21 April 2012
Social Media Praxis, Iliff School of Theology
“The What-ness of Social Media in 140 Characters”
Obviously, my title is a bit mis-leading. I will not attempt to digest social media in 140 characters. If I did, it would be this: Social media, as a relational practice, is the beginning of our ability to truly relate, which is always mediated by virtual differences.
What do I mean by social media being a relational practice?
Let me answer this question by situating myself in the discourse. I am an Ethicist. I like to think about our moral imagination, moral agency and ethics; and so, when I assert the notion that social media is a relational practice, I also am suggesting that there are ethical implications here.
There has long been the question that Scholars have raised regarding the relationship between human bodies and virtual bodies. With social media, you have many bodies engaging with each other: from actual human bodies, machine bodies (like computers), and virtual bodies, like avatars and so forth. This creates a web of relating practices that indeed raises the question of the “what-ness” of social media, and especially so for today’s church.
For me, I created iRobyn. I was living in Chicago, and Twitter was all the hype. iRobyn is on Twitter as a politically queer voice, and iRobyn.com is a WordPress blog where I seek to work at the multiple intersections of religion, theology, race, queerness, sexuality, and ethics. In fact, when I have attended the American Academy of Religion, I have had conversations with people who call me iRobyn. What does this tell me about the power of creative possibilities and my own ability to create a voice, how ever virtual it is? I’ve discovered that social media is a relationship across many and multiple differences.
What might all this mean for today’s church?
What if the church embraced social media as a liturgical practice? If liturgy is the work of the people, and people of a local church began to engage with their own communities’ practices, then church might look a lot different–we might be able to live into the relational practices of our communities call to: care for the poor, feed the hungry, and so forth. Our churches might look less like a non-profit and more like a cathedral of hope, rooted in (insert here your religious practice): the call of Christ or the Divine, or what have you. What we can imagine is the ability for us all to develop a voice that lives as a social media voice.
The iRobyn voice is not necessarily the most academic voice; it is a public voice that is informed by culture, society, politics, and mediated by social media. When I blog, I write in the voice that makes most sense to me: an honestly engaged voice that is concerned about social practices that are often harming to multitude of communities. This ranges to a political voice that hopes for some political change. When I blog about theological issues or religious concerns, I write in a voice that has long-been acquainted with the practices of a local church, how ever agnostic I am these days…
What has been most helpful is that I quickly learned that for me I needed to have a multiplicity of voices. I run in circles that cut across many and multiple differences, so I needed to be able to speak to a variety of people, and sometimes my iRobyn voice merges. An example os this is when I blogged on Easter Sunday and posted an Oscar Romero quote and tied it to the murder of Trayvon Martin. It was titled: “Rise Again.” Now, I have no interest in being overly theological or affirming any sort of Resurrection of the Dead (sorry Orthodox Theologians). What was of interest to me here is to expose the intersections of theology, religion, sexuality, and race. It is in the multiple voices that iRobyn continues to exist and engage in a meaningful way.
The potential that today’s church has continues to open in multiple ways. From using social media to organize a group within a faith community or church to using Twitter to dialogue about a sermon’s content, a book study, or what have you. There seems to be no limit on what we can do with social media!
So, I’ve been keeping up w/ my friend’s blog, Confessing Queer. I recall when Seth mentioned this project to me–I was still living in Chicago. I’ve read it off and on, and this particular post grabbed me, so I’d like to write a redux, a response to it, if you will!
These two “confessions” are from Seth’s blog, and I want to write from this confession. It is, if you will, an attempt to join w/ Seth and confess…
* i confess that the church has acted as an institution – right up there with the government, prison industrial complex, world-wide finance, healthcare systems, educational systems, military industrial complex, and corporate media. by participating as one of these systems, we have wielded power over millions of people’s lives who have not consented to participate in the church’s belief systems…yet have found themselves at the mercy of the church’s dogma and doctrine.
* i confess that we are a broken, hurting body that despite (because of?) our doctrinal positions, needs the vulnerable humanity that christ taught us. we don’t know how to live here.
I’ve spent significant time w/ Texas Baptists, Southern Baptists, Cooperative Baptists, United Methodists, Jesuits, (along with now some United Church of Christ folks) and a whole array of non-religious people. I’ve been trained by a wide variety of theologians, including American evangelicals and non-religious Religion Scholars, in three different contexts–all of which have been religious contexts. All of my degrees are in Theology, with a severe turn toward Ethics and Moral Philosophy during graduate work. Having studied Theology and Ethics (and ultimately keeping one toe in the Church), I have a few thoughts about the Church, and their representation (and perhaps signification) as an all-powerful institution.
