The Psalm says, “Seek peace and pursue it.” In Hebrew, peace is “shalom.” It means much more than the absence of conflict or tension with others. Shalom is rooted in the harmony and health of the whole community. It leads to collective liberation. I hear a lot of white Christians, both conservative and liberal, lamenting the polarization of society and the politicizing of everything. Many of these folks preach that our ultimate duty is to stop arguing with each other and stay unified in Christ (or America).
Monday, December 6, 2021
Sunday, November 28, 2021
The annual Pew religious survey came out this week. It says that 58% of Americans believe in God as described in the bible. This is highly problematic. Because the bible does not describe one version of the divine, but many. The book does not require readers to believe in the whole thing, but to make choices and take sides and be faithful to it in the midst of life’s messiness. The real question for American bible believers is which god we really believe in. The authoritarian god that demands assimilation and sacrifice, or the abolitionist god who sets the captives free? The reigning Solomon god who silences all others with violence, or the Sabbath god of rest who builds the beloved community by dismantling hierarchies?
Sunday, November 21, 2021
For centuries, white people from lower economic classes have been hired as police patrol by the white ruling class. White folks have been given guns and badges to exercise unlimited force on enslaved people, poor people of color and dark-skinned immigrant labor. This power is so intoxicating that white people consistently choose to police vulnerable people instead of finding solidarity with them in a common struggle against wealthy white exploiters. Sure, Kyle Rittenhouse shot white protestors. But he drove to Kenosha to police people of color—and protect wealthier white people and their property. Policing people of color remains common practice in classrooms, curriculums, churches, stores and neighborhoods, where white people do not necessarily need guns and badges to demand “others” know their place.
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Another poll just came out about the effects of Trump on white evangelicalism. While half of Americans believe he hurt the credibility of the church, the poll also shows that not many fled the fold. In fact, there’s been an uptick of Trump supporters who now embrace the “evangelical” label. This makes sense to me. The certainty and supremacy are so seductive—and so persistent.
Sunday, November 7, 2021
NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers caught covid this week and we learned that he wasn’t vaccinated like he said he was. He lied. Now he’s in speak-in-code-full-blame-mode, lamenting that vaccine mandates are based on shame not science, that he’s just marching to the beat of his own drum, that he won’t be manipulated by “the woke mob.” On a podcast, he paraphrased “the great MLK” saying we must object to unjust rules that make no sense. That’s right. He compared his battle against the NFL’s vaccine mandate with the Black southern freedom movement’s struggle against white supremacist segregation codes and state-sponsored violence.
Rodgers is not a bad person. He’s a babbling parable for a white-capitalist-christian culture incessantly promoting profit, personal success and individual rights—and justifying it by turning Dr. King (and Jesus) into its own image. It counterfeits the spiritual reality that the great MLK scripted in the same letter that Rodgers quoted out of context. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” Dr. King wrote from jail, “tied together into a single garment of destiny.” Mutuality is a completely different mentality than marching to the beat of my own drum. It moves on belovedness and belongingness, making life decisions with everyone else in mind—especially those who are actually oppressed.
Sunday, October 31, 2021
A friend sent me a three-minute clip linking Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of the new name for his company (Meta) with the first Greek word in the 4th chapter of the book of Revelation: “After (meta) this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’” My friend wrote, “He’s coming!!” I’m assuming he was referring to Jesus.
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
A year ago, the racial justice organization Detroit Will Breathe helped plan a march in suburban Shelby Township, protesting the police chief who sent out racist tweets calling Black Lives Matter marchers “barbarians” and “wild savages.” He wrote that real cops would put them in “body bags.” He got a 30-day suspension and was ordered to complete sensitivity training.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
As white Christians continue to warn their congregations about the dangers of “wokeness,” it is revealing to recall where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the issue. Even after some significant civil rights gains, he still said that getting into a real process of exposing our racism would be the only possible way to unify the country. Because it’s the only thing that can heal us. King compared what people are calling “critical race theory” to a doctor prescribing chemotherapy for cancer. Unless we deal with the disease, it will kill us.
Sunday, October 17, 2021
In high school and college, my Campus Crusade for Christ leaders literally referred to our bibles as swords. Quoting the bible itself, they said that the Word of the Lord was the most powerful weapon in the armor of God. Our swords defended supremacy stories that scripted the innocence of America, the wealth of white folk, the sin of gay people and Christianity’s everlasting monopoly on heaven. I remember feeling the rush of entitlement. Because I was in possession of The Absolute Truth and it could slash any liberal argument. At least in my mind.
Monday, October 11, 2021
For me, the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration comes with a sacred tension of grief and gratitude. It rolls around every Fall to remind me of my sacred responsibility to conspire with those who lived sustainably and reverently on the land for thousands of years before those who became “white” violently stole it.
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
A lot of us are shelving Christian notions of god and glory that pivot on supremacy and shame. We grew up with these stories. We grew out of them. We found them to be destructive and traumatizing. Folks have been calling this “deconstructing” faith. I don’t really like the term because I think there is a strong tendency for former fundamentalists to blow up the counterfeit god and just move on. It easily becomes a repressed spirituality, instead of a renewal or revival that can build the inner strength needed to subvert the supremacy stories that soak American society.
