Guest Post: Robert Larry – “These Are My Reactions”

A couple weeks ago, a friend and former ministry resident at Eastbrook Church, Robert Larry, shared some of his thoughts with me on what it’s like to be a black man and Christian at this time in our nation. After sharing those thoughts with me, I asked him if he would be willing to share it with a broader audience, which he agreed to do. On this Juneteenth, I hope Robert’s words inspire us to think, listen to one another, and grow toward greater authentic unity as the body of Christ. This post has also been cross-posted at the Milwaukee Declaration website.


Robert Larry

These are my reactions. By Robert Larry

In the midst of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others recently, as well as the Central Park incident with Amy Cooper, I’ve been asked multiple times to share my reactions to what’s happening in the United States, as both a follower of Jesus Christ and also a black man living in the United States. These are my reactions. Once again, I find myself reacting to yet another sickening demonstration of the reality of the danger that I, my family, and my friends face living as black Americans in this country. I find myself looking at these deeply disturbing  scenarios where they are publicly killed, which is more than disturbing enough, but even more so are the narratives that surround each of their deaths and listening to how they were somehow at fault all in their own specialized, individual ways. They “looked suspicious” or had the wrong clothes on or were somewhere they didn’t belong or perhaps didn’t speak the correct way or sitting in the wrong house (even though it’s later revealed that it’s their own house). What could a black person ever do to look less threatening to someone who is threatened by a black face? And though there are always extenuating circumstances surrounding scenarios like this, I am not and will never be convinced that it warrants no-holds-barred execution; without a trial, without a day in court, without a chance to be defended and without the very rights guaranteed to them as African “Americans.” That is directly violating rights and promises that we earned as citizens of a country that we were brought to illegally to serve an inhuman purpose and had to fight to initially obtain in the first place. And then afterwards watching as no consequences ever ensue to the offenders. Our murderers regularly acquitted in court if it ever even goes to a trial; their inhumane actions excused as their victim’s loved ones grieve. I find myself reacting to the cold reality of racism and systematic oppression in the United States; and shockingly I even find myself reacting to racism and compliance in the Church in the manner that we choose to react; or rather not react to it.

Most recently in George Floyd’s incident, we see that a person can be suffocated for over nine minutes…completely uninterrupted…and in the vicinity of other community serving  officers who were all so numb to it and desensitized that their main priority was engaging the bystanders and keeping them at bay while a man was murdered in their care and by their hand. No one there thought to check a pulse, no one thought to allow him air, no one even thought to advise their colleague, “Hey, he’s not a threat,” and allow him the right to breathe; allow him the right to live. And so, now we have documentation of black men and boys and people being killed by former cops (Ahmaud Arbery), current cops (George Floyd), “wannabe” cops (Trayvon Martin), poorly trained cops (Philando Castile), and just indifferent cops (Breonna Taylor); and whether they are racists or not, for whatever reason these cops had no regard for the lives of these black people. Hence the phrase “Black lives matter”; not to be interpreted as mattering more than any other lives as it is wildly miscomprehended to mean. Yes, all lives do indeed matter and no one (certainly not a follower of Christ) should ever dispute this fundamental biblical fact. However, it is when it is offered as a retort to these glaring issues with the understanding that black lives have not historically and continually do not matter in this country presently that the phrase “all lives matter,” while fundamentally true, becomes indescribably insensitive.

And then after suffering such traumatic and humiliating events, and having a loved one being publicly killed, and listening to the country argue about whether or not it was a warranted killing, we now have the task of communicating to our countrymen why we’re devastated and the responses we receive are unfathomable. We’re often told that “it’s all in our head” or to “play by the rules and we’ll be fine.”  Isn’t walking down a street committing no crimes playing by the rules? Isn’t sitting in your own house playing by the rules? Isn’t going on a jog playing by the rules? The unwritten and often unspoken rule is that one cannot look threatening…or to clarify further, be black while doing so. And so here we are still dying.