I confess that these religious groups, these “churches,” these organized religious bodies have indeed acted more as power brokers in today’s American religious scene. The focus on institutionalizing faith and religion and dogmatic beliefs has been a distraction from the imperative to relate (and relate well) with the world. In fact, I confess that these institutions have created religious detractors who essentially throw their hands up in disbelief. I confess that Sunday mornings are ways to concretize belief and in turn the affect is the ongoing dismantling of relationships. And, because of the ways in which these institutions, these churches, these religious bodies (the wannabe communities), we no longer know how to live into relationships; we only know how to live into the doctrinal systems that are created by these power brokers called the American Church!
I sigh. I confess. I want more from this organized body called the Church! I long for ways to live into the openings of relationship, and ask for us all to find these openings with one another. I’ve been part of this church that creates detractors, and I desperately want to simply confess. I confess that I haven’t done my part in investing in relationships that have the potential to transform the world around me.
I want more from this thing called the church. That’s my confession. I want the Church to live into its potential of creating life-affirming and transformative relationships with the world around them.
So, my very cool queer friend has made some shirts! You should check it out! There are 6 left…but there is a chance that more can be ordered! Leave a comment (or email me directly should you have my e-digits) if you’re interested!
Cancer has been a part of my life, since I was a child. I have always known and lived with cancer. Never in my body, but always in close proximity to my body. In fact, it is my worst nightmare. Today 2010 is no different.
In the 1980s, I was just getting to know all of my family. Meredith, my cousin, was diagnosed with Childhood Leukemia. I recall her being bald from chemotherapy and struggling during treatments. She recovered. Next came my paternal grandmother, Nova (NoNo) Bowen Henderson who had a malignant tumor on her kidney. She had it removed. Following this was the diagnosis of prostate cancer for my paternal grandfather. Surgery to remove the prostate seemed sufficient. He recovered. Two professors in the school of theology were diagnosed with cancer, but were both treatable. Then, one evening as I worked on an English paper, I received a phone call from my dad. He informed me that he had been diagnosed with cancer and was beginning treatment. I remember that I was devastated. He eventually succumbed to the disease–he died. He lived with cancer for ten years, and I always dreaded knowing when he died. I was living in Chicago and he was in San Antonio. I still live with sadness. Not long after I learned of his death, a colleague-friend was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. She never smoked, yet she had an aggressive form of this disease. She was a therapist in Chicago, serving much of the LGBTQ community and even had started a “Bitch-to-Quit” Program out of Howard Brown. She was also the ED (interim) of the Lesbian Community Care Project and worked at the Center on Halsted’s anti-violence program. She made waves!
I recall sitting in her office one evening talking about migration, her own border crossings, and ways she has dealt with cultures. Lisa was originally from Plymouth, England, so getting to know the US culture was challenging. I recall that conversation we had as one of the most invigorating conversations, and one that helped me think about my own academic work. I attended the celebration service at the University of IL Chicago; it was huge and many friends came to give account to the greatness of Lisa. She continues to be missed in the LGBTQ and Anti-Violence worlds.
During my time in Chicago, I learned that my partner’s aunt was diagnosed with Lymphoma. And, though it was treatable, she would undergo some extensive therapies. She continues to live with the disease and is doing well, despite some bumps in the road.
Last fall I learned that my college-friend, Matt Chandler, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He collapsed having a seizure on Thanksgiving day. Following brain surgery and several rounds of chemotherapy, he is doing better. He continues to live with the disease.
Last week, as I was sitting in the drive-thru at the Dairy Queen. The phone rang. It was my partner’s mother calling to share some news with us. Wayne, my partner’s paternal grandfather, is living with an aggressive from of Lymphoma (which we knew), but did not know that the oncologist was going to recommend HOSPICE. Really? Death is immanent? Apparently…so, the whole family descended onto 5280, coming in shifts, but everyone was here by Sunday. We had a nice BBQ with everyone, including the grandparents. They are now home with 24-hour care, including hospice.
Yet, Wayne, whom I have loved as my own grandfather, has responded with this question:
WHY is it So Hard to Die?
