Category Archives: gender equality

BMWs, Whiteness, and my Christian Faith

As a young seminary student in the late 1980’s I interned at the amazing United Methodist Church in Clovis, California. For three years this church made space for me, treated both my wife and me like family, and allowed me to grow as a leader. One of my first assignments was to lead the young married bible study. We met every Thursday in one couple’s home. One of our fist decisions was to choose a book or theme. After much discussion we all agreed that we would work through Tony Campolo’s book 20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid to Touch. The study was going along well until week seven when we explored the chapter “You Cannot be a Christian and Own a BMW.” At least one of the couples in our group owned a BMW. It would be fair to say that the evening did not go well for me.

I have reflected on that evening often over the years. If I were to lead that study again, I wouldn’t focus on BMWs. For Campolo, the BMW was a metaphor for a much larger concern. As Christians, how and where we spend our money has both moral and ethical implications. The neighborhood you choose to live in, the size of house you purchase, where you invest your retirement money, and, yes, the car you choose to purchase are not morally neutral choices.

Last Sunday I experienced another BMW type of moment. During the adult Sunday school hour our speaker asserted that “you cannot be white and a Christian.” At this point it is important to let you know that 90% of the folks in the room were white. After the initial shock wore off he went on to say, “If all you are doing is focusing on the color of your skin then you are missing my point.” Just like Campolo’s BMWs this speaker, was using “white” in a metaphorical way.

White Christianity is a faith that allows a person to talk about making things great again. It is a lens that provides a rose colored perspective of our shared history. It is choosing not to see how white Christian faith and slavery, Jim Crow, sexism, homophobia, and segregation are all part of “great again.”

White Christianity allows Christian politicians to advocate for carpet bombing the enemy while claiming to be pro-life.

White Christianity has the power to marginalize and dilute movements, by responding to Black Lives Matter with slogans like All Lives Matter.

White Christianity creates a space to claim the authority and inerrancy of scripture until it becomes inconvenient. Turning the other cheek and welcoming the stranger don’t apply when the stranger is Muslim, gay, a Democrat, or a Republican.

White Christianity is not so much about the color of my skin as it is about the power I choose to access and weld because of my skin color. The hard work that those of us with access to white Christianity are tasked with is to unburden ourselves from the need to reshape Christianity into a faith that only serves our needs. One of the more powerful ideas within Christianity is surrender. As we do the hard work of surrendering white Christianity and leaving it at the foot of the cross, something Christ-like will take its place.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Beloved Community, Christian, conversion, cultural insensitivity, culture, Damascus road, diversity, DOOR, faith, gender equality, God questions, ideologies, inclusion, political, political debate, politics, racism, racist, sexist, theology, Uncategorized, urban tour, White Privilege

My Son’s Faith

As a parent one of my greatest desires is for my children to become thoughtful adults. I want them to have a strong faith, a faith they can own for themselves, and a faith that will help them navigate life’s obstacles.

Last week my youngest son called me. He had a theological question. For those of you who do not know me well I am a self-described theological nerd. So being asked to help my son process a theological question sent my heart aflutter!

He was writing a response to someone’s statement about Ephesians 5:22 where Paul says, “Wives be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.” According to his fellow classmate this verse was clear proof that the church should reject the temptation to allow women to be leaders in the church or family.

We talked for about 30 minutes. Then he said, “Dad, give me some time to think a write.” Here is his response:

I think the relationship between Christ and the church is a relationship about mutuality. Christ is always inviting people to himself. The choice to follow is always on the individual. To assume “authority” means dictatorship is a misunderstanding of both Paul and Jesus. Jesus is not the churches dictator not is the man ever called to be a dictator.

If we are serious about reflecting Christ in marriage than it should be a relationship where both parties have an equal say in what goes on. Christian relationships whether in the church, the context of marriage, or peers should always be mutual and invitational.

If a person is going to read Paul than read all of Paul! It doesn’t take long to discover that there are contradictions all over the place. In Ephesians Paul talks about women submitting to husbands but in Galatians Paul claims that there is no male or female in Christ and that we’re all equal so how then does that fit in?

As people studying theology we can’t just look at one verse and assume that we know what its saying. Look at everything, where was Paul and why did he write those things? Paul was not writing to CBC students for intro to Christian theology, 2017. Christ certainly should have authority over our lives and influence the way we do things and decisions we make, but that’s just it, Jesus was about love and caring fellow humans not having dominant authority.

Christ invites us into relationship of choice and mutuality and that ought to be how the marriages we enter in reflect.

When it comes to the topic of women in leadership I believe we have been living in a society where the male bias has dominated for far too long. God is not just father but also mother. Her love extends to everyone and I believe She is changing the world to a place where women need to hold just as many leadership positions as men do and the idea that there needs to be a “man” of the house is passing way. Some of the most brilliant pastors I know are women and I wish for a world where there’s more of that.

As have reflected on this conversation, it began to dawn on me how significant his DOOR experiences had been, particularly his Dwell year in Miami. For Quinten his time as a Dweller gave him a space to work out his faith for himself.

