Social & Political Issues

When deporting criminals is inhumane: Speak up for an Iraqi Christian veteran and US prisoner with a complex story

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Every story has at least two sides. While it may be easier for the public to swallow a “We’re focusing on deporting convicted criminals” perspective from the current administration, it’s still far from a one-sided story. The story below details the complex story of the uncle of some my former (Christian college) students that illustrates this complexity well.

No country should betray someone who has served and as a result been broken by it in this manner. Please sign and circulate this story widely and quickly.

My uncle, Nahidh Shaou, is an Iraqi Chaldean Christian and US Army veteran who faces imminent deportation to Baghdad. He is currently being held by ICE awaiting deportation. Here is a petition about his case as well as an article about ICE’s larger plan to deport Iraqis to Baghdad.

My uncle Nahidh came to the US on a green card when he was five, was deployed to Korean while serving in the military, and then committed a crime for which he served 35 years in prison. He was a model inmate and quickly reformed. We feel his deportation to Baghdad is a death sentence and that he will be targeted by ISIS for his Christian faith and for serving the US Army. He knows no one in Iraq and does not speak Arabic. Likewise, the Iraqi government has no record/documentation of him as an Iraqi citizen, meaning he wouldn’t even be able to acquire a passport to flee the country.

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Children & Marriage, Spiritual Formation, Women

The spiraling nature of nose rings, motherhood, and professional growth

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Seattle, 2007

Having just closed on a home in a tiny midwestern town, I boarded a plane for a professional conference in Seattle. A bustling city, intellectual conversations, and an unfettered schedule awaited me there, offering a much needed break from the everyday insanity of my toddler-saturated world. It would be a temporary refuge from the small town life I had just signed up for.

How would I survive in that isolated space that loved its own but stiff-armed the difference my family represented? The question echoed as I soaked in the balm of an urban environment that posed no expectations of who I was supposed to be. A few days in, I came to a sudden conclusion on how to make peace with my rural fate: I would pierce my nose. An external sign of an inward stance, it would be a daily reminder to be true to who I was – a mother, a professional, a misfit in an environment where belonging was prized. Silly as it sounds, it was a significant mental shift for me, one in which I accepted both my lot and my identity, and made space for the tension that existed between them.

Seattle, 2017

I used to think that life worked like a straight line in which we moved from point to point, learning from one place and moving on to the next without ever returning to the old ones. What I’ve learned instead is that life is more of a spiral in which we revisit the same spaces, each time at a different level with added wisdom and grace from what we’ve learned before.

My spiral-shaped nose ring and I are back in Seattle for the first time in 10 years. This time around, the small town life lies in the distant past. I now live in a metropolitan area, and just left sick teenagers at home with their superhero of a father. It strikes me that I am making my way back to a beginning of sorts. It’s the same thing all over again, but this time at a different level. I still work as an academic administrator, but this time with a whole new size and scope. I’m still entrenched in this mothering thing, but this time juggling the teenage dramas instead of the toddler ones. I’m still working out how to live into the whole of my identity, but this time with a bit more wisdom and grace for myself and those around me.

Over the course of the last decade, my spiral has corkscrewed all over the place, but returning to this space draws an instant connection from where I used to be to where I am now. I think of that moment when I suddenly thought, “I know! I’ll pierce my nose!”, of the lesson it taught me to embrace who I’m created to be instead of running away from it, and I grin at the gently spiraling repetition of it all. That lesson may never grow old.

 

 

 

 

Restoration & Reconciliation, The-best-ones

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall stand between

 

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
 

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTSH3XR

 

 

Over the past several years, society at large has descended into staunchly divided battlelines. As I’ve stepped back to distance from the clamor, I’ve found myself looking for the people who are standing between. Truth be told, I’m not currently one of them. The current nature of public discourse makes it hard for me to see a middle ground with a leader whose actions threaten the peace of those I love and serve on a daily basis.

When it’s tempting to give up hope altogether, I think back to the stories I’ve heard of faith leaders on the front lines of peacemaking. Beneath the headlines of police brutality against African Americans were faith leaders in the African American church absorbing pain by creating spaces for lament, protest, grief, modeling hope, faith, and love in real time. I am struck by the strength in their hope for tomorrow, by the boldness of their grief, and by the fortitude of their perseverance.

