Community

Soong-Chan Rah 6-15-2017

The assumed exceptionalism and excessive triumphalism of the American church conflicts with the biblical call for humility as evidenced by lament. The practice of lament in the Bible confronts our American Christian assumptions. Biblical lament calls for honesty and truth-telling about the broken state of society and the individual. As such, the excessive triumphalism of American society has nearly quashed a necessary countercultural practice.

Kathy Kelly 6-08-2017

Without any input from the centralized government, the Afghan Peace Volunteers build community and share resources. Within Kabul, they arrange inter-ethnic activities and projects, distribute food, educate children, and manufacture heavy blankets to help families survive the harsh winters. They risk their lives to relate with people whom they are told are their enemies.

Wil Gafney 6-05-2017

GOD'S FAITHFULNESS is measured in generational time. An emphasis on God’s faithfulness across generations is, by necessity, also an emphasis on community. God speaks and acts for the benefit of those present and those to come. Even when singular figures are mentioned—a prophet, a monarch—the message affects and is passed to and through the people.

The law and prophets represent God’s investment over time and bind together these readings. The law and prophets speak at moments in time but their messages are timeless. The gospel presents these truths embodied in the person of Jesus—and the epistles preach them passionately.

These lessons are read in the great expanse of liturgical time known as “ordinary” or as the season after Pentecost. This is a green season in the church (no matter what your grass looks like); that green symbolizes growth. This is a time for remembering the explosive growth of the early church and tending to our own growth as individuals and in community. Growth takes time. Our sacred stories make abundantly clear that the people of God—individual exemplars and the community, nation, and church—grew into fidelity over time.

The shaping of character and growth of faith is a process. These texts are signposts along the way.

Kathy Khang 5-15-2017

Image via Wes Dickinson/Flickr

Repairing isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s rarely as straightforward as we hope for. And sometimes it’s downright costly, or worse, impossible. If the church wants to be a part of repairing entire communities, we need to be willing to do at least three things: Gather the experts, put in the time, and give and live sacrificially.

Jennifer Bailey 5-12-2017

For black women, our trauma is by nature political. Our very embodiment places us in a never-ending cycle of entanglement with systems, people, and policies designed to perpetuate violence and domination.

Image via Jay Yuan / Shutterstock

Perhaps one reason the events played out differently at Princeton is because folks there insisted on seeing one another as members of a community, participants in the one Body of Christ, and in that spirit mustered what Dietrich Bonhoeffer once called the “ministry of bearing” essential to maintaining community. In 1938 Bonhoeffer wrote a book about his own seminary called Life Together, in which he emphasized that the enjoyment of fellowship with other Christians is a privilege, a gift of God’s grace. But he also understood that the church is a human community, and therefore not immune from conflict. Christians, he said, ideally respond to their inevitable conflict with a reassertion of mutual care and intentional practices of community building in the name of Christ.

Salvation cannot remain an individualized spiritualized concept. When the psalmists called out for salvation, they meant salvation from present suffering and danger. When the crowd shouted “Hosanna” at Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, they weren’t referring to the afterlife. When we talk about salvation in the context of our warming climate, we mean deliverance from the most destructive force our species has ever faced. When it comes to climate change, we have to think about community and salvation in a global sense. We must start to recognize that our communities are mutually dependent upon each other.

It is the tragedy of Christianity that the first hate crime in our constellation of texts is Matthew’s, in his telling the story of the passion. Jesus was a great teacher, an inspiring healer, and a man whose radical compassion touched everyone — women without honor, under-employed fisher folk, Roman soldiers, gentiles, Samaritans, scholarly Pharisees. The hearts of Palestinian Jews flocked to him, and this terrified the Romans. They tried to abort his movement by making his death a spectacle of cruelty and unutterable degradation.

Image via RNS/Adelle M. Banks

The Rev. Leah Daughtry stood in front of fellow black Christian leaders and told them they will need to work harder for social justice.

“If you’ve been feeding them, now clothe them,” said the Pentecostal pastor and 2016 CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee at a conference last week. “If you’ve been clothing them, now console them. If you’ve been at a march, now lead the march. If you’ve been at a rally, now organize the rally.”

Katie M. Logan 2-15-2017

Image via RNS/Marvel Comics

During the first few weeks of the Trump administration, we’ve seen increased pressure on Muslim and immigrant communities in the United States.

In the face of these threats, which Marvel superhero might be best equipped to defend the people, ideals, and institutions under attack? Some comic fans and critics are pointing to Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel.

Cathleen Falsani 1-17-2017

Image via Cathleen Falsani.

Some of the boys involved in carrying out those acts in December we know, and we know their parents. The parents we do know are not frothing-at-the-mouth bigots. We can’t imagine their sons learned racist ideas at home.

But they learned them somewhere.

Racists and bullies aren’t born. They are made.

Image via RNS/ Elizabeth Bryant 

Across Europe, governments and local communities are searching for ways to counter extremism after a wave of largely homegrown terrorist attacks.The question is all the more important for France, the target of three terror strikes in two years, and Western Europe’s biggest exporter of extremist fighters.Yet while countries such as Britain, Denmark and Germany have long been involved in deradicalization efforts, France is a relative newcomer to such programs. Some believe the country’s fiercely secular mindset and conflicted relationship with Islam pose additional obstacles.

