February 12, 2010

mysteries of atheism, pt. i 1/2

(A response to a friend of mine whose comment got eaten by my blog. I will try to get this resolved soon.)

I don't necessarily think that atheists in general are negative people, just because their belief system is based on a negative proposition. But in our world, the negative atheists are the vocal ones -- probably because the other ones have more important things to do. The "One Body of Christ" group would have its problems even if all the atheists decided to leave -- and some of the atheists and agnostics are actually great contributors to group discussion. That's why I ended my post by saying "Christians can always debate other Christians" - because having a belief system of positive propositions doesn't necessarily make you a positive person. It can just mean you're negative about more minor things.

I certainly don't believe that the key thing is for people to have belief in something. I'm not a big fan of having faith in faith. The *object* of faith is more important than the subject who has faith. For example, if I were in a river, and I had faith that the rope that I had tied to the dock were secure, what would keep me safe is whether or not the rope were actually secure, not the mere fact that I had faith.

Faith, in the Biblical sense, is really better called "trust," since the word "faith" itself has been so abused. Faith is trust in the God who has revealed Himself to us - through the Scriptures, in Christ's redemptive work, and to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is not *blind* faith, since it is faith in a God who reveals Himself objectively, and who can be known to a greater and greater extent, though never perfectly. Yet it is not merely assent to facts, either, since even the demons believe in God and tremble, as the book of James says.

As for the exclusivity of Christian faith, I can see how it causes offense. I also definitely admit that much of the time Christians are arrogant and seek to enforce their values on others. I don't see how a Scripture calendar could be an example of that though, except as a reminder that the owner of the calendar would likely have other views, such as political views, that an atheist would find offensive.

I think atheists come in for such attack from Christians because many Christians view their religion principally as the safeguard for morality. This, however, is not an adequate view of the Christian faith. Many people can be quite moral, in the sense of civic morality, without sharing my theological convictions. Not many people who believe "God is dead" truly acts as if "everything is permitted." Of course, I believe that the reason that they do not is because the image of God remains in everyone, despite the radical corruption of sin.

Because of sin's radical corruption of our nature, we are all under God's judgment, apart from Christ and the grace that God provides through the means of redemption. So there should be no place for moral superiority among Christians.
Instead, we should seek to evangelize humbly, as people who want others to share in the insight that we have found.

Of course, that still presumes that we have received an insight that others have not - even if it is by grace alone - and thus it is still an exclusionary belief, and necessarily causes offense in a pluralistic society. But the question then becomes one of truth. If we in fact have the truth, then we would be uncharitable *not* to bring our message to others. But if we do not have the truth, then we are simply another interest group in the modern political arena. Ultimately, in postmodern thought, all truth claims are merely assertions of power, and thus *any* hope of epistemological certainty dissolves, and we really are left in the state of Hobbes' "war of all versus all."

I think John 18:28-40 is the key Biblical commentary on the issue of truth versus power. The world says power is greater than truth, and often Christians act as if it were also, when they try to enforce their understanding of the truth by force. But Christ says His Kingdom is not "of this world": it is of a higher order, and in fact casts the ultimate judgment on all earthly kingdoms. He testifies to the truth, even to the power of death on the Cross. Thus the humility of His truth is greater than political power, and calls it into question. Of course, at the end of time He will come again to "rule the nations with a rod of iron," but for now He rules spiritually as people are transformed by His Word. And so Christians should act as bearers of good news, of a message of deliverance from all our self-justification and cultural myth-making. Only when we see that in the light of God we are all wrong, can our world be made right. The exclusivity of Christ is the precondition for inclusiveness of humanity.

Hopefully, in a world where America was largely secular after the style of Europe, instead of ostensibly Christian, Christian discussion forums would be more about proclaiming the implications of the Gospel, rather than arguing for the existence of God. And, at its best, that is what groups like the "One Body of Christ" do. At least, however, it has something positive to claim as its raison d'etre - a distinction which the Atheists, Agnostics, and Non-Religious group does not possess, and which, I believe, is why that group is so trivial when it is not on the attack against theists.

August 18, 2009

the 7 habits of highly ineffective people

We always talk about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but what about the habits of highly ineffective people? Personally I find them much more interesting.

