"Come in, O blessed of the Lord!": Karl Barth and Inclusivity

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Gen. 24:31:  "Come in, O blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for your camels."

Twentieth-century theologian Karl Barth introduced a paradigmatic shift in the concept of "the elect." Previously, since the Reformation, the elect was generally seen as a set number of individuals who had been predetermined by God to receive effective saving grace. This left a problem of the non-elect: those who God has decided to pass over in his ultimate wisdom.

This remains a conundrum since the text of scripture seems to indicate that it was never God's will that anyone perishes, but that all receive life eternal (2 Peter 3:8-10). The reformers reconciled this by dividing God's will into two variations: His effective/decretive will and the prescriptive will. The problem with this is that God seems two-faced. One part of him wishes he could save everyone, but he decrees that only certain people be saved. 

Barth's answer to this is to reconstruct our concept of the Trinitarian nature of God to include "will" as a dynamic working concept with eternal generation. For Barth, God's will takes the form of the eternal generation of the Son. This means that God's will is to be a certain type of God--a God who wills to be God-for-us. This God is missional in nature--His mission is to send himself eternally for our salvation. The act of creation was a result of this movement in the eternal generation of the Son. 

This answer to the problem serves two purposes, in the least: 

  1. God's will is a unified and eternal act that has real results for those for whom he is such a God. Therefore, it is not divided into a wish and a result. The wish is contained in the act, as is the result. 
  2. God's act of eternal generation makes Jesus Christ the elect one in whom all are elect. 

The problem that results from this is that it appears that there are none who are not elect. But it is not that simple, as we will see. 

God, in sending himself in Jesus Christ, the Elect One, reveals the ultimate and full will of God. Nothing in the scriptures can be interpreted apart from this act. For Barth, election theology does not start with the fall but begins with God in Jesus Christ. Election theology is not a biblical theology of sin, but a systematic theology of God Himself. Jesus is not merely a problem-solver. This would be a truncated view of the divine mission. He is the center of the whole story. All creation belongs to Christ himself as the creator and recipient of the gift of creation. The future and end of creation are contained within Jesus Christ. Our theology must begin with the question: Who is Jesus? 

Secondly, God in Jesus Christ is not concerned with restoring a moral order. There is no morality apart from the good act of God eternally being God-for-us. He is not interested in a legal relationship with us, where he exchanges our sin for righteousness for the sake of Justice (a platonic form outside the will of God in Jesus Christ). Under this false conception, God is held captive by an external force called "Justice" that holds him accountable to punish evil and reward good. God is held by no legal standard of justice in his will to be God-for-us in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Christology is not contained within a theology of sin or a philosophy of moral order.  

This "if you then I" relationship is a contractual, conditional, hopeless, and an anti-filial relationship. God's love for his creation is unconditional and cannot work on these conditional parameters. This is mythology and idolatry, not theology. 

Rather, God's mission is to, in Christ, make right (reconcile) everything and to himself (or welcome everything into himself). God is on a mission of saving the world through the Elect One, Jesus Christ, breaking down the resistance of God's good purposes and perfecting His creation. 

Therefore, are all saved? No. Certainly not. But all are being saved in Jesus Christ to an effect that is unknown and mysterious. God reconciles the unrepentant to himself. We do not know what this looks like on the other side of death, but it is a real and powerful message of God's will in Jesus Christ. All are included in the mission of God in Jesus Christ. No one can escape his love, not even the most unrepentant sinner. 

 

The Pruning of Desires: Vocation and False Hope

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Humility and Vocation

Humility requires death. It is an awareness that you are ill-equipped to do the tasks that have been assigned to you. It requires putting to death the desire to be unduly proud of one's personal accomplishments. It requires a shift in the culture of the self from self-advancement and metaphorical victory dances in honor of the self to a recognition that the self is merely a pawn in a grander scheme that is not under one's own control. Humility is not low self-esteem, however; it is the act of getting up each and every morning and choosing to die to those desires that keep us captive to a sense of vocation that is preoccupied with the self. 

