Lately, we’ve gotten a reminder about what happens when you make a deal that compromises your professed values. The Trump-vangelical marriage is a cautionary tale for us all.
The choirs of outcries from Hollywood over the Harvey Weinstein scandal and those echoing globe-wide over the atrocities of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar against children drop a question of epic proportions into the lap of the church: Why are we who preach and teach “the truth will set you free” largely bound by silence regarding sexual assault and abuse?
And this is the America I believe in. No matter how we differ in our beliefs or practices, this country is meant to be a place where all of us feel safe and have the opportunity to thrive. So — despite demeaning rhetoric, stigmatizing policies, and acts of hatred and violence — I have hope, because I choose to see the many ways that people of faith and goodwill are pushing back. I hope that you do, too.
The State of the Union speech last night reveals a divided nation. In the sharpest contrast, a “Unity Declaration” is being released today by a very broad and diverse group of nearly 80 Christian leaders focusing on the integral connection between racism and poverty — which, for us, are issues of faith we are committed to overcoming together.
In the church, I believe that our problem of complicity stems from our operative theologies. Our theology imbues men with more power, based on the misogynist idea that our deity is male and has ordered our communities, homes, and churches, to be organized beneath and around men. This is overwhelmingly reflected in the androcentric (focused on men) language that we utilize in worship and prayer. Our theologies dictate that women must, and do well to, dwell in the lots of suffering and submission, and suggest that the less women complain, the easier it will be to endure our abusive, unfair, death-dealing, yet God-given circumstances. Our theologies dictate that sin, though it may cause great collateral damage, is primarily a private issue that is best resolved privately. Together, these create of perfect theological storm for an endemic, and seemingly impenetrable, rape culture within the church. As a womanist homiletician, my research focuses on how our preaching exacerbates this storm and validates its parts with the authority of the pulpit.
In a world that’s all about the Benjamins, in which art is endlessly asked to compromise to rake in the dough, artists need as much support as they can get to create art that questions the status quos of their medium and our society. Great art depicts us as who we are, while it also shows us who we can be. If we don’t give it the attention it deserves, and reward it accordingly, fewer artists will be brave enough to give us work like Kendrick Lamar’s sonically raw Christian social justice commentary To Pimp a Butterfly; Lorde’s boundary-testing, lyrically complex Melodrama; or Beyoncé’s soul-bearing, historically sweeping musical project Lemonade.
These field notes of a fictional ethnographer on an imagined planet touch on a truth: As a woman who was conditioned to see God as father, my role as a Christian was shaped by the nature of a father relationship. And while this may not inherently be harmful, it is limiting. In The Left Hand of Darkness, I was invited to step into and imagine a world where gender was not a burden, privilege, or factor — for me, or for God.
The conversation around women in Christian leadership erupted recently, after well-known complementarian pastor and writer John Piper published a piece at Desiring God in which he claimed that because women aren’t fit to preach, they aren’t fit to teach and train men in seminary. After seeing the argument, I put out a call on Twitter to the men of the Christian faith to name the women who have led and theologically shaped them throughout their lives.
The report estimates that an average of 23-27 honor killings occur every year in the United States, and suggests that 513,000 women and girls are at risk of FGM. These are horrific acts of violence against women. But simply preventing immigrants from entering the U.S. won’t stop these acts. If the Trump administration is serious about combating these abuses against women and girls, it would be funding education initiatives, preventative programs, and resources designed to help survivors. But that isn’t where the administration is putting money, suggesting their goal isn’t to stop these acts from happening — it’s simply to make sure these violent acts against women happen somewhere else.
There is enormous public support for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) from the American people. According to a poll released by CBS News in the past week, “nearly 9 in 10 Americans (87%) favor allowing young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the U.S.” This number includes 79 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Democrats, and 87 percent of independents who favor the policy.
The Women’s March in 2017 was one of the largest protests in history. Why is it that coworkers and friends who are active in social justice movements did not even realize that the march was taking place again this weekend? Why is it that I am still explaining why it was important for me to attend?
Every year, U.S. public schools suspend enough students to fill 45 Super Bowl stadiums—nearly 3.5 million, amounting to nearly 18 million missed days of school. It’s a policy that negatively affects learning of all students, but in the United States, of course, there is also a racial gap: Studies show students of color are suspended at three times the rate of white students.
Are we a nation of immigrants or of ethno-nationalists? Do we believe in “American Exceptionalism” or “America First”? Do we prioritize narrowly conceived national interests over enduring American values? Should we lead and preserve the international order, or simply compete with craven superpowers like China and Russia? Will we compassionately open our doors to the world’s “tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to be free,” or will we tell them to go back to the “s***hole countries” they come from? Put starkly, are we a nation “under God” or under Trump? We must choose.
I marched because I serve a Master whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light. Labor rights are essential to the health and well-being of the country, both economically and spiritually. The decline of the middle class is a result of the decline of union membership and influence. Appointing as Secretary of Labor a CEO who opposes overtime pay and increasing the minimum wage is an attack on working people.
For Augustine and his followers, attention was a rare and valuable experience, perhaps even more than for us since they associated it with the divine. One might expect that as a result they should have simply dismissed distraction. But they didn’t.
“You are bringing politics into the church!” That is a frequently heard comment when pastors and community leaders bring things like MLK Day commemoration services into their churches. I asked the gathered audience at the Millbrook Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Monday night if they had ever heard that question before. I was honored to give the keynote address for their MLK Day 2018 service — which was filled up with leaders and members of local Christian Reformed Churches and students and faculty from Calvin College. Heads were nodding yes in response to my question all over the congregation.
"When a black man gets shot and killed on the side of the road for doing nothing other than being black, and no one says anything about it but maybe some black people for a little while, and then it goes away, the church has not done enough. It has done nearly nothing."
How did religious liberty come to mean nearly the opposite of what its founders intended?
From rural, residential life to news cameras to FBI investigations, I, Tonya is a sweeping view of an America that has barely changed since 1994, and certainly hasn’t improved much. It’s a film about how, in the words of screenwriter Steven Rogers, “America wants someone to love, but they also want someone to hate.”