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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top #BTSF posts of 2011

As the year, draws to a close we give thanks for the blessings of 2011.

I am particularly grateful to the #BTSF readers that have made this year such a success.

In 2012, follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.

Check out the top ten most popular #BTSF posts of 2011:
Thanks for a great year, #BTSF! Much love to all!

Follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Round Up (12/30/11)

On Fridays, we post a round up of the week's happenings.

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. 

Weekly Round Up:

        These are some of our links of interest this week. What are yours?

        See Also:
        The Christmas Story (#BTSF Style)
        Resurrection and Reconciliation
        The Social Gospel Saved My Soul

        Sunday, December 25, 2011

        The Christmas Story

        This season, we remember the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ.

        Matthew 13:55 
        We remember Mary, a pregnant teen whose dreams of romance gave way to a shotgun wedding and local gossip.

        We remember Joseph, a working-class laborer everyone thought had been duped.

        We remember the journey, a forced migration by a ruling class seeking to increase their tax revenue

        We remember Bethlehem, and parents making do in a tough situation: hotels booked solid, ‘no vacancy’ signs everywhere. But the baby’s coming, and there’s nothing to be done but to pull over at the nearest gas station.

        We remember the manger, just a food bowl with old newspaper lining the sides to soften the surface.

        We remember the shepherds, migrant field hands at minimum wage and working the night shift at a dirty job, who punched out early to go see a miracle. 

        We remember the Magi, the statesmen, ambassadors, and dignitaries who cancelled their meetings to travel and bear witness to the prophecy.

        We remember the flight to Egypt, when undocumented emigrants fled the authorities across the border to start a new life together as a family.

        We remember their return to Nazareth, the backwoods town where the Child would grow up.  

        We remember the Christ, the Savior, who began his life on this earth as an outcast, a worker, an immigrant, a nobody on the side of the road.

        Will you welcome Him?

        Friday, December 23, 2011

        Friday Round Up (12/23/11)

        On Fridays, we post a round up of the week's happenings.

        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. 

        Weekly Round Up:

          These are some of our links of interest this week. What are yours?

          See Also:
          'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist': Psychology of Racism
          Does 'Intent' Matter?
          #Occupier Responds: Open Thread

          Sunday, December 18, 2011

          'Everyone's a Little Bit Racist': Psychology of Racism

          Please welcome guest blogger Ryan Hansen, a graduate student in clinical psychology.  He writes about the deep psychological underpinnings of racism and it's strong grip on society:

          There is a comic song in Avenue Q titled "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist." In the psychological literature, there are numerous studies that suggest that this actually more true than you might realize (See post: What is Racism?). I don't mean racist in the burning crosses or Aryan brotherhood sense, but rather the fact that our brains often cut corners for the sake of efficiency. 

          Research in cognitive psychology shows that one of the reasons our brains are able to do things that computers can't is because they rely on heuristics Heuristics are mental rules that allow us to make guesses using stereotypes and memories that most easily come to mind.  

          Most of the time we use these heuristics without realizing it, and they do produce a favorable result. However, unless we are conscious of the situations in which these heuristics break down, we can end up thinking and behaving in very racist ways despite the best of intentions (See post: Does Intent Matter?).

          For a benign example of how we use heuristics on an everyday basis, close your eyes and try to imagine what a penny looks like in as much detail as possible.  Now try and pick out the real penny from the image to the left.  Think about how many pennies you've handled over the course of your lifetime- it should be a no brainer!  

          However, our memories are not like video-cameras, but more like zip files. You're brain only stores some features, such as the fact that it has Lincoln's head and a date on it, and fills in the rest as best it can.

          A more troubling example is eyewitness testimony. I teach introductory psychology a large Midwestern university, and recently conducted a demonstration where I showed my class a video of a man stealing a bike in New York.  Take a second to watch the first theft in the video below. Pretend you are a witness on the scene, and justice will rest on how accurately you are able to describe the perpetrator.

          I had my classes fill out a brief survey after watching the video, and they described the bike thief as having the following characteristics:
                 Type of Shirt: Jacket, Long sleeve shirt, Hoodie, T-shirt, Wife-Beater, Coat, Trench Coat
                 Color of Shirt: Grey, Blue, White, Beige, Black, Navy, Red, Green,
                 Type of Pants:  Shorts, Jeans, Khakis, Sweat Pants, Slacks
                 Color of Pants:  Tan, Blue, Brown, White, Whitewash, Light Blue
                 Height: 5-6’3
                 Hair: Short, Blond, Brown, Dirty Blond, Bald, Had Hoodie Up, Buzz Cut, Had Goatee
                 Weight: 120-250
                 Tattoo: Long sleeve tattoos, Dragon Tattoo
                 Race: Black, White
                 Tool: Bolt Cutters, Picked the Lock, Bent with pliars, Crow-Bar, Big Wrench

          Notice that several students reported the thief having hair, when in fact he is bald.  Unless the students took special notice the fact that he was bald, when their brain re-created the memory their memory to be able to answer the survey, it filled in this minor detail with what it would expect to see on a white man in his twenties. 

