Friday, March 10, 2023


I was sipping on a beer with a friend the other day and the topic shifted to spirituality. He flipped the script on me. He told me that he was “religious not spiritual.” The Latin root of religion means “to be bound.” He told me that he’s bound to his Zen Buddhist practice, a discipline that leads to love and liberation – for himself and others. I really resonate with his reframing. 

In American culture, we are left with some pretty uncompelling options for how we come to terms with the ultimate significance of our place in the world. Unfortunately, “organized religion” is often weighed down with so much traumatic, dramatic and dogmatic baggage. The guilt and obligation can be so oppressive. On the other hand, “spirituality” can feel like a slippery, vague, kind of non-committal concept. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Today is Ash Wednesday, a somber day of reflection for those of us rooted in the Jesus tradition. I am reflecting on yesterday’s news that the Southern Baptist Convention decided to “disfellowship” from Saddleback Church, a community I attended twenty-five years ago. Disfellowship is a new word for me. As far as I can tell it means that Saddleback Church got cancelled. Why? Because Saddleback Church employs women as teaching pastors. 

The supremacist ideology that only men should be pastors comes from the Christian scriptures. There are a few bible verses that say that women are the “weaker sex” and must be quiet and submissive, and must never have authority over men. But the bible also says that those who get baptized are clothed with Christ in mutuality and that old hierarchies like "male" and “female” no longer apply! These kinds of biblical contradictions are beautiful. Because they force our faith to be humble and thoughtful. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Four Scenes

It’s Sunday! Here’s a short sermon, summing up my faith in the four scenes from Matthew 14. 

1: King Herod throws a party where he serves up the head of John the Baptist on a platter. 

2: Jesus feeds five thousand poor folks with five loaves and two fishes - and twelve baskets of broken pieces are leftover. 

3: Jesus walks on water to the disciples, paralyzed by fear, trying to cross a stormy sea. 

4: When they get to land, the sick flock to Jesus and get healed by touching the fringe of his cloak. 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Who is the "Us?"

I only watched the 4th quarter last night, but I did see one of these commercials funded by wealthy conservative Christians. They are promoting a version of Jesus who is generous and loving and rejects “being political.” The end of every ad says “He gets us. All of us.” The problem with this kind of propaganda is that it does not make the “us” explicit. In oppressive societies like 1st century Palestine and 21st century America, there are both oppressors and the oppressed. The “us” cannot possibly mean everyone. 

In the Gospels, Jesus consistently takes a courageous stand against oppressors, those who seize and maintain their wealth and power by exploiting and excluding others. Jesus was “being political.” He calls King Herod a fox. He turns over the tables of the Temple bankers. He demands that the rich young ruler give away all his possessions. The text says that Jesus loved the rich man—so much so that he put up a boundary to his destructive behavior. 

Jesus knew that the rich man made his money off exploiting and excluding those Jesus called “blessed:” the poor, persecuted, pure in heart and those who hunger for justice. He also told his disciples that after political and religious elites canceled him on a cross, he would rise up in the bodies of the unhoused, uninsured, unfed, unclothed, immigrant and imprisoned people of the world—the very folks being exploited and excluded by those funding these ads.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Courage of Kareem

I will probably stay up late tonight to watch Lebron try to break the record. I used to be a Lebron hater too, but my love and respect for him has grown over the past decade. Lebron has somehow exceeded the extremely high expectations set for him when he was a teenager. Who does that? He went to the Finals eight years in a row and, in 2016, he did something MJ never did. He led his team to a title against a far superior opponent. I also appreciate that Lebron speaks out, from time to time, on the issues that matter most. Another thing MJ never did. 

What about Kareem though? It’s unfortunate that he’s consistently left out of the debate over who’s the greatest of all time. His sky hook was unstoppable – and he played until he was 42. He would have scored a lot more points if he left college early. Instead, he led UCLA to three championships in a row. It’s hard to believe, but Kareem has even more haters than Lebron. Because he’s stayed true to his convictions – no matter how unpopular they’ve been. 

A few months after Dr. King was murdered, Kareem declined an invitation to play for the US Olympic team because he did not want to signal support for the way Black people were treated in the country he loved. Instead, he spent the summer in his native New York teaching kids how to play basketball and trying to inspire them to stay in school. Kareem’s courage, on and off the floor, then and now, is a model for us all.

Sunday, February 5, 2023


The politics of hate are funded by wealthy and powerful people. The owners and managers of corporations, banks, financial institutions, and factory farms are heavily invested in putting the blame on everyone but them. They manipulate the fear, shame and rage of white folks and middle-class people by scapegoating socialism, wokeness, cancel culture and trans folk. Meanwhile, wealthy and powerful people sponsor politicians to create policies that increase corporate profits on the backs of ordinary people. 

The American political system was designed for a small portion of the population to be successful. Campaigns are corporate-funded. The Senate, the electoral college and the House redistricting process are anti-democratic. The court system caters to people who can pay for good lawyers. The Democratic Party is more “inclusive,” but it is corporate-funded too. The reforms that liberals propose will not transform the unjust structure – even if they are passed. 

