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DXRacer vs Maxnomic Gaming Chairs

DXRacer vs Maxnomic Gaming Chairs

Are you in the market for the best gaming chair? If you are looking for the best ones out there, you can narrow it down to two brands – Maxnomic and DXRacer. The question is, which among these two is the best chair that can match your gamer needs? On that note, this article aims to address the differences between the two brands in terms of chair models, price, size and more.

DXRacer vs Maxnomic Gaming Chairs

This article highlights the features, differences as well as the pros and cons of both lines of gaming chairs. Are ready to find out whether DXRacer or Maxnomic is the best gaming seat? Here it goes.

DXRacer Gaming Chairs

These gaming chairs are the current champion in terms of popularity. These game seats are quite popular with professional gamers, the top YouTube celebrities and more. Its name is pretty well known that it is virtually a household name, at the very least, for dedicated gamers. It is not surprising since they do create high quality gaming seats.

Their seats are available for small, average and big sizes. When it comes to pricing, DXRacer and Maxnomic, there’s a little difference between the two, but DXRacer’s basic chairs are a little more affordable. If you have not a specific model of chair, you take a look at DXRacer’s broad gaming chair line available in 14 diverse series.

Maxnomic Gaming Chairs

Maxnomic has a good reputation and well-known in the industry. However, its fame is nowhere near the popularity of DXRacer gaming seats. Though not as popular, one cannot deny their gaming chairs are truly superior quality. They are popular, especially with their models designed to support taller gamers. As mentioned before, Maxnomic and DXRacer have almost similar price range.

Both Maxnomic and DXRacer has a wide array of size options for their gaming chairs. They have gaming seats for the small and averaged sized as well as the tall and big guys. With DXRacer, they have the Origin Series for the Slim or Average sized to the Tank Series, those above average and with a large build. As for Maxnomic, their size accommodations are a little more specific.

Product Warranties

Both DXRacer and Maxnomic have great product warranties. With DXRacer, you can get 2-year warranty for all the chair’s accessories while you get a lifetime warranty for the frame. On the other hand, the Maxnomic chair has a 2-year warranty for all its parts, frame and all. Therefore, it is safe to say that Maxnomic is ahead of DXRacer in terms of the warranty.

If you consider those mentioned above, you can see that DXRacer and Maxnomic each has an edge over the other. For wide chair options, DXRacer is ahead. For the warranty, you got Maxnomic as the best choice. For the price and sizes, the two brands are at a stalemate. So which exactly between the two is the best choice?

Whether it is DXRacer vs Maxnomic gaming chairs, the answer is really according to you. Think about what kind of features you prefer and whether you like longer warranty over chair options. Once you figure out what you are looking for in a gaming chair, choosing between the two will surely become easier now.

#MennoNerds on Race, Mutuality and Anabaptist Community

“The myth is that we don’t live in a highly racialized and white-controlled society, and that the Church isn’t complicit. But the truth is that race and racism affect all of us,” says Drew Hart, who blogs at drewgihart.com.

What can Christians do and learn about racism? How do we name, explore, and critique violent systems, and navigate the tensions where we are complicit in racism–to whatever degree? How can the white majority in the North American church live in vulnerable community with persons of color, and how can persons of color be heard in the church? Can we envision change for white majority, white-dominated churches, institutions, schools and seminaries? Where are there examples of Anabaptist communities, bloggers, theologians, and networks modeling a more faithful way?

These questions and others will be explored during a special upcoming livecast panel discussion entitled “Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community” produced by MennoNerds. The diverse range of panelists include Drew Hart, April Yamasaki, Tim Nafziger, Katelin Hansen, and Osheta Moore joined by Tyler Tully in conversation around race, mutuality, and Anabaptist community.

The first production of its kind, “Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community” will include input from its viewing audience using online social media tools of Twitter and Google+. “Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community” is a free event, slated to appear on Thursday, June 12th at 6:30pm CST at the following link:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cijmuktoreof2ipakii3q035j34

Participants


MC/Panel Facilitator:


Tyler-TullyTyler M. Tully (@the_Jesus_event) is an Anabaptist writer, activist, and theologue based out of San Antonio, Texas whose work has been featured in local and national news sources. Proud of his indigenous American and European roots, Tyler is studying post-colonial constructive theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary where he is currently pursuing an M.Div. You can follow his blog The Jesus Event at http://thejesusevent.com/


 Panelists:


Katelin-HansenKatelin Hansen (@BTSFblog) is the editor of By Their Strange Fruit (BTSF), an online ministry facilitating justice and reconciliation across racial divides for the sake of the Gospel. BTSF explores how Christianity’s often-bungled relationship with race and racism affects modern ministry and justice. Katelin also service as Director of Music at UM Church For All People, a multi-class, multi-racial church in an underprivileged neighborhood of Columbus, OH.


Drew-HartDrew Hart (@druhart) is a PhD student at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa, studying the intersection of Black theology and Anabaptism. His research is shaped by his own formative experiences within both streams, having been raised in a Black Church and then spending 4 years on the pastoral staff of a multi-racial, urban Anabaptist community after college, and prior to jumping back into graduate school. He is currently a part-time pastor and professor speaking regularly to churches, conferences, and colleges, primarily around the themes of discipleship, ecclesiology, and Christian ethics.


Osheta-MooreOsheta Moore is a stay-at-home mother of two boys (Tyson and TJ) one girl (Trinity), the wife of T. C. Moore (Theo Graff host), a ‘Naked Anabaptist,’ and writer/blogger at ShalomInTheCity.com. She is passionate about racial reconciliation, peacemaking, and community development in the urban core. She likes to take the “T” in Boston and listen to the amazing street performers at every stop.  At the top of her bucket list is to dance in a flash mob, all the better if it’s to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Pharrell’s  “Happy”.


Tim-NafzigerTim Nafziger is passionate about gathering people with shared values to work together for change in our communities and our world. One such space is Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) where he has been part of the support team since 2008. He also blogs for The Mennonite magazine, administrates Young Anabaptist Radicals, designs web sites and does photography. Tim lives with his wife Charletta in the Ojai Valley in southern California where they connect with Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries.


April-YamasakiApril Yamasaki (@SacredPauses) is a pastor and writer in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada. She is lead pastor of a congregation that includes people of various backgrounds including Russian-Mennonite, Kenyan, Korean, Vietnamese, and others, still growing into its multi-ethnic and inter-cultural identity. Her latest book is Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal (Herald Press, 2013) and a book of sermons, Ordinary Time with Jesus (CSS Publishing), will be released soon. She blogs at aprilyamasaki.com.


Tech:


Ryan-RobinsonRyan Robinson (@Ryan_LR) is the Digital Development Coordinator at the Canadian Bible Society, working primarily with website design, eBook publishing, and the Bible Journeys devotional framework. He blogs at emerginganaptist.com and maintains the website for MennoNerds.

Upcoming Online Forum on Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community

I am an Anabaptist too logo

Artwork by MennoNerd Eddie Gonzalez

“The myth is that we don’t live in a highly racialized and white-controlled society, and that the Church isn’t complicit. But the truth is that race and racism affect all of us,” says Drew Hart, who blogs at drewgihart.com.

What can Christians do and learn about racism? How do we name, explore, and critique violent systems, and navigate the tensions where we are complicit in racism–to whatever degree? How can the white majority in the North American church live in vulnerable community with persons of color, and how can persons of color be heard in the church? Can we envision change for white majority, white-dominated churches, institutions, schools and seminaries? Where are there examples of Anabaptist communities, bloggers, theologians, and networks modeling a more faithful way?

These questions and others will be explored during a special upcoming livecast panel discussion entitled “Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community” produced by MennoNerds. The diverse range of panelists include Drew Hart, April Yamasaki, Tim Nafziger, Katelin Hansen, and Osheta Moore joined by Tyler Tully in conversation around race, mutuality, and Anabaptist community.

The first production of its kind, “Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community” will include input from its viewing audience using online social media tools of Twitter and Google+. “Race, Mutuality, and Anabaptist Community” is a free event, slated to appear on Thursday, June 12th at 6:30pm CST. For more information please visit http://mennonerds.com/upcoming-mennonerds-on-race-mutuality-and-anabaptist-community/

Sermon: The Real Jesus

The Real Jesus

Sermon Delivered on 4/13/2014
at San Antonio Mennonite Church
by Tyler M. Tully

Many years ago, when Charla and I were dating, my best friend and I were invited to eat dinner over at her room mate’s house. It was a memorable night, least of which included the fact that my best friend ate all of the dessert when no one was looking. But a little less memorable was the fact that we all sat down to watch Charlton Heston in the 10 Commandments–which of course was playing on ABC since it was Passover season. Not that there’s anything wrong with renting the 10 Commandments or watching it every Easter–in fact, I think that’s a great idea. But there we sat there, a few of us angry that we didn’t get dessert, one of us having a stomach ache because he ate too much sugar… and all of us having a good time.

Many of us don’t associate Easter with Passover, but we should. The first Easter took place during the Passover season: the triumphal entry, the Last Supper, and in John’s gospel, the crucifixion happens on the same day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed.

Today and throughout the centuries, Passover remains a wonderful time–an important time–and everything we have heard from the Old Testament and the New Testament readings today has everything to do with Passover.

The first passage we heard was from Psalms 118, which is the last of five consecutive Psalms that were sung during the Jewish holy days of The Feast of Tabernacles (which is called Sukkot) and Passover. I know what you’re doing now and I’ll save you the time– its Psalms 113 through 118. So now that that’s settled, let’s get back to Passover. These five Psalms were sung as hymns during the Passover meal and were known as “Hallel” which means “songs of praise”– the root word of which we derive “hallelujah.” During the Passover meal, every guest partakes of four cups of wine; Psalms 113 and 114 were sung with the second cup and 115-118 were sung during the cup at end of the meal. After the meal, and with the last cup of wine, everyone makes a toast to conclude the night, “next year in Jerusalem” they say.

In our Old Testament reading today, the Psalmist exclaims, “Open the gates of victory/ or Open the gates of righteousness.” And they’re referring to three possible gates: 1) Jerusalem itself is known as the city of righteousness (Is. 1:26); 2) They could also mean the outer gates of the Temple (Ez. 44:11) and still 3) They could also mean the gate to the Holy of Holies, which is of course in the very heart of the Temple structure. Any three of these, maybe all three of these– are referenced here by the Psalmist. During Passover in the time of Jesus, tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world would return to Jerusalem, enter its gates and worship at the Temple– but if you remember the 10 Commandments movie, you’ll find that Passover was originally celebrated in the home of each Jewish family during their slavery in Egypt. And this is especially important for the community in Egypt because there are specific instructions about how the Passover is to take place. If anyone is poor, hungry, or unable to provide a Passover lamb–the Bible says it is up to the wealthy to invite the poor amongst them so that they can all share this familial meal together. Salvation came to the community, but death came upon the individuals. There wasn’t an individual transaction, no. The Passover meant real-life, in this world salvation from Death, and in celebration, the Jewish community as a whole would eat the lamb and unleavened bread remembering that it was God who delivered them.

After the Exodus from Egypt, as the kingdom of Judah grew in power and as the Temple and the priesthood became more and more institutionalized and hierarchical, Passover moved out from the home and into the Temple complex. Before Jesus was born it had already become one of the three pilgrimage festivals for the Jews, who came to Jerusalem from all over the world in order to celebrate. And so we have this image in Psalms 118 of all the people coming together into Jerusalem, and into the gates of the Temple, and even into the Holy of Holies through these gates of victory/ or righteousness.

And that brings us to an important point. Why does the Psalmist use the term “tseh’-deka” which can mean either righteousness, or justice, or victory? Well earlier in Psalm 118, the Psalmist declares that “the right hand of God” has delivered the victorious/righteous/just from their enemies. Vss. 10-15 has that “all nations have beset me”– that is to say that the Gentiles have surrounded us, and we’re to assume this is a kingly figure who is speaking on behalf of the entire victorious/righteous/ just nation. It is YHWH who has delivered the righteous/just/victorious from their enemies and it is the right hand of YHWH that is “exalted” and “triumphant.” And then right after this victory, the Psalmist describes the scene this way:

”Open the gates of victory/righteousness for me that I may enter them and praise the Lord. This is the gateway to the Lord, the righteous/victorious shall enter through it. I praise you for you have answered me and have become my deliverance. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.”

Now notice that the Psalmist is using imagery that evokes the architecture of the Temple. I will enter through the gates… this stone is the chief cornerstone. I’m going to come back to this theme later, but I want to make sure you understand that the Psalmist is speaking clearly here about the Temple even though they are using rhetorical imagery. And even though the Psalmist is personifying a single voice here, even though we read “I” and “me,” the person speaking is a part of a community–the entire Psalm is a praise hymn from the community. This becomes clearer as we progress through the text as you can see that the Psalmist moves from “I” and “me” to “us” and “we.”

”This is the day that the Lord has made” it continues “let us rejoice and be glad in it.” 

Then the people shout “O Lord, deliver us! Oh Lord, let us prosper! Blessed is he who enters in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the House of the Lord.”

Does that sound familiar? It might not depending upon which translation we use. But what the crowd is actually saying in Hebrew is “O Lord, Yasha’ (that is “do save”)”– “O Lord, Yasha’ anna’”–we beseech you, we beg you… do save!” And in Aramaic, in the language of Jesus and the crowds at the Passover in Jerusalem they shout the Aramaic form of this phrase when they say, “”Hosanna to the Son of David ; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD ; Hosanna in the highest !” Not only are they quoting from Psalm 118, but they are participating in the public Passover hymn. Not only are they simply praising God, but they are asking God, they are begging God– “Save us! Now! We beg you, do save!”

But I’m wondering why? Psalms 118 has already indicated that YHWH has delivered, YHWH has already won victory over the nations surrounding them! This is why they are celebrating, right? Following along Psalm 118, so far YHWH has defeated our enemies, YHWH has delivered the righteous/victorious/just ones and now we are entering a procession into the city of Jerusalem and into the gates of the Temple and eventually into the Holy of Holies–I mean this is exciting stuff! But then they say “O Lord, deliver us! O Lord, let us prosper!” As if YHWH hasn’t already delivered them? I don’t know, but the question looms over us as we read from the Psalm.

The context of the Psalm is one of celebration, right? This deliverance is a good thing. We’re celebrating the victory and deliverance from our enemies. We’re rejoicing in the celebration of this worshipful act… and of course, we’re here at the Temple. And what happens at the Temple? There are sacrifices made at the Temple, so its just logical that we’re going to have a sacrifice. So the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is God, God has given us light; bind the festival offering to the horns of the altar with cords. You are my God and I will praise You, You are my God and I will extol you. Praise the Lord for God is good, God’s steadfast love is forever!”

Almost everything about this sounds awesome. Enemies surround us but are destroyed. God is good. Gods’ mercy is steadfast forever! And notice, God’s mercy and faithfulness is steadfast forever even before we make a sacrifice. In other words, God’s mercy and steadfast faithfulness does not require a pre-requisite sacrifice. God has already proved God’s faithfulness and mercy. THATS the reason why we’re here at the Temple in the first place!

