BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Logical Fallacies: Not All White People

This post is part of an ongoing series on common logical fallacies used in conversations about race. If you have suggestions for fallacies that you'd like to see covered, submit your ideas here.

It's a natural reaction when describing racism: "but we're not all like that!" When we learn about the brokenness of our world we want to distance ourselves from the problem. Particularly when talking about racism as a social issue, it can feel like we are just perpetuating "reverse racism" by overgeneralizing.

But the reality is that racism is a broad system (just like other "-isms," such as capital-ism, and commun-ism) that has effects on each one of us, and will require the work of each one of us to combat. Dr. Beverly Tatum compares racism to smog that we all breathe: “sometimes it is so thick it is visible, other times it is less apparent, but always, day in and day out, we are breathing it in."

Muhammad Ali on "not all white people"
What this means is that we all play some part, sometimes large, sometimes small. It is better to be reflective and examine our own hearts than to reflexively disassociate with its existence. That way we can recognize the problem and be a part of bringing about change for the better.

To say "not all white people" merely distracts from an important conversation about sociological trends and their impacts on our society. Even if there are some exceptions, it is disingenuous to thrust these instances into a discussion about the broader power structures at play.

Abagond offers the following example:
"I will make some statement about whites and then be informed that “not all whites” are like that, that they are Individuals. Like there is some special rule of English that “whites” always means “all whites”...When I say, “Whites owned slaves” it hardly means they all owned slaves. As far as I know no more than 2% of White Americans ever did. Yet that does not make the statement untrue or meaningless. Because quantity is not the issue – it was never stated. To make quantity the issue is a derailment."
It can be intimidating to confront the realities of our society's brokenness. But rather than searching for exceptions, let us attempt to take statements about racism at face value, knowing that cultures will always exhibit complexity when examined on an individual level. 
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Not all data points...but there's a trend!

If you find yourself upset, take a moment reflect. Does a broad description of societal injustice feel like a personal attack? What is the source of the anxiety you feel?

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. There's no need to become defensive.

But if your discomfort reflects a vague sense of conviction, it may well be worth digging deeper into that discomfort to examine how you might work to combat systemic injustice within your own sphere of influence.

Take a moment to examine the how systems of racial advantage affect many aspects of life. Which ones can you personally take steps to combat today?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's All About the Relationships: On Mutuality and Accompaniment
#AllPeoplePractices

Image result for fix itMany of us just want to fix it.
We see brokenness, pain, and injustice in the world around us, and we want to solve it.
But it doesn't take long to realize that most of the time, we can't.

At UM Church for All People (C4AP), our relationships with one another is our greatest asset. It's what grows the church. It's what build trust as we provide services. It's what we're able to offer forward to our partners as they disseminate their own resources into our community.

If we are just about "fixing," we'll never move past a transaction of assistance into deeper relationship. And it's the deeper relationship that God would have for each of us.

Authentic relationships are based on mutuality and accompaniment. They're not based on one person's ability to "fix it" for the other. There is a certain hubris to thinking we can fix anything anyway. It is easy for those with power and privileged to think that they are in control. It can feel like we have the resources and influence to save the day. But ultimately all of our resources are in God's hands, not ours.

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Those that experience injustice know that there is no easy fix. They are often confronted with stark realities of structures and systems that stack the odds against them. They know that the outcome of their hard work is not in their control. And thus they often know how to rely on God.

They also often know how to accompany. They know they can't always throw money at the problems, and so they offer what they can: accompaniment. Not a false promise of a solution, but the abiding relationship that walks through the situation together.

How many times have I prayed the Lord's Prayer? "Give us this day our daily bread." But I don't believe that prayer. I think I do. But I don't. I know I work hard. I earn a paycheck. I pay for my groceries. I give me my daily bread. But on some level, we know that's foolish. It's in sitting next to siblings in Christ that pray that prayer each day without knowing where they will get their next meal that has taught me how to trust God.

Which brings us to the second aspect of authentic relationship: mutuality. Mutuality is when both parties are enriched by the relationship. It's notion that everyone has something valuable to offer to others. That the Body of Christ doesn't function simply as a one way flow of service.