Vocation is a touchy subject for several, especially those, like me, who have been forced to give up dreams and desires for a particular vocation due to life's unforeseen circumstances. But it is easier for those who have been through this loss to settle their minds in understanding that true vocation is a higher calling--higher than a particular job, role, or skillset. It is harder for those whose path has not been diverted to another clear path but merely derailed for the present moment. What is true vocation for those who are lost in the grander scheme? 

True vocation for the Christian is a calling to be part of the grander scheme in which we find ourselves. One helpful thing to remember is that every person, merely by their design, plays a significant role in this grander scheme. There is not one person that is any more significant than another. The President of the United States, contrary to his belief, is not a more significant person than the servants at his hotels in the eyes of God. Humility and love are the languages of the kingdom of God and they both will, in the end, bring Trump to his knees and exalt the lowly servants. 

Biblical Vocation

As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:16, "And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body." Just by nature of being part of the body of Christ's work in the grander scheme of the will of God, we are all equal with respect to our roles. This equality is true equity. We cannot, even if we tried, be a more or less significant member of the body than another. We are all, like it or not, equal and equitable members of the body of Christ with equal and equitable identities regardless of our individual subvocations since our main vocation is the same: what Paul called the ministry of reconciliation or the act of bringing all of the aspects of the heavenly city down to Earth. 

The Dangers of Imbalance

To focus unduly on subvocations and jobs or careers over this higher vocation would be to go against the will of God. We should focus on higher things and on the things that involve our self-advancement. This world was created for you and you are but dust and ashes. These statements are both true but only in their correct respective places and in careful balance. If your soul teeters over to one side or the other by an inch, you will feel the damaging results in your soul. If you focus on self-advancement too much, you will feel inadequate. If you focus on being dust and ashes too much, guess what, you will feel inadequate. 

This feeling of inadequacy is a good litmus test for whether you are in the right in the pruning of your desires and the cultivation of true hope and true vocation in your soul. The true logic of life is not focused on self-advancement. It is based on losing one's self-aggrandizement for the sake of the self and because of the grander scheme. In the struggle against our own weakness, in the struggle for humility, we need assistance from outside of ourselves. We need family, God, and all kinds of support. 

Be glad over the course of your life that you have had God and family on your mind so much. Let God and family prune your desires into the shape that will best fit with our true vocation. 

A Battle of the Races

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"I'm not racist."

These words are often uttered without careful reflection and introspection into the depths of the human psyche that are affected by the racialization of our global citizenry. Race is a cultural construction with real and significant implications for all of us. The definition of who is white, for instance, has changed with the definition of who has near unlimited access to the power structures of society. Whiteness is synonymous with power and subjugation. Other races pale in comparison to the power of whiteness and its ability to advance at the expense of these other races. 

To say "I'm not racist" is to say that one has discovered every inch of their psyche and found it pristine and untainted by the ills of this racialization. This is not theoretically impossible, but its probability is near zero given that each of us is born into a racialized world where white stereotypes are good and black ones are bad.

"You are whitewashed."

I've seen it a thousand times. A person of color is wearing Birkenstocks and speaks in well-crafted, stereotypically white slang. Then the accusations start pouring in: whitewashed, sell-out, indoctrinated, etc. Two things could be at play here: 1) our person in question is trying actively to conform to an increasingly white society, or 2) they think Birkenstocks are cool and talk like their white friends because they can fit in better that way because of a reduction of ethnic space due to the constriction of white space. Either way, the person in question has begun to lose their cultural and racial identity. 

"So what?" you might ask.

What difference does it make if someone decides to forfeit their racial identity for a broader, more normative one found in whiteness? Answer: because whiteness is destructive and corrosive to the cultural differences that make us all unique. To be white in the true sense of the word, in the sense that contains the history of white supremacy and implies ethnic nihilism, is to destroy cultural markers and opt for a unity of a higher, more normative order. To be white in this sense of the word is to be a culture-destroyer, not a culture-maker. 

"What's God got to do with it?"

