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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Friday Fruit (05/26/17)

Black boyOn 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, 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. 
Image result for trendline example
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.
Image result for mutuality mlk
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.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Friday Fruit (03/31/17)

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 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, March 26, 2017

Cesar Chavez Day

Cartoon of Cesar Chavez and the Eagle symbol of the UFW
This week marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of worker's rights hero, Cesar Chavez. In the United States, March 31st is celebrated as Cesar Chavez Day, in honor of his birthday. Cesar Estrada Chavez was born on March 31, 1927 in Arizona. At 35 years old, he founded the National Farm Workers Association (later known as the United Farm Workers; UFW), shortly thereafter joined by Dolores Huerta in the movement.

In a speech entitled Jesus's Friendship Chavez asserts that "the love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature." In that same speech he goes on to say "I have met many, many farm workers and friends who love justice and who are willing to sacrifice for what is right. They have a quality about them that reminds me of the beatitudes. They are living examples that Jesus' promise is true: they have been hungry and thirsty for righteousness and they have been satisfied."

Dolores Huerta holding a sign that says "huelga" (strike). Quote: "Walk the street with us into history. Get off the sidewalk"Chavez led many fasts over the course of his work. He said  "a fast is first and foremost personal. It is a fast for the purification of my own body, mind, and soul. The fast is also a heartfelt prayer for purification and strengthening for all those who work beside me in the farm worker movement. The fast is also an act of penance for those in positions of moral authority and for all men and women activists who know what is right and just, who know that they could and should do more. The fast is finally a declaration of non-cooperation with supermarkets who promote and sell and profit from California table grapes...I pray to God that this fast will be a preparation for a multitude of simple deeds for justice."

Chavez encourages us in this work saying "it is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity."

Today, the work continues and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is leading the charge. Though McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King and Taco Bell have all committed to higher wages for farm workers, Wendy's refuses to pay the penny more per pound of tomatoes that would make such a significant difference in lives of those picking them. The White House-recognized social responsibility program calls not only for the important wage increase, but also for a series of commitments to ensuring that workers’ and their rights are respected.

In honor of Chavez's birthday this week, consider fasting from Wendy's food to join the national boycott demanding the fair treatment of farmworkers. Then, check out this collection of litanies and worship resources from the National Farm Worker Ministry and see how you might honor the work of Cesar Chavez through prayer and service this week, and through the year.


"Free me to pray for others for You are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my life so that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others for in service there is true life.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle.
Help us love even those who hate us so we can change the world. Amen."
-Cesar Chavez


Picture of Cesar Chavez with quote "Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Friday Fruit (03/24/17)

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 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, March 19, 2017

Community Development *is* Congregational Development: #AllPeoplePractices

Image result for love thy neighbor billboardThere seems to be a belief that 'loving thy neighbor' is something to do in the Church's spare time, after we have 'sealed the deal' for the soul in the afterlife.

But in scripture, we see that Jesus consistently forms his ministry around the pairing of service and witness. We follow a Christ that was very concerned with personal salvation, and yet did not trivialize the suffering he encountered on earth.

That is why UM Church for All People and its sister nonprofit Community Development for All People are inextricably linked. Neither can exist without the other. Community development is congregational development.

It's not uncommon to hear someone identify C4AP as "that church that sells houses." While it's technically the nonprofit organization that does the affordable housing work, our community understands that work of the two organizations are intertwined with together. And it matters to them. Indeed, we are also often identified as "that church that does what a church is supposed to do"

As we serve in partnership with our community, we are tangibly demonstrating God's love in practical and meaningful ways. We build trust by forming relationships of mutuality and accompaniment. We send the message that God cares deeply about who we are, and is intimately involved with our daily struggles and victories. As we deepen our involvement in the community, it's no wonder that the church grows as a result.

Image result for church for all people free store
UM Free Strore
Conversely, to serve our community without giving of our very best would be to short change the people we are there to help. And what better do we have to offer but the Good News of Jesus Christ? Too often we volunteer in a pantry or donate our goods believing that the people we encounter are worthy of our charity, but not of our Jesus.

Even though the Free Store is run through the nonprofit, the church hosts worship each weekday before the store opens. People feel like the church is their home, and we a family in it. Thus, there are individuals who come experience worship up to seven times each week!

