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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sanctuary for Edith Espinal

Image may contain: 6 people, people standingThe Church is a place of sanctuary. This legacy goes back to the earliest days of our faith, offering refuge and shelter for those being persecuted. Will God's people offer sanctuary today? 

Edith Espinal has lived in Columbus, OH a long time. Her three children live here too, and two of them are citizens. Four years ago, she applied for asylum but was denied, as were her subsequent appeals. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) has given her final notice and she now wears an ankle monitor. On September 18, she faces deportation.

"I don’t want to leave behind my children"

Edith has no criminal record, she's never even gotten a speeding ticket. 

"I'm not a bad person. I've always tried to follow the law"

Columbus faith leaders, spearheaded by Columbus Mennonite Church, are asking ICE "to hear the plea of our neighbor, and join us in keeping her home with her family...We will continue to walk with Edith and her family in hope and prayer until she receives a stay of removal." Without this stay, Edith will be deported. 

How do we as Christians walk in accompaniment with Edith and her family? 
Theirs represents the thousands of other families in similar situations. Afraid of being taken from their home. Afraid of losing their loved ones. Afraid of what comes next.

These are real people. They have faces, they have names. 
Moreover, they are the face of Christ. Will we offer him sanctuary, or will we send him away? 


Luchamos al fin.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Dream on Dreamer

The following is adapted from a sermon originally given in honor of  MLK Sunday by Rev. Karen Cook. Today, it is reposted as a word of encouragement to DREAMers who face uncertain futures in these times. We love you, we'll keep fighting for you. Dream on.

He was one of the youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph the dreamer.

How many of you dream?  What will it take for us to just let go and dream?  Why do dreams puzzle us?  What make a dream a good dream or a bad dream?  

Dream on Dreamer.   

Joseph had these two dreams and he made the mistake of sharing these dreams with his brothers. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” (Genesis 37:6-7)

I didn’t have brothers or sisters but I can just image with my minds eye some jealousy was rearing its ugly head. How dare Joseph have the audacity share this dream with his brothers, his half brothers at that.  Before Joseph’s brothers could recover from the shock of his first dream he told them about the second dream.  

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Gen. 37:9) Not only did the brothers react but daddy had something to say this time.  “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?”  (Gen. 37:10) 

Dream on Dreamer.

It was on a hot Wednesday, August 28, 1963, that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed for all American and all of the world to hear: 
Image result for mlk
"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood... 
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
Dream on Dreamer.  

Joseph’s half brother Reuben said, “let’ not kill him; let’s defer him.” Other brothers said, “Let’s sell him into slavery, and file him away in that part of the memory bank labeled deferred and forgotten.  
And we will see what will become of his dreams.”

Joseph’s brothers made a big mistake.  

Joseph tells his brothers about his dreamsThey didn’t know that the Dream-Giver was using what they meant for evil would be used to bring about the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream. They didn’t know that God was using the evil to fortify Joseph and his faith for that moment when Joseph’s own brothers would come to his doorstep begging for bread.  

Because Joseph waited on God, he had been allowed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Because he had trusted the God who gave him this dream; that same God had taken those same dreams that people said couldn’t and wouldn’t never be; and brought them to fulfillment.  That same God had taken those same dreams that folk said he was uppity for dreaming and had no right to dream and turned them into living realities.  I can see Joseph as he looked at his brothers and said, 
“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

What happens when a dreamer is attacked and his or her dream deferred?  I’ll tell you what happens. The same God who gave the dream uses those hardships, uses the suffering, uses the pain, uses the obstacles which were meant to destroy God’s servants.  Hear this beloved, God will use it as a means to fortify and strengthen the dreamer.  Beloved, I know it may not feel like it now but hold on dreamer, hold on.

The bible says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

Complentative MLKHis body could be killed but neither Dr. King nor the dream itself could be destroyed because Dr. King had learned to trust the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God of Joseph, the God of his mother and father, the God who had set his soul on fire and told him, “I have set thee a watchman on the wall” (Ezekiel 3:17)

Dr. King learned that in all things God’s grace is still sufficient and God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. (Hebrews 11:34)

Dr. King knew that no matter what people said about him or did to him he could not be discredited with God, who had put on his back the multicolored robe of mercy, redemption, salvation, love, and forgiveness which had been purchased by the blood of Jesus on Calvary’s tree.

What happens when the dreamer is attacked and his or her dream deferred?  If you trust God, he will let you see the fulfillment of your dreams.

Beloved, if God has shown you a book and it says authored by________, yet you don’t have a computer or a laptop, or an iPad, baby write that thing out long hand. 

Dream on Dreamer.

If God has put a song in your heart and a melody in your soul, yet you can’t play a lick, baby write down those words and keep humming that melody.  

Dream on Dreamer.

If you are the best cook this side of Parsons Ave. and you see yourself in your own restaurant, baby keep on cooking.  

Dream on Dreamer.

If God has called you to teach, yet you don’t have a degree don’t let that stop you, teach baby teach. Teach your children, teach your grandchildren, teach in Sunday School, teach a bible study. 

Dream on Dreamer.

There maybe one here today, your dream has been laying dormant for many years. If that is you, today starts your journey of fulfilling your dream. I need somebody to shout…I’m getting my dream back!

Dream on Dreamer!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Labor Day

Cartoon: Executive hanging a 'happy labor day' sign while standing on the back of a laborerOnce per year the USA celebrates Labor Day, a national holiday originating from 1800's celebrations of trade workers and the social/economic benefits they bring to our society. So, is this holiday only an antiquated excuse for an extra time to sleep in?