So what role does Christian unity have in the battle of the races? The elimination of the universal norm for the sake of the particular. The imago dei (Image of God) is a very particular notion, not an abstract, universal one. The image of God is a particular man in Jesus Christ with a particular race and skin tone. These things are not accidental to the image of God, but are essential. Contrary to popular eschatology, we will not all be in some ethereal Heaven without bodies; we will be the same race that we are today. Race persists in the resurrection since it is a part of who we are today, in this age. In the age to come, the imago dei will be expressed by the diversity of races, not clouded by it. 

I recall a conversation I had with a fellow white friend of mine. He insisted that race was merely accidental to someone's identity. We argued for hours on this, but we did not move an inch for one reason: his God was God en abstracto, while mine was always particular in Jesus Christ.

Our takeaway is this: to be in love with Jesus is to be in love with a middle-eastern refugee who called for non-violent resistance to the tyrannical government of the time. He was Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Emmett Till. There is no getting around it. Jesus is black. He is Latin. He is every race but white. 

New Edition of Evangelical Dictionary of Theology

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As a post-evangelical, I still admire the theological conservatism that underlies evangelical theology. By this, I of course mean a strict adherence to the traditional, foundational doctrines of the church catholic. This dictionary, particularly the third edition, is a cornerstone for the evangelical wing of the church as it distills modern evangelical scholarship by topic into palatable language for the everyday believer. 

The preface emphasizes the clear changes made in this edition: 

1. Its volume has been shortened by 30 percent to focus on theology per se. This actually limits the political bias of the 1984 text by cutting out any room for rambling or preaching. 

2. One hundred and fifty thousand words of new content based on modern scholarship were added, which compensates for the truncation of the previous edition. 

3. Fresh academic subtleties are included in updated prose. 

4. Updated bibliographies

Also, about half of the new authors include female, ethnic minority, and/or Majority World perspectives. This was great news to me as a white male ashamed of the white male slant in Evangelical Theology historically. 

The articles that particularly interested me here were: Liberation Theology, Feminism, Black Theology, Latin American Theology, and Gender. 

The articles, although I disagreed with their assessments and conclusions, were charitable and had every book and more that I would recommend in the bibliographies. 

Here is an excerpt from the appraisal section in the article on Black Theology:

"Black theology is one of the few authentically indigenous North American theological movements. It will undergo ongoing revision as the result of internal dialogue and continuing research into such areas as its African roots. Confrontation with adversaries and dialogue with other liberation movements (e.g., feminist theology) are further influences. 

As a result of such dialogue, the entire church may discover that 'the Lord has more light and truth to break forth out of his holy Word,' with black theology serving as in important catalyst (note B. Reist's exploration of mutual openness in Theology in Red, White, and Black). The primary focus of black theology remains a biblically mandated message of liberation. While acknowledging that blacks as well as whites are sinners, in the contemporary social setting particularly whites must be called to repentance--not only relinquishing racial intolerance but also identifying with blackness. The sociological work of Michael Emerson, Christian Smith, and others has shown how deeply evangelicals are affected by and contribute to 'racialization' continuing in society." 

This confession of evangelical fault in the racialization in society was shocking and would not have appeared in the original edition. This, and the highly charitable appraisal taken as a whole, shows me that progress is being made in the right direction in evangelical scholarship. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is engaged in systematic theology and particularly to anyone practicing progressive theologizing, as we cannot critique the tradition of the American church if we do not know its stance on and appraisal of doctrine and praxis. 

That is one thing missing from the articles in this text: praxis. That is to be expected with evangelical theology, with such a heavy focus on doctrine. But it is truly disappointing for progressivists who believe there is no doctrine that can stand alone without praxis attached to its hip. 

By praxis here, I mean the application of these doctrines and how they are to be lived out in the global, cosmopolitan reality in which we live. That aspect is completely missing from the text; but, granted, its inclusion would sacrifice key and current discussions in evangelical scholarship. 

That said, if someone is looking for a theological dictionary that represents the evangelical church's current milieu, this is the text to which we should turn. 

