Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart
Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart is a Masters of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School, where he studies race, religion, and literature. 

Ryan is most interested in writing about the intersection of faith, race, and culture. In particular he’s concerned with what it means to do “secular” activities Christianly – in a style that is attuned to both the particularities of the Christian tradition and the radical questions being asked of that tradition.

Ryan is a previous Audience Engagement Associate with Sojourners, and previously founded the Claremont Ekklesia, an undergraduate journal of Christian thought at the Claremont Colleges. He hails from Colorado Springs, CO, and holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Pomona College. You can find him on Twitter @RyanMcStew.

 

Posts By This Author

Black Lives Matter Activists Launch ‘Campaign Zero,’ a Comprehensive Policy Platform Telling Politicians Exactly What They Want

by Ryan Stewart 08-21-2015
Campaign Zero

Photo via Campaign Zero

In the last year, Black Lives Matter activists have changed the consciousness of a nation. And all along the way they have vocally advocated for concrete policy changes. But now their demands are collected in a single, beautiful website, designed to inspire activists and provoke officials.

#FergusonTaughtMe: What People of Faith Have Learned Over the Past Year

by Ryan Stewart 08-10-2015
a katz / Shutterstock.com

Activists march in New York City on October 11, 2014 in solidarity with renewed protests in Ferguson, Mo. Photo via a katz / Shutterstock.com

One year after the shooting and killing of Michael Brown, #FergusonTaughtMe is trending on Twitter. Activists, faith leaders, intellectuals, and everyday members of the movement have used the hashtag to explain how Ferguson fundamentally altered their racial consciousness. Embedded are a few tweets from Christian leaders who shared how Ferguson changed the way they do faith. 

WATCH: Key and Peele Skit Imagines a World Where We Glorify Teachers Like We Do Athletes

by Ryan Stewart 07-28-2015
Comedy Central / Youtube

Photo via Comedy Central / Youtube

The Comedy Central duo has long been using comedy to challenge injustice. Now they’re tackling education.

The new skit portrays Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as primetime anchors of “TeachingCenter,” a show meant to mimic ESPN’s flagship athletic program, SportsCenter. The two hosts obsess over new teaching trades, a live draft for teachers, and an in-depth analysis of pedagogical technique. We even get a glimpse at a BMW commercial starring an educator.

Cosby Cover Sparks #TheEmptyChair Dialogue About Rape Culture

by Ryan Stewart 07-27-2015
Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Randy Miramontez / Shutterstock.com

July 26's visually-arresting cover photo of New York Magazine shows 35 of the 46 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. The story also includes extensive interviews with each of the women who agreed to speak publicly.

Even as the evidence continues to suggest Cosby is a serial rapist, and even though Cosby admitted to giving drugs to sexual partners, he is still pushing a PR campaign to cover over the accusations.

The latest article reveals the wide diversity of women who have leveled accusations at Cosby.

Confessing My White Supremacy

by Ryan Stewart 07-07-2015
WhiteChessPiece

Image via /Shutterstock

For white people who care about racism, it’s time we stop pointing the finger at others and start confessing our own sin.

Every white person I know denounces the blatant, tragic racism of Dylann Roof. They abhor that this sort of thing could possibly happen in 2015. They can’t believe there still exists people who are THAT racist, who would fly the Confederate flag, who could possibly say (x and y and z). They shudder and shake at such insanity.

Many white moderates and conservatives I know would express such a view.

And some of those white people are also quick to point out “structural racism.” Chastising the “lone wolf” fallacies of those who think Roof acted outside of a racist context, these folks stress the importance of systems. For them, racism isn’t simply perpetrated by extremist Southerners or a few power-hungry police officers. Rather, it’s sustained primarily in local and national policies. With their cultivated, educated, birds-eye view, these white people expose “white privilege.” They, ahem, get it.

This is the enlightened white liberal par excellence.

But both views enable an understanding of racism that exists outside our own selves. Racism doesn’t exist outside our own selves, white folks. It doesn’t simply exist in THAT guy. It’s not just a vague political force in policy. It exists in you. It exists in me. I am racist. I am a white supremacist. And if you're white and reading this, you probably are too.

Pastor: If DOJ Officials Won’t Read the Torture Report, I'll Read It to Them

by Ryan Stewart 06-04-2015
Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Left to Right: Rev. Ron Stief, Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, Colin Jager. Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J., travelled to Washington, D.C., on June 3 with a simple task: to read the torture report outside the Department of Justice.

“As a pastor, I know that admitting the truth is the first step toward redemption,” said Kaper-Dale.

