They Continued Regardless: Discussing a Therapeutic Rape Culture with Jemma Tosh

Introduction: Situating Oneself

[E]scape the heterosexual and exogamous norm.
~ Foucault, Abnormal.

Near the opening of The Body and Consent in Psychology, Psychiatry, and Medicine, Jemma Tosh very openly explains where she is situated in relation to the subject matter she will go on to discuss. Rather than seeking to advance her academic brand status by positioning herself amongst the intelligentsia (by highlighting her ability to engage in rigourous “objective” research, pursue “the facts” no matter where they lead, publish with all the right imprints, teach at all the right institutions, and so on and so forth), Tosh proudly stands in the tradition of the “organic intellectual” (as per Gramsci) or the “critic as partisan” (as per Eagleton). Tosh is personally invested in this subject matter—she has been subjected to this way of mattering (as per Foucault with Karen Barad’s discussion of meaning and matter in Meeting the Universe Halfway)—but along with those who are exploring ableism, madness, race, gender, sexuality, and class from liminal spaces (which are embraced rather than seen as environments to overcome or transcend), Tosh has embraced that which those invested in mainstream dynamics of power/knowledge have rejected and, by doing so, she offers a liberating way forward to those who refuse to be pathologised, disappeared, and abused, and who, instead, “take the power back” (as per Rage Against the Machine).

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Creation to Empire and Back Again: An Interview with Wes Howard-Brook

Many years ago, when I was first being introduced to readings of the Jesus stories that took things like politics, economics, power, and oppression seriously, one of the key books people in the know talked about was Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther.  I read it around the same time that I read Binding the Strong Man (Ched Myers) and Liberating Paul (Neil Elliott).  These books, taken together, really reoriented my understanding of the early Jesus movement, although I did not read them alone — I read them while also immersing myself in liberation theology (and social theory) and while seeking to move into relationships of mutually liberating solidarity with people experiencing oppression, violence, and colonization in my own context.  Still, I was (and am) very grateful for the ways in which these texts helped me to orient myself and better understand ancient texts that were very important to me at that time.

In recent years, I’ve been fortunate to become friends with Wes.  Mostly online, but I was able to visit with him in Seattle when Jess and I were out there in October.  He had seen my interview with Neil Elliott and invited me to engage in a conversation with him around his two books, Come Out, My People! God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond (2010) and Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced what Jesus Rejected 2nd-5th Centuries (2016).  I was more than happy to do so!  Wes was a gracious and always encouraging dialogue partner.  I very much appreciate his writings, his eclectic sources of inspiration, and his willingness to chat about all of these things with me.  Thanks, Wes!  All the best to you and Sue and those with whom you live and move and have your being — may the death squads never prowl on your streets and may you always find ways to choose love no matter how violent the world becomes.

This is our conversation:

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Spectres of Paul: An Interview with Neil Elliott

[The following is an interview I conducted over a number of weeks with Neil Elliott. Neil is one of the New Testament scholars who most influenced my own trajectory (both within and then away from the Academy) and so it was a real delight for me to be able to have this exchange with him. It was refreshing to find a Pauline scholar who does not idolize or obsess about Paul and who hasn’t simply built a life around saying new or clever things about this or that passage or book or verb or theme. Neil’s concern, I believe, is not to study Paul for the sake of Paul or for the sake of study itself, but to engage Paul as one (amongst many) of the ways in which we can try to disarm the Death-dealers and contribute to that which is Life-giving and Life-affirming. I have a great deal of respect for this approach. Indeed, one could argue that this is one possible way of responding well to Malcolm X’s injunction (which is echoed by Taiaiake Alfred) that well-meaning white folks leave black (and Indigenous) communities alone — there is more than enough wisdom, strength and power within black and indigenous communities for them to care for themselves — and go and deal with the violence and of white people and white supremacy.
Many thanks, Neil, for your willingness to do this and for engaging in such a open manner. I hope what follows will be a source of encouragement to some of those who are haunted by Paul and Malcolm and Toussaint and Martin and Oscar and Dessalines, and who strive to, in turn, inhabit the nightmares of Nero and Obama and Harper and Boeing and Shell and Transcanada.]