In a time when too many churches are closed Monday through Saturday, it matters that Church for All People owns a Free Store that welcomes 600+ people through the church doors each week. People experience God's grace in tangible ways, and learn about a Christ who identifies with the oppressed and marginalized. The community sees that we are a welcoming place that accepts everyone for who they are, and so becomes intrigued with who we are. We have been able to build and maintain a diverse church congregation because every single day we engage in the discipline of bridging cultural divides through radical hospitality in the community development work we do. We are able to attract the full spectrum of of the diversity of our surrounding neighborhood, and then invite them into a deeper journey. People enter our building that otherwise might never have given church a second chance, and never imagined they might be welcomed and loved. We form relationships, and in turn we grow the church.

At the same time, it matters that the nonprofit is connected with our church. It gives meaning and motivation for people to volunteer and donate. It attracts missionally aligned individuals to help do the work. It provides a connectional network and legacy from which to grow. But perhaps most importantly, it helps us see the people we serve as our siblings in Christ. It matters that we worship next to the very same people that shop with us in the Free Store. We are unified in Christ, not divided by serving counters. We are a family, not strangers. We are friends, not charity cases. We grow to know and love each other, intimately understanding each others' hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We understand each other in a way that is impossible when only seeing one another through the lens of a service to be provided. Through our fellowship we are able to gain the interpersonal trust to invite people into the next good thing that God would have for each other and our families. We expand the church, and in turn we build strong communities and change lives.

Too often we divorce service and salvation, as though doing one is at the expense of the other. The reality is quite the opposite. The church needs the nonprofit, and the nonprofit needs the church.
We build relationships, to build the church, to build the Front Porch to the Kingdom of God.

How is your church linking congregational development with community development?
For tips and ideas to get you started view our resources on the Divine Economy of Abundance

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Friday Fruit (03/17/17)

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 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, March 12, 2017

Review: Allegiance

Please welcome back guest writer, Chris Sunami. Chris is a philosopher and the author of Hero for Christ. Find more of his writings on his blog, Yes and Other Answers. His review of the Broadway musical Allegiance first appeared on his site, Pop Culture Philosopher.

You may not have heard of the recent Broadway musical Allegiance. You might not even have heard of the real, and newly relevant historical event it was based on, the forced internment of Japanese immigrants and American citizens of Japanese descent in what amounted to homegrown, all-American concentration camps during World War II. As a particularly shameful chapter of American history, it’s a story that has often been hidden and suppressed –or is it more accurate to call it overlooked and willfully forgotten?

I know of it largely through a direct personal connection. My grandmother, Suyeko Matsushima Sunami, a natural-born U.S. citizen, was imprisoned in the camps for four years, along with her Japanese-born parents and older siblings (some born here, some born there). It registered in my life more as an absence than a presence.

Image result for heart mountain japanese internment camp
Heart Mountain Internment Camp
Neither my grandmother nor my great-aunts and great-uncles ever spoke about it. I never heard them mention it even once. The only sign of it was little relics –a collection of arrowheads scavenged from the hard Wyoming dirt, a piece of driftwood hand-polished over many dreary hours into a shining work of art. It was also the reason my father gave for why he and his sister had never learned Japanese. After the war, their parents had not wanted them to have any attribute that might single them out from their peers, might make them seem less than American, and more capable of being exiled yet again from American life and citizenship.

It goes without saying that my personal connection to the material shaped my experience of Allegiance, a musical dramatizing the internment. I found it profoundly moving to an extent that shocked me. Perhaps it was because it filled in and made vivid the day-to-day life of a section of my history that had always been almost completely opaque to me –as opaque as I assume it has been for most Americans. I knew better than to take every scene as historically accurate, but taken as a whole, it gave me a living sense of what the experience must have been like for my relatives: What it was to be a young person growing up in an immigrant Japanese family before the war, the suddenness of the transition, the sharp disruption of your journey into independent adulthood, and the stresses, frustrations, and occasional joys of being a prisoner in your own nation for four interminable years.

In addition, with a large part of the story hinging on the controversial loyalty oath demanded from the internees, I finally gained a context for the fact that my Great-Uncle Aki (Akira Matsushima) had been a “No No” boy (someone who refused to sign the oath). It gave me a sense of why he might have made that decision, how much courage it must have taken to do so, and the very real costs to him and to the family for his refusal.
Image result for allegiance musical
So how was it as a musical? The book was strong, weaving a powerful human-interest story from the interactions and divergent reactions and values of two young couples. The first duo is Sammy Kimura, a passionate American patriot who becomes a decorated WWII hero, and Hannah Campbell, the Caucasian nurse who owns his heart. The second couple is Sammy’s anxious older sister Kei Kimura, and Frankie Suzuki, a conscientious objector and civil rights agitator who is as passionate about his values as Sammy is about his.

