Faith and Race and Politics – Matter

The Republican Convention that started this week is angering and concerning me to a new level. I’m currently on sabbatical, and have intentionally decreased my online presence lately, thinking I wanted to choose to look the other way and focus on the goodness in the world while the political competition for voice and power dominates our national media.

BUT – we cannot be silent when this level of racism, hate, violent language, misogyny, and divisive, untrue, and sometimes plagiarized words are spoken into our communal air space. I kept seeing quotes or soundbites from the Convention’s first day and thinking to myself, this has to be an exaggeration, this can’t be true, is it? Then the speech texts, the clips of video, the documented evidence of this craziness came out. One of the things directly quoted from the Convention that I am most angry about is actor Antonio Sabato Jr., (edited – not Scott Baio), stating that President Obama is a Muslim and can’t serve the same God/Jesus that he serves, bc “Obama isn’t a Christian name.” Notice that RNC voices are not even relying on linguistic code at this point, they are simply calling out that in their opinion, a non-white sounding name can’t be Christian. What is a Christian name exactly? Is King? What about TuTu? Or Cho, my Lead Pastor’s name? What about Martinez, the President of the ECC in Mexico? There are so many, many more names who are not white and lead our world movements in Christianity, I could go on and on… and the fact that some voices of people of color also espouse this divisive language doesn’t change what it is. The point is that faith and race and politics matter – it matters how Christians conduct ourselves in political debates and where we lend our voices and our attention. We need to call these terrible statements out, even though there are SO SO many, that it may seem overwhelming sometimes. The list of lies, of angry and racist statements, the intentional divisiveness, often occurring while invoking the name of Christ – it seems so over the top that I am tempted to think it can’t be real, and it must not be working on everyday, thoughtful, Americans who vote – especially Christians, right? Right???

In case you, or those you know, may NOT know how bad this stage is showing itself to be – please – consider reading up on how hateful and racially divisive the Convention this week is purposefully being. Consider checking in with conservative friends or family of yours to make sure that they are seeing and hearing – really seeing – what the RNC is proudly showing itself to currently be about. Make sure you ask your people – however kindly or directly you feel able – ask them, Is there any chance you’re considering voting for this party/candidate this year? Have you seen how angry, how fear mongering, how racially and ethnically biased these voices being held up are? Have you heard how terribly they refer to women – and their repeated, offensive names for our President, and for our former Secretary of State? (Whether you like them or not, they are human beings in public office deserving of basic respect and not offensive racialized or sexualized names.) Can we talk about the non-biblical basis for the veneer of Christianity that is being currently used by this party, the lack of personal integrity and devotion to Jesus being celebrated but the increased comfort of appealing to evangelical voting power? The assertion that we know someone’s ability to follow Jesus by whether or not their last name sounds Muslim/foreign?

I understand and love many individuals who vote Republican, even if I don’t often vote that way myself; however, I do not understand the current RNC tone, and the level of hate being espoused. It is dangerous, it feels omninous, and it creates fear in many people who see this stage as one intentionally inciting violence and division against them – personally. It is also rhetoric and political power that can be stopped – by everyday people who do not listen to the lies, and who do not let their vote feed the fervor.

At this point, it it not about if you don’t like Hillary Clinton, if you’re a life-long Republican, if you didn’t agree with President Obama, or if you’re a Christian who doesn’t feel comfortable engaging in politics; all of those things are fine and can remain true, but faithful, Jesus following people – esp I would suggest Republicans and white people – need to start standing up to the violent language that is coming into our world from this Convention. It is deeply disturbing. It is beyond a difference of political opinion at this point – when a political party affirms people on their stage who consistently and openly declare war and intend violence on those who are different, those who are not white, those who are in some pre-determined category of “other” – we must say no more, you do not speak for us. We can talk about important political issues like how to be safe, national security, supporting the police, regulating our borders, immigration policy, being pro-life, and how America interacts on the world scene – and a host of other topics likely to come to center stage during the RNC’s gathering – but we as a nation can do these things in so many different, healthy, constructive ways. The RNC is NOT currently choosing a healthy, constructive route for posing solutions or sharing disagreement. Raising fear, hostility toward the other, attacking vulnerable segments of society, intentionally mis-stating the faith and Christianity of our highest national leader – that is the opposite of Christ-like. That is the opposite of using faith to help shape political and national leadership.

