Restoration & Reconciliation, Social & Political Issues

A lament for the LGBT & Muslim communities in the aftermath of Orlando

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The headlines jolted us awake early this morning.

Twenty dead.

Then at least fifty; the deadliest mass shooting in the US to date.

My heart sank as I realized that the LGBT & Muslim communities would feel the strongest impact of the headlines. For everyone in these communities, I lament.

For those in the LGBT community who feel the intense personal attack of this action, the fear this confirms yet again for your safety in public settings, I mourn with you. For the wounds this rips wide open as the judgmental voices attempt to diminish your inherent value, I ache with you.  For the tears you shed as you watch the headlines unfold in devastating proportions, I weep with you.

My Facebook feed reminds me that I do not stand alone in solidarity with the LGBT community today. However, what is noticeably missing is support for the many Muslims for whom this shooting will instantly create guilt-by-association. As such, I express lament for these communities as well.

For the many faithful and peaceful Muslims who are as enraged by the horrors of ISIS as the rest of the world, I mourn that we allow such acts to also unquestionably define who you are. For those who seek to live out their faith with sincerity and devotion, I ache when I hear the entirety of 1.6 billion people folded into an extremist sliver. For the mothers who love their children as much as I love mine and the fathers who seek to teach them well, I weep that this may give you pause to wonder if others will love and teach them as you do.

As the world stands with you in mourning, know that we long for peace with you today, weep for the evil that should not be, and hear the deep pain that it creates in your hearts. May peace be upon us all.

 

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Books

The painful realities of white privilege

PP Cover 2The Painful Realities of White Privilege, an excerpt from my book is featured on The Salt Collective today… here’s a glimpse:

We were sitting at the frozen yogurt shop when my husband interrupted my yogurt induced heaven with a passionate “Did you see that?!”

“What?” I looked around but didn’t see anything unusual. Id been a little spaced out in a blissful yogurt coma and was, as usual, less than aware of my surroundings.

“That Asian lady in the yogurt store! She and her daughter were just standing there, waiting in line for the restroom, and this White guy came in and walked right in front of her.”

He paused, shaking his head in angry disbelief, “And she just let him go. She put her head down and let him push his way past her.

He paused, processing the interaction, “That’s just so privileged, and he probably doesn’t even recognize it! The problem with us is that we get all submissive and let people walk all over us.”

Confession Time: In my head, I started listing all the reasons why what he just said happened couldn’t have actually happened. Maybe he saw things wrong. Maybe the guy had to puke. Maybe he left his cell phone in the bathroom. Surely what my husband saw wasnt what actually happened.

But then I remembered what I’ve learned about race and privilege: dismissing perceptions is one of the most unhelpful responses in race conversations.

I should already know this, right?

Right.

(Except that I dont always remember it at the right times.)

Read the rest here.

Spiritual Formation

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

ONWARD

And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today – at the latest, tomorrow – we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” 

You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. 

Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”

James 4:13-15 (The Message)

As a privileged white college kid, I participated in an urban studies program on the south side of Chicago. Facing urban poverty and systemic racism for the first time was unnerving and disorienting; there was so much I couldn’t wrap my mind around because it didn’t fit my lived experience. Each day left me grappling with how to live better on the next one.

“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. It’s a tangible reminder of how dimly we sometimes see, how hard it is to wait for answers, and how little we can do about it but proceed slowly through until clarity appears.

In spite of my best efforts to steer my life, it has been full of unexpected twists and turns. I put such stock in my well-laid plans and carefully plotted goals; but inevitably, I come up against situations which challenge me to move forward without knowing exactly which direction is right or wrong.

How much freedom do I give my growing children?

When do I speak truth in a hard conversation and when do I stay silent?

Do I endure through a less-than-ideal situation or pursue a new direction?

How tight do I hold to a friendship that may need to be released?

James’ words haunt me. I live-and-die by my Google calendar; but in truth, I don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. I don’t know what the Master will ask of me or if the fog will be thick or thin. I don’t know if I’ll be able to see the path ahead for an inch or a mile because—try as I might—I don’t control when the fog sets in. Most of the time, all I can do is put one foot in front of another until I catch a glimpse of the sun to know which direction to go.

While this murky reality makes the pessimist in me wont to despair, the contemplative within whispers to stay the course for some of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve known are the ones that have shone through the haze of a foggy cornfield. Whether the unknown of the future stems from internal or external circumstances, walking with wisdom and faith through the dark requires some special traits:

Adaptability. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change,” observed Charles Darwin. People who adapt to change are also resilient, able to adjust unexpected plans in positive and meaningful ways. They are not afraid of taking risks, but don’t jump in without testing the waters first either.

