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Posted in: Christianity,General,Is This The New Face of Religion?,Is This The New Face of Rock?,Protest by Tom Beaudoin on October 10, 2012
In the Chronicle Review, part of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Timothy Beal recently wrote a terrific piece displaying the substantial theological account of their actions left by the band Pussy Riot, who were recently sentenced to two years in prison in Russia — allegedly as punishment for their punk-rock protest. Michael Iafrate at R&T on the topic here. Wiki here.
Video of the “offending” event here:
Madonna, in Russia, defending Pussy Riot: “They have done something courageous. They have paid the price. I pray for their freedom.”
In his article, Beal very helpfully focuses on the way in which Pussy Riot’s theological claims are rooted in Pauline writings about paradoxes, like the notion of holy foolishness (1 Corinthians), as they connect to Russian culture.
As I read Beal’s summary of Pussy Riot’s statements, I also detected echoes of Jesus’ consolations or blessings (or “beatitudes”) in the gospel of Matthew (5:10-11) in Tolokonnikova’s assertion that “We are reviled, but we do not intend to speak evil in return.” (This also seems to be a mashup with Jesus in Matthew 5:39, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”) Tolokonnikova takes this “beatitude” style of Matthew 5, as it is often called, and riffs on it: “We are in desperate
Posted in: Christianity,Is This The New Face of Religion?,Politics,Protest by Michael Iafrate on August 19, 2012
I was extremely disappointed to read Margaret O’Brien Steinfels’ dismissal of the Pussy Riot “brouhaha” over at dotCommonweal, but perhaps not very surprised. (Tom wrote about PR’s “punk prayer” protest here back in April. This past Friday, PR was sentenced to two years in prison.)
I have very little to add to the critique offered by Bridget, a Ph.D. candidate at Notre Dame, in “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Become a Feminist” at Women in Theology. While acknowledging the legitimacy of critiquing Pussy Riot’s protest on tactical grounds, Bridget rightly flags O’Brien Steinfels’ language as “not merely critical [...] but dismissive and gendered”: (more…)
Posted in: General,News Items,Politics,Protest by Tom Beaudoin on July 29, 2012
I recommend Bill Moyers’ excellent recent interview with renowned journalist and author Christopher Hedges. They discuss Hedges’ research on the ways that corporations’ and the US government’s widespread, unchecked, and nearly invincible capitalist commitments, have reached a new and deeply troubling apex of wreaking economic, social, and political devastation in the United States. They also discuss Hedges’ “faith” and what resistance to the dehumanizing effects of greed in our society means today. Hedges comes around to what he calls a theological point: the neglect of “the neighbor” in this society.
Here is the interview:
In recent years, I have grown more persuaded by analyses like Hedges’, as I take further stock of the perpetual war economy, the aggregation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, the deep difficulties of most families in meeting basic necessities for surviving and thriving in life while maintaining a healthy family life, and the violence and human diminishment that our participation in the everyday economy–joining “us” to impoverished workers around the world–propagates.
Hedges calls for massive nonviolent resistance, and is untroubled by questions about its short-term effectiveness. He seems to return again and again to the question of duty, to what one must do in order not to betray oneself, whether or not the system is overturned in his/our lifetime. He also focuses continually on the matter of telling the truth about the world.
I think that however we construe the relationship between theology and music, the basic question about how we are being made
Posted in: Agnosticism,Atheism,Christianity,General,Protest,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on May 31, 2012
Students of popular music and theology learn two things quickly: first, that religion, faith and spirituality have had a lot to do with the origins and ongoing vitality of rock and roll; second, that rock and roll has sometimes had critical, negative, dismissive and otherwise derogatory things to say about religion, faith and spirituality. I think that both aspects of this relationship are important for grasping popular music and theology in some depth.
This thought came to me today after I did an interview for a news organization writing a story on the latest round of conflicts between U.S. Catholic bishops and those who disagree with them about Catholicism’s public stances on contraception, religious freedom, and Catholicism itself. The interview focused on my interpretation of an ad by the Freedom From Religion Foundation strongly criticizing the Catholic Church and inviting Catholics to leave.
During and after the interview, I thought about how understandably difficult it can be for religions and religious people to hear criticism, especially blunt criticism, of what is held dear. I know what it is like to react defensively and dismissively when it feels like someone is trying to pull the rug I know and love out from under me. This is especially true if the very way that criticism is communicated contradicts “appropriate” forms of address.
