Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Father and My Religion

I was on a conference call one evening last week when my call waiting beeped at me. It took me a few seconds to recognize the number since I only see that area code a couple times a year. It was my dad. I let it go to voicemail.

I waited until the next day to check the message. His voice came amicably through the receiver and he chided me jokingly about turning 40 a few weeks earlier. My dad doesn’t celebrate birthdays, so I thought it was odd that he was calling me about it until I realized the real reason for his call: an annual religious celebration that is part of his church is coming up soon. He wanted to remind me about that.

I left my dad’s church for good in my early twenties, after a long struggle between the teachings I grew up with and my own personal beliefs that had gradually evolved from age, experience and study. My father’s church instructs that members should not associate with people who leave the faith, and that includes family. When I left, I did so with the knowledge that my dad would no longer be an active part of my life.

Having been through the process of losing the religion of my youth and choosing a new path (Islam), I firmly believe that there is no more fundamental or sacred right that each human being has than to explore their spirituality on their own terms. And yet, as I have experienced, it is often the people closest to us that want to control that sacred right and who feel justified in punishing us if our seeking leads us in a direction different from their own.

Sadly, this kind of ‘compulsion’ isn’t confined to any one religion. I’ve seen this same kind of manipulation and coercion happen in families claiming all kinds of religious traditions, including Islam.

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Blogger Tricks

Public Theology and the Public Square

Following on from my previous two blogs posts (here and here), in this post I would like to consider briefly the idea of ‘public theology’ which is increasingly becoming of a term of art and of endearment. The idea has been considered and somewhat popularised by noted Christian theologians such as Max Stackhouse and Jürgen Moltmann. Stackhouse calls ‘public theology’ specifically ‘public’ because:
‘[first,] that which we as Christians believe we have to offer the world for its salvation is not esoteric, privileged, irrational, or inaccessible’; and secondly, ‘such a theology [which] will give guidance to the structures and policies of public life [is] ethical in nature.’ (See his Public Theology and Political Economy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), p. xi.)
Similarly the leading German theologian Jürgen Moltmann describes the enterprise of public theology as follows:
‘Its subject alone makes Christian theology a theologia publica, a public theology. It gets involved in the public affairs of society. It thinks about what is of general concern in the light of hope in Christ for the kingdom of God. It becomes political in the name of the poor and the marginalized in a given society. Remembrance of the crucified Christ makes its critical towards political religions and idolatries. It thinks critically about the religious and moral values of the societies in which it exists, and presents its reflections as a reasoned position.’ (See Jürgen Moltmann, God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology  (London: SCM Press, 1999), p. 1.)
In both its content and its implications, Christian theology (argue Stackhouse and Moltmann) is an inherently public matter, engaging on public issues.
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We Formed a New Religion": The Attempt at Authentic Consumerist Revolution in Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild”

Hip hop has served as  active voice against oppression  ever since it's conception in the 1970s in the United States. Covering topics ranging from class, gender, race, institutionalization, injustice, and oppression, hip hop provides numerous examples of how music can inspire people on the subject of social change and political revolutions (Ogbar (2009), Chang(2005), Forman and Neal (2011)).The development and root of revolution can be created as a reaction against the lessening of being. Being, in this sense, can be defined as the ability to both feel human within a political context and to actualize that ontology vis-à-vis a freedom to act. 

This has been a central focus to hip hop ever since its beginnings and can be traced to the days of its philosophical precursors, including the blues and other culturally relevant time periods-- It has always been a goal of these musical styles, conceived and elaborated by disadvantaged segments of the population, to shine a spotlight on the marginalized voices of a seemingly democratic society.  In the particular context of African Americans in the United States, religion has also played an important role in political and social struggles (Cone(1997, 2010)   Clark-Hine (2010). In this essay, I will explore the possibility that the ambitions of hip hop extend to continuing and perhaps even supplanting religion as a force for social change. In particular, I will focus on “No Church in the Wild,” a song by hip hop artist Kanye West that presents many interesting angles to explore in relation to the revolutionary potential of hip hop and religion, because it touches on various topics related to socio-political agency.

In this paper I will consider oppression in multiple ways, in an intersectional fashion that does not limit the variety of that excuses that can be used for the discrimination or oppression of an individual. There are several reasons for this choice of method.  . When viewing cultures and different environments in an intersectional manner, an essential piece of being and self develops after re-evaluating values and beliefs in a social phenomenon like this song does effectively. Without this re-evaluation, there is little room for a development of self that leads to a new essence. This interconnectedness of social structure or environment and individuation is the central piece of revolutionary efforts and can be an important point of departure. I will develop this piece by analyzing “No Church in the Wild.”

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Real Problem With Female Masturbation

It's refreshing to finally hear women talking about female masturbation. Given the social stigma around the topic, it can be difficult just to bring it up. Unfortunately, too often the conversation doesn't overcome the unhelpful stereotypes about the female sex drive…or lack thereof. 

Time and time again, Christian leaders explain that women masturbate because they want to "fill a void" or have "attachment issues." These emotional generalizations fail to get at the real problem. When men talk about masturbation (or at least what I have heard and read), everyone pretty much settles on the basics: It's hard to practice self-control. It's hard to resist indulging in lust. Really hard. Few men try to psychoanalyze the process, explaining masturbation away by realizing that they secretly have underlying issues relating to real women. (Though, it's true that many men do struggle to relate to real women in the flesh, if the movie Her is any indication.) Men realize that even if they do resolve those relational issues with women or somehow meet their "unmet needs," that won't solve their real problem. Their real problem is lust. 

Many conversations about female masturbation—including some here on Her.meneutics—are missing that realization. Women are sometimes actually drawn to masturbation and pornography because they desire sexual pleasure. Rather than escaping emotional issues, they simply struggle with lust. In sermons and blog posts, pastors give examples of men committing idolatry by looking at pornography, and women committing idolatry by desiring romance, flagrantly ignoring the number of women who suffer from porn addictions. 

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The Global Reach of Religious Liberty Rhetoric

For the past 16 years, the U.S.-affiliated and Kampala, Uganda-based Makerere University Walter Reed Project has conducted research on HIV vaccines and public health issues in the East African country. Earlier this month, Ugandan officials raided the project, detaining and interrogating a staff member, reportedly because of the project’s assistance to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people. According to the project’s website, “the operations of the program are temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of staff and the integrity of the program.” Speculation that Uganda’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act, which prohibits “promoting homosexuality,” inspired the raid raises the question of what inspired the act in the first place.