But the sorrow sinks deep as I watch the white church make minimal response to such injustice, stirring longing, passion, and anger within. I pause to remember the white people I know who do care and act on this conviction to console my angst over those who don’t:

  • My youth pastor challenged me to grapple with the realities of racism nearly twenty-five years ago at our very-white-church. He pursues these same conversations with white teenagers in his youth group to this day.
  • A history professor in college dedicated a significant portion of his scholarly endeavors to developing and leading civil rights tours for faculty from a conservative Christian college in the Midwest. His steady and informed presentation of realities never experienced or understood by these faculty provided another narrative for their understanding of the racial history of our country.
  • A pastor of an urban church in Chicago first taught me that it was more important to be honest than perfect. She has lived most of her life advocating for the poor and racial understanding in the church. Her lifelong example models humility and servanthood.

Compiling seasonal “best-ones” articles from my various social media feeds, I find a string of exasperated voices reflecting the reality that equality is no easy battle. My sorrow is comforted by the memory of these bridge-builders as their example shifts my heartsick disgust toward listening to those who attempt to reconcile both ‘sides of the aisle’. In that spirit, I’d like to share a few of the most insightful resources that are guiding me through the current murky waters of Trump’s America:

Phil Vischer PodcastCreator of the popular children’s program Veggie Tales, Phil Vischer spends his podcast exploring the current state of the American church with author Skye Jethani. It is perhaps the most thoughtful Christian podcast I’ve heard, at times leaving me in tears. The episode ‘Does Christian Media Stunt Christian Growth‘ is the most accurate assessment of the white American evangelical church I have ever heard, and helped clarify a lot of the current cultural chaos we’re experiencing.

 

Manwar Ali: Inside the Mind of a Former Radical Jihadist. This TedTalk explores the influences behind radical religion. Manwar drew striking parallels to the dangers of all forms of religious extremism—not just Islam.

 

Sharon Brous: It’s time to reclaim religion. A Jewish rabbi, Sharon refuses to accept the narrative of religion as divisive and marginalizing, advocating instead that religions can instead use our shared values to foster peace, hope, and interconnectedness.

 

Megan Phelps-Roper: I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church: Here’s Why I Left. Megan shares how her interactions on Twitter influenced her change in worldview and shares lessons remarkably applicable to our increasingly polarized society.

 

We need to talk about an injustice by Bryan Stevenson. Bryan’s call for ‘just mercy’ in society provides a model of perseverance and integrity. In his book, he suggests that Christians, like Jesus who stopped the pharisees from stoning the adulterous woman, are stonecatchers.

“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher,” he says. “But that is exhausting. You’re not going to catch them all. And it hurts. If it doesn’t make you sad to have to do that, then you don’t understand what it means to be engaged in an act of faith….But if you have the right relationship to it, it is less of a burden, finally, than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.”

The Grand Unraveling by Robynn Bliss.

It takes a prophetic imagination to see the Kingdom beyond and past and outside the borders of the country. It takes a sacred vision to imagine a country so radically different that we wouldn’t recognize if but for the scant shades of blue, white and red worked under the tapestry of red and yellow; black and white. It takes hope to see past the present desolation to the promise of full redemption and restoration.

Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap by Phil Yancey. Yancey explores the three biggest losses of this election: civility, religion, and truth.

Why I Left White Nationalism by Derek Black. Former leader of a popular white nationalist movement, Derek shares how friendships with people willing to dialog about his difference influenced him to abandon his supremacist views.

Have you found other bridge-building resources that are giving you perspective on how to foster civility and respect? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Social & Political Issues

Faith-based resources to support immigrants under the Trump administration

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

from Matthew 25

It’s no secret that the world may change significantly for immigrants under the coming Trump administration. Dreamers, one of the demographics most potentially impacted by Trump’s damaging rhetoric surrounding immigration, have been in a state of shock and fear since his election given his stated intentions to reverse the DACA program. On a broader level, the refugee crisis rages worldwide, leaving those distanced from these tragedies feeling shocked and helpless.

