insanity, James Cone, liberation, obama

A Cautionary Tale: No Beck, You Aren’t Intelligently Addressing James Cone

Edit: For more than what is below, see my essay at The Other Journal: “Everyone in This Room is Now Dumber for Having Listened to [Him]” : Setting Straight the Insanity of Glenn Beck on James Cone and Black Liberation Theology.

I have found that Glenn Beck is often best left ignored. What helpful things he says are derivative and rare. However, he has again stepped well beyond his competency and this time directly into an interest of mine: liberation theology, specifically James Cone. I find it fitting that Terry Eagleton’s assessment of Richard Dawkins describes Beck as well: “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

Beck asserts in the video below that he is trying to give a reasoned, measured, and intelligent narrative and analysis on liberation theology. However, this is patently false. He does not give an accurate narrative and analysis of Black Liberation theology. It seems that intelligence is a luxury that Beck has yet to buy. What he does do is make numerous, broken connections that simply do not follow — one would not be wrong to question his synaptic connections as well.

Lets get a few things straight: Beck here is constructing a narrative that seeks to be a revealed secret — a secret given to his listeners, who are also the oppressed faithful that keep true to the geist of the state. The progressives are the enemy, therefore, in Beck’s mind, it is his duty to inform his following about the secret machinations of the forces that seek destruction of his way of life. It does not seem far that Beck may see himself as a prophet dispensing revelation. In reality, he functions far more like a gnostic with their theology of secrets.

Beck’s narrative has a central ideology: his first concern is the continuation of the “republic.” His hermeneutical lens begins with the state. This he established in the first few minutes of at the beginning of the show and maintained it to the end — and the key point here is that if anyone is guilty of politicizing religion for explicitly American political ends (for the Republicans-Right Libertarians), it is Glenn Beck: his starting point is first the concern for the nation. He has instrumentalized theology for politics against Obama. While he says his point is all about God, and that people shouldn’t make it about race, the point of his entire rant is to make a political jab. He has done the exact opposite of what is good political theology. It is because of the sort of thing that Glenn Beck is doing that political theology has a bad name to so many.

Lets also get some other things straight: Beck is making sophomoric mistakes left and right. Mistakes that no knowledgeable person would make. Or to put it another way, his mistakes are so fundamental, it is like looking down the barrel of a gun to see if it is loaded. Cone is not the founder of liberation theology, and nor is he the founder of black liberation theology — Cone is simply one of the early, major voices. Also, black liberation theology is not something that could be tied to the Catholicism’s economic liberation theology in Latin and South America until very recently. For quite a few years, black liberation theology and Latin and South American liberation theology were at odds because they perceived different problems, thought the other group couldn’t deal with the ‘real’ issue, and as a result, it took awhile to reconcile the two. Hell, Cone and Gutierrez did not converse about their projects while both were at Union Theological Seminary decades ago. For Beck to make the connection that they informed each other early on, and conflate the two at times, is profoundly ignorant — as it is profoundly ignorant to relate the rantings of an angry man outside of the voting booth, the weather underground, and Dr. Khallid Abdul Muhammad to Cone’s work. Beck cannot be taken seriously much like a two-year old sitting in the cockpit would not be mistaken for piloting the plane.

As for the moment of victory on the cross — which Beck harps on — for Cone the cross is of course victory in a way, but victory in weakness, which Beck clearly doesn’t get. It isn’t about victimhood. Cone actually spends much time on the cross; indeed, Cone is very suspicious of rushing too quickly to the resurrection, because the weakness is key. Beck clearly hasn’t read Cone well — or he simply is not being honest here. Cone is not represented faithfully by Beck in the same way that Amway’s commercials cover up the corporation’s pyramid architecture. The notion of blackness for Cone is quite specific — he doesn’t mean simply black skin because we’re also talking about ontology — never mind that Beck is drawing from a decontextualized text to warp beyond recognition the point that Cone is making. And then there is the whole issue that the relationship between the oppressor and oppressed isn’t the binary that Beck makes it out to be. Indeed the binary exists, but it exists because it is a reality and liberation theology seeks to save both oppressed and oppressor from the violation of their humanity: in doing violence, the oppressor are harming themselves as much as they are harming the oppressed. Liberation theology seeks to heal the dysfunctional relationship, not re-establish it. This Beck clearly did not get — the notion that salvation extends to relationships seems beyond him. Also, to complicate the binary further, no one is simply always an oppressor or always oppressed. For a guy who rants about context, Beck certainly didn’t read Cone in context.