Considering the act’s origins is relevant to the formulation of an official American response to it. However, this also has immediate domestic implications, since many of the arguments and actors behind anti-LGBT legislation and intolerance in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, Lithuania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Gambia, and elsewhere are the same arguments and actors behind anti-LGBT “license to discriminate” bills here in the United States. One way to be responsive to intolerance abroad is to be responsible for our own voices at home.

Exporting the license to discriminate

Domestic religious liberty, or license to discriminate, bills are part of a global movement that misuses religion to justify discrimination and intolerance against LGBT people. Earlier this month, Mississippi lawmakers passed—and Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed into law—the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which civil rights groups fear will be invoked by religious business owners to justify their unwillingness to serve LGBT patrons and to circumvent existing or future anti-discrimination statutes.

Despite substantive substantive similarities between Arizona’s unsuccessful license to discriminate bill, S.B. 1062—which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R)—and Mississippi’s successful bill, the latter received minimal media coverage, while the former drew outrage from state and national businesses, the faith community, and even one of the bill’s co-sponsors. Although a majority of the public might not know about Mississippi’s new license to discriminate bill, Tony Perkins sure does. Perkins—president of the Family Research Council, or FRC, a right-wing organization that has been linked to the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups—attended its private signing ceremony. Not only have Perkins and his group supported license to discriminate bills across the country, but the FRC also spent a significant amount of money in 2010 lobbying Congress to vote down a resolution denouncing Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill.

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Talking to God: On Losing Religion But Not Faith

The closest I ever come to any kind of bad touching is when I am twelve, on a retreat weekend to prepare for my Confirmation into the Catholic Church. It is a set of circumstances so cliché that my overwhelming urge now is to roll my eyes and never think about it again except occasionally, and when I do remember it is with dull surprise, as though I am hearing a story about someone else. Nothing really happens in it, after all. One of the guys running the retreat centre (dark hair, part Italian like me, he says, early thirties at a guess) takes a fancy to me and holds my hand a few times, stands close enough for me to know I’m uncomfortable without knowing why. There are a few comments from the other kids, darker in tone than anyone realises in our cusp-of-adolescence-innocence, about me having a boyfriend, and he’s an older man too. When I tell my mum about it later, when I get back, saving it until just before bed because there is still a shame in it, and it is easier to say in the dark, she asks me in a voice that I will only later understand is thick with fear and potential panicky fury, “What did he do?” Nothing, I say. And I tell her the whole of it. Nothing really happened but whatever did, it probably wasn’t right. My best friend’s mum was one of the supervising adults; I was safe. Nothing ever really would have happened. The next day, my mum, sick with relief, will ask my friend’s mother about it and she will say, yes, she had picked up on it, she had kept an eye out. My mum tells me the man seemed like he was a very lonely person. I was safe. There’s so much worse that could have happened.

Worse does happen, that year, and if it’s someone’s fault then it’s Philip Pullman’s. I’m sitting in church, the Saturday evening six o’clock service, which we get to go to when mum is tired or we beg especially hard, because it’s only half an hour long and there are no hymns. Our priest begins the service – he’s a liberal priest, as they go, in years to come he will do a sermon that comes as close as he’s allowed to giving homosexuality the thumbs up – and tells us who we’re praying for this week. And from nowhere, the thought – clear as a bell, in a voice that is and is not mine – “You don’t get to tell me who to pray for.” And the split second before it lands, “Oh my god, he was right.” The he is Philip Pullman, the thing he is right about is religion, and from that moment my belief is irrevocably, painfully altered. The final voice of the three that plagues me in that moment is the one that thinks to record it. “On Saturday 9th August, 2003, I stopped believing in God.” (Not true, I will find out. Not nearly true.)

It is a blow to my still-shaping sense of the world because for several months, I have been talking to God. And God has been listening. Not talking back, of course, that was reserved for Joans and Bernadettes and Thérèses of Lisieux, and even I am not presumptuousness enough to aspire to sainthood (save, of course, the occasional idle wondering whether I could be the second Mary, but that’s for the drama more than the kudos.) But God has been listening. I can feel it with a clarity unlike anything I have known before. When I pray, He lends a kindly, attentive ear: when I ask dutifully for him to look after those I care about and then desperately to make things a little better, that maybe we could have not quite so many arguments, that maybe I could be better, kinder, selfless, possessed of virtues I know already I do not have. It is like picking up a phone and knowing with absolute certainty I will get through first time, no waiting. I have acquired, in those months, something close to serenity. Perhaps it is even grace.

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God Goes to the Movies: Unholy Trinity!

The Christian Crusade has hit the multiplex in force this Spring. No sooner did Darren Aronofsky's brooding, complex, environmental cautionary Noah see dry land, than three new, more conventional religion based movies stormed the box offices: God Is Not Dead, Son of God, and Heaven is Real.
Unfortunately, Godsploitation movies generally require a leap of faith that hardly leads to redemption. For a fleeting moment, God Is Not Dead seems like an earnest attempt to place religious faith in modern life. But the credits have barely faded from view before we are bombarded by cardboard characters mouthing leaden lines in a very un-Christian implausible tale..
College freshman Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), against the warnings of his classmates, signs up for Professor Radisson's (Kevin Sorbo) Introduction to Philosophical Thought. Radisson is a preening bully who requires students to sign a pledge that they don't believe in God, threatening to shame and penalize them if they believe. Was the script written by someone who never attended college or had no knowledge of college professors, codes of ethics or legal classroom behavior? Grounds for professorial termination would come as quickly as the revocation of Sorbo's Screen Actors Guild membership for this acting performance!
Wheaton forsakes his girlfriend to engage in a series of in class debates with his professor. And miraculously, by citing only a few passages of scripture, is able to win the entire class to his side. Meanwhile the other true believers in the movie triumph over the weak minded non-believers. Even Professor Radisson's live-in girlfriend, a student whom the professor constantly mocks, finds the faith to leave him.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"You Need to Check this Place Out"

R3 Contributor



A guest this morning asked me how long I had known him.  I said that I’d known him ever since he started coming to Manna House

“But how long is that?  How long has Manna House been open?”
“It will be nine years this fall.”
We talked a bit about how he happened to come to Manna House.  Another guest had told him, “You need to check this place out.”  So he did.
This got me thinking about our “history.”  