          Similarly, there were several students who remembered the bike thief having tattoos when he did not.  They probably don't know any bike thieves from first-hand experience, so as their brain was re-creating their memory during retrieval, they probably relied on images of criminals that they had gotten from the media, which are often portrayed as having elaborate tattoos. 

          Most disturbing of all, some of them actually remembered the crimes being perpetrated by a black man. It would be very easy to try and write off this switch by assuming that these students are particularly racist or prejudiced.  Unfortunately, it is much more likely that this happened because their brain is cutting the exact same corners that our brains cut every day.

          Consider how often African-Americans are portrayed as criminals on television. This is the information our brains will use to fill in these gaps and make split-second decisions unless we consciously take steps to avoid it.

          This is why not being racist is not a one-time decision, but rather a discipline that requires conscious thought and effort.  Someone may have the best intentions in the world, but they will think and behave in racist ways by default unless they are aware of their biases and take steps to correct them. 

          To make matters worse, research suggests that the more we have on our minds, the more we rely on these stereotypes in making decisions. Noorderweier and  Stapel recently conducted a study which found that people having to do several tasks at once, such as memorizing numbers while reading vignettes, rely more on stereotypes when making judgments about people than those who had a lighter cognitive load.  Think of how often you multi-task in our fast-paced world! 

          The moral of the story is that until we slow down, become aware of the ways in which our brains are naturally biased, and find ways to try and make up for them, there will continue to be a discrepancy between our commonly stated values of equality and the racial micro- and macro-aggressions that we commit on a daily basis.

          Friday, December 16, 2011

          Friday Round Up (12/16/11)

          On Fridays, we post a round up of the week's happenings.

          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. 

          Weekly Round Up:
          • Vote For Me! The politicization and manipulation of jesus, christians, and religion

            These are some of our links of interest this week. What are yours?

            See Also:
            #Occupy, you are not the 99%
            #Occupier Responds: Open ThreadApologies

            Wednesday, December 14, 2011

            #Occupier Responds: Open Thread

            In response to this week's post '#Occupy, you are not the 99%,' #OccupyColumbus's John Dorn (@j_dorn) shared his own thoughts. Find below our twitter-based discussion thus far, & contribute your own thoughts in comments (where he and I will also continue). And be sure to follow @BTSFblog!

            @j_dorn: its been happening for decades because nobody has stood up. Now we're standing... stand with us.

            @BTSFblog: Don't get me wrong, in general, I do like #Occupy. But know that MANY stood before you, but have been bludgeoned into exhaustion

            The 99 Percent. The symbol, to me, is incredibly powerful. It suggests, for the first time in our history, unity en masse. The opportunity, finally, for us to work together, united, to further humanity. This idea gives me chills just considering it... 

            But it would appear I'm one of the few. 

            I've been, to my knowledge, a very vocal supporter of diversity within the Occupy movement. I've tried, time and time again, to identify the issues affecting all those who say they are oppressed, because, to me, that is exactly why we're out there. Why, then, time and time again, have I been told, effectively, "We stood, you didn't stand beside us before, so we won't stand beside you now because we've got more to lose." 

            Before you respond, please know, I understand the sentiment. I get it, I do. But, I'd like to ask, where does this animosity get us? How does a tit-for-tat withdrawing of support help to further our collective agendas of equality? Why is getting my head bashed in a couple million more times necessary to get equal support? 

            I often ask why the person I'm speaking with feels that way. Often cited is lack of support during various civil rights movements and oppression throughout history. I'd like to point out now that this country hasn't seen a proper political movement in 30-40 years. This is that opportunity for us to finally band together, and a banner to fly which represents us all. If historical support is being used to gauge whether you want to participate now, I would suggest a cursory glance from a different perspective. 

            This is a new world. This is *our* new world. Today. Right now. We are building it, together. 

            The ways of old are cast aside. People like me, raised on a farm in rural Ohio, are marching alongside gays, blacks, women, latin@s, and everyone else, demanding equality. We exist in a unique time. A time when the ways of the oppressors are becoming reprehensible to everyone, collectively. When persecution of *anyone*, regardless of race, gender, creed, nationality, religious views, sexual orientation, or any other qualifier is unacceptable. 

            The time for unity is now. The time to stop fighting each other, and work together, is upon us. 

            I challenge every person who reads this to rally for one simple cause: Equality. Real equality. Do not think about historical oppression, but look forward to equal opportunity. Do not look at me as an oppressor, for I have never, ever, oppressed any person. Look at me as a brother, a comrade, a friend, an equal. Look at me with the same love with which I look at you. This is our world now. Let's help each other reconstruct it without comparing ourselves, but instead rallying together for equality overall. 

            So yes, I am an occupier. We are #Occupy. We do represent the 99% - to the best of our ability. If we're doing something wrong, come give us a hand.

            1st, let me thank u 4 ur service. I know u r there on my behalf & others'. Im appreciative. Critiques arent the same as combat

            Ur best line: “We do represent the 99% - to the best of our ability. If we're doing something wrong, come give us a hand.”

            ..I think the reticence is less abt “you werent there, so we wont be either” & more abt “you werent there, so now we CANT”..

