Tag Archives: racial justice

Just In The Mail: Disunity In Christ By Christena Cleveland @CSCleve

The good folks at Intervarsity Press sent me a review copy of Christena Cleveland’s Disunity In Christ: Uncovering the Invisible Forces That Keep Us Apart. I didn’t even have to request one! Awesome! What a Blessing! Can’t wait to read.

 

 

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Heroes Wear Hoodies: Trayvon Martin, Vigilantism, & CW's #Arrow #MillionHoodies

trayvonarrow

Saturday, I had the luxury of sitting all day at home on the couch, marathoning my way through the CW hit show Arrow. As I was watching, I felt like wearing one of my favorite pieces of clothing: a hoodie, my light blue hoodie to be exact. For me, before last year happened, wearing hoodies made me feel comfortable yet mysterious. There were not any politics involved the decision to wear hoodies. And then one year ago, George Zimmerman shot an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin under the vigilante auspices of Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws. Before this happened, I did not have to think twice about wearing a hoodie. I just did it because I felt like it. But after that incident, as well as the police pulling out a gun on my brother because of racist profiling, I honestly began to hesitate about wearing any of my bevy of hoodies, and choose to wear just a sweater. Would the police stop me for favoring a criminal on a wanted list? Would a George Zimmerman look at me as a danger to his suburban neighborhood?

I eventually got back into the habit of wearing my hoodies again. Each time, it took an act of overcoming fear on my part because of the recent events that had happened, but I felt emboldened by the Million Hoodies campaign last year, and continue to find strength in doing so. In the t.v. Arrow, Oliver Queen plays a vigilante, someone outside the law that takes justice into his own hands in corrupt Starling City. Queen works with his chauffer/sidekick/security guard, an Afghanistan war veteran named Diggle as they take own white collar criminals as well as the weekly villain. Diggle and Oliver, while they are trying to save the city, are always questioning their own motives, what’s the best way to stop corruption? Is vigilantism the only option? Why aren’t the police doing enough? As much as I enjoy comic books, comic book tv shows, and comic movies, the question of vigilantism looms large, especially with non-powered humans like Batman (my favorite) and Green Arrow.

What makes Arrow interesting is that Oliver (the Hood as he is referred to in the media), works with people on the other side of the tracks, The Glades as it is called. John Diggle, who is African American, is from The Glades, and he and Oliver usually meet in a diner there to discuss how change Starling City. Diggle himself, in the episode “Damaged” wears the green hood to fight criminals. Arrow will not simply be a story about a rich White shining night saving the only the homogenous white parts of the city; “The Hood” vigilante will be a diverse experiment, where even those who are ignored by the Merlyn and Queens’ corporations will have a voice. The only other person who know Oliver’s identity is Felicity Smoak, the geeky IT girl who happens to be Jewish. The chemistry between our three players is quite a mix.

Image from Seriable.com

Two my other favorite episodes, “Muse of Fire” and “Vendetta” are the ones starring Huntress/Helena Bertinelli, a member of the Batfamily. Huntress in the comic book and in Arrow the show, has a propensity towards gun violence and revenge. Oliver is no saint, but he believes he can “save” Helena by showing her that killing is wrong. Huntress as a vigilante is problematic for “the Hood” and his crew because she is exactly what Diggle and Queen fear: a figure easily demonized in the eyes of the media rather than a change-agent. I would argue that Bertinelli’s mission, of fighting the mob, is just as noble endeavor as Oliver’s pursuit of most of Starling City’s powerbrokers.

The debate within the world of Arrow (and really, most comic culture) is how moral agents are to behave in the face of injustice. Should persons work through means outside the law (revolution) or within the law (reform)? Also, how is one to determine which vigilante is right? Whose vigilantism are we talking about here? These are, yes, fictional stories, but they are also allegories for how real human being interact in society. I think that the distinction is crucial, especially as it relates to the Trayvon Martin case, gun violence, and mob mentalities. A hero is someone who stands with the oppressed. Someone who can discern through the media’s power with x-ray vision, someone who does not think of themselves first (the very journey that Oliver Queen in Arrow is on) and consider their rights to be privileges to maintain power over others. A hero does not make arguments out of fear, based on abstract “What if?” questions, like “what if a black ‘thug’ walks into my neighborhood?”; a real hero shows love to their neighbor, the Other, and recognizes their invaluable worth as a member of humanity. So, here’s to all of the heroes today, wearing hoodies in memory of Trayvon Martin.

