Jemar Tisby on “What is the Color of Compromise?”

Jemar Tisby.jpg

Yesterday I traveled down to Wheaton College to hear Jemar Tisby deliver a lecture, “What is the Color of Compromise?”, as part of a series hosted by the Center for Applied Christian Ethics. Tisby is the author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism and one of the primary drivers behind The Witness, a black Christian collective that engages issues of religion, race, justice, and culture from a biblical perspective.

If you have not read The Color of Compromise, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is one of the clearest presentations of the historical account of how the Christian church, no matter the geographical location, contributed to the racialized narrative in the USA. It is not an easy read, but if we want to understand the tensions within our nation around race and move toward biblical justice, such hard work is necessary.

While Tisby’s lecture is not yet uploaded, I’m including my own notes from the lecture here.

The Color of Compromise is:

  • Green – for the greed that sustains racism
  • White – for white supremacy within the church
  • Red – for the blood that accompanies that greed and white supremacy

Green

  • “The being of slavery, its soul and its body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill of sale principle: the cart whip, starvation, and nakedness are its inevitable consequences.” – J. W. C. Pennington
  • commodification of the person as property to be bought and sold; reducing the image of God and the value of human life
  • “Some people say slavery was America’s original sin. I would suggest something else. Slavery was America’s original symptom. America’s original sin was greed.”
  • Olaudah Equiano‘s story about being pulled from his sister in his work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.
  • Politics and economic gain set the direction in the country, not faith
  • The discussion of reparations has caused a lot of consternation
  • “You cannot have a serious conversation about racial justice without talking about economic justice.”

White

  • White supremacy is built upon a narrative of racial difference
  • Racism never goes away, it just adapts; the movement from overt racism in slavery through segregation/Jim Crow era to covert racism in the civil rights era up to the present
  • This is not really about the amount of melanin in one’s skin, but about the creation of system of racial difference with idealized “whiteness” at the top and “blackness” on the bottom; everyone else is in-between
  • Whiteness in this sense obscures ethnicity (even for white people), creates “blackness,” and maintains power through violence
  • The Second Coming of the Ku Klux Klan (1915) [Tisby talks about three iterations of the KKK in his book] – spurred by D. W. Griffith’s epic film, The Birth of a Nation (1915), it led to a rebirth of the KKK specifically linked with white Christian nationalism by William Joseph Simmons

Red

  • The greed of racism linked with white nationalism was enforced through violence upon the body
  • “But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me
  • The story of the lynching of Luther and Mary Holbert and the history of lynching in America
  • The story of Recy Taylor, gang raped by a group of white men

What Do We Do?: “The Fierce Urgency of Now”

  • Clip from Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s “I Have a Dream,” speech with the line “the fierce urgency of now…now is time”
  • The ARC of racial justice: awareness (head)  / relationship (hands) / commitment (heart)
  • Awareness:
  • Relationship:
    • Have relationships with people who are different than us
    • Incarnation of being together
    • However, relationships alone will not change systems of injustice
  • Commitment:
    • Find out who your local District Attorney is; find out their platform; and push for reforms in the realm of justice
    • Find out about voters rights and promote the vote
    • Look at your own institutions – schools, workplaces, churches, organizations – and see how you can be a voice for racial justice
    • We don’t have a “can do” problem but a “want to” problem

You can also watch the chapel message Tisby delivered yesterday morning at Wheaton College, “Do Not Despise the Prophetic Voice of the Black Experience.”

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 April 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Prof_EvelyneReisacher“In Memoriam: Evelyne Reisacher” – “It is with deep sadness that we inform the Fuller community of the passing of our dear colleague, Evelyne Reisacher, on March 30, 2019 after a long battle with cancer. Evelyne was a beloved faculty member in the School of Intercultural Studies serving as associate professor of Islamic studies and intercultural relations. Her dear friend for more than 40 years, Fuller alumna Farida Saidi, was by her side when she died. We give thanks for her life as a joyful witness to the love of Christ for the world.”

 

28brooksWeb-superJumbo“Longing for an Internet Cleanse” – Here is David Brooks reflecting on the need for slowing down in the midst of a fast-paced and ravenously informed culture. “There is a rapid, dirty river of information coursing through us all day. If you’re in the news business, or a consumer of the news business, your reaction to events has to be instant or it is outdated. If you’re on social media, there are these swarming mobs who rise out of nowhere, leave people broken and do not stick around to perform the patient Kintsugi act of gluing them back together.” That last reference is to the Japanese art-form of Kintsugi. Brooks reflects on this all through the lense of artist Makoto Fujimura, whose work I have featured more than once on my blog.

 

5A6843CD-0320-4298-848EB265514F97F7_source“Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy” – This public service announcement is brought to you by English majors (like me). “How important is reading fiction in socializing school children? Researchers at The New School in New York City have found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.” So, how do we raise empathy levels in our society? At least one option is to go out and read some good fiction.

 

Moby Dick“Reading Moby Dick with Marilynne Robinson – Since we’re talking about reading good fiction, I figured I should make a confession. When I graduated from college as an English literature major, there were a number of “great novels” I had never read. One of them was Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. About ten years ago, I set out to read this great American novel and, to be honest, I really did not like it. I apologize to those of you who love it. However, here comes Drew Bratcher to the rescue by sharing how a class he took on Moby-Dick at the University of Iowa taught by Marilynne Robinson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead, transformed his reading of Moby-Dick. Maybe it will for you, too.

