The Totally Unmarketable Yet Universal Dark Night of the Soul. And Lent.

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This week I was talking with a mentor of mine about a workshop he’s preparing.  The topic is “The Dark Night of the Soul”.  This concept originates from the classic poem written by St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic who crafted his words as a way to depict a necessary and normal part of the spiritual journey.  This field of spirituality, namely exploring our darkness, is actually a deep and wide area of Christian tradition and a consistent theme of scripture.

As we discussed what the workshop would include my mentor commented on how he wasn’t expecting a big turn out.  He said something like, “The Dark Night is not very sexy”.  Essentially, talking about our deepest secrets, doubts, insecurities, and darkness is not something most of us are likely to get excited about.

At some point in the conversation we reflected on this reality in our own lives and within the churches we’ve been a part of and the following concept came up:

“If you want a church to grow, then just give people what they want”

Yuck, right?

Unfortunately, I think the mentality captured in those words is often true.   After many decades of decline, this revealing and gag-inducing quote is sadly at the heart of many modern church communities who are struggling to keep people coming back.  So many have gone after what’s most marketable and glamorous, what’s attractive, and what puts butts in the seats.  Flashy lights, polished lectures, hip branding, slick coffee bars, the coolest music, and triumphalism. That’s what sells, right?

Ironically, in my time in ministry, what I’ve found people to be most deeply craving is a space to be honest about their darkness, scars, doubts, struggles, and brokenness.   When I sit down with folks to talk about life or faith, we almost never talk about the Sunday production.  What does come up with consistent regularity is darkness.  Addictions to porn, struggles with marriage, confusion about God, deeply held insecurities, sadness, loneliness, and depression.  It’s universal in many ways, we’ve all got these areas of our lives, and we’re all longing for people to be honest with about them.  Unfortunately, many churches don’t know how to market this stuff.

Thankfully, deep within the collective subconscious of Christianity are images, stories, metaphors, concepts, traditions, and places that invite us to break our addiction to the marketable warm-fuzzies of faith, and step into the spaces of our darkness.  Lent is one of those.  It’s a season where we recognize the brokenness of our lives and the world.  As we remember Jesus’ time alone in the desert, confronted by temptation and evil itself, we go with him into this place of isolation, stripping ourselves bare of the noise and distractions that usually hide our darkness.  In the desert we go without, and it’s just us.  We stop pretending like our dark nights don’t exist, and we instead allow them to be.  In the process we see that the divine does not require us to be marketable, but embraces us wholly as we are- dark nights and all.  And in the distance we see the glimmers of Easter Sunday’s light.

It’s this lived experience that I’ve found to be pretty much universal.  So many of us have felt like we’re alone and abnormal in our dark night and as we’ve encountered this space we’ve thought something is wrong with us.  But we’re not alone and nothing is wrong with us.  This is part of the journey.  Just because faith communities have given us “what we want” in terms of triumphalism and flashy marketing, doesn’t mean that this is the whole story.  We’ve all got scars, struggles, and sins.  And it’s only when we can acknowledge the depth of our darkness that we can even begin to experience the infinity of Love’s light.

The Dark Night of the Soul

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

A Theology of Animal-love

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A few years back we added a third member to our family, Sonny Gray Scott.  He’s a twenty pound albino and hearing impaired poodle-mix, named after one of the best players on our favorite baseball team, and he’s taught me a lot about love and life.

Maybe the idea of a dog teaching us about love and life sounds silly or sophomoric to you, but hang with me for a moment because I think our connections to other living things might actually be graduate level theology.

Within the ancient creation stories of Judeo-Christian tradition is an important framework for how humanity might have originally related to non-human creation.  In Genesis 2:15 we read that humanity (Adam, a derivation of the Hebrew word Adamah  meaning earth) is given the task of working and taking care of its surroundings.  The Hebrew words here are shamar (guard) and abad (keep) both of which could be translated with a nurturing and protecting connotation.   In fact, it isn’t until after the flood story that we’re told humanity began eating other animals (Gen 9:3).  So it could be inferred from these stories that in our original design, our connection to other created beings was one much more benevolent than our current relationship with the planet and its other inhabitants.