Let's use the day to examine the serious economic and labor struggles that still plague our country.

It is increasingly difficult for the average worker to support a family. In most states, minimum wage is well below the living wage (there is a big difference between the two). Ironically, thousands of folks will go to work on Labor Day because they need the money and can't afford a day of rest.

When folks are desperate for work, they will endure any number of abuses or indignities. They may work in dangerous environments, or be paid less than promised. Workers may be given insufficient training, leading to injury or embarrassment when they don't perform to standards.

A cartoon shark dressed as a loan shark
Employees may be held at work long after their shift is over, if that is what the boss deems necessary. Maybe they need to pick the kids up from school, but they don't dare leave and risk losing their jobs. Workers may be required to maintain an open schedule to be placed in shifts as is convenient for the company, but may not be told their schedule until the last minute, and so cannot line up child care or other jobs.

Folks may spend an hour on the bus to get to a job, only to arrive and find out they aren't needed that day. Or they work for two hours and then get sent home. "Try again tomorrow." And if they don't show up for that chance, they know they loose the opportunity for later.

There are serious consequences of this labor disparity. Workers skip meals so that their children may eat. Folks turn to loan sharks to make ends meet, entrenching themselves in a spiral of debt (see post: The Cost of Being Poor). Families make tough choices to cut out "non-essentials" like medicine (see post: Healthcare Reform), clothing, and nutritious food.

And as the nation bemoaned the 7% unemployment rate, unemployment in communities of color remains at 13%--the same racialized wage disparity ratio that Dr. King bemoaned in 1967. Indeed, while analysts fret about about the housing market, there continue to be huge disparities in homeownership across race.

Book cover: Nickel and Dimed
Take a close look at the words of Jeremiah 22:13-16. Woe to we that profit from injustice and gain economic security at the expense of others! We "who make our neighbor serve us for nothing and do not give them their wages." Jesus himself urges that "the workers deserve their wages." And yet, as more states put an end to collective bargaining, the wealthy receive a smaller tax burden now than they have in the last 80 years.

Part of our problem is that we have a very warped perspective of economic reality. Particularly since housing in the United States is largely segregated by economic standing, people look around themselves and feel that, on the whole, there is equal opportunity and prosperity for everyone.

PBS News Hour recently conducted an informal survey, asking people identify the sort of economy that exist in the USA. Their findings are telling. Also, Jon Stewart points out the huge economic disparities that most folks gloss over. Both of these videos are embedded below.

Take time this week to give thanks for your own economic security, no matter what level it is at.
For more insight into the issues mentioned above, read Barbara Ehrenreich's 'Nickel and Dimed' or play this excellent interactive game to see what choices you would make given some stark realities.




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Friday Fruit (09/01/17)

Lorna Simpson, candid. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.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, August 24, 2017

Friday Fruit (08/24/17)

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 13, 2017

#Charlottesville

Image result for wake up and do somethingWhat else is there to say? Have we not convinced you?

Were you surprised at the images and videos this weekend?
Did you think we were exaggerating when we said the nation's demons were being released?

"I can't believe this is happening"
Aren't you persuaded yet?

Or maybe you are, but you're paralyzed. Feeling overwhelmed, helpless. Deadened.
But it is you that the movement needs. Your voice that must be heard.

Have you spoken up yet? At the dinner table, in the office?
Have you put a stop to snide remarks and crude judgements?
Have you done the hard work on your own heart?

It takes each one of us. Particularly those that haven't been vocal to this point.
Maybe you thought others were handling it. Maybe you thought it wasn't your fight.
Maybe you thought it was too controversial. But the reality is, it takes you.

Image result for charlottesville rally cartoonPeople of color fight these forces every single day, not just when it hits main stream news.
What are white folks willing to do?

What will you do?

And what about the Church? Our worlds' beacon of hope, justice, and mercy?
Has your church spoken up yet? If not now, then when?

Many laws have come and gone. It's the Church that is charged with changing hearts and minds.
How will the church respond when hate is perpetrated?--not in spite of Christian beliefs, but often because they are Christian.

We need a Church that will redeem us from our nation's sins, so that we don't have to relive it all once again. So that we don't have to go through this one more time. So we don't have to see these scenes yet again.

What will your church do?

"It is not the episodic marches and rallies that define white supremacy,
it is the ordinary, dull ways that society props up the racial caste system
that lead to the most egregious offenses."
-Jemar Tisby

Sunday, August 6, 2017

On Affirmative Action

In discussions about "reverse discrimination" the conversation often quickly slides to the subject of affirmative action. Dr. Tatum devotes an entire chapter to the subject, subtitled "I'm in favor of affirmative action except when it comes to my jobs." She notes that many white people wonder "Will I get the job I want or will it go to some 'minority'?" The implication being that the minority that got the job is inherently less qualified and only got it based on color.

Obama  acknowledged fears of white people in his A More Perfect Union speech:
"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything. They built it from scratch...And in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in  urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time..."
Particularly in this economy, it's scary to think that one might lose an opportunity because of skin color. But this is a  fear that people of color have  to deal with every day--and have been for centuries.

But two wrongs, don't make a right, so let me try to explain why I don't think affirmative action is a wrong.

Those that don't like affirmative action generally feel that through these policies their whiteness becomes a disadvantage. In fact, white privilege and systemic disparity acts to bolster white folks so much that whiteness can never truly be a disadvantage--affirmative action just makes it so we aren't so way out ahead (see post on so-called 'White victims of racism').

