Rapture and Rupture: What the Evangelical Right and the Revolutionary Left Have in Common

When you think about the political spectrum, who could be more opposite from one another than far right, evangelical reactionaries and far left , revolutionary anarchists?

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But my experience with both worlds has led me to believe that they actually are more alike than they seem.

First, let me offer some definitions for the words mentioned above.
Political: Not just about, or even primarily about, parties in the government. “Political” is about how we understand power as it relates to public affairs and societal relations.
Evangelical: a subset of Protestant Christians characterized by a belief that all people need to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved from their sins and by an imperative to proselytize in anticipation of the literal return of Jesus Christ to earth.
Reactionaries: people whose political stance is one of “returning to” some former state of affairs which upholds the status quo. In other words, opposed to progressive social change and seeking to reverse it.
Revolutionary: people who seek the total upheaval and replacement of existing social and political structures
Anarchists: those who seek to abolish state power and advocate for self-governance and collective control of society, resources, and establishments

We could debate these definitions, but I offer them as a way to ground my next thoughts.

Secondly, what’s my experience with these groups? Well, I grew up in evangelical churches and communities. Not all of them were politically conservative in the caricatured way that we see now in our current political climate, but they certainly had elements of that to varying degrees. These communities placed emphasis on individual responsibility, personal “salvation” by holding certain beliefs about Jesus, pro-life pro-birth politics, heterosexual monogamous marriage, rigid gender roles, mission work and proselytizing, etc. Were they bad people? Many were kind, generous, caring people. Many were self-righteous, oppressive, problematic people.

evangelicals
image from alanrudnick.org

As for the anarchists, I probably had my first brush with them while I was an undergraduate. I don’t think my political thought was sufficiently developed at the time to fully comprehend their positions and proposals, but as I look back, I am aware that some of my classmates certainly held anarchist positions.  In graduate school, I briefly explored some aspects of anarchism while studying the rhetoric of social protest movements. In recent years, I’ve orbited around anarchist circles via my involvement in various political projects. Were they bad people? Many were kind, deeply concerned with the well-being of others, and dedicated, hard-working people. Many were self-righteous, arrogant, and narrow-minded. So, while I am no expert in either of these groups, I think I’ve had enough interpersonal and philosophical contact with both groups to consider them from a bird’s eye view. From, my perspective, these diametrically opposed groups have one very interesting thing in common.

What do they have in common?
Far right evangelicals believe that the world will not change for the better until Jesus Christ returns. At that point, there will be an apocalyptic event of some sort that leads to a new world–one that is devoid of sin and injustice. All the folks who did not “accept Christ as their lord and savior” will not make it through this apocalyptic event commonly called the rapture.
Far left revolutionaries believe that the world will not change for the better until there is a revolution. At this breaking point, there will be an upheaval of apocalyptic proportions that leads to a new world–new social and political systems that are devoid of oppression and injustice. All the folks who cling to status quo power structures will be wiped out or forced to concede to this new reality by way of revolution.

Both groups of people live with deep-seated conviction and anticipation of these future seismic upheavals. I find it fascinating and peculiar that the motivating narrative at both ends of the spectrum is essentially the same, though the locus of control differs. On the far right, I think this narrative leads to a sort of escapism that divests from here and now (because the world is irreversibly going to shit but Jesus will fix it when he returns). On the far left, I think this narrative leads to an invalidating of social change strategies that are anything short of a revolution. And in both cases, there is a tethering to a future event that may or may not ever happen.

Now…before anyone on the internet the two people who read this blog come for me, let me acknowledge that I am absolutely aware that I am generalizing. But I think something can still have value even if it is only generally true and not absolutely or always true. I also want to acknowledge that I personally know people on both ends of the spectrum that ardently work to make the world a better place for those who are suffering in the world as it is. I deeply respect their efforts. And to be clear, I am not advocating solidarity between the far left and the far right. That’s silly. Buuuuut…I think it’s worth examining what they have in common, why, and what the political implications of that might be.