How Christians Should Think About Social Justice

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The Critique

Recently, apologist Sean McDowell interviewed theologian Thaddeus Williams on social justice. The outcome of this interview was very concerning to me for several reasons. Williams' main conclusion was that Christians should not join alongside current social justice movements because they are Marxist in their roots; he lambasts critical theory for the same reason. 

Thaddeus, a friend of mine, is (perhaps unknowingly) misleading his audience when he says that Marxism is the root of modern social justice movements. This is demonstrably false, as there is no known connection between the dogmatic interpretations of Marx known as "Marxism" and the nuanced neo-Marxist ideologies that advocate for social change. 

Neo-Marxism is so-called because of its rejection of dogmatic Marxism, admittedly on functional grounds rather than ideological ones, not its acceptance and modification. Neo-Marxism's genus is not Marxism, but rather the psychoanalysis and critical theory of the twentieth century. These two fields no doubt can be traced to Marx. But, to lambast Marx as the founder of his radical interpretations is the definition of historical cherry-picking and a clear straw-man. I hate that Marx too; that Marx was responsible for millions of deaths in Soviet regimes around the world. That Marx never existed. 

I challenge anyone who seeks to paint Marx as an extremist to read his 18th Brumaire and his Condition of Working Class In England. No charitable reader can read these texts and walk away thinking Marx an extremist. He is a radical, no doubt, but so was Wilberforce.

Long story short, Williams swung hard and missed badly. 

The Answer

That said, we still have the question of how Christians should think about social justice. 

Modern social justice movements identify power differentials and seek to equalize them by various means. To be for social justice today is to enter the arena of power, where individual people consolidate so-called democratic power over against their democratic constituents. 

Christians, and conservative evangelicals in particular, should see social justice as a biblical mandate and its modern manifestations as outcries of the poor and downtrodden. To reject modern social justice movements is to reject the voices of the downtrodden and disenfranchised and replace them with the rules of the normative "culture."

This is clearly hegemonic and a violation of the social contract. 

To be a part of the resistance is to forgo the answers of reactionaries and revisionists, and elevate the voices of the stigmatized for the sake of their social elevation.

Diverse Viewpoints among Whites is Not Diversity

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Diverse viewpoints among whites is not diversity. 

The Problem We Face

I am frankly beyond tired of the supposition among predominately white Christian colleges and seminaries that a diversity of viewpoints is sufficient to call an institution "diverse." This is only so because professors, administrators, and trustees at those institutions want to preserve white culture and white theological frameworks in their curriculum, and white fiscal policies in their budgets.

These institutions would rather teach five hyper-nuanced versions of reformed 'lapsarianisms' than, say, the historically black Christian doctrine that God has elected black people as a community and their liberation is the work of the kingdom of God.

Institutions like Biola University/Talbot Seminary, DTS, SBTS, and TEDS have shackled their (few) professors of color, queer, and female professors in theology departments to the wall of white supremacy and straight male hegemony and then played off as if this is normal Christian practice. This is intolerable, heinous, and incompatible with the way of the kingdom of Heaven.  

The strict theological boundaries of these institutions have forced a black, gay, or female professor to teach as if their blackness (and the content thereof) is incompatible with the Christian faith.

Diversity and White Oblivion

The white individuals in charge of these institutions are at fault even though they are aware of their whiteness, as they stand as a part of a tradition of white supremacy and white power. Evangelical institutions were founded by racists and white supremacists, as was the norm in the early 1850s-1920s when these institutions were founded. To continue operation as normal is to perpetuate the racist, and therefore sinful systems which have stigmatized and criminalized black, gay. and female Americans for centuries. 

The Solution

The answer to this is simple. Whites in positions of power need to yield some of their power to the people of color under them, hiring practices need to reflect the diversity institutions seek to create, and curriculum needs to reflect racial diversity.

I am calling on the aforementioned institutions to allow the people of color on their staff to create policies that are welcoming to female students, queer students, and students of color. 