As Christians, the biblical call to care for the stranger is clear. For individuals and churches across the country compelled to increase their understanding of ways to help the vulnerable populations in our midst and around the world, the following resources are an excellent place to find practical options for faith-based initiatives and resources to support immigrants, refugees, and immigration reform.

Sign the Matthew 25 pledge

This weekend, I joined several hundred Christians from across Southern California seeking to prepare to fulfill this call at a training by Alexia Salvatierra (featured in 101 Culturally Diverse Christian Voices) sponsored by the Matthew 25 movement. This movement is seeking 1 million signatures by inauguration day on its Matthew 25 pledge to “protect and defend the vulnerable in the name of Jesus.” Click here to add your name. They are also encouraging churches and organizations to share this on their websites and in services.

Organizations to support

Faith Rooted Organizing: News, resources, training, and networking opportunities for organizations interested in supporting vulnerable people in the US.

Evangelical Immigration Table: Tools, statistics, resources, and media for challenging the church to play a key role in support immigrants in the US. Start with the challenge for yourself to pray through Biblical passages about immigration for 40 days.

Interfaith Immigration Coalition: a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform. They advocate for immigration policies, educate faith communities, and serve immigrant populations around the country.

Sanctuary Movement: an organization of faith communities supporting immigrants facing deportation.

Resources to Read

Welcoming the Stranger: Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang

“Immigration is one of the most complicated issues of our time. Voices on all sides argue strongly for action and change. Christians find themselves torn between the desire to uphold laws and the call to minister to the vulnerable. In this book World Relief staffers Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang move beyond the rhetoric to offer a Christian response to immigration. They put a human face on the issue and tell stories of immigrants’ experiences in and out of the system. With careful historical understanding and thoughtful policy analysis, they debunk myths and misconceptions about immigration and show the limitations of the current immigration system. Ultimately they point toward immigration reform that is compassionate, sensible and just, as they offer concrete ways for you and your church to welcome and minister to your immigrant neighbors.”

The church leader’s guide to immigration (World Relief)

“Pastors and other church leaders are uniquely positioned in immigrant communities to develop relationships and demonstrate the truth of the gospel. The Church Leader’s Guide to Immigration has been designed as a resource for those on the front lines of ministry who need practical guidance. The questions in this guide were gathered by the authors over several years from local churches and national denominational leaders in the U.S. The questions and answers are not intended to be exhaustive, but designed to lay a foundation for further study. Each section lists additional resources that offer a more in-depth discussion of the presented topics.”

Faith-rooted organizing: Mobilizing the church in service to the world by Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel

“With so many injustices, small and great, across the world and right at our doorstep, what are people of faith to do? Since the 1930s, organizing movements for social justice in the U.S. have largely been built on assumptions that are secular origin―such as reliance on self-interest and having a common enemy as a motivator for change. But what if Christians were to shape their organizing around the implications of the truth that God is real and Jesus is risen? Alexia Salvatierra has developed a model of social action that is rooted in the values and convictions born of faith. Together with theologian Peter Heltzel, this model of “faith-rooted organizing” offers a path to meaningful social change that takes seriously the command to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself.”

Local Networking

As a means of exploring this issue further, I’d like to explore the potential of starting a small group of Christians in the Northeast SGV exploring these ideas using the curriculum below. If you live in this area and are interested in participating, please complete the contact form below and I’ll be in touch with more details.

Small group curriculum: “Welcoming the Stranger: Discovering and Living God’s heart for Immigrants” (NAE and World Relief)

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After the election: How to build a bridge by Marilyn Gardner.

It is generally acknowledged that the construction of a commodious bridge over a wide, impetuous river is one of the noblest efforts of human genius. In no country that has made any advances in civilization has the art of bridge-building been neglected. On the contrary, it has everywhere been esteemed for its great utility and has engaged the attentive care of enlightened men.

Research says there are ways to reduce racial bias. Calling people racist isn’t one of them. by German Lopez.

