Tag Archives: Mark Lewis Taylor

To Proclaim Freedom For The Prisoners: A Letter To Marissa Alexander #FreeMarissaNow

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”

– Luke 4:18-19

To Miss Marissa Alexander of Florida,

First of all, I would like to say thank you, Ms. Alexander for sharing your story with the world. No matter how much the white supremacist system we call “The Prison-Industrial-Complex” may try to suppress the truth, I am grateful that you are working to expose it by contending your innocence as well as your basic right as a human being to defend yourself from life-threatening abuse. As a fellow Christian, I affirm the words of the apostle Paul, that all human bodies are of sacred and immeasureable worth. It is my commitment to non-violence that drives me to write this letter in protest of your current detainment, in outrage over the Prison-Industrial Complex and its white supremacy, as well as the deadly misogyny you tried to protect yourself from.

free Marissa Alexander

free Marissa Alexander (Photo credit: cactusbones)

Being well aware that there are a number of other persons reading this letter, the author would like to clarify how the Prison Industrial Complex operates. Much like its predecessor, the chattel enslavement of Africans, the P-I-C seeks to seek, kill, and destroy families of African descent. In contrast to the auction of the enslaved blacks during the first three centuries of our continent’s “discovery,” the P-I-C begins with the School-To-Prison pipeline. It all begins with the ground-level, white supremacist norm forming belief that all People of Color are by nature, criminal and deviant. Informed by this mode of thinking, groups of politicians leap into action, working with all forms of hostility to shut down public school systems wholesale through voucher programs, ableist & racist charter school plans, and racially-biased drug laws. With few resources, public schools are held hostage and have very little choice but to expel students who do not recieve the behavioral improvement and literacy help that they need. This creates a cycle of violence, one that starts with linguistic violence in the classroom to gun violence in the street, and then sexual violence in the prison cells. For more information on the P-I-C, please visit the U.S. Prison Culture blog and its glossary

I must confess that it has been a while since I have written on the topic of the Prison Industry. While it is true that I do visit a homeless shelter every month where former convicts often reside, I have not concerned myself with their specific concerns. As an educator, I see the P-I-C for what it is, a confusing network of corporate interests and desperate educators trying to help the oppressed survive. Afew years ago, I did write several times on the P-I-C and how conservatives and liberals can work together to save lives and tax payer dollars. I did a book review on Mark Lewis Taylor’s The Executed God, as well as confessed my hatred for procedurals and buddy cop movies. There are just way too many cultural reminders about the criminalization of People of Color.

Marissa Alexander Protest

Marissa Alexander Protest (Photo credit: www78)

But enough about the bad news; how about some Good News? There are people of faith that are praying/sending their positive thoughts out
for you, Marissa. Indeed, a powerful case can be made that the belief that there is a higher power can give courage to persons being told that the white supremacist Powers That Be are the only way. As Willie Jennings has rightly argued, Jesus was the Chosen One to liberate the oppressed and set free the prisoners. To partake in Christ’s Body is to undergo an inner transformation that leads to challenges to systemic injustices. Believers can even see God’s work in the social justice struggles of even persons who may not be “religious.” It is God’s Spirit that persuades people to do right and to know the just. This grace is made readily available to everyone. The MOST powerful witnesses in Christianity are those bodies who have been in chains, the apostle Paul’s the Frederick Douglass’, the women suffragists’, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther KingJr.’s, the Dietrich Bonhoffers’ who have written articulate theologies of grace and justice while in bondage.

Seminaries can never be the home to Christian ethics; that location lies in the bodies of the oppressed, the afflicted, those in chains. While excellent texts such as Logan’s Good Punishment and Taylor’s Executed God are highly recommended by myself, these works do not supercede King Jr.’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail, the apostle Paul’s letter to the Phillipians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters from Prison, or Marissa Alexander’s letters to her supporters. Alexander has a heart full of grace and forgiveness, in spite being held captive by white supremacist politics, she continues “to believe in our justice system” because of her faith in God.

