On James Cone and “Racial Reconciliation”

In hearing about the passing of the good Dr James Cone, founder of Black Liberation Theology and an all-around important figure in latter 20th/early 21st Century Christianity, I ran across this older article from The Gospel Coalition (TGC), that bastion of White Conservative Evangelicalism. I in fact have several Black and POC friends and family adjacent to John Piper and TGC (and once was an adherent), largely because Piper puts out an aura of intellectualism that is attractive to young urban Christians who do not see much intellectual engagement in other church life, and because Piper and TGC also at least tend to talk about racial justice.

But whereas Cone talked about God siding with and identifying with the oppressed (ie, Black people) and thus allying against the very White Christianity that supports oppression (ie, White Supremacy, anti-blackness, reactionary politics), TGC and other White Evangelicals (including those who align with the White Theological/Political project) call for racial reconciliation. The author quotes from Black theologian J. Deotis Roberts:

Christians are called to be agents of reconciliation. We have been able to love and forgive . . . The assertion that all are ‘one in Christ Jesus’ must henceforth mean that all slave-master, servant-boss, inferior-superior frames of reference between blacks and whites have been abolished.

But the meaning in a spiritualized sense does not mean in an earthly sense, so to say. To declare that we are free is merely to say it; and while imagination and declaration are important steps in the realization,  they are not sufficient. To suggest that they are is to not just to say that a dream is reality, but to keep the dream from being worked out and actualized.

Racism is a device and creation of Whiteness, of which White people have primarily benefited–and that works itself out in class and sexual/gender approaches as well. The conditions of Blackness and Whiteness were created by Whites and those identified as White have been the benefactors of this distinction. So the idea that there is something to reconcile between the two without eradicating the White-created racism in all its material and psychological processes is both absurd and obscene.

And while it is the work of White people to eradicate material racism–as they currently control the means of materialism under White Supremacist Imperialist Monopoly–it is not the worth of White people to also devise the conditions upon which this reconciliation should be made right. How can you trust the people who benefit from Whiteness and who believe wholeheartedly in their innocence to purge their benefits, even if and when they mean well?

I do not trust capitalists to give us the means of production. We should not trust White people to eradicate racism on their terms.

That is why it is important that God is on the side of the oppressed. Because it assists in creating a space where it becomes psychologically and socially possible, which leads to material matters. Anything less is an immaterial, and thus hopeless, religion. And what good is religion if it does not offer hope?

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laws, guns, & money, Pt. 2: The causes are coming from within the house

A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at the proposed solutions for mass random killings[1] in the States and how the would-be solutions can actually lead to worse conditions for the marginalized. What we found is that it would be a better use of time and energy to look at systemic causes and then try to seek solutions from there. Looking at such may even save us from other problems.

For the United States, the root of our mass shootings may be traced to the lack of accounting for the fundamental exploitation of violence which continues in an intractable pull towards violence, death, and destruction as the key component of our way of life. Like George W Bush, we may talk about our way of life being freedom—which *THEY* hate us for. But that is only true in a strictly consumerist perspective, which depends on spendable and gathered capital of both the society and of the individual. In America, unlike the East Germany of the 1980’s, we are free to buy Jordache Jeans, but only if we have enough money. We can buy our health, but only if we have enough money. We can buy elections, but only if we have enough money. We can buy enough tasty food, but only if we have money.

In a country founded on guaranteeing negative rights[2], primarily shoring up the livelihood of slavers and land-usurpers, we cannot expect much more than what we have now: A few are made rich on the backs of the poor, the workers, the enslaved, the racialized, the indigenous. And none of this capitalist concentration of wealth and inequality is sustainable without extensive and sustained violence and containment.

To understand random violence here (and, I’d argue, abroad), we must look to the militarization of our society. It is this militarism that guarantees that those who amass resources and wealth can maintain and keep what they’ve stolen. Dole, United Fruit, Exxon, Boeing, Walmart, Raytheon, Nike, etc, rely on the 800 military bases in over 70 countries under the United States’ direct control in order to extract resources and make a killing (what pun?). Those forces exert pressure on would-be sovereign nations to also keep working conditions at a disposable level, optimal for capitalist extraction. This partnership is strengthened by the Wars on Terror and Drugs as well as through more apparently benevolent strategies such as monetary aid and NGO’s. If the governments were to get out of hand, there’s always the CIA.