But just noting these racial attitudes and biases did not seem to have a huge impact on the election. Despite bigoted policy proposals that at one point even called for banning an entire religious group from the US, and the media’s constant reminders that Trump is racist, Trump won. Clearly, a lot of US voters either shared Trump’s prejudiced views or, at the very least, didn’t find such ideas to be fundamental deal breakers. That suggests there’s a lot of racism — or at least the enabling of it — in America, perhaps even more than one would think in 2016.

Evil, forgiveness, and prayer by Krista Tippett. 

“I no longer ask You for either happiness or paradise; all I ask of You is to listen and let me be aware and worthy of Your listening. I no longer ask You to resolve my questions, only to receive them and make them part of You. I no longer ask You for either rest or wisdom, I only ask You not to close me to gratitude, be it of the most trivial kind, or to surprise and friendship. Love? Love is not Yours to give.”

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Why I left White Nationalism by R. Derek Black. Read the perspective of a former white nationalist and learn about the interactions with others that changed his mind.

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from Christena Cleveland’s instagram account.

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9 ways to seek shalom with immigrants by Sarah Quezada. 9 practical suggestions to “nurture harmony and restoration” with immigrants.

As Donald Trump railed against refugees, a pastor made his life among them by Julie Zauzmer. 

“I think probably the most compelling reason we chose to move into the neighborhood was really the story of Jesus,” Eric So said. “From the Scriptures, I see God sending his son, Jesus, into the world, so that he would dwell among the people.”

The church and the huddled masses by Matthew Soerens. A history of the complicated relationship between the church and immigrants.

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When things fall apart: Saint Augustine of Hippo and the fall of Rome by Taylor Denyer.

“God does not raise up citadels of stone and marble for us; outside of this world he raises up citadels of the Holy Spirit for us, citadels of love which could never collapse, which will for ever stand in glory when this world has been reduced to ashes. … Rome has collapsed and your hearts are outraged by this.  Rome was built by men like yourself.  Since when did you believe that men had the power to build things that are eternal?  Your souls, filled with the light of the Holy Spirit, will not perish.”

An open letter to white feminists by Rhon Manigault-Bryant.

If there is a sentiment we share, it is disappointment. I am disappointed that it has taken you this long to actually get what black women—and namely black feminists and womanists—have been trying to help you see and feel for a very long time. We now, for example, share fear.

Why social media is terrible for multiethnic democracies by Sean Illing.

Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote, and he did it by appealing to some of the worst elements of the body politic. Bridging the gap after an embittered, protracted election is always difficult; this year it will be near impossible.

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Church, we’ve got some explaining to do by Phil Vischer.

The world is growing more brown. America is growing more brown. Global Christianity is growing more brown. More and more of our neighbors – those we’re called by Christ to love – are various shades of brown. And yet here we stand, white Christians, having just pushed a man into office who built his campaign on pledges to wall off and otherwise restrict the movements of brown people.

4 problems associated with the white, evangelical support of Trump by Tabiti Anyabwile. 

No one forced this on the movement. An 81 percent return will not allow us to discard these voters as “not truly evangelical.” At the moment, that’s exactly who evangelicalism is.

An Open Letter To The Evangelical Church, From The Black Girl In Your Pew by Illesha Graham.

So, if your words today do not demonstrate love, compassion and kindness towards those who don’t experience life like you, then you should not be speaking them today. Because in the absence of grace, your words ring hollow as the clanging cymbal of privilege.

Global Evangelical Leaders: Trump’s Win Will Harm the Church’s Witness by Kate Shellnut. 

“One of the things that America was stood for in the past was moral leadership and character. Over the past few decades, it has slowly dissipated,” said Hwa Yung, longtime bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. “In this election you have produced two candidates, both of whom are deeply flawed in character. The question people around the world are asking is, ‘Is this what America is today?’ The election has done great damage to your moral standing in the eyes of the world.”

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When White evangelicals gained the world but lost their soul

I know white evangelical who voted for Trump. I have spoken with them about it and know that some of them made this choice with great angst, sorrow, and protest to the conservative platform. In the end, they could not, in good conscience, vote for Hillary for reasons that are personally important to them—not because they are racist. However, the exit polls on the evangelical vote suggest a great deal of blind devotion to a political party who likes the power it gained in the era of the Religious Right.  When you read the history books, this plotline never ends well.