So here’s a little reflection.

When we first opened we didn’t offer showers, we didn’t even offer socks and hygiene.  We only offered coffee, and occasionally a sweet roll or cookies.  On our first day, Mary Katherine, one of Kathleen’s daughters, stood on our front porch with a sign that said, “Free Coffee” and she loudly proclaimed to every passerby, “Free coffee for sale!”

A few curious folks came in and found the coffee to be hot and strong.  And before long the house was filling up. In a couple of months we had enough donations to start offering socks, a few travel size hygiene items, and a shirt.  During December, we had some renovations done so that in January we could start offering showers.

We were just a few people who had come together, and then talked with some folks on the streets that we knew to find out what kind of place they would like and find helpful.  Then we got a house, and with the help of some shared resources among us, we opened, and began the incredible journey into offering hospitality.

Our vision of hospitality came from the Catholic Worker Movement of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, and the Open Door Community in Atlanta, which stands in the tradition of the Catholic Worker.  We wanted to offer hospitality which respects the dignity of each guest as Christ who comes as the stranger, the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick (Matthew 25:31-46).  Since we were welcoming Christ in the stranger, we did not seek to impose some agenda on our guests, other than to offer them hospitality.  We still don’t.  For us, hospitality is about loving those who come as they are. 

From the beginning, like the Catholic Worker Movement, we were clear that we did not seek and would not accept government funding.  In the spirit of Catholic Worker personalism, we wanted to offer ourselves in loving hospitality, and not become a social service agency or bureaucracy.  We don't ask guests for identification or have them fill our forms.  We just get to know them and they get to know us.  We embraced the Catholic Worker approach of start small and stay small, of “little by little” rather than envisioning or seeking to become some large scale program.  We also take seriously that efficiency is demonic and that too much structure is oppressive.  We like the Christian anarchism of the Catholic Worker.

We take seriously that we are a place of sanctuary, a refuge from the harshness and harassment of the streets.  In that spirit, we have not allowed the police to come and go freely at Manna House since unfortunately our guests have all too frequently experienced the police as problematic in their lives.  In order to have sanctuary, we have also been careful about maintaining boundaries in which we expect guests to be respectful with each other and us.  We’ve asked guests to leave who engage in language or other behaviors that are disrespectful, violent, denigrating or demeaning. 

Like the Catholic Worker, we also see connections between poverty, war, and the way the criminal justice system works.  So we’ve worked with other organizations such as the MidSouth Peace and Justice Center, H.O.P.E., the Workers Interfaith Network, and Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty to try and create a world in which it is “easier to be good” (in the words of Peter Maurin).  A few of us have gone to jail in protest of war, or because of our stance in resistance to police harassment of people on the streets.  It is helpful to go to jail; you learn a lot about a society by seeing who is in jail and who isn’t, and how jail works to dehumanize those who are jailed.  You also learn to never serve bologna sandwiches because that is jail food.

Along the way we have made many mistakes, and we have had to painfully learn how to be better at hospitality.  We’ve also prayed together and laughed together and cried together. 

Offering hospitality requires a kind of vulnerability, the willingness to share the hurt of our guests, to get angry at how they are so often treated on the streets, to celebrate their joys with them, and to mourn together when a guest dies.  We’ve done too much of that mourning this past year.

We’re grateful for all of the support along the way in prayers, donations, volunteers.  It really is pretty amazing how it has all worked out so far.

Follow Pete on Twitter @petegath

Between Two Worlds: Black Christian Men and Purity Culture

by Verdell Wright
R3 Contributor

*First Published at No Shame Movement


There’s something peculiar about being a black man while navigating Christian purity culture. Purity culture teaches that God smiles on people who abstain from what are believed to be sexual sins. I’ve decided to discuss purity culture from the angle of being black, (formerly) evangelical, and male. Including the cultural differences that race presents makes purity culture different enough in black communities to be worth discussing. In the evangelical world, blackness is rarely viewed or critically discussed.

The requirements of black maleness mixed with purity culture often create an odd mix of standards that are incredibly intense and often contradictory. One the one hand, as a Christian male you’re expected to abstain from any sexual activity outside of marriage to a woman. On the other hand, as a black man, one is charged with the responsibility of crafting themselves into a strong, hyper-masculine force. We are bombarded by images from music, television, and even our pulpits on the proper way to be strong men.

Scholars call this cultural phenomenon “Myth of the Strong Black Man.” This man is an archetypical, hypermasculine figure that is the leader of the people and the desire of women. This myth, as coined and described by Mark Anthony Neal, serves as a “functional myth on which the black nation could be built.”[1] This Strong Black Man can either be the well-polished gentlemen in a suit, the drug dealer on the corner, or the rapper surrounded by video vixens. Power and control over others are key at establishing oneself as this strong black man. Without the ability to demonstrate his ability to exert his power in some way, either over his finances, through sex, or against other men, black men are often left without a means to prove their manhood.

This creates a tension within a black Christian male that does not exist in white circles. Yes, there are similarities. There is a focus on maintaining patriarchal ideas in both cultures. How a man wields power is vital in both arenas. But for black men, this isn’t just a holy mandate, as white evangelical preachers such as Mark Driscoll would say. This is about the rescue and survival of a whole race. Attaining a credible amount of black male strength isn’t merely about pleasing God, it’s striving to survive in a world still hostile to their existence.

Driven by the need to prove himself and honor God, the black male that is involved in purity culture has to warily balance the scales between pleasing God and “being a man.” Too much overt Christianity, and a man is perceived as weak. Jesus can be a homeboy, a friend, even someone’s “n-word,” but proclaiming Jesus as the lover of your soul may tip the scales too much. Being a Christian is desirable, but being a man is necessary.

