The Violence of Dogmatic Pacifism

“Violence means working for 40 years, getting miserable wages and wondering if you ever get to retire…
Violence means state bonds, robbed pension funds and the stock market fraud…
Violence means unemployment, temporary employment….
Violence means work “accidents”…
Violence means being driven sick because of hard work…
Violence means consuming psych-drugs and vitamin s in order to cope with exhausting working hours…
Violence means working for money to buy medicines in order to fix your labor power commodity…
Violence means dying on ready-made beds in horrible hospitals, when you can’t afford bribing.”

– Proletarians from occupied headquarters of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), Athens, December 2008

I was once a hardcore Christian pacifist who would justify non-violence in the face of rape, robbery, military occupation, police violence, or systemic racist violence. I have read much of the literature, attended and taught pacifist trainings/conferences/events, and have previously been one to publicly shame more militant tactics. As my political work has transitioned from liberal policy activism to revolutionary organizing (lead by and for the oppressed, working toward collective liberation) I have learned more historically-nuanced notions of violence, non-violence, and self-defense. I have come to think dogmatic Christian pacifism can be extremely dangerous and violent to oppressed human and non-human peoples.

One of the first things done in religious debates about pacifism is proof-texting verses from the Bible, picking verses (usually out of context) to prove one/your vision over the other. If we hold a more complex and nuanced version of our faith stories we recognize the goodness and the vast diversity, often contradictory, in biblical narratives and Church traditions. Much like the diversity of gospel accounts shows us the diversity of the early Church, the diversity of revolutionary tactics within our biblical stories and faithful traditions can help us shape our contemporary movements through a diversity of tactics. Rather than assume one way of thinking is right for all times and all places, no matter the context or people involved, we are better off using a diversity of tactics in our goal of our collective salvation from sin (aka our collective liberation from oppression). We need every tool in the box, we need all sorts of tactics available, and we need a great multiplicity of strategies if we want to win in taking down the capitalist, imperialist, hetero-patriarchal system destroying planetary life.

Continue reading The Violence of Dogmatic Pacifism

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Corporate Media Mind Control

In responding to meteorologist Eric Holstahgus’s post about the recent wildfires in Greece, journalist Elon Green wrote, “Sure would be nice if our news networks—the only outlets that can force change in this country—would cover it with commensurate urgency. Acting as if there’s nothing to be done is not excusable.”

Chris Hayes, the popular MSNBC host, responded with this freakish tweet: “Every single time we’ve covered it’s been a palpable ratings killer. So the incentives are not great.”

The corporate news is not about news. It is not about covering what is wrong with the world or about what people are doing to fix this broken mess. Rather the corporate news is about exactly what all corporations are about: the bottom line. Corporate news is about profit.

Noam Chomsky has been saying it for years: “The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.”   Continue reading Corporate Media Mind Control

Idolizing Jesus and the Failure of Representative Democracy

After the AJ+ “Anarchist Pastor” video went viral people congratulated me but rarely asked how they too could participate in social movements to destroy capitalism. In some strange way, the video does a disservice in highlighting only me; the ideas I present have bubbled up from real revolutionary struggles, real oppressive violence, and long histories of people fighting back. I am but one person communicating the vision of millions of oppressed peoples around the globe.

To be clear: I am not a hero and I am not special. I am not a representative of revolution either.

In 1994 when the Zapatistas rose up in Chiapas, Mexico they declared that their vision for revolutionary transformation was a break in the revolutionary traditions of histories past. Previously, Marxists developed vanguard theories where a select knowledgeable band of political leaders would lead the people’s movement toward collective liberation and communism. The problem, as many capitalists who know nothing about Marxism or alternative economies to capitalism always bring up, is that this style of representative politics led to dictatorial Marxisms. Leaders continue to fall victim to too much power. Continue reading Idolizing Jesus and the Failure of Representative Democracy

Do Liberal Christians Worship God or Capitalism?

This weekend I wanted to buy a few simple tank tops for the summer heat. I’m a big fan of our local thrift shop, Savers, here in the South Bay and absolutely love the more eclectic ones up in the Haight – but sometimes it can be hard to find the simplest of items. Silky retro button downs and bohemian styled yoga pants filled the racks but there was not a tank top to be found (or at least not one without corporate logos).

