“The Thing”: Resisting the Weaponized Grotesque
Articles, Blog

“The Thing”: Resisting the Weaponized Grotesque

September 9, 2019


She knows my work better than I do,
but I say all that. Wow.
Okay. Thank you so much for that wonderful
introduction. I really appreciate it.
And for the care with which you work through materials.
Also want to thank one other person this morning.
That is my former student, my colleague,
my friend, my teacher.
Um, and in the course of my preparation of
these lectures, my pastor,
she’s been caring for me, supporting me.
Danielle mccray, who many of you know she is for any of
you have had our courses, you know,
that she’s the future of what I call extreme homiletics.
Um, if you haven’t had one of her courses,
you should have one of her courses. So,
um, thank you for all you have done
feedback. I send her things,
this and that. One more time please.
Um, and uh,
helping us since we’ve been here. We really appreciate it.
Let me begin with another piece of crime fiction.
Even better. Let’s begin with what many can see
considered to be the very first modern detective story.
The murders in the room org by Edgar Allen Poe is that noted yesterday po
wrote many tales of the grotesque as he even entitled.
Some of them. These tales are unsettlingly,
mysterious. They are ominous and threatening,
often inspiring, a kind of visceral terror.
Many of you have probably read the fall of the House of usher or the mask of the
red death. Interestingly,
however, Po is also considered to be the inventor
of the modern detective story. Really these stories he called tales of
Rachio zonation in them. The detective uses uncanny reason and
analysis to solve a crime and restore order.
It’s almost as if the tales of ratio so nation are the polar opposite of the
tales of the grotesque in murders in the room morgue.
However, the detective story actually employs the
grotesque though in a deeply disturbing way. I’ll spare you most of the gory details
suffice. Suffice it to say that a mother and
daughter are brutally murdered late at night and their fourth floor bedroom as
amateur detective of Gusto. Do Paul,
it’s hard for somebody from Arkansas to say that as the amateur detective
states, the murders involved and agility
astounding a strength, superhuman ferocity,
brutal. A butchery without motive,
a grotesquery in horror, absolutely alien from humanity.
What’s more the facts of the case lead nowhere.
There appears to be no way a murderer could have gained access to the room
where the murders took place. There no apparent way the person could
have escaped. There’s no way anyone would have had the
strength to do what was done well. To make a long story short,
following many, many pages of Rachio zonation do.
Paul concludes that it was not a human who committed the murders at all.
It was an orangutan who had been brought to the city from Borneo by a sailor.
The orangutan had escaped, climbed up the side of the building
through a window, committed the grotesque murders and left
by the same route the murderer is solved.
Orangutan is captured. Order is restored. If only it were that simple,
but it’s not warning. Some of what follows is ugly.
I don’t even like having to talk about it,
but we can’t talk about the grotesque without looking at the ugly side of the
grotesque and the way it is used and friends,
we are living in some very ugly times and we’ve got to name some things.
We’ve got to name some things. Impo lets us see how far back this goes
and how it continues. Post’s story was written in 18,
41 in Philadelphia. We’re a Po,
had lived since 18, 37 or early 18,
38. The abolitionist movement was growing
and racial tensions in the city were high.
There was anxiety among whites about the intermixing of the races.
In addition, there was concern over the growth of
black wealth and status in Philadelphia for the anti abolitionists.
Black people were becoming arrogant and challenging.
The social hierarchy, sexual and economic anxieties merged to
create volatile racial conflict. During the six years po was in
Philadelphia in 1838. For example,
one of the largest anti abolitionists riots occurred in the city.
Pennsylvania Hall had been built by Abolitionists as a center where people
of different races gathered for free discussion and conversation, but the grand building was depicted by
anti abolitionists is a place of unbridled extramarital passions between
black men and white women. So in May of 18,
38, a mob burned the building to the ground
as the authorities looked the other way. This kind of Rachel’s tension is the
context of Poe’s story and numerous scholars agree that murders in the room
org is a coded story in which the threat of the criminal black man,
particularly his threat to white women, is depicted in the figure of the
Orangutan Po, was drawing on popular characters of the
time that depicted black men as primates,
as well as on popular myths that Orangutans in particular desired human
women. According to some poll,
was actually inspired by separate Philadelphia newspaper accounts of a
Negro murder and an escape orangutan. So in the words of literary scholar
Leonard Cassuto Poke conflates the two into a darkly colored,
a poo viciously killed white women. The black man in the story becomes
literally non human and the story creates and [inaudible] words,
a mood, verging on panic and which all black men
are suspect. Here,
the restoration of order involves the capture and control of the nonhuman one.
