Friday, February 26, 2016

Starting a Conversation

The following is a guest post by my good friend and brother, Brian Foulks.

The constant rehearsing of the trauma of racism has placed an indelible chasm in the soul of black folks. As we wrestle to understand and try to reconcile, how other Christians can stand around as such heinous crimes were/are being done to black and brown folks. How can Christians care so little about the poor and alienated while condoning the evil rhetoric of a Donald Trump? Yes, I applaud Donald Trump for at least [being] honest about his politics but he is an evil man. How do Christians even justify that black and brown lives are not vehemently abused by society? If you call yourself a believer in Jesus and live out the tenants of the Christian faith, how do you reconcile with such evil?
Racism kills the very essence of love and confines perspectives; there is no growth or progression. You can’t say you’re not racist but sit idly by and not combat racism. You can’t say you’re not racist and think that it is ok to allow poor education and poor healthcare to ravage through black and brown communities.
Racism sucks the life out of organization. It demeans in order to tear down. There is no redeemable quality within racism. Racisms presents a subtle approach but it comes with obvious and intentional outcomes –keep black and brown people poverty. There is nothing accidental about racism. It is an intentional weapon used when the majority finds its status sleeping away.
The mere thought of racial reconciliation is laughable at best. What exactly would this reconciliation mean? Here the words of James Cone,
Reconciliation does not transcend color, thus making us all white. The problem of values is not that white people need to instill values in the ghetto; but white society itself needs values so that it will no longer need a ghetto. Black values did not create a ghetto; white values did. Therefore God’s Word of reconciliation makes us all black. Through this radical change, we become identified totally with the suffering of the black masses. It is this fact that makes all white churches anti-Christian churches in their essence. To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people.
Now these words can be easily misconstrued if read through the eyes of racism. But Cone is very simply stating that God is on the side of the” least of these.” Black is not a color but a place where “your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are.” To be Christian in to know what the underside looks like and to feel the pain of the margins. Reconciliation is not just a pathological response of forgiveness but it is a deep intrinsic reframing of one’s authentic God-self.
 I love the words that introduce Dr. Yolanda Pierce’s website,
“I am not interested in most conversations about equality. To whom would you like to be equal, given a broken and morally bankrupt system? Do you want to be equal to the persons, forces, and systems which generate the very terms of your oppression?  I am, however, interested in the weightier matters of law: justice and freedom.  How can we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?"
These words echo the sentiments of a generation that’s been disproportionately jailed, harassed, overlooked and abused for the sheer nature of their skin. Honestly, the system is not broken, it is working exactly how it was programed to work. When corrupt people build a system, you can rest assured that the system is corrupt. America was established through corruption, theft and racism and those sins continue to wreak havoc on all people locked “in these yet to be united states.” Maybe KRS-One was right when he rapped, “There can never be justice on stolen land.” There is no simple strategy or words that can make things better overnight. But a collective sorry that is entrenched in justice is a good place to start.
“How can we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?- Pierce

If you want to know more about Brian, you can check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.  Brian is currently a STM student at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.  His insights have always been important in shaping my understandings of race and Christianity (like above).  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Maybe the Church Should Come Out

What follows are some cursory thoughts, it's certainly not an end all, be all conversation, but rather a lengthened version of Jared's morning coffee musings.
A lot comes from what I preached on Sunday and a lot also comes from the following Ted Talk, which I've found to be really interesting and perhaps helpful.

I think the church could stand to learn a little bit about death and resurrection from the LGBTQ community.

And by that, I mean the church should spend some time coming out.

I cannot speak for the whole community, but I can speak about what coming out was like for me.  And coming out felt an awful lot like death and resurrection.

When I came out, I had to let a lot of things I previously thought or wanted to believe about myself to death.  When I came out, I also got to have a lot of myself resurrected and restored into a new creation.

And while this is a long and interesting story, which I would be happy to share at a later time, I will skip to my main point, which is that the church should spend some time coming out, itself.

And by that, I mean the church needs to let go some ideas of what and who it is, let some ideas about itself die, so that God can resurrect the Body of Christ.  You know, that business that God has been in for 2000 years or so.

