Tag Archives: political theology

The Umbrella Revolution, #FergusonOctober, & the Social Order

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

Over the past couple of months, Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has written a few provocative posts on Christian perspectives of the moral order and revolution: Apocalyptic and creation: why I changed my mind ; Christianity and Social Vision: once more on creation and the apocalyptic; politics, society, & institutions: a theological outline#FergusonOctober, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss my own theology of revolution (which , albeit, is still in process).

1. I, for one, respectfully disagree with Meyers (and other Radical Orthodox writers) when they argue things like “The sole rationale for politics is original sin. The principal aim of political order is not to produce justice but to restrain injustice; not to cultivate the spirit of the law but to enforce the rule of law; not to create love but to set limits to self-interest […]” The art of politics in the original sense of the word, working toward the good of the polis, finds its ground and being in the goodness of the Creator. Yes, I assume that humanity and creation are fallen, but sin does not reign, and nor should the dictates of our human pride be considered the sovereigns of the world. If in fact Jesus IS LORD, and if Christ Jesus is the Creator who sustains all systems of the world (Colossians 1), then politics is humanity’s act of co-creating with the Holy Trinity. It is not the eschatological society {THE IDEAL CHURCH OF RADICAL ORTHODOXY, NO DOUBT!} but rather Christ Jesus himself who just as Deborah and Gideon did in the days of Israel’s judges, maintains justice between just and unjust parties.

2. As fallen human beings under the kingship and judgment of Jesus the Messiah, technically we are all in revolt versus the one true King. The only Law that truly matters is The Golden Rule [a summary of the Ten Commandments], given to the Church and the World by God’s Son Himself, the Second Person in the Trinity. Given the fact that Christians recognize One Lawgiver, Christians’ preference should be for freedom as a rule, rather than the Law and Order of Whiteness. For example, let’s take the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. There, an alliance of Christian ministers calling themselves the “Clergy for Peace” were making calls for reconciliation, slow revolution, and pretty much softer versions of Law & Order churchianity. While these slow revolutionaries were acting in the name of a false peace, their neighbors were having tear gas thrown in their eyes, being denied the basic right to worship and assemble, and suffering under the repressive curfews. While Meyers and others might argue, “Civil disobedience is not rebellion against political authority but an act of political responsibility in which some particular law is broken for the sake of another (more basic or more important) law, or for the sake of some widely shared value in a society,” I say with James Cone and others, that there needs to be an upheaval in values. Also, while yes Civil Disobedience can be a responsible political act, it is not a choice of choosing between a “more basic or more important” man-made laws, but between the conflicts of divine law of neighborly love that Christ revealed over and against the tyranny of the status quo.

3. Lastly but NOT LEAST, probably most importantly, the shape of revolution should not look backwards while walking slowly; rather, Revolution as a concept should follow in the hope-filled forward-marching paths set forth by the LORD of Hosts. Revolution as a future-oriented concept will not rely on abstract, celestial visions of a transcendental moral order. Rather, a would-be revolutionary must have a theology of the cross, and that means that in order for there to be a morality, there must be human bodies. God shows God’s goodness in the act of creation, Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. If a revolution is oriented towards hope, this means that the revolutionary moment must be tied to the pedagogical moment. Revolutions must exist for the sake of the future, for the sake of future generations. Without such a view, the present realities of oppression are lifted up as the norm, and our responses to those realities remain limited. My friend and fellow KillJoy Prophet Justin Tse has two excellent write ups on Occupy Central: EXAM REVIEW: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central with Love and Peace and Benny Tai As Political Theologian. (side note: check out this post by my friend Valerie on what she’s learned from being in Hong Kong and observing Occupy Central ) One of the important takeaways from his pieces is the fact that Benny Tai, the organizer of Occupy Central, sees the Occupy Central movement as an educational movement. In a similar vein, a number of scholars and activists are using Twitter and the #Ferguson hashtag to educate others about police brutality, the militarization of the police, racial profiling, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. If indeed, knowledge is power, perhaps a more appropriate measurement of how successful a revolution is in how many persons from around the globe find that revolution to be an important learning moment for humanity? Perhaps this a way forward, but it is only a sketch for now.

Until next time, class dismissed.

The Luxury of Liberation part 2: Womanism, salvation & beyond

Continuing from last week’s theme of examining the role of black women in the shaping of African American political theology I again explore further dimension create theology that moves beyond liberation. This week we move to the second half of Delores Williams work explicating a womanist view of Christian theology. One of her major points again is to pose a critique of traditional Black Liberation Theology: that is to say while the traditional male-centered discourse of Black Liberation Theology is centered on masculine understandings of liberation, womanist discourse is focused on survival. As folk wisdom in the black community states brothers “dream dreams” but “ the sisters have the vision.” This can be restated to say that often times male-centered black liberation theology has been concerned more with the ideal world, while women have been more concerned with practical world and how to survive in the here & now. This principle has been pivotal in the role that African American women have played in political theology. If Rosa Parks did not sit first, Martin Luther King Jr’s marching would not have been as effective. If Ida Wells Barnett did not count the black bodies that were lynched throughout the United States, there would not be such a comprehensive record of this. Moving beyond this schism that separates womanist from Black liberation theology are the religious claims that Williams pursue in the second part of Sisters in the Wilderness. The second half of her book expounds upon the notion of womanist God-talk. It follows up on some of the implication of the first half by bringing the concern of African American women into theological discourse and into Christological discourse.