This overlapping of issues creates a huge problem for young black men, as they are never free to figure out who they are without preexisting requirements of their humanity. Racism deems black males guilty and menacing before they draw a breath. Patriarchy informs them that their emotions, save for rage and lust, are useless. Racial obligations and traditional Christian teaching demand that their sexual identity be expressed with and at the expense of women. Strict conformity to gender norms is taught. The patriarchy and misogyny that is taught as sound doctrine cause too many black men to line up with the sexism and homophobia that already exists in black culture. Purity culture serves as the stamp of approval that makes it okay.

Ultimately, this pressure that resides on the back of a black Christian man in purity culture is unproductive and very harmful. It is a double-edged sword, cutting back on the both men and women in the African American community. Men are taught to see themselves as more necessary to the cause of racial uplift. As such, issues that are of particular concern to black women often go unheralded by black men. Also, the tense journey to maintain a Christian, heteronormative viewpoint of masculinity prevents a black man in purity culture from exploring his sexuality in ways that are healthy. Any deviance from what is considered “normal” is seen as a sickness. Even if a man acts on his sexual inclinations toward the same sex, the possibility of his relationships being healthy is challenged due to indoctrinated views of homosexuality.

I know personally how constraining and damaging this idea of purity culture can be on black men. The barrage of men’s ministries, retreats, and sermons aimed to direct me toward “biblical masculinity” always left me feeling inadequate. I never fit with their explicit instructions. I didn’t think I should be the “priest of the household.” I didn’t think that I was supposed to lead women. I didn’t feel like “hunting” (or to put in more nicely, pursuing)

I didn’t match up with the implicit instructions, either. I preferred reading over football and basketball. My desire to prove my manliness wasn’t a motivator for me. I didn’t talk about women like objects either. The theology and culture created an environment were exploring the various aspects of my reality, sexuality, personal interests, and feelings, were seen as enemies to both God and to my race. This caused immense pain for years. Thankfully, there’s been a lot of healing in those areas. But the healing came once I disconnected from those harmful ideas.

Black men face many challenges in today’s society. Since legal and social oppression only compound other issues, the forcing of purity culture onto the minds of young black men can have damaging effects on holistic growth. The point of life in Christ is to be free to love yourself and others. It is up to people who know better to foster environments where black men can be who they authentically are in the sight of God.


[1] Neal, Mark Anthony. New Black Man, p. 21

Follow Verdell on Twitter @mr_wrightaway

Within the Ivory Towers: Managing Grief in Academia

I don’t really know how to start this post but I certainly feel the need to write it. Yesterday I learned that one of my best friends since the age of 13 passed away. He was one of those people who was just good. Better. And he never got a fair shot in life. He had been ill for quite some time, so while his passing is not a surprise, the sadness is the same.

It’s a similar sadness to what I felt when my grandfather passed away during my first semester of graduate school. I was not able to attend his funeral because there was a snow storm and my flight was canceled. My current state is a lightweight version of the extremely deep pain I felt (and continue to feel) when my brother passed during my fourth year of graduate school.

Friends and colleagues of mine have experienced similar grief, but I’m always particularly aware of grief when it happens within the rigid walls of academia.

To make a long story short, there is no space for grief in academia. With every loss, I felt a simultaneous anxiety around having to step away from my 1st year project, dissertation research, and first day of class. Some might say that I am using my work to distract from my grief and perhaps yes, that is true to an extent. But when I examine my pain more intensively, I know I am not avoiding my grief; I am saving it for after work hours. I also know that this pattern is in part, my need to continue forward because if I pause to cry at my desk, my sadness will overwhelm me.

I cannot afford that.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Taking Care of Jesus and Muhammad: Reflections on Islamic Studies

The recent debate sparked by Aaron Hughes’ response to Omid Safi’s article on the state of Islamic studies in North America has again prompted discussion of emic-etic tension, of whether scholars of religion are ‘critics’ or ‘caretakers’ (to use Russell McCutcheon’s terms). In the articles and in the comments section questions about the impact of September 11 on Islamic studies were raised, as well as contentious labelling of those undertaking the quest for the historical Muhammad as ‘Islamophobe’, ‘racist’, or ‘colonial invader’. ‘Carl’, commenting on Hughes’ article, suggested that such categorisations of those ‘whose sole “mistake” is to approach Muhammad as Albert Schweitzer did of Jesus in 1910’ were ‘unfair’  but ‘should certainly not be unexpected (we can ‘thank’ Edward Said for this). As such, the tension here is not simply religious, but political as well (if, indeed, the two are not, in reality, one).’
I cannot assess Carl’s claim for the simple reason that I lack familiarity with scholarship on Muhammad. But these issues are not restricted to Islamic studies, of course. That September 11 changed the ways Islamic studies is understood is not difficult to imagine. But related issues have been intensified in the past decade or so in biblical studies, or at least the sub-field of New Testament studies. Despite the long history of ‘did it really happen or not?’ or ‘did Jesus say it or not?’, post-September 11 has seen the emergence of intensified polarised mainstream debates where scholars have identified or been identified as ‘conservatives’, ‘evangelicals’, ‘agnostics’, ‘atheists’, and ‘secularists’. We have seen mainstream books ‘proving’ the resurrection of Jesus, showing that the Gospels were eyewitness accounts of the historical Jesus and, perhaps as a reaction, even the emergence close to the mainstream of ‘mythicist’ arguments which have claimed that Jesus did not exist. Irrespective of whether these arguments are right or wrong they remain tied to the kinds of intensified ‘culture wars’ after September 11 and, in certain cases, there are some fairly clear Orientalist discourses too. In one sense, we could be more positive in our ‘thanks’ to Said: it is possible to imagine – let us say hypothetically for now – that September 11 has generated controversial interests in reconstructing Muhammad or Jesus which cohere with broader Orientalist or ‘New Atheist’ agendas (the two can overlap, as Carl implied, albeit slightly differently).
Providing historical and ideological contexts for scholarship is one thing; it is not so easy to provide an answer to what can be done in terms of (say) historical research. The quest for a given historical figure does not necessarily have to be part of such agendas and the relationship between scholarly intentions and cultural context is not straightforward, even if historical reconstructions cannot escape contemporary politicised discourses. Indeed, cultural contexts we may not like can generate questions we might find interesting and may have otherwise missed. I personally dislike a lot of New Atheist discourse, particularly as it seems to me to have strong idealist, ahistorical and Orientalist tendencies, but its prominence also provides an opportunity to raise questions about the dominance of theology in the field that might not have been so easy ten years earlier. And explaining the interrelationship of scholarly and cultural tendencies hardly means giving up the enterprise of (say) historical research. Issues surrounding the ‘historical Muhammad’ or the ‘historical Jesus’ are obviously still open to (or theoretically should be) assessment, evidence and argument (as Hughes and Carl stress). I do not have a satisfactory answer to how we deal with this tension between scholarly contexts and historical reconstruction, other than an ideal of a radical ‘anything goes’ attitude to accepting that any question, no matter how uncomfortable, can be raised in academia, or at least should be allowed. Carl’s further suggestion that we take advantage of such scholarly flashpoints to study the tensions between the ‘confusing morass of theologians and Humanities scholars’ seems worth pursuing. One of the functions of an academic society like AAR can be, and presumably is, to provide a venue for such controversies and academics have enough control and privilege to promote and engage in such debate.
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Womanist Theology at Union: A Past, a Present — a Future?