The animal, the ape who threatens the white order of
things and pose move is doubly significant.
Not only is the black man turned into a non human figure,
so it’s the criminal two are conflated as they have been ever since from
convict leasing to mass incarceration, and all of this is the consequence of
fear and anxiety on the part of those in power.
It is a result of changing times, changing times when the white population
sees its status threatened and seeks to reassert what did views as the normal
order of things. The normal hierarchy of being.
As I said yesterday, popular crime fiction does many
different things. What Poe’s story does I want to suggest
is weaponize. The grotesque,
weaponize. The grotesque,
grotesque becomes a powerful ideological weapon.
Remember, the grotesque involves mixing categories
in the grotto would even involve mixing human and animal categories.
While the grotesque, as I suggested yesterday,
is theologically disruptive and important ways it can be used as a de
humanizing weapon. Those empower our employee,
the grotesque to denigrate people who are different from them in order to
reassert their power and reinforced social hierarchies.
They can use the grotesque to scape goat groups,
projecting their own frustrations onto them and blaming them for the problems
in the larger society. Using language that turned human beings
into animals is one way of doing this. Using language that turns them into
things is another using caricature. The freakish exaggeration of certain
body parts is yet another, and this use of the grotesque occurs
during times of transition when change feels threatening to those empower and
fear and anxiety are prevalent. In particular,
the weaponized grotesque or what cassuto calls the racial grotesque has appeared
when ideologically constructed whiteness and white supremacy feel threatened. Post story is thus not just an
historical curiosity. The weaponized grotesque hasn’t been
employed throughout history against countless groups.
In addition to African Americans, native Americans,
Japanese Americans during World War II, Jewish people,
immigrants, Lgbtq plus people,
disabled people. You know what I’m talking about indeed,
many of you here today, no,
this reality far better than I do and much more personally.
We all know how even Barack and Michelle Obama had been depicted.
Think of the charge. If beastiality leveled at Lgbtq plus
persons or the president calling women pigs and a black woman,
a low life dog or a radio hosts calling protesters at the Kevin Hall hearing
screaming animals, and of course there’s the president’s
language for immigrants. They’re animals,
they’re aliens there infesting our country like vermin,
so their children are put in cages. Social psychologists even have a term
for this animalistic dehumanization. In addition,
people get turned into things. The president tweets about a flood or
infestation of immigrants. Human beings become a natural disaster.
Churches, churches turn Lgbtq plus persons into
issues to be debated. Persons are not issues everyday.
In the news recently, we have been reminded of the way women
have been treated as things objects. Women still have to claim we are people
too. People in prison are reduced to numbers.
They become thing so those of us on the outside need not engage their humanity.
That’s been going on for generations during the period of convict leasing
that followed slavery in the United States.
For example, black people were in prison on trumped
up charges within leased out to companies as interchangeable disposable
tools in the service of industry. They were literally worked to death
slavery by another name. It’s been called an appeal,
a Pulitzer Prize winning book. The practice continues today in for
profit prisons which are growing in for profit prisons.
Human beings become commodities sources of profit on an accountant’s ledger,
and of course things don’t have feelings.
They don’t have human emotions, so immigrant families seeking asylum can
be separated from each other. Children can be torn from their parents
without a twinge of conscience and without a plan for reuniting them.
Same was assumed of slaves who also endured repeated family separations.
People in prison who we often forget about,
are also separated from their families, not only by plexiglass and bars,
but often by very great distances. The dehumanizing,
weaponized grotesque used to create fear,
anger and disgust at the targeted group is one of the most important rhetorical
tools for maintaining a threatened white male.