A prayer for the broken-hearted

But this weeping? It is born from fear for personal safety, sanity, and mere existence. These tears aren’t about who votes for or against abortion, the Supreme Court, or Obamacare. They are about the sorrow for the setback of the American Dream—the hope that we are equal under the law, indivisible, with liberty justice for all. The harsh reality for those of us who weep is that the nation’s leader is a man who spoke aggressively against these very ideals, who blatantly denies the impact of his negative behavior, and whose behavior descends far lower than what we would ever allow of our children.

Miscellany

A prayer for the brokenhearted

There is much weeping and anguish over the current state of America right now. Contrary to some perspectives, it’s not about the loss of political power. That happens. That’s normal and to be expected. Let the Republicans take a turn for awhile. Many will disagree, grumble, and wait for “change in Washington”, but we’ll all survive the ups-and-downs of the political fray, and eventually return to our regularly-scheduled-programming.

But this weeping? It is born from fear for personal safety, sanity, and mere existence. These tears aren’t about who votes for or against abortion, the Supreme Court, or Obamacare. They are about the sorrow for the setback of the American Dream—the hope that we are equal under the law, indivisible, with liberty justice for all. The harsh reality for those of us who weep is that the nation’s leader is a man who spoke aggressively against these very ideals, who blatantly denies the impact of his negative behavior, and whose behavior descends far lower than what we would ever allow of our children.

Consider this sampling of events that has already occurred, mere days after the election:

Some are saying that this is normal, that it’s not connected to the election. To that, I respond, “Why the hell is it ok for this to be normal?”

The pain is running deep these days, folks. As one deeply committed to healing racial wounds in our country, I feel the weight of it especially heavy on my shoulders. My husband and I hear from friends and colleagues across the country who feel the same thing. When I hear relief expressed over the election results, I find myself wanting to respond, “Frankly, I’m deeply saddened by them because my volunteer work is in racial reconciliation. This has been a ruuuuuuuffffff week for so many, and there’s a lot of pain out there in the wake of what this has revealed about America.”

For those of us who are mourning with those who mourn, who feel it our call as a follower of Christ to love mercy, act justly, and live humbly, I offer a prayer today.

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Belief, Social & Political Issues

When white evangelicals gained the world but lost their soul

I am not surprised that Trump won.

I am disgusted, saddened, and angry, but not surprised for I have lived amongst the Trump supporters as an interracial family. They threw eggs at my house, tried to run my husband off the road, drove pick-up trucks with confederate flags back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth in front of my house, and made threatening phone calls to my home in the middle of the night.

Having seen it up close, I understand these Trump supporters in a way that many of the elite leftists can’t. First and foremost, they are people, just like the rest of us, making a life for themselves. Many love their families and care for their neighbors and work hard to provide for their children. While I will never condone their racist perspectives or hate-filled actions toward my family, I can understand where their angst is born. Everything they know is changing. The small towns that used to be vibrant communities are now desolate piles of abandoned buildings. The jobs their grandparents taught them to rely on are gone and there’s nowhere to turn – no education to lean on, no career back-up plan. Their world is bleak and it makes sense that Trump’s message to Make America Great Again appealed to them.

I am, however, speechless and astounded that white evangelical Christians voted for Trump in such overwhelming numbers, 81% to be exact—the highest percentage of such evangelicals ever to vote for a Republican candidate.

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I grew up in the evangelical tradition, and learned well that the pure message of the gospel is this:

Here is how we overcome evil with good.

Be genuine in your love for others. Hate what is evil. Hold on to what is good. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give others more honor than you want for yourselves. Work hard. Serve God with all your heart. Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes. Pray at all times. Share with people who need help. Bring strangers in need into your homes.

Wish good for those who do bad things to you. Wish them well and do not curse them. Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. Live together in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are.

