Thursday, July 31, 2014

Friday Fruit (08/01/14)

Trillia Newbell, author of
“United: Captured By God’s Vision for Diversity”
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

Also: Early Bird tickets now on sale for 
UM Church for All People's 
annual conference for established and
emerging multicultural congregations.
October 25-27, 2014
Columbus, OH 
** Receive discounted registration with code 'BTSF' **


These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Children at the Border: Have We Forgotten Who We Are?

Thousands of unaccompanied children enter the United States each week, seeking asylum and shelter. The number of kids under the age of 12 arriving without a parent or guardian has more than doubled in the last year. These children have tremendous stories, both from their journeies and from their lives back home. The the logistics and politics of the situation are complicated, but what shouldn't be is how we as Christians treat them when they arrive on our doorstep (see post: Immigration: Stranger in a Strange Land).

Alone, tired, and scared these children have traveled thousands of miles (predominantly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) on the off chance they can find refuge in a country that boasts of its excellence, its prosperity, and its "Christian values." Instead, they are greeted by guns,  barbed wire, angry protests, and the vitriol of a fearful and insecure nation. They are spat at, shouted at, called names, and cursed in the name the God that created them. "God bless America", but God damn anyone trying to enter it.

We are so very concerned about the situation on our own border, but the conditions driving children to leave go largely uncovered and unaided. When we shout "go home!" do we really understand what we are saying? Honduras has the word's highest murder rate. El Salvador is the runner up, with Guatemala not far behind. Food prices have doubled, due in no small measure to ethanol policies in the United States. Children are being co-opted into gangs, abducted, and murdered, and in the face of broken government and law enforcement, their parents are helpless to stop it. When we say "go home" we are really saying "go home and die."

Why is the "protector of the free world" unconcerned for the neighbors in its own backyard? The United States's political motivations are complicated, but it's clear that we reserve our cavalier interventions for the protection of only a certain subset of children.

And so girls and boys from "low-priority" countries "knowingly [set] out on harrowing journeys to come to the U.S. because the alternative—staying in their home countries and waiting for some other kind of relief—means almost certain death." 

In a recent sermon, Rev. John Edgar wondered how bad it would have to be to feel that the only option was to send your child, empty handed and alone, thousands of miles on the chance that they might find safety and refuge. With all the poverty and violence happening in our own streets, can we imagine it getting so bad that we would be forced to make such a decision for our own kids? To send them away, rather than keeping them close under your own protection?

Imagine having to decide that it is in the best interest of your 10-year-old girl to send her by herself from Washington DC to San Francisco to escape the conditions of her own neighborhood. Imagine sending her over mountains, through deserts, across rivers, in the hope that she manages to arrive safely on the west coast. Imagine that you hear that she actually managed to make it, only to be met by angry mobs telling her "go home" and "don't take my stuff." And what is more, you hear that these hoards were led by Christians--that it was God's own people that rejected your child. Could you send away your 10-year-old child under these conditions? Would you send even your 16-year-old? How heart wrenching must it be? How dangerous the consequences of failing to do so?
Click to enlarge:
"Via an unknown road"

Don't we follow a Christ that taught us that whatever we do to the least to these we have done to Him? Weren't we told to give the cloaks off our backs and care for the afflicted? Scripture tells us "when a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself" (Leviticus 19:33-34). And we are warned "I will be swift... against those who thrust aside the sojourners, and do not fear me" (Malachi 3:5).

Our faith is founded on the shoulders of unaccompanied children immigrating to strange lands. As a teenager, Joseph narrowly escaped death, forcibly leaving his parents to live in a foreign country. Moses's mother sent him down the river in a basket to escape imminent death. David spends much of his life fleeing those trying to destroy him. And Jesus himself was a child forced escape violence and oppression by becoming a refugee in a foreign country. People of God, have we forgotten who we are?

What if Joseph hadn't be able to get a housekeeping job in the new country? What if Pharaoh’s daughter hadn't taken in a child in need? What if Saul's son, Jonathan, hadn't defied the law for David's sake? What if the Egyptian immigration agents had stopped Joseph and Mary at the border? Where would we be today, but for those immigrants and refugees?

Click to enlarge
Our attitudes toward this current influx of children is obscene, not to mention entirely un-Christlike.  Yes, the situation is complicated, but that's what makes the austere rhetoric around the issue so astounding. Some of the most severe dictators will still open their borders for refugeesIraq, in all its turbulence, currently hosts more refugees than does the United States. And we clam to be leaders of democracy and the free world?

