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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top #BTSF Posts of 2013

As the year, draws to a close we give thanks for the blessings of 2013.
I am particularly grateful to the #BTSF readers who have sparked brilliant dialogue and joined in tremendous efforts toward racial justice.

In 2014, follow all our conversations through email or RSS feed!

Check out the top ten #BTSF posts of 2013:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Friday Fruit (12/27/13)

One of the 2013 book picks!
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:
These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Story

Today, 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 on 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?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Look around you this Christmas: all the greeting cards, advertisements, TV specials, store displays, nativity scenes. Santa Claus’s race has gotten a lot of press this year, but it’s not just him.

The popular portrayals of Christmas in the United States reinforce the ‘white default’ that takes an assumed white perspective: from matters of marketing and consumerism, to social values and theology.

White faces depict the fatherly Joseph, the virginal Mary, the saintly angels, the hard-working shepherds. Are these characteristics only the traits of white people? When we link these faces with our holiday values of love, joy, and peace, we lose the full spectrum of God’s grace in the Christmas narrative. In the very story of our Lord’s birth we perpetuate the marginalization of God’s people.

We are selective with which ‘historical realities’ we cling to. The bible never claims there are three wise men, or that Jesus was born in December. Saint Nicholas never lived in the North Pole or probably even ever saw a reindeer. But we are willing to accept these particularities as part of our Christmas tradition. What does it say about our priorities when we insist on the whiteness of the savior?

Frosty is the only character that
should consistently be white
The whitening of the baby Jesus is potentially the most damaging of all racialized Christmas portrayals (see post: The Color of Christ). Others have expounded on the historically inaccuracy of the portrayal, but it is problematic for the theologian as well as the anthropologist. White folk have literally changed the image of God into their own likeness. It means demeaning any other race as less God-like, less made in the image of God. It means identifying with the savior more than with the saved (see post: White Savior Complex).

On some level, Megyn Kelly is right. With all the publicity and social construction, both Santa and Jesus are functionally white for many Christians in the United States. But there are serious consequences to the predominant perceptions of a white Jesus. Theologians have noted that "if we accept a White Jesus, if that is the image we see, we have also adopted an image of salvation, of health, wholeness, happiness, that also comes to us via a White culture and comes to us with a White value system." This imagery perpetuates the tenancy of white folk to view themselves as morally superior and as rightful leaders.

Families recently visiting a black Santa at a Los Angeles mall remarked that "I just don’t want [my godson] to think that all greatness comes from a different race…There’s Santa Clauses his color doing good work, too." Furthermore, added another parent, "We need our kids to understand that good things happen in chocolate skin...We are often bombarded with the opposite. We’re not trying to exclude anybody, but [instead] celebrate our chocolate skin."

Representation matters. Children need to learn that good things (both Christmas presents, and salvation itself) can come from many different races and nationalities. We all need Black Santa. And we need Asian Santa, Native Santa and Latino Santa too.
“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white ... just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change, you know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too ... that’s a verifiable fact, I just want kids to know that.” (2013)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Friday Fruit (12/20/13)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:
    These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

    Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

    Sunday, December 15, 2013

    Missing Children: Avonte Oquendo

    Update: The remains of Avonte Oquendo's body were found on a Queens Beach on January 16th. The below was written during the search for him:

    Avonte Oquendo has now been missing for over two months.
    Have you seen him? Have you even heard of him?

    Avonte is a 14-year-old boy with autism from Queens, NY who went missing after wandered from his school's supervision on October 4th, 2013. His parents have done all the right things to bring attention to his case: a massive flyering campaign, publicity through social media, sweeping police searches, TV interviews. There is even ~$100,000 reward for information leading to his recovery.

    But Avonte's story has failed to garner large-scale national media attention. Even local news coverage has largely gone silent as hope of recovering the boy diminishes. Yet media attention for other cases has been known to persist for months or years after the initial disappearance. Coverage of Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping continued for over nine months until she was finally found alive in a different city. Even 17 years after the death of JonBenét Ramsey, media outlets still clamor over new tidbits from her case (the most recent installments were widely publicized around the same time that Avonte disappeared).