But God is not interested in sacrifices. By the time of the Prophets, the hierarchical system of the Temple has become unjust, the king and the princes oppress the poor, yet still these festivals continues. Still piety and righteousness are valued, but everything is ceremonial and everyone is just missing the point. TheProphets cry out “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Let me read this again because it is so important. 

Now let’s fast forward from Psalm 118 to the Passover in Jesus time. This morning, we read the New Testament passage from the gospel of Matthew. And for these people, for the crowds yelling “hosanna” to Jesus, things look very different than they did for the crowds saying “hosanna” in Psalms 118. The Romans–the nations–the Gentiles– still surround us. Judea is an occupied territory–their presence is felt everywhere. Even here in the Temple, the Roman garrison of Jerusalem is literally attached to the Temple structure. It overlooks the entire courtyard of the Temple. But since this is Passover season, its still a time of celebration.

Have you ever noticed that when things are really bad thats when we often throw the best parties? Maybe its because the bad makes the good feel so much better, maybe because when our agency and our bodies are taken from us we seek to express and assert our own personhood our own identities by partying in the midst of oppression. That certainly seems to be the case for Matthew’s crowds. During Jesus’ time, Passover meant that work was stopped, families and extended families were reunited, and all the trappings of a celebration were enjoyed. There was food and drink and stories–because let’s not forget, at its root, at the very beginning Passover is a celebration of freedom! Its about how the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt but were delivered from oppression. How God worked miracles through Moses and how they went from being enslaved for hundreds of years to carrying out the gold of their slave masters! This is a big deal and its worth celebrating.

But its not all fun and games during the time of Jesus. The Romans knew the significance of collective memory. Josephus writes in his histories that during Passover, riots were most likely to erupt from the people– and the Romans knew it. Its not hard to imagine why. So this all sort of serves as a gloss for Jesus, who rides into the city with cheering crowds waving palm branches as any king would, except he does so during Passover and the crowds around him are shouting and quoting from Psalms 118 “save us now! deliver us!” they cry. This looks like trouble, from the Roman perspective, from the Temple’s perspective, because here comes this prophetic figure–and prophets almost always stand in opposition to the Temple power structures and to governments–here comes Jesus entering the city in the style of a conqueror surrounded by cheering crowds.

Coptic Palm SundayAnd I know what you are thinking. Jesus is on a donkey. The crowds around Jesus aren’t armed with swords they are armed with palm branches. I mean come on Tully this doesn’t really seem like a threat to me. And you’re right, except I’d just like to point out that this is but one episode in a long line of subversive acts by Jesus. Don’t forget that Jesus rides the donkey into the Temple structure from the Mount of Olives, and the Scriptures say that the Messiah will arrive from the Mount of Olives. And don’t forget that when Jesus shows up in the Temple complex– he flips over the tables and drives the money changers out! And don’t forget that Jesus stays in the Temple and continues preaching things like the parable of the vineyard, where the son of the vineyard owner is tortured and killed so that the vineyard workers can steal his inheritance. Don’t forget that after telling this parable, right there in the Temple, don’t forget that Jesus declares, “the stone which the builders have rejected has become the chief corner stone!” Don’t forget the Herodians, and Pharisees, and Scribes and Sadducees keep trying to trap Jesus after he arrives in the Temple. There in the Temple courtyard, right in view of the Roman garrison attached to the Temple they ask Jesus whether its lawful to pay taxes or not, and what does Jesus say? “Whose image is on the tax? Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” as if to say, “whose image are you created in?”  undermining the entire argument. Sure, give Caesar taxes, but guess what give God everything. As if to say, guess what? I AM the image of God, not Caesar! Give me the credit I deserve. And when politics can’t trap Jesus, don’t forget that they turn to religion and ask him there in the Temple, “what is the greatest commandment.” After that, Jesus publicly praises a widow for donating one cent– where he says that she is greater than all the rich and powerful people who donate out of their surplus. And don’t forget the most offensive thing he said there in the Temple, after he arrived on the back of the donkey. Jesus predicts that the Temple itself will be destroyed but that Jesus himself will rebuild it in only three days!

Jesus, the real Jesus– the Jesus that rides into the Temple on a donkey surrounded by crowds armed with palm branches is a very real threat to the system. You don’t have to be violent to to be a threat, you just have to be honest. Jesus is a threat to the violent occupiers and the economic oppressors and he is a threat to the religious establishment. The same is true now as it was back then. 

But what about the palm branches? Why are they even mentioned in the story? Aren’t they just some manner of adoration in the Jewish culture of the period? Its true that during Passover, every pilgrim was to carry a palm branch. It was indeed a culturally significant gesture connected to the Passover and to the Feast of Tabernacles, and also during the time of the Maccabees who overthrew the Seleucid armies that occupied Israel a few decades before the birth of Jesus. 

I’ve done some research on this, because until this week, I didn’t know. These palm branches are called “lulab” in Hebrew, and they have a lot to do with the Festival of Tabernacles or. (Sukkot) According to Jewish scholars, the palm branches weren’t just any old palm branches. In fact, the rules concerning what they looked like were very specific: they had to be young palm branches that were still in their folded state before the leaves had a chance to unfold, and these lulab had to be at least 3 hand breadths long so that one might wave them. But they also had to be bound with a twig or tendril of its own kind. And these lulab were actually tied together in a particular fashion. They were usually connected to willow branches and myrtle branches in woven into groups of three, so that the willow branches and myrtle branches were tied together on the lower end of the palm branch together. So these were used when singing the Psalms I mentioned earlier during Passover and Sukkot. They would be waved when the crowds recited the passages of thanksgiving and praise to God who had delivered them from their oppressors.

But what I want to bring your attention to is found in Psalm 118, vs. 27, where the Psalmist describes the festival sacrifice. They write, “The Lord is God, God has given us light; bind the festival offering to the horns of the altar with cords.” And this word for cords is very interesting. In the Hebrew Bible, the term is ‘ab-oth, which the KJV translates to “wreathen cords” (Ex. 28:14), other translations use “cords” like a rope, and sometimes as fashioned cords or intertwined foliage (Ez. 19:11) And the Greek translation is equally interesting since it translates “cord” or “rope” here to mean “pyeeg-zoo-sin” πυκάζουσιν which means to hang garlands upon the altar–literally to tie or bind the sacrifice to the altar with the garlands.  So in effect here, we see that as the crowds surround Jesus with these garlands–with these lulab palm branches, that they are actually tying him to his own death. They are, whether they know it or not, tying him, binding him, connecting him to the altar of sacrifice through their praises of him as Messiah, deliverer, violent overthrower of their enemies–their oppressors. They don’t know it, because all they can see is a deliverer in the way of the world. All they can see is what the world expect them to see of a hero or a deliverer. They can’t see Jesus for who he truly is.

Today’s passage is a difficult one. As Anabaptists, we’ve committed ourselves to the ongoing and ever present example set by Jesus, our King–who isn’t a violent overthrower of enemies and who isn’t a warrior. So to read these violent narratives that are so central to the Christian faith, the experience can be, well violent. And for non-violent followers of Jesus, we seem to have our work cut out for us here–especially as we grapple with this long-standing tradition in Christendom that asserts that God did violence against Jesus and that somehow, the violence done against Jesus is redemptive.

Make no mistake, we hear this type of rhetoric everywhere–not just around Easter time. Walter Wink once wrote, “If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god.” We see it on television and in our favorite movies–the myth of redemptive violence. The hero, against all odds, is continually berated by the enemy, but nothing can kill the hero. He endures. Then, when the enemy has him in his grasps–when death seems almost like a certainty–our hero overcomes. Right has won out, his beloved has been rescued and order has been restored, the good-guys have won… until the next episode, or movie, or whatever. 

We even have this sort of motif influencing some of our most popular interpretations of the crucifixion. Anyone familiar with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia will recognize them in the killing of the character Aslan who is presented as a Christ figure. Aslan’s beloved sons of Adam and daughters of Eve are in grave danger. All of Narnia, his most precious creation, stands ready to be destroyed by the White Witch and her dangerous minions. So he reaches a deal with the devil, so to speak, and voluntarily offers his life for the life of Edmund–arguably the most misunderstood and snotty-nosed Turkish Delight loving anti-hero if ever there was one. But like so many heroes, Aslan knows that if he voluntarily lays down his own life for another, well he’ll overcome and conquer the one who kills him. Aslan says this is an “old magic,”– one the White Witch, who plays the bad-guy in this scenario– does not know about. True to form, Aslan dies, all seems lost, but then he comes back to life! The White Witch is defeated in a great and bloody battle, but Narnia is saved. Edmund has been released from captivity, all of Narnia is saved, and order is restored…. until Prince Caspian comes along in the next book.

I’m beginning to wonder just how much the myth of redemptive violence has to do with the crucifixion of Jesus. Many Christians read it that way. We’re the bad guys, God is the good guy, and Jesus is the necessary collateral damage needed to make things right. We deserve to be tortured and put to death by God, and Jesus doesn’t, and because Jesus does so then we are saved. And though its not really Jesus doing the violence, it is, ironically, God who is doing the violence to Jesus on our behalf, because you see according to the myth of redemptive violence, someone has to pay the penalty and its the good-guys who determine who is bad. And somehow we are told that this type of behavior is love–that is to say, because God loves us God won’t give us the violent, torturous death we deserve. But God will do it to Jesus instead, because somebody has to be tortured. Someone has to be killed.

Theologians call this theory, the “penal substitution” or “satisfaction theory” of atonement. You are probably familiar with it even though you may have never heard it labeled as such. Its that “good news” Gospel that says that our Abba Father in Heaven demands a blood payment for the sins we’ve committed. Ironically, its supported by those religious persuasions who insist that God predestines people to heaven and to hell. Its the type of Christianity who says that God holds us each responsible for what God determined to make us do in the first place! It says that God is perfect, holy, and righteous; meaning that God can have nothing to do with sin and hates sinners. Its the theology that lays all things violent at the feet of the Holy. After all, if God is all powerful, unchangeable, and “sovereign” over everything–well, then everything that happens happens because of God’s will. Who are we to question God?

So what is one to do when disaster strikes? When tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes and illness occur, how are we to make sense of it all? The myth of redemptive violence tells us that God is the author behind this destruction. God’s trying to get our attention. God hates our sin and wants to destroy us, if only to save us.
Here’s the problem: when the layers and grains of truth that encapsulate the lie that is the myth of redemptive violence, we find a false image of God that demands a violent blood sacrifice in the Temple. But Jesus says, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:6-7)

Scripture says that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” I think the crowds during the triumphal entry thought they could see the real Jesus, but they didn’t. All they could see was a violent deliverer, even though he wasn’t. Even Jesus’ disciples thought they saw the real Jesus, but they didn’t. They still continued to argue with each other about who was going to be the greatest in his coming earthly kingdom! Even though they ate and drank and learned from Jesus day in and day out, they still thought Jesus would be coming to conquer the Romans and fulfill their hopes and dreams of a militarized Messiah. Even the Romans saw Jesus as this kind of threat. Through the lens of this world, all they could see is another “messiah” coming to overthrow their system.
Its too easy to blame them now for not seeing Jesus for who he is. But what about today and in our time? If the myth of redemptive violence is based on a false image of God– since it demands a sacrifice in order to appease a blood thirsty idol–Maybe we need a refresher course in who God is, because too often, Christians are guilty of looking anywhere but in the person of the real Jesus. And I stress the “real” Jesus because too many times we present Jesus as something he was not.
The real Jesus is God. This oppressed, poor, day-laborer; this unmarried, non-violent, friend of sinners, this mixed-race, Galilean Jew is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of the Godhead. He is the very nature of God, the exact image of the invisible God and the firstborn over of all creation. Scripture says that all the fullness of the Godhead dwelled in Jesus in bodily form. This adopted son of an illicit pregnancy, this illegal immigrant who fled with his family into Egypt to avoid death and oppression, is God. Scripture says that Jesus and God are One, that if we have seen Jesus then we have seen God, that Jesus is the glory of the One and Only God, and that when we look at Jesus we should see the One who sent Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace and the Everlasting Father. Church, let us never fail to confess with our hearts and our mouths and our lives that only the real Jesus is God.

So that is who the real Jesus is. Now let’s discuss who the real Jesus is not. Since Jesus is God, and this is crucial, God is utterly incapable of looking anything like that all-powerful, sovereign, tyrant whose wrath is only satiated through the blood of his victims. What kind of a god is that!? That’s not Jesus. That’s the god of this age.

Since Jesus is God, he is utterly incapable of any resemblance to the god that rewards the dominant culture with their status as dominators over and against the oppressed and poor. Jesus is nothing like the god of our age that points to power and wealth and says, “see the rich deserve their blessings of wealth, and the poor deserve their curses of poverty.” What kind of a god is that? That’s not Jesus. That’s the god of Mammon.

Because Jesus constantly challenged what it meant to “be a man,” since he constantly undermined the social fabric of his culture, since he went unmarried–a very strange thing indeed for men of 30 plus years since most of them were married by age 21. Since Jesus was a friend of prostitutes, certainly both male and female, he cannot be that god that hates queers, that makes single-parents feel like they’ve missed the boat, that god of self-righteous indignation that ignores the adultery of lust in their own lives while picking up stones to kill the sexual scapegoats around them. What kind of god is that? That’s not Jesus. That’s heteronormativity. That’s patriarchy. That’s churchianity, but it aint Jesus.
Shall I go on?
Sometimes I think we’re embarrassed to claim that Jesus is Lord. Sometimes I think that we’ve been so beat up by Mammon, by patriarchy, by heteronormativity, by the god of this age that we over-react. I understand, I do. I think maybe we’re so sick and tired of Christians using the Bible to justify violence, to justify oppression, to justify patriarchy. We can’t stomach the use of Jesus and the myth of redemptive violence that fuels mass incarcerations for “our own protection” and “for their own good.” We’re just so weary of being told that “God can’t give us more than we can handle,” and that “God works in mysterious ways,” and that “God is in control” because they might want make you feel better but it sure as hell doesn’t make me feel better when my dad is sick with cancer, or my niece is dying of illness, or when refugees are being held in refrigerators, or when God’s army is dropping Atomic Bombs on Japan, or when we’ve been sexually abused, or when life… sets… in. I get it, but still I reject that notion of God because it looks nothing like the real Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, and since the violence of the crucifixion story is so central to the themes of redemptive violence, we should be concerned. I know this is a lot to deal with, but this affects us and how we live in the world because we are Jesus-people.
If the real Jesus is God, then no one gets to reduce Jesus to a “get out of hell” card. The god of this age does not get to co-opt and appropriate our King. If Jesus is God, then God is poor, oppressed, and non-violent. If Jesus is God, then God comes charging in on a donkey instead of on a white war horse. If Jesus is God, then God pushes cultural boundaries of family and marriage and sex and power, and if Jesus is God, then God can be murdered because that’s exactly what happened to Jesus. God can be murdered, God can be hungry, God can suffer, God can be frightened, and God can carry scars on God’s body! The real Jesus was lynched, and this is the true scandal of the cross. God came to us, embodying the good news of wholeness, shalom, peace, and reconciliation–and we killed God!