Courage. Living requires determination to push through the tension of the unknown or misunderstood until we come out on a clearer side. Courage reminds us that it’s ok if our life looks different from those around us, as long as we’re following the path God has guided us to.

Joy. Cultivating lightness in the midst of heavy moments allows us to see the individual moments even when the big ones feel overwhelming. Sometimes this looks like simply being light-hearted and giggling at silly things. Other times, it means pausing to acknowledge gratefulness in the small moments.

Vulnerability. Every time I see a lone tree in a field, the poet in me wonders if it is lonely or strong. I have still not decided, but I do know one thing: its unique beauty stems from its uninhibited exposure. In appropriate times and places, sharing unguarded feelings about our experience in the dark brings healing and wholeness.

Willingness. Otherwise known as the dirty-little-word ‘submission’, willingness means we hold the people we love, choices we make, and circumstances we find ourselves in with open hands. It means we make space for the questions we need to ask and allow ourselves to wrestle with the answers that may or may not come, patiently waiting instead of controlling outcomes. It means that our steady prayer begins with an attitude of Lord, I offer myself to thee, to build with me and do with me as thou wilt*.

 

While it’s tempting to fall into despair over foggy days, their uncertainty develops a strength within that doesn’t grow on sunny days. If the pristine weather of southern California has taught me one thing, it’s that a cloudy day is a refreshing and cozy break from the blue skies. On grey days here, people don scarves and blankets and hoodies, snuggling into a cozier and slower pace. The sunshine is good for us, yes, but the fog holds gifts that we can learn to love as well. It reminds us that we see dimly now, only in part, and that our call is to just keeping walking—onward, through the fog.

 

*Alcoholics Anonymous 3rd Step Prayer

 

 

 

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the-best-new-books

Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman and Matthew Soerens. Matt’s first book Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate is one of the best books I have read. This book offers perspective on how we can respond to and support the global refugee crisis.

Pondering Privilege: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Whiteness, Race, and Faith by (yours truly) Jody Wiley Fernando. Revised and now available in a print edition, Pondering Privilege is a quick read that explores issues of racial injustice and privilege for white people, especially those in the US church. It’s a great discussion started for small groups, leadership training, or college classes. Listen to a podcast interview that includes more background on the book at World Citizen Storycast. (The print version will be available on Amazon by next week.)

 

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First Generation by Ijeoma Umebrinyuo

Here’s to the laundry man at the Marriott who told me with the sparkle in his eyes how he was an engineer in Peru. Here’s to the bus driver, the Turkish Sufi who almost danced when I quoted Rumi.

I’m afraid of dying by John Blase

Are you ever afraid of dying?
I’m not talking about
the dying that will deposit you
directly into the Lord’s presence (as some hold).
But the dying that will tear
you from the fabric of here,
here where you’ve seen wonders.
  

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Woman who defied 300 neo-Nazis at Swedish rally speaks of anger

“Now it’s a circus. I am in shock,” said Asplund, who is 5ft 3in and weighs just 50kg (eight stone). “The Nazis are very angry, so I am a little ‘Oh shit, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, I want peace and quiet.’ These guys are big and crazy. It’s a mixed feeling, but I am trying to stay calm.”

Walking the beat in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, where a new day began together by NPR Morning Edition

“Fred came to me and said, ‘I have this idea: You could be a police officer,’ ” recalls Clemmons, speaking with his friend Karl Lindholm during a visit with StoryCorps.

Clemmons says he didn’t like the idea much at first.

“I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were siccing police dogs and water hoses on people,” he says. “And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.”

How I made peace with my boobs in a brothel by Tina Francis

In early April, I accompanied a motley crew of brilliant women to Thailand. We were invited to learn about human trafficking by a nonprofit organization called Exodus Road. They focus on targeted interventions to find and free trafficked minors.

Still very jet-lagged, we prepared to visit Walking Street, a red light district in Pattaya. Our guide Matt warned us, “This is going to feel like baptism by fire.”

He was right.

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Black lives matter and racial tension in America from the Barna Group. Interesting numbers here on all kinds of racial perspectives of liberals, conservations, whites, blacks, evangelicals, mainline, etc.

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Can people of color really make themselves at home? by Kathy Tuan-Mclean

InterVarsity was like a house with all sorts of staff living in it. Most of the white staff felt like they owned the house. They felt free to move the furniture, decorate the walls, put their feet up, and cook the foods they liked to eat. But others on our team, though they “lived” in the house, were just guests. As a guest, it’s impolite to move the furniture or criticize the decor, and if you don’t like the food served, you don’t complain—because if you complain, you’re not invited back.

