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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Third Places and the Inclusive Body of Christ: #AllPeoplePractices

Image result for third placesThe 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).

Every community has those special places that just seem to draw neighbors together. A local hangout where people can talk, relax, and enjoy one another, with no fanfare or pretense.
Is your church on of those places?

‘Third Places’ are those gathering points within a community that are neither one’s home (your first place), nor one’s workplace (your second place), but the spaces we find ourselves in between (see: The Great Good Place). Healthy Third Places actively transcend cultural barriers by creating accessible, equitable spaces for people to meaningfully connect with one another. You don't need to look a certain way, you don't need a membership card, you don't even need to have much money. Just come and be yourself.

When done well, Third Places bring people together across traditional divides of race and class. People come on equal footing, allowing for authentic conversation and the building of trust. Then, as trust is formed, the foundations are laid for meaningful transformation to create an opportunity rich community that benefits all its residents, not just the privileged.

Third Places are particularly important in diverse neighborhoods. Even (especially?) in communities with many cultural backgrounds, people tend to cluster among their own. This self-segregation leads to division, competition, and otherization. This in turn is the basis for the biases in hearts and minds of those in positions of power and influence. It is what shapes our own behaviors as we create and maintain the systems of injustice all around us.

Third Places alone will not solve these issues, but they are a way to start. Because they create protected space for marginalized perspectives to be heard, they generate what is known as 'bridging' social capital, the sort of cross-cultural energy that is important for systemic change. Third Places are often found in the form of libraries, bars, barber shops, or parks. But what about the Church?

At their best, churches are welcoming and inclusive of all. We strive to be a complete Body of Christ, that is not made only of hands, but eyes and ears and feet as well! We know that we need the unique gifts of our many diverse members to truly live into our collective calling as Christ's hands and feet on this earth.

Image result for Bikes for All PeopleBut too often, our churches are the most segregated places in our communities. Far from offering equal footing, we offer unwritten rules of acceptance. Instead of "come as you are" we send the message that visitors must "come as we are." We create barriers when we should be creating community. But it doesn't have to be this way.

UM Church for All People has been identified as one of these uniquely diverse Third Places on the South Side of Columbus. In that setting, the focus that draws diverse people together is a belief in Jesus Christ and the koinonia community that is possible in Him. But Church for All People has also begun to explore how it might help create Third Places all over its community.

That is the vision behind the Roots Cafe that aspires to attract diverse, mixed-income residents to sit at table and share meals together. It's also the founding principle behind Bikes for All People, which bring together adults, children, and youth who cycle for fun, those who cycle for the exercise, those who cycle competitively, and those cyclists who depend on bikes as their primary means of transport to pay their bills and buy their groceries.

In a world of too much divide, will our churches be a part of the problem or part of the solution?
What would it look like for our churches to create Third Place both within and outside their walls?
After all, aren't we just preparing for that day we will all be in that ultimate Great Good Place together?

What to learn more? Join us October 22-24 at the All People Conference to explore how inclusive ministries can grow and thrive:

You can dive deeper into the sociological principles outlined above in Social Capital and Equitable Neighborhood Revitalization on Columbus’ Southside. Then, use this overview and discussion guide to help facilitate conversations and new ideas in your own church context. 

discussion guid

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Friday Fruit (08/19/16)

At protest in June for the fatal police shooting of Henry Green, Tammy Alsaada spoke to supporters about ending the summer policing initiative.  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, August 14, 2016

*Milwaukee* and The Unheard

The below is an article first released after the uprising in Baltimore last year. As similar events have unfolded, it bears repeating. Think back to that time and apply some of those lessons today. 

Chalking names of those killed by police since 2014
Do you know the names #AkaiGurley#MeaganHockaday#HectorMorejon#KendraJames#TerrenceKellum?
(more here and here).

If you have learned about Freddie Gray this past week, but these names remain unfamiliar to you, examine your heart for the reason that might be.

For many, the killing of Michael Brown and the protests that followed were a wake up call. Many white folks woke up for the first time to the epidemic of violence against black and brown bodies in the United States. We woke up to the militarization of police forces. We woke up to the systemic injustices of the legal system. 

And then we fell back asleep.

Since the killing of Michael Brown, there have been ongoing protests against police violence for months on end. There have been hundreds of marches all across the country. A massive movement that has continued, unrelenting, week after week. 

Have you followed them? Have you payed attention to the movement over these many months? Or had it drifted from your attention? Settled into an unpleasant memory of last year?

Now, we stand aghast at the property damage in Baltimore and condemn the violence with moralistic indignation. But where were we for the months of peaceful protests that preceded it? Where was the media coverage? Where was the national attention? 