Forty-years of "advantage" cannot begin to reverse the 500 year head-start white people had (see post: Academic Admissions), or erase the economic and psychological mars that oppression has left on >40% of this country. There are still severe inequalities that prevent otherwise-qualified people from coming to the interview with a fair shot. We have a responsibility to rectify the discrimination in the classroom and in the workplace, as well as the historical head start white folks have had. 

One problem affirmative action faces is that it gets confused with quotas. Filling quotas and affirmative action are two different things. In my view, quotas are used to fulfill a requirement and then say "there. we're done. we can stop now. we have our token minorities." It is a system totally unrelated to merit or qualifications, which is why a lot of white people freak out about it. These practices are no longer allowed.

Affirmative action, on the other hand, when done well, is goal driven. That means the numbers can be exceeded and the policy acts to aid the company's success as well as that of the employees'. Remember that "seeking the empowerment of people of color is not the same as disenfranchising white people." The idea of proactive enrollment is that you decide what qualifications one needs to be successful, including a diverse background with an understanding of multiculturalism, and then you stick to those qualifications. You cast your net wide, advertising the position in Black Enterprise (or whatever applies to your field), and you remember that bringing diversity into the workplace is one of the job qualifications during the interview process. Keep in mind, there are many white people that fulfill this requirement and everyone has  the opportunity to gain a background in cultural diversity, but more people of color may have taken advantage of those opportunities (often can hardly help but to!) and so may be more likely to fit the job description.

Allow me to describe a situation where the model I describe might be relevant.

Applications for medical school are a tough business. What does it take to get in? It takes top notch grades for sure. Last year's Ohio State class had an undergraduate GPA averaging 3.7. The next biggest thing is the MCAT--OSU's average is a 33. So lets assume anyone with those numbers is fit to be a good doctor. Then what? OSU says you will need clinical and research experience, 'leadership,' 'volunteer service,' and 'extracurricular activities.' What exactly does all that mean? And how much is enough? who knows.

There are thousands of med school applicants with high high GPAs and MCAT scores. So in what activities could an applicant participate to make her application more attractive? Debate team? Orchestra? Baseball? What about becoming a member of a Diversity Roundtable, or the Multicultural Student Union. Attending a diversity retreat. Going to events where you are in the racial minority. These options promote the development of any number of important skills for med school: well-roundedness (so you don't go crazy in your first year),  cross-cultural understanding (vital for any doctor who wants to see patients outside her immediate family), relating to different perspectives (collaboration is the new hot trend in the research community), empathy, patience (hello bedside manner!).

Maybe a candidate has a 3.7 GPA AND was a member of the biology honors society, phi beta kappa, and graduated magma cum laude.  But so what? Those accolades are largely redundant. We already said a 3.7 makes you a good doctor, so stick to that qualification, and accept a student who brings other qualifications in addition.

Once we have determined when a student is academically smart enough to become a doctor, lets make another priority be that she is culturally smart enough to be a good doctor. If this were more a part of our rubric, I actually think a lot fewer white people would qualify. 

People that grow up in a similar way will think a similar way, will tackle problems in similar ways. This is not a good way to run any organization. We limit ourselves and each other. We have no idea what innovations we are missing by limiting ourselves to work with those like us. 

I cringe to think of how long ago we might have had the cure to cancer if we were taking advantage the all brilliant minds that, though historic discrimination, had to struggle through school while they worked part-time to help support their family (it is easy to get into college when you don't have to worry about the next utility bill). Or what about the inventor of an eco-friendly biofuel that couldn't get a job interview because she has a funny name? Or the broker of peace in the Middle East that got teased so much in high school that he didn't have the confidence to apply for college. It happens. And we are screwing ourselves over because of it.

Image result for cast a wide netLet's be clear though, our own evangelical and economic benefit is not the primary reason to rectify discriminatory hiring practices, it is only a fringe benefit.

The heart of the matter is recognizing that there is systemic injustice. And with it comes our responsibility to care for others and make sure that we work to right the wrongs that brought us to that place of privilege (you know...'love one another,' 'give the cloak off your back,' 'do justice, and love kindness').

Too many employers stop at the 'cast the net wide' part of creating an open interview process. They figure they will advertise widely and then just choose the best candidate. But this strategy ignores the systematic advantages that white people have to making it through the interview process (or even TO the interview process).

Many studies show that when resumes are close or identical in their content, black candidates are more likely to loose out on the job.  White folk have the right hair, the right cloths, the right accent. How must it feel to worry whether wearing your hair the way God put in on your head will keep you from getting a job? 

A couple of important points to leave you with. First thing to remember: just because someone is black in a predominantly white work environment does NOT mean that person got the job because of affirmative action. And even if she did, that fact has no bearing on her ability to do the job, or how qualified she is. Affirmative action is here to ensure that the many highly talented minority applicants get seen, heard, and hired, despite the  pressures in society to keep them invisible.

Second, those that have benefited for so long from an unjust system owe it to our workplaces, our churches, our sisters and brothers of color, and ourselves to make some sacrifices to reverse wrongs done. We have an imperative to fix the wrong that we benefit from, even if we personally didn't cause it to develop. 

Take a look at Acts 6:1-7, with the concept of affirmative action in mind. This is a story about how the church first deals with marginalized members of its community and how it uses affirmative action to remedy the situation. A minority group of Jews were complaining that their widows weren't getting their fair share of the food distributions. And what did the Apostles do about it? They promoted seven (fully qualified: "full of the Spirit and wisdom") Greek leaders to make sure rations were distributed fairly, not only to the Greek widows, but to everyone in the community. The apostles gave  full support to this 'equal employment opportunity' by laying hands on them and blessing them.

