The bitterness of reconciliation

I just finished reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography¬†Long Walk to Freedom. I used to be inspired by such stories of overcoming difficult odds on the road to achieving something great. But this time, I finished this book sad and angry. After resisting the brutality of apartheid, Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. During that time, his wife Winnie was a single mother who was often harassed, arrested, fired from jobs, forced out of her home, and separated from her children. After his release from prison, their marriage fell apart. The cost of the Mandelas’ political advocacy for racial justice was unspeakable suffering and the loss of their family. And it only moved the needle of progress so far.

After years of working for justice and reconciliation and experiencing a regular white backlash (even one that pales in comparison to the suffering endured by true freedom fighters), when I read stories of activists whose entire lives were ruined by the pursuit of freedom, I am more angered than inspired. Continue reading “The bitterness of reconciliation”

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Clergy: How do you handle allegations of sexual abuse?

Dear pastors, counselors, professors, and teachers:

It is always ethical best practice to believe people who allege abuse. Training for each of these vocations dictates that, if someone confides in you that she or he was abused, you have the responsibility to believe that person. Especially in the area of sex crimes, which are vastly underreported and of which the vast majority of those alleged actually happened, it is extremely hurtful and damaging to put the probable victim on the defense by not trusting her / his story.

The opportunity for further truth to come out would be if there were an investigation of the case. It is not your responsibility to determine the truthfulness of the claims. You are always to serve as an advocate for those under your care. These crimes are notoriously hard to adjudicate. Of course there is the tiny chance (possibly as low as 2%) that a false allegation has been made. However, it is statistically more likely that an abuser will go free than that false allegations will result in a conviction against an innocent person (only 6 out of 1000 sex abusers are ever incarcerated).

As someone who has served in multiple of these vocations, I am aware that a false claim could be made against me. It would be hurtful and damaging. However, the hurt and damage to those who have been abused and have not been believed is comparably a far greater tragedy. Also, as a Christian, I have the example of Jesus who “opened not his mouth” to false accusations but allowed the truth to be made clear in light of his resurrection. People and organizations of faith have no business being defensive. We need to look no further than church sex abuse scandals to see what kind of cover-ups result from defensiveness.

If you find yourself being defensive every time allegations are made against someone else, I would encourage you to ask yourself why that is the case. Are there areas of hurt in your own life from which you need to find healing? Are there times that you have been abused and not believed? Alternatively, are there times that you know you have crossed a line in how you have treated or talked to someone else? Are there abuses you need to confess? If not, then why are you afraid of the rare possibility of being lied about? Are you confident enough in your own identity to say no to fear and lies and to entrust yourself into the hands of God?

For more information on sex abuse and sexual violence, check out:
www.nsvrc.org
www.rainn.org

 

Liberal Fundamentalism

I’ve spent much of my life running from conservative fundamentalism. Fundamentalism says, “I know what is right. I’m sure of it beyond the shadow of a doubt. I know that I am on the side of right and that you are on the side of wrong.” Fundamentalism is scary; it is exclusionary; it is choking; it is oppressive.

I am often criticized by conservative fundamentalists when I talk about racial justice, environmentalism, critiques of police brutality and mass incarceration, gun control, womanism / feminism, nonviolence (anti-military, anti-death penalty), universal access to healthcare, and accessibility – all of which are in line with the general trajectory of the Christian tradition and much of the diversity of contemporary Christian thought.

Continue reading “Liberal Fundamentalism”

US Embassy Theology

pastors-jerusalem-embassy-jeffress-hagee
Robert Jeffress and John Hagee do not represent theologies of people of color, the vast spectrum of contemporary global Christianity, historic Christian orthodoxy, Roman Catholic thought, Eastern Orthodoxy, theologies of liberation, or moderate evangelicalism. They represent a group of fundamentalists and end-times obsessionists whose theologies are relatively recent innovations confined to cultural and political conservatives in the West. Their theological expectations are enmeshed with Empire and happen to hold inordinate influence in our current political climate.

Continue reading “US Embassy Theology”

Reconciliation and Sh*t

“Those kids are little sh*ts.” The words interrupted my thoughts as I sat at a table with my sons. I glanced to my right and noticed two white college-age females at a table nearby. “I feel like I’m gonna get killed working there,” one young woman caustically remarked.

Her friend said, “Yeah the kids come from the city in Indy and get to go to that camp for free!¬†My mom says I won’t last there a week!” The young ladies laughed. “I don’t really like kids ‘like that’ but at least I get paid.” Continue reading “Reconciliation and Sh*t”

Black Panther, Black Power, and Sidekicks

As I watched Black Panther with my wife and sons tonight, I realized anew how much I have been conditioned to see people of color in supporting roles as sidekicks or in leading roles as sufferers. Both postures envision black people as weak, as passive, or as tragic heroes. Tonight, the black power – the black agency – in this film was a bit startling because such depictions are so rare.

The beauty of it all made me get all teary and stuff. The vision of black power portrayed was so different from the way white power has worked in our world. The black power presented was not one of subjugation or colonization but one of self-definition, community identity, and agency. Competing temptations to power as individualist, racist, or self-seeking were rejected. Continue reading “Black Panther, Black Power, and Sidekicks”

Thoughts and Prayers

The reason people of faith send thoughts and prayers is not because we don’t care about action. It’s that we humans don’t always know the right thing to do. We believe that we need divine guidance to know how to act. We believe in a living God who guides us as we listen.

I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m confused, and I’m afraid, just like the rest of you out there. When my wife and kids leave to go to the school of which she is principal, I wonder if I will see them again. I know that she would shield the bodies of the little ones. When I think about our congregation which I pastor gathered in worship, I wonder what would happen if an active shooter entered the building. How would I respond? Continue reading “Thoughts and Prayers”