Ephesians 2:11-22 in Exegetical Remix

This past Sunday, I preached from Ephesians 2 on the subject “Jesus the Reconciler.” As I was preparing the sermon, consulting commentaries and what not, I became intrigued by the claim that most of the earliest manuscripts available to us do not actually read, “To the saints at Ephesus,” but “To the saints who are faithful.” Some scholars even suggest that the letter was intentionally left blank and readdressed to various communities experiencing social tensions – “To the saints at ___________.”

This intrigue led to a creative excursion that resulted in a few exegetical remixes, if you will, of Ephesians 2:11-22. I penned the exegetical remixes attempting to channel the spirit of Paul, whose letters, I believe, most clearly chronicle the faithful struggle associated with participating in the ongoing project of broadening the circle and bringing folks in, as initiated by Jesus. I share two of the exegetical remixes below to add to the conversation and in effort to continue processing the joys, sorrows, and frustrations I experienced last Friday, June 26, 2015 while watching the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney (one of the nine victims of the terrorist attack at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015) and scrolling through my newsfeed after SCOTUS voted in favor of marriage equality. 

If this letter were still circulating today, might it read something like…

= = = = = = =

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will. To the holy and faithful people in Christ Jesus in America. Grace and peace to you from God our Source and our Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, that’s why I’m writing to you. It seems your country is divided as a result of the passing of marriage equality – some are celebrating, some are angry, some have promised to set themselves on fire… and many hold these conflicting positions in the name of Christ. Remember, at one time you queer people by birth… by choice… by gift of God, damned to hell by those who claimed to love you most, called faggot, called dyke, called less than, called sinful, called everything but a child of God by those who unquestioningly called themselves “straight.” You were once not welcome at the table, assumed to have no desire for God. But now in Christ Jesus, peace has been proclaimed to you – to those who are far off and those who are near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Creator. With his body, he broke down the barriers of heterosexism and homophobia that divided us. So, now, you are no longer called sinful. There’s no need to be ashamed! You belong to God’s household. You are part of this beloved community in every single way.

= = = = = = =

“Paul, to Emanuel AME Church and black and brown people around the world. I see that you have a passion for Christ like no other and are excited about the good news that comes with his life, death and resurrection – the good news of forgiveness, the good news of healing, the good news of grace. But you don’t have to settle for quick forgiveness. You don’t have to settle for superficial healing. You don’t have to champion a message of cheap grace, because what God is really after is reconciliation. Remember at one time you were called dirty, called less than, called dumb, called ugly, called colored, called nigger by those who called themselves the “superior race.” They once called you three-fifths of a human being, said that you were godless pieces of… But now in Christ Jesus we have peace. In Jesus’s flesh God has made both black and white; white and black; black, brown, red, and white into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the racism between us.”

 

alive

I am from the only thing you have in this life is your name

and even though it was my name, it was really the family name with which they were most concerned

life wasn’t about making a name for myself or creating my own narrative,
but about playing the part, benefiting from it, and eventually dying happy (?)
that those after me would live into the same script, reap the same benefits,
and continue the legacy

I am from respectability politics

being most concerned with what others thought about us – about me – and rarely, if ever,
tending to the matters of my own heart

living according to some self-imposed, familial standard for others to aspire to

Careful what you do, son. Somebody is always watching you.

I am from bad math

working twice as hard to get half as far and you’ve already got two strikes against you
– you’re black

But that’s just one thing, dad 

I know, son, but that’s just the way it works

hmph – I’ve hated math ever since

I am from bad theology

from black bodies, washed in red blood, becoming white souls

from internalizing hatred of all things black because someone else failed to do their homework

because someone else preached what would keep the pews filled, the people dependent,
and the offering baskets overflowing

because someone else settled for what would shout the people as opposed to what would help them

from True Love Waits

hearing marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman and sex could only happen
in the confines of this God-ordained arrangement

learning to fear my body before I was aware of all of the beauty that it possessed

relegating core aspects of my personhood to the margins because they weren’t consistent with
the normative claims of my faith community and family unit

stifling questions

burying hurt

trying my hardest to fit in the box they said Jesus wanted me to

I am from affirmation

You’re so anointed. 

God’s got a special call on your life.

You’re gonna be our next (insert church staff position here)!

I am from questions

Do you have a young lady in your life?

It’s about time you settled down, isn’t it?

What if I introduced you to my (insert family member here)?

Do you think he might be gay?