From the above link, you yourself, as I plan to, can write Marissa Alexander at:

You can personally write to Marissa in prison at this address:

“Marissa Alexander #2012033887
500 East Adam St.
Jacksonville, FL 32202

If you include some First Class stamps, or even an address and stamped return envelope, it will be easier for her to reply.”

For updates on Marissa Alexander, please visit:

#31ForMarissa at Ebony.com

U.S Prison Culture Blog

And

The Free Marissa Now Tumblr

Excerpt from The Boondocks on the Prison Industrial Complex

Mark Lewis Taylor on Revolutionaries as Purists

I felt last week that this post was relevant, but given the comments on my more political facebook statuses as well as the polemic I encountered last week about my politics, I thought I would quote Mark Lewis Taylor, for my conversants have in common this: they are puritanical revolutionaries, in that they believe that the only way the world will change will be as if everyone thinks and acts like them. Since I have been on an “impurity” streak lately like with my postcolonial appropriation of the Chalcedon Paradigm or my post on ECUMENISM AND CHRISTIAN IDENTITY.

Anyways, here goes:

“Recognizing this common humanity, seeking some way to love enemies while resisting them, is to allow to die that form of revolutionary purism marked by a facile oppositionalism.[…]The purism that thinks only in terms of opposition and binary terms of resistance will not forge a resistance complex enough to engage effectively today’s complex and multiform strategies of imperial control. ” The Executed God, page 14

An authentic revolution is driven by enemy-love, and not just dualistic terms of thinking. Seeing ourselves in the other, rather than dehumanizing or closing ourselves completely to our worldview simply because we disagree will not lead to any sort of change. Change only happens when we open ourselves to the Other, no matter how risky that might be.

Book Review: Mark Lewis Taylor’s The Executed God

THE WAY OF THE CROSS IN LOCKDOWN AMERICA

One of my recent posts indicated my growing concern for the Prison-Industrial Complex.  My experience this past week as a substitute teacher affirms the link between the education system and the Big House Nation.

This is my second time around reading Mark Lewis Taylor’s The Executed God: The Way of The Cross in Lockdown America.  As a post-colonial Christian as well as a former grad student who had taken a course on Foucault, I was more familiar with the concepts Taylor was passing along to understand the nature of discipline. What I appreciate most about Taylor, as well as most post-colonial theologians is their subjectivity and honestly.  This is not a study of the U.S. American prison system behind some false objective Euro-centric gaze. Nay, Mark Lewis Taylor is an active member of the Free Mumia movement, but what he has to say is essential to the Church here in the U.S. and abroad.

Introduction: The Executed God

Our language, in the Tillichian neo-orthodox tradition is limited, and how we speak of God is primarily metaphorical.  This is the position Taylor comes from.  He says that Jurgen Moltmann‘s The Crucified God (one of my all time favorites) focuses on the cross and what it means for Jesus’s divinity. However, if we leave the fact that the crucifixion was in those days a state-sanctioned execution for those who are deemed a threat, we will end up glorifying the suffering of the oppressed.  Therefore, to keep the idea of the Cross as an evil and not redemptive (Taylor’s argument), the Executed God may serve as a better metaphor.

Chapter 1: Lockdown America: A Theater of Terror

This chapter describes in grueling detail the effects of the police state that we know as American society.  The 6 features include: Time as a devourer of flesh, injustice done towards the innocent who are incarcerated, the racial disparity in the enforcement of drug laws, the culture of prison rape as a form of terror (and it is even encouraged by guards disgustingly enough),  and the scare tactics of police forces (sending helicopters, etc. as a sign of their presence). Taylor also argues against the death penalty.

Chapter 2: Theatrics and Sacrifice in the U.S. Led Imperium

Taylor provides the political and economic background behind the so-called needed “War on Drugs” and “Getting tough on crime” approaches by the U.S. Federal government. He points that starting with the Founding Fathers, America has always seen prosperity as something for the few, and that it was necessary for a population of certain persons to get the short end of the stick.  Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the current mess that we are in.