All of this put me in mind of the song “Judith,” by A Perfect Circle.
It is probably very hard not to hear this song as a blunt attack on Christianity. Here are the lyrics as taken from the Perfect Circle website, and I’ve added a few in brackets that are sung but not listed here:
Posted in: General,News Items,Protest by Tom Beaudoin on May 3, 2012
On Mayday, I was in the parks and streets of Manhattan for #M1GS, the May 1st General Strike, a daylong gathering called by a coalition of dozens of labor organizations. Like many, I was there under many motivations: as a participant in Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Faith NYC, as a member of the labor union and advocacy organization the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and as a theologian. I joined tens of thousands in New York City and around the country, and hundreds of thousands around the world. I noticed workers of all kinds, labor union members, Occupiers, community organizers, seasoned activists, first-time participants, and all manner of allies who cheered us on from the sidewalks, fire escapes, and opened windows in the tall buildings along the march route.
There were apparently a few dozen arrests, though I did not personally see any over the course of seven hours. (Nor could I afford to get too close if things got too hot, because I needed to be free to teach the next day.) I arrived in the early afternoon at Bryant Park to find a thousand or so people getting warmed up with teach-ins, leafletting, conversations, sign-making, and picture-taking. There were also dozens of people carrying guitars (and a few basses and banjos), rehearsing for the Occupy Guitarmy, an all-volunteer guitar ensemble led by renowned rock guitarist Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine and now The Nightwatchman.
I was concerned because I thought that a thousand or so people would be a poor turnout for such a hyped-up event as this General Strike. But things changed quickly.
Around 2:00, we began marching to Union Square Park, and arrived there about 75 minutes later. As we marched, more people began joining in, and by the time we go to Union Square, there were many thousands more waiting for us. And people kept streaming in from all sides for the next couple hours. Tom Morello and a contingent from the Occupy Guitarmy played a few songs…
(Note: video contains a few obscenities, heartily sung)
…there were brief speeches about solidarity and economic justice from people representing different labor organizations, and there was plenty of Latin music to aerate everyone’s spirits in preparation for the long march to Wall Street.
A couple dozen members of Occupy Faith NYC gathered near the Gandhi statue in the park, where I joined them, and around 5:30 we began to move in a march with some 30,000+ people down Broadway all the way to lower Manhattan, a slow journey that took some three hours.
As the thousands of different banners, placards, signs, tattoos, shirts, headgear, songs and chants avowed, there was no single reason for being there, but I think it is fair to say that a great many of those gathered could endorse two basic theological statements: negatively, the market is not God; positively,
For the New York Times, Ginia Bellafante has recently written this article relating the Catholic Worker to Occupy.
R&T readers who are interested in these matters should know that Occupy, in conjunction with dozens of other organizations dedicated to the equitable sharing of social resources, is calling for a General Strike in the United States on May 1.
For more information, see the latest from the Occupy Wall Street website here, or the MayDay NYC website here, or the InterOccupy site for various May Day General Strike cities here. Occupy Catholics are here.
Rock guitar wizard Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine and many other collaborations, will be leading a “Guitarmy” on May 1st in NYC as part of the General Strike. Information on the Guitarmy is here.
Here is Morello on #OWS:
As I have mentioned many times here at R&T, various artists and spiritual teachers have endorsed
Posted in: Christianity,General,News Items,Protest by Tom Beaudoin on April 10, 2012
Some R&T readers may be following this story about the Russian punk (Riot-Grrrl-inspired) band, Pussy Riot, and their February “punk prayer service” protest against Putin in a cathedral in Moscow, as a way of protesting (among other items) the close link between church and state of late in Russia. This is a rare example of a band staging a protest in a church. At least some of its members were jailed immediately and have not yet been released.
Here is some video apparently from the protest, where they apparently performed their song, “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Expel Putin!”
In many cultures, attempting to occupy a church for a political protest, especially one undertaken with electric guitars, conjures up a powerful symbolic conflict, with allegations of desecration and sacrilege not far behind. The exact contents of that symbolic conflict in Russia, I don’t know, but if it bears any resemblance to Western countries, it would have to do with an imaginary of self-assertion or aggression, license and sexuality on the one side, and an imaginary of peace, order, hierarchy, and respectability on the other.