The violence that the US exerts throughout the world is necessary to keep peasants and workers from effectively demanding their own economic and workplace freedom. The answer to both civil and personal unrest and unease is breaking bones and breaking wills.

us military shooting

And this violence comes home through various policing strategies. The priorities of the local police and criminal justice system are to protect private property—to protect capital. As such, they are generally in opposition to the needs and often the safety of marginalized and oppressed people, among whom are the Working Class, People of Color, People experiencing homelessness, and those with mental health issues. That there is a large overlap is not incidental. The police and justice system in capitalism resolve the internal conflicts of capitalism through violence and escalation.

Capitalism at its height needs waste. Waste is what the Free Market resides in, how it operates. Its nature is to mine, alter, consume, and discard. The US, with 1/20th of the world’s population, consumes 1/5th of its resources. Yet it has the audacity to throw out a third of its own food[3] and judge other nations for not being able to properly feed their own, even as it embargoes them. This waste expands to the wider economy and to other precious resources, such as fossil fuels, innovation, and labor. The waste is considered beneficial because it illuminates both plenty-as-reward and scarcity-as-punishment, the carrot and stick of the Meritocracy Myth. Labor in this system is deprived of meaning because it is wasteful; it doesn’t build to anything that has any value. The Free Market ideology does not lead to anywhere but capital gain for its own benefit; it does not lead to truth or beauty or value or health but to monetization and only to monetization.

So Capitalism also disposes of people—not just the Working Class who toil to survive with the minimum means and relationships to survive—but even the Petty Bourgeois and the Bourgeoisie themselves as their lives are filled with the meaninglessness, the nihilism, of monetization. All relationships become monetized under Neoliberalism, and the United States is at the height of this contradiction as we citizens spend our days worrying about either not having enough money or worrying about holding onto money. Indeed, as with cash, private property rules everything around me.

Other violent enforcers of American capitalism include Immigration and Border Patrol agents—ICE allows conglomerates to hire immigrant workers at a small price and then run them out when they begin to mobilize—the feds—despite the FBI’s celebrity status among the #Resistance, it continues to upend movements of actual resistance—and of course the CIA—which along with the DOD works to destabilize international resistance to US and capitalist hegemony.

This violence is state-led for the purpose of maintaining a destructive way of life. It is proof that capitalism is destructive externally and internally, for the world, the community, the family, the body, and the soul.

As King suggested before his assassination (yet another touchstone of American capitalist violence), we can’t point fingers at instances of seemingly-random violence done by Americans without considering the extent and depth of the violence of the bourgeois state upon the world and upon our own. White Americans wreak havoc in public spaces of  innocence because that is what they know, what they see, how they experience the body politic of their country and identification. How else to explain our involvement in Vietnam, in naked attempts to overturn the will of the people in state after state  (including our own, where the choices are already breathtakingly narrow), in the militarized police occupation of Black communities during protest, in the extrajudicial choking of Eric Garner and the seventeen shots into Laquan McDonald’s body? It is how vigilantes have dealt with encroaching threats and kept populations in line, from the post-Reformation lynchings to subway “heroes” who shoot teens like they’re Dirty Harry (and are elevated to that status) or have a Death Wish, to George Zimmerman in Florida and Theodore Wafer in the Detroit ‘burbs.

Lastly and most importantly, we cannot ignore the connections between mass random violence and intimate partner abuse. Not only are many of these shooters cisgender men, but they have made it clear that they feel entitled to enact violence onto the women in their lives. What is practiced at home is a practiced enactment of ownership and brutality. This is tried in the private and semi-private, and then carried out in large scale. From intimate and gendered to public and indiscriminate.

The only viable solution for potentially-lethal problems in violent capitalism is escalation; the solution for fear and foreboding nihilism is lethality. We must cut out the heart of the problem.

—–Note: This content first appeared in the Patreon page. Consider subscribing for early and exclusive access.—-

[1] Mass random shootings need to be understood within its many contexts as distinct from yet also familiar to intimate partner violence (and the mass shootings that are extensions of that) and neighborhood violence in underground economies. More on the connections between MRS and IPV later. For more on VIUE, read here.

[2] I have been working on this connection for a while and hope to have something up on it soon.

[3] According to the USDA, this also leads to tremendous pollution in the making and wasting of unused food. To wit: “Food waste, which is the single largest component going into municipal landfills, quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.”

laws, guns, and money, pt 1

In the light of horrendous massacres, those who have a heart cry out to “do something” to prevent further atrocities. However, a narrow focus on gun control—or worse, mental health—at best only treats symptoms. Homicides are not merely a fact of weapons (which is to say tools) but of will, of psychological possibility, and apparent necessity. As we see in other contexts around the world, semiautomatics are but one efficient way to kill a group of people, but far from the only. So, we need to not just look at the tools of homicide, but the motives as well. Not just the how but the why are important. I’m convinced that in the context of the United States, it’s helpful to look at how state violence is carried out here and abroad on behalf of corporations and that violence becoming internalized. Digging further, the fact that the US leads the world in energy and food consumption (and waste) is not unrelated to the fact that its military dwarfs all other militaries. Combined with its repressive and militarized police and incarceral system and extreme income inequality, this helps explain why we have a more abundant gun and violence culture than other rich countries.[1] We will cover more of the why’s later, but for now I want to highlight how this concentration on the how is problematic, perhaps futile, and often worse.

