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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The 25th Anniversary of the Rodney King Beating

Juan Crutchfield
As personal cameras have become more prolific, catching police brutality on video has tragically become almost commonplace. But the legacy of  these videos can be traced back to a time when such raw evidence was more rare.  On the 25th anniversary of the beating of Rodney KingJuan Crutchfield, a high school student and musician in Columbus, OH, offers these thoughts:

Police brutality is a on ongoing issue in America for the black community. There has been request for change, but has it occurred?

The Rodney King incident between King and the L.A.P.D occurred on March 3, 1991. King was pulled over due to exceeding the speed limit. King was discovered to be under the influence of alcohol. A video of the confrontation between the police and King soon began to spread throughout the country. The case of Rodney King versus the state of California raised awareness about police brutality in all communities in the United States and opened a dialogue about ways to prevent similar events from occurring. But there has not been much success in stopping police brutality within the black community.

Rodney King versus the State of California was a landmark case that displayed police brutality to the world. "About 12:30 A.M., King's Hyundai is spotted speeding on the 210 freeway by two California Highway Patrol officers, Tim and Melanie Singer”. The officers began to chase King at a speed of 110 miles per hour, when the chase ends three additional officers intervene (Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind). A nearby citizen by the name of George Holiday records the police as they strike unarmed, Rodney King over 50 times.

Police brutality was a factor within the black community long before the Rodney King incident, but his case made it a country-wide issue to be addressed. Due to stereotypes and social bias many officers are intimidated by the company of black males. Black males in particular, are caricatured as aggressive and criminal, and police are more likely to view Black men as a threat which justifies the disproportionate use of deadly force.

A still from the video that captured the beating of Rodney KingPolice are trained to see potential threats within communities and stop them before they become an issue. The problem is not that all police are racist or prejudice, the problem is the training they receive to characterize a threat and make an inference based on a stereotype. Since the King case, police brutality became an issue to be recognized. There have been many cases that have followed similar characteristics between police and the black community. There is the Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Henry Louis Gates, and many more.

Robert Staples says that “racial profiling should be viewed as the systemic, historic, and lived experiences of blacks being controlled and punished by the police and a criminal justice system that exercises incredible latitude and bias.” The reason that police brutality is such a controversial issue is not because of the racism within the police force, but because of the racism in the court system. The courts are finding ways to justify the use of excessive force, that sometimes results in death. Black men and women are not gaining access to societal rewards like justice for their loved ones or themselves.

Since Rodney King’s case the trend in police brutality is only getting worst. Police are not only beating or stopping unarmed black men but they are killing them and finding a way to justify it in the courts. Recently, 38% of Whites and 89% of Blacks viewed the criminal justice system as biased against Blacks. Additionally, 8% of Blacks and 56% of Whites saw the criminal justice system as treating Blacks fairly (Chaney and  Robertson).

Rate of law enforcement killings, per million population per year, 1999-2011.
Such a high percentage of blacks that view the justice system as biased against blacks symbolizes the high disdain of police officers for the black community, only 8% of black men and women think that blacks are being treated fairly by the justice system. The majority of whites see black people as being treating fairly simply because they have not experienced or witnessed police brutality toward black men and women in their communities.

Police brutality has brought people together in order to demand change. Since the Rodney King case many movements have rose to end injustice of black men and women. The NPMSRP stands for National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project. The project is used to simply show all communities the statistics behind police brutality and changes that need to occur to stop police brutality. A project like this tackles the legal and political aspect of police brutality.

The government needs to revise the power of the police and create a equal justice system.The justice system has been finding ways to justify police brutality for years. Justice equality is demanded for the black community and it has taken over two decade for them to be heard effectively.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Five Tips for Incorporating Multicultural Worship

Worshipers lifting hands and singingWorship music is often one of the great highlights of any Christian gathering. It can be a formative experience as participants process and respond to what they have been learning. Music is also a powerful tool, bonding attendees together through meaningful shared experience.

It is important that corporate worship be mindful and affirming of the multifaceted Body of Christ. Multicultural worship music serves to affirm and welcome participants that may have a wide array of backgrounds. By incorporating multiple worship styles, musical genres, or languages into your worship music, we broaden the scope of our worship, and tune our hearts to the greater impact of God’s work.

Here are five tips to begin incorporating multicultural worship at your next gathering:

1. Build relationships early
Lay the foundation of strong relationships from the very early stages of your planning process.  Early on, identify what cultures you would like to see represented and build a rapport of honesty and trust with worship leaders from those cultures. Seek their guidance and insights throughout the planning process.

Cartoon: Leader says "call", crowd says "response"2. Guide participants through the encounter
From the very start of your event, explain to your participants what you are doing and why. Read scripture that casts the vision for the multicultural church. Talk about Jesus’s multicultural ministry. Acknowledge any discomfort that participants may be feeling, and encourage them to be open to what God might be trying to reveal to them through the experience.

3. Start Slow and Small
Introduce a multicultural song that is slow enough for participants to learn relatively easily. Songs with significant repetition can also help ease into new styles or languages. Or try substituting a single word from other languages into a familiar song (eg. “Santo, santo, santo, Lord God almighty…”). Be sure to close with a known song to refresh attendees after having challenged themselves.

4. Repeat after me
‘Call and response’ songs are popular in a wide range of cultures, making them great tools for incorporating multicultural repertoire into worship. They allow participants to hear, see, and repeat back words in a guided manner, in short phrases at a time. Find some ‘call and response’ songs from the cultures you would like to highlight, using the technique to introduce both new styles and new languages. 
Live Painting: a woman paints on stage during a live event5. Visualize it
It is important that the message of multicultural worship also be conveyed visually to participants. Consider incorporating liturgical dance, mime, ASL, or live painting into your worship. Be mindful of the images that appear on projected slides, in bulletins, or on your event’s materials.  Display multicultural artworks around the venue.  Perhaps most importantly, ensure that music leaders, hosts, workshop leaders, and keynote speaker also reflect the multicultural values that are being conveyed through your worship.

