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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


As an add-on to my post about Vineyard Community Church, here are some good options for those wanting to begin incorporating multi-cultural worship into their Sunday morning routine. Sorry I don't have recordings or chords for all of them. They are around here somewhere, so just ask and I will get them for you. Help me out if you know where to find the missing ones online.

The one Vineyard did this past Sunday: He is Yahweh, hear it here (skip to 4:47, where the song starts--also check out 14:50)

Ha Hona Ya Tshwana, chords
No Hay Nadie Como Tu, chords
Yae Su Sa Rang Hae Yo, chords
Santo Santo Santo, chords
Ah Ni:io (chords not online, but I have them)
Kwake Yesu Nasimama (chords not online, but I have them)
Unify Us, chords --I have French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese versions of this...somewhere)

Also for churches used to praise music, try some of these songs as good crossovers to gospel music that your congregation might already be familiar with. The differences can be subtle, so they make good stepping stones to add gospel songs to your rep:
Holiness (compare to this), chords
Awesome God (compare to this), chords
Friend of God (compare to this), chords
Here I Am to Worship (compare to this), chords
Lord, You Are Good (compare to this), chords

Remember, worship it is not about being comfortable. It is about praising God and celebrating His diverse kingdom is a part of that.

disclaimer: I put the above together very quickly and haven't checked all the chords for accuracy (not to mention the quality of the videos). Let me know and I can be sure to send you charts that have been tested.

See Also:
Small Things Done With Great Love
Why I Love the Church for All People
Colbert Report

Vineyard Megachurch: "Small Things Done With Great Love Will Change The World"

Cincinnati Vineyard Community Church's (VCC) claim to fame is through its commitment to servant evangelism. This ministry is based on the idea that God's love is free and by washing your car for free--no donations accepted (and at times actually paying the drivers $!), we can represent God's relationship with you in a simple metaphor of love. It is about showing God's love in a practical way, no strings attached .

Very cool right? Absolutely. I grew up (and came to Christ) in this predominantly white, middle class, suburban, nondenom (as though Vineyard isn't its own denomination!) megachurch.

But when I went to college, I joined a small (~100 ppl) multinationalmulti-denominational church in Richmond. I loved the intimacy, the accountability, the diversity, and even the holy ritual of the church.

And I became critical of Vineyard: With over 7,000 people here, why do only a handful of faces have dark skin? I thought it was too big to have any meaningful personal accountability; good at bringing new believers to Christ, but not for later in the journey. And why hadn't I ever seen a female worship leader?

All this while I am SUPPOSED to be worshipping God.

This is NOT the response loving Christians should have. But it often how we interact with each other. Sure, it's great to find a new church home and to fall in love with it. But Jesus loves all of the Church and we need to as well.

Maybe a lot of VCC's congregation is white, but the band was pretty mixed and they have started singing songs in different languages (and not just Spanish either), creating an atmosphere that is affirming and welcoming to people of different backgrounds.

And true, it may be a little self-righteous for a white American church to try to march in and 'save the day' in Nigeria (see post: White Savior Complex). But even still 35,000 people now have access to clean drinking water thanks to the 65 new wells that the church helped drill (by employing Nigerians).

Maybe it is ostentatious to build the biggest indoor skate park within 100 miles. But they do it, not for the students that already attend, but with the explicit purpose of drawing kids from the area, and being a center of recreation where kids can encounter God when they wouldn't necessarily be looking for Him.

Sure, VCC has cooshie couches everywhere, but they also gave away over $407,000 last year (not including the funding for the Nigerian wells). They have ministries to the inner-city, the elderly, and the nearby Hispanic communities, and entire new building called the Healing Center, with a clinic and a free store, as well as other resources for those of low SES.

Despite all my qualms about rich suburban megachurches, VCC does really good work. The church fills a need for thousands who have been come disillusioned with the hymns and pews of their parents--and if loud music and fancy lighting/sound system can bring someone to Christ, then it is worth every penny.

In summery, a lot of problems at VCC are legit issues that many churches have. I still struggle when I visit and sit that comfy seat, knowing that at my Columbus church, the people sitting next to me are often homeless. But rather than constantly criticizing/comparing with my previous church (which I seem to do at every new church home), I need to remember that each one is a wonderful piece of the puzzle of God's Kingdom.

Sitting again at my home church, I again allow that critical voice in my head to creep up again. I think of things  I might do differently if I were in charge or how so-and-so really annoys me etc, ad nauseum. But by the grace I hope to receive, may I love my church and The Church, just the way they are, knowing God's not finished with us yet.