Heterosexual and unfortunately at times Christian order amidst are shifting cultural landscape,
much political rhetoric today is shaped by an explicit reassertion of the
weaponized grotesque. The rhetoric has always been there,
but it’s often been more coded, more deniable like in post story,
but in recent years, the grotesque has been openly reasserted
and as social psychologists are demonstrating,
the use of dehumanizing political rhetoric can be effective.
It can shape attitudes toward the targeted groups.
Dimitrio Martinez is a poet, novelist,
social activist. If you don’t know her work,
I encourage you to look into it. She’s one of my heroes.
For many years she’s been an advocate for refugees and immigrants,
and one of her poems upon Waking Martinez depicts the inevitable
consequences of the weaponized grotesque and she points us to some responses.
She writes for Amadou, Diallo shot 41 times by police officers
as he reached for his wallet, New York City,
1999, and a dream after your death.
I stood on the rocky shores of an island,
dark skinned people, young and old,
pressed against boulders. As helicopter gunships to gain.
I cried out at a wall of wind. No stop,
they have histories, but it was too late.
The soldiers were acting in self defense against the sudden move people firing
around of stories that might have opened hearts locked down as the lids of
caskets. As Martinez reveals the consequence of
the weaponized grotesque is death, literal death.
Once people become things or animals, their lives don’t matter.
They can be killed, mow down without a second thought.
They can be suffocated, shot point blank,
shot in the back as they run away and there will often be no charges,
no convictions, but simultaneously Martinez suggests
there is death among those who weaponized the grotesque.
Those who do the killing is what some have called the death of the moral
conscience or the death of the moral imagination.
Their hearts are locked down as the Lids of caskets in the midst of this chaotic,
destructive swirl of death. Martinez calls preachers to the
necessary response. No stop. Preachers are called to interrupt the
weaponized grotesque that leads to death.
No stop. These people are not animals.
They are not aliens. They are not issues.
They are not infesting our country. They do not belong in cages.
No stop. In Martinez goes a step further
suggesting direction for resistance. Among preachers know,
stop. They have histories.
They have stories that might open hearts.
Listen this, the first step of resistance is to
declare unequivocally no stop. I wish I heard that more from pulpits
and then we hear and share stories that revealed the humanity of those who have
been turned into animals or things. This humanizing is always possible
because as I’ve noted, the grotesque is always unstable.
The weaponized grotesque can never fully stick because the combined categories of
human animal or human thing are incongruous.
They are unsettled. Indeed.
The grotesque itself subverts the attempts to use it to objectify or
animalized. Human beings did.
Humanity of the victims can never be erased.
It’s always present, always reasserting itself as Cassuto
reminds us, the grotesque by definition is liminal
inbetween unsettled. It cannot be hardened into stone.
We talked about that last night and that Cassuto suggest is at least a little
offer of hope as he writes. The grotesque is a threat to the system
of knowledge by virtue of its liminal position within the system.
This liminality demands resolution for a human being caught between the
categories of human and saying the pressure will be exerted toward a return
to the category for that’s the only choice that offers the possibility of
resolution. It’s no wonder that the efforts to
dehumanize often grow more and more intense as the humanity of others
reasserts itself. It takes more effort to maintain the
weaponized grotesque, but it is precisely into this unstable
situation that we are called as preachers to speak a counter rhetoric.
This rhetoric often takes the form of counter stories,
counter histories, stories that resist and subvert the
false patterns of the weaponized grotesque.
This is a refrain we hear from oppressed groups throughout history,
the refrain of reclaiming their humanity,
whether sojourner truth actually spoke the phrase or not.
There’s some debate about that ain’t I? A woman echoes through the generations
and from Frederick Douglas to the sanitation workers in Memphis.
The refrain sounds, I am a man and some people listen in.
The caskets of their hearts are opened and so it goes with groups struggling to
resist the weaponized grotesque and reclaim their humanity and preachers are
called to join that resistance in 18, 50 to about a decade after Poe’s
detective story, another important work of popular
fiction was published. It was a counter story to pose.