             .. It’s not a vindictive response, it’s often just the only option people have..

  ’s a privilege 2 even be able 2 #occupy. Where are ur kids? Who is taking care of ur parents?..

            ..How is the cold affecting ur untreated TB? Who is waiting in line for u at social services?..

            ..It’s easier for those of us with privilege to say ‘we are all the same’..

            ..But it is privilege to ‘not think of historical oppression’ when one doesnt live with its modern consaquences (eg. racially)..

            ..if Occupiers are truly willing to stand for those that cant, then perhaps trust will grow, bt it takes time 4 u 2 sound sincere..

            …the fear is that this is another of many times someone says ‘Im for you,’ wanting support, without really following through..

             ..Don’t b indignant that folks who've been marginalized & exploited 4 causes for decades dont readily trust u…

            ..There are a lot of deep wounds that cannot be healed overnight (what relationship ever works like that?)..

            ..I truly hope folks can take a leap of faith and join on. But I understand why they would rather not..

            ..I don’t know u. Maybe ur as enlightened as u claim. So no matter what happens w #Occupy...

            ..I assume I can count on seeing u serving in the blighted neighborhoods of Columbus well into the future. I look forward 2 it..

            Katelin's comments are preceeded by ".. [and are in italics]

            .. I think the reticence is less abt "you werent there, so we wont be either" & more abt "you werent there, so now we CANT".. .. It's not a vindictive response, it's often just the only option people have.. 

            Fair enough. This doesn't explain the attitude though. If a group feels unrepresented then instead of complaining about it that group should come represent themselves. Or at least, instead of just complaining, explain what issues aren't being addressed so we can work toward fixing them. I've seen none of this. 

             .. it's a privilege 2 even be able 2 #occupy. Where are ur kids? Who is taking care of ur parents?.. 

            I don't have children, my mom works 40-50 hours a week and goes to college full-time to finish her business degree she's been busting her ass for (and paying for out of pocket). My dad died in 2001, when I was 16. 

            .. How is the cold affecting ur untreated TB? Who is waiting in line for u at social services?.. 

            I work 40+ hours a week and #occupy whenever I'm not there. There are no social services offered to me, at all (because I now exceed the income requirements, but there wasn't much before either), so even if I needed to and could stand in that line it'd do me no good. I don't have a college degree because there were no scholarships and only $1000 in grant money, and at the time that college was an option I was working full-time and going to high school trying to help my mom keep our house. It didn't work. 

            .. It's easier for those of us with privilege to say 'we are all the same'.. .. But it is privilege to 'not think of historical oppression' when one doesnt live with its modern consaquences (eg. racially).. 

            This is fair. I had a bit of a leg-up, because my dad put a broken computer in front of me when I was 6 years old. I learned that thing inside and out, and have been training for the field I now work in for about 20 years. Without this, I'm not sure where I'd be. 

            .. if Occupiers are truly willing to stand for those that cant, then perhaps trust will grow, bt it takes time 4 u 2 sound sincere.. .. the fear is that this is another of many times someone says 'Im for you,' wanting support, without really following through.. .. Don't b indignant that folks who've been marginalized & exploited 4 causes for decades dont readily trust u.. .. There are a lot of deep wounds that cannot be healed overnight (what relationship ever works like that?).. 

            This is the root of our problem though. The blame for societal issues is being placed squarely on the shoulders of the people who just happen to have maybe benefitted from that past oppression, even if they had nothing to do with it. I don't understand why I'm not to be trusted in the first place. If it's just because I'm a 20-something white dude, isn't that a bit fucked up? 

             .. I truly hope folks can take a leap of faith and join on. But I understand why they would rather not.. 

             If people don't want to stand beside us that's fine. I understand why, to a degree. What irritates me is when I read articles indicating that the #Occupy movement doesn't represent them because it's just a bunch of middle-class white people, and then refuse to join us or even tell us what issues we're not addressing. To me it feels like once the issues we wish to address are addressed, then the economic inequality will be fixed. The rest, being social inequality, will only come through persistent, long-term activism. While I'm certainly willing to do this, and plan on it, it's much less effective without some help from the people I'm pledging my support to. I view this similar to refusing to vote because the process doesn't work. With 30% of the people in this country actually bothering to take the time to vote (assuming they're not gerrymandered into being unable, a different issue but one I want to address very soon), one can only assume that the system is not fundamentally flawed, it's simply not utilized. Until we try something and prove it broken, we cannot assume it doesn't work. 

             .. I don't know u. Maybe ur as enlightened as u claim. So no matter what happens w #Occupy... .. I assume I can count on seeing u serving in the blighted neighborhoods of Columbus well into the future. I look forward 2 it.. 

            If I know what I can do, I'll be there. That's why 2 months ago I moved from my house I was renting and into a tent on the sidewalk, because I thought that was the appropriate course of action. To constantly hear I'm still missing the bar and being offered no suggestions on a proper course of action, though, is beginning to take its toll. 