Sunday, September 5, 2021
Friday, August 13, 2021
White Christians in places like Bend, Oregon (my current location) have been organizing herds to shout down school boards that mandate masks and teach students the truth of America’s racist past and present. It is pure projection. A tactic used to distract from and distort the real issue: a disinformation campaign directly connected to what young white Christians are learning in their homes, churches and private schools.
Monday, August 9, 2021
Climate experts just released another dire study on the future of the planet. Most media outlets tell a story that “humans” have caused it and that it is up to “us” to fix it. This narration needs some serious clarification. The “humans” who created this mess are Europeans, those who eventually became “white” in North America a few hundred years ago. The climate crisis is clearly not the fault of Indigenous people and Black people and darker nations of the world who have been colonized by the missionaries, militaries and industries of white people.
Thursday, August 5, 2021
I’m four episodes into the new Christianity Today podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. As I’m flooded with memories from early 2000s Evangelical culture, I’m appreciating the honest intramural critique. It seems like a healthy exposé. It is good to see white Evangelicals grappling with some of the destructive impulses within their movement. I am also wanting more from the reporting. Too often, the problems of Evangelical Christianity are boiled down to individual assholes and hypocrites, a “toxic culture” or Trump. I believe that it needs a more systemic diagnosis, digging up the patriarchy, profit motive and white supremacy that soak Evangelical perspectives and practice. These principalities counterfeit the radical mutuality displayed in the Gospels.
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
When Lindsay and I arrived in Central Oregon a couple years ago, I dedicated a whole month to studying what the white Christians were up to in the region. I attended about a dozen different church services. Some folks recommended that I check out a church downtown. They said, “It’s one of the most liberal faith communities in town.” So I went there on Memorial Day weekend. When they read the Gospel passage, there was a power point slide with an image of the bible wrapped in the American flag. They were professing faith in a man who was crucified by empire while pledging allegiance to empire at the same time.
White Christians often justify bowing to both the flag and their bibles by quoting Jesus: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” It was his response to questions from political enemies about whether he was paying taxes. This is one of the most misinterpreted passages in the bible. Jesus was not separating the spiritual and the political. He was not saying that his followers should pledge allegiance to both God and country. As a Jew, Jesus believed that everything belonged to God. “The earth is the Lord’s,” the Hebrew Psalm says, “and everything in it.” If that’s the case, then nothing belongs to Caesar.
Members of the early Christian movement were persecuted because they defied Caesar, the one Romans referred to as “the Lord and Savior of the world.” In some areas of the empire, loyalty to Caesar was tested with a ritual. Romans were required to take a pinch of incense and place it on burning coals before a statue of the emperor. As the smoke ascended, every slave and citizen had to say, “Caesar is Lord.” The Christians refused to participate in this patriotic pledge. Even more: they openly confessed that “Jesus is Lord.” All of this (and more) leads me to believe that those of us who are followers of Jesus should stop flying the flag. This doesn’t mean that we hate America. It means we have a higher allegiance—a Love which is often at odds with the way America rolls.
Monday, July 12, 2021
I am working on a book that makes a biblical case against white Christianity. I am currently writing on the west coast, where water levels are historically low and wildfire season has already started and developers are still building building building. It seems clear to me that what I am witnessing is the culmination of white Christianity, a construct that consistently equates “faith” with the “freedom” to do whatever one wants—no matter how it affects anyone else. Using biblical language, it has sanctioned a lifestyle without limits, a lifestyle that is not rooted in reverence for each other or the earth. The brutal irony: it is a lifestyle that is unbiblical.
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’"—Mark 15:25-26
On the cross, Jesus cried out in Aramaic, his native tongue, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabbachthani. Many who overheard it thought he was calling out for the prophet Elijah. He was actually quoting Psalm 22 from the Hebrew Bible: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? I learned in seminary that in the Jewish tradition, when folks quote the first verse of a Psalm, they are not sound-biting, but referencing the entire chapter. The next line of Psalm 22 goes like this: Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? Jesus’ higher Power was a Sabbath God who shows up in the text hearing and responding to the groans of those oppressed and impoverished by the policies of Solomon.
In Genesis, it was the blood of murdered Abel. In Exodus, it was the Israelites groaning under slavery to Pharoah. In the Psalms and Prophets, the sighs and cries consistently come before the One who hears. In James, it was the unpaid wages of the day laborers crying out. In Romans, all of creation is groaning with labor pains, longing to be released from bondage, and the text says that, in our weakness, we do not know what to say in our prayers—but the Breath of God intercedes for us with groans that go beyond our glossary.
Saturday, June 5, 2021
It’s been more than a dozen years since I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary. Despite being considered more “progressive” than other Evangelical institutions, Fuller still defines marriage as a covenant union between one man and one woman. The school has a “sexual standards” link on its website stating that “homosexual forms of explicit sexual conduct to be inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture.” Fuller expels students who do not follow these guidelines.
