And I can’t help but think about my friends on “life” row who live daily in that space. They know that their execution dates can be set at any moment, but they also know that they are alive now and have to live into as much of the fullness of the day as they possibly can. It can be difficult, at times, to sit in the liminal space with my friends, as I never know which they will choose — will they choose life or will they choose death to discuss? And the truth is that they pick both. They need to process their death while they are living. And they have to process their living while they know they face a certain death.
On Ash Wednesday 2018, a group of elders met for a retreat together because of a national political crisis, which was also revealing a crisis of faith. At Pentecost, in overcrowded churches in downtown Washington, D.C., we launched a declaration that we called Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis. More than 5 million people have directly responded to the Reclaiming Jesus declaration thus far and many more have been reached by it and are addressing the declaration in their churches. A declaration is becoming a movement to re-claim Jesus; the message of Jesus needs reclaiming at a time like this.
This week, scores of people will once again experience the grief of missing loved ones who were cut down by a deranged young man with multiple deadly weapons in the high school he shared with his victims. The Parkland, Fla. mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which killed 17 people and injured 17, joins the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which wiped out a classroom of precious children, as two of the most horrific moments in American history. The irony that the Parkland slaughter was on Valentine’s Day only increases the suffering. While many will celebrate having and enjoying their loved ones in their lives, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors will only feel afresh a terrible vacuum.
Christian music singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb released her first children's album, Sing: Creation Songs, in September with an accompanying children's book called Who Sang the First Song?. In January, she and her partner, Drew Holcomb, frontman of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, dropped an EP called Electricity.
“For us America is our own country, and it’s all the same: hopeless,” the general told his solider.
General Simón Bolívar had lost faith. The great Liberator of Latin America who fought for independence from Spain, with a vision of a continent united as a single nation would never happen. His men wore the wounds of the revolutions his words inspired and only the frail old man at the end of his life knew how worthless they had been. Political and social change was impossible. He had known the cause was lost for years and kept fighting out of despair, with no dream of any meaningful end.
As adults, if we get the chance to deconstruct our childhood faith, it can often be a traumatic process. Many of us share stories about working with a therapist to unpack trauma from the church, whether it is from the purity movement or the ongoing work of colonization. If you have spent much time on Twitter, you might find some of these conversations floating around, especially in ex-evangelical spaces. Many of us who grew up in the white evangelical church are asking questions about things like missions ideology, white supremacy in the church, toxic patriarchy and sexism, and violence against our LGBTQ friends.
As is so often the case, it is the poor and marginalized that are the most vulnerable to these arrogant battles of political will. We have now seen that our leaders were willing to hold families and their children hostage, allowing their wellbeing to be threatened by the reckless shut down of portions of the federal government for nothing more than partisan political gain.
Rigid gender performance is a cultural construct, not a divine decree. Truly, if we are created in the image of God, we are made to transgress narrow definitions of “masculine” and “feminine” behavior. The God of Scripture is neither male nor female, transcending human conceptions of gender altogether. Though frequently referred to with masculine pronouns, at other times God is described in the feminine, as a comforting mother (Isa 66:13) or a hen guarding her brood (Luke 13:34). As Patrick Cheng notes in Radical Love, “God is fundamentally queer,” breaking through any human attempt to restrict God’s gender expression — this is also why Morse’s attempt to lift Jesus up as masculine exemplar rings so hollow; if God and Jesus are one, then Jesus’ “maleness” is purely incidental.
Because the violence of the past was so bad, supposed lesser forms of violence seem less worthy of deconstruction. Toxic masculinity and gun violence are fruits of the same legacy. While it is much easier now to say that slavery and genocide were evils, we have failed to cut them off at their roots, the roots that reek of manipulated biblical texts, hyper masculine domination, and antiquated assumptions about gender. We cannot expect that simply acknowledging the events that resulted from toxic masculinity in the past will deconstruct the assumptions and values that created it to begin with.
White supremacy is woven and embedded into society as a system so intricately that it can be invisible, mistaken for normalcy because, in fact, that’s what it is. Instead of seeing white supremacy as blatant acts of intentional harm, I challenge us to consider how this country was built to center whiteness. It’s a virus and an energy. It is a virus because it is a sickness at the core of so much harm, and it’s an energy because in its natural state — this country is conditioned to operate in accordance with whiteness: white culture, white thriving, white favoritism, and white comfort.
