Yanan Rahim Melo (he/him) is a writer from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, whose research has been featured on Christianity Today, Sojourners, Inheritance Magazine, the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture, and more. He is currently pursuing his M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studies race, ecology, Asian American theology, and American religious history. Follow him on Substack, Sacred Sonder, and on Instagram, @yananrahim.
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Black Religion Thrives on Difference
ON APRIL 13, 2023, Ralph Yarl, a Black 16-year-old in Kansas City, Mo., went to pick up his younger siblings from a friend’s house. Mixing up the address, Yarl accidentally knocked on the door of an 84-year-old white man, Andrew D. Lester, who reacted by shooting Yarl in the head and then in the arm. Police took Lester into custody, only to release him without charges in less than two hours. As a result, protesters marched in Lester’s neighborhood, calling for his arrest. After days of protest, Lester was apprehended. In court, he pleaded not guilty, saying that he shot Yarl twice because he was “scared to death.” Yarl was in the hospital for three days before returning home to recover. In response to the shooting, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who is Black, lamented, “You’ve heard about driving while Black ... Can you not knock on the door while Black? It’s almost like you can’t exist.”
In The Anarchy of Black Religion: A Mystic Song, J. Kameron Carter, a scholar of religion, English, gender, and African American studies, frames the current reality of modern Black suffering as “antiblackness,” or in his own words, “the settler colonial antiblackness of the religion of whiteness.” For Carter, antiblackness is the performance of a racial liturgy. This may sound strange to some readers — how can racism be religious, or liturgical? But what Carter is getting at is that there is a pattern — a ritual — to white violence against Black people. Lester’s shooting of Yarl was just one incident of this racial liturgy playing out. The murder of Jordan Neely by Daniel Penny in a New York subway car is another. They are all sacrifices on the altar of whiteness.
The Gospel Belongs to the ‘Heathen,’ Not White Saviors
In current times, the idea of the heathen underpins “a White American Christian superiority complex.” Lum explores this through the white savior trope, pointing to the historical example of how many white Americans positioned themselves “in opposition to the heathen world… [in order] to give themselves a venue for the evangelizing work that marked them as the givers [rather] than recipients of aid.” Within the context of the United States, “heathen” has become a racial and classist designation meant to distinguish between the so-called “first world” and the “third world.”
Four Things to Know About Going to Seminary
We are students of theology. One of us (Amar) has just recently graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary. The other one of us (Yanan) is currently in his first year at Princeton Theological Seminary. Bringing our perspectives together, we hope to offer advice for seminarians from two sides — beginning and end — of the degree program.
Nine Bible Verses About Indigenous People and Land Rights
If God tends to the lilies of the field, how much more will God protect the poor and oppressed (Matthew 6:25-34)? This is the correct definition of divine providence: God cares for, loves, and empathizes with the meek who will one day inherit the earth. This is the providence that theologian James H. Cone imagined in his seminal work God of the Oppressed: “God has not ever, no not ever, left the oppressed alone in struggle. He was with them in Pharaoh’s Egypt, is with them in America, Africa, and Latin America, and will come in the end of time to consummate fully their human freedom.”
My Country Is Ravaged By Typhoons; the U.S. Military Is Responsible
Due to climate change, people — entire tribes and cultures — are losing their homes and are being displaced from their lands. Indeed, the United States military needs to be held accountable for polluting the planet. For example, if preventive measures and legislation like the Green New Deal are not enacted to curb U.S. imperialism, more Indigenous peoples will perish due to climate disasters.
My Lola Is Decolonizing the Garden of Eden
Even in the midst of our lands groaning for their future restoration (Romans 8:22), the body of Christ dismantles the colonial systems that have privatized God’s creation. For in Christ, land and resources are not meant to be segregated but rather shared through hospitality for the flourishing of local communities, especially for the vulnerable and oppressed among us (1 John 3:17-18). In this way, Christ’s body is a new ecology between all lands, nations, and peoples through a common love for each other.