The rest of the show is characterized by the same pitiful misreading: that Cone has no concept of grace; salvation should only, ever understood as highly individualistic; Cone is a marxist; the Bible has no concept of making just the social reality; Beck has no concept of structural evil; liberation is obsessed with the victim so as to grab power; liberation theology and philosophy are synonymous; etc. All wrong. All painfully false. One should certainly wonder if Beck is familiar with the prophets denouncing the economic system (called Mammon), the years of jubilee, Jesus and the early church on sharing, etc. Beck isn’t worth the time to keep analyzing — I’ve got better things to do. My point here is to show how impoverished Beck is in simply the first segment of his show. He doesn’t have a leg to stand on — his narrative and analysis are just as true as The Da Vinci Code.

In conclusion, Glenn Beck has not been honest. He has tried to smear Cone like he has tried to smear other people. Beck traffics in attempting to create guilt by association. This should not surprise anyone. This was far from well reasoned, measured, and intelligent. If he submitted this in a class where I am the instructor, he would get a failing grade for not engaging well with the source material (too limited in scope), not displaying an accurate understanding of Cone’s over all project, and cheap and incorrect criticism. He has not demonstrated a grasp of Cone’s thought and not engaged it well. This is simply a hit job. It is propaganda. For a guy who sees Hitler everywhere but himself, he oddly follows the same tactics. In light of this, Beck should be likened to a puppet, and the question then is, who is up to their shoulder inside him?

If you really want to know what Cone’s project is about, watch his interview with Bill Moyers.

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obama, R. Niebuhr

The Reinhold Niebuhr Critical of Obama

Perhaps old Riennie, one of Obama’s favorite philosophers, would be quite critical of Obama’s speech — that war brings peace:

Regardless of whether his country was at war or between wars, Niebuhr was rarely insensitive to the sins of nationalistic hubris, chauvinism, or jingoism. The United States had barely entered the war against Japan when he began to complain that American Christianity’s pro-war pronouncements were nearly as insufferable as its earlier isolationism. ‘Many of the sermons which now justify the war will be as hard to bear as the pervious ones which proved that it was our “Christian” duty to stay out,’ he warned. From thousands of pulpits, American pastors were already proclaiming that the war had to be fought to secure a new international order in which war would be abolished. Niebuhr retorted that Japan’s attach changed nothing in the moral content of the situation. ‘If defeat of Japan can contribute to the building of a better international order, we ought to have declared war upon her and not waited for the attack,’ he argued. But if it was important not to fight with Japan for the sake of building a new international order, America should have refrained from striking back.

Niebuhr allowed that Americans needed the gospel’s idealism to be saved from cynicism and complacency. At the same time, however, whether in peace or at war, Americans also needed Christianity’s realism to be saved from sentimentality. For Americans, the dangers of a ‘perverse sentimentality’ were always more potent, in his view — even in wartime — than the perils of cynicism. American Christianity could go to war only if the war promised to bring about international harmony and peace. But this was not what war was about. Niebuhr struggled throughout the war to teach the church this lesson while maintaining a balance between realism and idealism. He opposed America’s insistence on an unconditional German surrender, argued against the Allied obliteration bombings of German cities, and worked to defeat the Morgenthau plan to make postwar Germany a greatly weakened power. Niebuhr equivocated on whether the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary, but at the end of the war he urged an organizational meeting of the World Council of Churches to adopt a policy of forgiveness toward the defeated Axis powers.

From Gary Dorrien’s Soul in Society: The Making and Renewal of Social Christianity, 117-118.

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obama, R. Niebuhr

About the Obama Speech…

… anyone else get nervous when Niebuhrians (you know, Christian realists) talk about morality? This isn’t to say that morality should be ignored by Niebuhrians (in fact they must reckon with it), but just war and morality weren’t exactly fast friends with Niebuhr — he was too pragmatic for that idealism. When Niebuhrians invoke just war and morality, I can’t but wonder how much of that is rhetoric, if not a way of baptizing the realism. The question that drives this is: Where is morality in Niebuhr?