Fuller and many Evangelical churches justify their position with what they call a “high view of scripture.” History tells us that the high view of scripture supports hierarchies. It has justified supremacy for centuries. Christianity is the one right religion. America is the greatest country on the planet. White folks are more deserving than everyone else. Women are supposed to submit to men—and non-binary folk aren’t even acknowledged. If it’s not male-and-female monogamy, the coupleship is condemned or questioned. Why? Because the bible says so.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Congress won’t commission an investigation into the Jan 6 white male riot at the Capitol. It’s not weird, it’s white supremacy. Just think about this: back in 1967, in the wake of anti-racist uprisings in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Newark, when Black folk (and a few allies) were mad-as-hell for good reason, President Johnson did commission a congressional investigation. He wanted to know what happened, why it happened and what could be done to prevent it from happening again.
The ten white men and one white woman who wrote up the 426-page report dug to the roots of the so-called riots: lack of economic opportunity, failed social service programs, police brutality, white racism and the super-white perspective of the media. The report stated clearly: “White society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” White people wrote this! The Kerner Commission prescribed billions of tax dollars to be made available immediately—a massive government investment in jobs, education and housing for those Dr. King called “The Other America.”
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
I woke up to a text this morning from a dear friend asking about the role of ambition in the spiritual life. Specifically, they were asking for a kind of cure for spiritual lethargy and fatigue. The first thing that comes to mind for me is this little verse in 2 Timothy about possessing a spirit of power and love and self-discipline. I like how this trifecta weaves wonders. Self-discipline is crucial, but on its own it is mundane, rigid, dry and burdensome. It requires passionate energy like divine power and a kind of crucified love—in order to be sustainable and to bear fruit.
I see self-discipline as momentum: a daily rhythm, a commitment to habits that are vital for my own healing and liberation. Every morning, I read and reflect on a passage of the bible and write an entry in my "feelings journal," an inventory of fear, guilt and resentment from the previous 24 hours. I reflect on the moments when I felt alone, unknown, devalued or disrespected--feelings I am well-acquainted with. I reflect on the times I was stuck on autopilot in counterfeit ways, when I distanced or went into production mode to try to earn a (false) sense of value. Then I reflect on what is true about my world: that I am soaked in inherent belovedness and that I belong to every living Being because I am an extension of a God of steadfast love, social justice and faithfulness to the most vulnerable. Lastly, I reflect on my intentions going forward: to incessantly center myself in this divine crucified love so I can maintain the capacity to stay connected and be present and emotionally available to Lindsay and others.
Monday, May 24, 2021
A year ago, police responded to a call from a convenience store employee who accused George Floyd of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Before every single one of us witnessed this Black man forty days younger than me face down on the street pavement calling for his mother while a white man in uniform with his left hand in his pocket took his life by kneeling on his neck, the Minneapolis Police Department issued a press release describing what happened:
Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later. At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.
This ordering of facts was the official account.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
When we stay in Ypsilanti, Michigan, I love to run through this Civil War-era cemetery (right), just a stone's throw from the Huron River. It reminds me that new life rhythmically arises from death and decay. There is a Gospel story that takes place in a graveyard in the country of the Gerasenes. A man who was possessed by an unclean spirit lived there among the tombs.
The text says that he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. Jesus asked him what his name was and he said, "I am Legion, for we are many." A legion, containing about 5,000 soldiers, was the largest unit in the Roman imperial military. The story signals that our bodies are also a battlefield between a Spirit of steadfast love, social justice and a faithfulness to the most vulnerable versus the perspectives, postures and policies of empire. We, too, are possessed by Legion.
Monday, May 17, 2021
In my adolescent years, Evangelical pastors taught me to give my unconditional support to Israel. They said it was biblical, based entirely on an interpretation of the last book of the bible. Revelation. They quoted verses saying that the nation of Israel must be re-established before Jesus comes back to re-make the world. They said Israel’s borders must be defended at all costs. When I started studying the sacred text for myself, I learned that their interpretation of Revelation was a revisionist “end times” reading strategy invented by white men who divided the history of the world into “dispensations” that they made up. Our current chapter, they said, was all about getting people saved for eternity. Social justice, they said, was irrelevant. Because Jesus was coming back soon. This biblical reading strategy is a racket. It has justified death and destruction in Palestine for the past 75 years. All in the name of God and Christ.
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Saturday, May 1, 2021
Thursday, October 22, 2020
12 years ago, Lindsay and I road-tripped to Vegas with a few friends to canvas for Barack Obama on the last weekend before the election. In the wake of his 365-electoral-vote volcanic eruption, a few Evangelical friends shared their honest feelings with us. They were gravely concerned that we had drunk the hope-and-change Kool-Aid. Obama was about to raise taxes and he was soft on terrorism—and, yes, he was a peddler of abortion. One friend even called him a “baby murderer.” None of this was surprising. We had the playbook memorized. We were trained up in it for decades.