Conservative friends, feel free to critique and raise your voices in responsible, constructive ways against national leaders and policies that you don’t agree with – maybe show the world an alternative way to disagree while maintaining some respect for the humanity of those you disagree with in this current media climate. We all know we have the freedom to be critical of our President, of Hillary Clinton, of whatever failures are in the Democratic party as well, and of our national system in general – it is not the kingdom of God nor should it pretend to be. I would also ask – conservative friends, and citizens in general – we all should also know that a faithful response to hate, racism, and dangerous rhetoric ought to be to call it out for what it is. To say that conservative America is better than this. And to not vote to empower or share this dehumanizing language any further.

In case you missed what happened on the first night of the RNC, here is a short list:

Here is a list of some of the things that happened at the first day of the Republican convention: https://t.co/97H81oP8i6

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One Body: White Christians, Time to Get in the Game

(Grateful to have this piece also shared on sojo.net and eugenecho.com)

I am grieving and lamenting and beyond angry over what feels like open season on the Black Community/Church right now in the US. White Christians, this is the time to pay attention and be part of our nation’s struggle to understand and address the continual violence happening against our black sisters and brothers. When one part of the Body hurts we all hurt – when one part of the Body is repeatedly targeted, killed, not protected, pulled out of swimming pools, seen as threats when unarmed – and then misrepresented, silenced, or made small through ahistoric excuses, side-stepping through political mess, or any other form of evil – we need to stand up. We need to show up – loudly. We need to demand a different response – and start with our people in the church.

White church – and the wider church in general – this is the time for all of us to engage. Help present the truth wherever you can, whether it’s on facebook or over lunch at work. Fight for life, by holding up friends right now and grieving with those too tired to carry on, and preparing for advocacy and work that is necessary and is always before us in the future. Seek to understand, lament, and see the systems and principalities at work in our world, in our churches, maybe in our minds – ask Christ for the eyes to see. Thank you to all those already in the game – advocating, grieving, listening, standing with, and paying attention.

If you’re not sure what to do – start paying attention, right now. Read articles from the Black Community, notice the particular beauty and pain within the Black Church, start to feel this pain and shock and repeated abuse as if it were in your own family, because, well, it is. Pray, pray more, confess, lament, and learn more, and pray some more. Bring this up with your people. Ask about this reality of race and death at your church – where will it be addressed within worship this Sunday? Where will we take our part of the responsibility of educating, advocating, understanding, speaking out, and helping change how race and faith and life and death are seen in the US? Publicly share information and lament and hope with others. Publicly stand for and with and fight this sense of black life not being as valuable, as noticed, as mourned. The more we join the outrage and point to the truth that ‪#‎faithandracealwaysmatter‬ and ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ , the more we help open up spaces of lament, healing, Good News, justice, reconciliation, hope and the potential for life to flourish.

This is not a time to leave the black community alone, to let them mourn or be angry or fix it alone. White Christians, we inherited this mess and this story of power and privilege and racism that shapes our individual lives, our corporate realities, and even our congregations. The wider church and the world will be shaped by how we choose to engage or turn away from this kind of death. Particularly those of us with any voice, leadership, influence, and the privilege to choose whether or not to engage issues of death and race – it is time to get in the game. Because of course, this is no game – these issues of racism and how we choose to see truthfully or speak up – these are literally matters of life and death for the Black Community. So it is past time to choose life, to advocate for our people – all people – in the Body of Christ. It is on our shoulders to be part of fighting the evil we are witnessing over and over in our nation that is taking and diminishing Black life – actively, with faith and hope and love, and with each other. ‪#‎timetogetinthegame ‬ ‪#‎payattention ‬ ‪#‎prayforCharleston ‬ ‪#‎standwiththeBlackChurch‬ ‪#‎OneBody‬

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Call to Arms – Arm in Arm – After Ferguson

Christians – especially those of you who are white, asian-american, in my particular church family, my wider church family, or all those who are often in a position of protection and relative privilege when it comes to law enforcement in our country – I am writing this to you. I believe most of us are trying to sort through what is happening in MO and our nation with the best of intentions, hoping to clearly see the facts and get down to what is fair and right and true. And I get this work, and at some level acknowledge sifting through the details may be helpful. But because so much more is going on right now, and I believe that we need to be in this together at a deeper level as the church, and because I’ve been asked why this is such a big deal – I want to point us in another place.

As a pastor, mother, human being – I am sickened by what our country is now experiencing in the wake of the #FergusonDecision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson. And I am not right now interested in going through the ME reports, the angle of bullets, or the witness reports – I am not even interested in parsing out how it happens that an extraordinary pre-trial through the grand jury went down that resulted in not even indicting an officer that killed an unarmed teenager in the street.
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