Let’s talk about white millenial racism by Jenn M. Jackson

Due to globalism and changes in access to travel, many people of color have broadened their worlds and gained exposure to social groups to which they might otherwise have no access. But, many Whites still live in highly segregated, highly isolated communities and report having very few friends of color. That could also be part of the reason many Whites think racism is basically a thing of the past. But, clearly, perpetual racial segregation and “tokenism” is still an issue for many Millennials of color. It’s a tale of two cities in racial politics.

Churches examine white privilege by Adelle M. Banks

In the wake of the continuing deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers, some white church leaders say they can no longer check off their racial-justice to-do list by hosting a Black History Month event. Instead, they are holding workshops that address white privilege — not experiencing or knowing the unfair treatment endured by nonwhites.

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The gift of presence, the perils of advice by Parker Palmer

Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.

When you’ve been hurt by church: 5 steps for moving on by Sheri Dacon

We expect the world to be cruel and harsh. We watch the news and we know about the violence and the mean-spiritedness of our society at large.

But those of us raised in Christian homes expect the church to be our safe place, our shelter from the ugliness of the outside, a place where we can be ourselves and be loved and welcomed despite our faults.

There are better things than riches by Joshua Becker

The prevailing view is that wealth is good, that it should be pursued, that material possessions and riches enhance our enjoyment in life, and that wealth provides opportunity to find greater fulfillment in life.

But recently, I have come to realize the pursuit of riches is based on a faulty premise. It is based on the incorrect rationale that the presence of money is always good—that it always brings benefit into our lives. This is not always the case.

 

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Sedano’s supermarkets launches new ethnic food aisle for anglos

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Culture & Race, Travel

World Citizen Storycast

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I’m the featured guest on World Citizen Storycast this week… Check it out! It’s a fascinating podcast that captures stories of cross-cultural stories. From their website:

Jody Fernando, an American woman from Indiana who married a man from Sri Lanka, describes the cross-cultural life experiences that led her to write a blog post entitled WHEN WHITE PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THEY’€™RE BEING WHITE that went viral and caused a firestorm of commentary on the Internet. Jody shares some personal stories with us from her intercultural relationship and the challenges and rewards of living between two worlds. She also introduces her new book PONDERING PRIVILEGE:toward a deeper understanding of whiteness, race and faith.  Marcia and Lisle reflect on Jody’€™s experiences and insights.

Books

Join my book launch team!

 

PP Cover 2It’s official! A newly revised and expanded version of Pondering Privilege will be published by NextStep Resources this month, and I’m looking for people to join my launch team to promote the book. As a member of the team, you’ll receive an advance version of the book. In exchange, I’m asking that you do one (or all!) of the following by June 15:

  • Post an Amazon review – good, bad, or ugly – on the print version of the book (link posted soon!). Please note: Amazon requests that you state you received an advance copy for accurate disclosure.
  • Feature the book on your own blog, church newsletter, or organizational communication.
  • Post about it on social media using #PonderingPrivilege / @jodylouise or tag friends on Facebook who would be interested.
  • Recommend it to leaders, pastors, or teachers who might use it in their organizations, churches, or classrooms.

If you’re interested being a part of spreading the word on this great resource, contact me so I can send you a copy.

 

Belief, Spiritual Formation

When mountains loom large but faith trickles slow

Narnia

I had thought that my doubts were spectacular obstacles to my faith and was confused but intrigued when an old monk blithely stated that doubt is merely the seed of faith, a sign that faith is alive and ready to grow. I am grateful now for his wisdom and grateful to the community for teaching me about the power of liturgy. They seemed to believe that if I just kept coming back to worship, kept coming home, things would eventuallyfall into place. – Kathleen Norris

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Our Sunday began with a hike to a waterfall at the top of a local mountain. When we arrived at the base of the trail, we quickly realized we would be hiking straight uphill in a local wind tunnel with 50-60 mph winds. Like any sensible non-hiker, I immediately suggested we head back down, but all the other crazies (a.k.a. my family and best friends) thought it sounded like a memory-making experience, so away we went.

With hair flailing and dust in our face, we trod one foot in front of another up and up and up.

And up some more.

The younger kids wrapped arms around each other, shielding themselves from the dust walls while discussing which Hobbit character they were. We shared sunglasses to keep the dirt out of our eyes, tightened our hoods, and paused to catch our breath more than a few times. When we made finally it to the top, the waterfall did not disappoint. The trees provided a respite from the winds for the playful among us to climb on the rocks and jump in the stream. They became a momentary refuge under which we paused to speak the things that matter – sharing stories, perseverance in hard times, anticipating beauty even when we couldn’t quite see it yet.