Much is made in liberal circles of the over-abundance of guns. The United States leads the world in terms of firearm ownership with just slightly more guns than people (101:100 ratio). However, it rates low in terms of the guns to gun-death ratio, with several countries tacking upwards of 70 to 1000 times the number. Clearly, someone is stockpiling these weapons,[2] so the overabundance isn’t the only factor. And while this may sound insipid, perhaps there is something to the conservative argument that taking away guns merely means those who seek to commit mass murders will find other ways to do so. Lethal retaliation against random members of targeted populations (otherwise known as terrorism) takes the form of knives, homemade bombs, vehicles, and, hell, planes. However, reactionaries are always looking for distractions and scapegoats to continue the perpetuation of massive violence. On the other hand, liberalism avoids searching systemic causes. But a nation and world in such dire straits as ours must radically cut to the roots of the problem, particularly if the proposed solutions may garner more problems than solutions.

And the problems are many. On the one hand is the gun control debate where we question how to regulate the flow of weapons. A waiting period is reasonable and should not be discounted, but most of these mass random killings had been planned for months and the weapons bought well in advance. We must also take a hard look as to how historically and presently such laws have been used to criminalize Black and Brown citizens, much as anti-drug laws have done to racialized people. In fact, gun laws have the double effect of targeting black people for contact with law enforcement (and thus increasing the likelihood of death and prison) and of stripping black people of self-defense (as seen in the Reformation era, Jim Crow, and the Black Power movement). Despite much crowing from self-appointed– if not self-righteous–ministers of non-violence (who tend to be White and have little skin in the game), it was the Deacons of Defense and other armed revolutionary Black Southerners who kept the Civil Rights Movement safe in the hyper-violent Jim Crow South as witnesses such as This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed testify. Notice that there are two different standards in the application of gun laws and in how it works in relation to encounters with law enforcement: One is for White people and those connected to Whiteness and the other is for Black people and those connected to Blackness. Playing with toys did not save John Crawford or Tamir Rice. Being lawfully compliant and polite did not save Philando Castile. Carrying a phone and not a gun did not save Cedrick Chatman nor countless other Black youth and adults framed for their own murder by police who are supported by liberal fear of Black power.

If the liberal answer is to look at the tools as flawed, the conservative answer is to look at the people as such–not to seek solutions but to further alienate and oppress specific populations. Targeted here are racial and religious minorities and people facing mental health issues. While liberals tend to indirectly indict these same groups,[3] reactionaries like to go for the jugular. This can lead to travel bans, more militarized policing and crackdowns on protest, and of course ableist rhetoric that blames violence on mental health and stigmatizes mental illness. Not only are these not solutions and detrimental to the targeted populations, but they involve implementing and releasing more violence. Stigmatizing mental health, for instance, leads those facing mhi to resist assistance and therapy. This undergrounding of mental health leads to victimization for the person with the disability. By now we should all be aware that those who suffer mental health problems are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Further, going underground and not seeking help or voicing needs leads to a higher likelihood of being preyed upon.

Not that mental health access isn’t necessary, but the US doesn’t have more people facing mental health issues than anywhere else. We need to disentangle talking about mental health and mass shootings or we risk combining the two and trapping many of us into a villainized victimization.

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[1] It’s important to note that the US does not lead the world in gun-related deaths, and even less so with firearm-related homicides. In fact, it is around 15th place depending on how metrics are measured. But it does lead in so-called developed countries. What this reinforces is that poverty kills. And as the US leads rich nations in wealth inequality and gun ownership, so it leads rich nations in homicides and suicides.

[2] Apparently, half of the weapons are owned by 3% of the population, with an average of 17 guns per owner at that top tier. Thanks to ___ for pointing this out.

[3] By supporting anti-crime bills and deportations as well as malignant rhetoric about “Muslim extremists/terrorists” and stigmatizing mental health problems

Thanksgiving, the National Myth-Making

Thanksgiving is a collective remembering of a national myth. National myths are ahistorical stories that we retell over and over to and about ourselves as a people.