The score, on the other hand, while never less than tuneful and accomplished, was far from memorable. Despite having an Asian American composer, it had little Asian flavor, and most resembled accomplished facsimiles of era-appropriate music. Similarly, the staging and visuals were strongly conceived and executed exemplars of stagecraft, but only one production number was truly memorable –Suzuki’s satirical ode to internment life, “Paradise.”

Considered as history, the musical has come under criticism for allegedly exaggerating the brutality and violence of the camp and the friction with the soldiers guarding it. It’s worth noting, however, that that while the odd detail may have been fudged, or enhanced for theatrical impact, the bigger picture is a matter of documented historical record, as are incidents such as the deaths of citizen internees at the hands of military personnel.

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Mike Masaoka
Another criticism of the early stagings is that they devalued the service of the Japanese American war veterans and demonized (controversial and polarizing historical figure) Mike Masaoka, who some people view as having saved and shielded the Japanese Americans during the war, but who others view as having cravenly sold them out in exchange for his own security and comfort. Those concerns appear to have been addressed in the filmed staging, with the musical now presenting a very balanced picture that values the choices made by both the patriots and the protestors, and that allows viewers to make up their own minds about Masaoka.

One final note about the musical. I’ll approach it obliquely, with a seemingly unrelated anecdote: When I first started as a professional programmer, the other programmers I worked with were almost exclusively male, and mainly white (with a tiny handful of Asians and Indians thrown in). It was easy to come to the conclusion that white men were the only people who were any good at programming. But when I took my current job (at a large American corporation), I suddenly found myself in an environment where there were nearly as many women programmers as men, and where there were bright and talented programmers of every race and nationality as well –not just a few, but many of them, and succeeding at the same levels as anyone else. Somehow this company had no problem finding an endless supply of something that those other workplaces didn’t even seem to know existed.

Image result for paradise allegianceSimilarly, Allegiance has a largely Asian-American cast, singing, dancing and starring in lead roles, with the handsome hero played by Telly Leung looking every inch the all-American romantic lead, his sister, played by the soulfully beautiful Lea Salonga, bringing real heart to her role as the play’s emotional center, and his nemesis, played by Michael Lee, exuding charisma and attitude. You’ve probably never seen or heard of many of the cast members (probable exceptions include Star Trek star George Takei, a real life former internee who played a crucial role in getting the musical made, and Salonga, who originated the title role in Miss Saigon). Why? Because there aren’t many other shows that give them the chance to shine. But that doesn’t mean talented Asian American actors aren’t out there, and it takes a show like this for them to be able to showcase their talents.

As of now, the show has closed on Broadway, and the theatrical release was a limited engagement, so there isn’t an immediate way to experience Allegiance. But if and when it comes back, I’d urge everyone to see it. It’s an important part of all of our histories.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lenten Disciplines for Racial Justice

Image result for Vocation lentLent is time when we refocus our minds, hearts, and souls on Christ and his loving sacrifice for us. These 40 days are meant as a time of centering and reflection as we approach the Easter season. It is an opportunity to reconcile our inward beliefs with our outward practices.

This season, what if our Lenten disciplines help us lean into God's heart for justice? What if, instead of chocolate, we gave up some of our privilege? What would it look like to make radical sacrifice for the sake of reconciled body of Christ?

In addition to several good devotional resources available online, here are some practices to help you begin your Lenten journey for justice:

Fast
    Image result for popular resistance Guantanamo-Fasting-for-Justice
  • Fast from dominant culture news media, instead seeking out news converge from the perspective of marginalized groups.
  • Fast from sporting events and broadcasts that feature racist or appropriative mascots.
  • Fast from fashion and culture magazines that promote narrow beauty standards
  • Fast from books by white authors, substituting for a broader library of choices
  • Fast from TV shows and movies that do not have robust representation of people of color on screen and behind the scenes.
  • Fast from national chains and corporations, instead patronizing small local business, especially those owned by people of color.
  • Fast from fuel. Ride public transit, taking the opportunity to get to know those that ride throughout the year.
  • Fast from products made by companies with unjust manufacturing or hiring practices
  • Fast from being comfortable. Spend these weeks as a guest at another church. Join groups actively discussing tough issues of racial injustice. Listen. Just listen. 
  • Fast from material possession. What items have you accumulated that would better serve others in your community? 
  • Fast from fear. Re-examine who we are told to be afraid of and why. Consider how you might make your church a more welcoming space for folks often greeted with fear.
  • Fast from your desire to be a leader, instead allowing yourself to be led and creating new leadership spaces for people of color.
  • Fast from an attitude of saviourism. Partner with those around you who are already doing good work. 

