Religion

‘Jesus was a Jodedor’

Miguel De La Torre has zero fucks for your white tears

Miguel De La Torre smiling.
Miguel De La Torre, photo taken by Ajah Hales

I am Black, and I am a Christian, but I am not a Black Christian.

What I mean by that is, my theology was not born in the crucible of Black Church tradition. I find no redemption in the blood of Jesus, I have no intention of watching and waiting near the cross for change to come, and the promise of eternal life after death provides no comfort when I look upon the crucified and broken bodies of Tamir Rice, Layleen Polanco and Aiyana Jones.

My faith is not rooted in the promise of what may happen to my soul after my body decays into dust. That is a hope I cannot afford.

Last week, I read Anastasia Reesa Tomkin’s Hope is for White People. Tomkins boldly states that “whiteness is rooted in delusion” and “needs to be annihilated.” White optimism tells us that white privilege is a benefits package that simply needs to be expanded to cover more people — ignoring that whiteness itself is the problem.

“White is not something you are on some innate level, it is something ascribed to you. It is a package of societal privilege that you accept by default from the way you look, but which you then use to your own advantage as though it is completely normal, sane and moral, every day of your life.”

The faithful optimism of progressive Christianity is a hope built on a foundation of white delusion — and according to scholar-activist Dr. Miguel De La Torre, that hope is problematic.

We must “learn to do our history, our ethics and our theology” from our own perspectives, “not from those who benefit from our oppression.”

Torre is a professor of Social Ethics and Latinx studies at Iliff School of Theology and the author of Embracing Hopelessness and Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting A Badass Christianity. I heard him speak yesterday at Next Church 2020, and was instantly converted to his brand of Badass Christianity.

Torre says that hope is a cop-out that functions to domesticate people of the global majority.

“I have to deal with how much my mind has been colonized.” Torre states. White supremacy teaches people of the global majority to perceive and define ourselves from the perspective of our oppressors. According to Torre, decolonizing our minds requires us to look to our own cultural symbols and context as the ultimate authority of our meaning-making.

We must “learn to do our history, our ethics and our theology” from our own perspectives, “not from those who benefit from our oppression.”

“Hope works very well when you are among the conquerors”

A decolonized historic, ethical and theological framework transforms the Old Testament from a story of God’s faithfulness to a faithless people to one of a warmongering nation that continuously liberated themselves at the expense of the genocide of countless others. The New Testament goes from a story of God’s triumph over even death to a chronicle of the political assassination of a Palestinian Jewish Radical Socialist and the subsequent martyrdom of his followers. A decolonized hermeneutic is a theology of despair.

Torre’s call to “embrace hopelessness” will not appeal to the broad swath of white, neoliberal Christians, and in his own words, “I really don’t care, because this is not for you.”

“Hope works very well when you are among the conquerors,” he says. But for the conquered, the oppressed, and Torre himself, it “gives an idea of spiritual liberation that somehow justifies [their] current physical” state, keeping them docile and compliant to the will of their oppressors.

“Arbeit Macht Frei.” Work sets you free. Torre reminds us that these three words were erected over Nazi concentration camps, but the only freedom Jewish people found in Dachau, Auschwitz, Flossenberg or Monowitz was the freedom of death.

Courtesy of Pixbay

Your oppressor will stab you and call it salvation. They will stand over you as you bleed out and tell you to hope for a miracle. After you die, they will say a prayer for your family as they rob your grave. Reconciling ourselves to the faith of our oppressor isn’t Christianity, it’s Stockholm syndrome.

“Every time I quote Hegel I am contributing to my own oppression,” Torre says. “I embrace my own oppressor and it makes God vomit.” He goes on to relate an idiom in Spanish that roughly translates to: ‘we must make our wine from plantains, and even if it is bitter, we will still drink it.’

If there is no Resurrection Sunday, only the terrible now — then what?

“To define my theology with my own cultural symbols requires me to make my wine out of the cultural symbols of my own tradition,” Torre says. And no matter how bad that wine tastes, “Because it is mine, it has value.”

Torre wants people of the global majority to ask themselves: “How do we begin to break away from a eurocentric system of theology that has contributed to [our] own oppression?” For Torre, doing so requires him to let go of hope. “Hope in losing the little that I have keeps me quiet and docile,” he says. “But when I have no hope, when I realize I have nothing to lose, that’s when I am the most dangerous.”

The Spanish word for hope is esperanza. It comes from the verb esperer, which means ‘to wait.’ Torre says it’s often unclear what we’re waiting for, or whether it is even worth the wait. Anastasia Reesa Tomkin says hope tells us to wait for “white liberals like Colbert [to] relinquish white supremacy.”

Instead of waiting in vain, Torre has “chosen to stand in radical solidarity with the oppressed of the world that are living in holy Saturday,” to let go of control of time and history and live “in the anxiety of not knowing.”

If there is no Resurrection Sunday, only the terrible now — then what?

In the absence of hope, Torre tells us to reach for desperation, which in Spanish literally translates to ‘done waiting.’ “My objective becomes to convince the ‘non-person’ of their personhood.” If we truly believe in our own humanity, unjust systems become intolerable and fighting for justice inevitable.

“Do you fight for justice because you think you’re going to win?” Torre asks his students. It’s impossible to win, he says, because “neo-liberalism is always ten steps ahead.” For Torre, the likelihood of winning is irrelevant. He tells his students to “fight for justice because it defines their reality and defines their faith.”

Once we abandon false hope and embrace desperation, more effective tactics start to emerge. Instead of following rules designed to domesticate us, Torre says Christians need an “ethics para joder,” one focused on disruption and fucking with the system, in the same way that Jesus did during his earthly life.

“Jesus created chaos and a mess.” Torre says, comparing him to the trickster god Elegua. “Jesus was probably the greatest jodedor of all.” Instead of following the rules, he risked everything, even his life, to “lead us to somewhere a little more just.”

“How do I learn how to lie so I can discover what is true?” Torre asks. “How do I ethically steal so that people can eat?” He doesn’t claim to have the answers, but he does feel that by asking ourselves these kinds of questions, we can begin to (re)build a “Badass Christianity,” and that’s a religion I want to be a part of.

World Changer. Social Thinker. Business Owner.

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