The Death of Xenophobia

Xenophobia 3Xenophobia has a way of becoming respectable when fear rules. When hate masquerades under the guise of patriotism, xenophobia becomes justified and takes on the status of sacred among those who traffic in fear. Our emotional reactions to situations cause us to adopt measures that bring quick and temporary relief from immediate pressures, but do not have much effect on the long-term brokenness found in human relations (Thurman 1984). Our fear of the “other” is based in our own broken sense of self, for if we truly loved ourselves we would see our humanity reflected in all and neither fear nor hate could take root in our hearts. When we consider as Terence expressed “nothing human is alien to me”; we realize that we carry within ourselves all of humanity; that, in spite of the fact that there are no two individuals who are the same, we all carry the same substance. Nothing exist in any human being that does not exist within the potential of my self (Fromm 2005). All forms and manifestations of xenophobia are ultimately rejections of the self.

 

When a nation begins to create laws targeted at a people group based on the creation of a radical “other”, it speaks volumes about how that nation sees itself in the master narrative of humanity. Historically people of power and privilege demonize anyone who they deem a threat to the maintenance of their power and privilege. Imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, those interlocking systems of power and domination which serve the ruling class in American culture, are built in response to the fragile smallness of the people who constructed them and those who work to maintain them. The rise in rudeness, open prejudice, and all out bands and restrictions on free travel, we see evident in abundance, show that our current national culture is steeped in fear in ways that give hate formal dignity and respectability.  There is underneath the surface of nationalism fragility and lack of interior security that no Supreme Court decision can settle.

 

xenophobiaThe first immigration and naturalization act, in 1790, allowed only “white persons” to attain citizenship, and that radical understanding of citizenship persisted until 1954 (Jr. 2016). It seemed that by 1954 our nation was ready to face its own impoverished sense of self; however, history reveals that the bruised hearts of the dominant culture are still crafting the same narrative of xenophobia and hate, in order to protect power and privilege. This self-preservation of the ruling class comes at the expense of dehumanizing anyone who’s presence shows the foolishness and folly of the power structure. Our democratic experience is in a radical conundrum in that we believe in democracy and we are simultaneously committed to imperialist white supremacy. The national fear is a political fear which reaches beyond fright or anxiety experienced by an individual. Its fervor and frenzy is a deeply felt, collectively held fear shared by people who together believe that something threatens them and their way of life (Jr. 2016). This fear we traffic in is the fear that we are not the greatest or most powerful; in fact, it is the fear that everyone is stronger than us. Unfortunately, many in our nation who share this fear are not even of the dominant culture, nor are they at the center of power. Oppression sickness has so infected the hearts of both the oppressor and the oppressed that the oppressed believe what is good for the oppressor is also good for them.

 

Our nation is currently seeing the manifestation of fear that becomes rage. The trigger for rage in the dominant culture is the advancement of marginalized people. Advancements such as Black president always cause backlash from the center of power and privilege. It is not the presence of minoritized people that triggers fear or rage, it is the audacity of those marginalized people to show up with ambition and drive. For those people, not of the dominate culture to show aspirations and demand full and equal citizenship and to refuse to accept subjugation is more than those in power can bear (Carol Anderson 2016). A formidable array of policy assaults and legal contortions has always been the answer of the powerful to the brazen audacity of hope.

 

xenophobia 2Hatred often begins in a situation in which there is contact without fellowship, contact that is devoid of any of the primary overtures of warmth and genuineness (Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited 1976). The task of the liturgist is to respond to the brokenness of our lack of self-love in ways that foster life giving fellowship. Moral people everywhere must call for the death of xenophobia, beginning in our religious institution and spreading to the larger culture. This week ask yourself if your religious community markets hate speech under the guise of orthodoxy?  Do you promote xenophobia in the name of being faithful? Is there a largess to your liturgy that speaks to the full range of humanity? How does your community gathering decenter cultural norms and make room for the “other”?  These questions are the beginning of reclaiming our nations wounded heart.