“If you can talk, you can breathe.” How can that ever be the response of any decent person? To discredit a dying man’s pleas for his life to be spared, his wish to be allowed to live, what ended up being his final wish in the hands of officers who are sworn to serve and protect him as an American citizen, guaranteed the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And yet we can’t even get that first part right. A man: handcuffed, but not resisting arrest nor a danger to anyone, pleading for his right to live with what ended up being his last words. And your reaction to his death is, “if you can talk, you can breathe?” To discredit his words and therefor discredit the atrocity of the details that led to his death, thereby discrediting his very existence as a human being made in the image of God you claim to serve. If so, then where is your compassion? Where is your sympathy? Wouldn’t Christ have compassion? At its core, this is what “black lives matter” means. That even at the very least you would hear his cries for help and at least be sympathetic. And instead we’re presented with laughter and dismissal and belittlement due to the scientific technical inaccuracies of what this man said as he died like an animal in the streets by those whose salaries were paid for by the taxes given by people who look just like him and would’ve suffered the same fate had they been in his predicament.

While this specific example is sickening in itself, it demonstrates the far more disturbing tendency that America has to respond to its deeply rooted racism with skepticism about racism’s very existence. There’s always an excuse. For centuries there has been some type of justification offered for the unlawful death of a black person; even one as blatant and irrefutable as George Floyd’s. America excuses these deaths, never giving their attention to the matter again. We have become so addicted to our hatred and the rest of us so comfortable in our compliance of it that we discredit the truth in order to avoid the discomfort of even addressing it. It’s alarming. And what’s more alarming is that there are still people who don’t consider it alarming.

Guilt and remorse are real and powerful emotions but far from acceptable excuses to deny the truth of racism and racial discrimination particularly when it’s been embedded and personified in multiple, unending manifestations throughout the centuries of the United States’ history as a nation. Should we be considered “un-American” or “unpatriotic” for having the courage to speak out against it?  Is it really an acceptable or appropriate response to tell us to “leave if we hate America so much”? Would that response be acceptable in any other instance of an abusive relationship? Do we chastise the victim of a domestically abusive relationship for confronting the destructive, abusive tendencies of their spouse? Is not pointing out the deficiencies of a loved one a sign of a loving regard for them in improving themselves? Should constructive criticism be responded to with the ultimatum to accept someone as they are or abandon the relationship altogether? Confronting someone is among the most loving things that you can do for them if your desire is for them to be grow for their own betterment. Why is it then so unthinkable for America to be confronted with its issues? Facing your deficiencies can be  hard and painful but it’s a sign of maturity in yourself and love for the offended when you value their voice enough to allow yourself to change out of your love for them and your regard for their well being. And yet we somehow immediately lose our patriotism and our voice the second we even suggest that America has failed in their treatment of us; which it certainly has. The American experience is far different for its white citizens then it is for its black citizens. Please understand those differences before criticizing the criticism. The United States has the same responsibilities to its black citizens and has yet to afford them the decency to hear their cries of pain and criticism of their failure to execute them with anything besides intolerance and the debilitating unwillingness to even listen to it. Out of fear, hatred, guilt, and maddening stubbornness, America continues to refuse to hear the criticism that it has rightfully earned countless times over. Though it may be uncomfortable to realize and accept, America needs to understand and comprehend that African Americans have been in an abusive relationship with the United States for hundreds of years. And furthermore there is no escape for us. There is no “country we can return to.” This is our home. Many of us never asked to be brought or born here but this is our home now. And yet we are still waiting to be accepted here. To be loved here. To matter here. And while America continues to turn their backs to us and struggle with these truths, in the meantime we continue to be targeted and killed.

We’re told to look less threatening. To wear a mask. To make sure we appease the people we’re around and make them feel safe just to make it out of the room or situation alive. We need to smile even if we don’t feel joyful. To laugh even if we don’t feel cheerful. To speak in dialects that aren’t our own even if we want to be ourselves all to convince the people around us that we’re not a threat to them.  Essentially, we are asked to wear a mask. It’s amusing how quickly America has grown to want to abandon their masks after a just few months on danger. Imagine wearing a mask for centuries regardless of whether you want to or not. But in doing so, keep in mind a human heart filled with hatred is far more lethal than any virus could ever be.