(1) The 1994 publication of Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the Apostle seemed to be a definitive moment for (what I will refer to as) counter-imperial readings of Paul.
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The Counter-Revolution of 1776: An Interview with Gerald Horne

Dr. Gerald Horne is a prolific author — he published three(!) books in 2014 alone. He is a professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, an advocate for justice, and the former executive director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (in the USofA). Last year, I read his book, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, and I thought it was one of the best books I read that year. It helped me to make a lot of sense of why the American revolution always felt different to me than a number of the other revolutions I have studied (essentially, the American revolution was a revolution fought by local elites, whose wealth and power was rooted in stealing land from Indigenous peoples and enslaving Africans; when Britain threatened the American Settlers with the emancipation of the slaves, and also blocked the Settlers from expanding westward — not to mention increasing taxes on imports, especially the importation of slaves, in order to pay for a war Britain had fought to ensure that Spain and France did not overrun the American colonies — the Settler elite revolted). This makes the American revolution a “counter-revolution” and explains much about American revolutionary history up until the present day (remember when Time Magazine named George W. Bush the Person of the Year and branded him, on their cover, as an “American Revolutionary”? That makes sense within the American counter-revolutionary context).
Dr. Horne, despite his busy schedule, was kind enough to briefly respond to a few questions that I sent to him. I want to thank him very much for his willingness to do this and for all that he does. Thank you, Dr. Horne!
(1) I have long been fascinated by revolutionary moments and those people and events which precede them and make revolution not simply imaginable but historically possible. However, I have primarily focused upon moments like Russian, French, and Haitian revolutions. However, the American Revolution hasn’t interested me to nearly the same degree. I think your book helped me to understand why. Rather than referring to this as a genuine revolutionary moment in history, you refer to it as a “counter-revolution.” I think that this is a very critical point. However, you don’t much contrast the history you describe to other revolutions in order to draw out this distinction to readers who may be less familiar with the various moments I have mentioned here. Perhaps you could take a moment to do so? Furthermore, to what other historical events would you compare this “counter-revolution” (the Tea Party comes to mind for me, or the so-called Oath Keepers who showed up in Ferguson – making counter-revolutionary action an ongoing American practice – but perhaps you have some other examples in mind)?
The Haitian Revolution led to the abolition of slavery. The revolt against British Rule in 1776 led to the successful rebels ousting their ‘colonial master’ from leadership of the African Slave Trade—while London moved toward abolition. That is a major theme of the book. I also chide historians in the U.S. who have been quite critical of revolutions globally—Russian, Cuban, French, Chinese, etc.—but have been remarkably quiet about the obvious defects of the so-called ‘Revolution’ that took place here.
When protesters march under the banner ‘Black Lives Matter’, they are providing a direct challenge—and affront—to 1776, which is why there is so much pressure for these protesters to drop this slogan in favor of the more anodyne, ‘All Lives Matter.’
As I note in the book, even—particularly—left wing historians have done a poor job of historicizing and theorizing the depth of conservatism among Euro-Americans generally, the working and middle classes particularly. You have ‘theoreticians’ who claim their reason for being is blocking the rise of fascism in the U.S.—yet have little or nothing to say about the 1991 gubernatorial election in La., where a Euro-American majority voted for a fascist.
Assuming [neither]climate change nor world war overcomes us all, historians of the future will be—and should be—unsparing in their critique of contemporary U.S. historians; left-wingers generally; and—especially—those who purport to discuss ‘race.’
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What Is a Paulinist To Do? An Interview with Ward Blanton

