Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"He Had a Bad Day"

"He was at the end of his rope."

That's how the Georgia sheriff explained the actions of a white male "Christian" mass murderer who killed eight people last night, six of them Asian American women who may have been sex workers at three massage parlors or spas the murderer had visited in the past.

As Roxanne Gay wrote today

...we know little to nothing about his victims beyond their victimhood. Thus far, only four of the victim’s names have been released—Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng. The people who lost their lives because of a white man’s bad day are not extended empathy because empathy, seemingly, is a finite resource only extended to white men. As the discourse proceeds, people will try to derail the conversation by talking about the nature of the women’s work in the three massage parlors where they were murdered as if their lives somehow matter less if they are sex workers. Sex work is work. Their lives matter. We have to stand up for them. We have to learn all their names. We have to do everything we can to ensure that this wave of violence ends here and now. And, while we’re at it, we need to protect sex workers with more than empty, self-serving rhetoric about human trafficking as if all sex workers are trafficked and merely saying the phrase “human trafficking,” is activism. It is not.

But I also want to point out the likely role of the murderer's religion in his actions. According to the indulgent sheriff (who should resign or be fired, by the way), the killer acted because he claims to be a sex addict and these places and people were too much temptation. That's not something a nonreligious person would say. It went unsaid, of course, but there's a clear fire-and-brimstone edge to his actions: banishing sin with a gun. It's the right of every Christian white man, especially ones who probably feel disempowered by their own fetishization of Asian women.

Quoting Roxanne Gay again,

All of us need to condemn this violence and we need to do so in specific terms. A hate crime was committed. It was vicious, gendered, and racially motivated. It was about class, the fetishization of Asian women, and men feeling entitled to sex. To eradicate this kind of moral rot, we need to name every part of it.

I think we also need to call attention to the moral rot of twisted Christian sexuality that's part of it.


Follow up: Captain Jay Baker, the sheriff's office official (I guess he isn't the actual sheriff, but a captain in the department) is known to have made a social media post in April 2020 promoting a T-shirt that said COVID-19: Imported Virus from Chy-Na. Not that it wasn't already clear where his sympathies lie, but now it's even clearer.


More follow up from Black feminist @ProfessorCrunk Brittney Cooper:

Re: the white religious extremism that drove these murders in Atlanta. The evangelical Christian set should not forget that Ravi Zacharias was also just exposed for exploiting and raping Asian women in massage parlors in Atlanta and around the globe while he traveled to do ministry.

So the church should not miss the wake up call to address both its white supremacy and the way its sexual theology creates conditions for harm and exploitation of vulnerable women by men who fixate on notions of women as temptations to be cured or otherwise negotiated.

What Ravi did and what Robert Long did are of a piece. Both their actions grow out of the same toxic ideology.  Since this is the Lenten season, it behooves the Church to tell the truth. Much of evangelical theology is toxic and toxic theology kills.

One of the responses to Cooper's tweets linked to this article from Christianity Today about Zacharias.

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