This article adapted from one that was first published in Rejuvenate magazine's October/November 2015 issue. You can find the original article here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming review of Sandra Van Opstal's new book, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Friday Fruit (02/19/16)

 photo gallery-1455117039-hbz-4-misty.jpgOn 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:

Also: Now Open!
*Special Preview Registration*
An intimate network of leaders and practitioners actively
engaged in multicultural ministry, coming together to
exchange ideas and build the inclusive body of Christ!

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, February 14, 2016

Creation Myths: Founding Fathers

Do American Christians idolize their country? Do we worship the nation's founders more than our true Creator?

Many in the United States look to the 'Christian nation' that once was, and decry our modern wandering ways. We long to return to the 'morals of our founders' two centuries ago. Some think that if we were only as pious as those who came before us, perhaps our country wouldn't be facing its current crises. 

But it turns out that the founding fathers were not at all what we would co-opt them to beJesus is absent from almost all important documents of our founding. He's not in the Declaration of Independence, not in the Constitution, not in the Federalist Papers, nor the Articles of the Confederation

Moreover, the second president of the United States, John Adams, states in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli: "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion."  

While it's true that some founders believed in God, many were Deist and highly influenced by Enlightenment-era thought that espoused a powerful, but distant and uninvolved God (ie. no divine Son of God). 

James Madison, the primary drafter of the US Constitution, declared that "religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise." Likewise, Thomas Paine, hero of the American Revolution stated "All national institutions of churches... appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankin."

Thomas Jefferson famously removed all the parts of the bible that relate to Jesus's miracles, including his resurrection. He stated that "the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

Jesus makes no appearance in any of the first 20 annual presidential addresses (those of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson). Yet he is routinely dragging along on campaign trails today. We co-opt  the authority of the founders, just as we claim Christ for our causes. We cherry-pick constitutional clauses as well as biblical verses. 

So, why make such a big deal about this? Because deluding ourselves about history is a dangerous business. We have become very good and avoiding the uncomfortable truths of our past.  

Many of us already know that our nation's creation stories are myths. But we perpetuate and cling to them anyway for the validation of our own narrative. A desire to return to 'how things used to be' reveals a nostalgia for a country that was inherently injustice and unequal, not at all reflecting Christian values

It is good to respect our founders and honor them for their guidance of the nation.  But canonizing our history undermines the hard work of our heroes that strove for betterment of the country. It belittles the struggles of those that sacrificed to bring about change from the realities of that past. And it estranges us from those that continue to deal with the negative consequences of that imperfect history.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lenten Disciplines for Racial Justice

Lent is time when we refocus our minds, hearts, and souls on Christ and his loving sacrifice for us. These 40 days are meant as a time of centering and reflection as we approach the Easter season. It is an opportunity to reconcile our inward beliefs with our outward practices.

This season, what if our Lenten disciplines help us lean into God's heart for justice? What if, instead of chocolate, we gave up some of our privilege? What would it look like to make radical sacrifice for the sake of reconciled body of Christ?

In addition to several good devotional resources available online, here are some practices to help you begin your Lenten journey for justice:

  • Fast from dominant culture news media, instead seeking out news converge from the perspective of marginalized groups.
  • Fast from sporting events and broadcasts that feature racist or appropriative mascots.
  • Fast from fashion and culture magazines that promote narrow beauty standards
  • Fast from books by white authors, substituting for a broader library of choices
  • Fast from TV shows and movies that do not have robust representation of people of color on screen and behind the scenes.
  • Fast from national chains and corporations, instead patronizing small local business, especially those owned by people of color.
  • Fast from fuel. Ride public transit, taking the opportunity to get to know those that ride throughout the year.
  • Fast from products made by companies with unjust manufacturing or hiring practices
  • Fast from being comfortable. Spend these weeks as a guest at another church. Join groups actively discussing tough issues of racial injustice. Listen. Just listen. 
  • Fast from material possession. What items have you accumulated that would better serve others in your community? 
  • Fast from fear. Re-examine who we are told to be afraid of and why. Consider how you might make your church a more welcoming space for folks often greeted with fear.
  • Fast from your desire to be a leader, instead allowing yourself to be led and creating new leadership spaces for people of color.
  • Fast from an attitude of saviourism. Partner with those around you who are already doing good work. 



Personal change begins on the inside, but then bears fruit in what the world experiences from us on the outside. Many of the steps above will take you well beyond the Lenten season, requiring longer term commitments and sacrifice. But isn't that what Lent is really about? Through power of Christ's death and resurrection, we become transformed disciples, setting aside our own worldly desires to act as the hands and feet of God on earth.

O God, we pray for those in our world who are suffering from injustice:
For those who are discriminated against because of their race, color, or religion;
For those imprisoned for working for the relief of oppression;
For those who are hounded for speaking the inconvenient truth;
For those tempted to violence as a cry to overwhelming hardship;
For those deprived of reasonable health and education;
For those suffering from hunger and famine;
For those too weak to help themselves and who have no one else to help them;
For the unemployed who cry out for work but do not find it;
We pray for anyone of our acquaintance who is personally affected by injustice.
Forgive us Lord, if we unwittingly share in conditions or in a system that perpetuates injustice.
Show us how we can serve your children and make your love practical by washing their feet. 
-Mother Teresa

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Friday Fruit (02/04/16)

Wendell Scott's son and grandson,
Frank Scott and Warrick Scott
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.
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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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