 

Feel free to comment below.

 

Peace is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Carol Anderson, Ph.D. 2016. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. New York: Bloomsbury.

Fromm, Erich. 2005. On Being Human. New York: Continuum .

Jr., Eddie S. Glaude. 2016. Democracy in Black. New York: Crown Publishers.

Thurman, Howard. 1984. For The Inward Journy: The Writings of Howard Thurman Selected by Anne Spencer Thurman. Richmond: Friends United Meeting.

—. 1976. Jesus and the Disinherited . Boston: Beacon Press.

Faculty Reflections Featured Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Black Sacred Music: A Soundtrack of Refuge

This month is Black Music Month among other designations. As I write, today is World Refugee Day, named so by the United Nations. I am fortunate enough to hdonald Lawrenceave been raised in an environment where every day was a celebration of Black music and Black sacred music especially held a prominent place in community. Black sacred music is an art form and worship expression born as a prophetic critique of the oppressive Christianity of the North American slavocracy. It is the musical counter-hegemonic process by which Black people redefined biblical events and their present realities, envisioning and revising their existence in terms of radical freedom. Perhaps more than ever Black sacred music should be lifted in the mainstream of our theological conversations and liturgical experiences as The Church wrestles with ways to speak truth to power and be prophetic witness in the face of global Fascism. If the intention of the liturgy is to manifest the presence of God in an assembly, a merciful presence is not just meant for the particular assembly but for the world (Lathrup 1998).

Black sacred music exists because there is no strict line of demarcation between existential weariness of a disenfranchised people and the sacred disciplines of prayer, worship, and service to humanity (III 2015). The sensibilities of the Spirituals (the first form of Black sacred music) should be considered to constitute the normative elements of Black sacred music. These sensibilities include the prophetic functions of naming the oppressive reality and exhorting resistance to it, as well as an eschatological expectation of justice in this world (Hendricks 2011). Unfortunately, much of what is produced by Black people in our present market driven and consumer reality neglects as its focus on these basic foundations of Black sacred music. The present genre has been over taken by the evangelical narrative that sees the end goal of liturgical music as either retelling and glorifying the story of the cross, compelling listeners to affirm faith in Jesus and therefore be saved from hell, or singing about how splendid God is. The music of the Black church more than ever bears the influence of the theology of dominate culture. The prosperity gospel most identified with the Word of Faith movement and its leaders like Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland has taken over (Heilbut 2012).   A real conversation must be convoked to reexamine the production and purpose of Black sacred music in our current sociopolitical climate.

Yvette FlunderAt its worst this new breed of Black sacred music is all motivated by the ultimate goal of record sales and profit margins.  The thin writing seems to have abandoned the normative elements of Black sacred music which posture the gospel of Jesus not as a rational concept to be explained in a theory of salvation, rather as a story about God’s presence in Jesus’ solidarity with the oppressed, which led to a government sanctioned execution on a cross (Cone 2011).  Authentic Black sacred music expresses collective acknowledgement of oppression, prophetic critique of the race-based system and sensibilities that produce and perpetuate that oppression, exhortation to resist the political, social, and political importunities of that systematic oppression, while simultaneously offering comfort and empathy in its midst.  The problem with the commodification of modern Black sacred music is not that it is profitable, rather that it is profit driven and this is most unprofitable to the Church because it lacks integrity and rich prophetic tradition (Hendricks 2011).

As the United States has a long history of tearing apart families of those on the underside of power and dismissing the humanity of both parent and child, perhaps we can return to making authentic Black sacred music? Perhaps churches of the dominate culture can look to the lyrics and musicality of said music to guide them toward dialogue of resistance and actions of repentance? Careful not to be guilty of cultural appropriation by short sighted performance of music not authentic to their own experience, these churches may find in the tradition of Black sacred music the courage to be honest about their role in oppression of all minoritized communities.  As we wrestle through the realities of our present immigration conversations and the unethical treatment of humans based in xenophobia and unholy nationalism, authentic Black sacred music provides for us the narrative of a people who refused to allow religion to be hijacked by hate, and dared to find a path to forward toward full humanity in the face of the worse abandonment of humanity on the part of those with privilege and power.

