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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‘The N-Word of God’ Subverts Racist Iconography

by Yanan Rahim Navarez Melo 03-06-2024

Images from Mark Doox's The N-Word of God. Graphic by Mitchell Atencio/Sojourners.

As racist ideas continue to plague U.S. politics, Mark Doox’s Afro-surrealist and satirical graphic novel, The N-Word of God, couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

The book is a visual novel told through depictions of anti-Black images — Black people eating watermelons, Jim Crow caricatures, mammies, and blackface — all stylized in the form of Eastern Christian iconography. This is a style that Doox has termed “Byzantine Dadaism.” Doox’s novel deconstructively takes these caricatures that have historically harmed Black people and reimagines them as symbols of Black resilience and healing, restoring the inherent dignity that belongs to every human being, especially those who have been racialized and subjugated by U.S. anti-Blackness.

Black Religion Thrives on Difference

by Yanan Rahim Navarez Melo 09-27-2023
J. Kameron Carter explores the disruptive, poetic practice of Black religion.
The picture shows a bald Black man with facial hair wearing black glasses in front of a bookshelf, wearing a suit.

From Indiana University 

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

by Yanan Rahim Navarez Melo 10-11-2022

Mapuche Indian activists raise their sticks during a demonstration to demand justice for indigenous Mapuche inmates as well as for their indigenous rights and land for their communities, in Santiago, Chile, November 21, 2016. Image credit: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado.

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

Image: Shelves of theology books.

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

by Yanan Rahim Navarez Melo 04-27-2022

Señor Cautivo de Ayabaca peregrination in Ayabaca, Peru. Image credit Carlos Mora/Alamy via Reuters.

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

by Yanan Rahim Navarez Melo 01-27-2022
Protesters in Manila, Philippines hold signs that read "U.S. Troops Out Now" and "Down With U.S. Imperialism" outside the U.S. embassy in 2018. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters.

Protesters in Manila, Philippines hold signs that read "U.S. Troops Out Now" and "Down With U.S. Imperialism" outside the U.S. embassy in 2018. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters.

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

by Yanan Rahim Navarez Melo 07-28-2021

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.