When the institutions training our ministers become less white in all areas, when they reflect the diversity of Christendom, then we will have made progress toward racial reconciliation and ethnic diversity in the church. Perhaps then Sunday mornings will no longer be the most segregated part of the week in America. 

 

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Dissociative Disorders and the Disintegration of the Present

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The clock ticks as my mind is frozen in time. People pass by, words lose their meaning, and everything around me becomes gradually less meaningful. I cannot keep up with the pace of time. One minute per minute is all too fast for my broken mind. I am perpetually trapped in the perfect tense, never able to reach the present and 'live in the moment' because my mind is afraid of the present.

This is what a dissociative experience resembles: an inability to catch up to the one minute per minute pace of time. Dissociation is a coping mechanism, typically for trauma or experiences of loss, wherein the patient cannot collect themselves in the present moment and respond to external stimuli. Rather, the patient responds to internal stimuli: a dangerous prospect. The patient will seem "zoned out," or perhaps not, during these episodes. Of course, dissociation exists on various spectrums, so it can be episodic or ever-present. In my case, however, it is episodic.

My Story

I recently resigned my position as a prep school teacher due to an inability to control these episodes and function well in spite of them. It is simply not a good idea to entrust a dissociative patient with children if their dissociation is not under control. I would oft find myself 'zoned' in the classroom with no real ability to address the students and control the classroom environment. Dissociation causes a generalized lack of engagement in daily tasks. This makes it particularly difficult to hold any job and meet basic performance standards. 

A year and a half ago, I was institutionalized for a few days due to suicidality and severe depression. A psychiatrist in Loma Linda agreed to take on my case due to its peculiar nature. Together, we realized that I had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with dissociative features, and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). This diagnosis was extremely helpful, as it led me to a different path than the general depression and anxiety therapeutic regiment that my university psychiatrist prescribed (sleep well, eat well, and take this hard-hitting depression and anxiety med). There are some illnesses that sleep and diet cannot solve. 

Thankfully there are therapeutic tactics and strategies to cope with dissociation; I am writing this post to explore these tactics.

Positive Coping Mechanisms

One positive coping mechanism is mindfulness meditation and acceptance and commitment therapy, as well as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

Grounding Exercises

Let's face it: the present can be scary and full of stressors. First, before we begin meditation, we must ground ourselves in our present space. This is called grounding. Note three objects you see in the room and pay attention to their details (shape, color, size, etc.). Let your eyes linger. Now notice three sounds that you hear in the present (do this slowly and attentively) and again note their character. Now touch three objects and describe (out-loud) how they feel. 

The point here is to engage the senses as dissociation disengages the senses. This prevents a dissociative episode during the subsequent meditative exercises and creates a safe space for your mind to rest. Time distortions (the experience of time passing too slow or too fast) will also cease during these exercises. 

Mindfulness Meditation 

Mindfulness meditation is effective for some due to its ability to force the patient to focus on the present moment via their breath. Breath is something that is always present. We are always presently inhaling an exhaling, so breath is a key to understanding the present. 

Begin by just noticing your breath. Do not try to control it, just notice it. Rest your attention on it, gently. Then, let your thoughts pass by your attention as if you were sitting on a river bank and your thoughts were floating down the river, passing by you. Do not judge the thoughts or memories that come to your mind. Just let them pass. 

This will undoubtedly increase awareness of the present and loosen the grip of anxiety and dissociation on your experience of time. 

Theology of the Present

The present moment is where God seeks to meet us. It is God's "No" to the determinative grasp of the past; it is his assurance of hope in light of a seemingly uncertain future. Mindfulness meditation, grounding, and DBT/CBT are all theologically significant ways of reorienting the self toward a space wherein we encounter God. 

"Blessed are the Poor... Woe to the Rich"

  "Looking at his disciples, he said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 'But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.'" (Luke 6.20, 24, NIV)

"Looking at his disciples, he said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 'But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.'" (Luke 6.20, 24, NIV)

The kingdom of God, as exemplified in Jesus Christ, is the radical in-breaking of the economy of God into the economy of our world. The gospel accounts tell the story of a humble king who subjugated himself to the ultimate humiliation: incarnation and death on a cross for the sake of our transformation.