You may have served at a soup kitchen, but have you sat at table there as well? You may pray for the poor, but have asked them to pray for you? It is good to want to help others. Our instincts of compassion and service are at the root of so much of what is good in Christianity. But without mutuality of relationship, it can be draining and people will burn out.

Image result for burnoutWe often get well meaning volunteers that want to serve the community. They will do good work, dedicating their time, money, and energy to the various ministries. But after a while, some lose their fever a drift away. This is not to devalue their contribution; everything has a season. But we've found that the volunteers that come and stay, do so because they realize that they get as much out of it as they put in, if not more. They realize are being fed, even as they feed others. They learn the beauty and richness of mutuality.

During worship services at C4AP, there is a time for sharing of joys and concerns. On any given morning, someone may stand up and say "My gas got cut off, and winter's coming, and I'm scared. I know you can't fix it, but will you pray with me about it?" And the very next person might get up and say "Our last kid just went off to college. We're excited for her, but now we're empty nesters and we're sad she's gone. We know you can't fix it, but will you pray with us about it?"

Image result for empty nesterIt matter that these prayer get lifted up equally before God. If we aren't vulnerable with one another, we maintain the charade that we have it all together. We deny ourselves the opportunity to trust in God and to trust in one another.

Indeed, if we don't solicit the mutuality of prayers from those we think we are serving, then we reveal our own bias of believing God hears our own prayers better. Is not each person a child of God? If anything, the persecuted and downtrodden may be more in tune to God's voice. We worship a God of the Oppressed, and scripture is often written from and to those on the margins.

Ultimately, we will have a better understanding of who God is when we are in relationship with the folks that Jesus hung out with while he was on earth. When we read the Sermon on the Mount with those that do indeed hunger and thirst. When we celebrate Christmas with those who have wrestled unexpected teen pregnancy. When we learn about the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well with those who have been shamed and ostracized from society. When we experience Holy Week with with those that have felt what it's like to be imprisoned and to stare death in the face. And when we experience resurrection with those that have a deep understanding of what it means to have victory over death.

These relationships mutuality and accompaniment are at the heart of everything we do at C4AP. Through the Free Store, we open our doors to the community and invite the sort of daily interactions necessary to build commonality. By listening to our neighbors in this setting, we launched our community development work, like our affordable housing initiative and the Healthy Eating and Living program. Indeed, every step we have taken toward an opportunity rich community has had its roots in the relationships we build with the many that enter our doors each day.
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We live into the duality of respecting each individual’s autonomy, while offering opportunity to those that want to grow. We understand that not everyone wants to climb the economic ladders of a broken system, and also recognize that life can be better for those who are interested in creating change in their own lives. 

We hold in tension the idea that “God loves us just the way we are, and God is not finished with us yet.” It might sound like a contradiction, but it reflects the notion that God accompanies each one of us, offering us all the opportunity of mutuality to live into everything that we can be. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Friday Fruit (04/20/17)

Black woman in blue and white dress in front of blue, green and white background with black images and textOn 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 many voices leading the way...


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.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hesed: The God of Mutuality #AllPeoplePractices

Please welcome back Pastor Greg Henneman, Director of the Healthy Eating and Living (HEAL) initiative at Church and Community Development for All People. Here, he reflects on God's call to mutuality:

Image result for mutuality mlkPsalm 130 has long been the psalm I identify with most.

I resonate with the psalmist crying from the depth of the heart.

As one who served in the military, I have experienced the twice repeated phrase “more than those who watch for morning, more than those who watch for morning.”

I love the modern expression of the song by Sinead O’Connor.

But while this psalm is an old favorite, this week I have noticed something new.

In verse 7, Israel is invited to put its hope in the Lord, because with the Lord there is “steadfast love.” Steadfast love sounds good on its own: a love that is not conditional and doesn’t wax and wane like our love of a favorite song or restaurant.

But this is only the surface of it. The word translated steadfast love is the Hebrew word 'hesed' which means 'mutuality'.

Creative Mutuality
If there is one thing I’ve learned in ministry it is the power of mutuality.

