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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Response to Alexandra Wallace Worth Watching

By now you have most likely heard about viral video posted by Alexandra Wallace. I hesitate to bring it up here because 1) I don't care to give the incident any more publicity and 2) know it has already been hashed out and analyzed all over the internet world, so it is no longer news. However, a friend recently brought a video response to my attention that I thought was particularly insightful and useful from a Christian perspective.

The video was posted by James Choung, the director of InterVarsity Asian Ministries.

He makes the great point that justice and reconciliation going hand-in-hand. Many of the dichotomies we experience during tough dialogs about race come down to emphasizing one over the other: too quick to condemn vs. too quick to see everything as blissful unity. James also addresses the tendency to justify and distance ourselves by saying "well at least i am not as bad as that other person," while forgetting that we all fall short and have racial baggage to work out in Christ. His insights are helpful and applicable to a wide range of situations.

Take a look:

UCLA Video Response from AAM InterVarsity on Vimeo.

For me, the biggest surprise about Wallace's video is how 'shocking' it has been to the general public--what a 'scandal' it has been (Tami has similar thoughts). The shock is an indication, I feel, of how unaware a lot of folk are of the pervasive layer of racial-sludge (or smog, to borrow from Beverly Tatum) that exists in modern culture. It shouldn't be a surprise, yet it still is to a lot of folk that want to believe we are in a 'post-racial' society.

There is also a lot of irony is in the viscous, often sexist/misogynistic responses to the video that have appeared all over the Internet. They take an eye for an eye, yet still fails to see that they perpetuate the 'otherization' and bigotry!

Finally, I leave you with another response that was particularly thoughtful:

For those that have had enough of this whole incident, sorry for bringing it up yet again. For those that have no idea what I am talking about, you can read about it here, but I don't particularly want to repost the original video.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Apologizes

'File not found' at FCA or CCCI
Of the national campus ministries serving at colleges and universities, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) seems to be one of the most intentional about multi-ethnic worship and racial reconciliation.  At all levels of the organization, there is an intentional effort to live out God's vision unity, which has been born out all through IVCF's history.  IVCF is where I began my journey of racial awareness and was convicted by the deep racial wounds that the Church bears.

But this week, IVCF made headlines for a terrible blunder in a Michigan chapter, in which the group held a 'slave auction' to raise funds and awareness of modern slavery. Though it might have been a powerful and solemn event, the causal and light-hearted nature of participants made trivial the modern and historical burdens of the marginalized, which will cost their fellowship a lot of trust with the POCs on their campus, as well as with the wider community that hears about it. And, as though from some twisted Buckeye/Wolverine rivalry, the IVCF event came on the heels of a similar scenario in Ohio, in which a black 10-yr-old student was sent to to the auction block as part of a classroom history lesson. As is so often the case, the intentions in both situations were probably good, but an offensive lack of understanding about context and history made the events incredibly insensitive mockeries of painful struggle. White folks are often surprised when our good intentions end up causing pain, but the mistakes we make could so often be avoided with a little education and perspective.

In a recent post, we leaned about the meaning of true apology, and it's evil twin the non-apology. Below is the apology statements that came from IVCF in response to the MTU events. They are posted below, with my thoughts following them. It should be noted that even though it has taken me several weeks to post these letters to BTSF, the response from IVCF to the Michigan Tech community was almost immediate.

First, here is the letter from the MTU IVCF chapter that appeared in the Michigan Tech newspaper the week after:
On Saturday, Feb. 26, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship held a reenactment of a slave auction to raise awareness and money about modern day slavery and child sex trafficking as a kickoff to our annual Justice Week. Though we had good intentions, we quickly realized that many people on campus took offense at our portrayal of a historical reality that is painful and hurtful to people to this day. People were particularly hurt by the timing of the event, our lack of communication about it with any of the Black Student organizations on campus, and the levity in which the event was carried out 
For all of these things, we want to extend a sincere apology to those hurt or offended by our actions, especially those part of the African American community. We are passionate to bring awareness to our campus about the estimated 27 million people held as modern day slaves who have no voice of their own, and we are passionate to raise money and take action to combat this evil, but we realize that, unfortunately, we allowed our foresight and common sense to give way to our passion in this situation. We should have asked for input and partnership from other groups on our campus before going forward with plans that obviously have provoked a painful reaction in many. We did not intend to do this; it was not our goal, but we understand this is what happened and take full responsibility. I personally apologize for anyone who was hurt.
As a Christian group, we have strong convictions that Scriptures speaks clearly and often on the issue of reconciliation, particularly reconciliation along racial and ethnic lines. We feel that pain and discrimination that happens in our world and our society today is just as much an injustice as many of the wrongs we tried to highlight during our Justice Week. Our hope is to be a catalyst on our university to help gain a deeper understanding of this issue, first starting within our own group. Within hours of the event our leaders were dialoguing with leaders of other groups on campus, expressing our apologies and ultimately discussing how to not simply ‘forget about this’, but to positively use it to grow our understanding of others as well as to grow real relationships across different groups on campus. We thank everyone who took the opportunity to have a real conversation on this issue and sincerely hope that this is just the beginning of good things to come.