Even though I never enjoy the active process of it, I learn a lot when I climb a mountain. Usually the last person huffing-and-puffing my way up the path, I’ve been known to feel slightly resentful toward the zippy people in the front of the pack who lead the way. It’s hard for me when their strength highlights my weakness. Yet this climb was different. I still brought up the rear, but with a different kind of fortitude than previous treks. At one point, I put my head down, leaned into the wind, and told myself, “Just keep going.”

It was like my own little sermon on that gusty Sunday morning.

I’m slow at faith, and the older I grow, the slower my faith sometimes seems. As a result, it can be easy for me to feel spiritually weak when compared to the faith-filled-but-overwhelming-Jesus enthusiasts whose faith drips off their chins. When I come to Jesus, I often bring equal parts of doubt and faith. Yet as I climb more of my own mountains of faith, I find a steadying strength in taking the journey one step at a time, especially in those moments when the wind feels it might blow me completely off the mountain.

 

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I will always choose you by Michaela Evanow.

Once upon a time, I had a little girl. Her smile and curls and doe-brown eyes were a sight to behold. She was mine. My dream. And then, one summer day, Florence was given a terminal diagnosis for her weak muscles: Spinal Muscular Atrophy type one.

In which love looks like spinning our own yarn by Sarah Bessey.

Let’s tell them about the vast middle part of love, too, this part right now, the part that doesn’t show up in movies and love songs, the part where my hips have widened and your temples are greying, and some dreams are languishing, and we’ve become better acquainted with the fruit of faithfulness and gentleness.

In the face of hate – love out loud by Marilyn Gardner

And so we need to speak out. This is outrageous and offensive. This must stop. There is no “other side” to this debate.

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Death, the prosperity gospel, and me by Kate Bowler

Blessed is a loaded term because it blurs the distinction between two very different categories: gift and reward. It can be a term of pure gratitude. “Thank you, God. I could not have secured this for myself.” But it can also imply that it was deserved. “Thank you, me. For being the kind of person who gets it right.” It is a perfect word for an American society that says it believes the American dream is based on hard work, not luck.

How going on vacation might be better than going on a mission by Jamie Wright

An attitude of service should be learned at home and applied in the world, not the other way around.

Further up, further in by Kay Bruner

I could do both, I thought:  trust the Love AND keep all the rules just to be on the safe side.

It turns out, though, going toward the Center means I can’t keep patrolling the walls. 

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White guys in charge frustrated by their ability to silence all women by Fred Clark

There’s a pattern here with angry authoritarian men like Falwell getting puffed up with indignation because this woman is saying intolerable things. (By which they mean there is a woman saying things, without their permission, and that this is, to them, intolerable.)

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11 Things white people need to realize about race by Emma Gray & Jessica Samakow

People of color don’t need to be taught that racism exists — they live it every day. It shouldn’t (and can’t) be on their shoulders to enlighten the rest of us. We have to do that for ourselves.

The Far-Right Revival: A Thirty Year War? by Evan Osnos

“Two hundred years after this country fought a civil war to ensure that black people were officially citizens, and a hundred years after a second battle ensured blacks enjoyed the rights of that citizenship, race will once again divide Americans. And this time white people will lose the prerogatives of majority status.”

 When you don’t look like your parents

In less than two minutes, this clip from Blackish explains why racism in America isn’t over by Sojourners

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Someone added Donald to the wall of this restroom in Paris

Trump doesn’t pass the decency test by Max Lucado

“I don’t endorse candidates or place bumper stickers on my car. But I am protective of the Christian faith. If a public personality calls on Christ one day and calls someone a “bimbo” the next, is something not awry? And to do so, not once, but repeatedly, unrepentantly and unapologetically? We stand against bullying in schools. Shouldn’t we do the same in presidential politics?”

Stop provoking violence, Mr. Trump

Belief, Books, Culture & Race, Women

If Jesus was brown and non-Western, shouldn’t some of our other heroes be too?

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In search of some role models of faith for my children, I recently began looking for biographies of Christians through history. I found several highly recommended series:

  • Encounter the Saints (Seton)
  • Hero Tales (Bethany House)
  • Men and Women of Faith (Bethany House)
  • Men of Faith (Bethany House)
  • Torchlighters
  • Christian Heroes: Then & Now (YWAM)

As I researched more deeply into these series, several themes stood out:

The Good

  • There are some AMAZING  people out there. The people featured in these titles were take-your-breath-away inspiring. Their examples of sacrifice, passion, commitment, and faithfulness are models for everyone. We need more people who live like they did.
  • We need to spend time hearing stories of those who have gone before us. While many lived in different times, the challenges they faced put our modern sensibilities to shame. Learning about their lives has more to teach us about our own journeys than obsessing over Justin Bieber.

