This group is a bunch of trouble makers. I love them!
September 2018 may have been the wildest ride of my life – up and down emotionally. That is saying a lot because this ride has been pretty bizarre for a while. The highs have been high, and the lows have been low–but I know you can be extremely joyful and righteously mad at the same time. It is possible, and I am experiencing both right now. When you are seeing visions of the Kingdom and what is not of the Kingdom at the same time, you will feel both emotions.
The shooting of Botham Jean by a Dallas Police officer hurt so much. That was tragic, and the police got preferential treatment during the investigation. Insane. Then the principality of racism came in to smear his name the day he was laid to rest to somehow justify why the cop showed up and had to kill him. This is evil of the highest level that I have ever witnessed in my life. Botham Jean was (in the words of Rev. Freddy Haynes) a choir boy. It is easy to know this was wrong and feel sad his life was taken in the most unjust way. It is murder. What about the other black lives that die at the hands of police? Maybe they aren’t doing everything right, but they deserve to live. White people get the benefit of the doubt all of the time. It is a fact that black lives are more likely to be taken by police than white lives. The justice system is extremely racist too. Minorities are more likely to get harsher sentences. It is white fragility. Texas our death penalty is immoral. Most of the nation has moved on from this method because it is cruel and unusual. Guess who is more likely to get the death penalty? We lead the nation executing people, and some are innocent! We cannot call ourselves the Bible Belt when we kill people. People of the Bible were called to be merciful. We are the Death Belt. This must stop.
My pastor and friend, George Mason, addressed the shooting of Botham Jean from the pulpit. He was bold and prophetic, and did not mince any words on racism. Shaun King, a powerful journalist advocating for racial justice, picked up George’s video and shared it on social media. He was grateful a white pastor addressed the shooting, racism, and police brutality of black lives from the pulpit. It went viral. Normally I don’t read comments, but since this was about my church I decided to read the reactions. I was shocked to read so many who were grateful a white pastor cared- I was shocked because the concept seemed so foreign to them. Some were making accusations about our reactions because we looked bored or were quiet. I knew they were speaking from their pain. I thought long and hard before responding. I knew the heart of our church, so I responded pretty boldly about who we are, and if they knew us they would know we are a justice oriented church in the trenches as their allies. We are an all-inclusive church, and we follow up our words with action. George preaches like this all the time. I was ready for the vitriol to come after responding, but I actually received so many thank you’s for telling them about us. They said no one like me ever tells them this. Shaun King even liked my response. Wow. They also trusted me because I knew specific things about racism because I have been reading–and I attended a King Teach In in January with George Mason and Freddy Haynes.
Then a reporter reached out to me. He reached out to me via Twitter because he saw my response on Twitter. He was going to call the church to talk to Pastor Mason, but decided I would be good to talk to also since I was in the service–and I could probably get him to George a bit faster. I looked up his company and liked that they were solutions-based journalism. They are not looking for a negative angle. I wanted to take this interview for 2 reasons 1) to see if it could help amplify Wilshire’s voice of justice, 2) to talk about Wilshire’s LGBT inclusion, and our work with other faiths. Here’s what Isaac Saul emailed me about his news outlet A Plus:
“Thanks so much for being open to speak! I work for http://www.aplus.com, we’re a positive news outlet with a huge reach (2 million followers on FB, 100 million monthly content views across our platforms). We like to write about “solutions” instead of problems, or people who are a shining light in times of darkness.”
And here’s the follow up email once the article posted..
“On another note, you and Pastor Mason might be interested in Rabbi Mike Moskowitz of NYC. He is actually my Rabbi and one of the country’s great Talmudic scholars, but also one if its great justice warriors. He has a trans son and an incredible library of work about issues you and your congregation might care about. Encourage you to check out his work: https://www.rabbimikemoskowitz.com/”
Then a few days later a Fort Worth police officer was shot dead (and he had a gun – killing the narrative guns make us safer – pun intended). We live in a culture that won’t address the problem we have with guns. We are losing beautiful souls, and when we speak up about it-the powerful are lashing out that we don’t respect authority and the flag. That is just bullshit. The police are dying too for crying out loud. We are also sending veterans to unjust wars and denying them help when they return home. They need more from us than to stand for a flag. That is pretending to do something without doing anything at all. I don’t mind if people stand for the flag, but that’s not where our ultimate loyalty should lie.
