Adam Ericksen is the Education Director for the Raven Foundation, where he uses mimetic theory to provide social commentary on religion, politics, pop culture. He has a Masters in Theological Studies from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary where he wrote his thesis “Love and Nonviolence in Christianity and Islam.” Adam is a youth pastor and chaplain. He is also a frequent speaker at conferences. Keep up with Adam by liking the Raven Foundation Facebook page and by following him on Twitter.
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'Zootopia': How To Make the World a Better Place
Zootopia is the story of a large, metropolitan city where everyone lives in peace and harmony. Tolerance and diversity are hallmarks of this great city. Hope abounds in this land of talking animals because it’s a place where, “You can be anything!” Zootopia is peaceful because after thousands of years of evolution, carnivores no longer eat other animals. Everyone lives in peace. The prophet Isaiah’s vision that “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat” seems to be fulfilled in Disney’s latest movie.
How Beyoncé Slayed the Super Bowl and Fox News
The white power structures were offended, so they fought back. Fox News interviewed Rudy Giuliani about the halftime show. The interview is a textbook case in America’s 400-year history of silencing black voices. The segment shows four white people critiquing Beyoncé’s performance and the black lives matter movement. They lectured Beyoncé on her performance. One commentator said, “In the end we find out that Beyoncé dressed up in a tribute to the Black Panthers, (the dancers) went to a Malcom X formation, and the song, the lyrics, which I couldn’t make out a syllable, were basically telling cops to stop shooting blacks!”
The Evangelical Identity Crisis
Ted Cruz ended Monday night with a yuuuuge victory over Donald Trump in Iowa. (Sorry, had to do it!) Religion played a big role in Cruz’s victory. The New York Times reports that Cruz’s victory was “powered by a surge of support from evangelical Christians.”
For his part, Cruz reaffirmed his connection with his evangelical supporters by evoking divine favor upon his victory. “God bless the great state of Iowa! Let me first say, to God be the glory.”
But I can’t help but feel uneasy about the God proclaimed by the so-called "evangelical vote." That’s because, when it comes to their evangelical faith, they have an identity crisis.
On Divine Revenge: the Execution of Nimr al-Nimr
There is a definite pattern of revenge to this story, but it has nothing to do with God. As René Girard has taught us, revenge is human, not divine. Girard claimed that humans are mimetic — and we are particularly mimetic when it comes to violence. Humans imitate violent words and actions, passing them back and forth. But violence escalates because each side in a conflict wants to deliver the final blow. In this sense, the Saudis and the Iranians are just like the majority of human beings.
Weekly Wrap 12.11.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week
This week's Wrap was guest curated by Sojourners contributor Adam Ericksen. Read along for his top stories and notes from the week!
There was a lot of negativity in the news this week, but mercy also filled the airwaves. In case you missed it, here’s a list of some merciful events from the week:
Sure, we have some differences, but we’re still crushing on the Pope. “To pass through the holy door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.”
Emanuel and the Chicago Police Have Trust Issues
McDonald was a 17-year-old kid, gunned down by a police officer as he was walking away. The dashcam video shows Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times in the back.
But the official police story after the murder was that McDonald “refused to comply with orders to drop the knife and continued to approach the officers.”
The officers. Multiple officers witnessed the shooting, but none of them blew the whistle. Instead, they participated in a huge cover-up. It took 400 days for the video to be released. Why did it take so long?
Many speculate it’s because Emanuel was in the middle of a close election and the video would have hurt his chances of winning. To add fuel to the cover-up conspiracy, 86 minutes of footage was deleted from a Burger King security camera, including footage of the shooting. According to NBC Chicago, “a Burger King district manager said police deleted the security footage after spending more than three hours in the restaurant.”
Yeah. Emanuel and the Chicago police have trust issues.
Because in the end we are left with this fact: Laquan McDonald is another black body that didn’t matter.
The Truth About God, Life, and Death
“Christ agrees to die so that mankind will live,” wrote Girard in his book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.
Many progressive Christians who do not know Girard’s work will bristle at that statement. Indeed, without reading his books, it could sound like a form of penal substitutionary atonement theory that claims Jesus allows humanity to live by saving us from the violent wrath of God.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The truth that Girard revealed throughout his career is that wrath doesn’t belong to God. It belongs solely to humans. In anthropological terms, what was revealed by the death of Jesus was the human scapegoat mechanism. Once you read Girard’s works, you realize how obvious it is that the violence at the cross had nothing to do with God, but everything to do with the human propensity to scapegoat.
If Girard taught us anything, it’s that humans have been projecting our own violence onto God since the foundation of the world. We justify our violence and hatred against our scapegoats in the name of God or peace or justice, or whatever we deem to be important to our well-being.
The Shema: Teaching Us to Listen in a World of Noise
Secular and religious therapists will all say the same thing — in times of suffering, people want to be heard when they cry out. We don’t have to worry about saying the right things or solving their problems. In fact, imposing our words and answers upon them often just gets in the way of their healing.
But the corollary to being heard is to talk — to talk about our emotions and our pain. This is where our culture has problems. We’re taught to not be a “burden” on others. Few of us want to admit to ourselves or to others that we have pain and that we are vulnerable. We’d much rather handle it ourselves, put on a tough exterior, and bury our pain deep within.
But that doesn’t lead to healing. Rather, it leads to more harm, as our bottled up emotions explode during times of stress. Controlling our emotions by bottling them up never works in the long term. When we us that method, we soon discover that we don’t control our emotions — our emotions control us.
The Shema calls us into a different way of life. It invites us to listen to the pain within ourselves and within our neighbors. In doing so, we find healing. And we find very presence of God.
Star Wars: Racism—and White Fragility—Awakens
I’ve noticed that when many white liberals are confronted with these numbers, and the racism that undergirds our privilege, we start feeling guilty. We generally have two choices in how we respond to our feelings of guilt: First, we can choose to become defensive. We start concealing our own racism by projecting it onto the overt racists who start Twitter campaigns that boycott Star Wars. In other words, we’d much rather take the easy way out of scapegoating. We’d rather blame the racists out there than do the difficult work of examining the racism that infects in each one of us.
But the more vehemently white liberals deny that we are racists, the more evidence we provide that that’s exactly what we are.
The second choice is to move beyond white fragility, by doing the difficult work of examining the racism within ourselves and our society. We can acknowledge that the racist structures that infect our country also infects us. We can choose to openly acknowledge the benefits we gain from racist societal structures. We can choose to work for political, economic, and educational reform that will lead toward greater racial justice.
Why We Need Far More Than Gun Control
We’d really like to have an explanation that makes these killers “other” than the rest of us. So we say they are mentally ill and demand our society do a better job caring for them.
While it’s true that we need to do a better job caring for the mentally ill, the vast majority of people with mental illness will never harm anyone. Mass murderers don’t tend to be mentally ill.