I believe that our hope for healing and transformation grows with grassroots organizers. In every context, with very little recognition, they tirelessly struggle on behalf of those being exploited, displaced and poisoned by “successful” people whose moral imagination is shaped by the profit motive. When multitudes of us reject the corporate scripting and start to follow these brilliant people - most of them low-income women of color – the wealthy and powerful will stop winning.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

A World Where Everyone's Needs Are Met

The police murder of Tyre Nichols is another clear indication that “reforms” aren’t working. We’ll cut violence and crime in America when we create a society where everyone has access to affordable housing, universal healthcare, a guaranteed minimum income, free education, clean water and nutritious food. A world where Dr. King’s dream becomes a reality will not have a modern police force. This is why I am a police-and-prison abolitionist – and not a police-and-prison preservationist. When I dare to imagine a world where everyone’s needs are met, a crucial part of that equation is the defunding of police and prison budgets. 

Unfortunately, police-and-prison abolitionism is not a socially respectable politics for most white folks and middle-class people – the Americans who believe the lie that police and prisons protect and serve everyone the same. But hear me out. What most white folks and middle-class people believe about police and prison abolition in 2023 is precisely what most white folks and middle-class people believed about the abolitionism of slavery in 1823 and the abolitionism of Jim Crow in 1923. They thought it was unrealistic then too. Things are changing though. I can feel it. Because the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

I Wish I Knew

I recently read something from someone who was asking people what they wish they could tell the younger version of themselves. I love the question because it helps me clarify what really matters moving forward. 

When I was nineteen, or twenty-nine, I wish I knew how to openly embrace my own imperfections and weaknesses with grief and grace. 

I wish I knew how to identify feelings like fear, shame and resentment. 

I wish I knew that there were “other” leaders who embody a way-of-being that is tender, open-hearted, emotionally honest, humble, playful, present and just a lot less productive and performative. 

I wish I knew that intimacy, deep connection and meaning are the main things – not speed bumps on the road to achievement.

Sunday, January 15, 2023


A few years ago, Lindsay and I went to Corvallis, Oregon for a little retreat. We got tattoos. Mine is a little Greek word from the end of the Gospel of Luke. The risen Jesus is walking with two disciples on the road. He tells them, “Was it not necessary that the christ should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” In my youth, this text was used to teach me that “it was necessary” for Jesus to die on the cross so that sinners like me could go to heaven. 

I learned Greek in seminary. I found out that “it was necessary” is one Greek word (dei). I also found out that, when read in context, a better translation of this one Greek word is “it was inevitable.” The death of Jesus was not ordained by God. It was not necessary. It was inevitable. Because Jesus spoke truth to power, in public. Jesus was a liberated man. The truth he spoke freely was a threat to those clinging to power. That’s why they demonized him, arrested him, tortured him and crucified him. 

What they did to Jesus, they did to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. too. Dr. King’s murder was inevitable in a racist culture where profit motives and property rights are more important than people. Like Jesus, Dr. King comforted the afflicted - and afflicted the comfortable. Like Jesus, King did not care about getting approval from “important” people. Dr. King modeled the way of the cross for modern America. This is the spiritual path I am committed to. It’s not about putting Jesus and King on a pedestal. It’s about trying to follow their lead.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Making Everything Right Again

When Jesus went out to the Jordan River, John refused to baptize him. He told Jesus, “I need to get baptized by you!” But Jesus was adamant that he get baptized by John. Jesus said that the role reversal “fulfills the way of righteousness.” In Greek, righteousness is “dikaiosune,” one of the most mistranslated words in the bible. Dikaiosune is a descriptor of the divine. It means that God is determined to make everything right again – which is only possible when the oppressive social hierarchy is flipped on its head. This is precisely what Jesus did at his baptism. 

If Jesus really was some kind of lord, savior or son of God, he would be expected to be the one performing all the baptisms. Instead, Jesus released the power and control to the weird, wild prophet who wore camel hair and dined on locusts and honey. What Jesus really needed was to immerse himself in the radical, reassuring words from heaven: “You are beloved.” I desperately need this daily immersion too. I am learning from Jesus (rather slowly) that I can only hear these words when I stop equating my identity and security with my position on the oppressive social hierarchy.

Monday, December 19, 2022


Watching evangelical christians dismiss and demonize preferred pronouns is hard to stomach. These are the same folks who insist that the pronouns of God and Jesus are He/Him/His. Always capitalized. Always in control. The good news is that the bible subverts the preferred pronouns of these “biblical christians.” 

The scriptures start with a beautiful image: the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. God, in Hebrew, is elohim, a masculine noun. But Spirit, in Hebrew, is ruach, a feminine noun. The word “hovered,” elsewhere in the Hebrew bible, refers to a mother bird hovering over her nest. The She-Spirit hovered over Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

F#*king Weirdo!

This week, we traveled to Southern California for a memorial service celebrating the long life of Lindsay’s grandmother. Yesterday, we flew back to Detroit. At the Orange County airport, we strapped on our masks - and goggles. Because at this point, planes are basically rave parties for viruses. While we waited to board our flight, two different white dudes, two minutes apart, walked by and took photos of us. The second guy smirked at me, and ten feet away, snapped a couple selfies with me in the background. 