I am from liminality

articulating the no with increasing levels of difficulty, decreasing levels of certainty

holding in tension the affirmations of my past and the ever-growing desires of my heart

learning to own them both

affirmations that identified gifts too distinctive to deny, too complex to confine

desires too rich to restrain, too intrinsic to ignore, too valuable to cast before swine

fearing the future

knowing that I was reaching the point of no return

knowing that some who claimed to love me the most would hurt me the worst

knowing that some would hide behind heteronormative, sorry-excuses-for
interpretations of four scriptures and disregard the larger story

knowing that some would claim not to choose not to understand

embracing the unknown

the way forward becoming clear

Truth

because somebody said that it is only this that makes us free

because my truth opened to divine grace unlocks the potential for newness and life more abundant

Love

liking who I see in the mirror when I wake up in the morning

fully accepting every part of me – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the queer

Confidence

being unafraid that a mannerism might betray me

no longer averting my eyes from knowing glances

boldly staring bigotry, hatred, heterosexism, homophobia, and ignorance in the face and declaring
You have no sting here! You have no victory!

Doing better because, now, I know better.

Smoking what I sell. Practicing what I preach.

Losing myself. Discovering him anew.

Writing my own script. Telling my own story. 

Dying

to the false self that I’d become

to living a heterosexual fiction for the sake of someone else’s potential discomfort

to being afraid of speaking my truth for fear of judgment

to the paycheck that pimped my gift without accepting my person

Resurrecting

to authenticity

to the sound of the genuine

to creativity

to grace

to freedom

Letting my little light shine – brightly! – in hopes that it might be a beacon of hope for others on the journey.

Life

Being alive

Being

Alive

‘christian’ Americanity & The New Gospel of Adoption

On the April 28, 2013 broadcast of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show, Harris-Perry (MHP) sat down with a few guests to discuss the movement for transnational adoption among a significant number of evangelical Christian families. During the segment a young woman from Ethiopia, Tarikuwa Lemma, shared her story of being illegally adopted by a family in the United States. Lemma was told that she and her two younger sisters were coming to America for an educational exchange program, but upon arrival they found out they had been adopted.

I came across the story by way of Facebook where many of my FB friends were sharing the video accompanied by expressions of outrage and frustration. The general theme of much of the commentary was “WTH, white people?” I shared many of the sentiments of the folks in my newsfeed, and the frustration has stayed with me to this day. Not only am I frustrated by the idea that (black/brown) children are illegally extracted from their countries and communities with an increasing amount of regularity, but also by certain elements of the 4/28 conversation itself; namely, the lengths to which one commentator went to – perhaps unintentionally – justify the desires of the good [(Christian) (white)][i]folks who participate in transnational adoption.

As MHP points out early in the segment, each of the individuals and families have their own stories undergirding their desire to transnationally adopt children. So, I understand that critiques of each individual/family must have a certain level of nuance. While their stories are unique, there also seems to be a not so unique problematic trend across many transnational adoptions; that is, the troublesomely convoluted cocktail of missionary “Christian” values, white supremacy, and American exceptionalism/imperialism that undergirds the phenomenon.

After Lemma shared her story, MHP attempts to begin the process of interrogating this convoluted cocktail by posing the following question to Karen Moline, a board member of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform.

“So, Karen,” MHP says, “then [how does] a parent or someone who does feel moved, maybe even has a sense of purpose – as is part of the language around the evangelical part of the movement – find an ethical way to be engaged in adoption?”

At first, Moline’s response seems promising. She quickly interjects that one has to check their motives for adopting internationally. However, she just as quickly derails the conversation away from interrogating individual motives into an all out critique of the capitalist “powers and principalities” behind the transnational adoption phenomenon. She goes all the way in on the fact that we live in a “corrupt country that has corrupt practices in every aspect of its business,” including the adoption business.

I actually agree with Moline’s overarching argument. The problem is, however, Moline’s stark critique of the capitalist economy that has infiltrated the transnational adoption process maintains its poignancy by using “the system” as a scapegoat. Her critique scapegoats the system and works very hard to justify the actions of the “honest, ethical, and well-meaning” (Christian) people whose desires help to fuel the capitalist logic that has infiltrated the transnational adoption process to begin with.

The short of it is, if there weren’t churches championing the “Gospel of Adoption”message, and other (non-religious) organizations working hard to demonize all things “non-Western” while simultaneously working hard to suggest that western (U.S.A.) democracy can provide salvation for the world, there may not be as much of a demand for little black and brown babies from other countries in America.