That type of reality is just too hard to grasp sometimes. Surely its easier to say that God willed Jesus’ death. Surely its just easier to make sense of the world by saying that God sent the cancer, or the hurricane, or the tornado. After all, the god of this age promotes the myth of redemptive violence and causes us to place our hope in violence against another. We repeat that ritual of violence over, and over, and over again. There is no end to the cycle of violence on the altars we’ve created! But Jesus says, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”

Jesus did not demonstrate his Divinity on the cross, if that means that God tortured his Son so that God’s righteous anger would be satisfied. To the contrary, Jesus demonstrated his Divinity every day of his life. He demonstrated it when he fed the multitudes and walked on water. He manifested the Divine when he healed the sick and cured the crowds of their diseases. Jesus showed us he was God as he ate and fellowshipped with sinners, and gluttons, tax-collectors and prostitutes.  They didn’t have to go to God, God had come to them. “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”

Remember the Psalm 118– they had already been delivered even before the sacrifice took place! The enemy had already been defeated! God’s victory, God’s glory, our deliverance had already been revealed– it was revealed every day of Jesus life, every time he made the lame to walk and the blind to see, when he fed the hungry and set free the captured. His victories were won every time he loosened the chains of the oppressed and declared the year of his Jubilee! 

Jesus doesn’t look like the God we expect him to. God’s victory doesn’t look the way we expect it to.  Since the god of this age blinds us from the glory and image of the real Jesus, we often make sacrifices upon the altar of redemptive violence. How many times throughout history have we rejected and killed our prophets? How many innocent lives have we written off as collateral damage during just wars against the bad guys? How many billions have died believing that victory comes if we only kill more of them than there are of us? And how many billions are violated by our benevolent impulse to be smart shoppers? I have no doubt in my mind that when Jesus was crucified, he was put to death by those who honestly believed they were doing the will of the god of this age.

But the true-nature of the real Jesus unmasks the powers that put Jesus to death, just like his very life reveals the true-nature of the Godhead.

If Jesus demonstrated the image of God upon the cross, he did so in utter contrast to the god of this age and in opposition to the myth of redemptive violence. But such a clear picture can only come into focus when we understand that it was our ugly, violent, self-righteous culture that demanded a sin offering, not God. “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”
And therein lies the complication, because according to the Old Testament, there are several types of offerings which we too easily confuse. There is the Grain offering, but that doesn’t give us much help here. Next is the sin offering, which was offered by the high-priest of Israel upon the altar on the Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur). The sin offering was given through the sacrifice of a bull or ram meant to atone for the sins of the high priest and of all of the people for the previous year, but its not given on Passover, only on Yom Kippur. The next type of offering is called  the scapegoat offering, which you have probably all heard about. According to this type of offering, two goats were chosen by lot. One goat was designated “the Lord’s goat,” and the other the “scapegoat.” The high priest would lay his hands upon the scapegoat symbolically transferring the guilt of the people onto it before it was let go into the wilderness where it eventually died. But the “Lord’s goat” was offered as a sin offering. The blood of the sacrificed goat was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. Isn’t that strange? The sins and guilt of the people were laid on the scapegoat that was set free, but it was the Lord’s goat that was sacrificed–whose blood was on the altar. Shouldn’t that challenge the way we think about what God desires? About the role the sacrifice makes?

Barabbas–the violent criminal who was let go instead of Jesus, he was the true scapegoat. And he looked so much like that “messiah” of this age–like that violent deliverer, the freedom fighter that was going to set us free from our Roman occupiers. Yet like the scapegoat of old, he was let go while Jesus was seized by the Romans and eventually crucified. And Paul, writing in his epistle of Romans, states that Jesus was the perfect sin offering, since appearing in the likeness/image of a sinful human but remaining sinless, Jesus condemned the sin in sinful man by fulfilling the righteous requirements of the Law. So notice that Jesus condemns sin, not man, and through Jesus God condemns sin, not Jesus. But there is one last type of sin offering called the “guilt offering,” which also needs to be addressed here.

Isaiah 53:3-5 reads, “He is despised, and rejected, A man of pains, and acquainted with sickness, And as one hiding the face from us, He is despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely our sicknesses he has borne, And our pains — he has carried them, And we — we have esteemed him plagued, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 And he is pierced for our transgressions, Bruised for our iniquities, The chastisement of our peace [is] on him, And by his bruise there is healing to us.”

And since we’ve already discussed the importance of the lenses we use and how those can affect the way we read Scripture, the context of Isaiah 53 needs to be taken into according. According to vs. 10 the suffering servant is described as a “guilt offering”–distinct from the grain, the sin, and the burnt offerings.

The Guilt offering is owed whenever someone sins against something Holy and profanes it. Put another way, it means to fail to recognize something as holy when it is holy.  The “guilt” in “guilt” offering literally means to “incur liability” as the verb ” ‘asham” denotes the payment of damages, leading many to call it the “reparation offering.”–which is probably the best interpretations. One was in need of making reparations of this type of sin if they profaned the holy, specifically the Temple or Tabernacle–which is important here since Jesus is presented as the Tabernacle and the Temple many times in the Scriptures. Jesus says, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Heb 9:2, Matthew 12:6-7, John 2:19, 4:10-14)

According to Is. 53:4, although Jesus performed miracles, Jesus was the deliverer, but he was not accepted as the Messiah. We could not see him for what he truly was. We esteemed him not. That verb that is translated, “we esteemed him not… [and] but we esteemed him” means to judge or to think of. So the text can literally say, ‘we have judged him to be’ or ‘we have thought of him, planned for him, invented him, counted him, valued him as, regarded him as, considered him as stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.” In rejecting Jesus as God, those who crucified Jesus regarded him as worthy of death because they were looking at the Messiah through the lens of redemptive violence.

And by those who still fail to see Jesus as God, we continue to judge, think, plan, regard, value, judge, and esteem Jesus to be “afflicted by God, stricken by God, and smitten by God.” If might makes right, then Jesus was a loser, so we vindicate an image of God which doesn’t actually jive with Jesus. But this is of course absurd when we understand that Jesus IS God. How can God smite Godself? How can God reject Godself? 

According to Leviticus 5, a Reparation Offering was needed anytime one profaned something holy–anytime one failed to see or respect or esteem the Divine, and it was most often associated with the Temple. Psalms 118 takes place in the Temple, after God has already won the victory, and yet the people cry out “Save us! Do save us now!” and then they offer a sacrifice! The triumphal entry takes place in the Temple, after God has already won the victory, after the Incarnation has already occurred, after the deliverer has already arrived, after the Kingdom of God has been made manifest, after demons have been cast out, and multitudes have been fed, and after the winds and storms and sky have been brought under his control, and after wounds have been healed, the dead have been made alive, and after the blind have been made to see, and the lame to walk, hallelujah! The victory is here, its present, its Jesus. Yet the crowds can’t see the real Jesus. They cry out, “save us! do save us now!” and tie Jesus to the altar with their garlands and palm wreaths.

The Guilt or Reparation Offering was required even if one did not know they were guilty of profaning the holy, so its something that not only the crucifiers of Jesus required but it was needed by any and everyone who did not recognize Jesus as the true Tabernacle and the true Temple. Is it any wonder that upon the cross, Jesus cries out “Abba, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!”

And the parallels between the Reparation Offering and the crucifixion are myriad. It was the sinner who provided the Reparation Offering sacrifice (Lev. 5), but in the SIN and scapegoat offerings the high-priest often provided the sacrifice for the people. Isaiah 53:10 states that Messiah was a “Guilt offering” meaning that it was the sinners who handed over Jesus as the offering, not God.

According to the Law, sinners had to provide a ram or bull that was without blemish for a sacrifice of restitution. And this is the irony, in that the crowds that are guilty hand over Jesus to be killed but he is their Reparation Offering without them even knowing it! What is more is that the priest could keep the hide of the bull after the sacrifice, which happened when Jesus’ robe was kept by the Romans who cast lots over it. Additionally, only the priests could eat of the bull, and since the Romans are the ones sacrificing Jesus, this is probably a foreshadowing of the Gentiles being accepted into the New Covenant. Notice that it is a Roman centurion and not the crowds who says, “truly this man was the Son of God.”

All of which to say is that when Isaiah 53 is read from a violent perspective, it seemingly makes sense. But when you read it in context of Lev. 5 and the “Guilt offering” of Isaiah 53:10, we see that it was the crowds that handed over the sacrifice, not Abba God. And it was the crowds who were satisfied to deliver Jesus over to violence in the Temple.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian killed by the Nazis in one of their many concentrations camps. Bonhoeffer once wrote that God was in the business of making good out of evil, even the greatest evil. And that’s the resurrection, my friends. We orchestrated the crucifixion, but God orchestrated the Resurrection–God is in the business of making good out of evil, even the greatest evil.

You see, God is not the author of the crucifixion. God is not the instigator of disasters and illnesses. God is not the one who crucifies, and demands a blood payment–we are. Jesus said, “Satan comes to kill, to steal, and to destroy but I have come to bring you life that you might have it more abundantly.” Satan kills, Jesus resurrects from the dead. Satan steals, Jesus gives freely. Satan destroys, Jesus rebuilds from the wreckage. That’s the real Jesus my friends. That’s God.
I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. One greater than the myth of redemptive violence. He is JESUS. And if you had known what these words mean, ‘God desires mercy, not sacrifice,’ We would no longer condemn the innocent.

Amen.

The Day that Felt Like Church

Boots on the ground/The day it felt like Church

I was baptized into a fundamentalist church when I was 7 years old, but that wasn’t the end of my journey to Jesus.

By the time I had been in and out of undergrad and had made a right mess of my experiences there, I was most often the first to talk about Jesus and the last to behave like Jesus. But everything changed for me when succumbed to the “Hound of Heaven.” One day while in prayer, I remember wanting to be baptized again– this time as a confessing adult. But I also remember God doing something that seemed so counter-intuitive to me at the time: God wanted me to be a youth volunteer at our local fundamentalist megachurch. Looking back, I’m so glad I did. Let me explain-

That very summer, our youth group traveled to Memphis in order to take part in Service Over Self (S.O.S) ministries– a dedicated community of individuals who invaded some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This wasn’t the “good-time Gospel” I had grown up with; this was an embodied ministry that declared the holistic good news of King Jesus through community, restoration, andconfession.

Their method was simple. A dedicated group of individuals, armed with resources, bought homes in Memphis’ poorest community. There they lived right next to and among those they ministered with. They did not plant a church, but they were a church planted within their own community. Soon they bought an abandoned car lot and warehouse where they stored their building supplies, and before you knew it, S.O.S. began training and equipping summer volunteers in the rebuilding of their communities, literally. Never before had I seen this type of liberation in action. Affluent, white families were living intentionally in and among some of the hardest areas of Memphis. There were no illusions of gentrification– no aims at increasing property values. This was a strategic Gospel invasion meant to demonstrate the embodied freedom found in Jesus Christ.

Our particular youth group was assigned the task of rebuilding the roof of one of the neighborhood’s homes, and so we set to work with one of our S.O.S. staffers who oversaw the entire project from start to finish. His job was to facilitate the training necessary to complete the replacement of the roof while fostering a relationship with the family who lived under it. At the end of the project, every family was invited to a free bbq at the local neighborhood park, where neighbors and volunteers alike enjoyed each others company.

One hot July afternoon, we witnessed two neighbors in a squabble. Although they were about 100 yards away from our rooftop, we could tell by their manner that a fight was soon to break out. I’m not sure what happened first, but something inside of me reacted quickly. I shimmied down the ladder and approached the would be pugilists with caution. Looking back, I remember not caring whether someone needed to “get to the bottom” of “the issue.” I only knew that Jesus was the Prince of Peace and that we were called to be peacemakers wherever were went. Now I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t “me” who stopped the fight that day. Since S.O.S. had been in the neighborhood for almost a decade, their reputation went before them. As I was wearing a bright red S.O.S. shirt, I’m certain the two men recognized that I was just another part of a bigger Kingdom community whose reputation carried credit wherever it labored. But what’s important to memory is the way our volunteer staffer later reacted. Together, we shared an “aha” moment at the end of the day as we discussed all that had previously transpired. Community is messy. When people get together, especially in the midst of poverty, things often heat up. Even in the midst of a Kingdom community, tensions flare; so instead of pretending like conflict doesn’t happen and instead of looking the other way (which we so easily do), we all came to embrace our roles as prophetic peace-makers in action. Ours is not a passive Kingdom.

That was the day that felt like church. There were no steeples, only people eating, working, and living in community alongside each other. There were no altar calls or organ swells, only seekers living out what Jesus meant together. Never before had I seen a community of believers who intentionally lived out church within the communities around them. Rejecting the formulas and models of Christendom, these S.O.S. community members practiced a mission of solidarity with those they lived with–just like Jesus lived in solidarity with those he came to live with. Theirs was not a mission of reform or colonization. Theirs was a mission of mutuality, where whatever happened to their neighbors (for better or for worse) meant the same for their own community. After years of manifesting this important reality, there was made manifest a common-unity between all classes and strata of the neighborhood. Success was not measured by souls won or by notches made in one’s spiritual head board; success was determined by whether or not mutuality was sustained in spite of the many excruciating realities working against it (poverty, racism, classism, etc).

With privilege comes great responsibility for those who claim to follow the one who emptied himself, intentionally, in order that we might become the community he desired us to be. Ours is a community that undermines cultural insulation and invades violence through Kingdom peacemaking. It didn’t matter that these staffers had earned advanced architecture degrees and PhD’s from impressive Seminaries, what was important is that they treated everyone around them as Christ himself–and as a result, homes were rebuilt, families remained together, and the power of the holistic Gospel was manifested in and throughout the greater city.

I’m forever impressed by the examples presented to us through S.O.S. ministries in Memphis–an opportunity I never would have been exposed to if it weren’t for the strange impression I felt after I began following Jesus.

Which Jesus Do We Worship? Megyn Kelly, Sarah Palin, and Santa

The following post is part of our ongoing Advent Synchroblog called #fleshYGod, bringing the Incarnation into conversation with culture.

Anyone with a television probably knows that Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly recently announced that the historical Santa Claus and Jesus are white. While the reaction to her initial “tongue-in-cheek” claim caught the attention of many, I was particularly popped in the face by her follow up. According to Megyn Kelly, the ethnicity of Jesus as not-white is an issue “not settled.”  In the face of historic congnitive dissonance and the resulting neuroses, we can’t compute a Jesus that is at odds with Santa Claus, can we?

According to Fox News consultant and former VP candidate, Gov. Sarah Palin, they needn’t be at odds. Reviewing Palin’s newewst book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, author Candida Moss explains that:

Palin doesn’t seek the original Christmas (a fourth-century invention), the traditional American Christmas (they didn’t celebrate it), or consumerism-free Christmas (you Communist!). The festival Palin wants to retrieve is the Christmas of her youth. Palin’s Christmas is a medley of joy-filled eating, present opening, charitable giving, and idiosyncratic family tradition.

