Musings of a Postmodern Negro

"During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism."- Howard Thurman

Location: United States

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Saint Rosa

(February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005)

Endurance that allows us to rejoice in our suffering can never be described by Christians as an individual achievement, not only because it follows from a gift, but also because it is the endurance of a whole people committed to remembering the saints. From the saints we learn how to be steadfast in the face of adversity. By remembering them we become members of a community and history that gives us the power to prevail. Of course, the saints make no sense apart from the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. The memory of them, therefore, derives its power from the memory of Him, whom we celebrate in a meal, a meal that offers us the opportunity to share together in His calling. The saints' faithfulness to this calling is concrete demonstration that by Jesus' resurrection a people is formed who can sustain the virtues necessary to remember His death. As we sustain that memory, Christians receive the power to make our deaths our own by learning to endure

Stanley Hauerwas and Charles Pinches, Christians Among The Virtues. p.124

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ghetto Birds, Browning, and White flight

Rambling thoughts. Nothing of substance really.

Last night as I was driving home from an event at church I noticed a 'ghetto bird'(for those that don't is a police helicopter normally used in urban areas to keep up with a fleeing suspect) flying over my development. It's been while since I saw one. I have memories as a teenager of seeing crack heads, drug dealers, and young black men being chased down by that glaring beam of light. My first thought was a bit nostalgic. Thinking to myself, "I remember those days." But my wife called on the cell. She got a call from the neighbor informing her, with a very concerned voice, about the police helicopter hovering over the development. She asked me if I was in the development yet and to check to make sure all my doors were locked. She was going through the house ensuring all the doors were locked. Mind you, my community is in the Suburbs, but with a slight twist. We live in the most diverse community in Charlotte. Both economically and culturally. The range of incomes go from those on section 8 to people living in $500,000 homes. Its a trip really. In my development right across the street is a group home for at-risk youth. But just down the street there are people driving jaguars, benzos, and bmw's. Anyways, the thought occurred to me how some people in the community may see this as a sign to begin 'flight'. I didn't notice this before until last night but there have been a growing number of "for sale" signs all over the development. Its a trip really. My development is going through a 'browning' process and also a 'white flight' process as well. And the churches here don't help either. Although my community is pretty diverse ethnically and economically the churches here don't reflect that. What would happen if Churches in my community came together and fellowshipped across ethnic and economic lines on a regular basis. Would that even change some of these dynamics I am witnessing?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Being Church Locus Imperii (On the scene of Empire)

For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about this statement I read by D. Stephen Long in his book "The Goodness of God". It has been hard to shake for some reason. It speaks to me in 'how' we do and understand church in our North American context. Specifically, in the American South where I live.

In regards "goodness" Long says, "No account of goodness can be present in our everyday lives without some social formation being the condition that allows us to make sense of it. Ethics does not happen in a vaccum; it always takes place within social and political formations."(p.17-18)

The social and political formation called America in which I practice Christianity along with many other Christians has been described by many as a kind of Empire. There is alot of debate as to what constitutes empire, but many would find it difficult not to describe America in such a way. I don't know if such a designation is necessarily a bad thing all the way around. I do know that it has alot to do with the political, economic, military power that one carries when they walk the globe.

As a continuation with imagineering a post-modern black church (or a church where a negro can feel at home) I want to discuss the many ways in which church-as-usual-comfortably-situated-in-the-belly-of-empire.

One of the ways church is comfortable with empire and severly lacks dis-ease is the current discussion on epistemology. You would think that our situaded-ness here in America would be characteristic of a group of people that worship and follow a God-become-peasant-killed-by-colonizers. Given the nature of Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection one would think that it would create a group of people that find it very difficult to be comfortable while living in the most powerful empire on the planet. Why is the current buzz about epistemology a sign of being comfortable in empire?

Largely because there is little discussion about the socio-political formations that gave rise to particualr epistemologies. Hats off to theologians and pastors of the Radical Orthodoxy and post-liberal/conservative perspective who have kindly extended the discussion of epistemology to socio-political formations. As I quoted D. Stephen Long in the beginning: moral norms presuppose a particular socio-political formation. I would suggest that epistemic norms presuppose a particular socio-political formation as well. However well intentioned these discussion are I cannot help but see these kinds of debate arising out of a particular socio-political formation called empire. I think we have only begun half of the debate as it relates to epistemology.

I recently sat through a membership class in a local church here in Charlotte. The pastor appeared to be very keen on the current discourse relating to being missional, postmodern, emerging, etc.. But what I noticed about his talk on postmodernism is his understanding that this whole cultural shift boils down to epistemology. I think that's half the battle.

As a church situated in empire (or locus imperii) we have to investigate what kind of socio-political formation is presupposed in our theologizing and ecclesial practices. We just might have to re-think and expand our understanding of conversion, repentance, baptism, Eucharist, and the many other practices and beliefs we name Christian.

I think Brian McLaren's recent discussion on cultivating a post-colonial theology and praxis is a step in the right direction. Because we have had these discussions on epistemology in-the-air we are not cognizant of how we are colonized in our theological minds...or possibly the theological colonizers ourselves. More later.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A word from the Word 2

Baptism: Being drowned into the Kingdom of God

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Colossians 2:9-15

Reflecting on this passage reminded me of a family trip to Florida when I was around five years old. I remember watching a National Geographic-like show about deep water diving at my cousins apartment. My father made me go outside to play with all the other kids at the pool. I remember seeing the big kids jump into the 10 feet section of the pool. With my newly acquired skills of deep water diving I jumped into the 10 feet without knowing that one had to hold their breath while under water. I distinctly remember the fist couple of seconds under the water being totally amazed at the sight of these kids jumping in and watching them move their feet making bubbles under the water. Then I took a breath. The burning sensation in my nostrils, water filling my lungs, and the sense of helplessness I felt as I felt my body go limp. I had this feeling that I was going to die. Then out of nowhere one of my cousins jumped in to save me from certain drowning. Luckily, I didn't need CPR. But it was definitely a rude awakening for me. This episode in my life left an indelible mark on my soul. I was afraid of the water for a long time. It was a transformative moment for me. I wouldn't get over my fear of water until I joined the Navy (something about being in a Submarine hundreds feet under the sea will either make you or break you).

I thought about this episode this morning as I was reflecting on the sacrament of baptism. Baptism in the Christian circles I have traversed in the past often expressed it as a symbolic act representing a inward disposition towards Christ's salvific work. But as life experience has taught me drowning can be a life changing albeit a transformative moment. I now believe baptism to be so. Baptism is not only entrance into the ekklesia of is entrance into the kingdom of God...the society of God's reign (borrowing from Scot McKnight). In baptism we are being drowned into the kingdom of God. We are dying to this 'old aeon' and being raised with Christ into the society of God. This has social, political, and spiritual implications. My question for further reflection: when we rise from the drowning waters of our Jordan who exactly should be rising?