Damon Garcia is the author of The God Who Riots. We asked Damon a few questions to learn more about the inspiration behind this powerful and honest book focused on taking action in our faith communities to work toward true justice and liberation.
What prompted you to write The God Who Riots?
Many of us grew up with a suspicion that Jesus was way more radical than what people let on. We may have even left Christianity a long time ago but still feel like Jesus is somehow a part of our desire for justice and our growing radicalization against unjust systems of power. I wrote to give people a framework to articulate our faith in a way that directly empowers our struggle for freedom.
A story you often return to is the story of Jesus flipping the tables in the temple. Why do you find this story so meaningful?
Jesus uses the temple to stage a planned demonstration. It’s not a spontaneous temper tantrum. Flipping the tables, pouring out coins, and driving out those who were buying and selling are all deliberate actions to temporarily shut down the activities of the temple’s outer court. He then uses this opportunity, while the crowds protect him, to accuse the religious leaders of turning the temple into a den of robbers. A den of robbers is not where people are robbed, but where robbers go and hide to avoid the consequences. So Jesus is essentially accusing the religious leaders of using the temple to hide and avoid the injustice going on in the world. And I think this story is more relevant than ever because we all know Christians who use their religion to hide and avoid the injustices going on in our world. In the temple Jesus shows us the God who riots in response to injustice.
What does it mean to “take back the radical Jesus”?
I wrote this book to confirm the suspicion that Jesus is way more radical than many of us could imagine. And when we recover this radical Jesus, we join a long line of colonized and marginalized people throughout history who were empowered by Jesus to fight for liberation from those who used Jesus to oppress them. We share the same task in the face of rising Christofascism.
You’re on Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, everywhere! Can you speak to the community you’ve found online that’s deconstructing Christianity?
Like many of us, I grew up with a very narrow view of Christianity. I had no idea that my old Evangelical denomination only represented a small corner of the large and diverse historic Christian tradition. So when I began working in ministry, I decided to research other interpretations and practices outside of my Evangelical bubble. And it drastically widened my perspective. I devoured books, blogs, podcasts, videos, and any other content I could find that voiced the beautiful and liberating interpretations of Christianity that were hidden from me my whole life. So now I want to be able to give that perspective to others who are searching for something new. And that’s why I started making videos and posting them everywhere. I want to give people access to healthier ideas and practices like others did for me.
What are some modern-day protests and movements where you see God made manifest?
I began writing the book during the Black Lives Matter protests after the police murder of George Floyd. During that time many people repeated that quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The riot is the voice of the unheard.” Voices are unheard because they are suppressed. And as those who experience that suppression become conscious of their solidarity with others who share their experience, they will continue to rise up. As our society devalues Black lives, we will continue to see protests for Black lives. As our society devalues workers we will continue to see worker strikes. As our society devalues the lives of shooting victims, we will continue to see protests for gun control. Jesus’s demonstration in the temple shared a similar motivation to give a voice to the unheard. Matthew’s gospel adds the detail that sick and disabled people rushed into the temple to be healed during his demonstration. This wasn’t spontaneous either. This was part of Jesus’s message.
What do you hope a reader will take away from your book?
A major part of this book is about the ways marginalized people reshape their faith to empower our struggle for liberation, but in order to be honest about that I’m also honest about the history of Christian violence. Understanding that history can be freeing. When we understand the origins of oppressive systems, we gain insight into how we can abolish them. I wrote my book to give readers the conviction to join in that work, and to understand that this work is what Jesus was talking about when he talked about bringing heaven to earth.
Click here to learn more about The God Who Riots by Damon Garcia.