When I walked towards him, he picked up the pace. He was hiding behind his woman, who was holding a swaddled baby. I walked alongside them, socially distanced. I asked him why he was taking photos of me. He hit the mute button. – so I kept asking. Finally, he said it was a public place and he could do whatever the f#*k he wanted. Then Karen yelled, “Get away from me and my child, you f#*king weirdo!” 

Monday, December 5, 2022

A Tonic

During Advent, I’ve been thinking about what it means to redeem masculinity. Most models of manhood emphasize a counterfeit form of “strength” that is oblivious to the suffering of others. Being a man, however, does not have to be controlling and abusive - or passive and emotionally distant either. Real men take sides. They take cues from women and queer folk and others who are marginalized. Real men possess a passion for other people. They are nurturing, present, playful, open-hearted, humble and tender. Real men turn the toxic into a tonic – a wonderful phrase from my friend Johari Jabir

This is true for christianity too. All the hate and harm done in the name of Jesus brings some serious tension to “being a christian.” But I believe in digging deeper into the biblical tradition so we can compost christianity. Let the oppressive elements decay – and water the love-and-liberation stuff so we can grow Something Else. Back in the day, Frederick Douglass called the white christianity that sanctified slavery “the boldest of all frauds.” Douglass was a christian, but he refused to let the fraud have the final word. The world will be a better place if we, like Douglass, turn toxic faith into a tonic – infused with a Love that lays down its life for others.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Getting Free From Homophobia

In the wake of the Club Q shooting, I’ve been reflecting on my long process of getting free from homophobia. I was raised in the Colorado Springs brand of Evangelical Christianity. I was taught that LGTBQIA people were living in sin. I never owned a gun, but I used the bible like a sword. I cut others with gay slurs. I cut myself resisting male touch and tenderness. My pastors told me that the bible is perfect without any mixture of error – and that the bible says that anything “gay” is an abomination. Make no mistake. My religion was not Christianity. It was Supremacy. It said that LGBTQIA folks are sinners and that women must be quiet and submissive - and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Because the bible says so. 

Monday, November 21, 2022


For a short season, Lindsay and I lived in Central Oregon, on a small compound two blocks from the Deschutes River. We were renting a one-bedroom ADU from Amanda, a teacher, and her partner Kyle, a general contractor who has potty-trained all three of their sons on construction sites. Eventually, Kyle recruited us to help him build a pizza oven in the backyard, made out of leftover materials he collected from different jobs. 

Early in the project, we made a grave error – while pouring concrete! Kyle just shook his head and muttered, “wabi-sabi.” It’s a Japanese phrase that means there’s beauty in our mistakes. After Kyle translated the term, my perfectionist tendencies took a backseat. Even better, Kyle refused to compartmentalize it. This was great news because when it was time for dinner, he made me the guy in charge of rotating the pies every few minutes. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

My Ballot Choices

My spiritual convictions drive my ballot choices. I believe that everyone is a child of God - nothing more, nothing less. I believe that this God hums on open-heartedness, humility and sacrificial love – and that this God beckons people of conscience to conspire for the affirmation and protection of those who are perpetually exploited and excluded in America. 

I do not believe in a human hierarchy of value. I do not believe that certain people deserve better healthcare, better public schools, better police protection, better roads or better representation in court and Congress than anyone else. I do not believe that we should still be living in two completely different Americas, more than fifty years after Dr. King was killed. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Unmasking Whiteness

Statistics about masking reveal so much about how whiteness works. White people like me have been incessantly trained to trust institutions like the government, the police, the CDC and corporations. We follow their lead. Because they so often work for white folks. It’s a rude awakening when some of us come to find out that these exist to serve and protect profit and properties, not the general public. 

These institutions – and others like churches and media outlets – know that profit necessitates mask-free public places. No matter what. So they suppress news about new variants, long covid, death rates, the effectiveness of face coverings and what this disease is doing to the other half of America who work in crowded conditions for low wages and lack access to decent healthcare. 

White people are made to believe that going mask-free means that we are marching to the beat of our own drum - when we are really just sheep being herded off to a corporate pasture. Of course, Black people and Native folks know better. For me, wearing a mask in public is more than protecting ourselves and others. It is a “f*** you” to powerful institutions who only care about protecting themselves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Law and Order - or Love and Liberation?

Today is National Coming Out Day. I celebrate all the courageous gay, lesbian, trans and other queer folk who have changed my life. I am a follower of Jesus. I believe that God is love and that God fully affirms people just as they were created to be: gay, lesbian, trans, fluid, straight or whatever. Many Christians disagree. They say that the bible calls certain people an “abomination” and that the bible is the Truth without any mixture of error. Biblical inerrancy has always sanctified a human hierarchy of value. In fact, it was invented by white Christians two-hundred years ago to support slavery in North America. 