    The reality is, if you're going to go missing, your chances of being found are best if you're a white girl from an upper-middle class family in the United States. Your odds are even better if you match certain popular beauty standards. The stories of Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, Natalee Holloway, and Caylee Anthony are famous, while hundreds of others are ignored. The abduction of Jessica Lynch in Iraq was nationally lamented, while Shoshana Johnson, who was captured in the same ambush, was largely ignored.

    The Missing White Woman Syndrome
    Sheri Parks and Gwen Ifill have termed this effect the 'missing white woman syndrome,' describing the tenancy for media, police, and public bias in their attention to missing children and murder cases. It's a well known and reported phenomenon (even by media themselves), and yet it largely fails to be corrected, year after year.

    There are so many examples of half-attempted awareness, and yet very little additional attention given to the hundreds of Asian American, Black, Native, and Latino children that go missing every year. Children of color are more likely to be victims of abduction (65% of non-family kidnappings), but missing white children are 14% more likely to receive major media coverage.

    Racial bias matters when it comes to missing children and their chances of recovery. Some stories are simply considered more important to report than others. Finding missing and kidnapped children requires the strong support of the media and law enforcement, but these are "two institutions not historically known for favoring minorities, particularly blacks." These biases have a negative effect on rescue success.

    These same biases also affect the probability that individuals on the street will stop to help a child in distress. Stacia L. Brown asks "if you saw a black teen boy wandering a city, how closely would you pay attention to him? And if you truly noticed him at all, would it only be because he raised your suspicion?"

    Our subconscious bias affects which children get the help they need, and the odds are not in Avonte Oquendo's favor. History tells us that in encountering someone like him, we're more likely to call the police in fear of our own safety, than for the safety of the child himself.

    While the deaths of some children are treated as national tragedies, others are treated as inevitable consequences of social pathology. How differently might the murder of a young blond girl returning home with her Skittles have been perceived (weather or not she wore a hoodie in the rain)?

    "Jesus loves a subset of
    the little children?" 
    The disparity in our national attention speaks loudly to the differential
    value we place on human beings' lives. It reveals who we perceive as vulnerable and innocent, and to whom we are willing to bequeath victim status. Surely like our Heavenly Father, we will search for the one lost coin, for that one sheep that has gone missing. Will we only rejoice when certain ones are found?

    We are warned "Beware that you don't look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father" (Matthew 18:10). To be a Good Samaritan to children in distress, we must first take the time to notice the strangers on the side of the road, and then overcome our biases against them in order to offer our life-saving help.

    There are so many missing children. Lists and pictures are available for your perusal. Jesus's attention to the little children shows us how important each of these lives are. Let's help find them.

    Friday, December 13, 2013

    Friday Fruit (12/13/13)

    Gyasi Ross Cut Bank Creek Press
    On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

    Weekly Round Up:

      These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

      Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

      Wednesday, December 11, 2013

      Mandela the 'Terrorist' (Part 2)

      This is part two of BTSF's look at Nelson Mandela's legacy, and the world's response to his work.

      The Green Mile
      (see also: Bruce Almighty)
      Despite years defamation, Mandela's name and message are now co-opted for an array of politicized messages. But to do so undermines the very self-determinism for which he fought.

      Mandela is sometimes treated as a real-life 'magical negro.' Abagond describes this common plot device as a character "who comes out of nowhere with strange powers or deep wisdom to help white people, sometimes even giving his life...Their strange powers allow them to escape white stereotypes of blacks as incapable. It allows them to deal with whites on equal terms."

      This stereotype not only paints Mandela in a one-dimensional light, it implies that everyone else of his race remains depraved. Specifically, it backhandedly perpetuates the stereotype of angry, violent mobs rising against benevolent benefactors for no good reason. "Can't we all just get along? Can't we all just be peaceful, like Mandela was?" But he wasn't.

      Musa Okwonga observes that politicians and media pundits "will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love...You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive."

      When politicians, who for years ignored (or even despised) Mandela's policies, suddenly become hyper-adulatory after his death, they belittle his work and his daily courage in speaking to power. Mandela is not a mascot to be appropriated at our political whim. Instead, his nuanced beliefs and polices deserve to be remembered for what they actually are, even if it doesn't always align with our own agenda. So let's remind ourselves of Mandela's capacity to forge his own way for South Africa:

      Mandela's Continued Defiance of Power
      Mandela was not afraid to speak up against injustices he saw around the world. It is perhaps this perspective for which we have the greatest need today.

      United State's prolonged support for Apartheid South Africa was often justified by calls for 'freedom and democracy' in the face of the inconvenient communist political affiliations of the African National Congress (ANC), and the opportunity for economic profit. Mandela saw parallels between this behavior and the United State's 'defense of democracy' in Iraq, saying that “all that [Bush] wants is Iraqi oil.” Mandela believed that in both cases the the USA's rhetoric and actions were to the detriment of liberties of the citizens of the countries in question.

      Having been labeled as a terrorist himself, Mandela was critical of the 'War on Terror.' He stated that "if there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care for human beings." In contrast, he characterized Fidel Castro as “a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people."

      The point is not that Mandela should be reviled, any more than it is right for him to be idolized. The point is to allow him to be a hero, fully remembered for who he was, without twisting him to fit our own agenda. Mandela did not believe that the Western democracies were pure and holy. Neither should we.

      The Whitewashing of History
      The practice of whitewashing our collective heroes is not a new one. It happens to Martin Luther King, to Abraham Lincoln, and even to Jesus Christ himself.

      Jesus too was hated during the hay-days of his activism. He spoke truth to power, and agitated authority. He lived among the marginalized, and was vilified by the establishment. He made controversial statements, and was condemned as a traitor to his country. Jesus preached forgiveness and peace, but he did not shrink from confronting corrupt authority with searing words. He too has been on the political terrorist watch list. But we often remember him simply as a shepherd with his lambs, or as a sweet little baby lying in a manger.

      In these stories of resistance, there is also a theme in which 'moderates' call for patience and temperance, rather than standing up for justice. The 'Birmingham 8' clergy urged King to wait, saying the "cause should be pressed in the courts...and not in the streets." The Western powers made tepid calls for gradual negotiations with the Apartheid regime of South Africa. And the Pharisees hoped to mollify the Roman rulers by keeping the local peace. These were the 'moderates', and they all ultimately found themselves on the wrong side of history.

      There is nothing safe or comfy about the radical love of Christ. As with Mandela, if we forget these aspects of Jesus's character, we become complacent to our roles as God's hands and feet in the world today. Being a follower of Christ isn't easy, and we shouldn't expect to be cozy with the voices of privilege. If we are, perhaps we are doing something wrong.

      Hannah Heinzekehr wonders if perhaps "we’ve 'sainted' all these peacemakers as a way to make them seem superhuman or beyond what any normal human can accomplish. In this way, we can simultaneously celebrate them and also wash our hands of any expectations that we can emulate them." Indeed, rather than "feel[ing] like we’re part of the choir that Mandela is preaching to, we also need to see ourselves as the subjects of his critique."

      Our challenge after Mandela's passing is to avoid reducing him to a brand name of revisionist history. We must continue (or begin) to learn his history by reading his books and speeches so that we have a better understanding of what it takes to be a 'Hero for Christ.'

      Peter Beinart notes that "American power and human freedom are two very different things. Sometimes they intersect; sometimes they do not. Walking in Nelson Mandela’s footsteps requires being able to tell the difference." The same goes for walking with Christ. 

      Special thanks to the following tweeps, whose great writing helped bring much-needed clarity to the media swirl of the past week: @graceishuman,@deluxvivens, @jamiekilstein, @AntheaButler, @Blackamazon, @GradientLair, @zellieimani, @JeffSharlet.

      Monday, December 9, 2013

      Mandela the 'Terrorist' (Part 1)

      This week, we offer a special BTSF edition to explore Nelson Mandela's legacy, and the world's response to his work. Begin with part one:

      We tend to flatten the biographies of deceased heroes into tidy, tame packages. In the limelight of such adulation, Nelson Mandela appears to have been a universally-admired father figure, spreading love and peace around the world. But this was not always the popular perception. We must avoid a collective amnesia about the global opposition he faced and the true heroism of his deeds.

      Mandela was no dove. In 1961, he co-founded the group Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation"), which was the militant wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Following the Sharpeville Massacre, in which scores of black demonstrators were gunned down by South African police, Mandela and the ANC felt they could no longer rely on solely non-violent strategies in opposition to Apartheid. Umkhonto we Sizwe led guerrilla-style attacks on the South African government and was subsequently labeled as a terrorist organization by both the South African and United States Governments.
      Sharpeville Massacre

      Later in his 'Prepared to Die' speech at the opening of his 1964 trial, Mandela recalled that "[we] came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force."

      In the wake of his death, commentators and politicians wax poetic about Mandela's legacy of peace and reconciliation, commoditizing and co-opting his name for their respective causes. But it is important not to gloss over his work with Umkhonto we Sizwe, and other acts of resistance, because they highlight desperate nature of the oppression he faced. It also gives context to other struggles for freedom today, both violent and nonviolent. Many such groups are also called 'radical' and 'terrorist,' labels that we may later find embarrassing:

      The United States' Response
      As a result of the ANC's continued resistance to the Apartheid rule of the South African government, both it and Mandela himself were placed on the United State's terrorism watch list in the 1980s.

      Under the Reagan administration, State Department listed the ANC among "organizations that engage in terrorism." Shortly thereafter, President-elect George H.W. Bush wrote the forward to the Defense Department's "Terrorist Group Profiles," a list of 52 of the "world's more notorious terrorist groups," which also included the ANC.

      In the midst of Cold War turmoil, it was the Soviet Union, not the United States, that quickly came to the aid of black South Africans. Preferring to back political ideology over the defense of human rights, Reagan vetoed the US-imposed sanctions on South Africa drafted in the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. Then-Congressman Dick Cheney also voted against the bill, and in 2000 defend his stance stating "I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.''

      This United States was not alone in its opposition to Mandela and his organization's cause. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stated that "the ANC is a typical terrorist organization ... Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land."  Parliament Member Teddy Taylor said Mandela "should be shot." 

      Prominent Christian leaders were also outspoken in their opposition to Mandela and his work. Both Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell defended the Apartheid regime. Falwell urged his followers to write congress to tell them to oppose the Anti-Apartheid Act stating that “the liberal media has for too long suppressed the other side of the story in South Africa.” (See also: The Cross and the Lynching Tree).

      It is important to remember how recent these events are (see post: Recent History), and how many Americans and Christians now find themselves on the wrong side of history, even as they clamor invoke Mandela's name today. Apartheid ended in 1994 after over a half century of legally-mandated and government enforced racial segregation and oppression. Mandela wasn't removed from the terrorist watch list until 2008, by which point he was a 90-year-old man and recipient of the Nobel peace prize (15 years earlier!). Even as he served as president of South Africa, he was required to obtain special permissions from the US Secretary of State to enter the United States, a situation that Condoleezza Rice found "rather embarrassing."

      As Class Struggle notes, "News outlets around the Western world are hurrying to publish obituaries that celebrate his electoral victory while erasing the protracted and fierce guerrilla struggle that he and his party were forced to fight in order to make that victory possible...Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t. For this, during his life they called him a terrorist, and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist—all to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy, and the lessons to be drawn from it."

      Continue to part 2 for a discussion of Mandela's more recent controversies, and the importance of keeping all aspects of his biography alive. 

      Thursday, December 5, 2013

      Friday Fruit (12/06/13)

      Read Mandela's Own Words Today
      On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other perspectives, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

      Weekly Round Up:

        These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

        Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

        In Mandela's Own Words

        With all the commentary and press coverage following the passing of Nelson Mandela, be sure to take time to read his own words. You can begin by enjoying his 1994 Inaugural Speech:

        Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Distinguished Guests, Comrades and Friends:

        Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty.

        Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.

        Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.

        All this we owe both to ourselves and to the peoples of the world who are so well represented here today.

        To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld.

        Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change.

        We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.

        That spiritual and physical oneness we all share with this common homeland explains the depth of the pain we all carried in our hearts as we saw our country tear itself apart in a terrible conflict, and as we saw it spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world, precisely because it has become the universal base of the pernicious ideology and practice of racism and racial oppression.

        We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil.

        We thank all our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession with the people of our
        country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity.

        We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy.

        We deeply appreciate the role that the masses of our people and their political mass democratic, religious, women, youth, business, traditional and other leaders have played to bring about this conclusion. Not least among them is my Second Deputy President, the Honourable F.W. de Klerk.

        We would also like to pay tribute to our security forces, in all their ranks, for the distinguished role they have played in securing our first democratic elections and the transition to democracy, from blood-thirsty forces which still refuse to see the light.

        The time for the healing of the wounds has come.

        The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.

        The time to build is upon us.

        We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.

        We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace.

        We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

        As a token of its commitment to the renewal of our country,the new Interim Government of National Unity will, as a matter of urgency, address the issue of amnesty for various categories of our people who are currently serving terms of imprisonment.

        We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in
        many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.

        Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward.

        We are both humbled and elevated by the honour and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, to lead our country out of the valley of darkness.

        We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.

        We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.

        We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.

        Let there be justice for all.

        Let there be peace for all.

        Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

        Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.

        Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.

        Let freedom reign.

        The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!

        God bless Africa!

        Thank you.

        Monday, December 2, 2013

        Downward Mobility

        Please welcome guest blogger, Drea Chicas, learner, artist, youth educator and community activist now working in full time urban ministry in Seattle, WA.

        Every Sunday a kaleidoscopic blend of families worship together along polished pews in a local church. Beyond this colorful snapshot, however, exists an uneven power structure that privileges the body while pushing the needs and gifts of the surrounding community to the margin.

        In this congregation, more than half of the members are white; 60% of the paid staff is white while 40% are staff of color. And yet, the church is located in a multi-ethnic, urban context where more than 50 languages are spoken and 41% of the residents are immigrants. Despite the community’s cultural wealth and capital, 18% of families live below the poverty line. And yet, the church’s yearly profit makes it an upper-middle class entity in the community.

        When Jesus came to earth (the incarnation), he dismantled uneven power structures in order to walk humbly with, suffer with, and transform humanity, especially those on the margins of society. In the article “Rethinking Incarnational Ministry,” theologian and professor Soong-Chan Rah analyzes present day incarnational ministry and names its misappropriation and misapplication. Towards the end, Rah offers a constructive way to do incarnational ministry by emphasizing God’s mission for the city and the downward mobility of Christ.

        In the first half, Rah singles out white Christians who have historically relocated to the city to jumpstart urban ministries by drawing on the theology of the incarnation. According to Rah, many relocators may have arrived with warped perceptions. They hoped to save “the fallen city populated by the sinful people of color” by taking on a messianic role (see post: White Savior Complex). Such dysfunctional misinterpretations of the incarnation may “severely” negate God’s work through indigenous leaders who have labored together for the city long before relocators arrived. Urban ministries rooted on the incarnation so often mirror American middle class ideals such as upward mobility.

        US American churches, says Rah, are more concerned with upward mobility rather than the “downward mobility exemplified by the incarnation of Jesus.” Just as God emptied out of the “heavenly places and to the earthly realm (Phil 2:5-8)”, Christians must also mirror Jesus’ downward mobility in the form of humility and sacrifice. But many in urban ministry don't. Instead of practicing downward mobility, present day American churches are places where “power tends to speak more loudly than humility.” The author challenges us with this question: Are Christian communities able and willing to yield privilege in the same manner that Jesus laid down his privilege?

        Rah’s analysis and overview of incarnational ministry holds urban ministries accountable. Given many church’s white majority how do we make certain that power and privilege within the body are not speaking more loudly than humility? Individual white people and individual people of color have given up power and privilege to some degree, but where are the unifying voices of the church Body laying down their privilege by walking together with those on the margins of our community?

        Incarnational ministry isn't easy, trendy work. It’s hard work. It requires that we enter into people’s pain and walk closely together, just like Jesus did/does. Often, we'll have to go places we don't want to go and experience things we don't want to experience like oppression and poverty. Either way, God’s mission for the city is present, it always has been. What an honor it is to follow that mission here. Let's first confess and then continually lay down the power and privilege holding us back.

        What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree, disagree? What power + privilege structures do you see in your parish?
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