The Needs-Improved

  • The majority of ‘heroes’ were white western men. Looking through the titles, I noticed a significant lack of diversity amongst the characters featured. Most, it seemed, were white men. The current state of the book publishing industry affirms the notion that history tells the story of the ones with the most power. Out of curiosity, I compiled the titles and researched each of the characters for gender, race, nationality, and marital status. Check out some of the results:

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  • Women need more equal representation. While the female figure was higher than I expected, when incorporating marital status, only 6 of the 49 (12%) women featured as the main character of a biography were married. In contrast, 70 out of 102 (69%) men were married. Only five of the biographies I reviewed had titles about men and women together. Who were the women behind the heroes? Why weren’t they featured as prominently as the men since their lives surely included equal levels of sacrifice and commitment? 
  • The Christian world extends far beyond the US, UK, and Europe. China is poised to become the world’s largest Christian country in 15 years. The church is exploding in Africa and the middle east. There is much to learn from the faithful followers in other nations and our faith would be deepened to know more of their stories.

Why does it matter?

Our children need to see that people from any background can follow God. If Revelations tells us that people from every tribe and nation will be in heaven, surely we can write a few books about them here on earth. The message behind the message when the majority of ‘heroes’ are white men is that this status is held only for a privileged few. Until our stories reflect this truth, children will subconsciously absorb this message.

Women need to see themselves as full participants in God’s story. We were not created to hide behind men but to walk beside them as equals. When we are relegated to the woman-behind-the-man, it becomes easy to shirk our own responsibility to heed God’s call on our lives, husband or not.

We need more diverse books. A popular Twitter hashtag, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement applies in equal measure (if not more) to the Christian publishing industry. Let’s dig deep into our history and publish the stories of our brothers and sisters who have followed Christ around the world, from places of low status and persecution rather than just privilege and power. Perhaps it would give us a deeper understanding of Christ’s call to make all things new.

Social & Political Issues

Christian art you won’t find in a Christian bookstore

In a commodity culture we have been conditioned to believe that nothing has intrinsic value. – Skye Jethani, The Divine Commodity

I am not an artist, but I do love beautiful images. I am a Christian, but I do not especially love the bible-verse and/or cross-laden art that adorns many a protestant Christian bookstore. For me, a picture of a flower with a Bible verse at the bottom feels slapped-on and bland, commodifying faith into a $49.95 framed wall covering. To make matters even harder, this art sometimes includes a white Jesus, an American flag, or a lacy heart with bluebirds flying around the edges. It leaves me wondering what happened to the art part of Christian art…

Thankfully, there are a whole host of artists creating meaningful, global, and beautiful Christian art that causes one to pause and consider our faith in new ways. Check out these beautiful and thoughtful works of art!

Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

 

The Risen Lord by He Qi
The Risen Lord by He Qi
RefuJesus
RefuJesus by NakedPastor
Jesus of the People by Janet McKenzie
The Last Supper by Sadao Watanabe
Nazareth by Father John Bautista Giuliani
Sermon on the Mount by Laura James
The First Supper by Jane Evershed
In His Image by William Zdinak
Christ in the Breadline by Fritz Eichenberg

Any favorites I missed here? Link to it in the comments below!

Further Reading

Social & Political Issues

Sorry, Mom. Potato chips are no longer the downfall of society. Donald Trump is.

In the way that most health-conscious mothers do, my mom once off-handedly declared potato chips ‘the downfall of society’. Now a health conscious mother myself, I have great empathy toward her desperate but hyperbolic attempt to convince our youthful metabolisms to take heed of their coming threat. However, when I saw the most recent propaganda from the Donald Trump campaign using children to sweetly sing about America crushing the rest of the world,  it became immediately clear that his campaign had debunked my mom’s prophetic words.

Speculators lament his campaign as a “national mistake“, hopeful it will at some point clarify itself as a joke, a media circus, or at least a conspiracy to promote Hillary Clinton. Yet what’s hardest to ignore is the number of people who appear to actually support Trump’s ideas. His campaign is no longer as simple as the salty snack that we mistook him for. Our overindulgence on his addictive-but-unhealthy appeal is now cultivating an obese empathy for renewed support of a modern-day inquisition.

In the developed west, we tend to think of Inquisition as an old word, something that belongs with the Spanish in the 15th century. “The scariest thing to me about the word,” writes Kathleen Norris in her book Amazing Grace, “is the way that it can haunt ordinary conversation … When power is so heavily weighted between two people, fear all too easily enters into the equation.