Any of these people killed in the streets and in their own homes could’ve easily been me or my brother or my friends or my family and loved ones. Next time, it could easily be me. It gives me serious reservations in continuing to live here. Even more so as I consider raising my children here. Am I to be considered a poor father for fathering black children and sending them into this America to live their lives in the near future? I don’t know. The fact that the officer who killed George Floyd lived in freedom while protesters were arrested in outrage of his death is unfathomable. The fact is: racism is wrong and unbiblical and completely unbecoming of anyone claiming to be a member of the body of Christ. I don’t know what to do or say to those who cannot agree on that and I’ve run out of strength to listen to it. To make it clear and precise: racism does exist. It’s not in our heads. And it’s not okay. And while progress has certainly been made it can never be mistaken for completion nor does it exonerate the glaring issues that are still to be addressed and eradicated. I’ll never forget what it was like listening to my father tell me of his experiences with these very issues and how eerily similar the circumstances are to today.

As Christians, Christ himself has called us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” before adding to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). As God’s church, we would be creating a poor reflection of Christ if we refuse to listen to a cry for help simply because we found it personally offensive in some way. In His time on earth, Christ was personally attacked with questions of His very identify, even to the point where his power and anointing from God was accused to be the power of the same enemy that He would lay down His life on behalf those who made that blasphemous accusation. And yet He never once allowed the offense to become a hindrance to His mission. How then can we allow an offense to hinder our mission to love the Lord and our neighbors as ourselves? We have progressed to a point as a nation where patriotism has become a hindrance in loving our  African American citizens, which means that but very definition it has become an idol in God’s church in the United States. It has become a device for the enemy to continue to cause deep divisions in us as God’s children and silences the voices of oppressed people, distracting us from living out our responsibilities as God’s presence in this society and country. If these  issues are to improve it must be spearheaded by God’s church and people. If this is ever going to happen, we must put our patriotism and offense aside and listen to the cries of those who need our help as Christ would undoubtedly do.

And so the timeless question that plagued the existence of all mankind since the fall of man in the garden echoes in my mind once more, “from where does our hope come from?” Despite everything and through it all, our God is still and though beyond my ability to ever comprehend, so much greater. I call out to You, Lord, to soften our hearts. These issues are of the heart and they are sinful. Therefore they must be defeated through His power.  There is no sin in God’s kingdom. And so once again I say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!” In  the meantime, let’s all try to love people, all people in the manner that Christ would.  These are my reactions.

Pastors Forum on Race in America – part 3

Pastor's Forum on

A few weeks ago my friend Kurt Owens reached out to me about joining a panel discussion of pastors from The Milwaukee Declaration discussing race in America in light of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

After extremely positive responses to that first conversation, we decided to continue with follow-up conversations (Watch “part 1” and “part 2” at the Milwaukee Declaration Facebook page). Join today at 11 AM (CST) for “part 3” of the Pastor’s Forum on Race in America with Kurt Owens, Peter Borg, Jay English, Brian McKee, Beverly Rehfeld, and me here.

Learn more about the Milwaukee Declaration and/or sign the Declaration here.

As part of previous gatherings for the Milwaukee Declaration we assembled a “Next Steps” guide of resources for furthering the conversation. I am again including that below with some updates with more recent resources.