            .. heh...that's all. Sorry for all the tweets. might have to go MIA again, but will remain in dialogue as am able

            Thanks for taking the time to respond! I look forward to our dialog in the future :-)

            Not sure best way 2 respond point by point 2 ur comments (, bt will include first word of ur line fllwd w ':'

            I cant account for other pple’s rudeness—it isnt the right way but their attitude doesnt diminish the point itself, any more than previous lack of involvement changes ur points. Both remain valid, if poorly communicated. I have now told u what issue need to be addressed, so I am glad u can now work towards fixing it. Beyond general suggestions outlined here, Im happy 2 offer practical steps/advice addressing my specific thoughts.

            I dont/I work: 

            Privilege gives u independent (parents/kids), which makes it infinitely easier to occupy. I get that uve had struggles. But at this point u r a lot better off than many folks. Uve worked really hard, but there are also many systemic reasons u got where u r while others didn’t.

            I think largely, u understand this, as demonstrated by ur next line. "I had a bit of a leg-up...Without this, I'm not sure where I'd be." & a recent headline I saw from your colleague “We Can B the Voice of Ppl Who Dont Have Time 2 b Down Here.’ So it is a great start for change and solidarity. But relationships aren’t healed yet.

            As a 20-something white chick I know benefit frm many similar privileges, but do believe it is my responsibility to combat them, more so than those that don’t have such benefits. It may be you ‘had nothing to do with it’ but Ive yet to actually meet someone that hasn’t perpetuated their own privilege. U make it sound like it is an issue of the past, and yet it is a very modern phenomena. Racially, for example: white folks regularly benefit during hiring, promotion, pay rates etc. And chances are u enable it too through subconscious biases ( & microagressions (

            And as @BDTSpelman describes, it’s like a moving sidewalk: if you stand still, you are moving with it. Instead, one must actively walk against it to reverse the flow. It is easily self-perpetuating. All that is required to maintain it, is business as usual…[when] pple dont disrupt unfair systems of privilege, theyre—willingly or unwillingly—on the moving sidewalk receiving White privilege and inadvertently enabling racism” It IS in fact our responsibility to work against that in an active way, and our fault when we dont. It is a continuous process, of course. No one ever ‘arrives.'

            It is similar principle as what we r asking corporations to do. They could go on as is w status quo, but we r putting responsibility on them to activate change. Of course, some companies could argue that they themselves didn’t cause these issues & shouldnt be blamed/have to change it. But they still benefit & I believe there is a moral imperative 4 them 2 use their power to change it. I can help, but ultimately those w power have to actively let go of it (whether or not they asked 4 it in 1st place). Likewise for our own set of privileges

            If people: 
            valid points. I feel you.

            If I: 
            If JPMorgan today announced all its business practices would be fair and it would act only 4 common good, Id be impressed, but still cautious. Id want 2 see the commitment. Maybe a better person would jump right in and offer precious time/resources to make it happen. But if corporate greed has put me behind 8ball, Im not going 2 b excited 2 make big scarifies 2 help them w ‘the common good.’ Maybe I should, but it takes time to build trust after a shift like that. Even if it’s a new CEO (uninvolved in 2008), that person is still a part of the culture/legacy. Start w service to gain trust, rather than expecting ppl will join b4 knowing u or ur heart. It takes a TON of time, but compare it to ur ~20 yrs, and the long periods of historic mistrust that came b4. Half a year is simply not enough.

            I hear ur frustration. U have made drastic changes that are all in the right direction. On the whole, it is really great what u have done. I am sure u r well ahead of the curve. Of course we can all always do more. I understand if u r tired. Perhaps this service is plenty 4 u right now. But doesn’t change that there is more. If that is frustrating, better to ignore outside opinion all together.

            Thank you for ur patience and dialogue.

            Monday, December 12, 2011

            #Occupy, you are not the 99%

            UPDATE: A lively debate has emerged from this post. See 'An #Occupier Responds: Open Thread.'

            The #Occupy movement has been active for three months now, calling for reform of social and economic injustice, and at the very least, changing the focus of national conversation. In general, I like what #Occupy is doing, but there are several thing we still need to keep in mind...

            #OccupyColumbus maintains a steady presence at the Ohio Statehouse, which happens to be in front of the main downtown bus lineup. Every time I visit the site, there is a telling division between the Occupiers and the folks waiting for the bus. They are two completely different demographics across class, race, age, and education.

            It seems to me, the Occupiers are not the 99%. The 25%-66% maybe, but that's not as catchy. An entitled middle class has begun to feel the struggle that existed long before they got involved. Suddenly, they have lost some of their privilege, and 'the American Dream' game isn't so fun any more. I don't deny that there are major issues that these folks are rightfully bringing to light. But to claim a stance for the 99% while blogging from your iPhone seems disingenuous. 

            Many have also observed a lack of racial diversity within #Occupy that is deeper than census percentages ( reports that the movement is 81.2% White, 7.6% 'Other', 6.8% Hispanic, 2.8% Asian, and 1.6% Black). Suddenly the police brutality, unemployment, low income, government disenfranchisement, and high education costs have affected a large number of privileged white folk. But early in the movement, #Occupy failed to reach out to those that have historically been on the receiving end of such inequality. Elon James White notes that "the type of outrage that pops up now at what many of us have lived with on a regular basis for years feels insulting."

