Days of Rage, the Book

Recently, I came across the book, Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, by Bryan Burrough. Based upon a book review by David Hines that is thick with detail, Days of Rage is a definite add to my reading list.

days of rage

Political violence in the U.S. did not begin in the 1970s, or escalate in virulence during that period. America was birthed in revolutionary violence. One hundred years later there was a war between the States that capped off the previous centuries’ violence against African and indigenous people, with mass White on White violence. One hundred years after that war, the brutal violence of 1960s America included regular bombings throughout the South, including a church bombing that killed four young girls, as well as assassination of a President of the United States.

The most intriguing aspect of the violence accounted for in Days of Rage, then, is the framing of the political violence of the 1970s as violence that is not conducted by and for White people, but as organized violence in furtherance of Black liberation. According to the Hines book review, Days of Rage links the culture of violent resistance in the 1970s to the activism of Robert Williams, Malcolm X (though he died in 1965), Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Huey Newton, and Eldridge Cleaver. Black men who, no doubt influenced by the recent revolutionary struggles for liberation and decolonization in Africa, pursued Black liberation in the U.S. using the traditional American means of violence.

I would say, then, that the revolutionary anti-colonialist struggles of Black people globally was indirectly connected to the American White mainstream’s anti-imperialist opposition to the war in Vietnam in the late sixties, and was directly connected to the violent struggle for Black liberation in the U.S. in the 1970s, which was, in turn, directly related to the American Right’s doubling down on asserting dominance and control over Brown people internationally, and Black people domestically from the 1980s onward. (Evidence of this doubling down being found in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, which efficiently communicated the dual message of America’s behooved subjugation of both “Third World” people and Black people. This was the first iteration of Making White America Great Again, you might say.)

The unremembered history of the violence of 1970s America not only provides much needed context for the ascendancy of the Reagan Right, but helps to explain the entrenchment of pacifism that occurred among academic theologians during this time period. As Martin Luther King, Jr. points out in his Letter from Birmingham Jail of 1963, most White theologians of this era were so constrained by a culture of White supremacy that they denounced even nonviolent activism by Black people, in deference to the maintenance of White “order.” If White Theology was passively, yet adamantly, nonaligned with Black people’s nonviolent resistance during the 1960s, then the violent resistance of Black people during the 1970s could have no other effect than to elicit an actively staunch opposition from White Theology.

I am looking forward to reading Days of Rage. I think it will be instructive in many different ways, not least of which will be aiding my understanding of the limits of what Black rage will accomplish.

 

#sweetjesus & Womanist Theology

Since, unlike most people my age, I don’t have a spouse or children whose exploits I might publicly share, I have decided to share with the world the absolutely wondrous relationship that I have with Jesus. After making this decision, it seemed, I had more thoughts of things to say about my #sweetjesus than I had time to write down.

Sin: A Clarification

SIN Pic

Listening to hymns this morning, I heard an old song that included this refrain: “I’m so glad He took my sins away. He took my sins away.” Though the sentiment the song expresses is meant to be fully in line with orthodoxy, the lyrics themselves struck me as espousing faulty theology.

The lyrics reminded me that there is a good deal of talk about sin that leads to a lack of clarity with respect to what we believe. Here, then, is my clarification of what we mean when we talk about sin.

There is a categorical distinction to maintain between the noun “sin” and the noun “sins.” Just as there is a difference between the concepts of light and lights.

Sin is the spiritual-genetic trait that all humanity inherited from our first parents. Sin is a spiritual-genetic trait that is ultimately fatal. Jesus’ work on the cross is the cure for this spiritual-genetic defect. By Christ’s atoning act, our sin condition is cured.

It is this sin condition, which affects us like a traumatic brain injury, that makes us people who commit sins. Sin contorts our thoughts and intentions, our desires and our deeds. However, since our sin condition has been cured, sin no longer has to drive our being in the world. Though we can still engage in sins ( in other words we can “sin” (verb)), we can also NOT engage in sins.  The end of sin, resulting in the power to not sin (verb), is the gift that we celebrate when we talk about our gain from Christ’s sacrifice.

The trouble is that the habit of committing sins (sinning), passed down from generation to generation like language, is easy to continue in, and seemingly impossible to quit. These habits, like our first languages, feel natural to our lives.  We began in them before we were born, while we were in our mothers’ wombs.  Despite feeling natural, and pervasive, though, committing sins is habit only. Habit that, because of Christ, can be unlearned and resisted.

To return to the lyrics of the hymn, it would be a better expression of why we are joyful, to exchange the word “sins” for the word “sin” in this hymn.  “I’m so glad he took my SIN away. He took my SIN away.” Our sin is gone. Our sins we will work on being rehabilitated from committing throughout our lives on earth.