For Williams, a re-conceptualizing the Christian narrative begins with changing the axiom of the traditionally male-centered story of salvation. In both Matthew and Luke the stories begin by proclaiming the patrilineal heritage of Jesus and thus showing the importance of the maleness of Jesus a Savior. However, Williams wants to begin this narrative from the perspective of Jesus’ mother, Mary. Thus Mary can become the starting point for the divine revelation of Jesus Christ. She points to the first chapter of Luke as the starting point of this narrative. In verse 35 the Holy Spirit comes upon her and she is overshadowed by God’s power. Mary is a poor pregnant teenager who suffers from a variety of vulnerabilities. Yet she has one thing going for her, that she is filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary in this context is a figure that marginalized women across the globe can identify with. By virtue of first associating Jesus with his mother first he also becomes more easily identifiable with marginalized groups. This interpretation of Mary is not a recent construction however.


The nineteenth-century abolitionist Sojourner Truth used this story to counter white male-centered narratives that sought to deny women their rights. The preacher claimed that women could not have rights because Jesus was not a woman. Truth famously claims “Where did your God come from. God and Woman, man had nothing to do with it.” This statement seems simple enough yet it has deep and ranging theological implications. It sheds light on the inseparability of the divinity of God and the divinity of womanhood in creating what we know as our savior. Also the notion of the virgin birth seems to suggest God’s ability to make a way out of no way. Imagine the uncertainty the Mary must have felt and her struggle just to survive. Not only does God make a way out of no way, God uses her most desperate situation to begin the salvific work for all of humanity. Williams re-conceptualization of the salvific narrative de-center the maleness of Christology and provides hope for the many women who cannot identify with traditional understandings of the salvific narrative.

MLK Jr., the Two Kingdoms and the Politics of Love

“In these days of uncertainty, the evils of war and of economic and racial injustice threaten the very survival of the human race. Indeed we live in a day of grave crisis.” (p.Xiii, Strength To Love) These are the words that begin Martin Luther King’s work Strength To Love. Although these words were published in 1963 it is certainly not a stretch to note their relevance to the state of current socio-political issues in the United States. Whether it is President Barack Obama’s recent declaration to send troops back to Iraq, the continued fight for socio-economic equality throughout the states, or the continued injustices that take place in cities like Ferguson throughout the country, we do indeed live in turbulent times. Furthermore at stake here is the survival of the human fabric. How can the Christian community address these dire circumstances? What response can theology offer up to these concerns? Although there is no comprehensive answer to this question Dr. Martin Luther King can offer some insight on the ways theology can address current crisis such as the racial injustices that happen far too often in our world today. Ultimately the solution lies in showing the love of Christ to all of the communities to which we belong. I believe to create a theopolitics of love one must understand the true nature of their citizenship in the world, incorporate the capacity for altruism, and become aware of humanities shortcomings.

As a member of the Christian community it can become difficult to navigate the world of both the sacred and the secular. Christians belong to both of these worlds. King notes: “Every true Christian is a citizen of two worlds, the world of time and the world of eternity. We are, paradoxically, in the world and yet not of the world” (p.12). Thus we are citizens of both the temporal world that we live in on Earth as well as our heavenly citizenship to live eternity with God. This is complicated because we have citizenships in both of these worlds at the same time. We are thus not allowed neglected the concerns of one in favor of the other and vice versa. This can be interpreted that because we have dual citizenship, we are also have dual responsibilities that are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, our responsibility on the temporal world is to bring about the peace that we seek from our eternal union with God. This task can only be fulfilled through the fight for justice for all of God’s creation.

Beyond realizing the nature of Christian dual citizenship it is equally important understand what it means to show neighborly love. Reflecting on the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 25:10-37) is helpful here. Before examining this parable it is important to understand the context of this parable. A law expert has asked Jesus’ advice on how to enter heaven. In other words it is a question regarding how to obtain dual citizenship. They eventually reach the conclusion that it is through loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. However, the discussion does not end there. The law expert proceeds to ask Jesus who is one’s neighbor. This leads to Jesus’ reply using the famous parable in which the Good Samaritan acts the most neighborly. Both a priest and a Levite pass over a man who has recently been robbed on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is only the Samaritan who has the courage to help him and to truly act like a neighbor. On the surface it seems as if the other two were merely acting out of their own selfish interest without concern for the life staring them directly in the face.

It is entirely possible that they may have had great reasons for not stopping. However, what makes the Samaritan neighbor is his ability to exercise his capacity for altruism. King states “true altruism is the capacity to sympathize. It is the personal concern that demands the giving of one’s soul (p.27)” This form of altruism involves feeling for the person in need, including their pain, agony, and burdens. It is the personal concern that allows us to recognize the humanity that we all share. All too often we focus on only those issues that concern a particular group that we associate with. It is hard for us to be concerned for issues outside our context. Only through recognizing the humanness of everyone are we able to truly exercise our capacity for altruism. The Samaritan was able to exercise his altruistic capacity because he saw the man on the road first and foremost as human. He did not see his race, ethnicity, gender or other socially constructed categories. He was able to identify the shared humanness that both of them possessed. Our capacity to be altruistic is the motivating force behind our ability to show neighborly love. This in turn allows understanding that connection between our responsibility as citizen of the eternal God as well as our responsibility to the temporal world.

I can think of no better example than the call to fight for racial justice in America today. While the cases of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford III have garnered recent media attention they are far from the only victims of institutional racism in the United States. Part of truly realizing dual citizenship is the very real practice of social justice from American Christians. Living out a social justice ethos can take a variety of forms. Whether it is the individual Christian or the entire church community advocating social justice is important. From supporting protest rallies, to playing an active role in helping to change institutional policies that create a system predicated racial inequality Christian communities must take an active role in realizing the responsibility to the temporal world as part of a theopolitics of love.

“Never must the church tire of reminding ‘humanity’ that they have a moral responsibility to be intelligent” (p 39)

Related article from the archives: How Dietrich Bonhoeffer Redefined the Two Kingdom’s theory