I will argue that it was really a sermon combining as it does biblical texts and
story and direct address to the reader. Indeed,
it is one of the most effective and controversial sermons in US history. The novel was addressed to the dominant
white majority to those responsible for dehumanizing others,
and it’s sought to counter the weaponized grotesque that undergirded
the system of slavery. I’m talking about Harriet Beecher stowe
is novel uncle Tom’s cabin. Now,
as you might imagine, I’m a little bit uneasy discussing this
book. It’s an unsettling novel filled with
contradictions and incongruities on the one hand and stows ugly context.
The book was audacious and scandalous. It was a powerful piece of protest
fiction written out of outrage over the slavery,
the fugitive slave act. It was a bold and courageous word,
much more daring. I confess that most of the sermons I
have preached, I really preach out of outrage.
I wonder why that is. She did.
On the other hand, as we all know,
the nobile is troubling in so many ways. At times it is patronizing or maybe
better matrons rising toward black people at points it infantilizes
African-american’s. It contains generalizations about race
that are cringeworthy and there are some good reasons why uncle Tom became a
dismissive epithet for a passive survival survival black person.
It’s an unsettling book written in very unsettled times out of outrage in the
moment, but I want to listen to the novel for a
couple of reasons. First,
along with other works of sentimental fiction,
it is very important in the history of preaching.
Homiletician need to deal with it, deal with it,
honestly, deal with it in some detail,
but we have not done that. What better time than in the beecher
lectures, right?
And second in the novel, stow seeks directly to resist the
weaponized grotesque. That really is the focus of the book.
With all its flaws, repeat,
we preachers can learn both from her resistance and this is important from
her limitations. Indeed,
I’ve had to confront and confess some of my own failings and limitations as I
have considered hers. First,
the preaching peace through her novels, Harriet Beecher Stowe,
along with other popular women novelists of the 19th century,
influenced the preaching of her day and the field of homiletics.
Although their influence has been largely ignored in our field in ways I
would argue stow indirectly shaped preaching as much as her father lyman
and brother Henry. Maybe it should be the lyman and Harriet
Beecher stowe lectures. I don’t know.
You mentioned this last night, unable to preach from pulpits
themselves. They weren’t allowed there.
Popular women novelists became what? Historian Mary Kelly calls preachers of
the fictional page, indeed stole herself,
wrote it is as much my vocation to preach on paper as it is that of my
brothers to preach revival. Vote chain voice in this vein,
and Douglas said of uncle Tom’s cabin itself.
It is a great book, not because it is a great novel,
but because it is a great revival sermon aimed directly at the conversion of his
hearers. Others have noted that parts of the
novel provide a classic example of the Jeremy Ed,
a political sermon inspired by the strong condemned Satori judgmental words
of the Old Testament prophets that was well known in New England at the time
like Stokab, other popular women novelists,
priests preached through their pages. They also did some interesting
homiletics. They critiqued sometimes hilariously,
the abstract preaching of their day that was divorced from the realities of life,
especially the realities of women’s lives.
As stove herself wrote, if Samuel Hopkins in her novel,
the ministers wooing, the only mistake made by the good man
was that of supposing that the elaboration of theology was preaching
the Gospel and those those kinds of column is run through these novels.
A woman will be sitting in the congregation listening to a sermon,
trying to outline all the points in the abs and doctrines and going to sleep.
There’s really something we need to. We need to listen in place of this
abstract doctrinal preaching the women novelists saw to edify their readers
through stories and often women in the novels became the
real preachers offering a fresh and relevant gospel to hurting people while
the man went on tediously elaborating their doctrinal points,
one after another after another from their pulpits.
Cultural observers of the time recognize what the novelists we’re doing.
The writer and critic Henry Tuckerman noted the role of Popular Fiction and
spreading the Gospel in the pages of journals and the verses of poets and the
favorite books of the hour he wrote. We have holly’s that teach charity and
faith more elegant eloquently than the conventional Sunday discourse.
They come nearer to experience. They are more the offering of earnest
conviction and they therefore enlist popular sympathy.
Similarly though more pejoratively, of course,
Mark Twain noted that the Gospel of Christ came filtered down to 19th
century Americans through the despised novel and not from the drowsy pulpit.