Dr. Ward Blanton is Reader in Biblical Cultures and European Thought at the University of Kent. He is one of an increasing number of scholars who are (re)reading Paul in conversation with continental philosophy and social theory. He recently published a book entitled, A Materialism for the Masses: Saint Paul and the Philosophy of Undying Life, where he continues to develop his thinking and reads Paul along with the likes of Freud, Nietzsche, Breton, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Pasolini and others (see here for more about the book). After reading the book, I contacted Ward and asked him if he would be willing to engage in an interview about some of the matters he discussed. What follows, below, is the exchange that we had. Along the way, I discovered that not only is Ward an intelligent fellow (something obvious to anybody familiar with his work), but he is also incredibly passionate and gracious. Thank you, Ward, for your participation in this. I look forward to those things that are to come.
(1A) In your preface, you say that you often feel you are asking only a few fundamental political questions. The questions you then mention, involved the throwing of rocks or organizing groups of rock throwers (xv-xvi). In what follows, you don’t ever explicitly return to this question. David Graeber is a fan of rock throwing (especially organized rock throwing), Chris Hedges thinks the opposite. Jensen, Churchill, and Gelderloos think we should be throwing more than rocks, but Chenoweth, Stephan and Sharp argue that it’s a mistake to throw anything at all. Rock throwing seems a bit complicated but, what I really want to know is: can we start throwing rocks now?
When the time is right for rock throwing no one ever asks permission!
But I think this is a very important question about my book, and about my Paul.
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In Praise of iDollatry: An Interview with Davecat and Sidore

Photo by Claire Dossin

Over the last half dozen years, I’ve found myself increasingly fascinated by the countless ways in which people find meaning in life and in themselves.  I suppose a number of things contributed to this: I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about the various subcultures that people inhabit and which end up providing people with the identity they are seeking to possess, I’ve also been struck by how bizarre my own beliefs are in comparison to pretty much any other belief system  — indeed, by how bizarre any belief system is to those who do not inhabit it — and I guess I’m increasingly fascinated by the whole meaning of meaning (i.e. why we feel the need to have some sort of “identity” that we identify with, why we feel the urge to bemeaningful at all, and so on).  I’m also struck by the ways in which all of us are actively participating in constructing the worlds in which we live and the people who live in those worlds.  It’s all ideology, right?
I think one of the things that prompted me to think about these things in new ways was a documentary I watched years ago called Guys and Dolls (you can watch it online here).  This documentary follows some men who end having intimate relationships with “Real Girl” dolls.  All the people in that film are pretty fascinating, but one fellow, Davecat, stood out to me — in part, because he seemed like a pretty intelligent, grounded, and content fellow.  Consequently, when I saw Davecat again making an appearance on another show, I decided to contact him to ask if he would be willing to be interviewed on my blog.  Happily, Davecat agreed and we have been able to exchange some emails.
Posted below are the questions I asked and the answers he provided.  I want to thank him for being open to this exchange and for permitting me to ask some personal questions.  He has been a fantastic dialogue partner.  Thanks, Davecat!
For those who are itnerested, Davecat blogs at Shouting to Hear the Echoes.  He maintains a Twitter feed (see here) and his wife, Sidore, also has a Twitter feed (see here).
(PS — If anybody has any questions or remarks, feel free to comment.  Davecat and I will both be following along .)
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Imperialist Canada: An Interview with Todd Gordon

I recently finished reading a book that I consider to be essential reading for every Canadian.  It is entitled, Imperialist Canada and in it the author, Todd Gordon, explores the various ways in which Canadian capital and the Canadian political system engage in an imperialist program of stealing the land, resources, well-being, families, and lives of others (generally poor or indigenous populations both in Canada and abroad) in order to gain profits and power.  A lot of this material will be familiar to those already engaged in the struggle against imperialism and capitalism but it is very good to have a comprehensive study of a number of issues all collected in a single text.  For those who are unaware of the issues presented here — from the practices of Canadian oil, gas, mining, and hydroelectric companies in our own and other countries, to the Canadian-backed coup that occurred in Haiti, to the ways in which RBC has been getting rich off of the war in Iraq, to many other things — this book should be paradigm shattering.
Because I’m so keen on this book, and because I want to encourage others to read it, I contacted the author and asked if he would be willing to do an interview for this blog.  Despite time constraints, he kindly complied to my request, and this is the exchange that we were able to have.  My questions are bolded and Todd’s responses are in plain text.
I am always interested in the ways in which an author’s life intersects with the texts that author produces, and am convinced that the contexts in which we live can be highly influential upon the views we end up holding.  What people or events in your own life brought you to study Canada as an imperialist power?
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A Meeting with Thanatos: A Real Life Superhero in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

