Do Black Lives Matter to Evangelicals? Show It.

There’s something oddly familiar about the way that Larycia Hawkins is being treated by White Evangelicals. An intelligent black, political person with a Liberation Theology backgrond and a funny (by Anglo standards) name makes statements in solidarity with Muslims. The result is that conservative White Evangelicals question her loyalty and fidelity to America and to Christianity.

The obvious counterpart is President Obama, the “Secret Muslim” and “Terrorist Sympathizer”. In Obama’s case, fortunately, his job did not rest fully on the whims of White Evangelicals – though they have made things harder for him, and for the rest of us. The major difference of course is that Hawkins actually promotes peaceful solidarity and has not sent in drone strikes that kill hundreds of Muslim children each year (Which means she automatically gets my vote).

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Dr Hawkins addresses media at her church over Wheaton College’s actions against her

Despite Evangelical rancor, Wheaton College is not firing Hawkins because she has said or done anything opposing or outside of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. The statement of faith is important to Evangelical concerns because it plays into the identity politics at its core – that what we believe about things is more important than what we do, who we are, how we can get along, how we treat each other. And so this document is central to Wheaton’s identity. And by way of measure, what was said in the document should be how Hawkins could understand herself to operate as a fully-engaged faculty member within the parameters of Wheaton. Within this framework, even if nudging just a bit, Larycia Hawkins and any other faculty member should be safe* from such scrutiny within the bounds of the established parameters. From the Chicago Tribune:

Hawkins has been asked to affirm the college’s statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton nearly nine years ago. She was first admonished for writing an academic paper about what Christians could learn from black liberation theology, which relates the Bible with the often-troubled history of race relations in America. Jones said Hawkins’ article seemed to endorse a kind of Marxism.

She was called in a year later to defend a photograph someone posted on Facebook showing her at a party inside a home on Halsted Street the same day as Chicago’s Pride Parade. Last spring she was asked to affirm the statement again after suggesting that diversifying the college curriculum should include diplomatic vocabulary for conversations around sexuality.

None of this is outside the parameters of the college’s SoF. But therein lies the problem. White Evangelicalism’s parameters are not just what is said, but what is implied and implicated as well particularly by its well-heeled backers.

  • Violence is God’s means to redemption.
  • Capitalism is God-ordained.
  • God blesses America.
  • Heteronormativity is God-ordained and LGBTQ people are under God’s attack.
  • European theology is superior to Black and Latin theology.
  • Abortion is the primary sin of America.

Liberation theology – which Hawkins espouses and which she was previously censured by the school for – is viewed as particularly suspect because it violates at least two, if not most or all, of the aforementioned rules. Hawkins was also previously under fire for desiring and even personally having friendly, non-antagonistic relations with LGBTQ people.

But for the most part, these are the orthodox concerns of those who fund, not those who teach and inhabit, who are actually at the frontline of Wheaton. The same can be said with concern to the Black Lives Matter staging and unqualified support that happened at Urbana this past month as well, which the collegiate missions ministry InterVarsity Fellowship followed-up with a clarification/apology statement that muddied the waters of what solidarity should look like. The event itself was a major step forward for a White-headed Evangelical organization, in its declarative proclamation that Black Lives do Matter to God and thus should to all Christians.

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Black Lives Matter t-shirts worn by worship team members at the Evangelical Urbana Conference

But this declaration scared its donor base and so IVF had to reify its commitments to the Implied Statement of Belief. In doing so, IVF leaders had to clarify that they support black lives and the pre-born. But the most important message, the one that the donors needed to hear, is that the anti-abortion message is clear and without wavering. That the lives of (cis, straight) Black men and women are important to Evangelical institutions but do not trump the current Evangelical orthodoxy cause of fighting against abortion.

To answer John Inazu’s question in the Washington Post this last week, black lives will not matter to Evangelical institutions as long as they are captive to funding by anti-black, queerphobic capitalists. Black lives will not matter to them as long as they prioritize the police over their victims. Black lives will not matter to them as long as they are in an antagonistic posture against LGBTQ people of color. Black lives will not matter to them as long as Black Thought and Black Theology is seen as inferior and outside of orthodoxy.

 

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*I know this is all very unfamiliar with those of us from state and non-fundamentalist university backgrounds. However, this form of boundary-policing has been an essential aspect of fundamentalist praxis since The Fundamentals were released.

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The Fight of Solidarity: Our Struggles Are Not the Same

  • Prologue:

There is little in the field of White worship (church) music that I can listen to anymore. Fred Hammond, Israel Houghton & New Breed, Kirk Franklin, Mavis and the Staples (tell me “Carry This Load” isn’t worship) is more along my lines. But I rather like Gungor. Their hit song “God Is Love” definitely declares that God is not a White man, that God is in fact not a man. That’s something that my eight year old daughter appreciates. I also appreciate a recent falling out with conservative Christians over Gungor’s open objection to the idea of eternal torture.

So I was a bit disappointed when I found the lyrics to a new song after someone brought up what they felt was some #AllLivesMatter erasure or derailing. And so I and a number of others asked some questions out loud.