Now, for the long of it…

Early in the 4/28 broadcast, MHP sat down with author, Kathryn Joyce, to discuss the history of transnational adoption and her book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. Joyce identifies the fact that while transnational adoption is not a problem specific to evangelicals, it is a problem that they do a great deal to perpetuate.[ii]

Joyce further identifies that in recent years this new “Gospel of Adoption” has emerged wherein evangelical Christians purport that by adopting orphans they are mirroring the adoption they participate in through Jesus Christ. While this is quite the moving analogy, every analogy that we use to parallel our action to God’s (or vice versa) will inevitably fall apart at some point. And this one fell apart no sooner than it came out of some evangelical preacher’s mouth.

How does it fall apart, you ask? Well, for me, at the point that those “honest, ethical, and well-meaning” (more often than not, white) Christian folks are paralleled to Jesus Christ and the (more often than not, black/brown) children are consequently paralleled to those in need of salvation and rescuing – adoption.

The problem with this analogy is that there is a long history of well intentioned (?) Western Christians using it – or at the very least something similar to it – in order to convert, colonize, and criminalize non-Western, non-white, assumedly non-religious folks in and/or from other countries. This same notion perpetuated many crusades to foreign countries and began the processes of “civilizing,” democratizing, and/or enslaving these non-Western people.

I think revisiting Lemma’s narrative is helpful here in seeing some similarities. Lemma recounts that when she found out what was happening she grieved and was angry. In spite of this, the American family told her they were her “Forever Family,” gave she and her sisters new names, and prohibited them from speaking in their native languages. Lemma goes on to explain that she was grieved and angered because she already had a family in Ethiopia. She already had an Ethiopian given name. She simply was not in need of her Forever Family’s adoption salvation.

Lemma’s story highlights the problems that emerge when people utilize (Christian) theological language to substantiate things that at their core have nothing to do with Christianity. Or said differently – just because somebody is talking about Jesus and saying his name a bunch of times, doesn’t mean they’re saying something in line with what Jesus actually said.

One can see clear parallels to certain articulations of the work of Christ within the story as Lemma retells it. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard Christian identified folks talk about God adopting them into the Christian family, “changing their name,” and giving them a new walk & a new talk. Assumedly, just like Jesus, the American family gives Lemma and her sisters a new family, give them new names, and mandate a new way of speaking.

But the problem is the adoption-salvation is not an adoption-salvation by Christ into the Judeo-Christian family, but an inauguration into a certain type of middle-class, white, American, democratic, English-speaking, assumedly Christian kind of life/family – christian Americanity, if you will.[iii] The “Gospel of Adoption” is not purely undergirded by Christian faith, but by Christian theological language and, as MHP points out during the segment, a missionary notion of things being better in the United States.

The assumption is that life in non-Western, historically non-democratic societies is worse than life in the “civilized” United States of America. Regardless of the country – Vietnam, Guatemala, Ethiopia, or Korea – these people seem to think that uprooting children from their native countries can only bring the children “good.” Misinformation… FALSE information is often at the core of these assumptions.  This false information works hard to conceal the fact that many times folks we consider orphans actually have families and communities supporting them; albeit, these communities and families do not always fit the mold of what some define as family/community in the U.S.

Maybe putting the shoe on the other foot will help clarify my frustration a bit more. Let’s suppose people in Ethiopia decided that white babies from the United States would be better off in their country. Suppose they had the advantage of media, imperial domination/conquest, and centuries of misinformation and propaganda on their side – all the tools necessary to cast a negative light on life in the United States. Finally, suppose they utilized these things to engage in the systematic extraction (adoption?) of these children from their native country. Wouldn’t all hell break loose?

Well, the shoe isn’t on the other foot, and Tarikuwa Lemma’s story as well as Kathryn Joyce’s recent book, highlights the atrocities associated with this new gospel of adoption. All hell should be breaking loose.

While corrupt capitalist business practices definitely do much to perpetuate the problem, as Karen Moline points out, we cannot use them as a scapegoat. We must be equally critical of the good [(Christian) (white)] folks who want to adopt internationally, and not be so quick to redeem their desires/actions. Although the majority of Moline’s response focused on calling out the system, her first few words ring equally true – ‘What you have to do first is examine your motives of going internationally…”

Examine your motives. Examine your enthusiasm. Examine your savior complex. Examine your faith. Or maybe I should say, the Christian theological language you’re using to make your desire sound like faith.

