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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Happy Holy Week!

BTSF will be on a break through Easter
(including on Facebook and Twitter).

See you on the other side
of the resurrection!

If you're still looking for some good reading, check out the awesome writers sharing their knowledge in this week's Friday Fruit.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Fruit (03/27/15)

Joy Regullano: "White Fetish"
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

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

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pride and Privilege logo: heart locket
Guest writer Deborah Brunt continues her reflection from last week on privilege and her denominational history: 

In “The SBC and white-led racial reconciliation,” I challenge the racial reconciliation initiative Southern Baptist leaders have launched. I ask: For all their good intentions, might these SBC pastors instead only further illusion? I suggest: The only white-led “initiative” that can further racial reconciliation is an initiative to humble ourselves, to see and turn from our sins.

We cannot do that quickly or easily. Pride and a clinging to privilege will keep us from doing it at all.

Insidiously, pride and privilege whisper to leaders who genuinely want racial reconciliation, “You have to retain your status, to do the most good.” Falling for the lie, we cling to our titles, defend the structures that provide them, idolize the privilege we enjoy as Christian leaders – and avoid at all costs humbling ourselves.

I’ve remarked to white Christian leaders how desperately we need to confess and repent. I’ve suggested we cannot do it corporately until we do it personally. I’ve watched the blood drain out of each face, seen the body language become defensive, felt the room grow cold.

Grayscale text: PRIDE
As a leader, getting gut-level honest about my sins requires me to be vulnerable before people who may not continue to follow me if they know the truth. If I try to lead them to confess sins, especially racial sins, they may revolt, and strip me of my “place.”

My choice? Avoid confession, and protect myself. OR, choose against pride and the fear of losing privilege. Count honoring God more important than loyalty to my denomination, ministry, network, church or cause. Deny my yearning to retain power and status, in order to follow my Lord.

Paul faced down pride and privilege. Listing all that had given him status as a religious leader, he declared: “These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7 CEB).

Furthering illusion
I was Southern Baptist for 50 years. The last seven, I served as a denominational leader. The last year-and-a-half, I was treated abusively. Finally, I was given an ultimatum – at which point God freed me to resign. The wrongdoing and the ultimatum had one goal: to pressure me to uphold the demeaning and division the denomination fosters in regard to women, a justice issue very kin to that of race.

Broken word art: illusionBefore the abuse, I had thought we were making progress with regard to women in the church. In accord with denominational views on women and with the full approval of my leaders, I had taken what appeared to be small steps in the right direction. Suddenly, a few leaders who felt threatened by the changes began to lash out. When they did, other leaders ran for cover. None wanted to risk the loss of finances, status, control. I was battered; the progress evaporated; the status quo was restored. For all my sincerity, I had only furthered illusion.

Out of that fire came years of healing, researching, seeking God and seeing much I hadn’t previously seen. With deep grief, I confess:

What I faced in this century in the heart of the SBC, and what I subsequently discovered in my own heart, are attitudes that were embraced and defended by the evangelical church culture from the days of the settling of the Cotton Kingdom. Though many changes have occurred since the Civil War, the white church culture rooted in the Deep South still has not seen, dealt with or turned from these demeaning and divisive attitudes at their root.

  • To explore the breadth and depth of our sins;
  • To express heartfelt confession;
  • To invite others: Let God show you you, your family, our church culture. Confess in a way that produces repentance, heals relationships, restores life.

Facing truth
Desperately, we look for another way. We believe “airing our dirty laundry” will shame us. No. It will free us from the shame that has bound us so long.

We believe blame for racial injustice lies somewhere else. Indeed, there’s danger of your reading this article, and thinking, “Ah, those Southern Baptists. It’s their fault.” But God doesn’t point fingers. He exposes hearts. Always, he does so to redeem. As we, in humility, agree with what he shows us about us, he cleanses and renews.

We believe that we, as Christian leaders, don’t have any idols. Yet, our terror of losing our status shows we do. Left unchallenged, pride and privilege will busy us trying to lead in racial reconciliation, while blinding us to the things within us that stop it cold.

Deborah Brunt is an author and blogger at Her book, We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, explores in-depth the issues identified in this article.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Fruit (03/20/15)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the 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, March 15, 2015

The SBC and white-led racial reconciliation

Deborah BruntHere, guest writer Deborah Brunt offers her perspective with regard to her denominational tradition and a recent initiative calling for racial reconciliation. 

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has launched a racial reconciliation initiative, signed by several SBC pastors of different races and ethnicities.

The heartcry and united purpose expressed in the Baptist Press article is encouraging. Yet I’d suggest: The one white-led “initiative” that can actually further, rather than hinder, racial reconciliation will be an initiative to humble ourselves, in order to:
  • see, grieve and turn from sins we haven’t wanted to admit; and
  • adopt a learner/follower attitude toward other races and ethnicities, as we seek together to restore relationship.

The signing of the new SBC initiative by pastors of different races may seem a step in the right direction, as did the election of a black SBC president in 2012 and 2013, and the SBC’s Resolution on Racial Reconciliation, enacted 20 years ago. The current initiative’s signers may well be sincere in their desire for breakthrough. But for all their good intentions, might these SBC pastors continue instead only to further illusion?

Cartoon: Character #1: "I'm not racist but"; character #2: "Shhh...shh, it's okay. It's okay. Just accept your racism and never finish that thought"
In recent decades, openly teaching racial inequality has fallen into profound disfavor. At the same time, white membership in the SBC and other denominations has declined. Indeed, church growth in the US is happening in ethnic sectors, but not in non-Latino white.

Today, white Christians do not want to be seen as bigoted, nor do they think of themselves as such. Denominational leaders do not want to lose followers or income. Yet white people do love our privilege; we love to be seen as the heroes; and we’re terrified of losing control. So we have a strong proclivity to act like we’re leading toward change in race relations, when the changes are mostly cosmetic and we’re still committed to doing things the way we always have.

White men created the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 to defend and align with a Southern culture adamant to retain slavery. In spite of steps taken to create distance from that past, white men still control the denomination, its entities and its attitudes.

Whether Southern Baptist or not, it’s time for white Christians to stop – and even recant – our efforts to “lead out” in racial reconciliation.

Key Truths logo: heart locket
Further, it’s time to repent for believing we’ve already repented for our racial wrongs. Our confessions have yielded far too little genuine, lasting fruit, maybe because we’re so prone to overlooking our sins and so eager to deplore theirs. If we’ll really listen to our prayers of confession, we’ll realize how often we only lament the acts of people “back then” or “out there” or who we otherwise would classify as “them,” and not “us.”

Now 150 years after the Civil War, it’s past time for us to take the long, hard look needed to get gut-level honest about the depth and breadth of our sins. It’s time to see – then grieve, confess and turn from – sins currently operating in our lives, our families, our relationships, our churches and our US Christian culture. It’s time to admit we need guidance and help from others who aren’t “us,” in order to be free.

Deborah Brunt is an author and blogger at Her book, We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, explores in-depth the issues identified in this article. Continue reading with her follow up article on 'Pride and Privilege.'

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Friday Fruit (03/13/15)

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the 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, March 8, 2015

Suffering Lent

Artistic ash cross over the word 'Lent'This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog reflecting on suffering during the season of Lent 2015.

The Lenten season often calls us to reflect on suffering. Our own suffering, the suffering of our neighbors, the suffering of a Savior on a cross. It's not a short season. Lent invites us to feel the weight of our mortality for 40 days. Like a tithe of our comfort, we relinquish some contentment for 10% of the days in the year.

One of the first scriptures I ever memorized was Romans 5:3-5, which says "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us"

But do these words ring hollow when we are once again confronted with the death of the innocent, the imprisonment of the oppressed, the abuse of the marginalized? How can we rejoice in such things? Do we really believe in a God that would bring about such destruction on His people? To believe so is to rejoice in the violence of the Cross, rather than in the grace of the crucified.

A cross under a barren tree. Text: Why suffering?We must break free of the idea of the 'noble suffering' of the oppressed and marginalized (see: the myth of the 'strong black woman'). There is a dangerous desire to romanticize suffering, especially by those who suffer very little indeed.

If we believe that our redemption is bought by our suffering, we once again place our salvation in our own hands, rather than in the hands of our God. Instead, let us ask what has caused such suffering. And if we ourselves have been the cause or contributor let us repent, for we have been aids in the devils work. 

When we see suffering as our salvation, we end up putting our hope in the violence that caused it. It may well be that we can learn from it, grow from it. We may even become more Christ-like because of it. But our suffering is not the end itself, nor is it the means to our salvation. Suffering is a reflection of the brokenness that should never have been there to begin with. As Deanna A. Thompson notes, its glorification "simply does not acknowledge the full scope of suffering that pervades many of our lives."

We worship a God who suffered. Suffered from His first moments on this earth. Womanist theologian Jacquelyn Grant identifies Jesus as our “divine co-sufferer.” He who knows our sorrows because he took them on Himself for our liberation. But His suffering is a consequence of our sin, for the sake of identifying Himself with us, not the deliverance from it.

Thompson continues, "faith involves a relationship with a God who suffers with us and refuses to leave it—or us—unredeemed." That is why James Cone and others intrinsically link the suffering of the Savior with that of the sufferers of this world. Ours is a God of the oppressed.

In the same way, the privileged cannot even begin to understand what it means to suffer unless they are willing to enter into that suffering right along side others. Can the privileged understand true suffering at all? There is surely and understanding of pain, of loss, of mourning, yes. But the suffering required to truly identify with a mocked and crucified King? I'm not so sure.

By it's very nature this level of identification is not always possible, and so suffering itself becomes a point of further estrangement between peoples. Yet, when it is in our power to do so, we must continually work to ease the suffering of others, and lament with one another in solidarity when there is nothing else to be done.
"It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act"
Let us not suffer alone. Let us shout together in righteous anger at a broken world. The suffering in this life may indeed compel us to live out our hope for justice on this earth, and bring us strength even as we stumble. But rather than patronizingly requiring a grateful heart for our suffering, let us rail together at the injustices that cause it, knowing that this is not how our world was meant to be.

1 Peter 3:17-18 states that "it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." In response, Wendell Griffen asks a recent sermon:
"For whom are we suffering in obedience to the example of Jesus Christ?
Are we suffering with Christ to deliver people from oppression from greed and the ravages of opportunistic business practices?... 
Are we suffering with Jesus to deliver people of color from government-sponsored terrorism disguised as a “war on drugs” and “war on crime” designed, led, and carried out by fear-mongering politicians and a law enforcement culture that glorifies and condones brutality? 
How can we suffer with Jesus Christ—who came preaching about setting captives free—and deliver victims of mass incarceration and their families from political, social, and economic bigotry and discrimination?... 
Heart over a Lenten crossHow are we suffering with Christ to save the world?  Or is the world suffering the wickedness of injustice because so many people lack the faithful courage to suffer in obedience to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?"

When when we suffer, and scripture assures us that we will, we remember that Christ is coming. He comes to restore all things to himself. All our brokenness. All our tears. All our oppression. He will restore our relationships, our sinfulness, our disparities. In the end of days, Christ will remove all of our suffering.

But what does He ask us to do in the meantime?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Fruit (03/06/15)

Misty Upham
Photo by: Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the 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, March 1, 2015

American Promise

Craig McCoy
Please welcome back guest writer, Craig McCoy, who shares his review of the documentary 'American Promise' that he originally wrote as part of an academic assignment:

The documentary American Promise tells about the 13-year grade school careers of Idris and Seun. Both kids started out at the Dalton school, a private Manhattan school that was very prestigious but that didn’t have diversity. The private school was historically white and it admitted Idris and Seun, along with other African American children as part of efforts to diversify its student body. This effort alone didn’t make it diverse. This invitation proved that the school was non-racist, but it didn’t make it anti-racist.

Idris’s parents Michéle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, and Seun’s parents, Stacey O. Summers and Anthony (Tony) Summers, two middle class families, decided to send their kids to the prestigious Dalton school, in hopes of better educations for them. The parents shared their feelings about the boys attending Dalton. Joe, Idris father felt that it would open doors going to Dalton. Stacy, Seun mother, thought it would be better to go to Dalton School because he would learn to be more comfortable being around white people. But Michéle feared that Idris would lose his history if he went to Dalton.

American Promise movie poster featuring Idris and Seun
The boys began at Dalton when they were five years old and attended there together through the eighth grade. Then Seun transferred to Benjamin Banneker Academy, a public school in Manhattan, that he attended all thorough high school and graduated from. Idris remained at Dalton School and graduated from it, although he continued to struggle at times.

One of the early signs of non-diversity in this private Manhattan school was when Seun tried to scrub the color out of his gums so he would be like all the other kids. There were more white people in his class than people of other cultures and colors. Seun and Idris, were around these people that had different features than them. They were different, and wanted to be the same as everyone around them.

The teachers at schools like Dalton need to get ready for the new changing school environment. In the article “I Don’t See Color”: Challenging Assumption about Discussing Race with Young Children it says
“the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2000) predicts that by the year of 2035, students from racially/ethnically diverse backgrounds will comprise a statistical majority of the public school population. In spite of these demographic shifts, few early childhood educators make conscious efforts to respond to these changes within the curriculum on the basis of developmental and or political concerns. Many early childhood educators believe that children are too young to engage in critical discussions of race.”
If there had been educators at Dalton who changed for the times and had discussions about diversity early with Seun and Idris, maybe they would understand that everyone is different in lot of ways and that it is fine. We don’t know if Dalton knew about the gums incident with Seun, but if they were more anti-racist instead of being non-racist, they would have been more sensitive to these African American boys. 

The above article also states “One reason early childhood teachers should integrate anti-racist education in the social studies classroom is that children are constantly constructing meaning and understandings about race as they interact with other children and adults in different social and cultural contexts in society.”
Filmakers Michéle Stephenson and Joe Brewster
with their sons
When Idris was in middle school, he was made fun of by his peers while playing on a recreation basketball team. The kids said that Idris was talking “white”, because of that, Idris would try to fit in by talking “black”. This made Idris feel he didn’t fit in either place. If the school were more diverse, they would understand and talk about the different between “white talk” and “black talk” and that there is room for both.

Another incident happened when Idris was in high school. He couldn’t find a date for any dances. He was frustrated and said maybe it would be better to be white so he could get a date. Instead of the school understanding and appreciating Idris for who he was, he had be thrown into a “white setting” and he was having to “become white”.

The Dalton School was living with the ‘color blind’ myth. They thought adding Africa-American kids would make their school diverse. It didn’t. Adding kids of a different race, culture, background, and expecting them just to fit in wasn’t enough. The Dalton School didn’t understand that they were not appreciating what the kids were bringing to the school. 

In the article, ‘Seeing past the ‘Color Blind’ Myth of Education Policy’, author Amy Stuart Wells argues that “even when education policies are color blind on the surface, they interact with school systems and residential patterns in which race is a central factor in deciding where students go to school, what resources and curricula they have access to, whether they are understood and appreciated be teachers and classmates and how they are categorized across academic programs.”
Stacey and Anthony Summers with their son, Seun,
at the Sundance Film Festival
Idris remained in The Dalton School in this hostile environment--one that expected him to be “white.” His father Joe, kept pushing him to succeed. When he began school at 5 years old, he was happy and outgoing. But as he grew older, he became more frustrated. Growing up is already hard to begin with. With Idris, it was worse because of his school environment. It was a great school, but because of the failure of the school to be truly diverse, Idris suffered.

After the other student, Seun, transferred to Benjamin Banneker Academy, he was in a safe school environment. Even though he faced his mother’s cancer and the death of his younger brother, he did well in school. Policy Recommendation Number 2 in ‘Seeing Past the Color-blind Myth of Education Policy’ states having “supporting curriculum, teaching, and assessment that taps into the educational benefits of diversity” provides a supportive school environment.

Even in hard times, Seun was able to make it at a school that was less prestigious but more supportive of him. If Seun had remained at Dalton it is very possible he would have been left behind. There needs to be a supporting factor in schools. At the more prestigious school in this documentary, Idris often felt different and left out. At the less prestigious school, Seun felt like he belonged and supported. He didn’t have to try to be someone that he wasn’t.
Two paths split in a woodsWhen making a decision about schooling, there are many types to choose from. There are schools that are very prestigious. Then there are other schools, that may be not as prestigious but has diversity, but these schools may take the time to learn about many cultures. Is it better to go to a prestigious school, with no real diversity or color culture, or to go to a school that is not so prestigious but where you learn and experience more about diversity and color culture? By the experiences of these two boys, it is evident that it would be better to go to a less prestigious school with more diversity and color culture.
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