            Nevertheless, #Occupy has been gaining traction with POC communities, especially as new movements spring up across the country. And the results have been compelling. But remember that all protesters are not treated equally. Given the history of racialized police bias and violence, the POCcupiers have a lot to risk when they protest, more so than do white Occupiers. We know that as bad as the media coverage of the movement is now, it would be a lot worse if the majority of the protesters were black.

            Yet, even if folks that are typically marginalization in the USA were actively enfranchised with the #Occupy movement, our claim would still be limited. We still represent the 1% in the rest of the world's eyes. Let us be ever mindful of that privileged position. 

            Finally, a word of caution about claiming whose organizations Jesus would join in such debates. I do believe in a God that consistently champions the cause of the poor, and who has been known to protest an exploitative free-market. But I am always wary when we proclaim that 'God is on our side.' Of course, we should always strive to be on God's side, and that may mean standing for one principle over another. But co-opting His name for a cause is a dangerous business. And it comes awfully close to Judging for ourselves who is, and is not, a Christian.

            UPDATE: A lively debate has emerged from this post. See 'An #Occupier Responds: Open Thread.'

            See Also:

            Friday, December 9, 2011

            Friday Round Up (12/09/11)

            On Fridays, we post a round up of the week's happenings.

            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. 

            Weekly Round Up:

            These are some of our links of interest this week. What are yours?

            See Also:
            We are Gulnare Free Will BaptistInterracial Relationships in the Church
            The Friends Jesus Invited

            Sunday, December 4, 2011

            We are Gulnare Free Will Baptist

            Welcome! Follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.

            When Stella Harville recently returned from college to visit her hometown church, Gulnare Free Will Baptist (GFWB), she brought her future husband, Ticha Chikuni with her. Shortly thereafter, the congregation voted to prevent the couple from ever becoming members of the church. The resolution states that interracial couples "will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services or other church functions." 

            It's tempting to shake our heads and dismiss this situation as an extreme exception to Christian love. After all, only 15 people even participated in the vote out of a congregation of ~40 people. In total, it was nine people that voted to pass the resolution. Surely nine crazy folks can just be dismissed as terribly misguided...

            But we have to remember that we are One Body, and we are responsible for the actions of our sisters and brothers in Christ. As representatives of Christ, if we claim His name, while allowing disenfranchisement of His children under that same name, we blasphemy the Good News. 

            Notice Harville's reaction to the resolution: "Whether they keep the vote or overturn it, it's going to be hard for me go back there." This is about more than the actions of nine people. This is about the image of Christ. 

            We know Americans aren't so good at distinguishing a religion from its extremists members. Alvin Sanders at Reconciliation 101 recognizes that "this is the type of thing that shames the whole Body of Christ, as many unbelievers lump us all together regardless of denominational affiliation." No matter how hard we try to distance ourselves from GFWB (as the pastor and national leadership of the church have tried to do), Christ and Christains are already inextricably caught up in it as far as the World is concerned.

            So what if, rather than trying to distance ourselves, we instead took responsibility? What if we as Christ-followers owned up to the fact that we have done a poor job of acting for justice and reconciliation, and that as a result, the Church has once again been a source of pain for those seeking fellowship? 

            Where were we during the spiritual education of our siblings in Christ? How is it that our stance for justice is meek enough that this incident is even possible? How is it that GFWB's actions actually confirm unbelievers' suspicions, rather than serving as an exception to our undeniable steadfastness for others?

            The truth is, GFWB simply put into writing what many other communities still believe in practice. We are all subject to the same set of prejudgments that converged to create this particular situation. The rest of us are not necessarily any more enlightened than GFWB, we are just more careful about which prejudices we hold, and how we express them.  Ask any multiracial family searching for a church home, it doesn't take long to discern the true unwritten racial policy of a given congregation (see previous post: Interracial Relationships in the Church). 

            So rather than waving our hands and sucking our teeth, let's own the responsibility for our sisters and brothers in Christ. Let us take this incident as a reminder that there is much work yet to be done. Let us begin with a careful examination of our own prejudices and sticking points. Can you honestly say, 'all are welcome here?'

            • Who might have trouble gaining acceptance in your own church? How would a pregnant teen be welcomed? A youth in baggy jeans? Someone off the street? 
            • If these folks make it though the lobby, what does your body language tell them about your hospitality? 
            • What if Spanish were incorporated into your weekly worship? What about hip-hop, or a black gospel choir? What would your congregation's unspoken reaction be? 
            Follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.

            Friday, December 2, 2011

            Friday Round Up (12/02/11)

            It has been an awesome #NationalAdoptionMonth! On Sunday we will be starting some new topics, but in the meantime here are some final adoption-related links for your consideration

            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. 

            Weekly Round Up:
              • I Was A Racist: John Piper's racial testimony, including his story about adoption

                These are some of our links of interest this week. What are yours?