And part of this “idiosyncratic family tradition” includes a cultural appropriation of placing a menorah on their family’s counter, “as a way to acknowledge Christianity’s Judeo-Christian roots.” Confused historicity aside, while Moss writes that “Palin says her book is “about Christ and our ability to worship Him freely.” … there’s not a lot of worship here.” I’d disagree. I think there is a lot of worship there, only, we’re interpreting it as something else.

Taking Megyn’s claims into conversation with its apparent backlash, two important points are Jesus painting with two sheepsbrought to mind: 1) Ethnicity and culture matter, especially when dealing with heroic figures of spiritual significance, and 2) the dominant culture usually ignores historic realities that undermine dominant norms (and their resulting spiritual implications), replacing these problematic facts with a narrative that serves dominant interests.

Think for a moment: why do so many of our religious icons picture Jesus as European? Why does he have blonde hair? Why does he have Caucasian features? I’m not only speaking to the medieval milieu of religious iconography, but to many of our modern artistic expressions of Jesus found at Mardels or Lifeway. Even today, Jesus is often depicted in ways that reflect and reinforce the dominant norm in our country.

When the “normal” Santa we celebrate looks like our phenotype, his mythos also reflects our priorities. Let’s think deeply about the superficial narrative of Santa Claus, shall we? He’s a fat, white guy with white hair (read healthy, wealthy, Father-like, and European) living in a far off place who works tirelessly with joy (think Protestant work ethic) to reward good little girls and boys (read they get what man with an angelthey deserve) through the supernatural aid of some magical elves (think mysterious, celestial help agents), but if children have been naughty, Santa gives them coal (read they do it to themselves).

Now let’s talk about Jesus and the Christian mythos, which also reflects our priorities at Christmas time. Let’s think superficially about the deep narrative of Jesus Christ, shall we? He’s a fit-looking white guy with a beard, living in a far off place who works tirelessly with joy to reward faithful servants through the supernatural aid of the angels, while punishing the wicked.

Its easy to get the two confused, since both bestow gifts upon us according to our own behavior. And since these gifts moralize an economy that places priority upon potential purchase power, commercial might makes right. Moreover, we like a Jesus that fits our cultural expectations. He’s gotta be strong, but not too strong. He’s gotta be middle-class and not too poor. He has long hair and a beard–but he can’t look like a hippie. He needs to be Jewish, but not too Jewish…

But what should our mythos look like, if we actually worshiped the historical Jesus, not the Jesus of American Suburbia? Is it significant to our theology that Jesus was impoverished? Or that he was born a Galilean–meaning his Jewish identity also descended from Canaanite, Moabite,

reconstructed jesus half

Reconstructed Jesus image, from Popular Mechanics Magazine

Babylonian, and Assyrian stock–much unlike the Judean Jews in Jerusalem? Or even that Jesus was an adopted child? Or that his adopted father was a tekton–essentially a day-laborer, not the quaint carpenter of tradition? Or that Jesus was dark-skinned, working out in the sun, belonging to a ethnicity and race that might put him on one of our no-fly lists today? Or that his mother was dark skinned and poor and uneducated? Or that she was stigmatized for getting pregnant outside of marriage? Should it affect our theology that Jesus spoke Aramaic, the official language of the Neo-Babylonian Empire? Or that
he owned no property, not even a house?

What would it say about our mythos–our spiritual and political priorities–if our narrative about Jesus (the Jesus we worship on Sundays) reflected his historic reality? Now, that is a question worth asking.

The fleshYGod Synchroblog: The Incarnation And Christian Culture

Being that it is Advent according to the Christian calendar, believers receive an opportunity to ponder anew the meaning of the Incarnation of God’s Word. What does it mean for an Almighty, All-Wise God to choose the body of an infant to reveal God-self? What are the implications of the Incarnation for Christians engaging culture? We (Tyler and Rod) offer that there may even be problems with the way our views of the Incarnation are presented. Our theologies of Incarnation are interconnected to our theologies of cultures. As such, The Jesus Event and Political Jesus blogs are co-hosting the #fleshYGod Synchroblog from now until Epiphany, on Monday, January 6th , 2014.

1. You can write your own blog post, telling us your own views on the Incarnation and what it means for engaging culture/s. The post can be written, it can be an assortment of GIF’s, pictures, a video, a video blog (vlog), a short quote. Don’t be afraid. Take a side, Pick a side, any side.*

2. Please link back to this original post so your readers and other readers can find your post to be collected in two weeks. Synchroblog collection ends January 6, 2014 at 11:59PM Central Standard Time, USA.

3. Share your views on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag: #fleshYGod. I will try to collect as many facebook statuses and tweets using the #fleshYGod. hashtag and Storify it in the final #fleshYGod Synchroblog post.

4. Interact, engage people who you agree and disagree with. Show love and encourage one another peaceably, and above all, don’t be a troll! *Side note if you don’t have a blog or social network or don’t want to share, but would like to participate, please use our contact page to make a submission:

Contact Rod at Political Jesus or Tyler at The Jesus Event

Never Forget the Real “First Thanksgiving”

Thanksgiving Day floats its own kind of memories for me: Pumpkin Pie, Turkey, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, NFL football–that awkward moment when my cousin Chris and I accidentally fired a rifle inside Grammy’s house. The season brings collective Americana into conversation with the past, as some children wear collars made from construction paper and buckles made from aluminum foil, while others wear brown paper bag buckskin and feathers. The story of the first Thanksgiving is one of the most popular pieces of American folklore. It evokes something we like to think to be true of ourselves as Americans– having been established on religious freedoms by resourceful, independent, hardworking pioneers–but is it true? As a descendant of both the Pilgrims (via John Alden) and indigenous First Nation peoples (Chickasaw on my mother’s side, Cherokee on my father’s) it is important to remember the nuanced reality that is very much a part of our American history.

The Myth of Thanksgiving Day, 1621

The Myth of Thanksgiving Day.1621Everyone thinks they know the story… The year was 1620 and the Pilgrims traveled to the New World aboard the Mayflower to flee religious persecution in England.  Upon arriving, they began to starve those first few months in Plymouth colony.  To make matters worse, it was winter, and half of the population died.  Eventually the Pilgrims were saved by a Patuxet “Indian” they called “Squanto“–a man who had survived enslavement in England by previous settlers, but eventually escaped back to his homeland where he providentially engaged the Pilgrims in their own native language. Squanto teaches them how to sow corn and other crops, and the harvest is plentiful–the Pilgrims are elated!  Squanto negotiates a treaty between the Pilgrims and the local indigenous tribe called the Wampanoag Confederacy, and they both begin to flourish.  Giving thanks to God for their survival, freedom, and harvest, both Pilgrims and Indians have a great feast day in 1621 that they call “Thanksgiving Day,” and the rest is history.

According to this folk history, the American Thanksgiving Day celebration exists ever after to give thanks to God for providing for these settlers who fled Europe from religious persecution. The holiday seems to celebrate the friendship and hard work of the Indians and Pilgrims, who shared together in a spirit of unity.  Most importantly, it seems to indicate that through a series of fortunate and providential events, God had ordained that the Pilgrims come and establish what would soon become the United States of America.

Well, at least that’s what we’ve been told. The truth is that this story is a fairy tale, a half-truth, a washed over version redone to make us believe something else. Some people might call that propaganda. Others call it harmless.

In actuality, everything we think we know about Thanksgiving Day comes from bits and pieces of the writings of “Pilgrim” Governor William Bradford‘s “Of Plymouth Plantation” history, and a letter written by “Pilgrim” Edward Winslow (called “Mourt’s Relation“) among a very few other sources.

Here’s Edward Winslow’s account of the encounter in 1621-

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

As good English citizens, the Pilgrims would have already been keenly aware of the “Thanksgiving” holy day back home. National Geographic Magazine points out this was not in fact a “Thanksgiving Day” that the European settlers would have been well aware of, but was a “harvest festival”-

In 1841 Boston publisher Alexander Young printed Winslow’s brief account of the feast and added his own twist, dubbing it the “First Thanksgiving.”

In Winslow’s “short letter, it was clear that [the 1621 feast] was not something that was supposed to be repeated again and again. It wasn’t even a Thanksgiving, which in the 17th century was a day of fasting. It was a harvest celebration.”

What we now refer to as the “Pilgrims” were really a group made up of “Separatists” (a small group of religious radicals who wanted to “separate” from the Church of England) and “Strangers” (a term the Separatists used to describe anyone who wasn’t a Separatist, mostly consisting of adventurers, sailors, farmers, etc). Strangely enough, these weren’t even referred to as “Pilgrims” until 170 years after they landed. 

Clarifying Some Misconceptions

The Separatists we now call Pilgrims aboard the Speedwell, which never made it out of EuropeIt is true that the “Pilgrims” came over from The Netherlands to the New World aboard the Mayflower, but they also attempted to take another ship in addition, called The Speedwell which wasn’t seaworthy. There were 102 people on board the Mayflowerand of those seeking religious asylum, there were only 35! It’s important to understand that the Pilgrims already had religious freedom while in Holland…that is why they moved there from England in the first place. They did not leave The Netherlands because of religious persecution, rather, they believed their children were being corrupted and their English language and traditions were being overcome by the local influences. Being the poor common people they were, the Pilgrims could not afford to underwrite the immense journey to the royal colonies in America, so they came to the New World on a commercial venture with investors appropriately called “The Merchant Adventurers.” The plan goes that the investors bankrolled the Pilgrim’s move to America, where they would in turn establish a colony that would produce enough profit to pay off the debt.  And the situation looked increasingly better to the Pilgrims, who were to be a law unto themselves, teach their children in their own English ways, and escape the Church of England–all the while the investors made a profit– everyone was happy.

It is true that the Pilgrims did meet an English speaker they called Squanto when they arrived (his actual name is Tisquantum). But most of us fail to recognize that the Pilgrims also met another native who spoke English, named Samoset.  In fact, the Pilgrims met Samoset before they ever met “Squanto.”  It was Samoset who introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who in turn introduced them to his adopted tribe, the Wampanoag.

Squanto’s story is full of heartache and misery, for it was his first tribe (Patuxet) that was wiped out by English settlers who arrived in 1614. These settlers started what would become a uniquely American tradition of giving blankets infected with viruses (like smallpox) to the indigenous Americans in the guise of a gift. Because these native peoples had not built an immunization against the many infectious diseases which ravaged the European continent for centuries, they began to die off in large numbers.  Squanto survived, but was loaded onto a ship for Spain and sold into slavery.  He was bought by Catholic monks who helped him make his way back to England where he worked as a shipwright. Eventually, he found his way back to the Americas only to find upon his arrival, that his tribe had been eradicated.  It was upon the ruins of his native Patuxet tribe that the Pilgrims now built Plymouth colony. It is also true Squanto was commissioned by the Wampanoag sachem, Massassoit to teach the Pilgrims how to plant and grow corn. It is true that Squanto helped to translate for the Pilgrims and made a treaty with the Wampanoags — and it is also true they had a great feast together celebrating their treaty, food, and provision.

The Pilgrims Would Have Died Without “Squanto”

Statue of Massasoit overlooking Plymouth Harbor

Statue of Massasoit overlooking Plymouth Harbor

If it weren’t for Squanto, and more importantly, for Massasoit (the Wampanoag sachem) the Pilgrims would never have made it. Massasoit helped provide food for the Pilgrims out of his tribe’s own store houses.  He forgave the Pilgrims for robbing graves of his tribesmen who were buried with corn after the settlers first arrived (a scenario which the Pilgrims thought fortuitous and providential). But Massasoit signed a treaty with who he thought was King James(although King James never intended or authorized the Pilgrims to offer treaties) and became a political ally of the English settlers- much to the aid of Plymouth.  The Wampanoags were those indigenous peoples who brought lobsters, clams, corn, clams, eel, fish, succotash, squash, pumpkins, turkeys and deer to the feast.

The harvest of 1621 was not plentiful, in fact the Pilgrims were starving during that year.  Most of them were not producing enough to feed their families, and so the Pilgrims resorted to a sort of communistic approach to crop growing just to survive.

In the history ‘Of Plymouth Plantation,’ the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with “corruption,” and with “confusion and discontent.” The crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.” It seems that between 1620-1623 the Pilgrims had hardly enough to eat, let alone to send back to England to repay their Merchant Adventurers.

But the harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, “instead of famine now God gave them plenty,” Bradford wrote, “and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.” Later, he wrote, “any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

Bradford had abolished their communistic approach to planting corn, and instead divided up parcels of land to each family, or individual. The rule was “you eat what you grow,” and this changed everything.

Seal of London Company

Seal of the London Company, the “Merchant Adventurers” of the Pilgrims

Eventually in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn. In fact, they absolutely HAD to start exporting because they were up to their eyeballs in debt.  The “Merchant Adventurers” (also known as the London Company) who loaned them the means to come to the New World were constantly pressuring the Pilgrims to produce more profit.

In order to produce more, they needed more colonists, and more land, and they needed to diversify their commodities. But to do this, they needed to ride the land of its indigenous occupants. Tensions increased as the New England colony started manufacturing wampum, the commodity most used like currency by the Native Americans, thus flushing the market with inflation.

Where Does the Real Thanksgiving Day Originate?

The closest thing we have to the foundation of “Thanksgiving Day” in America comes not in 1621 but later in 1637, in a place near what is now West Mystic, Connecticut (New England colony).

The Pilgrims of Plymouth had started trading in furs about the time when New England was settled by the Puritans, and soon the colonies of New England and Plymouth joined forces to oust their indigenous competition…literally.  Aside from the fact that the Puritans were the “purists” of the Church of England, and the Pilgrims were the “separatists,” they were first Englishman.  But the English weren’t the only operation in town. The Dutch had established a colony and started trading near New York.  Soon the English were edging in onto the Dutch colonial territory.  The resulting hegemonic struggle is called the “Pequot War” by historians.  The same freedom loving, religious asylum seeking Christians went to war with other Christians over the local fur trade, in what looked more like gangland than Jesus Christ.

It is true that the colonial settlers often took advantage of the existing turf wars being waged between competing Native American tribes through battles by proxy. And it is within this context that America get’s her first Thanksgiving Day.

According to the private papers of Sir William Johnson (who was the British Indian agent for the New York colony for 30 years), a local Pequot tribe was meeting at their village for their annual Green Corn Festival dance, on May 26.

 

The Massacre of Mystic Village

The Massacre at Mystic Village was only a piece of the Pequot War, but subsequently undid the Pequot Tribe who was killed or sold into slavery by the Puritan-Plymouth alliance

The Pequot village only had two entrances/exits, and the force of English and Indian allies set their marauders near both doors.  The 600-700 Indians inside were surrounded and slaughtered by mercenaries hired by the English and Dutch who were expanding their empires in the New World. As it turns out, most of these victims were old men, women and children because (unbeknown to the English) the Pequot warriors were simultaneously mounting an invasion of Hartford.

We don’t tell that story to our school children because of how gruesome it is– The natives were ordered to come out of their fortification, and as they did, they were shot. Many naturally refused fearing later retribution, and so the Colonists burnt the building down with all of the inhabitants inside.  Those who tried to climb over the wall were either shot or hacked to death by the colonial citizen soldiers.

