Great Book on Strom Thurmond

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As noted on this blog before, by 1980, a major shift transpired in which Ronald Reagan swept the South and the rest of the nation in a promise of restoring conservatism. Much of this promise was born on Reagan’s promise to reduce the size of the government, and to restore social order brought about during the decades of the 1960s and the 1970s. Again, much of the progress during the 60s and the 70s were aimed at aiding gays/lesbians and racial minorities. Many southerners today are simply a product of political realignment. Thus, they once embraced Jim Crow policies until federal legislation and the Supreme Court deemed it illegal. Conservatives reacted to the forced political actions of the federal government by seeking conservative candidates who would embrace the ideology of states’ rights. In 1980, Reagan clearly endorsed this position, which was clear by his objection to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; it was his position that the federal government could not legislate discrimination among civilians. Joe Crespino argues the relationship between the Republican Party of today and the Christian Right began under Strom Thurmond. This emergence took hold in advance of the rise of Barry Goldwater and Reagan. Crespino’s book is simply fantastic.

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Summer Writing Part II

I am amazed at the amount of interesting sources that exist on WEB Du Bois and the American frontier; I would not claim that all said sources are explicit, however, they do move this patient reader in an interesting direction. While I continue to study years of sources related to Du Bois’s writings and those related to the African-American conditioning, I get more and more excited about what I will find. While working on this book, I am also cataloging references and primary sources that expand the Du Boisian discussion, African Americans, and general notion of the Western frontier towards a more grand synthesis of manifest destiny. The initial aim here is set on a regional historical conference out West next summer.

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Mark Elrod and UCA

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I have written and posted about professor Mark Elrod before, thus this post is not a surprise. I am excited that he will be joining the Political Science department at the University of Central Arkansas. After being on faculty at Harding University for some 26 years, I support his desire to seek a new challenge. Academic diversity is what makes academic life so great. He was by far one of my favorite instructors. If you are not lazy, you will love him; if you are lazy, you will still love him, but you will find that he holds high expectations. So, for the folks at UCA, here are just a few things to expect:

1. A brilliant man.
2. A person who will listen and value your thoughts and opinions, regardless if he disagrees with you.
3. He will challenge you to articulate why you think the way you think about any purported theory or fact
4. Hard worker. ME, as he is called, always arrives to class ready to engage students. He will model scholarship. I just hope to serve on another panel with him or get a chance to co-author a paper with him.
5. Tough classes. Feel free to avoid reading your text, writing those papers, and showing up to class; if you do, bring the drop card ASAP. His exams are thought provoking and difficult — as they should be.
6. Participate. Unlike too many folks who like to hear themselves talk, particularly those at Harding, ME welcomes dialogue.
7. He is in demand. He was by far one of the most popular people at Harding University. Thus, when you can, go by his office and just talk. Better yet, he is a big coffee drinker.
8. If you make a mistake, just apologize and move on. He is great when it comes to second chances.
9. Most important, he is a VERY good man. He is human like all of us, but he is a great person.

I and many others are Mark Elrod fans.

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Summer Writing Part I

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It feels great outside!!! Spending my morning analyzing, evaluating, and categorizing 40 years worth of primary documents for this book on the Negro plight and their beliefs. As I tell my students, it is just like doing a DBQ. Abbey is with me too. This is my big summer project. I should have this work done by the end of summer; I am also focused on two other papers that I aim to write. I see that self-imposed deadlines are a must for me.

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Garry Willis on America’s Religious Past

I am a fan of Garry Willis; he offers a great deal of insight regarding the growth of Americans sense of religiosity and why it is best that there is division between church and state. Though, as I have noted before, the relationship between the two seems a bit muddy at times.

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Christian Scholars’ Conference 2014, Part III

This post was written by professor Jeff Baker of Pepperdine University. I was honored to have been asked by Baker to join this fantastic panel. You can also see this post and other writings by Baker at his blog.

Last week at the Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb University, I helped convene a multidisciplinary, intersectional panel on allies, those in positions of relative privilege who seek to act in solidarity with people who do not share it. In almost all of my native contexts, I enjoy the privileges of being a white, straight, Christian, cisgendered man, yet I hope to be a good ally and collaborator with others in the interest of justice. My friends on the panel taught us much on the role and calling of alliance with people on the margins of our institutions.

The panelists, Dr. Jeanine Thweatt-Bates, Julie Mavity Maddalena, Edward Carson and Scott Lybrand, are respectively and intersectionally, white, black, straight, gay, men and women, across a spectrum of faith and post-faith, speaking from diverse backgrounds of affluence, poverty, education and vocation. They spoke from various, ambivalent points of privilege and marginalization. This is some of the wisdom they shared for people who would be allies in solidarity with people without power or voices in our communities.

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Listen: The first and essential rule for allies is to listen to those with whom they would have solidarity. Listen for stories. Listen for insight. Listen for wisdom. Listen for agency. Do not reinterpret. Listen and attend to one’s own internal reactions. If a friend on the margins speaks and provokes an emotional reaction within the ally, the ally ought to reflect on the dynamics that triggered the response and question it.

Amplify: Do not speak on behalf of a marginalized voice but use powerful platforms to amplify her voice. Allies should use the platforms and means at their disposal to amplify the voices of those on the margins, with their own identity and agency, sharing the stages and podiums we enjoy with those who do not have access to them.

Move out of the center: Effective allies will not presume to be the heroic protagonist in the neighbor’s narrative. The ally should not be on a rescue mission but should strive to pull alongside the friend on the margins, to empower and support, to amplify, but not to eclipse. No one wants to be another’s project.

