"The Son of a Panther..." Should I follow? Can I?

As I'm flipping through Michael Eric Dyson's Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur again, this passage stuck out to me:

Contrary to the caustic criticism he later received, Tupac was not drawn to the Panthers because of their stylized violence, their hypermasculinized images, or their alluring social mystique. His attraction to the Black Panthers was a practical attempt to answer racial oppression. The embrace of black pride was not for compensatory or therapeutic ends. Rather, its purpose was, first, self-respect and, then, respect for others. It was self-regarding morality linked to other-regarding social concern. By embracing education as well, Tupac hit on a key point of liberal reform: that enlightened minds help improve social behavior. His pedagogy of race was equal parts Paulo Freire and John Dewey, based on the belief that morally literate citizens can help transform society. (55)

High-minded idealism often falls prey to the tyrannies of self-interest, narcissism, oppression, violence, greed, fear, personal weakness and betrayal. I admire Shakur from my own oft-lamented standpoint of privilege - his best words inspire me, and his worst don't wound me. I'm not sure if that's all right, the more I meditate on the landscape of ego-driven leadership. But is there any other kind in this society? I mean really? There are leaders who attempt alternative models, and we criticize them for being weak, ineffective, naive... and so on. Can I admire Tupac Shakur? Can I admire Bill Clinton? Or Hillary Clinton, for that matter? There's plenty to find redeeming - and there had better be - we're all cracked, broken and achingly incomplete...

But ADMIRATION. Ahhh... that's a dangerous, perilous tendency. I admire to easily. There are consequences.

Whom do you admire? Does it go beyond admiration? What do you give up - of yourself - in this exchange? Early in my Emerging Church process, I found myself giving a lot of personal allegiance to many charismatic leaders and thinkers who may have deserved praise for their bold ideas and inspiring visions - but not for their inherent character or humanity. People are people. Oh how we love to idealize a leader!! The cult of celebrity is a powerful force - a hard one to resist.

Exploring this, not sure where it's going...

Neutrality Plays Into the Hands of the Powerful

I have a temper. And a big mouth. I'm 5'11'' now (not TALL, but not short) but I was incredibly short growing up. And my voice didn't change till I was almost 17. I was a real "Napoleon." I used to think that it somehow made me "more of a man" to always push back, always fight, always yell and swear and make a scene. To not back down or give in.

I can't BELIEVE how many times I almost got the sh*t beat out of me, and how many times I got lucky, the fight got broken up, I came out with a few minor bruises, etc... I should have gotten beat down twenty times by the end of college. And I probably would have deserved most of it.

My wife has taught me a little bit about quiet power: calm under attack. Grace under fire. Self-control and a little discipline. But I'm still a passionate guy, and I still get pissed off about things that matter to me.

I care deeply for both justice and hospitality. I recognize that confrontation is not always the right path. Often, it's not. And I am open to correction and rebuke when I'm wrong (even if I don't like it).

Lately, I'm running into more and more general rudeness and hostility among some angry conservatives in a few of my seminary classes. I'm honestly not "anti-conservative." I don't want to lump conservatives and "fundamentalists" into the same group. I'm okay with respectful disagreement. To be honest, I'm not sure there's even a single FUNDAMENTALIST at George Fox. And that's pretty impressive. But there is still some increasingly shocking behavior - attitudes toward women, homosexuals, even just general hostility toward those of us who don't hold to inerrancy or infallibility.

Or maybe I'm just getting too damn sensitive.

The other night, after one dude communicated a particularly rude, disrespectful and adversarial attitude toward a visiting professor, I forcefully, loudly (and admittedly, angrily) said, "You are being disrespectful, and you need to stop!" Not one of my most articulate moments.

I don't want to blow it out of proportion, but the last time I called this same classmate out for being disrespectful, I actually apologized to him at the end of class for "calling him out." His first response was to make a joke about "kicking [my] ass." Really? Really? At the time, I ignored it as an uncomfortable, awkward response to feeling embarrassed. I even felt a little sorry for him. But since then, I've changed my mind.

I don't mean to air all my dirty seminary laundry here, but I don't think I can go back to sitting passively. But I know it makes classmates (whom I love) uncomfortable to have "showdowns" in front of them. And I regret that. But grace, love, respect and hospitality are too important to hand over to the tyrant of neutrality. Neutrality allows bullies to run unimpeded. I just don't want to become a different kind of bully in the process of pushing back. And I have that in me. I don't like it.

We're Adding a Second Cat: "Karl!"

Many of you have expressed appreciation for Dot's calm, civilized demeanor as he observes our EmergingChristian.com video webcasts from the couch behind me. We recently adopted Karloff (Karl) and will be implementing him as a new member of the Emerging Christian team.

I hope you enjoy!

Adele & Me: Video Finale - "Keep Deconstructing!"

Adele and I wrap things up by discussing the importance of CONTINUAL deconstruction - avoiding equilibrium and the illusion of comfort! Make sure to watch the whole thing - I offer a real, powerful, 80s, Evangelical tribute to our friendship - CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC-style!!!

Long time since last post...

Hang in there with me.

I hate how my blog traffic drops SEVERELY when I don't post at least every other day. Ah well. That's being a student. I'm completely overwhelmed right now with Church History II and Biblical Theology. GREAT classes - GREAT readings - but oh-so-much.