This is a primary offense of the Trump campaign: it wields power toward anyone who does not fit its mold to make them feel afraid. Immigrants would not be flocking to America in record numbers if the world did not see something unique in our fiber. Yet, the Trump propoganda threatens this long-lived tradition of welcoming the stranger to our shores. Lest we think that such xenophobia is a new concept in the US, our founding father Benjamin Franklin labeled German immigrants “swarthy” and advocated to keep them out of Pennsylvania:

Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become  Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”

Germans in his day were demonized for being lazy, ignorant, clannish, unable to assimilate, and unwilling to speak English. They were blamed for a wide array of societal ills including Pennsylvania’s harsh winters. Laws were made against speaking German and German education that were later repealed. Trump is now making similar accusations against immigrants of all backgrounds in the US today. Ironically, he himself is of German heritage.

More than social inequality

While its advocacy of a segregated society is immensely disturbing, promoting social inequality is not the only the hazard of the Trump campaign. At its core, it chips away at the essential foundation of a civil society: conversation. Kathleen Norris offers further wisdom:

The inquisitor has the answers in hand and does not wish to change them. It is good to determine, when someone asks you a question, whether they are asking in a good spirit, or conducting an inquisition. When it is the latter, one may begin to feel that the person one is speaking to is not listening at all but merely biding time. Clicking off the points against you; waiting, like a lion, for the proper time to attack.

Inquisition begins, then, in the human heart. And it is what has occurred in the twentieth century, not the fifteenth, that should most concern us. For it is in our modern, “civilized” age that we have been forced to confront the depth of the inquisitorial spirit.

Ultimately, Norris concludes, the spirit of inquisition manifests itself as “a debilitating suspicion and lack of good will” far more frequently and insidiously than the violent conflicts that dominate headlines. Sadly, it is no longer an exaggeration to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. When the spirit to destroy others with our power supersedes our desire to build unity with them, we will cease to be the United States of America.

You might also enjoy…

 

Culture & Race, Social & Political Issues

5 myths that stop white people from facing race

While much has improved since the days of segregation laws and public lynchings, the struggle of racism has by no means gone away. It feels like there’s a racial battle nearly every week in the news; and I watch the stories unfold with a sense of shock and sorrow. Conservative pundits’ accusations of ‘race baiting’ and ‘playing the race card’ capture headlines, but a less publicized, more complex story I hear from white people around me is a sad confusion over how racism is still causing these kinds of problems. Truth be told, I’ve found myself overwhelmed by this confusion to the point of checking out completely. While self-care is sometimes necessary for those deeply involved in difficult conversations, I’m keenly aware that it’s far too easy for white people to disengage because we don’t have to care; our skin gives us that option.

In her article, White People Facing Race: Uncovering Myths that Keep Racism in PlacePeggy McIntosh (2009) explores five myths that keep white people from understanding the experience of other races. Understanding these assumptions has helped me shift my mindset when I find myself wanting to run away from the on-going racial conflict in our country.

The Myth of Meritocracy

In a majority world, individuals are viewed as the sole component of society. There are no “groups”, only people. As a result, people get what they want and deserve based on their individual choices. The American mantra of ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ reinforces this sentiment: all you have to do is try and you’ll succeed because “nothing stands in your way”. There is little  acknowledgment of the impact that systems have on individuals.

This myth stands most potent when looking at the stories of African-American families talking to their sons about the realities of race today. In his book, Between the World and I, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent for The Atlanticshares this from a letter to his son:

You stayed up till 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.

Having known many young black men who have done nothing to deserve the burden of this reality, I mourn the disconnect in society that makes it possible.

The Myth of Manifest Destiny

Because racism is embedded so deeply in the foundations of our country, it remains difficult for those who have traditionally held the power to recognize. Our childhood history lesson of Manifest Destiny teaches that God gave this land to America, and that we are, as a result, his chosen people. Seeing the US as “a nation found by God” keeps us from acknowledging the long-term impact of the blatantly evil and sinful stories like Native American genocide, African slavery, Japanese internment, and segregation laws.

CaptureWhile we don’t see campaign signs like this anymore (though I wouldn’t put it past Donald Trump), this sentiment still rings true in the hearts of many as issues like racial segregation, urban gentrification & property values, and white-boy-club politics play out.

The Myth of White Racelessness

When discussing race, many white people struggle to identify cultural characteristics they share with other whites. YouTube points out some of these characteristics in some not-so-gentle and painfully accurate ways. Growing up as a member of the majority can foster a “I don’t have a culture. I’m just normal.” perspective that assumes only other people have race. 

Additionally, white people’s participation in racial oppression isn’t seen as racial activity, but simply as “history.” We see it time and again through the merchandising of products like nude pantyhose and flesh colored crayons. We see it in advertisements that only include only white faces and public response to shootings-by-white-people versus shootings-by-brown people. When brown people do something bad, it’s immediately attributed to their race. When white people do something bad, they have no race.

For white people to grasp the racial dynamics, it’s crucial that they first understand the role that our own race plays in society and history. Failing to these face these realities creates a short-sighted and ignorant perspective that will only serve to repeat history, not redeem it.