For more on Trayvon Martin:

On Love For Trayvon: Richard Land, Fox News, and Conservative White Race Hustlers

No, George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s Death Was NOT part of God’s Plan

Nonviolent Politics Par Excellence: Bonhoeffer, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, & The Seamless Garb

No, I’m Not Talking About The Seamless Garb Jesus’ Fake Wife Sewed Up For Him

In Christian and political circles, there seems to be  some confusion about what the Consistent Life philosophy, the Seamless Garb, is all about. In one of its most recent essays, Keith Pavlischek of the Institute for Religious Democracy berated pacifists who couldn’t stick to their “unrealistic” positions, in his post, Distorting Just War Theory. At a crucial juncture of his post, Pavlischek dismisses the Seamless Garb philosophy and the idea that Jesus’ demand to love the enemy includes embracing them has no relevance when it comes to politics. Under the guise of Niebuhr’s Christian realism (like President Obama: see: Preisdent Obama’s Christian Realism, the Institute for Religious Democracy promotes a new American Crusade mentality, where violence IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE response to evil in the world. This is the significant difference between reasonable Just War Theorists and the IRD.

In another essay by Pavlischek, Seamless Silliness, he argues that, “The “seamless garment” or “consistent ethic of life” position recognizes no moral difference between the acts of a cold-blooded murderer, a vigilante lynch mob seeking revenge.” Not only is this premise inaccurate, but as the principle argument that the IRD and KP rely on, their entire argument breaks down because they just do not read pacifist and Seamless Garb (TSG) closely. The Just War has a limited set of criterion (suggestions) in which politicians should use (ideally) as a guide to know when to get to war. Just War Theory as Public Policy has leaders of nation-states (as part of asking the question who goes to war), based on Just Cause (self-defense sometimes), Right Intent (an intent, mind you that does not limit warfare since occupying is considered a valid part of JWT throughout its history), and the pursuit of the common good (which gets confused a lot with the national interest).

What the Seamless Garb/Consistent Pro-Life Ethic does is it takes the Just War Theory, and eliminates all of the aforementioned criteria, and makes One Person the set criteria for Justice and Peace: The body of Christ Jesus. One of the most articulate voices of the Seamless Garb is the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Apart from being reform minded when it came to ecclessiology, he was also an advocate of a Christ-centered, tradition respecting nonviolent politics. Born to Italian immigrants in South Carolina, he grew up in the Bible belt and the former hotbed of the Confederate States of America. Coming from a place of marginality, Italian and Catholic in uber-Protestant South, Bernardin grew intellectually to value human life as sacred, in a world where black bodies were desacralized during the Jim Crow Era. “I have a profound belief that the gospel invites us to embrace a “consistent ethic of life.” Such an ethic is based on the belief that life is a precious gift from God which must be protected and nurtured from the moment of conception until natural death” (Selected Works of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Volume I: Homilies and Teaching Documents. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000). The cardinal was morally opposed to the Cold War, especially to Ronald Reagan’s over-aggressive military spending. Nuclear arms build-up produced a culture of fear and death. The revenue usurped by the Pentagon could have been use to uplift those who lived in poverty. The Vatican under Pope John Paul II continued to advance Bernardin’s agenda. Today, as for Pope Benedict, that is still up in the air, but Sister Helen Prejean continues to be an outstanding opponent against the death penalty.

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1928-1996), Archbis...

The IRD sees the lives of our “enemies” as cheap, expendable, in the name of Church Crusades Revitalized. While there are many Consistent Lifers who are pacifist, there are some who are Just Warriors. I just happen to fall into the former category. The beautiful thing about the Seamless Garment is that it is about putting Christ Jesus of the Gospels first, him on the Cross. In John 19:23, there is a picture of Jesus’ robe being divided up by the Roman soldiers. They agents of empire are splitting up and dividing up that which gives us life, like when Jesus’ encounter with the woman with the issue of blood, she was given new life just by touching his garment (Mark 5: 21-34).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One respected Protestant thinker of the Seamless Garb position was that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As I mentioned in my review of his ETHICS, following the Crucified Christ means that Jesus invades not just the depths of hell, but also the everyday mundane sinful state of our affairs. Bonhoeffer views human bodily existence as absolutely essential, and of sacred worth much like Bernardin, as I argued in Prolife And Black 2: Bonhoeffer, Slavery, Abortion, and Black Bodies.

Lesson: When we treasure the embodiment of YHWH’s Word Made Flesh as Invaluable and absolutely necessary for our salvation, rather than something as inconsequential, in politics, we will come to see every person as being of infinite worth.

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