There have been so many people in and out of the grandparents home: hospice, family, kids, nurses, etc. He is tired. His children are tired. I am tired. I am also scared. Why IS it so hard to die? Cancer is indeed a bitch, and I hope I never have to face it–in my own body, that is. I am facing it now, again, for the whatever tenth time. It is hard to watch him deal with this, and it is also hard to watch the family deal with death, dying, suffering, etc. I want to claim that life is good, but all I have now is that Cancer is a Bitch.
I have found some wheels. A 1997 Volkswagen Jetta. It is a 5-speed Manual Transmission, and I trust it to get me to where I need to be! This will certainly add some color to my life! I will likely have to think of a name for this coche!
This July El Centro Su Teatro (www.suteatro.org) is participating in the
Biennial of the Americas (www.biennialoftheamericas.org) by offering a
plethora of cultural offerings between July 6-10. We are proud to work with
Museo de las Americas, Shadow Theater Company and Central City Opera to
present works that express our culture and heritage. Attached is a letter
with listings and descriptions of the shows we are offering during the
Biennial. The shows will take place at our larger and new space at the
Denver Civic Theater, which allows us to share our work with more people. On
behalf of the staff here at Su Teatro I would like to warmly welcome your
organization to join us for any show during early July.
Tickets can be purchased for individuals for $18 or discounted for $15 for
seniors and students. We also offer group rates for Comadre groups. Groups
of 12 or more are considered a Comadre group and these groups have access to
the lowest ticket price. For our upcoming Biennial events we would like to
offer your organization a Comadre rate of $5 per ticket, a discount from
the regular $12 rate. Comadre tickets must be sold in advance so please
start spreading the word about these great shows and organize your Comadre
group today. Thank you for your support and we hope to see you at the
Upcoming Performances at the Denver Civic Theater:
July 6 @ 7:30p.m., XicanIndie FilmFest presents New World Border by
Guillermo Goméz-Peña (if you are interested in seeing this film in a group, please leave a comment and/or email me)
July 7 @ 7:30p.m., Strange Democracy, a performance by Guillermo Goméz-Peña
July 8 & 9 @ 7:30p.m., La Carpa de los Rasquachis, an original Su
July 10 @ 3:00p.m., En Mis Palabras presented by Central City Opera
July 10 @ 7:30p.m., Life and Times of Ol?Alfred performed by Shadow Theatre
Thank you for your support!
Su Teatro development intern
Office: (303) 296-0219
I have been drawn to this poem for some time. There is spirit to Corky Gonzales’ poem, a spirit for which I am searching and desperately trying to hang onto. I feel like I have a white knuckle grip on life sometimes.
I list Judith Baca’s painting (my favorite) to give visibility to women of varying colors who come from the intersection of multiple cultures and nations. I also insert this painting because it makes me visible in a world of whitewashed dominant realities.
While there are problems with the language/rhetoric (namely the absence and invisibility of women and/or queers) and its androcentrisim, there is a spirit to this poem and it keeps coming back around in my head…I will endure…I will find my way…
I Am Joaquin
by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
Yo soy Joaquín,
perdido en un mundo de confusión:
I am Joaquín, lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,
confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society.
My fathers have lost the economic battle
and won the struggle of cultural survival.
And now! I must choose between the paradox of
victory of the spirit, despite physical hunger,
or to exist in the grasp of American social neurosis,
sterilization of the soul and a full stomach.
Yes, I have come a long way to nowhere,
unwillingly dragged by that monstrous, technical,
industrial giant called Progress and Anglo success….
I look at myself.
I watch my brothers.
I shed tears of sorrow. I sow seeds of hate.
I withdraw to the safety within the circle of life –
MY OWN PEOPLE
I am Cuauhtémoc, proud and noble,
leader of men, king of an empire civilized
beyond the dreams of the gachupín Cortés,
who also is the blood, the image of myself.
I am the Maya prince.
I am Nezahualcóyotl, great leader of the Chichimecas.
I am the sword and flame of Cortes the despot
And I am the eagle and serpent of the Aztec civilization.
I owned the land as far as the eye
could see under the Crown of Spain,
and I toiled on my Earth and gave my Indian sweat and blood
for the Spanish master who ruled with tyranny over man and
beast and all that he could trample
But…THE GROUND WAS MINE.
I was both tyrant and slave.
As the Christian church took its place in God’s name,
to take and use my virgin strength and trusting faith,
the priests, both good and bad, took–
but gave a lasting truth that Spaniard Indian Mestizo
were all God’s children.
And from these words grew men who prayed and fought
for their own worth as human beings, for that
GOLDEN MOMENT of FREEDOM.