The Myth of Monoculture

Viewing values through a single lens leads many to operate on the assumption that there is one “American” culture that everyone experiences in similar ways. This is still the myth I catch myself practicing most frequently when I slip up and make comments like, “Christians think…” or “Americans say…” when what I really mean  is “White evangelical Christians in the US think…” or “White middle-class Americans say…” Lumping everyone into one group creates an unspoken expectation that people of color adapt to the “white way”.

Considering others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3) means that it’s essential that we don’t unintentionally demand that others follow cultural norms that we don’t even realize we have. Such differences present themselves through how we view diverse perspectives on theology, worship style, or individual spirituality.

The Myth of White Moral Elevation

Years ago, I chaperoned a very diverse group of high school students on a field trip to the nation’s capital building. I grew quickly ashamed when I saw painting after painting like this:

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Where were the role models that reflected the background of non-anglo students? What possibilities would they imagine for themselves if these were the only people credited with America’s greatness?

The myth of white moral elevation creates a societal bias that fosters a subconscious superiority complex . While it’s never directly stated, this bias strings through the media, education, and society that communicates that it’s natural for white people to be in the limelight but exceptional for people of color. This attitude comes through in statements like, “He’s so articulate” or “She doesn’t act black.” We see it time and again in our church leadership structures, elected political officers, and community leaders. Even in the most diverse regions of the country, the majority of people who pull the power-making strings are white. To truly grapple with how privilege impacts ourselves and society, we need to be regularly asking why this is still our reality in one of the most diverse countries in the world.

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While this is only the beginning of the conversation, it’s a great place to begin. Understanding race is not a one-time-thing to wipe our hands clean from. It is a never-ending process of listening and learning in order to become a safe place to hold the stories of those around us with gentler hands.

Want to learn more?

Social & Political Issues

Jesus stands with the refugees

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.…Matthew 2:13-14

My daughter’s best friend is a Syrian refugee. She is not a terrorist or the daughter of a terrorist or some other horrible caricature the Trump supporters might reduce her to. She is, simply, a child. She lives in our town with her parents who are improving their English and an ornery older brother, but worries about her grandmother and the cousins they left behind. My daughter thinks she has the striking look of Anne of Green Gables combined with the good-hearted nature of Pollyanna. They eat lunch together every day, share secrets, and navigate each other through the perils of the first year of middle school.

Unlike many their age, sometimes they speak of war for it is no stranger to either of them. Her best friend speaks of bombs too-close-to-home, of fleeing across borders, of lives lost, and of hopes of returning home one day. My daughter does not know the impact of war intimately like her best friend does; but being half-Sri Lankan, she has never been entirely protected from the realities of war either. As a young child, we would quietly slip her into the war-wracked country to share giggles with grandparents, play with cousins, and sing hymns for peace from the midst of great tragedy. The lasting impact of a 25-year civil war does not fade quickly into silence.

“She’s just like me, mama,” my daughter tells me. “I’ve never had a friend my heart feels so close to.”

Her words send me back in time to my first kindred spirit, an enthusiastic Swedish immigrant who welcomed the new-kid in fifth grade. “Hi!” she bounced toward me in the lunch line, “Can I sit by you today?” A newcomer to the US herself, she instinctively knew the value of extending a kind hand to lonely souls. Our bond sealed over the simplicity of childhood fun like dressing up as twin punk-rockers for trick-or-treat and sharing secrets at recess. Though our paths diverged long ago, we share a profound affection for one another to this day.

Hers is not the only such story of being welcomed to ‘my own country’ in my life. I think of the kind refugees and immigrants in my ESL classes who welcomed me to California. Many were Egyptian, Syrian, or Chinese Christians in search of a place to lay their head where following Jesus didn’t risk death. Their heads often hung low for the angst of separated families, the sorrow of what-could-have-been, and the loss of successful professional careers and social statuses. Even so, there were moments when I saw their eyes lift as they shared food from home, raised their arms in dance, or expressed their deep gratefulness with a consistent “thank you, teacher.” Their resilience sustained me at a time when I needed healing and welcome myself.

My husband’s parents tell stories of their early days in America – tales of how his father ate only yogurt for months and his mother taught herself the rules of American football. There are stories of falling on ice for the first time, of navigating new systems alone, and of deep longing for home. My great-grandparents were immigrants themselves, and their stories trickle down through the cracks in our family story. While not always pretty, it still comes through loud and clear with a decent amount of perseverance, grit, and hope.

