The Fifth Stage.

angel-of-grief1

I woke up this morning and decided that I was done grieving.

 I’ve spent the last ten days or so in an incredulous fog. It began about 9pm last Tuesday when swing state after swing state started going red. It wasn’t because I was devastated that Hillary would eventually lose, it was because it was such an extreme shock that I just hadn’t prepared for the eventuality of an orange presidency. Nobody had him winning except the dark corners of StormFront and Breitbart.

As the voting demographics came out, I had to take a hard look in the mirror. I guess that’s when I moved from denial toward anger. How could so many people that look like me and worship at the same churches I do vote for someone so antithetical to the things I believe? Bargaining only lasted a few minutes, while a couple of online petitions circulated suggesting that electors could overturn the vote and an article came out reasoning that Bernie could still win thanks to an obscure loophole. But I’ve spent most of the past week wrestling with some form of depression.

I’ve alternated between two things that I’m grieving, but neither of them is that Hillary is not our President-elect, so please don’t rush to dismiss this. I am grieving that people I love are now being threatened with their lives and livelihoods. I don’t mean to appropriate the pain of my brothers and sisters who would destroy me in the Oppression Olympics. As an educated, straight, white male I will be the “beneficiary” of many of Trumps bold promises, so I have come to recognize what this is. It is an empathy that comes from taking Jesus seriously when he demands that we put the interests of our neighbors on the same levels as our own. It comes from the basic act of human decency in solidarity with those who are unfairly threatened or persecuted that injustice weighs heavy on my heart. It is descriptions of what shalom means, a communal well-being that threatens the agendas of those who try to divide us. In the scriptures that many Orange voters read, the striving that has been defined as an individualized peace in our own spirits is just a co-opted version of a peace that comes from just living between all members of a community – even and especially the marginalized outsiders.

I’ve also been grieving that hard look in the mirror, wondering how my shared demographics elected someone so far from what I believe. The details may be a little malleable still, but exit polls showed that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Orange. Have I not been shepherding enough? Have I not been prophetic enough?

There has obviously been a miscommunication somewhere. If we are reading and being shaped by the same Bible, which parts are one of us not reading? I’m wondering if it is the part that reminds us that we are to care for the immigrants and the refugees, because we were once aliens in a strange land too. Perhaps it is the part where the economic system was set up in ways that didn’t exploit labor, and made room to empower the poor through gleaning laws? It is probably about the Year of Jubilee, where we are called to forgive our debtors. Maybe it was the tithe meal, or the New Testament version called table fellowship, where we are called to make room at our tables for those different from us, so we can share in the mutuality of eating together. Or was it the Kingdom of God, the thread that ties together the whole narrative that calls us to be partners with the Messiah in healing the world and helping New Jerusalem pour through the cracks? Is there something that I’m missing? If your theology is all about self-preservation, I shouldn’t be surprised when you vote that way too. Guess we have a lot of work to do!

But today I’ve come to acceptance – the final and lasting stage. It has come with a realization and an opportunity. If we are going to continue to be the church, then it’s time we have to start BEING THE CHURCH. No more relying on the government to protect the vulnerable. No more relying on the government as our vehicle toward more just and peaceful living. No more relying on the government to help us love our neighbor. It’s an opportunity for revival, a chance to practice what we preach, to put our bodies and our wallets on the line.

Nobody can do it alone, are you in?

A Liturgy for the Hurting

black-woman-crying

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    “His steadfast love endures forever!”

Let the Children of Abraham and Moses say,

    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let the brokenhearted say,

    “His steadfast love endures forever.

Let those who long for the Year of Jubilee say,

    “His steadfast love endures forever.

Let those who sit in jail for years awaiting a trial because nobody can afford bail money say,

    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let those whose life is taken by state violence say,

    “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let those who are shut out of the legal economy and get arrested for doing what any parent would do in their situation say,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

When we see another hashtag, and march in another protest, let us say,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let the children with shrapnel wounds, and orphans who see their parents’ bodies floating face-down in the Mediterranean say,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.

Let those who hear how power rape is dismissed as “locker room talk” say,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let those who hear hours of debate coverage about the middle class, but yearn to hear something about how we treat the poor say,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.

Let those who are peddled fear and self-preservation, encouraged to build bigger walls rather than add on to their own table say,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.

Let those who claim exceptionalism by the hand of God, yet forget that those outside of our borders share the identical image of God be told,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Give thanks to the God of gods,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

Give thanks to the Prince of Peace,

     “His steadfast love endures forever.”