The lack of a consistent Womanist presence places Union in turmoil. To fill the empty space, the administration hires well-trained and talented Womanist scholars to teach intermittently, but that fails to account for the absence of a full-time, tenure-track, black woman on the faculty. This is the humiliating predicament in which a seminary most known for its liberation identity finds itself.
But on April 7, during the premiere of a new documentary, the school saw a glimpse of its history, a reminder of its raison d’etre. The premiere of visionary Womanist filmmaker and Union alumna Anika Gibbons’s “Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology,” brought the voice of Katie Cannon inside James Chapel to disrupt the “epistemological sea of forgetfulness” and admonish us to “tell our truths, ‘anyway’, even when they tell us our truth is a lie… tell it, ‘anyway’.”
Attendees felt the kinesthetic energy of Kelly Brown Douglas (above) as she explained her struggle with her faith in the church while the church was unloving towards her dear friend, Lloyd. Douglas also described how black male preachers, her brothers, radicalized her by insisting on what she could and could not do as a female clergyperson. The documentary sat viewers at the feet of Jacquelyn Grant as she explained how we must “move beyond those single issues and develop real liberation for all of God’s people.” And with passion and wisdom, we felt the heart of Emile Townes as she preached how the moral imperative for black women is to “not live in the foils of old, old wounds. It is not life giving; it is not healthy…”
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nichole Phillips: Sharing Discoveries in Religion and Ritual

Nichole Phillips was on her way to medical school when she heard a different calling.

"I had always been interested in religion, but medical school was my goal," recalled Phillips, an assistant professor of religion and human difference in Emory's Candler School of Theology. "Taken together, I thought I would be a more empathetic, compassionate physician."

So she embraced them both: an undergraduate biochemistry major and religion minor who was both president of her pre-med society and deeply involved in ministry to black women through Ethos, a Wellesley College student organization for women of African descent.

With research interests that today span religion, psychology, African American history and culture, as well as community and ritual studies, Phillips still considers herself a scientist: "I'm both a social scientist of religion and a practical theologian," she explains.

As a Humanistic Inquiry Program (HIP) Fellow, a position supported through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen the humanities and expand interdisciplinary inquiry, Phillips is in her element — among a new generation of humanities scholars with both deep training in the humanities and broad training in other areas.

"I think it's wonderful," she says. "Because I hold science and religion in tension, I've always been interdisciplinary. I'm bringing sociology, anthropology and ethnography into the conversation about the science of religion."

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The Black Madonnas Of Europe: Miracle Workers and Holy Icons

Of all the varied aspects of African womanhood, none are more fascinating than the hundreds of representations of Black Madonnas. Indeed, the Black Madonnas of Europe are perhaps the most venerated icons in all of European Christendom. Their shrines have attracted millions of devotees. They are thought to be miracle workers, and their miracle-working powers are derived from their blackness.
In Russia during the nineteenth century, the celebrated Russian General Kutuzov had his army pray before the Black Madonna of Kazan before the historic battle with the Napoleonic army at Borodino. The same Madonna is said to have inspired Rasputin and may now be in the United States. At least two major paintings of Black Madonnas are on display in the Kremlin, in Moscow.
In reference to La Moreneta (the Little Black Lady), the Black Madonna of Montserrat, Spain – more than 1,000 years old and the patroness of the Catalonian region, it is said “He is not well wed who has not taken his wife to Montserrat.” She is in charge of sexuality and fertility, and presides over weddings and childbirth. In the mountains north of Barcelona, La Moreneta’s shrine has attracted millions of visitors, including pope John Paul II. Both Goethe and Schiller attached great importance to Montserrat.
France probably has more representations of Black Madonnas than any other country. France has more than 300 representations of Black Madonnas, a chief center of which is Chartres – a small quiet town about 85 kilometers southwest of Paris. The most notable of the Black Madonna images in Chartres is called Notre-Dame du Pilier (Our Lady of the Pillar). This representation, about a meter high, of a Black Madonna statue made of natural wood placed on a pillar holding the infant Jesus. Both the Madonna and Child are colored a very dark brown and are dressed in white robes embroidered with gold. The images are highly venerated, especially among Catholics, and I confess that even I, out of respect, got down on both knees during my two visits to the cathedral and whispered a prayer.
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Passover in the Confederacy

For at least one night each spring during the Civil War, in places like Louisiana and South Carolina and Georgia and Virginia, Confederate Jews commemorated how God freed the children of Israel from slavery. They retold the story of when God is said to have sent down 10 plagues to help free the Hebrews from their bondage, the last of which was the slaying of all Egyptians’ firstborn children, and how the Jews marked their door posts with the blood of a slaughtered lamb so the Angel of Death would know to “pass over” them. Thus, they celebrated their liberation more than 3,000 years ago from slavery in ancient Egypt, and their exodus.

Some of those commemorating Passover may have gathered with their families around a dinner table partaking in a Seder — possibly served by slaves. Many others were on the battlefield, holding impromptu Seders or simply noting the special night for a moment in their minds as they focused on fighting for their home states — Southern slave states.

For many American Jews today, particularly those descended from immigrants coming through Northeast corridors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the idea that Confederate Jews fought on the side of slavery offends their entire worldview, rooted so deeply in social justice. Even the idea of there being so many Jews in the American South, decades before Ellis Island opened its gates, is a strange idea.