In a personal letter sent directly to those hurt by the incident IVCF national leadership wrote (excerpts only):
On behalf of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, please accept our sincere apologies for allowing this event to take place. We are sorry that it hurt you and others who witnessed it on the MTU campus.   
We realize that the hurt that this event caused is real, and that the history that it references is truly dark. We recognize that this slave auction being held during Black History Month is likely another disturbing aspect of this event for many who are in the midst of celebrating the history and achievements of African-Americans. 

Sorry = Sweet Revenge?
  Even our children's games seem confused
We want you to know that our staff are currently working with the student leaders of our chapter at Michigan Tech to help them better understand the effect that this event has had on the campus community. InterVarsity leaders and the leaders from the Black Student Association are meeting tonight (Thursday) to discuss what happened and how to move forward. The campus diversity director will host the meeting. We expect a letter of apology written by the InterVarsity chapter will be submitted for the next publication of Michigan Tech Lode, the campus newspaper.  
Ethnic reconciliation is an integral part of the fabric of a Christ-like community. In InterVarsity we encourage students to build authentic, multi-ethnic communities that engage Scripture and seek after biblical justice and equality. Recently students at another InterVarsity chapter in St. Louis have worked to bridge a racial divide, and the campus climate has been transformed. Here is a short video that shows more.
The story at MTU is not over yet and we pray that the dialogue that has begun will lead to true reconciliation. Although our staff and students have a history of working toward racial reconciliation for many years, we acknowledge that there is much more that we need to learn and do to live up to our values.
Thank you again for taking the time to inform of us of how this event impacted you. Please accept our sincere apologies.  
-signed the President of IVCF and Director of Collegiate Ministries at IVCF

Finally, I emailed them a letter of concern about the incident and will share parts of the response I received: 
"We appreciate hearing about the role of InterVarsity in your journey of racial reconciliation. 
As unpleasant as it is to hear that InterVarsity chapters periodically fail to create welcoming atmosphere for ethnic minorities, we recognize that these failures are a part of the journey of educating one another and learning together. The Michigan Tech InterVarsity chapter’s event hurt members of that campus community and affected the way InterVarsity is perceived by many beyond the campus of MTU. InterVarsity president Alec Hill and senior vice president Jim Lundgren sent a personal letter to one Michigan Tech student who wrote to InterVarsity about the slave auction.... 
...We were grateful to report that the Black student Association at MTU graciously agreed to meet with InterVarsity chapter leaders following the incident, and that the outcome of that meeting exceeded expectations. The groundwork was established for ongoing dialogue to help mend relationships with black students on campus. Aaron Green, our Campus Staff Member on the Michigan Tech campus, reported that the meeting led to the groups planning a joint letter to the school newspaper highlighting the InterVarsity chapter’s apology, and the ongoing reconciliation process. As a result of the conversation the InterVarsity chapter will bring this issue to the chapter at large and invite African American students to speak and share their feelings, with the intent that this be used as a discipleship issue. Further educational events and discussions are being considered as well that would target the rest of the campus."

In these statements, I see the following (please feel free to post your own insights and perspective):

What the IVCF letters do well:
  • They apologized in public, as well as directly and personally.
  • They apologized quickly, without needing the duress of public opinion. 
  • They make sure to apologize for the event itself, addressing the specific act that created division. 
  • They do included the more common "sorry that we hurt you" statement, but as it is in addition to the apology for the act itself, I find it more appropriate then it is the sole offering.
  • They also acknowledge of the reality of the pain they caused and the history it involves, rather than trying to diminish the feelings of those affected. 
  • They describe the steps they are taking to educated themselves about the nature, history, and context of the situation.
  • They describe actions they are taking to right the wrong, as much as it can be.
  • They commit to continuing efforts on these fronts, not just while it is on the public's mind. 
  • They acknowledge their short comings and that they have a long way to go.

