Posts Tagged 'Huffington Post'

Is White Conservative America Afraid of Barack Obama?

Racist Obama Sign 1This is a blog post I hoped I’d never had to write. It’s a post about ACORN, Van Jones, Barack Obama, and culture of fear that is festering in our nation during an age of Glenn Beck. Those very ‘key words’ I just used will practically guarantee healthy post views and a long search-engine life for this post, but that doesn’t make me happy. Because I know that many of my friends – and probably even family members – will become a little more agitated with me, a little more distant as time wears on and views clash.

Where is the kid who was scored as the single most conservative member of his AP European History class in high school? Where’s the student that accompanied an elder of his PCA church to John Birch Society meetings? Where the guy who voted for Harry Browne in the 2000 elections?

Buried in the rubble of 9/11. Come of age in a Bush administration era. Watching the dream of Hope being crushed by fear-mongering word-of-mouth media marketers, and their circles of influence. And as a fellow nu-media marketing jockey, I’m pissed. This post isn’t going to score me any points with some of my ‘Christian’ friends, or certain corners of CBA publishing…or with my radical Anabaptist/anarchist I’m-too-cool-to-vote friends either, for that matter. Screw it.

Here goes…what follows is taken from my recent Facebook wall almost verbatim, but it’s mostly my side of the conversation, summarizing certain comment-ers, when appropriate.

First I post The GOP’s Blame-ACORN Game article from The Nation, showing how ACORN community organizers have long been against the predatory lending practices of the Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae types (who names these cabals, anyway? Sallie, Freddie, Fannie…it’s like Dick and Jane books on crack). What follows is some basically insightful back-and-forth commentary from folks of different points of view. But then someone says “The punchline is the same – the GOP has no stomach for Acorn, IAF, and other (Alinsky-style, people-powered) community organizing groups.” Racist Obama Sign 2

I think he’s right about the GOPs intolerance for rabble-rousing, truly populist movements. But I also agree with outrage expressed by many (on all sides of the aisle) about the human trafficking stuff – the Left (and all of us really – the Right too when it comes to gun-toting tea partyers and town hallers) need to realize that The People are messy – they can’t be boiled down an intrinsic, bucolic good. The People have issues, as do The Elite. God help us all…

That said, I continue to be 100% in support of community organizing, with the understanding that people need transformation and development as well as the lower functions on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A conservative friend of mine chimes in and says,

I like to think of myself as a gun-toting, tea partying, town haller!

And I say “Well there you go. And many progressives fear you, fair or not. Just like I’d say many conservatives fear power-to-the-people educated urban poor. Two sides of the same coin, really.”

Someone sounded off on this, saying that s/he found it incredulous that anyone could find value in community organizing organizations like ACORN.

Well, as someone else commented, “My spouse is a Realtor and has seen ACORN offer legitimate and much needed help to low income people. They have provided an important service.” Many other grateful low-income families would agree.  Another friend of mine – who I’m guessing is fairly conservative-leaning politically – conceded that “ACORN is…a good organization with a worthy purpose and great success, but is now being brought down by the actions of a few corrupt, high-profile individuals who were put in positions of power that the should not have occupied.” Probably true. But the overriding concern here is that of media literacy: If the first you’re hearing of ACORN is from ticked-off media pundits blasting it, you’re probably not getting the full story. (And yes, I agree this means balancing my lefty news sources with your fascist ones! Tee-hee.)

Racist Obama Sign 3Then someone brought up this 1999 New York Times story about President Clinton lowering the financial ceiling for eligible home-buyers. What do we make of this? My thinking is that one could construe the desire to make lending easier for poorer families a decade ago as being borne out of a genuine desire to help more low-income folks get into homes – just as one could see the GOP moves toward massive de-regulation as an idealistic move in keeping with conservative principles of minimal government.

Of course, one could also see both of these with a jaundiced eye – Clinton’s move to help Sallie & Freddie share-holders and GOP moves to further line all of their pockets with de-regulated flow. We have choices in how we interpret the motives of others – and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Ah, but polemics never stay in the middle, do they? Some people jumped on board hurling epithets like

“Not all poor people deserve to be able to own a home because they are too irresponsible.”

