Murmurs and Antagonisms

Orthodoxy via Heresy

Category: Rant

Various Thoughts on Radicalism

It’s fair to say that most of my radicalization has happened through music, specifically folk punk, and I think it’s equally fair to say that my politics are fairly well expressed in a song not written for my context. When Pat the Bunny wrote From Here to Utopia he probably wasn’t thinking of a liberal arts college kid studying philosophy with about as much midwestern privilege as the next person. That said, there’s something in the lyrics that gets at a simple reality: namely that learning to think and make unthought worlds means hating the world, denying it, and still hoping for a world where “I don’t wanna have to hate everything anymore.” It’s a hope that the song gets at, that the world as we know it is problematic and young kids attempting to be radicals aren’t new at declaring the problem of the world. That this shit can’t go on, yet it does. Pat gets at this reality, the simultaneous failure of radicalism and its necessity when he says that our enemies “will teach our corpses to dance.”

Radicalism in the modern age requires a sense of nihilism. Nihilism that is guided by a reality that we live in a new geological age and the planet is beyond saving. Install solar panels on your house, recycle, do the best to care for this planet but realize you’re only slowing the inevitable. Nihilism guided by a reality of living in a world made by, and defined by, white supremacy, queerphobia, nationalism and a myriad of other evils is beyond recognition in any humane, gracious way. Course, saying that radicalism needs nihilism seems odd since nihilism is given the bad rap of being a suicidal way of seeing the world. Well, the world’s already killed itself (or at least we aided in the suicide).

The world isn’t good. It’s beyond saving in a lot of ways. At least under current models of being. But I think that’s where nihilism shuts us down and gets us outside of ourselves. But it’s not enough.

Nihilism isn’t enough. Nihilism is just facing the reality of the world but still trying to explain away suffering. What comes next is sitting within suffering, working from within it, naming it, naming the unthought, and realizing that half this shit is unthinkable, at least to our white, heteronormative, Eurocentric modes of thought.

So, am I radical? I don’t know. Radicals are basically folks who claim the title but sit on their ass and aren’t willing to do anything. I’m one of those. I’m a failure at most everything I say or claim as a belief or guiding principle. But I try and move baby steps forward. And realize that pragmatism (note: pragmatism isn’t equivalent to getting one’s hands dirty) is a luxury afforded me. A luxury not afford other folks. Face the world, name it, damn it, and move on.

“Who killed the world?”

Frantic Thoughts about Nature

What if this world is a failure? What if we don’t live in the best of all possible worlds? What’s this lead to? What if it’s an endless joke? What if what if what if, the only question raging in my mind right now.

What if God’s declaration over creation — that “it was good” — is the problem? The horrible irony that the goodness of creation means we don’t know what do with nature, with stuff within the world. Nature is good still but tainted. Horrible sad things occur within nature. Tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, drastic changes in nature that kill us. Yet still, we declare two handedly: it is good. But we don’t believe it’s good, not if we’re honest. We know we’ve sinned. we know we’ve tainted creation. And maybe we haven’t taken this idea far enough. That we are the problem. That nature was good. That we were good. And that we messed up badly, continue to mess up badly. Even Kuyper suggested that regardless of the fall of humanity we would be co-participants with God because nature is only good. Nature is not perfect. Anyone with a basic grasp on the way nature runs its’ course can tell you that.

What if we really are the problem? The onset of climate change, the fracking, the abuse of the earth and of nature for our gain. Maybe that’s the irony. “It was good,” was spoken over plants and animals and humankind. But maybe we only want to affirm the body of humanity, the rotting corpse that kills and harms the rest of the good. Nature is good, but so are we. Aren’t we? We are the heirs and lords of nature, possessing and dominating that which was “given” to us by God.

We kill and eat and destroy that which we have been given. The given good of nature, of creation. And we still don’t know what to do with this goodness. We tear up the ground for an artificially real thing called money and, without a hint of irony in our voices, declare that nature is beautiful. The only parts of nature that stand as beautiful are the parts untainted, untouched by human hands, our killing hands. We recognize this and acknowledge we’re the problem, we’re killers. But no sense of confusion comes in acknowledging the death habits of our hands. Acknowledge and turn face. Say how beautiful our national parks, proceed to eat a burger, proceed to drive a car guzzling fumes through the park.

None of this is good. What if the world’s goodness is an artificial declaration given by an outside? What if it’s fundamental status is not good? What if nature’s goodness is it’s problem and downfall? As the song goes, “don’t know where i fit between the vegans and the nihilists. that might be the first thing i’ve said that wasn’t a lie tonight.” Both the vegans and nihilists realize the fundamental shiftiness of the this world we inhabit. But one sees the hope and potentiality and tries to better this “good” world. The other just accepts this best of all possible worlds.