Here are a few principles I've observed from my own experience:

  1. Procrastination
  2. Blaming Other People
  3. Thinking of Ways It Can't Be Done
  4. Ignoring Others; Refusing Help
  5. Surrounding Yourself with Distractions
  6. Not Sleeping
  7. Living on Ramen

August 14, 2008

in re: the public school debate - this seems about right

From the Creative Capitalism blog (which Melinda linked a while back):

[C]ompanies should meet their responsibilities to pay taxes, obey regulations and so on, but governments' track records in solving social problems are severely tarnished, particularly in the developing world, as many contributors have pointed out. On the other hand, private charity is never going to be able to provide fair and equal access to education - voluntary provision was tried in Victorian Britain, for example, and only scratched the surface, despite a massive outpouring of public generosity.

I wish that that second sentence could be read by all the American evangelicals who think that we can abolish the public schools, and still give every child in this country an education.

Yes, the public schools are broken. But I have yet to be convinced that churches, parishes, or any other private institution could educate the nation's children on a national scale.

Christian schools' record on accomodating special needs students is particularly poor. And, aside from the Catholic schools, very few Christian schools reach the inner cities or minority students at all.

Homeschooling is a great option - for those who can afford it. The rest of the nation needs to have a strong school system in place, so that parents (single parents especially) can continue to do the work they need to do to support their families.

Insofar as Christians are obligated to work for the good of the social order, we ought to work for the betterment of the public school system, even if we choose not to educate our own children in it. This is, to my mind, the only position which recognizes the value of a Christian education while still allowing all access to education. We can work to make Christian education a possibility for as many families as possible. But we should not expect that we can eliminate the public school system entirely.

The public school system was created, in part, because no private institution could make universal education possible. The Catholic Church is the only one that even comes close. As far as Protestants go, we can't even coordinate our private charity efforts. What makes us think that we could run a school system?

August 3, 2008

i repent of ever having supported Obama

When I said I supported Obama several months ago, I was not aware of this: Obama's opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which even NARAL did not oppose.

I could never support a politician who would not oppose infanticide.

His logic speaks for itself:

... I just want to suggest... that this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a - child, a nine-month-old - child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place.

I mean, it - it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute. For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional. [Barack Obama - IL Senate floor on March 30, 2001]

There he is - so committed to "protecting a women's right to choose" that he sees a law intended to protect live births as the start of a dangerous slippery slope.

UPDATE: I just read Obama's Call to Renewal speech from earlier this year. While it is insightful in parts, and certainly nuanced, it doesn't say that he would actually be willing to moderate his position on abortion. It just says that he'll speak nicely about it. But when people are dying, I'm afraid that can't be enough.

July 12, 2008

they nailed it

"If patriarchy is the cure for effeminate men, then why are there so many effeminate men in patriarchy?"

People who have a doctrinaire idea of how children should be raised (whether that be in regard to gender roles or anything else) have always frightened me. So much damage can be done in childhood.

June 21, 2008

levertov has got our number...

"Those Who Want Out"

In their homes, much glass and steel. Their cars
are fast - walking's for children, except in rooms.
When they take longer trips, they think with contempt
of the jet's archaic slowness. Monastic
in dedication to work, they apply honed skills,
impatient of less than perfection. They sleep by day
when the bustle of lives might disturb their research,
and labor beneath flourescent light in controlled environments
fitting their needs, as the dialects
in which they converse, with each other or with
the machines (which are not called machines)
are controlled and fitting. The air they breathe
is conditioned. Coffee and coke keep them alert.
But no one can say they don't dream,
that they have no vision. Their vision
consumes them, they think all the time
of the city in space, they long for the permanent colony,
not just a lab up there, the whole works,
malls, racquet courts, hot tubs, state-of-the-art
ski machines, entertainment...Imagine it, they think,
way out there, outside of 'nature,' unhampered,
a place contrived by man, supreme
triumph of reason. They know it will happen.
They do not love the earth.

truer words...

"The work that is truly productive is the domain of a steadily smaller and more elite fraction of humanity." ~Victor Vinge

The next 50 years will be the acid test for belief in human equality.

the "gray goo" problem of new media

Filesharing havens like the Pirate Bay are unleashing round after round of "creative destruction" on intellectual property rights as we know them. And it's not easy to feel sympathetic for the MPAA, especially when you read about how they opposed the Betamax in its day.