“In this country, if you are poor there’s a good chance it is because you’re too lazy to work.”

“The actual number of people who are poor for some reason other than it being their own fault is very low.”

“These people need to learn some personal responsibility.”

…and other insults. (I’ve got one question for ya’s: Ever read any Barbara Ehrenreich??)

Soo, then I launch into some heated words of my own – like poor people just don’t deserve a break, eh? Only those who earn favor (or are born into favored conditions) should get opportunities – the rest are ‘lazy’? I guess the Gospel we espouse and the Jesus we worship doesn’t apply so much to the real world, huh? Racist Obama Sign 4

Look, I’m pro personal responsibility. I’m a small business owner who comes from a low-middle class (or high lower-class) family background and all that jazz. Who knows – maybe what I’ve done is that gravity-defying feat of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps! And I’m not naive: In being friends with homeless people for a couple of years now, I know that some have the aptitude to get off the streets and some just don’t – they’ve been acculturated into the streets. But does that mean we de-friend, and give up? The way these things about the poor are said, I’m sorry – it sounds like un-loving, callous disregard. When an organization is trying to lift people up by bringing a community together – I just don’t see how anyone can be categorically against that. I’ve long supported Christians (and others) involved in community organizing, and will continue to do so. Long live the CCDA!

And when I say “I just don’t see how anyone can be categorically against that” – I’m not trying to set up a rosy, pollyanna-ish caricature of ACORN or any other group. I think we’ve established that community organizers are people just like everyone else, and subject to the same foibles as the rest of us. I’m not nearly as convinced about ACORN’s voter fraud as I am that Bush stole the 2000 election via Florida and 2004‘s via Ohio, but I am sickened that anyone – poor or rich, liberal or conservative, black or white – would have hypothetically helped a pimp set up a brothel slavery ring for underage girls. This bears a thorough-going investigation and house-cleaning. But this isn’t where you’re coming from at all – you seem to be saying that community organizers are by definition lazy-enablers. I know too many organizers to know that this is simply not the case.

What’s particularly painful for me is the broken fellowship and lost friendships that are hemorrhaging over all these issues. I think about how politically lock-step I would have been with all of this political-rhetorical haze even 10 years ago, with my Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal/charismatic, and house church sisters and brothers. Though the differences between these sects are many, politically their conservative/Evangelical variants are virtually indistinguishable. (There are many in all of these streams who are politically heterogeneous, but they often suffer in silence as their viewpoints are ridiculed – either from the pulpit or around the living room.) I guess I’m coming from such a different place these days. I’ve said (repeatedly) that ACORN itself should be held accountable for anything that’s substantiated that it’s done, but this needn’t tar all community organizing organizations with the same brush – nor should it stain the reputation of the vast majority of ACORN workers. I think the reason why Beck, et. al’s, hysteria is so ‘believable’ to many is white fear, plain and simple.

(Van Jones Let’s not get started on the Van Jones lynching! I’ve been a fan of Jones for years – we were even wanting to book him for a Christian festival I help organize (there’s that word again!), Soularize, but we couldn’t host it this year due to funding. No honest reading of his excellent book, The Green Collar Economy, could possibly support the claim that Jones is a communist – he’s quite capitalistic, but not in a naive way that gives big business carte blanche do do what they want without factoring in social and ecological costs. If you’re willing to consider another take on Jones, there are other perspectives. And for a clear-headed, factual refutation of Glenn Beck’s deliberate ratings-and-power-inducing spin job, you must read this article and this one.)

But what do I mean by ‘white fear’? I mean what Jimmy Carter meant when he said

“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter said. “I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that share the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans.”

Carter continued, “And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”

Racist Obama Sign 7I think that many of my fellow caucasian peeps are afraid of nonwhite people in power. Whether that’s the distributed power of communities organizing for better conditions, Latino workers’ unions, or a person of color occupying the highest office in the land – it’s terrifying many conservative whites.

Some balked at this assertion- was I calling them the dreaded ‘R-word’ – racist?

