Tag Archives: philosophy

RESISTERE, latin for resist: the meaning of resistance


“”To resist (resistere or “to take astand”) suggests the capacity “to stand back,” to acquire an oppositional perspective vis-a-vis a given set of objects. And while every act of agential behavior is not an act of resistance, every act
of resistance is an agential form of behavior. And while
cows might be said to ‘”resist,” they do not “take a
stand.” Deborah White (1999) notes, “While some
Southern whites called such behavior ‘rascality’
[breaking tools, for example], slaves [or to be enslaved]
understood it to be an effective form of resistance” (p.
77). As we shall see, some Black steamboat workers
consciously inverted the meaning of “rascality” as a
term of self-activity to describe their informal work
endeavors. Consider Alcey. an enslaved woman,”- George Yancey, “Historical Varieties of African American Labor: Sites of Agency and Resistance,” Page 345


The past few months, the topic of resistance when it comes to theology has dwelled on my mind for some reason. As a Protestant, I know we are ever living in PROTEST of authority, and that Protest Tradition in and of itself becomes a norm, and therefore, authoritative. As an African-American, our community’s religious and political life has been defined by our PROTEST of White Supremacy.  When I read books on black religion and/or black theology, there is an assumed oppositional, we are poised against this or that, it’s us versus the world attitude.  As part of Christianity’s institutional racism, portraying  people of color as perpetually angry and destructive has been part of the norm, and as far as arguments against liberation  theologies play out, this is exactly the case. Scholars from POC communities have critique liberation theologies etc., for not standing FOR anything (other than survival) and standing against/being defined by suffering and sin.

Resistance means “taking a stand,” and this stand can be for standing against racism, because we are standing FOR the Kingdom of God, standing FOR racial justice and reconciliation, standing FOR love. All stands are political, and so really, that standing doesn’t have to be “oppositional” as if the lives of Persons of Color are all just about struggle. It  could be standing back in admiration, looking at a work of art, or standing in pride after reading a book, or making a sports accomplishment, or perhaps even stand up comedy! God’s very own grace is the source of all true, legitimate resistance; [ the act of resisting] is everyday, it is liberating, and it is peaceable. 

For the next couple of days, I will explore a few biblical passages, using the Vulgate, to describe the type of everyday faithful Christian resistance I am talking about.

Is existentialism solely the burden of the modern white man?

Guest post by harry samuels

Peter Rollins in Belfast, 2007

Peter Rollins in Belfast, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I was reading further and further into Dr. Kimberly K Smith’s African American Environmental Thought, I cam across the section of the first chapter whose heading read “Slave Cosmology” which discussed a number of points related to this topic and , as one might predict, included their brand of Christianity. Observe the following:

“ [Lawrence Levine] contends that slave religion reflects a fundamentally African consciousness. He points to evidence that slaves retained many of their animistic beliefs, synchronizing them with the folk beliefs of white Americans. The persistence of African beliefs made slaves’ version of Christianity distinctive. Slave religion, according to Levine, does not differentiate material and spiritual reality as sharply as does the Christianity of white Americans. Rather, like West African animistic beliefs, slave religion conceptualizes the spiritual and material world as intertwined. Spirits inhabit this world alongside men and animals, rather than transcending it. Eugene Genovese, elaborating on this point, argues that ‘African ideas place man himself and therefore his Soul within nature, ‘ and that Christian slaves similarly rejected ‘other-worldly’ understandings of the soul and Heaven. For example, he contends that references to Heaven in slave spirituals should be interpreted as referring to both a spiritual condition and a physical place (such as the North) where slaves would enjoy freedom.”

Now, if you ask me, this sounds awfully similar , in some ways, to what our Emergent friends like Brian McClaren and Rob Bell are trying to drive American Christians to – embracing the the wonder/the Divine intrinsic to life and what’s around us and making Christianity less about some Pie In The Sky faith about getting into a far-off celestial city. But how many Christians ( or Americans period) know this about Christian slave beliefs!? Oh and let’s not forget about Peter Rollins – the existential theologian with a penchant for intellectual snobbery. Based on his last little snafu with a female theologian blogger and the general trend for white Emergent church leaders’ disdain for any practice of Christianity they deem to be too “primitive” or lacking their own standard of “intellectual rigor”, Peter Rollins, nor any other of the Emergent church “fathers” would even BEGIN to look , let alone take seriously the theology of Christian slaves. Now before you say that I’m just ranting just to rant, re-read the quote above, and then read the following quote from one of Peter Rollins’s blog posts on www.peterrrollins.net ,

“In contrast to this the work of theologian Paul Tillich reveals a different approach. For rather than seeing the sacred as some distinct thing (even the greatest thing), one can see it as the name we give to the affirmation of a depth dimension that can be found in all things.