 

WSH_ABORTION“Abortion will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now”Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books and Professor of English at Liberty University, addresses one of the divisive issues of our age. “Nothing marks the progress of any society more than the expansion of human rights to those who formerly lacked them. I believe that if such progress is to continue, prenatal human beings will be included in this group, and we will consider elective abortion primitive and cruel in the future.”

 

mar17-17-quiet-1200x675“The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time” – We’re not just talking about a religious “quiet time,” but restorative stillness and silence. This article from Harvard Business Review  challenges our multi-sensory busy culture. “In a recent interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates argued that serious thinkers and writers should get off Twitter….He’s in good company. Author JK Rowling, biographer Walter Isaacson, and psychiatrist Carl Jung have all had disciplined practices for managing the information flow and cultivating periods of deep silence. Ray Dalio, Bill George, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan have also described structured periods of silence as important factors in their success.”

 

89924“Transhumanism and the Cult of ‘Better, Faster, Stronger’” – Andy Crouch reviews two books on transhumanism in Christianity Today. “Amid the pop-culture detritus of my childhood, one unforgettable fragment is the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. For the children of the 1970s, Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors) was our first cyborg, fitted with a “bionic” eye and limbs after a nearly fatal accident. Every episode began by retelling his origin story, as a voiceover intoned: ‘We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.’ Those opening lines have stuck with me. They were a kind of boyhood liturgy—a ritual repeated weekly as I watched the latest episode. They compress into a few sentences a great deal of what makes technology the central ideology of our age.”

 

Music: Third Coast Percussion, “Paddle to the Sea – Act I”

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 March 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Bishop of Loughborough“Church of England to hold first service in Farsi after a huge rise in Iranian converts” – “When the Bishop of Loughborough was 13-years-old, her brother was murdered for being a Christian. Born and raised in Iran, she was forced to flee her homeland in 1980 on the grounds of religious persecution – a story that is all too familiar for many Iranian Christians. Now, as the ordained Bishop of Loughborough, the Rt Revd Guli Francis-Dehqani is leading the Church of England’s growing community of Iranians who have found a home in the Anglican church. This unprecedented shift was yesterday marked with a “historical” service at Wakefield Cathedral in Yorkshire, where the Holy Communion scripture was delivered in Persian for the first time to cater for the growing – yet traditionally unusual – new Anglican congregation.”

 

china“China official says West using Christianity to ‘subvert’ power” – From Reuters: “Western forces are trying to use Christianity to influence China’s society and even “subvert” the government, a senior official said, warning that Chinese Christians needed to follow a Chinese model of the religion. China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.”

 

St-Patrick“Who was the real St Patrick: an evangelist or a tax dodger?” – “Few national saints have the global reach of Patrick: it has been calculated that church bells ring out in 800 worldwide locations to celebrate the feast day of this Roman Briton who brought Christianity to Ireland in the early 5th century. Jewish bakeries in New York sell green bagels and horses run at Cheltenham in his honour. And everyone knows the legend that he banished serpents, since no snakes exist in Ireland (the Ice Age may have helped the banishment). Patrick is legendary but he was also a real historical figure, and Roy Flechner seeks to review Patrick’s story in the light of historical evidence — examining Patrick’s own autobiographical writings, as well as other sources from archaeology and Roman and medieval texts — to make ‘educated guesses’ about Patrick’s life.”

 

reparations“The Case for Reparations” – David Brooks has come to an interesting conclusion about the tensions with ethnic tensions in our country: reparations are necessary. Admittedly, Brooks is a late convert to this point of view, which makes his article a very interesting read. Of course, he is responding to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ original article in the Atlantic of the same name, which is also worth reading.

 

article_5c847db41bee5“Evangelicals and Zen Masters” – In First Things, Matthew Milliner, associate professor of art history at Wheaton College, reflects in a beautiful personal essay on the intersections and disjunctions between Christianity and Zen Buddhism. He travels a wide stretch of roads toward his conclusion, but the journey is fascinating. Alan Jacobs writes a reflection upon and response to Milliner here, including some references to the meandering relationship that Thomas Merton had with Zen Buddhism, that is well worth reading.

 

Michael McClymond“How Universalism, ‘the Opiate of the Theologians,’ Went Mainstream” – Paul Copan interviews Michael McClymond on the nature of universalism, and how it has become so popular in mainstream thinking today, by Rob Bell’s Love Wins. McClymond’s recent book, The Devil’s Redemption, engages critically with the historical theology of universalism in Christian thought, and this interview gives a taste of McClymond’s conclusions.

 

Obscurity

“The Disturbing Temptations of Pastoring in Obscurity” – I had the opportunity to write for Christianity Today‘s CT Pastors imprint this past week. In this article, I explore the ways in which temptations to celebrity is not necessarily remedied by hiding in obscurity. I hope it’s an encouragement to other pastors. Thanks to Kyle and Andrew from CT for working with me on this.

 

Music: “Were You There?”, Marian Anderson, from Marian Anderson in Oratorio and Spiritual, volume 1 (1936).

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]