What could have been better:
  • Although I get that they were trying to demonstrate the organization's commitment to reconciliation, the statement about St. Louis seemed a little out of place--a little too "some of my best friends are black." If the MTU chapter itself had already established such a positive reputation of their campus, perhaps there would have been more room for mistakes as they learn and grown, and easier forgiveness when they needed it. Consider it a lesson in being proactive in building trusting relationships BEFORE we need to seek them from behind the eight ball. 
  • I would have liked them to be a little more specific in demonstrating their comprehension of why their actions were hurtful. It would have been nice to read clear confirmation that they came to a new understanding. 
  • They open the letter to the newspaper by explaining their own perspective and what they had intended to accomplish with the event. Although, this side of the story is definitely important to share, it felt weird that it was the first statment in the letter.  It seemed seemed a little defensive--humility is of the upmost importance with these situations. 
  • I notice that even from those that I believe to be completely sincere, it is very difficult to convey genuine contrition after the fact. It is a challenge convey one's commitment in a way that sounds believable and not just trying to cover your butt. IVCF is sincere in it's letters, but would they be taken that way by someone whose first interaction with the group was hurtful? Yet another instance where we will have to rely of the grace of POCs to believe us when we say we really mean our apology.

IVCF is on the forefront of national Christian organizations working for reconciliation, but everyone will stumble on the way. Overall, I feel that IVCF did well in trying to rectify the situation. Fixing brokeness is hard. It just is. Let us not discourage each other, but rather let us reinforce one another's every effort at reconciliation and meet others where there at in their journey. Let us also pray that God uses both the original event and the dialogue that follows to challenge and radically grow MTU's campus. 

Compare IVCF's letters to the to apologies cited here. How does this one measure up? Also, if you have really good examples of apologies that communicated well and that might serve as models, please share!

See Also:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Interracial Relationships in the Church

Check out this article from Racialicious  and Yes We're Together
about interracial dating/marriage and the church's attitude toward it.

Some moments of particular interest:
"I asked ... if she knew of any books that churches or pastors used in pre-marital counseling with interracial couples. Her response: 'No, because there aren’t any. And I think that silence speaks volumes about how most churches really feel about interracial marriage.'"
"Jesus does not simply become a panacea for the racist thoughts and behavior to which we are all susceptible. It’s not enough to simply be comfortable with having lots of different people in the room (but it can be a great start). In fact, if I hear a church harping on “racial reconciliation” for more than five minutes, I start to get a little nervous."
And similarly from the comments section:
"My antennae go up when people start talking about race in church because I've never seen a church get it right."
Church family, this is what our years of racial short comings have yielded: distrust, frustration, disenchantment, and dismally low expectations. We have pushed it to the point that POC and white folk alike cringe and throw up their hands, rather than engage in real conversations about race and racism. What a far cry from the safe, engaging, encouraging place that God's house aught to be! 

Therefore, the Church becomes lumped in with the myriad of secular institutions that fail to make meaningful headway in the realm of reconciliation. But shouldn't we be different? That is our claim, at least, but we rarely deliver when it comes to issues of race. 

See Also:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Features!

As per requests, the 'follow by email' subscription option is now available, as well as Twitter and Facbook sharing, on the sidebar to the right. As always, RSS subscription and 'Follow' features are available in the same location.
See Also:
Why it is Important
White History Month
The Premise

Sunday, March 20, 2011


The worst kind of apology is that which is said under duress with little or no conviction, remorse, or understanding of the offensive nature of the action in question and furthermore provides no plan to rectify the injury caused.

We all know the scenario: Sibling1 hits/pinches/bites/teases Sibling2, Sibling2 screams and cries, parent scolds Sibling1 and insists that Sibling2 receive an apology, Sibling1 angrily shouts/inaudibly whispers/sarcastically spits out an "I'm sorry," accompanied by an eye-roll/stuck out tongue/crossed fingers.

It seems we never really grow out of this routine. Too often, this half-hearted, coerced apology is the sort we see following blunders and gaffs that are race-related. They are what are known as non-apologies. They often include the initial words "I am sorry" but then go on to detail how the original action was not intended to offend, or that it was taken out of context, or that it was taken the wrong way. The problem is that none of these statements actually address the original action or the apologizer's culpability.

What is worse, non-apologies will often shift the blame back on the victim: "you misunderstood me," "you are being overly sensitive." We often see phrases like "we are sorry that some people were offended," which really says nothing about the actions of the apologizer and everything about the "some people" that 'must just be overreacting'. The worst is when the perpetrator actually twists the situation as to make herself the victim, and the offend party actually ends up apologizing!

How would that work with any other wrong that someone might commit? For example, like blatantly cheating on a spouse: "I'm sorry, I didn't think it was offensive" (but it was!), "It wasn't my intention to hurt you" (but you did!), "I am sorry you feel like you were wronged" (but I was!), "You misinterpreted the situation" (but I didn't!), "You are making a big deal over nothing" (but I'm not!).  How would that make you feel? Would you feel like your feelings were respected? Or would you feel like your reality had be de-legitimized?

I wrote previously about Bush's non-apology, but here are some great examples of recent racial non-apologies (click image for details):
Radio Host Mocks Hmong Community With Racist Cover Song
We can do better than this. 

In the course of our discussions about our racial brokenness we will mess up (all have fallen short), so we might as well learn how to apologizes for those mistakes. Luckily, as Christians we already have a good basis for this process: we know that in Christ, we must confess our sins (own up to them), repent (be truly sorry in our hearts), and then change our ways (not just say that we will).

Maybe you honestly think the other person is being over-sensitive. So what? The pain is still there and it is still real. Give the benefit of the doubt, humble yourself, and apologize anyway--for the sake of the Gospel, and your relationship with that person.

Jimmy Johns gets it!
Maybe you honestly didn't know you were being hurtful, but if someone corrects you, own up to your ignorance about what constitutes racially offensive behavior--an ignorance which of course, in itself, is offensive. White folks are profoundly unaware of any history other than the one we tell ourselves, which is the root of all sorts of hurtful statements. But our lack of education isn't an excuse for the pain it causes, just simply and explanation.

So if (read: when) you trip up and find yourself in need of forgiveness, take the humble rout. Don't get defensive, or explain yourself, or downplay the situation. Rather, apologize, acknowledge your mistakes, take ownership for the ignorance out of which you made them, and work to improve yourself.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

UWeekly: Race Matters

A recent front page article of UWeekly, one of Ohio State's student-run newspapers, caught my attention and commandeered the post here today. 

Here is the front page: 

In my mind, I thought: "oh good! They have an article about the pressures and disparities in education accessfaced by minority students." What I should have thought was: "Uh oh! Here we go again..."

I scanned my annotated version of the article for you below:

I have so many issues with this article I hardly know where to begin. In brief, the article addresses the Ohio State Admission policy, which takes race into account in it's admission decisions, and discusses how unfair that is to white and Asian students.

On the one hand, I feel like there is no way to win discussions on the topics like this, so why bother? Plus, I have also already outlined my beliefs on topics of affirmative action and 'reverse discrimination' on this blog. But, for the sake of lowering my blood pressure, I'll mention a few points here.
One of the biggest things that bothers me about articles like this is that they rarely discuss the challenges that minority students face in accessing higher education, nor is there ever a recognition of the history of advantages that white students have that put the ahead from the get-go. It's true that a given white student might have disadvantages to overcome, but white folks have a long history of attending college, and that success begets itself:

If your grandfather (and grandmother, in my case!) served in WWII, chances are good he could take advantage of the GI bill and go to college (unless he was black and colleges wouldn't accept him) and he could build economic security by buying a home though that same GI bill, maybe with a little help with the down payment from his parents (unless they are just staying afloat themselves), and he could become part of the growing middle class of the 1950s and 60s (unless he got redlined into a declining neighborhood). He could earn better wages through unionnegotiations (unless the union wouldn't accept him because of his race). Then he could make sure his kids went to a good high school (unless the redlined houses didn't have high enough property values to produce the tax revenue needed for successful public schools). And since he had been to college, he could encourage his children to attend as well (and perhaps benefit from legacy-basedadmission policies), provide his children with guidance through the admissions process, and perhaps financial support to fund their higher education. Then his children could graduate from college, get a higher paying job, in a good neighborhood, with successful schools, and start the cycle over again with lucky little you

It really ticked me off when this article sited low African-American and Hispanic graduation rates followed by the quote: "it shows that this kind of discrimination really is not good for anybody." The author implies that the university is lowering its standards to admit minority students that never had what it takes to do well in college anyway. The truth is that multitudes of highly qualified POC never get the opportunity to even think about applying to college and those that make it face all sorts of barriers and prejudices that members the majority never have to worry about as they go through their studies. The author completely ignores the many varied factors that contribute to the graduation rates he sites.
Kaplan charges up to $3,600 for SAT prep

Articles like this one love to mention disparities in standardized in test scores, but again rarely include a discussion about from where those disparities come. First of all, tests like the SATs say very little about a person's intelligence, but are simply a measure of one's ability to perform on said test. So if you come from a school that coaches test taking, or if you have the time and financial resources to take multiple practice tests, buy College Board books, and take Kaplan classes, you are likely to do pretty well.
If we were truly living in a meritocracy, a race-blind system of admissions would work pretty well. But we live a country that routinely and systematically stacks the odds against people of color. From early on, children of color can expect less nurturing attention from the teacher, more frequent and sever disciplinary action, and lower expectations from adults of their long term academic performance. How well would anyone fair in these conditions?
In addition, if one happens to be poor or has a disrupted home life, the challenges can become insurmountable. Who can keep a high GPA, have all the necessary extracurricular involvement, and hold a part-time job that helps put food on the table?

So yes, the playing field needs to be leveled. The cycle of discrimination needs to be broken. As much for the benefit of POC students as for that of the majority population. In the same way I feel that diversity in church is essential for my spiritual development, diversity in schools is crucial for my academic development. If I were trying to learn perspectives I already know, I could stay at home and save the $20 grand/year! So from my perspective, it is my university's responsibility to provide its students with the environment of broad and deep education that they are paying for!

For the record, the OSU admissions statistics state the following distributions for the incoming class of 2009:

African American/Black: 5.6%
Asian American: 6.4%
Hispanic/Latino: 2.8%
Native American: less than 1%
White: 78.7%
Other/Not Reported: 6%

How does that mesh with the numbers that the author sites? He says "a white student has a measly 12 percent shot [of getting in]" at a certain unspecified GPA. He implies the numbers come from a study from the University of Chicago, but I can find no such study, nor can I find record of aDr. Negai at that institution. I was able to find the study he opens his article with, but the Center for Equal Opportunitystudy has its own very specific motivations and goals (and not the ones you might assume). Also of note, their study was compiled by a Dr. Althea Nagai, with no affiliation to the University of Chicago. hmmm....
The rhetoric of this article is frustrating. Every journalist has biases, but this guys doesn't even try to hide them. Yeah, I do the same thing on this blog...but its a blog...with a clearly advertised perspective. In the article, the pro-policy viewpoint gets a small section at the end that barely begins to graze the surface of the deeper issues at hand. And despite the full front-page photo, not a single black person was interviewed for the report (yes, I facebook stalked the people mentioned in it).

I will grant that the UWeekly might not be paragon of journalistic rigor, but I take articles like these seriously because they carry with them a power to confirm the biases of the privileged majority. It affirms what some poor reader was already thinking, and allows her to nod in agreement: "yeah...I always thought those policies were unfair...I'm glad someone finally had the gust to say it." It is a narrow perspective, but she is probably too ignorant to even know that the argument is old, stale, and hackneyed. This article serves to further isolate and 'otherize' the POCs on campus, which ironically will help to fulfill the author's claim of low minority graduation rates. One thing is for sure about OSU admissions, they have filled their bigot quota.

Now, I'm going to go write a letter to the editor...and try to be polite.

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

UPDATE (3/15/11):

UWeekly: Race Matters: The letter to the editor that I wrote to UWeekly (based on the 02/27/11 BTSF post) was published in this week's issue, as well as a response from the editor. It was published along with another letter that I thought was telling of the publication it's general content: 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Racial Inclusivity and Campus Ministry

How can campus fellowships (and Christian organizations/churches in general) become safer places of worship for POCs?

Of the national campus ministries serving at colleges and universities, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) seems to be one of the most intentional about multi-ethnic worship and racial reconciliation.  At all levels of the organization, there is an intentional effort to live out God's vision unity, which has been born out all through IVCF's history.  IVCF is where I began my journey of racial awareness and was convicted by the deep racial wounds that the Church bears.

But at my college, despite our best efforts, IVCF was often characterized as largely unwelcoming to minority groups. The our students truly had a desire to be more inclusive. Yet time and again, a brave POC would come to fellowship night, decide it wasn't for them, and never come back. This scenario plays out in bible studies, fellowship, and churches all over the country. So what is going on? Several things:

1) Though we had several strong leaders in our group that were wholly committed to making racial reconciliation a priority, it was hard to get large-scale buy in from the rest of the members. Inclusively requires an intentionality that does not waver when life gets busy, but at an over-committed liberal arts college there are a lot of competing priorities.

2) Although there were efforts in our fellowship to incorporate various worship traditions, the band leader was often a white male singing the "diversity" songs in much the same way he might have in his own tradition. It's a good step in the right direction, but ultimately leaves the same homogeneous impression to a new visitor.

3) Being the newbie is always going to feel awkward, but it is incredibly challenging to walk into a room where you are very clearly the only person of your race. Our chapter worked really hard to be welcoming, but the challenge is that for every five new people that get greeted, the one that slips by will never forget it. Additionally, when we are more comfortable around people that are similar to us, it is the racial 'others' that are more often left un-greeted and with a sinking sense that they are unwelcome and don't belong. We must double and re-double our efforts to ensure that this NEVER happens. Not once. Not for a millisecond. Not ever. The damages are near irreversible (and for Heaven's sake stop mixing up black folks' names--they don't all look alike, and they don't appreciate your thinking they do!!).

4) Sometimes in our efforts to increase the diversity of our group we miss the forest for the trees. Too often the token black student serves to sooth the guilt of the homogeneous, letting them feel diverse without the hard work that reconciliation requires. We may welcome someone when they were on our turf, but if we fail to extend our love when we pass each other in the dining hall or in the quad, our invitation is hollow.  If we do not engage with each other in the 'real world' then our diversity was just for show.

5) We must remember the importance of ethnicity-specific ministries on campus (Asian American Ministries, Latino Fellowship, Black Campus ministries). Understanding one's own identity in Christ and in the context of one's ethnicity is a central part of the process of spiritual growth (including for those in the majority position).  Understand that white folk have the luxury of choosing how much time they spend with people different from themselves. POCs gotta be around white folk all the time--give 'em a break. Surely we can relate to how exhausting it must be to feel like you are different from everyone else. When it comes to worshiping God, sometimes it is helpful to remove that burden when we can. Those in the racial majority must never belittle, undermine, or compete against ethnic-specific ministries. But rather, we must support, encourage, and uplift (without forcing our presence, uninvited), bringing to the table the any extra resources and influence that a position of power on a racialized campus may provide. Be an advocate, not a stumbling block. (And let the university administration know that the white students value and support ethnic-specific ministries too!)

As I have mentioned, IVCF is truly doing great things for reconciliation in the name of the Gospel, in a way that I have not seen reflected in many other ministries. Furthermore, these are not just a campus issues, but of course affect every church trying to live out the Gospel today. If we let diversity become a chore, a check list, that attitude will be painfully obvious to the world. We cannot give in to the temptation of forgetting that racial reconciliation is of the utmost importance to our ministry and to our witness. How powerful it could be to show the campus an image Christian unity, rather than a lips service of clich├ęs!

I invite readers to share your personal experiences, frustrations, and suggestions.

See Also:
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Apologizes
Why it is Important--and it really is SUPER important.
Growing Up White and 'Normal'
Stuff Church People Do

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

UMC's Rev. Mark Sargent: Thunk, Gap, and 6A's

                                Georgia based, United Methodist minster Rev. Mark Sargent has written an
insightful article about the public's perceptions of Christians, our corporate mistakes in our interactions with others, and how these hindrances affects our relationships and ministries. His words particularly relate to this week's post on the church's response to David Kato's murder in Uganda as well as previous posts about the Church's public relations problems.

Check out his article: The Thunk, the Gap, and the Six A's  (How can you resist such a title?)
Though it isn't explicitly race related, much of what he says can be applied to our broken race relations. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Uganda, Rolling Stones, and Christian Outrage

Though not explicitly about race and Christianity, the events taking place in Uganda over the last several months touch on many issues that are relevant for us here at BTSF.

