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?

Embracing a Diversity of Tactics

On Thursday night I walked over to the Prolific Oven for our local Reading Radical group. We were a smaller group this week, three of us were familiar with radical political theory and praxis, and one of us was new to the conversation.

The new guy was awesome. He had this wide-eyed political wonder about him. He’s beginning to break free from the capitalist dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative and he’s engaging the rich histories and traditions of the radical Left to do so.

Trump’s presidency has been a powerful tool for the Left as many lazy liberals are beginning to recognize their privilege is based on the exploitation of people and Earth’s ecosystems. When middle class white liberals feel ‘oppressed’ themselves by the Orange Caesar they begin to recognize the far less abstract oppressions others daily face: like murderous police violence, the caging of migrant babies, and the rampant xenophobia of the Muslim ban.

Ward Churchill says it this way: “Those who are on the receiving end, whether they are in Iraq, they are in Palestine, they are in Haiti, they are in American Indian reserves inside the United States, whether they are in the migrant stream or the inner city, those who are ‘othered’ and of color in particular but poor people more generally, know the difference between the painlessness of acquiescence on the one hand and the painfulness of maintaining the existing order on the other.” Continue reading Embracing a Diversity of Tactics

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

Guardian Article: Silicon Valley pastor decries hypocrisy of area’s rich liberals

A Silicon Valley pastor has resigned from his church after calling the city of Palo Alto an “elitist shit den of hate” and criticizing the hypocrisy of “social justice” activism in the region.

Gregory Stevens confirmed on Monday that he had stepped down from the First Baptist church of Palo Alto, an LGBT-inclusive congregation, after his personal tweets calling out the contradictions of wealthy liberals in northern California surfaced at a recent council hearing.

“I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” Stevens wrote, lamenting that it was impossible for low-income people to live in the city. “The insane wealth inequality and the ignorance toward actual social justice is absolutely terrifying.”

Read the rest of the story here. 

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.

Liberation Theologies: Decolonizing the Masters’ Tool

On August 21st, 1831 Baptist preacher, Nat Turner, lead one of the largest slave insurrections in the history of the United States. In an explosion of prophetic and apocalyptic rage, Turner overthrew his legal owners ruling by fighting back, killing the elite colonial slave-owning families who had subjugated his life to a hell on Earth. With more than 70 other liberated slaves, Turner’s insurrectionary self-defense sparked brutal repression from local white vigilante militias and the State. After six weeks of freedom, he was caught and brought back to Southampton County, Virginia to be put on trial; his revolutionary actions were recorded by white lawyer, Thomas R. Gray, later titled, The Confessions of Nat Turner.

And on the 12th of May, 1828, I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first! (Gray)

Being Born into slavery as the chattel property of Benjamin Turner, Nat or Nathaniel (the Hebrew meaning, “gift from god”) Turner inherited two conflicting yet syncretized versions of religious expression; the first, and most obvious, being his Christian identity as a Baptist preacher, sharing the religion of his slave masters (he was bought and sold between 4 legal owners); the second, being his Mother Nancy’s African folk-traditions brought directly over in the year 1799 when she was purchased by a Methodist slave owner. Further in his recorded confession he details multiple mystical experiences: talking to spirits, having flash backs to previous lives, practicing divination through tree leaves, and deciphering hieroglyphic characters all of which direct his passion toward revolt. In an act of religious syncretism Turner used knowledges from Baptist Christianity (individual freedom and soul freedom), the Hebrew prophets (histories of prophetic witness), and past-life ancestral mysticism (possibly informed by indigenous African traditions) to act upon his direct liberation from slavery. In this way Turner used the religious tool of his master and the indigenous traditions brought over from Africa by his Mother to subvert and challenge the legal slave-system for collective emancipation. For Turner, God had judged the materiality of slavery as demonic and condemned the institution to exorcism; it was God who actively directed him through revelation, signs, scriptures, visions, and dreams to defend himself from slavery. Turner embraced the counterviolence of God against slavery and dehumanization, igniting violent insurrection to advance the Kingdom principles of freedom, equality, liberation, justice, and salvation for the common good. “It was not motivated by hatred, racism, fanaticism, or evil. His revolutionary violence was the self-defense of the oppressed slave and God’s counterviolence against the inherent barbarism and violence of slavery” (Lampley 3). Continue reading Liberation Theologies: Decolonizing the Masters’ Tool