Not necessarily. I don’t know most people well enough to make such an assertion. I tend to believe that most people aren’t overt racists – not consciously, anyway. And that’s not a back-handed slam: I’ve been in a relationship with a black woman (now married) for over 12 years. Until I was dating her for a couple of years, I had no idea how unconsciously racist I was in so many tiny but cumulatively world-shaping ways.

But let me ask you something: Where were all the spontaneous white/conservative uprisings from 2008-2008. GW Bush, to use an epithet presently applied to Carter, was a complete idiot politically. And yet he surrounded himself with people (like Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld) who weren’t idiots at all – they were ideologues in service to a neoconservative agenda exemplified by the Project for a New American Century, which has as its stated aim to extend a new American imperialism over the entire planet. (Not very conservative if you ask me – hence the ‘neo’ I guess). So we get into a little war that ends the lives of over 100,000 women, children, men and soldiers, and costs $3 TRILLION dollars – money we didn’t and don’t have. Based on half-@$$ed ‘intelligence.’ Let me ask you this: Why was it only the hippie peacenik liberals who marched against the war efforts in 2002-2003? Where were the tea-baggers, and town-hallers then? Heck, where were they when Bush himself, in the waning days of his presidency, authorized the first bailouts?

Nowhere, that’s where.

Racist Obama Sign 5Barack Obama has been president for less than nine months. He inherited, by any sane estimate, a $#!tload of problems from the previous decade. And yet right out of the gates folks are foaming at the mouth to bring him and his associates (and any perceived associates) down, and for what? Trying to fix the economic situation (my conservative friends and I agree on this – I don’t think Wall Street should be bailed out. I’m with this economist David Korten. But tell that to Big Business, the ultimate expression of Late Capitalism – they’re sure as hell not complaining), and trying to provide affordable and effective health insurance to everyone? I can understand political disagreement (and intelligent dissent), but bringing weapons to town halls, holding up signs with Obama’s face and horrible racist screeds?

I’ll ask again: Where was all this anger, vitriol, hysteria and fear these past 8 years? Why is (yes, I’ll name it) conservative, white America literally up in arms now when it was pacified as a contented mewling lamb during the Bush years? Why was W tolerable, even laudable, whilst O is Obaminable?

I’m helping raise an interracial family in a multiethnic neighborhood, so it doesn’t please me to ‘play the race card.’ It doesn’t make me happy to consider the possibility that this current state of affairs is fueled by racial fears and tensions, because to acknowledge such a potential pits neighbor against neighbor in my community – the ideas involved pit my little girl’s own blended genetics against herself. I don’t toss ‘white fear’ out there lightly. Racist Obama Sign 6

But let’s compare the previous eight years with the past nine months, shall we? Did each administration…

  • Take polarizing stances on social issues? Check.
  • Increase the size and power of the Federal government? Check.
  • Earmark lots of money for an initiative unpopular with a sizeable chunk of America? Check.

So: What’s the difference between GWB & BHO that has made these very different spiritual climates to live in? I have to say, the color of our Leader-in-Chief’s skin – with all the historical, cultural, and power-related pain this entails – is the most glaring difference.

This reality isn’t up for debate in my mind when I look at the barely-contained rage of so many indignant whites. My question is: What are people of faith, hope, and love to do given this reality? Are friends and followers of Jesus – and people of goodwill everywhere – going to turn a blind eye to this steadily-creeping phenomenon, much like Europe did toward Jewish people in the 1920s and 30s? Or are we going to confront this head-on, name it with love but resolve, and seek to diffuse these tensions by polemic-free debate that focuses on policy and not identity politics, and that throws parties rather than keeping locked up behind barred doors and picket fences? Me and my house, we choose the latter – God help us.

Sin Boldly! Free Audio Download

https://i0.wp.com/www.sinboldly.com/sincover.jpgI had a great dinner the other night here in Raleigh (at Bogarts, mmm) with my friend Mark from Zondervan/Symtio, a new audio/eBook hybrid platform launching to serve the Big Z and several other houses. We had a great conversation about Foresight@Regent, ministry, and the future of publishing in all its technological and authorially-empowered glory.