Writing later of the event, Pilgrim Governor William Bradford called it “a sweet sacrifice…to God”.  The very next day, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “a day of thanksgiving,” and the rest is history.  It seems that this day was commemorated by the Governor or President for the next 100 years as a great day of victory and thanksgiving to God.

William Bradford, in “Of Plymouth Plantation” described it this way–

“Those that scaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatche, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and gave them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.”

Puritan Minister of New England, Cotton Mather, remarked that though the slaughter was immense, it wasn’t good enough to scare the Puritans into rigid obedience to Puritan law–

“It was supposed that no less than 600 souls were brought down to Hell that day…yet all this could not suppress the breaking out of sundry notorious sins.. Especially drunkenness and uncleanness. Not only incontinency between persons unmarried, for which many both men and women have been punished sharply enough, but some married persons also. But that which is worse, even sodomy and buggery (things fearful to name) have broke forth in this land oftener than once. I say it may justly be marveled at and cause us to fear and tremble at the considration of our corrupt natures, which are so hardly bridled, subdued and mortified…..But one reason may be that the Devil may carry a greater spite against the churches of Christ and the gospel here.”

A Harrowing Legacy

Less than 52 years after what we call the “first Thanksgiving Day,” Benjamin Church, a grandson of two passengers who came to America aboard the Mayflower– (who undoubtedly feasted with the Wampanoag Indians during that harvest festival in 1621) hunted down the son of Massasoit. The son of original Pilgrim Edward Winslow, Josiah Winslow (then Governor of Plymouth) commissioned Church to raise a force to combat the son of Massasoit and his fellow natives who had gone to war with Plymouth over the breaking of many land treaties.  Church was most effective at converting captured natives into “Praying Indians” and then turning them loose on the colony’s enemies as irregular soldiers.

 

 

King Phillip's War

King Phillip’s War was waged upon the same tribe that fed the Pilgrims by the Pilgrims and their progeny

English punishment

An example of the English punishment for high treason known as “drawn and quartered”. This picture shows the execution of another Englishman. The convicted were drawn by horse on a wooden hurdle to the place of execution. Once there, they were ritually hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces).

But Metacom, or Phillip, was an indigenous Christian convert who grew up going to school in Plymouth alongside many of those who would later hunt him. He later became sachem of the Wampanoag tribe after his father’s death. Phillip lead a rebellion of allied tribes against the English settlers because of the injustices of land stealing, trading by coercion, false accusations, and deceptive practices in what is now called “King Phillip’s War.”  Benjamin Church’s unit killed Phillip, and after he was brought back to Plymouth by the Pilgrims, where he was drawn and quartered (dragged, emasculated, disemboweled, and sawed into fourths) while his entire family were sold into slavery in the West Indies.  Most of the tribes, including the Wampanoag and their allies were also killed during this time.

Roy Cook, American Indian and journalist described the event this way–

In January, 1675 the body of a Christian Native named John Sassamon was found in the frozen pond at Assawompset (Middleboro). An alleged witness identified three Wampanoag men as the murderers of Sassamon. The three were arrested and tried by the General Court at Plymouth because the crime took place under English jurisdiction and the victim, being Christian, was considered an English subject. Rumor circulated that Metacom had commissioned the execution of Sassamon for revealing his plans. In June, a colonist shot and mortally wounded a Pokanoket who had been seen running out of his house. A revenge raid followed in which several English were killed began the war. Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the Connecticut Colonies mustered their allied forces, and moved against Metacom. However, inept leadership allowed the Pokanoket to get away and raid many colonial towns. The Pokanoket, joined somewhat reluctantly by their Pocasset and Sakonnet relatives, retreated into the interior of Massachusetts where they were joined by some of the Nipmuck and others.

The war spread to the Connecticut valley and the Pokanoket went as far as the Hudson River to recruit allies amongst the Mahican, Abenaki, and others. The colonies, insisting that the Narragansett were acting in bad faith by harboring fugitives, prepared an army of 1,000 men to attack that neutral nation. In December 1675 the colonials attacked the unsuspecting Narragansett, burned their fort, and killed many of the inhabitants, thus driving the Narragansetts into the war on the side of Metacom.

That’s the truth of it.  Money, greed, debt, empire, racism, war, violence begetting violence. This isn’t just Thanksgiving Day, this is the foundation of America.

Ironically, none of the first Pilgrims stayed in Plymouth.  John Alden (a distant ancestor of mine), Myles Standish, Bradford, Brewster and many others all moved elsewhere in the ever expanding colony. These Pilgrims certainly didn’t participate in the Thanksgiving Day as popular American folklore would have us remember. But they did celebrate a recurring Thanksgiving Day, it was most likely the “Thanksgiving Day” commissioned after the “victory” in Connecticut.

Yet still this story persists… even being used by neo-Puritans today who promote an ethno-centric, quasi-religious, patriotic propaganda that the United States is still that “city on a hill” that God ordained by the Pilgrims. No wonder they still put forth racist, ethno-centric, empirical expansionist, homophobic, “Christian” propaganda.  The truth is, the Pilgrims never celebrated what we call “Thanksgiving Day” the way we know it. They celebrated a one time harvest festival that  Massassoit and the Wampanoags had been celebrating for years.

Please don’t get me wrong- I truly enjoy our modern holiday. I enjoy spending time with friends and family members enjoying good food and rest and relaxation. It is true that President Lincoln later established a national Thanksgiving Day in Autumn, and that FDR later sanctioned the last Thursday of November as the official American holiday.

We must remember the past and teach the truth to our children.  To forget about the past, to purposefully look over what really happened is almost as bad as doing it ourselves. Don’t condone the past. Let’s be honest about it, and look to the future.

Evidence Against a Christian America: Supplement to Series on American Christian Exceptionalism

Did the American forefather’s establish an explicitly Christian nation? This is the question I’ve begun tackling in my series on “The Roots of American Christian Exceptionalism.”

The proponents of such a revisionist history use only cherry picked items from history to promote a present and modern political agenda: Rushdoony and Hall came out of a reaction to the New Deal under Roosevelt. Rosalie Slater came out of a reaction to the JFK and Cold War era. [It is important to remember that the words “…under God…” were not a part of the original Pledge of Allegiance, but were added in 1954 as a reaction to the “godless communists” to prove America was a “religious nation”.) see Geoffrey Nunberg, “(Next) Nation Under God’, Phrase Idiom” Language Log and “A New Birth of Freedom” sermon attended by President Truman by Dr. George M. Docherty, The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1954.) Marshall and Manuel came out of the Carter and era. Is it any wonder the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, James DobsonTim LaHaye and Gary DeMar caught their stride during the Clinton era? Is it any surprise that the radical rhetoric of Christian Exceptionalism is turned up to 11 when any left-leaning politician is elected to the American presidency? What else would give a platform to presidential contenders such as Michelle Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry–all Christian Dominionists/ Reconstructionist?

Selective Memory

American Christian Exceptionalism often starts with an indoctrination of children. Among the pioneers of this movement are Verna M. Hall and Rosalie J. Slater, associates and friends of RJ Rushdoony. Slater’s “A Teachers Guide for Christian History”, explains this indoctrination as a means towards (re)establishing America as a Christian Nation in order that it might fulfill its God-given destiny: “A nation which is humble enough to begin with its children in the constructing of its foundations for liberty may once again have the opportunity to lead nations to Christ.” 

Jesus with Eve & Adan“Red Book” authors Rosalie J. Slater and Verna M. Hall founded “The Foundation for American Christian Education” which produced the “Principle Approach” method of education used by many Christian schools. Rushdoony was foundational in the Creationism movement as well as the Christian homeschooling movement, even testifying in several landmark cases. Although her textbook, Christian History of the Constitution is a compilation of primary source documents it has a crucial defect: it never does reach the time of the Constitutional Convention (or the years following). She never records any of the early founding father’s letters and documents reflecting on the subject of the Constitution and rejects evidence that the Constitution never was founding an explicitly Christian nation.

It seems revisionary history does not discriminate either side of the political spectrum, when trying to establish a “Christian Nation” mythology. According to the website of the Foundation for American Christian Education, founded by “Red book” authors Slater and Hall, it states “When the United States was founded, she stood on the shoulders of centuries of devoted, brave yet ordinary men and women who loved the God of the Bible and understood how to nurture one of His greatest conditional blessings to mankind, liberty. The peace, security, prosperity, integrity, and freedom that has long- time been the hallmark of the United States are all results of her distinctively Christian roots” — even despite America’s history of violence, oppression of minority classes, sexism, and racism.

For instance, Lindsay Glauner, in The Need for Accountability and Reparation: 1830-1976the United States Government’s Role in the Promotion, Implementation, and Execution of the Crime of Genocide Against Native Americans, (2002) she states

“On September 8, 2000, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) formally apologized for the agency’s participation in the “ethnic cleansing” of Western tribes. From the forced relocation and assimilation of the “savage” to the white man’s way of life to the forced sterilization of Native Americans, the BIA set out to “destroy all things Indian.” Through the exploration of the United States’ Federal Indian policy, it is evident that this policy intended to “destroy, in whole or in part,” the Native American population. The extreme disparity in the number of Native American people living within the United States’ borders at the time Columbus arrived, approximately ten million compared to the approximate 2.4 million Indians and Eskimos alive in the United States today, is but one factor that illustrates the success of the government’s plan of ‘Manifest Destiny’.”

The original Constitution afforded voting rights only to free, white landowning males.With regard to America’s African slaves, Abigail Adams, writing to her husband just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, spoke of our hypocrisy in that “liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principle of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. [Slavery] always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me–to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind on this subject.”

Abigail Adams worked with her daughter in law, the then First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams, to demand that Congress donate its recent two dollar pay raise in order to build a Foundling Hospital for their “ill begotten progeny.” (See Cokie Roberts, The Founding Mothers, 2008.) Congress had established such a reputation in the nation’s new capitol, far away from wives and families, while they were founding our government.

Here are just a few additional points to ponder for those who express a belief that the United States was founded as a “Christian Nation.”

George Washington & early Presidents

Responding to a group of clergymen who complained that the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ, in 1789, Papers, Presidential Series, 4:274, (the “Magna-Charta” here refers to the proposed United States Constitution.) George Washington wrote, “I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion, from the Magna-Charta of our country.” It is easy to infer that they clearly meant the Constitution to protect the rights of any religion, not only Christianity.

The Rev. Bird Wilson (son of Founding Father James Wilson, Continental Congress, and godson and biographer of George Washington’s pastor, Bishop William White) in a sermon devoted entirely to the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers, dated October of 1831 says “…among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism…the founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected [George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson] not a one had professed a belief in Christianity.” see John E. Remsburg, Six Historic Americans,. 1906.

The Rev. James R. Willson, in a sermon entitled “The Written Law, or The Law of God Revealed in the Scriptures, By Christ As Mediator; The Rule of Duty to Christian Nations to Civil Institutions”, 1838 where he says:

Never in any form, since the United States became an independent nation, has it acknowledged the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor professed subjection to his law. The convention that ratified and unanimously signed the present Federal Constitution, could not have meant to do so, as is demonstrated by many solid arguments.

1. The question was debated, and a very large majority refused to insert any acknowledgment of God, or of the religion of his Son.

2. Had this not been done, the members were men of too much discernment, to have overlooked, through inattention, a matter of so great magnitude. If they intended to acknowledge Christ, it would have been in such terms, as to admit of no doubt.

3. There were many deists in the convention, such as Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, Thomas Mifflin, Governor Morris, and James Madison. Governor Morris and Thomas Jefferson, affirm that General Washington was also a deist. Yet all these infidels signed the constitution. Would they have done so in the presence of those who knew them to be opposed to revealed religion had the instrument been christian.

4. Could the Presidents of the United States, three of whom, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, were certainly infidels, numerous members of congress, Governors of States, and many other officers of the General and State governments, have sworn to the Federal Constitution, had it been understood to recognize the headship of Messiah, whom they held to be an impostor?

5. It has never been the understanding of the nation that the constitution acknowledges the Lord Jesus Christ, or professes subjection to his laws. All infidels have sworn to the support of that instrument, and no one has ever thought of charging them with inconsistency.

6. The present President of the United States, in his message to congress, at the opening of the extra session of 1837, says: “The will of a majority of the people is the supreme law, in all things that come within the jurisdiction of the Federal government.” In all the opposition to his administration, this sentiment has never been called in question. The politicians of the nation, would generally reject with detestation, the doctrine, that the constitution binds to the acknowledgment of the Bible as the supreme rule of legislation in this commonwealth.

7. All these arguments are sealed, by the following provision. “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

“Treaty of Tripoli”, 1796, ratified by Congress. Article 11 states The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.” Then President John Adams ratified the treaty stating:

“Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed, and per- formed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof.”

See John Adams, Works, Vol. X, pp45-46 in a letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813 where he attributes the foundations of the American “experiment” were in large attributable to the thinkers of the Enlightenment

“Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present Information, that I believed they would never make Discoveries in contradiction to these general Principles. In favour of these general Principles in Phylosophy, Religion and Government, I could fill Sheets of quotations from Frederick of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Reausseau and Voltaire, as well as Neuton and Locke: not to mention thousands of Divines and Philosophers of inferiour Fame.”

For example, see Thomas Jefferson’s Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom. He writes,

“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785.According to the website, “Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance was written in opposition to a bill, introduced into the General Assembly of Virginia, to levy a general assessment for the support of teachers of religions. The assessment bill was tabled, and in its place the legislature enacted Jefferson’s Bill for Religious Liberty.” ( Source: Hensel, Jaye B., Ed., Church, State, and Politics Washington D.C. Final Report of the 1981 Chief Justice Earl Warren Conference on Adovcacy in the United States

Thomas Jefferson had drafted The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779 three years after he wrote the Declaration of Independence. The act was not passed by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia until 1786. Jefferson was by then in Paris as the U.S. Ambassador to France. The Act was resisted by a group headed by Patrick Henry who sought to pass a bill that would have assessed all the citizens of Virginia to support a plural establishment. James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments was, and remains, a powerful argument against state supported religion. It was written in 1785, just a few months before the General Assembly passed Jefferson’s religious freedom bill.”

Founding Father Alexander Hamilton echoes this Enlightenment theme in his Farmer Refuted, 1775 when he says “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

There are some orthodox American Christian Historians who have gone to great lengths of research to prove that the “historic, biblical foundation” of our “Christian Republic” is a myth. See Gregg Frazer, Ph. D. (consult- ant to Dr. John MacArthur) Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, (2001) where he names three of them “These three men are regarded as three of the finest historians on American religious history. And all three of them are evangelical Christians. Noll is Professor of History at Wheaton College, Hatch is President-Elect and Professor of History at Wake Forest University and former Provost and Director of Graduate Studies in History at Notre Dame, and Marsden is Professor of History at Calvin College.”

The Roots of American Christian Exceptionalism [part 3]

Continuing with the roots of American Christian Exceptionalism, we look at their teachings on the Pilgrims.