What Is God Up To?: Thoughts On Scripture & Interpretation

Last year there was an uproar among more fundamentalist strands of the Christian Church when President Barack Obama came out in support of marriage equality. The Sunday following Obama’s interview with Robin Roberts many parishioners heard sermons reaffirming the Church’s traditional (read, dominating/mainstream) stance on marriage: “marriage between one man and one woman.”

While the uproar was common among conservative Christian communities in general, the story dominating mainstream media was one of conflict between President Obama and the black community – specifically “The Black Church.” It seemed like every news network quickly summoned their token black conservative religious pundit to talk about why “The Black Church” was standing against Obama in his support of marriage equality.

Less than 24 hours after Obama’s announcement mainstream media made it seem like all black people were united in their conservative, Bible-thumping antagonism toward Obama. For a short period, things quieted down a bit: Obama had taken his stance, the black conservative religious guard had taken theirs, and both parties went their own ways. Then reality hit. And that reality is, The Black Church is not a monolithic phenomenon: when we are honest, we talk about black churchES as opposed to THE black church. All black religious leaders were not against Obama’s newfound affirmation of marriage equality.

Rev. Al Sharpton was among the first of black religious leaders to respond to conservative Black pastors and their opposition to Obama: because everyone knows you can’t have black religious drama without hearing from the good reverend. Sharpton – whose track record suggests that he’s politically progressive and religiously ambiguous on marriage equality – nuanced the conversation in ways that relied on neo-separation-of-church-and-state arguments, calling for people to interrogate their religious conservatism and how they were using it in the civil society.

The central concern for mainstream media seemed to be how Obama’s stance on marriage equality would affect him come election time. In the media’s reporting, and even in Sharpton’s response to his conservative colleagues, the theological dynamics fueling the fire were seldom discussed. At the end of the day, the primary concern was the black voter turn out in November.

***

Although this conversation about black (Christian) voters was the loudest one being had, the theological dynamics of the conversation were being had in (black) churches across the country, albeit without much depth in many cases. The religious communities I found myself in at the time were working hard to build the case for their understanding of marriage – again, between a man and a woman. Often times fear mongering was used to create this notion that the church was now, in some way, under attack by the liberal society. Indeed, many fundamentalists doubled down on previous religious convictions refusing to move at all.

But again, this theologically conservative response was not the only one being given by black religious leaders. The Sunday morning following Obama’s interview, I chose not to attend a church service to avoid the inevitable hyper-religious psychobabble.  I tuned into Trinity United Church of Christ live stream instead and heard Rev. Otis Moss, III read a letter he’d written to a colleague regarding the question of President Obama’s stance on marriage equality and the response from black churches.

What is most striking about Moss’s shared letter for my concerns herein is the fact that he began to publicly wrestle with the theological assumptions and scriptural interpretations undergirding the conservative opposition to Obama. While portions of Moss’s letter were, like Sharpton’s plea, concerned with voter turn out in November, he pushes the dialogue a bit further. Moss not only challenges the unnamed colleague to whom he is writing to support Obama politically in November, but Moss also challenges the colleague to wrestle with her/his religious convictions.

Moss diagnoses the real problem at hand. For Moss, the problem is not that Obama came out in support of marriage equality, but that religious leaders (white, black, and brown alike) were – and still are – failing to truly wrestle with the faith claims they make and how those faith claims are lived out in the world. Moss said:

“When we make biblical claims without sound interpretation we adopt doctrinal positions devoid of the love ethic. Deep faith may resonate in our position: but the ethic of love will always force you to reexamine and prayerfully reconsider your position.”

This gets to the heart of the question that I want to raise herein. In Mashaun’s first post on The Parking Lot Blog he wrestled with the question, “Even if the Bible is clear on homosexuality, does that mean God is as well?”  Mashaun’s post gave much attention to the latter half of his question – “…does that mean God is as well?” I would like to give a bit of attention to the first half of the question he raises – i.e., the place the Bible holds in our faith and the way we interpret it.

***

To be clear, the end goal of this post is not to get people to jump on the marriage equality bandwagon or to establish a Christian ethic of sexuality, per se. Though it may be unclear at this point, my concern is one of scriptural interpretation. Nevertheless, I would like to tarry here a little longer as I think this particular debate lends itself to my point of concern. Thusly, I offer one more example from this dialogue to help further explore the point I’m trying to make.