Thankfully, this sense of connectedness and love for other creatures has been resurrected countless times throughout the history of our faith traditions.  Here are a few examples:

-Notable sixteenth century Jewish teacher, Maharsha, describes dogs as animals of love, reminding us that the Hebrew name for a dog is “kelev” which is etymologically derived from the words “kulo lev” or “all heart”.  This takes on an even deeper meaning if we remember that it was Adam’s job to name the animals.

-Saint Francis of Assissi is said to have taken the mandate of Jesus to proclaim the good news to all of creation quite literally, leading him to preach sermons to both his human and his animal audience.  He’s quoted as saying, “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.”

-C.S. Lewis was a dog owner/lover and argued against animal cruelty.

-The British institution known as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which would later inspire the American Humane Society, was founded by devout Christians William Wilberforce and Reverend Arthur Broome based on their faith ethics.

Keep in mind that these ideas actually come up against much of Western and Enlightenment values which often seek to commodify the planet and its inhabitants. Even Descartes claimed animals could not suffer nor feel pleasure.   So, I think it’s safe to say that connecting with animals in a loving way is deeply rooted in our faith traditions and even countercultural.

Alright, enough with the history lesson, let’s get back to current times and this fluffball.

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In the years I’ve hung out with Sonny I’ve been surprised by just how much I feel for him.  I know it sounds cliche, but his condition-less affection for both Alie and me is such a gift.  He’s always happy to see us and sad to see us leave.

As I’ve grown in my fondness of him and his presence, it’s increased my heart for other animals too.  Interestingly enough, it feels like my overall ability to love has grown.  Some might think that if I’m giving attention to my dog, I might have less attention to give to others, but I’ve found the opposite to be true.  Love seems to be one of the few things that only grows the more it’s given and received- and it never actually runs out.  Sonny reminds me of this.

Since he’s almost deaf, we’ve had to learn communication in a slightly different way.  It’s hard to explain but I think I can sense his feelings and I’m pretty sure he can sense mine too.  When I get worked up about something, so does Sonny.  And when he starts barking about some one walking passed our window, I can sense his stress.  It’s like there is an energy between us and it makes me wonder at just how connected we are to each other and to our planet.

Sonny relieves stress and brings me back down to earth.  His patient and unconditional affection seems truer and more noble than many of the accomplishments and vanity projects our culture seems to value.  Rabbi Levi Welton notes this saying, “the Almighty created animals before humans on the sixth day of creation to teach humans humility”.

So yeah, I’d argue that animal love is good, divine, and theologically sound.  When we care for animals in any fashion, we’re caring for vessels of the miraculous reality of life and evidences of divine creativity.  They can teach us faithfulness, humility, playfulness, and more.  And the fact that we can communicate, relate to, and even share love with them is beyond my understanding, but is something I both cannot deny and am immensely grateful for.

Here’s to you Sonny.

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What we need now

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Part of what I get paid to do as a pastor is hang out with people.  Now, there might be a more theologically formal set of words that describes this part of my work week, and a lot more going on than just leisure, but a good chunk of my time is spent sipping coffee or beer listening to peoples stories.  I usually don’t have that much to say in terms of profound spiritual truths, but I’ve learned that I am not awful at listening and processing with people.

As I’ve hung out with folks and been let into their stories, I’ve noticed a couple things.  The first is that we’re all scattered and spread thin, and we’re all longing for a life that goes deeper than the trappings of our modern consumeristic culture.  The second is that we’re in desperate need of an antidote for our addiction to oversimplified us-verses-them binaries and judgement.  Both of these tendencies result in our own shallowness and inability to move beyond knee jerk and reactionary living.   We’re caught up an endless loop of external conflicts and surface layer trappings which are symptoms of a deeper ailment.  We think we’ll fix ourselves and the world with more activity and consumption but maybe what we really need is internal transformation that expands our capacity towards empathy, compassion, and love.

For a while now I’ve been drawn to the monastics and contemplatives.  I think part of the reason for this is because my natural disposition is just as shallow as everyone else.  The monastics and contemplatives seem to move against this cultural current and offer us a different way.  And so reading their prayers, listening to their wisdom, and learning their stories feels like the times in my life after I’ve indulged in too much junk food and finally get to eat something nourishing and healthy.  They feel deep, restful, and true.

As foreign as monastic living might seem to us civilized and high-tech moderns, I believe their underlying impulse is something desperately needed in our times, namely the impulse to be internally or spiritually transformed.   Their wisdom suggests that it’s only after we’ve been transformed on the inside that we’ll be able to engage a shallow world in deep and loving ways.