The bible is not inerrant. It is a diverse collection of texts that chronicle a sacred debate. Some passages support supremacy – or are interpreted to do so. These texts say that some folks matter more than others. The good news is that there is also a sabbath strand that says that everyone is a child of God - nothing more, nothing less. The Hebrew prophets and Jesus consistently call out supremacy - and expand the circle of divine love. Bible readers must “come out” and pick a side. Are we down with supremacy - or sabbath? Are we living for law and order - or love and liberation? One thing is for sure: neutrality is never an option.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


Yesterday, I met my friends Peter and Solveig at the trailhead at Camp Creek, on traditional land of Watlala people, about fifty miles southeast of Portland, Oregon. When we crossed over the bridge, there were a half dozen Chinook Salmon swimming in the cold shallow water below. They were traveling upstream, from the Pacific to the Columbia to the Sandy to the Zig Zag to Camp Creek where we witnessed this wonder. 

While Solveig sat beside the creek staring, she said that the females, returning to the place of their birth, would lay their eggs and die four days later. I caught a glimpse of why these Beings are so sacred to Native people here. Despite all the dams that white people built, there are still a few who have the strength to swim upstream, against the current, so they can teach us how to give up our lives for the next generation.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Moral Authority

Two weeks ago, Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson reported that racial slurs were directed at her during a match at BYU. Officials at BYU conducted their own investigation and released a statement saying that there is no evidence that any fan uttered racial slurs at the match. White people are pounding social media, calling her a liar and a fraud. But I believe Rachel Richardson. Because racism is real, her story is credible, and she had no reason to lie. I am also fully aware of how predominantly white institutions use “data” to dismiss the truth coming out of Black people’s mouths. 

I will never forget, back in 2014, when Black women in Flint, Michigan said that the water coming out of their taps was poisoned. City and state leaders, almost all of them white men, cited testing and studies to discredit the truthful testimony of Black women for more than a year. The Flint incident follows the arc of American history – which has taught me to be slow to trust the government, the university, the police force, the church, the corporation. For me, moral authority is anchored in those who are oppressed – not those trying to preserve their power.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Withering and Burned Out

On Labor Day, we drove from Southern California to Central Oregon. We rolled through 868 miles of parched land groaning for relief. It was 115 degrees just north of Sacramento. We made it to the small town of Weed where wildfire had just decimated an entire neighborhood. The rubble was still smoldering. The people out West are parched too. Souls are withering and burned out. There is a thirst for depth and meaning. Like Shasta Lake itself - whose Native people were poisoned and enslaved during the Gold Rush – there is a lowered capacity to pour out life. 

The American project – 5% of the globe’s population consuming 30% of the globe’s resources - is past the point of no return. The impending death of the unsustainable should not lead to despair. In these end times, we can drink in depth, beauty, wisdom and wonder by listening to our ancestors, to our bodies, to Black authors and activists, to Native people whispering the old ways, to secrets smuggled up from the Global South, to the feminine and queer, to everything that breaks through the soil, to winged-beings like bats, bees and hummingbirds. Our guides are not those perpetuating the grand old project, but those intimate with its apocalypse.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Rooting Out Racism

A week ago, the Duke University women’s volleyball team travelled to BYU for a match. Someone from the BYU student section repeatedly yelled racist slurs at a Black player on Duke’s team. They used the n-word. The next night, the BYU athletic director called out the behavior but never once referred to it as “racism.” A week later, legendary South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley canceled their upcoming games against BYU. 

In response, the BYU women’s basketball program posted this to Twitter: 

"We are extremely disappointed in South Carolina's decision to cancel our series and ask for patience with the on-going investigation. We believe the solution is to work together to root out racism and not to separate from one another. #LoveOneAnother" 

This tweet is problematic. Oppressors cannot criticize the “separation” created when oppressed people put up a boundary for protection. Language like “love one another” and “work together” seek the moral high ground by making it sound like both sides need to make the same effort. They don’t. Racists bear the responsibility “to root out racism.” Jesus called it repentance, war-time language that literally meant switching sides and taking cues from the other team. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

It's Laughable

Jesus said that the reign of heaven is like a landowner who paid every laborer the same rate no matter how much they worked. Those who labored eight hours in the scorching heat were mad because they got paid the same as those who worked just one hour at the end of the day. Many conservative opponents of Biden’s partial student debt cancelation echo those who were grumbling in the parable. They say that this “handout” is not fair to those who worked decades to pay off their debts. They sound just as silly as the workers in the parable squabbling over the daily wage - while the landowner owns so much land! It’s laughable. Which is the point of the parable. If we really want a “fair” society, we must shift our focus on to those who hoard so much stuff – and how they got it all in the first place.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Switching Sides

This morning, I got to preach at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Church in the Detroit suburbs. We reflected together on the last time that MLK came to our watershed. It was three weeks before he was murdered in Memphis. Dr. King delivered a speech called “The Two Americas” to a packed out suburban high school gymnasium. King spoke with a sense of urgency. White people yelled and booed, interrupting him several times. 

King challenged these folk to support the findings of a recently released report from the Kerner Commission, a bipartisan group of a dozen leaders commissioned by the President to study the roots of “urban unrest” in places like Detroit. The commission blamed lack of economic opportunity, failed social service programs, police brutality, white racism and the white gaze of the media. The report said, “White society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” Pretty clear, eh? 

