📢 Responding to The False Narrative of Christian Nationalism Pt. 3
I hope that your Friday, wherever you are on this lovely planet, are health and well. I have been fairing much better recently, helped by the transition to Spring here in Greensboro. I have never seen such color explode from the ground and trees as we see here each year. As the weather warms, things begin to feel like they are coming back to life and that is good for the soul.
In other news, vaccines are rolling out much more quickly which I am grateful for. Besides Emily and I both having received our first shots, many of my friends and colleagues have as well. I look forward to in-person dinner with friends and eating in a restaurant again.
As you may have noticed, interest in this newsletter continues to grow (we've just about hit 400 subscribers, which is stunning) and I continue to be invited to speak to faith communities and organizations on things that I write about here and that I am passionate about. For all of that I am grateful and energized by. I am grateful for each of you - some of you I know personally and some of you I know only as a name or an email address, but in whatever way your presence comes across to me, I hold you each in the light this Friday morning and trust that you are finding small hopes, love, and grace wherever you are.
Today's issue is a bit of a round-up. I have a short reflection to tie-up the Christian Nationalism piece and then a bunch of interesting things to share.
Greensboro, NC (Haw River Watershed)
Responding to Christian Nationalism
Today, I want to ask you, what do we do about this? How do you respond? As I have been watching this, I keep coming back to the question: what keeps some people from falling into the trap of this false narrative and what makes way for others going along?
I personally think we make a mistake if we write this off as something "over there" or dying in relevance, but I also don't want to give it more grand than it should.
Some historians of Christian Nationalism, like Perry and Whitehead in their book, "Taking America Back for God," argue it is “declining in size but not in importance” (159).
So I am really curious, from your perspective and I would welcome your responses (below in the comments or by hitting reply to this email):
What is the proper response to Christian Nationalism in your opinion?
What can be done about it?
And how can you make sure that your own faith communities are not susceptible to this influence?
I would love to hear from you what comes to mind or how this is showing up in your communities and what the conversations are like.
I will share a couple of my own responses to this question:
First, Think in Systems.
Because this is a complex problem, I think we need to think in terms of systems and approach the problem from a place where we feel we have the most leverage or buy-in. Here I am thinking about the 5 Interlocking Evils of Empire: Systemic Racism, Poverty, Militarism and the War Economy, Ecological Devastation, and the Distorted Moral Narrative of Christian Nationalism. Because each of these are interlocking addressing any one of these (or more than one) will begin a process by which our communities confront the distorted narratives that surround our community. So if the subject of Christian Nationalism itself isn't the way it, what about another way in? Dig into one of these subjects and let that unfold and guide your community.
Second, Powerful Practices.
There is more to say about this later, but some Anabaptist scholars like James Wm McClendon, Jr. and Nancey Murphy discuss the importance of "powerful practices." I think this is a helpful thing to be developed in the face of Christian Nationalism. If Christian Nationalism is in large part about the will to power and developing practices (through liturgy, teaching, policy, law, etc) to sustain the power of a few, communities can also develop "powerful practices" that curb the will to power. Quaker communal decision-making - when it is healthy and everyone is apprenticed to that practice - is an example of a powerful practice because it is setup to keep any one person or idea from overtaking the community. The practice of nonviolence is another powerful practice that can curb the will to power through violence. Developing these kinds of practices in our communities can certainly help inoculate us agains the disease of Christian Nationalism and the religion of empire.
Finally, the Multitude.
Building up communities that are rooted in fusion coalition building that Rev. William Barber and the Poor People's Campaign talk about and what King talked about as a "new and unsettling force" of the poor and dispossessed. I have written about the biblical concept of the "multitude" which I see as very much an older concept of what Barber and others are talking about here. However we discuss it, we need movements that are many-voiced, multi-racial, multi-class, diverse and inclusive. Building the multitude centers the victims of empire and seeks to stand in solidarity with those whose backs are against that wall. That is important work if we are to not only stand up to Christian Nationalism but resist empire in all its forms.
Those are few things that come to my mind. Now it's your turn. What do you think?
T. Vail Palmer: My personal friend, and Quaker scholar and minister Vail Palmer's memorial service is tomorrow (Saturday, March 13 at 2pm EST). You can read his lovely obit and register for the service here.
Reading the Bible with the Poor: I have two newly written chapters (on the Book of Revelation) in a fantastic new book with contributions from something like 40 authors from the Poor People's Campaign. It is called "We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible With The Poor People's Campaign." I'm really excited about this book and what it does as a biblical and theological resource and the people in this book are all rock-stars. If you are interested in the Bible but want to get at it from an anti-empire, anti-poverty, liberation theology approach this is a perfect resource for you. You can pre-order it here.
Read and Watch
Why Cornel West’s Tenure Fight Matters — bostonreview.net Why Cornel West’s Tenure Fight Matters from Boston Review. I wrote letters for West’s hire and renewal at Harvard. The school’s administrators completely miss the point of tenure.
A blog post on using the free personal service of Basecamp for organizing life. As someone who loves basecamp, I thought this was a very interesting use case.
The Time-Warped Charm of Valerie June - The New York Times — www.nytimes.com “The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers,” the introspective, quietly hopeful album she made more than a year ago, sounds just right in 2021.
Black Coffee: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert — www.youtube.com The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the c...
Easily unsubscribe from unwanted emails - Leave Me Alone — leavemealone.app See all of your subscription emails, newsletters, and spam in one place and unsubscribe from them with a single click. Tell unwanted emails to leave you alone!
Use your phone as a webcam to look amazing on video calls — reincubate.com Look amazing on video calls. Use your iPhone or iPad as a pro webcam and get powerful effects and adjustments for Zoom, Meet, and more.
Freedom Church of the Poor
This Sunday the Freedom Church continues its season of "Lament and Struggle." Please join us at 6pm on Facebook live.
Quaker Pastoral Theology Symposium
I'll be participating in a panel on Quaker pastoral theology March, 24 with Derek Brown and Scott Wagoner through the Robert Barclay Institute (see more info below and stay tuned).
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Thank you! -Wess 💚☕️