Notice that, after it was brought to their attention, the Apostles recognized and acknowledged that an injustice was occurring. They didn't dismiss the complaint, or claim that the Hellenistic Jews were just trying gain an unfair advantage. They didn't blame the victim, or claim it was a "Greek problem" to be solved by the Greek community. They stepped up a fixed the situation. And what happened? "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith"

I don't know how to right the centuries of racial wrongs that have compounded themselves. I don't know if the methods discussed here even come close-- at best they are indirect solutions that don't guarantee immediate equality. But it might help, and for now, it is all the law allows. And we have do something.

To close, Ta-Nehisi Coates articulates some good points in this article Black Privilege for The Atlantic:
There are some legitimate criticisms of Affirmative Action. I think this is one of the dumbest: the underlying premise is that society is generally fair, and no one receives a leg up ever, except black people. Or it assumes that such advantages exist, but negritude, in the nation of white leagues, black codes, and red lines, imparts the sort of boost heretofore unwitnessed. 
But the history of America, itself, is, in no small measure, the history of an Affirmative Action program for white people. Mitt Romney was born in a Detroit neighborhood where the deed read
"Said lots shall not be sold or leased to or occupied by any person or persons other than of the Caucasian race. But this shall not be interpreted to exclude occupancy by persons other than of the Caucasian race when such occupancy is incidental to their employment on the premises." 
In other words, the neighborhood, like virtually every nice neighborhood in Detroit, and many throughout the country, was a giant set-aside for white people who didn't want to compete with blacks. But no one feels that Mitt Romney achievements--or the achievements of white people in general--are tainted by red-lining. No one says, "Would Mitt Romney have succeeded without race preferences?"

...I've talked repeatedly about my concerns with race-based Affirmative Action. But none of those concerns involve ill-gotten goods. Who is the successful human who can claim that they have never, not once, been advantaged by society? And who, with honesty and intelligence, would seriously claim that, among those advantages, black privilege is king?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

We ARE the Body of Christ: #AllPeoplePractices

Image result for donita harrisThe following is taken from a sermon by Pastor Donita Harris on this the 10th anniversary UM Church for All People being in its building. Her scripture text for the morning was 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

Today as we celebrate 10 years of ministry in this building, Apostle Pauls’ message aligns perfectly with the evolution of who we continue to become as a worshiping congregation.  Paul’s message to us today emphasizes the reality and importance of our diversity.

The basic point of the entire 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians, is that all the members of a church/ a faith community contribute to the over well being, the health of the church. No one in the church is an extra that the church can just as well do without. Paul will inform us that everybody is somebody because we’re in this together.

Paul is so intent on driving home this point of our oneness in the church that he refers to Christ as the church. Paul, has learned that every believer is a member of Christ’s body. Likewise, you and I are members of the body of Christ.  I chose a translation that uses the term parts instead of members to identify limbs and organs, to emphasize we are not as members of the Jesus club but as a part of a living breathing entity. He continues to drive this important analogy between the human body and the body of Christ, using the fearfully wonderfully connectedness of our human body.

Image result for church for all people columbus umI love the imagery! I don’t know if Paul means to be humorous, because he has a serious point to get across. However, I must admit after I read this passage a couple of times I thought about just one body part trying to do the Hokey Pokey. It is hard to picture this huge eyeball rolling around, or even better, a gigantic ear hopping about?  How can we dance with God if we don’t embrace all of God’s parts as valuable?

When Paul was writing his first letter to the Corinthians, he was dealing with a problem of division. It turns out the Corinthians had fallen into this worldly trap of creating a hierarchy where there was no need for one, and some people were setting themselves over and above the others. Others unfortunately, who lacked the more spectacular gifts of others were discouraged and began to ask whether they had any place or function in the church. The church was dividing not uniting.

When Paul refers to the foot and ear he speaks to members suffering “I am not good enough.”  Think about it if the foot could speak, it most likely would reveal a feeling of insignificance.  Hands seem to have such value. During a church vote, no one in a meeting says, “Raise your foot” it’s always “Raise your hand!” The foot thinks, “The hand has so much dexterity, it can pick a scalpel and do delicate operations. Hands play the piano or violin. There was a reason why washing a guest’s feet was a common act of courtesy – in Paul’s day they were dirty. Feet come in contact with dirt and mud. They are the lowest members of the body.

Yet, the body would be in bad shape without a foot. Did you know that you use more than 200 different muscles to walk? If your feet and their muscles are not working well you aren’t going very far.  Their role to play in the body is absolutely essential. They literally hold up the body. They permit the body to move about. Without them, the body would not be whole. If can’t Hokey Pokey and turn yourself about without your feet. Stay with me, we are dancing with God!

Similarly, the ear feels inferior to the eye. It may be up high on the body, but it does not compare with the eye in receiving praise.  The eye is out front. Lovers gaze into one another’s eyes; the only one I can remember looking onto my ears my mother and all she ever says is, “Wash those dirty ears!” Poets write poems about the eye but never about the ear. Yet when we listen to the music that soothes our soul we often close our eyes to better hear. Often after reading beautiful poetry or a powerful scripture passage we close our eyes. To better hear and imagine.

And what about the nose? Referred to in passage as the sense of smell essential to the whole. How many times have we taken pleasure in smelling flowers or a fresh baked pie? How many times have we avoided something harmful because of the foul odor? Smelling serves a needed service, though we would not think to rate in high on the list of essential body parts.

Image result for church for all people columbus um
Now, the feet and the hands, the ears and the eyes, even the nose all exist according to God’s plan. There are no spare parts. The issue is addressed on several occasions in this letter, self-importance was indeed a problem among the Corinthians. Folks suffering from I am enough and all the church needs. The eye and the head no matter what it sees or thinks need feet to put it thoughts and visions into action. If you don’t elevate your thinking about lowly feet the body doesn’t move.

Unity in diversity is a concept of "unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation" that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions.

From its apostolic beginnings, then, the Church has always been thought of as a community of diverse members with diverse gifts, and the diversity of the saints continues to testify to how differently the same Christian faith and life may be expressed in this world. The idea is sometimes rooted in our teaching about the Holy Trinity: God is a unity, one God, in a diversity of persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

Image result for church for all people columbus umIt is not difficult to see where Paul is heading with this body analogy even as he turns in his metaphor, to what most likely are internal organs and what we refer to as our “private areas.” In verses 22-25, Paul argues that every member of the body is necessary. There are no exceptions. Those body parts that are deemed weaker, less honorable, or less presentable are all critically important. Paul rejected the Corinthians criteria for evaluating which gifts were most honorable. Internal and external parts of the body needed to create a balance whole.

In 12:26, Paul pens one of the most powerful verses in the Scriptures: "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it."  Indeed, it is through suffering that we learn how important the parts of the body are. If the head forgets about the feet, just stub a toe; the head will pay attention! Furthermore, if you dislocate a tiny bone in your foot your whole body is miserable. The converse is also true. The head might ache if the back is in pain. Cure the back pain, and the headache disappears. Or if you’ve ever been sick with a cold or the flu you know that a simple cold, cough, or sore throat can affect your entire body. Appreciate the solidarity of the body. Fearfully and wonderfully made.  No spare parts.

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We are not here by chance. Can you remember what originally attracted you to this place and why you stay?  I believe it is because of the Body itself—all of us as members; all of us who have allowed the call of Christ to be lived out through our relationships together. We are here because we know we are deeply connected to one another.   As members of the same body we are so closely bound together that we actually share the same feelings. What causes joy for one member delights all of us the whole body. When one member suffers we share the pain, the entire body hurts. When I look out at your I am often astounded by how deeply your connected to my soul. Look around you. Is it true for you?

Our ten years in this place is fruitful because you graced this place with your entire body. We have experienced the truth that not all differences divide. We know in fact, some differences make for an even deeper unity. We also know not all differences can be held together. Some differences between us really do divide us and truly challenge us to appreciate our “Unity in Diversity.” We tend to forget that many of the strengths we so admire in one person are often incompatible with the strengths we admire in another. The grace of a figure skater is useless to a Sumo wrestler.  We need the diversity of each person for the body of Christ to function.

Image result for church for all people columbus umAgain I say Paul’s metaphor of the many “parts” (or members) of the body is one of the most powerful in scripture. The diversity of the body is something beyond debate. No two parts of the body are identical, not only are your hands and feet different but your left hand and right hand are different. I have a cousin who has one blue eye and one brown eye.  Yet it easy if not natural for us to see in our mind’s eye the picture of a body working in perfect harmony. The ears listening to the sounds as the eyes take in the surroundings. The brain processes the information, while the hand writes—taking notes, and the mouth speaks, sharing the experience.

And that, says Paul, is how the body Christ works, too. Each member with all of its parts working together. Each part being fully aware of the Spirit that holds us together and directs our work; guiding us to use our gifts for the “common good.”   The Church is to be the place where, together, we learn how to be God’s genuinely human beings. Worshiping God and serving God by reflecting God’s diverse image into the world and to one another!

In today’s world it is a beautiful image that that cannot be realized without intention. God created a great physical body and an opportunity for us to an indispensable part of a spiritual body. God invites us through Christ to all be heading in a common direction. Able to face this paradox of being so dramatically different, while seeing ourselves the same in the marvelous light of Christ.

Here at the Church for All People we know keeping the Body of Christ as diverse as possible keeps on the path of experiencing the fullness of God. The only way to dance with God through this life into the other is with each other.  And there are many others to invite to the dance be it a waltz or the Hokey Pokey. We know there are others who are the same kind of different as us. Let’s invite them to the dance.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Implicit Bias vs Explicit Bias

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Deciderata Explains Implicit Bias
For most of U.S. history, racism has been overtly on display and at a conscious level. Signs designated separate seating. Slurs were common designators. Racially-targeted violence went unchallenged. Laws unabashedly identified people of color as less than human.

After the Civil Rights Movement, the explicit bias of previous eras largely gave way to the more subtle, but still pernicious, era of 'colorblind racism'. With its being no longer socially acceptable to display blatant bigotry, racism had to evolve, surviving and thriving amidst a strategy of ignoring race all together. It was this colorblind era that gave us mass incarcerationstop-and-friskthe school-to-prison pipelinechildren at our borderdetention centers, and racist mascots.

These systems emerged and expanded largely due to implicit bias.  Implicit biases are the "judgments and/or behaviors that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control." We all have them, and they develop out of our brain's beneficial ability to identify patterns. But it goes awry when we inappropriately affix significance to social identities resulting in adverse outcomes for others.