But This I Call to Mind…

I’ll never forget the first time I went to a Methodist Church. I was spending the summer in Bastrop, Texas, helping my aunt and cousins do some renovations on their house.  I had grown up in a Southern Baptist home, so I had always been a little suspicious of the Methodists. The Methodists I knew didn’t even take their Bibles to church on Sundays, and that was before it was cool to project the scripture up on the wall. I used to think, “When my aunt really gets saved, then she’ll be a Baptist.” That was just kind of how we thought.

But I was in my early 20s myself, and was kind of coming to a meaningful place in my own sojourn where I was starting to see Christianity for what it is, not what I had picked up from just watching the crowd of hypocrites (myself included) we call the church – that was the part where I reasoned like a child and saw things only dimly.

So when I walked into this tiny little Methodist Church in the Middle of Texas, I didn’t know what to expect other than thinking “this is probably a cult or something.” But there was a banner hanging from the side of the choir loft. I don’t remember what the pastor actually spoke on that day, but that banner has stuck with me for 12 years now. In bold white letters against a crimson background: “Love is a verb.” I think I stared at that banner for just about the whole hour (probably why I don’t remember the sermon…). I was trying to figure it out, trying to understand what it meant, both theologically and personally.

As sad as it was that I was 21 already, this was the first time I had been struck by this notion: Love isn’t just a feeling, and most of those couples that hear that 1 Corinthians 13 passage on their wedding day have no idea what they are getting themselves into.

I know some of you are married, and many of you have kids. So unless you are really a Disney Princess, or Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince you should be able to relate to what I’m talking about.

I know it drives my wife absolutely nuts. Whenever we are having a little squabble, I always say “I love you.” I usually say it as a non-sequitur, which is probably what really drives her bonkers. We’ve talked about it many times, and I know her first instinct is that I’m saying that just to gloss over her feelings and to breeze through the hard parts of the conversation to the happy resolution. I know I need to work on being a better listener and I’m terrible as a conflict and confrontation avoider, even when I am the one that initiates the conversation. (By the way, this marriage advice has not been approved by anyone)

But the reason I say it is because it helps me re-frame my thinking. I have to say that I love her because in that moment, when one or both of us is angry with the other, I don’t feel particularly in love with her. That’s the turning point for me – when I call these things back to mind that I know to be true. That’s when I remember that “Love is a Verb,” and to love her is to treat her as if I love her, even when it is all I can do to conjure up those three little words to say.

This past summer has been really hard for me. I would hate to admit this to a couple of my professors, but there have been days that I’ve ignored their urgings for self-care. There are even days when – GASP! – please don’t judge me – I am unable to write in my journal for an hour! The baby’s crying, the toddler is toddling, the dogs are barking, and my wife is making kale smoothies in the blender before she leaves for work – there’s noise all around. Sometimes, I’ll have a moment of quiet and check Facebook, only to find another asinine political statement, or worse, a cellphone video and a hashtag from the night before.

My heart is shattered. On a daily basis.

The world is just filled to the brim with bad stuff, and my life and my neighborhood are uniquely positioned to seemingly have just about all of it overlap my day somehow.

If God loves me with this action word, and has a special plan for my life, why does the news often read like an obituary? Why does a drive through my neighborhood sometimes feel like a funeral procession? Why does the screaming of sirens and police helicopters sound like a funeral dirge?

If to love is to make oneself vulnerable, we can’t be shocked when our heart is broken. We weep and mourn our pain and the brokenness in ourselves and in our world.

From Lamentations 3:21 and following:

But this I call to mind,

    and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

    his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

When all the prisoners of the land

    are crushed under foot,

when human rights are perverted

    in the presence of the Most High,

when one’s case is subverted

    —does the Lord not see it?

“But” is one of the prophets’ favorite words. It symbolizes an alternative, something different than the totalisms of the world. In this passage, Jerusalem has been desolated; the best and brightest have been drug to Babylon and only the remnant remains. The Temple is in ruins and the walls have been torn down. We know the story.

But!

God made some promises to Jeremiah, so he bought some land. God’s love hadn’t changed, and God’s love hasn’t changed.

