Reclaiming Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Related imageNearly all great movements originate in the pioneering work of some person of genius, amid the opposition of established modes of thought, until an army of lesser intellects scatter the new thought broadcast (Dresser 1895). Thus, is the case with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who’s brilliance and Theo-political savvy is unmatched in the twentieth century.  The sanitization of Dr. King in popular culture works to reduce his nuanced and sophisticated message to sound bites of integrationist ideologies won through perpetual respectability politics, and ignores his critique of the wealthy elite that create the effects of poverty, the military industrial complex, the imperialist impulse of America, and the emptiness of American Christianity in the dominant culture. If one definition of a prophet is a person who threatens culture’s power structure by holding a mirror to its folly and showing where such folly leads, then Rev. King was truly the premiere prophet the United States of America has ever produced.  Jesus observed that culture kills such a prophet, and having killed the prophet in order to be rid of the threat, that culture then builds a “monument over the prophet’s grave” (Pearce 2002). These are the mythologies through which prophets are converted from cultural critics into cultural icons in service of power. These icons receive much saintly hero worship and little attention is then paid to the potency of their message. Most of Dr. King’s message has been hijacked by dominate culture in an effort to save itself from the truth, and from the seismic change that truth requires.

Image result for martin luther kingJustice for Dr. King was not limited to a dream of children holding hands while singing together in the same school, especially if that dream is not inclusive of radical wealth redistribution. King taught “Justice for Black people will not flow into society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory. Nor will a few token changes quell all the tempestuous yearnings of millions of disadvantaged Black people. White America must recognize that justice for Black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo” (King 1987).  It dishonors Dr. King’s legacy when we speak of him in terms of a race leader without acknowledging his prophetic work. For King, the condition of truth was to allow suffering to speak, for him justice is what love looked like in public. The fulfilment of his dream was for all poor and working people to live lives of decency and dignity. Martin Luther King Jr. called militarism an imperial catastrophe, Racism a moral catastrophe, and poverty an economic catastrophe (Jr. 2015). Our task is to hold true to his vision of justice even when we are tempted to truncate his message in order to make the dominant culture safe in celebrating him.

The Poor People’s Campaign together with his message against the Vietnam War preached from the Riverside Church in New York, give us a picture of the vastness of his erudite Theo-political agility. Prophetic religious tradition is always centered in resistance. Resistance is the physical, overt expression of an inner attitude, so in the tradition of Moses, Martin Luther King Jr. taught his generation and succeeding generations how to engage a public theology of resistance (Thurman 1976).  King’s great contrImage result for martin luther kingibution to the whole of Christianity is to remind The Church that we must insist upon both this-worldly liberation and otherworldly salvation as the proper loci of the message of Jesus (West 2002). It is impossible to be a follower of Jesus and remain indifferent to the suffering of your fellow man.  If the center of the message of Jesus is the ethic of neighbor love rooted in whole hearted love of God and grounded in self-love, then any injustice is intolerable to any degree. The message of Jesus is subversive and transgressive and ultimately got him killed. Dr. King followed the tradition of Jesus and was murdered for a radically transgressive and subversive Gospel.

Image result for martin luther kingThis week as we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Let us redouble our efforts to end the spread of imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy.  Let us lift our voice is solidarity with those most marginalized. Let us speak truth to power and demand justice. Let us speak often of our dissatisfaction with the status quo. Most Importantly, let is live each moment and every decision in opposition and resistance to the hegemonic dysfunction of hate that does so easily beset us.

 

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

Dresser, Annetta Gertrude. 1895. The Philosophy of P.P. Quimby. Boston: The Builders Press.

Jr., Matin Luther King. 2015. The Radical King. Edited by Cornel West. Boston: Beacon Press.

King, Coretta Scott, ed. 1987. The Words of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: William Marrow.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. 2002. The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit. Rochester: Park Street Press.

Thurman, Howard. 1976. Jesus and the Disinherited . Boston: Beacon Press.

West, Cornel. 2002. Prophsey Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity . Louiseville: John Knox Press.

