Category: Race

Poster for Hidden Figures

The Gospels, Hidden Figures, and Strength in Diversity

Poster for Hidden FiguresDuring January of each year, our church brings in a biblical scholar to teach through a book. This year is Matthew. In the first adult Bible Study last week, Tom Yoder Neufeld covered many introductory topics, including his explanation of the layers that go into each Gospel: Jesus, the oral history, the compiler, and so on. He also talked about how there was an effort in the early church to compile into one Gospel, which was soundly rejected. That left me thinking: Why? If the goal is strictly to convey the story of Jesus, doing it as a single story would have made a lot of sense. I don’t think that’s the whole goal, though.

Hidden Figures

This weekend, we went to see Hidden Figures. It is a fantastic movie from any objective measure, now picking up some Academy Award nominations, but one particular theme stood out to me and two scenes that really captured this theme.

Trouble I've Seen

Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew Hart

Trouble I've SeenThis was a great book for helping Christians understand the nature of racial hierarchies present in the United States – much would be also true elsewhere, but Hart’s focus is on his home country. A few factors make this a highly recommended read to me:

Hart speaks well from the facts as well as his own experience. Facts alone could easily come across as boring. His experience alone could be easily dismissed as an anomaly. This book carries a great balance: relatable but going much deeper than just a few stories of discrimination.

Hart’s work is accessible to white people (like myself) while critiquing the system of white supremacy. There are many ideas that I’m sure would still offend many of us simply because it puts us on the defensive for our complicity, and they should offend us if we haven’t been desensitized to it, but I never felt like he was attacking me individually. It carried a pastoral tone, using more positive reinforcement to call us into something better rather than berating us. I regularly see white people getting upset over language of white supremacy insisting that they individually are not a member of the KKK. Hart does a great job explaining why this is missing the point while being gentle toward those who are missing the point.

SNL: The Day Beyoncé Turned Black

In light of my recent post after the Super Bowl including some discussion of Beyoncé‘s new video, this skit from Saturday Night Live is appropriate to also share here (if you’re in the U.S., you can get the official one at a higher quality, but it’s region-blocked so I share this one instead):

Giza Pyramids

Lazy Slaves?

Giza Pyramids

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:All_Gizah_Pyramids.jpg

I couldn’t help but see some present day parallels with the Old Testament text in my daily lectionary reading for today:

10The slave bosses and the men in charge of the slaves went out and told them, “The king says he will not give you any more straw.11Go and find your own straw wherever you can, but you must still make as many bricks as before.”

12The slaves went all over Egypt, looking for straw.13But the slave bosses were hard on them and kept saying, “Each day you have to make as many bricks as you did when you were given straw.”14The bosses beat the men in charge of the slaves and said, “Why didn’t you force the slaves to make as many bricks yesterday and today as they did before?”

15Finally, the men in charge of the slaves went to the king and said, “Why are you treating us like this?16No one brings us any straw, but we are still ordered to make the same number of bricks. We are beaten with whips, and your own people are to blame.”

17The king replied, “You are lazy—nothing but lazy!

Super Bowl 50 logo

SB50: Beyoncé, Bruno, and Cam

Super Bowl 50 logoI’m a casual (American) football fan. I probably watch 2 regular season games a year, then a couple of playoffs before the Super Bowl, which is more of an excuse to hang out with friends and eat unhealthy food than to watch the game. There were a couple of interesting things happen this year, though.

The Halftime Show: Beyoncé, Bruno Mars… and Coldplay

Technically this was supposed to be Coldplay’s halftime show. I don’t have any problem with Coldplay. They did a fine job. But they probably should have marketed it as Beyoncé featuring Coldplay and Bruno Mars, because Beyoncé was who everyone was waiting to see. Coldplay opened with some of their pleasant singable rock anthems. Then Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson performed Uptown Funk.

Then Beyoncé showed up, singing her new political song Formation. If you haven’t seen that yet, here’s the music video:

ISIS Flag

The Illogic of Anti-Refugee Sentiment

Of a few different manifestations of Islamophobia to ramp up once again in light of the attack on Paris (and Beirut and other places, but we don’t really care about them), the one that is the most confusing to me is the claim that we need to stop helping refugees. The argument is that we don’t like what ISIS is doing to people so much that we want to leave millions more to become their victims. It is trying to punish the people escaping terrorism because we don’t like the terrorism they’re trying to escape. It’s like saying we should definitely not have helped the Jews get out of Nazi Germany because we don’t like what Germany is doing to them – which most of us didn’t, although we could claim a bit more ignorance on that one.

How Many Arab Lives Equal One Westerner Life?

Let’s unpack that a bit further. There are millions of refugees seeking help. Let’s assume that a couple dozen of these are terrorists just trying to get to a Western country. It’s true that there may be a few taking this strategy, even though it isn’t a great strategy. Suppose that these few dozen do successfully pull off a significant attack in the Western world and kill 1000 Westerners, which includes Muslims – the Paris attacks were in one of the most diverse areas of the cities, including many Muslims.

Thoughts on Selma

Selma movie posterI know I’m way behind on this one, but we finally went to see Selma. Best movie of the year for me, although I’ll reserve any comments on how big of an Oscar snub it was since the only of the Best Picture nominees I saw was Birdman (hated it) and part of Grand Budapest Hotel (I think I was way too tired that night to understand it).

No Whitewashed MLK

The overall aspect that I loved is how MLK was not whitewashed. He was not tamely petitioning for change the way most white people tell the story. He did not play well with the rules of respectability politics. He was firm in believing nonviolent resistance was the Jesus way and the most effective way, but he definitely stirred up a lot of trouble and was pretty unashamedly abrasive in getting his point across.

The Persistent Widow and Racial Injustice Fatigue

Ferguson Protest

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Michael_Brown

Occasionally we hear people – almost always but maybe not exclusively – complain that they are tired of hearing about race. What they mean by this is that racial injustice exists makes them uncomfortable. I understand why. When I first woke up to this reality it made me uncomfortable. I had been in my own blissful little world where everyone got what they deserved.

I’m tired of talking about it, too. The difference is that I won’t hide myself away pretending it isn’t happening. Fortunately, there’s another option: being a part of making the conversation no longer necessary. If you don’t like talking about racial injustice, you’re in good company with the people who don’t like experiencing it. Team up with them and do something about it so that nobody has to experience or talk about it again.

Gender - Male and Female Gummy

Diversity in My 10 Most Influential Books

There’s been one of those viral challenges going around Facebook asking for your 10 most influential books. Here’s mine, not counting the books of the Bible:

  1. Repenting of Religion by Greg Boyd
  2. Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland
  3. The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle
  4. A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren
  5. A Nonviolent Atonement by J. Denny Weaver
  6. The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey
  7. God and Empire by John Dominic Crossan (even though there were some sections I really didn’t agree with)
  8. Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright
  9. Christianity’s Dangerous Idea by Alister E. McGrath
  10. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

The last 2 took a while and on any given day could probably be interchanged for some others like Boyd’s God of the Possible and McLaren’s Everything Must Change, but for the most part, this is what I’m looking at for my core book influences.