One of the most well known voices from this stream of humanity is the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton who’s pictured above.  Consider a couple of his thoughts and imagine a world in which this type of self-work and condition-less love might exist:

“I go to the hermitage to deepen my consciousness.”

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”

Both of these quotes and the impulse behind them are as counter-cultural as Sid Vicious in 1977.  Consciousness deepening and judgment free love?  I can’t say I’ve heard those concepts anywhere lately, and they probably won’t sell products, but I think they are exactly what we need right now.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we all sell our possessions and move to monasteries, though maybe some of us should.  What I’m suggesting is that our world needs the monastic impulse more than ever.  We desperately need to reject the sound bite addicted, binary trapped consumerism of our current society and begin the work of internal transformation that increases our capacity to love our neighbors.

What would like if we could all spend a small portion of our day in contemplation and reflection around deepening ourselves and increasing our capacity to love?

What if we spent less time eating the fast food of social media feeds or cable news yelling-matches and started to feast on the deep and nourishing wisdom of the contemplatives and monastics?

Whether we’re activists or office workers, students or retirees, I’m convinced that our world desperately needs some of what folks like Merton had- the impulse to be transformed and deepened.

If you’d like to start a journey of hanging out with some of these folks, I’d recommend starting with Thomas Merton or Henri Nouwen.

And if you’d like to integrate some of your social media with contemplative reflection, our church recently started a daily common prayer facebook group based on Christian liturgy that might be worth checking out.

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Stop trying to be right

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With all the current chatter about “alternative facts” and fake news, it’s becoming increasingly clear, as if it wasn’t already, just how insanely divided we are.  In so many political/social conversations it seems that we’re totally incapable of seeing things from another perspective.  Our biologically driven tribalism which has programed us to see the world in dichotomies of “us verses them” has been hijacked by marketing, religion, and politics much the same way they use our need for sex, food, and love to sell products and heard us like cattle.   We’re pitted against one another, blind to our absolutism and personal biases that keep us from seeing nuance or finding common ground.   We’ve been divided and conquered.

In all of this, we’re convinced that our side is right and those guys are wrong.  We post videos, articles, and studies that back up just how wrong they are and prove just how right we are.  Our rightness of position, belief, and perspective seems so clear to us.

But what if we were chasing the wrong idea?

What if the impulse to be right is actually what’s wrong with us?

What if our hyperbolic generalization of the “other” has actually made things worse?

What if trying to be right isn’t the best way?

There is a different ethic I’ve been mulling over in light of our current predicament that I think we must consider.  It comes from some ancient writing between a faith leader and a community of people that he helped lead.  In this context, there were fierce divisions between folks from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and gender demographics.  Whether or not you consider yourself a person of faith, I think these words are worth heeding:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, emphasis added)

Part of the Christian proposal is that the deepest divisions between humanity and the Divine have been reconciled, and because of this, humanity is then invited to become agents of reconciliation.  Reconciliation comes from Latin and means to bring back together broken things.

This is quite different than the ethic of our current predicament which implores us to be agents of rightness.

I wonder what would happen if our highest call, virtue, value, or ethic shifted from trying to be right all of the time on any given issue towards trying to be reconciled with our neighbor, Facebook friend, and world.

What would it look like if reconciliation became our first impulse rather than trying to tell “them” why they’re wrong?

How can we call out injustice while emphasizing reconciliation? 

That seems like a question worth wrestling with.

So wherever you are at politically or spiritually, experiment with this.   What practical ways can this be played out? Here are a few ideas, but I’d love to add to this list:

-Begin to see people on the other side as an extension of yourself rather than the enemy.
-Recognize that you are limited in your own bias.
-Ask lots of questions.
-Try not to speak hyperbolically in ways that vilify the other side.
-Find common ground.
-Be quick to apologize and concede when necessary.
-Don’t generalize entire groups of people.
-Think about what your end game is- is it to convince the other person they are wrong, or to walk the path of love?  Be honest about this, but also willing to adjust depending on new information, relational capital, or a changed heart.

My bottom line is this: I think that reconciliation is a higher calling than being right.  How this gets fleshed out is something that may take a lifetime to work through, but I think it’s worth it- just look at where our attempts to be on the right side of things have gotten us this far.