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Justice – A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2019, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue …” is inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20. In this era of political subterfuge marked by blatant lies and a complete lack of civility, there could not be a more important focus of prayer for the Christian tradition.  Justice and equality address the systemic provision for the distribution of goods, as well as the burdens, of a society. Addressing societal violations also falls into the realm of equality and justice.  Justice Image result for the week of prayer for christian unity 2019overarches legal right and condemns a legality that undermines fellowship or that fails to listen to the intrinsic claim to dignity and well-being that all humans possess (Farley 1990). Justice is always theo-political. The task of theology is to critique and revise the language of the church. This includes not only the language of uttered speech, but also the language of radical involvement in the world (Cone 1997). Theology is always political, and the realm of God in Christian theology demands conditions for human flourishing based in equal access to the resources of an opulent Universe. Politics is the ancient and honorable endeavor to create a community in which the weak, as well as the strong can flourish; where love and power can collaborate, and justice and mercy can have their day (Palmer 2011).

In our country, current systemic injustice is based on the American value gap.  In this context, the value gap means that no matter our stated principles or how much progress we think we have made, some people are valued more than others in this country (Glaude 2016).  Imperialist white supremacist heteropatriarchal norms have created an embedded caste system which is based on race politics, gender politImage result for the week of prayer for christian unity 2019ics, and socioeconomic politics. The theological voice of the church has far too often been used by those at the center of power to support this caste system and the time has come to reclaim our God-talk. Issues of institutional power and authority must not eclipse the love of justice in contemporary religious space, or the growing trend of those religious “none’s” and those who call themselves spiritual, but not religious, will make the institutional church completely culturally irrelevant.

There is a deep need for the church to embrace the prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power as directed by a God who demands justice; likewise, the church must embody Jesus’ instruction to take up the cross and follow Him.  That Jesus bodily committed acts of resistance against empire and systems of domination cannot be lost on the church as a part of the analysis of today’s cultural climate. Injustice, such as racism is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison-industrial complex and the targeted police surveillance in Black and Brown ghettos that is rendered invisible in public Image result for justicediscourse must become a rally point of clergy in every pulpit in the nation (King 2015). Prophetic praxis must be the norm for purveyors and prognosticators of Gospel.  Prophetic praxis is behavior that engages counter-cultural practices on behalf of the least among us (Marsh 2005).  For the church, this praxis is rooted in the teaching of Jesus and an understanding of Jesus’ preference for the poor. Each parish must adopt an activist lens. Activism can be defined as organized and organic forms of resistance; That is, resistance is defined as the physical, overt expression of an inner attitude (Turman 2014).  The times we live in call for activism in response to the constant assault on human dignity coming from the highest places of political power.

If theologians and pastors alike wish for congregants, and the community at large, to take seriously issues of religious and social justice, they will have to consider that justice extends beyond race and poverty to all forms of oppression and domination. Together, the theological academy and the Church parish must realize their shared responsibility to the community. Both have an ontological mandate to be good news, a kerygmatic mandate to preach good news, and, above all, a mandate of diaconia—to practice good news (Hopkins 2007).  This Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an opportunity for the church to reclaim relevance in the public square. To find her prophetic voice. My prayer is that each of you seek to find the truth in your tradition and then have the courage to be true to the truth.

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

Farley, Wendy. 1990. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion: A Contemporary Theodicy. Louisville: John Knox Publishing.

Glaude, Eddie S. 2016. Democracy In Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. New York: Crown Publishers.

Hopkins, Dwight N. 2007. Black Faith and Public Talk. Waco: Baylor University Press.

King, Martin Luther. 2015. The Radical King. Edited by Cornel West. Boston: Beacon Press.

Marsh, Charles. 2005. The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice From the Civil Rights Movement to Today. New York: Basic Books.

Palmer, Parker J. 2011. Healing The Heart of Democracy. SanFrancisco: Jossey-Bass.

Turman, Eboni Marshall. 2014. “A Conversation With Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman.” New York: Union Theological Seminary, March 5.