Interview of Deray McKesson by Wolf Blitzer on CNN
"Freddie Gray will never be back,
but those windows will be."
We have had months of videos, of evidence, of pleas. And yet you've simply shaken your head and mumbled "what a shame." 

What will compel you to compassion? Were not the hundreds of marches, and actions, and protests enough to cause your heart to cry out?

No. It wasn't enough. You did not pay attention to the broken lives. You only woke up again when it became broken windows (see interview by Deray McKesson). 

Baltimore saw weeks of peaceful protest advocating for the life of Freddie Gray. But his death didn't become a national story until the fires of injustice became a visible reality. His killers were not prosecuted until glass was broken.

You have clearly demonstrated to the city of Baltimore that this is what is necessary to merit your attention. You have shown which kinds of violence will move you to protest. You have shown that you will only listen when the oppressed are pushed to their very limit. So whose fault is it really when violence finally erupts?

Who is to blame when the message is sent the only way it will be heard? You were the one that has shown that this is what it takes to grab your attention. And so when it  finally does, why are you so surprised? 

The Nightly Show on the Baltimore Protests
Maybe you were one of those who were blissfully unaware before the Ferguson protests. Maybe you were jolted into reality by video of Eric Garner being suffocated. But if you have not continued to rail since then, you have no business being indignant now. 

While so many of us were all too ready to "move on", to "get over it", to "just stop talking about it", we left those affected by systemic violence every single day to deal with its consequences. They can never fall asleep to the perils of been black or brown in this country. Daily reminders keep the reality of this ever-present danger fresh in mind. On the other hand, those in power only pay attention long enough to ensure that the oppressed, the ones crying out for justice, will finally shut up about it. We don't want peace, we just want quite. 

So Baltimore went back to the strategy that first got your attention this past summer. If ever violence emerges, it is because we have not listening when it's peaceful. Pay attention, and then maybe it won't have to get to this point.

"Our nation's summers of riots are caused by our nation's winters of delay." 

"Though I cry, 'Violence!' I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Friday Fruit (08/12/16)

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, August 7, 2016

For Such a Time as This: Black Power at the Olympics

It's a famous image. Capturing a controversial moment of Olympic proportions.

How could they disrespect the American flag?
How dare they use their victory as a political platform?
Why would they air domestic matter at an apolitical and international event?
How could they be so ungrateful to a country that they should be honored to represent?

Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze (respectively) in the 200 meter track race in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico. At the medal ceremony while the United States anthem was played, they wore black gloves on raised fists. They bowed their heads.

Their black socks without any shoes represented Black poverty at home. They wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges to identify their cause. Carlos unzipped his tracksuit in solidarity with blue-collar workers, and wore a beaded necklace "for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage."

They were booed off the field and expelled from the rest of the Games. They received death threats against themselves and against their families. Smith was fired from his job.  Carlos's marriage ended in divorce, and his ex-wife later committed suicide.

It was a steep price, but both athletes to this day affirm they would do it again. Smith said "If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight."

They were asked to compartmentalize their identities. To ignore how they were treated at home for the sake of American success abroad. They were asked to be "just Americans" when that right was never afforded to them in their daily reality.

In a country that limits the value of Black lives to their roles as entertainers and athletes, they were given a podium and they could not let the moment go by. They used their platform to speak up for the millions who were being silenced.

Today, Smith and Carlos are largely seen as Civil Rights heroes, but the U.S. Olympic Committee has never revisited their 1968 sanctions (see article: Ongoing Miscarriage of Justice by U.S. Olympic Committee).

The white man on the podium also has a lesson for us today. He could have said it was not his issue. He could have been a passive observer. He could have tried to talk them into being less controversial with their message. But instead Australian silver medalist Peter Norman also chose to wear the human rights badge, saying “I’ll stand with you.” As a result, he too was vilified and ostracized at home, and he was not invited back to the next Olympic Games.

Today, many other athletes are using their positions to speak up and speak out. They too are being told to just “shut up and play the game.” Be quiet and entertain us. But don't you dare make us feel uncomfortable. Don't challenge the system that got you to this place.

But I am reminded of Esther, whose role was simply to charm and entertain the King. Yet by jeopardizing her position and speaking out, she saved the future of her people. Indeed, Mordecai urged her "if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)

Does God not call us into our current situations to affect great social change? Out of our unique opportunities should we not speak tremendous truth to power? Don't each of us have a responsibility to influence the world around in whatever role we have been given?

Reflection: What platform do you have and how are you using it to bring awareness to today's issues of injustice?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Friday Fruit (08/04/16)

The Problem With Viral Videos of Cops Giving Out Ice Cream
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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