The Problem with Redemption: #metoo

Reading Time: 9 minutes

This post is mostly in response to the article posted on GQ The Problem With Redemption in regard to serial abuser and restaurateur, Ken Friedman.

A few weeks ago, as I was rather aimlessly scrolling through my Twitter Feed, I found a link to this article under a tweet by a guy asking how men that have been named in the #metoo movement can, if at all, regain societal standing.

As you may guess, the comment section ranged from brutally honest to downright appalling. But, then I saw a link to an article with an instruction: read this.

The author of ‘The Problem with Redemption’ begins her post with this:

As a graduate of a Quaker high school, restorative justice is near and dear to my heart. The practice, often used as an alternative to stricter forms of punishment, focuses on reconciliation and rehabilitation rather than sending the offender to jail or shunning them from the community. Ideas of community consensus and collective action were drilled into my head by my educators, and when someone did wrong, instead of immediately expelling them, we tried to foster communication and understanding that would help everyone heal. However, any time this happened, the first step was always the same: the offender had to take responsibility for what they had done, and be actively trying to make amends. This was the only way to redemption.

Throughout the article, the author posits this theory again and again: redemption begins with the acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

But what is redemption? Who gives redemption? Does redemption imply a return to “normal life?” And, perhaps dangerously, is redemption always the point?

One of the most problematic pieces for me when considering redemption in regard to sexual assault is that the idea of redemption often centers whiteness and white innocence vis-à-vis a White Christological framework and purity culture.

There is a value system on whom we believe matter and whom we believe are innocent. There is a value system on whom “deserves” to be abused and those whom don’t. Legally, the Justice System values some people over others. It’s in the way we tell the stories. It’s who we believe is innocent. It’s whom we believe matters.

Think Nia Wilson and Mollie Tibbits.

Think Emmett Till.

Think Charlottesville 2017.

Think refugee children in cages.

And, how we learn to value other human beings remains deeply interconnected with our theology and how we understand whom deservessalvation.

To be candid, these tendencies pervade mainstream, Western theology. And, more often than not, whiteness becomes centered and intrinsically interconnected with the salvation message of Jesus. 

Indeed, theological ideology broadens our understanding of how whiteness “establish[es] and defend[s] who and what Whites can be, what others can and cannot do and/or be and what kind of feeling and action by others is allowed or disallowed in reference to Whites.”

It is plausible to suggest that mainstream, Westernized Christian theology as a social institution is positioned as a conduit through which whiteness is calculatingly preserved, fortified, and disseminated as superior.

Consider the ways in which society socializes and sexualizes young women in juxtaposition with the way in which the Church, particularly Conservative and Evangelical Churches, socialize young women with purity culture. While both are inherently problematic, these socialization tactics often center on a white framework by centering white values and white concepts of acceptability.

In her critical work, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School, Monique Morris offers this important insight:

As children are routinely told to “speak only when spoken to” in many cultures, so too were those who occupied the status of minors. To be a “minority,” a colored person, or a woman in this context was to bear the mark of subjugation and relative insignificance. Over time, this wound has deepened through invisibility, violence and objectification, and for Black girls who have lived in ways that align with and result from a castigated identity, the struggle to be a “good girl,” especially in the ghetto, is connected to performances of power.

For Black girls, to be “ghetto” represents a certain resilience to how poverty has shaped racial and gender oppression. To be “loud” is a demand to be heard. To have an “attitude” is to reject a doctrine of invisibility and mistreatment. To be flamboyant – or fabulous- is to revise the idea that socioeconomic isolation is equated with not having access to materially desirable things. To be a ghetto Black girl, then, is to reinvent what it means to be Black, poor, and female (19).

And, while Monique’s book is particularly geared towards the criminalization of black girls in regard to educational settings, I think that her book offers relevant truths which extend well beyond the reach of normative educational settings.

While certainly not a universal or monolithic verity, I have found that my experience as a black woman and as a sexual assault survivor includes finding ways to make myself look more credible. To look more palatable. To look more white/innocent. Because, I know, statistically, what happens to black women and girls in regard to sexual abuse and rape culture. And, I know that society still hasn’t found us redeemable.

I know that if, in my Predominately White Community, I communicate with my “white” English and wear my “white” clothes, that I will receive better service at the mall/doctor’s office/bank/grocery store.

I know that if I wear my “white” hair that I will receive more compliments at work andnobody will grab it.