But just as Robert E. Lee, an Army officer for 32 years, sided with his home state of Virginia against the federal government, many Jews found a homeland in Dixie over the centuries and decided they could not take up arms against it. To them, after all they’d suffered and fled throughout the ages, the South was their new motherland, the land of milk and honey (and cotton), and it was worth fighting for. “This land has been good to all of us,” one Jewish-German Southerner wrote. “I shall fight to my last breath.”

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Ask and Ye Shall Receive

by Jessie Jennings
*Special to R3


The spring is finally upon us. I enjoy many things about the springtime. I enjoy the return of the birds that I hear singing as I walk my dog each morning. I enjoy seeing the sun shine through the curtains of my home as I prepare for work.. I enjoy being able to walk outside without a hat (which is strictly avoided in the winter since only my chin is covered with hair).  While I enjoy many things about springtime, there are a few things that I have come to expect that I do not enjoy. First, I expect to have to pick up allergy medicine before pollen envelopes my car. Second, I expect to lose an hour of sleep when we “spring forward.” Finally, I expect to hear during a spring pledge drive how this is my year…or it could be if I would sow into that word; the bigger the seed the better. After all, you have to sow where you want to go, right?

As I have listened to various forms of giving campaigns on television and radio alike, I have seen that there is some interesting rhetoric being used to compel people to contribute toward their causes. Some of the rhetoric can be helpful. One example of rhetoric that I heard recently that could be viewed as helpful was on the Christian radio stations K-Love and Air One.  These stations appeared to have avoided the use of “Give to get” rhetoric at all costs. I know what you’re thinking…how could they convince people in our consumerist culture to contribute if they didn’t list a benefit for doing so? Not so fast, they did list a benefit. The appeal was made more toward the altruistic individual than toward the self-serving individual (although someone could argue that altruism is self-serving as well because the individual receives a warm and fuzzy feeling inside for doing something to serve others). The rhetoric that was used on the radio stations tended to revolve around the understanding that the listeners who were contributing were making a difference in the lives of others. This was reinforced by the use of testimonials and sound bits of people sharing how the radio station had saved their life by helping them to find help when they needed it or given them hope when they were at their wits end. This was in stark contrast to the approach that was used on the popular television station recently. 

Whereas the radio repeatedly shared how the funds were used to make a difference in the lives of people around the world, the television station used more religious rhetoric that tried to convince the viewers that the station was “good ground.” Never mind the fact that the text they were using in this instance was from a parable that was explained by Jesus and was referring to how people hear and receive His Word...not where they send their contributions. There were no images of how they used the funds to change the world. No video or audio testimonials of how the viewers were becoming a part of a movement that would carry the hope of Christ to a hopeless person they hadn’t even met. There were only long messages about how others had given to God before seeing a miraculous release of favor and blessing. 

Don’t get me wrong; I believe that to be so. I believe God has blessed people in the Word who have stepped out on faith. However, I’m not so sure of how their stories are being treated in many modern contexts when it comes to raising an offering. Sometimes it makes sense and other times it feels a little bit like manipulation. Sometimes it feels as though I can hear the voice of Obery Hendricks Jr. in his book The Politics of Jesus where he wrote, “Josephus writes matter-of-factly of the lands his family owned outside Jerusalem, and reports priests amassing ‘a large amount of property from the tithes which they accepted as their due.” And if we think this doesn’t happen today all we need to do is turn on the news and we’d see that an Archbishop in Atlanta was pressed to sell the $2M home he bought with money that had been donated to the church to help those in need. Granted, I realize we all have needs. 

While rhetoric (according to Cicero) should instruct, please and persuade we must always be careful to ensure that what we are conveying is consistent with the cause of Christ. He discussed money and, as such, we should be open to discuss these matters but we have considered the manner in which we talk about these things. If we were instructing others about the benefits of giving, it would behoove us to communicate how we are giving ourselves (individually, collectively, organizationally). Sure, “you have not because you ask not” but what about those who have not because unjust systems are preventing them from receiving? Is their breakthrough one offering away? Or are we playing into that same system that could be keeping them from walking into it when we levy additional “temple taxes” on them under the hopes that God will see their act of faith and command a blessing in their direction. I know God is able to do so, but sometimes I wonder if the way we direct people toward it is the best way to go about it. Because of these thoughts, I opt for communicating how their seed will make a difference in the lives of others (because I can be sure of this when the funds are handled with integrity) rather than making promises that the offering will make an immediate difference in their own lives. That’s just my practice. How about you?

Jessie Jennings is a student at Memphis Theological Seminary and the Pastor of Communications at Golden Gate Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee.

Of Football, Maps, Mourning, Mom, and Foot Washing

Re Contributor



Robert saw me bending over to pick up a discarded coffee cup at Manna House this morning.

“Not so easy getting down low anymore is it?” he asked.
“Some days are better than others.  But on all days I’m not nearly as flexible as I used to be.”
“Me neither.  I was in the hospital most of yesterday with back spasms.”
“Sorry to hear that Robert.  That’s painful.”
“Years of cement work on top of high school football.  I’m paying the price.”
“Where did you play?”
“Orange Mound, Melrose.  I was a halfback.  Fast and strong.  They could count on me.”

John likes maps.  He always carries a few with him.  He likes to peruse them while he drinks his coffee at Manna House.  He had heard that I was up in Minnesota this past weekend, so he was curious about where in Minnesota I had been.  When I told him “Rochester,” he wanted to know which county.  “Olmsted.”  Then the conversation really took off.

“Is that in the southeastern corner of Minnesota?”
“Yes, about an hour or so southeast of the Twin Cities.”
“Not far from Iowa?”
“About an hour or so.”
“You know those northern counties of Iowa?”
“Not really.”
“Winnebago.  Worth. Mitchell. Howard. Winneshiek.  Allamahee.”
“I really don’t know those counties, John.”
“I study maps.  I just like knowing where things are.”
When I got home, I checked up on the list (which I had written down).  Sure enough, those counties go right across northern Iowa.