In addition, as historian David s dot reynolds has
argued the popularity of these novels was one important influence on the turn
from doctrine to narrative in the 19th century pulpit.
Well, there were many strands including black
preaching that contributed to the emergence of pulpit storytelling.
A popular homiletical novels played a significant role.
Phillips Brooks, for example,
highlighted this influence in his beecher lectures.
He approvingly recognized that the competition of print has interfered very
much with the monotonous reiteration of commonplace abstractions in the pulpit and in his lectures,
Henry Ward beecher himself defended the edifying use of stories over the
discussion of intricate details of doctrine.
So when I hear the term new homiletic use to describe the turn to inductive
and narrative preaching and the 19 seventies and 19 eighties,
I want to say really new homiletic don’t limit,
don’t limit the field to traditional pulpits.
Some people weren’t allowed in those. Go back and listen to some women read
Harriet Beecher stowe and Susan Warner and Elizabeth Stewart Phelps.
The new homiletic was not so new after all,
and these women, many of them relegated to the back
waters of the literary canon by a male literary establishment are some of its
unsung heroes. I’ve been wanting to say that for a long
time, I feel so much better.
So Harriet beecher preaches, preaches through uncle Tom’s cabin.
So now we’re going to do a little sermon analysis.
You know how those go. First you have the positive feedback, then there’s the but right.
You’ve been. Your preachers had been to these
classes, you know,
preach your sermon positive. But so,
uh, if I may borrow something,
Rachel maddow frequently say, says,
stay with me through her sermon stole, seeks directly to challenge the
weaponized grotesque embodied in the political,
legal, and economic system.
And that’s her term. The system of slavery outraged.
Stow shouts in the best way. She can no stop. She tells stories that seek to open
human hearts locked down as the lids of caskets.
And in many ways, she succeeded when stomata Abraham
Lincoln in the White House in 18, 62 as dean sterling noted last night,
the president is said to have greeted her with the comment.
So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War,
even if Lincoln didn’t literally say that the statement did apparently
reflect widespread popular opinion. People were moved by Barstow’s sermon,
and our homiletical tactics are worth examining in resisting the weaponized
grotesque. She not only seeks to humanize those who
have been labeled in human, she also proclaimed Jesus is solidarity
with the victims of the weaponized grotesque. When number uncle Tom’s cabin was first
advertised. The subtitle was not live among the
lowly. Rather,
the subtitle was the man that was a thing,
the man that was a thing that subtitle capture stoves,
purpose. She sought to humanize people who had
been turned into things that emphasis threads throughout the novel on
virtually every page. And while she employs several strategies
to accomplish this purpose, her primary way of doing this is
unfortunately very relevant today, over and over and over again,
so that her readers couldn’t possibly miss what she was saying.
Stow depicts the wrenching separation of slave families,
especially the separation of mothers from their children,
and she graphically portrays the horrifying consequences of these
separations. She creates a collision of narratives,
a collision of narratives between the value of the domestic family,
which was at the heart of sentimental fiction and the inhumane breakup of
families by slave masters. It is a good homiletical move.
Remember that phrase, collision of narratives and say,
good move for interrupting the status quo.
One of the central pro plotlines involves the slave Eliza who risks her
life to escape to Canada with her son, Harry.
Rather than being separated from him, we also read about slave mothers who
commit suicide when their children are taken away from them.
One woman jumps off a ship with her child,
so they both drowned rather than being separated.
Nothing sentimental there on page after page after page,
stow depicts the wrenching emotions that these separations create in families of
human being’s emotions that humanize people who were treated as things as
property chattel, still regularly cite scripture against
this evil, challenging the preachers of her time
who use the Bible to support slavery, not unlike some people are using the
Bible today to support all kinds of weaponized,
grotesque and she speaks directly to her readers and the second person to force
identification with our characters as allies. It begins her midnight escape with our
son. Harry still writes this,
if they were your hairy mother or your willy,
that we’re going to be torn from you by a brutal trader tomorrow morning.
If you had seen the man and her that papers were signed and delivered and you
had only from 12:00 till morning to my goodyear escape.
How fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those
few brief ours, I think about the immigrants coming,
but their children as much sentimental fiction.