If someone does wrong to you, do not pay them back by doing wrong to them. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. Do your best to live in peace with everyone. Don’t try to punish others when they wrong you. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Instead, do this:

If your enemy is hungry, feed them; If your enemy is thirsty, give them a drink. Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on their head. (Disarming love requires creative action. In this way you are both showing love and helping them to see their shame for what they have done)

Do not be overcome by evil. Overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21*

I’m deeply grateful for this theological grounding. It has served me well and continues to be a deep and abiding foundation of my life. As a result, it astounds me that so many of these believers who taught me this depth of faith weren’t more outraged by Trump’s blatantly unbiblical and unchristian values. ‘Character’ and ‘virtue’ have long been a cry of the conservatives and this value all but disappeared the closer we got to election day.

While I can empathize with conservative arguments for voting Republican, it is simply inexcusable to me to give Trump’s horrible treatment of people a ‘pass’ simply because he speaks the language these evangelicals want to hear. Comfortable with and unaware of their privilege, many are still trying to figure out why people are so upset about this. In his article, Church, we’ve got some explaining to do, Veggies Tales creator Phil Vischer sums up the conundrum perfectly:

Last night America voted to transition from our first African-American President to a President whose campaign was marked with charges of implicit and explicit racism and xenophobia.

Former KKK “Imperial Wizard” David Duke claimed after the victory that Trump couldn’t have won without the support of “my people,” which, in this case, would be white nationalists and white supremacists.

Trump was also supported by a significant majority of the white church in America. White Christians, “alt right” white nationalists and white supremacists found themselves side-by-side pushing Donald Trump into the White House. (Suddenly the repetition of the color “white” becomes too ironic to ignore.)

Now think about this:

The world is growing more brown. America is growing more brown. Global Christianity is growing more brown. More and more of our neighbors – those we’re called by Christ to love – are various shades of brown. And yet here we stand, white Christians, having just pushed a man into office who built his campaign on pledges to wall off and otherwise restrict the movements of brown people.

I know white evangelical who voted for Trump. I have spoken with them about it and know that some of them made this choice with great angst, sorrow, and protest to the conservative platform. In the end, they could not, in good conscience, vote for Hillary for reasons that are personally important to them—not because they are racist. However, the exit polls on the evangelical vote suggest a great deal of blind devotion to a political party who likes the power it gained in the era of the Religious Right.  When you read the history books, this plotline never ends well.

Your privilege is showing, white church, and it’s getting in the way of your true message. That may not have been your intent, but it certainly supports the notion that the white evangelical church as a whole has checked its mind at the door for the sake of political power. “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind,” author Mark Noll predicted over twenty years ago. “American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.”

To those relieved by Trump’s win, my friend Stephanie offers this challenge:

You 80% white evangelicals who voted for Trump, who thought it was because of your faith that you had to— you need to get talking with your black and brown evangelical friends who voted the complete opposite and find out what’s going on with their faith. Because somehow their faith told them it wasn’t okay…

I don’t think you realize how badly you’ve wounded the body of Christ in this election. I don’t think you realize how heart-sore, disillusioned, and embittered you’ve made people. And maybe you think— “Those fears are unfounded. There’s not really going to be a wall, or deportations, or any of those crazy things.” Maybe you voted because you felt like it was the lesser of two evils. 

But those are real fears. And so if you want to be reconciled to your black and brown brothers and sisters, it’s going to take a lot of work to make up that lost ground. A lot. If you thought we could just sing and pray together and it would be okay before, that opportunity has completely passed us by. There is no chance of that kind of “reconciliation” any more.

My facebook feed is blowing up with angry conflict; and I’ve told myself to stay out of the fray, to not care, to keep quiet. But complicit silence is the white evangelical norm in the face of prejudice, and I don’t walk that path anymore. Call me angry, strident, or a pot-stirrer; but the hope of the gospel means enough to me that I can’t bear to watch it compromised by so many evangelicals who have, in Jesus’ words, ‘gained the whole world’, but in the process lost their souls and their minds in the pursuit of political power.

May the Lord have mercy on our souls.


*Thanks to my FB Friend Luke Owsley for this succinct summary of the Good News from the ICB, TLB, and ESV Versions of the Bible.
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When God reveals you prefer whiteness: A response to Gaye Clark by Sean Palmer

Most white Americans believe whiteness is normal and preferable. America’s cultural myth is that Caucasians from European descent are the heroes of the American story. It’s what made America great and what some believe will make America great again.

