Movement, Movement, Movement, and Repose: A Sermon

On February 19th, 2017, I had the privilege of preaching at my church. I framed my sermon around the Revised Common Lectionary texts for that week, which included Matthew 5:38-48; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; and Psalm 119:1-8. The following is the text of the sermon.

So, I read an article a couple months ago about a lesbian that was out having dinner who overheard the people at the table next to her disparage and bemoan a nephew who had recently come out of the closet. They expelled the usual rhetoric–they were “disgusted” and vowed to “pray to Jesus for a cure.”

I have heard similar sentiments throughout my life. Many of them were not directed at me specifically, but some of them were. So I wonder how this woman at the restaurant felt–angry? Frustrated? Exhausted? Sad? Maybe all of those at once? Here again Jesus was being invoked as a tool to change a fearfully and wonderfully made nephew into something that jived with his family’s sensibilities. Yet this woman did not get into a fight with the family, nor did she merely post a rant about the experience on Facebook. Instead, she said she decided to actually act like the Jesus she grew up learning about. She paid for this family’s meal and wrote them a note that said, “Happy holidays from the very gay, very liberal table sitting next to you. Jesus made me this way. P.S. Be accepting of your family.”

In our Gospel lesson today from Matthew, Jesus talks about turning the other cheek and loving our enemies. These verses are often candy-coated, made safe for people to say in response to the marginalized standing up for their rights or responding to injustice in any way. They’re easy catch phrases and platitudes to pull out when someone makes us uncomfortable by calling us out. But in fact, these concepts of turning the other cheek and loving your enemy are very radical ideas. Marcus Borg wrote that, in Jesus’ society, any beating or striking was done with the right hand, so if a peasant was being beaten by a superior and then turned the other cheek, that superior was then challenged to hit the peasant as an equal. Likewise, Roman law gave soldiers permission to force civilians to carry their gear for one mile, but anything longer than one mile was considered abuse. Yet Jesus says to go the extra mile–to force the soldier, the agent of the State, to see the injustice in their request. Because to perform these offerings–these niceties–in an exaggerated way exposes oppressive hierarchies for what they are and calls the oppressors to reflect on their humanity and the humanity of the person they are oppressing.

Now, judgmental words over the dinner table are not quite as extreme as hitting someone or forcing them to carry your things, but the nature of the woman’s response is very much in keeping with the spirit in which Jesus speaks when he talks about turning the other cheek and loving the enemy. Loving the enemy does not mean that what the enemy does is acceptable. Turning the other cheek does not mean choosing to stay silent. What it does mean is exaggerating kindness and humility to expose evil for what it is.

This understanding of Jesus’ words in the gospel laid a foundation for the non-violent resistance of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights activists. Last month, Congressman John Lewis appeared on Christa Tippet’s On Being podcast titled “Love in Action.” He spoke about how a strong, faith-based foundation prepared him and other activists for arrests, police dogs, hoses, and other tools of state persecution. They trained in church halls, roleplaying every possible scenario. They practiced subtle tactics like always looking the other person in the eye no matter what they did to you and purposefully took to the streets in their nicest clothes. All of it was to compel the police officers, the politicians, the system at hand to come face to face with their own evil as they were forced to recognize the humanity in black people.

It is this foundation that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it.” Though Paul says he has laid a foundation, in another sense he is the one building upon Jesus’ foundation. Paul recognizes that he only built his foundation because of God and he also recognizes that the Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians–all these new groups of Christians he writes to–are building on his own foundation.

This pattern repeats throughout history–Paul founds on the foundation of Christ, the Church founds on the foundations of Paul and Christ, ordinary people yearning for justice found on the foundations of Christ, Paul, and the Church. And what sort of building are we moving to build?

mewithoutYou is one of my favorite bands. They have a song called “Paper Hanger,” which is where I got the title for this sermon.

The last part of the song goes,

“Our lives are not our own.