I tweeted at Gungor not to gain notoriety or to punish the band or hurt their sales (if you think I can do that, thank you for having so much confidence in me I guess?), but because they are people who I believe will listen and whom I have faith in. During the course of our morning-long discussion on Twitter, I promised to write my thoughts out more coherently in a blog form[i]. The following is partly a reaction, but also contains many thoughts about White allyship of Black struggles and the problems of co-opting in efforts to assist that extend beyond this one song and this one group.

  • Logue:

“We Belong Together” – Gungor

We are better together

We are the day and night

Together we are stronger

We are stronger

We are better together

There is no real divide

The winter and the summer

We are stronger

All together

Every black life matters

Every woman matters

Every soldier matters

All the unborn matter

Every gay life matters

Fundamentalists matter

Here’s to life and all its branches

All together we are stronger

We belong together

 

I believe Gungor created this song as an attempt of solidarity – to show that they stand with and even personalize the Black Lives Matter movement and what it says and does. Solidarity is an action where diverse people join together around a common cause, specifically of liberation for an oppressed/marginalized/exploited people group (workers/strikers, indigenous people in the Philippines or Mexico, black Nigerian mothers and children).

Solidarity works best:

  • when we recognize both the commonality of all as well as the individuality and uniqueness of each;
  • when we are not flattened – when we don’t minimize what the represented group is going through as if we all were in the same boat;
  • when we can see the beauty of the person but also the particular ways that racism, misogyny, transmisogyny, classism, homoantagonism, bi-antagonism, ableism, ageism, etc, impact us on various spots and in various ways (ie, a white woman will experience sexism differently than a black woman who will experience it differently than a First Nations woman who will experience it differently than a Filipina transwoman).

Solidarity, then, understands the distinctions between real live experiences and their struggles and thus does not attempt to flatten them.

Industrial Workers of the World, published in Solidarity, 1917; Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, edited by Joyce L. Kornbluh, Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1998 via

Industrial Workers of the World, published in Solidarity, 1917; Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, edited by Joyce L. Kornbluh, Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1998 via

Towards the end of his blog explaining this song, Michael argues he didn’t want to wash away Black Lives Matter but wanted to add to it in order to expand sympathy for the movement. But yet, that is what effectively happened.

The unborn are not oppressed in ways similar to black people. In fact, even with “every woman matters”, adding “all the unborn matter” turns the song into a political declaration, one particularly anti-abortion. This then arguably comes at odds and undercuts the line before it where “every woman matters”. Anti-abortion rhetoric compares women who have abortions to murderers and justifies their harassment and even murder. A presidential candidate, Ben Carson, also a medical doctor, just likened abortion-seekers to slave-holders.

Fundamentalists as a class, in fact, tend to oppress children, women, and sexual minorities within their domains, and if can be, within their reach (Kim Davis, anybody??). They certainly oppress gay as well as lesbian, bi, trans, and queer people. So what is the point of putting them on the same list and saying that their lives matter the same if fundamentalist parents and churches are meting out (at times lethal) violence to LGBTQ people, as well as women+ seeking medical care for their bodies.

Herein lies the problem with the framing of the Otherization argument that Gungor tries to tackle in this song. They named groups they felt were Other-ized. But the problem is not one of feeling that the named group (whether it be fundamentalists or black people) are made fun of or not understood. That was never the intent behind #BlackLivesMatter, nor of solidarity. It is that specific people are harmed, are not allowed to live, are infantilized, are not given bodily autonomy, are hunted in the streets and at home, are incarcerated as a way of life.

That’s quite a different thing that thinking that a certain group of harassers is weird and mean.

 

To say that there is no real division between fundamentalists and the LGBTQ people they oppress is to say that the body does not matter. But Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ-freedom movement are specifically about the importance of the body: incarceration, sex, gender, rights, brutality, murder, hostility, acceptance for whom they are. To make the argument merely metaphysical is to remove it from an earthly, embodied plane of existence – to wait upon God or the cosmos or The Force to make things right.

Under faux solidarity, or forced teaming, we are not allowed to make things right right now because then we will be harming our fellow travelers. This is what this logic teaches. That by asserting rights to live and to be liberated from oppression, the oppressed cause divisions and that division harm us all. True liberation comes from the oppressors in the right time, this logic says.

This is not joining in the struggle, it is not aiding the oppressed. It is telling them that they must wait. And that does not work. It has never worked. Oppression does not relent out of the goodness of its heart.

Fauxlidarity is a philosophy and theology for and by slavers, bankers, and the heteronormative patriarchy. We need instead a praxis that focuses on the theology for and by the enslaved. A God that liberates her people and draws them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Not a God who merely promises land with milk and honey and warns against rebellion.

No Moment of Silence for Mike Brown in Seattle

No Moment of Silence for Mike Brown in Seattle

Black Lives Matter is a political, social, theological, and philosophical statement of moral resistance to the political epicenter of anti-black violence of a nation state that rests in and prospers on the blood and bodies of black and brown people. To rephrase it as a personalized philosophical statement is to ignore its power in the collective imagination. This imagination, already in action, is vital to build up a mass movement of people across divides who are willing to create polity changes that respect black life, that effectively takes swipe against the racist incarceration system and against agents of the state that seek to snuff out black life at the slightest provocation.