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It affects us all
Racial implicit bias manifests itself in everything from assumptions about sports prowess, to who we hire/fire, to who we are afraid of as we walk down the street. To combat our implicit biases, we must first become aware of their existence (try an IAT test!), so that we can consciously combat their effects on our thought processes and actions. Implicit bias can’t be fixed with colorblindness, in fact colorblindness makes it worse.

While overt racism never really went away, over the years implicit bias was allowed to take root and fester, unexamined and unchecked. The result has been decades of accumulated disparity, often perpetuated by unwitting 'basically good' people. Resumes were overlooked, mortgages and leases were declined, school applications were denied--indeed innocent people were shot. All because largely well-meaning people, acted on their implicit biases, often without even realizing they are contributing to systemic racism in our society.

Image result for moving sidewalk racismWe each have the opportunity to confront our own biases and begin to combat their effects on our lives adn the lives around us. Dr. Beverly Tatum describes racism as a moving sidewalk in society--even if we are standing still we are still moving with the system and allowing racism to persist. Changing the situation requires actively turning around, indeed repenting, and walking against the way things are currently set up. Let us each identify and walk against the many moving sidewalks on which we find ourselves.

Most recently, explicit bias has made comeback. We've observed a resurgence in overt fear and hate in ways we largely haven't seen since the Civil Rights Movement. If we’re not careful, this dynamic will lower the bar for racial progress, and allow well-meaning individuals to rest in the comfort of knowing that at least we’re not like those ‘bad apples.’ But let us not be lured into thinking explicit racism is its only form. Instead, we must continue to uncover and counteract our own implicit biases, understanding the profound role they play in perpetuating systemic injustice around us.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Looked with Compassion

Image result for bad eyesightThe following a sermon from Pastor Greg Henneman that he preached based on Matthew 14 after Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted for shooting of Philando Castile.

I was born with bad eyesight.

I have one eye that is not horrible, it is around 20/80, but in my other eye I am legally blind. However, I have lazy eye in the good eye so my body primarily uses the bad eye. Basically, I am blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other.

All of my life I have had to wear glasses in order to see the world clearly. In fact, three out of four people in the United States wear some kind of corrective lenses, whether glasses or reading glasses or contact lenses. The vast majority of us need some help to see the world around us more clearly.

While most of us need glasses to improve our physical vision, all of us need help to learn how to see the world as God sees the world. We all need to learn how to see one another like Jesus.

In Matthew 14, Jesus had just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist, was brutally executed through the influence of the king’s sister in law. John, a faithful, religious man, the one who baptized Jesus, was beheaded.

Image result for crowdJesus hears the tragic news and decides to get a break from it all and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He gets on a boat, crosses the sea, but when gets there and who is waiting for him?

The crowd.

Crowds of people made it around the lake and got there before Jesus, looking for a healing miracle, listening for a teaching, wanting for something to eat.

Jesus just wanted to get away from it all, and there was the ever-present crowd, just wanting more from him.

Have you ever been in a situation like that when you just need a break and the phone keeps ringing or people keep calling your name or the kids ask from you or the boss wants from you and life just won’t give you a break?

When we are there, it is easy to begin to look at the people around us as a drain, as a source of stress, as someone else wanting something from me, taking my time and my energy.

We begin to look at the people around us as obstacles to be overcome.

Jesus doesn’t do that.

Despite the fact that he is stressed out and the crowd wants from him he doesn’t look at them as if they are a burden, he looks at them with compassion.
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He doesn’t see them as needy, he sees them with compassion.

Through the eyes of compassion he provides for them, he heals the sick, teaches, and feeds.

He does all of that, because he starts from a place of compassion. Jesus looks at people through the eyes of compassion.

How do we look at people?

We start by observing the outside.

A Harvard University study found that brain scans show that the first things we notice about someone when we look at their face is their race and their gender. We look at a person and the first thing we notice is the color of the skin and whether it is a man or a woman.

This is a natural, evolutionary response.

But then from there, our brain not only makes this initial observation, but assigns meanings to the observation. We make assumption about people based on whether the person is a man or a woman. I know that if I go to get my car worked on, I will often get a different response than my wife. That kind of stuff drives me crazy and I hate it, but that is the world that we live in.

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And we not only make assumptions about someone because of their gender, but because of their race.

We saw it again this week in the exoneration of the police officer who killed Philando Castillo. Castillo was not only brutally shot in front of his family and killed, but he had been pulled over 52 times in his life for minor traffic violations.

52 times.

This is someone who was a model citizen, who worked at a school, who had a quiet and unassuming personality, who was described by the students of the school as “Mr Rogers with dreadlocks”.

But because of the color of his skin he was pulled over 52 times and killed.

This is how the world looks at people. We look at someone and judge them as a threat by their appearance.

The world has conditioned us to look at each other as opposites and to categorize. Rich and poor, black and white, male and female, gay and straight.

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While this is how we look at the world, this is not God’s design.

On the first page of the Bible, in Genesis, Chapter 1, it says “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Every person is created in the image of God. Every face you see in this room reflects something different about who God is.

The person who is different from you is not a category to be labeled or feared, but is a sister or brother in Christ who has been created in God’s image. It is in the diversity of humankind that we see a little more clearly who God is.

The invitation we have is to begin to see one another not as our culture and society teach us to see where we divide people by race, color, creed, sexuality, and national origin, but to see each other as God sees us, to see Christ reflected in the eyes of the stranger, to look with the eyes of compassion.

So how do we do that, how do we get compassionate eyes? How do we learn to see each other as God sees us?