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On our bodies, especially us guys

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My wife recently turned me on to a book called On Living by Kerry Egan which is a collection of stories and life lessons from a hospice chaplain surrounding her work caring for folks who are in their final stages of life.  Included in her reflections are many of the expected realizations that being near death brings: love more, stress less, life is to short to have regrets, etc.   It’s incredibly humbling to remember how much we take for granted and just how precious life really is.

Out of all the stories I’ve read so far, one chapter in particular hit home for me.  The chapter is called “if i had only known, i would have danced more”. In this chapter Kerry recaps some of her interactions with a woman named Cynthia who shared about one of her life-long struggles and regrets; her relationship with her body:

“Everyone told me- my family, my school, my church.  When I got older magazines and sales girls and boyfriends- even if they didn’t say so out lout.  The world’s been telling me for seventy-five years that my body is bad.  First for being female, then for being fat, and then for being sick.” (p 56).

Kerry, the author then goes on to share that out of the numerous regrets that her patients have confided in her, the regret of hating our bodies ranks as one of the more devastating:

“There are many regrets and many unfulfilled wishes that patents have shared with me in the months or weeks before they die.  But the time wasted spent hating their bodies, ashamed, abusing it or letting it be abused- the years, decades, or, in some cases whole lives that people spent not appreciating their body until they were so close to leaving it- are some of the saddest.” (p 56)

As I read through her reflections, I found myself deeply resonating.  Growing up as an overweight kid, I’ve never liked my body or the way I look.  While I’ve had some victories loosing weight and establishing some healthier habits, I still carry a deep sense of shame and guilt when it comes to my body.  Some mornings I wake up after having a big meal the night before, or having a late night snack when I didn’t need it and feel the need to confess or repent.  Usually when I look in the mirror at my body I feel sadness.

When I look at our world today and think about all of my friends, I think our relationship to our bodies is sicker than we probably realize.  So many people I know have similar experiences to mine, and our culture is obsessed with telling us we don’t measure up in some form or another.  Whether we know it or not, we measure people’s worth by their appearance, especially women, but it’s also very common to body shame men, and in some ways more accepted.  And as a man, I think it’s less acceptable for me to struggle with these insecurities, but I know that many of us do.  Probably all of us.

So here is the deal.  It’s my experience that we’re all feeling this whether we’re out of shape or we’ve got the body of a model.  If you struggle with how to relate to your body however you identify, know that you’re not alone.  I’m sorry for the ways I’ve made fun of others bodies and I confess that I deeply struggle too.   If you’re a guy and you carry these emotions, know that I’m right there with you.  I’ve met so many guys who feel like these emotions are not valid because it’s not manly to be insecure about your body.   From height to hand size, from weight to voice depth, from hairline to penis size (yeah I said it), so many of us guys are deeply insecure and feel ashamed and guilty for being that way.  To that I call bullshit.

As Kerry closed out her chapter, she quoted the same patient, Cynthia, “Even though I’m fat, even though I’ve had this cancer for twenty years, and I haven’t had any hair in I can’t remember how long- even though all of that, I don’t hate my body. They were wrong, and they always have been.  I think because I thought I was going to die for so long, I figured it out.  And that’s why I’ve been happy anyway.” (p 60)

My hope for myself and others is that we can altogether learn to be honest about our bodies, and empower one another to celebrate what little time we have with them.

There is a lot more that can be said here theologically including discussions on what it means that we were created in the image of God or the fact that in Christ the divine embraced our material bodies, redeeming them and showing us that our bodies are not to be shamed but embraced as vessels of love, but I’ll just close with few words from an ancient prayer that captures most of that:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made….”
(Psalm 139:14)

 

 

 

Some thoughts on race, church, and being a white pastor from a facebook convo.

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The other day a friend of mine tagged me in a post he made hoping to stir some discussion and get some feedback.  I really respect this person and was more than happy to spend  a little time responding.  After I shared some thoughts, he then asked me to make them more public.  So that’s what this is.  I guess I just do what I’m told.  Also this felt timely in relation Monday’s holiday in honor of Dr. King.  We’ve got a long way to go in these discussions, and I pray that a spirit of love and justice will continue to grow in our communities.