We started the day with sad news.  “Dusty” also known as “Charles” has died. Dusty was a regular guest at Manna House for many years.  When he first started coming he was on crutches.  He only had one leg.  He went everywhere on those crutches, and he went through lots of those rubber tips at the bottom of the crutches.  We’d buy them and just keep on replacing the tips.  June Averyt started working with him and tried to get him into housing.  He’d been on the streets so long he didn’t feel comfortable inside.  So, she agreed that he could stay in a tent in the backyard of where she had housed other folks.  Dusty eventually lost his other leg and so he got around on a motorized wheelchair.  This happened about the same time that he was able to get himself to move into a place to live.  He was still a regular in the neighborhood.  He was well liked.   Along with our guests we took news of his death hard.

Another guest had additional mourning today.  He mother died yesterday of cancer. He’s now an orphan.  One of thirteen children, Keith is more or less in the middle he said.  Nine are still alive.  The funeral is tomorrow, and Saturday morning she will be laid to rest.  “I have to stay strong for the rest of the family.  They’re taking it pretty hard.  I knew it was coming.  I’ve been going to see her in the hospital and so I’m at peace.”

Every third Thursday, Camille and Ashley head up the Foot Washing and Foot Clinic at Manna House.  Guests sign up in advance for this evening, which includes a meal.  Tonight’s Foot Washing and Clinic happened to fall on Holy Thursday when many Christian churches commemorate the Last Supper, including in John’s Gospel, where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, telling them, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set an example for you, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-14).

Eight guests had their feet washed by four volunteers, enjoyed a meal prepared and served by two more volunteers, then saw a foot doctor, and in turn were fitted with gently used shoes courtesy of Fleet Feet.  It was a good liturgy.

Follow Peter on Twitter @petegath

Reflexive Religious Studies: A Note

As I have been arguing for a long time, the category “religion” is transformative. [i] Various entities become “religions.” I want to emphasize that this is not a teleological or transhistorical process, but one that came out of a particular logic at a particular moment in Western Christendom, and its globalization was necessarily selective and to some extent arbitrary. It should also be noted that this was a modern process, articulated in various stages, but in essence coinciding with the formation of globalization or transnational modernity.

This process is always incomplete. Christianity, Buddhism, and so on always retain remainders that are not fully brought under the category. Moreover, this process of becoming a religion is still ongoing. Indeed, in a certain sense it may be seen as having permeated the whole intellectual stratum of modernity. Even in modernity, “religion” cannot be taken as a self-evident category. Religious Studies must therefore be the discipline that suspends its primary object of inquiry, never taking for granted religion’s meaning.

To put it in different terms and to indicate this non-universal category, one might say that: things become religions. At the risk of skirting typographical silliness, I want to use the strike through here (evocative of the Lacanian barred subject) in order to indicate religion as an impossible object, something like a term “under erasure” (Sous rature) in the Heidegger/Derrida sense, which for our purposes we might identify with a de-essentialized process. By this I mean more than the reification of an abstraction. Irrespective of any “essential” nature, to designate something a religion is to place it into a series of relations with other “religions.” Various entities become religions by being linked up to the world-system in a way that transforms them. Here I mean to gesture toward the insights of both Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis and Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory (as well as those articulated more recently by Peter Beyer). According to a synthesis of these accounts, our current world-system came into effect along with the formation of a system exchange of knowledge and capital, which began to encircle the globe over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In so doing, it produced global systems of self-reinforcing discourse.

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Jesus and the Cross: Rejection and Resurrection

I hate to be rejected. Don't you?
No one likes rejection. Yet, we experience rejection and its pain from an early age. Children feel hurt when, on the playground or in other settings, they are not allowed to play a game with the rest of the kids. Childhood rejection may even be self-inflicted, when we resent the fact that we are afraid to climb up to the top of the Jungle Gym.
I remember growing up and anticipating my being picked for a sports team at school. It could be a baseball game or a volleyball game. I waited with the other students as the teacher chose two leaders to pick their teams. The process was devastating as students waited. And waited. And waited some more, to be picked. The process lasted less than five minutes, but it seemed an eternity.
It felt awful to be one of the last ones picked for a team. It hurt as all the strong athletic kids got picked first and the ones with no perceptible athletic ability were left to the end. If you were the last, or among the last, you felt the rejection as each person, other than you, was picked.
Nobody wants to feel rejected. None of us wants to receive a rejection letter to our college application, audition or job application. It is painful and could be heartbreaking.
Jesus knew rejection through his life. The people of Nazareth, his own hometown, rejected him (Luke 4:26-30). Still others wondered about him because of that hometown. "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked (John 1:46). People rejected much of his teaching. Many questioned the origin of his teachings and do not accept him as he was born poor, the son of Joseph the carpenter. In Matthew 21:42, Jesus talks about the stone the builders rejected. The story is a revelation about Jesus, himself.
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More than Hobby Lobby: My Take as a Scholar of Religious History

Hobby Lobby was not my favorite work experience—it required long hours, ridiculous record-keeping, exposure to monotonous Christian muzak, and putting up with some creepy coworkers. It was, well, retail. Also, I worked there for all of three months. I’ve been a religious historian for far longer and thought I’d share my thoughts on the current case and the evolution of corporate Christianity in general instead of dwelling on those three months of stocking googly eyes. Huffington Post and Businessweek both interviewed me regarding the current SCOTUS case and, while they had good questions, I think that there are some points that have been missing from the discourse. Namely, how is Hobby Lobby related to larger trends? What is actually happening to evangelical religion in the United States? And why are reproductive rights/contraception at the center of this struggle?   

Much of the discourse surrounding Hobby Lobby is, necessarily, about corporate Christianity. Of course, Hobby Lobby is a great example of this particular phenomenon and contributes to a larger narrative of the blending of the corporate and religious that has been a theme in American religious history. As our own Darren Grem pointed out, “Religion has been a part of corporate America for quite some time.” I’ll leave this territory to Darren and fellow business and religion scholars—it’s an exciting field and there is obviously much relevance in this work right now. From my own developing research on megachurches, however, I’m considering a slightly different perspective on current trends. 