We remember our long story. 4000+ years of history. We call this to mind and we have hope. We remember that love is a verb, and when the scriptures say the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; we know this to be true. We have seen it over and over and over again. Every week we relive the pain of Friday and the hope of Sunday. My heart breaks anew every morning, and I have to call these things to mind that I know to be true.love

Repairers of the World

When I was a kid, probably no more than six or seven, we had a makeshift baseball diamond in the neighbor’s yard. There was a knot on a railroad tie that represented home plate, and a crack on the retaining wall opposite that served as second base. Our summers used to be filled with games in that yard, from shortly after chores were finished to the fading glimmers of sunset – well after what would have been our school-year bedtimes. Scraped knees were a regular occurrence on slide attempts into the sidewalk that marked third base, and a buddy of mine had a flat spot on his forehead for quite a while after a diving attempt into the cement home run fence, but there wasn’t a lot of property damage to worry about.

Until Scottie came to play with us one day. Scottie was one of the older kids in the neighborhood, about six years older than me, and his early adolescent strength turned my weak ground balls into towering home runs. That fateful summer day, one of those long fly balls turned into a shattered window on another neighbor’s house. We were all stunned, partly because we had never thought of that happening, but mostly because none of us could hit the ball that hard. I have always admired a lot of things about Scottie, and one of those things is his integrity. I don’t know if he was the man of integrity he is today at twelve years old or if there were just too many witnesses to keep it a secret, but it didn’t take long for parents to be involved with covering the window and checking the price for repairs. Scottie took responsibility for the mishap, but as a twelve year old, I can’t imagine he had a huge stack of cash to cover the fix. He spent part of the rest of the summer working it off with an extra-long chore list, but he made sure to make things right, beyond just an apology and a fresh start.

ci-ryan-snook_baseball-through-window_s4x3_lg
This is a re-creation of the scene. This is not Scottie. Scottie is much more handsome in real life.

There is a phrase that Rabbis often use that translates to “Repairers of the World”, taken from Isaiah 58. It signifies the partnership between God and humans as working together to show glimpses of what it looks like when the intended life of the devout bumps up against the fallen systems and broken relationships of the world. For example, when the ideas of Jubilee and gleaning laws – the intended economy – contrast with the scarcity mentality and hoarding that often accompanies today’s economy, the devout are called  to be Repairers of the World and offer the world glimpses of a “better way” as they practiced what God had called them to. God casts the vision and outlines the plan, and then empowers his people to act it out in a way that brings dignity to the marginalized and helps repair the world.

I had the chance to hear Dr. Brenda Salter-McNeil preach last week at a conference, which I assumed was going to be largely about her recent book The Roadmap to Reconciliation. I had read the book already and my pastor had already preached on it for a couple of months, so I was pretty familiar with the topic. While I really appreciated the book and it’s themes, my critique at the time was that it didn’t feel like reconciliation was “done” at the end of the roadmap. It seemed a little bit too accommodating, and I wish it had concluded with some harder truths. In many ways, it felt like how a lot of white folks talk about racial tensions. If every white person is just nice to every black or brown person, racism will be over. If we can just forget about the past, we can start fresh from right now and put everything else behind us.

That might work for a couple of kids who got in a fight, or in a relationship between folks of equal status. But that doesn’t describe racial reconciliation in the least bit. A simple apology and a “forgive and forget” mentality doesn’t really begin to make things right.

The US has endured 400 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow segregation, and 70 years of racially restrictive housing discrimination. Not to mention a candidate for president that has normalized and mainstreamed a white supremacy fueled backlash against the first person of color to ever preside over the Oval Office. But in contrast to the #NeverForget theme of 9/11, people of color are just told to get over it.

Starting over fresh often doesn’t make things right. Where is the church as we follow our calling to repair the world?

You know, the idea of reparations comes from the same word. As Dr. Brenda said in her speech, what “reparations” really means is to repair what is broken. You know something that is broken? The way that the United States has mistreated its black population from the moment that first slave ship landed in the colonies. So yes, of course I’m in favor of reparations. But writing a check isn’t going to solve all the problems. I’m talking about the hard and painful work of actually repairing what is broken.

In the City of Chicago, the median wage gap is $10. That basically means that the average black employee makes $10 less than the average white employee per hour. Over the course of a 40 hour work week, that is $400, over the course of a year more than $20,000. No wonder many minority families are working twice as long and just as hard as their average white counterpart. The national median family wealth gap is absurd: for white families over $125,000, while black families have less than $12,000. I know this dispels some of the Welfare Queen myths that Reaganites like to trumpet, but what can you say to someone who works two jobs at minimum wage and still qualifies for nutrition assistance. Where is the church as we follow our calling to repair the world?