Mike Huckabee at Thomas road Baptist Church

Huckabee rocks it at a Baptist Church. courtesy of wikicommons

In her Reconstructionist masterpiece The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States, Vol. IRousas Rushdoony friend and associate Verna M. Hall, dedicates her book to “the Christian principle upon which this nation is founded, and to each American of this and succeeding generations, that he may remember his Christian heritage and live so as to raise the standard of his Pilgrim and Puritanfathers into its larger and fuller expression of individual liberty.” [1]

Rushdoony’s legacy ripples even into modern political theologies, such as Mike Huckabee’s revisionist “Learn Our History” video series, as demonstrated in this home-school video. According to Huckabee’s website, the videos were meant to address the obvious bias against American patriotism:

In our films and resources, U.S. history is presented to children from a positive, patriotic and faith-based perspective… unfortunately, the only way kids are experiencing history today is by having it force-fed to them through dry text books, monotonous lectures and boring lessons.  On top of that, our children’s classes and learning materials are often filled with misrepresentations, including historical inaccuracies, personal biases and political correctness—and without acknowledging God’s role in America’s founding and development.

Robert Walter Weir embarkation of the pilgrimsThe prayer of Parson and Minister Robert Hunt, given at Cape Henry, Virginia in 1607 is used by The Foundation for American Christian Education as evidence of God’s plan to use America “in a particular, specific way to reach and bless the world, to preserve and spread liberty as the means to preserve and spread the Gospel” once again implying that political liberty is a necessity to spread the Gospel. You see, in the Dominionist mindset, American liberty is sacred, insomuch that without it, America cannot spread the Gospel and thus fulfill its covenant as the New Israel. And yet it is precisely because of America’s inability to perform this function that makes it necessary for a Dominionist takeover. Thus a revisionist history must be established in order to “win back America for Christ.”

Fleeing From Persecution?

While a student at a fundamentalist Christian School with Reconstructionist/Dominionist leanings, we were taught that the Pilgrims were hoping to create a land of liberty where the gospel could be easily spread among the nations. While on our “Christian Heritage Tour” in Plymouth during our Senior year, we had a “devotion time” atop “Burial Hill”– the nation’s first cemetery. During this time, the graves of the first American missionaries were pointed out and their memories were invoked as we were challenged to take up their mission in evangelizing the world. America was to be a city on a hill, a New Israel.

According to the website of “Foundation for American Christian Education”, FACE Hails Winthrop as an American Prophet:

…In order to answer this call, America—led by individuals faithfully joining together in obedience—must preserve the Christian character that made her great. We must each, in our own spheres of influence and daily life, seek to most fully love, trust, and obey God: and in so doing, reestablish America as a “city on a hill,” a light to the nations.

It was the Puritan from Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop who first espoused the “City on a Hill” philosophy– a forerunner to American Christian Exceptionalism which holds that the Pilgrims and Puritans fled Europe for the religious liberty of the New World in order to avoid religious persecution. It is this popular mythology that gives us the “First Thanksgiving” where Indians and Pilgrims came together to celebrate (or recognize) God’s providential establishment of the New World.

Historically speaking, the Puritans abandoned England only after their failed attempt at a theocracy under Oliver Cromwell, while the Pilgrims were considered an extreme fringe group at the time of their leaving. While Pilgrims and Puritans certainly found the greatest religious liberty they had ever known in the new world, under Winthrop’s leadership, Puritans actively persecuted Quakers and Catholics, even unto death.

Speaking to this reality, historian John Fiske wrote

At first, the Quaker who persisted in returning was to be flogged and imprisoned at hard labor, next his ears were to be cut off, and for a third offence his tongue was to be bored with a hot iron. At length in 1658, the Federal Commissioners, sitting at Boston with Endicott as chairman, recommended capital punishment. It must be borne in mind that the general reluctance toward prescribing or inflicting the death penalty was much weaker then than now. [2]

Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, perhaps the most famous of these victims, were cast out of Massachusetts Bay Colony for espousing beliefs different to that of the Puritans, and between 1659-61 four Quaker men and women were hung on Boston Common for non-conformity. [Popular revisionist history book, The Light and the Glory, features only one chapter on Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams entitled, “The Pruning of the Lord’s Vineyard”.] It seems that the Pilgrims were willing to go along with such persecution, as a Quaker sympathizer once wrote that the “Plymouth-saddle is on the Bay horse.”

Christian on Christian Violence

Colonel Benjamin Church

Benjamen Church, father of American Rangers

History shows that the Plymouth Colony hardly held to their “Christian” beliefs when they went to war against Massasoit’s son over land disputes in what history calls “King Phillip’s War.” Metacom, (popularly known by his baptismal name, “King Phillip”) was the son of the First Nation chief who so lavishly aided the Pilgrims during their most desperate hour in the New World. Although his tribe had been friendly to the Pilgrims from the beginning, he soon found himself set up against the ever encroaching spread of Imperial colonists who claimed more land and continued to pressure local natives into adopting their English customs, language, and religion. Even Governor William Bradford lamented that in the latter years of the Colony, residents left “not for want or waste” but “for the enriching of themselves.” [3] What may be most hypocritical about the event remains the fact that Phillip was a professing Christian and baptized “Indian convert.”

Metacom was eventually killed by another “praying Indian” Christian convert in the service of Benjamin Church, a grandson of Mayflower passengers who was tasked by the colony to a scorched earth war with Phillip. Metacom was caught and decapitated, his head was piked at the entrance of Ft. Plymouth where it remained for two decades. His body was quartered and hung from trees, while his wife and children were sold into slavery in Bermuda. It seems that hundreds of Indians that were once allies of the Pilgrims and probably present at a Thanksgiving (if there ever was one) were forced into slavery in the Caribbean as a result of the war. [4]

One can hardly argue that Pilgrim motives were pure or Christ-like. Edward Winslow, an original Pilgrim and passenger on the Mayflower who was later called to serve in the Imperial court of Britain, once wrote that Plymouth Colony was a place “where religion and profit jump together.” [5] Colonialism, like capitalism, is based upon an industry that objectifies both the land and its produce as commodity to be harnessed. When upstarts like Metacom challenge that harness, the colonial powers always retaliate en force.

But the persecutions were not reserved for Metacom only, but also for those with different religious views. Colony residents such as John Oldham were forced to run through a gauntlet of musket bearing Pilgrims who beat him with the butt ends of their weapons because of his non-conformity. Responding to this incident in a letter dated December, 18, 1624 from the Plymouth Colony’s financial supporters, the “Merchant Adventurers” refer to the Pilgrims as “contentious, cruel and hard hearted.” [6]

Indeed the reputation of the Pilgrims was so notorious by 1637, that instead of the liberty-loving, Gospel-focused, persecution-fleeing, Indian-befriending group of pietists that history offers, we find the Pilgrims were known as “cut throats” or “stabbers” by the local indigenous American tribes. [7] The moniker was earned after an infamous trap laid by a Pilgrim war party led by Myles Standish, resulting in the unprovoked killing of at least five Native Americans, who were ambushed while eating dinner with their European hosts. The decapitated head of one of the “savages” was wrapped in a linen handkerchief and taken back to the colony where it was stuck upon a pike atop “Ft. Hill”–the first building and original church of the colony. Later, when Plymouth governor William Bradford was married to Alice Southworth, Pilgrim soldiers took out the blood stained handkerchief and raised it up on a pole like a flag in tribute to Massasoit. [8]

Philip King of Mount Hope by Paul RevereA Prophecy For Future Violence

There was one man, however who lamented over the outrageous actions of the Pilgrims, their former Pastor John Robinson. Deciding with the Elders of their congregation to stay behind in Holland in order to tend to the majority of his flock, only the vanguard of Pilgrim “Separatists” came to America in 1620. After this outrageous incident, pastor Robinson wrote to Governor Bradford about the “killing of those poor Indians” who were lulled into Pilgrim hospitality under false pretenses, writing “if you had converted some before you killed any!” [9]

And yet it seems that the continuation of bloodshed in Plymouth for generations to come is prophesied in Robinson’s letter as he continues

“… where blood is once begun to be shed, it is seldom staunched of a long time after. You say they deserved it. I grant it; but upon what provocations and invitements by those heathenous Christians?… It is a thing more glorious in men’s eyes, than pleasing in God’s or convenient for Christians, to be a terror to poor barbarous people. And indeed I am afraid lest, by these occasions, others should be drawn to a kind of ruffling course in the world.” [9]

[1] see Verna M. Hall, The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States, Vol. I: Christian Self- Government, Verna M. Hall, 1960

[2] see John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England, 1892; additionally, in 1660, Pastor John Robinson’s son Isaac was disenfranchised for advocating a policy of moderation to the Quakers. see Plymouth Colony, Stratton p. 92, 345

[3] see William Bradford and Samuel Eliot Morison, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 p. 333.

[4] see Eric Schultz, King Phillip’s War: The History and Legacy of America’s Forgotten Conflict, 2000

[5] Edward Winslow, “Good News From New England,” p. 70

[6] see the letter as it appears in Governor William Bradford’s Letter Book, reprinted from the Mayflower Descendant

[7] see Thomas Morton, New English Canaan, 1623 p. 110-11 This episode is referred to as “the killings at Wessagussett,” and is preserved in a fellow colonist’s memoir entitled New English Canaan. The author of this memoir, Thomas Morton, was a one-time colonist of Plymouth Plantation who later moved away to start his own collective. According to the book, Morton claims that Myles Standish and his men “pretended to feast the Salvages of those parts, bringing with them pork and things for the purpose, which they set before the Savages” before Standish murdered three Native Americans who were suspected of planning an attack on the Colony inside of the house and killing two of their comrades waiting outside.

[8] see Emmanuel Altham’s September 1623 letter in “Three Visitors to Early Plymouth” edited by Sydney James. and Of Plymouth Plantation, 374-75

[9] see John Robinson, “Letters from London and Leyden”, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, p.375 dated December 19, 1623

The Roots of American Christian Exceptionalism [part 2]

Right-Wing revisionist history is nothing new in American politics. Whether we find it in psuedo-historians like David Barton, or in recent movies by Kirk Cameron, the desire towards establishing an American Christian Exceptionalism in our nation’s past seems almost too lucrative for those with an agenda. But as Ben Howard recently put it, such an agenda presupposes a desire to remain distant and out of community with those deemed as “other.” Ben writes,

“The gap between the disparate worlds of warring minds can only be bridged through the authenticity and vulnerability of legitimate relationship. We must encounter the other, and though we find she is not the same as us, we must deign to see her as similar. We must humanize those we so often demonize.”

Jerry Falwell portraitRequired reading for students of American Christian Exceptionalism (revisionist) history is Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s The Light and the Glory. If a reaction to the New Deal was the awakening of American Christian ideologues such as Rushdoony and Hall, and the height of the Cold War was the catalyst for Rosalie J. Slater, then the American bicentennial would be the turning point for Marshall and Manuel. By 1976, Jerry Falwell was well on his way to establishing the “Moral Majority” to “take back America for Christ.” The tension for the emerging Christian rightseemed palpable, as Falwell hosted several “I Love America” rallies across the country that played on prominent social issues close to the heart of its speaker. [1]  Peter Marshall, a preacher and son of a one time chaplain to the U.S. Senate, first met his co-author David Manuel during one of his sermons near Cape Cod.

“On this particular evening, Marshall was delivering an old-fashioned Puritan jeremiad. America had sinned. Abortion on demand, pornography, divorce, and unethical business practices offered indisputable evidence of moral decay…As America celebrated its bicentennial, conservative Christians seized on the nation’s newfound historical consciousness. These social problems, he argued, were the inevitable product of a faulty view of America’s historical identity. Citizens had failed to remember that the United States was one nation under God. If only Christians could recover God’s special destiny for this country, America could be saved from divine punishment.” [2]

David Manuel, an editor at Doubleday Books, partnered with Marshall for this project in American Chrisitan Exceptionalism, and what resulted was a re-telling of America’s History with God at the center. The ideology behind the book had been influenced by Rushdoony and Hall–that America was founded as a Christian Nation–but this time, Manuel and Marshall presented a notion that God had also made a covenant with America in order to establish a New Israel in the New World (p. 17).

Their book starts with Christopher Columbus (they call him “the Christ bearer”) who, instead of coming to the New World at the height of the Spanish Inquisition,  had funded his expedition with the expressed purpose of founding a Christian Nation. [3] They acknowledge that because of Columbus’ personal greed, lust for gold, and enslavement of Native Americans, God (similar to passing over David to choose Solomon for his Temple) decided to look elsewhere for those who would found His Nation. Still, their presentation of Columbus as a model of Christian missionary work is dizzying.

 

Puritans Vs. the Prince of Darkness

 

It was to be the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation who would be chosen by Divine right, and the powers of darkness knew it. [4] Marshall and Manuel write that the Pilgrims were “locked in a life-or-death struggle with Satan himself. For this was the first time that the Light of Christ had landed in force on his continent, and if he did not throw them back into the sea at the beginning, there would be reinforcements.” Agreeing with the earlier teachings of Rushdoony and Hall, The Light and the Glory held that these Puritans, (with church buildings at that center of their communities) were the embodiment of this new Christian Nation. It was only a question of time until New England became the United States. The Puritans, more than any other, are responsible for making America an Exceptional Christian nation, they contend. Reflecting on the “spiritual” insights they received while writing this book, Marshall and Manuel explain,

“The Spirit also reminded us that the legacy of Puritan New England to this nation, which can still be found at the core of our American way of life, can be summed up in one word: covenant. We were reminded that on the night of the Last Supper, to those who were closest to him, Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt.26:28 KJV)

Marshall and Manuel continue, explaining that while Puritanical covenant is at the core of American identity, most Christians are of little use in establishing God’s Kingdom on earth, since (as the Puritans demonstrated) this “requires total commitment.” (p.183) If only God’s people would remain committed to reestablishing His Kingdom in the New World, they write–if “they kept the covenant with Him” then they would “people and fructify this new Canaan in the western wilderness.” (p. 197)

 

Some Light Cherry-picking

 

But because these authors were only looking for historical evidence that fit their thesis, they ignored other important elements of the American identity before the Constitutional Convention. According to Evangelical Christian Historian John Fea, “[The Light and the Glory’s] narrative is dominated by the story of early New England. Jamestown is covered and dismissed in one chapter, and other colonies (such as William Penn’s experiment in Pennsylvania) and religious movements (such as the Baptists and Anglicans) that shaped early American life are ignored.” [5]

Much more perplexing, is their total lack of awareness of white privilege in this matter. While they maintain that American Independence (eg the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth) increased as equality among God’s people increased, they do so with a lens that purely emphasizes the free while neglecting the slave. So the American Revolution seems inevitable, since white Christians continued to preach sermons that emphasized the “equality” of Christian peoples in America–but this can only be understood without taking slavery into context, or the fact that they equated fighting against Christian tyrants as synonymous with doing God’s will.

Colonial view America new Israel crop display

Original seal of the USA, proposed by Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson. Franklin described it: ‘Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand. Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by Command of the Deity. Motto, Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.’

The Central theme to their ideas of American Freedom come from a perversion of the “freedom” the New Testament describes, where they reinterpret Biblical freedom as political freedom. (For instance, they use Galatians 5:1: “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand fast, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”) Completely ignoring other passages of Scripture that have nothing to do with political tyranny, Marshall and Manuel assert that the American Revolution was in fact a holy war, because American Christians were only doing God’s will. To Marshall, the American Revolution was not only a just cause, but the culmination of the covenant God made with America, and therefore the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were the instruments used by which Americans re-entered their covenant with God. (p. 24, 251, 392, 439, 447)

The problem then, with providential historians, is that instead of telling the facts and researching the honest truth of the matter (good, bad or ugly) they cherry pick events themselves and interpret those only as a prophet in hindsight. John Fea puts it this way, “If God’s rule extends over all of history, and his providence subsumes all events, then how can we say that some events—such as those that led to the development of the United States—are more providential than others? For example, many eighteenth-century Protestants (as well as many contemporary Protestants) believed that God intervened in human history on the side of Martin Luther and his fellow Reformers. Is this true? Perhaps. But to suggest that the Reformation was an example of God’s providential intervention in the affairs of mankind is to also suggest that God was not overseeing human history before he had to “intervene” at Wittenberg in October 1517. Similarly, does it really help our understanding of the Revolutionary War to claim, as Marshall and Manuel do, that during the American invasion of Canada, “Divine Providence, it seemed, was dispensed—or withheld—in direct relationship to how close an individual or body of men was to the center of God’s perfect will?” Can God’s providence be “withheld”? What is God’s “perfect will” in matters such as this?” Such providential interpretation seems more to do with using the past as a means to push a present political agenda than it does with truly understanding the truth.

Speaking to this reality, Augustine says: “What God is accomplishing in that period stretching from the time of Christ to the final judgment is largely hidden from us. Our task, then, is less to look for signs of the times than to be patient, to wait for God—and, along the way, to carry out our duties faithfully.”

 

The Series Continues

 

In part 3, I’ll continue exploring the mind boggling mental gymnastics one must do before revising a history of the Pilgrims as Christlike founders of a Christian Republic.

[1] see Robert Liebman and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, (p. 58)

[2] see John Fea, “Thirty Years of Light and Glory”, Touchstone Magazine, 2010

[3] see Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, where they write “What if Columbus’s discovery had not been accidental at all?” Indeed, what if he had “been called by God to found a Christian nation?”

[4] For instance, they write, “If God was trying to build a “New Israel,” Satan was doing everything he possibly could to thwart it. And the people who represented the greatest threat to him were those most dedicated to living the covenant…” (p. 282)

[5] Fea, “Thirty Years”

The Roots of American Christian Exceptionalism [part 1]

Anyone following the current government shutdown can’t help but hear the religious catchphrases being tossed around lately. Speaking to the theology behind the government shutdown, Morgan Guyton recently re-introduced the blogosphere to the Christian Dominionism of Sen. Ted Cruz’s father–an insidious ideological philosophy that is as Christlike as it is peaceful (sarcasm). Chris Skinnner just published a post outlining the mythical Jesus of Suburbia presented in Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling book, Killing Jesus. (Spoiler alert: Jesus is killed, in part, because he hates taxes) And just today, Anthony Le Donne touched on “The Teaching of Jesus and Fiscal Conservatism,” where he highlights the ways Christians in the US typically gravitate towards political platitudes like “smaller government” and “lower taxes” as if it’s Gospel.

The Apotheosis of Washington

“The Apotheosis of Washington” is a mural in the Capitol dome rotunda. It depicts George Washington sitting amongst the heavens in an exalted manner as a god.

Such attitudes are all too familiar for me, having been raised in a conservative Southern Baptist church in the buckle of the Bible belt. My real introduction to ‘taking back America for God’ began as an elementary student at a conservative fundamentalist Christian School, whose mission was to “restore the American Republic [read, ‘not-democracy’] back to its historic, Biblical foundations…” As my sisters and I transitioned through to junior high and highs chool, we were continually indoctrinated by our school’s “American Christian Philosophy” of education. But as I came to understand Jesus more and more, the less and less I found His Kingdom to be compatible with the rhetoric shouted out from the politicians and pundits. I needed some context: where did this begin? who co opted the Gospel? what is the historical basis for Christian exceptionalism in America?

In order to answer those questions I have been lead to do more research on the so called “American Christian Philosophy” and its founders. If America has been uniquely called out of so many other nations to fulfill God Commandments than surely there is enough evidence in both word and action. First I needed to know where this philosophy started. For several years I have been troubled by many of the teachings of the “Christian Dominion Theology” and the “Christian Reconstructionism” [1] movements. Frederick Clarkson has found three consistent characteristics of this movement:

“1. Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.

2. Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.

3. Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.”[2]

Founding Fathers and Mothers of American Christian Exceptionalism

“Red Book” authors Rosalie J. Slater and Verna M. Hall founded “The Foundation for American Christian Education” which produced the “Principle Approach” method of education used by my school and others. Although her book, Christian History of the Constitution is a compilation of primary source documents, it has a crucial defect: it never does reach the time of the Constitutional Convention (or the years following). Hall never records any of the early founding father’s letters and documents reflecting on the subject of the Constitution and rejects evidence that the Constitution ever founded an explicitly Christian nation. (more on that later in the series)

Fellow “American Christian Philosophy” leader R.J. Rushdoony was the Director of the Rutherford Institute and founder, president and chairman of the Chalcedon Foundation which produces the magazine the Chalcedon Report. Rushdoony had hosted Verna Hall and Rosalie J. Slater on several occasions at his conferences and helped coin the libertarian concept of “Christian Self-Government”. He was instrumental in helping to establish the American Christian homeschooling movement, even testifying as an expert witness in several landmark cases. Together Hall and Rushdoony have been quoted in such books as America’s Christian History by Gary DeMar, and The Ten Commandments & Their Influence on American Law by William J. Federer among many others. Rosalie J. Slater and R.J. Rushdoony names appear together on the petition for “ending government involvement in education” from the Alliance for Separation of School and State. In fact Rushdoony hosted Verna Hall as a speaker at the now extinct Center for American Studies in Burlingame, California for which he was Director– an extension of the William Volker Fund.

It is important to understand that the William Volker Fund was a charitable foundation and a “free market” think tank active from 1932 to 1965, founded in response to the “New Deal.” According to the “History of FACE” website, Verna M. Hall clearly states that while she was working in President Roosevelt’s WPA distributing benefits in San Francisco “she witnessed the effect that these programs had on those who received them. The longer an individual received government assistance, the more he adopted a subservient, helpless mindset.” It was this common reaction to the “New Deal” she shared with the founders of the William Volker Fund that also propelled her to study America’s ‘Christian’ History.

Christian exceptionalist ideology has been heavily influenced by R.J. Rushdoony, and his sway continues even to many of today’s apologeticists, politicians, and activists. During a 2001 interview with Rushdoony, activist Joseph McAuliffe wrote, “Led by Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, James Jordan, and Gary DeMar, theonomic authors have expounded the Mosaic law with a fullness of application to modern society never before seen in Church history.”

It is also evident that the Dominionist movement started by Rushdoony has trickled down even to Senator Ted Cruz’s father, who serves as a charismatic Christian Reconstructionist preacher in Texas. Morgan Guyton’s recent article “The Theology of the Government Shutdown,” highlights Cruz’s philosophy in summation:

Rafael Cruz…God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian “kings” who will accomplish the “end time transfer of wealth.” Then “God’s bankers” will usher in the “coming of the messiah.” The government is being shut down so that God’s bankers can bring Jesus back.

What its Really About

At first glance Rushdoony seems a radical but extremely intelligent thinker; however, there are some alarming ideologies also espoused by him. He is considered one of the founders of the Christian Reconstructionist movement– a group of Conservative Christians who believe it is the duty of Christians to “press the crown rights of Jesus Christ in all spheres of life.” [3]

The Chalcedon Foundation’s website states, “We believe that the whole Word of God must be applied to all of life. It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion. We must live by His Word, not our own.”

In Rushdoony’s magnum opus, the two volumed 1600 paged The Institutes of Biblical Law, he proposes that the Old Testament law should be applied to modern society, specifically the penal sanctions. Rushdoony also states that interracial marriages should be considered as “unequal yoking” and in similar fashion to the rhetoric of Senator Rand Paul, he opposes “forced integration” stating that “…all men are NOT created equal before God… . Moreover, an employer has a property right to prefer whom he will in terms of ‘color,’ creed, race or national origin.” [4] Some additional comments by Rushdoony are just too troubling and despicable to fathom. [5]

While Rushdoony’s racist rhetoric seems on the fringe, its eerily similar to the stances shared by fellow Christian conservative hotbeds like Bob Jones University, which has been called “bastion of the most conservative brand of evangelical Christianity.” According to Bob Jones University v. The United States. 461 U.S. 574 (1983) “The District Court found, on the basis of a full evidentiary record, that the challenged practices of petitioner Bob Jones University were based on a genuine belief that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage.”

BJU denied applicants who were coupled in an interracial marriage, and forbade students to date others outside of their own race upon the threat of expulsion. The case explains that “the sponsors of the University genuinely believe that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage. To effectuate these views, Negroes were completely excluded until 1971.” BJU eventually lost its non-profit status and has never reapplied since this court case. According to the court documents, only after the US Supreme court ruled in another similar case did BJU change its admission policy and started admitting Negroes. BJU abruptly dropped its ban on interracial dating in 2000 after national press coverage of candidate George W. Bush’s visit. BJU publicly apologized for “racially hurtful” policies in 2008.

The Series Continues

In part 2 of the series, I’ll shed light on the evolution of American Christian exceptionalism as its philosophies infiltrated American Christian revisionist history books.

Related articles

[1] “Dominionists” and “Reconstructionists” are technically different in an academic sense, however they both seek to influence or control secular government through political action or through the passage of laws relating to the conservative Christian understanding of Biblical law. This is why such diverse characters as Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Timothy LaHaye and Gary DeMar can put aside differences of theology in order to promote the same political agenda.

[2] Frederick Clarkson, “The Rise of Dominionism: Remaking America as a Christian Nation”, Public Eye Magazine, 2005

[3] see Chalcedon Foundation website, http://www.chalcedon.edu

[4] see “A Mighty Army”, Alliance Defense Fund, 2005

[5] other quotations of importance from “Institutes of Biblical Law” include: ““The move from Africa to America was a vast increase of freedom for the Negro, materially and spiritually.” Lazy slaves were “an albatross that hung the South, that bled it.”“The University of Timbuktu never existed. The only thing that existed in Timbuktu was a small mud hut.”“Some people are by nature slaves and will always be so.”“The urge to dominion is God-given and is basic to the nature of man. An aspect of this dominion is property.”“The false witness borne during World War II with respect to Germany (i.e., the death camps) is especially notable and revealing…. the number of Jews who died after deportation is approximately 1,200,000 … very many of these people died of epidemics.”“The matriarchal society is thus decadent and broken… matriarchal character of Negro life is due to the moral failure of Negro men, their failure …to provide authority. The same is true of American Indian tribes which are also matriarchal.” — and in “Foundations of the Social Order” Rushdoony says “Selective breeding in Christian countries has led to … the progressive elimination of defective persons.”“A ‘Litany’ popular in these circles identifies ‘God’ with the city, with the ’spick, black nigger, bastard, Buddhahead, and kike,’ with ‘all men,this concept runs deeply through the so- called Civil Rights Revolution… But …no society has ever existed without class and caste lines.”

Brother Boyd, I think you’re wrong on Syria

Greg BoydI have much respect for Greg Boyd. I used to listen to the Woodland Hills podcast when I did chores around the house. I own many, if not most, of Boyd’s books and his theology continues to resonate within my own evolution as a believer.

In the midst of a Church faced with certainty, racial tensions, and anti-intellectualism, I think his is an important voice that many in the US need to hear. I wish more would do so.

Greg recently wrote a blog post entitled, “What I–a Pacifist–Would Say to Obama About the Crisis in Syria,” where he addresses several ideas about Kingdom pacifism in light of what he would ask of Obama should the President solicit his advice on the current conflict.

Among the many things I appreciate about Boyd (and his community), I’ve especially enjoyed watching their transformation from Evangelical to Neo-Anabaptist. So in the long tradition of Anabaptist practice, let me respectfully say to Brother Boyd, “I think you’re wrong on the situation in Syria.”

Responding to Greg Boyd’s Take

Boyd writes,

The first thing I’ll say is that I don’t believe that being a kingdom pacifist (viz. on who swears off violence out of obedience to Jesus) means that one must embrace the conviction that governments are supposed to embrace pacifism. Many people assume this, and I’ve found that the implausibility of this position is one of the main reasons some people reject pacifism. After giving talks about the kingdom call to unconditional non-violence, I’ve frequently received responses like: “Are you telling me our government should just love the terrorists and ‘turn the other cheek’?” Actually, I’m not saying this.  I don’t believe Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the need for disciples to adopt an enemy-loving, non-violent lifestyle was ever intended to serve as a mandate for how governments are supposed to respond to evil.

First of all, I totally agree with your perspective regarding who (and what) Paul is writing to. His epistle isn’t a treatise on the best-practices of “Biblical” or “Godly” governmental authority. But isn’t it a bit anachronistic to interpret Paul’s ideas concerning how government’s “respond to evil” in the context of war? I mean, he was writing to the Christians in Rome, many of whom had recently been expelled because they were Jews. Others surely encountered immense persecution by the Roman authorities “that wielded the sword.”

Are we to believe that those who were being punished under Roman authority were only being persecuted because they were ‘wrongdoers’? Rome clearly labeled Christians as evil. Surely there is another way to look at this passage in light of Jesus and the rest of Scripture?

Secondly I don’t think it is our job as kingdom pacifists to make kingdom pacifism palatableto those who don’t embrace it. The “Prince of Peace” seems to be a Messianic prophecy from the Holy Spirit, living at peace with all seems to be a commandment from the Messiah, so it only follows that the natural production of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer includes “peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.” Why then refrain from advocating peace if that means some will reject the produce of the Spirit or the commandment of our King? In other words, when the Body of Christ promotes peace both internally and externally, is this not  an out-flowing of the work of the Holy Spirit within them?

Third, what exactly do we mean by government? I hear the word ‘government’ used in this context so often that I often forget how nuanced, diverse, and multi-facted ‘government’ really is. Anyone familiar with government knows it’s not some arcane and monolithic cabal bent on thwarting individual liberty. In the American town square, we often hear conflicting ideals of what government is, ranging from the “of the people, by the people, and for the people” variety to the 400 lbs political gorilla hiding under our bed (or monitoring our guns/phones/emails, etc).

Referring to ‘government’ in such a manner is like referring to the ‘powers and principalities’ as ‘the power and principality’–it just doesn’t compute well. Our ‘government’ can’t even coordinate communication between active duty soldiers and the VA, let alone the FBI and the NSA, CIA, or even local law enforcement agencies. How then can we honestly refer to it as some monolithic entity in this context?