I. 12:20am, The Cemetery
Just after midnight on December 30th, with the temperature lingering at a few degrees below freezing, I found myself waiting for Death in one of Vancouver’s oldest cemeteries.  As I finished the last drag of my cigarette, I heard the tread of boots on the pathway.  A silhouette emerged from the darkness between the graves and gradually a tall, broad-shouldered man came into view.  He looked like this:

Raising two fingers to the brim of his hat, he just barely tipped it and said, “Well, good evening.”
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An Interview with Roland Boer (On Marxism and Theology)

[As I stated in a prior post, I recently completed reading Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology which the author, Roland Boer, very kindly sent to me as a gift.  I very much enjoyed the book and have also enjoyed his blog, so I was very pleased when he consented to be interviewed for this blog.  I started with a handful of questions more or less related to what he had written and then sent a number of follow-up questions to him.  As you can see, things got a little out of hand and we ended up having a rather lengthy exchange but I hope that the reader will find it as interesting as I did.  Thanks again, Roland, I very much appreciate your willingness to share.  In what follows, my “questions” are in bold and Roland’s responses are in the regular font.]

People on both sides tend to treat Marxism and Christian theology as opposing and contradictory ideologies. I’m curious to hear about your personal journey and what has lead you to be interested in (and critically sympathetic towards) both of these areas of study. Care to share?


The connection first arose explicitly in a course I took on liberation and political theologies in about 1986 at the University of Sydney, while studying for a Bachelor of Divinity degree – which eventually led to ordination in the Presbyterian Church of Australia. One question with which I ended the course was: instead of reading these theologians on Marx, why not read Marx himself. Which I did, after an honours thesis on the riveting topic of Melchizedek in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Nag Hammadi and Qumran. So, for my Masters degree in theology I wrote a long thesis on Marx, Hegel and theology. Ever since then, I have been interested at a scholarly level in both areas. The idea for the Criticism of Heaven and Earth series first arose in 1992, so the completion of the fifth volume of that series a year ago was the fulfillment of that idea almost two decades ago.


But that is to focus on the intellectual history and you asked about the personal side. I came from a very religious family of (Dutch) reformed persuasions and I shared those convictions, although not without a continual critical spirit that annoyed my father to no end. At high school I used to joke about how things would be far better under communism, mostly to those in authority as they desperately tried to tell me how communism was another form of totalitarianism and how good capitalist parliamentary democracy really was. Even then, I was politically convinced that the centre-left was the best option (my parents voted consistently for Christian democrat or conservative parties while [I] opted for our social democrats, the Labor Party). Since then I have become more radical, on the far left, as they call it. As that happened, it became clear to me that within Christianity there is a strong tradition of political and theological radicalism, which I continued to explore personally. Reformed or Calvinist theology did not seem to sit easily with that interest, so I spent many a long year rejecting that tradition, only to realise later that Calvin himself was torn between the radical potential of elements in the Bible and his own conservative preferences (I eventually wrote a book about it, dedicated to my father, which he was able to read weeks before he died in 2009).


It also became clear, slowly, that not all the Bible or the various theological traditions are at their core or overwhelmingly radical, since they have sat and continue to sit comfortably with some of the most oppressive forms of power. It’s that basic ambivalence that continues to fascinate me, for which Marxism provides some unique insights. Add to that the fact that Marxists since Engels have been perpetually intrigued by the Bible and theology, often writing extensively on it in a way that has profound implications for their thought.