While they may be ahistorical, as though they didn’t happen in a specific time and date and place, national myths are important. They help preserve culture, connections, and kinship and help guard against those things that tear us apart. They can be a bulwark against oppression and suppression, ways of remembering the best of ourselves when the world and empire strike against us. The Torah, for example, is a national myth about Hebrew and Jewish people and their identity that often sets them apart and unique, even as many of the stories are adapted from local myths and legends and then reframed for a different context, a people who imagined themselves differently. Indigenous people throughout the world celebrate and remember national myths. The Iroquois had myths that the Puritans considered dangerous in their encounters. Schools were established to “Kill the Indian and save the Man” by driving out Hopi, Sioux, and other indigenous languages, customs and myths. So recalling those myths are important resistance to white settler colonialism.

We’re very familiar with the dangerous side of national myths, however, such as Hitler’s regurgitation the National Myth of Germany through Wagner, Nietzsche, and antisemitic and racist tropes. And the National Myth of the United States being founded as a paragon of freedom and liberty is especially pernicious in the face that its Founding Fathers denied women the right to vote and held black people as literal pieces of property.

Image result for charlie brown thanksgiving table

But it is more important what we do with our national myths and whether we are willing to interrogate them, especially if, like in the States, it is one of genocide and chattel slavery disguised as kindness and civilization.

Thanksgiving as a whole has its moments. It is a time to spend with family–whether biological or chosen or a mix of both–and a time to practice gratitude, which can be revolutionary in an atmosphere of consumption. But then it’s followed by a day expressly for the purpose of hyper-consumptive capitalism. It’s no mistake then that the main mythos narrative of Thanksgiving is of settler colonialism.

The narrative of a friendly dinner with the natives is a ritualized hand-off of the land and its bounties from the original occupants to the settlers, who now rightfully belong. How fitting that dinner is situated around a land-occupying sport like American football with one of the teams named the Cowboys–another powerful settler-colonial myth about the rugged Anglo individual who tames the Wild West and vanquishes the savage American Indian. It’s also telling that next week, the Cowboys will be playing the Redsk*ns, a specifically genocidal slur against American Indians.

I would argue it is time to confront, rather than run from, what this national remembrance means. To interrogate it as Jewish people do the Torah. To recognize the role it has played in our society and how we use it to erase and murder Native peoples here. And then to set about to make corrections.

An Open Invitation!

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After much thinking and consternation of how to best yield my gifts (which obviously are not prized by capitalism, at least not at the rate I’m able to produce content), I’ve begun a Patreon account. Being patronized by my own private Medicis allows me to give you access to exclusive content, including chapters from upcoming books, long essays, already published ebooks, and new poems. I’ll continue to publish free content here, on the Medium blog, on Twitter, and even at the Patreon page (such as this short blog on North Korea and our own war crimes), but getting paid allows me to write more and gooder.

For as little as $5 a month, you can have full access to several books, chapters, poems, essays, and more.

For as little as $3 a month, you can have full access to poems, short essays, and more.

For as little as $1 a month, you have access to all the public stuff and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve assisted in spreading love and knowledge and peace. And I’ll blow you a kiss. Personally.

Again, check it out!

Affirmative Gutting

Four initial thoughts on the efforts of the Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department to end collegiate Affirmative Action practices:

1) I know that liberals spent the last few weeks defending Sessions from getting fired by Donald J. Megalomaniac in order to defend both the ongoing Russian investigation and, probably more centrally, some sense of order and precedence in the White House cabinet. True, perhaps we’ll get further on the Russia investigation with Sessions protecting Mueller, et al, then we would if the AG post became a revolving door. And maybe, after a while, the trade off will be worth it just to see Trump packing his bags and the GOP panicking. But the way that Sessions acts while at the head of the single most powerful policing and legal agency in the world doesn’t give me any hope that any investigation into Trump will stand anyway, let alone that anything of value will come about from it. Furthermore, any chance for any procedural decorum is clearly out the window in Mar-A-Lago & McConnell’s stints. Democrats wasted opportunities to blow through filibusters when Obama was in office thinking they could use the procedure when they become the minority power, and to what end? Perhaps we’d be better off with no Attorney General than to stick with Jeff Klansmans.

2) Remember that Trump, like Bushie before him, is a legacy child. Affirmative Action doesn’t mean shit to people who’ve been born into wealth, into connections, into the racist family business. If Affirmative Action is truly a threat to the Myth of Meritocracy, then why are these legacies and inheritances not? Could it be that the Meritocratic Myth is simply a manifestation of and protectorate of White Supremacy and Capitalism? Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that property and trust funds should not be handed down to children of wealthy people; the kids didn’t earn that. They should go out into the world with a clean slate like the rest of us poor suckers and make their own way. Maybe, in fact, we should begin this process at birth. Since over one-fifth of all children live in poverty in the United States, it’s not fair that Barron Trump got to shit in gold lame diapers while 400,000 innocent children are placed in foster homes. Send him to the streets to earn his keep!