Sunday, August 14, 2022


Jesus was not tough on crime. He was tough on those who cause harm. There’s a big difference between the two. Jesus did not preach personal responsibility to poor people. He preached accountability to corrupt elites who created the harmful conditions that lead to crime. Those in power, in fact, considered Jesus a criminal. He refused to cooperate with a counterfeit sabbath system that gave workers one day of rest – and then exploited them the rest of the week. His motivation was mercy, a word that literally meant loyalty to the divine covenant – a sacred social pact that prioritized love and liberation over law and order. Mercy does not police and punish poor people. Mercy cuts crime by investing in a platform that affirms life.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Huron

Yesterday, I attended a press conference on the Huron River about thirty miles northwest of where we live in Detroit. A few weeks ago, a company called Tribar released thousands of gallons of hexavalent chromium into the river – for the 2nd time in four years. When we lived in Ypsilanti in 2017-18, the Huron River held us during a heavy time. The Huron nursed us back to life. At the end of our stay, signs went up. Don’t go in the water. Don’t eat the fish. Tribar did that too. 

In Michigan, we have a Democratic governor, but the GOP owns the state legislature after years of gerrymandering. Every year, there is a bill crafted to keep polluting companies accountable, but Republicans refuse to even give it a hearing. This not a partisan issue. Polluters should pay. The Huron exposes our harsh reality: both parties have been bought by businesses whose sole obsession is profit. Only ordinary, organized people can turn this boat around.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Mob

On the final Friday of June, we woke up to find the red robin's nest removed from where it was resting right under the roof of our back deck. When we went to bed the night before, three baby birdies were chirping. That morning, silence. The predator showed up just a few hours before the Supreme Court overturned Roe. It was a sign. In American society, rights and profits are plundered in the dark of night.
This week, on the night that Kansas said "no," I was out on the back deck reading when I was suddenly interrupted by a squawking chorus of red robins. A red-tailed hawk was perched on a pole. The predator! A few of the robins and sparrows took turns “mobbing” the hawk. A couple crows joined in. These winged-Beings formed a union. They darted. They dive-bombed. They drove it out. When the hawk flew a hundred yards away, the mob followed it. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Vulnerable Courage to Tell the Truth

Multitudes of white Christian men equate manhood with being an aggressive, authoritarian protector and provider. Many model their militant masculinity after the Warrior Jesus depicted in Revelation. At the end of the last book of the bible, Jesus has fire in his eyes and leads an army riding a white horse. What white Christian men need to know is that the book of Revelation speaks in code and symbol to subvert supremacist violence. 

On the white horse, Jesus carries a sword—but it comes out of his mouth. His words are his weapons. He wields the vulnerable courage to tell the truth even if it costs everything. The robe Jesus wears is dipped in blood—but the blood is his own. Earlier in Revelation, Jesus shows up as the slaughtered lamb. His nonviolent witness threatens elites so much they had to crucify him. This is the same Jesus of the Gospels who sheds tears and tells the men to put down their weapons. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Bread of Life

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says that he is the bread of life and that anyone who comes to him will never go hungry. This is not even remotely true. The pain caused by the “all you need is Jesus” jargon has been jarring. The bible writes some checks our souls can’t cash. Of course, context matters. In John, the rhetoric is off the rails because it is rooted in the life-and-death struggle of oppressed people. John wages a war against the supremacy of religious and political authorities, and in the process, sometimes the sacred story sinks into supremacy too. 

Jesus is still a staple for me because his story clarifies, over and over, what love is: a willingness to lay down my life for others. Love subverts supremacy. People experience “God” when they get off the pedestal, stop performing and orient their lives around truth, beauty, goodness and humble service to others. This is what Jesus said and did. When this kind of love becomes the lens and litmus test for everything, it serves as a compelling contrast to popular lifestyles that center success, comfort and entitlement. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Traveling Companion

It’s summer reading season. Last week, I picked up Toni Morrison’s Beloved for the first time ever. Don’t judge me. I’m way behind. It’s obviously brilliant and beautiful. Just like I’ve heard from countless conversation partners. I usually read non-fiction, but I am slowly learning what this “other” kind of literature does to the soul. 

This sample shimmered for me. It comes right after Native folks, who refused to move to the reservation, cut off the shackles of Paul D, a man who escapes slavery and stays with them in the Southern woods. I love how Black folk and Indigenous people take cues from non-human life. It's not a resource. It's a relative. Just as intended. 
“Paul D finally woke up and, admitting his ignorance, asked how he might get North. Free North. Magical North. Welcoming, benevolent North. The Cherokee smiled and looked around. The flood rains of a month ago had turned everything to steam and blossoms. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022


When he healed the leper, the bible says that Jesus was moved with compassion, a word in Greek that literally means “burning in the bowels.” Jesus felt the leper’s pain in a deep place. What’s weird is that some of the earliest manuscripts of this Gospel story had “anger” instead of "compassion." Scholars call this a textual variant. As we are learning with Covid, if unregulated, variants mutate over time, making things a whole lot messier. The scriptures are soaked with variants, giving voice to a very human element. The good news is that Spirit speaks in spite of the flaws—in the bible and in us. 