I was part in blood and spirit of that courageous village priest
Hidalgo who in the year eighteen hundred and ten
rang the bell of independence and gave out that lasting cry–
El Grito de Dolores
“Que mueran los gachupines y que viva la Virgen de Guadalupe….”
I sentenced him who was me I excommunicated him, my blood.
I drove him from the pulpit to lead a bloody revolution for him and me….
I killed him.
His head, which is mine and of all those
who have come this way,
I placed on that fortress wall
to wait for independence. Morelos! Matamoros! Guerrero!
all companeros in the act, STOOD AGAINST THAT WALL OF INFAMY
to feel the hot gouge of lead which my hands made.
I died with them … I lived with them …. I lived to see our country free.
Free from Spanish rule in eighteen-hundred-twenty-one.
Mexico was free??
The crown was gone but all its parasites remained,
and ruled, and taught, with gun and flame and mystic power.
I worked, I sweated, I bled, I prayed,
and waited silently for life to begin again.
I fought and died for Don Benito Juarez, guardian of the Constitution.
I was he on dusty roads on barren land as he protected his archives
as Moses did his sacraments.
He held his Mexico in his hand on
the most desolate and remote ground which was his country.
And this giant little Zapotec gave not one palm’s breadth
of his country’s land to kings or monarchs or presidents of foriegn powers.
I am Joaquin.
I rode with Pancho Villa,
crude and warm, a tornado at full strength,
nourished and inspired by the passion and the fire of all his earthy people.
I am Emiliano Zapata.
“This land, this earth is OURS.”
The villages, the mountains, the streams
belong to Zapatistas.
Our life or yours is the only trade for soft brown earth and maize.
All of which is our reward,
a creed that formed a constitution
for all who dare live free!
“This land is ours . . .
Father, I give it back to you.
Mexico must be free. . . .”
I ride with revolutionists
I am the Rurales,
coarse and brutal,
I am the mountian Indian,
superior over all.
The thundering hoof beats are my horses. The chattering machine guns
are death to all of me:
I have been the bloody revolution,
I have killed
And been killed.
I am the despots Díaz
And the apostle of democracy,
Who die with me
Depending on the time and place.
I am faithful, humble Juan Diego,
The Virgin of Guadalupe,
Tonantzín, Aztec goddess, too.
I rode the mountains of San Joaquín.
I rode east and north
As far as the Rocky Mountains,
All men feared the guns of
I killed those men who dared
To steal my mine,
Who raped and killed my love
Then I killed to stay alive.
I was Elfego Baca,
living my nine lives fully.
I was the Espinoza brothers
of the Valle de San Luis.
All were added to the number of heads that in the name of civilization
were placed on the wall of independence, heads of brave men
who died for cause or principle, good or bad.
Are but a few.
They dared to face
The force of tyranny
Of men who rule by deception and hypocrisy.
I stand here looking back,
And now I see the present,
And still I am a campesino,
I am the fat political coyote–
Of the same name,
In a country that has wiped out
All my history,
Stifled all my pride,
In a country that has placed a
Different weight of indignity upon my age-old burdened back.
Inferiority is the new load . . . .
The Indian has endured and still
Emerged the winner,
The Mestizo must yet overcome,
And the gachupín will just ignore.
I look at myself
And see part of me
Who rejects my father and my mother
And dissolves into the melting pot
To disappear in shame.
Sell my brother out
And reclaim him
For my own when society gives me
In society’s own name.
I am Joaquín,
Who bleeds in many ways.
The altars of Moctezuma
I stained a bloody red.
My back of Indian slavery
Was stripped crimson
From the whips of masters
Who would lose their blood so pure
When revolution made them pay,
Standing against the walls of retribution.
Blood has flowed from me on every battlefield between
slave and master and revolution.
I jumped from the tower of Chapultepec
into the sea of fame–
my country’s flag
my burial shroud–
with Los Niños,
whose pride and courage
could not surrender
their country’s flag
to strangers . . . in their land.
Now I bleed in some smelly cell from club or gun or tyranny.
I bleed as the vicious gloves of hunger
Cut my face and eyes,
As I fight my way from stinking barrios
To the glamour of the ring
And lights of fame
Or mutilated sorrow.
My blood runs pure on the ice-caked
Hills of the Alaskan isles,
On the corpse-strewn beach of Normandy,
The foreign land of Korea
And now Vietnam.
Here I stand
Before the court of justice,
For all the glory of my Raza
To be sentenced to despair.
