“No Sanctuary But Each Other”

Posted by the Special Communion Blogging Collective

In regard to recent writing about the Emergent Church, author Tony Jones has pitted the struggles of people of color and queers against one another. Special Communion would like to offer an antidotal dose of come-to-Jesus analysis for those coping with anti-racist critiques of their movement. A few points:

1)  Be careful about whose team you claim to be on. Tony Jones’s immediate response to being called out was to divert, distract, derail: in short to do anything and everything to actually confess to being a part of a movement with racist practices.  His blog began with the question, “Actually, the first thing I thought was, Is this really the time for us to be criticizing other Christians who are on the same team as us? Really, with everything that’s going on in the world, a critique of the emerging church is worthy of a cover article?”   Our team believes that when white, straight,  middle-class, educated, 1/3 world men keep insisting that their emergent church is an answer to the church’s problems, it is in fact the appropriate time to challenge that claim.  We abhor and condemn the all-too-common practice of white people’s denial of the possibility of racism in their lives.  White people (including “progressive” white people) seem to have an infinite number of tricks to deny their own privilege or the possibility that they perpetuate racism or have any responsibility in ending racism.

2) We refuse to be set against one another. Refuse to participate in plantation politics/Oppression Olympics. The whole reason our community, Special Communion, exists is because we are a group of friends and co-disciples who’ve found *no sanctuary but each other*, be it in the hallowed halls of “progressive” seminaries, in the mainline, in the Emergent Church, or in single-issue justice movements.  Collectively speaking we are people of color, we are queer/trans, we are poor, we are survivors of sexual assault, we are women, and we live with disabilities.  And we aren’t all living the same exact struggles, but when and where we differ, we are STILL allies of one another.  We refuse to have our particular issues pitted against one another, we refuse to say that one struggle can be prioritized over another, and we refuse to shut each other up in our respective processes of speaking truth to power.

3) There are people who are, in fact, on the same team as us.  Please learn from them. When we see white progressives answer critiques of racism in the movement by derailing, and claiming other issues to be more important, we know what’s up.  Tony Jones’ post responding to the Sojourners article does NO favors for queer/trans people of color.    Have you considered that for the MAJORITY OF THE WORLD’S QUEERS, WHO ARE POOR BROWN RESIDENTS OF THE 2/3 WORLD, state-sanctioned access to marriage may not be a top priority?  By attempting to “answer” critiques of racism with claims that homophobia is a more pressing issue, Jones left MANY of our queer Christian people behind. Here at Special Communion, our queer politics are devoutly Christ-centric.  That means our queer politics are FIRST accountable to queers who are poor, queers who live under the daily threat of state and police violence, queer people of color, queers who do sex work, queers who are immigrants, our transgender and gender non-conforming family members, and queers living with disabilities.  We can quote you a whole lot of Bible on why we frame our work this way– hopefully you’re familiar with some of it already.

We decry all attempts to leave ANY of these sisters, brothers, and family members behind.  .  On this blog, we do not try to answer injustice one single issue at a time– we do not have that luxury.  In our community, we do not silence one another because we recognize that we are called to lead Gospel lives.  This entails a comprehensive accountability to ALL the identities and experiences that made up Christ’s own life, as well as the lives of his people.  Jesus never said, “Sorry sex workers, but the issues of fishermen are more dear to my heart.  They go first.”  Jesus demanded all of them to FEED ONE ANOTHER.  Jesus demands the same of us.

4) Watch the video. For guidance, may we direct you to this video, entitled “6 Rules For Allies”?  Please pay attention to Rule Number 5, which addresses appropriate responses to being called out.  I quote, “When called out about your racism, sexism or homophobia, don’t cower in embarrassment, don’t cry, and don’t silently think “she’s crazy” and vow never to interact with her again. We are all plagued by racism, sexism, and homophobia. Be grateful that someone took the time to expose yours—remember, exposure allows the wind to whip away isolation and fear. Exposure is a step toward freedom. Allies welcome an opportunity to see how their choices, ideas, words may be erasing those around them. It’s not about your intent—that you did not intend to be sexist when you consulted with men rather than with women even though the women were in charge—it is about the effect—the damaging effect your choice had on others, the reinforcement of patriarchy that your choice made. Allies want to know when they have been contributed to the very oppressions they oppose. Allies know they are not above reproach.”

There are so many queer-positive, intersectionally-committed communities and resources out there.  Please read, digest, and share amongst yourselves:

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project http://srlp.org/

The Audre Lorde Project http://alp.org/

Queers for Economic Justice http://q4ej.org/

QuIR (Queer Immigrant Rights) http://quir.org/

Feminists With Disabilities  http://disabledfeminists.com/

Spread magazine http://www.spreadmagazine.org/

make/shift magazine http://www.makeshiftmag.com/

Feministe http://www.feministe.us/blog

Incite http://www.incite-national.org/

UPDATE: Tony Jones responded twice, once defensively (http://blog.tonyj.net/2010/04/responding-to-charges-of-racism/) and then once co-opting his critics and pretending like he agreed with them all along, except minus any sort of power analysis or anti-racist analysis when discussing Dr. Rah’s physical descriptors of emergent leaders (http://blog.tonyj.net/2010/04/emergents-white-problem/).  We will deal with the reasons it is different for a marginalized person to use racial descriptors for people usually coded “normal” (white, straight, male, cis, etc.) than for a person coded “normal” because of privilege to use racial descriptors in another post.

In Christ, For Justice:

The Special Communion Collective


4 responses to ““No Sanctuary But Each Other”

  1. Yes. All of this, yes.

    And oh. my. gosh. that video is so perfect. Thanks so much for posting it. I’m going to share it!

  2. hey thanks, micah! and let us know if it’s ok to add sanctuary collective’s website to our resource list– you all do wonderful stuff!

  3. This is Brian, I am Micah’s roommate and part of Sanctuary Collective, it’s totally OK to add our website to your list of resources, it’s an honor. We are adding you to our list of “What We’re Reading” … I’ve been twittering up a storm about this project. Rock it!

  4. hey all, i missed this when we were first editing this post, but the descriptor “educated” under #1 (as in “white, straight, middle-class, educated, 1/3 world men”) needs to be modified. i suggest modifying it to “academy-educated.” just to recognize that there are many other means of getting an education which DON’T privilege your status in the world, but nonetheless do make you smarter.