Sunday, August 17, 2014

Analogies of Injustice

As defined in our glossary, an analogy is "reasoning or explaining from parallel cases." Put another way, an analogy is a comparison between two different things in order to highlight some point of similarity. As Freud suggested, an analogy won't settle an argument, but a good one may help to clarify the issues. - Websters

Injustice is the violation of the rights of others. According to, it is the quality or fact of being unjust. It relates to unfairness or undeserved outcomes.  A sense of injustice is a universal human feature, although circumstances considered unjust can vary from one culture to another. While even acts of nature sometimes provoke a sense of injustice, it is felt in relation to human actions such as misuse, abuse, neglect or malfeasance that is uncorrected or else sanctioned by a legal system or fellow human beings.

While it is not my intent to be cynical I have noticed a few points of analogy regarding the situation in Ferguson, Mo., and the war between Israel and Hamas, prosecuted at the expense of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory of the Gaza Strip.  Listening and reading various news media[1], these points of analogy seem to be more and more evident as events unfold.  At times the human condition presents compelling points of analogy with particular similarities which wrench the heart and soul of the witness becoming a ground of frustration and righteous anger. 

There are similarities between the situations in the Gaza Strip and Ferguson, Mo., USA which I seek to point out here.  The intent of this post is to lift up those similarities, tactics and underlying issues that frame the situation in these two places, hopefully to gain a sense of solidarity regarding such.    

The situations as presented in the media

The first situation involves three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped on the West Bank of Israel. They were walking at night and caught a ride with some unseemly characters that ultimately led to their death as heard on the police tape recording.[2]  In response a Palestinian young man was killed[3] and so began one more war ravaging the Gaza Strip and its people.  In the case of Ferguson, Mo.,  a situation still somewhat unclear, a young African American teenager had allegedly robbed a convenience store as shown in store video.[4]  Upon being stopped by a Ferguson Police Officer, who was unaware of the convenience store incident, he was shot six times, including two shots in the top of his head, while he was in a position of surrender, this according to an autopsy.   Both present the extreme force of the normative towards the lesser force by comparison, and both begun with the death of young male teenagers supported by policies and programmes of the U.S. federal government.[5] 

In the case of the Gaza Strip, Israel is a force of overwhelming military power, backed by the United States of America.  Protected by a system called “the Iron Dome” which has been very effective at protecting the Israeli people from the missiles of Hamas, Israel has launched missiles which have killed over 1000 people, this number includes innocent women, children and men, entire families and devasted the Gaza Strip in an effort to defeat Hamas causing billions of dollars of damage.  As a consequence there has been a move by Palestinian leaders to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible war crimes.[6]

The Gaza Strip is occupied territory and segregated, the people effectively living under apartheid are in fact the sacrifice for the safety of Israel.  Hamas calls Israel to lift the occupation, to alleviate the suffering of the people and discontinue the abhorrent system of apartheid.  Considered a terrorist organization, Hamas cannot match the military might of Israel.  Nonetheless it seemingly fights a losing war, seeking to make some kind of statement regarding the injustice perpetrated by Israel upon the Palestinian people.

From the viewpoint of analogy we have the residents of Ferguson Mo. throwing rocks and bottles, protesting the slaying of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman and a police department militarized by the Pentagon, a program emerging from the Reagan administration and its war on drugs.[7]   The police have overwhelming firepower, tanks, Armored Personnel Carriers, machine guns, tear gas, and a plethora of other armament.  There really isn’t any comparison between those fighting for justice regarding a dead African American teenager and the power of a militarized police department.

In the midst of these two situations we have mothers and families experiencing grief and sorrow at the loss of their child, their child seemingly called to be the sacrificial lamb for the hope and safety of normative sensibilities.  In other words the death of a youth, whether an African American, Palestinian or for that matter Israeli maintains the hope of a normative community seemingly in danger of being taken over by vandals.  