3) In the post Black Wall St era, the best hope for build-up for Black and Latinx wealth has been through AA programs–not just in college acceptance but in hiring. But then those programs began to be gutted under Reagan and both Bushes, particularly under their judges, and Black wealth subsided. The Republican administrations and legislators also worked to kill federal unions, where the Black middle class was rising. The demolition of welfare under Republican and neoliberal Democratic administrations then took the bottom out of poverty. In fact, this notion that somehow Trump is a different breed of Republican is fully repulsive. He and his are merely trying to finish what their heroes got primed. He’s following the business ethos that Reagan and Thatcher pushed to its logical conclusion: Always Be Closing.

4) If anything, this final swig at Affirmative Action demonstrates we need full-on socialism and reparations anyway. Universal preschools and daycare, guaranteed income, an infrastructure that reaches to the working and permanent underclass, abolition of debt and prisons… It’d also be nice if we can stop relying on prestigious college education to be the determiner of worth.

What I Was Thinking as a Compassionate Conservative

Cross-posted from Medium.

I voted for Bush in 2000, not because I hated poor people or was racist against people of color, but largely because I was both poor and a person of color who was under the impression that he had something valuable to offer us. As a conservative Christian, I was introduced to WORLD Magazine and Marvin Olasky in the 90’s. Olasky — one of several supposed ex-communists with a dubious past and a lying streak — talked a lot about ‘compassionate conservatism’ and the need for conservative (read: White and Middle Class) Christians to support urban people. He argued that we depended on a government that could only fail us and got in the way of success. And who doesn’t want to succeed. So, yes, I voted for the first time on the premise that I was doing good for myself and my community. I think that’s why and how most people vote, and thus positioning material needs as front and center is the key to success. Or the Party of the People can just continue to treat politics as a character-driven drama, I guess…

In the early 90’s, Marv wrote The Tragedy of American Compassion. Newt Gingrich passed it out as homework for incoming representatives during the second wave of the so-called “Reagan Revolution”, helping to lead to the welfare “reforms” of the 90’s as well as the Contract <s>for</s> on America. At the same time, he became an adviser to then-Texas governor George W Bush and helped lay the groundwork for Bush’s faith-based initiatives.

But it was all a lie. All of Olasky’s ‘scholarship’ was hackneyed ideology promoting a spiritualized Free Market approach with a Christian veneer. It was Right Wing Christian deception.

The idea that White Christians could save us poor city folk would prove to be problematic, to say the least, for various reasons. But at the time I didn’t have the vocabulary or experience to tell me. I saw the word help; I understood helpI knew that white suburban Christians had resources and thought they could assist us with those. I didn’t know it was a mining exhibition and that we were the ones to be mined.

Unlike many anti-welfare actors, I never bought the lie that welfare was theft from taxpayers. I knew that was bullshit because we sure as hell weren’t living high off the hog. But I did see welfare as an impediment to working and living securely. What I thought about were the kids I was working with. The kids of single parents, often, who were themselves heading towards gangs. I thought that the continuation of welfare reform would be the necessary shock to the system bringing good jobs and stable homes. Instead, ‘compassion’ brought unprecedented levels of extreme poverty, intense competition for lower-paying jobs, and the destabilization of neighborhoods through gentrification. It didn’t lead to more secure communities through the advancement and strengthening of nuclear families (another perspective fraught with racist and bourgeois assumptions, as well as completely unnecessary), but less-secure communities.

I think I believed in compassionate conservatism not only because I hadn’t yet seen the extent of economic deprivation and theft in Working Class communities of color and other abandoned WC communities. I hadn’t understood the extent to which resources have been mined (both economically and literally) out of our communities and with no replacement. But at the time, I knew and saw the desperation of my Black and Brown Working Class community and my own Working Class family, which had received government subsidies before and after my father lost his employment to privatization, alcohol abuse, and epilepsy. [1]

However, I didn’t make the connection until now. Welfare before the Reaganites and the New Democrats altered it was not going to work on its own because it saw money to poor families as merely a form of aid. It should have realized — as conservativism and more-compassionate liberalism certainly still fail to realize — that child-raising is work. That domestic labor is work. That parents, and particularly mothers, should be paid to take care of children. Children are vital to the lifeblood of a society no matter the economic system of that society.

