Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lost Narrative

As the results of the election became clearer I acerbically tweeted that perhaps the arc of the moral universe does not bend towards justice. It was half sarcasm, half honest sentiment. Yesterday I spent a lot of time ruminating about the loss of a narrative.

I started paying attention to politics and social issues in the late 90s. Although there were ebbs and flows, until yesterday I could see steady movement towards a more just world. Progress was incremental (far too slow for my liking) but it seemed that we were at least moving in the direction of equality and justice. The small gains we’ve made over the last 20 (50?) years feel lost. Hate and bigotry have been mainstreamed again.

This presents a challenge to me. I work for justice and teach about social change because at some level I believe it can happen. But maybe it can’t happen, at least not in the way that I want it to. I don’t want to let disenchantment lead to inactivity but I feel the seductive pull.

I’m wrestling with two questions and I hope that you, dear reader, might be able to help.

  1. Is there a narrative to be found? Those wiser, and likely older, was my narrative falsely constructed? Did such a story never exist in the first place? What story do you see?
  2. Why do you seek justice? What motivates you when despair and disenchantment creep in? How do you work when the results are so tenuous and fleeting?

Chime in. I need some help here.

2 Comments

Filed under culture, Uncategorized

The Morning After

Some thoughts as I process last night…

Ian was in tears about the result. He asked if he could miss school today because he is worried about what his classmates might say. Since we’ve just sent a clear message that bullying and hate are totally ok–even rewarded–I don’t blame him.

I worry about Ela. The glass ceiling is fully intact and I worry that she will not be given the opportunities that she as a smart and resilient person should be afforded. I’m also worried about her safety because we apparently don’t mind powerful (and not so powerful) men grabbing women by the p***y.

Dylan seems unfazed. I’m glad. As he gets older we’ll continue to work on a hunger for compassion and justice.

I’m listening a lot to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv05US9f_vM. A lot.

Apparently I need to keep at it with justice issues. We are so much further away from our ideals than I had imagined. I am doubling down on my commitment to walk with and amplify the voices of those who are marginalized and vulnerable. I will be doing some thinking about my strategies (maybe you have some suggestions for me).

I’ve been reading Paulo Freire with my students. Two ideas he expresses seem apt: 1) Those who are oppressed never do violence first. It is always a response to the oppressors. Whites and Christians did great violence last night. 2) The oppressors cannot liberate anyone. Those who are oppressed are the only ones who will bring liberation, to themselves and to their oppressors. I defer to the wisdom, resilience, and agency of Women, Muslim, Black, Brown, LGBQT, poor, and other marginalized people (we disenfranchise in so many creative ways, it seems that the above have borne the brunt in recent months).

When I was in high school and college I raced road bikes. I loved the hills. I thrived on them. The pain and willpower required to conquer them energized me. The next four years (and beyond) look like a big fucking mountain. Bring it.

5 Comments

Filed under culture, politics, Uncategorized

Evanescent Echoes

The altar is a jumble of iconic authors and texts: Peter Brown’s majestic tome on Augustine, Three by Flannery O’Connor, a recent copy of the Christian Century. And a Macbook. In the presence of these giants, six brave authors grieve those things written that have already been forgotten, their precious ideas that have floated wistfully into the ether.

The ceremony is archaic. Words are solemnly read and spoken under the soft glow of candles. The language is faintly Christian.

The ritual, like the works lamented, is ephemeral. The moment the words are expressed they are forgotten. The candles too, shining as gentle, hopeful beacons, are extinguished. Wisps of smoke from smoldering wicks slowly dissipate.

The vaguely Christian God remains invisible. Those offering their elegies dare not even mention the name. God too has passed; the sweet stench of the decaying Word made flesh barely lingers.

It is a fine line between lament and nihilism.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Encomium of the Loeb Classical Library

They fit so nicely in my hand. Vibrant green covers for the Greek texts, brilliant red for the Latin. They are hard bound, emblazoned with a gold LCL logo on the cover. A bibliophile’s dream. Their beauty so enchanting that Martha Stewart used them to decorate. Her daughter’s kitchen. (But this is supposed to be a merry tale so I’ll spare you the rant.) I run my fingers across the pages and I am happy. I read from them and I am smart.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Yay World Vision!

This week we saw a damning public display of discrimination in the name of Jesus. Slow clap for World Vision. As would be expected, I have a few thoughts.

First, the events of this week are shameful. From World Vision–a spineless reversal motivated by money. From conservatives–the retraction of perhaps millions of dollars to “help” those who are poor. From liberals–using people who are poor to make political statements. Shame on all of you.

As you may already know, I think the Christians who, in the name of God, insist on bigotry and discrimination against gay people are on the wrong side of history and theology. This week’s shameful Christian outcry against a policy of non-discrimination and World Vision’s subsequent retraction is horrifying to me. In no way am I endorsing their behavior.

But I am thrilled that this all went down. I have never been a fan of World Vision. Their model is untested, with little objective empirical data to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs. They objectify poor children and market them to support their efforts at development. The dignity, agency, autonomy, and power inherent in every human being is flattened into a pathetic picture of a helpless (black) child who can do nothing without help from the great (Western) savior. Such an image is good for raising funds, shitty for actually fixing the problem. And the events of this week demonstrate this.

If supporting a poor child is merely a marketing strategy when you  make a PR slip that commodified child can be easily replaced by another commodified child from another organization.

But I did not need this week’s events to know that World Vision, a Christian aid and development agency, exists for itself. Their longstanding practice of giving away the Super Bowl loser t-shirts is roundly criticized by anyone who knows what good aid looks like. It looks good to Charity Navigator (often a specious measurement tool) because World Vision can claim that they received a $2 million dollar gift (100,000 t-shirts with a “market value” of $20 each) and then distribute that gift relatively cheaply. But… is the gift really worth $2 million? Those shirts are useless, with no value whatsoever in the US (the NFL prohibits the sale of said t-shirts). The NFL can continue to overproduce things that are unnecessary (do we really need our Superbowl Champion t-shirts the day after the Super Bowl?) and look like really good guys by giving a $2 million donation. World Vision looks like an effective charity with low overhead, rich white men pat themselves on the back. Win-win, right? Except that no one really needs a Super Bowl loser t-shirt in Africa. Yes, World Vision has helped give us the impression that these are helpless, useless poor people with no idea how to clothe themselves. But that is just absurd.

They further lost credibility last year when they actively lobbied against food aid reform. Current policy is that food aid be grown in the US and shipped overseas on US vessels. The inherent waste and ineffectiveness of such an approach is obvious. But it is good for US farmers and shipping companies. And World Vision. So when President Obama proposed that as much as 25% of our food aid be locally sourced, World Vision stood in the way. Even though as many as 10 million more people could have been fed by such a policy.

So now you know why I am glad. I hope they lose millions more and that those millions go to more reputable organizations like Church World Service, Episcopal Relief and Development, Lutheran World Relief, and other such agencies that respect the dignity and agency of people, regardless of their economic status or sexual orientation.

12 Comments

Filed under justice, poverty, religion, Uncategorized

I am sorry. God is still dead.

I really am. It is a travesty that I have let my last post linger through the better part of Easter. I had hoped to take a fabulous Kierkegaardian turn on Easter Sunday… but I was too busy. Then the end of the term happened. And now two publishing deadlines are looming. And in the middle of the night I woke up with this brilliance percolating. I hope to talk about faith rising by around Orthodox Easter (May 5 this year). It will be worth the wait. I hope. Until then, enjoy my latest hope-filled post, “I am a Christian Terrorist.” Cheers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized