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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I am racist.

Rev. Diane Kenaston
The following comes from a Rev. Diane Kenaston (originally posted here), the pastor of University United Methodist Church in St. Louis, which has a vision of growing as a multicultural, intergenerational congregation where people of all ages, nations, and races can "Be You, Be Loved, and Belong." 

I am racist.

I participate in racist systems and structures.

When I take an implicit bias test, my result is a “strong automatic preference for White people over Black people.” This has been true for at least ten years. (Take the test yourself at ).

This sickens me and I cannot ignore it or deny it. It is part of who I am.

If you think that other people have been unfairly blaming or labeling you ("how dare you call me racist!"), it's time to look inward.

Racism, sexism, ableism, and all the other -isms are the powers and principalities of our age. We are part of patriarchal, white supremacist structures whether we choose to or not. As my favorite academic dean is fond of saying, "The whole damn system is guilty as hell!"

Image resultIt's not just about overtly racist acts and language. If being redeemed from racism meant just avoiding certain words or not committing hate crimes, then I could earn my own salvation.

But just as sin is way more than "the bad things we do," the sin of racism is way more than bigoted acts.

Even our best efforts at "doing good" are going to in some way fail because we are trapped in this body of death, in this creation that groans and aches for redemption. Yes, Jesus has already won and the kingdom of God has begun — but the full working out of Christ’s reign and the ultimate reconciliation of the world to himself are still ongoing.

And as part of that ongoing reconciliation, I confess my own sin. I'm led to repentance. And that’s what we need. We need a whole nation of white Christians willing to look honestly at ourselves in the mirror and say, “Yes, that’s me."

Lord, have mercy.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Refugee Thanksgiving

The follow first ran this time last year, but it seems all the more relevant right now: 

Norman Rockwell's painting 'Refugee Thanksgiving' of a refugee blessing a meager mealThere is a fear. A fear that they will arrive poor, needing to be taken care of. That they'll be ignorant of our customs and culture. That they will take our jobs, or be dependent on our charity. That they'll bring disease and violence, that they intend to do us harm. That our own hard working residents will have to support them with welfare, and what is ours will be stolen. That once they cross the water, they'll never go back.

And yet, this week we give thanks for a time when hundreds of undocumented immigrants flooded to this land. They failed to assimilate. They scorned the dominant culture. They spoke their own language and refused to adopt the language of the land they had entered.

They brought disease. They brought violence. They brought terror. They were dependent on the social welfare handouts of those who had worked hard to get what they had. What wasn't freely given, they stole. They refused to go back to their own country. But we celebrate them each year on Thanksgiving day.

So which is it? Do we honor immigrants or revile them? Do we value helping those in need, or is it a sign of our weakness? Do we share what we have, or do we hoard it in barns? Do we welcome the stranger or do we send them packing?

A family escapes slavery on a horse
I suppose our answer simply depends on which side of the border we find ourselves.

A month from now, there'll be another holiday.  One that also celebrates a refugee. A Middle Eastern child whose undocumented parents smuggled him across a border to keep him safe from the slaughter that was happening in their homeland. This Holy Family fled to Egypt, where also there had once been a baby that was hidden in a makeshift boat to escape violence and oppression.

We are a Church whose history is filled with refugees who have been the pillars of our faith. Indeed, we pray to a God that does not heartlessly tell us to "go away," but says instead tells us "welcome home." We are foreigners that have been welcomed into God's Sovereign State. Will we not offer others the same?
Image result for "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." -Nelson Mandela
You cannot honor the Thanksgiving story and slam the doors of the country at the same time. Are we a 'nation under God with liberty and justice for all?' Or do we imprison and abuse? Do we say “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” or do shout in the face of Christ  "Not this Man, but Barabbas."

There is a fear. A fear that if we open our arms, it will destroy who we are. But we should be more afraid of what happens if we won't.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Friday Fruit (11/18/16)

Black man in navy blue polo shirt
Philando Castile
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, November 13, 2016

Deep in my heart, I do believe

I've largely stayed off social media this week. I just couldn't deal with it. So here is simply a reflection of what has been swirling in my own head and heart tonight:

Image resultThis year, Good Friday came on a Wednesday morning. Or at least that's what it felt like.
My soul was heavy. Withdrawing. Weepy all day.