Perhaps we need a little more context when addressing what we refer to as government, since in our nation, citizens empower the government not only by working for the government or by participating in our electionsbut also by buying into their system of domination. Where does the ‘government’ get the money to wage war?How does the government have the authority to hire Americans into fighting without drafting them anymore? What interests, aside from economic and martial domination, does our government truly protect?

Fourth, if governments are not supposed to embrace Kingdom pacifism as you maintain, the question seems to be then how we, as Kingdom of Jesus people, are supposed to operate under governments who stand opposed to the ways of Jesus?

In other words, when governments decide who their enemies are and who is evil, where does that leave us as Kingdom followers of Jesus? Are the government’s enemies also our ‘enemies’ in this case (since we are Americans), or are these enemies only the government’s enemies? What if we work for the government? What if we pay government taxes that fund the naming of enemies and evil doers, let alone the wielding of God’s vengeance upon them when our government ‘responds to evil’?

The point is, can we really separate ourselves from the government’s enemies if we are supporting our government’s ability to go to war with those ‘enemies’?

Enemies? What Enemies?

Not only does Jesus command us to love our enemies, but he also commands us to do good/bless/love those who persecute us. So it seems it doesn’t matter if they are truly ‘our enemies’ or not–the point is that even if they call us enemies, we are still to do good/bless/love them as Christ loved us.

Since we are supposed to love those who call us enemies, then loving, doing good, and blessing them would not only put us into conflict with our own government (who would readily see our actions as seditious), but our love would also radically express the Good News of Jesus Christ that is in the business of loving one’s enemies. If we expressed blessing and good will towards one side, the other might interpret that as an act of war, as was recently realized in the beheading of a Franciscan, martyred for allegedly ‘aiding’ Assad’s regime. (warning, this link is extremely graphic)

If they are not ‘our enemies’, then why do you label them as ‘evil’?

If they are evil, then we are good, and how the government responds to them as evil doers seems ‘ordered’ by God. But as Christians, it seems you would have us refrain from advocating for peace and doing good to the Syrians (who call us enemies) while simultaneously, we empower our government to wage war against them. Ultimately, this line of thinking skirts Luther’s dual-citizenship theory of Kingdom ethics, where we reject the cake on the one hand, but we want to eat it too. When the ‘government’ gets to choose who the enemies and evil doers are when ‘wielding the sword God has given them,’ we have already bought into the myth of redemptive violence and have operated under the presupposition that God is on our side.

Boyd continues,

To the contrary, in Romans 12 and 13, Paul explicitly contrasts the call of disciples to swear off violence as they love and serve enemies with the way God uses governments. …Rather than retaliating, disciple must rather feed our enemy when they’re hungry and give them something to drink when they’re thirsty, thereby overcoming evil with good rather than allowing evil to overcome good (vss.20-21)… God uses these sword-wielding authorities “to bring punishment” or “vengeance” (ekdikos ) on the wrongdoer” (vs.4).

War is never, ever surgical. It never merely involves violence against combatants only, let alone “wrongdoers.” There is always “collateral” damage during war. So if God is “taking vengeance” upon wrongdoers, why is it okay for God to also take vengeance upon innocent bystanders who are caught up in the violence of war?

And if God uses sword-wielding governmental authorities to “bring punishment” or “vengeance” upon the “wrongdoer,” then what does it mean when our own government has the sword brought down upon itself through war and violence by another government? In other words, whose government is being used by God to bring “vengeance” upon wrongdoers? Every government? Just our government? The Roman government of Paul’s day?

And what does it imply when we make the logical argument that, ‘well, the government is punishing wrongdoers, therefore, America’s enemies are wrongdoers– therefore, God is using our government to do God’s righteousness’ as so many in the past have claimed?

You must admit that this line of reasoning has been used to justify a hundred thousand atrocities throughout Church history.

But I think Jesus has nothing to do with it.

Boyd continues,

The important point for us to see is that Paul forbids disciples to ever engage in the very activity he says God uses governments to accomplish– namely, taking vengeance (ekdikēsis). …This doesn’t mean that God wants governments to be violent. It just means that, since the governments of this fallen world are going to be violent, God is willing to get involved in them by “ordering” (tassō) their violence to bring about as much good as possible.

“You do not know what spirit you are of…”

Brother Greg, can you show me one instance in the Scriptures where Jesuswho is the exact representation of the Father, was “willing to get involved in ordering violence to bring about as much good as possible”?

Pointing to this exact type of reasoning, Quaker and political philosopher Jonathan Dymond wrote in 1824:

It is obvious that this reasoning proceeds upon the principle that it is lawful to do evil that good may come. If good will come by violating a treaty, we may violate it.35 If good will come by slaughtering other men, we may slaughter them. I know that the advocate of expediency will tell us that that is not evil of which good, in the aggregate, comes; and that the good or evil of actions consists in the good or evil of their general consequences. – I appeal to the understanding and the conscience of the reader – Is this distinction honest to the meaning of the apostle? Did he intend to tell his readers that they might violate their solemn promises, that they might destroy their fellow Christians, in order that good might come? If he did mean this, surely there was little truth in the declaration of the same apostle, that he used great plainness of speech.

Now there is certainly a difference between God ‘getting involved in violence to bring about as much good as possible” and God taking what some meant for evil and redeeming the aftermath for something good. As Bonhoeffer wrote, “I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose, he needs men who make the best use of everything…” but does that mean that God is willing to get involved in evil by ‘ordering violence’ to bring about good??
I think the example of Jesus says no. I think the both world wars, the Holocaust, Vietnam, and Iraq say no.

The books of Isaiah have more to say about the coming Messiah than any other prophet in the Bible. Prophesying to the day that the Messiah would rise out of Judah, Isaiah says:

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3 Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (NRSV)

Things radically change when King Jesus arrives on the scene. This isn’t some distant pre/post/mid-tribulation dispensationalism, this is the prophetic eschatological reality in the new Kingdom of the Messiah. In the Reign of God under the Messiah, God’s people will not only fail to engage in war (passivism), but they will also “break” and “shatter” the weapons of war (activism) and live in the peace and security of their master since nations will not even train for conflict.

Too Close to Home

Boyd’s argument seems to imply that the church can be faithful to our One King and One Kingdom by simply failing to engage in war instead of also engaging in breaking and shattering the weapons of war through non-violent means. He seems to suggest that we can live securely under the wings of Uncle Sam’s war eagle while also living securely under the wings of our crucified Lord. Confusingly, Boyd suggests we are to love our enemies and do good acts of blessing to them, but then infers that Syria (perhaps the Assad regime) are not our enemies–only the government’s enemies–even though we as American citizens have empowered our government to wage war if we do nothing to stop them.

But Isaiah seems to juxtapose the Reign of God against the Reign of the violent powers and principalities of this world as he continues the Messianic narrative from before:
5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! 6 For you have forsaken the ways of your people, O house of Jacob. Indeed they are full of diviners from the east and of soothsayers like the Philistines, and they clasp hands with foreigners. 7 Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. 8 Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. 9 And so people are humbled, and everyone is brought low— do not forgive them!
Now I don’t know about you, but I think that sort of definition could include powerful, wealthy, violent nations just like ours. The Empire of America stands to gain immense profits from waging war against Syria. and our Who would - Jesus bombviolent military contractors (and those with stock in them) seem to be making a fortune as well.
There are certainly some things I agree with Greg Boyd’s blog post. I agree that being a follower of Jesus doesn’t give us a special insight to political or governmental affairs.
Boyd writes, “These governments operate by an entirely different set of rules than the kingdom we belong to and are called to advance. They defend their self-interest, while we die to ours. They are focused on doing what is practical while we are concerned only with being faithful. And they trust the power of force, while our only confidence is in the power of self-sacrificial love.
I also agree that we should not hold governments to the same standards of the Church, and neither should we expect them to do so.
But the question remains, what do we do as Kingdom of Jesus people, when our Kingdom commandments call for an allegiance that puts us at odds with allegiance to our sovereign nation–especially when we the people are as much a part of the government as we are in the United States of America?Can’t we also advance the Reign of God while dying to our own self-interests while being faithful to the Prince of Peace “in the power of self-sacrificial love”?

“I once was raised…but now I’ve found…” featuring Hannah Heinzekehr from The Femonite

Today continues with the series, “I once was raised… but now I’ve found…” where some of my favorite authors, bloggers, scholars, and theologians explain the transitions they have encountered along their own faith journey. As the series continues, you’ll find me interviewing the guest bloggers below, as they answer questions I’ve posed about their experiences.

I hope you enjoy it, and learn from them as much as I have.

Hannah Heinzekehr“I once was raised a feminist, but now I’ve found feminism,” -Hannah Heinzekehr from The Femonite

Tyler- There are a lot of misconceptions out there about being a Mennonite and being raised as a Mennonite. You seemed to have been raised by parents who made room for good theological frameworks. How would you explain what it is like being raised as a Mennonite?

Hannah- Well, for me, being raised as a Mennonite didn’t mean looking “outwardly different” at all. For me, what it meant to grow up Mennonite was that there was always an emphasis on Jesus’ story and what that meant for how we lived. And some of the ways that this got expressed were through baptism later in life — baptism occurred when you were old enough to make a conscious choice that you have to make on your own to follow Jesus. It also included an emphasis on peace and nonviolence as part of the way that we were meant to live in the world. For my family, being Mennonite also meant being pacifist and resisting violence in all its many forms. This doesn’t mean that we are passive — I think we also strongly believed that we were meant to protest against injustice in the world — but we weren’t going to use violence to do this work. And the third thing that I often think of is that being Mennonite, for my family, meant being part of a church community that was active in each other’s lives and not just on Sundays. I think there was a strong emphasis on communal decision making and being willing to give and receive counsel to one another.
But, just like in any denomination, this is not necessarily true across the board. There is a lot of variation among Mennonites.  Mennonites grew out of the 16th century Anabaptist movement, which rejected infant baptism and emphasized nonresistance. There are also multiple Anabaptist denominations that splintered off of this movement, including many different groups of Mennonites and the Amish. So we do share some “family lineage” with the Amish, but contrary to popular belief, Mennonites and Amish are not the same. The denomination that I’m a part of – Mennonite Church USA — wouldn’t include any “visual cues” like a head covering or plain dress — that would signify to folks that we are Mennonite.

Tyler- Your mom raised you with feminist leanings, but what changed for you? How did it become real for you and in your experiences?

My mom definitely had feminist leanings, in the sense that she believed in full equality for women and men. She was a female pastor, and so some of my first encounters with sexism were when I began to understand that not everyone supported her in this role, partly on the basis of what they perceived biblical teachings about ministering and who could minister. And she taught me to pray and to sing in ways that emphasized gender neutral language and would sometimes also use female language for God.
the femoniteBut despite all this, I think that I really considered feminism irrelevant for myself. It’s not that I didn’t believe in women’s equality, but I think that I thought that, for my generation, feminism was going to be irrelevant, because we were past things like racism and sexism. And I think I really carried these thoughts with me through most of college.  It wasn’t until I began work for a churchwide agency that the need for feminism began to become real to me. Maybe in typical “Millenial fashion” I couldn’t really understand the need for this movement until I felt impacted personally. It started subtly: I would notice, in meetings, that an idea I suggested would be ignored, and then later, the exact same idea could be restated by a man and it would be heard and engaged. I noticed that, when we were having a meal together or a meeting with snacks, I was often expected to help clean up or prepare food, while my male colleagues were not often asked to participate in this way. I noticed that, even though we had the exact same title and role, many of my male colleagues were introduced differently by our agency executives. Each of these things was little, but when they started to pile up, I began to notice that there were systemic ways that women were cut out of important processes. I began to notice how many fewer women were in leadership roles.
And I got angry, and it renewed my interest in figuring out what feminism was all about. These explorations also led me to get some anti-racism education, which helped me to understand the ways that many forms of oppression collude to form systems that are really detrimental and harmful to all of us. And from that point on, I really have seen it as part of my ministry to be involved in anti-oppression work. I’ve found feminist theology, liberation theology and process theology to be really helpful companions on this journey.
Tyler- I’ve actually encountered a lot of Mennonite feminists… what gives? Why are there so many of you out there, and can men be feminist too? 🙂
Two big questions! I’m not sure why there are so many Mennonite feminists. I think that’s a relatively recent trend in Mennonite Church USA, and I don’t want to speak for everyone, but, if I had to guess, I would say that the emphasis on justice work within Mennonite Church USA is really conducive to creating feminists. Although sometimes I still definitely feel like we’re really outnumbered when you look at the ethos of the whole church. Maybe you just are really good at finding cool friends! There’s still lots of work to be done!
I think that men can definitely be feminists, too, but I think this is sometimes a tricky line to walk. I love it when I find friends or men who are equally committed to advocating for gender justice and equality. But sometimes I think that men can try to “take on” women’s pain as their own, or they sometimes speak over womenor overpower women even when they are trying to help, and this just reinforces some of the same problematic cycles that we’re working to resist. I think if a man is really interested in being a feminist he should prioritize listening to the women around himto find out how they feel, what they’re concerned about, etc., and come alongside them to work for gender justice. Don’t just presume you know what women need or you’re advocating on their behalf without taking the time to really get to know those around you. It’s also always a good move to empower women to lead and speak, too.
Tyler- There seems to be a swing towards a more open mindset in the ordination of women in the MCUSA. My pastor is a woman, but as you have recently pointed out at your blog, there is still a lot of room to grow. Do you think ordination is the answer, or do you think there are some times that local congregations just have to be the change they want to see?
Openness to ordination is still one big step, certainly, and the Mennonite church has made huge strides over the last 40-50 years. And it can never hurt to have more women in leadership roles. When this happens, I think that it broadens the possibilities that women and girls can envision for themselves in the future. But I think it’s even more than that. We have some theological education to do that expands our ideas of who God is and our Biblical understanding of who can lead, etc. We also have a long way to go with our language, and education about our bodies, sexuality, modesty culture, etc. There’s still a lot of secrecy and silence around sexual abuse in the church, which disproportionately affects women and children. It’s really a multi-layered system that will have to be addressed through a lot of channels.
Tyler- Bringing the circle around, you had a wonderful mentor in your mother and father, and now that feminist theology has been made “real” in your own actualized praxis, what do you think you will be bringing to the table for your own children–and what can others like me learn from your experiences in raising our children?

Wow, I think about this all the time. And I’m still a really new parent, so I’m really looking for lots of advice and Blogpicideas, too. I think, at a really fundamental level, I want my daughter to know that she is well-loved, by God, by her parents, by her church community, friends, etc,, and also that she is worthy of respect. I think the biggest role I can play is to model these things for my daughter myself. If I’m self-deprecating about my body and appearance, that reinforces to her a certain relationship to her body and to the culture that emphasizes beauty as a woman’s primary allure. I need to put myself in good situations and in good relationships to model those things for her. And I also always want to make sure that we are part of a church community that affirms the gifts of people of all genders. I want Ellie to be able to dream big dreams for herself and her participation in the church.

Hannah is a blogger, mother, Mennonite and theologian. She lives and works in Claremont, California with her husband Justin, also a graduate student pursuing a PhD in Process Studies, and their new daughter Ellie. You can check out all of their musings over atwww.femonite.com.