Archive for August, 2008

Race: A Theological Account

 

Ed Gilbreath and Eric Redmond have already commented about this book on their respective blogs, but I thought I would chime in as well. I do not know much about J Kameron Carter, but the thesis of Race: A Theological Account greatly intrigues me. Racial Reconciliation is progressing into a greater conversation within the Christian tradition and theologies have been formed around that concept. However, the simply complex issue of race has never been holistically examined on the context of theology and Christian tradition.

J. Kameron Carter’s thesis:

My fundamental contention is that modernity’s racial imagination has its genesis in the theological problem of Christianity’s quest to sever itself from its Jewish roots. This severance was carried out in two distinct but integrated steps. First, Jews were cast as a race group in contrast to Western Christians, who with the important assistance of the discourses of Christian theology and philosophy, were also subtly and simultaneously cast as a race group. The Jews were the mirror in which the European and eventually the Euro-American Occident could religiously and thus racially conceive itself through the difference of Orientalism. In this way, Western culture began to articulate itself as Christian culture (and vice versa), but now–and this is the new movement–through the medium of a racial imagination. Second, having racialized Jews as a people of the Orient and thus Judaism as a “religion” of the East, Jews were then deemed inferior to Christians of the Occident or the West. Hence, the racial imagination (the first step) proved as well to be a racist imagination of white supremacy (the second step). Within the gulf enacted between Christianity and the Jews, the racial, which proves to be a racist, imagination was forged.

From Race: A Theological Account by J. Kameron Carter, pg. 4.

From Amazon:

Product Description
In Race: A Theological Account, J. Kameron Carter meditates on the multiple legacies implicated in the production of a racialized world and that still mark how we function in it and think about ourselves. These are the legacies of colonialism and empire, political theories of the state, anthropological theories of the human, and philosophy itself, from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment to the present.

Carter’s claim is that Christian theology, and the signal transformation it (along with Christianity) underwent, is at the heart of these legacies. In that transformation, Christian anti-Judaism biologized itself so as to racialize itself. As a result, and with the legitimation of Christian theology, Christianity became the cultural property of the West, the religious ground of white supremacy and global hegemony. In short, Christianity became white. The racial imagination is thus a particular kind of theological problem.

Not content only to describe this problem, Carter constructs a way forward for Christian theology. Through engagement with figures as disparate in outlook and as varied across the historical landscape as Immanuel Kant, Frederick Douglass, Jarena Lee, Michel Foucault, Cornel West, Albert Raboteau, Charles Long, James Cone, Irenaeus of Lyons, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor, Carter reorients the whole of Christian theology, bringing it into the twenty-first century.

Neither a simple reiteration of Black Theology nor another expression of the new theological orthodoxies, this groundbreaking book will be a major contribution to contemporary Christian theology, with ramifications in other areas of the humanities.

 

Personally, this book seems that it would be a great read not only for academics, but also for Pastors and Christian leaders. The reality is, specifically in American Evangelicalism, that Christianity is radicalized and mainstream Christianity is white. Walk into any Christian bookstore, most of the books are from a White perspective, the most popular music on Christian radio is fro a White perspective, our Seminaries are filled mainly with those coming from a White perspective and the list goes on.

I hope to be able to, at least, read a couple chapters in this book. I am sure it will challenge my perspective of the Christian Tradition.

 

A Trailblazer Dies

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first Black woman to represent Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives, died Wednesday after suffering brain hemorrhaging caused by an aneurysm (CNN).

President Bush said Tubbs Jones “was an effective legislator who was dedicated to helping small businesses, improving local schools, expanding job opportunities for Ohioans and ensuring that more of them have access to health care

“After making history as the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Ohio, the congresswoman worked to expand the rights of all Americans,” Bush said.

“We could always count on her to be a shoulder on which to lean, an ear to bend, a voice to reassure,” the Clintons said. “Over the course of many years, with many ups and many downs, Stephanie was right by our side — unwavering, indefatigable.

“It was that fighting spirit — safely stowed behind her disarming smile, backed by so much integrity and fiery intelligence — that allowed Stephanie to rise from modest beginnings, to succeed in public service, to become a one-woman force for progress in our country.”

The R Word –

Racist

What do we really do with this word? How to we engage racial issues without calling someone a racist? The Root recently had an interesting article on the usage of the word and the dislike of the word by White Americans.

