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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Friday Fruit (05/01/15)

#JusticeForAkaiGurleyOn 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, April 26, 2015

The Social Gospel Saved my Soul

In honor of 5 year of BTSF, we continue to revisit old favorites

Man speaking like a dove, but actually with the tongue of a snakeThere seems to be a belief that 'loving thy neighbor' is something to do in the Church's spare time, after it has 'sealed the deal' for the state of the soul in the afterlife.

Personal salvation is extremely important, but it goes hand-in-hand with addressing the brokenness of the world in which we live. The fact that the Church often sidelines issues of justice is at the root of much of the public distrust of Christianity. It's what so often brands us as 'hypocrites.' The world hears us say "who cares what the rest of your life is like...just say you'll join our club!"

Cover of Wakabayashi's book 'Kingdom Come': the Earth inside a walnut shell
In scripture, we constantly see Jesus forming his ministry around the pairing of service and salvation. We follow a Christ that was very concerned with personal salvation, but did not trivialize the suffering he encountered on earth. When addressing the earthly needs of those around us, we demonstrate God's grace in a tangible way (Servant evangelism being largely based on this philosophy).

Perhaps if we took more of a stand for justice, the world would understand that God really does care about His creation, and therefore is invested in individuals, not just a religious institution.

These concepts have been eloquently fleshed out in Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi's book, 'Kingdom Come.' Wakabayashi describes God's heart for the Kingdom, and the deep need for redemption that includes both personal salvation and a transformed world.

Wakabayashi declares that Evangelism/personal salvation is not at odds with social justice. They go hand in hand! He asks, "how much more effective would our evangelism be if all Christians and churches were characterized by a commitment to dealing with social issues that trouble our world?"

Stone church with sign in front: 'church closed'
He notes that we are constantly battling against a stereotype that Christians are uncaring and uninvolved, but that "the world needs to see that our faith really does make a difference for life, especially as we deal with some of the most vexing social struggles, like race, gender, and class suppression." Wakabayashi mentions several important questions: "If your church were to leave the community you're in, what impact would that have? Would they miss you? Would they weep?"

Specifically about racial justice, Wakabayashi  observes "when it comes to the racial problems in our nation, white evangelicals have tended to deal with the problems by encouraging each other to make friendships across the racial barrier and to treat people kindly. While this is commendable, the same people do little to change the laws and policies that perpetuate so many of the racial problems."

Thick ink: "If you want peace, work for justice. Paul 6"
Christians are a prominent demographic in the political world, but too often we occupy a narrowly defined role in that sphere, focusing only one or two high-profile issues. But we remain largely silent when it comes to "advocat[ing] peace, justice, and compassion." How can this be?? Weep, Church, for we have forgotten our call.

We cannot 'preach Good News to the lost' and then retreat to the safety of the familiar, expecting that our words will be taken with sincerity. In reality, that behavior becomes a barrier to forming the relationships that facilitate a personal relationship with Jesus.

Perhaps, if we were better at loving our neighbor, and fully invested in our neighborhood, people would better understand us as agents of God's Good News. True, we are "not of this world," but God gives us a lot of time here before calling us Home. Surely God intends for us to invest that time in the world that God created.

Consider and comment: 

"When was the last time you heard your pastor encourage you to get involved in the policies of the city in order to effect kingdom change?" 

How do personal salvation and social justice intersect/interact in your life? How can we better integrate them going forward? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Friday Fruit (04/24/15)

Photo: Bethany Yellowtail
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.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Christian Rhetoric in Understanding Racism

This month marks five years that BTSF has been in existence. I've recently enjoyed digging through some old posts, and so decided to periodically bring a few back as reminders of past lesson, and for the benefit of newer readers. Here, we explore how our understanding of the Gospel is beautifully suited for the work of racial justice and reconciliation. 

Angel wings with text: "Better to be an open sinner than a false saint"
Christianity is filled helpful ways of understanding racism. The way Christians view the world helps us understand our individual roles within a larger system of racial injustice.  Yet the Gospel is terribly underutilized as a framework for racial justice and reconciliation.

We have heard people claim "I'm not a sinner, I'm basically a good person!" There is a similar phrase: "I'm not a racist, I'm colorblind!" But we know that everyone has fallen short. There is none among us that hasn't defied God's intentions for us at some point in our lives. Likewise, there is none among us that hasn't judged our neighbor (even to the point of contempt)  for the clothes they wear, the car drive, or the music to which they listen.

For those in positions of privilege, it goes one step further because we benefit from an institutionalized system of racism. We get hired easier, make more money for the same work, have better health care, and live in better security than economically-matched sisters and brothers of color. We benefit from corporate sins, transgressions that we perpetuate as a group. We didn't ask for this, but here we are. The best we can do is to help undo the mechanisms that got us here.

We continue deal with the consequences of Adam and Eve's mistakes, thousands of year after the fact. So as Christians, we should understand why today we still bear the consequences of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation  These transgressions are MUCH more recent!

When God's people built themselves a golden calf, the next generation bore the consequences as well. Surely the younger group said among themselves "it's not our fault that our parents were so sinful. We know better now." And yet, they continued to wander the desert.

There may have even been those present at the time if the transgression that disagreed with what was happening, but sinned passively by remaining silent. Undoubtedly , we do the same today.

It's terribly difficult to break out of generational sin (pair Genesis 12:10-20 with Genesis 26:6-11) because of the cultural habits and norms that are passed down from parent to child. Scripture says that God "punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7) and that "our fathers have sinned...and we have borne their iniquities" (Lamentations 5:7).  The consequences of continued disparity are accumulated and passed down to the next generation. We maintain the brokenness, both by leaving our own privileges unchallenged, as well as by remaining complacent in the prejudices of others.

Fabric heart pillow with words "Good News" on itThe Good News is that, as Christians, we know not to despair! We understand that Christ came to redeem a broken world in a way that we could never fully do for ourselves. The cross represents the singular moment of perfect reconciliation and perfect justice on earth. 

We understand that justice, through the death of Christ, was an essential component in God's plan for reconciliation. We cannot have reconciliation without justice. It must also be so when we seek restored relationships on earth. We must work to rectify racial injustice if we hope to reach reconciliation. 

Because Christ died to restore a broken world, we have hope that all will one day be made right. So we do not despair in the meantime. We are not paralyzed by the magnitude of our own brokenness,though divide can seem too great. Instead, we rejoice in the opportunity to be co-laborers in Christ's work on earth. We do not continue in racial sin, but turn from our ways, having now received God's gift. We trust that God is bigger that our brokenness and can use us for His good purpose.

Human outline made of many people "Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it" 1 Corinthians 12:27In addition, Christians have a framework for working out reconciliation with each other on individual and systemic levels. We understand the importance of speaking the truth in love, and holding each other accountable to God's will. We know we are to confess our sins and seek forgiveness. In turn, we are to offer each other grace and healing, abiding with one another in the face of division. This is how the body of Christ is to deal with one another in the face of racial brokenness. 

We understand that we live in a broken world. We observe pain and inequality. We see that the world is not as God intended it to be. We know that some aspects of that condition will not be changed until Jesus comes again, and that we often perpetuate our broken state through our individual sin, both active and passive. But we also know that we can turn from these ways and receive the gift of new life from God.

In the same way, we live in condition of racism. A long history has bred division and disparity, and on some level we recognize that we will never attain true unity on earth. But we also know that each time we choose our own comfort over embracing the full body of Christ, we contribute to its division. Instead, we have the choice to work for the redemption of God's people and journey toward the reconciliation that God desires.

These are truths of the Gospel. The rhetoric with which we convey its message is uniquely suited to deal with racial injustice. The world needs to see the model of Christian reconciliation lived out in our individual lives and in our churches. When we fail to work toward restoration, it cheapens the power of the Cross. But when we live by this example, it is a witness to God's glory. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Friday Fruit (04/17/15)

Alyssa Schukar for the NYT
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, April 12, 2015

On Hospitality

Converse shoes on 'Welcome' mat
Steph Fernandes is an assistant county public defender in Pennsylvania. Her writing on hospitality when meeting new people has far-reaching applications for the work of racial justice and reconciliation.

For me, hospitality suggests welcoming, but it also includes something more. It entails showing the people around me that they are not only welcome, but valued, worthwhile. To do this, I generally focus on three things: being vulnerable, listening, and remembering.

Being vulnerable has a weird connotation. So, an example. I invite you to my house for dinner. You ask if you can bring something, I say no. You arrive, and ask if you can do anything, but I say no. After dinner, you ask if you can help clean up. I say no. I was nice to you, I served you, but I wouldn’t say I was hospitable. I have found that people want to contribute. We feel more valuable when we can help or offer something. Letting you wash the dishes, say, would allow you to contribute something. It’s not that I want to make you work, but rather that I want you to know I know you have something helpful to give. In letting you work, in relinquishing my control, I affirm to you that you are valuable.

Gathering of friends around a table
In much the same way, when I first meet you, I want to get to know you. I want to ask you thousands of questions and hear your stories. But I also need to give you space to ask me questions, to share part of me with you. If not, my efforts to extend hospitality and welcome you, becomes superficial. There needs to be reciprocity, or else I am not being hospitable, but patronizing.

Listening. We know the importance, and yet it’s hard. As you’re talking to me, it is easy for me to try and predict what you will say next, and respond inaccurately. Or, instead of listening to you, focus on what I intend to say next. By not listening well, chances are, I’ll miss something of importance. To welcome you, though, I need to show you I respect what you have to say, and, thus, need to ensure I listen actively.

Remembering, the one society seems to struggle with the most. If I meet you, ask you all types of questions, and then fail to retain what you said, it sends two messages. First, that I’m human, and I forget things. But the second message, I believe, is that what you said was not worthwhile to remember. Obviously, not as problematic with smaller details, but something worth thinking about. What am I making the effort to remember about you?

Words inside boy's brain: 'Remember'I certainly do not remember everything, but I know this and need to combat this. I try to create ways to help. If we were in a social group together, chances are your name was on my calendar: prayers for a class assignment, a birthday, a big day at work, a particularly frightening exam. For the record, I didn’t do this to stalk you. Instead, when you have an important event in your life, and I remember it, it is now important in my life. What better way can I extend hospitality, make you feel welcomed and valued, than incorporating your life into mine.

It Takes Time
Hospitality takes time, and I have yet to find a shortcut. Yet, I have found a way to justify the amount of time required, especially in the midst of life's hectic environments. We are all overworked, crunched for time, and living in a climate that encourages, practically demands, an selfishness. I stole the tithing concept from finances and applied it to time. I seek to spend ten percent of my time serving God. That roughly equates to 2.5 hours a day, just under 17 hours a week.

I use my story, not because it’s better, but mostly because it’s the only one I feel comfortable sharing. In law school, I tithed my time by going to church on Sundays and once during the week. I served my church by going to choir rehearsals. I served my program by studying in the hallway once a week, drastically lessening my productivity, but supporting and building community with fellow students. I served my campus fellowship by meeting with one or two members each week to strengthen bonds. I served my city by spending time in city schools. I served a broader community by volunteering at a women’s prison.
Clock with pen that's writing on it "It takes time!"
I can’t say I tithed joyfully every hour, sometimes it was a struggle, and sometimes I questioned the way I spent my time. In an environment that encourages achievement as the highest priority, scraping hours is tricky. Yet, I figured that it was my way of living to say not my will, but God’s be done.

Know that I am praying for you: that you have a fruitful spiritual journey, that you will be prompted to continually extend hospitality regardless of the time constraints, that you will likewise be fed by communities of hospitality around you, and, practically, that you will be encouraged and strengthened as you move through the year.
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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