This curse isn’t a curse of sin but of goodness. Status given to a created entity that seems less than good. And simply chalking it all up to the fall of humanity seems a bit odd. Or maybe we just haven’t seen the radical truth that nature still might be good and that we no longer are. That we are not good for nature. And maybe that’s the two sided truth about nature, that we see it as good and beautiful and ours to use. I guess nature might be good and I guess that that might be a problem. 

Notes on the Self and Art

You are not your self. I am not my self.

We’re not vacuum forming selves. And we’re not original. We write, make, create art and things that masquerade as art in the hopes of reaching an audience. We create and recreate and vomit on the pages and screens boring and increasingly inane “art”. This isn’t some punt to a transcendent deity to explain why we aren’t autonomous self-creating selves (well, white people probably aren’t at least). We are formed by what we throw up and what is thrown up on us. The people that are thrown into (onto?) our lives shape and make us. Because that’s all writing is, a rereading of previously reread ideas spat on pages and screens…

I’m not sure what the point of this post is, if there is one. It’s more just an endless ramble, notes on a subject that’s been bugging me – namely, me. It might also be my attempt to get free from the b.s. that is significance and meaningfulness. I don’t write because I think I want something new to say, or that I’m good at it, I write because I have an urge to, an urge that makes me sick and angry and somewhat content all at once. I write what I’ve read, in the hopes of dredging up something from the muck of the many things I’ve gorged myself on. No. That’s wrong. The many things that’ve allowed me to become an I by gorging on them. We’re all parasites. We form by being formed by taking in as much as we can. Taking as much as one can without ceasing. Selfish? Maybe but is there really a way to be charitable in consumption? Isn’t consumption inherently uncharitable?

So, I don’t know why I write and I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know that I am an I. In all likelihood I am a they, and so are you. Individuality seems excessively off putting. I’ll just let Nietzsche say what I think “I” might be getting at:

“The fundamental false observation is that I believe it is who do something, suffer something, ‘have’ something, ‘have’ a quality.”

To White People: Protests

This is not the end of the conversation. It is not even the beginning. This is not me laying down truth but trying to understand American history. The accusation and condemnation of riots/protests in the wake of Ferguson speak to an ignorance of our nation’s history. These condemnations speak also to a misunderstanding of the current age, of the function of protests. However, I can’t explain protests, I don’t have anywhere near the definitive grasp on the subject. But I do wonder if (a mild rereading of?) Nietzsche might offer some helpful explanations of the function of protest, in any form (race related, wage related, etc.)

…the underprivileged have no comfort left; that they destroy in order to be destroyed; that without morality they no longer have any reason to “resign themselves” – that they place themselves on the plain of the opposite principal and also want power by compelling the powerful to become their hangmen. This is the European form of Buddhism — doing No after all existence has lost its “meaning.”

This “doing No” presents itself as a subversion of purpose and meaning. Nietzsche casts aside the notion that meaning/purpose are mind independent metaphysical truths or facts. Instead, meaning, like most anything else, is a construct, an invention. And for the underprivileged resistance functions as an active negation of meaning. So too with morality. What has been said of meaning can be said about morality.  Meaning and morality are made by those in power.

Example: Mike Brown’s murder served as a catalyst for protest. But it’s not an isolated incident. Reactions were not so much shocked, it seemed, but angered. And rightfully so. But in the case of Eric Garner it seemed inevitable that an indictment of some sort would be leveled. There was video evidence showing what appeared to be a choke hold, showing police using excessive force, but once more: no indictment. The protests that erupted seem to stem from the fact that the morality handed to persons of color by white supremacy failed. Because of this resignation can no longer be the answer. Instead, forcing the oppressor into a damned if you do or damned if you don’t situation becomes inescapable.

But I’d like to make clear: persons of color have known of this oppression for the entirety of American history. They have been on the receiving end of the violence of whiteness. This post is a white person attempting to make sense of riots and their meaning for other white persons. I’m trying to argue that any riots at any time are a reaction at the failure of morality given by the One (whether that be the State, Company, or Police).

Riots and protests are the cry of a positive nihilism of sorts. I think, for me, this is why discrediting the protestors seems inane. Criticizing the protestors misses the question of Du Bois, asked in their actions: “Would America have been America without her Negro people?” That question is being asked still today, Is America really America without its’ minority populations? David Walker was right in his “Appeal” in saying that African Americans were the only ones who truly appreciate the notion of liberty.