How to raise confident multiracial children by Chantilly Pantino.

While our nation is increasingly diverse, there are still factors that can leave kids feeling less than confident about their heritage and wondering where they fit in.  This can cause them to feel marginalized on both sides or like they have to identify with one ethnicity over the other.

The conservative, Christian case for working women by Jonathan Merritt.

“All women are called to have influence—cultural influence outside of the private sphere of the home,” Beaty said. “It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a career track, but certainly all Christians, including all Christian women, are called to have cultural influence outside the home.”

About those “20 minutes of action”: 20 things we’d better tell our sons right now about being real men by Ann Voskamp

Because a Stanford doesn’t begin with alcohol and it doesn’t begin with partying kids with inflated egos and it doesn’t begin with 20 minutes of not using your head but your hormones.

It begins with a woman like me bringing home a man-child in her arms, one mama unwrapping that blanket and what it means to raise up a man.

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What we can learn from the only white kid on this high school step team by Rachel Pieh Jones

The dance begins. The boys stomp and clap and tumble and flip through the air in an intense and relentless rhythm. Within seconds, the students are on their feet, cheering. They focus on Emmaus and at the end of the performance — when the team points him out and calls him their nickname, “White Chocolate” — the students go nuts shouting and clapping for their classmate.

Picking up the trash of white supremacy by Abby Norman

Essentially white communities are asking black people to live an experience that is set up to be far more difficult for them, and succeed by white standards. AND THEN we are asking them to re-live and explain it all over again in front of us so that we will believe them. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we don’t believe them. And the astounding thing is how many times black women are willing to risk it to help their white sisters understand. But that isn’t their job.

Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local by Taiye Salasi

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Things I’m doing before going to hell by John Pavlovitz

I’m doing them because my deepest faith convictions tell me to try and make this place more like however I believe Heaven to be, and that this will bring justice and mercy along with it.

White savior barbie nails it by Rachel Pieh Jones

Perhaps the lesson of White Savior Barbie is that there is nothing wrong with service or with enjoying another culture but it needs to be done with integrity. Let’s be qualified and well trained for the work we do. Develop authentic relationships based on more than great photo ops. Educate ourselves. Be wary of quick clichés like, “I fell in love with Africa the moment I got off the plane.” Be learners.

Pakistani Muslim villagers are building a church for their Christian neighbors by Relevant Magazine

The BBC has reported from a village in Pakistan where Christians and Muslims are refusing to engage in violence, and instead, live side-by-side in real community.

Angels to block Westboro Baptist Church’s protest at Orland memorial by Beth Spotswood

Angels really do exist — at least in Orlando. When the reviled hate group Westboro Baptist Church announced that it would be picketing the funerals of the victims of the Orlando gay bar shooting tragedy, a group of actors decided to fight back in a decidedly heavenly way.

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A good man justifies a wicked deed: Grudem on Trump by John Mark N. Reynolds

Manifestly men of goodwill can disagree, but they should not, because Donald J. Trump is uniquely unsuited for the most powerful job on the planet. He is morally unfit, unqualified, and advocating for him stains any person who does so.

 Donald Trump and the Violence to Come by Peter Binart

“The United States is headed toward a confrontation, the likes of which it has not seen since 1968, between leftist activists, who believe in physical disruption as a means of drawing attention to injustice, and a candidate eager to forcibly put down that disruption in order to make himself look tough.”

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To the White church who did not pray for the black man on Sunday

But Sunday, if you did not pray for the black man right alongside the police man, you missed the heart of God. If a black man had sat in your midst and heard you pray only for the police man and the police man’s family, but not the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the decades of innocent black men killed by police men, I would not have blamed him for standing and shouting out in the middle of your prayer, “What the hell about me?! Do you care about me at all?!” And I would not have blamed him if he stormed out of your sanctuary and wept on your steps, desperate because he found no sanctuary in your midst.

Onward through the fog: Practicing faith when you can’t see where you’re going

“Onward through the fog,” our program director would tell us as we struggled to understand the broken dynamics shaping the community around us. It’s a phrase I’ve lived ever since. In fact, fog has become one of my go-to analogies for understanding the liminal spaces of life—those thresholds in life when there’s not yet a clear answer.