There are indeed some Christians actively living into their values of hospitality on the border. There are others who are working tirelessly to affect change in public perception and policies. But what message does it send when the hateful voices are the loudest? What if instead we boldly proclaim the God that rescues. The God that saves. The God that does not heartlessly tell us to "go away," but says instead "welcome home."

"Photo taken inside a shelter in McAllen, Texas."
 -@joseiswriting

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friday Fruit (07/25/14)

Conference registration
now open!
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

Also: Registration is now open for 
UM Church for All People's 
annual conference for established and
emerging multicultural congregations.
October 25-27, 2014
Columbus, OH 
** Receive discounted registration with code 'BTSF' **


These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Double Bind and Cheap Grace (Part 2)

Last week, guest writer Jorge Juan Rodriguez V explained the double bind in which marginalized and oppressed folks often find themselves (important to read it before continuing below). Here, he explains how we as Christians perpetuate the issue.  

“Grace” is a concept that, though founded in all of Christian Theology, I’ve seen adopted in Christian jargon that is especially prevalent in the evangelical church under Western, White cultural captivity (to adopt the phrase by Soong-Chan Rah).* In Christian Theology, “special grace” (what people usually think of when the term is evoked) refers to Christ who was crucified for the sins of those who did not deserve a sacrifice. This powerful, theologically loaded, expression has been adopted especially in the evangelical church as a way of dismissing oppression.

Let me explain; applied to the minority experience in last week's post, often I have heard Christians tell minorities who are offended to have “Grace” on the white student because they don’t understand what they’re saying/doing. The problem with this statement is the underlying implication that the offended minority must dismiss their feelings of anger and frustration and concede that the white student simply “didn’t understand.” I call this cheap grace because it places no accountability on the offender to account for his/her actions because the offended must “extend grace, and forgiveness as Christ extended.” Such an understanding of Jesus’ work on the Cross is individualist, avoids conflict, and dismisses the whole of Jesus’ ministry.

Cheap grace forgets that Jesus fought for justice and liberation on behalf of the oppressed as it elevates a personalized salvation devoid of calling offenders to account. This cheap grace asks the offended to dismiss that they were offended and instead of calling for justice, patronizes the offender as “not knowing better.”

Cheap grace perpetuates the double bind in an amplified form: if the minority calls out the majority because of their offense they are deemed “un-Christian” because that’s not “what Christ would do.” Not only does the minority need to dismiss their emotions and frustrations under cheap grace, they need to do so under penalty of “God” –or at least the aspects of “God” we’ve overemphasized for our comfort. Though the 'too extreme approach', 'friendship approach', and 'statistics approach' are all scapegoats used to dismiss and invalidate the feelings of oppression expressed by the oppressed (see previous post), I find this cheap grace approach the most problematic because it uses the name of God to invalidate peoples made in His/Her image.

Double binds occur for oppressed peoples every single day. It can be seen with the woman who was sexually harassed and is then told she’s “being too sensitive.” It can be seen with the individual who identifies as LGBTQI, is called “gay” (in a pejorative form), and is then told the use of the phrase shouldn’t offend them because it was used “in jest.” It can be seen with the religious minority who is told they “should understand” how their article of religious clothing –e.g. a hijab- can be “scary” for everyone else and is asked to remove it.

These kinds of double binds occur every day and are dismissed in various forms. Even in writing these wordsin my original example I recognize the double bind I find myself in. Because I’m bringing attention to experiences that many cultural/racial/ethnic minorities feel under a dominant culture/race/ethnicity, and am explicitly identifying a specific cultured experience of Christianity, individuals are going to dismiss me as a “reverse-racist,” “too sensitive,” “reading too much into a situation,” “being too blunt,” “being offensive.”


Yet not addressing these issues, and specifically the use of “Christianese” within a particular religious community, allows these stories to remain untold and acts of insensitivity (i.e. social violence) to perpetuate and permeate through a community. The reality of the double bind is that the oppressed must undergo intense suffering. But only through the story of the oppressed can we realize their oppression and work towards redemption.




*Western, White cultural captivity is a phrase used by Soong-Chan Rah in The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity to describe how the evangelical church has been captured under Western, White notions that have been elevated as “norm.” The dominant expression of this captivity is individualism that manifests in its secondary expression of materialist consumerism and has produced colorblind racism. Theologically this captivity justifies itself with an individualist soteriology, notion of sin, and even of redemption that removes communities from any corporate sense of culpability.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Friday Fruit (07/8/14)

Rob Seals on Latino ministry with IVCF
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.
Creative Commons License
By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @BTSFblog