Mostly here I'm talking to white people, especially white clergy of white churches. When I say "we" I mean white people. ALL of us, including myself. This stuff is hard, and it can hurt badly to be self-reflective. I know, I've been doing it for a few months thanks to Safety Pin Box. I've cried many tears. If you can open up a little and hear what I'm about to write, perhaps I can save you some of your own tears.
So there's this stuff going down in Charolettesville right now. Something like 2,000 people are marching because they hate People of Color. They are wearing shirts with quotes from Hitler and carrying Natzi flags. People are scared. The KKK is alive and well in the US. Anti-blackness is alive and well in the US. I know that we don't want to be complicit. I know that we really, really want to say #notallwhite people. I know that we want to be one of the good white people. Today, that will be hard. Today, what we can do is admit how we've been part of the system, part of the silence. Today, we have to admit that for some reason, 2,000 people think that it is ok to dehumanize others in this way. Where haven't you spoken up? Where in your body are you afraid to speak up? Can you imagine living with this kind of hate that gets communicated to you in subtle and not so subtle ways every day of your life? Can you imagine knowing that your child might die because of the color of their skin?
I know that I can't because it'll never happen to my child. However, I do know that I have to do something. Jesus demands I do something.
I've written some possible excuses for White Christians not speaking up tomorrow. I've also written some answers. I hope you can add to this convo in the comments, and add more excuses, or help for one another. Let's stop being the kind of church that sits by and lets hate happen without speaking up, ok? Please? Jesus demands it.
Reasons to Not Preach AGAINST Hate
Let's look at some possible excuses for not condemning hate in #Charolettesville in your sermons.
1. I might lose my job.
To which I say: Yes, you might. You might also lose your soul if allow white supremacy to reign in your church. How can we help you learn to say this in ways that won't lose you your job? Blame Jesus? Also, there's are lots of Black people who lose and can't ever gets jobs because of the white nationalists, so there's that, too. Is your right to live a life and have food and rent more important than theirs? But I also think you can find words that will keep you safe. Any words at all help.
2. I'm scared.
To which I say: So was Peter in Matthew 14:22-33, the passage for RCL lectionary tomorrow.
3. I don't know what to say/how to say it.
To which I say: Then let's work together!
4. I want people to like me.
To which I say: So do I, but I care more that Jesus can be proud of me.
5. I might say it wrong.
To which I say: That is still better than nothing.
6. I don't have all the information I need to speak up. (Courtesy of Vicar Ian McConnell)
To which he says: speak to what you DO know, then. Namely, that if we believe what we say we believe, we will not let white supremacy co-opt the gospel message of God in Christ.
To which I add: Let's figure it out together.
I also add that the ELCA synod there made a statement, so there is information. http://www.vasynod.org/virginia-synod-elca-statement-august-12th-rally-charlottesville-virginia/?fref=gc
7. My congregation just had the matriarch die or a huge conflict. I have other things for my community, they can't learn anything right now.
I suggest, "I know that this thing is going on with us, and that's important, and we're hurting, and that's ok. I also know lots of People of Color who are hurting deeply because of the white Christians in Charlottesville who would like them dead. I want you to know that Jesus isn't ok with this, and we shouldn't be either. Hate causes more pain. We'll work together on understandings this more in the coming weeks when we have more space as a community. Just hear now that we will deal with it, and that is it not ok for Christians to wish for people to die because of the color of their skin. Now onto our regularly scheduled sermon."
What else? Post in the comments. Thanks!
8. I'm so overwhelmed, I don't know what to do.
To which I say, use this litany, read this blog post, follow the hashtag #charolettsville on twitter, follow #decolonizelutheranism, and subscribe to Safety Pin Box. Pick one, or all of them, and then be sure to say in your faith community during your message that you don't know what to do, you feel overwhelmed, and that you're trying, and that you think Jesus wants the church to try, too.
9. My congregation doesn't have people of color and this stuff just isn't on their mind. They don't see racism, it doesn't happen here, etc. (Courtesy of Pastor Becca Ajer at St. John's Church in Littletown, PA).
To which she says: There may not be people of color in your pews but racism affects all of us. Show them how it hurts us all. Show them that our siblings of color are part of the body of Christ and when part of our body is hurting and dying, we are called to speak out on behalf of God's people.
I am so honored to have been invited to join Action for a Better Tomorrow for Everyone group on Wednesday, August 9 to talk about my journey of anti-racism, the joys and hardships, the back steps and forward steps. I we had an open and honest discussion that allows us to find out where we're at personally, and what we can do next. Below is the link to ask me about doing a similar event for you, since this one has passed. However, the intellectual and emotional labor of the Black women who taught me nearly everything I know cost them personally quite a bit. Please support Black women doing liberation work now as part of my presentation.