Postpartum and Trauma-Motivated Crime

Recently, I watched a documentary on Netflix called When the Bough Breaks. The documentary tells the stories of women who have suffered from postpartum depression and psychosis. Some of those women recovered, and some didn’t. It was a heart-wrenching documentary that brought to light an important issue that is so severly stigmatized that we struggle to talk about it in any robust or helpful way.

Some of the stories featured in the film involve cases of women killing their babies. Interestingly, some women are charged and acquitted of murder on the grounds that they experienced a psychological break that absolves them of responsibility for “murder”. I found this fascinating. Essentially, the trauma of childbirth and motherhood can trigger these postpartum syndromes. And women who commit these acts as a result of postpartum syndromes are not always punished for it. I think this is probably a good thing. But here’s the rub…

What about the many people (especially black and brown folks in the ‘hood) who live with the engulfing trauma of perpetual poverty, community violence, substance addictions, absent caregivers, etc. There are all kinds of traumas for poor and working class black and brown people, and aren’t those traumas just as likely to cause mental health problems? And yet when those folks commit crimes (even petty ones) that stem from these problems, they are criminalized and shoved into the corrections system.

I mean, it’s no surprise that our society has much more sympathy and grace for anxious, suburban white women who commit infancticide. And…you know…we could go there. But actually, I think we should consider importing the rubric we use to evaluate their crimes into communities where trauma and mental health issues are most assuredly widespread and consider alternative ways of dealing with what happens there. We feel sorry for the postpartum mom and let her off the hook. But we don’t feel sorry for the PTSD teenager, and we lock him up.

Does it Matter Where You Shop? Ethical Consumption, Boycotts, and Change

Nike. Denny’s. Tommy Hilfiger. Walmart. Chick-Fil-A. Uber. United Airlines. These are a few companies that come to mind when I think about calls to boycott in my recent memory.

In all of these cases, public pushback was certainly warranted. We do not want to support racist, homophobic, misogynistic, exploitative business owners, executives, or companies. And yet, I can’t seem to shake questions I have about the effectiveness of deleting Uber from one’s phone or going to Big Lots instead of Walmart.

I’m not 100% sure what I think about these things. (I’m going to think out loud/through my fingers here on this blog.)  But I think I have a few starting points I want to articulate.

  1. I won’t take issue with where people spend their money based on their own personal convictions. If you have a deeply-held belief that Starbucks is horrible, and you don’t want to support them, I’m fine with that. I will not try to convince you otherwise. Your personal, ethical convictions are just that, and I don’t think persuading you to do something different is the best use of my persuasive or political energy. The reverse is also true; if you don’t see any problem with Walmart, then shame on you  that is for you to understand and decide for yourself…unless, of course, you ask for my opinion. I do think it’s important to act in accordance with your convictions; that’s integrity. And yet, I recognize that the choice to buy Adidas instead of Nike is–in the grand scheme of our fucked up world–rather negligible. Which brings me to my second point…
  2. Our biggest and most pressing problems are systemic in nature. What I mean is that so many of the problems we encounter are deeply rooted in longstanding structures that inevitably produce inequality, domination, and degradation. This is important because systemic problems require systemic solutions. In other words, our individual purchasing choices–even when undertaken by a mass of people– on a Saturday afternoon are not sufficient to effect long-term, substantive change. That’s just not the nature of the beast.
  3. It is helpful to support fair-trade, environmentally-friendly, democratic, and otherwise ethical companies and products. There are people, groups, and companies that are working hard to do business in just and sustainable ways. And the truth is that in order for them to keep doing what they’re doing, they need to prosper. They will prosper if they are supported. So, I think it is helpful to support businesses who business practices are in-line with progressive values.

So, does it it matter where you shop? I think it matters in 2 ways. Firstly, I think it matters because it is one of the ways you express your values and train yourself to be ever mindful of workers, wealth, the environment, etc. Secondly, it matters because money talks, and it is possible to send a clear message to companies by hitting them in the pockets.