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An Open Letter to Religious Leaders

Dear friends, we cannot be silent. Under the circumstances and conditions of this present plutocracy where imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy works to disinherit the majority, and the minority works to strengthen its socioeconomic domination, our silence makes us complicit in the most insidious evil. It is our task as religious leaders to comfort the discomforted and discomfort the comfortable. Not only must we speak truth to power, it is incumbent upon us to take prophetic action in solidarity with those who find themselves suffering as paImage result for religious leaderswns of political games played by malfeasant oligarchs. True solidarity with the oppressed means fighting at their side to transform the objective reality which has made them these “beings for another” (Freire 2000).  We may have to leave our pulpits ready to engage a life of public witness and faith that calls for a new self-understanding, one that sees theology and the theologian who produces it as an integrated whole. We may no longer pontificate moral virtues we are unwilling to engage and we must hold our elected officials to the standards we so aptly teach to our parishioners.

Image result for female religious leadersOur nation is in desperate need of courageous leadership. Leadership that takes seriously their own social location as a formative home from which to develop a public faith (Bond 2013). Whatever class or socioeconomic reality a leader arises from, we must engage critical self-critique so that our analysis of the world around us is informed by an awareness of our privileges and marginalization in conversation with the highest aims of the sacred text. Theologies develop in response to questions arising out of specific intellectual, political, and religious situations; therefore, our God talk must be in this era must be subversive, transgressive, and rooted in the best of our prophetic traditions. Theologies are always about power. Our new discourse must challenge the hegemony of power – the distribution and economy of this power in Heaven and on earth (Cone 2018).

We must speak freely of and work feverishly toward, a world of radical love in a climate of radical xenophobia fueled by fear mongers who traffic in hate speech. For me, as a Christian religious leader, radical love is at the heart of Christian theology because we believe in God who, through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ has dissolved the boundaries between death and life,Image result for queer religious leaders time and eternity, and the human and the divine (Cheng 2011).  The naming of the world which is an act of creation and re-creation, is not possible if it is not infused with love (Freire 2000).  It is our task to name the world anew; that is the prophetic call of leadership. We are charged to paint for the world a picture of a preferable future. If we are to be at all relevant in the world that seeks to build walls, then we must return to love as the central hallmark of our various faiths. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving (Baldwin 1993). If God and our God talk fails to do this, the world will get rid of us and the God we have made. We must speak directly to leaders who lie about national crisis, which in reality are humanitarian crisis, and call them to repentance. Holding accountable the wicked who dare to turn righteousness into scandal is a revolutionary act of love.

Religious leaders must demand of ourselves to be helpers in new and life-giving ways. Authentic help means that all who are involved help each other mutually, growing together in common effort to understand the reality they seek to transform (hooks 1994).  I urge you dear friends to entreat your community as a cite (read as a place of citation) of transformation. Let the sacred text and the collective experience of the people merge in order to transform you into the leader they need for forward movement.  The hour of the sage on the stage is over. We are no longer filling empty heads with pietistic words, rather we are engaging communities of critical thinkers in resistance discourse with the goal of changing the world.  Something new is being required of us. My prayer for you is that you find your courage to speak in new tongues.

Feel Free to Comment Below!

 

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

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

Bond, Adam L. 2013. The Imposing Preacher: Samual DeWitt Proctor & Black Public Faith . Minneapolis: Frotress Press .

Cheng, Patrick S. 2011. An Introduction to Queer Theology: Radical Love. New York : Seabury Books.

Cone, James H. 2018. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Freire, Paulo. 2000. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury.

hooks, bell. 1994. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

 

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The REAL Story of Christmas

Image result for black nativity sceneThe story of Christmas is a story of the triumph of humanization. In Christian theology, it is the story of the incarnation; the Word becomes flesh in the baby born in a manger in Bethlehem. It is the reclamation of all those who are dispossessed and the ultimate clap back against the dehumanization of imperialism. Dehumanization which marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but also (although in a different way) those who have stolen it, is a distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human (Oppressed 2000). The Jesus story offers a counter-narrative to hegemonic oppression which robs people of dignity and worth.  A king born in a barn upends the power of the ruling class and shows God’s dignity is found even in abject poverty. For those who do not face racial oppression, the dignity or sacredness of life may become but an abstract principle to be affirmed, but baby Jesus stands in solidarity with marginalized people who bodily experience oppression as a reality of daily experience (Prevot 2017). The baby Jesus points to Divine power which makes resistance to evil possible; resistance not modeled after a power that dominate and destroys (Farley 1990). In the Christmas season, we see that love struggles to transcend and redeem evil and this struggle gives us hope.