Even the wind lay still.
Our essence was fire, and cold, and
Movement, movement oh,
If they ask you for the sign of the Father in you
Tell ‘em it’s movement, movement, movement, oh!
And repose.”

It’s a reference to the Gospel of Thomas, which is not in the biblical cannon. However, I think the sentiment holds true of the Church and what Jesus asks of us in turning the other cheek and loving the enemy. Movement and repose. Movement is walking that second mile with the soldier and making them uncomfortable. Repose is turning the other cheek, daring to be struck as an equal. Movement is marching from Selma to Montgomery to the ire and confusion of white America. Repose is paying for a meal in the face of homophobic rhetoric. And all of this is done with the hope that grace and liberation will replace fear and oppression.

Yet it’s hard to understand these concepts as a single unit. Movement and repose seem like opposites–one telling us to act and another telling us to keep it classy. Somehow, we should do both at once.

Our faith is full of such seemingly illogical ideas that we’re asked to hold as true–a person being dead and then alive, Jesus being both fully God and fully human, the kingdom of God being already here but not yet here, God being one and three, the least of these here on Earth being first in the kingdom of God, God the all-powerful creator and God the infant, God the servant.

So Jesus asks us to resist in a similarly illogical manner. Dare the oppressor to continue their persecution beyond what is permissible by law. Dare to love the enemy to present evil in stark relief, including our own evil. Because we go beyond the ways of this world when we refuse to play their divisive games, and we go beyond their ways when we refuse to accept the status quo as the perfection and abundance that God desires for our lives. When we hold illogical God things close to our hearts and let them compel us to movement, we transcend into an experience and an existence that the best metaphors fail to fully capture.

And no one said any of this was easy. I certainly don’t claim to perfectly wrap my head around it or act on it all the time. Perhaps this is why our Psalm reading comes from one of the longest Psalms, where the speaker constantly repeats the promise to keep God’s statutes and by the end is begging for deliverance in order to continue keeping those statutes. To me, it sounds like desperate bargaining–your statutes are great, God! They’re the best statutes! I totally keep them all the time, but I need your help because I also suck at keeping them! So deliver me, please! And I’ll keep keeping them! By the way, did I mention that these are great statutes?

None of what God asks of us is easy. Many times, it goes against our basic instincts. Secular progressive morality might have told that woman in the diner to interrupt the family’s meal, make a public embarrassment out of them. Pick that fight. Don’t let them stay comfortable. Paying for their meal isn’t the punishment they deserve.

Well, no, it’s not the punishment they deserve. It’s the grace they don’t deserve. That is the transformative power of the gospel. And sometimes when we extend that undeserved grace no matter how difficult it is and no matter how much we think we hate the other person, we too experience grace.

To reach that place spiritually, emotionally, and mentally requires an openness and humility to God to utterly transform us. So, I’ll end with another quote from another mewithoutYou song called “C-Minor.”

“Open wide my door, my door, my Lord
(open wide my door)
To whatever makes me love you more
(0pen wide my door)
While there’s still light to run towards
(open wide my door)”

May it be so among us. Amen.

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Songs on This Election Eve/Day

I tried writing something to explain why I vote despite the conclusion my progressive views lead me to, which is that there is no just system aside from the kingdom/kin-dom of God that is already, but not yet established and it is the task of the Church to bring this about as much as possible, though it be only a platonic shadow.

Neither of the major parties will enact the sort of justice this vision entails, but I still believe that the work of the church may be more successful under one administration than the other. This means that the church must keep working.

So instead of laying out a detailed thesis, I will share songs that generally capture my sentiments.

Yes, I put the kyrie twice. Can you tell that I like it? My other favorite chanting is the way we chant the Psalms at my church, but I can’t find a recording of the tone.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present[a] help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult.Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city;[b] it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.[c]Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.[d]Selah

The Gospel of Bronycon

This past weekend, I attended my second Bronycon as a panelist. I reunited with my teammates from last year and we presented a panel called “Cutie Marks and Branding: The Importance of Social and Mythological Identity Formation Among Friends.” The turnout was great and we got overwhelmingly positive feedback on our presentation! One person even said ours was the best panel they’d been to at the con up to that point.