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Gary Dorrien, obama, R. Niebuhr

R. Niebuhr in Our Time

From a Professor of mine when I was at Union, Gary Dorrien on Reinhold Niebuhr and Barack Obama:

In 1952 Niebuhr wrote in The Irony of American History, “We cannot simply have our way, not even when we believe our way to have the ‘happiness of mankind’ as its promise.” In The Structure of Nations and Empires, in 1959, he put it ruefully: “We are tempted to the fanatic dogma that our form of community is not only more valid than any other but that it is more feasible for all communities on all continents.” Niebuhr inveighed against his country’s innocent view of itself as the redeemer nation that invaded only to liberate. America was overdue for a dose of realism about its imperial ambitions, he urged. Any moral idealism not chastened by its own selfishness and that of others is pathetic and dangerous; at the same time, any realism lacking a moral dimension is corrupt.

By the latter standard, most realism is corrupt. For Hobbes, Machiavelli, and other founders of the realist tradition, the whole point of realism was to divorce politics from ethical factors. Niebuhr’s attempt to fuse realism to ethics, much less the love ethic of Jesus, constantly courted the danger of selling out the ethics. To hold together the worldly cynicism of the realist tradition and the theocentric morality of Jesus and the biblical prophets, one needs a very high tolerance for ambiguity and paradox. Even to try, as Niebuhr did, one has to be terribly serious about the scriptural injunctions to lift the yoke of oppression and build a just society. Otherwise the ethical part of Niebuhrian realism becomes mere window dressing for nationalistic will-to-power.

To many of Niebuhr’s critics during his heyday, that was exactly his legacy. After he was gone, liberation theologians said the same thing more forcefully and with greater effect. In the 1970s Niebuhr lost his high standing in theology after liberation theologians charged that Niebuhrian realism was too nationalistic, middle-class, white, and male-dominated to be liberating. Repeatedly Niebuhr’s thought was dismissed as an ideology supporting the economic and military interests of the United States.

But today Niebuhr is back in public discussion because he symbolizes, notably to Barack Obama, the possibility of a progressive realism that defends America’s interests more prudently and advances the cause of social justice. Niebuhr, like Obama, blends liberal internationalist and realist motifs, contending that multilateral cooperation is compatible with the power-seeking clash of nations. The case for a strong international community has a realistic basis, that the benefits of cooperation outweigh the costs and risks of not working together. All parties are better off when the most powerful nations agree not to do everything that is in their power and nations work together to create new forms of collective security.

The early Niebuhr played up the irrelevance of Jesus’ love of perfectionism to politics, stressing that Jesus never talked about the realistic limits or consequences of social ethical choices. The later Niebuhr realized that the love ethic kept him and many others in the struggle, whether or not they succeeded. That was its political relevance. Justice could not be defined abstractly; it was a relational term that depended on the motive force of love. The meaning of justice could be determined only in the interaction of love and situation, through the mediation of Niebuhr’s three principles of justice—freedom, equality, and order.

Holding to a moral center while exercising power is notoriously difficult. President Obama is likely to find, while struggling with the difficulty, that he needs the counsel of Reinhold Niebuhr more than ever.

H/T: Ry.

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obama, political theology

Defamation? Fun!

I’m the kind of person who is frustrated with the “now that its the end of the year, lets look back…” nostalgia. Its kinda annoying and reaffirms a specific kind of calendar, not to mention that it teaches a halting and poorly categorized view of history. I much prefer the Christian calendar, although I am have spent precious little time studying it.

Still, when “Christian News agencies” act as loud voices for NGOs with a considerable lack of theological competency, I do a little more than worry — like Christian News Wire (what seems like a Christian version of Fox News) with sources like the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission considering the “Top Ten Instances of Christian Bashing in America, 2008″:

INSTANCE #3: Barack Obama Defames Christianity
According to research into President Elect Obama’s own statements about faith, and an examination of Obama’s position on moral issues, CADC has determined that by any biblical and historic Christian standard, Barack Obama is not a Christian, although he claims he is a “devout Christian.”

INSTANCE #2: Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin Is Attacked
Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, came under sharp attack by some in the mainstream media because she self-identifies as a Christian. The Washington Post published a cartoon by Pat Oliphant mocking Palin because she has a background as a Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian. A suspicious arson fire at Sarah Palin’s home church recently caused over $1,000,000 in damage.

Personally, I love self-appointed, Bill O’Reilly justified crusaders, fighting to keep Christianity respectable in the face of “Christian bashing.” Especially when this list of fear mongering is followed with a call to support the NGO.