Christmas is then more relevant to me today than at any other time in my life. Amid the sociopolitical backdrop of our current regime where greed and power rule over civility and human flourishing, the need to remember the Biblical account of the God of the oppressed finds fresh relevancy.  While the nation spins under leadership which continues to promote a racist supremacy intended to usurp the role of the Divine in the lives of those not in the center of power, it is imperative that we focus on the Divine who breaks into human history in the person of a baby, born to an unwed mother, struggling to pay unjust taxes.  The details of the Christmas story matter when we consider the way in which the Roman government under a tyrant sought to undermine the health of the most vulnerable populations while we experience leadership determined to do everything it can to see to it that vulnerable populations have the least access to health care.  Our conversations about Christmas must be the sites of resistance where we engage resistance discourse in order to empower people in their struggle for humanization.

Image result for black nativity sceneTheology seeks to understand, to interpret, and to impart the word of God and its meaning in various historical, cultural, and social context; it grapples with the conditions and state of culture and society. But, theology meets its critical exigence only when theologians take up comprehensive analysis and reflection on society and its potential meaning for the realization of common human good (Bond 2013). Speaking about Christmas without critical engagement of our current sociopolitical climate is theologically irresponsible. How can one consider the Christmas story without drawing a direct parallel between the Roman Empire and its leadership and the current administration? How can our Christmas pageants and plays not center the narrative of those for who being unhoused is a reality? Are we actively overlooking the police brutality present in the story of Jesus and offering no witness for those bodies presently terrorized by our own state sanctioned police brutality? Have we so sanitized the story of the birth of Jesus that it has become irrelevant and void of its true Gospel power?

Image result for black nativity sceneThis Christmas is an opportunity for those who take seriously the message of Jesus to reform the moment. Capitalism and consumerism have become the featured function of the holiday season. Commercialism has displaced the incarnation as the soul of this religious celebration. Churches are complicit in allowing what should be a celebration of liberation for the poor to become a trap, leading people further into the experience of poverty. What would happen if every church and every individual would decide to use this opportunity bear witness to the radicalism in the message of Jesus? What if this year’s celebrations centered on the critique of dehumanization embedded in the culture of poverty found in the story? Jesus comes in poverty understanding the universal culture of poverty which transcends regional, rural-urban, and even national boundaries and the deep commonality of lower classes all over the world (Taylor 2016). Instead of the thingification of humanity, implicit in the overspending of the highest point in the consumer year, what is possible if we engage in redistribution of wealth. The type of redistribution the Magi imagined when they brought their goods to the baby Jesus might just speak truth to power in ways that would shake the conscious of the wealthiest 1%.  Ask yourself, what is the story of Christmas and how am I telling it?

Feel free to comment below!

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

Bond, Adam L. 2013. The Imposing Preacher: Samual DeWitt Proctor & Black Public Faith . Minneapolis: Frotress Press .

Farley, Wendy. 1990. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion A Contemporary Theodicy. Louisville : Westminster John Knox Press.

Oppressed, Pedagogy of the. 2000. Paulo Freire. New York : Bloomsbury.

Prevot, Vincent W. Lloyd and Andrew, ed. 2017. Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics. MaryKnoll: Orbis Books .

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. 2016. From #BLACKLIVESMATTER to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

 

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Would You Let Jesus In?

Image result for AdventThis Sunday Christians around the world will begin celebrating the season of Advent. Advent marks the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. Even as commercialized and commodified as this time of the year has become, for the faithful there is still a sense of theological grounding and wrestling that this time of year provides. As theologian, I am particularly curious as to what American churches will find to examine in this contemporary moment when once again Empire is forcing the weight of its power on Black and Brown bodies. The inhumanity of our southern border and the lack of hospitality to the neighbor being examples of the ways our time is being defined. Ethical and moral failure seem to be the hallmarks of the day and in this context, we must draw fresh understanding of the meaning of Advent.