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Interview: Abe and the Commonists

[My brother, Abe, recently converted his family home into an intentional Christian community, modeled after the example of some other ‘new monastic’ communities.  So far, their community consists of Abe, his wife Melissa, their two boys Ben and Chris, and two of their friends, Alexis and Nate.  They are also exploring adding at least one more person to their community.  Broadly, they have taken to referring to their community as “The Common Place” and to their house as “The Red House” (as it is made of red brick).  This, then, has led them to refer to themselves as ‘Commonists’ — a title I quite like.  I decided to interview Abe about this transition because I think there may be others who are interested in pursuing this lifestyle, but wo are unsure of how to proceed.  Hopefully the example of Abe and the Commonists will help to inspire and encourage others to explore alternatives ways to love one another and share life together.]
Here is the exchange I had with Abe.
Dan: How has your Christian faith developed in such a way that living in community has become important to you?  Were there significant moments or paradigm shifts along the way?  Particular voices that you found especially convincing or convicting?
Abe: My Christian faith has gone through much transition over the years, from being raised in an ultra-conservative home, to now pushing on the boundaries of a liberal Christianity.  Some of the major experiences that have facilitated this shift include: (a) chatting with [a close mutual friend]; (b) working at a health clinic for homeless persons; (c) taking Master’s and Doctoral studies in Nursing; (d) reading books by authors such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, John Ralston Saul, N. T. Wright, Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, and others; and (e) meeting some like-minded people through a bible study connected to my current church.  The tipping point was when we watched the video “Ordinary Radicals” and found out about many alternative Christian lifestyles.  I joked that we should do this, a friend replied quite seriously that we should.  That got the ball rolling.
Dan: What were the practical/actual steps that you took in order to bring this about?
Abe: There were a lot of logistics as we started with myself, my wife, our two young children, and 3 single friends (one who has now graciously stepped out and we are now ‘courting’ 2 other people).  My wife and I are financially tied to our house courtesy of a large mortgage and plummeting house prices, and some other debts.  So, although we all dreamed of getting a big property in the east end [the poorer part of the city] and setting up a drop-in centre for persons in poverty/curch(/bar?), we realized that we would have to just start where we were at.  So, what actually happened is we decided to met on a Saturday following the discusion mentioned in the question above.  We just chatted about the idea of intentional community, what we knew, what we dream about.  We then gave it a week to think, study, read, pray, ask people like you about it, etc.  I spent a lot of time talking to my wife, and researching intentional communities online and in books.
When we came together again the following Saturday we unanimously agreed we wanted to try it, and that we would just start with everyone moving into or (rather modestly sized) house.  This has meant some ongoing renovations to add a couple of bedrooms.  We have also spent a lot of time refining our mission, vision and principle statements and continuing to study and dialogue with others.
We have also decided to connect this to our local church, and so have been in dialogue with the Board there.
Another thing we did was purge a tone of stuff, we took 3-4 full truck-loads to Goodwill, as well as putting lots of stuff out at the curb.
We have also figured out the money stuff, where we all pay into a common account that pays the house bills, calculated to the reality that at the end of the day my wife and I still own the house.  For more on the logistics you can look us up at our blog at
Dan: So it sounds like this whole process has moved quite quickly for you.  How long did it take you to go from your first (joking) discussion of this topic to actually having people move into your house?
Abe: It was only three months, which does seem rather fast.  However, we did spend a lot of time together within that three months.  Also, it has taken much longer than that to find and work with other people, other than the core four to move in.
Dan: What is it that excites you about life in community?
Abe: Man, tons of stuff.  The idea of being forced to be in intimate relationships with a broader community than your own family (we have a 1 year mandatory stay contract for the founders, so no ducking out if relationships get dicey), the idea of being scrutinized and supported by others who inspire you, the idea of living simply and consuming less, the idea of our kids being exposed to more parental figures, the idea of beginning a journey of living an alternative lifestyle to our horrible culture, and honestly, the attention of doing something this outside of the ordinary garners.  There’s probably a lot of other things that don’t come to mind immediately.  I have been quite elated about the whole process as my wife has mentioned.  The idea of finally living the valuse I espouse is soul-soothing.