Stop Being Nice

Kind words aren’t enough. They never are.

Being nice is not the answer. It never has been.

Wanting justice, demanding justice, demanding fairness, these are good and right. And I get that in some contexts peacefulness may be the better part of valor, but nothing significant has changed by being nice and saying kind words. Christianity is no different.

Christians, me included, are guilty of making the bible soft. And, no, I refuse to argue that we make the bible soft by cushioning its’ truths. We soften the bible’s demands for justice and love. We soften the God who has a preferential option for the marginalized. Christians are too nice.

We tell people they’re loved by God even though they’re gay.

We tell people all will be made well in the end and racism will die the death that death died.

We tell transgender/gender non-conforming folks that they are loved and we’ll pray for them to love their bodies.

We tell these marginalized groups in America all these nice, trite, gentle words. But we ignore the bible.

Let’s recap for a second what the bible states regarding the oppressed:

From Amos 5: “There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
    and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”

From Acts 8 a gender minority says: “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

I need to listen to the voice of the prophets, demanding justice. I need to listen to a God who will cast down those in power because of God’s love for the oppressed. I need to listen to the God who sides with prostitutes, lepers, queers, ethnic minorities, and immigrants.

I need to listen for God’s voice in the cries of those the United States bombs.

I need to listen for God in the voice of trans women who are murdered for being women.

I need to listen for God in the voice of persons of colour who suffer violence against their bodies by the powers that be.

I need to listen.

And stop softening the bible.

If God loves trans folks: I need to  fight for them. Fight the misgendering, fight the violence, fight for their recognition.

If God loves ethnic minorities: I need to fight racism, fight the structures of racism in communities, in my church. And shut up.

If God loves those we bomb: I need to stop simply praying, do something. Write my senator. Protest. Change how I think, vote, if I vote at all.

If God loves gay people: I need to fight for their rights as citizens of a country. Fight for their acceptance.

I’m convinced heaven will be full of queers and persons of colour teaching us what grace and beauty looks like. Heaven isn’t just for white, straight, cisgender people. Remember this.

 

Flesh Sack

Just walking skins, sacks of flesh wandering the streets ignoring each other day in and out. This is who we unavoidably are. Spouting sentimental phrases – “You are a Soul, you have a Body” – mean little. In fact, I’d contend mean nothing whatsoever. Embodied flesh sacks that we are, we can only know what we feel/sense/experience/think but what then is a soul?

[Soul: a metaphor for our identity.]

I don’t think I want a soul to be anything more than a metaphor. At least I possess my own created body. And I can make my body better. I can’t make my soul better. Mainly since I have no clue in hell what a soul is or how I have one?

So, metaphor it is.

If “soul” just means my identity then I can add to my identity, subtract from it, an understand it better. Mostly since what makes me me – identity – can be found in body or thought form.

I can’t experience my soul. I can experience my thoughts. My identity can be experienced.

So, do I have a soul?

No.

Not in the way most folks think of souls, at least. I am walking flesh, a sack of skin and bones clattering along my merry way. I am not an embodied soul, as if I existed previously and my soul put on a dress. I am a body. I am flesh. I choose how I am being made and I shape my identity.

Flesh sack walking.

Bible vs. People: People Win

The bible is a book written by men and inspired by God.

No more, no less and too often we treat it as more. The bible is a book and like any book tells a story. That story isn’t about creationism, predestination, homosexuality, or any myriad of issues we want it to be about today. Heck, the bible is minimally about ethics as understood in the Western world. Ethics, biblically, are linked to Jesus. The book we too often idolize is the cradle which holds Jesus.

And I’m tired of everyone treating biblical faithfulness as the litmus test of salvation. Though, maybe not directly, far too often people imply that lack of biblical faithfulness (which usually means any disagreement with their specific interpretation) goes hand in hand with heresy or some other kind of idea that we’re not saved.

The bible is about Jesus and somehow we lose that. And Jesus tells me to love my neighbor, the least of these. And, frankly, that love has led me to support a less than traditional idea when it comes to lesbian and gay folks. When people have died, are dying, being subjected to injustice, that’s not God’s heart. I get Romans 1 leaves little room for some but I don’t know where I stand on that passage and, frankly, I really don’t care. If I’m ever asked if being gay or lesbian is a sin I’m gonna say no. Being “something” or “anything” (I know those words are stupid) cannot in and of itself be a sin. Orientation is not a sin. People are made in God’s image and because of our sinfulness we’re gonna mess up, we’re gonna over emphasize certain biblical ideas and interpretations. And I know I could be wrong. But I can’t hold a view that has been about silence and death.