This is persecution?? Barack Obama isn’t a Christian? Palin was criticized for being a Christian? Wow. You’ve really done your homework. No, this isn’t persecution. Yes, Obama is a Christian. No, Palin was criticized for her anti-evolutionary, six-day creationist stance.

We need a bigger movement to get back in touch with the Christian calendar, merely for the sake of professing Christians who don’t understand what they’re professing. Apparently they need a reminder of what Jesus did.

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obama, political theology

Obama on Faith, and His Faith

Obama in Time back in 2006:

For one thing, I was drawn to the power of the African American religious tradition to spur social change. Out of necessity, the black church had to minister to the whole person. Out of necessity, the black church rarely had the luxury of separating individual salvation from collective salvation. It had to serve as the center of the community’s political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life; it understood in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. In the history of these struggles, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; rather, it was an active, palpable agent in the world.

And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship, the grounding of faith in struggle, that the historically black church offered me a second insight: that faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts, or that you relinquish your hold on this world. … You needed to come to church precisely because you were of this world, not apart from it; rich, poor, sinner, saved, you needed to embrace Christ precisely because you had sins to wash away–because you were human and needed an ally in your difficult journey, to make the peaks and valleys smooth and render all those crooked paths straight.

It was because of these newfound understandings–that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved–that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

He says so much more in the essay than what is above, especially focusing on faith, church, the public sphere, and the state. In fact, he seems at time to be talking directly to “liberals” and arguing for the legitimacy of faith, rather than merely waxing on what one might assume from the title, “My Spiritual Journey.” Its an interesting read and worth the time.

H/T: Per Caritatem

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black theology, Cornel West, J. Kameron Carter, James Cone, Jeremiah Wright, modern nation-state, obama, political theology

The Recent Posts on the Media Fiasco and Race and Theology

I figured it would be good for readers to be able to see all the posts I’ve done recently on this whole fiasco surrounding Wright and Obama. Heres the list so far in chronological order:

1. Obama, Race, and Theology: A theological analysis of Obama’s speech.

2. Cone on CNN?: A rumor that hasn’t seemed to have panned out unfortunately.

3. A Humble Suggestion: Suggesting a book along the title of Religion Still Matters for Cornel West.

4. Wright’s Sermon: A longer video of Dr. Wright’s sermon where he utters the infamous phrase “God damn America.”

5. Understanding Wright by Understanding Cone: Black Liberation Theology from Cone: A very short introduction to reading Cone.

6. Carter on Obama: Citing J. Kameron Carter’s response to Obama’s speech.

7. Cone Explained: How the Media, Politicos, and Others Like Them are Stupid as a Brick and Got it All Wrong: Explaining the significance of Tillichian symbolism in Cone’s work, how one should rightly understand what Cone does say, and a link to Carter’s critique.

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J. Kameron Carter, obama

Carter on Obama

I was looking around the internet a few minutes ago and found J. Kameron Carter’s response to Obama’s speech on the Des Moines Register.

Here is some of it:

Obama sought to narrate race in such a way as to cut to the quick of the matter: the realities of race and how the destructive effects of racism damage everyone. And rather than “transcending” race or denying the effects of racism, he called us to cast our eyes in hope toward the possibilities of what can be.

The challenge of Obama’s speech is that it advanced a politics of race that says post-racial politics cannot amount to a refusal to remember. It requires memory, even though it is more comfortable not to remember. We remember for the sake of being responsible for the present so that we can chart a new American future.

Obama had no choice but to distance himself from Wright, whose comments, when reduced to a couple of video snippets and 30-second sound bites drawn from his sermons, were racially inflammatory and politically incendiary. The reaction threatened to derail Obama’s presidential bid.

Obama’s speech therefore was arguably the most important of his political career: Its immediate objective was to rescue his campaign.

Yet the significance of Obama’s Philadelphia speech should not be measured ultimately by how it affected his run at the presidency. Rather, it should be viewed as Obama’s effort to take the American public to a new place in engaging the fraught intersection of race, religion and politics.

It is worth noting that in disavowing his former pastor’s remarks, Obama also held up his former pastor as a symbol of the larger frame of black prophetic Christianity. This Christianity is a voice of the nation’s conscience, calling us to our better lights. Black prophetic Christianity lives from hope and from a memory of America’s less-than-stellar racial past that is oriented toward America’s future possibilities.

