Melissa Browning

Melissa Browning is the Graduate Program Director for the MA in Social Justice and Community Development at Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies. Her work focuses primarily on sexual ethics and bioethics. She is currently writing on Christian marriage in light of the African HIV and AIDS epidemic. Her book on this project, When Marriage Becomes Risky, will be published later this year. Melissa is also an ordained Baptist minister through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Learn more about Melissa’s work on her website: Her post appears via Odyssey Networks.

Posts By This Author

Jim Crow Again: Lessons for Fighting this Giant

by Melissa Browning 06-15-2015
Photo via sakhorn /

Photo via sakhorn /

One in thirty-one. That’s how many Americans are in in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole. In the U.S., our incarceration rate is 10 times higher than that of other countries while our actual crime rate is lower than those same countries. Citing a 600% increase in the prison population since the 1960’s, with no correlating increase in crime, Michelle Alexander has called mass incarceration “the new Jim Crow.” When people of color represent 30% of the U.S. population, but 60% of those incarcerated, we are in league with David, staring at a towering giant, armed with a prayer and a handful of stones.

While the work before us is daunting, people of faith are called to fight giants. The Spirit who we remember in Pentecost, the Spirit who set the world on fire, has trusted us with this work. We are giant slayers, by God’s grace. For this reason, it is fitting that we revisit the story of the first giant slayer, a young boy who tended sheep and fought off bears and lions.

Dare to Sit With Suffering

by Melissa Browning 03-10-2014

The cross of Christ offers a place where the suffering of the whole world is connected. WELBURNSTUART/

Abram left his homeland on a promise and a prayer. God called. Abram went. The Biblical text makes it seem so simple. There are no signs of struggle or doubt. There is no grief over what is left behind, only the forward look toward a new land and a new future. Leaving home for Abram seems so easy.

As I reflect on this week’s scripture, I’m in Lebanon listening to stories of Syrian refugees who left their countryand their kindred to find a place of refuge. Unlike Abram, they did not leave on the promise that they would become a great nation. They left because bombs fell on their houses. They left because food became scarce. They left because they watched their loved ones die in the rubble as buildings fell to the ground.

As we enter into this season of Lent, it is fitting for us to pause and listen to their stories. Remembering Christ’s suffering is more than an exercise in gratitude. It is a chance for us to stand in solidarity with those around the world who suffer each day. It is a challenge for us to take our own suffering (be it large or small) and connect it to the suffering of others and to the suffering of Christ on the cross.

On Scripture: Climate Change and Setting the World on Fire

by Melissa Browning 02-06-2013
Chaikovskiy Igor /

Chaikovskiy Igor /

It was Earth Day, 1988. I was in my fifth grade “Earth Science” class, a place where one might expect to talk about the importance of caring for the earth. But this was not what we were talking about that day. At least, we weren’t talking about it until one student asked our teacher about the hole in the ozone layer and whether or not she should stop using hairspray. Our science teacher replied by saying that hairspray wasn’t a problem because the end of the world was coming and the whole earth would be consumed by fire anyway.
While my science teacher did not speak for all people of faith, she also was not a lone voice in the crowd. Caring for the earth is not something Christian churches in the West have been particularly good at. We were late coming to the conversation and have been slow in mobilizing our efforts. This is ironic considering that the foundational stories of our faith, the first words in the book we call holy, commission us to be caretakers of every living thing. In a world where climate change is evidenced in super storms, wildfires, heat waves, droughts and floods, it is urgent that people of faith return to our first responsibility of being stewards of the world in which we live.

David, Bathsheba, Grace, and AIDS

by Melissa Browning 07-27-2012

In the 31 years since the discovery of HIV and AIDS, nearly 30 million people have died from the virus with 34 million people currently living with the disease.

The epidemic is at its worst in sub-Saharan Africa, and women are affected the most. In fact, 59 percent of people living with HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women.

Statistics like these are mind-numbing. Though necessary, they can nearly cripple our response as they point to the inefficacy of our actions.

This is why, when I teach or write on HIV and AIDS, I prefer to tell stories. And as people of faith, we need stories, both ancient and new, to help us navigate our response to social issues such as HIV and AIDS.