And, I know that when I tell my stories of sexual assault which include black men as the perpetrator, people will roll their eyes because that is no longer a problem…that is just a “cultural issue.”

When I think about redemption and sexual assault, I find myself – more often than not – reflecting on pieces of my own story. I share the story below, un-analyzed and raw because I think it is important to understand the inherent problematic nature of how rape culture works. Of what voices become centered. Of how “reconciliation” isn’t always reconciliation. I truly believe that until we are able to understand how individual actions remain complicit with a larger rape culture framework, we will be destined to continue to perpetuate and abuse marginalized and vulnerable members of society. 

————————————–* Warning: Trigger Warning*————————————————

Whenever, I think of the #metoo movement in terms of redemption, I often remember something that happened to me back in June of 2009. That summer, like most summers during High School, I worked at Camp Deerpark as a Kitchen Assistant. Because my older brother worked at the camp full time, I often started work a few weeks earlier than the rest of the staff in order to help out with odd jobs. This particular summer was no different and, after a day of cleaning out art supplies, I decided to play some basketball with another staff member, Gerson.

Now, it may be important to note that during summer camp, summer staff were not supposed to be alone with members of the opposite sex. But, it wasn’t quite summer camp. And, the basketball courts were in full view of the main office and surrounding buildings. I figured I was safe.

So backstory: Gerson and I played basketball. I came down hard on my ankle – and I hobbled off the court, ready to make the long trek up the side of the mountain/hill to my brother’s cabin. Gerson picked me up and groped me. I yelled at him to put me down. When he finally does I tried to walk up the hill towards the main office. He followed me asking me “why are you trying to run away?” I walked through the Main Office building and out the back door to put away a paint bucket. I didn’t realize that Gerson was still following me, He followed me inside the shed before picking me up and groping me again. I scream and yell at him to stop, to put me down and to leave me alone before he finally puts me down. I continue my way to my cabin. Gerson continues to follow me up the hill. I report the incident to my brother. A few days later, I have a meeting with Admin. 
I will never forget the meeting with Admin (Ken Bontrager, Veronica Dingwall and Gerson). Mostly, because I took written notes and some transcripts of the meeting. To be fair, what is shared below is strictly from my notes: I thought that sharing a bit of what happened is important in order to understand how rape culture works.

*First, Ken asked Gerson if he knew why he was there and what he understood happened and if he did the things in which he was accused. Gerson said that he did but that he didn’t really think he did anything wrong.*
Ken: Gerson, do you understand where Boni is coming from?
Gerson *slouched, half smirking* yeah
Ken: Do you understand how she could think your hands were in inappropriate places?
Gerson: Yeah
Ken: Okay. did you pick Boni up in your arms?
Gerson: Yeah
Ken: More than once?
Gerson: Yeah
Ken: Did you hear her tell you to stop and to put her down?
Gerson: Yeah
Ken: Did you?
Gerson: After a while
Ken: After a while?
Gerson; Yeah
Ken: Veronica, help me out here. I’m not sure where to go. 
Veronica: *to Gerson* So what do you think about this?
Gerson: Um. I don’t know.
Veronica: What do you understand about this situation?
Gerson: That I was helping her up
Veronica: So you don’t feel like you did anything wrong?
Gerson: No, but I guess I did because you all are accusing me.
*Ken excuses himself to take a phone call*
Veronica: So how are you feeling then? You upset?
Gerson: No
Veronica: You look mad. I mean, if I was accused of something that I didn’t feel was wrong, I would be mad.
Gerson: Well, I’m feeling something…just not mad
Veronica: Okay, then what are you feeling?
Gerson: Not mad.
Veronica: Okay. Um
…..
Ken: How do you both feel about working here together this summer? Like, do you feel like you can both work here? Boni?

Me: …yeah
Ken: Gerson?
Gerson: Um. (slouches more, rubs eyes and rolls his eyes). I don’t know. Not really.
Veronica: Okay, why not? What do you feel? Awkward? Uncomfortable?
Gerson: Uncomfortable
Veronica: Why?
Gerson: I don’t know. I just do. *smiles*
Veronica: Why do you feel uncomfortable?
Gerson: I just do. *talking to me* what did you want outta this? An apology? What?!!
Me: I just want you to stop touching me….like, I want to be your friend. Just stop the touching.
….
Ken: *to Gerson* Now is the time to apologize
Gerson: *stares* *whisper* I’m sorry
Veronica: Speak up
Ken: Well, are you actually sorry? Don’t apologize for something you are not sorry for
Gerson: Okay
Ken: Are you sorry?
Gerson: Not really
Ken: But you can see where Boni is coming from
Gerson: Yeah
Ken: Well can you be sorry for what happened?
Gerson: I guess
Veronica: We are not out to get you here. Nobody’s thinking that you’re the bad guy
Gerson: *laughs*
Ken: So, you have the floor
Gerson: I’m sorry *smirks*
Ken: See, speak up. You have a beautiful voice. Everybody should hear that voice *laughs*
Veronica: Yeah, it’s a beautiful voice…
Ken: So, do we have peace?
Me: *small voice* sure
Gerson: *rolls his eyes, scowls* sure