Mihee Kim-Kort 1-09-2017

We have lost touch with the deep significance of work by separating the dignity, creativity, and livelihood of work from the individual person. In today’s emphasis on consumer capitalism — results and products — we have forgotten the interconnectedness of all our work, and the way we are baptized into the human community and live out that baptism through participating in purposeful work with our hands and feet.

Charles Redfern 12-30-2016

I saw ailing patients. I saw the neighborhoods surrounding Hartford Hospital, which belie the city’s reputation as the home of pin-striped actuaries bored with their BMWs. Connecticut’s capital is, in fact, one of the nation’s poorest communities, its many marginalized Hispanic and African American neighborhoods barely seen by the BMW drivers. The cerebral palsy victims trapped in their bodies; MS patients; old women fumbling for change on the bus while hooked up to portable oxygen; old men wheezing with emphysema. So many people we barely see — and I was one of them. 

I took solace in knowing that Jesus makes a bee-line for my new world.

Susan Sparks 3-21-2016

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

I am a big believer in shaking things up and approaching ideas through an unexpected perspective. Like the billboard I saw in Minnesota: It read, at the top, “Minnesota Cremation Society.” In the middle was a photo of a casket, and underneath, it read, “Think outside the box.” 

Olivia Whitener 3-02-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Without his community of his sisters and family, who have been mourning his death and questioning God for not saving their brother and friend, Lazarus would remain entombed. Without community, we remain bound and entombed. I’m not saying that our actions are as great as Jesus raising someone from the dead. But I am saying that God entrusts us with living into community, so that we may welcome our brothers and sisters out of death and into life.

the Web Editors 2-12-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Rape. Domestic Violence. Acid Burnings. Female Infanticide. Human Trafficking. Emotional Abuse. Sexual Harassment. Genital Mutilation. These are just a few forms of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that women and girls endure on a daily basis. But these assaults on the human spirit and sacred worth of women and girls will not have the last word.

Image via  / Shutterstock

Pope Francis on Sept. 2 told his followers to clamber down from their lofty skyscrapers, reclaim public spaces, and rejoin communities.

Speaking at his weekly public audience at the Vatican, the pope said it was up to families to rejuvenate cities.

There may be a lot of ways to spend one’s free time in a city, but love is missing, Francis said.

Teens across the world are still flocking to monks in France to deepen their Christian faith? Yes — and my family and I remained in awe of its tent-dotted fields and large scale kitchens staffed all by volunteers.

The Taize community of brothers from across Christian traditions — alongside sisters from a Catholic order — host religious thinkers, leaders, practitioners, and especially youth who want to engage biblically around issues spanning peace, justice, the arts, service, and Christian practice. We came to Taize as a spiritual "vacation-pilgrimage" during their 75th anniversary celebration and the 10th anniversary of Taize's founder’s death, joining religious leaders from around the world.

For American Christians who may be stuck in habits of religious thinking that promote "all or nothing," "left and right" interpretations of the Scriptures, Taize invites us to sing together and investigate the scriptures from a fresh global perspective.

Lisa Sharon Harper 8-10-2015
LisaHarper.jpg

EVEN AS SOUTHERN states—and GOP candidates—jumped through hoops to distance themselves from the Confederate flag, a backlash erupted among those claiming the flag was merely a symbol of “heritage.” Battle-flag waving Southerners (and Confederacy sympathizers) seemed to leap at the opportunity to wave their banner high.

But what about the rest of us? One of the most profound statements I’ve heard recently came from Rev. Jin Kim, founding pastor of Church of All Nations in Minnesota. This Korean-born pastor stood at the podium of the Sojourners Summit and said with conviction: “I am a white supremacist.”

How can this man, a person of color who’s dedicated his life to ethnic and cultural reconciliation, be a white supremacist? The same way any of us can. After all, at its heart white supremacy is not about white hoods, battle flags, and burning crosses. Those symbols are what we call explicit bias. People know when they are practicing it.

But most often white supremacy is about implicit bias that favors whiteness. It’s about the unconscious associations we make in our minds before we even know we’ve done it. White? Rich. Black? Poor. White? Good. Black? Bad. White? Trustworthy. Black? Scary. You get the idea.

These are the unconscious biases that shape the way we order our lives; the communities we live in, the places we shop, the churches we attend, the leadership from others we accept (or reject), and the policies we support (or don’t).

It’s not hard to fume at the thought of the killer of Mother Emanuel’s Nine. And it feels good to click “like” and share posts calling for the removal of Confederate flags.

But if we stop there, bias beats us. It is the unconscious biases of the masses that keep us from moving forward, not the explicit biases of the few. So, check out this tongue-in-cheek list of four easy ways to be a white supremacist (regardless of your own race).

1. Plan a conference on church planting with a speaker lineup so white it would make Honey Boo Boo blush. And if you want to increase your “diversity,” have one speaker of color (even if he is from India), an Asian emcee, and maybe a black worship leader.

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