Instead, women are paid less money than men on the capitalist assumption that certain gendered- and class-based labors should be underpaid or even unpaid. Capitalism assumes that those who labor for society should not only be unrewarded, but should fend for themselves when the chips are down.

This bears out in the gender wage gap. Human Resources justifies, a woman isn’t the primary bread-winner for the home and thus doesn’t need a comfortable standard of living. This old excuse may not (yet still is) vocalized in these politically correct times, but the spirit is still here and thriving in the Gig Economy. Pregnancies are seen as interruptions from work — and thus income — rather than as a form of valuable, creative work in and of themselves. Pregnancies are punished, even before the conservative agendas interrupting reproductive rights and personal autonomy.

Domestic work is a public service. And domestic laborers should be paid accordingly by the public. As long as we’re under capitalism, then all parents should be financially compensated.

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[1] The order of these items tells you something about causation.

Jesus Is in the Camps. Where Is the Confessing Church?

When we talk about Whiteness, we refer not to a biological race but to a way of organizing the world. Race, as we formally understand it, is a recent social construct. There was no White race, Black race, Indian* race, or Asian race before 1492. In order to justify genocide, land theft, and chattel slavery, European colonizers invented the Indian and Black races. In so doing, they created White people. Whiteness is the daily, encultured justification of White Supremacy. It exists and constantly exercises in order to maintain the violent social and economic position of the White race over all other peoples. This is primarily a means of social and class control. It makes its way through media representation, the mechanisms of politics; it’s a stalwart of philosophies, education, and theology. It is pervasive and structural and systemic.

So understand that the problem with the following paintings is not the tone of the skin of those portrayed in them (though that figures in as well. It’s impossible to not also figure in skin tone since that is the arbitrary marker of White Supremacy). It is the cultural touchstones of Whiteness perpetrated through the entire narrative. This is important because a criticism of Whiteness should not be confused with a criticism of (individual) White people, but of a cultural understanding that maintains White Supremacy. Similarly when White is used as an adjective before an institutional or movement label (eg, White Christianity, White Theology, White Feminism), it refers not to the skin color of those who are encompassed by them, but of the predominant worldview that pervades the practice.

The following image was shared by an Anabaptist-leaning Christian theology professor on Facebook. It is a sepia-toned painting of a White Jesus in a robe, sandals and long, curly hair carrying the bag and rifle of the uniformed Nazi officer he is chatting with. They are alone on a solitary road. The piece is titled The Second Mile, referring to a line Jesus makes in his Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel according to Matthew: “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matt 5:41, NRSV). The original FB poster said about it that, “[I]t gets to the core of enemy-love – the way we make space for God to work in reconciling the world.”

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White Jesus. aka The Second Mile, Michael Belk

This image was made by and shared uncritically mainly among White male Evangelicals, the single largest factor of those who voted for and still support Donald Trump. To say that it is problematic is to not even scratch the surface, but let’s start with the reference.

Peace activist and theologian Walter Wink has pointed out that the way we interpret the Enemy-Love passages from the Sermon on the Mount (Turn the other cheek, Give your cloak, Do not resist the evil-doer) is contrary to what Jesus was communicating with his hearers. Jesus, Wink says, wanted his people to fight back, but not in the direct confrontational means that would see the Jewish people scattered to the winds (as in 70 AD after an uprising). Thus, he demonstrated creative resistance against the occupying Roman forces and the wealthy that were throwing the poor into prison over debt.

In the Second Mile instance, the Roman forces, in an effort to not drive up the angers of those they were occupying, had limitations on what kinds of burdens they would put on the citizens. They could force them to go one mile and carry their stuff, but no further. When Jesus said go the extra mile, he was — at least according to Wink — trying to force the Roman soldiers and officers to confront their own shame in an effort to dare them to force the people to carry their load anymore.** It’s a subversive confrontation and act of liberation.

So that’s the first thing to point out: There is no resistance here. Enemy-love is seen instead as a passive moment making a potential friend. What we experience is a normalization of violent White Nationalism through Buddy Jesus, who has come to lighten the load of the fascist murderer.

Second, notice how this depiction both completely erases Jewishness and centers Whiteness. There are no shema, prayers, cultural practices, or synagogues, but also no concentration camps, no ghettos, no markings, no hiding in secret rooms, no sitting shivas, no piles of bodies. As in most depictions of Jesus in White America, his Jewishness is annihilated — he put upon the cross of Whiteness. Hell, look at his designer sandals. This is not a brown peasant of the Near East circa 30 CE. This is a deliberate choice to whiten Jesus for a White Christianity.

