Whatever you choose to read during a certain month or week — if it’s good enough — can become a frame around most everything else you do. Even if you literally can put a good book down, it’ll still stick around in your imagination. That’s been the case for me with James Baldwin’s “Letter From a Region in My Mind.” An essay that timeless easily becomes a conversation partner for everything else you read. I read a lot of news this week, and Baldwin had something to say about all of it.
I was appalled when I read about the Southern Baptist Convention’s efforts to silence the truths of both critical race theory and #ChurchToo survivors. But Baldwin helped me make sense of the SBC’s preservationist instincts: “Most people guard and keep,” he wrote in 1962. “[T]hey suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.”
And when Temesgen Kahsay, writing of the internal violence in Ethiopia, said, “I want to know why my fellow Christians who claim to worship the Prince of Peace have engaged in legitimizing violence and death,” it was easy to hear Baldwin respond in a tired voice: “People always seem to band together according to a principle that has nothing to do with love, a principle that releases them from personal responsibility.”
And in the article “Black and Palestinan Christians’ Struggle for Freedom,” Matthew Vega wrote about the task of religious leaders living in oppressive places: “Theologians that do the work of justifying historical unfreedom are creating ideologies, not Christian theologies.” Once again I thought of the words I’d highlighted in “Letter From a Region in My Mind”: “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving.”
May you see glimpses of love and freedom as you celebrate this Juneteenth weekend.
1. When a Pipeline Is a Threat to Earth, Water, and Sacred Spaces
“We have to embody the people-over-profit mindset. It’s time for mass embodied action rather than just words.” By Gina Ciliberto via sojo.net.
2. Letter From a Region in My Mind
“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.” By James Baldwin via The New Yorker.
3. What Does the Bible Say About Women in Ministry?
“The Bible has more to say about women in leadership positions than we are often led to believe, and with the exception of that pesky little 1 Timothy passage, the biblical narrative about women leaders is overwhelmingly positive.” By Kyndall Rae Rothaus via sojo.net.
4. How Critical Race Theory Overran the Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptists argue over critical race theory, white privilege, gender equality, the handling of sexual-assault cases, and who among them is deserving of cancellation. By Chris Moody via the Intelligencer.
5. Black and Palestinian Christians’ Struggle for Freedom
Liberation theology has inspired Black Christians and Palestinian Christians to begin building coalitions. By Matthew Vega via sojo.net.
6. Male Doula Helping Men Make Birth Process Safer for Black Moms
In Los Angeles County, Black moms die at four times the rate as white moms. By Ryann Blackshere Vargas via Spectrum News 1.
7. Juneteenth: ‘How Beautiful Are the Feet of Those Who Bring Good News’
Black soldiers gave flesh to the emancipating spoken words. By Jayne Marie Smith via sojo.net.
9. Dear Ethiopian Christians, Our Faith Does Not Condone Genocide
The Jesus many Ethiopian leaders follow apparently never said “blessed are the peacemakers,” or “love thy enemies.” By Temesgen Kahsay via sojo.net.
10. Juneteenth and Barbecue
The menu of Emancipation Day. By Daniel Vaughn via Texas Monthly.