This transformation is carried out by revelation, viz., the incarnation of the logos: the fundamental, divine, and alien truth (in the holistic sense of the Greek word alḗtheia) uniting reality's constituent parts. This logos and his ministry of healing and chastisement are concordant with the ministry of alḗtheia in the social ministry of prophetic figures of our history. 

This radical in-breaking is truly counter-cultural; it is God's "No" to the predominant view of the genealogy of morals in societies, to the blatant disregard for poor and working people, and to the cruel methods of exploitation of the downtrodden for the benefit of the well-to-do. 

The mission of God is (and has always been) to secure the welfare of poor and working people and destroy those who exploit them. 



This missiology is evident in the sermon on the mount. Jesus makes it clear that God blesses the poor and hints of the damnation of the rich. The assumption here is not that the rich became so due to their merit alone. No; Jesus rejects this meritocratic point of view.

Rather, he introduces a radical perspective: God will not comfort the rich when they die since (1) their comfort hs already been afforded to them by their riches, and (2) they became rich at the expense of the poor. 

With 60% of Americans owning 2.3% of the wealth, and the top 1% owning 35% of the nation's wealth, we have to inquire from where this wealth comes and why this inequality is so great. Here is an article worth reading that suggests that a similar wealth gap existed in first-century Palestine, as well.

Let us assume what Jesus assumes: God does not look favorably upon the wealthy insofar as they exploit the poor.

How to Tell if You Are a White Supremacist

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Since avowed white separatist and founder of the alt-right Richard Spencer began to try his hand at converting young millennials, there has been a rise in the popularity of the movement that can only be described as stomach-churning. 

Spencer's goal is to normalize white supremacy by using similar phraseology as "It's okay to be white" and "white pride." Many of those frustrated with the correlation of progressivist policies and a clear diversity agenda have turned to white supremacy as a simple binary to make sense of this (confusing?) paradigm. I get the frustration. I too am frustrated that the right has not adopted a diversity agenda of its own, and that diversity has become an issue of the left. 

This is not surprising, however. Since crazed conservative Dinesh D'Souza who claimed that the alt-right and fascism is actually leftism taken to its logical end (which makes as much sense as saying communism is the right taken to its logical end), claiming that it is "socialism for white people." The Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) was not akin to leftist socialism. It was Hitler's conscious use of a leftist term to subvert leftism from the outset that generated this confusion. To think otherwise is intellectual laziness at best (NB: D'Souza wrote a whole book on this 'misguided' thesis that is a best seller among neo-nazis and ethno-nationalists like Spencer). 

It is easy to tell whether you are a white supremacist. Like most things, this paradigm exists on a scale from, say, Trump (someone who does not condemn neo-Nazism) to Hitler (yes, Godwin has won again). Conservatives who read me charitably will appreciate the Trump name-drop since it places him at the lowest end of the white supremacy spectrum. These individuals may say insensitive things that would be considered racist by neo-Marxist CRT (critical race theory) standards but would be praised as "politically incorrect" by most conservatives at worst (noting that political correctness is the bane of their existence). Here are determining statements that I have developed after careful reflection and conversation with known white nationalists/separatists. The greater degree that you agree with these statements, the closer to Hitler you are on the scale. The more you disagree, the closer you are to Trump or to moving off the scale altogether. Here we go: 

1. It is venerable to be proud of one's white heritage. 

2. Whites and blacks are better off when physically separated from one another.

3. White people are culturally and morally superior to black people, on average. 

4. Black people have lower IQs and are therefore less intelligent than white people, on average. 

5. People of the Asian race (particularly East Asia) are genetically predisposed to a higher intelligence than the rest of the world.

6. Black suffering and the ills of the black experience are not due to white racism.

7. The ills of the black experience are due to cultural factors only, such as laziness, lack of focus on the traditional family unit and the birthing of children out of wedlock, black-on-black crime, and lack of engagement in the educational system.