Later that summer, Gerson was fired for groping a camper.
In my situation, Gerson wasn’t sorry. And, he explicitly articulated this.

And yet… nothing happened. Because nothing is normative in rape culture.

No one reported it to the Police. No one took it over Ken’s head.  

And, no one confronted Ken for his decision.

This story is inherently problematic for many reasons. Not all of which will I list or elaborate upon. And, its faulty argument aligns well with the disastrous and heinous assumption that there was equal blame, that there was equally “very fine people on both sides”.

While, I have chosen to name where the incident took place and the names of the person involved, I also recognize that telling this story does not simply change the larger culture. Kate Harding, in her critical book, Asking For It, offers this:

Rape culture manifests in a myriad ways…but its most devilish trick is to make the average, noncriminal person identify with the person accused, instead of the person reporting the crime. Rape culture encourages us to scrutinize victims’ stories for any evidence that they brought the violence onto themselves- and always to imagine ourselves in the terrifying role of Good Man, Falsely Accused, before we ‘rush to judgement.’

We’re not meant to picture ourselves in the role of drunk teenager at her first college party, thinking ‘Wow, he seems to think I’m pretty!’ or the woman who accepts a ride with a ‘nice guy,’ who’s generously offered to see her safely home from the bar. Or the girl who’s passed out in a room upstairs, while the party rages on below, so chaotic that her friends don’t even notice she’s gone.

When it comes to rape, if we’re expected to put ourselves in anyone else’s shoes at all, it’s the accused rapist’s. The questions that inevitably come along with “what was she wearing?” and ‘How much did she have to drink?’ are “what if there was no rape at all? What happens if she is lying? What happens to this poor slob she’s accusing? What if he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit?

This conceptualization of how rape culture works helps me to understand how this ideology pervades everyday life in addition to how rape culture functions as a site of public pedagogy.   

Does Gerson deserve redemption? Does Ken? Is that even the best question to ask?
The author of “The Problem with Redemption” would argue that they would not deserve redemption because neither of them provided an admission of guilt and/or wrongdoing.

And, while I would be inclined to agree that they do not deserve redemption, I find myself conflicted with the redemptive nature of Jesus Christ. What does redemption mean? 

Or maybe asking about redemption is the wrong question.

When I think back to myself as a 15-year-old, I often find myself resonating with feelings of anger, intense loneliness, hurt and betrayal. I felt voiceless and powerless and dirty. As a 25-year-old, I can now give voice to that 15-year-old. I can now speak truth for that 15-year-old in ways that I couldn’t then.

As a follower of Jesus and a sexual assault survivor, the idea of redemption has often been one of those topics that have been unsettlingly problematic for me.

I like Jesus. I like His ideology. And, I also find His message unsettlingly and startlingly forgiving.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Forgive. Pray for those whom persecute you.

I don’t know how to reconcile any of that with my experience.

I don’t know if I even want to.

As you know, as someone that is super Type A, I like to have answers. I like rules and regulations, and this messy stuff feels…messy.

So, I’m muddling through this redemption idea.

And maybe, if you’re muddling too, we can muddle along together.

Shalom always,

Wellness & Self-Care in the Age of Despair

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

 – John 16:32-33

Concrete buildings and steel cages. Hurricane aftermath of Puerto Rico. The crisis in Venezuela. Rohingya refugees. South Sudan. Contaminated water in Flint, MI. Pipeline fire in Hesston, KS. 17-year-old, Antwon Rose shot and killed in the back by police after a traffic stop. The DAPL in sacred indigenous lands.

I often find it hard to disentangle the continuities of oppression waged upon the marginalized community without noticing the politics of whiteness. I, like many other women of color, have and experience an inordinate amount of trauma. And, when western political powers utilize language like “zero tolerance,” more often than not brown and black communities are disproportionately affected.