See Also:
Why I Love the Church For All People
White Savior Complex

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Don't Stop Believing

Fat Cats is a dueling piano bar in Cincinnati. We went last night (great fun, highly recommend).
One of the (four) pianist played what he called "the white people's national anthem": Don't Stop Believing.

Huh? Am I missing a racial subtext to this song? Or is it just classic stereotypic white pop music? Or was the guy just trying to be funny--and failing?

See Also:

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I confess that BTSF tends to discuss race relations between black and white people. Partially, that is because that is what I have had the most experience with in the past and where I have been the most educated. Partially, it is because the sins of the church in this area are most poignant for me.  It is also the one I experience the most on a day-to-day basis.

Many of the same discriminatory pressures that black people face are similar to those of other minorities, but many of them are not. The histories are different and the modern stereotypes take different forms. Recall the Japanese American interment after Pearl Harbor or the complete repeated disasters that have been the United States's policies with Native Americans. We know better than to have the Carolina 'Negros' playing against the Chicago Bears. But the Chiefs and the Indians still play on?

I once dated a guy who spoke of extreme pressure he felt people put him under to excel in music and math because he was 'Asian.' This references the idea of the "model minority" and it isn't necessarily a good thing (see post here).

It was actually an Indian American that first challenged the United States's policy of only allowing Caucasians to be citizens. Bhagat Singh Thind argued that as a Indian, which at the time were characterized as Caucasian by anthropologists, he should be granted citizenship, particularly after having served in the US military in WWI. He was in the end denied citizenship because he was not in fact white by the "common man's understanding of the term."

All this to say, like so many things the issue in not black and white. However, I recognize that I often write that way, and so am working on that in myself. Certainly much of what I have to say applies to different kinds of minority relations in the church and I will strive to encompass the many dynamic aspects of God's colorful kingdom in my discussions.

I've Got Style?

So the UMC Church for All People, had its "tea and style show" today. Basically a fashion show in which the congregation can participate, partially to raise money for the church and partially to show off some of the clothes available at our Free Store. I thought it would be great fun to participate and began to brainstorm what I should wear. I love fancy occasions, so I thought I might participate in the "formal attire" section in one of my recital gowns. But then I am already self-conscious about being pinned as a high-brow white classical musician, so I ruled that out. Maybe an outfit that my friend brought back for me from Ghana? Didn't want to seem like I was trying too hard to be 'multicultural.' Too many white folk are all like "am so cool because I embrace other cultures." The church doesn't know me well enough yet for that. Maybe one of the silk dresses I bought when I was in doing my research trip in China? Naw....I've never felt comfortable wearing them. Never found the appropriate occasion where it didn't feel like I was just a tourist appropriating pretty outfits or just showing off my travel experience. How about this dress? no. This shirt? no. This wrap? no no. Nothing in my closet seemed worthy of a fashion show. So I sang with the choir instead.

See Also:
Why I love the Church For All People

Dr. Tatum: What is Racism?

The writings Dr. Beverly Tatum have shaped much of my early journey on race and race relations, particularly her book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? 

Dr. Tatum does not characterize racism as overt discrimination or individual acts of hate. Rather, she defines it as one’s benefiting from a system of privileges based on race that are subtly ingrained in the surrounding culture, making it difficult to detect. In this sense, all white people are racist; we benefit from this system of privileges. I am a racist. It is possible for people of color to be prejudiced on the basis of race, but the social system is never in their favor. This is racism.

Dr. Tatum compares racism to smog:
 “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” (p. 6). 
It is not that one wakes up and chooses to discriminate, but rather, if one is a member of the majority, there is an institutionalized system of advantages that is in place. This system has consequences that affect the everyday lives of people of color. Both in big ways and in small. For example, no one has ever assumed that I, a White middle-class female, attend my school because of affirmative action. No one as has ever assumed that I am there on an athletic scholarship either. When I go to the store, the manager does not follow me as I shop and I can assume I will find pantyhose or band-aids that match my skin tone.

Though these examples may be small issues, they regularly affect people of color, and are symptoms of the greater smog we breathe. It is the accumulation of these insults that yield major consequences in the treatment of people of color as second class citizens in the United States (see post: Microaggressions). It is within this racialized world that people of color are paid less for the same work, hired less often with the same resume, incarcerated longer for the same crime, charged more for the same mortgage. All of these problems are related to an underlying system that favors whiteness.