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 2011. The Cross and The Lynching Tree. MaryKnoll: Orbis.

Heilbut, Anthony. 2012. The Fan WHo Knew Too Much. New York: Alfred A Knopf.

Hendricks, Obery. 2011. The Universe Bends Toward Justice . Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

III, Otis Moss. 2015. Blue Note Preaching in a Post- Soul World. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Lathrup, Gordon W. 1998. Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

 

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

A Liturgical Response to Suicide

flowersSuicide is always a very difficult reality. Families and community in the wake of loss must deal with shock, questions, and often guilt. Last week the entire nation paused in shock as we learned of two celebrities for whom suicide is a reality. For religious communities, the issue is often more complicated than nonreligious communities based on interpretations of sacred texts. Depending on the eschatology of a particular community the grief and loss can be compounded by thoughts of eternal torture. For the liturgist, we must wrestle with questions about the funeral or memorial of all members of the community, but there are occasions such as suicide where this wrestling can be more sensitive than others. Suicide shakes communities because it is a human phenomenon and each human at their core recognizes the nearness of their own mortality when confronted with the reality that one can terminate one’s own life. The truth is, nothing human is foreign to us because we carry within ourselves all of humanity; that, in spite of the fact that that there are no two individuals the same, the paradox exists that we all share common substance. Nothing that exist in any human being does not exist within myself (Fromm 2005). Collectively, we seek to escape the truth that life as we know it ends. Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last time (Baldwin 1993). Much of what is alarming for communities is related to our need for emotional safety and stability.

In my experience as a Pastor and Bishop, all religious practice seeks to provide a way for communities to name their experience and to live in response to it (Allen 2008). Funerals and memorials are no different. They are rituals which try to make sense of our existence that we share with our community; they also answer our need to express devotion to dominant values (Fromm, Psychoanalysis & Religion 1950). This is where they can get difficult to navigate; what particular common values should be lifted in this moment of corporate crisis?  It is the funeraltask of the liturgist to determine the dominant theme and overall tone of this final ceremony that recognizes the life of the individual and that life’s impact on the collective. Death is one certainty in every life, the one inevitable event. But every death is unique and has different impact on individuals, families, and communities. We must never pretend that it is unimportant or underestimate the effects of how a person dies on those who remain, but we must also remember that death no matter how it comes, is common to us all (Chapman 1999). With that in mind the liturgy must bare all the dignity and respect human transition deserves and hold special care for those who mourn in this particular way.

While the skillful liturgist must be aware of and attentive to communal values, the funeral or memorial is no time to flesh out doctrinal and theological debates. The texts chosen should be ones which offer comfort and support to those grieving and the eulogist should craft an oration that focuses the community on those things which are common to the shared human experience. Central to the service should be the love and the care of those dealing with grief and loss. Never should these moments be taken to invoke fear, for that would be the most egregious form emotional abuse and spiritual manipulation. There is a way to lift up the values of the community and even its theological claims without victimizing those already traumatized by grief and loss. To do otherwise is to operate with unmitigated arrogance and cruelty.

The responsible liturgist must ask themselves the point and purpose of funeral. What are my ethical duties to the community?  Is this liturgy socially responsible?  Have we with dignity responded to this liturgical opportunity? Who will benefit for our community experience today?

There are many more questions to wrestle through as one prepares the liturgy for this occasion. Feel free to comment below your thoughts and experiences.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide please know that there is help for you. Please call 1-800-273-8255

 

 

Peace Is Possible,

 

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Allen, Ronald J. 2008. Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian. Minneapolis: Frotress Press.

Baldwin, James. 1993. The Fire Next Time. New York: Vintage International .

Chapman, Raymond. 1999. A Pastoral Prayer Book: Occasional Prayers for times of Change, Concern, and Cekebration. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing.

Fromm, Erich. 2005. On Being Human. New York: Continuum .