On Dec. 30, 1959, over 3,000 Christian students gathered in Athens, Ohio, at the 18th Ecumenical Student Conference. Participating youth leaders and activists developed methods of engaging with social and political transformations at the turn of the 1960s. One of the key speakers was a 30-year-old Baptist preacher who emphasized a religious as well as civic prerogative for students, claiming: “whenever a crisis emerges in history, the church has a role to play.” While the specific crisis Martin Luther King Jr. referred to was the fight for civil rights in the segregated American South, he urged Christian students to challenge injustice undergirding all systemic discrimination, oppression, and racism at home and abroad.
President Trump began his State of the Union speech by recognizing two anniversaries: the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when the American-led invasion of Europe initiated the defeat of the Nazis, and the 50th anniversary of America putting a man on the moon, pointing to astronaut Buzz Aldrin as an invited guest in the gallery. But he left out the most significant 2019 remembrance: the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves sold into human bondage in Jamestown, Va., in August 1619.
While the zeal and strategy of the Religious Right has been well-documented since the movement’s inception in the late 20th century, journalists have lately turned their attention to its alleged left-leaning counterpart. Stories, bearing equal parts documentation and speculation, of an emerging “Religious Left” have decorated the pages of major outlets such as the The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, and Reuters since 2016. But the framing of these stories distorts as much as it uncovers.
American Christianity brought us to this point. It preached nationalism and sanctified American imperialism — promoting Manifest Destiny as ordained by God. The prosperity gospel baptized capitalistic greed, it’s preachers vilified the poor, and it’s theologians manipulated scripture to rationalize global colonialism. Salvation was no longer personified through Jesus, but was redesigned to be a political machine, fueled by its ability to control branches of government. This methodology was packaged as “Christianity,” and the gospel became a message of gaining social power and control rather than a call to follow Jesus’ life of selfless service and sacrifice.
The Trump administration is pushing to impose work requirements on Americans who rely on the Medicaid program for their health care. Sixteen states have taken up the President’s team on its explicit invitation to place this extra demand on their states’ residents who count on Medicaid for access to their medicines and treatment. There are high-level discussion about applying Medicaid work mandates across the country.
Republicans realize that work requirements can undercut the ACA’s most effective component: the expansion of Medicaid. They are counting on these regulations inflicting their damage outside of congressional and popular scrutiny. In the process, they are promoting false information on what Medicaid work requirements will do.
To claim that this attack was motivated by a singular form of bigotry is false. Such a claim is also violent and contributes to the culture that silences and erases the complicated reality of compounded oppression experienced by black LGBTQ persons every day. Hate is rarely simple and the intersectionality — or dynamic forms of subjugation individuals face because of their marginalized identities — black same-gender loving people face is at work here.
Virtually from the day she assumed office, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her avowed democratic socialism have been under attack. Much of the condemnation is from the same crowd that so vigorously insists that America is and always has been a “Christian nation.” This is quite ironic, because democratic socialism and the Bible share a strikingly similar vision of what constitutes a fair and just society. Capitalism, however, does not share that vision.
I spent the first 18 years of my life blissfully assuming all Protestant churches allowed women to preach. At my home church, a tiny Presbyterian (USA) congregation in San Antonio, women spoke from the pulpit as often as they brought lukewarm casseroles to Sunday potluck. But when I left home for college, another first-year ambushed me in the dorm kitchen with his mouth full of 1 Timothy, bursting my egalitarian bubble. While I have since memorized the scriptural justifications for my equal existence and participation in the church, a new study by Church Clarity reveals that I am still far from living in a world where all Protestant churches allow women to lead.
When my white wife held her baby boy and girl to her chest for the first time, she cried. Falling from her cheeks onto their heads, her tears baptized them into a world that was confused and colliding and in desperate need of grace.
But she did not cry because she had brown babies.
Thanks be to God! For all the government workers and their families who will, hopefully, soon get their deeply deserved paychecks, we give thanks. For those of us who are constantly on the look out for what’s next on the breaking news horizon, this is a good place to start today: giving thanks to God. Let us first be thankful, then ask what is next.