But it also doesn’t matter in 2 ways. Firstly, it doesn’t matter because we are all inextricably caught up in an imperialist, capitalist system. We all have blood on our hands. You would be hard-pressed to make it through one day without using some product or service that would not be implicated. Secondly, it doesn’t matter because it’s not actually the answer to our larger systemic problems. Ultimately, structures have to change in order for the decisions available to us and the subsequent outcomes to change.

A final word about ethical consumption…It’s really important to consider how these choices are a function of access. When you have access to disposable income, you can make the more expensive choice for fair-trade coffee. When you have geographical access to multiple options, you can choose where you shop based on some other criterion besides proximity. And when you have access to extra time, your choices open up, as well.

Whether people decide to spend their money here or there, boycott or not, the critical question is: How are we joining forces to bring about deep solutions and lasting change beyond the trending protest of the week?

The Invention of Heterosexuality, Art for Black Women Suffering from America, and What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

The invention of ‘heterosexuality’

The first rebuttal to the claim that heterosexuality was invented usually involves an appeal to reproduction: it seems obvious that different-genital intercourse has existed for as long as humans have been around – indeed, we wouldn’t have survived this long without it. But this rebuttal assumes that heterosexuality is the same thing as reproductive intercourse. It isn’t. “Sex has no history,” writes queer theorist David Halperin at the University of Michigan, because it’s “grounded in the functioning of the body.” Sexuality, on the other hand, precisely because it’s a “cultural production,” does have a history. In other words, while sex is something that appears hardwired into most species, the naming and categorising of those acts, and those who practise those acts, is a historical phenomenon, and can and should be studied as such.

 

This Afro-Latina’s Art Is Therapy For Black Women Suffering From America

But the most standout work to come from the 34-year-old Bronx native, who now resides in Georgia, would be her art. Kelly’s illustrations, paintings and digital prints capture the patterns of objectification, ostracism and oppression that countless black women have experienced. From images that praise the art of twerking to women finding their self-worth in the wake of toxic romantic relationships, Kelly unapologetically places the glories, woes and ironies of black womanhood front and center in her work

What if Sociologists Had as Much Influence as Economists?

They say when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And the risk is that when every policy adviser is an economist, every problem looks like inadequate per-capita gross domestic product.
Another academic discipline may not have the ear of presidents but may actually do a better job of explaining what has gone wrong in large swaths of the United States and other advanced nations in recent years.
Sociologists spend their careers trying to understand how societies work. And some of the most pressing problems in big chunks of the United States may show up in economic data as low employment levels and stagnant wages but are also evident in elevated rates of depression, drug addiction and premature death. In other words, economics is only a piece of a broader, societal problem. So maybe the people who study just that could be worth listening to.

How My Thoughts on (Non)Monogamy Evolved

First things first: I grew up in a household with faithful, married parents. Both sets of grandparents were married for decades before my grandfathers passed away. So, I was socialized (like most of us) into a worldview of committed, monogamous marriage as the norm for relationships. And the marriages I saw were “successful”.

I start there because whenever someone expresses a nontraditional view of relationships (as I am about to do), a little suspicion creeps in about their family of origin, divorce, broken homes, etc. In other words,  there has to be some painful reason for divestment in normative relationship models. That is not the case for me. My reasons are borne out of an exceedingly positive view of relationships rather than a negative one, and I want to outline my evolution on this topic here.
“How do you feel about non-monogamy?” In 2011, my partner asked me this question about one month into our relationship. I said, “I have no ethical objection to it, but I don’t think I share well. It’s not for me.”

Fast forward to 2016. We are sitting at our kitchen table (we now live together)  with colored markers, creating charts that depict our boundaries and expectations concerning (hypothetical) relationships with others. We come a mighty long way!

