Jesus Radicals Blog 2005-2017
By: Gregory Williams GregWilliams
“Well, the text seems to say that Christianity supersedes Judaism.”
I gasped, as did everyone else in the area. Not only could I not believe that I was hearing these words, but I couldn’t believe who the speaker was, either.
The context was my New Testament exegesis seminar on the Epistle to the Hebrews and the speaker was my friend, Jeremy. Jeremy (a black Methodist pastor) and I (an Ashkenazi Jewish Christian) had become friends during the past two years and were, in particular, allies in predominantly liberal white protestant classrooms where we endeavored, together, to raise issues of poverty, slavery, empire, and anti-Semitism in biblical texts and historic Christian theologies, constantly pushing our professors with our “resistant readings.” In this particular class, we had been at this for the better part of a semester, and our efforts had included a thoroughgoing critique of supersessionism, the idea that the New Testament community sought to found a new religion, Christianity, which they conceived of as superior and a natural successor to the “old covenant” of Judaism. Thus, I was shocked when I heard him endorse the idea in class.
“I wanted to test a theory,” he explained to me later. “You see, as a white Jew, every time you talk about supersessionism, no matter how much you are challenging our professor or our colleagues’ ‘traditional’ scriptural interpretations or theologies, you are listened to with respect. But whenever we try to talk about slavery, or genocide, or colonialism—well, let’s just say that the mention of any of these realities wouldn’t get the kind of gasp that my pretending for a moment to endorse supersessionism got. Now, I know that you want to critique absolutely everything, but doesn’t it bother you that white Jews always seem to be first in line to have their grievances heard in New Testament studies?”
It didn’t take me long to realize that Jeremy was right. As a Jew, I interpret the Bible from the standpoint of a subaltern ethno-religious community that experienced more than a thousand years of geographic displacement, economic exclusion, cultural segregation, and, in the last century, genocide. As a white person, however, I experience the privilege of having my resistant readings of scripture always come first in line, often ahead of black and brown voices who speak from a subaltern community that experiences displacement, impoverishment, segregation, and violence right now, even as many Jews, including myself, are accorded white privilege in the twenty first century construction of race in America.
By: Drew Hart
Note: This article originally appeared on The Christian Century
As we reflect on what we so casually refer to as Good Friday, we are called to remember and reflect on the significance of Jesus’ death, which itself has a contested meaning in the Church. Some of the challenges around the meaning of Jesus’ death is related to the way his death is divorced from the narratives of his life. Jesus’ death is often placed in a context-free vacuum, in which it is only about our forgiveness of sins (carried out through divine contract). Such abstractions willfully choose to not read Jesus’ death in the context of his life. The political confrontation, the power-dynamics, the concerns of the masses, the subversive implications of the narrative’s plot, and the inherent judgment of Yahweh that came and judged the injustice and idolatry of the Jerusalem establishment which is echoed through the use of Israel’s prophetic texts, are all made invisible in the Jesus stories. All of this leads up to, and interprets, Jesus’ death. However, according to Luke’s narration, the earliest followers of Jesus understood his death as something done by the socio-political players of his day: “our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death, and crucified him.” (Luke 24:20, NET) We are given even more in Acts when Peter summarizes Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection like this:
Note: This article was originally posted on Women in Theology and is the second in a three part series.
“The credit economy is a network of contracted servitude. … Whenever one spends money, one spends a portion of the substance, wealth and life of those who have undertaken loans. Yet the value of money is also backed by profitability, including the drudge of labour in sweatshops and factories, the exclusion from the formal economy of those who are not employed profitably, the consumption of natural resources and the erosion of ecosystems and societies. The value of money is still paid for in flesh and blood.” (Philip Goodchild, Theology of Money, 239)
By: HH Brownsmith
The Bible is brimming with instances of people waiting for a prophet or movement only to have that person or mobilization arrive and go unrecognized or, worse yet, be violently suppressed because it doesn’t conform to the expectations of the waiting masses.
