Blue Occupations, Black Bodies and Homelessness: An Interview with Jonathan Russell

 Pastor lives matter. But, that is not the same as #blacklivesmatter. My friend Greg Horton confirmed that to equate pastor lives, an occupation, with black lives, an incidence of birth, is considered the Fallacy of False Equivalency. Or, you may consider it a False Analogy.

Occupations and Bodies

Most of us grow up hearing reference to the Fallacy of False Equivalency when someone says, “You are comparing apples to oranges.” Maybe you have been frustrated attempting to make a point and restarted to asserting, “But we are not talking about the same thing!”

My friend Jonathan Russell took note of the conversations, public discourse, in response to the #blacklivesmatter movement and quickly saw the utilization of the Fallacy of False Equivalency. He wrote a piece for Huffington Post where he attempted to help readers understand the difference between occupations and bodies.

Russell did not question he value of bodies but that when comparing, for instance, #bluelivesmatter to #blacklivesmatter, the core issues are different. On the one had nobody wants to see police officers killed in the same way no one wants to see Black people killed. But, the reference to #bluelives is a reference to a chosen occupation. #Blacklives is a reference to Black bodies. You choose an occupation. You do not choose to be Black.

Put Away Your Eraser

What is often missed, and I hope unintentionally so, is that when we make false equivalencies we inevitably denigrate one or the other or both. Choosing to compare an occupation with an ethnicity erases not the occupation  but the ethnicity.

In this podcast, Jonathan helps us see what it means to live “under erasure.” My own personal sense is that no one really wants to erase the other, our neighbor. But, in our quest to be sure that we do not denigrate the bodies of those who choose to serve and protect we elevate the occupation not the bodies.

How Did You Learn About Your Whiteness

Yes, if you are white, you may have always known you were White. Jonathan talks about the discomfort he experienced when he learned how his Whiteness often led to the erasure of others, particularly Blacks.

Some want us to ignore difference, and differences. But, we cannot universalize one lived experience as the experience of all. Contexts matter. Rather than ignore difference, and differences, maybe it would be better if we learned appreciation. That is, appreciate for difference.

Jonathan does not write, speak or think from merely a theoretical perspective. As Chaplain on Skid Row in L.A. he sees some of the effects of Whiteness on homelessness. He wrote this piece on the subject last April.

Who Is Jonathan Russell?

I met Jonnie several years ago. Little did I know then that at one time he was in the band, Cold War Kids. I had hoped he used his mad guitar skills somewhere other than simply riffing on Stryper’s, To Hell with the Devil.

Today, Jonathan is a PhD student at Claremont Graduate University, an Adjunct Professor at Chaffey College, a Contributing Fellow at USC Center for Religion & Civic Culture and Chaplain on Skid Row in Los Angeles. His life experiences combine to provide reference points to consider how we understand human bodies, a better way to talk about human beings since most of the time we fear the body. That has led him to consider the differences in those bodies and particularly as they pertain to race. His work on Skid Row brings him in to close proximity to homelessness, addiction and post-incarceration experiences of these human bodies.

On today’s podcast Jonnie and I consider his two articles as a jumping off point for our conversation. Jonnie represents the voices I am hoping to include as resources for the Pastor-Theologian. Take time to listen and be open to the observations Jonathan has made. I hope it will help everyone, particularly those who Pastor and are interested in the work of the Pastor-Theologian.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five star rating and a kind review.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.