Serve

Pray

Personal change begins on the inside, but then bears fruit in what the world experiences from us on the outside. Many of the steps above will take you well beyond the Lenten season, requiring longer term commitments and sacrifice. But isn't that what Lent is really about? Through power of Christ's death and resurrection, we become transformed disciples, setting aside our own worldly desires to act as the hands and feet of God on earth.

O God, we pray for those in our world who are suffering from injustice:
For those who are discriminated against because of their race, color, or religion;
For those imprisoned for working for the relief of oppression;
For those who are hounded for speaking the inconvenient truth;
For those tempted to violence as a cry to overwhelming hardship;
For those deprived of reasonable health and education;
For those suffering from hunger and famine;
For those too weak to help themselves and who have no one else to help them;
For the unemployed who cry out for work but do not find it;
We pray for anyone of our acquaintance who is personally affected by injustice.
Forgive us Lord, if we unwittingly share in conditions or in a system that perpetuates injustice.
Show us how we can serve your children and make your love practical by washing their feet. 
-Mother Teresa

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Friday Fruit (03/03/17)

(Art by Joann Lee Kim: http://www.joannleekim.com)
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 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, February 26, 2017

Holy Land for All People: #AllPeoplePractices

First plane ride!
Thirty people from UM Church for All People (C4AP) recently returned from a ten-day trip to the Holy Land. We were a different bunch than those who usually get to go on such trips. Indeed, our group represented the full range of diversity at C4AP. We had many races, ages, income levels, and educations. Some of us were very well traveled, having been all over the globe. Others had never been out of the state, never been on a plane.

And so there we found ourselves, together on a journey to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus, who challenged our understanding of power, worth, and privilege. Who identified himself with the marginalized, the persecuted, the downtrodden. The Jesus who told us "blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."

Many of us went on the trip knowing that we would see this land more clearly if we did so with the same sorts of folks that Jesus identified with. We wanted to see the holy sights through the eyes of those that most clearly see God. Usually, it is the powerful, the rich, the well connected that are able to afford such a trip. But what would  happen if we made the journey with those that Jesus spent His time blessing, rather than those that He was cursing?

And so it was with this beautiful mix of friends that we helped each other experience the scenes of Jesus's life and ministry. We visited the Mount of Beatitudes with those that do indeed hunger and thirst. We prayed in the Church of the Annunciation with those who have wrestled unexpected teen pregnancy. We drank from Jacob's Well with those who have been shamed and ostracized from society. We gazed down into where the Pool of Bethesda once stirred with those who have felt helpless, but know that they have been healed. We stood in the cell where Jesus was held in the the House of Caiaphas with those that have felt what it's like to be imprisoned. We walked the Via Dolorosa with those who've also had to stare death in the face.

But perhaps one of the most meaningful spots for me was the the Church of the Multiplication. It's the traditional spot where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplying the loaves and fishes. This passage of scripture is particularly significant for us at Church for All People. Not only do we believe in it, but we've seen it happen.

On Mount of Beatitudes
We've witnessed times when a little bit of soup fed an entirely too large crowd, with plenty remaining for seconds and leftovers. We've seen the widow place her mite in the offering basket and watched it become $50 million in affordable housing. We've received the random request from someone in need, only to have that very item donated the very same day. And we've shopped in a store that gives everything away for free, but never runs out.

We believe in a Divine Economy of Abundance. We do not worship a God of scarcity, but a God who always provides. We know we've been brought a mighty long way, and that our God has delivered us out of every difficult season. And so standing on a hill where Jesus took a couple of loaves and fish to feed thousands of hungry people felt extraordinary, and yet also very familiar.

Of course we saw many other things while on our journey, not all of them pleasant. And these also were made more poignant when experienced with our diverse mix of pilgrims. We passed though check points, and met families divided by walls. We learned about stolen land and forfeited property. We heard the the worries of inadequate education systems, and the frustrations of working multiple jobs without being able to make ends meet. We listened to stories of polices brutality, youth backlash, and parents' fears. We saw the divide between the powerful and the powerless. And this too felt familiar.

The wall surrounding Bethlehem
That one of the holiest places on the planet could be the site of such strife is at once heartbreaking, and yet someone how fitting of the brokenness of our world. In hearing about so many competing interests over so many hundreds of years, the situation often felt unsolvable. Our human divides catch up with us at every turn. After all, we know that in the United States, it's the Christian church that remains one of the most racially and economically segregated institutions in the country.

And yet, there we were. A ragtag group of misfits on the road to encounter the Living Christ. A group from different backgrounds and an array of lived experiences. A group of people that aren't supposed to get along together within the same city, let alone on a long, cramped bus ride. Our mere existence doesn't fix the difficult problems we face, but doing the holy work of solving them together and undivided very well may.
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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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