However, I somehow doubt that the future of rock is an Outback Steakhouse commercial. We may be living in "Remix Culture", but when everyone's busy making YTMNDs and mashups, who's going to make the originals?

As a creative person, I know that there some things I won't do for free. Blog, yes; do investigative journalism, no. Blogging hotspots like Gawker.com are parasitic on the old media which they hold in such contempt. It's easier to be a blogger than to run a newspaper, but easier still to comment on someone else's blog. What happens when the disintermediators get disintermediated?

Since the birth of mass media, media creation has been a function of the market rather than of an intellectual elite. This has served us well in many respects, but not so well in others. The market cares about "content", not about culture. And content is a commodity which, like all commodities, is sought at the lowest price possible.

New media are beneficial insofar as they lower the barrier of entry for potential content creators. However, in doing this, they also have the potential to displace older media, just as television displaced radio dramas or film displaced vaudeville. Since hypertext is what I call a "master medium" - capable of conveying the content of all other media - it has the potential to displace all of them.

There would be nothing wrong with this except that hypertext as we know it is transmitted on the Web, and there is no generally accepted way of directly compensating content creators for Web content. Advertising is only a stopgap solution, and is especially dubious as long as Google has such market dominance.

Nearly everything that people create today is either directly offered for free online, or is available for free through illegal online services. This is destroying the incentive for many forms of content to be produced. Of course, new forms are taking their place, but these favor the lowest common denominator, rather than distinctive insights or creative genius. The two characteristic literary styles of "Web 2.0" are Wikipedia's denatured "NPOV" and the blogosphere's frenetic flamewars.

Jaron Lanier calls this "digital Maoism", but it's really just consistent capitalism. What is Digg if not a Wal-Mart of the postmodern mind, catering to all our cultural needs at the lowest prices?

Of course, "free culture" critics are free to create something better. But if they can't earn a living doing so, then they'll have to either: a) get a "real" job (doing IT or working at Starbucks - the two viable careers of a post-industrial age?) and "do culture" as a hobby, b) be subsidized by the state, or c) work for a nonprofit or academic institution (and depend on the kindness of strangers to keep their endeavor afloat). Compared to the position of the author, etc. in the pre-digital era, this seems like a step down.

Unless we can find a way to compensate creative people fairly for their work in the digital age, the "grey goo" of lowest-common-denominator "user contributed content" may supplant much of the culture we once had.

the only Biblical command we succeeded in obeying

Genesis 1:28.

When humans were few in number and lacking in technological skill, the language of ruling over nature was appropriate. God's calling upon us now is different. If we are to rule over nature, we are to rule as Christ rules over the Church. "The one who is greatest must be servant of all." Otherwise, we are constructing a biotechnological Tower of Babel.

March 29, 2008

February 9, 2008

things that bother me

From reading the tabloids at the supermarket today, it seems that Britney Spears is the new face of bipolar disorder. Why couldn't it be Carrie Fisher?

I suppose mental illness won't be destigmatized anytime soon. But I wish, at least, that the general public would associate it with people who are aware of their condition and work hard to remain stable.

According to the doctor People interviewed, "When a person has this kind of problem, it's very hard for them to be a good parent." Maybe she was only referring to Spears' dual diagnosis (substance abuse and mental illness), but I doubt that People's readers will take it that way. Will there be an advocacy movement for taking children away from the mentally ill?

There really should be an advocacy movement for separating celebrities from paparazzi. Celeb-stalking would make the sanest person go mad.

January 16, 2008

American Idol lowers the bar; bunch of talentless Texans walk on

Now you may say, "How is that different from before?" Tonight was the first time I'd seen the show for more than 10 minutes straight, so I can't really say. Still, I find it hard to believe that the show would've attained such popularity if the judges allowed such mediocre talents to take the stage.

Maybe the Idol judges recognize that the show has jumped the shark. Maybe they think America's pop talent reserves are tapped dry. And so they think it would be funny if the show went down in a blaze of jokey performances and overwrought melisma, set off by bland country crooning.

I don't know if they're right, but it worked for me tonight. In any case, it'll be worth it to hear the vocal impersonations girl do imitations of the other contestants.