We don’t always know what to do, but we can’t do nothing. If the church is to have any credibility in the world, we have to get over our Christendom-era entitlement and stop siding on the side of the oppressors. Jesus talks about how hard it is for the rich to get into heaven, but the largest churches in the country are filled with them. They refuse to talk about the things that Jesus talked about the most in favor of a cheapened and pathetically dichotomized gospel that talks a lot about souls going to heaven but very little about how radical our lives are supposed to look here on earth. We have surrendered our birthright for a bowl of soup, our prophetic uniqueness for the riches of this world. Jacob knows who comes out ahead in that trade, but why don’t we?

Dear The Donald:

donald-trump-flickr-cc

Dear The Donald:

Oh, Donald Trump. You have somehow single-handedly managed to fill up 24-hour news cycles by yourself for about 6 months now. Nobody has any idea what you are going to say next – even your advisors most of the time. It is hard to peg you down on any sort of substantial and legitimate policy decision, but I think we are getting a much clearer picture of who exactly you are on the inside every time your mouth opens. There is an old proverb, “better to keep your mouth closed and let them think you are foolish, than to open your mouth and prove them all right.” I think the same probably goes for most of your other character flaws – your white supremacist tendencies, your misogynistic idiosyncrasies, and your hateful rhetoric. But the temptation must be too great. You refuse to close your mouth, and you’ve been proving us right over and over again as you become more and more of a fear-mongering others-hater.

But I recently had an epiphany about you, The Donald. I realized that for all the ways we are different, you and me, we have a couple of things in common. Neither one of us thinks that America is all that great, and both of us long for something that never was.

You have managed to spin that America has fallen on hard times. With the aforementioned 24-hour news cycle squeezing a few minutes in to report on something other than your ego, you’ve seen along with the rest of our countrymen the violence that has long been a part of our world. Mind you, you are freaking out about the terror attacks in Paris and Orlando while large parts of the world have been freaking out for years about the death-by-drone-strike terrorism that has killed thousands upon thousands of brown people. Paris hurts because they were like you. Orlando stings because it was on our doorstep. The drones don’t hurt as much because they are a little more different, and a little further away.

But they hurt me, The Donald. And they are perpetuated by the country that I don’t think is all that great. See, when I became a Christian, I changed up my allegiances a little bit. The citizenship I care most about now is of another Kingdom, one where peace and justice reign – not the faux-Pax-Americana that passes for diplomacy today. My new King grants freedom that doesn’t impinge on brown and black people. He doesn’t require the rat-race of neo-liberalism that pits us all against one another as we hoard as much cheese as we can. He leads us into abundance, not scarcity, and out of the anxiety-riddled consumerism that consumes only us.

The best part about this new King, Mr. Drumpf, is that he takes off the blinders of nationalistic patriotism, and allows us a little bit more of a nuanced view of the world than the “Us versus Them” mentality that you purvey. See, your idea of “Us” is pretty small. It actually only includes a small percentage of the world, and is almost exclusively white and uneducated. And that leaves a pretty big “Them” for all of your folks to worry about.

I prefer to think of “Us” in much larger terms. It leaves a much smaller “Them” to be anxious about. You want to build walls, and I want to build a bigger table. Of course this is a threat to you, because your tiny little toenail hold on power and wealth might have to come to an end. But I prefer to live where we all have everything we need, rather than a few having everything they want.

We both have an insatiable yearning for something that never was, however, so maybe we can come back together. The Donald, you have a bizarre understanding of history, though, and that is going to present a problem for us. You want to Make America Great Again™, but I’m struggling to think back through the last few hundred years to ever find a time when it really was great. Was it during the genocide of Native Americans? Are you thinking of slavery? Perhaps it was when we became the only nation in the history of the world to drop a nuclear bomb on someone else? Do you long for when the top income tax bracket was around 90%? Or was it when we enacted the War on Drugs that has failed miserably at every single level? When exactly were you thinking about?

I have a deep longing for a time that has never been, too. But at least I can admit that fact. I long for the days when God’s people act like God’s people. When we follow his blueprint for making sure nobody starves, widows and orphans are well taken care of, and people are dealt with fairly, equitably, and proportionately. When the gap between the “already” and the “not yet” starts to close in on itself. When we see people as God sees them, rather than through the cross-hairs of a targeting reticule.

You want to stop ISIS? Try loving them. Try feeding the refugees and providing for their safety instead of accusing them of the same terror they are fleeing. You want to Make America Great Again? You’ll have to start by making America good again. That would be a Pax-Americana that I could get behind. But until then, I guess our similarity count will stay at two.

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

cementfeetEmpathy is an easy enough word to define.  The capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.