It makes sense to me that the original version of this passage portrayed an angry Jesus—and then, eventually, scribes edited it to make him more palatable for the people. There’s no doubt that Jesus was compassionate. But personally, I love the idea that Jesus got angry too. Because I believe that compassion and anger burn together. When anger is aimed at the actual people and policies that produce pain and suffering, it gives compassion the agency to shake off cynicism, apathy and despair. This healing hybrid empowers us to transform ourselves and the world. Just like Jesus did.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Flip the Coin

One day, some of the powerful religious elites buttered up Jesus with praise. They said Jesus must be from God because he always told the truth. Then they turned the tables and tried to trap him with a trick question: 

“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 
 Should we pay them, or should we not?” 

Sniffing out their hypocrisy, Jesus got his hands on some currency. 

“Whose image is this,” he asked, “and whose title?” 

The answer was obvious. Caesar. 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

A Clear Contrast

I just attended a press conference hosted by We the People of Detroit. Community leaders like Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Rev. Roslyn Murray Bouier, Dr. Emily Kutil and attorney Norrel Hemphill called out the latest counterfeit report coming from the Detroit water department, which has shut-off water to more than 170,000 homes in the past decade. Half of these are Black women with young children. Four victims of shut-offs shared their horrifying stories at the presser today, including Valerie Blakely whose entire block was turned off by “two guys in a truck” contracted by the city. Two women talked about running hoses through their windows to help next door neighbors. 

These leaders have been demanding a water affordability plan since George W was the president. The department just approved one with little input from experts and few details about how it will be funded and implemented. They refuse to release the full plan to the public. They are giving 45 days for “community engagement”—without a real strategy for how they will engage the community. They say that the plan will limit water usage—but many of these low-income households have more than ten people living in them. Meanwhile, the city subsidizes the re-development plans of billionaires and uses federal covid funds to give bonuses to the police department. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022


I’ve been re-reading Bruce Rogers-Vaughn’s brilliant book Caring for Souls in a Neoliberal Age. Bruce starts by re-animating “soul” as the fabric that binds every living being together. We are not autonomous individuals. We are a web of belonging. Soul is a posture, an activity, a way of existing within an entangled world where there is so much suffering circulating all around us. The soul fabric is frayed, which is why so many are feeling so much heaviness and anxiety right now. 
“Whenever the response to this pain is care,” Bruce writes, “there is soul.” It is a call and response. Soul shifts our focus away from social status to a deeper solidarity with those who are exploited, neglected and abused. Soul grows when we stop cooperating with the values of the profit motive and seek communion and wholeness with others and the earth. Succeeding at the game of capitalism sucks the soul dry. Which means we must slow down and try something else.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

A post-Evangelical Position on Abortion

In 2008, a close friend of mine called me a “baby murderer” after Lindsay and I drove to Vegas to campaign for Barack Obama, a pro-choice candidate. No doubt, many other evangelical christians said these sorts of things behind my back. I felt the distance. I also took the criticism and the silence seriously. So I continued to study the bible—which scripted for me a post-evangelical position on abortion. 

What I found weaving through the ancient text, over and over again, was a fundamental critique of Pharoah, Solomon and Caesar—men of power who sanctified their human hierarchy of value with a supremacy god always on the throne, always in control. The good news is that, throughout the scriptures, there is also a Sabbath God delivering a dissenting opinion that gives agency and empowerment to women, the working poor, the orphans and the overlooked. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

A Resurrection

I drove five hundred miles to attend the national assembly of the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington DC. Tens of thousands gathered. Folks were there from all over the political spectrum—and many of us who feel like we do not fit anywhere on the spectrum. Right after the heat and humidity broke, Rev. William Barber scripted spiritual language to lament that both political parties shared in the failure to center 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the US. He said our gathering was not an insurrection, but a resurrection. “This is the day,” Barber prophesied, “that the stones that the builders rejected will become the cornerstone of a new reality.”

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Poor Widow

When Jesus went to Jerusalem, he sat down and watched wealthy folks put large sums into the temple treasury. But he shined the spotlight on the poor widow who contributed two small copper coins, which was all she had left in her account. Jesus was not praising her as some sort of sacrificial model for the faithful. The poor widow was a wake-up call, a warning sign. Jesus was lamenting a system that celebrated those whose “abundance” was built by foreclosing on the properties of poor people, denying the landless a living wage and then blaming them for their plight. Jesus knew that the fortunes of the rich and famous are rarely innocent. 

We are locked in the same cycle of injustice and inequality that Jesus condemned. Extremely wealthy Americans are celebrated for contributing to causes out of their abundance. They also anonymously give millions to political campaigns so that they will not be held accountable for how they “earn” profit. They aggressively promote the police, the prisons and the Pentagon. Then they lobby against basic government services for those barely surviving. The way of Jesus is always partial to a platform that protects and serves the poor widow. We must choose sides. Because justice and love are always on the line.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Gospel

I was on the road again this week. Over the phone, a dear friend asked me how I summarize “the gospel” now, after exiting evangelical christianity years ago. It’s a great question because I do still believe that the message of Jesus matters. While I no longer contend that he is somehow the One Right Path to Heaven, I am convinced that Jesus offers a journey that can set people free from the ways that successes built on supremacy and certainty are counterfeiting us on earth. 