In this way one does not attempt to place the sacred alongside reason, ethics or aesthetics, but rather sees the sacred affirmed in our heartfelt commitment to these. From this perspective, insofar as we affirm the world as wonderful, we express the sacred. It is as we show loving care and concern for existence, and as we participate fully in life, we proclaim the sacred even if we are not aware of it. This is somewhat similar to the way that everything we see proclaims the existence of light even though we likely have no direct cognizance of the light (for we are focused on what the light illuminates).”

Read the full post here

Or look, even THIS post – about modern notions of the divine and demonic being separate from reality

Sure, it was Christianity fused with animism, but the result was a form of Christianity that was as tangible to them as God became through Incarnation. My point in all of this is the fact that in all of an existentialist’s thoughts and scenarios and constructs, could it not all be alleviated by simply LISTENING to people whose experiences are radically different from your own? If we think about how some existentialists arose in response to the horrors of World War II , we might note their anguish and complete loss of hope in everything- when really that everything what just modernity. Wasn’t math, science, and reason ( enlightenment values) suppose to solve all our woes? Wasn’t it about progressing humanity- as time moved on and we amassed more reason and knowledge, wasn’t mankind supposed to get smarter/ more reasonable? The glaring fact of the matter was that World War II ( or war as a human practice in general) was seen as very unreasonable. There could be no rationalization for the horrors wrought by (from help and math and science, mind you)such things as the Holocaust and/or bombings.

The brand of existentialism then ( and the brand that Rollins and friends stick most closely to) that arose in response to this, grew out of cynicism , skepticism, if not utter disdain for enlightenment values of modernity. To them, we had seen it all, we had made as much progress as we could have made and figured it all out, so for this to be the result, must mean that reason and certainty are tenuous and there really can be no certainty. These thoughts they processed without considering the experiences of the people marginalized by the malaise of modernity- the Jews, the African slaves, the Native Americans,etc. I can not help but feel that some existential crises could be abated by simply listening to more voices than those you’ve been exposed to all your life. For these reasons, I am beginning to believe that perhaps existentialism is primarily the burden of the modern white man.

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Western Rationality or Objective Moral Reasoning: Which is More Biblical?

Moses with the Ten Commandments

The Politics Of Presuppositionalist Jebus

David Theo Goldberg in his Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning discusses at length the Western Man of Reason something that is culturally determined. In the post-Enlightenment modernist epistemology, that which is deemed rational in European terms excluded persons from other nations as “savages” and”irrational.” The advancement of knowledge as something to be discovered by person’s who were above bias as blank slates was a false myth that perpetuated (and continues to do so) some of the worst forms of human subjugation.

What makes Clement of Alexandria‘s definition of rationality/Reason so liberating is that he refused to separate the mind from the body, rational thinking from reasonable action.  A recovery of Clement’s understanding of reason, where a godly person both “speaks rationally and instructs lovingly” may be found in his writings such as “Sermon to the Greeks, chapter 10,” where he argues that

“those laws of reason  and words of sanctity  which are inscribed on men’s[sic] hearts: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as theyself, to him who strikes thee on the cheel, present also the other;” “thou shalt not lust for by lust alone thou hast committed adultery.”

Furthermore, Clement of A in Book I of The Educator, Chapter XIII, argues that to be rational is the same as being virtuous. Inspired by the Hebrew philosophy of Moses and the Prophets, Clement says that Reason rests upon “a system of reasonable actions” taught by “The Word of the Father” (Jesus the Messiah), “divine statutes and spiritual counsels, have been written for ourselves [the Church], being adapted for ourselves and our neighbors [the World].” For Clement of Alexandria, taking his logic to its natural conclusion, The Golden Rule (the summary of the Ten Commandments) is what is Rational, and anything that is contrary to it should be considered Irrational. As I argued in a post last April, The Golden Rule/The Royal Law of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is what objectivity in scholarship should be about, loving your fellow human and NOT lording your biases over her as such.

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