Interestingly enough thinking about” Racist” makes me think about driving a car . . .

You know the scenario. It is rush hour. You are driving a long and someone cuts over two lanes and cuts you off. You have to press hard on your breaks and take evasive action in order to spare your car from the ramifications of an incautious driver. As the car take over the lane in front of you, all you want to do is honk your horn and yell “You Idiot”(some of you not only want to do this, you go through with it).

Many times we don’t consider of words. What that person really an idiot? Or did they do something idiotic? Is it justifiable to claim that that one action automatically places them in league with those that make consistent bad life decisions? What if their decision to cut across lanes was because they had a bad day at work? Or because they needed to get over to the off ramp and that was the one opportunity they had to get off at their exit, otherwise their trip would be increased by another 30 minutes of backtracking? What if . . .? You get the point

The same thoughts can be attributed to the word racist. If someone says “you people”, prefers to hang out with those that are more like them, or even says a racial slur does that make them a racist? Or have they done something racist? Have they had a bad day and allowed societies glamorization of racial slurs (even in satire) impact what comes out through their mouths? Are they really thinking about what they are saying? It is a question of character vs. isolated action.

I believe we do a great disservice to those of all races when we label people struggling with diversity, race issue etc as racist. Instead of allowing people to be imperfect, we expect a world where everyone is politically correct and thus allow no room for individuals and society to grow. Racial slurs and racist actions are never appropriate, but if we continue to demonize those who are coming into an understanding of race and racial etiquette, rather than cultivate growth, we are going to harvest citizens that are confused, frustrated and downright indifferent toward racial reconciliation.

Superstar Obama

McCain came out with this ad a couple weeks ago (the only one I found includes Obama’s response . . .)

While this advertisement has been criticized because of its association of Obama with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, I do believe there is some validity in this comparison. The reality is, Obama is a highly marketable and likeable guy. He does not look like the majority of Americans, but Will Smith has that same issue, but that doesn’t stop people from adoring him. Obama has character, he is witty, a fantastic orator, and he is a handsome man. I give props to Obama’s Campaign, but their job – in some regards – has been as easy as convincing a teenage boy that Nike Shoes is a better company than Wal-Mart Shoes.

(I will say that it perhaps would have been more accurate for the Ad to compare Obama to Will Smith and George Clooney rather than two starts who have, in the past couple years, gone through a multitude of pubic problems and media scrutiny)

A prime example of Obama’s status is magazine covers. Barack Obama has been on a plethora magazine covers since January 2008 and been pictured in countless other articles. He has received more coverage than most celebrities get over their whole career. And these magazines are not just Newsweek and Time; they run the gamut from Ebony & GQ to (Women’s Health & Christianity Today).

If Obama was running away with the election, I could understand why the majority of magazines featured him rather than his major opponent, John McCain. However Obama isn’t. The race is tight. Some believe this race will be tighter than the 2000 race. The real difference maker is that Obama simply is more attractive. He is relatively young, handsome, in shape, has attractive skin tone (a tan white person or a lighter skinned black person) & has a strikingly debonair face. Obama knows this; he loves this, which is why he has been so willing to be a Presidential Candidate and a model on the side.

Although, I personally do not take any more offense to advertisement than I do to most negative ads, I wonder how effective it really is. Don’t’ people already see Obama as a superstar? Hasn’t the media been portraying him in this way for the past 8 months? I understand that McCain wanted to attack Obama’s credibility, but really, if that was going to work wouldn’t Obama have already felt those ramifications? And really was there anything substantial in the advertisement.

Perhaps, there is something wrong in Obama’s celebrity status, it doesn’t reflect the humility some people would want, suggests that Obama enjoys the power and limelight and countless other viable options. Perhaps McCain is making some very accurate points. However, most people watching TV at night aren’t going understand what McCain wants to say when he is just reminding us of who Obama already is.

In response to this advertisement Obama had an interesting response, ‘”What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.” I understand where he is coming from and agree that there are certain people who are emphasizing how different Obama is than the “typical presidential candidate”. However, John McCain and his campaign ad said nothing about this. The advertisement spoke about Obama’s celebrity status, a celebrity status which most in America would agree with, especially our popular media.