The gospel is not a guarantee. It is a sacred, subversive story built on trust and tenderness, not triumph. It is the good news that a divine Force is fermenting a new world. We are fragile clay jars that hold this feral Force within us. When we are cracked, the love and light can really shine through. The good news is that there is Something that composts our deaths, losses and so-called failures. We can let wonder replace the fear. Because this Something grows our wings out of our wounds.

Sunday, May 29, 2022


When Jesus defined greatness as sacrificial service, he was challenging those who exercised authority over others. Jesus was speaking to the men, not the marginalized. He summoned them to stop self-promoting and become “servants,” a word that literally meant “those who kick up the dust.” He equated greatness with a willingness to get dirty for the sake of everyone else’s dignity. 

Jesus also told the men they must become “slaves.” Because real masculinity is not being above the fray, but being bound to the destiny of others. It moves on humility, nurture, truth-telling and tenderness. Greatness is not about guns, grit and glory. It is about having the guts to grieve—and give up our lives for those society considers the least.

Sunday, May 22, 2022


The ancient text says that the love of Christ “compels.” It is the same word for catching a virus. Something that compels is so contagious it does not need to coerce, manipulate, shame, blame or mind-game. It is not safe, passive or self-protective either. Real love woos, beckons, empowers, flavors and ferments us into freedom. It is Jesus touching lepers even when it is against the law. It is Harriet Tubman heading back to the South to summon hundreds home. It is Dietrich Bonhoeffer telling the truth even when it costs everything. It is irresistible on its own terms.

Saturday, May 14, 2022


This week, the US government released its first official report on the buried history of 408 government-sponsored Indian Boarding Schools. The horrific system kidnapped Indigenous children and sent them away to become English-speaking Christians. It set up "the cheapest and safest way of subduing the Indian" so that white people could acquire the best land. The report is filled with quotes like this from congressmen and Presidents. Quotes that many white people still believe in. 

Yesterday, an 18-year-old white boy drove hundreds of miles to murder Black people in Buffalo. He subscribes to a particular brand of white supremacy, weaponized against a conspiracy of forces working behind the scenes to replace the white race. This replacement theory is peddled by Republican politicians and Fox News anchors. It fertilizes the fear and rage ripening in white men. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

A Racist Racket

The overwhelming majority of evangelical pastors did not start opposing Roe v. Wade until six years after the supreme court decision. This is well-documented. It all started with the GOP getting white evangelicals on board with Ronald Reagan. At the time, the big issue for white evangelicals was the “segregation academies” that they created when the government ordered schools to desegregate. This obviously racist position was becoming less and less popular with the rest of public. So white male Republican leaders surveyed and strategized until they found the perfect issue to make themselves the party of “family values.” Abortion. Same-sex marriage was soon added to make it a combo punch. 

I started attending a virtually all-white Christian school five years into this experiment. My white pastors and teachers told me that these were not political issues. These were moral issues. Biblical issues. My white pastors and teachers were taking their cues from their virtually all-white (and wealthy) social circles. These white people literally just quoted a few bible verses about babies and abominations. No one told us that Black women were three times more likely to die giving birth than white women. They just told us that America was no longer racist because a nice man named Martin Luther King came along. That was about it. The history of “family values” is still in the room with us. It is a racist racket—and totally contrary to the way of Jesus. Happy Mother’s Day.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Divine Power is like Dog Piss

On Wednesday, I crossed the border into Canada and drove three hundred kilometers to spend a few hours with my friend Oz, a retired theology professor who dedicated decades to training Lutheran pastors to read and lead with a liberationist lens. Oz was born a few months before my dad and spent his early years in Western Pennsylvania, where my great-great grandfather Harry Brady was laid to rest. In the pandemic, Oz has been writing his memoirs while wrestling with Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. 

Oz came out to the garage in sweatpants and a bright red Canadian zip-up jacket pulled over his black hoodie. He was wearing mittens and sipped on a mocha. He used his rolling walker to make his way down the driveway into the warm sun. He was wearing what looked like designer women's sunglasses. A cardinal tilted her head on the bare branches above us. Oz apologized for forgetting names, yet despite some cognitive decline, he could easily recall many of the contours of his life. His kids. His books. His beloved Bonnie. His students. His friends. The first time he showed up at a protest. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

A New Song

“What I do know is that love reckons with the past and evil reminds us to look to the future. Evil loves tomorrow because peddling in possibility is what abusers do.”—Kiese Laymon

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song.”—Psalm 96:1

Thirty years ago, four white cops caught on video beating Rodney King fifty-six times were acquitted in Simi Valley by a jury made up of ten white folks, one Latino and one Asian. In the aftermath, a righteous rage fueled the L.A. Riots. At the time, I was getting ready for senior prom fifty miles south. Six weeks earlier, our high school basketball team won the CIF sectional championship at the Sports Arena, where the Clippers used to play back in the day. We beat Lynwood, an all-Black squad from south L.A. In our all-white minds, we were getting revenge.