Posted in: General,Protest,Theological Production by Tom Beaudoin on April 5, 2012
Theologians in the academy today often work with official religious texts as sources for intellectual production, and we tend to treat other potential sources (like art) as misrecognized books, as texts in nontextual form.
But I have become convinced that such an approach to theology, uninterrupted by the complexities of the socio-cultural-political effects of theological discourse, tends toward decadence (albeit sometimes useful academic promotion for the particular theologian). That is a “bad” kind of decadence, not a “good” kind, because it proceeds to pile up research that selectively buttresses the reproduction of one form of life (academic), at the expense of other learning and other interventions that impact the cultural worlds that produce the texts in the first place, that academics later use for our theological surgeries.
This is a convoluted way of saying that, due to academic socialization among other things, we have a difficult time understanding where our work comes from and what it is for. I count myself among those caught in these thickets and have tried in recent years especially to explore and resist that particular kind of theological decadence.
As one alternative, we can turn to the streets and see what people want to hear and what musicians want to play. And work theologically from there in a way that does not immaturely discard a tradition, but resituates it critically with respect to the present. Just today, I read in America magazine that the International Theological Commission recently put out a study titled “Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria,” which includes the statement that “Theology should strive to discover and articulate accurately what the Catholic faithful actually believe.” As the America editors write, “dialogue with the world is a distinguishing characteristic of theology today.” (Note to self: write a future post on going beyond the ‘church-world’ polarity in descriptions of theological research.)
A few suggestions about where to look for how people are finding material that is of theological significance “on the street”: Here are two examples of popular musicians playing recently at Occupy events.
First is Tom Morello and Ben Harper and “I Believe There’s a Better Way.” An anthem that manages to be both aggressive and demure, calling on a yes to a world that perhaps cannot even be envisioned. In a word, hope:
The Occupy movement is about to turn four months old, and already is planning a host of events for 2012. (See Occupy Together and InterOccupy for news on the larger movement, and Occupy Wall Street for NYC-related developments.) Occupy Together lists 1508 Occupy sites globally. Some of those are physical occupations with tents and the like, while many have been evicted and exist for the moment as meetups and planning groups that focus on events and periodic gatherings. Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page has over 360,000 followers and continues to grow daily. Just this week, Occupy Nigeria (new Facebook here) has been in the news.
In the United States, the movement is entering its second phase in most places, beyond the intense initial fervor and international publicity about campsites, and under the challenges of winter weather in some parts of the country. There is hope among many activists for a robust springtime of events, which will roll into a heady summer and crescendo in 2012 with the fall elections.
As readers may know, I have been involved with Occupy Wall Street from early on, and with Occupy Faith NYC (Facebook here, website here), an interdenominational/interfaith/interreligious group that supports Occupy. A meeting of some Occupy faith/religious/spiritual leaders from around the USA took place in NYC recently, and there may be another coming up in March on the West Coast. In short, though Occupy may have faded from front page news coverage, the movement continues, though it clearly faces challenges.
Here are the top five challenges I see for Occupy in 2012, in no particular order:
Posted in: Christianity,General,Protest by Tom Beaudoin on December 20, 2011
As the media have reported the last few weeks, there has been tension between many in Occupy Wall Street, as well a good number of religious leaders in Occupy Faith NYC, on the one hand, and Trinity Wall Street on the other. Trinity is a venerable Episcopal church at the end of Wall Street in lower Manhattan. Occupy has been asking Trinity for use of its lot at 6th and Canal, next to Duarte Park, as a site for the next stage of Occupy Wall Street after our eviction from Zuccotti Park in November. (This would not simply be a repeat of Zuccotti; Occupy has plans for a different kind of ongoing occupation, with advance plans for security and sanitation, among many other aspects.)
On Saturday I was part of a protest that sought to draw further attention to the appeal to Trinity – as part of the larger drawing of attention to injustice in economic policies in the United States and beyond that has been central to Occupy from the beginning. Several dozen among the protesters went over the fence into Trinity’s property, in a nonviolent symbolic occupation, and were promptly arrested. Among those arrested were clergy and at least one religious, including an Episcopal bishop, a Catholic priest, a Catholic sister, and other clergy and religious leaders, as well as other lay protesters with or without any particular connection to religion.
This is a conflict with multiple reasons given on both sides for their stances.
If I might inadequately summarize the primary positions taken by each side:Next Page »