As a white, suburban evangelical in the early 2000s, I grew up going on short-term mission trips every summer and participating in charitable missions during the school year. When I think back on it, I now see that these trips and the kinds of charity they encouraged began to fall out of favor around the mid 2000s, around the time that the grants from Bush’s faith-based office would have kicked in. Books like When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, and Toxic Charity and its follow-up Charity Detox by Robert Lupton, exemplify the way that Christians on both the right and left would come to absorb the ideological imperatives of welfare reform.
I watched both of the Democratic presidential debates over the last two nights, waiting to see if anything related to the invisibility of Indigenous peoples would somehow make its way into the conversation. I didn’t expect it to, of course; in a nation that does not even begin its events with a land acknowledgement (like Canada, Australia, and other nations do), why would we expect that the experiences of the original peoples of this land would come into a debate when each candidate only has a limited time to respond?
The right to be counted is at the foundation of our faith and our democracy. In Matthew 18:12–14) and Luke (Luke 15:3–7) Jesus tells the iconic parable about the lost sheep. A man, who owns 100 sheep, goes to great lengths to find one missing sheep out of the 100 and when he finally recovers the lost sheep, he is happier about the one sheep that is found than the 99 who are safe. The parable speaks volumes about the degree to which God shows a particular concern and attention around anyone who is lost or falls in harm way. In a similar vein, we should be alarmed and equally committed when one person is miscounted or disregarded in our society. Our democracy loses its integrity and legitimacy when people and communities are made invisible and further marginalized by undercounting in the census.
As a Palestinian Christian who grew up in Jerusalem, I have a hard time knowing where, if anywhere, my narrative fits among the pictures evangelical Christians paint of Israel. I was reminded of this recently when an acquaintance of mine did a “holy land tour,” and posted travel updates that showed up on my social media stream.
Public health professionals strive to bridge the gap between good intentions and good outcomes. Learning about public health will equip Christians to think on a systems level, to have evidence-based programs, champion accountability, and partner with people most affected to accomplish systemic change.
To mark the anniversary of Juneteenth, when enslaved people in Texas finally learned about the Emancipation Proclamation in June of 1865, the House Judiciary Committee held a special hearing on reparations for slavery this week. When asked about the idea of addressing the generational inequalities created by centuries of governmentally sanctioned white supremacy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) responded that America fought a civil war, passed landmark civil rights legislation and elected its first Black President to address the “original sin” of slavery. As far as he is concerned, the sins of the past can be forgotten.
In May, Gordon College announced it would no longer have a history major as a result of its restructuring. Two months earlier, Wheeling Jesuit University reduced their programs down to eight, eliminating non-professional programs and even theology. These are just two recent responses to the economic challenges currently facing nearly all Christian institutions of higher learning. Across the country, as small religious schools are in a struggle for survival, they are cutting programs and closing their doors. The distress beacon for Christian higher education is currently blinking.
I remember the first mission trip that I went on. My youth group spent a week in New Orleans helping a local missionary group run a Vacation Bible School for neighborhood kids. Our objective, we were told, was simple: bring Jesus to a place where he was desperately needed but was often rejected. The implication that I drew, at 15 years old, was that the poverty and the street-side memorials for victims of gun violence I was seeing, and the seeming absence of almost any man over 30, existed because this community had rejected Jesus. If only Jesus were in their hearts, everything would be different.
Unless the money that will be made from marijuana’s federal legalization is used for robust community reinvestment in affected residential communities across America, it fails the moral litmus test of social justice and pumps oxygen into racial wealth disparities. Without this reinvestment, America will once again be blowing smoke into the face of those who have historically been most victimized by the criminalization of marijuana. The abovementioned federal legalization proposal includes the development of a community reinvestment fund to specifically benefit communities most ravished by the marijuana ban, and the decades-long failed war on drugs. The architects of the bill outlined some potential funding areas: job training, post-incarceration and expungement services, public libraries and community centers, youth programming, and health education.
White violence in all forms must be named, particularly white, male violence.
As I was growing up in an evangelical church, one of my pastors’ favorite scriptures to use to wake up a congregation and remind us to keep going was the “run-the-race” scripture. In Hebrews 12, we are instructed to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” But I was never a runner — or, in fact, had any athletically inclined bone in my body — and I desperately needed a different metaphor, something that I felt would teach me to carry on my faith in a sustainable way.
Good theater contains a strain of that gospel antidote, that powerful tradition of trying to name and recognize our demons and human propensities. The earnestness in story that pairs what we believe with what we do, can serve as a way to handle truths about ourselves and our dealings that make us uncomfortable. Often written off as fluffy and as a less effective means of activism, the tradition of plays and musicals has the power to stage an inner confrontation in real time, asking the audience to contend with a hard truth or recasting a social norm we seldom question.
My family walks a palimpsest, on translations and mistranslations of rivers, of people, of places, of faith. My family walks on unfinished words that have yet to be formed, stuck on molar, in mouths, being shaped by tongues that twist two into one. My family walks on places unfinished and already traversed.
Whatever faults Black Protestantism has had, its grand strength is in its exercise of democratic debate internal to black Americans about the meaning of the good life and who gets a say in the shaping of that life, including perspectives from other faiths.
Leaders at the forefront of the fight for social justice need to learn to lead courageous dialogue about race.
The continued demise of faith in this nation’s criminal justice system, elected officials, and government will increase wherever injustice is maintained in the name of “doing just enough”. If America is truly to be one nation, it must address and correct its patterns of injustice and persistent denials of full personhood for those who belong in this country and society.
As a Christian clergy who celebrates all the spiritual paths that lead to Love; as a woman who was unable to conceive and who grieved for years; as an aunt and grandmother who thinks children are precious, I resonate with the feelings of those who identify as pro-choice and pro-life.
The news on Friday was devastating: There had been yet another mass shooting, this time in Virginia Beach, and 12 people were killed. Many of us had the same painful reactions of grief for the families, fear that this could happen to someone I love one day, anger at the gun manufacturers whose influence through the NRA makes them complicit in both the mass shootings and the daily epidemic of gun violence.