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black theology, Cornel West, Jeremiah Wright, obama

A Humble Suggestion

In light of the recent, and still continuing, ill informed media “backlash” that seems tantamount to a mindless feeding frenzy by a school of sharks – stupid, stupid sharks – I have a suggestion for Cornel West. Cornel WestHe has written Race Matters. He has also written Democracy Matters. How about writing, Religion Still Matters to round out a trilogy.

Despite how much I do I like Jon Stewart, even he recently bought into the idea that this whole fiasco is not a topic on religion, but one on race. Its both actually, that and people attempting to score cheap political points off of racial fear.

Dr. Wright constructed his sermons out of a complex tradition and to pull a Davis:

I personally regarded many of Rev. Wright’s sermons as filled with hate words and bigoted generalizations base on race (in this case, all Whites). One could even call them racist. His remarks post-9/11 were nothing short of reckless and unforgiveable.

…1. If a white minister preached sermons to his congregation and had used the “N” word and used rhetoric and words similar to members of the KKK, would you support a Democratic presidential candidate who decided to continue to be a member of that congregation.

or a Ferraro:

‘To equate what I said with what this racist bigot has said from the pulpit is unbelievable,’ Ferraro said today. ‘He gave a very good speech on race relations, but he did not address the fact that this man is up there spewing hatred.’

is spectacularly uninformed, or racist, or both. Religion still matters, no matter how much people on the political trail want to act like it does not.

For instance, Obama in his speech would not abandon his former pastor (well done), but however, in distancing himself from his pastor, he made his pastor his “spiritual advisor,” which seems to reject or question the possibility that Christianity is inherently political. Quite simply, Christianity becomes defanged and subservient. And as far as I can tell, Obama is the most charitable of the three presidential contenders which is why I even mention him.

The good news is, there are some in the media (actually just one so far) that I’ve seen approach this issue with a critical eye and actually want to understand what Wright was saying.

[Wright's] sermon thesis [from September 16, 2001]:

1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.

2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)

“We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society,” he said.

Wright then said we can’t stop messing over people and thinking they can’t touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.

“Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Jeremiah WrightMaybe we need to declare war on the nation’s healthcare system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation.”

3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.

By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said “God damn America.” I’m not sure which sermon that came from.

Yes, oh my, can you believe it, such a “crazy pastor” said those sane words. Religion still matters.

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black theology, ecclesiology, James Cone, justice, modern nation-state, obama, Oscar Romero, political theology

Talking about Obama and His Church

I have to admit, I’m disappointed in Obama and the whole political process, but the latter doesn’t surprise me. Neither did Rush Limbaugh’s categorically false and woefully misinformed response: calling Mr. Wright “a race-baiter and a hatemonger.”

It is also safe to say that the media gets absolutely none of this as it did with the Williams row, or what the Pastor Wright really drives at. They should be ashamed of themselves – just as white as part of the church in America. Again, no surprise.

One aspect about theological study and discourse is that it is fundamentally dialogical. It is conversational, which is why I have no qualms about what I’ve done to follow in this post (other than that this may seem rather arrogant – Posting your own conversation? Well, I’m not going to post someone else’s am I?). I had a conversation with Chris Layton, a friend of mine, and it went something like this:

Me: None of this is good, as far as I can see right now. The first black president we might have and he’ll go with American innocence other than slavery? Publically, as far as I have seen, he hasn’t brought up slavery much, or the effects that still strongly linger today and doesn’t extend that critique beyond the “black experience” like most black liberation theology does. However, it was the potential to do so that was the most interesting things about Obama, him coming from a black liberation church and embodying the critique. I was quite excited to see it and how his presidency would turn out. I suspect it’d be rather Niebuhrian, but still, better than other stuff.

My “politics” or favorite candidate are quite different than Obama, I’m more of a Kucinich person if anything (but not really a Kucinich person either), but I figured some black liberation from the presidency would do this country a lot of good. Now I’m not sure it’ll actually be that; now he’s kind of like Clinton, Hillary that is, and what good is that?

Chris: I think that the nation-state is not the route by which justice will be enacted.

