Tag Archives: religious studies

Examining White Supremacy As A World Religion

Un simple montage le seul endroit il elle se t...

Un simple montage le seul endroit il elle se trouve sur internet c’est sur mon skyblog destiner à la culture skinhead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the penultimate essay in my series on white supremacy that has expanded for almost three months. In this brief post, I would like to review what I am arguing and why I do so.  This is just not another bemoaning of individuals who have racial biases.  I have eschewed such an approach as unhelpful and relegated to that of the abstract, and something that benefits the status quo.

As I understand it, my position is from that of the margins, not as a Person of Color, but as a POC who is doing an examination of the white supremacist machine from a thorough religious studies perspective.  My undergrad training in the field of religious studies was that of the World Religions Paradigm.  I recall my senior year, we were required to read a book by Christian religious pluralist Diane Eck.  Back then, as I do now, I disagreed with Eck’s approach, but I could not put my finger on it.  Something did not sit well with me, there was something about the claims to universal truth, that the image of fire had the same meaning in all religions.  It was not until  years later that I had realized a critique that we did not have access to: the World Religions Paradigm approach was problematic because what undergirded it was a white liberal commitment to Western norms as defining religions out of their unique contexts.

I am much in agreement with Philip L. Tite’s contribution to the Religion Bulletin Blog, Teaching Beyond The World Religions Paradigm; the post resonated with me and my personal experience in the academy. I would go further and ask, not only what are the beginnings of the “Judeo-Christian” framework, but also where and what are the beginnings of the injuction of “Judeo-Christianity” and how really “Judeo” it is?!?!?

Like the World Religions Approach to Religious studies, White Supremacy as a Religion starts with a totalizing perspective of what it sees as Other. The WRP investigates religious subjects as essentially the same; White Supremacy observes persons of different races and skin pigmentations (one constructed, one biological) as stereotypes, and not persons with valuable, particular stories. That is why anti-racist challenges to songs such as Asian Girlz are important. People are wedded to their belief systems (dogma) about persons. Anti-racism is ultimately about theological anthropology, and who persons believe have sacred worth. Sentiments shared by Sharon Osbourne, as “open minded” as she might be, still reveals that it’s normal for whites to believe that blacks are immoral by nature. Comments like “Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus must realize they are white, and not black” connote a passive acceptance of one group of people’s superiority over the other.

In a world where our governing bodies, say, the state of Texas, has racist and sexist microgressions as THE NORM, while jokingly dismissed as just “the good ole boys club,” their decisions have life and death consequences for the people whom they rule over and oppress (primarily the economically disadvantaged). No microagression, no racist slip of the tongue, no wearing of the Confederate flag on a tee shirt, or any other instance of “personal racism” is “accidental.” There is a history and a colonial context behind these actions. Like all institutions, institutional racism is lifted up by and carried on by a mythology.

Chauncey DeVega put it this way,

“Sunday is the most racially segregated day of the week. Is there anything that can be done to change that fact?

There are three elements in how religion intersects with the colorline that are of particular importance.

Faith involves a belief in such things that cannot be proven by ordinary means.

Theodicy involves trying to reconcile an all loving, good, and omniscient God with the problem of evil. Where was God during the Holocaust? Where was God on the slave ship and at the plantation? Where is God when children are held captive as sex slaves? Would a “good” God allows such wickedness to occur?

Racism is a political, philosophical, religious, economic, and scientific system of thought and belief that privileges one group of people, marked by their “color” and “phenotype” as naturally and preordained to be “less than” relative to another group of people and types of bodies, marked in a similarly arbitrary way–but normalized by Power–as being naturally dominant and empowered.

Racism is a true lie and fiction made real. Racism is a response to existing social and political questions. Racism is evolving and changing; it is one of humankind’s greatest inventions.

– Chauncey DeVega, Smart People Saying Smart Things: Post Trayvon Martin is America’s God a White Racist? And If So, How Would You Even Know?

White Supremacy as a power is a depraved perversion of humanity’s call to be stewards of the Earth, to take care of creation. As a Christian, I believe that all systems are answerable to the Lord Christ Jesus. In the same vein as theologians such as John Howard Yoder and Walter Wink, I view the Principalities as broken entities in need of relationships righted. As Wink put it, “no matter how greedy or idolatrous [I would add racist and sexist] an institution becomes, it cannot escape the encompassing care and judgment of the One in and through and for whom it was created (Colossians 1:16). In that One “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17–literally, “receive their systemic place”–sunistemi is the Greek source of our word system). The Powers are inextricably locked into God’s system, whose human face is revealed by Jesus. They are answerable to God. And that means that ever subsystem in the world is, in principle, redeemable.” (from The Powers That Be, Chapter 1)

I choose to go two steps further than Wink, in both identifying the current ruling principality as white supremacy, and then point to Jesus’ offices as Judge and Redeemer. I contend that Jesus as the source of decolonization can liberate humanity from institutional racism, that in Christ’s death, the Triune God exposed the world’s domination system, and Jesus triumphed over it (Colossians 2:15).  In my concluding post, I discuss the ways that people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds can combat institutional racism.