Identity and theology are inextricably linked. Our prophetic God-talk arises from a hermeneutic of hunger, whether or not we want to admit it. A hermeneutic of hunger reads the Bible as an answer to what all forms of oppression bring to bear on human dignity.  We read the sacred text to answer the questions that burn deeply in our souls. Theologies develop in response to questions arising out of specific intellectual, political, and religious situations (Cone 2018). This is why the work of the theologian is always a work of self-disclosure. It has not been suspicion that turns people away from the church; it is hunger that drives them to seek help wherever their rights to have a life are being respected (Soelle 2001). As a constructive theologian with a liberative lens, working and living in these times, I am forced to wrestle with the question what does it mean for Jesus to have come and to come again for those of us living in America under this particular administration. How will our liturgies and preaching orient our parishioners to live into the Gospel of Jesus in this present age? What will the Church offer to the world as a religious insight to resist all forms of domination and oppression?Related image

As I think through these questions the answers seem to emerge from the lived reality of Jesus himself.  Our celebrations of Advent must center the story of Jesus who is born a poor Palestinian Jew under Roman occupation. The economic predicament with which He was identified in birth placed Him initially with the great mass of people on earth. The masses of people are poor. If we dare take the position that in Jesus there was at work some radical destiny, it would be safe to say that in His poverty He was truly the Son of man and the Son of God (Thurman 1976). How can we seriously believe in the baby in a manger Jesus and not see His connection to the children being ripped from their parents at our own southern borders?  If Jesus coming in the flesh is to hold any meaning this Advent it must mean that His coming makes visible the poor, disinherited, and dehumanized among us.  The text cannot be understood apart from the world it creates in the imagination of the hearer, our job is to interpret the text in life giving prophetic ways so that the Advent has real meaning in this present world (Townes, Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope Salvation & Transformation 1997).

This Advent must be a time to query our Christology where we invite the church to interrogate the communion table to discover the blessed, broken body of this Jesus (Luke 22). Through this constructive theology we ask the present liberation theologies to make room for all those bodies among the pews who are broken in many places—where systems of oppression have denied their full humanity. What if the Second Coming of Jesus is centered in postcoImage result for square indigenous painting of jesus and discipleslonial crip-theology (in conversation with crip theory), which takes seriously the beauty of disabled bodies and features non-normativity as its central project? Can we prepare our hearts to do the work of fully living into the story of Jesus or will we continue to reify and privilege the authoritative universal voice found in Eurocentric theological musing? This theology does not abide an undifferentiated whole that obliterates individuality.  The authoritative universal voice usually indicates white male subjectivity masquerading as nonracial, non-gendered, objectivity (Crenshaw 1989). Hegemony maintains that this inequality is seen as normal and right. Hegemony also works to keep the dominant group in power by promoting its own worldview as neutral, universal, and moral (Townes 1995). Such has been the case with theology produced by the dominant culture in most American churches. And those who embrace this theology in non-dominant spaces suffer from oppression sickness and collude with the hegemonic forces that silence prophetic witness.

Advent could be the season of prophetic reckoning in our nation.  Theology could be the force to demand the death of imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy. As over 100 women have been elected to congress and we see our indigenous siblings finally recognized at the congressional table, perhaps we are seeing the beginning of Jesus return, when the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of our Christ. What if from our pulpits this Sunday there comes a bold proclamation that Jesus is at the Mexican border and the United States of America won’t let Him in?

Feel Free To Comment Below.

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

Cone, James H. 2018. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Crenshaw, Keberele. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989 (1): 139-168.

Soelle, Dorothee. 2001. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Thurman, Howard. 1976. Jesus and the Disinherited . Boston: Beacon Press.

Townes, Emilie M., ed. 1997. Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope Salvation & Transformation. Maryknoll: Orbis.