The Gaza Strip and Ferguson Mo. are marginal communities of economy suffering from decades of discrimination and various modes of segregation.  In both situations the dominant authorities i.e. Israel and the Ferguson Police Department, sought to control the news coverage of the specific context.  The arrest of reporters from the Huffington Post and the Guardian at a McDonalds in Ferguson was reminiscent of the crackdown by authorities in Egypt on Al Jazeera.  The Gaza strip had its own issues regarding media coverage regarding the imbalanced media coverage of Israel and the Gaza Strip by American media. Israel, like the law enforcement authorities in Ferguson sought to control the media, to maintain the dominant narrative, that Israel was fighting a just and righteous war, in place.   In both cases the communities on the margins were at a significant disadvantage. 

Looking at the destruction wrought on the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian people by Israel and the overwhelming fire power of the Ferguson Police Department I sense a commonality among the two communities created by the zeal of empire to appropriate a sense of rightness, i.e.,  control and domination.  

It is in the commonality of experience that I suggest that zones of solidarity might emerge to facilitate a new consciousness towards change.  Those of us who are not the one percent, who don’t control the systems and processes of the capitalist state must join our bodies of righteous suffering together if we are to make real change to the systems that maintain our poverty.  To that end we raise our hands in solidarity to those in the Gaza Strip and Ferguson Missouri as they stand for justice.

                            “Hope in the midst of frustration creates space for Solidarity”

[1] The News Media indicate New York Times, The Guardian, Seattle Times, Buzzfeed,,, accessed August 16, 2014 and the Irish Independent accessed August 17, 2014.
[2] Bodies of Three Missing Teenager found in the West Bank.  Article by Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem and Orlando Crowcroft in El Ad of June 30, 2014 in The Guardian accessed August 16, 2014.
[3] Three Jewish Suspects Charged in Death of Palestinian Youth. Article by McClatchy Foreign Staff of July 12, 2014 in the Seattle Times accessed August 16, 2014. 
[4] A Timeline of the Crisis in Ferguson Since the Death of Michael Brown.  Article by Ryan Broderick published at accessed August 16, 2014.
[5] Code, Switch, and Roundup:  On Race, Policing and Ferguson.  Article by Gene Demby published at accessed August 16, 2014.
[6] Moves to try Israel or War Crimes a the ICC.  Article by Inna Lazareva published August 16, 2014 in news/middle east accessed August 17, 2014
[7] 11 Shocking facts about America’s Militarized Police Forces.  Article by Alex Kane published at accessed August 16, 2014.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Speaking to the Church - Cultural bias and the call towards a Great Commonwealth of Love

As the reader engages with this blog post may they be richly blessed with revelation and understanding.

I write this post on cultural bias very much aware that I engage in cultural bias.  While this post could be considered a great endeavor of cultural or religious bias I find that I am compelled to address such.  Now, that I, and I would add many others, regardless of the religious/spiritual spectrum, engage in cultural bias is no surprise yet this normative reality must be addressed if we are to overcome a particular debilitating hypocrisy which daily seeks to transform the Church and ourselves into a phenomenon of deception, denying the very life and ministry of Jesus Christ, even the Cross.  Yet I know that the Church and I are capable of so much more grace and mercy, and it is from this point that this post emerges.

And so……….
While recuperating from surgery I went to the Christianity Today magazine website.  A conservative religious publication, it holds a worldview grounded in conservative interpretations of sacred biblical texts.   Exploring the site I came upon an article on George Fox and California Baptist Universities and housing policy regarding transgender students posted by Kate Tracy 7/15/2014.  I posted a comment regarding transgender inclusion from a viewpoint of liberation based on Isaiah 61:1-3 and further comments regarding Eunuchs based on Matthew 19:12, Acts 8:26-40, Isaiah 56:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  Now having started my biblical studies at Regent University, a conservative seminary in Virginia Beach, Virginia I was familiar with their interpretation so their responses were not surprising.  Comments such as “there is no way Isaiah 61:1-3 could possibly mean the acceptance of crossdressing or “if you have had the operation then may God keep your soul but if you have not had the operation then you need to repent.”  These were typical comments.  In the midst of this exchange I began to ask the question of cultural bias and reflection of that bias in matters of biblical interpretation as a sacred act in myself and in the wider Church.  Cultural bias occurs as we seek to interpret the sacred text from a standpoint which affirms our own context, i.e. race, gender, sexuality, economic status, etc.  In a nutshell. 

Cultural bias is the phenomenon of interpreting and judging phenomena by standards inherent to one's own culture. The phenomenon is sometimes considered a problem central to social and human sciences, such as economics, psychology, anthropology, and sociology.