Finally, Dr. Tatum compares modern racism to a moving sidewalk:

“because racism is so ingrained in the fabric of American institutions, it is easily self-perpetuating. All that is required to maintain it, is business as usual…[when] people do not disrupt unfair systems of privilege, they are—willingly or unwillingly—on the moving sidewalk, receiving White privilege and inadvertently enabling racism” (p. 11). 
If we stand still and do nothing, we actually help perpetuate the momentum of racism. We must actively walk against it's motion to prevent its consequences.

Does an act of racism require the 'intent to hurt'? Is hatred a prerequisite? Need it be large blatant acts, or do small insults (both conscious and unconscious) accumulate to establish a larger culture of problems and inequality?

I consider myself a racist in the same way that I consider myself a sinner in need of forgiveness (see post Basically Good). People bristle at both characterizations (“I’m a generally good person, I don’t need Jesus”; “I’m not a racist, I’m color blind”). But to me, these terms simply identify the latent issues that I know I still have to work on, which is better than pretending the issues aren't there at all.

All this to say, when we realize the advantages we have, we may think more carefully about how we use our privilege to rectify the situations of the burdened, to walk against the 'moving sidewalk' of privilege and racism.

Growing Up White and 'Normal'

Are you colorblind?
Most white people grow up in homes that don't talk about race. Of course we are taught to treat everyone like equals, and that the color of one's skin doesn't matter. In essence, we are taught to be colorblind.

On rare occasions race might actually be mentioned in conversation: "I was talking to Dan, you know the new African-American history teacher." It might be whispered quietly like a dirty word. Or maybe someone might say "ya know, this black woman at the grocery store just wouldn't hurry up through the checkout line," as though her race (or her gender) was somehow relevant to the story.

Neither statement is overtly prejudiced per say, but they reveal an innate bias many white people grow up with: that we are normal. That white is the default, and anything else is set aside as 'different.' In many communities, it can truly seem like this is the reality (See post: Segregated). Even today, white children can grow surprisingly old before they ever have a conversation with a POC.

White folks grow up with the idea that we are generally "a good (read: colorblind) people." We've heard that story in evangelism before. "I don't do anything really bad. I am basically a good person." Yet we know that there is more to the story of salvation than that. We can see that the world is messed up--we have all needed to clean up our act at one point or another. Rarely do people experience their sin in big batches of evil. It is in little nibbles at a time.

So too with racism. Growing up, I would often wonder why the handful of black kids at my school always hung out together. "Weren't they perpetuating their own isolation and segregation?" I would get frustrated with people living in the inner city. "Why were they so lazy? why not just suck it up and get a job?" I would become indignant in college with the black student group began a protest about some minor comment in the school paper. "Why are they always so angry?" 

These were my symptoms of racism. They are deep and systematic. They are hard to eradicate because they were subtle and ingrained in day-to-day life, in how we grew up.

I remember the day I learned I was white like the day I became a Christian. A profound, life-altering experience that brought me into a more intimate relationship with God and with the people around me. Like coming to Christ, the experience is also gradual, stemming from years of slow learning and exposure, one relationship at a time. Like coming to Christ, my journey didn't end on the day it began, and I have been learning ever since. Praise God!

See Also:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why It Is Important

How is it that the IRS and P&G are more integrated than God's house is? We may be able to legislate behavior and actions (important to do!), but issues of the heart are beyond the reach of governmental or corporate regulation. This is why we need the Church. The Church cannot ignore issues of race and racism; it hurts our witness to the world and obscures the cross.

The issues of race and the white Church have historically converged into one of the most fundamental and egregious errors in American Christian history. For Sunday morning to STILL be the most segregated hour is a travesty.

Is it just a matter of comfort? Just preference for one's own worship style? Is it really such a big deal and surely it's not really a matter of racism?!

Consider what Spencer Perkins says in his co-authored book  More Than Equals :
 "white christians' decisions to choose comfort of their own race over the Christian ideals of brotherhood and oneness that our gospel so boldly preaches have undoubtedly weakened their witness to the African-American community. Because blacks have not been able to distinguish between white Christians and white non-Christians when it comes to racial issues and separation, major issues...become confused" (p. 32)
It's a convicting statement, and a view echoed by James Baldwin (video here). When it comes to white Christians, the image of an allied seeker of racial justice and reconciliation simply does not jump to the minds of our sisters and brothers of color. In fact, the white Church has a depressing history of being sluggish and neophobic in nature when it comes to race (for some telling research studies and statistics along these lines, check out Divided by Faith. No punches pulled there).

