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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Multicultural Worship Music (Part 1): #AllPeoplePractices

The All People Band with
UM Church for All People
The following is part of an ongoing series looking at the #AllPeoplePractices that build the inclusive Body of Christ. This series is in partnership with the United Methodist Church for All People and the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR).

A multicultural worship setting can be a challenging one for many reasons, not the least of which being differences in worship music styles. The music we use to connect with God is deeply personal. Each of us is uniquely tuned to God’s frequency though our own songs and styles of worship. This intimacy is beautiful and holy, but it can also cause unnecessary division in our churches if we isolate ourselves based on musical preference. Engaging in multicultural worship (ie. including many genres, styles, and languages in our musical encounters with God) enriches our relationship with God, with fellow believers, and with the world.

Our ‘Heart Music’
We each have our musical preferences—songs with which we enjoy worshiping the most. It’s often (but not always) the music we listened to between the ages 18 and 25, and it’s often what we turn to in our moments of most intimate worship with God.

Heart made of treble and bass clefsThis music can be termed our ‘heart music’—those songs or styles that quickly and deeply connect us with God. It could be upbeat or meditative, emotional or reverent. You may dance, clap, shout, meditate, or chant. You may repeat phrases over and over to help marinate your soul in their meaning, or you may weave many words into your songs to describe the intricacies of your theology. Your music may emphasize the rhythms, the melodies, the harmonies, or the text. No matter what approach you enjoy the most, it is probably central to how you experience God through worship.

Drawing Nearer to Each Other
We each have our own unique heart music, but so do each of the people around us. Because we all prefer different worship styles, music can become a barrier to unity within the body of Christ. But music can also be a tool for uniting Christians across cultures and backgrounds.

Psalm 67 proclaims “may the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity, and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.” Could the scripture really mean that we meant to do this in isolation from one another?
Incorporating many styles of worship music helps us connect with each other through our respective heart music.

When we take the time to learn someone’s music, we express our love for them in a profoundly meaningful way. By worshiping in many styles, we demonstrate our willingness to set aside our own desires for the sake of ushering someone else into the presence of God. We make what scripture calls “a sacrifice of praise” to the Lord (Hebrews 13:15), and it can be a powerful tool in uniting diverse communities of worship.

Dancing at Coffee House
When a church worships in many styles it sets itself apart as a truly welcoming house of God. Preemptively incorporating the music of the broader community opens the doors to visitors, and offers a welcoming environment once they arrive. It says to newcomers “we hoped you might come, and we’re that glad you’re here.”

Singing in many styles and languages affirms of the multifaceted body of Christ, assisting us in repenting of our divides and ethnocentrisms. It helps us be mindful of friends we may not meet until we are singing together in heaven, and prepares our hearts for that day when “all the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord” (Psalm 86:9).

Multicultural worship music helps us draw nearer to each other. Continue on for some first steps and resources...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Friday Fruit (06/24/16)

Seven protestors hold red, white and blue signs that say "Diversity equals success," and "Out of many, one America" and "Diversity works."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, June 19, 2016

The Gospel Next Door

Book cover for 'The Gospel Next Door' It can be fun and exciting to go on missions service tourism trips to "exotic" destinations, but what about the community in your own backyard?

Pastor Marty Troyer's new book The Gospel Next Door: Following Jesus Right Where You Are is released this week. It encourages us to connect deeply with the communities around us and see the opportunities we have to serve Jesus right where we are. Troyer uses his own experiences as a Mennonite pastor in Houston, TX to offer his readers a compelling look at everything that our lived faith can be.

Troyer notes that "if we limit the gospel to the personal, nonpolitical, and future worlds, nothing theological remains to guide our vision for human community. Without the cultural vision of Christ, it’s easy to fill the void with the American dream and assume it to be God’s dream.” (103)

Thus, we create a god made in our own image to serve our own priorities, forgetting that the radical love of Christ calls us to much greater things in our neighborhoods. Troyer argues that “the disciple-making culture in Western Christianity is woefully inadequate for equipping us to put our faith into action.” (100)

Like many of us, Troyer “found myself quite adept at interpreting ancient texts, but incapable of interpreting the nightly news.” (106) How many of us can relate to this sentiment? Without pairing strong biblical and sociological understandings of our communities, our theology can fall flat when it is needed most. 

With sign "I'm already against the next war"
Marty "The Peace Pastor" Troyer
Troyer reminds us that "prophetic justice advocacy is tied to theology; it speaks to who God is and how God chooses to be in the world.” (169) Our actions as the the hands and feet of Christ on earth serve as a witness to our communities. If we are to be co-laborers in God's plan for our neighborhoods, then it matters how we manifest that plan to the world.