A Lifestyle Update: The Era of BA.2

Right now, Covid-19 rates are surging. Wastewater—the only reliable testing—reveals the rise. The celebrity test shows it too. More and more “important people” are popping up in the news with positive tests. Kamala Harris just got it. Zach LaVine missed the last playoff game for the Bulls because he entered health and safety protocols. The friends and family test is also coming on strong. Many are getting either “the stomach flu” or the three-week cold with fever. My hunch is that most of these mysterious illnesses are Covid, even though most folks are coming up negative with at-home tests. I am not going indoors with people right now. Because I do not want to get Covid. Despite what most folks think, this disease does serious long-term damage. 
The virus is kicking ass right now because the BA.2 variant is super contagious and the immunity of most people is waning. It’s been more than four months since I got boosted. It’s been more than four months since most of our friends and family members got Omicron. I am locking it down for the next three weeks. Because I can. I will read works by Black and Indigenous authors. I will write and revise my book manuscript. I will explore my family tree and study what it means to connect with Ancestors like Ruth Ritter and George Riese at a deeper level. I will make frequent trips to the Detroit River and the Huron River. I will pay attention to birds, bees and trees. I will tap into tenderness, reverence and awe on this Anishinaabe land. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Spirit and Soil

This Easter marks the one-year anniversary of my friend Melanie Magee taking her last breath in the land of the living. She caught Covid-19 for the second time. In our last direct message exchange, I told her we were praying for her, and I sent her my phone number. She wrote back: “adding you to my contacts…thanks…give me a few days.” A few days later she was gone. I am convinced that “a few days” was a reference to resurrection. Like Jesus, Melanie has gone through death and come out the other side. She has moved on to the great cloud of witnesses and merged with God's love in a new way. 

The ancient Jews who wrote the bible believed that "heaven" was God's space on earth, not a disembodied destination where we go when we die. It was Greek philosophy that separated the heavenly hereafter from life on earth. In Genesis, it says “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” At the beginning of the bible, dust is the eternal destination of every living being. I believe that Melanie still speaks through spirit and soil. She’s changed forms, just a breath away, protecting and serving us on our earth journey. My Easter hope is that when I die, I will rise up and be reunited with the loved ones and spiritual leaders who have gone before me—and we will ride on the wind together, working to redeem the world.

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Good Friday Kind of Love

Good Friday shifts the perspective to crucified people. Where it belongs. Consider this. A recent study analyzed the response of white people to horrific headlines saying Black and Indigenous folks and other people of color are 2-3 times more likely to get killed by covid. The study says that this data led white people to drop their fear of the disease and to demand that governments lift mandates and open schools and businesses. White folks embraced entitlement over empathy. Of course, this is not news to Black and Indigenous folks and other people of color. Many call this “whiteness.” Not so much a skin color, but a spiritual condition. 
Whiteness is not rooted in hate, but supremacy. It teaches us that we are smarter and work harder—so those outside of our orbit are unworthy of our attention, care and sacrifice. Whiteness trains us to believe that crucified people are dying because they are doing it wrong. Not because their bodies have sustained intergenerational trauma or because they are denied decent health care and nutrition. Whiteness justifies the decisions we make for ourselves and our families—no matter how our decisions affect anyone else. Whiteness is the spirituality behind a national strategy that now swaps out social safety precautions for personal decisions. It’s all about protecting our own families—and corporate profits. Whiteness calls this “freedom.” 

Monday, April 11, 2022


Holy week is here. As Easter approaches, there is good news: “christianity” is a contested concept. There are literally thousands of versions. I believe that the differences can be divided into two competing camps. One brand seeks salvation in the atonement of Jesus. The other kind is compelled by the attunement of Jesus. The atonement camp believes that sin stains humanity, separating us from God and an eternal life in heaven when we die. It is a supremacy story. Only Jesus can make us clean and save us from hell. Atonement faith most often supports the status quo, no matter how unjust and oppressive. It says things won’t get better until Jesus comes back—or until we get to heaven. 

Attunement faith is a dissenting opinion. A minority report. A remnant path that actively participates in the radical love of Jesus—which is rooted in his attunement to what Dr. King called the inescapable network of mutuality. To be attuned like Jesus is to be present, to pay attention, to be in awe of the spiritual reality that we are intimately connected to divine Presence, each other, our ancestors and the more-than-human world of trees, bees, birds, wind and water. Jesus gave his life for the inescapable network of mutuality. Powerful elites crucified Jesus because they knew they could not keep exploiting the network if everyone else was tuned-in to what was happening—and willing to respond in truth and love. Just like Jesus.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Agbaji Set the Standard

The season is finally over and I am in total shock. I got to watch this Jayhawk squad play twenty-four times this season. One of my favorite teams ever. Because the more I watched, the more I became convinced that they genuinely liked each other, that they did not care—on any given night—who got the credit. When they rooted for each other, it was real, not the rigid kind of quid pro quo support that’s become the society standard. I’ll root for you—as long as you return the favor. When you watch a team enough times, you can tell the difference between authentic love for teammates and when they are just doing it because coach told them to. 

Senior Ochai Agbaji set the standard. He was under-recruited, but became a first team All-American. He had games where he scored in single digits, but he still willed his team to win by diving on the floor, making the extra pass, taking a charge. After these games, when the box score failed to animate his impact, Agbaji consistently beamed a smile soaked in sincerity. His rare blend of poise, purity of heart and sculpted athleticism made Omicron isolation bearable. The last time these guys lost, I was on Mass Street in Lawrence. I wish I was there right now. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.