Movies
Drama
Amistad (1997)
42 (2013)
Hidden Figures (2016)
Just Mercy (2019)
Selma (2014)
Twelve Years a Slave (2013; WARNING–due to Hollywood’s most accurate portrayal of slavery, some scenes are inappropriate for children)

Documentaries
Milwaukee: 53206 (2016)
Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 (1987, 1990)
13th (2016)
The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2006)
The Making of Milwaukee (2006)
Slavery By Another Name (2012)

Books
By Dr. King
Strength to Love
Why We Can’t Wait
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Milwaukee and Housing
Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee by Patrick D. Jones
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Race and Inequality
Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit by Thomas Sugrue
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Race and Faith
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward Blum and Paul Harvey
A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow by David Chappell
White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah
Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter-McNeil
Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey by Sarah Shin
Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson
Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 June 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Dr. Tony Evans“Dr. Tony Evans Speaks From His Heart About Social Injustice” – One of the most respected African-American voices in evangelicalism is Dr. Tony Evans. His preaching and teaching ministry has blessed thousands over the years. I would encourage you to take fifteen minutes to watch this important word from Dr. Evans as he talks about four area of the cultural pandemic that we need to step forward into as Christians today. He touches upon a wide range of topics, including prayer, protest, individual responsibility, systemic racism, working for the gospel, working for kingdom transformation, and so much more.


Charlie Dates“I Can’t Breathe” – If you’re not familiar with Charlie Dates, the Senior Pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, IL, I encourage you to get to know him. Dates holds a PhD in Historical Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is a widely-respected speaker on various topics. The Center for Pastor Theologians shared a powerful sermon he preached at Progressive Baptist on May 31 entitled “I Can’t Breathe.”


Tisby familial grief“The Familial Language of Black Grief” – Jemar Tisby’s book The Color of Compromise is one of my must-read books on racial justice in America. I had the chance to hear Tisby speak last Fall on his book and related topics at Wheaton College, which I’ve posted about elsewhere. He writes “Notions of family saturate the black freedom struggle in all of its aspects, especially the threat of police brutality. Under the constant surveillance, suspicion, and violence of law enforcement in America, black people share a kinship of calamity. A brotherhood and sisterhood of suffering. Like any family, it is not something we choose. This sense of solidarity through hardship is forced on us by the oppression we endure.”


Tom Holland - Dominion“A non-Christian’s argument for Christianity’s positive influence” – “Tom Holland has a grand thesis. He explores it with energy, ad­vances it with panache, and pulls it off with a flourish. His lively and absorbing project is at once a serviceable church history, a studied engagement with Christianity’s finest and darkest hours, and a compelling argument. The argument goes as follows: Chris­tianity brought something new and unique into the world; that quality in its various manifestations—notably deep respect for the weak, the suffering, and the vulnerable and a sense of the validity of every human life—remains deeply imbued in Western culture; and it is expressed as powerfully today by those who claim to have rejected Christian truth claims as by Christians themselves.”


Lawrence Aker III - preaching on race“Preaching on Race: Why We Can’t Wait” – In early May I was able to participate in a seminar with Preaching Today called “Pivoting Your Summer Preaching Series”
With Lawrence Aker III and Matt Woodley. I was so thankful to read this article from Lawrence on the necessity of preaching on race. I would add that we should not only preach on race in this moment, but throughout our ministry and in many seasons of the life of the church.


landing-faithful-justice“Resources for Faithful Justice” – InterVarsity Press is offering a number of amazing resources for free right now on their website. Please take a look at and take advantage of this unique offer. “IVP is grateful for the prophetic voices of our authors who share their stories, educate us when we are uninformed, and challenge us with the truth. Learn from these books as we pursue justice, wholeness, and racial righteousness in our homes, churches, and communities. You can also read our commitment to amplifying voices of color. To start reading right away, you can choose one ebook from this page to download for free. IVP will continue to pay the full royalties to the authors of these important books.”


Tim Keller“Tim Keller Asks for Prayers for Pancreatic Cancer” – “Tim Keller asked followers for prayer as he begins chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The popular Christian author and pastor announced the news of his diagnosis in an update on Instagram and Twitter Sunday morning. ‘Less than three weeks ago I didn’t know I had cancer,’ wrote Keller. ‘Today I’m headed to the National Cancer Institute at the [National Institutes of Health] for additional testing before beginning chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer next week in New York City.'”


 

Music: Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On,” from What’s Going On

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Jemar Tisby: “What is the Color of Compromise?”

