“Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!”
– Isaiah 40:3, New Living Translation
Imagine that you were trained from youth to keep a busy schedule. You are socialized to inform others of how busy you are. Time is money. Time is precious. You’re wasting valuable time. Time is OF the essence. The time is nigh. There is no MARGIN for error. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
With this being pressed for time, you also have little space. No space available. No ROOM in the INN. Time for Spring cleaning. You need to look for a new place because you have so much stuff. Or a newborn child. Infants have to leave their cribs as they grow up to be toddlers. You’re on the EDGE of your seat. This couch is too small.
But hey, at least you get a pat on the back at school. You’ve never had your existence questioned. You always get to read books written by people who look like you. Now you get to college. Maybe grad school. You encounter students who disagree with you. Professors question your assumptions. You may begin to express yourself on facebook, or even start a blog and your audience gives you applause. There’s some pushback. Critics come and go. They may relent on their own. They may get blocked if they are considered too hostile (usually deserving it).
In each of these three instances, there’s no room for margin. In Sunday School class, we have been learning about practices for self-care. The primary text our teacher is referring is The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. One quote was shared that I liked, “When we lack margin, it is our own doing and is a sure sign we have stepped outside the kingdom.”
Have you made room for those living on the edge? Have you made time to listen to the marginated Others? Has the wilderness been cleared to hear the voice of God?
It really is an exciting time. Inspired by bell hooks, as I wrote at ecclesio, excitement can be the source of transgression, and ultimately resistance versus White Supremacist Kyriarchy. It is my hope that emergence of the Killjoy Prophets and AnaBlacktivism collectives are able to create more spaces for the marginated. At the same times, while all of these positive, constructive things are occurring, I realize that whenever People of Color create their own spaces that are welcoming accomplices from the dominant culture, such excitement runs the risk of being co-opted. I’m all to familiar with this feeling; as the Teaching/Office assistant for the Black Church studies program for a few years, the Black Church Studies program, other POC spaces were treated by Whites as things to be consumed. People of Color were there to serve nice meals on a platter, and put on a good show in the name of “diversity.” It would be a mistake, to assume these spaces are here to center Whiteness. Such collectives such as Killjoy Prophets (which is working to center Women of Color feminism), host these conversations to decent the majority . Unfortunately, would-be Allies often times request much from our labor and they feel entitled to access this space. It is an attempt of inversing the role of host and guest, and thus replay the colonial arrangement: Whites being the “hosts” while people of color are the unwelcome guests. If un-doing empire is God’s calling for the Church, then co-opting is something to be resisted.
Okay, so I have sort of a satirical side to my blogposts from time to time. My sarcastic humor does come out at work occasionally, but it was not until recently I came across the fundamentalist idea that sarcasm was a “sin.” Here’s for example this post by a Thomas Umstattd. But I think that anyone after weighing the Bible’s witness, I must say that what the writer Thomas Umstattd is promoting legalism. Just because he does not understand how something works within the biblical narrative, and because there’s an overuse with a practice, does not in anyway make sarcasm a sin. If I may, one of my favorite stories growing up (and still is) is the story of Elijah confronting the hundreds of prophets of Baal. In 1st Kings 18:27, Elijah is LYING to the prophets of Baal, he ponders, “Is Baal using the restroom? Maybe he has fallen asleep?” In this instance, between the believing audience (us) and Elijah, we know that Baal is just an idol. In the context of confronting idolatry, Elijah insists on using sarcasm to get his point across. This is a man inspired by God, who is carried away in the chariot of fire. The Bible is filled with other stories that involve wordplay and riddles, men of God using mockery and we US American Christians work so hard to sanitize this. God sends lying spirits in the Old Testament. Our God is sovereign, our God is free to use whatever genre He chooses to confront the Enemy. God cannot be contained–which is the goal of legalism. In the moment that Elijah was confronting the prophets of Baal, was he insecure? Nope. Was Elijah demonstrating good leadership? Yes, and he was confronting bad leadership. More importantly, Elijah was not using sarcasm against the persons of the prophets of Baal, notice that. He was critiquing their ideas. So when sarcasm is used to cut at a person personally in their representation of God’s image, that is mockery, and that is wrong and sinful. Yet when sarcasm is used to criticize ideas, this is okay, it is biblical. Lies as Mr Umstattd said are indeed the language of Satan, but so also are half-truths. Truth can be delivered in the form of irony, especially since TRUTH is a Person, the 2nd Person in the Trinity (John 18:37-38). So when one examines the use of saracasm, it should be utilized against problematic ideas that oppress people, for instance.
For more Christian perspectives on sarcasm and its usefulness, see for example this article by Rachel Marie Stone from Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics: In defense of sarcasm.