While it is a nice thought that:

Oceans from drops of rain

Everybody made the same

White folks, we need to talk about solidarity with the oppressed on their terms. We need to talk about intersectionality, for sure, and how we identify, and how power (politics) works within that field. We need to talk about how ideas are spread through theology, philosophy, music, social media, to imbalance or rebalance those power differentials, to work towards justice or injustice or a bit of both.

The issues facing Black people in the United States, however, are distinct from the problems facing White or second-generation LatinXs in the States. They are distinct from Desi people, Afghanis, Central Africans, let alone from fundamentalists.

And at the very least, it’s time for White pro-life Christians to stop comparing Black people to the unborn.

  • Epilogue

How to show that Black Lives Matters:

Trust them. Get involved locally in funding black communities (equitable, living wage jobs, investing fully in public education from K-Terminal Degrees, building health and mental health community centers, allowing property within communities of color to flow back to those communities) and defunding institutions that detain and defraud them (such as jails; militarized, unaccountable police; payday loan centers and banks with usury fees; for-profit education). If your community does not have a plethora of black voices, your state likely has several. If you’re in one of those states with few black people, recognize your state’s wealth is tied to theft from black and native peoples nonetheless.

But mostly, recognize that Black and Brown people are beautiful, full of life, intellect, will, survival, and love.

  • Post-Post Note:

Also worth noting is Dianna Anderson’s post on this song.

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[i] I’m over a month late in this response btw

Rolling Rivers

Watching the video above about an unofficial White Student Union stationed at a university outside DC, it’s so very easy to point out how odd and horrible the views and actions of this group is. Because they are horrible and atrocious and dangerous. But I propose the reason the views and behavior expressed here are so dangerous is because it’s awfully close to what White America teaches itself:

  • that people of color are dangerous and tend to be criminals;
  • that black and brown people are intellectually inferior while white people are the norm (while East Asians and Jewish people have “positive” stereotypes that are really just underhanded insidious racial tropes about their supposed sneakiness and deception);
  • that white people need to be protected from the menacing “other”;
  • that racism is only a problem when we confront it, and it is the fault of non-Whites that there is racism;
  • that multiculturalism is a problem and it’d be better just to hang out with our own.

I’ll use my own life as a bit of a frame here.

I don’t have a home, in a sense. Being raised in part by my recently deceased grandmother, Rosa, I don’t quite fit in fully with either White Americans or the Puerto Rican diaspora. But I do get to claim both – it’s just that I don’t fully fit in or feel completely comfortable. See, white America long ago decided to make race a pretty big deal for all non-white people, but then largely hides itself from any responsibility or accountability about race. And in a sense, though I very much look White and pass as White, with having Taino blood – the blood of an indigenous group of Caribbean tribes rubbed out in numbers and in culture due to the brutality of European colonialism – I may pass but I don’t fully feel welcome. Since the One-Drop Rule was a long established legal and social precedent to treat “non-pure” White people, my little freckly five year old daughter with the blond, curly hair and green eyes is also considered not-quite-White. Where do you think that curly hair came from?

But, in another sense, no White Americans have a home either. Not just because the colonization of the Americas made sure there was no longer a straight line to any culture from the Eastern Hemisphere, but because the creation of a White America is a myth the Elite Classes created to unify diverse tribes into a singular political body in order to repress the growing enslaved and post-enslaved classes of post-African and indigenous peoples.

Acknowledging this is a start, but guilt does no good. Going around and apologizing or feeling sorry for yourself or even others doesn’t work. What does? Recognizing privilege is a beginning and educating ourselves about our histories is a further and necessary step – but we need to be connected to local, sustainable and national/global racial justice. We need to recognize the vast array of injustices done to people of color in the cities, in the suburbs, in Southeast Asia, in the Third World, in the West. But not just in geopolitical locations. In locations of socio-economic reality; in locations of gentrification and its attendant displacement; in locations of distrust; in locations where African Americans are highly concentrated along with intense poverty; in locations of the apartheid separation of the education of Black and White children; in locations of the intersections of oppression- such as how a black  or brown single mother is received, or how a young Asian American is expected to behave, or how black gay teenagers are among the largest demographics of homeless people; and in the space that allows a hyper-suspicion of black young males as being threatening.

Racism, as we said before, isn’t an individual charge. It isn’t about me, it isn’t about you. It’s about us. If we continue to leave the understanding of the phrase in such an atomized, personal, and stigmatic state, no one will ever address the underlying problems and fundamental injustice of racism. We won’t because nearly every single person and group in the United States deflects the charge of racism (including the KKK and most White Nationalists). We must ask how racism exists and how it continues. What am I doing to continue and allow the process of racism? And what can I do to help bring justice to the nation, how can I be a part of healing, how can I participate in activating the rolling tide of justice?

~ Urban Flow ~

Roll, justice. Roll.