Event Hashtag is: #abteally
1. Article By Marissa Jenae Johnson
2. Article by Pastor Jess
3. Stages of Racial Identity Development
4. Ally Backpack
5. Blog Post on Why I Love SPB
6. Safety Pin Box Subscriptions
7. Safety Pin Box Kids -- Only Till August!
8. Mamademics Curriculum
9. T-Shirts, Black Lives > White Feelings and Raise Better White People
10. The Dock Bookshop -- Black owned. Buy especially books on racism here.
11. Derailment Bingo
Authors I Support on PATREON
Mainstream media is usually run by white people. It can be hard for Black women to get jobs as journalists, even when they are very talented writers and deserve those jobs. We can help mitigate the effects of racism on journalism by supporting Black women writers on Patreon.
1.The Didi Delgado
2. Sherronda J. Brown
In order to get a copy of the power point presentation, please use thecontact form. After I receive your form, I will send a message back to your e-mail saying "Receipt?" You may then e-mail back a screenshot or forwarded e-mail of your donation to BWB of at least $5. I learned from so many Black women for free, and I will not profit off of racism any more than I already have as a white person. A donation to BWB gets you a copy of the presentation, regardless of if you attended the event or not.
Please comment on this blog post with 1. a name for yourself, 2. favorite ice cream, 3. your questions, and 4. an honest sentence about your fears around confronting racism. Thanks!
Here’s what I learned in my Week 2 journey of #decolonizeyourspirit. Click on the two links above to see the first and second installments of the series. Also, if you wouldn't have gone into a Speakeasy during prohibition, this might not be the place for your hang out online. Things get really honest here.
Note: The word “we” in this article refers to white people, mostly the ones who have been part of maintaining the institution of the church for generations. This is the only context from which I am qualified to share.
Although Christianity started out as an oppressed faith and group of people, when it became legal, Christians became the colonizers. That is, people who took over other’s cultures and lands in the name of “saving” them. The rub, of course, is that most often the people who were being “saved” (read: oppressed, stolen, harmed, hurt) were perfectly happy before we used our faith to “save” them.
Jesus was from an oppressed minority. He lived in an occupied land. Romans were controlling his land – out of town people who told the people there how they should live and what they should be.
Jesus was a political radical in that world. When talking to kids, I say things like “Jesus wanted everyone to share and to have enough money and food and clothing and shelter and love to have a good life. But the Romans, they wanted to be greedy and take all the money for themselves.” (When there is so much talk about taxes in the New Testament, it is largely money that is sent to Rome or used to pay for the oppressor’s army.)
Jesus held a protest parade against this oppressive occupation on Palm Sunday. He rode through the streets while people called him “King.” He has been preaching, teaching, and healing. He has been saying that the oppressed could go free, and have a good life without Caesar, and without the worship of Caesar.
Jesus was tried and convicted of treason. It was treason to say anything other than that Caesar was God. Jesus said God was God. He was guilty of violating the laws of his land, and he died for it.
God did something amazing with it, though. God took this death, and created new life. A promise that death isn’t the end, New Life, Hope, and Resurrection are always the best part of the story – in this life or in the next.
So, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that my faith that started out as so radically freeing got domesticated. We created a meek and mild WHITE Jesus who holds lambs and loves kids. We imagine that we can never be the Romans occupying the land, or the Pharisees performing religion instead of having a relationship with God, ourselves, others, and creation.
Except we have been. In Europe and the US, our faith has been used to support slavery, Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and the current enslavement and overincarceration of mostly people of color. Jesus caused a protest march, do you really think his highest priority was “law and order”? Jesus was always disrupting the system.
We colonized this land by taking it over, and often other countries. Our “missions” involve bullying people into accepting Jesus to get food and clothing. Our “Crusades” hurt untold numbers of people, families, and Holy sites, and are part of the mess the world is in today.
I’m ready to start being honest about the harm the church has caused over generations. I’m ready to have a Jesus who disrupts the systems of power that keep some as the haves and some as the have nots. I’m ready for a Jesus that fully embraces the humanity of all, including calling those with power into being more fully human and to stop oppressing others.
There are so many things in our history that have been used to oppress, and there are so many things that can liberate.
We can liberate the story of Jesus to see him as he challenged the Roman and Jewish institutional authorities.
We can liberate the story of Jesus wanting everyone to have enough, and stop hording.