Just some context- my friend is a guy named Aaron Roy who serves as Pastor at Living Hope in Richmond California.  He’s  good dude and I’ve always learned from his example and friendship.  Below is his original post followed by my response a some back and forth.  I’ve made a couple corrections for the blog just a heads up:


Initial Post:
Aaron RoyAaron Roy
with Bobby Marchessault and 97 others.
January 12 at 3:25pm · Richmond ·

For those who know me you know I am passionate about ethnic reconciliation and unity. Thats why I address it so much. Please bare with this long post and interact with me on this. There is a great ethnic divide problem whether some want to admit it or not.
Anyway… I want to ask for your help. Not trying to bait anyone or cause controversy. But someday I do want to write a book about The Gospel and Ethnic Reconciliation. So this would be helpful. Here goes…

… Would you please do a short cultural assessment of your life?

Could you ask these questions please…
– Does my life involve people who don’t look like me and come from a different culture?
– Am I being formed and shaped by deep relationships with people who are of a different ethnicity?
– Is my church a place where there isn’t ethnic diversity?
– Have I ever sat under the leadership (pastor, teacher, boss etc.) of someone who is of a different ethnicity?
– Have I/Do I confide in and seek counsel from someone who is of a different ethnicity than I?
– Is my only interaction with different ethnicities on TV or through political news stations?

Again please just help me out here. Please do an honest assessment even if it stings a little. I am trying to be a part of the solution and not the problem. Just to put my cards out there… I believe that a part of the problem is isolation. When we isolate ourselves ethnically/culturally and have no interaction with those who dont look like us, we cannot help but develop a “supremacy” mindset that divides instead of unites. All this to say that if you are isolated from other cultures/ethnicities then you only see the world through a narrow lens and therefore are incapable of appreciating “difference” and celebrating the diversity of God’s creation.

Please do the assessment and tell me what your thoughts are. No judgement just bridge building and discussion. This is what helps us come together. This is for all people not just one people group. I tagged a diverse group of 100 of my FB friends but please know for some reason they wouldn’t let me go over that? So if your not tagged please chime in anyway! Thoughts?

P.S. Many are saying privately which is cool as well.

My Response:

Chris Scott Chris Scott Aaron Roy appreciate your heart and love/agree with/learn from pretty much everything you post. Here are my brief answers.

– Does my life involve people who don’t look like me and come from a different culture? YES, though I’d love more.
– Am I being formed and shaped by deep relationships with people who are of a different ethnicity? YES as well as different faith, political, generational, and gender perspectives.
– Is my church a place where there isn’t ethnic diversity? No, miraculously, God has really formed a lot of diversity in our community, though there is always room to grow. I think our decentralized/community model has helped. This is in spite of my own shortcomings and the fact that I’m a young white male.
– Have I ever set under the leadership (pastor, teacher, boss etc.) of someone who is of a different culture? Yes.
– Have I/Do I confide in and seek counsel from someone who is of a different ethnicity than I? Yes.
– Is my only interaction with different ethnicities on TV or through political news stations? No.

I was sitting with a middle aged African American gay many from our church yesterday and we were talking through much of this. As a white guy, I know that part of my role in modeling the kingdom is owning my privilege and listening/following more than I lead. I was super fortunate to be a part of a BLM clergy cohort last year that was really formative and the only time I’ve ever worn a clerical collar was to stand behind my black pastor friends at a BLM demonstration. Also, I’m a part of the Alameda interfaith council where I get the chance to learn from other faiths. Though I wish I could be closer to you and other pastors locally, I am really grateful for the connections I do have.

I think for a lot of other white pastors/peers it’s uncomfortable to enter into the spaces of pain because it means recognizing our privilege and also recognizing the way the church has so often made things worse and more segregated.

Anyways, would be excited to chat more about this sometime in person. Appreciate your example and heart!

Aaron Roy Aaron Roy Thanks bro for your transparency. I appreciate your time to fill this out. Would love to kick it man.

Chris ScottChris Scott For sure. Let’s make it happen. I’m really grateful for the ways I get to engage this stuff but know I have a long way to go.

Aaron RoyAaron Roy Also would love for you too spell out a little bit more what you said about dismantling privilege and what that process looks like for a “white pastor”… Good stuff!
Chris Scott Chris Scott Aaron Roy Well, it’s a process I’m admittedly still learning and I think there are lots of aspects to it. I think it starts in our own hearts/spirits where we spend time listening, praying, studying, and befriending people who can inform us. Growing up here in the bay area I was fortunate enough to have many friends and be around lots of people who were different than me so a lot of this was a part of my upbringing- a value for inclusiveness and an awareness of a deep need for more racial/social justice. Sadly, this heart (which I think is inseparable from the gospel) often came across as “liberal” to many of my fellow christian friends.