Disagree without condemnation: Build together a context where disagreement does not mean condemnation. Rather, disagreement ought to lead to acknowledgement for more and better communication and understanding. The people “on the margins” are not monolithic or univocal, but as humans will disagree, struggle and advance conflicting points of view in their agency.

Hear stories: The effective ally will hear stories with an intentional discipline to understand context and with an understanding that one person’s story never is representative of an entire community. Individuals matter. Let people tell their own stories, and do not interpret someone’s story for them. Listen for criticism of oppressive dynamics, but also listen to perceive resilience, beauty, faithfulness, dignity and forgiveness.

Educate yourself: “It is not the queer person’s job to educate the privileged ally.” Friends may seek insight and understanding from friends, but to insist that a person on the margins be the source of knowledge for an ally makes the person on the margin an object yet again. The person on the margins is not obligated to educate the ally on oppression, although the ally ought to learn from the neighbor on the margins.

Understand the effects of oppression: Oppression causes harm. Often the criticism leveled at those on the margins by those in privilege is the result of the oppression, not of the identity of the person on the margins. “Gayness is not harmful. The institutional oppression of gay people is harmful.” The Invisible Man is not weaker, less able, less smart, less worthy, but being made invisible generates harmful and persistent, traumatic effects on spirit, mind and body. Always ask whom we may be harming by doing what we do.

Don’t interrupt: Listen and hear without preparing a response, a defense, an interpretation. Be willing to give up the initiative and direction of a conversation.

Recognize default categories of normalcy: Recognize that inherited notions of normalcy create privileges for those in the default categories, forcing the exceptions to the margins. Normalcy receives implicit preference and favor. Honor the exceptional who lie outside the default categories of normalcy but counter their exclusion by inviting them into the privileged and preferred spaces of our conversations and collaborations.

Don’t confuse the ought with the is: To say that one does not see gender, race, etc., to claim to be “colorblind,” does not reflect reality. To ignore difference, even with a good will, impliedly adopts the dominant as normal and imposes the default categories. To ignore difference, even with a good will, denies the gifts of difference and exception, and ignores the beauty and wisdom of variety and experience.

Recognize movements already in action: When entering a cause as an ally, avoid the impulse to initiate something new from scratch on behalf of those with whom we would be in solidarity. Rather, with a posture of humility and caution, recognize movements already in action. Do not assume that the movement needs an ally but lend aid, power, voice and capacity as the movement invites and welcomes the ally’s effort.

Take a risk: An ally might better be called an accomplice. Acting in solidarity as an ally accomplice may require skin in the game, risks to the ally’s self. It is all too easy to claim to be an ally when it is convenient, then to retire to a place of comfortable safety when the ally needs a respite. The oppressed don’t get vacations from oppression, so the ally must prepare to sweat and bleed with the friend on the margins.

Practice epistemic humility: Be comfortable with ambiguity, fluidity and constructive conflict. Certainty, clarity and clean resolutions are not realistic in a truly plural, multivocal world. Admit and accept that we do not know and cannot know everything about the others’ world and experience.

Be helpful: Guilt, paralysis and shame are not helpful. Likewise, the posture of a savior bent on rescue is not helpful. As Aboriginal Elder Lilla Watson said, “If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Be angry: Question institutions without ceasing if everyone in the room looks like everyone else in the room. Be angry that people are on the margins at all. Be angry for the poverty of spirit imposed on the privileged and the marginalized by exclusion. Do not make people invisible, and do not abide their invisibility. Do not judge the excluded by the standards of the included. Always question and challenge the exclusion of anyone. If you would walk into a room and ask, “Why doesn’t anyone here look like me?” then be prepared to ask, “Why does everyone in this room look like me?”

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Filed under Academic Life, Christian Schools, Christianity, Church of Christ, Civil Rights, Conferences, Gays, Racism, Sexism, Sexuality

Christian Scholars Conference, 2014 Part II

I am addressing the Christian Scholars’ Conference at Lipscomb University. Michelle Mikeska and Stephanie M. Eddleman with Michael Brown and myself discussed issues of race, sexuality, pacifism, and gender in conservative institutions. In my second panel session, I served on a panel with Jeff Baker, Jeanine Thweatt-Bates, Scott Lybrand, Julie Mavity Maddalena as we discussed being an ally and the power of white male heterosexuals.

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I was asked about my paper. Beyond the intro, the bulk of it addresses race. In truth, it is two papers in one. I made an effort to represent both for the purpose of awareness. Our allies are growing.

“Invitation to the Voiceless Minority.”
Michael Brown, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Convener
Edward Carson, Panel Chair, The Brooks School, North Andover, MA, “Racial Reflection and Sexual Identity: The Challenges of Silence in Conservative Institutions”
Michelle Mikeska, Houston Christian, “A Nonviolent Hermeneutic: How to Promote Peace in Confessional Institutions”
Stephanie Eddleman, Harding University, “Female Voices of Faith: The Untold Stories”

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My second panel: “How to be an Ally: Hearing and Receiving Voices from the Margins of the Church and the Academy.”
Jeffrey R. Baker, Pepperdine University School of Law, Convener
Edward Carson, The Brooks School, Panelist
Scott Lybrand, Episcopal Charities and Community Services, Panelist
Julie A. Mavity Maddalena, Southern Methodist University, Panelist
Jeanine Thweatt-Bates, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist

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Filed under Academic Life, Black People, Conservative Institutions, Feminism, Sexuality, Women