And this is my concern, that cultural bias opens the door for all manner of oppressions for the sake of affirming cultural and social sensibilities based in empirical notions of tribalism and/or nationalism.   Patriarchy, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, bi-phobia, slavery and even capitalism, just to name a few, have their beginnings and their legitimacy, at least in the context of the western Church, in biblical interpretations and scholarship that are more often  about affirming a particular hegemonic worldview.   Scripture, its interpretation and even god "himself"are called to serve at the pleasure of a narrative skewed as a matter of power, i.e.,  the sacred now serves at the pleasure of the secular, and faith is now enslaved to reason.  As such any difference from the secular normative is seen and experienced as adversarial, and the enemy of a supremacy of the "secular righteous.”   Politicians then, whether conservative, liberal or progressive, some of whom are ministers in their respective denominations, who spout biblical propaganda with a tinge of the apocalyptic to give it the appropriate hue to get the unsuspecting to vote them and their agenda’s into office are a danger to the safety and well being of a progressive democratic society and its principles.  That said, cultural bias is a dangerous reality and those who consider themselves sincere about their faith must be mindful of this.

The Great Commonwealth of Love 

I suggest that the Apostle Paul addresses the issue of cultural bias in Galatians 3:28-29 (NRSV) as he critiques identity, calling for oneness in Christ.   Vanessa Sheridan, author of Crossing Over, Liberating the Transgendered Christian, writes, in her analysis of Gal 3:29 "There is no longer male or female!. . . Could this possibly mean that faith in Christ transcends the barriers of sex and gender, thus rendering each person, regardless of sexual or gender orientation, equally precious in the sight of God?"[1]  And therefore shall Christ overcome cultural bias?  The Apostle Paul’s critique makes this evident and that the one who would seek to interpret the text must do so with the utmost integrity in Christ and this beyond cultural bias.  Christ within, must be the lens of vision, and the origin of the interpretation.  

The experience of crossing the proverbial theological and biblical battle lines of cultural bias and interpretation reveals the importance of a Great Commonwealth of Love.  The Great Commonwealth of Love, based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1-12) NRSV becomes the ground of a great covenant.   I want to suggest here that this covenant, particularly in regard to the Church of the 21st century must be a covenant rooted in the dynamic life, witness and ministry of Jesus and community.  That said, the one who would embrace life in the Church must study the life and ministry of Jesus and the Cost of Discipleship in Luke 14:25-35 (NRSV) in community to ascertain what it means to be a reflection, a follower, even a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Identifying with Jesus and reflecting Jesus then, in terms of a response to the issues and concerns of life in community, emerge as a significant discourse of utmost importance within the great covenant.  This is central, particularly in regard to living and working in a multi-cultural society engaged in various issues full of implications and consequences.

Three questions asked

How deep shall the disciple delve into the teachings of Jesus Christ?

What presence shall the Holy Spirit have within their soul?

Shall the disciple’s very consciousness become love itself? 

Within the implications and complications contained in a complex, painful and suffering world the joyous beloved embodies Jesus, even the Christ through fervent prayer, reflection, contemplation and ministry.  And this becomes a means to embrace the heart of God embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Beloved, may I be offer clarity on this point even more so, that the one who seeks to be a disciple of Jesus must do so with a peculiar mystic joy, a joy necessary to move in a complex world.  The follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings living in a 21st century multi cultural capitalist society is compelled by the realities of the spirit to develop a critical faith.  As the disciple lives a critical faith, increasingly engaging the deepest depths of love for the sake of humanity, there is an ever increasing intention towards a consciousness of love.  The beloved’s consciousness becomes love.

And is this not what Jesus Christ lived daily, a life of critical faith, evidence of a love so deep that even now it cannot be fully understood or comprehended yet so intimate to the human soul. 

Having a consciousness of love the issues and concerns of cultural bias become notions of the juvenile and of no consequence in a movement of joy and love.  For in the final analysis the goal is not so much to be an image of cultural bias, i.e., the bible or the bible itself for that matter but to be the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ.

[1] Vanessa Sheridan.  Crossing Over,  Liberating the Transgendered Christian.  (Cleveland, OH, The Pilgrim Press) 124.