Here is what I’ve learned about myself: I deeply appreciate people. I am drawn to a diversity of people for a variety of reasons, and I value the ability to connect substantively with people in all kinds of ways. Even when I am in a beautiful, life-enriching partnership (as I am now), I still desire a multitude of rich connections in my life. This came as a surprise to me 2 or 3 years into our relationship, but it was an important realization. Most of those rich connections are platonic or quasi-familial, but I notice and respect my capacity for nonplatonic connections, as well. I do not feel shame for the bigness of my heart.

Here is what I’ve learned about partnership: The most amazing person in the world can not be everything to anybody. As humans, we have complex emotional, physical, and spiritual (to name a few) needs. I  do not think it is reasonable or healthy to expect one person to completely meet these needs all the time. We can respond to this reality by conditioning ourselves to live with some amount of constant, low-grade unfulfillment, or we can explore other ways to increase our fulfillment. Consciousness, creativity, and consent open up other possibilities for us in that regard. Dispersing our needs amongst multiple people may reduce the stress any one individual feels.  I should add here that I do not believe in “the one”. I believe there are many with whom I could be compatible, and every relationship takes work. You just decide where and how to devote your time and energy.

Here’s what I’ve learned about society: Historically, monogamy has not been the standard. Historically, economics–not love or even companionship–has been the driving force behind the relationships we now call partnership. Romance, emotional satisfaction, and equality are relatively new expectations in this realm of life. This historical perspective ought to give us pause when considering the “norm”of long-term, monogamous relationships.

To be clear: I am not against monogamy. If relationship partners consciously decide that that arrangement works best for them, then I respect and celebrate the life they pursue together.

However, far too often, we take monogamy for granted as a given. I certainly did. In my mind, “legitimate” relationships were committed, monogamous ones. As I’ve reflected on myself, my life, and my relationships, I’ve come to view “legitimate” relationships as those that are consensual between adults who do no harm.

There is certainly no shortage of ethical concerns when it comes to non-monogamy. I won’t pretend to know the full range of those concerns, and I don’t have the experience to speak to them here in a meaningful way (although there some good books out there). Anyone who seriously ventures into the domain of non-monogamy has some serious and sustained work to do on themselves and on their relationships in order to create healthy, ethical relationships in every direction. Frankly, I think it’s a lot of work, and I am unsure if I am up to the task, even as I philosophically embrace it.

I want to end by stressing that non-monogamy is not necessarily about sex. Sure, plenty of people do non-monogamy in an effort to experience more variety and more sexual pleasure. However, that is not always everyone’s motivation, and the focus on sexual “licentiousness” is part of the stigma. For me, thinking about non-monogamy is primarily a matter of the heart; it is a matter of giving and receiving love abundantly. Love need not be scarce to be special. It is a matter of autonomy and self-determination. (Old civic laws based on property and old religious mores based on who knows what no longer call the shots.)  It is matter of believing that there is more than one way to live a good life, and there are lots of incredible people on this planet with whom I would be so privileged to connect.

 

 

Moonlight Was Robbed of Its Moment, The Rise and Fall of Gluten-Free Diets, and “Blue Lives Matter” Bills

Why It’s Important to Recognize That “Moonlight” Was Robbed Of Its Moment

This debacle brought into stark relief just exactly how messy it is and will continue to be to make traditionally white institutions more diverse and inclusive. In many cases, it will look like black people coming on stage to take away the very awards that white people presumed they would win and prepared themselves to receive. This is the scary part of what it means for white people to challenge white privilege: it means sometimes they will lose. More than that, it means they will have to endure the humiliation of losing when they were so entirely sure they had won.

Gluten-free diets: Where do we stand?

Nonetheless, “this is a medical intervention,” he said. “For those who just brush it off that this is a fad and a fashion lifestyle, be considerate of the people that survive on this diet. For people with celiac disease, the gluten-free diet is like insulin for diabetics.”
There is little research to support the idea that a gluten-free diet can help improve health problems aside from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
So how did gluten-free eating shift from a rare treatment approach to a trendy way of living? Here’s a look at the rise and fall of gluten and how the gluten-free diet has shaped public health over the years.