This obliteration of Jewish (let alone any non-White) identity is across the board in Belk’s Journeys with the Messiah collection. But especially and hilariously so in his Metamorphosis: Uncovering the Christ in Youwhere a White man in a turtleneck and khakis enters what appears to be Jesus’ tomb to turn around to a fancy standing mirror. Looking inward, he sees a happy, handsome Jesus staring back contentedly as his own reflection.

wallpaper Jesus

Uncovering the Christ in You, by Michael Belk

White Christian men, as Kathy Khang points out, see themselves as Jesus. Not just any Jesus, but that White Jesus, where Jesus actively and passively reflects back not only themselves but also the performative aspects of Whiteness. They do not come to grips with the fact that White America is the occupying force, is the Roman soldiers, is the Nazi officer. But yet there is that inkling that they know that they are, and that underneath the postures of power and murder, they just need to be talked to and treated as human beings. They need those they subject to violence to come at them politely.^

In light of Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannoupolis, the Muslim travel ban, and hyper-aggressive deportations and raids, White Evangelicals who overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump and that culture (and still overwhelmingly support the Muslim ban) are not in a position to highlight how they want to hold conversations with Nazis and other White Nationalists in order to convert them. The time for niceties is past. It is high time for active resistance from White Evangelicals and their leaders. This centering of Whiteness is an aggressive act of violence against the marginalized and oppressed, the very people Jesus came to seek and save.

As a friend pointed out, Jesus was Jewish and would have found himself dead alongside the road. Jesus would not have a chance to dialog with someone that saw him as subhuman. Where should the church be? I know that a significant amount of non-White Christians are in such a position.

Where is the White Church now? Are they ready to become the Confessing Church of Bonhoeffer’s letters — the opposition to Hitler’s nationalist violence? Will White Evangelical scholars, pastors and leaders resist this rising attack against the people of God, or will they continue to place a high emphasis on racial reconciliation without repentance?

Which is to say, will white-skinned Christians pick up their crosses and follow Jesus to the deportation centers or will they continue to polish their Whiteness, hiding in their feelings until the subaltern learn to be polite enough for their tastes where they just might say something? Will white Christians continue to live in their Whiteness and maintain it through hyper-sensitivity, or will they be brave and question their assumptions about Whiteness and how they operate within it?

Are they truly willing to be like Jesus, or just imagine themselves as reflections of a White Jesus who has nothing meaningful to say to the world?


*Aka, Native Americans or First Nations, generic terms and understandings not used by people indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere until European colonization and genocide forced them.

** Wink. Jesus & Nonviolence.

^Their mantra is “Best not to resist the Nazis lest you become one!” If you punch a Nazi, you take the Nazi’s place. If you hurt a white person’s feelings, you strengthen white supremacy. Etc. etc worldwithoutend.

Right Behind, newest book, is out now!

Working on a couple of other books to be published soon (second edition of Shout It from the Rooftops and its follow-up on Individualism within Evangelicalism), but want to give you an opportunity to see this book, a barnstormer I wrote after my wife, Susanna Krizo, as we were coming back from a long walk and Thai restauranting, asked what would happen if Christians discovered they were following the antiChrist of the Left Behind series all along?

It’s called Right Behind: A Left Behind Parody for the Trump Times, and it’s available now for Kindle at $2.99 (or Kindle Unlimited for free) and on paperback (Amazon and CreateSpace) for $6.90. It’s a funny and breezy read (or at least I think so), and hopefully as fun to read as it was to write.

right_behind_cover_for_kindle

 

White God, the Immature President

Understanding why Trump is highly favored among White Evangelicals despite his obvious moral failures (at least by their Victorian era standards) one needs to understand that first, it is a tradition and movement based on words. Iterations, preaching, testimony, prayer, singing. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Additionally, faith comes by hearing and by hearing the Word of God. The Word of God is a double-edged sword, able to discern

Repeating the words of the faith in a convincing manner is the central sacrament of Evangelicalism.

The primary thing that Illegitimate POTUS needs to do is sound like a Christian. Just a few words sprinkled here and there, little dog-whistles like George W. But it’s interesting that not only is Trump not fluent in Evangelicalism, but neither is his speechwriter and Reich-Hand Nazi. He’s a white supremacist writer who speaks very broadly about God, but in a newspeak manner. So there’s obviously something else going on here.