Jemar Tisby.jpg

Last October I traveled down to Wheaton College to hear Jemar Tisby deliver a lecture, “What is the Color of Compromise?”, as part of a series hosted by the Center for Applied Christian Ethics. Tisby is the author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism and one of the primary catalysts behind The Witness, a black Christian collective that engages issues of religion, race, justice, and culture from a biblical perspective. I share my notes and some other resources immediately after I was there, but it seemed like this was a good time to repost that material.

If you have not read The Color of Compromise, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It is one of the clearest presentations of the historical account of how the Christian church, no matter the geographical location, contributed to the racialized narrative in the USA. It is not an easy read, but if we want to understand the tensions within our nation around race and move toward biblical justice, such difficult work is required.

While Tisby’s lecture was not uploaded as far as I can tell, I’m including my own notes from the lecture below. Tisby also delivered the a message, “Do Not Despise the Prophetic Voice of the Black Experience,” in Wheaton’s chapel earlier that same day, and you can watch that message at the very end of this post as well.

The Color of Compromise is:

  • Green – for the greed that sustains racism
  • White – for white supremacy within the church
  • Red – for the blood that accompanies that greed and white supremacy

Green

  • “The being of slavery, its soul and its body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill of sale principle: the cart whip, starvation, and nakedness are its inevitable consequences.” – J. W. C. Pennington
  • commodification of the person as property to be bought and sold; reducing the image of God and the value of human life
  • “Some people say slavery was America’s original sin. I would suggest something else. Slavery was America’s original symptom. America’s original sin was greed.”
  • Olaudah Equiano‘s story about being pulled from his sister in his work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.
  • Politics and economic gain set the direction in the country, not faith
  • The discussion of reparations has caused a lot of consternation
  • “You cannot have a serious conversation about racial justice without talking about economic justice.”

White

  • White supremacy is built upon a narrative of racial difference
  • Racism never goes away, it just adapts; the movement from overt racism in slavery through segregation/Jim Crow era to covert racism in the civil rights era up to the present
  • This is not really about the amount of melanin in one’s skin, but about the creation of system of racial difference with idealized “whiteness” at the top and “blackness” on the bottom; everyone else is in-between
  • Whiteness in this sense obscures ethnicity (even for white people), creates “blackness,” and maintains power through violence
  • The Second Coming of the Ku Klux Klan (1915) [Tisby talks about three iterations of the KKK in his book] – spurred by D. W. Griffith’s epic film, The Birth of a Nation (1915), it led to a rebirth of the KKK specifically linked with white Christian nationalism by William Joseph Simmons

Red

  • The greed of racism linked with white nationalism was enforced through violence upon the body
  • “But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me
  • The story of the lynching of Luther and Mary Holbert and the history of lynching in America
  • The story of Recy Taylor, gang raped by a group of white men

What Do We Do?: “The Fierce Urgency of Now”

  • Clip from Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s “I Have a Dream,” speech with the line “the fierce urgency of now…now is time”
  • The ARC of racial justice: awareness (head)  / relationship (hands) / commitment (heart)
  • Awareness:
  • Relationship:
    • Have relationships with people who are different than us
    • Incarnation of being together
    • However, relationships alone will not change systems of injustice
  • Commitment:
    • Find out who your local District Attorney is; find out their platform; and push for reforms in the realm of justice
    • Find out about voters rights and promote the vote
    • Look at your own institutions – schools, workplaces, churches, organizations – and see how you can be a voice for racial justice
    • We don’t have a “can do” problem but a “want to” problem

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 June 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Esau McCaulley“A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit” – One of the voices I would encourage you to listen to very closely in this moment is that of Dr. Esau McCaulley, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. Here is a recent sermon he delivered on Pentecost that ties together the fires of the Holy Spirit and the fires of the current protests. You may also enjoy Ed Stetzer’s 4-part interview with him here:


vidar-nordli-mathisen“5 Ways Your Predominantly White Church Can Work for Racial Justice and Reconciliation” – From Pastor Rich Villodas of New Life Fellowship in New York City: “As a pastor of color who leads a very multi-ethnic and multi-cultural church, I often get asked by other pastors and leaders around the country how white, homogeneous churches can embody the gospel’s claim that a new communal identity is possible in a setting not given to reconciliation. I want to suggest that while not every church is going to reflect multi-ethnicity, predominantly white churches in predominantly white neighborhoods can still do their part in connecting the gospel to race.”