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Clement Of Alexandria, Romans 11, And Interreligious Dialogue

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While reading Clement of Alexandria during a recent church service, I happened to read what good ole Clement thought of Romans 11, and, SURPRISE SURPRISE, he saw the language of engrafting as being very helpful too. I know, WHAT ARE THE ODDS!

This is a pretty extensive quote [Clement’s Stromata/The Carpets, Book 6, Chapter 15], so I am going to break it down, and mansplain this one:

Different modes of engrafting illustrative of different kinds of conversion.  They say that engrafting is effected in four modes: one, that in which   the graft must be fitted in between the wood and the bark; resembling   the way in which we instruct plain people belonging to the Gentiles,   who receive the word superficially.

First thing I would like to note by the first mode is that Clement makes use of the biblical category of GENTILE.  Our “conversion” to the faith is not the, ahem, one way to come to know the One True God that the prophets preached. In other words, the place where we Gentiles stands is one of incorporation.

Another is, when the wood is cleft,  and there is inserted in it the cultivated branch. And this applies to   the case of those who have studied philosophy; for on cutting through   their dogmas, the acknowledgment of the truth is produced in them. So  also in the case of the Jews, by opening up the Old Testament, the new  and noble plant of the olive is inserted.

The second mode is enlightenment, and this is primarily the place of where the Jews, God’s chosen ones stand.  Why do I say this? Because Clement argues that the philosophers stole or borrowed their best ideas (monotheism, ethics that line up with The Law), from the Jews.  On the hierarchy of philosophers, the ancient Hebrews are at the very top of the pyramid for Clement. While the language of enlightment brings its own set of problem, I think a limited use in this instance is valuable.

The third mode of engrafting   applies to rustics and heretics, who are brought by force to the truth.   For after smoothing off both suckers with a sharp pruning-hook, till   the pith is laid bare, but not wounded, they are bound together.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216).

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–211/216). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of the four modes, the third one is the most troubling for me. Even if Clement means in a not-so-PC fashion that verbal confrontation of heretics and pagans, I mean, rustics, will mean arrival at truth, there is something dominionist and violent about this approach to Christianity and other religions. A fellow Alexandrian, Cyril, years later, may have taken these words to heart, and lead mobs against Egyptian Jews. Of course, that would mean overlooking Clement’s second mode for engrafting.

And   the fourth is that form of engrafting called budding. For a bud (eye)   is cut out of a trunk of a good sort, a circle being drawn round in the   bark along with it, of the size of the palm. Then the trunk is   stripped, to suit the eye, over an equal circumference. And so the   graft is inserted, tied round, and daubed with clay, the bud being kept   uninjured and unstained. This is the style of gnostic teaching, which   is capable of looking into things themselves. This mode is, in truth,   of most service in the case of cultivated trees. And “the engrafting   into the good olive” mentioned by the apostle, may be [engrafting into]   Christ Himself; the uncultivated and unbelieving nature being   transplanted into Christ–that is, in the case of those who believe in   Christ. But it is better [to understand it] of the engrafting [3425] of   each one’s faith in the soul itself. For also the Holy Spirit is thus   somehow transplanted by distribution, according to the circumscribed   capacity of each one, but without being circumscribed.

 

Clement’s last mode is more about sanctification and perfection, what he referred to as assimilation, or the believer (gnostic) is participating in the life of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This requires a Trinitarian understanding of personhood: an idea that all humanity has the potential to become involved in the divine life of YHWH.

I am just still trying to sort all of this out, but I think the implications of Clement’s use of engrafting are 75% helpful when it comes to discussing other religions, and possibly even mission work.  For Gentiles, our vocation is to approach other Gentiles, as Gentiles, in honesty, and not hiding (or denying this fact). To this effect, we can have a conversation about religion not on our terms, but on possibly others’ terms, and affirm the uniqueness of their experience, all the while, Christians can present the Good News of the Resurrection, and the truth about the person Christ Jesus. As for the problematic third mode, I would revise the budding language, and rather than aim it at the “rustics” as city slicker Clement would have us, but rather a verbal confrontation towards apostates and heretical Christians.  There’s good precedent set for this by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Corinthians.  So, the difference would be the “budding” as an interior critique that takes place inside the Body of Christ.

Wherefore also, though the wild olive be wild, it crowns the Olympic victors.

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2 Posts On Comics And Religion

The New Batman/Superman Adventures

The New Batman/Superman Adventures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“In the past few years, the superhero movie has become a mainstay of summer movie lineups. Last year, “The Avengers” broke box office records and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy concluded. This year alone sees movies featuring Iron Man, Superman, Wolverine and others debuting on the big screen. One string ties these films together: They all tell stories of a spiritual nature.

Superhero stories attract people because humans want to “be more than we are, that’s what makes us the greatest species on the planet,” said Derek White, a pastor with the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church. He also blogs under the name “Geek Preacher.” “

Superheroes and Spirituality: Religious elements noted in Superman, Batman, other comics and films by Tracie Simer

“Comic book series aren’t just one, ongoing narrative. Instead, they’re tweaked and updated with new plots and characters. Likewise, the Bible isn’t one book written by one author. It’s a collection of books, written by various people at different points in time with different views. And both can be wrapped up in different packages across cultures, too. In terms of comic books, just see Spider-Man: India.”

What the Bible And Comic books Have In Common by Angela Suico

 

The New Avengers (comics)

The New Avengers (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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