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No Label

June 27, 2014

One thing I find misunderstood and poorly managed is what is just and fair practice in vocational positions where youth are involved. Instead of stating specific cases from news accounts, I will create for you vignettes.


Aaron is artistic, at least this is what he feels within, and what most of his teachers and his friends tell him. He can express the history of the Civil War in a tripdych of perverse and regal eloquence. With all the forestry that another can do on paper, he can manage, describe, present, perform and indicate on canvas, replete with commanders, battles, bloodshed, strategy and ingenuity, along with sentiment of negligence, error, hatred, bigotry, awareness, sympathy, apathy and justice. Painting is his dialect. It is his language. It is not so foreign to the other subjects, subjects like math and science, creative writing, and, of course, history, for all are within the EXERCISE and witness of this project—assignment—essay—test. A verbal account would be a nice addition, but this sometimes takes cultivating. As any writer or producer—creator of art—knows and understands, it takes a while to give oral and or written testimony of what is created. Many senses are at work within creating any one canvas, let alone three, as well as many skills. Sometimes another is the better vocalist for the composition … as we see in music, and often, in the visual and ascetic arts.

Aaron is used as a sort of idiot in the class when it comes to academics—the curriculums instituted by those not like him. Most teachers try to be fair with Aaron, but he sometimes holds up the class, sometimes makes them look bad in test scores … and sometimes makes the teachers look bad. Have enough Aarons in a class and this can become a “problem” for the matrix of milieu according to G.A.R.P.

Enter Ms Reynolds. She is a dark-skinned teacher in a predominantly light-skinned school district. She comes from decent education and upbringing, but had been an observer of racial struggles, sometimes at a distance, sometimes close up, and has had her own struggles, one of which involves being a woman. She aims to prove herself effective, strident and smart in her new surroundings. One of her differences, however, is that she did not grow up light-skinned … and the art of those having grown up light-skinned seems very distant to her, and continues to be distant … add the generation difference, political and religious climate, and the silence of her own philosophies and religious convictions, and combine all of these with the expectations for herself and her students, and what is created is a Grade C situation. Like a backlash, it can go either way … depending on intent, and circumstance.


Aaron feels himself trapped in a cell, and he is upset with Ms Reynolds because she has a tendency  to make him “look” stupid. She is an efficient teacher requiring periods at the end of every sentence. Her own father was like this, and she grew tall in his shadow. Aaron is hurt because he is not a period person, nor is he a t crosser, or an i dotter, and sends an unsigned note to Ms Reynolds, stating that she is ____ (racial slur). He got the idea because he, too, is an observer, and has watched this on the news, FB and other social media … and has even tried it a few times himself on forums without consequence. He does not know how to verbalize his hurt in the classroom where he is by law assigned for most of the day almost every day for almost all of his youth. He wants to send his teacher a message, a message he has painted numerous times, but none of his teachers understand his language, for most of them are locked into the standardizing of curriculum, and making sure the herd crosses the line all at the same time. Still, he hopes someone might look into WHY an ugly note might be sent to her. His mind works in a forensic format with color and substance and lights and darks, but of many colors and strokes of the brush, with his own lines and his own dots … and slashes … and explosions of sympathy and pervasiveness … as well as detail of nook and cranny ethics; in other words, he is a teenager with fears. His world is a world unlike classroom teacher, and yet both seem to waltz the same waltz, while wearing similar clothes standing in different shoes.

The note gets opened, the authorities notified, alerted, and Community screams DISCRIMINATION! RACISM! We WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS IN OUR  COMMUNITIES! Ms Reynolds is asking an awful lot of Aaron. Has she grown up and beyond these insults? Or is she trying to bring to attention her own self  … justice.


The greasy wheel gets over-greased … the problem never solved. The message sends a message that unkept minds access and pretty soon there is an obsessive cult of acts relating to this incident, and a fire is set in the school auditorium … there are many Aarons sending messages, and some of these are not so artistic as they are bored, or careless, or “linked” in some way to a more PROFITING FACTION that sees opportunity … for self-agenda, or self-gain.



Christ with Mary and Martha




Mary is Aaron’s friend, but she attends another school, and is an academic success. Her school teaches religion along with its math, science and history. This is her third school like this, and she is eager to get out of what she calls her prison. Her older brother, Joseph, was sexually abused when he was in first grade, and he now struggles academically, as well as socially, and emotionally. Mary understands Aaron better because of Joseph, because both feel out of place inside institutions. Mary has told Aaron that when she grows up she would like to become a saint. Aaron asks how this is possible. Mary tells Aaron that all she needs to do is produce two miracles and she can be saint. Aaron asks how she will produce miracles and she tells him that she wants to be a doctor of medicine. She says that she plans on creating a cure that will save lives. This, she tells her friend, is the miracle that she will produce, and she adds that she hopes to produce a miracle that will help save her brother Joseph, and those who sexually abuse, so that there will be a way to stop it. Aaron likes this idea and the two decide that they can work together one day—to help save lives.


Christ and Photini





Walter is new to the community. He has spent his days in a room unlike Aaron, Mary, Joseph and Ms Reynolds. His rhetorical criticism methods seldom enter the mainstream economy in education, despite the many titles. His whisper on Religious and or Spiritual Ethics is not permitted in the academics of the youth, possibly because it is a whisper and not a provocative and revelatory cry—like one in the wilderness; like tablets of stone smashed on the ground; like the rush of the water when the wind is at her heels.


As in the days of Irenaeus, the voice of the new, or even the voice of the different, is not permitted in Aaron, Mary and Joseph’s curriculum. The Prophet of Imagination is seldom understood, even by men who whisper to others in his class that it is a proponent of God. But the Prophet on Truth exercises God knowing God, because God’s Prophesy is NOT sneaky. God’s Truth is NEVER a “sneaky whisper.” Because man has not yet been able to ID the Prophet.


 Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? By their fruits ye shall know them. 











Walter Brueggemann is one of the most prolific and influential Bible scholars of the modern era. He has earned two doctorates, has been awarded half a dozen more honorary ones, and is the author of many commentaries and books including, Journey to the Common Good, Sabbath as Resistance, and The Prophetic Imagination, a modern Christian classic. Today, Brueggemann is retired from teaching and rarely accepts interviews, but I’m grateful he made an exception to share wisdom with RNS’ readers.

Here, we discusses his book Truth Speaks to Power and how Christians can live these concepts today.

RNS: You believe the Bible has a message for us about the nature of power and how we should relate to it. Summarize that message.

WB: Legitimate power always includes attentiveness to justice, When power is not attentive to justice it cannot endure. This is a summons to us to keep the agenda of justice for the vulnerable alive and front and center to maintain a kind of subversive stance toward power.

RNS: Describe the relationship between truth and power as we find them in the Bible.

WB: Power is the capacity to organize and administer social goods and social access. Truth is the structure of reality that is in the nature of things that cannot be violated by our capacity to administer it. Power can sometimes be administered in harmony with such truthfulness, but very often power is seduced so that it runs contradictory to truth. Truth is not a set of propositions in the Bible, but a cluster of relationships. Those are relationships of dignity, well-being, security and respect. When power violates those, then those who administer such power learn is that they cannot finally withstand the force of truth. So, the truthfulness of God’s commitment to neighborliness does not give in in the long run.

RNS: How does truth relate to power in the Exodus story?

WB: Moses is designated at the burning bush to be the carrier of God’s truth, which in that narrative is that God does not want people to be enslaved to the economy of Pharaoh. God does not want exploitative labor or excessively cheap labor. Pharaoh never catches on as obtuse power usually does not. The truth carried by Moses is always coming from below in the cries of the slaves, but it always turns out that power from above never has the capacity to silence the cries from below. It is the cry from below that is finally generative of the historical possibility. Pharaoh is very slowly diminished and his power wanes and he does not catch on until it is too late—which I think is probably a right rendering of how that tends to work.
Show caption

Courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press
RNS: Can you give any other examples of truth’s “sneaky whisper” in the face of power?

WB: The whole movement that clustered around Rosa Parks was exactly that kind of sneaky whisper. And the whole apartheid movement in South Africa for which Desmond Tutu was a point person. And the Velvet Revolution in Eastern Europe that caused the fall of Soviet Union without any violent action is an example of resistance and possibility. In our own society, it is too soon to say, but it could be the movement of the 99 percent will amount to that. There is now a very important tilt in our political discourse toward populism, and if that really catches on, it will turn out to be a very transformative enterprise.

RNS: Along those lines, how was Jesus presented in the gospels in juxtaposition to first century power?

WB: Early on in the gospel traditions, the power elite in Jesus’ society who were colluding with the Roman Empire, recognized him as a threat and began to conspire to kill him. I think he was presented in the gospel narratives as being a huge threat to the established order of the Roman Empire. Whether, in fact, the Roman authorities perceived him that way or not, that is clearly how the gospel writers present him. There is a passage in the gospel of Luke that summarizes it by saying the leadership tried to find ways to kill him but they could not, because the people were mesmerized by his teaching. Or, “they were spellbound by his preaching.”

Jesus became a reference point for much of the hostility and resistance to the power of the empire because he refused to accommodate and told another story of reality that the empire could not co opt.

RNS: Some American Christians are now political and cultural power brokers. Is this dangerous?

WB: It is very seductive for all of us. And I suppose it has been the seduction of the Jesus movement since Constantine, when Christians gained access to power and have loved having it. I think the collusion of the church with political order in almost any society causes the church to lose its edge and have failure of nerve about the gospel that has been entrusted to it.

RNS: What does it look like for the average American Christian to speak truth to power in everyday life?

WB: We begin by talking about bodily pain and acknowledging our own. Then we notice that other people have bodily pain and we ask, “Why is that? What is causing that?” The way you hear that from people in our society is to talk about how stressed we are or how we do not have any time for anything. This is because of scheduled production and consumption that has been set by the market ideology.

There is a little text in late Isaiah that says, “Why do you labor for that which does not satisfy?” We labor and labor and labor for stuff that never satisfies us. The market ideology is now the new form of imperial power and many of us, without any critical reflection, have signed onto that and organized our lives in that way so we do not have any time, energy or capacity for the things that are rightly important to us. So, I think what I would want a modern congregation to reflect on are the causes of stress, lack of time and anything that is devouring our human-ness.





chagall moses


Peace and Love










  1. opheliart permalink

    Comment from a poster on the above article:

    Dealing with gays has become very profitable. Most of them are not raising children.

    L Thiel: I guess one could say the same for bishops, priests, popes and the like. Also, it’s a far cry different when one is doing the grunt work (whether its birthing seven babies or shoveling someone else’s sh** off of the sidewalk that the royalty might pass through without having to pick up …

    Peace and Love.

  2. opheliart permalink


    What I hear on the religious scholars is that they rejected the mystics and denied the prophets, including Christ Jesus. If you understand the Teaching of GOD AS PROPHET, the RELATIONSHIP of MYSTIC AND PROPHET is the elementary parallel necessary for the alignment of Truth on Love. These, like so many others of title (issuing label), became the stumbling blocks that rested the “Worth” needed for God Purpose.

    Does Jesus ever speak on title, or does he entrust in Name: Love the LORD GOD Almighty? Who carries this torch?

    Peace and Love.

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