Hobby Lobby may win this case because of the pro-business and conservative nature of the Roberts Court, of course, but there’s a larger cultural phenomenon that might be influencing public and political opinion as well. The case is significant because it represents the blending of corporate and Christian—and one very visible sector of American religion that mixes the same stuff is the rapidly rising megachurch movement. The public and our leadership have been primed to consider the religious rights of corporations because of the general growth of Christian industry and that industry is manifested in tax-free organizations like megachurches. In other words, megachurches and seeker-sensitive churches, in particular, are assisting in blurring the lines between business and religion so that it is difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins.

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How Religion and Spirituality Can Help (or Harm) You

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” (Billy Sunday)

Is it better for your happiness and health to belong to an organized religion or to be “spiritual”? Does it matter?
Being religious refers to believing in a specific deity (or group of deities) and following the regulations of a particular religion. In addition, organized religion (as implied by its title) generally takes place in a relatively formal, organized context. In contrast, being spiritual may or may not involve belief in a particular god but does imply that the person is trying to follow a specific moral code, such as being loving and kind, and is seeking a meaning in life that’s bigger than him or herself.

In other words, a person can be both religious and spiritual. In contrast, someone can be religious but not spiritual, as in the case of adhering to religious dogma such as tithing 10% of one’s income but being consistently cruel or unjust. Or, an individual can be spiritual but not religious.

Unfortunately, some organized religions have become associated with hypocrisy and worse, due to a few (or more) individuals of high standing in such communities behaving in regrettable and hurtful ways. So have some spiritual pursuits found themselves under scrutiny, for that matter.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

From Self Love to Suicide: The Conversation Starts Now

by Karren D. Todd
Special to R3



Today, I logged on to Facebook and received tragic news. The post read that Karyn Washington, founder of For Brown Girls, had died of an apparent suicide. According to the organization’s website, “FBG was created to celebrate the beauty of dark skin while combating colorism and promoting self love.” It goes on to speak of “encouraging those struggling with accepting having a darker skin complexion to love and embrace the skin they are in” in hopes that all may take away from For Brown Girls “the universal and essential message of self love and acceptance”. Self Love. Acceptance. Suicide. It’s evident that one of these words does not belong.

The life of a young, African American woman who had dedicated her life to uplifting and encouraging other women of color had come to an abrupt and sorrowful end. With all that she had done to inspire and raise the spirits of others – who was there for her? It has been reported that this vibrant young woman may have suffered from depression as she coped with the loss of her mother. Did she hide her emotional distress from those around her or were there signs of depression that we missed?

As the Twitter world begins to weigh in on this heartbreaking story, many supporters are mothers of teenaged African American girls who were moved and motivated by the many initiatives that sprang from the heart of this young lady. These mothers are now faced with the daunting task of sharing this sad news with their daughters who had found hope through the voice of someone whose voice has been silenced by hopelessness. What will they say? How will they cope with hopelessness after this? We may never know the answers to these questions but there are questions we must raise in the wake of this devastating news: Why would a young black woman feel constrained to keep her pain and hurt secret or more universally, why is there such a stigma when addressing the issue of mental health in the Black Community?

We must have the conversations that save the lives of our young sisters and brothers. As one tweet suggested, “This shouldn’t be just a shock and awe social media moment.” And I agree. We must address the facts and remove the myths that suicide contradicts gender and/or role expectations. It is a myth that African American men are “brave and fearless” and do not battle depression. It is a myth that African American women are always strong and resilient and never crack under pressure. We must also have the conversations to remove the stigma associated with mental health treatment and any barriers to treatment. In one of my tweets, I agreed with the suggestion that today we should ask the strongest woman we know, Are you okay? One of the responses I received was that the strongest woman would probably never reply with “No I am not”. Unfortunately, she was right.

Whitney Houston had a song that said, “I was not built to break.” But what happens when you do break or essentially have a break down? We have to know that we are not infallible and we are not alone. If you are a person of faith, your answers are expected to be given through your religion. But has the Black Church failed in instances like this? Do we offer enough information and/or support in the realm of mental health? I believe that the faith community has an unquestionable responsibility in the onset of these conversations because we have also played a significant role in the silence of the spiritually and mentally wounded. We have given instructions to “pray harder” and “just have more faith” but have we deterred believers from seeking counseling or any source of professional help thinking that it would reveal a spiritual weakness or a lack of God’s power? We must do better and we must do better now. My prayers go out to the family, friends and supporters of Karyn Washington and my advice to us all is to redefine strong. The strongest person should be the one who says “I need help”.


Karren is a student at Memphis Theological Seminary and Senior Associate Pastor of New Direction Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Farewell Evangelicalism? Not So Fast

In the wake of World Vision’s reversal of their short-lived policy to hire employees who are in married gay relationships, many progressives are swearing off evangelicalism. Perhaps the most public of these vows was a piece that Rachel Held Evans wrote for CNN wherein she professes, “I, for one, am tired of arguing. I’m tired of trying to defend evangelicalism when its leaders behave indefensibly.” (In a later post on her blog, she seemed less certain of this decision.)

Evans is not the only progressive distancing herself from the evangelical label though. Some like Nish Weiseth and Micah J. Murray are resolving to quit evangelicalism altogether while others, like Zach Hoag, are committing to reinventing it (a “Newer New Evangelicalism” perhaps?). Despite these resolutions — and the accompanying slew of tweets, blog posts and Facebook updates –progressives may have a harder time leaving evangelicalism than they think. In fact, many are perpetuating the very things about evangelicalism that they profess to deplore. Post-evangelicals are still operating within evangelical paradigms.

A Brief History

Millennials tend to associate evangelicalism with an odd collection of American religiosity, traditional mores, and a “God-said-it-I-believe-it” reductionism. In many ways, their understanding has been shaped by growing up in the culture wars of the 1980s and 90s, and has been exacerbated by a religious consumerism unique to capitalism.

Step back a generation or two and you’ll find an evangelicalism less defined by politics and more defined by a commitment to the relevancy and authority of Scripture. Step back yet one more generation and evangelicalism is embodied in cross-denominational cooperation, the global missions movement, and social reform. Step back again and you’ll discover an evangelicalism that was birthed in the revivals of the Great Awakening.

Just as our DNA is the product of the generations before us, today’s evangelicals carry traits, not only of their mothers and fathers, but of their grandmothers and grandfathers and great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. What many millennials understand to be evangelicalism—some kind of quasi-Protestant, flag-waving, gun-toting, ‘mericanism–simply isn’t.

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