The powerful have nothing to say in their defense of innocent lives being taken, so they are turning us into the enemies who disrespect a flag (last I checked a flag isn’t human) and disrespecting the police. Sorry, you have to do better than that when we are dying. Our children, black lives, police, veterans, etc. are dying. This logic doesn’t hold up.
Ruling by law and order is not how anyone wants to be governed. It isn’t just. That is how we silence people who are not getting the same benefits as the powerful. You can try raising your kids by law and order, but they will rebel or become very anxious souls. Freedom is when you know in your heart you are truly loved. That love will drive you to love others. Love will let you live with an openness to God in new and fresh ways. God cannot be defined or controlled. Life really is that free and wonderful, but we aren’t free until we are all free. Freedom and love are never about control. Injustice is a violation of people- a violation of love.
Now for the highs:
I have had some opportunities presented to me that I never in my life thought I wanted to do, but am finding that I love it. Love has busted my heart wide open to new adventures. Even doing things I swore I wasn’t cut out to do. I live for reading the Bible with fresh eyes and discussing with people who are equally passionate about it. I want to tell this story to anxious souls. It is good news for everyone – the oppressed and the oppressor.
I was invited to attend the Preaching Practicum with so many of my spiritual heroes at Wilshire. Tony Campolo was brought in for this conference. Most of those heroes are in my church – it isn’t just Tony Campolo, but getting to meet Tony has been a dream of mine. He is one reason I went on a search for Wilshire. I loved what he was saying about Red Letter Christians and justice. I used to listen to him and Shane Claiborne almost weekly on the Red Letter Christian podcast during my sojourn away from church. I was motivated by both of them. My book club talked to Shane via Skype last year about the death penalty. It was enlightening – especially living in a state that is guilty of using the death penalty-#1 offender in the nation.
I was asked to pray my first public prayer at the Preaching Practicum. My first public prayer was going to be with my heroes. People who know what they are doing, and people I don’t feel worthy of speaking in front of because “who am I?”!! I have no idea what I’m doing, and I am extremely shy – what is happening?!. Plus, years of being raised not to speak in front of men. My first public prayer was in front of Tony Campolo for crying out loud. Thankfully, I got to meet Tony before the prayer. He invited me to his table. Say What?! Then he told me I had too much personality for a career in bookkeeping. I was dying. I also fell in love with his wife. Peggy might be my favorite. That prayer changed me. I went up to the podium extremely nervous, but in prayer you look down, and it felt like a conversation between me and God. I walked off the podium feeling transformed. My nerves were gone, and I started to believe maybe I am called to do this.
Then we went to dinner at George Mason’s house with the ministers and their spouses. I got to sit and eat with Tony Campolo and his wife Peggy. Peggy and Jake were having the best time talking. Peggy and Tony were apparently wondering/concerned about who I married. They really wanted to know who I landed. This makes me laugh so hard. At the end of the event, Peggy told me she was so glad she adored my husband because she loved me so much. Ok, I could have died right then. She told me specifically what she loved about Jake, and it is exactly what makes me love him so much too.
Then on Sunday, I lead the discussion on the Apostle Paul in my Sunday School class. Several members of our class have MDivs, so I was really nervous. But it was such a great conversation, and I will write on that in Part II. I chose Paul, and I will explain that choice later also. Paul is a big character to take on- controversial too.
So, to close out this long blog post, the month of September started with me listening to a meditation by the Liturgists. It was called “Fall In”. Science Mike, Mike McHargue, started the mediation with the creation story. I ended up falling asleep which was so necessary for my soul because I have been losing sleep over everything that is happening (good and bad). I woke up to the last sentence though. I can’t make this up – he said “You are star dust. You are made of God. Do not be afraid.” What a beautiful meditation to start this month that brought so many highs and lows. I have kept going back to this meditation as my emotions have fluctuated throughout this month.
In my next post I will address the sexual assault debacle and how misreading Paul plays into this mess. Racism and misogyny go together because “wives submit to your husbands” is usually listed right along with “slaves obey your masters.” I think Paul was doing something different than we think when writing those letters, but how we have interpreted them in our churches is playing out right now in our everyday lives–and it is also how we founded our country. It’s white supremacy- slave holding religion.
Here is the link to Isaac Saul’s article.