Before we go any further, if you can't locate Uganda on a map, or are unfamiliar with it's political, historical, and cultural background, take a minute to educate yourself.  Good, now we can continue.

In a brief summary of the current events , the largely Christian nation has been considering legislation to legalize the death penalty for homosexuality (it is already against the law to be homosexual, but jail time is the current punishment). It is believed that an American Evangelical influence has had a role in whipping up the recent fervor. Last fall, a Ugandan paper, Rolling Stone (no relation to US-based music magazine) published 100 names, photos, and home addresses of members of the Ugandan LGBT community, under a banner reading "hang them." And sure enough, David Kato, prominent LGBT activist and one of the people named in the article, was found beaten to death a little over a month ago.

So where are the Christian voices on this matter? I recognize that there is not agreement within the Christian community about what the bible has to say about homosexuality. But surely we agree that murder is wrong! Yet the church remains largely silent on these events, too afraid to speak out in support of human rights if those humans happen to be homosexual. We should be screaming out, decrying murder done in the name of Christ. Instead we hear equivocation and qualified responses: "it's the lesser of two evils"--their methods might be harsh, but somehow their motives are in line. A recent Vanguard documentary, reveals the stark situation in full (view the trailer, or the more explicit full video--warning: NSFW. Jeff Sharlet, author of 'Straight Man's Burden: The American roots of Uganda's anti-gay persecutions' also makes some good points (for those without a Harper's subscription, listen to him in a recent interview) Gay rights activist, Val Kalende, exhorts “The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.” and Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda adds "The blood of David is on the hands of American preachers who came to Uganda...they share much of the blame for presenting us as less than human."

Rev. Scott Lively
As a Christian, these videos are painful for me to watch because it shows my faith in such a terrible light. No wonder some of my work colleagues despise Christians and make so many derogatory comments about Christianity! We can be terrible people! Of course, not all Christians believe homosexuality is a sin, and of the ones that do most certainly do not condone hate-crimes against the LGBT community. Scott Lively is an extremist, as is the Westboro Church, and hope that the rest of us won't be judged by the fanatics among our faith. But I know we will be stereotyped and lumped together (as any American Muslim will tell you they have been). And moderate Christians must understand that we carry the burden of our siblings' sins. It effects our ability to fellowship and to show God's love to the world. It affects who feels safe enough to walk through our church doors. We must understand the consequences of this fervor: millions miss out on an opportunity to know the love of Jesus.  It is a poor witness of hatred that repels gay and straight folks alike. This is the price of our silence.

And I have to wonder how we as Christians got so fixated on the issue of homosexuality. Why is it when you survey the secular public, we are most often known for our stance on homosexuality and abortion, not on our excitement about Jesus and His love? Doesn't that seem odd? Why aren't we so impassioned about world hunger, or human trafficking, illiteracy rates, or homelessness? Aren't those of concern in protecting 'family values'? And I'll grant that there are some thorny verses about sexuality in the Bible. But in reality, there are basically six main verses that get referenced as maybe having something to do with homosexuality in a bible that contains about 30,000 verses (that's .02% for those keeping score at home). And Jesus never even mentions it, so surely it shouldn't be the foremost issue we are known for. Jesus does talk a whole lot about money, both on the dangers of being rich and the blessedness of the poor.  He also talks a whole lot about love: of neighbors, of your enemy, of self. And he talks about condemnation for hypocrites and false prophets. Just saying...

Some final notes:
As with the recent Egyptian revolution, we must be careful not to egocentrically overstate the role the United States plays in Ugandan politics. It is a sovereign nation that makes it's own policies and decisions. We did not plant homosexuality in Uganda, nor are we the founders of homophobia there. Secondly, though this post is specifically about Uganda, don't think that the United States is a safe place for LGBT individuals. We just haven't legalized the thousands of hate crimes that take place every year.

I recognize that this post was a little off topic this week, but I couldn't stay silent anymore. How about you?

UPDATE (05/13/11): Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Stumbles, But Still Not Off the Table

See Also:
Abortion and Condemnation
Colbert Report-Jesus is a Liberal Democrat
Representatives of Christ
Creative Commons License
By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @BTSFblog