Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Non Biblical Origins of a Christian Nation

Nation- A people who share the same lies about their past, hatred of their present neighbor, and illusions about the future.

Ernest Renan

The myth that America was founded on Christian principles is so embedded in the psyche of our nation that questioning it's veracity is considered blasphemy. Many patriotic Christians point to biographies, autobiographies, and the Constitution instead of the Bible to validate this claim; what they disconnect is the fact that most Revolutionary history was written from the perspective of politicians and generals. It doesn't take a very smart person to understand that history told from the top down doesn't reflect the views of the average person. The native, the slave, the housewife, or the poor would have a different view of the same events based on their social positioning. This isn't a relativist argument. If we can't look at the past objectively, how can we look at our present condition with all of the emotions associated with our individual beliefs, critically?

One book you rarely hear a sermon preached out of is the book of Habakkuk. Fire and brimstone pastors can find parallels between our times and a litany of Old and New Testament prophecies and genealogies, but you never hear Habakkuk 2:12-13 which reads as follows:

12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 13 Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? (KJV)

Hermeneutics aside, scriptures that call into question the moral (or immoral) origins of our nation are, as a rule, excluded from Christian discourse by many pastors. The fact that so many churches avoid the evils visited upon those on the underside of American history is telling. If my reading of the gospels is correct, no nation could be righteous if they don't care for the people Jesus taught his followers to care for. America was founded on Christian principles if you negate the way we acquired the land, and gloss over the way we treated our neighbors. What if some of our current social ills are a product of our origin story? In heaven the son doesn't suffer for the sins of his father, but we're on earth and the scars and wounds our forefathers left us have real world consequences.

The last few weeks have been a Rorschach test for America. Person A sees the Confederate flag and it represents x while their neighbor looks at the same flag and sees y. Depending on where you live Black Lives Matter means hatred of whites, and white silence to the atrocity in South Carolina is perceived as indifference. All week long I've read articles and commentaries about scheduled flag burning events; some of these comments meet the legal threshold for premeditation. The anger in those comments is real. Sadly, the same people making these threats over the flag can't muster the same anger for the black churches that have burnt down. While some will spending their Fourth of July worrying about flag burning, I have friends (pastors and deacons) who will spend the next few nights sleeping in the sanctuaries of their churches. 

Renan was more right than wrong in his definition of a nation. How can we understand a past we have limited access to if we are to fragmented to understand our current situation?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Message To Black Lives Matter

Civil Rights Activism is tricky it takes courage to challenge the status quo and change social parameters. Far too many of your contemporaries see your efforts as crass, and your motivation as self serving. It will probably be 10 years before the critics understand your movement, and 20 years before the establishment tries to rebuild the images of you they're currently tearing down.  I support the measures you've used to keep your message from being ignored by the corporate media. #blackbrunch, die-ins, blocking traffic, and even hijacking political events have all been effective. My message to you is to continue practicing the kind of non threatening passive violence that has kept your movement relevant for over a year. Passive aggression takes longer, but what other options do you have? There are militant voices on the edges of your movement calling for an escalation that has the potential of starting an unwinnable war. Anyone who tries to convince you that armed insurrection should be part of any strategy to resolve the problems you're articulating is trying to co-opt your movement. 

When I talk to young brothers and sisters about Black Lives Matter they're full of excitement, but very few really know what to expect from the movement. Some are looking for inspiration and purpose: your movement gives them something positive to belong to. Some are looking for marching orders: they understand the social and economic realities they face, but they don't know what to do about it. While others in your movement just want some souvenirs and a story to tell. The reality is: many of you supporters will be disappointed. It's easier to assemble a group of like minded people in a city to hear a message than it is to turn that message into a sustained movement in our communities. Social movements are hard. Social media might be the best and worst things to happen to Civil Rights. Technology has made getting a message out easier, but too many members of this generation are keyboard activists. Once they share or retweet a message they feel like their job is done. BLM needs more sandwich board activists. 

The boycott is a perfect nonviolent violent weapon I would like to see phased into your overall strategy, but the reality is: I don't know what your strategy is. What's the overall goal? Are you seeking federal legislation to create a national register for law enforcement infractions? Are you committed to the decriminalization of soft drugs, Are you calling for a stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending? The underlying causes of inner-city crime and over policing need to be rectified, but we need to do the harder work of changing the perceptions of blackness. I agree: Black Lives Matter, but what's next? I'm 6'1 and 235 lbs I know all to well how to move docilely through society. The reality is: no piece of legislation is going to make me any less threatening to someone who has weaponized my black skin. I salute the progress you've made in a short time. You have our attention, but what's the next move?