 

The panel covered the very, very broad topic of identity. Brian Newby began with providing basic definitions of identity and of “normal” vs. “deviant.” Bill Ellis then explored identity in a mythological sense, particularly with the heroes and villains of MLP. I grounded these ideas in cutie marks as an exploration of identity within the show itself (in other words, basically using a New Criticism approach) and then looked at what happens when we fans bring our own understandings of identity to the show as we watch it (i.e., Reader Response Criticism), specifically in the case of “Brotherhooves Social” and the discussions around it being helpful/harmful trans representation. I’ll add a link to the video recording once it’s available.

During the panel, Purple Tinker, who founded Bronycon, got word of the discussion and she started giving away pride flags at her booth in the vendor’s hall. Stay tuned for a guest post from her about this topic!

I did a couple last-minute things as I finalized my portion of the panel and the result is that I lowkey took y’all to church. First, I included this slide:

A Powerpoint slide says, "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are loved."

This is a slight modification of a common refrain in the United Church of Christ, which goes, “No matter you you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

I felt that this message was in line with all of the affirmations I heard throughout the weekend. “You are important. You matter. You have a community here. You are not alone.” All of these were spoken in the face of struggling with suicidal tendencies, recovering from addictions, healing from bullying, and so many other hurts.

The second way I lowkey took y’all to church was by leading the audience in singing a modified version of “This Little Light of Mine.” We sang “This Cutie Mark of Mine,” which makes perfect sense for the panel topic and the MLP fandom as a whole.

If only we had a Hammond! The closest we got was the neat Gothic choir music they played before the panel began (if it were up to me, I’d have gone with Kyrie Eleison).

However, I saw so many other examples of the gospel at work over the weekend and it honestly seems like another instance of God working with and through the least likely and least “qualified” communities.

We all know that My Little Pony has a bad reputation specifically because of bronies. Sometimes, there’s this sense that no upstanding feminist would bother with the series or the fandom because there’s always a brony who’s misogynistic and/or creepy and the most feminists ought to do is point out the fact that he’s a brony to explain that he’s a misogynist.

I’m not dismissing criticisms of misogyny within the fandom or ignoring the problems folks have with giving more attention to the shock value/transgression of men liking ponies than to all the awesome female empowerment the show has to offer. In fact, this is why I talk about this series through my experience as a woman and focus more on what it does for girls/women. Plenty of folks talk about bronies redefining masculinity and while I have no problem with that discussion, I do feel like people often stop the conversation at what the show does for bronies and what bronies do for the show. And I get it. It’s not as weird for me to like My Little Pony because I’m a girl, hence why the whole girl empowerment aspect isn’t as sensational.

As with any fandom, there’s a lot of crap that makes people say, “why would you associate yourself with these people?” That’s a big reason why I typically don’t get deep into fandom drama. Yet as a Christian, I’m quite used to loving and being involved in something with a terrible reputation. Yes, there are unsavory aspects of the MLP fandom. Maybe some unsavory things happened to some people at Bronycon. I can’t dismiss that possibility, but this is what I saw:

I saw Tara Strong, who voiced your entire childhood, give a signed Derpy plushie to a girl who flew in all the way from Belgium and had been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts due to bullying–to the point of needing professional help. Tara invited the girl and her sister on stage and told her she was beautiful, loved, cherished–all of these affirming things. When she handed over the Derpy plushie, she said she chose Derpy because Derpy isn’t perfect, but everyone loves her anyway.

I saw a young man crying while standing in line for the microphone at the bullying Q&A panel. Another young man standing in front of him held him for the longest time. A middle-aged woman rubbed his back. A Princess Celestia cosplayer rose from her seat to give him a hug.

I saw a panelist pause and try to gather himself while sharing his experiences with alcohol addiction and how My Little Pony approaches the topic of recovery.

I saw over $27,000 raised for charity.