—. 1950. Psychoanalysis & Religion. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Father’s Day and Masculine Spirituality

IMG_5389In two weeks, we will celebrate Father’s Day. A holiday that is often dwarfed in American culture by its counterpart Mother’s Day. In fact, for some single mothers Father’s Day has become Mother’s Day part two, where it is not only a day for them to acknowledge the roles they play in their children’s lives, but to highlight and feature where they feel there is a failure on the part of the father. Sexist thinking engages the ideologies that the role of fathers in parenting is not as important as mothers or that the physical absence of the father is the sole determinate in the success of children. Both views are unhealthy, false narratives that damage the souls of men and women equally.

What would happen this year if Father’s Day could open a dialogue about masculine spirituality? How could we as religious communities combat the toxic hyper -masculinity that underpins the imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy that serve as the foundation of our nations politics?  What message would this send to the highest office of the land if this Father’s Day religious institutions across the nation would proclaim that patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation? No male successfully measures up to patriarchal standards without engaging in an ongoing practice of self-betrayal (hooks, The Will to Change: Men. Masculinity, and Love 2004). We would hardly have time to proclaim the disastrous effects of these interlocking systems of oppression on women.

IMG_2430Masculinity does not have any single meaning, except that it is put in dialogue with an “other” and the way in which it is perceived by someone in at a given moment in a given space (Reeser 2010).  What is true about masculinity is that it can be considered a dialogue over a period of time between perceiver and perceived. We must acknowledge that masculinity is largely constructed by implicit social meanings that come to be accepted as truths about how males are supposed to think, behave, or function (Hopson 2013). Masculine spirituality is for those men who take seriously the opportunity for their own liberation from gender stereotypes and have in the process begun to seek anew a more sensitive self-understanding in light of the feminist critique. This sensitivity is an awareness of the full range of human emotions, comfort with one’s own body, the ability to relate in linear and circular ways, showing no fear of women and demonstrating ability to work with them as equal partners (James 1996). Masculine spirituality asks men to exist as co-creators with women, in healthy relationships with the rest of creation.

Father’s Day celebrations in religious institutions may prove to be an opportunity to talk about a new way of loving maleness. This is different from praising maleness and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity (hooks, The Will to Change: Men. Masculinity, and Love 2004). Loving maleness is caring about males for simply being. It is extending our love, whether or not men and boys are performing.  It changes the patriarchal narrative of performance to a spiritual narrative of ontology. What if men were affirmed in our liturgies for simply being? Whether or not you are performing your role and function in light of patriarchy, you are valued because you are. If we take the opportunity to give this message, perhaps men would begin to define themselves in ways which allowed all of society to escape the tyranny of patriarchy.

Masculinity need not be equated with sexist notions of manhood and Father’s Day need not reify the social script of toxic hyper-masculinity. Religious institutions can lead the way in interrogating patriarchal masculinity to see the ways it has been and is destructive to males if we chose to use our liturgies to focus on repudiating this masculinity and redefining masculinity in terms that would be more life affirming. We might actually use our homily to say that reliance on a single male authority figure is dangerous because it creates a climate of autocracy where the politics of coercion (and that includes violence) are used to maintain that authority (hooks, The Will to Change: Men. Masculinity, and Love 2004).  This Father’s Day let us use our pulpits to speak to functional, healthy masculinities, where men are encouraged to pursue their highest self and in so doing serve the world from a place of wholeness.

 

Feel free to comment below.

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

hooks, bell. 1995. Killing Rage:Ending Racism. New York : Henry Holt and Company.

—. 2004. The Will to Change: Men. Masculinity, and Love. New York: Washington Square Press.

Hopson, Ronald L. Jackson and Mark C., ed. 2013. Masculinity in the Black Imagination: Politics of Communicatimg Race and MAnhood. New York: Peter Lang.

James, David C. 1996. What Are They Saying About Masculine Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press.

Reeser, Todd W. 2010. Masculinites in Theory: An Introduction. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements