Tag Archives: nonresistance

Can This Libertarian Support #OccupyWallStreet?

First, let me just say, I stand in solidarity with our Native American sisters and brothers, in their anti-colonial critique of Occupy Wall Street, that this nation’s very foundation is occupation, and remains so. What didn’t some as a surprise is the Main Stream Media’s demonization of the protesters, including the “progressive” New York Times.

I especially like this statement from the Declaration of Principles of Occupy Wall street:

“They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.”

See more here: Declaration of the Occupation of New York City Occupy Wall Street.

Wall Street continues to remain the great economic symbol of American corporatist greed; and that legacy of slavery, where the U.S. was created on the backs of slaves, well, still remains true: see the African foundations of New York. And what population has the greatest percentage of unemployed? Oh, yah….

While a number of Tea Partiers feel threatened by the competition, I feel the more nonviolent political action, the better. Nothing like protests to get your theological juices flowing.

Pacifism and Early Christian Morality/Doctrine

So throughout today, Nick and Brian have had an interesting discussion on Pacifism and violence. I think we can all agree that all of humanity and creation are God’s property. So really, no one has the right to kill or harm anyone; that’s reserved for the Triune Creator.

I think people’s problems with pacifism is that people select and choose their own particular hypothetical situations, and start their case against it from there (What about Hitler? What about if someone attacks your spouse? etc.) I personally do not think the Bible rejects self-defense. It presupposes it.

However, by most accounts, Christianity’s earliest witnesses were for nonviolence.  I could go through the quotes and citations,  but the point is, even in Revelation, Christians are not fighting back against their persecutors. They accept their suffering about part of their life on the Cross with Christ Jesus.  The Cross is how God governs the world, through suffering and freedom, and overcoming of sin.  God’s suffering is what orthodox Christians call God’s wrath, or justice.

Nick made a poignant point that caused me to think (albeit I disagree), that if the Christian martyrs did not rescue the women and children from the lions’ den or fire or whatever else persecution they suffered, the early Christians sinned by omission. I do not think it is that black and white morally. We have to consider the power relationships between the Romans and the first Christians. That cannot be easily dismissed. It is like saying that because some enslaved Africans chose not to rebel against their American enslavers, they are somehow guilty of a sin. I really do not think that is the case in either instance.

This gets me to my point and my frustration as a student of early Christianity.  On one side (the emergent/emerging Christian side), we have a group of believers who say that historically (and I hate to generalize but lately reading the “leadership’s” positions and attitudes, I can’t help it) traditional Christianity has gotten it all wrong.  We should accept early Christian practice, yes, but reject the doctrine, or at least, reinterpret traditional dogma (the Trinity/the deity of Christ/the atonement).  But on the other side (perhaps more theologically orthodox doctrinally), says we should embrace the doctrine but reject one of the consistent practices that the church was actually united on (i.e., non-violence). My frustration is that when it  comes to early Christian studies, we think we are either intellectually superior to the Patristics and Matristics of the faith or that we have somehow morally progressed above them.  We are so confident in our own human action that we can make things right (taking events into our own hands) rather than waiting on the Lord, living lives of peaceableness.  I personally think both sides get it wrong.  We should not separate early Christian dogma from early Christian praxis.  They go hand in hand.

On Paxophobia: The Fear of Pacifists

Should political communities feel threatened by the residency of Christians?  To threaten is to some extent, give a good reason for an individual or community to fear an individual, a community, an idea, or an object. Many religious persons take a religion-with-society approach that suggests cooperation with a prevailing order is the correct approach religious adherents should ideally take.  For example, the editors of The Church as Counterculture identify one pastor in China, Reverend Argue, as someone who stresses to the Chinese government that Christians are good citizens, patriots who will serve in the military, and good workers (3).  Argue’s case against Chinese persecution (as well as all other cases for Christians conforming to national cultures) is problematic because he is in essence saying that Christians need to reject their Christian identity at the expense of receiving the benefits of full participation in Chinese society.  This idea presupposes that being Chinese (or North American or African, etc.), needs to be the starting point in framing one’s identity; but as Namsoon Kang suggests, we all have multiple identities.  Kang says, “[Whether] based on race or ethnicity, gender, sexuality, citizenship, or nationality, or religion, can be a point of departure but not a permanently frozen (my emphasis) point of one’s “epistemological dwelling” in the discourse of world Christianity (Kang, “Whose/Which World in World Christianity: Toward World Christianity as Christianity of Worldly Responsibility”?, 2010, 14).

Growing up as an African-American Christian in the mid-1990s, I noticed there was a trend towards Afro-centrism in black churches, with congregants choosing to dress themselves up in traditional African garb such as dashikis and caftans.  Today, I recognize Afrocentist practice as fundamentally essentialist, an Orientalist habit where a false notion of a universal ideal of Africa as well as the tendency to make the “non-West” the center, and place the West on the margins (Kang, “Envisioning Postcolonial Theological Education: Dilemmas and Possibilities”, 2010, 5).  We are not obligated to accept the categories of African and American.  These are constructs that were created in the imaginations of the powerful, those that control discourses, to their own benefit.  I do not know what it means to be authentically black; I have been referred to as “white” so many times because I prefer to spend my time reading books and writing reflections.

In the same many, because I am located in multiple identities, I am a citizen of the US but do not practice my patriotism in the same way that others do.  Just as there is heterogeneous ways of participating in African-American culture, there are also many ways of being patriotic.  Practitioners of world Christianities must not concern themselves with the politics-of-identity if they are to participate in the decolonization process.  Rather, Christians, at all times, should be aware of the binaries that are constructed for us, whether it is white or black, indigenous or Western, Orient or Occident.  Recently, I have come across a  phenomenon I would like to call paxophobia.  Paxophobia is the fear of human beings living in peace and harmony together. What drives paxophobia in US churches is the call by ecclesial leadership for church members to not challenge the establishment, to submit to authorities, and to be good patriotic North Americans.  The US American flag plays a bigger role in most churches than the cross.

Coinciding with the rejection of a Christianity that supported resistance of a political system is the ideal of Christian masculinity.  Aggression and violence serve as identity markers of Christian male human beings. Supporting war, watching sports, joining the military, and enjoying Ultimate Fighting Championships are just some of the  habits in which Christian men look to distinguish themselves from Christian women.  If one’s identity is defined by violence and aggression, any person, male or female, who challenges essentialist notions of Christian masculinity, is deemed as a threat.  Even this weekend my masculinity was called into question because I am dedicated to nonviolence.  So, in addition to believing that the radical Christian tradition threatens, as Budde and Brimlow argue, nationalism; I also believe that nonviolent Christianity disrupts notions of masculinity embedded in our culture.

The Anabaptists had to die because the Reformers and Catholics were more manly than them.

Truth and Peace,

Rod