“If we cry ‘Peace, peace!’ assuming that all is well, when our communities are filled with the culture of death," Troyer warns," we’re as mistaken as the misled prophets of old (Jeremiah 6:14).” (14) Too often our proclamations of the Good News fall on deaf ears because we fail to demonstrate that it matters for the brokenness that we see around us. What good is the Good News, if it makes no difference in our lives today?

But Troyer asks "what if God were like Jesus? What if God were deeply engaged,  extravagantly loving, passionately communal, infinitely absorbing of hate, and radically local?” (41) And what if we behaved that way as well?

"You can't heal a wound by saying it's not there!" Jeremiah 6:14Troyer brings a much needed skepticism to his examination of Americanized Christianity. He points out the gaps between the Gospel’s intentions and our current reality, and challenges us to imagine how the Church can play a critical role in bridging that gap.  And he warns that “blindness to the gaps creates religion that underwrites Western culture” (48)

Troyer also encourages us to be proactive, rather than reactionary as Christians. He wonders if "we’ve resigned ourselves to the role of post-chaos chaplain?” (80) Too often when in the critical moments of our community, wring bring too little, too late. What if instead, we reclaimed our role of prophetic witness to our communities? What if we proclaimed biblical justice and advocacy, leading the way instead of limping along in the rear? 

This book also emphasises the concept that “the marginalized have an important and meaningful role in clarifying our image of God,” (154) and indeed that “[Jesus’s] story would be hard to understand if we didn’t know that his death came about as a state-sponsored, religiously motivated public execution” (88). We cannot be outraged at biblical injustice, while remain complacent in the injustices we perpetuate today. Indeed, Troyer asserts that "my faith will suffer if I ignore that God wasn’t merely with the Israelites in Egypt; he was also very much against Pharaoh” (154)

At the end of the day, we must confront the question: Do we truly believe Jesus? We may believe in Jesus, “but do we actually take him at his word? Do we believe that Jesus meant what he said and was talking to us?” (186) Because if we do, it radically shifts the choices we make and how we live our daily lives. 

Troyer reminds us that “justice work is as much about spirituality and belief as it is about morality and action. It’s the natural lifestyle of those who have experienced freedom from inner chains and have given themselves to breaking the outer chains that oppress.” (192)
Houston skyline

I invite you purchase your own copy of The Gospel Next Door. When you do take a long look at the credo you'll find on page 51. Troyer eloquently outlines what the Good New means for his Houston community. I challenge you to do the same for yours.

Want to hear more? Check out this MennoNerds conversation with Pastor Marty Troyer!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Friday Fruit (06/17/16)

Man holds sign with rainbow and American flags in joint ribbon, reading "we stand together with Orlando"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.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Logical Fallacies: Better Than Jim Crow

This post is part of an ongoing series on common logical fallacies used in conversations about race. If you have suggestions for logical fallacies that you'd like to see covered, submit your ideas here.

Look how far we've come. 
So many of the racial issues that plagued our history are no longer with us. SlaveryJim Crowlegalized segregation: all largely things of the past. Progress is good and we celebrate the heroes that have brought us this far. 

But if we rest in the satisfaction that we are no longer as we were a generation ago, we become complacent in our own battles with injustice today. Indeed, comparing ourselves with Jim Crow or KKK racism is setting a fairly low bar. 

Since the Civil Rights Era, the blatant ugliness of Jim Crow- racism has given way to a new, more subtle form of colorblind racism. The systemiccultural  and generational manifestations of racism are still very much in place (see post: Defining Racism). 

Click to enlarge cartoon
While most of us believe that everyone should have a fair shot at getting ahead, many white folk are still actively against the sorts of policies that would make this sort of ideal world possible (eg. prison reformaffirmative action,  health care reformracial profilingvoting access).

And so significant racial disparities remain, while we end up blaming the victim for the inequality. We still tout broad racial stereotypes or 'cultural pathology,' to avoid any personal culpability

So we are left with a country in which we no longer burn crosses, but where lives are still daily destroyed by racial injustice. The consequences of racism are still just as real, only without the same 'cause and effect' immediacy that there once was. 

In some ways, the subversive and insidious nature of modern racism can make it even more difficult to combat. It's harder to pin down, to prove, or to call out. White people end up trivializing the testimony and experiences of our sisters and brothers of color, who tell us they experience the effects of racism everyday. When white folk  believe racism is no longer an issue, their own racial biases and privilege go unexamined and unchecked.

So how far have we really come? 
In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. observed, "When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites…"

Reflecting on this quote, Abagond responds "Forty-something years later little has changed: the black unemployment rate is 1.96 times the white one (2011) while black babies die at 2.36 times the rate of white babies (2005)."

In many ways, we're actually no better than Jim Crow at all. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Friday Fruit (6/10/16)

Nicholas Bose, a youth leader at Second EFC in Brooklyn, talks with some students during a VBS (Photo by Norman Tu).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.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Friday Fruit (06/03/16)

paperless-and-beautifulOn 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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