Friday, June 5, 2015

Good Stuff - April - May 2015

Here are some of the things I have found most interesting online since the beginning of April.*

On racial injustice:

How Western Media Would Cover Baltimore if it Happened Elsewhere [or rather, if it happened right where it did happen, but the USA were a third-world country]:
International leaders expressed concern over the rising tide of racism and state violence in America, especially concerning the treatment of ethnic minorities in the country and the corruption in state security forces around the country when handling cases of police brutality. The latest crisis is taking place in Baltimore, Maryland, a once-bustling city on the country’s Eastern Seaboard, where an unarmed man named Freddie Gray died from a severed spine while in police custody. 
Black Americans, a minority ethnic group, are killed by state security forces at a rate higher than the white majority population . . . 
The United Kingdom expressed concern over the troubling turn of events in America in the last several months. The country’s foreign ministry released a statement: “We call on the American regime to rein in the state security agents who have been brutalizing members of America’s ethnic minority groups. The equal application of the rule of law, as well as the respect for human rights of all citizens, black or white, is essential for a healthy democracy.” Britain has always maintained a keen interest in America, a former colony.
We're Dying Too by Andrea J. Ritchie at Colorlines:
In the popular imagination a victim of a police shooting is almost always that of a young black man. Media headlines, presidential speeches, and rally chants all paint a picture of police violence as a problem plaguing black communities, but really, we’re only talking about young men. This time, the life of the unarmed black person taken was a young woman’s.

Boyd is one of hundreds of black women killed by police whose name has not grabbed national headlines or galvanized national movements. Chicago alone has witnessed the killings of Frankie Perkins, who police choked to death because they erroneously believed that she had swallowed drugs; LaTanya Haggerty, whose cell phone was mistaken for a gun; and Angelique Styles, who police fatally shot after coming to her home to address a domestic dispute. . . 
Sadly, these stories are not unique—although each black woman killed was. There are literally countless others we’ll never know because there is no official data about the number of police killings being collected and because black women’s stories rarely gain media attention.
She Who the Son Sets Free: Black Womanist Resistance in Context by Eboni Marshall Turman at Divinity Magazine:
Because black women’s bodies sit at the intersection of racialized subjugation on the one hand and gendered subjugation on the other, their experiences and distinct contributions are not only marginalized and caricatured but often rendered fictitious, as if black women do not know for themselves that their stories are true. Womanist theology recognizes that black women “are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes … in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14, KJV).
On Christian Fundamentalism (and Recent Related Events):

Faith in the System, or Faith in Jesus? by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk:
[T]he evangelical Christianity that I spent most of my adult life studying and teaching, is not, in the final analysis about Jesus, except insofar as Jesus is a part of the system. It is faith in the Bible that is more fundamental. It is believing in the system that is crucial. They are not just making a claim that reading the Bible aright leads to Jesus, it’s more than that. It is that the Bible is a divinely given systematic presentation of an entire worldview that must be believed in its entirety for one to be a faithful Christian (along with having “accepted” Jesus, of course). Indeed, beyond that, if we allow one crack in the wall of this system, society itself will become subject to moral decay, chaos, and ultimately destruction. . . 
When your faith is in a system, this system becomes your “platform.” 
Those who hold to it become the “party” of those defined by allegiance to the system. 
The party begins to function as a “political” entity. 
And the whole thing becomes a “partisan” affair in which faithfulness is defined as defending the system against all who suggest any other way.
Modesty is Causing Women to Stumble by PerfectNumber at Tell Me Why the World is Weird:
If you say something that causes a woman to stumble- to believe the lie that she's not good enough and she should feel shame because of her body- that's her own responsibility. Of course it's not your fault. Except that it totally is, and you have a responsibility to not contribute to a culture that heaps this kind of shame on your sisters in Christ. 
So the next time you want to make a comment on what women should or shouldn't wear, stop and think first. Will my words cause someone to stumble? (Your opinions on what's sexy are good and God-given, but they are meant to be shared only with your spouse, not the general public.) When in doubt, you can ask your mother or sister for their advice.
The Duggars: How Fundamentalist Teachings on Sexuality Create Predatory Behavior at Diary of an Autodidact:
[I]n the cases of all these cases of sexual assault within [Christian Fundamentalist] Patriarchy, we want to be able to dismiss them as outliers. Bad acts by bad people. Josh Duggar is a child molester, so we just keep him away from kids, and everything will be fine. 
And then we NEVER have to address the damage that our poisonous teachings on sexuality are causing. It is not an accident that we are attracting (and paying) narcissistic predators like Gothard and Phillips. And it is not an accident that there are problems with assault in Patriarchal families. At some point, one can't just blame bad luck for the lightning strikes. We have to admit we have been standing outside in the storm, holding a metal pole. We attract bad actors, and we make predatory acts by those who would not otherwise have been predators more likely. 
True, let's remove the bad actors, but let's not ignore the other source of poison: bad beliefs and teachings.
Weaponized Grace by Lewis at Commandments of Men:
In any setting - legal, cultural, religious - justice must first be established when people have been harmed or wronged. It's the ONLY way a victim can be the priority. The ONLY way. Once you figure out how justice shapes up, then, and only then, can you start talking about grace or mercy for the victimizer.  All of these people clamoring for "grace" to be immediately shown to Josh Duggar would feel entirely different were one of their daughters a victim of his crime. No matter what came out of their mouth, their heart would demand justice. Holding other people to standards by which you won't truly measure yourself is always ugly, and always lacking in genuine integrity.