In the Age of Trump, as some have come to call this period, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, sexism (to name a few), while practiced throughout the history of America in, perhaps, more latent ways, has emboldened the alt right and empowered many white evangelicals to align themselves with (sometimes, by way of intentional complacency) and publicly endorse white supremacist ideals. Many are affected. Many are terrified. Many are impacted. Me too.

To borrow from Christena Cleveland’s blog, “Wellness in the Age of Trump”:

Many of us feel compelled to act – to speak out, to protest, to advocate, to gather, to comfort, to fight for justice. But for many, particularly white people, this is the first time they have attempted to act effectively under duress and anxiety. This is the first time that the oppression feels personal to them and they don’t know what to do. For others, particularly people of color, this is yet another trauma on top of a lifetime of traumas. Many of us have been fighting for years. We’ve reached our physical limits and we’re weary. No matter the reason or racial identity, many who feel compelled to fight for justice find themselves deterred by listlessness, hopelessness, perplexity and fear. Me too.

As a Jesus follower, I am convinced that before we can sustainably give from ourselves, we must first be firmly rooted in His undying, love and actively rooted in a community in which nourishes, forms and fortifies our renewal and commitment to Jesus’ justice leadership.

We can’t keep fighting, absorbing and healing from traumas, and hoping in the face of disappointment without a fortified and formed spirituality that directly speaks to the issues of injustice. The beautiful thing about our current blatantly-unjust political climate is that it is a holy ground for this type of spiritual formation. We are formed, fortified and even reborn in the liminal spaces and during the shadowy times. As Clarissa Pinkola Estés so beautifully says, “Like Mary, we often give birth – in the middle of nowhere, unaccompanied, with the most meager of circumstances – to the God of love.”

As, I have struggled to hold each of these (and many more) realities, I found myself working through a series of self-care practices. And, I found myself revisiting what it means to live as a faithful, resurrected people in times of despair. The Bible has a particular phrase for repentance, metanoia, which, depending on your linguistic interpretation means in Greek to change one’s mind, or penance, or in English, to turn around and walk in a new direction.

 This definition of repentance is particularly helpful when applied to living authentically and openly as a faith community in a (I am applying this particularly to the western world, although it can be applied widely) world which operates on the politics and supremacy of whiteness.

As Christians, navigating these tensions while proclaiming the everlasting love and redemption of Jesus can be exhausting. Many feel lonely, angry, hurt or incensed. Me too. But, I remain convinced that part of the hope in Jesus means that we too must die an intentional, daily death to sin, and in this death, we are resurrected to proclaim hope in a hopeless land.

As I have been exploring the concepts of lament and repentance, I stumbled across this book: “forgive us: confessions of a compromised faith” by Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson and Soong-Chan Rah.  I like this book because it intentionally and powerfully uses voices and stories of persons/cultures/communities whom the Christian church has historically oppressed to speak truth about injustice and reorients confession to one in which is corporate rather than solely individual. A particularly moving excerpt from the Foreword by Dr. Mark Labberton and Reverend Jim Wallis below:

“No one comes to repentance and confession easily. That’s the point, of course. It requires two things few of us like: taking responsibility and embracing a kind of death. This is not the good news we like living or proclaiming. But we must acknowledge our complicity or entanglement in systems and patterns of sin and injustice, and we must die to the illusion that such history can be escaped. If we are to mirror the new life that is the resurrection, dying precedes rising. Repentance and forgiveness precede reconciliation.”

1. Lament

I am increasingly convinced that lamenting is a particularly difficult practice for the western world. One of my racial justice mentors explained this phenomenon by equating it with a key function of white supremacy. White supremacy, she articulated, often discounts the validity of body truths.

Lamenting requires listening andpaying attention to one’s body and holding the tensions of fear and anger – emotions which are often discounted as irrational and unnecessary. As I practiced lamenting this week, I found myself naming injustices and noticing where I held each injustice in my body. I listened to and stayed with my breath as I allowed myself to feel the injustices I was naming. After 90 seconds, I named another injustice and then committed to listening to my body for 90 seconds, and continued this process throughout my lamenting session.

2. Truth

I have found it helpful to follow a time of lamenting by remembering and focusing on God by naming whom God is: compassionate, healing, loving, all powerful, all just, gracious, good, etc., One of the ways in which I also fortify myself is by listening to music. It was helpful to use music as a fortifying tool in my time of lament as well.