Another aspect of contemporary Evangelicalism (and this aspect is recent and a result of its being mobilized for conservative issues starting in the 70s) are its heterodox creeds. There are the classic creeds of Evangelicalism: Preach Jesus Christ dead, buried and resurrected; believe and confess the Lord Jesus Christ; have a personal relationship with God. The personal relationship aspect is central to the classic definition of what makes one an evangelical.*

But in the politicized White Evangelicalism of the Religious Right era now there are a few more to honor. In some ways these new creeds are more integral and important than the ancient beliefs, particularly the negative dogma of opposing abortion. This dogma is negative and oppositional, notice, where the older ones are positive and creative. White Evangelicals have a prayer: “Abortion is murder! Forever and ever amen.”

There are other tenets of White Evangelicalism which aren’t as universal but may help understand their support of Trump:

  • Israel is God’s chosen nation. But not Jewish people (cf End Times)
  • America is God’s new chosen
  • Disposability is good as the earth is disposable (cf End Times)
  • Women are subservient and never fully human.

So Trump’s politics or political promises certainly help White Evangelicals to adore their president no matter his grasp of the rest of Christian tradition. But there’s something more, still.

That is that Trump reminds them of their God.

The underlying but unspoken (yet never to be transgressed) rule of White Evangelicalism is that God is a White Male Capitalist. And not capitalist as in: Upholds the tenets of capitalism (which He does), but: He belongs to the class. This God represents the Capitalist class, the firstborn among peers, the Bourgeoisie of the Bourgeoisie.

President Baby with his impetuous, genocidal behavior is White God incarnate.


*As I argue in my upcoming book, Free Market Jesus, this individualism is both a central element to the flourishing and now the death-knells of White Evangelicalism. Sign up to the newsletter for some updates including excerpts from the book.

 

“Food Is a Weapon”

From theologian James Cone’s The Black Church and Marxism: What Do They Have to Say to Each Other? (paper delivered in 1980):

I have been convinced that the black church cannot remain silent regarding socialism, because such silence will be interpreted by our Third World brothers and sisters as support for the capitalistic system which exploits the poor all over this earth.

For example, between 25,000 and 50,000 people die each day from starvation, a cause that is directly related to the persistence of national and international economic orders that foster distorted development. The former secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, well known for his racial slurs, said it bluntly: “Food is a weapon. It is now one of the principal tools of our negotiating kit.”

From a Rolling Stone story covering the Republican National Convention in 76, while Earl Butz was still Secretary of Agriculture (content note for racist/sexist remarks):

Pat [Boone] posed a question: “John and I were just discussing the appeal of the Republican party. It seems to me that the party of Abraham Lincoln could and should attract more black people. Why can’t that be done?” This was a fair question for the secretary, who is also a very capable politician.

“I’ll tell you why you can’t attract coloreds,” the secretary proclaimed as his mischievous smile returned. “Because colored only wants three things. You know what they want?” he asked Pat.

Pat shook his head no; so did I.

“I’ll tell you what coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit. That’s all!”

Pat gulped twice.

Butz resigned a few days after calls were made for his head, but he claimed he did it on his own (that seems unlikely) and that he did nothing wrong.

A few thoughts on reading these:

  • Remember that Pat Boone was himself a nice racist, hired to whitewash the Race Music (as in, Rhythm & Blues and early Rock N Roll that sounded too black) for the innocent White Christian kids across America.
  • Butz clearly outlined his racial animosity, and did so to a reporter and a famous musician. In the open. At a national convention. In the post-Civil Rights era. Don’t think that it isn’t still happening. Paul Ryan may be more careful about his views now, but he’s still racially animositic; in large part because class warfare is his life.
  • Butz was in control of food and production as a kind of supermanager of agrarian companies. What does it mean to black and brown farmers and consumers to have a white racist in charge of food supply and farming justice in the Land of Plenty? Why did it take a directly racist comment to get him fired when he admitted elsewhere that he’d use food as a weapon?
  • Butz was hired by Nixon and stayed under Ford. Until this article spread, no one deemed it fit to question how he operated, only what he said when they were dirty jokes.
  • George W Bush, Reagan and Nixon had a lot of the same characteristics of the Illegitimate President of the United States, but with some charm and/or intelligence and, by degrees only, humility. Many of the safeguards that Trump has taken out or will take out were already proposed or committed by the earlier three. What now is different besides the degree and the speed to which he’s taking it? What sets “p*ssy grabber” apart from Reagan who defunded family planning globally and domestically? I’m convinced that language plays a big part of it. Language and bluster.
  • Like Butz, Trump has no shame. None. Don’t expect Trump to go willingly, either. And since he has no shame and is a blundering racist, sexist, classist idiot, he’s a perfect cover for Republicans who can always say that they were forced to follow Trump, even though they’re informing him and using his bluster as a cover. Expect Medicaid and Food Stamps to be cut, with or without Trump’s blessing. Because food is a weapon.