Here I stand,
Poor in money,
Arrogant with pride,
Bold with machismo,
Rich in courage
Wealthy in spirit and faith.
My knees are caked with mud.
My hands calloused from the hoe. I have made the Anglo rich,
Equality is but a word–
The Treaty of Hidalgo has been broken
And is but another threacherous promise.
My land is lost
My culture has been raped.
I lengthen the line at the welfare door
And fill the jails with crime.
These then are the rewards
This society has
For sons of chiefs
And bloody revolutionists,
Who gave a foreign people
All their skills and ingenuity
To pave the way with brains and blood
For those hordes of gold-starved strangers,
Changed our language
And plagiarized our deeds
As feats of valor
Of their own.
They frowned upon our way of life
and took what they could use.
Our art, our literature, our music, they ignored–
so they left the real things of value
and grabbed at their own destruction
by their greed and avarice.
They overlooked that cleansing fountain of
nature and brotherhood
which is Joaquín.
The art of our great señores,
Orozco, is but another act of revolution for
the salvation of mankind.
Mariachi music, the heart and soul
of the people of the earth,
the life of the child,
and the happiness of love.
The corridos tell the tales
of life and death,
legends old and new, of joy
of passion and sorrow
of the people–who I am.
I am in the eyes of woman,
her shawl of black,
deep and sorrowful eyes
that bear the pain of sons long buried or dying,
dead on the battlefield or on the barbed wire of social strife.
Her rosary she prays and fingers endlessly
like the family working down a row of beets
to turn around and work and work.
There is no end.
Her eyes a mirror of all the warmth
and all the love for me,
and I am her
and she is me.
We face life together in sorrow,
anger, joy, faith and wishful
I shed the tears of anguish
as I see my children disappear
behind the shroud of mediocrity,
never to look back to remember me.
I am Joaquín.
I must fight
and win this struggle
for my sons, and they
must know from me
who I am.
Part of the blood that runs deep in me
could not be vanquished by the Moors.
I defeated them after five hundred years,
and I have endured.
Part of the blood that is mine
has labored endlessly four hundred
years under the heel of lustful
I am still here!
I have endured in the rugged mountains
Of our country
I have survived the toils and slavery of the fields.
I have existed
In the barrios of the city
In the suburbs of bigotry
In the mines of social snobbery
In the prisons of dejection
In the muck of exploitation
In the fierce heat of racial hatred.
And now the trumpet sounds,
The music of the people stirs the
Like a sleeping giant it slowly
Rears its head
To the sound of
Fiery tequila explosions
The smell of chile verde and
Soft brown eyes of expectation for a
And in all the fertile farmlands,
the barren plains,
the mountain villages,
we start to MOVE.
Or whatever I call myself,
I look the same
I feel the same
Sing the same.
I am the masses of my people and
I refuse to be absorbed.
I am Joaquín.
The odds are great
But my spirit is strong,
My faith unbreakable,
My blood is pure.
I am Aztec prince and Christian Christ.
I SHALL ENDURE!
I WILL ENDURE!
Some make fun of my use of the word “compel.” But, my guess is that they do not know from where it comes. It comes from G. Anzaldúa, the one person I think that makes sense to me. Oh, there is that other one…
Here’s some great Anzaldúa quotes:
“Why am I compelled to write?… Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit… Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.”
— Gloria Anzaldúa
“I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings.”
— Gloria Anzaldúa (Interviews/Entrevistas)
“Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate. I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue – my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.”
— Gloria Anzaldúa
Today I had lunch at El Chalate on Colfax. If you live in or near Denver, CO, you should check it out! I’d be happy to go with you! It is one of my more favorite places to get Latin American food. I went w/ un amigo de La Comunidad. The food is great at this little place, and is a favorite of the Latino locals. Its a place where the preferred language is Spanish, but they will speak to you in English. Luckily, I can move in this space pretty easily, and it is a space where I really enjoy myself/my body: food, language, etc.
Today was one of those days when it was good to be in Latino space. I had some good conversation con este amigo de La Comunidad and discovered more about this friend of mine. We functioned in his native language: Spanish. Food in Latino spaces just makes the time that much more enjoyable! When food is part of your conversation, you’re likely to have a really great time. Today was an example of that.
As the days pass and I function in more Latino spaces, I am reminded of my own assimilation, my own whiteness. Though today was not like that, I am reminded of my whiteness. Today I lunched in El Salvador. Today was a Latino day for me. Today was good.
Analyzing the present culture conjuncture; everything is fodder for analysis!