Perhaps it's time for the majority to become a little more uncomfortable. It's a reflection of white folks' privileged to be able to avoid situations in which we are the only ones in a house of worship of our own race. And after a moment when we do experience the awkward self-awareness that such an experience can bring, we can easily and quickly retreat to an all-white world without enduring much sacrifice.

How can we be so timid to experience the discomfort to which many of our sisters and brothers in Christ have had to grow accustomed on a daily basis in the workplace, in schools, and in the church? Because we have these privileges, I believe it is white folks’ responsibility to intentionally act to ease the burdens of racism by actively educating ourselves and working for change, particularly in the church where our claim is Holy love.

It is for a similar reasons that I feel it is important for me, a white person, to be talking about race. White people don't tend to talk about race at all--positively or negatively. We have been trained by too many hushed words and too many winks and nods that it is a taboo topic. You are apt to say something stupid and get yelled at or....well...that's pretty much the only outcome, so we think. But silence breeds ignorance.

Conversely, many POC have heard too many stupid comments from white people about race. They shouldn't have to bare the constant responsibility of educating ignorant people like me. But what a predicament for a white person to find herself in!

We need redeemed white people to step up and take on some of the burden. Those of us that have been blessed with patient POC sisters and brothers must share what we know with our white counterparts. What is more, having experienced the privileged majority status, we recognize and remember the allure of flawed logic and misinformation. Therefore, we can offer an understanding ear when a white sister says "Oh, I just don't see race. I'm colorblind" and then proudly declare the beauty of the colors that God has allowed us to experience, renouncing our colorblindness, helping her to do the same. We can hear the venomous words of prejudice and know that we can educate, perhaps preventing those words from ever reaching others' ears.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Biblical Premise for Justice and Reconciliation

Diversity in the church is scriptural. It is holy. God himself is a manifestation of three vastly different entities communing together in unity.  God has designed his people so that we need everyone in order to fully understand who He is. We know this because that is how He says heaven will be like:

Rev 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nationfrom all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb!"

This is a picture of creation in all its diversity coming together to praise God. Let it be 'on earth as it is in heaven.'

But this environment doesn't just magically happenThis is not about being PC because it's popular thing to do—it's about Christ-driven redemption of a broken worldWe must identify and actively combat the injustice and disparity that underlies our modern racial divisions. True reconciliation means bearing with one another, and sacrificing of ourselves to combat injustice in the lives of others.

Examine what scripture has to say about the importance of justice (Isaiah 58) and unity (Ephesians 4:1-14). Observe how the early church dealt with unjust systemic practices (Acts 6:1-7). Notice how Jesus interacted with people from many different cultures and backgrounds, intentionally surrounding himself with people from all walks of life. He loved them, cared for them, and radically brought people together across cultural, social, economic, and religious divides (Matthew 8:5-13Mark 1:16-19Mark 7:24-30Mark 14: 3-9, Luke 14:15-24John 4:1-42, John 8:1-11John 9:9-12John 13:34). He listened to the needs of those around him, and then acted to ease those burdens. Is this model reflected and acted upon in your church?

All Eyes=Not Good
Notice that we are not supposed to be 'colorblind.' If we pretend as if 'we are all the same' then we miss the richness that God gave us. He has designed the Church to be a body that is unified, but that has unique parts that need each other—we are not all eyes or feet, remember. "For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Romans 12:4-5).

The Church must step up for the sake of justice and reconciliation, demonstrating in practical ways that we care about these issues that are so deeply rooted in scripture (Philippians 2).

If you have questions, or meet with resistance, it’s okay and it’s good to wrestle with these things. For this purpose, BTSF has been brought into cyber-existence. As we build these relationships with other communities we must remember that it takes intentionality and perseverance. Sometimes it is uncomfortable but it is also rewarding. And I'm excited for our journey.

The Beginning

Having thought that conceitedly publicizing one's insignificant thoughts in blog form was at once juvenile and monotonous, I may have thoroughly avoided the situation, but for two precipitating experiences. The first being that I actually began devotedly  to follow a blog for the first time and, being that it is written by a woman I greatly respect, the medium was heightened in my own estimation. Secondly, and perhaps more fortuitously, I ran across a TedTalk (coincidentally from Martin Seligman, a leader in my partner's field of research). He spoke of happiness being derived from maximizing three aspects of one's life: emotion (of which we apparently have very little control), use of your abilities, and meaningfulness. Focusing on the latter two, he suggested that if one can structure one's life such that one's greatest talents are utilized to their highest degree in aid to some goal larger than yourself, that fulfillment may be found in such a pursuit.

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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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