The church has been telling all sorts of nasty lies about itself, and none of them are really helping the Body of Christ live and thrive.

Lies that include:

  • We are a church that belongs in authority.
  • We are a church that has all the answers.
  • We are the owners of the exclusive path to salvation.
  • We are the church of the 1950s (ok, so maybe this one belongs to my denomination more than most.)
The list can go on and on.

But the point is, these lies need to go.  We need to stop clinging so tightly to them that we choke out any points for us to grow and be transformed into who God is calling us to be.

We need to come out, to stop trying to be those things, and start being who and whose we are, rooted in scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

We need to stop being something we're not and start being who we have always been created to be.

And maybe, just maybe, when we start doing that, we'll find that we no longer are in a struggle to survive but find ourselves thriving.

That's probably enough rambling for a Tuesday morning.  I'm sure this conversation is one that can be held again and again and again.

Cause coming out is a process that you have to do over and over again.  Because who we are changes over time as we grow and transform.

So, maybe, just maybe, we should stop being afraid of it and learn to love it?

I know I have learned to love coming out.  Why can't the church? 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

40 Frames in Focus

So, after asking the Internet, aka my Facebook friends, I've decided to focus my 40 Frames and 40 Nights Lenten discipline.

I'll be doing the following films, which are fairly easy to stream online.

  • Dope
  • Dirty Pretty Things
  • Beasts of No Nation
  • Weekend
  • Tangerine
  • Blue is the Warmest Color
  • Monica and David

The following are films that I've found physical copies for, that I also plan on watching during Lent, which I will talk about over the course of the next 40 days as well.  However, they are not as easy to stream online.

  • Chi-Raq
  • The Skeleton Twins
  • Saved!
  • Ill Manors
I know not all of these films are perfect.  But I'm going to make a conscious decision for the purpose of this Lenten discipline to not focus on their flaws and how they perpetuate other symptoms of systemic sin in our world.  Instead, I'm going to focus my reflections on how each of these films challenge my understanding of how the world works.

So here goes!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

40 Frames and 40 Nights?

Lent is weird.

There.  I said it.

This period of giving things up - usually things we ought to give up anyway like chocolate or soda - in order to offer a great big apology to God for messing up during the year has always felt a little off.

That being said, recently I've seen some articles and blog posts being written that highlight taking something on as a Lenten discipline.  Things like reading scripture, praying more, exercising, volunteering.  All of which are good things, but again, feel like those are things we should be doing on a daily basis, much like saying no to that second piece of chocolate.

As this Lent has approached, I've felt that maybe there's another way.  That perhaps there's a way to give up/take on something new, that will be more than an apology, but rather as an intentional way to step outside of myself and my mistakes and focus on the larger human community and the larger human experience.

That is to say, to be more mindful of the ways that I have unwittingly participated in perpetuating larger systems of sin in our world.  Those big things, like racism, patriarchy, ableism, and yes, even heteronormativity.

How do I participate in these things the most, you may ask?

Well, like any good investigator, I followed the money.  And where did my money trail lead?  To movies and television shows.  Those two things have been where I've consistently spent my money for several years now.

I took stock of my collection and I noticed a sadly overwhelming theme which is that I was swallowing whole-heartedly the world that Hollywood was trying to sell me.  White guy and white girl, guy saves girl, guy gets girl, they live happily ever after with their 2.4 kids in their suburban house (insert my hyperbolic voice here).

So this Lent, I'm going to try something different.  I'm going to start spending my time/money/energy watching films that feel unfamiliar to me.  The films that challenge my views about how the world works.

Over the next week, I'm going to compile a post with 5 (or more) different movies on it - each movie being one that in some way challenges or tells a story different from the ones most of my movie collection has to offer right now.

I'm going to watch each of these movies and invite you to watch them too so together we can explore a different way of seeing the world.

My hope is that by spending our time/energy with these films, we can learn to celebrate the plurality of the human experience instead of trying to highlight one over and against the others.