We are all in need some growth in this area, and I am the first to admit it about myself. Even after international travel, a very diverse friend group, and years of studying exactly this topic, I still sometimes struggle to imagine what another person is going through.

In the heated political rhetoric de jour, I think a lot of vitriolic anger could be better directed if we took five seconds to recognize that the way people perceive the world is a result of their shaping and their stories. Expecting someone to perceive the world through our own eyes is ridiculous without a little frame of reference.

Which brings us to the topic scorching through the intersections of race relationships, police brutality, freedom, and obviously the least important denominator: sports. Of course I’m talking about Colin Kaepernick’s well-documented refusal to stand during the national anthem of his last few football games.

Before we knee-jerk our way into our own torn ACLs, and offer up some takes-so-hot they’ll-burn-your-uvula coming out, let’s remember our vocabulary lesson from earlier. Place yourselves in the shoes of someone else for just a second.

And I’m not talking about Colin.

The critiques have been venomous and varied: many have accused him of being spoiled and privileged (here’s looking at you Matt Walsh), not American enough (Donald Trump), not respectable enough (former coach Jim Harbaugh), not proud of the Armed Forces (former teammate Alex Boone), or other bizarre charges.

I’m sure it is not lost on him that he is in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest. He has the privilege of name and face recognition, to go along with the ability of playing a game for a living after receiving a full-ride through college. But if you read the transcript or saw the actual interview, you would see that Colin isn’t sitting as a form of protest for his own mistreatment, or how he has necessarily been oppressed.

The Donald has repeatedly talked about the “terrible things” going on in America. His slogan “Make America Great Again” makes his case explicit. Yet when someone else calls attention to the problems facing a demographic different from that which Trump is pandering, he is quick to suggest that Kaepernick “go somewhere else” without thought as to where exactly. I guess only old, white, billionaires can complain about how bad things are.

Respectability politics have never done anything to advance the cause of civil rights, despite what Charles Barkley would try and convince you of. When Harbaugh says “I don’t respect his protest,” it is the same call to respectability – “Stop acting out, Colin.” But Harbaugh goes one step further. “I don’t respect his reasons,” which elevates his critique to the very denial of the personhood and lived experience of another person. Kaepernick didn’t say anything that was false. Yet since Harbaugh hasn’t been victimized by discrimination (as a former privileged, white NFL quarterback himself) he feels that he can denounce the reality that is shared by people different from him.

After blocking for Kaepernick for 5 years, former teammate Alex Boone made headlines by suggesting that if he had protested like this in previous years, they “would have had a problem on the sideline.” This thinly veiled threat of violence is actually exactly what is being protested, but the facts can’t be bothered with in this case.

What I have noticed is that most of the people who are angry with Kaepernick have three things in common. First, almost every single one of them is white. This is a pretty obvious one, but it is interesting when America pretends to be colorblind. Second, almost none of them have actually talked to Colin about what he is protesting. Most of them think he is disrespecting the military or ungrateful for those who have died in the line of service. He has directly addressed this complaint, but again, facts don’t really matter. In fact, his teammates who had the exact same critiques went and talked to him. Now they know better. Third, it strikes me that almost every person that is criticizing him is proving that his point is exactly right.

Black America has had a complicated relationship with the country that whites are often so fond of. We forget that one of the biggest reasons America wanted her independence was for the ability to maintain the slave trade, which had recently been outlawed in Britain. We forget that our highly regarded constitution includes the 3/5 Compromise, which not only treated blacks as only 60% of a person but also disproportionately increased the political power of slave-holding states. We forget that there were several hundred years of America before blacks were allowed to live free, and another hundred after that where they weren’t allowed to eat at the same lunch counter. The end of Jim Crow and the 2nd Great Migration meant the beginning of housing, employment, and infinitesimal other discrimination as they moved north. Black Wall Street was burned by white rioters and looters. Black neighborhoods were sectioned off and systematically shattered. The War on Drugs tore apart the black family, and Mass Incarceration has created a permanent underclass. Blacks have fought in wars, only to be treated worse by their own countrymen than the enemy. Segregated units in World War II reported that white units often treated captured German soldiers more humanely. Historically disproportionately poor, blacks have often served in the military at a higher rate than whites and are often entered as enlisted (rather than as officers) at a higher rate, meaning they make fewer decisions and do more dying. I can’t imagine why they aren’t more nostalgic for the idealized past, where they would be slaves again.

And the precious Star Spangled Banner in question? You should read the 3rd verse. Yet when they suggest that something isn’t right – “Stop acting out, Colin.”

