Sojourners, Identity Politics, & Justice: RATT 3

Sojourners caused a stir when they wouldn’t publish a “Believe Out Loud” ad. Jim Wallis attempted to explain the decision but it didn’t ease the tension for everyone.  When I saw Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, First Things, Christianity Today, Peter, David Henson, Chad Holtz, & (my favorite post) Nadia Bolz-Weber all in my RSS feed talking about it I started to blog about it and then I went on a trip with my youth over the weekend.  When I got back one of my awesome youth had changed my mind on the issue (she is uber-brilliant….a junior in High School who loves Kierkegaard!). So here is Rachel Held Evans and I talking about Sojourners, identity politics, the sexuality conversation in the church, justice, and other such stuff in the third episode of RATT!  Enjoy!!

Sojourners, Identity Politics, & Justice: RATT 3 from tripp fuller on Vimeo.

* To be clear I am Welcoming and Embracing of all people and Rachel has NOT said the same thing as me.

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5 comments
Peter Walker - EmergingChristian.com
Peter Walker - EmergingChristian.com

Tripp, I'm sure you'd agree that ecology itself is not a monolithic issue. There are myriad issues involved in redemption and salvation of the cosmos. Moreover, raped, broken, abused, oppressed people cannot be expected to productively engage in affecting major change. An ecofeminist approach recognizes that, while humankind should not and cannot be posited in superiority to other created things, the redemption of ecology is not separable from the redemption of social systems. We cannot "save" the earth without saving societies within it. If I'm reading you right, you seem to suggest that we can leave marginalized people to "wait" for a more opportune time, when the skies are clearer, and the soil healthier, and biodiversity more abundant. The oppressed will always be asked to wait for the whims of the privileged. Again, trying not to take an either/or approach, I'd suggest that we cannot CHOOSE human redemption OR ecological redemption. We have to choose both in simultaneity. To me, the fact that Scripture has prioritized "the poor" can either mean that the poor entails any poor (any marginalized people) or more likely that Scripture once again (as in many cases throughout the canon) CONTRIBUTES to the oppression and marginalization of people, rather than their redemption (read Phyllis Bird: 'Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities'). The omission of LGBTQ peoples from the canon does not prove the secondary priority of these people any more than the endorsed oppression of women (Old and New Testament) and the deliberate invisibility of women (Old and Nest Testament) proves the marginal class of females. I've lost friends on this issue too. I lost an entire church family. My wife and I fight to keep our relationship with many of our own family members over it. My vocalization on this issue has compromised my voice in my academic sphere, and has the potential of compromising me professionally as well. It's been incredibly painful, but not as painful as being queer and excluded from denominations and churches and ministries and principalities and powers simply because of my identity. I've counted the cost... it's not been as high for me as for my friends who have no choice.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

thanks travis and peter. my first response was pretty similar to Peter's. Peter's disavowal of the 'greater good' is something I can't do for a couple reasons.... 1). science: the ecological crisis will lead to the death, displacement, and depravity of more and more of the world's population unless addressed. 2). scripture: the Bible has God specifically addressing our care of the poor and planet. So for me prioritizing those issues is less problematic. 3), citizenship: even my conservative friends politically recognize they are going to loose the battle over sexual identity. Sure they don't want to but hey the numbers don't look good. As a citizen then, without being silent on the sexual identity issue, why does it not make sense to focus on the issues that will remain, unquestioned, and unchallenged by the majority of people in both parties (global-techo-capitalism owns most politicians) 4). discipleship: in the gospels themselves and the history of the church a quest for ethical purity as a precondition for cooperation in kin-dom work just isn't reasonable nor effective. Jesus gathered zealots, Pharisees, and more to heal, proclaim, and embody God's reign without some ideological clarifications. While I am 100% open, affirming, welcoming, and embracing in the name of God's self-revelation in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection Jesus Christ - I don't see this particular issue to be on par with economic and ecological injustice. Maybe some of my problem with liberal responses is that it costs them very little to take this position. I have lost a job, opportunities for employment speaking, publishing, and more difficult for me - friends, over my position on this issue. When a group like Sojo who has done more for many of those friends to make them aware of the (straight out of the Bible in the voice of God & Jesus) call to care for the poor and the planet, then I completely understand that they don't want to join this particular fight. I pray and hope that this decision isn't even reasonable soon but if Sojo's decision means a few more hetero-sexists are caring for the poor and using their voice to advocate for the planet then 'amen!'

Travis Mamone
Travis Mamone

The thing that always concerned me was I don't want this incident (which definitely should not be brushed aside, mind you) to create an "us vs. them" battle. If you feel compelled to cancel your subscription to Sojourners, that's fine. I canceled my subscription (I only read the articles by McLaren and Brueggeman anyway). But when you say, "You're a bad person because you still read Sojourners," or, "You're a bad person because you're still processing this issue," that's just being a judgmental little prick. Don't get me wrong, I believe Sojourners definitely should have ran the ad. But, I always don't want to say, "I refuse to break bread with you," either. Does that make sense?

Peter Walker - EmergingChristian.com
Peter Walker - EmergingChristian.com

I should add that my comment (above) is offered in the same tone your video dialogue is: friendship. I appreciate both your contributions.

Peter Walker - EmergingChristian.com
Peter Walker - EmergingChristian.com

Tripp and Rachel, I really appreciate the tenor of your dialogue here, and respect what you're trying to do. As I've confessed on my own blog, I know I can fall into the camp of liberals who too-quickly respond from the gut when it comes to these issues, rather than cooling off to engage in what might be more constructive dialogue. However, I think it's unfortunate for Tripp to suggest that progressive Christians, frustrated with Wallis/SOJO, are attempting to "trump" economic issues and social justice issues with identity politics and sexual issues. This reminds me of the "No Special Rights" campaigns in the 80s and 90s, to which the queer community responded: "No Special Rights, Just Equal Rights." The problem is that Sojourners' decision implicitly prioritizes other issues over "identity politics" - I don't like that term because it removes the individual - Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Queers. I don't know anyone, queer or straight, who wants to see LGBTQ overshadowing the poor and hungry. Rather, we're trying to point out the injustice in using a term like "social justice" and then leaving out an entire group of people. Your argument is incredibly EITHER/OR, as was Brian McLaren's, which was shocking, after so much Both/And language from the Emergent Conversation over the years. Why in the world should we be discussing these issues as if one precludes the other? Rachel is right: whatever side one takes on this issue, we're gonna get nailed on it. But some issues SOJO has been brave enough to take a stand on. Race. War. Poverty. In this case, as I've said on my blog, my queer sisters and brothers are being asked to take a back seat. Maybe that's fine if that's what Sojourners wants to be, but let's be honest, then, about what they are. "Progressive" is not the right word. I'd just like to point out the very deliberate *choice* Sojourners has made. It's a prioritization. Rachel, I hear you loud and clear on hesitance over the issue. It took me maybe 28 of my 32 years before I was truly open and affirming. My process has been long. I'm not so upset about the "theological" difference of Christians disagreeing about homosexuality. I'm disappointed in Sojourners relegating LGBTQ to second-class citizens for the sake of another marginalized group. I don't think this is a distraction. I think it's right at the heart of liberation. Tripp, I hear you calling for "the greater good" - the liberation of ecology and the cosmos - but I'm convinced that the greater good is an illusion. There are only thousands and millions of smaller goods. Waiting for this issue to "blow over" is well and good for LGBTQ people in the future. But today, my best friends are suffering. So are the poor and starving. A choice shouldn't be made.