Me: I suppose there is an upside, there isn’t the bastardizing of Christian hope by making it American hope (although I do admit I haven’t read the book, but it still strikes me as Reagan-esque). As for justice enacted by the nation-state? Sure, it won’t fully, but if there can be some change in the state, peacefully, it’ll at least begin a discussion. Having a Christian in the presidency actually bringing up issues that the church needs to deal with, I could live with that. There are other aspects I object to, but at least he’d do things I don’t see Hillary or McCain doing, but now, in some respects, I’m not so sure.

Chris: I don’t know that someone who occupies that office can speak to the church about churchly affairs. Its a kind of idolatry.

Me: Oh no, I’m not saying he could speak to the church, however, if the society is talking about it, it makes it an easier issue to raise in the church.

Chris: I think it makes it harder. If society talks about it, it will be too easy to let society set the terms of the conversation. For us to talk about these things we have to be free to choose the vocabulary. We have a habit of letting the terms of a social debate be handed to us

Me: True, but we’re always free to choose the vocabulary, just sometimes we don’t.

Chris: I think the times we do are in fact really rare.

Me: That is our problem though, that is not a problem with the debate per se. We need to be that Christian body in the debate.

Chris: Its an endemic problem for us, though. I think wishing for the circumstances that perpetuate the problem is … not good.

Me: I’m wishing for the debate, otherwise some people won’t even talk about it no matter how much we say anything. Its our task to make our voice heard and how we understand such a debate to take place.

Chris: To have a Christian in the white house, no matter how much we hope for him/her, we invite the sorts of mistakes we have been making these past decades – mistaking America’s interests for Christ’s. I would rather a non-Christian in the white house, so we are not tempted to displace our political responsibilities onto the nation-state.

Me: Yes, this is true. I have the same criticism of Huckabee, as I would of Obama. I certainly object to a lot, but I think it would be helpful to have black liberation spoken from the presidency, insomuch that it would bring up a discussion about white America – instead we just assume whiteness isn’t racialized itself.

Chris: We need first to take up those responsibilities before we can “enter the debate” but its so much easier to say “that guy is a Christian and an American and the leader of the free world.” We need to be marginal before we can summon the energy to speak in a way that will reflect the values of the church. See – I am not completely ignorant of liberation theology!

Me: True, but I wasn’t originally talking about our responsibilities, I was talking about the opportunity of Obama could’ve brought, while at the same time living the downsides as well. I figured out of the three, Obama was the most interesting and helpful, but now he really is starting to sound like the other two.

Chris: That may be true, but I remain very doubtful of any move to place hopes in a person who is aiming at such a position.

Me: The other two seem to look like typical presidential contenders and will simply use Christian language to pull from a niche for votes. I wasn’t placing much hope, especially now. It wasn’t like I was gunning for him from the beginning, more than wanting to see a black president. I didn’t think even then, that would bring salvation or make the country un-racist. Its just that Obama would be the healthiest of the three and by that virtue alone, the most interesting. Perhaps he still is, although I don’t follow everything that closely, but when he severs ties with something I know a bit of, I’m seeing something that disappoints me.

Me: And then I think, we’re screwed no matter what, and really that’s the whole idea of the church. We can’t really control the machinations of the world – like violence brought upon ourselves – instead we react strongly as Jesus for the hurting as the church no matter the consequences. I think again, as I am often reminded, of Oscar Romero and martyrdom.

Chris: This is better, methinks, those last two, not being able to control the machinations of the world and so on. If we vote, it is as a subversive.

Me: Yeah, a lot of liberation theologians may only like part of that.

Chris: Well, I’m not much of a liberation theologian.

Me: Cone, as a Niebuhrian (or taking a lot from Niebuhr), is okay with seeking power. While Niebuhr’s conception of power is complex, it still is rooted in the idea of not letting the oppressor oppress. Of course I’m simplifying it, but that is the general gist. So he might half like what I said, but certainly not all of it, as I’m so critical of the “liberal” project of working in the state (ironically, a great deal of conservatives/evangelicals/fundamentalists buy into the “liberal” project, but deny its affects). While I think he would like the idea that the white church would have to give up its privilege to do what I described: to be with, rather than “speak for” the hurting (thats an incredibly incredibly important distinction). I’m not a fan of some ways we speak of in empowerment here at Union, but if we are empowering when we chose to live with and support the poor as they speak, then I’m all for that. None of this representation crap, that so many people advocate – it keeps people in the same position and does little to change the systemic problems.

And then we digress.

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