December 9, 2007

the irony is astounding

American commercialism is the real driving force in the "war on Christmas". Frankly, I will be glad if rampant consumerism is dissociated from the Christian holiday, and Advent becomes once again a season of quiet and expectation.

November 26, 2007

celebrity as scapegoat

I read the magazines when I go through the grocery line. Though I've been reading their headlines for years, they still have the power to disgust me. This evening, however, their trashiness inspired a worthwhile thought.

In our Girardian society, dominated as it is by the "concern for victims," few figures remain on whom we can safely focus our scorn. But a world without scapegoats is unstable and terrifying. To prevent the breakup of our civilization, we turn our contempt on celebrities.

As the pace of life has sped up, so also has the cycle of deification and stigmatization that characterizes scapegoating. The most sophisticated among us actually manage to view their scapegoats as both hero and villain simultaneously - thus, Britney Spears can be seen as both musical idol and self-destructive addict. In a culture of simulacra, celebrities live our lives vicariously - savoring its highs and drowning in its lows while we remain comfortably numb.

You can read the future of a culture in its newsstand headlines. People is more predictive of the apocalypse than the Weekly World News.

November 4, 2007

no one is righteous: thoughts on history

This critique of Howard Zinn's People's History shows that progressive triumphalism is just as distasteful as the old-school kind, and has less cultural triumphs to commend it.

When I said alternative history should be written and disseminated, I didn't mean that we should stay there. Neither "the Founding Fathers were Christian heroes" nor "the Founding Fathers were hegemonic oppressors" are the way the tale should be told.

Of course, things get more complicated when you're writing for children. It's hard to reduce the complex mass of social pressures and sins that motivate historical change into a steady narrative of progress - or decline. Still, I believe that we can do better for our youth than to offer them the choice between the People's History and Wilkins' America: The First 350 Years.

I remember celebrating Columbus Day in grade school - coloring and labeling the three Spanish ships, making Indian hats, and so forth. Then in middle school, I learned about smallpox and slavery, and I felt more than a little disillusioned, and just a bit lied to. Does history always have to be this way? I would, for once, like to see people not feel the need to always defend "their group" - whether their group is Vision Forum-like Southern agrarians, or Chomskyite anarcho-syndicalists.

I strive to do this with my own religious tradition. Consider my three greatest heroes of the faith: St. Athanasius, Martin Luther, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Athanasius was an ecclesiastical tyrant, Luther was anti-Semitic in later life, and St. Bernard was one of the driving forces behind the Crusades. They were all wretched sinners - as am I.

We are all blinded by the cultural prejudices of our day, or, if we do not feel at home in present culture, blinded by our idealization of the past. St. Athanasius, Luther, St. Bernard, the Reformed faith - all are flawed vessels through which the grace of God has come to me. His strength is made perfect in our weakness; where sin is present, grace abounds.

If sin marks the history of the faith, how much more must it mark the history of our nation? Yet, as St. Athanasius said, depravity does not destroy the Imago Dei. Oppression is the pockmarks on the face of civilization.

Being a historian is like panning for gold in a polluted stream. It is a discouraging task, and it's bound to make you dirty. But the reward of your labors is wealth that lasts - foundation stones for the future City.

November 3, 2007

few clarifications, then I'll quit

The discussion on white privilege was getting too long, so I decided to bring it up here to a new post. I just wanted to make a few final clarifications about my views. I'll let A_A_Plewes have the last word, if he wants. "His patience has been appreciated, despite our passionate disagreement."

1) I don't agree with the tactics of the people who hacked Harry Seabrook's website. Porn is never appropriate, not even in response to hate.

And he may not be a lunatic; I never said he was. However, he does have a disturbing tendency to resort to racial slurs to make his points.

2) Josiah is kinda fringe himself, and I wouldn't have put up Hitler Youth flyers. That is how I am familiar with kinism, however.

I can understand why he would react as he did, though, since the kinists at LittleGeneva had called his friend, and brother in Christ, a miscegenator, and his children, essentially, bastards.

3) I don't idolize Abraham Lincoln. Though I believe that what the South was doing was immoral, I also believe they had a right to secede according to the Constitution.

I actually know very little about Nelson Mandela. Anyway, even if he was/is a murderous thug, that wouldn't justify apartheid.