Unfortunately it is not as easy as going to the eye doctor and getting a new pair of glasses with compassion lenses.

Often, the way we begin to see others differently is when we go through some struggle and suffering ourselves.

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Remember, that this scripture follows right after Jesus has learned of the execution of John the Baptist. Jesus has lost a cousin in a horrific way. He is mourning, he is grieving, so when he comes upon this crowd of people who are hurting, Jesus is hurting himself. It is the fact that he is going through some stuff himself that he is able to have compassion for others who are going through some stuff.

This compassion that Jesus shows is deep.

The Greek word for compassion, splagchnizomai, means to be moved at the very depth of our being. It is a gut-wrenching compassion. Splagchnizomai is not looking at someone from a distance and having pity for them. It is not about looking down on someone and saying how unfortunate they are, to look with compassion is to connect their struggle with your own and know that we are all united together in Christ.

In the world’s eyes we are very different. One of the things that makes us special as the Church for All People is our diversity. And yet, one thing that we have in common is that we all have been through some stuff.

We have all mourned the loss of someone we loved.

We have all faced addictions of one kind or another, whether to a chemical substance or to our pride and ego.

We all know what it feels like to be rejected and to have experienced a broken relationship.

We all know what it is like to just have a bad day.

When we are able to be honest with ourselves and recognize our own brokenness, then we can be compassionate about the struggles of someone else.

However, our temptation is to forget where we have come from. We look at the other with judgmental eyes, not remembering that we were there 10 years ago or recognizing how much God’s grace has changed us.

What would it look like to see a person behaving badly through the eyes of compassion?

It would mean seeing the person for who they are and not defining them by their behavior.

Image result for splagchnizomaiWhen you see the person behaving in a way that you would consider wrong, that person is not their behavior. That person is a child of God and their behavior comes from a place you probably know nothing about. We all share a lifetime of pain and struggle and abuse and suffering.

And we have all been hurt.

When we can see our hurts and can be understanding of another person’s hurts, than we can begin to look at one another through the eyes of compassion.

And when we can do that, amazing things can happen.

The rest of this scripture is the familiar story of the loaves and fishes.

The disciples see the hungry crowd and instead of looking at them through the eyes of compassion they look and see mouths that need to be fed. They ask Jesus to send them away, but instead Jesus says you feed them. They argue that they don’t have enough. But our God is not a God of scarcity but a God of abundance. There is more than enough. From the five loaves and two fish thousands are fed with 12 baskets of leftovers.

But the full miracle here is not only the miracle of abundant food, but the miracle of abundant compassion.

Our fear of scarcity is not limited to having enough money or food or stuff, we also often think we may not have enough love or kindness or generosity or compassion. o much so that we try and protect our pride by putting limits on how much forgiveness we are willing to show or understanding we are willing to extend.

But our God is not a God of scarcity, but is a God of abundance!

The more we show love, the more we receive love in return.

The more we offer forgiveness, the more we are forgiven.

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The more we extend compassion, the more compassion spreads like a ripple effect across our community and our world.

The more we look at one another and see God in the eyes of the other, even in the person who makes us most uncomfortable, the more we are a part of God’s work of creating a world where people are seen for the content of their character instead of merely for the color of their skin.

My prayer for us today is that we will all get some new glasses, that we will see each other differently, that we will look at each other with eyes of compassion.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Friday Fruit (06/23/17)

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 18, 2017

Who killed Philando Castile?


Philando Castile's death was ruled a homicide. But no one killed him.

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot by Jeronimo Yanez, in  St. Paul, Minnesota. On June 16, 2017, Yanez was acquitted of all related charges (one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm).

Castile was shot while stopped for a traffic violation. It was the 53rd time he had been pulled over in 14 years. Apparently, 52 is the limit to the number of times you can tempt fate by driving while black in a racist society.

When asked for his license and registration, Castile told the officer he was licensed to carry a weapon and had one in his pants pocket. Shortly thereafter he was shot seven times.

Castile has been lauded as a family man, a caring role model, a dedicated school worker. But even if he wasn't, should he be dead?

Where is the NRA for someone like Philando Castile? Were not his 2nd Amendment right violated in the extreme?

How many hours of videos have we seen? And how many countless times do they represent when there was no video?

How many of these deaths will it take until we've had enough?  How many until the Church at large will acknowledge a pattern and its own responsibility?

Philando Castile's death was ruled a homicide. If Jeronimo Yanez didn't kill him, maybe we did.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

DAMN. and the Crucified Christ

Image result for Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMNThis week, Rev. Greg Henneman returns to BTSF, partnering with his son, Noah, as they review Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMN.
So I was takin' a walk the other day, and I seen a woman—a blind woman—pacin' up and down the sidewalk. She seemed to be a bit frustrated, as if she had dropped somethin' and havin' a hard time findin' it. So after watchin' her struggle for a while, I decide to go over and lend a helping hand, you know? "Hello, ma'am, can I be of any assistance? It seems to me that you have lost something. I would like to help you find it." She replied: "Oh yes, you have lost something. You've lost... your life." [sound of a gunshot]
This is the story of Good Friday.

Christians remember Good Friday as the day that Jesus was executed. Fully divine and fully human, Jesus entered human history amongst its struggle and sought to lend a helping hand by modeling a new way to live centered around love of neighbor. Jesus offered assistance. For this, Jesus was killed.

On Good Friday, 2017, these words introduced the release of Kendrick Lamar’s newest album, DAMN. Lamar’s normally aggressive and quick words are countered with softness as the song BLOOD. serves as the album’s preface. At the end of this metaphor, the man offering assistance is killed.