                See Also:
                Adoption: Divinely Inspired and Culturally Informed
                Adoption: Human and Divine
                Health Care Access

                Sunday, November 27, 2011

                Adoption: Divinely Inspired and Culturally Informed

                Please welcome back guest blogger Sherie Mungo. This is the second of a two-part series exploring her experiences with adoption.

                In my previous post, I ended with the question of whether or not my parents' response to my first racist experience would have been different had they not been Black. Let me first respond to this by saying that I think that all adoption is a labor of love and has the ability to transcend race. Hence, I believe that anyone who finds a place in their hearts to love and cherish abandoned children as their own is fulfilling Jesus’s foremost command to “love your neighbor as your self.” In this context, it doesn’t matter whether the kid you adopt is white, black, pink or silver; what matters is that you show them Christ’s love.

                However, adoption does not occur in a cultural vacuum, and adoptive parents cannot always protect their children from the sins of society, such as racism. No matter how much my parents loved me, they couldn’t stop the cruel name calling at the park, or the painful isolation from social events because I was the only “Black kid.” These harsh realizations left my parents feeling angry and helpless, as they would any parent.

                Adoptive parents must also realize that despite their Christian intentions, they have internalized worldly biases themselves. While these biases may be unconscious, unawareness doesn’t make their manifestation any less hurtful; in fact, ignorance may make it worse. Yes, even my Black parents exhibited certain aspects of intra-racism that were influenced by their own experiences in the world. They could not escape society’s subliminal messages about race.

                If my Black parents were not immune to racial deception that is in the world, I think that we must question how resistant White parents of Black (or any minority) children are to the same temptation. As previous authors have argued on this blog, White parents may succumb to the falsely complacent belief that race doesn’t matter. 

                I believe they are partly correct in this argument; race shouldn’t matter. But it does. It matters within the recesses of your own heart, and it matters in society. For example, if your Black child tells you he or she is being excluded from social events, your response will illustrate what you internally believe about race, and how you perceive its manifestation in the external world. White parents must be made fully aware of both these reactions before they can hope to raise a well-rounded minority child. As in my situation, the way that parents react to racist situations will influence how a child will view race for the rest of their lives.

                White reactions to minority difficulties is not the only aspect of race and adoption I wish to speak on. As stated in my first post, there was another event that made me ponder race and adoption. I was giving my adoption testimony to a White friend when she asked me “So, are your parents black?” “Of course they are! What else would they be?” was my indignant reply. Her sheepish response has stuck with me since: “Well, you know, a lot of Black kids are adopted by White parents.” 

                As I pondered her statement, I begin to think about what this means for minority adoption. Do White people adopt more than minorities? This is a complex question that requires a complex answer. I think we must first understand that the answer is located in cultural norms and values. Minorities (please know that I speak from a Black point of view) tend to do familial and communal adoptions. In other words, they take in children from their own families and communities. This may not be “official” adoption, but the function is often the same.

                Yet White parents get magnified as the givers of grace to minority children because of the societal emphasis on a formal procedure. I think it’s safe to say that this preference is rooted in notions of White patriarchy and superiority. To combat this, we need to legitimize these variant forms of adoption.

                I do want to close by saying that Black children would greatly benefit from formalized adoption by Black parents. Giving a Black child not only your cultural perspective but official name and place in society is priceless. While there is nothing wrong with taking in kids unofficially, there is something special about officially adopting a child; I should know.

                Friday, November 25, 2011

                Friday Round Up (11/25/11)

                On Fridays, we post a round up of the week's happenings.

                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. 

                Weekly Round Up:
                  • Defining Fat: A look at BMI and what the labels really mean
                  • Can I Help?: Think twice before letting the kids help with the cooking this year!

                    These are some of our favorite links this week. What are yours?

                    See Also:
                    Adoption: Human and Divine
                    Love You More, An Adoption Story
                    Someone Else's Children

                    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

                    Love You More, An Adoption Story

                    This post originally appeared on Natasha Sistrunk Robinson's blog, A Sista's Journey, and features Jennifer Grant's Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter:

                    Hi Friends,

                    November is National Adoption Month and I did not want the month to pass without discussing the topic here. I love the thought of adoption. I love that as a result of Christ’s shed blood on the cross, I have been adopted into God’s kingdom. My adoption provides me with a new family and has opened a whole new world of possibilities.

                    One of those possibilities is the reality of now writing for God’s glory. As a result of writing, I have been able to connect with other Christian women who are passionately sharing the love of Jesus through writing and living. Thanks, Redbuds! I was excited to hear about fellow Redbud, Jennifer Grant’s adoption story and wanted to share it with you.

                    Eight years ago, Jennifer Grant and her husband David adopted a daughter. Mia is their fourth child, and first by adoption. Grant’s memoir, Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter details the journey Grant and her family went through as they adopted Mia. It’s a story about faith, family, and the ties that bind. To connect with Grant and other people whose lives have been touched by adoption, visit her Facebook page.

                    Today, Jennifer has graciously shared an excerpt from her book and has provided one for me to give away to one of you. For consideration, all you have to do is comment and share your thoughts about adoption (on the original blog post). A winner will be announced next week.