Like I mentioned , for me dismantling my own privilege starts inside, so I think we need to do whatever we can to first acknowledge the need to change and take some self inventory on where we each have our own advantages in life. Then I think we need to spend time learning and listening. I’ve found the books The New Jim Crow, Slavery by Another Name, and Between the World and Me to be really eye opening. From a christian perspective books like The Color of Christ, and Divided by Faith to be important as well.

One of the odd things about evangelicalism is that it often perpetuates the divides between white/black in major ways and its in its own best interest to maintain the status quo rather than get into the actual deep roots of racism within. For instance a popular concept from the church growth movement called the homogeneous unit principle on one hand justified churches to cater to one type of people and grow quickly, but on the other hand made us more divided than before. So in my opinion underneath the success of megachurches is subconscious fear of the other and isolation from racial issues. They also perpetuate things white savior mentality and the model minority fallacy.

Alright you got me going- that wasn’t really what you were asking. But learning and confronting those issues is important gospel work that those of us who come from privilege need to do.

I think once we’ve done the work internally, we can then join in the work externally.

For me that means I speak openly about my privilege when in platforms other white people can hear. I’ve found that to be really important. So I say that up front at Oak Life often. This also happens in other network/groups I’m a part of when I get the chance. As a pastor in our community it also means I need to meet people where they are at and walk with them in the process because different folks are at different places. I try to make public my sentiments about this when I can

Also, our community tries to be as decentralized as possible- so our leadership team is made up of a rotating group of women and men who are technically the boss of the church. This feels weird typing up but it might give you a picture of how we’ve tried to “dismantle” and work through some of this: Our team breakdown is 3 white males, 1 white female, 1 asian male,1 african american male, 2 african american females, 1 latino female. Two of these members are LGBT as well. This is a decent representation of our community in that the biggest demographic is white, but I wouldn’t call us a white church. Up front we try as hard as we can to reflect our diversity in our community as well. When I speak (which is probably 60% of the time) we have a lot of space for conversation and questions, I try my hardest to quote non-white male theologians, when I show pictures for Jesus or folks from the Bible I try to find non-eurocentric pics, and we regularly host gatherings for this conversation to happen in various forums. One ‘mantra’ we’ve started saying a lot about the gopsel and the kind of church we want to be is that ‘Jesus embraced the margins and disrupted the center’. So I often say that if your in the center and a part of our community, we might make you uncomfortable Conversely, if you’ve been marginalized by the church, we confess our sins and we need your forgiveness and to the best of our abilities, you are safe with us.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there but to summarize:
– do the heart work
– learn, listen, and study
– engage in the external work

As a pastor:
– deconstruct white supremacy in the church by openly calling it out
-allow the community to be led by a plurality of voices from various perspectives
-walk with people where they are at and trust that God will transform them.
-lead by example by joining in groups, movements, gatherings, etc that are working to heal and reconcile.
-confess my own stuff, seek forgiveness.

Like · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs · Edited
Chris Scott Chris Scott Oh and for folks who aren’t big readers I’ve found this podcast to be really, really transformative: http://www.theliturgists.com/…/episode-34-black-and…

Aaron Roy Aaron Roy Chris Scott wow. Man this is awesome. I would encourage you to post this man so folks can see this other than in my comments section. Very thorough and so good. I do believe that shared leadership in the church dismantles not only privilege but it is the NT model.

Here

In your eyes the face of God is felt
No dogmas parallel
To your skies, the harmonies of heaven
Our fabrics fail and fight
To keep these bodies warm the same as you
Home within your mystery
Embers glow of death and resurrection
Forever burning still

In your voice the tragedy of faith
No words articulate
The beauty that’s veiled inside the ordinary
Life is ordination
The firmament and everything in between
Pathology’s religion
A tangled mess, the stunning fog of love
Holds us closer still

In your touch a paradox divine
skin and bone and wine
The spirit of life that breathed us into being
Near enough to be named
Who am I to taste this grain, this body
The feast that never ceases
Nourish us until forever’s over
Until forever’s over

In this place we were free
To find out where you hide
And like light we cannot see
Still the darkness flees