People can hide behind the idea that his victims "forgave" him, but those of us who know the culture know they had a choice between "forgiveness" and being a familial AND religious outcast. They would be told, over and over again, how much of a sinner they are/were until they caved in and "forgave". In other words, "grace" would be weaponized against them.
On gender roles:

There Are No "Biblical Men" by Brandan Robertson at Revangelical:
As I have studied the cultural context surrounding the New Testament writings and early Christianity, it has become astoundingly clear to me that Dr. Rainey (and subsequently many other evangelicals) definition of masculinity is derived much more from the Greco-Roman culture than from any clear teachings of Christ. 
In the Greco-Roman world, there was an idealized version of manhood that all men were to aspire to become like. It is, for instance, a Platonic ideal that men should separate themselves from emotions and passions. It is from within the Greco-Roman culture men are seen as providers, leaders, and protectors of their families. But what of men who don’t have families? What of men who are deeply emotive and creative? According to the definition and logic of the culture of Ancient Rome and of many evangelicals today, they are seen to be less than masculine. . .

Any attempt to construct a Biblical model for masculinity proves to be an impossible task because even Christ himself, along with many other men in the New Testament, are constantly being called in to conflict with the predominate model of masculinity of their day. . . What we see demonstrated in the New Testament is a call to embrace the fullness of our unique identity in their Creator, whatever that may look like, rather than to conform to our cultures standards of manliness.
Here's What It Would Look Like If We Treated Our Sons Like We Treat Our Daughters by Lori Day at Everyday Feminism:
Logan is an active preschooler. 
As he runs through the house, you hear the tap-tap-tapping of his little shiny dress shoes on the hardwood floors. Occasionally, he slides in them and goes down on his bum, but he gets right back up again. 
Outside is a new swing set. He loves to try to run up the slide, but it’s tricky in those smooth-soled shoes. 
When he wears them to preschool, the teachers notice that it’s hard for him to run and climb like the girls, but they gush over how handsome he looks in them. . . .
Middle school! 
It’s a whole new world with different classrooms, different teachers, and kids who seem to have changed a lot over the summer. 
Sometimes he pretends to be dumb so girls will like him. 
Logan feels some pressure to conform. He wants to dress like the other boys in clothes that you and his father feel are a bit too clingy and revealing. 
He notices how hot and sexy all of the boys are on television and in the movies, and he wants to be hot and sexy too, so he rolls up the bottoms of his turquoise shorts to make them shorter, hoping not to receive a dress code violation. 
He has mastered the ability to look around nonchalantly as he walks down the hall, checking to be sure the girls are admiring his body.
Logan is now an adult in his final year of college, and beginning to interview for jobs after graduation. 
He always dresses well for his interviews, wearing a slimming outfit that makes him look both professional and attractive. 
As he navigates the city streets that he hopes will connect him to a future full of happiness and success, he passes by billboards and bus ads of men in G-strings with flawless, Photoshopped bodies. 
He barely notices them. 
As he mentally rehearses for an upcoming interview, he walks down the sidewalk, lost in thought. “Smile, baby!” a woman calls out to him. “You look more handsome when you smile.”

And finally, this beautiful mingling of sorrow and mercy that sounds a note of hope through it all:

Reading the Bible With a Red Pen by Esther Emery at SheLoves Magazine:
Now, I read the Bible and all over the thin and crinkling pages I see the madness. I see the hatred, the nationalism, the patriarchy, the appalling injustices. I see Jael, who invited her enemy into her tent and nailed his head to the ground with a tent pin. I see Saul, who lost God’s favor for failing to annihilate his enemy down to the last child and head of cattle. I see the language of homophobia, misogyny and violence … woven right into the fabric of redemption. 
I see God’s story of love and liberation, woven tighter than I ever dreamed with the reality of suffering. God’s threads, tied into our threads. God’s eyes, on the darkest places of the heart. No life unredeemable. No hatred or oppression invisible. No suffering too unspeakable to be given voice. . . 
I don’t like this, but I think it’s true. We are all threaded into this earthly world, tied right into this history of bloodshed and domination. When are we the ones who are sinned against? And when are we the sinners? We can’t always tell. This fabric is woven tighter than we thought. . . 
Though I might know and love compassion—and I do—yet still I have given my voice to the mob, sometimes by choosing silence. Yet still I have given my arms to stones that kill. I have been wrong as well as right. The Bible cries out to my heart to seek redemption, transformation, and holy hope.

The next time I read the Bible I will read it like food instead of words. I will drink it like salty water. I will feed the thirst of my soul with it, even with this brutally rendered portrait of a broken world, confessing itself at every turn in need of redemption.

*Where there is emphasis in any quote, it appears in the original.

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