Stories like these ring deep as I mourn the headlines of rejecting refugees and holding immigrants at bay. While the fight to welcome strangers is nothing new, it is still one I regard with deep sorrow because of the great goodness I have learned from them. From a refugee family himself, Jesus surely must grieve this disconnect as well. I am grateful to the artist who puts an image to Jesus’ sorrow over our world’s struggle to care for the refugees in our midst:

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RefuJesus by NakedPastor. Print available for purchase on Etsy.

In these days of increasingly polarized and politicized debate, may his followers silence the naysayers by living out his words:

 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Matthew 25:35-36

Further Reading:

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As People of Color Formerly Employed by Mizzou, We Demand Change

Excellent article offering a clear summary of the realities faced by many faculty of color.

Taking my parents to college by Jeanne Capo Crucett.

I don’t even remember the moment they drove away. I’m told it’s one of those instances you never forget, that second when you realize you’re finally on your own. But for me, it’s not there — perhaps because, when you’re the first in your family to go to college, you never truly feel like they’ve let you go.

10 Ways well-meaning white teachers bring racism into our schools by Jamie Utt.

Though I know there are actively racist teachers out there, most White teachers mean well and have no intention of being racist. Yet as people who are inscribed with Whiteness, it is possible for us to act in racist ways no matter our intentions. Uprooting racism from our daily actions takes a lifetime of work

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Mother & Child are linked at the cellular level by Laura Grace Weldon.

“Sometimes science is filled with transcendent meaning more beautiful than any poem.”

Raising a biracial child as a mother of color by Lara Dotson-Renta

I want my sweet girl to understand that she may not always be judged by her character, that so many have and will face unfair challenges for their ethnic background or skin color, and that conversely there may be times where she will be at an advantage vis-a-vis others because of those same perceptions. As her mother I want to save her from pain, to give her the tools I lacked as I encountered prejudice early on. She is noticing the world, and it is my job to teach her to discern between what feels right and wrong, and how to navigate the gray spaces in which she will often dwell.

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String Bright the Gray by John Blase.

But to shine you must daily,
Jacob-like, grapple with God.
 
Refuse to let go every time.
 

The sanitized stories we tell by Sarah Bessey. 

“If we don’t deal with our trauma, our trauma begins to deal with us. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel our feelings, they have a habit of peeking around the corners of our lives, breaking in at the most inopportune moments.”

Waverly Mae by Shannon McNeil.

My college friends lost their daughter to Sanfilippo syndrome this month. Read this poem, Fermata, about her last breath.

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I like your Christ. I do not like your Christian language by Cindy Brandt.

“The American evangelical subculture has created within itself a Christian lingo that is intelligible only among those who have shared in that culture. Because a top priority of evangelical subculture is to evangelize the gospel, it quite boggles my mind that there hasn’t been more care taken to learn how to communicate said gospel with what actually makes sense to those outside of evangelical culture.”

For you were refugees… by Ben Irwin.

The Bible is the story of refugees. It’s the story of those who were displaced. It’s the story of a family who sought shelter in Egypt when famine decimated their land.

Religious freedom and the common good by Andy Crouch.

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Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

Wheelchair van for the Begs

While my college friends’ daughter was dying, they started a fundraiser to raise money for another family who has three daughters with the same degenerative, fatal genetic illness. In the midst of their great grief, they live out hope.

Born again again by John Blase

Walk the narrow way of the severely astonished.
Bumble around mouth agape at the sheer gift
of the earth mumbling Wouldja look at that?
 

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British man creates app that filters out all Kardashian news.  My kinda guy!

I’m with Ellen, I love growing older…

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and am still a fan of this awesomeness called Socal “winter”!!!

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Not mentioning any names, but this sounds a little like someone I know…

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Misspelled signs written by people who love English.

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Did you know?!?!

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Abused elephant weeps as she begins her new life freed from chains by Stephen Messenger.

For the better part of the last 20 years, this noble elephant named Kabu had been forced to slave away in chains — but now she’s finally free. And just as her body bears the scars of decades of mistreatment, her eyes are now shimmering with signs of hope.

Speaking of… did you catch The wisdom of elephants here on BW?

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101 Culturally Diverse Christian Voices

If you haven’t seen it yet, this list has been pretty popular!

Beyond selfies: Using Instagram to tell whole-hearted stories.

As a culture that places high value on storytelling, I often wonder how the stories we tell reflect our overarching values. Certainly perfection, glamour, and adventure dominate the vast majority of the motives behind how many present their lives. But what gets lost when we hide mundane moments like when we’re stuck in bed with a cold, mildly depressed, and too worn-out to wash the piling dishes? Where’s the place to remember the late-night conversations about insecurities or worries or dreams? Who do we become when we photoshop blemishes out of our lives?

The problem with over-spiritualizing racism.

Let’s press pause on the “unity” button for just a minute. We need to do some sustained reflection on the causes of the “disunity” first.