—. 1995. In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spiriutality As Social Witness. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

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Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Call for Gratitude Day

Image result for ThanksgivingIt is good and right to give thanks, however the American celebration of Thanksgiving as a holiday is morally and religiously bankrupt.  I suggest that in this season of thanks we implore Gratitude Day, where true appreciation for the beneficent Universe is divorced from the imperialist capitalist history of Thanksgiving’s puritan roots. To celebrate the gifts God has allegedly bestowed upon the European settlers, at the expense of the indigenous peoples that were demonized, robbed, displaced, disposed, and disinherited was a theological and moral failure rooted in a deep hypocrisy.  To continue this practice under the same name and without proper repentance is to be complicit in the ongoing alienation and dehumanization of indigenous peoples. It further dehumanizes all those who engage the ritual without a critical eye to the ways in which socio-religious ritual is used to support systems of supremacy in North American culture.

Image result for RacismAmerican racism and white supremacy is a religious expression, in that religious practice seeks to provide a way for individuals and communities to name their experience and to live in response to it (Allen 2008).  White supremacy and racism is a theological dogma grounded in distorted Constantinian Christian understandings of the Biblical text. These corrupted Biblical and theological ideas did not take shape initially among unlettered or unlearned southerners, rather they were first the product of colonial era northern intellectual Puritan ideologues (Griffin 1999).  Whiteness emerged in America as a mark of human superiority, although we know that there is no biological basis. In fact, race itself is a social construct, one that emerges from cognitive mapping, interpretations, and practices based in historical and social manufacture and replication (Copeland 2010).  This social construct has as its insidious goal imposing upon people the status of marginalization in order to secure exploitation in various forms. Whiteness in the formation of early American culture was a central factor in holding together a motley throng of European people and as such became a measure for denigrating other human beings beginning with, but certainly not limited to, Indigenous peoples (Douglas 1999).

Thanksgiving as a celebration is inextricably linked to the emergence of whiteness as a social construct and centers the painful reality of Empire to the those who’s backs are under the foot of oppression. For the Christian, it is the most hypocritical of all practices to engage in the celebration of Thanksgiving given the historical narrative attached to its roots. A holiday which celebrates the gain of one at the expense of another is nothing less than chosen and willful participation in the continued stigmatization and alienation of the Other. It is a failure to acknowledge the sacred worth and dignity of all people. It is colonialist supremacy at its worse. This practice flies in the face of Imago Dei and misrepresents the truth of any Gospel narrative that can be taken seriously.  Any theology in America that fails to challenge white supremacy and God’s liberation for all people from that evil is not Christian theology but a theology of the Antichrist (Cone 2018).

Image result for gratitudeWhat we might better engage as a celebration this year is gratitude. Gratitude centered in a narrative of justice and eschatological hope. Luke’s Gospel is clear: Jesus’s ministry was essentially liberation on behalf of the poor and the oppressed according to Luke 4:8-10. If the ministry of Jesus is centered on liberation then my own theological sensibilities lead me to believe that this is the work of all followers of Jesus and to further believe that this work is and will be completed. That the realm and reign of God means that the kinship of all man will be reconciled in God is the deep well from which I am able to engage gratitude. Because I have adopted a theological perspective that chooses not to privilege the authoritative universal voice found in eurocentric theological musing. This theology does not abide an undifferentiated whole that obliterates individuality (Crenshaw 1989). Therefore, my gratitude is based on a celebration of the diversity and equality of creation with hope that my human siblings will embrace the fullness of their own humanity by seeing the spark of the Divine in all.

This call for gratitude is not the work of liberal erasure and political correctness. It is a call rooted in theological exploration and the work of reconciling the relationship of the person and the Divine. I challenge every person of faith to critically examine participation in any ritual or celebration which can damage or harm any other human sibling and work to reframe from or at least reshape the expression of that celebration until we all come into the fullest expression of our highest collective self.

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.

Cone, James H. 2018. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Copeland, M. Shawn. 2010. Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Crenshaw, Keberele. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989 (1): 139-168.

Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1999. Sexuality and the Black Church:A Womanist Perspective . Maryknoll: Orbis .

Griffin, Paul R. 1999. Seeds of Racism in the United States of America . Cleveland : The Pilgrim Press .

