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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Surviving A Dark, White Thanksgiving

What is a dark, white Thanksgiving? It occurs when a snowstorm knocks out the power at the place you are staying for Thanksgiving. And that is what occurred to our three families as we were celebrating Thanksgiving in New York. And I survived that Thanksgiving with no thanks to me. When things like the power going off for a prolonged period of time, it was 28 hours for us, I turn into an Oscar The Grouch Curmudgeon. So as the wife, the sister in-law of the East, and her husband did a wonderful job at cooking Thanksgiving dinner using a charcoal grill and a propane fueled camper cooker, I remained quietly skeptical.

However, the lights came back Thanksgiving night and we could prepare for our next day in the city. That would feature a concert at Carnegie Hall with the nephew's orchestra and a young people's, ages from 10 to 21, string orchestra from Brazil. The nephew's orchestra played very well, but a very pleasant surprise came when the orchestra from Brazil played. Their name was the Orquestra Instituto GPA (click here for the event) and they combined humor, choreographic playings of stringed instruments, vocals, and, last but not least, passion and they put that into their playing of several forms of music from classical to pop. What they did was to go outside rigid definitions of how to musically perform in order to play music the way it should be played.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Carnegie Hall, we ran into protesters expressing solidarity with the residents of Ferguson and with all who suffer abuse at the hands of our authorities. Our first encounter with them was at Times Square where they were demonstrating at a bit of a distance from us. But after dinner, as we were walking to Carnegie Hall, the protesters joined us on the sidewalk we were traveling on so that, in essence, we were walking with the protesters because they joined us.

It is unfortunate that many of my Reformed Christian friends were not there to talk with these protesters. Because in talking with them, they might learn more about why the failure to indict Darren Wilson caused them to take to the streets. In one sense, this is unfortunate because things were framed so that Wilson had to be indicted for some of the people from Ferguson and America to feel that their grievances were being heard. Such a situation robs Wilson of a chance for a fair trial. But, then again, if the shooting of Michael Brown was an isolated incident of an unarmed Black man being shot by police, the failure to indict Wilson would not have caused ruckus.  The shooting of Michael Brown is one of many times unarmed Blacks have been shot by the police. And there are other ways in which some police have abused their power.

So perhaps, the way to address Ferguson's grievances, as well as the complaints of many minorities across the nation, is not to write about it from the comfort of one's own home or office. Perhaps, just perhaps, the way to find a solution here is to go to the people of Ferguson and communities like it to listen to the people's grievances. But that is something that many Conservative Christians, especially those from the Reformed  Faith, refuse to do.

Why do they refuse to listen to the people most affected by bigotry and police abuse? It is because too many of us Conservative Christians have too often applied a Mathematical approach to Practical Theological issues so that we use our readings and sacred formulas to determine what the people in communities like Ferguson experience and what should be done to remedy their situation. It is us outsiders who are telling the people of Ferguson what they must do to solve their problems without even listening to their side of the story. We could call the overuse of a Mathematical approach to Practical Theology 'Theomatics.' It is based on the idea that the Scriptures trump experience in interpreting reality. But our problem becomes that it isn't just the Scriptures that obtain such authority, so do all of our pet theories and theologies as well. And the more we practice Theomatics, the less need we feel to talk with and listen to others regarding what is happening in the world. After all, if not only the Scriptures, but all of our theories and theologies can be used to interpret reality, then what need do we have to listen to others? In fact, why do we need to experience life ourselves when our theologies and theories can explain it? 

Yes, the Scriptures do interpret life and reality better than our experiences do. But the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, weren't written in a way so that we could write a specific, concrete rule for each situation and decision. So to think otherwise pushes one to attempt to write a New Testament version of the book of Leviticus.

Just as my preconceived notions on how turkeys could and could not be cooked was proven wrong by experience and the skill of my brother in-law who is an excellent cook. And just as a preconceived, classical approach to playing music could never enable the Orquestra Instituto GPA of Brazil from playing all kinds of music in a fuller way. So our Theomatics can neither tell us what the people in communities like Ferguson are experiencing nor how to address their grievances. Rather, before we deductively calculate our solutions for Ferguson and others, we need to listen its residents. Then just perhaps, together we can find some solutions.




2 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are many opinions that we would get from black communities.Approaching this is complex because there is more than one voice within that community.My voice has always been one of a no-race or every race person.In all this what happens to Asians,mixed race people and those who are black who are not ANYONES stereotypes.We do not need race identity that is prevalent in every racial subdivide.There are those within the black urban community who are struggling for there lives against gang-bangers.Perhaps they belong to a group that can be called 'Above Race People'.Keep in mind that this person of Arab descent came from S. Jamaica Queens,earned an MS Ed. coming from a broken home. Once the "left" railed against racial division,but that sentiment got weakened. We need jobs first and foremost and to listen to ALL the voices of black America.They are fed up with all the race baiters,gangsta culture,and embracing bad stereotypes.More black cops ae needed in these areas,so that there are no wite cops acting alone in a way that lets them get away with racist conduct.We need better screening and training to weed out racists ,sociopaths,the impulsive and those with race hatred.Mini-cameras are needed ASAP to record all police action.Black voices that are promoting racial holy war really need to shut up.David Duke's KKK and Farakkhan NOI actually have met and agree on a plan to divide the nation into separate racial states!. We need to end ALL outsourcing of jobs ,and get a living wage.There are black people sick and tired of gangsta culture and they are damn angry with it and white folk who think there is something cool about gangsta-rap culture.I worked over 20 year in poverty black areas,and classrooms and education were being destroyed by a violent element.That element seeks race war instead of meaningful employment which can come with ending all outsourcing of jobs to non-citzens which is also known as wage slavery---bare subsistence wages,no healthcare or safety.Manufacture items here with at least a minimum wage and a subsidy to small businesses.All corporate gangsters need to do time with the urban gangstas!This is the way to reduce violence,hate,and unfairness and using ''race'' as any excuse.

Curt Day said...

To Anonymous,
You make some good points, but realize the following:

1. The reaction by the residents of Ferguson and their sympathizers is to the abuse of power exercised by the police and other authorities.

2. That just as there are many opinions in the Black community, there are multiple approaches taken by those on the Left. Some, just as their counterparts on the right, believe in elite-centred rule. Other believe in extended, bottom-up democracy. The blogpost you responded to is written from the perspective of the latter group. And the point is that we need to listen to the people who are expressing grievances lest we support either Left or Right elite-centered rule.

We should also note that both you and I see that some of the problems stem from the economic system. We will have somewhat different approaches to changing the economic conditions that contribute to the problem.

We should also note that we both agree that there are multiple problems for those who live in communities like Ferguson. And what should be examined is how those other problems reflect the systems used to maintain the status quo.