Beverly Arevalo: Colloquium March 7th, 2017: Dr. Jonathan Walton, “This is my body broken for you…”

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Dr. Jonathan Walton, Minister of Harvard Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Religion and Society at Harvard University presented the UCR Colloquium entitled “This is my body broken for you…” on Marth 7th, 2017. This lecture explored minority inequality in terms of the economic, social, and racial, all within the scope of Christian ideologies. Dr. Walton begins by citing examples of police brutality against African-Americans such as Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, and mentions the mass protests accompanying these unjustified deaths. Dr. Walton spoke of the protests that transpired at colleges and universities around the country with the outcry of Eric Garner’s words as he was being mishandled by the NYPD: “I can’t breathe”. Dr. Walton calls protests “performance art, cultural ritual and theatrical representation of injustice and of resistance”. Dr. Walton also mentions a specific protest at his own Harvard University on Sunday December 6th, 2015 on the steps of the Harvard Memorial Church of about 500 people who laid themselves down in front of the church steps, forcing other parishioners to walk over their bodies to exit. Dr. Walton received both positive and negative feedback by his congregation as well as a specific complaint disdaining the ‘political’ turn that transpired, guiding church in a specific direction that wasn’t warranted by the parishioner.

Dr. Walton continues by giving numerous analogous analyses of the injustices of African Americans: Caesarean Roman Empire, mentioning the resistance of Galilee by the Jewish peasant class – “Bandits”, and Romano-Jewish scholar Josephus said, “Roman trees bore strange fruit”. Walton goes on to quote Jewish theologian Martin Buber with ‘Black bodies are “its”’, and are ‘objects of consumption’; Walton also mentions his Harvard colleague Walter Johnson and his ecological analogy of African-American slaves being referred to as crops and how they would often be punished and brutalized in slaughterhouses as less than human, or animals, their deaths were “neither tragic, nor an injustice.” Walton finally provides the analysis of philosopher Judith Butler, ‘de-realization of certain human subjects’, of which Walton cites minorities like, ‘Jewish, queer, trans, black, brown, Arab bodies’, etc. and concludes his analysis by calling back to the email complaint of the parishioner mentioned earlier, and how she was forced to become a part of the political protest outside of the church with such disdain. Dr. Walton states that this is the ‘opposite of the Eucharist’, and how “a new conception of Christ in the ritual” is needed.

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