I saw a teary-eyed vice con chair describe attendees who had gathered in the main lobby to prepare care packages for the homeless around the convention center. I’ve seen this happen at church conferences, but never fandom conventions.

I saw the last few minutes of an accessibility panel where people shared creative ideas on how to make even loud events like the rave party more accessible to attendees with noise sensitivities. I’m sure there were many other great ideas as well.

http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/mlp/images/2/2a/Celestia_reading_Twilight's_letter_S1E05.png/revision/latest?cb=20140526015745

I saw a Princess Celestia and a Princess Luna cosplayer read letters written to their characters over the course of the weekend. Some letters rehashed hilarious memes. Others told the saddest stories.

“Dear Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, my best friend died five years ago. I was at a pony convention when I found out. I still struggle with feeling alone.”

“Dear Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, this world is full of scary things. Cops killing people. People killing cops. I wish you could come to our world to teach us more about friendship. Signed, nobody important.”

To which the Princess Luna cosplayer emphatically replied, “You are very important. Every. single. one of you.”

For all of these reasons, I understand why so many people feel like the MLP community is their home and conventions like Bronycon their sanctuary. I know how freeing and healing it is to find that second family. I’ve found mine at my church, which makes me a rare case among people my age.

Even so, I strongly believe that all works like what I described above are God’s works. God is present through all things and meets us where we are. That includes people of little or no faith who also face constant misunderstandings about their views and yet have found a community in the MLP fandom.

What can the church learn from these happenings at Bronycon and vice versa? What would it look like for these two very different communities to work together? Joint service projects built into the con schedule that attendees could choose to sign up for?

It’s funny because while I was happy to be going to Bronycon this weekend, I was also bummed that I’d be missing church. Instead, God reiterated the theme of UCC General Synod 2015:

Grace in unexpected places.

On Narratives and Hate Crimes

tumblr_nmpn9wVkEv1rsba37o1_1280.jpg

Whenever systemic sins rear their ugly heads and people die, there are narratives that spin around in our minds and on social media. The stories we tell ourselves, more often than not, perpetuate fear and otherization. In the case of the Pulse shooting, they also revive age-old narratives of death as divine justification. They create narratives of feigned support from people who, on a regular day, don’t care about LGBTQ+ people or actively work to exclude them from churches, jobs, bathrooms, and other spaces we occupy in modern life. The difference between narratives calling this a terrorist attack and those calling it a hate crime are already implicit. We can sense where the dividing line falls.

But the complete narrative is much more complicated than that, isn’t it? What happened at Pulse was both a terrorist attack and a hate crime. Regardless of who the perpetrator is, I consider all mass shootings terrorist attacks.

Yet we have our narratives at the ready to respond to the aftermath of anything. As a writer, I understand the power of words, of narratives. It’s one reason why I enjoy analyzing fiction so much and why so many people care about diverse representation in media.

Some people now, in telling their narratives, would want me to hate Muslims. These folks are often the same ones who advocate for bathroom laws and misquote Scripture at me, my friends, and my church family. Others, in telling their narratives, are placing the bulk of the motive for this incident on homophobia as expressed through the Christian right. As more details come in, it’s clearer that the shooter had sympathies for a distorted view of Islam.

Whatever the specifics, this incident brewed from and is processed through warped religious ideologies that hate LGBTQ+ people. These ideologies have narratives of their own that rest deeply in the heart.

Even in times of relative calm, we repeat and absorb narratives. We get so good at processing them that we can make any incident fit into the same categories. And one overarching narrative through all of this tells of a permanent divide between faith and queerness.

The cover picture for this post is a juxtaposition of two magazines I bought at the grocery store one week. The headlines and layout on the Time magazine article suggest that there are two opposing sides: the religious and the queer. You’re either on one or the other–a simple narrative through which to process and navigate the world.

Even among more accepting folks, this narrative appears in innocent ways. A while back, I was talking with a coworker about relationships and stuff and I mentioned how I’d only date a Christian (I have several reasons for this that I won’t get into at the moment). She, in jest, replied “Oh, haha, you like ’em pure?” It’s hilarious because let’s just say that my love life is still a dream of youth group ethics.