Chapter 3: Way of the Cross As Adversarial Politics

Admitting that this book was written for a Christian audience, Taylor does want to find common ground with interreligious groups to subvert the P-IC.  Borrowing from Chad Meyer’s Binding the Strong Man as well as various other liberationist thinkers, Taylor magnificently blends social commentary, theology, politics, and biblical studies to reflect upon the life of the Galilean Jesus and what it might mean for today. Mark Lewis Taylor also uses the Apostle Paul as an example of an anti-imperial Christian.

Chapter 4: Way of the Cross As Dramatic Action

Continuing to examine historical Jesus studies, Taylor then suggests the possibility of non-violent dramatic actions for today’s world. From Ida B. Wells and her leadership in blacks exiting Memphis because of discrimination in 1892 to the die-ins in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 200, Taylor gives historical examples of how the way of the cross leads to the stealing of the show.

Chapter 5: Way of the Cross As Building A People’s Movement

MLT holds out hope for a Christianity that embraces the legacy of “Impious Galileans,” the 4th century band of believers dedicated to aiding the downtrodden.  Advocating “No More Prisons!” and “Death to the Death Penalty!,” MLT explores a myriad of creative ways to perform the way of the cross in protest of the Prison-Industrial Complex.

Epilogue: Christian Living Toward a Fullness of Rebellion

MLT, in the tradition of Albert Camus, proposes that rebellion is not a negative value always in opposition, but a positive on par with humanity’s God-given co-creating capacities.

MY THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION

I did rather enjoy this book and its engagement with what I consider to be the greatest threat to U.S. American civilization.  The P-I C is a danger to our future and it needs to end. If there is one thing I find frustrating with post-colonial theologians, is that while we are all in agreement that sin exists as a complex network of kyriarchal, racist, and classist forms of oppression, many of aforementioned thinkers cannot seem to to will the ONE thing. I am hoping that the P-I C is my “ONE” thing as I look for creative ways to rebel against it. MLT’s insight that revolutionary purism (the idea that rebellious groups have to share the same ideology) is unhelpful was opened my mind and was very relevant to my conversations around the blogosphere this week.

My only criticism would be this: If the CROSS is evil, why name your politics “the way of the cross”?  Isn’t that like saying, “the ethics of being executed” or “the politics for the murdered”?  If the author does not find the cross redemptive, then why even use it as part of the language as part of the solution?  If nothing good can come from it, the cross should be discarded all together. Plus, it is not the way of the cross if Taylor is only referencing Yeshua the Messiah’s ministry.

At this point, I must digress with Mark Lewis Taylor.  The Crucifixion is redemption in that it means Christ’s free subjective obedience to defeat ha satan, his lies, as well as all of humanity’s disobedience.   I cannot risk, nor can the Church, afford to dismiss the execution of the Logos as a tragedy, and here is why. I side with Jurgen Moltmann on this one, that the cross keeps the victims of society in view.  If God is on the side suffering with those who have pain in their lives, the Cross is forever a reminder of that.  The notion of a transcendent God bleeding may be offensive to some, for to me, it is a truth that Christianity exclusively brings alone.  It would have been better for MLT to call his proposal “The Way of Jesus’ Ministry” or such. The Crucified God is the embodiment of the Nonviolent God.  Honestly, we cannot actually “imitate” Jesus in looking solely as his life as an example, for we would risk doing violence to his historical experience and making an idol of our interpretation of that history.  On the other hand, I do not want to be accused of uplifting the pain of millions around the world.  Jesus is not some Harry Potter figure or some U.S. soldier who gives his life to save “the world.”  His narrative is completely unlike our stories, but at the same time, it is our story. Christianity is about God making a way out of no way for human beings to experience the divine agency of the Holy Trinity. Only through the Cross and the Resurrection does this become a possibility.

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