4) I'm not opposed to a Christian government - far from it. However, I don't believe a racially homogenous state is a Christian ideal. Nor do I believe that the Old South, or Puritan America, or any other government of the past measures up to the ideal of the Kingdom of God.

Furthermore, I believe that most attempts to create a Christian state fall prey to the temptations of the "theology of glory" - to capture the crown without the Cross. Call me an amillennial defeatist if you will, but I don't see top-down political action as a divine mandate. "Let judgment begin at the house of God" and with us doing justice to our neighbors, seeking the peace of the city. If we would recognize that our racial/cultural forefathers sinned, and that we are reaping the fruits of their sin, then we would be humbled, and thus in the right place to receive God's blessing. But if we strive to go back to some sort of golden age, we shut ourselves off from the future reign of God.

5) By your standards of "BY and FOR," the kinists' ideal Christian state doesn't measure up. The Southern agrarian system rested on the backs of slave labor. They certainly weren't working for themselves, nor did they set the terms of their servitude.

And while some states have relatively less blood on their hands than others, I would surprised, considering the fallenness of the world, if there is any nation in the time of recorded history that was not formed out of conquest and the subjugation of another people.

November 1, 2007

i just have one sentence for those folks who tell me what i as a white person prefer...

Stop essentializing my racial identity :)

Seriously, it's not just immoral, it's just plain silly. So don't do it.

October 31, 2007

ok, so i can't avoid controversial topics

But this documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church is brilliant. In the providence of God, they lost an $11M dollar judgment today.

I really like Louis Theroux, who made the film. His overall decency and ability to remain calm under pressure is incredible, not to mention his sheer Britishness, which makes him appear even more like a stranger in a strange land.

October 27, 2007

white male privilege, pt. iv

Probably my final response to the Amazon discussion:

J. Weiss: One final clarification, and I think I really will go: I don't live in a "nice affluent area." I live in Dorchester; I live with the lower-class. Around me every day are working-class whites; immigrants from Vietnam, Cape Verde, and Haiti; and African-Americans. Here is diversity. No one in Dorchester is trying to take over the country, or indeed would be able to do so.

It is truly a shame to me to see how many politicians, like Tom Tancredo, use fear of job loss to turn people against immigrants. Some of them may be radical, but most are simply trying to make a living - like the Irish, Italians, Jews, and other immigrant groups that used to be discriminated against, but now are as white as anyone else.

Anyway, how do you know how much I have in terms of wealth? I have a college education, which I'm using to work toward higher levels of educational access for all. Since I'm an Americorps intern, that's really about it. But my level of social access is high - and that's something that people of majority culture rely upon without even thinking.

As for what you said about my interpretation of Scripture, even if you are right about Luke 12:42-48 being solely about spiritual blessings, you still have Luke 12:29-34 to contend with. "And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

God's kingdom is not of this earth - it is not racial, is not national, it is not based on culture or gender. Now God does counsel us to prudence - to provide for our family. But I am not trapped in the scarcity mentality of some. Though we live in a fallen world, racial/cultural war is not a necessity. Both whites and minorities can play politics with race, but we don't have to. God's economy is different: " Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little"" (2 Cor. 8:13-15).

Governmental redistribution and enforced equality will never make it up to this ideal, it is true. But we can't rely solely on voluntary community development efforts (such as the one of which I am a part) as long as people refuse to recognize that they are reaping what others have sown, that the beggar Lazarus is starving at their gate (Luke 16:19-31).

I am encouraged to see that some people are making it in politics who would not have done so previously. And thankfully some whites were in the forefront of civil rights. However, I somehow doubt that you would have been one of them, though you are quite willing to take credit (as a white person) for what they did. As for what you said about Asians, I think it's worth noting that they didn't have to go through racial slavery or Jim Crow (though the Japanese were put in internment camps in WW II, and Asians have suffered other indignities).

Oh, and I'm not saying all people are the same. That would be racist. Rather, I am saying that our differences are cultural. Genetic differences are minimal, and do not necessarily correlate with race, as we speak of it. Certainly no genetic differences in intelligence have been proven, though people have tried. "God made from one blood all the peoples of the earth" (Acts 17:26).