One cool thing I learned about is a little-publicized full audiobook giveaway of Cathleen Falsani’s incendiary tome Sin BoldlyFalsani is a Wheaton grad and religion Chicago Sun Times, Huffington Post, and Religion News Service. I haven’t read (or listened) to the book yet, but with a dual background in evangelicalism’s heartland and those godless liberal media (grin), I’m sure it’s interesting.

In case you take umbrage at the title (and it’s not the book on the left, by the way), here’s the back story: Martin Luther said it. Here it is in some kind of context, from a 1521 letter from Luther to Melanchthon:

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy.  If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin.  God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners.  Be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. (Source)

https://i1.wp.com/images.barnesandnoble.com/images/27760000/27769491.JPGAh, Lutherans – such a way with words! Because I’m kinda New Perspective-y, I wrestle somewhat with Luther’s late Medieval psychologized reading of Paul and texts discussing grace. I think Luther equated 1st century Jewish folk with his contemporary Catholics, and Hebrew Law with Canon Law and his own conscience, and well…things got complicated. But! Let me be the first to sing Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! We interpret the meaning and scope of grace differently from age to age, but I think any person of faith, hope, and love rejoices in God’s compassionate grace revealed in the face of Jesus.

So back to Lutherans for a sec. From Nadia Bolz-Weber (whose own book, Salvation on the Small Screen, is just delightful) to Robert Farrar Capon – who isn’t technically Lutheran but I’d like to say Episco-Lutheran in a way that’d make Karen Ward proud – some of favorite grace theology, practice and storytelling comes from Lutherans. I have no idea if Falsani is a Lutheran.

And on that note, please, download the audio book here while it’s still available (and then go buy a truckload if you like it – its the only way publishers will have their fears assuaged and keep trying these nu-media experiments). And check out this short YouTube interview with Falsani.

Grace & Peace…

To Vote or Not to Vote? An Election Links Roundup

So I haven’t really posted much about electoral politics this season. (Deep inhale.) I tend to agree with Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw of Jesus For President and Ordinary Radicals notoriety that “It’s not what you do at the ballot box on November 4 that matters, but what you do with your life on November 3 and November 5 that really counts.” I started thinking this way after 9/11. I was radicalized, really, once I saw how quickly common grief over terrorist atrocities transmuted into virulent nationalism and war-drum beating. Before I knew it, I signed the Kingdom Now 95 Theses and began looking into Anabaptist and Quaker traditions of nonviolence and even anarchism. [A technical aside – how do you all feel about the Snap Previews feature? In general I like it but I don’t like how whenever I link to my main site, zoecarnate.com, it always shows the top of the page – I actually link to specific sub-sections, say, nonviolence and anarchism sections just now. Of course, this owes more to the ghetto-fabulous design of my site than Snap’s deficiencies…] I considered my friend Andy’s advice not to vote, seeing it as an act of violence against people and idolatry of the State against God (consider vote is the same root as votive, as in votive candle – or devotion. Casting the ballot as an act of worship) . But in 2004 I just couldn’t stand by – I had to vote (Andy help me).

But maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad about voting. After all, respectable anarchists like Noam Chomsky vote, sometimes. And I have a difficult time getting all Hauerwasian when listening to people like Anthony Smith, aka the Postmodern Negro, share why it’s awfully convenient (and white) to eschew voting for an ideological high ground.

Sooo I’m voting. And I’m voting for Obama. This isn’t even controversial in some quarters, as Obama’s appeal to younger Christians such as myself is pretty well-documented. Nonetheless, even Don Miller catches heat for this from some quarters, as have I. (Not that I’m equating myself with Mr. Miller) Mostly on abortion. I get that. I hope that my friends – from far-left anarchists to center-right Republicans and Libertarians – can forgive me for making what they might see as a grievous mistake.