If you are a parent, grandparent, or mentor to a young adult reading this- know that a gap-year away from college and home may be the greatest gift you can give to your young adult.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bearing Witness, Christian, church, DOOR, gender equality, God questions, kingdom of heaven, ministry, theology, transforming, Uncategorized

Lives that matter

Black lives matter

Police lives matter

All lives matter

A person would have to have their head in the sand to not have heard these.  Social media is full of one liners and thoughtful essays, expressing opinions, sharing painful stories, or expressing outrage relating to these statements.

I am particularly fascinated by those who are outraged by the idea anyone would dare to value one particular group over another.  This critique is generally directed towards the Black Lives Matter movement.  From what I can tell all the other “lives matter” statements are simply a reaction to Black Lives Matter.

If I am honest I have to admit that I have occasionally reacted.  Doesn’t my life matter?  I have been reflecting on this lately.  Where is this coming from?  At one level it is a simple gut reaction to anything that would appear to reduce my value, importance, or wisdom.  Quite honestly this has been part of my DNA for as long as I can remember.

I was born into a world where men were men and women fell into two categories.  The first were mothers whose primary responsibility was to look after the home front.  The second were single women who, if they had to work only worked temporarily, were waiting for God’s chosen man to come and rescue them.  Then they could fulfill their home front duties!

I must admit that my perspective on women changed slowly.  Partly because admitting that women were my equal meant more competition in the work place and more importantly it disrupted my understanding of what it was to be a man.  I liked the idea of being the stronger sex, the more intelligent partner, and the leader.

Part of my journey toward gender equality meant admitting that female lives mattered.  They mattered in all the ways that my life mattered – in terms of calling, leadership ability, work life, parenting, education, ministry, and anything else I may have forgotten.  This journey towards equality required changes in my behavior towards, beliefs about, and understanding of gender roles.  Equality also meant mutuality and respect in all areas of life, from the domestic to the professional.

When we admit that a life matters, particularly a life that is different, whether that be race, culture, religion, gender, or orientation, we are saying the other is created in the very image and likeness of God.  We are saying they have worth and value.  We are saying that they are called to lead, even “us.”  We are saying that they have all the rights, responsibilities, and value that I have.

The problem with moving from something particular, like Black lives, to something general (like all lives) or powerful (like police lives) is that we marginalize the truth.  The world I grew up in restricted women to the home by denying and minimizing their created value.  We have denied and minimized the value of Black lives.  This is sin.  As such it must be confronted, particularly by people of faith.  It must be confronted at the individual level.  More importantly it must be confronted at a structural level.

As we journey towards this new world of respect and mutuality the narrative will begin to change.  The negative stereotype of color will begin to fade.  Black lives will matter in ways that are real and measurable.  When a young man gets stopped for speeding, he will know it was because he was speeding, not because of the color of his skin.  We are not there yet, but with intentionality, honest reflection, and confession it is possible for us to get there.

Leave a comment

Filed under diversity, gender equality, racial equality

Multitasking

I am fascinated by those who claim they can multitask. From my experience and observation doing more than one thing at a time rarely works out. The end result is either chaos or more work.

There is one notable exception to my multitasking pessimism. That is the work of creating a space and culture where all are accepted, included, and empowered. In a world where power rules, creating a culture where everyone is included seems naïve.

Diverse work environments, schools, places of worship, and communities can sound good on paper, especially if those in power get to define the extent of the diversity. For example, many people equate diversity and race while conveniently ignoring the other forms of diversity – theology, socioeconomic class, age, sexual orientation, nationality, and gender. I am not at any level diminishing the importance of racial diversity, but to only categorize each other by skin color seems a bit one dimensional. It should be obvious, but we are all more than the color of our skin. We are male and female; married with children, married without children, and single; homeowners, renters, couch surfers, and homeless; straight and gay; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and atheist; white collar and blue collar; urban, suburban, and rural people.

When it comes to diversity, a person who focuses on only one aspect runs the risk of ending up with an incomplete and potentially twisted understanding of the kingdom of God. The implications of moving towards a vision of the world that is authentically diverse are real. Leadership both in the church and outside will have to become less white, less male, less straight, less privileged, and maybe less “Christian” – at least in the traditional sense.   For this to happen the church and world will need leaders who are skilled diversity multitaskers.

As a child I remember more than one preacher stating that it was better to live as a Christian and find out it was all a mistake than to live as an unbeliever and find out the God was real. Today I want to rewrite this a bit. I would rather live assuming that all people are created in the image of God and find out I was wrong than to live judgmentally and find out that God chose grace over exclusion.

For too long, people of faith have developed elaborate excuses for filtering people out of Christian community. Some in the church have become skilled at using Scripture to defend their holy exclusions and prejudices. Too often people of faith have hidden behind words like “distinctives” or “confessions of faith” to justify this segregation. It is almost ironic that finding ways to include everyone is the controversial path.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beloved Community, diversity, gender equality, multitasking