A. Tilley: thanks for your encouragement about our work at TechMission.

M.Hartrich: there is appropriate racial pride & inappropriate racial pride. Appropriate racial pride is willing to admit faults, and to work to rectify them. As a Christian, I know this well, since this is how I feel about the Church: an institution which is founded on the highest ideals (salvation available freely for all through faith in Christ, the sacrifice that ends sacrifice (Rene Girard)), but which has been silent in the face of, if not actively promoting, much oppression.

white privilege, pt. iii

Ok, so Jonathan Weiss revised his post before I could post my response. So here's my response to his revised post:

I'm sorry, I believe my earlier post was in response to an earlier draft of your post.

I should issue some clarifications:

1) Believing in white privilege, to me, does not necessitate believe whites are evil or a cancer.
1a) "Whiteness studies" is abhorrent to me, as is much of what the academy does with cultural studies at large.
1b) My ideal is fairness, not denigration of one's own race.
2) There is a way to be positive about the contributions of Western culture.
2a) It begins with recognizing that race is a social construct, not a biological reality.
2b) However, in the West, it has been used to oppress those who were of a different culture, marking them as inferior by traits of physical appearance.
- This can be seen most evidently in racial slavery & Jim Crow, which are the burden of America, just as apartheid is for South Africa.
- People who were non-white were deemed to have essential ontological characteristics which are inferior to those of the majority race/majority culture.
- This was a post-facto justification for their social status, which contrasted to indentured white servants who could work their way out of bondage.
- Even after the end of slavery, the ideal of the "good Negro," the one who "knows his place," has persisted.
(- Similar things could be said about women. Witness the general reaction to strong women in politics, like Hillary Clinton (apart from her policies).)
2c) Thus, race matters, since social realities are just as real as physical ones.
2d) If race matters, and people of minority races have historically been oppressed, then there is a need for histories to be written which emphasize their contributions to our culture, since those contributions have historically been deemphasized. These histories will necessarily talk more about the sins of whites than their virtues, in order to balance out the effect of previous accounts.
2e) Once minority histories have started to be written (as they have, in the past decades), then there can be an effort among historians of various races to write a new overarching history of Western culture, which will give due weight to the contributions of everyone. This is, I believe, the work that stands before us in our generation (as well as the work of personally and collectively acting to rectify past systemic oppression, which has begun (1960s, etc.), but which is not over).
3) By God's grace I will raise my children to have pride in who they are. I will raise them with strong Christian values, and an intact home life. I will not proselytize white privilege in the sense that many speak of in the academy. Rather, I will teach them the principle that Jesus gives in the Gospel, "To him whom must has been given, much will be required." Generosity is working to bring others up to the level at which you are on, not debasing yourself out of some kind of "false guilt."
If we hope to survive in a pluralistic society, all races/cultures must learn to recognize and celebrate diversity. Majority culture must choose the ideal of the salad bowl over that of the melting pot. All races/cultures must learn to talk to each other, not at each other. That means both finding our own authentic voice, and listening to that of the other person in the dialogue.

the nature of white male privilege, pt. ii

A second response to Jonathan Weiss:

I have more hope about the future of Christianity than I think you do. The Word will run swiftly and be glorified, among every tribe, tongue, and nation. Renouncing the "theology of glory" which says whites, the middle class, Americans, etc. ought to have power has been profoundly liberating.

Look at the proportions in our government. It's still mostly white and upper-class. And that could be a great opportunity, if the people who have power exercise their power to be a voice for the voiceless. Insofar as people like Bill Gates are doing that, good for them.

If you think white privilege doesn't exist, come live with me in Dorchester or else next-door Roxbury. You think that most people who live here *chose* to live here? For a lot of people, it's a combination of systemic bias and the sins of the (absent) fathers. On the other hand, take the Red Line up to Cambridge & check out the demographics there. Little different, eh?

I work at an organization that promotes racial reconciliation through education, particular in the area of technology. I don't hate who I am, and I don't think you should either. It is precisely because I don't hate who I am that I don't have to defend my race. I have an identity in what I have chosen to be, not in what I was through birth.

And finally, about white poverty: yes, it's a reality, and it's tragically ignored by the mainstream media (except for when particularly lurid, as in Gone Baby Gone & all the other movies about Southie). John Kerry's comments about the poor soldiers serving overseas hit on a major sore spot of our society. Many people that I know (primarily white, since I know more whites from my childhood in Lancaster County) joined the military because they didn't see other options.