On August 6, 2012 Dr. Brad Braxton, pastor of The Open Church (Baltimore, Maryland), went on record in an interview with Houston Style Magazine as a black pastor supporting marriage equality.[1] For me and the faith community I call my home church, this one hit a little closer to home. Dr. Braxton taught for a brief time in the city of my home church. During his time there, he was a somewhat regular attendee of my home church and even preached a few times. Fully aware that people would be discussing this – particularly people in my city/church of origin –  I posted a link to the interview on Facebook with the following quote from the interview:

“African Americans historically have been a ‘jazz people’ as it relates to the interpretation of the Bible. For the sake of justice and peace, we have often engaged in an ‘improvisational riff’ on the Bible and not stuck to the literal notes on the page. We are not literal when it comes to many other topics the Bible addresses, but we want to be hyper-literal when addressing LGBT people and issues. Churches need to be more honest and less hypocritical…”

Fairly quickly a minister colleague from my home church posted the following response:

“Let’s not forget what’s stated in Romans 1:24-28. God is against same sex marriage without a doubt. Just because a man states the opposite of God does not make the man right!!! No matter how educated he or she is in the word, God is always right!!!”

Another minister colleague posted a response shortly thereafter with similar sentiments drawing distinctions between the academy and the church. He also claimed he would value “foolishness” over “wisdom” if what Dr. Braxton was offering was indeed wisdom. He cited 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 as scriptural support.

Most interesting about both responses was the improvisational nature of each of their claims.  Specifically, in Romans 1:24-28 the Bible does not say what my colleague wanted it to. For me, there is nothing saying “God is against same sex marriage without a doubt” in the passage, but you can read it for yourself and draw your own conclusion. My point is, utilizing the exegetical tools he knew of, my colleague made an interpretive move to draw a conclusion that wasn’t necessarily spelled out explicitly in the scriptural text he referenced. At least not how he wanted it to be.

[Beat.] Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not attempting to make the Bible this happy-go-lucky book that is not problematic. I am also not attempting to separate the Bible from its histories of interpretation. There are texts that talk about slaves submitting to their masters, women submitting to men (specifically, wives to husbands), women keeping silent in the church, and humans dominating creation. In the same way, there are a few texts that explicitly speak against sexual relations between persons of the same sex – normally men – as they were experienced in the time of the biblical writers. And a few more that have a tradition of being read through a homophobic/heteronormative lens. Yep, these things are in the Bible!

However, I am not one of these, “God said it, I believe, that settles it” type of Christians. At least not when it comes to interpreting scripture. Nothing irks me more than hearing ministers preach sexist, racist, heteronormative, etc. sermons only to follow them up with comments like, “Don’t get mad at me! I didn’t write it, I just read it!” Maybe that’s part of the problem? The fact of the matter is the Bible doesn’t have some magical power that relinquishes readers of their interpretive responsibility.

On the flip side, I’m also not one of these lock-step liberal type Christians who’d throw the scriptures out in favor of some lovey-dovey-mush-mush God. One must not be liberal over-against scripture, one can be – should be liberal in the name of scripture. Scripture is always authoritative in Christian life and must be taken into account at every turn. However, authoritative does not equal normative (HT – LTJ, Candler). The Bible does not function like, let’s say, the U.S. Constitution. It’s not a legal code that outlines laws for how we are to live, at least not all of it. It’s not even the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth as email forwards that have been circulating since the 1990s try to convince us. It’s much more complex than that!

Even folks who claim to “speak when the Bible speaks” are interpreting the Bible; granted, they are interpreting it in ways consistent with the dominant historical interpretation/narrative of the Church. The point is, at some point in history someone made a decision to interpret a text a certain way. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing:  interpretation is how scripture gets its life. However, the words of scripture don’t always directly correlate to the language we use today. Furthermore, the context of the biblical writers and our current context are drastically different.

Does that mean there is no word from God for our current situation? Absolutely not!

It means we have to do a little more homework to investigate what’s at the heart of the scriptures we read as opposed to taking them at face value. The words don’t do the homework for us. To further Dr. Braxton’s jazz metaphor, the ‘notes’ don’t come to life by themselves. The notes come to life when someone reads them, breathes into the instrument, and plays them; when the Holy Spirit breaks into our reading and studying and breathes life into our interpretation. Every person who picks up the Bible – from the pulpit, to the choir stand, to the back door – must consider our priestly task of making the words (‘notes’) on the pages come to life.