“When the DOJ admitted in court that it hadn’t even opened, let alone read, the full Torture Report, I knew I had to help the department start the path toward redemption. By reading the report outside the DOJ, I hope to open the hearts of at least a few DOJ employees.”

Is It Good or Bad When Churches Shrink?

by Ryan Stewart 05-15-2015
Photo via Wouter Tolenaars / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Wouter Tolenaars / Shutterstock.com

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, there are markedly fewer Christians and more “nones” — those who identify of no faith at all — in the U.S. than just seven years ago.

In the wake of this news, many critics have lost themselves in the question of who’s winning. But this isn’t a crisis. We don’t need to defend ourselves. We don’t need to obsess over whose team is in the lead. 

But we also can’t just shrug our shoulders. If we have any faith that Christianity has value in the public sphere, we should be reasonably concerned when people begin to see little importance in Christian identity.

 

Deep Divide Remains Between How Black and White Americans See Justice System

by Ryan Stewart 05-07-2015
Image via PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, May 2015

Image via PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, May 2015

The percentage of white Americans (46 percent) who believe blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment to whites in the criminal justice system is exactly the same as it was in 1992 — the year of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. In contrast, only 17 percent of black Americans and 39 percent of Hispanic Americans agree. 

Considering Nonviolence in Baltimore

by Ryan Stewart 04-28-2015
Photo via 1000 words / Shutterstock.com

View of a famous Banksy graffiti piece. Photo via 1000 words / Shutterstock.com

Recent protests in Baltimore are raising the question of (non)violence anew. Should violent protesters be criticized? Should Christians call for nonviolence?

Some bluster “Of course!” while others say that’s not the point.

Over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who grew up in Baltimore, is challenging calls for nonviolence in an article entitled “Nonviolence as Compliance.” Calling “well-intended pleas” for nonviolence “the right answer to the wrong question,” Coates writes:

 

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise."

The line bears repeating: “When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.” Are newly scared white folks simply “calling timeout?”

Coates wants to ground our conversation about violence in the narrative of a larger “war.” For him, violence did not “break out” last night – violence has always been present. Coates wants to shift our focus from the shorter story of rock-throwers to the much longer story of the black experience in the United States.

As the clergy marching in Baltimore put it, “There’s been a state of emergency way before tonight.”

Whose Fear? Which Newsfeed?

by Ryan Stewart 04-15-2015
Protestors gather in Washington, DC, December 2014. Image via Rena Schild/shutte

Protestors gather in Washington, DC, December 2014. Image via Rena Schild/shutterstock.com

In “A Newsfeed of Fear” (Sojourners, May 2015), Gareth Higgins argues that our newsfeeds often scare us into believing the world is getting worse when the world is actually getting better. 

Although I resonate with a call for calm in an age of violent clickbait, we cannot discuss “A Newsfeed of Fear” without talking about race in post-Ferguson America. When we say our newsfeeds are filled with fear, we need to think more about which newsfeeds are making us afraid and whose fear we’re discussing.

For example, when Higgins bemoans “horrifying, brutal videos, edited for maximum sinister impact,” perhaps a reference to the all-too-familiar videos of ISIS hostages, I actually envision Walter Scott and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and all the others.  While the videos produced by ISIS are fearmongering propaganda intended to provoke, we wouldn’t want to call newsfeeds unmasking the reality of police brutality a corrupting influence on our society, right?

And in this context Higgins’ claim that the world is actually getting better is especially dangerous. Advising police brutality whistle blowers to keep their violent videos to themselves because they paint “too cynical a portrait of the improved race-relations in our society” would border on the insane.

The problem with media is not so much that it makes us fearful, but that it makes certain people fear certainthings and certain other kinds of people.  It makes my mom fear that her granddaughters will get kidnapped in a very safe neighborhood. It makes me, a white guy, fear walking past black men in hoodies at night, and not white guys in polos. What you fear depends on where you’re standing and what you’re watching.

From where Higgins is standing, “our culture has been hoodwinked by the idea that we’re living in the center of crisis, when actually we’re in the midst of the evolution of hope.” In his eyes, our culture cultivates a false sense of constant terror.

But we need to ask: whose culture? When I read #BlackLivesMatter activists, they seem to say: “no, most people have been hoodwinked by the idea that ‘our’ (meaning American) culture is living in the midst of the evolution of hope, when actually ‘a certain (black) culture’ is indeed in the center of crisis.” So who’s right about the value of violent, fearful newsfeeds?

It depends on where you’re standing and what you’re watching.

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