Love your neighbor, admire the beauty within, see God in the Other because that’s where God is to be found. But never forget the bible is not deity, it’s special/beautiful/disturbing/all kinds of jacked up, but it is primarily, solely, about Jesus. And if what we believe does not love our neighbor (and letting kids die because we tell them they’re sinners, abominations, committing mutilations etc. isn’t loving) or help us better love then, sorry, I can’t hold it.

“I rest my faith on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness…”

Jesus Doesn’t Care

I quit caring so much about gender, about sexuality, about providence, about creationism, about all the inane topics which come up regularly among (especially) homeschool kids because we’ve got no life (kidding).

Everyone wants to focus on whether or not the Church is being over run by the gays. Everyone cares so much about whether women dare to be pastors because, well, breasts cause men to lust. Everyone cares about how you express yourself whether it be by shutting you down or confining you to a societal gender role. Everyone cares too much about the age of the earth. And no one seems to care enough about what Jesus cared about.

And I’m one of those people.

(Parenthetical: I know that Jesus’ concerns relate directly to some of the forementioned topics but that’s not the point so shhh)

Jesus didn’t seem to give a rip if God created in six days or a million or if God used evolution or not. Seemed to be low on his radar. Which, thank God, is why we have Ken Ham, to help Jesus out and bring out his deep concern for the order of creation and mechanics thereof. I wonder how much a first century desert walker, despite being God, knew about science?

Jesus didn’t seem to care whether or not God ordained everything, or elected everyone. And of course we want to say, “But he says, ‘Those you have given me . . .'” and all  I can think is, Really? Really?

Look. Jesus didn’t seem to prioritize these things for the simple reason that (shocker here) they’re pretty boring. If Jesus had gone around talking about creationism half his audience wouldn’t have gotten it. Much less divine sovereignty and election, at least the current way we present it.

Jesus spoke to things which concerned the people at his time, and concern us now. But we’re too lazy to see the radical nature thereof.

Example 1: Jesus fought against the Empire. Rome ruled the world (as anyone with basic knowledge of history ought to know) at the time and Jesus comes in declaring himself deity, king, and lord. Pretty radical stuff at the time. His death, understood rightly, is a political death. He challenged the Jewish leaders and the Roman leaders at the time. The irony, though, is that unlike other revolutionaries who tried to revolt his was a subtle, silent, nonviolent one. As he told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Jesus cared about nonviolence. Something American aren’t too fond of.

Example 2: Jesus cared more for the poor than we can ever grasp. It’s actually pretty fair to say that he gave priority consideration to the poor. He elevated them by equating those who are beaten down by systems of oppression (another key) with himself. Try telling that to American evangelicals.

Example 3: He cared about life. And no, I’m not about to rant on abortion. Jesus cared about all aspects of life (birth, creation, living, death, birds, bees, trees, etc.) and he even said he came so that “they might have life to the full.” Somehow that part got missed in evangelicalism crusade to tell people how to dress and be human.Guess what? Jesus wants people to live life to the full and, as Joel Osteen-y as this is gonna sound, that means Jesus wanted people to live in a way which makes sure that they can enjoy life. And telling people to not like who they want or dress how they like has led to too many young deaths, so sorry evangelicals, checkmated by Jesus.

My point in all this: Jesus had bigger concerns than the crap evangelicals seem to care about so much and want to worship and die on. I’m glad you want to defend dinosaurs but seriously? I think Jesus had bigger concerns.

The Least of These

[Trigger warning: homophobia, suicide, Christianity, religion]

Today I was told I wasn’t a Christian because I was a jerk.

I was told I’m irritating.

I was told that my refusal to adhere to God’s law spoke more about the state of my soul than any words I could speak in my own defense. Today, once more, I saw the true heart of evangelical Christianity. At least, the false evangelical Christianity. And I’m pissed. And I think it’s okay for me to be pissed off.

The conversation came about because this kid posted an article by Al Mohler in which he deals with a congregation within the Southern Baptist Convention who chose to affirm gay folks.  And the thread on this kids Facebook page devolved into the same poorly formed, half-thought arguments too often perpetuated by the conservative end of Christianity. All I said was: lol. I laughed. Not at Mohler’s point, the SBC can do whatever it likes (though kicking that church out seems to me to be the height of inane action), but at how quickly the thread devolved, at the very simplistic understanding of our relationship to scripture. I was then messaged by this guy and asked, and I quote, “Do you think sin is hilarious bro?” to which I responded harshly. But I think I have a right to be harsh.