Below are a few links to some of the songs I have found particularly powerful this week:

Kyrie Elieson– Chris Tomlin 

Pie Jesuby Celtic Women

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser (Bethel Music)

It is Well– Kristine DiMarco and Bethel Music

Pieces– Bethel Music

God I Look to You – Francesca Battistelli

3. Humanization

Resentment is such an easy thing to allow to root in our hearts. If you are anything like me, it is incredibly hard to listen to let alone pray for our current administration. As a POC and as a woman I, like many other minority women, am acutely and intimately aware of the impact of our current administration’s detrimental and profound accusations and decisively hateful rhetoric. I have been trying, to practice the Resentment Prayer – praying for those by asking for qualities we desire in our own life for them, ie; health, safety, etc., because part of loving our neighbors is loving all our neighbors. In this step, I attempt to name and pray for each member of our current administration’s team and this week, I added different ICE agents.

4. Formation

As I ended my time of lamenting and self-care, I refocused on what my vision of racial justice entails. For me, I long for a sustainable, shalom-oriented, God fearing, intentional world invested in the inherent well-being and value of all humans. While, I often think about this vision in terms of my local community/country, I wanted to revisit what it means to have this vision and what tools and strategies are required to work towards this vision. For me, humanization of my neighbor is a part of this journey. Lamenting is a part of this journey. Connecting is a part of this journey. Whole body listening is a part of this journey. And truth-telling is a part of this journey.

What is your racial justice vision? What tools does it require? What are your acts of intentional, rooted, resistance? As always, I am interested in hearing from you.

Shalom always. 

Let the Little Children Come to Me: Whiteness, Immigration Policies and Christianity

Reading Time: 6 minutes

“The Gospel of liberation is

bad news to all oppressors

because they have defined 

their “freedom” in terms of

slavery of others.”

– James H. Cone
In the many weeks since the Zero Tolerance Immigration bill has gone into effect, I have devoted some time, between contacting my senators and congressman, into more fully researching the politics and historiography of whiteness, the radical theology of Jesus and the historical framework of Immigration Policy in the United States.
While, perhaps for some, these components may not seem interrelated, I have found it both exceedingly informative and critical to investigate their interconnectedness. Indeed, it is plausible to suggest that recent zero tolerance immigration policy is the direct production of policies and ideologies developed and fostered over time.
This is not to argue that the current administration has not fostered a culture which, perhaps, made this policy more likely. While this is certainly true, it is equally important, if not more so, to consider how we got herein order to discern how to act.
First, it is helpful to provide a brief history of Racism and Immigration Law within the last two centuries. This timeline is located to the left and is by no means comprehensive.

For a larger image of the timeline, click here.

For a more complete timeline from the Racial Justice Equity Organization, click here.
As I began to investigate the complicated yet interconnected history of religion, politics and whiteness in America, I couldn’t help but notice the ubiquitous and pervasive theme of Americanized power and privilege asexistentialism. While immigration policies and zero-tolerance sum games are often visible bad actors what remains under-investigated is the ideology and theology of whiteness and how these understandings critically inform the contemporary.
To begin, perhaps it is best to define whiteness as the union of both identity and agency as described by Barbara Fields, Professor of History at Columbia University, paper published in International Labor and Working-Class History, entitled Whiteness, Racism and Identity:
“[R]acism unseats both identity and agency, if identity means sense of self, and agency anything beyond conscious, goal-directed activity, however trivial or ineffectual. The targets of racism do not “make” racism, nor are they free to “negotiate” it, though they may challenge it or its perpetrators and try to navigate the obstacles it places in their way. Even as racism exposes the hollowness of agency and identity, it violates the two-sides-to-every-story expectation of symmetry that Americans are peculiarly attached to. There is no voluntary and affirmative side to racism as far as its victims are concerned, and it has no respect for symmetry at all…. race denotes a state of mind, feeling, or being, rather than a program or patter of action, it radiates a semantic and grammatical ambiguity that helps to restore an appearance of symmetry, particularly with the help of a thimblerig that imperceptibly moves the pea from race to racial identity. Whiteness is just such a thimblerig. It performs a series of deft displacements, first substituting race for racism, then postulating identity as the social substance of race, and finally attributing racial identity to persons of European descent. By those maneuvers, it is possible to reinstate the orthodox pieties” (2001, pg. 48-49).  
This definition firmly situates whiteness as that invisible normative in which all other races are both rendered visible and, although contrary, invisible and are also racialized. Arab terrorist. Black vandal. 16-year-old white female, missing. Consider, the ease of media outlets which utilize whiteness as the standard.
What exactly does anyone, journalist, legislator, pastor, teacher, ICE agent, do when they racialize the immigrant? For example, ICE Agents, having recognized the man as a Mexican, arrested him on the spot. There was no dialogue or negotiation, just as mass deportation was no matter for dialogue or negotiation during the Mexican Repatriation of the 1930’s and 40’s.
 The notation of race here is particularly important to recognize because a function of racism is to forbid its objects to function as anything other than a member of specific race. Consider the implications if the blurb had read: ICE Agents, having recognized the person as a man, arrested him on the spot. While, perhaps, the critic would argue this as a stretch, when deconstructing ideologies of whiteness and politics, it is important to understand why, how, and from whom such ideologies and policies are constructed.