So I had to explain that I was serious, but what had happened in her head was that this narrative of queer or religious embedded itself in her mind. She apologized profusely. A member at my church often notes that he found more acceptance of his gayness in church than acceptance of his Christianity in the gay community. Parsing these two deep sources of identity simply does not reflect the whole picture.

The second magazine details the life and ministry of Jesus, and does a pretty good job of explaining how he radically challenged the society of his day. Jesus is also often rendered into a simple narrative–conservatives and progressives do this in their own ways.

What happens when we settle on our simple narratives? Whether they’re about Jesus or marginalized peoples or any of the -archies and -isms we deal with on a daily basis, we often find ourselves turning to the same stories. This trickles from and stems to the fiction we consume and create. It’s all connected. It’s why Orphan Black fans are so invested in what happens to Delphine. It’s why Steven Universe fans love Garnet. It’s why Korrasami rendered so many viewers to tears.

LGBTQ+ people particularly can never neatly fit into establishes narratives. It’s been the nature of the movement in tacit and metaphorical ways to highlight undefinable existence. There will always be someone whose narrative diverges.

May we strive continuously toward diverse narratives that challenge the stories we tell ourselves in fiction and reality.

Donation link in support of Pulse victims.

Showbread is Showdead: Raw Rock Kills One Last Time

During my college days and ever after, three bands have had a tremendous impact on my theology: Showbread, Thrice, and mewithoutYou. Thrice bowed out for a while, but came back with another album recently. mewithoutYou shows no signs of slowing down. But Showbread has bid us all a radically fond farewell, killing us one last time with raw rock (amen).

This post is coming six months after the album’s release, largely because I stopped paying attention to or looking for updates. These guys had a phenomenal run and their later work became ever more explicit about their Christian anarchy. This final album makes these views as plain as can be in some respects, particularly in the track “Raw Rock Theology.”

burn down their gods

defy their king

no flag, no idols

one king of kings

In their vision of anarchy, the kingdom (or kin-dom) of God replaces the hierarchies and powers of nations and “kings” of all types who currently run the world. Jesus reigns above all of these and his ways, when truly followed, provide a glimpse into an eschatological future where oppression, despair, and suffering are no more.

Showbread’s final album tears down everything and ends, as expected, with a soft song that calls us to “follow Jesus with your heart and love Him every way.” Most of their albums since No, Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical have done this. Showbread dares to say that the only just system is God’s love. All other structures are born of sin, corruption, and idolatry.

Showbread is also critical of Christianity’s coziness with American patriotism. “I’m Afraid That I’m Me” from Cancer has some of the most powerful imagery in their discography regarding this issue.

lately i have found frustration among the incongruence
a movement of peasants and pacifists drowning in patriotic affluence
i feel as though i should do something but i’m staggered by the ramifications
they’ve baptized the empire into the church and heralded its sanctification

And a bit later in the song.

“blessed are the meek” succumbs to “might makes right”
“turn the other cheek” succumbs to pre-emptive strike
“love your enemies” is fossilized beneath the frozen tundra
and “blessed are the poor in spirit” is devoured by “God bless America”

you file the children into the classrooms, make them stand and say an oath
and when we ask “should i love God or my country?”
you smile and tell us “both.”
we’ve hidden the God we claim we serve and driven him beneath the floorboards
but i can still hear this still, small voice
and i can’t take it anymore

Showbread’s music is unapologetically critical and disturbing. It challenges listeners, especially those of Christian faith, to truly examine what it is we believe about God, country, following Jesus, and navigating through a chaotic world. Some could very well come to different conclusions, but these songs at the very least awaken people from complacency and prompt debate, discussion, and reflection–active faith, rather than passive faith.

Each album since The Fear of God has personally challenged me, especially since my introduction to Showbread was their poignant concept album Anorexia/Nervosa. The lyrics are uncomfortable and depressing. It often takes me several plays to unpack and understand what, exactly, they’re saying and how I answer their challenges.