It was including homeless people in on the creation and weekly leadership of Community of Hope that made it work.

Mutuality is at the core of the United Methodist Church’s focus area of ministry WITH the poor.

Mutuality is the secret sauce that makes Church and Community Development for All People a place of ever growing relationships and expanding programming. Within the Fresh Market and the Free Store, it is impossible to tell from racial or socioeconomic background who is provider and who is recipient.

Mutuality is more than a management concept to involve people from the bottom up in order to create diverse community. Mutuality is who God is.

God is in the cry from the depth of the heart. God is equally present in the broken heart of divorce as in the joyful heart of newborn parents. God is as much in the mud covered eyes of the blind, the leper, the addict, and the prostitute as God is in the faithful church goer.

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When we are willing to put aside our ego and be vulnerable enough to share ourselves with others, the God of mutuality is moving. When we are humble enough to admit we don’t have all the answers and open our heart in prayer, the God of mutuality speaks. When we look at others asking what we can give instead of how we can receive, the God of mutuality provides.

I am often asked, what is the greatest asset of our community. Every time I respond by saying, relationships. It is in the mutuality of people who look out for each other and care for each other and support each other that the peaceable kingdom grows. The mutuality of God’s love is what forms us and shapes us and leads us forward.

We find God in serving the other, because the God of mutuality found us “out of the depths”; and, when we are willing to go down in the depths with others we find the God is mutuality is there.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Family Roots

Image result for family historyWelcome back guest writer Eileen Howard, as she explores some of her families history and what it means for her today:

I am researching my family genealogy and it has been fun (and time consuming).  I’ve traced ancestors back to the pilgrims and to the revolutionary war.  I’ve found some really hilarious and interesting family stories.  I’ve also found that I cannot escape the sins of our nation.

All my life I have thought of myself as part of a family that was above the sin of slavery.  We were northeasterners who moved to the Pacific Northwest.  You won’t find a Morrill (my maiden name) that owned slaves.

Ah...but now I find my family goes back through other branches to North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.  And there, in black and white, thanks to Ancestry.com, are records that list slaves. and ancestors who fought for the Confederacy.

Not only that, but I discovered a very intriguing story about one branch who lived next door to Daniel Boone’s family in North Carolina.  Boone led some of my ancestors to settle Kentucky!  How exciting! Until you realize that by “settle” they mean “kill Indians.”  They fought at Fort Boone against the native peoples, killing them and taking their land.

Image result for the best apology is changed behaviorI wonder if we will ever be a truly free nation until we boldly face and repent of our original sins? The backlash against “political correctness” has some basis in truth – people just want to move on and want to stop the back and forth labels of racism.  They feel they want to just live and let live and treat people as humans.  I do think there have been overreactions to minor things and I, too, find these frustrating.  But I now think they are rooted in this issue:  We still have not fully repented of our original sins so, like a festering wound, it just keeps opening up again and again.

In 12-step groups, this is called Step Eight.  Make a list of all persons we had harmed and make amends to them.  But this is difficult when the core of the harm is generations ago.  However, the benefit to me of that original sin is clear as I do my research!   Generations of my ancestors had land, power, and money because they either built it on the labor of slaves or took land from native people.

So, in 12 step groups, this is what you do when you can’t directly make amends to a person you’ve harmed:  A Living Amends.  A Living Amends is when you start living your life the way you should have lived it back when you were harming others.   A living amends, means rooting out the current forms of institutional racism and unconscious privilege.  It requires acknowledging that generations of oppression have led to an inherent systemic inequality from birth.  Stop pretending that we all start on a level playing field.  It requires deep self-examination to see where our institutions have inherent bias against people of color, such as in our policing and justice systems, hiring practices, real estate sales, and schooling.
Image result for A Living Amends

And, for the Native People of this country, wow… I don’t even know where to begin, the sins are so deep.  Maybe by just stopping taking their damned land and using it for oil pipelines!

My hands are not clean.   I did not just drop on the planet without a family history.  While I cannot go back and change the actions of my ancestors, I can participate in repentance and make a living amends to the ancestors of those who were harmed.
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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