Remixing Traditions

Dear readers,

 I hope we can collaborate to cultivate liberation spiritualities: ways of transforming ourselves and the world together. But every act of transformation breaks from a context and tradition, and in doing so it renews them. So let me share where I'm coming from, and where I stand in relation to some of the traditions and experiences that made me.

My family taught me to sing the blues and to go for long walks in the woods, and my students and friends have taught me to (re)mix traditions.  I am eclectic, a heretic to the heretics, working toward an integrity that will only bear fruit through social revolution.

I was raised in a devout Catholic family with Italian, Russian, and Celtic roots.  I grew up playing in the forest, stacking rocks like Celtic cairns, making altars to the ocean and its guardian angels.  I still wonder what the indigenous peoples saw in those forests and shores before they were slaughtered by genocidal colonists.  From a young age I knew there was blood in the water and original sins to atone for, but I'm still learning what to do about it.

Three centuries ago, the Puritan settlers in that town had executed women from their own communities as witches, fearing they were too spiritually connected to that land, to its inhabitants, and to their own bodies.  Today, the secularized descendants of those settlers don't like to hug people, have feasts, or share emotions publicly. As a someone raised culturally catholic, I almost consider these things to be sacraments.

Over the years my spirituality has grown, fragmented, and recombined through interfaith dialogue,  meditation, poetry, oppression, trauma, clouds of unknowing, dark nights of the soul, and collective struggles for liberation.

Today, my relationship with the Church is complicated, which is not unusual.  I've almost converted to Anabaptism, Zen, and Islam many times.

Somehow the Holy Spirit keeps calling me back to the broad, global Christian tradition.  But She also lures me forward, into a future beyond the Church's patriarchal, hierarchal, and colonial practices.

I identify with the grassroots mysticism of millions of proletarians around the world who discover new traces of Mary, Jesus, and the saints in our daily joys and sorrows and our rebellions against the system.

I am particularly interested in all the ways traditions leak out of their orthodoxies, generating creative syncretisms: spiritual remixes such as La Virgen De Guadalupe,  San Precario, or the grassroots healing practices of women who have been burned as witches by anxious male authorities.

One of my favorite books is Sylvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch, where she describes how the revolutions that brought down feudalism were not launched by the rising capitalist class, but rather by these grassroots spiritual rebels. Perhaps the revolution that brings down capitalism will also be launched by a new generation of them/us.

The veins of Christianity flow with a sensuous, polyamorous wellspring of subterranean mysticism. The mystery of Jesus's practice as a lover can manifest in an infinite number of ways, as many ways as we can embody love in our lives.  His example combines with other spiritualities and religions, with the politics of social movements, and with popular culture such as hip hop and science fiction.   My experiences have hugged these syncretic margins of the diasporic gospel, burning with their growing edges.  You can call me a heretic or a lunatic if you want, but I bet that I'm not alone.

I come from the intersection between liberation theology interfaith dialogue

I studied religious studies and theology at several elite universities before leaving academia and joining the social movements that have been growing out in the streets.  In recent years I've been studying theology independently after work, in conversation with friends.  I aim to combine liberation theology, comparative theology, and revolutionary theory such as anti-state communism,  communization theory, feminism, and queer theory.

I want to collaborate to creatively renew Christian praxis (theory and practice), from the perspective of our collective struggles for liberation and communization. But I also want to renew our praxis from the perspective of dialogue, friendship, solidarity, and encounter with people of other religious, spiritual, and atheist traditions.  The gospel is the via positiva, the good news that keeps our love alive during struggles against oppression.  But these challenging relationships are the via negativa, the honest critiques that free us from our own tendencies to turn God into an idol, a reified object we cling to in order to avoid uncomfortable change.  They free us to break from tradition when necessary, and to embrace unexpected turns in the futures we might build together.

I come from radical criticisms of religion 

For that reason, I'm also committed to growing Marxist, feminist, queer, and anarchist critiques of religion, in ways that challenge the dogmatism of our various religious traditions AND the dogmatisms of 19th and 20th century revolutionary theories and atheisms that failed to recognize their own religiosity. We need these ruthless critiques in order to ground our spiritualities in the liberating self-activity of oppressed peoples, and to avoid creating new ideologies that the capitalist system might use to suppress this self-activity.  As Marx argued, criticism of religion is most powerful when it goes beyond atheism and criticizes the social world whose spiritual aroma is religion.  The critics have only interpreted the world; the goal is to change it.

This blog is an interactive book

I created this blog because I wish something like this were around when I was 17, facing the onslaught of political and spiritual forces my generation inherited from our ancestors.  For years I've been working on writing the book I wish I could have read back then.  But I finally realized that writing a book is too solitary and time-consuming of an endeavor for someone with my particular callings.  So instead I aim to use this blog to share my insights in real time portions, as I pause to reflect between classes, protests, and moments of play. I hope to engage in dialogue and debate to nurture these further.

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts.

Omni Sunt Communia
(Everything for Everyone),

Mamos Rotnelli