There are tears, many tiers,
and they are meant to elicit readers tiers in order to move people to empathy
and to action. Christine Smith,
the homiletician, she’s been,
the whole book, says,
preaching moves from weeping to confession to resistance,
weeping to confession, to resistance.
Maybe stowe was trying to do something similar many,
many years ago. Empathy still recognizes is one antidote
to the weaponized grotesque empathy that may create outrage and lead to active
resistance. In rereading the novel,
I became intrigued by some other tiers I had read about for centuries earlier at
the beginning of the slave trade in Portugal,
the royal chroniclers, Aurora shed tears while watching the
auction of slaves who had just arrived in the country.
So raw rez tiers, as some of you know,
is the title of the opening chapter, a Professor Willie Jennings book the
Christian imagination zero risk tiers to were shared as he
witnessed the separation of slave families.
Those tears to for centuries earlier acknowledge the humanity of people
grotesquely treated as things or animals,
but as jennings demonstrates theological dogma,
unquestioned, colonialism,
and a racial scale of being prevented Cira from ever acting on those tiers.
He could not join and embrace those others.
The slave trade just went on apart from confession and resistance.
Tears alone are never enough. Remember that as Toni Morrison put it in
her forward to the bluest eye, people can take comfort in pity rather
than engaging in serious self interrogation.
People can be touched but not moved. Stow and remind us of contemporary
tears. Tears shed at our southern border by
parents and children separated from each other.
We’ve heard the audio of that crying child,
right? We’ve seen the photos and there were
also the tiers people shed when they saw images of asylum seekers torn from their
children. Tears,
not just a Farro, but tears of rage.
Interesting, isn’t it?
That the separation of families finally caused people to wake up and take notice
of the treatment of immigrants in this country.
Just like stoves, depiction of the separation of slave
families caused some people to wake up to open their hearts and resist the
weaponized grotesque that undergirded the system of slavery.
No stop. They have histories,
they have stories, stories stole,
reminds us, can humanize people and open hearts
locked down like caskets and all of us who preach know that we’ve told those
stories, I’m sure, but but stoves novel also reminds all of us that
telling these stories is never simple. We preachers need to recognize that as
well. Whenever people different from ourselves
in whatever way, they are different,
and this is not just about race. I’m not just talking about race.
Whenever people different from ourselves become victims of the weaponized
grotesque, we confront the same challenge.
Stow encountered. How do we tell humanizing stories,
stoves, novel highlights the difficulties.
Preachers face stow reminds us of a kind of double bind.
We are always in. Our congregations need to hear stories
that humanized victims of the weaponized grotesque,
but it is very dangerous even at times inappropriate to tell another person’s
story. There’s the danger of false patterns,
the danger of misrepresentation. There’s the Hubris of presuming to speak
for someone else, much less for another group.
There’s the problem of simplistic or sentimental sympathy that’s simply ends
with tiers. There is,
in short the problem of telling another person’s story from our own perspective
as so does by telling slaves stories from the perspective of an omniscient
white narrator. Her gaze is empathetic,
yes, give her credit,
but it remains a white gaze and that’s the preachers dilemma.
Whenever we seek to tell another person’s story,
we cannot escape our own gaze, even with the best of intentions.
Stowe was outraged and she had to speak, and there were very few outlets from
which she could speak, including the pulpit,
so she did what she could do. She preached to the abolitionist calls
to countless people through her novel, and many people,
including prominent African Americans, were thankful she did,
but she also oversimplified and misrepresented the stories of slaves in
disturbing ways. As James Baldwin has passionately noted
as a result of trajectory of the novel, didn’t just humanize it.
Also created some unfortunate demeaning stereotypes.
I wrestled with this dilemma myself. Thinking about her struggle has reminded
me of confessions I need to make. A number of years ago,
I co authored a book entitled the Word on the street in the book,
my colleague Stands Saunders and I shared stories of homeless people and we
had encountered on the streets of Atlanta.
We did not take this task lightly. We have spent years on the streets
getting to know people. We had eaten with them.
We’d slept on sidewalks with them numerous times,
listen to them, learn from them,
and we wanted their stories to be told and we could tell them,
but looking back now, I’m not so sure who was I?