It might be more precise to talk about class privilege rather than white privilege, since the systemic problems of our society tie in oftentimes to class (not just economic resources, but class access & identity (social capital)). However, because of our nation's history, race and gender are one of the primary engines feeding class privilege (not to mention that white males, because of their appearance, have the easiest time assimilating into middle/upper class values, and thus have the most class mobility). You seem to think that privilege has to be overt in order to be existent. This is a common error. But, just as Jim Crow followed abolition, so covert individual & unseen systemic racial bias have followed the Equal Rights Amendment and other events of the '60s.

October 22, 2007

on white privilege: trying to say something reasonable on a forum

Today I was reading my Bloglines (which I don't normally do anymore), and saw an article about a book, The 4-Hour Workweek, which seems to be a glorified version of the Amway/Quixtar "passive income" moneymaking scheme. Interestingly, it had sparked a discussion about white privilege on the Amazon forums (since the author of the book encourages you to outsource your work to developing nations), and people were acting as if it was a completely foreign concept to them. Anyway, I ended up getting so frustrated that I had to say something:

"The mere fact that you think the U.S. is a "white nation" shows how fully you are dependent on white privilege.

The U.S. belongs to everyone. If it was viewed as a white nation in the past, that was at the expense of its native inhabitants & of the slaves who were brought from overseas.

Have a sense of history. If people of other races are upset at white privilege, understand that it's justifiable since only in recent decades have they even had a place at the table.

I'm white. I don't believe that I am evil, or that my race is evil. I do believe, however, that, as Tilley said, the "sins of the fathers" are visited on the following generations, and we have a responsibility to work toward equity. Other races have also been imperialistic and destructive - it is a human characteristic, not a white characteristic. However, in this country, it is our race that has had most of the advantages for most of the course of our nation's history. And insofar as we have power, we should accept commensurate responsibility to level the playing field.

I don't hate myself or my race. Neither do I feel the need to defend it and say how great it is, while denying the historical injustices whites have perpetuated. Because I am a Christian, and find my identity in Christ, I don't need to find my self-worth in being a white male. My faith is part of my personal history; my race is simply an accident of birth.

Simply because I believe white privilege exists, I don't have to move to Haiti, or any of the other trouble spots of the world. I am an American, and my heart's desire is to see justice in this country. Justice does not mean oppressing whites as they have oppressed others; rather, justice means changing the systems of our society so that all young people have equal opportunity to receive a good education and make a living for themselves. As long as the public schools of this country operate on the basis of property tax, that kind of equality is impossible, and our claims to meritocracy will be hollow.

Class is alive and well in America, and often correlates with race. If you are willing to have your eyes opened, read Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas, about the busing crisis in Boston in the 1970s. Listen to the stories of the people who went to schools during that time. Then see if you can still say that anyone from a non-white race had an equal chance at success."

September 30, 2007

affordable sustainability

I was thinking again this morning of the paradoxes of our culture and of how we have made it easier to be unhealthy than healthy, easier to destroy the environment rather than to be a part of it. I was wondering how we could take organic living out of the province of the elite and make it accessible to everybody. I am looking for affordable sustainability.

September 26, 2007

"be angry, and do not sin"

This man is my new hero.

What this means for my politics I haven't figured out yet.

Relatedly, I recommend y'all read Dark Ages America. The author thinks there's no hope for our country, or our culture. As a Christian, I find it hard to be that bleak. I'm still looking for the (a?) radical middle.

"Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us!
         For we are exceedingly filled with contempt.
Our soul is exceedingly filled
         With the scorn of those who are at ease,
         With the contempt of the proud."
                                    - Psalm 123:3-4"

September 16, 2007

fox censors the emmys

So we had an Emmys party tonight, and it was great. The Emmys themselves were not, though they had their moments.

One of the interesting moments of the Emmys, though, was Sally Field's rambling acceptance speech, in which Fox blipped out not merely a word, but half a sentence. For those of you who couldn't already figure it out, here's what she said.

Last time I checked, G--d--n was not a word on the FCC banned list, especially around 11 at night. Now I don't approve of that word, but I don't approve of censoring anti-war sentiment either.