Chotiner-FrustrationBehindProtests“Bryan Stevenson on the Frustration Behind the George Floyd Protests” – Some of you may be familiar with the book or movie Just Mercy, featuring the work of Bryan Stevenson, a civil-rights lawyer and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.  Here is an interview with him by Isaac Chotiner helping explain what is going on underneath the protests happening around our cities and nation. He says: “We need to reckon with our history of racial injustice. I think everything we are seeing is a symptom of a larger disease.”


LCMS Black Clergy Caucus“Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Black Clergy Caucus Statement on George Floyd” – My maternal grandmother always prayed that I would become a minister in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. She would often mention to me as I was in training for ministry, “The Lutheran Church could use some nice young ministers.” Because of that, I’ve always had a fondness for the LCMS which fits quite well with being here in Milwaukee where I currently serve in a non-denominational church (sorry, grandmother!). I must confess I did not know there was a black clergy caucus for the LCMS rooted in the south. This statement by that group in relation to the killing of George Floyd captured my attention.


Armenian_woman_kneeling_beside_dead_child_in_field“What Turkey Did to Its Christians” – Gabriel Said Reynolds at Commonweal: “A traveler in Ottoman Turkey in the mid-nineteenth century would have discovered a robust and diverse Christian presence of different denominations and ethnicities, including Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. There were between 3 and 4 million Christians in what is now Turkey—around 20 percent of the total population. They were spread throughout the area, from Thrace in the northwest to the far-eastern regions of Anatolia beyond Lake Van, where Armenians likely outnumbered Turks. By 1924, through three successive waves of massacre, deportation, abduction, and forced conversion, Christians had been reduced to 2 percent of Turkey, and almost all who remained would depart in the following decades.”


President Trump Bible“American Bible Society leader: Don’t use the Bible as a political ‘prop'” – The Bible has served as an important symbol in many contexts beyond the church from swearing oaths in court to public readings of Scripture at ceremonies. This is because the Bible holds words that are powerful for our souls and meaningful in the public consciousness. This last week President Trump received a lot of attention for using the Bible in a photo shoot at St. John’s Church near the White House. Here are a few other reactions at various points along the opinion spectrum from evangelist Franklin Graham,  presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry, and Kate Shellnutt’s reporting on the range of Christian responses to the event. Regardless of your opinion, this is probably the top news story featuring the Bible in the past week, and also raises significant questions about the interface of faith and the public square.


family“Facing A Crisis Of Family Formation” – From Yuval Levin, author of The Fractured Republic and A Time to Build: “The idea that the family is an institution at all is hard to deny and yet difficult to comprehend. This is in part because the family occupies a distinct space between two meanings of the term “institution.” It is not an organization exactly, but neither is it quite a practice or a set of rules or norms. In a sense, the family is a collection of several institutions understood in this latter way—like the institution of marriage and the institution of parenthood. The family arranges these institutions into a coherent and durable structure that is almost a formal organization. It resists easy categorization because it is primeval. The family has a legal existence, but it is decidedly pre-legal. It has a political significance, but it is pre-political too. It is pre-everything.


Greek Orthodox“Greek Orthodox Church rules yoga is ‘incompatible’ with Christianity” – In other news, here is this from another part of the world. From time to time, I am asked interesting questions as a pastor about what I think about certain issues, popular practices, or cultural phenomena. These issues can be tricky to speak to because of the nuances of applying Scripture to contemporary issues. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. This one caught my eye as the Greek Orthodox Church reacted to yoga during the pandemic.


 

Music: Common Hymnal (featuring Dee Wilson),Rose Petals,” from Common Hymnal

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]