Miscellany

Pondering Privilege (ebook) on sale this weekend only

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In light of the state of the nation, I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal on the ebook version of Pondering Privilege this weekend. If you’ve been hoping to preview a copy, make sure to take advantage of this sale! The ebook lists for $7 on Amazon, but will be available for $2.99 on Friday, $3.99 on Saturday, and $4.99 on Sunday. Get a copy now!

Social & Political Issues

To the white church who did not pray for the black man on Sunday

Sturbuck Community Church

I know that your heart is good. I see it nearly every week in your pastors and services, in the softness of your hearts toward God, in your love for each other and for your children. I see it when you serve the community with vacation bible schools and fundraisers for wells in Africa and city wide clean ups. I hear it in your songs and in your prayers, in your Sunday schools and in your sermons.

But Sunday, if you did not pray for the black man right alongside the police man, you missed the heart of God. If a black man had sat in your midst and heard you pray only for the police man and the police man’s family, but not the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the decades of innocent black men killed by police men, I would not have blamed him for standing and shouting out in the middle of your prayer, “What the hell about me?! Do you care about me at all?!” And I would not have blamed him if he stormed out of your sanctuary and wept on your steps, desperate because he found no sanctuary in your midst.

Where were you on Sunday, white church who could not see past its own skin? How long will you stay silent while your brothers and sisters suffer?  You wonder why people of color do not join your ranks or stay when they visit you…perhaps it has something to do with the people in your pews who smirk to each other and whisper, “I’m so sick of this #blacklivesmatter thing” when they don’t know you’re listening. Perhaps it’s because you don’t even notice that you didn’t pray for their pain or acknowledge their anguish and you are still stubbornly defending your self-righteous actions. Perhaps it’s because they are worn thin of hearing Jesus tossed about as an excuse to dismiss centuries of racial oppression supported by their very walls.

You may accuse me of being angry—I know that’s not an acceptable way to communicate in our culture—but I can no longer swallow my sorrow silently while you pretend that nothing is happening. More than just police families are weeping for their sons and husbands and fathers, and they have been doing so for centuries. Failing to pray for them is akin to turning your back, sticking your fingers in your ears, and squeezing your eyes shut tight. We are not first graders, family—we are followers of a God who holds a deep and mighty love for the police man and the black man in equal measure; and we will not grow up until we start praying like it.

For further reading

Social & Political Issues, Women

White women and the problem of race

I wrote a follow-up article to Abby Norman’s brilliant piece on Picking up the Trash of White Supremacy for SheLoves magazine this week. Let’s do better work on these issues, ladies.

While many of us have experienced this reality living as a woman in a man’s world, we know a whole lot less about doing it as a white person in a non-white world. We champion female equality, quote statistics about glass ceilings, and shout our hard-earned rights from the rooftops; but when it comes to race, we’re often shamefully ignorant. We fail to apply the lessons we’ve learned from our own emancipation to the emancipation of others. It’s the Fall all over again, and we’re left holding the garbage bag of our own self-centeredness.

Read more here.

Miscellany

Coming to terms with my whiteness

My Whiteness is something I did not ask for, cannot change, and don’t completely understand. While I haven’t always been aware of the full implications of this trait in a racialized society, living between worlds has pushed me to grapple with my race as a significant shaper of my identity.

Interested in my new book Pondering Privilege: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Whiteness, Race, and Faith An excerpt is featured at The Salt Collective this week.  Check it out! 

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Miscellany

Perfectly uncertain

Time is indeed a steady healer, cautiously pointing out that my greatest spiritual defect may well be perfectionism. Having grown up a Christian, I absorbed unspoken messages that spiritual strength meant unwavering certainty and unshakable faith. This foundation became a significant problem when my certainty wavered and my faith shook. How could I be a Christian if I questioned its validity? How would I remain faith-full when the very ground I stood on felt as though it were crumbling? Everything felt unsure. The great hymn of my faith was failing: Christ was no solid rock; I found myself sinking quickly in the sand.

I’m writing at SheLoves this week … read about my journey to accept my imperfections there! (Bonus poem included!)