An Email

I hope my old college buddy, whom I’ll refer to here as Billy Bob, in particular can forgive me. He just emailed me the other day after we saw each other at a frolicking-on-the-hillside reunion my alma mater has every year. Billy Bob writes:

Hey Mike,

Perhaps I’m just itching for a debate, I don’t know. But I recently ran across this letter from Huntley Brown, a black man, on why HE isn’t supporting Obama.
So help me understand… why do you support him? What is it about this man that rallies support from Christians like yourself?
Billy Bob*
*Not actual name
Now by “Christians like yourself” I don’t know if BB means “otherwise upstanding exemplars of faith and practice” or “scum-sucking, devil-worshipping, soulless maggots.” I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Here’s some of what I replied:
Thanks for asking, Billy Bob! I guess I should say first off that I am disappointed by Obama‘s stance on abortion. Really and truly. I wish he were ‘consistently pro-life‘ like me – that is, like a growing number of followers of Jesus, being against abortion, war in all forms, and the death penalty, and for life in all its forms. And I’m not particularly jazzed up about national politics in general. I lean toward anarchism really, so any trip to the ballot box is with some ambivalence. That said, I’m a rather independent voter, certainly not a party-line kinda guy, whether that party has elephants or donkeys in it. I was raised Republican, voted for Libertarian Harry Browne in 2000 (after considering Nader), and Democrat Kerry in 2004.
So why Obama? I’m a firm believer in not restating things that others have said so much better, so I’m gonna direct you now to my friend Brian McLaren. Brian’s taken a lot of heat for being so darn particular in his national election endorsement this year, but I trust his integrity in this decision. He felt like he soft-pedaled things a bit in the 2004 election, and as a result the full range of values people of faith care about weren’t really represented at the ballot box. (Not just ’cause of Brian – but, y’know, him and others like him). So he’s done this great, concise job of talking about the reasons for his support of an Obama presidency.
When it comes down to it, when I’m choosing to participate in national electoral politics, I’m pretty much a pragmatist. Do I believe Obama is the Messiah? No, but I like the guy, and I think he will be good for the this land’s imagination, this land’s psyche. Untold damage has been done to American self-perception and perception abroad. Obama-the-Man can’t possibly undo all that damage, but Obama-the-Idea can certainly inspire others to do so. I think a heightened personal ethic and community sensibility would prevail in an Obama administration, and I think he’ll be a particularly good role model for children – especially minority children. Again, I hold this in tension – I believe citizenship in God’s Kingdom utterly supersedes national boundaries – to me, nations and boundaries don’t exist. But insofar as we’re in the process of being healing balm for the nations, we are in a state of becoming – as individual nations, as a global people. We need to avail ourselves of every peaceful tool in our toolshed to be the change we need – and this year, I feel voting for Obama is one of those tools.
There ya go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Check out these links, and write me back sometime.

Hogs and Quiches,

Mike

Since penning this email, I’ve come across Tim Keel’s very excellent thoughts in his post Election 2008: Some Perspective.

Pro-Life, from Womb to Tomb?

As I’ve reflected on the myriad of ‘values’ commitments I have, the trifecta of life, ecology, and economy keep coming into play – and really, the latter two are different ways of saying ‘life’ – life for our poor, our ecosystems, our sick, our children, and our great-great-grandchildren. Here are some significant blog posts that have helped me think and pray my way through the challenges of being for all life in an election year.

A Plea to Pro-Life Voters – Lively Dust

Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Will Samson

Pro-life, Womb to Tomb – Sensual Jesus

Frank Schaeffer: Pro-Life and Pro-Obama – Huffington Post

‘I’m Catholic, staunchly anti-abortion, and support Obama – National Catholic Reporter

Obama, Abortion, and Friendship – Faith Dance

Where I Stand Today on Abortion – Steve Knight

…and of course there’s the Pro Life, Pro Obama website itself – which strikes me as a bit too politically schmaltzy for my tastes, but it has some helpful resources nonetheless.

Must-Reads in an Election Year or Any Year

The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder

click to enlarge

We the Purple by Marcia Ford

Torture and Eucharist by William Cavanaugh

https://i1.wp.com/www.ratzingerfanclub.com/liberalism/torture_eucharist.jpg

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