We can liberate the full created humanity of everything God made, including all kinds of people and creation.
We can offer ourselves the forgiveness of God to move forward to action. A way to let go of the white guilt, white feelings, and shame that often keeps us from seeing the big picture and the harm we are causing. We can rest in the knowledge that God forgives those who “turn around” (the literal meaning of repentance). Therefore, we can give up on ever expecting or wishing for forgiveness from the communities we’ve harmed. That is not their job, it is God’s. And both those communities and God require that we work to undo some of the harm that we’ve caused, even if it was before our lifetimes. Jesus wasn’t just about feeling good about ourselves as church going people, Jesus was about the liberation of humanity.
Can you get on board? What is the hardest part for you learning to #decolonizeyourspirit? Although being honest is painful, it can also bring liberation, and the promise that after the pain, comes healing. After staring at death and the tomb, we always have the promise of New Life, and that is the most liberating concept of all.
Remember, this blog is called Spirited Speakeasy. If you are the kind of person who feels offended by underground or hidden conversations that are not usually accepted in the light of day, what follows might be offensive to you. Jesus demands I say it, though. You can choose to listen and participate.
I'm learning to #decolonizeyourspirit through Safety Pin Box tasks this month. For an intro to SPB and this series I'm doing this month, check here.
Although I didn't think I needed to journal about how religion matters to my life, I did, just to see what happened.
Guess what I learned? That my faith life encouraged values and morality that meant I only hung out with upper middle class white people as a child.
Hard work, not being sexual, pulling myself up, trusting Jesus to care for me, sharing hard things, drinking, smoking, and sex were immoral, or at least frowned upon. We were not supposed to hang out with people like that.
My formation in my faith taught me that I was good and had to serve others who were at least less good, if not bad. It set up a hierarchy. All the talk about Christian charity and stuff. Nothing about justice, though.
Ouch. What a powerful lesson to learn how my faith limited my relationships and ability to learn about the lives of people very different from mine by defining them as "immoral". Can't find too much of that in the Bible. I hope someday church can get back to being about a beloved community where all are welcome and supported, without judgement. Where the lives of all are respected, and where church fights for the humanity of all in the broken systems of the world, and does its best to make up for the ways it has helped create those broken systems in the past, and often currently ignore them.
How did your church limit your relationships growing up? What did they teach? Can you be honest about looking at how you might have learned things about race in church, even it was not through intentional actions?
This month, our Safety Pin Box tasks are all about decolonizing. My goal is to put up a blog post each week about the #decolonizeyourspirit task, since that is near and dear to my heart. Below is my intro, why I love SPB, and how it changes me. It is incredible. For other things related, please see #deconolizelutheranism, and for more of my anti-racism journey, please see this article.
For starters, although people in Safety Pin Box come from all faith traditions, including atheism, is the most church like place I go. There is no judgement. We are a group of people working together for justice, and we assume we'll mess it up. We work through it together, get each other through our guilt and shame about issues around race and our actions, admit when we are wrong, and are accountable to Black women. Everyone is who willing to learn, to be open, and to be wrong frequently is welcome. We always end with actions that serve communities of Color.
Safety Pin Box is a subscription box for white people who want to learn to be good allies in the fight for truly intersectional oppressions. I can't recommend it enough. It has changed me to my very soul. I do it because it makes me a better human being, and a better follower of Jesus. I now have a much better clue about people's lives that are so different from mine. I was taught to be blind to these lives growing up. Both stories of pain the pain that is experienced because of anti-Blackness in the world, as well as all other discriminations, AND the amazing People of Color who are incredible and are changing the world. I didn't see. I only saw bad stories of about People of Color on the news, and good stories about white people. It got to me subconsciously. I have so much to both unlearn and to learn. They have a bunch of ways you can join, there's a one time Kid's Box that I love, a one-time Ally Backpack that is a basic intro to racism and organizing, and an E-ally subscription to get started, Pin Pals if you and friend want to do it together, and the Premium and soon to be coming Family boxes. It is nice because all the money goes to Black Women Being, as those who fight for justice often are not fairly compensated. Plus, the world owes Black women so much back from the days of slavery, and the current slavery of over incarceration. They even have a program that small groups can do together. Click below to learn more about all of it and join today! If you are not ready to join, but you are willing to do something to help those who work for liberation, you can donate to Black Women Being here, or Black women and femmes who need some extra cash right now, often due to racist systems and being activists.
Pastor Jess, Author
Loves Jesus, Loves and Hates the Church at the Same Time, Calling Us to Honestly, ELCA Pastor
This work is licensed by Rev. Jessica A. Harren under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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