 

 

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An Intervention

IMG_6598.jpegQuintessential contradictions run deep in the fabric of the soul of America. A nation established upon principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with a founding document that dehumanized and disinherited everyone who didn’t fit the immediate demographics of those very persons writing the documents.  This seismic moral chasm has been the thorn in the flesh of this nation, birthed through colonial revolution, the entirety of our grand democratic experiment. The treatment of those on the margins and outside the center of power has rendered us unable to rid ourselves of the tyranny of imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy.  The psycho-spiritual trauma of intrinsic inhumanity has damaged the soul of the nation in ways too numerous to name, but it is clear both the souls of those in power and the souls of those on the underside of power have been severely damaged. We have been given over to oligarchs who use their power to create more wealth and power for themselves and those like them. This has always been and remains today a nation in deep need of healing.

We need an intervention, elections alone don’t change moral dilemmas. The illicit marriage of corporate and political elites – so blatant and flagrant in our time, undermines the trust of informed citizens and disallows the voices of prophetic critique to be heard (West 2004). We need elected officials and religious leaders who possess key civic capacities that seem to be missing in our current leadership. Capacities that allow leaders to hold conflict inwardly in a manner that converts it into creativity, allowing it to pull them open to new ideas, new courses of action, and new relationships are necessary in the contemporary moment to explore what a preferred future and a path forward might look like. In a healthy democracy, public conflict is not only inevitable, but prized. Taking advantage of our right to disagree fuels our creativity and allows us to adjudicate critical questions of many sorts (Palmer 2011).  If we are ever to rid ourselves of the toxicity of abusive language that leads to deplorable behavior, rooted in the maintenance of systems of domination, then we will have to hear voices in leadership that are willing to be deeply self-critical. The vitriolic speech we hear in every news cycle sounds to us like anger, but in truth it is deep pain. Anger is the best hiding place for anyone seeking to conceal pain or anguish of spirit (hooks 2004).   The leaders we need IMG_6603.jpegmust arise out of the discursive formation of their particular communities vocalizing resistance discourse steeped in prophetic critique of all systems that continue the long American tradition of dehumanization of the “other”.  We cannot be silent.

What is needed now more than ever from religious communities is a return to the foundations of every religious tradition. The ethic of neighbor love must be centered in every conversation, gathering, or liturgy. The idea that every person is of sacred worth and that humanity must be responsible stewards of the earth must be central to conversation and actions of religious institutions. Religious communities need to create large spaces of welcome, understanding, and confrontation from the pulpit and from the religious programming (Townes 1995).  Bishops, Pastors, Priest, Rabbis, Imams, etc., need to affirm strength and righteous agency.  If religious leaders are at all serious about the survival of the parishioners in the context of the nation then they must risk the comfort and prestige of their respective enclaves of ecclesial privilege and commence a new moment. This moment calls for a new engagement in a public theology of liberation (Warnock 2014). This public theology of liberation must be deliberately intersectional, because if any marginalized group is left out of its redemptive and reconciling narrative there will never be a decentering of normative power. Intersectionality is not the work of liberal erasure; it is the intentional honoring of the ways in which social systems collude to marginalize, disenfranchise, and disinherit people considered nonnormative by the oppressive social systems of those in power. Racial erasure is the sentimental idea that racism would cease to exist if everyone would just forget about race and see each other as human beings who are the same (hooks 1992). This concept of erasure is not limited to race, it has become a sentimentality that moves to make all “otherness” invisible, without considering the systems that problematize difference.

We need a radical intervention that offers prophetic critique of all systems of domination that oppress and marginalize any and all people and calls our nation to heal from deep atrocities and quintessential contradictions that run deep in the fabric of the soul of America.

For related theme’s listen to this week’s edition of Liturgies that Lift:

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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

hooks, bell. 1992. Black Looks: race and representation. Boston: South End Press.

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

Palmer, Parker. 2011. Healing the Heart of Democracy. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Townes, Emilie M. 1995. In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spiriutality As Social Witness. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Warnock, Raphael G. 2014. The Divided Mind of The Black Church. New York: New York University Press.

West, Cornel. 2004. Democracy Matters. New York: Penguin Press .

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