Rather than explain my beliefs in light of what they raise (I don’t think I could fully do so anyway), I’ll just share my favorite songs from each album.

No, Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical (2004)

 

Age of Reptiles (2006)

Anorexia/Nervosa (2008)

These albums will always be my favorite of Showbread’s work and simply sharing the songs here doesn’t do them justice because there’s a story that you must read along with them. You’ll need to purchase physical copies to do that because I don’t think they come with lyric booklets on iTunes.

Anorexia was the first album I had ever listened to that made me cry.

The Fear of God (2009)

Who Can Know It? (2010)

Cancer (2012)

Showbread is Showdead (2016)

Never break. Never die.

Amen.

Creative Blogger Award

So, medievalotaku tagged me in this and I think it’s a good thing to balance out my super serious analyses to show y’all that I do, in fact, have a sense of humor. These are the rules for the award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers and add their links.
  • Notify the bloggers you included.
  • Keep the rules in your post to make it easy for everyone to know what to do!

Much thanks to medievalotaku! Now, here are five facts about me. Well, they’re more like vignettes of childhood memories.

new-sailor-moon-02

  1. When I was a baby, I was a finalist in becoming a model for baby commercials. I also had a nanny from Guatemala who took care of me during the day, so technically, I learned Spanish before I learned English. The irony is that I forgot it all and wasn’t significantly exposed to Spanish again until middle school and high school despite being Puerto Rican.
  2. In 8th grade, my school band took a trip to Scotland, England, and Iceland. One night in Iceland, we ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and the buses taking us back to our hotels didn’t bother to account for everyone before leaving. This meant that my parents and I and a few others were stuck trying to walk back to our hotel in a country where we can’t even begin to read the signs. We wandered aimlessly until my dad saw a lady standing at a bus stop. He pulled out the hotel key, thinking he could ask the lady to read it and have her point us in the right direction. As he approached, the woman started walking away. My dad walked faster to catch up with her and she started running. So now, my dad was chasing the poor woman down the street. He finally caught up to her and tried to explain our situation by pointing to the hotel key only to discover that the woman was blind.
  3. In 2nd grade, I had the most humorless teacher you’d ever meet. She was impatient and rude and literally no one liked her. One day, it was some kid’s birthday so we all had cupcakes during class. Now, one very important fact about me is that I take after my late abuela in terms of taking my sweet time doing things, especially eating. As a child, I had a very special method for eating cupcakes. I gradually licked off all the icing before even biting into the cake part. This ritual took much longer than the sloppier methods my classmates chose. Well, my rude peasant of a teacher hardly had any regard for my lackadaisical eating habits and gym class was fast approaching. Seeing that all the other kids had finished their cupcakes while I was still licking the icing off, she became furious and she bellowed, “TAyLOr you can either throw that cupcake away or shove it in your mouth!!!” And 7-year-old me thought, “Challenge accepted.” Because why would I throw away a perfectly good cupcake? So I shoved that whole cupcake in my mouth and never broke eye contact with her.
  4. One year at summer camp, a boy who looked like Link from Legend of Zelda told my camp friends not to hang out with me if they wanted to be cool and hang out with him. So, they listened. It hurt a lot and I didn’t understand why they didn’t want to hang out with me anymore until one girl finally decided that this whole thing was stupid and hung out with me again. Eventually, I got all my old friends back and even gained some once people realized how much of asshole Link had been.
  5. One of the very first stories I ever typed up on a computer was a crossover fanfic between The Land Before Time and The Magic School Bus. I was about six-years-old. My second typed story was a Thundercats fanfic. Of course, I didn’t know what “fanfic” was–I just wanted to write stories about cartoons that I liked.

So! Now I get to nominate people, which is actually really tricky because I don’t follow a lot of people that would go for this sort of thing. So, instead I’ll just call this list a recommendation.