I understand the arguments for an against same-sex marriage, for acceptance or not. But my opinion changed not because of great arguments (frankly, both sides have mediocre arguments mixed with a good one here and again) but because of stories, art, and listening. I remember reading this article and nearly sobbing. It tells the stories of gay teens, kids, who have killed themselves because of bullying. And then this:

Anti-gay backlash was instant. Minnesota Family Council president Tom Prichard blogged that Justin’s suicide could only be blamed upon one thing: his gayness. “Youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk [of suicide], because they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle,” Prichard wrote.

I remember reading those words. “Greater risk because…unhealthy sexual identity…” and I paused.

I had to rethink my own developing thoughts on LGBTQ issues. If people die is that ok? Through it all I kept hearing, Love the sinner but hate the sin. Like a song on repeat: lovethesinnerhatethesinlovethesinnerhatethesin, the voice of “right” and “wrong” echoed onwards through my head. I went to camps where I heard people say we need to take a stand for biblical marriage, fight the decline of Christian morality. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all a crock of lies? If you can really love someone but not their actions when it comes to sexuality and gender.

It seems to me to be a distinction founded on air. I realized then that when people are dying because of a belief and no one does anything that that belief is inane, wrong even. And I quit fighting against gay people and tried to love on them and embrace their beauty. But all this goes deeper and is ten times more personal.

Berdyaev states, “No man can be an incarnation and personification of evil, the evil in him is always partial. For this reason, there cannot be a final judgement upon anybody.” And reading that line and re-reading it gives me pause. And it brings me to the realization that I cannot be judged except by God. My lack of biblical faithfulness, or my biblical faithfulness, are not the determining factors of my salvation. Just because I don’t buy into one interpretation held by the Church for centuries does not make me any less likely to be saved. And like the Ethiopian eunuch my brothers and sisters ask, “Here is water. What prevents me from being baptized?”

So, someone tell me. What prevents me from being baptized?

What prevents me from partaking of the grace of God?

Unrepentant sexual sin, is the answer too often given. But I don’t put my stock in my faith in God, when I confessed Jesus as lord. I put faith in my baptism by which, and through which, Jesus chose to lay his grace on me.

So, tell me. Why am I jerk for not tolerating beliefs which have caused no end to suffering for my brothers and sisters?

Why am I jerk for refusing your interpretation of the bible?

Make my day, Christians. Go ahead, make it. I dare you. Because as long as kids are dying, AIDS is an epidemic running rampant without anyone caring, as long as people are being murdered and imprisoned for things they cannot change, I refuse your biblical faithfulness. And that might make me less a Christian, it might make me a heretic, it might mean I’m not saved. But somehow, I think Jesus still loves me, flaws and all.

So, make my day. I dare you.

 

AIDS: An Ongoing Epidemic

I’m angry.

Angry at people, society, the past, the Church, and how people are silent today. And I’m angry for my friends, fellow members of humanity. My friends who have suffered, who know people who died and are suffering still and face the unbearable wall of silence from . . . everyone. Since the 1980’s, when, for America, AIDS hit home, it took the normal swell of social controversy. Up went the outrage (rightfully so) and after pills came out to help down the swell went. Privilege called and finally the epidemic seemed to recede. But it hasn’t. America and Canada and the Western world generally may have achieved equality for gays and lesbians but only at a cost, a cost which now rages onward, with little to nothing done on the matter.

I’m linking to a post by a friend who says everything much more aptly than I can. He’s opened my eyes to the singular vision that we have in the US, a vision too narrow to get past our own comfort and see how much there is in the world still needing to be done. Read. Listen.

(Side note: I think I’m gonna do a blog series about AIDS and probably post more about it on Facebook and social media. Something needs to be done even if all I’ve got is emotion, a computer, my privilege and social media and time.) Please read the linked article below after the jump.

If LGBTs are scapegoated abroad as the source of the spread of a pandemic that people in the west, in rich nations are blind and clueless to now.

If I express outrage at the horrors inflicted against my brothers and sisters in the news that I see, but not at its source and cause.

If that points right back to our own silence and inaction. If it points to teachings of lapses of morality that we’ve sown in foreign lands.

Then let me stay single and unmarried.  Silence the voice that only cares about my own narrow scope of rights. Silence the voice that has seen much and should know better.

(If I’ve Survived to Achieve it All by Kenny Pierce)