Because, the historiography of whiteness has been detailed and described in length by many academic scholars, I will not invest any more time articulating its functions and features. However, for those of you whom are interested in increasing your understanding of whiteness, I will include some resources at the bottom of this blog post.

While the history of the United States is one which remains firmly situated on the politics and supremacy of whiteness, it is hardly arguable to suggest that the zero-tolerance policies as invigorated by the current administration is surprising. However, this should not be mistaken for an advocacy of careless complacency or mediocre activism.

Indeed, as illustrated throughout the depraved and unjust policies foundational to America’s history, it must be everyone’s duty to speak out against injustice. And, as Christ followers, we each are called to name evil and speak truth to power.  

As a Christian and follower of Jesus, I have found that the call of Jesus is one in which effectively shatters the westernized ideals and idols of safety and security.

Jesus continually calls his followers into the way and relationship of and with other people.

Jesus calls his followers into the way of policies, legislations and governmental acts.

Jesus calls his followers into the way of walls and pipelines and contaminated water because Jesus calls us each to do the work of restoration, resurrection and redemption.

In the Gospel of Matthew, one is reminded again of what it is to follow Jesus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ and to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

As Christians, we are more than equipped to do this work, for we are not equipped by our own strength but by the eternal well of Jesus. And, as Christians living in a land formed on the bones of marginalized persons, we must also reconcile with a history of complacency and a reality of easy deniability.

I have found hope and conviction in the late James H. Cone’s writing, particularly this following excerpt regarding the role and history of the church and racism:

“The Christian community, therefore, is that community that freely becomes

oppressed, because they know that Jesus himself has defined humanity’s

liberation in the context of what happens to the little ones. Christians join the

cause of the oppressed in the fight for justice not because of some philosophical

principle of “the Good” or because of a religious feeling of sympathy for people

in prison. Sympathy does not change the structures of injustice. The authentic

identity of Christians with the poor is found in the claim which the Jesus-

encounter lays upon their own life-style, a claim that connects the word

“Christian” with the liberation of the poor. Christians fight not for humanity in

general but for themselves and out of their love for concrete human beings.” – James H. Cone The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

As, I have grappled with the zero-tolerance immigration policy, I have come to find renewed hope in two understandings:

               1. The hope of the Christian faith rests firmly in the hands of a good God. And, God is fundamentally situated on the side of justice. God was present in Jesus’ solidarity with the oppressed. And, “God declared victory out of defeat, life out of death and hope out of despair.”

              2. The Church, in order to remain faithful to the Lord, must become intentionally anti-racist by making a radical and decisive break with the politics of whiteness and race oriented supremacy.

      As I think about the zero toleration policy, I am reminded yet again of how policies rooted in historic, often unchallenged, whiteness, will continue to defend and protect white supremacist ideals. Let us be clear that God has not ordained the separation of children from their parents. No. White men have called the protection of whiteness existentialism and, by way of governmental power, have defended and protected whiteness by naming it ‘god’. 

  The politics and radical liberation of Christ insists on freedom from all masters. This includes whiteness. Christ’s death not only liberated us as a faithful people, but radicalizes us to proclaim the entirely dangerous notion of love for the stranger and for self. May it be so!

 As you enter your week, may each of you go in love, for love alone endures. Go in peace, for it is the gift of God. Go in safety, for you cannot go where God is not.

Additional Resources

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DeAngelo (Book comes out on June 26, 2018).

 Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – Peggy McIntosh

So You Want to Talk about Race – Ijeoma Oluo

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race – Beverly Daniel Tatum

The Invention of the White Race – Theodore Allen
White is a State of Mind – Melba Patillo Beals
The Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire
Ain’t I a Woman – bell hooks