Modern, Euro-American Christianity is deeply implicated in the colonial legacies which have crushed indigenous peoples. Reckoning with this is not easy. The doctrine of discovery provides an example. The doctrine of discovery was a Christian invention which justified dispossessing indigenous peoples of their land, parceling it out among emerging nation-states, and turning it into private property for settlers. In this framework, indigenous peoples are left with either extermination or assimilation.
These attacks on people’s innate dignity and sacred worth assault our most cherished moral and religious values. We read in Genesis that all people are made in the image of God. In Paul’s letters, he proclaims that in God earthly divisions fall away, that all people form part of God’s body. Jesus himself promises: Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me. Attempts to excuse human rights abuses committed against some people are thus not just unconstitutional — they assault God by denigrating and desecrating that divine, indwelling spark.
Climate change is a crisis of moral proportions. Rather than responding to the climate crisis with resignation or cynicism, our congregations can chart a new path forward by responding to this moral crisis in a distinctively religious way. By probing deeply into our religious traditions, we can present truths that are needed in this time of climate catastrophe.
I think Christians have to do organizing, because it helps us to broaden whatever kind of tunnel vision some of our own traditions unwittingly produce in this fundamentalist age. I often tell my congregation that organizing, justice work, is essential for Christian discipleship, because it helps our heart become less wicked. It puts you in relationship and conversation with both systems and individuals that you may need to learn from, or you may need to help transform. I think organizing is critically important in that way.
And nearly every Sunday, as broken bread stands for broken bodies, I am struck with the words of James Baldwin, when he wrote that to be born black or a person of color in America means that you must “give up all hope of communion.”
When Baldwin wrote those words he believed that the nation was both a Christian nation and a white nation. White supremacy was the foundation of American rites and rights. Whiteness was a prerequisite to be encircled by compassion and included in citizenship. The denial of communion — the denial of the body of Christ and the rejection from the body politic — was connected to the nation’s original sin.
One of the highlights of my trip to Costa Rica was visiting Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose. Taking a break from the beaches and after consuming a healthy amount of papaya and platanos, I wanted to go there to see the area outside the theater, which has busts of some of the Central American country’s famous writers: Eunice Odio, Joaquín Gutierrez, and Yolanda Oreamuno. After the visit, with the help of some of my tias and primas, I even brought home a few books from these authors. They were particularly pleased I was interested in reading literature from Costa Rica.
In 1971, the movement that became Sojourners was born at an evangelical seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago. In 1973, Sojourners worked with Evangelicals for Social Action in a gathering Ron Sider convened, again in Chicago, which produced a document called the "Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern."
We are in the midst of a national trauma, with a vast number of women in America — across political lines — being re-traumatized by the events of last week. This moment requires pastoral care for survivors and those who love them, prophetic truth-telling about what is (or ought to be) morally acceptable and unacceptable, and the hope for some more profiles in courage in the United States Senate.
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino has become a cultural icon. From his comedic work in Community to his acting in both Marvel and Star Wars franchises to his writing and producing of the critically acclaimed show Atlanta, the versatile Grammy-nominated artist is a creative force. Throughout all of this commercial and critical success, Donald Glover has refused to frame his work as a product; instead he wants to offer a participatory experience, a religious experience even.
Christianity transformed from a faith reliant on Jesus to a civic religion obsessed with obtaining partisan power. This co-opting of Jesus — manipulating His gospel of love and redemption to fit the narrative of an expanding American empire, specifically to maintain the colonial stronghold of white supremacy — fits a historical pattern.
Some years ago, I was supervising a focus group of nonreligious Latinxs. The topic of the focus group was politics and religion. As the discussion progressed, someone meekly mentioned that they were not religious, apparently expecting the judgment of their fellow group members. But they were not judged. One by one, fellow group members surprised each other as they admitted that they were also not religious. They were unaware that there were others like them. Their experiences have been ignored by their ethnic communities and society at large because they do not fit the stereotype of the pious Latinx. Nevertheless, it’s important for religious people and the broader public to understand this particular group.
Thursday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) changed the narrative from the weight of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's compelling testimony to a matter of completely partisan loyalty against the Democrats, who of course had their own partisan motives. But the greatest blame, in my view, rests with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who made the most partisan move in the history of Supreme Court nominations by refusing to even consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for an entire year. That poisoned the Senate "well" for Supreme Court nominations in toxic ways.
When I realized that I’m not alone in my fears for my own safety as a woman, and as an Indigenous woman, I began to notice everything. I watch interactions between men and women more closely. This hyper-awareness is leaving many of my friends on edge across America, women who have now seen a man like Kavanaugh lauded for his work while his victim is called a liar. We don’t trust the people on the streets, in elevators, or in our neighborhoods. We are paying attention.
Twenty-seven years ago, as an African-American female clergy leader and legislative advocate, I operated in two worlds dominated by male power – religion and politics. I watched Anita Hill sit with the same quiet dignity as Rosa Parks resisting racial segregation on an Alabama bus by refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Rosa Parks went to jail. Anita Hill watched as Clarence Thomas was voted onto the U.S. Supreme Court. For both women, it looked like the dominion of male power had won.
It is gut-wrenching to look at their faces — 58 of them. They were young, old, men, women, single, married, parents, and grandparents. From all over the country and from Canada, they had one thing in common: they were fans of country music. One year ago, on Oct. 1, they made their way to an open field in Las Vegas where, in the midst of their revelry, they were plunged into terror and cut down by bullets — more than 1100 — fired from 32 stories above their heads.
Women across the world have broken open, offering their stories of abuse and assault in a shared scream, searching for a new normal so our daughters and sons won’t have to deal with the same. The response we see from men in leadership has been a series of temper tantrums at the prospect of having to change learned behavior.
I slowly came to understand that if I was going to remain a Christian, I needed to find a path that had room for the rage and grief I carried with me as a rape survivor. Rage is the only human and rational reaction to the trauma I’d experienced, and I could not smother my humanity in order to remain a Christian. It was around this time that I first read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This past Tuesday, after we read Martin & Malcolm & America by James Cone, my seminary professor asked “what elements of Malcolm’s theology could contribute to Christian theology?” and my answer was immediate: holding space for rage.
For America’s ruling class – the lawyers, judges, doctors, and other Ivy-League graduates who run many of the institutions who shape the fabric of American life, the witness of Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was a moment of reckoning. When it comes to the issues of power, privilege, and gender that shape our behavior every day, churches, once considered some of the most potent moral forces in American society, have been largely missing in action.
Christian leaders, on the whole, have failed to address the abuse and assault experienced by more than half of all Christian believers. When was the last time your congregation dedicated a sermon or service to sexual harassment, assault, and abuse? If you are fortunate enough to have experienced such a service, you’re the exception to the rule. Despite attending all sorts of churches within a variety of denominations and despite sitting through countless sermons, I have not once heard violence against women addressed in any significant capacity. I’ve heard homilies on the Leviathan, the Nephilim, and the dimensions of Noah’s ark. I have not heard a single sermon confronting a problem that affects nearly every woman in every congregation, and around the world
Start here: “You are beloved.” “You will recover.” “God is with you.”
“Worse health outcomes, especially among pregnant women. A jump in emergency room usage. More communicable diseases. Higher poverty and housing instability, including among U.S. citizen children. Lower productivity. Reduced educational attainment. And ‘downstream and upstream impacts on state and local economies, large and small businesses, and individuals.’ What are all these terrible things? They’re all potential consequences of a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule—according to DHS itself.”