As I take my seat…[2]

We must realize and/or remember that the Bible is not prescriptive for defining life with God, but descriptive.  I recently came across a blog post by Rachel Held Evans titled, “In Search of a Better Conversation About Biblical Womanhood, Part 1”.  In the blog post, Evans wrestles with some of the pressures that some evangelical Christian communities put on women through ‘biblical expectations’. At the end of the post, Evans writes:

And yet “biblical womanhood” hangs so heavy over the heads of Christian women that many live in nearly constant fear of disappointing their husbands, their children, or their God.

At the root of the problem is the fact that we have grown accustomed to using the word “biblical” prescriptively (to mean, “what God wants”) rather than descriptively (to mean, “that which is found in the Bible”). We have forgotten that behind every claim to a biblical lifestyle or ideology lies a complex set of assumptions regarding interpretation and application.

When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick [it] in front of another loaded word (like “womanhood,” “politics,” “economics,” and “marriage”) more often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.

Indeed, when we make the Bible some prescriptive tool for how we live or what God wants, we misuse – I might even say, abuse – it.  When used properly the Bible should be a guide for how we live. We should read it, not to figure out what God has said, but in order to figure what God is currently saying in light of what has already been said.

The word and work of creation is ongoing. God is still speaking today. Creation is still happening today. God creates our world in every moment. Not only does scripture have the power of revelation, but also every moment of every day bears within it the potential for creation and revelation. It is our responsibility to figure out how (the word of) God is speaking to us today.

I’m going to my seat now, but before I go…

There is one key thing to consider in all our interpretive efforts; and this is particularly for folks leery of interpreting scripture. In the words of Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson in a lecture at Candler School of Theology, “If you’re a Christian, you are already re-reading scripture.” Christianity is an attempt to re-read Jewish scripture in a way that includes Gentiles in light of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament we see the practical and difficult ways folks attempt to work through this seeming contradiction.

Specifically, The Acts of the Apostles recounts the very torturous path of the first Jews who decided to include the Gentiles. Their question –  “How do we include these heathens in a holy people?”  This question forced the community to ask a follow up question –  “What is God up to?”

Today, as we interpret scripture and attempt to live lives in response to God, we’re in the business of asking the same question – what is God up to?

Our interpretation can be backward-looking, assuming that God has spoken and speaks no more; trying to force our context into that of the Bible’s. Deep faith may very well be grounding the interpretation. But I ask, deep faith to what? To whom? Ourselves? The Bible? A certain worldview?

On the flip side, our interpretation can be open to the ‘improvisational riffs’ of the Spirit of the living God – the God who is still speaking. For this Christian, at the end of the day, obedience to the living God trumps scripture every time for the name of our Lord is truth, not tradition.[3]


[1] If you don’t want to read Dr. Braxton’s interview you can watch another interview with PBS where he echoes and expands some of the points from his interview with Houston Style Magazine.

[2] Folks raised in a black Bapthodicostal church know what that means. The rest of y’all gone learn today…

[3] Hat Tip: LTJ, again.

Olivia Pope and the Scandal of Representation

Sorry I’ve been quiet lately, friends. Please check out this piece I wrote for The Feminist Wire.

Here’s a quote from the piece:

“In most episodes Pope is little more than a political mammy mixed with a hint of Sapphire who faithfully bears the burden of the oh-so-fragile American Political System on her shoulders. The mammy characterization has always had the goal of redeeming the relationship between black women and the white people whom they serve, particularly in the slave economy. Post-slavery, the mammy image has been repackaged time and time again in order to imbed itself within an every shifting culture. Pope is one of the latest manifestations of this characterization. Similar to how the mammy of slavery was normally portrayed as neat, clean, and well-dressed; she understands the inner-workings of the massah’s house; Olivia Pope is neat, clean, and well-dressed; she understands the inner-workings of massah’s house – The White House, and tirelessly works behind the scenes to ensure the house continues to function as expected. Furthermore, just as the mammy stereotype would have us believe, Pope is happy with her life of service to the good white folks running the country.”

And one more:

“Olivia Pope is actually a supporting actress in Scandal. The American Political System takes center stage and sets the tone of every episode. It is quite easy to miss if one isn’t looking for it. Because the show wants us to believe that Kerry Washington’s character is the protagonist – the great black female hope – the trut protagonist cannot be embodied as a white man as it normally would. So instead the American Political System – with its foundation of imperialism and white patriarchal reasoning – is very subtly casted as the invisible protagonist.”

To read more click here: Olivia Pope and the Scandal of Representation.