Related imageThroughout this album, Kendrick aligns himself with the Crucified Christ. In the song, DNA, Kendrick is both “Yeshua’s new weapon” and seen as “an abomination”. His very DNA places him amongst a minority culture, thus making him a threat, described by the soundbite voice of Geraldo Rivera as being a part of hip hop music which has done “more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”  Ironically, the song Rivera criticized, Alright, is one in which Kendrick offers hope and encouragement, that against the struggles of life he repeats “we gonna be alright.” “Alright” has become an anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite the song’s claim of assurance, Black DNA makes him a threat to dominant American culture, just as Jesus’ words of inclusion threatened the political and religious powers of the Roman Empire.

Within popular music, there may not be a more powerful voice in 2017 than Lamar. When Beyoncé had to cancel her Coachella music festival appearance, it was Kendrick that replaced her with a lauded performance. A recent survey of music reviews came to the conclusion that Kendrick is the highest rated performer of the 21st Century.

Despite all of the critical and commercial success, Kendrick does not exalt himself in praise, but places himself amongst struggle. He does not see himself as exalted, but views himself from his Compton roots. He aligns himself more with the Crucified Christ than Glorified God. He wonders if success will last and asks in the song FEAR., “All this money, is God playin' a joke on me? Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job?”

Image result for kendrick lamarJust as Jesus found disciples asleep in the garden and found himself abandoned on the cross, Kendrick’s repeated cry echoes across multiple songs on the album “aint nobody praying for me.”

But while Kendrick often feels trapped within his Compton roots and culturally alienated, he finds unity with God.

The song GOD. unites God’s and Kendrick’s shared perspectives. The song begins with God saying, “this what God feel like.” Kendrick responds that “ever since a young man” God has been watching over him for his whole life. After describing the behaviors Kendrick used to and is still doing Kendrick says “don’t judge me”. and God responds “who are you talking to, do you know who you are talking to”. And then he says all of the things that God says like “everything I touch is a gold mine.” The song finishes with both God’s and Kendrick’s perspective talking with each other.

Kendrick’s struggle, unified with that of the Crucified Christ, is powerful, but is not a lone voice.

Image result for Chance the RapperThe most noteworthy winner at this year’s Grammy’s was Chance the Rapper who despite being a self-published artist without a record label won best new artist, best rap album, and best rap performance. Chance’s lyrics mix unashamed praise for God with the reality of his experience growing up in Chicago. In the midst of singing about praises and blessings, Chance makes the same connection as Kendrick between contemporary struggle and the Crucified Christ with the statement, “Jesus black life ain’t matter.”

The latest album by Logic, “Everybody” is also filled with theological questions. The album includes an exchange with the voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson as the voice of God in which the meaning of life is explored. But as noted in Kendrick Lamar and Change the Rapper, these are not mere philosophical wonderings, but connect to modern life. In the song “Confess” Logic asks: “Dear God, I just wanna know why, Why do you put us here? Why do you put us below? Why do you put us subservient?”

Across the spectrum of modern rap music, questions of where God can be found are being asked. Most often, God is found amongst the struggle. God’s voice is speaking from the streets. The prophetic voice is not only coming from the pulpit, but from the microphone.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Friday Fruit (05/26/17)

Black boyOn 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, May 14, 2017

Logical Fallacies: Not All White People

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

It's a natural reaction when describing racism: "but we're not all like that!" When we learn about the brokenness of our world we want to distance ourselves from the problem. Particularly when talking about racism as a social issue, it can feel like we are just perpetuating "reverse racism" by overgeneralizing.

But the reality is that racism is a broad system (just like other "-isms," such as capital-ism, and commun-ism) that has effects on each one of us, and will require the work of each one of us to combat. Dr. Beverly Tatum compares racism to smog that we all breathe: “sometimes it is so thick it is visible, other times it is less apparent, but always, day in and day out, we are breathing it in."

Muhammad Ali on "not all white people"
What this means is that we all play some part, sometimes large, sometimes small. It is better to be reflective and examine our own hearts than to reflexively disassociate with its existence. That way we can recognize the problem and be a part of bringing about change for the better.

To say "not all white people" merely distracts from an important conversation about sociological trends and their impacts on our society. Even if there are some exceptions, it is disingenuous to thrust these instances into a discussion about the broader power structures at play.

Abagond offers the following example:
"I will make some statement about whites and then be informed that “not all whites” are like that, that they are Individuals. Like there is some special rule of English that “whites” always means “all whites”...When I say, “Whites owned slaves” it hardly means they all owned slaves. As far as I know no more than 2% of White Americans ever did. Yet that does not make the statement untrue or meaningless. Because quantity is not the issue – it was never stated. To make quantity the issue is a derailment."
It can be intimidating to confront the realities of our society's brokenness. But rather than searching for exceptions, let us attempt to take statements about racism at face value, knowing that cultures will always exhibit complexity when examined on an individual level. 
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Not all data points...but there's a trend!

If you find yourself upset, take a moment reflect. Does a broad description of societal injustice feel like a personal attack? What is the source of the anxiety you feel?

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. There's no need to become defensive.

But if your discomfort reflects a vague sense of conviction, it may well be worth digging deeper into that discomfort to examine how you might work to combat systemic injustice within your own sphere of influence.

Take a moment to examine the how systems of racial advantage affect many aspects of life. Which ones can you personally take steps to combat today?
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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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