expected to give others. Anti-Blackness, however, is the very air we breathe. Black people are viewed as being on the bottom rung of our culture, depraved, going without intelligence or will-power. What is grace in a world where white Christians STAN for Saint George Zimmerman while villifying Trayvon Martin as a thug? What is grace where Renisha McBride is derided as a drunk? What is grace in a world where rape and murder victim Dion Payne has his humanity called into question because he made a few bad decisions while he was young?

But meanwhile, there are calls for grace for Hugo Schwyzer and CJ Mahaney for preying on women and children. But what is grace in a White Supremacist society? In the Christian tradition, grace is the “unmerited [unearned] favor of God” given to us, but grace in the DisUnited States of Amerikkka means for people to stop criticizing persons in prominent roles, and allow these persons in power to continue to be in positions of power after they have said, “I’m Sorry.” Apologies replace genuine repentance. White supremacist, colonial lies remain in the stead of truth.

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

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

White Supremacist Gods have cheap grace and oppression as their telos. As a Christian anti-Racist, I look to Scripture where God elects to exist in the meatsuit of a human being in the first century. An anti-racist Incarnational theology means a complete rejection of white supremacy’s cheap grace. In the Gospel of John, as I cited, there is not severance of truth from grace. As such, Truth and Grace remain an integral part of each other. Truthfulness is lifted up along with Grace. In practical terms, grace for an anti-racist praxis means everyone regardless of race, nationality, or ethnic background is given the freedom to express who they are as infinitely valuable planetary creatures. Truth as an anti-racist practice means persons are free to tell the truth in community, as well as resist and debunk white supremacist lies like the ones Phil Robertson is spreading.

FOOTNOTE 1: Let’s not forget about Patheos’ gender problem as well. A good friend of mine was placed in the Patheos Spirituality channel although she is a Christian. The reason? She’s not a DudeBro.

FOOTNOTE 2: If you do not like the fact your country was built by black people, I suggest you leave. That’s my answer to anti-black racism.

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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