32 Blue Lives Matter Bills Have Been Introduced Across 14 States This Year

The wave of legislation exposes an appetite to provide political sanctuary to an already protected class. Including police officers in hate crime statutes is legally redundant, or even counterproductive, creating deeper divisions between police and the communities they serve. All 50 states, according to the Anti-Defamation League, have statutes that automatically increase the penalties for violent attacks on police.

Rachel Dolezal Resurfacing and All the Questions We Didn’t Answer Last Time Around

Rachel Dolezal is back in the news, which means I’m back into heated debates about this woman. However bizarre this story, I’m actually glad she’s back on our radar screens because we have some unfinished business.

Let me back up for a second and talk about two important concepts: race and ethnicity. Race is understood as physical differences that are assigned social significance. Ethnicity refers to shared culture or cultural heritage. It’s important to be clear about these concepts because they are not the same thing.

Now, when Dolezal identified herself as Black, everyone lost their shit. Why? Because Dolezal was born to racially White parents, and she is, therefore, racially White. And for her to claim that she is racially Black is dishonest, inaccurate, and problematic.

BUT…that’s not what she did.

I believe Dolezal has laid claim to Black ethnicity. Historically, I think Black race and ethnicity have been conflated. But if you think about it, we know that Black folks born and raised in Mississippi are culturally different from Black folks born and raised in Trinidad. They are racially Black but ethnically distinct.

Now the hard part…what exactly constitutes Black ethnicity, especially for U.S. Americans? 
Another hard question: Can someone transfer from one ethnic group to another? (“transethnic”?)
And finally, who gets to decide the criteria for authenticity concerning ethnicity? And who decides whether or not someone has adequately satisfied those criteria?

I think these are complex questions that her particular story brings to the surface, and I do not think we have given these questions sufficient time and attention. Seems like folks would rather pop off, call her out, and be pissed. Quite honestly, I think the astringent reactions are due, in part, to a deep uncertainty about what it means to be Black and who does and doesn’t have access to Blackness as an identity. (I certainly share concerns with many people around privilege, power, and appropriation.)

Is Dolezal problematic? Yeah, I think so. But I’m less concerned about her than I am about people (especially Black people) working through the hard questions Dolezal’s life presents.

Personally, I think it’s possible to be Black without being black. Know what I mean?

Rap Album Dissertation, Teaching Computer Science Without Computers, and People Asking Artists to Work for Free

Clemson doctoral student produces rap album for dissertation; it goes viral

The album, “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions” uses hip-hop to explore such ideas as identity, justice, economics, citizenship and language. The songs have garnered tens of thousands of views on YouTube, more than 50,000 streams and downloads on SoundCloud and hundreds of thousands of hits on Facebook, all before Carson defends them as a whole to his doctoral committee Friday in the Watt Family Innovation Center auditorium. Using a music album for a dissertation, as opposed to the usual written document, has never been done at Clemson before, but Carson says it was the only way he could do it.

 

Teaching Computer Science Without Computers

In other words, knowing how to use something isn’t the same as understanding how it works. And because programming can be taught in so many ways, Liukas said, it can be an opportunity for kids to learn lots of related skills, such as how to collaborate, how to tell a story, and how to think creatively.
“This demands a lot from the teachers, obviously,” Liukas said during a presentation at the embassy event. This is true in the sense that incorporating coding and programming lessons across disciplines requires all kinds of educators, from the science teacher to the art teacher, to understand the basics. But it’s also a manageable challenge in Finland because teachers there have more autonomy than American teachers when it comes to how and what they teach, and they aren’t constantly evaluated by how their students score on standardized tests.

 

Tired Of Being Asked To Work For Free, This Artist Started Drawing These Client Requests

@forexposure_txt is a Twitter account dedicated to compiling quotes from artists who were expected to work for free. It was created by artist and writer Ryan Estrada, and we previously wrote about it here.
Well now an artist has decided to take some of those quotes and use them to inspire various portraits of what she imagines those people look like. They’re part of a series titled “For Exposure,” and they were created for Format Magazine by Emmie Tsumura, a Toronto-based illustrator and graphic designer.