Look at me. Who was that comfortable tenured professor to tell
their stories? How many false patterns did I impose on
them? How often did I use them to support my
own theological points? The words of Lucille Clifton’s poem.
Why some people be mad at me sometime, trouble me.
Now, why are some people be mad at me?
Sometime they ask me to remember, but they want me to remember their
memories and I keep on remembering mine. That’s the preachers dilemma.
Other people’s stories, other people’s memories are really not
ours to tell, but we are called to resist the
weaponized grotesque and sharing stories can be a very effective way to do that.
We cannot escape the dilemma and we will never get it just right,
but we can be careful. We can listen deeply to others before we
ever ever speak. We can get to know people and invite
them to edit and approve not only the stories we tell,
but the way we use them. We can be self critical about the ways
in which our perspective inevitably colors the stories we tell.
We can confess that in our sermons, but best of all,
we can at times turnover our pulpits. How about that? Turnover our pulpits to others so they
can tell their own stories, provide their own descriptions,
share their own memories. Even if some people get mad sometimes,
so doesn’t simply, however,
tell other persons’ stories at a deeper level.
She’s trying to tell the story of Jesus by making Tom a Christ figure.
She proclaims Jesus is solidarity with the victims of the weaponized grotesque, interestingly,
as jennings detailed inadvertently does exactly the same thing for centuries
earlier, praying and responds to the slave
auctions. Aurora interrupts the colonial narrative
and figures the experience of the slaves through the passion narrative in
Jennings, words is Aurora joins the slave body to
the body of Jesus. Those treated as property channel
actually become Christ figures as jenning’s notes,
however, Zerorez Christology is neither salvific
nor life giving. It leads only to death because they
cannot even imagine the full implications of what he is doing and he
doesn’t follow through, but I’m intrigued,
but at the origins of race, as Jennings puts,
it was Aurora inadvertently hints at the humanizing Christology arising moves
that an abolitionist in the United States will use centuries later in
seeking to end slavery. It makes the theological path,
the complicity between theology and racism that jennings traces seem all the
more tragic. Snow also joins the slave body to the
body of Jesus. Though she does so intentionally rather
than inadvertently tom the man that was a thing becomes the Christ figure whose
passion narrative begins when he is sold to the cruel master Simon degree.
Now I confess that much of stoves depiction of Tom does not resonate at
all with my own understanding of Jesus’s work, but I have to note if I’m honest that at
the end tom is killed because he defies his master.
He’s not a purely passive Christ figure. On more than one occasion,
Tom Refuses to follow the demands of the Gri asserting his own humanity.
Tom will not act against his conscience and he gets beaten more than once for
his resistance. Finally,
after encouraging the slaves, cassie and emeline to escape,
Tom Refuses to reveal where they are hiding,
even though he rather taunting Lee tells the luxury that he knows exactly where
they are. Tom Could have avoided death if he just
sort of a bade. The master betrayed the women,
but he is defiant. He literally saves cassie and Himalayan.
Tom is a stronger figure than he is often given credit for being at least at
the end and still makes this link to Jesus clear along his via Dolorosa.
Tom Sees a vision of one crowned with thorns,
buffeted and bleeding, but also crowned with glory and
splendor. Tom has this moment of doubt asking if
God has forsaken him. He remembers Jesus his last days and
repeats Jesus’s words into the hands. I commend my spirit.
He forgives us. Enemies proclaims the gospel of love,
and people are changed by his death. Stoves move here.
It really is scandalous what an offense it must’ve been to join the slave body
to the body of Jesus. According to the norms of many of her
readers, the combination of slave Christ thing.
Christ must have seemed grotesque. Talk about these stabilizing pairings of
opposites. Stow subverted binary categories and
created disruptive incongruities. No wonder many people who benefited from
the binary’s absolutely hated the book, so it was novel actually takes us back
to the domino’s graffito, which I mentioned yesterday.
Jesus becomes the object of animalistic and objectifying dehumanization.
Tom Is the Christ figure. Yes,
but Jesus is refigured here as well. Jesus becomes the victim of the
weaponized grotesque and that is a profound insight into the gospel.
