Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) – a progressive Christian (definitely in that order) organization that wants to apply the Christian gospel to “social justice” issues – recently posted a blog that demonstrates that ESA is more concerned with “social action” than evangelicalism.
The blog post is so far Left I had to read it several times, each time questioning the subjectivity of the author, the point of the article, and what exactly it had to do with the church.
It really is random.
The blog, entitled, “Unsettling the Settler Church,” is a condemnation of racial and ethnic colonialism that sees white “settlers” who live and work among brown “indigenous communities.” Liza Minno Bloom – who proudly describes herself not only as an activist having worked, “in solidarity with an Indigenous community that is resisting a forced relocation,” but as an “Indigenous Solidarity and Racial Justice organizer” who also, “lives in occupied Lenni Lenape land in Asbury Park, NJ,” where she teaches “Women’s and Gender Studies” at Georgian Court University – is the author of the essay.
Bloom is also a self-identified Episcopalian.
Settler colonialism is defined, according to Bloom, as,
… the kind of colonial control that exists in “settler states” such as the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Israel/Palestine, Canada, and other countries. It incorporates elements of both external colonialism—in which a colonizing power exports Indigenous peoples (as slaves or laborers), resources, knowledge, plants, metals, and/or animals to increase the wealth of the colonizer—and internal colonialism—which is marked by the violent management of an underclass of people and lands within the “domestic” borders of the imperial nation via ghettos, reservations, borders, prisons, police, surveillance, and educational systems. Settler colonialism is unique in that it combines internal and external colonialism—so the empire is in the same geographic location as the colony… This is why scholar Patrick Wolfe calls settler colonialism a process of “destroying to replace.”
Slowly, the Indigenous versions of governance, land management, cultural practices, etc. are destroyed—through violent conquest, disease, land theft, cultural genocide, etc.—and replaced with the settler version of those things. Therefore, it is vital to understand settler colonialism not as an event that we can neatly box into one historical moment but rather as a persistent structure that impacts everything in settler states—provides privileges, justifies oppressions, and informs governing logics and assumptions.
The end goal of settler states is the eradication and assimilation of Indigenous peoples and their replacement by settlers. In this sense, the ongoing presence of Indigenous peoples in settler states is evidence of the incomplete project of settler colonialism. However, it does not mean that the project has stopped; it simply evolves.
This type of language – in which she condemns, “systems of oppression” and boasts about her standing, “in solidarity with Indigenous communities,” shows that this issue has nothing to do with any recognizable form of Christianity but has everything to do with the kind of structuralism that describes and condemns the evils of Western political power found in the Marxist critique of the West. And of course because of its leftist bias, this position is wrong.
For those who embrace the Marxist worldview, only western, white free market countries are capable of ‘colonialism’ and ‘racism’ against ‘indigenous’ people. In her examples of external colonialism, Bloom (of course) highlights Israel but conveniently ignores Russia who colonized and destroyed tens of millions ‘indigenous’ ethic people in the Russian Steppe.
And about the Jews – according to Bloom, Israel is guilty of being a ‘white settler’ for “taking” Palestinian land. But, the Hashemites of Jordan, who rule over a country roughly two-thirds to three-quarters Palestinian, have executed thousands upon thousands of them outright, and who continue to keep millions more in refugee camps aren’t guilty of ethnic colonization because, presumably, they’re not “white”?
What about the Egyptians and the Sinai/Gaza?
How about the Muslim Sudanese? Weren’t they guilty of the sins of “settler whites” when they colonized and systematically butchered and displaced “indigenous” Christians? Or, are the only sins of racial and ethnic colonization worth mentioning and condemning are the ones committed by those who lack a demonstrable amount of melanin in their skins when they violate the “indigenous spaces” of the dark -skin noble savage?
In the micro, what Bloom really takes exception to is social and economic redevelopment, or gentrification. She just frames it in racial and ethnic terms.
In that respect, she reminds me of noted racial expert and acclaimed sociologist Spike Lee’s tirade against gentrification in his home borough of Brooklyn. A couple years back, Lee made his feelings clear in regards to white people moving in to his old ‘hood. Here’s Lee’s temper tantrum, in part,
… I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every [freaking] day when I was living in 165 Washington Park…
Then comes the [freaking] Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart… My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-[freaking]-sixty-eight, and the [freaking] people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the [freaking] house in nineteen-sixty-[freaking]-eight and now you call the cops… Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re [Christopher] Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.
… I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now [things] gotta change because you’re here?
All of this from a black man worth more than $40 million, who at one point owned at least one mansion in Manhattan worth more than $30 million.
Lee thinks – and I would count Bloom in as well – that it’s wrong for whites to gentrify “indigenous” neighborhoods, displacing ‘local culture’ in the process, but Lee and other nonwhites can absolutely gentrify white neighborhoods, if they choose, and displace its ‘local culture’ for their social and economic benefit.
Racial doubles standards at their best.
Back to Bloom. She continues,
In the prayer of confession that we pray corporately each week at my church, we ask for forgiveness for “evil we have done, and evil done on our behalf.” As a white, settler-identified person, I think about the evil of the project of settler colonialism that is being carried out on my behalf. I am the beneficiary of the destruction of Indigenous people, lands, and lifeways. Even if I oppose the system of settler colonialism, I still benefit from that evil done on my behalf by having access to housing, food, education, etc. all on land that was stolen. I must ask for forgiveness, but that is not enough. I also have a responsibility to work to dismantle the evil system of settler colonialism from which I benefit.
Just as the church is in an ongoing process of reckoning with institutional racism, I hope that we can reckon with settler colonialism; the two are intimately connected. We must deal with the reality that the physical places that we gather for worship— church buildings—exist on stolen land, and we can enter them freely as a result of a violent and ongoing project of conquest.
Bloom – admitting her sin of white guilt with a penitent heart, cloaked in backhanded humility – concedes that she too is a “white settler.” I’m curious as to why she hasn’t decided to lead by example and unsettle the “indigenous” area where she lives and worships? Why not leave and cease her racial exploitation and contribution to the destruction of land and her appropriation of material goods and services- her white privilege– and move somewhere else less ‘indigenous’? That would be a great start as an effective way to “dismantle the evil system of settler colonialism” while minimizing the, “violent and ongoing project of conquest.”
It’s almost like she opened her version of the Bible and found out Karl Marx was the thirteenth apostle of Jesus. Again, this has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with the distorted worldview of Marxism that reduces people to racial and economic classifications who’re always victimized by western (white) civilization.
Though this is a small, progressive snapshot, I can see why the congregations of mainline, progressive churches are dwindling. What’s the point of going to church, or being a member of a church, when one can get the religion Bloom is offering from any progressive website from the comfort of one’s own home?