8. Black extremism must be countered by a co-equal white extremism. 

9. If blacks and other minorities only worked harder, they could succeed to the level of whites.

10. Whites are more ethnically American than blacks or other minorities. 

If you agree on any level with the aforementioned statements, you might be a white supremacist or follower of the alt-right or in danger of becoming one. Spencer's goal in repackaging white supremacy for cool kids is a moral disgrace and should be treated as such by media outlets across the board. These aforementioned statements are not only false but racist at their core. 

As always, I welcome constructive disagreements and comments. This issue is near to my heart as many of my friends have unapologetically held these views and worse in recent months. 

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Why You Should Read James Cone

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James Cone is a distinguished public intellectual and a black prophetic voice speaking into the white void. As the father of black liberation theology, his works stand alone as seminal and profound insights into the black spiritual and theological experience. He has taught systematic theology through the black experience. His works have been translated into nine languages. He began writing in the late '60s and has continued into the '10s. 

The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011) is his latest work and it is beyond thought-provoking; it is a call to action. It is an analysis of America through two symbols. More than an analysis, it is a criticism of something so deep in our DNA as Americans: post-civil war lynching of black Americans. Billie Holiday's song Strange Fruit comes to life in the pages of this book. 

The cross and the lynching tree are parallels historically. The cross was a first-century lynching. Black people rejected the control of the white power structures resembled by the lynching tree in favor of a new meaning: one where no man can kill the God-given spirit within you. Whites cannot win. 

This has perpetual implications for today in the white void full of empty, soulless bodies oppressing the souls of black folk through white supremacy and white power. This oppression is in the DNA of America; 246 years of slavery and 100 years of legal segregation and lynching hang over America's mantle, perpetually wedging itself in between blacks and whites in America. We cannot leave this history to fester since silence only empowers the powerful. Protest empowers the disenfranchised. 

Everyone should read this book because everyone can benefit from a neo-marxist critical lens applied to America's white hegemonic history. No honest individual can read this book and leave the experience thinking America innocent in the struggle for justice. 

Anyone who seeks to find ammunition against white supremacy in all forms should pick up this book. Power through powerlessness is the way of the cross, and all forms of black resistance embody this power dynamic. God is the power that empowers the black spirit. This book embodies that spirit; I long to live in a world where everyone has Cone on their shelves. 

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Why Cornel West Needs to Publish Something Again... and Soon

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Black Prophetic Fire (2012) by religious and cultural critic Cornel West was a necessary look into the history and writings of the black prophetic tradition. These are empowered individuals speaking truth to (white) power in a prophetic manner. Cornel's account of them is stirring and empowering to say the least.

However, this is West's latest work. As a public intellectual, neo-marxist and radical leftist, and a member of the black prophetic tradition in his own right, he has a key position to defend truth and attack injustice in a world where the alt-right and neo-nazism drive political policies from the top-down. Whether it is Brexit, Charlottesville, Roy Moore, Steve Bannon, or Trump, radical reactionism and the xenophobia and white supremacy it entails is a real and living threat against democracy in the world today. 

West has not authored a single article or book involving democracy and its project in the Trump era. As a radical democrat (small d) myself, I hope he is sitting on something monumental because his silence is deafening.

West created a movement I would label as black Marxism: a form of neo-marxism specifically meant to address the needs of poor and working people, and the plight of black Americans in an America dominated by "vanilla brothers and sisters" living in equally vanilla suburbs. 

America is a state of radical need for integration and desegregation. Cornel can lead this movement in academia and in colleges and universities worldwide, which are otherwise known as the final outposts of la résistance. 

All this said, I cannot deny West's involvement in the #BlackLivesMatter movement on a practical level. His arrests in this context are badges of honor as far as I'm concerned. I have no right to criticize his lack of involvement in la résistance from any position other than raw sincerity. So I offer a word of encouragement to Cornel that he might write and publish something and tour it that the voiceless might have a voice again.