For surely that was the case for one who was crucified,
the person became a non human thing, an object,
a means of deterrence, something that to be laughed at on the
cross. As in the Alexa,
domino’s Sgraffito, Jesus becomes the divine human,
non human one. Jesus himself becomes the man that was a
thing. Stow declares Jesus is solidarity with
those who have been dehumanized and in that way she seeks theologically to
resist the weaponized grotesque to say in God’s name,
no stop. It’s a bold move.
It’s a bold move, but despite stoves insights,
she presents as a preacher’s with a troubling theological challenge.
Christ figures are dangerous. They bring with them theological
assumptions. They can inappropriately imposed a
theological pattern on another person or another group who may want no part of
it. I have done this.
I did it in the word on the street, and that’s what happens in the novel.
I think it’s one reason the book is so troubling for many of us.
Stow imposes a theological pattern on Tom’s suffering.
He becomes a figure of redemptive suffering is suffering,
saves others because of her particular theology.
That’s the way stoking hold tom and Jesus together,
but in doing so, she reminds us that the theological gaze
can be as dangerous as the racial gays, which raises important questions for all
of us preachers. Is it appropriate for stowe to declare a
slave’s suffering to be redemptive? Is it appropriate for me ever,
ever, ever to pronounce and oppressed groups
suffering to be redemptive? Is it appropriate for any of us to make
that claim for another person’s or another group’s suffering?
I don’t think so. It would be like telling Gregory or
after he killed his brother, give thanks.
Give thanks. Your suffering is beautiful.
It will save others Christ figures even with the best of
intention can simply be another way to impose dangerous false patterns.
We need to handle them with care in his book,
the Cross and the lynching tree. James James cone takes us more deeply,
much more deeply into the complex relationship between the story of Jesus
and the weaponized grotesque. Lynchings are the extreme American
grotesque. We can’t talk about the grotesque in
this context without naming that people, human beings are treated as animals or
things in a spectacle of death, carried out with the grotesque
incongruities of horror and laughter, repulsiveness and celebration,
strange fruit. The fears and justifications that drove
lynchings were the same as those that led to the writing of murders in the
morgue. It’s hard to imagine a more brutal
expression of the weaponized protests than a lynching except cone suggests for
crucifixion indeed linking the Cross and the lynching tree.
Cone argues, requires imagination.
Imagination rooted in the realities of experience rather than an theological
abstractions. Artists are needed.
He writes, artists are needed for us to see things
we do not want to look at because they make us uncomfortable with ourselves and
the world we have created. Cone therefore does not try to explain
or pattern the saving power of the cross.
He doesn’t try to impose some grand theological shape.
Steady recognizes it as a mystery beyond human understanding.
He doesn’t try to untangle or resolve the grotesque contradictions.
Rather he writes, the cross is a reminder that the world
is fraught with many contradictions, many lynching trees,
and for this disruptive juxtaposition of the cross and the lynching tree is
itself the scandal of the Gospel. He should speak for himself.
Here’s what he says. When American Christians realize that
they can meet Jesus only in the crucified bodies in our midst,
they will encounter the real scandal of the cross.
For the Real Scandal of the Gospel is this humanity.
Salvation is revealed in the cross of the condemned criminal Jesus and
humanity. Salvation is available only through
solidarity with crucified people in our midst faith that emerged out of the
scandal of the cross. It’s not a faith of intellectuals are
elites of any sort. This is the faith of abused and
scandalized people, the losers,
and the down and out any genuine theology and any genuine preaching.
He concludes. Any genuine theology in any genuine
preaching of the Christian Gospel must be measured,
measured against the test of the scandal of the cross and the lynching tree.
Colin doesn’t try to explain the contradictions of a grotesque gospel.
Rather you set us down and a US sanctuary like the one in San Salvador
that I mentioned last night at the front there was a beautiful colorful cross and
there are wonderful images of hope, but on the back wall or the stations of
the cross. Only now in our context,
they are graphic images of lynchings in between facing those images sets the
pulpit and from that pulpit where we can never
ever avoid the weaponized grotesque we preach.
No stop. Thanks.

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