And I am a slow, slow reader.

On Saturday, Jen and I visited a small gathering of "anarchist" Christians in Portland, exploring how to create liberated space and subvert the Empire through alternative ways of living.

I'd like to tell you about it...

But there's no time ;)

Talk to you soon!

Explore these...

www.JesusRadicals.com and www.msainfo.org

The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks

I read Randall Robinson's The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks seven or eight years ago, and have been thumbing through it again lately as I'm reading some of Michael Eric Dyson's work.

In the introduction, Robinson writes: "Solutions to our racial problems are possible, but only if our society can be brought to face up to the massive crime of slavery and all that it has wrought." (7)

More pointedly to the argument I have been making for some time (largely, thanks to Robinson): "Lamentably, there will always be poverty. But African Americans are overrepresented in that economic class for one reason and one reason only: American slavery and the vicious climate that followed it." (8-9)

Chapter One opens beautifully, poetically, tragically, and controversially:

I was born in 1941, but my black soul is much older than that. Its earliest incarnations occured eons ago on another continent somewhere in the mists of prehistory. Thus, there are two selves: one born a mere fifty-eight years ago; the other, immortal, who has lost sight of the trail of his long story. I am this new self and an ancient self. I need both to be whole. Yet there is a war within, and I feel a great wanting of the spirit.

The immortal self - the son of the shining but distant African ages - tells the embattled, beleaguered, damaged self, the modern self, what he needs to remember of his ancient traditions. But the modern self simply cannot remember and thus cannot believe... Maliciously shorn of his natural identity for so long, he can too easily get lost in another's.

Reading this for the first time, maybe in 2002, I was faced with one of the most foundational choices to how I would see myself and the world from then on: I could defend myself, distance myself from the "debt" identified by Robinson, and live self-justified. OR, I could own it; plead guilt for my ignorance, my complicity and my heritage; grieve over it; and finally, seek to move forward in personal, spiritual, and societal reparation.

Eight years later, I still don't know what ownership and repentance should look like, but as with homophobia, misogyny and bourgeois economics, I am seeking to reject self-preservation and open my life to redemption. I trust the Holy Spirit to continue illuminating the truth of "the least of these," those Christ tirelessly loved and shared himself with.

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

(Matthew 25:45)

Quit Talking About Your Penis & Your Balls!!!

I listen to liberal talk radio.

I know that's problematic. There is too much spin on both ends of the left-right political spectrum, and the only thing that really "sells" on radio is naive, hyped, frothing-at-the-mouth extremism.

But what really bugs me more than blind, shameless politicking (of which I am certainly guilty) are the chauvinist "call-outs," slams and rants of both MALE AND FEMALE, liberal radio pundits.

"It's time to get some BALLS, Democrats!!"

"These Democrats need to GET A PAIR!!"

"The Republicans have completely NEUTERED this president!!"

And the most indicative of my thesis here: "THEY'VE COMPLETELY EMASCULATED THE PARTY!!"

People, this is a problem. It is not okay to equate male genitals with power, potency, effectiveness, truthfulness, correctness, etc...

Especially from SO-CALLED PROGRESSIVES! C'mon. We can do better than this. We HAVE to do better than this.

I was thinking (momentarily) that maybe we just needed to start making references to vaginas as symbols of power. Jen said that was wrong, problematic, and itself misogynistic on so many levels that she couldn't even begin to list them. I'm open to correction. SO, here's what we need to do: STOP USING GENITAL REFERENCES TO EXPRESS POWER PARADIGMS. Just stop it.

You don't need penises to describe powerful or meaningful things. There are lots of other, very nice metaphors you can use. Some of them are even shocking.

In "polite society," we (generally, in public) shy away from racist and even homophobic statements, slams and stereotypes. But sexism is still socially acceptable, and it needs to change.

"Revelation" Through Online Fellowship: Adele Interviews Me - pt. 8

Adele asks me what I think about "online fellowship" - is it legitimate? I think so, and it's going to change the world faster than ever before (that could be bad or wonderful!) ...

"I've Met Jesus (And He's Nothing Like You)"

Rhiannon sent me the link to this great glam rock music vid on YouTube!

It's Justin Hawkins of The Darkness...

Michael Eric Dyson: On Postmodernism

I'm exploring The Michael Eric Dyson Reader, a collection of writings and essays by the academic, author and minister. On postmodernity, Dyson writes:

Postmodernism has enjoyed a thrilling if problematic run as a leading intellectual and cultural movement among some (mostly liberal or progressive) academics. Postmodernism is composed of a complex, even ambiguous, set of ideas and practices, such as blurring the boundaries between "high" and "low" culture, rejecting grand narratives - for instance, "truth" with a capital "T," - embracing pastiche and fragmentation, and emphasizing playfulness and irony in one's intellectual exercises. A major criticism of postmodernism is that some of its advocates avoid concrete history and politics while rhapsodizing about difference, marginality, parody, and provisionality. This may account for the many American postmodernists who have overlooked the homegrown varieties of black postmodernism - and the challenges they may pose to the European imports that have colored our understanding of the concept. (p. 441)

I found this one of the more brief and enjoyable synopses of the postmodern phenomena, "stale" though it may be in this late hour.

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