                    Adopting Mia opened the world up to me in new ways. I look at my little girl, with her sophisticated (and sometimes extremely silly) sense of humor, her love of the natural world and her talent for making beautiful pastel drawings. I see her sweetness and the light she brings to those around her.

                    She began as a “waiting child” in Guatemala, but if she is of such infinite value, what about other children born to other very poor mothers around the world? Half of the world’s children are born into poverty. There are an estimated 150-170 million orphans globally who live without parental care, are warehoused in orphanages, live on the streets or in child-headed households. Their potential is unseen, like a paper sack of daffodil bulbs, hidden behind a watering can in the garage, shriveling in the dark.

                    These children starve to death. They die of preventable diseases. They are abused and exploited in unimaginable ways. There is a global orphan crisis; it is a pandemic.

                    Do I have any responsibility to these children, even though (as was the case with my Mia) I did not bring them into the world? Are they, in some mystical way, my family too? After adopting my daughter, I have come to think they are. Actually, as a mother, a person of faith and someone who has had the privilege – and, concurrently, been given the burden – of visiting some of the world’s poorest places, I am sure of it.

                    Since my daughter’s homecoming seven years ago, I have begun to wonder whether God has an additional purpose in bringing families together by adoption. Whether parents welcome a child who was born twenty miles from their home or was born half a world away, adoption changes the way adoptive parents look at underprivileged people. Some of us no longer view drug-addicted women who, after giving birth, leave their newborn babies at Safe Havens such as hospitals and police stations as second-class citizens or pariahs. How can we not cherish them? They are our children’s birthmothers. 

                    For the first time, now that we are family, we might feel a desire to explore ways to bring healing, education and dignity to these women. Indigenous women weaving colorful fabrics in Latin America and living in poverty are no longer curiosities pictured in National Geographic magazine, but our children’s first mothers. How can we, who now know their strength and stories, fail to help them rise up out of the poverty that forces them into a desperate place, a place where they must relinquish their babies?

                    Is adoption – whether domestic or international – a means by which God opens our eyes to the needs of the world and calls us to love others more?

                    See Also:

                    Monday, November 21, 2011

                    Adoption: Human and Divine

                    Please welcome guest blogger, Sherie Mungo. She begins a two-part series exploring her experiences with adoption. 

                    When speaking to the Ephesian church about the blessings of being redeemed, Paul wrote that God the father “predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.” I think that this verse paints a powerful image for the body of Christ: God plans to adopt us back from the grip of the Kingdom of darkness because it gives Him good pleasure.

                    I feel doubly blessed by this favor since I have been adopted by both humans and the Divine. While I do not presume to say that these two are one and the same, I do think human adoption serves as a powerful metaphor for what God does for His children.

                    I experienced just how powerful adoption is on November 1st, 1990, when my parents Stephanie and Derek Mungo graciously took me in as their own child. I was three years old, a product of biological parents addicted to crack cocaine with criminal records. My age alone could have been a deterrent for my parents, but coupled with my lingering issues from being a crack baby made me a walking adoption nightmare. They were told that I would need to have special education services and that physical activities would always be a problem for me. 

                    Despite these inhibiting factors, my parents had an unfaltering faith that I was their child, and even more importantly I was God’s child. This faith gave them the courage to defy the words of man spoken over my life and provide me with hope for my future. Needless to say, twenty two years later I am a graduate level student who has enjoyed a good amount of physical activity (maybe not lately, but I digress). The point is, my parents’ faith helped me to transcend the negative circumstances that I was born into.

                    So, how does my story speak to race in addition to adoption? When I first started thinking about posting, I struggled to make this connection. I mean, I am a Black woman who was adopted by Black parents; what’s so special about that? Then I remembered two events in my life: 1) my first experience with racism and 2) being asked whether or not my parents were Black.

                    I do not plan to go into the racist event in detail. Suffice it to say that it was a painful coming of age experience that many POC’s have to go through. I do however want to focus on my parents’ apt reaction to my pain and confusion. As they had experienced similar injustices, my Black parents understood my feelings exactly. They knew the hurt and bitterness that could result from that moment you realize your skin color is cause for mistreatment. My parents responded to my angst with a balance of incisive Black consciousness and Christian grace.

                    They explained that while racism would unfortunately be an external part of my life, I shouldn’t let that color my view of self worth and value. They also explained while I shouldn’t go looking for racism, I needed to be prepared for its manifestations. Perhaps more importantly, bitterness and non forgiveness were strongly discouraged by my parents. Despite the injustice of prejudice, I had to forgive the perpetrator for their sin of racism just as Christ had forgiven me.

                    Would my parents have been able to handle this situation with such adroitness if they were not Black? 
                    In my next post, I explore this question into greater depth. Continue reading...

                    Saturday, November 19, 2011

                    National Adoption Day

                    Happy National Adoption Day!

                    "Today is a day of celebration of adoptive families and an opportunity for courts to open their doors and finalize the adoptions of children from foster care. Since 2000, more than 35,000 children have had their adoptions finalized on National Adoption Day. This year on November 19, families, adoption advocates, policymakers, judges and volunteers will come together and celebrate adoption in communities large and small all across the nation."