There’s no need to walk a whole mile in their shoes, just a few steps should be sufficient. Without the empathy to even be willing to try them on, we get plenty of people who are only concerned about themselves. Racialized insults flooded Twitter. Threats of violence were broadcast on ESPN. Alt-Right knuckleheads suggested self-deportation back to Africa, as if somehow blacks should pay their own way back to Africa against their will after being forcefully brought here the first time. Colin Kaepernick was demonized as a spoiled brat who had never been oppressed.

Yet that isn’t even the point. All of the wrath spewed his way reinforces everything he said. And privilege always spews wrath when it is confronted.

How can we be so quick to anger and slow to listen? Where is the church in this?

It reminds me of that scene in World War Z, and yes I am a zombie movie aficionado. An Israeli Intelligence officer is telling the story of the 10th Man, how they learned to always have a Devil’s Advocate in meetings. They had unanimously agreed that the Holocaust was impossible. They had unanimously agreed that participating in the Munich Olympics was safe, only to have a large part of the Israeli delegation murdered. They were unanimously unprepared for the Arab invasion in 1973. As a result, one person on the council now always had to disagree, just to help think through the worst case scenarios. In the movie, this was in reference to building a giant wall to keep the zombies out, but what if we applied it to the race conversation? If everyone you know agrees that racial discrimination is over, that disproportionate police brutality is a myth, and that America is a “color-blind” society, why not be the one voice of dissent?

Imagine for a few minutes what it would mean if what “they” are saying is true? Can this be our group exercise in empathy?

Would that change how you approached conversations? Would it change the jokes you tell and the ones you laugh at? Would you be compelled to action? Spurred on to more learning? That’s what it did for me. Maybe it can help you too.

What are your thoughts on Colin Kaepernick? Why are you upset with him or why do you support him?

Mea Culpa

I really am sorry, folks.

It’s been a few months since I’ve written a blog post, but anyone who knows me knows that I didn’t all of a sudden lose my opinions.

I started a blog as catharsis therapy. I live a life that includes a lot of unnatural stress. It started out as a way to vent some of that. Writing about things that frustrate me helps.

But the reason I wanted to write was also to show cracks in the systems that frustrate me and expose them for what they are. I also have the all-too-human urge to be known. This was a way that I could do that:

I’ve always been a little bit of an angsty anarchist, but in my teens and early twenties I was especially so. One of my favorite songs was entitled “Calm Like a Bomb” by Rage Against the Machine. In that song there was a line that said “Hope lies in the smoldering rubble of empires,” and that thread has kind of permeated a lot of my thinking. In my faith, I have seen God the most when he is breaking into crappy situations, wrecked by structures of oppression and the idolatry of the empire, and allowing me to catch glimpses of hope. In my current context, I visualize a lot of this everyday –historically beautiful but dilapidated buildings, wrecked by 60 years of housing discrimination and absentee landlords, crumbling into piles of rubble, juxtaposed against glimpses of hope, like resilient kids who will be the first in their families to graduate high school, or a group of people from the church standing and marching in solidarity with people who have been victims of state violence. Hope rising out of the smoldering rubble of empires. The Kingdom of God breaking through the cracks of structures of oppression.

But toward the beginning of summer, I lost sight of some of that hope. I was still smoldering but was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems facing us. You probably saw it in my writing and some Facebook posts. I lost the light in the dark places, and so it became easier to point out all the problems and incite anger toward them, rather than being constructive. I was depressed and anxious, and I needed to step away for a little bit.

I preached this last weekend on the topic of remembering our long lineage as Christians. The voice from somewhere else that inspires our imagination and confronts the stone walls of the oppressive status quo, and how that voice shaped the many “heroes” of the text. The burning bush, the prophetic word, and the remembrance of all the ways that God had shown up and was present and active in the histories of his people – that is what I want to remember and cling to. That is where we get our hope – the still smoldering metaphorical rubble, smelling of divine intervention and the sweat of his peoples rather than the phosphorous and gunpowder that accompanies the violent destruction we are surrounded by.

That is what I want this blog to be. I want to tell you stories of hope. I want to tell you how I have been shaped by hope. I want you to learn how to hope when things seem hopeless, and imagine a voice from outside of the totality of the status quo that stretches your imagination.

So I hope you accept my apology. I hope you continue to contribute to my shaping and forming and wrestling with these topics. I know I don’t always get it perfect myself, so I need you to help me. Let’s spur one another on toward the good. Much love, peeps.