Since I started working and/or living in radical Christian settings seven years ago, I have heard elders wax nostalgic about the civil rights movement. I have watched older folks who lived during the end of the Jim Crow era weep when discussing their own recognition of that important historical and cultural shift. I have also watched elders chastise young folks, sometimes rightfully, for failing to care about this history; the nonviolent tactics employed; and the ways hearts, minds, and institutions were forever altered.
I write about a lot of issues with the marginal confidence of a generalist. But if there is an issue on which my nerve consistently fails it is on the generational tension and resulting divide as it exists in the radical Christian left. This issue of generational conflict feels close…maybe too close. I have watched the “old guard” in established Christian communities push out younger folks for misunderstandings that boil down to generational politics (i.e. democratic socialism vs. anarchism). I have watched young people leave established churches to start generationally homogenous churches of their own. And, of course, I have seen so many people under 40 leave parish ministries and take their seminary training to chaplaincy work or academia.
Wondering if perhaps there was something to our elders complaints that young folks are disrespectful and too "now focused", I decided to really seek instruction from "the silent generation". I am a member of a church with only 3 consistently attending members in their 20s (my partner and I are included in that number). I am now employed by that church. And over the last year I was part of an apprenticeship program administered by this church and five of my favorite ministers, all but one of whom is over sixty. This experience of committing to a religious community and earnestly trying to understand the stories that my generation supposedly won’t hear has given me a stronger understanding of our elders’ position. Naturally, greater understanding makes critique even harder. But I do hope that it gives the resulting critique the weight of a well-informed position.
Note: This article was originally published on Women in Theology and is the first of what will be a three part series.
How could anyone expect to profit from unpayable loans without debtors who were already marked by their racial/cultural difference ensuring that at least some among them would not be able to pay? This is precisely what makes 'high-risk' securities profitable. The Black and Latino/a holders of subprime loans, like Dana, owe incomprehensible and unpayable monetary debts precisely because they are not constructed as referents of either the relationship between persons presumed in commerce (which Graeber states precedes all other economic circumstances) or the capacity that according to Karl Marx ultimately determines their value of exchange (the productivity which John Locke, David Ricardo, and Marx agreed elevated the human thing). (Denise Ferreira Da Silva and Paula Chakravartty, Accumulation, Dispossession, and Debt, 367)
Money promises value, as Philip Goodchild announces in the quote above. The promise of value is also the production of more money. Because money promises value, for more value to be created, more money must be created. In Goodchild's elaboration, this creation of money to satiate the value it promises is the creation of debt. That is, the promise of value requires the creation of debt in order to produce value.
If money, according to Goodchild, is the promise of value ”a promise which creates debt” blackness, following Ferraira da Silva and Chakravartty's analysis, is the invention of an indelible indebtedness, the promise of a permanent inability to pay the debt that money creates. Blackness' indebtedness is a demarcation of the threat that is named poverty. The threat of poverty in the US is figured as black as the threat of global poverty is figured as Africa. The threat of poverty that blackness represents is the threat that secures the promise of money's value. In other words, money is valuable and desirable because its accumulation is how one proves they are not-black. Goodchild understands the threat to value as exclusion from participation in social life and the loss of freedom:
By: Ewuare X. Osayande
This originally appeared on Ewuare's website.
As many shop for Christmas presents in the malls of America, still many others have taken to the streets all over this nation in protest to the rash of police killings of African Americans under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter. This jarring juxtaposition of realities is best captured by the photograph from Ferguson of St. Louis police officers in riot gear standing below a “Seasons Greetings” banner bedecked with Christmas lights. The seasonal themes of “peace and good will” and “glad tidings to all men” have been rendered meaningless in the face of such fascistic state-sponsored intimidation as Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of their Savior, Jesus the Christ.
But contrary to the sermons that are being preached during this Advent season, the first Christmas was not as “calm and bright” as the Christmas carol suggests. As today, that first Christmas pageant was indeed a pageant of protest. In fact, this present juxtaposition of realities was the same stark contrast faced by the people to whom Christ was born. The Hebrew people lived under fear of death at the hands of a militarized state. The level of repression being visited upon Black America at this very hour in the United States is strikingly similar in spirit and expression to what the people of Galilee felt and knew when Jesus was born.