  1. CG of Black Girl in Media
  2. Timothie of black flag theology
  3. Charles of Study of Anime
  4. Kit of joyful abjection

Obviously, this isn’t a list of 10. It’s not even a list of all the blogs that I enjoy; however, these four individuals have fascinating perspectives and voices that I think are worth listening to.

Baltimore.

It’d be disingenuous to simply allow my weekly blog post queue to continue without commenting on the situation in Baltimore. Though I don’t live in the city (and therefore have the luxury of avoiding the focal points of recent events), I work and play in the city. Today’s events occurred a mere five minute drive from where I work.

I will be clear on a few points.

  1. What’s unfolding is the direct result of systematic oppression and injustice. It’s a response to decades of non-response. Said non-response is an aftershock of slavery and white supremacy.
  2. Fully grasping what’s going on requires a nuanced understanding of history and intersectionality that I, as a middle-class white girl, will never truly know or experience.
  3. It’s been…interesting, to say the least, seeing people who I’ve never seen discuss similar issues suddenly having an opinion about the property damage. Was it the property damage that prompted speaking out and not someone losing their life under a brutal police system?
  4. Re: point #3, Dear Christians: when were we taught to value broken things that can be repaired over broken spines that cannot be repaired?
  5. I have offered my home to friends and coworkers who live in the city and do not feel safe.
  6. My opinion on property damage doesn’t matter, but I understand its message as best as I can. It’s indiscriminate just as systematic oppression is indiscriminate. In other words, it makes no distinction between “innocent” cars, businesses, etc., and “guilty” ones. All are targets and subject to destruction. The metaphor is clear enough to me, though I’m not interested in debating its effectiveness or its rightness/wrongness.
  7. I am immensely proud to be part of the United Church of Christ, which always aims to be ever more present in dialogue and action in circumstances such as these.
  8. I am not angry, disgusted, or afraid.

Now, I will link to several articles that I’ve read over the past few days. I will probably update this list as things unfold.

Clergy March Together in Solidarity

“Why Do They Burn Down Their Own Neighborhood?”

10,000 Strong Peacefully Protest in Baltimore

Why Freddie Gray Ran

Baltimore’s Broken Relationship With Police

Bloods and Crips Team Up to Protest Baltimore’s Cops

Freddie Gray not the first to come out of Baltimore police van with serious injuries

The Brutality of Police Culture in Baltimore

Orioles COO speaks about protests

White People Rioting for No Reason

Cops on Inside Streets

Nonviolence as Compliance

Obama Calls Out America for Not Caring About Issues that Led to Riots

The Unseen Baltimore: What Residents Are Doing This Morning

10 Images of Baltimore Riots You Won’t See on TV

Why Baltimore Burned

Another article on the history of Baltimore’s police brutality

Baltimore imposes bail bonds of half a million dollars

Onion article: Baltimore residents urged to stay indoors until social progress takes its natural course

Eyewitnesses report that police were present in riot gear at Mondawmin Mall before student uprising began

Satire: How the media talks about white people

Transgender woman arrested in Baltimore forced to stay in male holding cell

Vive la Révolution: Our Love/Hate Relationship With Violent Rebellion

Livestreams of events may be running at Revolution News.

Lastly, everyone, especially those who can’t see what’s happening with any clarity, would do well to complete this checklist.

With all of this happening, I have to admit that a lot of what I do here on this blog seems very trivial. Diverse representation in stories is, in some ways, an easy topic. The messages are easier to swallow when it’s in the context of a story that one can analyze. Yet I’d be remiss to suggest that representation is the solution to these wider problems. The hope, of course, is that representation will make it easier for the next generation (including cops) to see POC and other minorities as human, thereby reducing such treatment and gradually ending these systems, but the need is much too immediate to await such delayed justice. From this perspective, talking about intersectionality in fictional stories seems very far removed. However, I still believe in its effectiveness, even if those effects are long-term. Studying stories through intersectional lenses is just one of many approaches needed to work at the same time to make things better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve linked this song and it won’t be the last.

Will the circle be unbroken?