Personally, I believe Obama was trying to play the race card to his advantage. Even his tone suggested that McCain was inferior and that McCain was somehow attacking his appearance rather than how he appears. There are a variety of ignorant people who dislike him solely because he is bi-racial, a.k.a. not White and/or because his name is African and Arabic, which of course makes him a Muslim (there are also ignorant people who are voting for him solely because he isn’t White., one of these groups is at least 20% of his Black supporters). However, the reality is most people in America don’t like the thought of even perhaps, contemplating on considering the possibility of being called racist. Racist is not at the status of a racial slur, but for some folks if sure seems to be getting close.

Obama is intelligent and a politician, he plays the power play when he can. But contorting McCain’s advertisement into a comment about McCain being xenophobic and trying to make Obama dissimilar to the traditional American President was a little unfair, misdirected.

Confession of a Nader Raider

I have recently been really enthralled by Ralph Nader. This is only the second presidential election I have been able to vote for, but I have found exceeding frustration and disappointment from to two parties, partisan politics. With Nader, I have found something authentic in his tenacity and relentless pursuit of what he believes and rejection of those things that are compromises to truth or that are power plays in disguise. Also, he seems to be in equal rejection of both the Democrats and Republicans (which resonates well with me).

Since I am relatively new to understanding politics and knew little about Nader’s past I decided to get An Unreasonable Man, which is a documentary of Nader’s public and political life. The film was excellent and showed both the popular criticisms of Nader (mostly by democrats who assess that he is the reason they lost the election in 2000 and 2004) and the praises of Nader by other politicians, activists, watch groups and academics.

I personally, was somewhat educated on the vast history of Nader. It is easy to see him as just a contemporary Radical, but in reality he has been criticizing runaway politics, unbound capitalism, and injustices for his entire adult life. I didn’t realize he is the reason we have seat belts and that he was the cause of various other citizens rights acts. In addition he also the founder of Public Citizen – a consumer and citizens rights watch dog as well as a variety of other non-profits.

  • Capitol Hill News Service
  • Citizen Advocacy Center
  • Citizens Utility Boards
  • Congress Accountability Project
  • Consumer Task Force For Automotive Issues
  • Corporate Accountability Research Project
  • Disability Rights Center
  • Equal Justice Foundation
  • Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights
  • Georgia Legal Watch
  • National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
  • National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest
  • Pension Rights Center
  • PROD (truck safety)
  • Retired Professionals Action Group
  • The Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest
  • 1969: Center for the Study of Responsive Law
  • 1970s: Public Interest Research Groups
  • 1970: Center for Auto Safety
  • 1970: Connecticut Citizen Action Group
  • 1971: Aviation Consumer Action Project
  • 1972: Clean Water Action Project
  • 1972: Center for Women’s Policy Studies
  • 1980: Multinational Monitor (magazine covering multinational corporations)
  • 1982: Trial Lawyers for Public Justice
  • 1982: Essential Information (encourage citizen activism and do investigative journalism)
  • 1983: Telecommunications Research and Action Center
  • 1983: National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest
  • 1989: Princeton Project 55 (alumni public service)
  • 1993: Appleseed Foundation (local change)
  • 1994: Resource Consumption Alliance (conserve trees)
  • 1995: Center for Insurance Research
  • 1995: Consumer Project on Technology
  • 1997?: Government Purchasing Project (encourage purchase of safe products)
  • 1998: Center for Justice and Democracy
  • 1998: Organization for Competitive Markets
  • 1998: American Antitrust Institute (ensure fair competition)
  • 1999?: Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
  • 1999?: Commercial Alert (protect family, community, and democracy from corporations)
  • 2000: Congressional Accountability Project (fight corruption in Congress)
  • 2001: Citizen Works (promote NGO cooperation, build grassroots support, and start new groups)
  • 2001: Democracy Rising (hold rallies to educate and empower citizens)

After watching the film and learning more about him I became even more of a fan of Nader, but I want to know what others think of him, would be a good President? Why do people not vote for him? Do people really have objections or is it that we are just used to having a two party system, thus we are someone xenophobic towards “third parties” (what a loaded term)?

Also, as i was thinking I wondered. Shouldn’t more Christians be supportive of Nader and other Third Party Candidates. Do the platforms of the democrats and reprublicans line up enough with our own beliefs that we can continue to vote for them?

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