                    Follow events and announcements all day with @natadoptionday

                    Also find events in your area to celebrate!

                    See Also:
                    Transracial Adoption
                    Someone Else's Children
                    Abortion and Condemnation
                    The Colors of Us

                    Friday, November 18, 2011

                    Friday Round Up (11/18/11)

                    On Fridays, we post a round up of the week's happenings.

                    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. 

                    Weekly Round Up:
                      • Jay Smooth: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race
                      • All This: an intriguing forum for 10-minute exchanges of time

                      These are some of our favorite links this week. What are yours?

                      See Also:
                      Someone Else's Children
                      Abortion and Condemnation
                      The Colors of Us

                      Sunday, November 13, 2011

                      Someone Else’s Children

                      Please welcome guest blogger, Linda Leigh Hargrove, writer, speaker, and adoptive mother. She blogs about biblical racial reconciliation at Read more about her books at

                      My husband and I have three adopted children. Three boys. They call each other brothers of another mother. They’re cool with that and so am I. Unfortunately, precious few Christian African American women would agree with my views on adoption.

                      As a young, married woman 19 years ago, I didn’t have a positive attitude about adoption. Frankly, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind. Both my husband and I were in school full time, working like Hebrew slaves on advanced engineering degrees. Between the two of us we made $18,000 a year in stipends. I thank God for those years (and for that small vegetable patch). Those lean times taught me how to wait on God.

                      Growing up in the swamplands of North Carolina, I played with trucks and climbed trees. Doll babies and tea sets were never on my gift wish list. After a few years of marriage that changed. It happened one sunny afternoon while I babysat for a college friend. That precious little toddler stole my heart with her sparkling brown eyes and chubby hands. When her mother picked her up two hours later, our one-bedroom apartment never felt so empty.

                      I soon graduated and tried to replace the longing for a child with a full-time job, volunteering at an urban ministry, church involvement, and writing. But the longing persisted. My husband was still in grad school but he agreed that it was time to start a family. That was 1995; I was 29. One and a half years later and no baby, I hit a wall. I started each day in tears, crying in the darkness of my walk-in closet before work. The crying lasted for most of 1997. On the outside I was doing good things in my church and community racial reconciliation ministry. I was a faithful wife. I was a productive engineer.

                      On the inside, I was dying. Longing for a child.

                      At church, someone suggested we consider adoption. I was tired of all the doctor’s visits, the treatments, basal thermometers, and the prayers to God. I wanted relief. I wanted to feel good again, to feel God again. Adoption seemed like a good option.

                      We did our research. We talked with counselors and social workers. We talked with our friends and parents. We prayed and fasted. We had so many questions about the process, the costs, but especially the kids. What if they’re not black (or black enough), what if they’re retarded, what if they’re violent, what if they’re crack babies?

                      God answered all those questions with peace. As Psalm 34:4 says: I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

                      Along the way my husband and I have met some really wonderful adoptive parents. One couple, Becky and Joe, became part of our family. Our first meeting, though, was a tough one. It was on a Saturday morning in 1997, the year I was struggling with the specter of infertility. As long-time volunteers in an urban ministry, my husband and I were attending a racial reconciliation training conference.

                      The conference had my full attention until I spotted a white woman holding a beautiful dark-skinned baby across the room. Out of my fragile heart I thought: How could she have my baby! Before long I was wiping tears from my face, crying over the baby my husband and I could have adopted. If we only had money like that white woman.

                      That white woman was Becky. We were introduced later that day. To my surprise, she was the baby’s foster mother. She and Joe had committed themselves to care and advocate for children ‘caught in the system’. Over the 15 plus years they were foster parents, Joe and Becky fostered more than thirty children--mostly African American and biracial infants.

                      This older white Christian couple from the Mid-West lived out the ministry of reconciliation described in the Bible. They showed me what sensitivity meant when they learned to properly care for the hair and skin of the little black children under their roof. They demonstrated empowerment and interdependence to me when they intentionality included African American mentors in their lives.

                      And later, when they adopted two of the brown-skinned children, I supported them, knowing that their heart was centered on seeking God’s will. They didn’t act out of pity for the poor. Their hearts were not shaded with the rosiness of ‘Love is enough’ and ‘There is no color in God.' It is inspiring to see how my two white Christian sister and brother lean on Jesus to help them navigate the treacherous waters of raising black children in America.

                      Bottom line: Adopting is not an easy fix. For me, becoming the mom of three brothers of other mothers was very difficult. In fact, in the beginning it was like pulling a scab from a wound I thought had healed. But today I have three boys. Not three rejects or three unwanted children. I have three sons. Some people call them someone else’s children. I call them mine.

                      Linda Leigh Hargrove is a writer, speaker, and adoptive mother. Her novels include The Making of Isaac Hunt (2007) and Loving Cee Cee Johnson (2008)--both published through Moody Publishers/Lift Every Voice Imprint. She blogs about biblical racial reconciliation at Read more about her books at

                      See Also:
                      Transracial Adoption
                      Colors of Us 
                      Adoption: Human and Divine
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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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