Dan: What scares you about life in community?
Abe: Honestly, the primary fear is telling other people about what we are doing, and worrying about misconceptions or poor opinions.  There are still some people (who are quite close to me) who I haven’t told about this because I am afraid of what it will do to our relationship.  Another thing that scares me is raising my kids up to either be weird or think we are weird, as this was a painful aspect of my own childhood, both rooted in and contributing to my own low self-esteem.  I’m a pretty open person anyway, so the scrutiny of my personal life isn’t disconcerting at all.
Dan: What are some of the “misconceptions or poor opinions” that you anticipate encountering?  What would you say in response to those things?
Abe: Actually, the one that we have gotten a lot is, “what about the kids?”, to which I usually reply, “what about the kids?”.  People seem concerned somehow that the kids won’t have enough of their own space, or will be not as well raised with other non-relatives around.  Our perspective is absolutely opposite to this; we believe that having other loving non-related adults in their lives is very healthy for them.  As well, we believe that having our kids see us living out our values is very healthy for them.  Lastly, having more people around will allow them to receive the personal attention that I feel sometimes Melissa and I are unable to provide them with.
Anwering this questions has been insightful for me.  The more I think about it, the more I can’t see having trouble answering any particular questions.  I guess it’s just a general impression that I’m worried about.  A lot of my acquaintances admire my achievements and rive, and I’m worried their admiration would decrease if they saw me doing something that might limit my worldly success.  I’m also a bit worried about telling the neighbours, who have a bit more of a vested interest in this.
Dan: What are the vision and/or goals y’all have established four yourselves at this point (if any)?
Abe: You can find some of this in our mission/vision and principles statements on our blog [see here], but really at this point we wanted to just dive in there and start living it.  We have dreams of connecting with our community, including those in poverty, those who are socially excluded, youth, and our immediate neighbours.  We have dreams of being inspirationally different.  In the long run, we have dreams of doing this way bigger like the Simple Way community.  For now, like I said, we want to get used to living together in such an intentional way.
Dan: So for now will you be focusing on developing relationships amongst those living in the house, or do you already have plans to include others from outside into your activities?
Abe: The main focus is the internal relationships.  However, it is quickly becoming clear that we will have a lot of external outreach as well.  A large part of this is the number of people we have lined-up to invite over for a meal.  These include neighbours, people from our church, friends, people we want to move-in, famil, etc.  So, that will be a part of developing relationships — showing others what we are doing and hoping to excite them with our work.
The second one is that through Nate’s work at the church, we are now planning on hosting a weekly meal at a local subsidized housing complex.  We are actually starting this Saturday, which should be a great experience.  Everything else is pending.
Dan: What suggestions would you give to others who are interested in this sort of lifestyle but are unsure how to progress?
Abe: Honestly, just start where you are.  Start in the neighbourhood you’re in, in the building you’re in, with the people you love.  It doesn’t have to be as awesome as some of the other communities that are out there, these have taken 10, 15, 20 years to grow to what they are.  Do lots of research, there a good books, a good lecture series from Charles Ringma at Regent [see here], lots of resources on the internet, and people you can talk to who are doing this or have done it before.  Spend a lot of time discussing with each other to make sure everyone is absolutely on the samepage as much as possible, which includes considering writing up a contract to limit the pain involved in a potential community breakdown.
Dan: Anything else you want to say about all of this?
Abe: That pretty much covers it, though I’m sure that people might have more questions, and I would be happy to keep answering them.
Dan: Thanks for you openness and willingness to engage in this interview, Abe!  I’m excited to see how this grows and develops in the life of you and the other Commonists.  Much love.