My friend Jason and I were staying in a crummy hotel (that’s a hairy story for another post lol) in San Francisco; with H&M nearby, we thought we’d look for a tank top or two. I was not prepared for what happened next.

The streets were flooded with eager shoppers and tourists of all kinds. It never made sense to me why someone would travel to another city and then go shopping at stores they have in their own town. What’s so special about that? Continue reading Do Liberal Christians Worship God or Capitalism?

Baptist News Global: Unconventional Silicon Valley Baptist Minister

Gregory Stevens isn’t your run-of-the-mill Baptist minister.

“A quick note,” he said in a recent email to Baptist News Global. “I prefer to use ‘Gxd’ or ‘Gxddess’ when writing God to represent trans, feminist, queer, and gender-bending struggles.”

He also isn’t, for the moment, an employed Baptist minister, either. Stevens’ equally progressive take on social justice issues led to his May 15 resignation as associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Palo Alto, California.

Tweets Stevens had posted months before, including one slamming the ultra-rich community as “an elitist s— den of hate,” were introduced during a city council meeting the night before. The congregation was seeking a permit needed to rent space to other organizations.

News of the Florida native’s tweets have gone viral.

Stevens, who is gay, agreed to answer questions via email about the experience and about his Baptist faith. His comments have been edited for clarity.

Where in Florida are you from, and what kinds of churches did you attend growing up?

I am from Tampa. I first started going to church in middle school at the First Baptist Church of Lutz, a Southern Baptist church. I went with a neighbor, not my family. I then moved on to Grace Family Church, a non-denominational megachurch. I was an intern. I left the internship for theological reasons and took my first youth ministry position at Bay Hope Church (back then it was called Van Dyke United Methodist Church). I again left for theological reasons and moved to the more progressive Missio Dei Community (an emergent church) and worked on the staff as an associate minister. And then I moved to California for seminary at the Claremont School of Theology. Continue reading Baptist News Global: Unconventional Silicon Valley Baptist Minister

This pastor is tired of the rich elite in Silicon Valley

This article was originally published by Eva Schram on Knack. Some of the article has been copy/pasted below – there was a longer introduction that can be found on their website. 

Knack spoke with Stevens about how he sees Silicon Valley as a hypocritical symptom of a corrupt, capitalist system.

Do you feel that the events that led up to your resignation are indicative of the pseudo-liberalism of Palo Alto that you object to?

GREGORY STEVENS: I think you are right on with this question. Yes, this entire viral-debacle has been rooted in the very elitist liberalism I was so dissatisfied with in my three years of working in Palo Alto. Rather than address the social justice issues I raised, they chose to attack me through an elitist morality claim about language. Rather than feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the houseless (Matthew 25), these exuberantly wealthy neighbors attempted to ruin my reputation by taking my Tweets out of their larger critical context and without actual engagement with my activism in the community. Continue reading This pastor is tired of the rich elite in Silicon Valley

Atlantic Article: The Radical Preacher of Palo Alto

His conservative Christian family in Florida disdainfully called California the “Left Coast,” but Gregory Stevens was eager to embrace the Golden State. He’d grown up queer in a town where he believed everyone looked the same, where people referred to the non-Christian woman in the neighborhood as “the Jew,” where the khaki pants and polo shirts recently co-opted by white supremacists were an unofficial uniform. California, he imagined, would be different—a place where liberal ideas flourished and where people were willing to rally against inequality and injustice.

But Stevens, now 28, did not end up in the liberal den of San Francisco, the stoner paradise of Humboldt County, or the alternative-living community of Slab City, in the Sonoran Desert. After finishing seminary at the progressive Claremont School of Theology, in Southern California, Stevens got a job as a pastor in Palo Alto, one of the wealthiest communities in the country, where the median family income is around $163,000 and the median home price is over $3 million. He settled into his job at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, a historic church located in a neighborhood that’s also home to Google co-founder Larry Page and Laurene Powell Jobs, who founded the Emerson Collective (which owns a majority stake in The Atlantic).

Read the rest of the story here.