Editors note: this article originally appeared on Nekeisha’s blog: Everyday Oppression, Everyday Resistance.
“My client did not wait to become that victim,” he said. “My client did not wait to either get assaulted by a weapon or have someone potentially pull a trigger,” he said.
“Now, does it sound irrational? Of course it sounds irrational. But have you ever been in that situation?” Strolla asked.
— Quoted from “Michael Dunn convicted of attempted murder; jury can’t decide on murder” by Tom Watkins and Greg Botelho, CNN Justice
So let me get this straight: Michael Dunn was not a victim of assault. He was not a victim of a shooting. He acted irrationally — aka insanely, stupidly and crazily — by shooting into a vehicle filled with Black teenagers and killing Jordan Davis, all because he didn’t like the volume of the music in their car. And yet, somehow, his lawyer manages to construe this incident as one in which Dunn was so afraid that he had no other option but to defend himself with deadly force? Really?
By: Doug Muder
Editors Note: This essay originally appeared at The Weekly Sift
In a memorable scene from the 1998 film Pleasantville (in which two 1998 teen-agers are transported into the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV show), the father of the TV-perfect Parker family returns from work and says the magic words “Honey, I’m home!”, expecting them to conjure up a smiling wife, adorable children, and dinner on the table.
This time, though, it doesn’t work. No wife, no kids, no food. Confused, he repeats the invocation, as if he must have said it wrong. After searching the house, he wanders out into the rain and plaintively questions this strangely malfunctioning Universe: “Where’s my dinner?”
(Or, Why Are All the Anarchists Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) 1
Editor’s Note: This piece is part one of a series of call and response between Amaryah Armstrong and Nekeisha Alexis-Baker as they consider what possibilities Christian anarchy can provide for marginalized peoples. The conversation grows out of friendship and mutual respect for each other, and from our commitments to living lives of liberation. We aim for to be an ongoing dialogue that builds on each call and response. As a result, we strongly encourage you to begin at the beginning and follow along from there. You can read Nekeisha’s response here.
I must confess, I simply don’t know what to do with Christian anarchists.
I am anti-domination, anti-capitalism, critical of technology, more than a little suspicious of the nation-state, and all about my citizenship being in heaven and thus having a commitment to radical politics on earth. But still, something about “Christian anarchists” just doesn’t sit well with me. It could be the irony of Christian anarchy being anti-domination and yet being predicated on domination by White men. But this is no different from other Christian identified radical groups. Exclusion is a practice we all participate in. Perhaps it is that I have yet to see or read or participate in sustained Christian anarchist discussions of White supremacy, patriarchy, and heteronormativity that go beyond the niceties of anti-racism/sexism/homophobia 101 training. Or maybe it is because explications of why anarchy is a valuable way to dismantle these systems of evil never seems to offer anything radical feminist, black, and queer Christian critiques have not already begun to deal with.
By: Eda Ruhiye Uca
In The Talking Book: African Americans and the Bible(New Haven, Yale University Press, 2006), Allen Dwight Callahan illuminates the unique history of African American exegesis, highlighting especially Exile, Exodus, Ethiopia, and Emmanuel. In it, Callahan takes on the American myth and the grotesque irony that “the land that the Puritan founders called the Promised Land has been Pharaoh’s Egypt for African Americans”, a ‘promised land’ beyond reach of a people without the resources to take it; as put by freed man, Charles Davenport: “how us gwine a-take lan’ what’s already been took?”1 Callahan’s thesis is that which was the vast gulf between the political and religious experiences of Puritans and Africans in North America continues on in their descendants today. The breadth of his brilliant book will not be summarized by this writer here. (You’ll have to read it for yourselves.) Yet in the face of crumbling gains in wealth among African Americans Callahan’s thesis takes on a renewed urgency for those followers and friends of Jesus who are aching for racial reconciliation.
The viewpoints expressed in each reader-submitted article are the authors own, and not an “official Jesus Radicals” position. For more on our editorial policies, visit our submissions page. If you want to contact an author or you have questions, suggestions, or concerns, please contact us.
Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
Liza Minno Bloom
Eda Ruhiye Uca