It’s been over four months now since Maria hit the island, and 1.36 million Puerto Ricans are still without power in what is being called the “longest and largest blackout in American history.” While they wait in literal darkness, my abuela sits in a memory one.
Political rhetoric linking the United States with a divine power emerged on a large scale with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. M.R. Watkinson, a Pennsylvania clergyman, encouraged the placement of “In God We Trust” on coins at the war’s outset in order to help the North’s cause. Such language, Watkinson wrote, would “place us openly under the divine protection.”
Her case garnered national headlines, provoking questions about the criminal justice system and the criminalization of black women and girls.
Two seasons in, The Good Place offers plenty of conversation prompts about the afterlife.
I believe that standing up against increasing authoritarian leadership in the United States will become a matter of faith for our communities. Faith communities believe in democracy not because we think human beings are perfect, but because we know we are not. Checks, balances, and accountabilities are essential to our public life.
Blues legend Robert Johnson, the story goes, made a deal with the devil and sold his soul on a Mississippi highway to play virtuoso guitar. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s musical tastes reportedly lean more toward Metallica than the Delta blues, but he faces a crossroads of his own that will test whether he will trade in his values to the nativist wing of the Republican Party or do what’s right for young immigrants.
Perhaps climate change’s calamities will galvanize the international political scene, cracking the iron grip of the wealthy on our politics and forcing redistribution of resources. But no matter what happens, people of faith must lead the charge in envisioning a just world for all inhabitants. To slow the destruction of the earth, a fundamental reimagining of our societies is required.
The book of Jonah places the desire for retaliatory violence within the hearts of people (especially religious people) — rather than within the heart of God. It also promotes the idea of “God” as the divine ally of all people.
But it would not be lost on him, the silence — our silence — on the very principles Christianity was founded on: love of neighbor, care for the poor, welcoming all. Blaise had only to renounce these values to stop the horrors inflicted upon him. Just a word to save his own neck. But he refused. Even as he was tortured and executed. How tame our religion would seem to him now, how close to the trappings of the Empire whose politicians had hauled him off to jail.
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.