Jesus Radicals Blog 2005-2017
Over the weekend, I was part of a small group that explored areas of Chicago’s south side under the umbrella of “Seeing the City through Prophetic Imagination.” The day of learning and theological reflection, which was organized by the SCUPE urban ministry program, focused on the former Cabrini Green housing projects, the Auburn Gresham neighborhood and the congregations that were places of refuge and resistance in those areas. I signed up for the trip wanting to learn from people of faith living and acting in places of turmoil and transition, but was not sure what I would encounter. What I found were numerous stories that left me hopeful about the church as an engaged and liberating body. At the same time, I also discovered stories that left me wrestling with the delicate dance between church and state, and the viability of anarchist praxis in the midst of systemic and systematic injustice.
By: Brenna Cussen Anglada
The epic movie “Reds” is based on the lives of the American socialist, journalist, and revolutionary Jack Reed (the only American to be buried at the Kremlin) and his wife and fellow writer, Louise Bryant. While the movie focuses heavily on the tumultuous and romantic relationship of the two characters, it also chronicles how Reed, along with his contemporary Emma Goldman, first ardently supported, and then became disillusioned by, the Bolshevist revolution in Russia. Watching the movie again last week, I was struck how this theme seems to play itself over and over in human history: passionate and well-meaning revolutionaries try to bring justice to the world—either through structural change, or violence, or both—but despite their best intentions, the institutions of power, in one form or another, ultimately prevail. Today there are social movements all around the globe attempting to bring about a better world—from voting in the “right” president or working through the international community, to blowing up buildings, buses, bridges, and dams or picking up arms and starting a rebellion. Behind all of these efforts exists compelling enthusiasm, righteousness, energy, and a willingness to sacrifice lives—both their own and others—for the sake of the cause. While I understand and often support the basic motivation of these activists (to ease suffering and restore justice) I find myself wary of the fundamental lack of hope their actions belie. Like for the characters in “Reds,” their admirable desire to create a perfect world eventually turns into desperation, because they believe that if they don’t do it, nobody will, and if justice is not achieved here on earth, it will never be achieved.
By: Jocelyn Perry
Recently tears came to my eyes as I began to read about the Trail of Tears. In 1830, the United States Congress passed the “Indian Removal Act” which was the catalyst for the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was the forced disconnection and displacement of the Cherokee people from their ancestral homeland. The suffering and death of thousands of Cherokee women, children and men began in 1838. About 4,000 died on the long march over thousands of miles with minimal facilities and food. These sorts of injustices only deepened the great disaster of Western involvement in the “new world” as disease brought by Europeans and subsequent conscious efforts by the US government during the 1600s—1800s resulted in a culminated death of 10 to 30 million Native Americans people.
As we approach Thanksgiving, the anarchist critique is vital. The anarchic critique calls us to take a hard look at the historic imperialistic behavior of the first European settlers and the US government against Native American people. Also, an anarchist perspective serves to critique aggressive approaches in missionary work pushing for the “conversion” of Native American peoples to Christianity. This season is not just a season of grateful celebration but also a season of remembrance, even a season of mourning, for the Native Americans.
But in struggling with this paradox of celebration and remembrance we ask the question: how was Jesus’ living gospel of hospitality and gratitude embodied by the Native Americans during the First Thanksgiving?
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