My Thinkpiece on Why I’m Sooooo Tired of Thinkpieces

When Stacey Dash showed her true colors.
When Raven Symone fucked up.
When Rachel Dolezal was outed for doing that thing she did.
When Frank Ocean said queer things.
When Lemonade dropped.
When Moonlight showed.
When Adele won instead of Queen Bey.

When all of these things happened, everybody rushed to the Internet with something to say. Now, to be clear, I deeply believe in the power of words. I believe we create and find meaning through reading and writing. And, as evidenced by my longstanding proclivity for blogging, I believe there is value in sharing our thoughts. So, I’m not anti-thinkpiece. But I can’t help but feel like it has ratcheted up in recent years, probably for a number of reasons. Alternatively, it could be the case that I am just paying more attention now to that kind of writing than I used to. Whatever the situation, I feel inundated with thinkpieces, and I’m sooooo tired of it.

I have a hypothesis that thinkpieces constitute a particular genre of writing (particularly on the Internet) that typically have the following characteristics:

  • A “call out” tone: issuing a corrective but often in an aggressive or ridiculing way
  • Sardonic humor
  • Quotable/”Retweetable” turns of phrase
  • An attempt to push forward a counter, subversive, or non-dominant perspective

Are any of these things bad? No, not necessarily. However, in my opinion, we are seeing more and more people adopt the form of the thinkpiece without the substance of it. Like bad slam poetry. I feel the frenetic energy of people clamoring to be the first, smartest, or funniest person to have something to say on the latest trending topic. Is this helpful? How much of it is actually thoughtful? Are there other avenues for expressing our thoughts that aren’t simply adding to the noise?

 

Activism Sells, Christians Opposed to Trump, Photos in a Post-Truth Age, and Why You Shouldn’t Say “I Love You”

Here are my favorite links of the week:

Sex doesn’t sell any more, activism does. And don’t the big brands know it | Alex Holder

That’s the crux of successful marketing today: activism is in. “Our activism is currently mediated by brands,” says Will Fowler, creative director of Headspace. “Brands are allowing people to pat themselves on the back without them personally having to sacrifice anything.” It’s true. Popping into a warm, extremely convenient Starbucks for a sweet caffeine pick-up isn’t the same as driving to Calais on a Wednesday night with a boot full of baby carriers. I swapped one taxi app for another and felt incredibly smug. We’re all feeling the need to right the wrongs of today’s Brexit and Trump world – but few people are willing to actually sacrifice anything. If a brand can allow me to carry on living exactly as I was and fuel my social conscience then they can have all my pocket money.

These Conservative Christians Are Opposed to Trump—and Suffering the Consequences

Donald Trump has divided conservative Christian communities. Most white Christians support Trump, or at least voted for him. Some who have spoken out against his presidency or his policies, though, have encountered backlash. For a small group of people working in Christian ministry, music, and non-profit advocacy, the consequences have been tangible: They’ve faced pressure from their employers, seen funds withdrawn from their mission work, or lost performing gigs because of their political beliefs.

Want to resist the post-truth age? Learn to analyze photos like an expert would

Equally problematic is Trump’s strategic use of social media. Through this channel, the Trump administration can sell an image—and a subsequent interpretation—to the public without the mainstream news media acting as watchdogs. If the Trump administration continues to convince Americans to distrust the work of journalists, while simultaneously speaking directly to the public, they are one step closer to inoculating us against reality. So what can we do?

Why Zen and Taoist Masters Recommend Against Saying “I Love You” – The Power of Ideas

For this reason, to say “I love you” is to make fixed the current state of feelings, and bring forth attachment and expectation. Instead, what’s needed is greater equanimity, which is a feeling of constant calm. It involves finding the empty center of being, relying on that as the basis from which to greet each moment with love.