It wasn't because my candidate or party lost, it wasn't sour grapes or because I'm a sore loser. It was because of the kick-to-the-gut reality that my most cynical conception of this country seemed to be too true. The reality that hateful rhetoric still woos. That demonizing the other still wins elections. It was strange to feel so disappointed, even while having known for some time that this country's racial sins were still so deep and abiding.

Trump's popularity firmly demonstrates we've never been colorblind or over our racism, and that such a mindset simply hides the problems this country has. Perhaps the blatant bigotry that was exhibited in his campaign has finally jarred some people out of their denial of modern racism. Or perhaps it's just given "good white folk" someone to scapegoat, while ignoring our own implicit biases and systematic contributions.

Is this the final temper tantrum of a dying breed? Or is it the harbinger of even worse behavior that is yet to come as white America feels its power slipping, feels its back against the wall?

Already people want to make excuses, to pretend that the months of hateful rhetoric was just lip service to gain attention.Yes, there are multiple factors at play. Yes, there may have been other reasons to vote for Trump.  But a vote for him meant that those reasons were fundamentally more important to his supporters than the pain and suffering of millions of their fellow Americans. Millions in our country have been violently threatened, and America didn't care. They voted for him anyway.

So many people in my life are hurting, scared, feeling unloved, or unworthy. In our neighborhood there are scores of people who fear deportation and hate crimes. In our offices are newlyweds scared to see their marriages torn apart. On our campus are young women scared to go the next party, knowing "locker room talk" often becomes action. In our church are dozens who are at risk of losing the healthcare that has made such a difference in their lives.

A Call to White People
For many people of color and the many other oppressed groups that have been targeted by painful words and deeds in these last months (years, decades, centuries), now is time for mourning, for weeping, for lament. Creating space to nurse tender wounds, to love one another deeply, and reaffirm for each other the fundamental truths of our humanity. In these spaces, calls for national unity, support of country, and reconciliation can feel callous and even cruel. This is not the time, this not the place.

Image resultBut my call to white people, people of privilege, people of power, is to double down on your efforts to combat oppression, both the blatant and the sly. It is time to stand firm and proclaim"not on my presence" to the ugliness that this elections has revealed.

It does not take a lot of bravery to preach to the choir. It is not courageous to condemn bigotry from within your own filter bubble. Pontificating to other white folk who are "down with the cause" does very little to protect and strengthen the lives of the oppressed.

No, what is needed is your voice in the intimate moments, the private interactions with your friends, your family, your business partners, your donors...the ones that influence your daily life. It is in conversations with these individuals that you are being called to speak up. Not to just let it pass, not to just let it slide, not to just keep the peace. It is your job (you!) to stand up and speak out, particularly when it hurts your status the most. Speak in love, and perhaps with a quiver...but speak. (Remember, friends, Thanksgiving is coming...and it's going to come up).

New Fruit
This morning was Sunday morning. And while is hardly yet Christmas time, much less Easter, this morning it felt like perhaps we might still be at the beginning of resurrection after all. One more time, we came together as the Church for All People. Once more time, we worshiped side-by-side across race, class, cultural divisions. One more time, we proclaimed that this is what God would have for us. And one more time, we refused to let go of that dream.

Together we sang the old songs of the Church, that were birthed out of dire situations of violence and oppression, when there seemed to be no hope. And yet there we stood, the fulfillment of the dreams of so many who had come before. Dreams that may have been deferred, and parts of which are still being deferred. But yet our very existence testified to the hope on which we must once again lean.

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Together, we sang "Goodness is Stronger than Evil," "We've Come This Far By Faith, " "I Know the Lord Will Make a Way for You and I" and "I don't believe God's brought me this far to leave me." Finally, we closed worship at UM Church for All People, on the Sunday after the 2016 Presidential Election with one last song, as we locked arms in promise and solidarity with one another:

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday

We are not afraid
We are not afraid
We are not afraid today
Deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome someday

Sometime faith is simply speaking truth to ourselves and getting up again to face the next day.
It may feel like Good Friday, but Sunday's coming.
This is our fruit.
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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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