White Christianity and the New Reformation – Rev. Kenneth Wheeler

thomaslinda-sittingTo be black and Christian can be a hard proposition these days – especially when you’re a black pastor in a denomination that is not only 96% percent white, but living in a country where 81% of some of the most devoted white Christians in this country voted for a presidential candidate that consistently mocks your community. Rev. Kenneth Wheeler, an august and respected pastor in the ELCA, shares some thoughts on how the confrontation of racism within the church may well be the task of the next Reformation in our communities. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


“Fear takes away a person’s humanity. This is not what the creature made by God looks like. The Bible, The Gospel, Christ, The Church, The Faith- All are one great Battle cry against fear in the lives of human beings. We who believe in Jesus must no fear, because we have heard the good tidings of the Arrival of a new political regime: The Kingdom of God. We are all patriots of a different homeland.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1933

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Slave auction block – Greenhill Plantation, Virginia

102 years after the Reformation the first slaves were brought to America. And every institution in America, including the Church, was impacted by this scandal.

A New Reformation

A few months ago I spoke at an event in Milwaukee in commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It began as a theological movement by a young monk whose name was Martin Luther. He would speak to his Church, the Roman Catholic Church, that had shackled the Gospel in the trappings of tradition and “works righteousness” – making the claim that one’s good works could earn salvation.

Specifically the selling of indulgences, a corruption of the sacrament of penance, was a manifestation of the claim of good works. But Luther saw this not only as a perversion of the Gospel, it was in effect another Gospel and  he would come to realize that the Roman Church was wrong.

Then in 1517 Luther would nail his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door at Wittenberg -hoping to engage the Church in a theological discussion about the meaning of scripture, the authority of scripture, and the meaning of faith. But instead of a conversation Luther’s actions would stir up a firestorm and the Church that he loved rejected his arguments, saw them as undermining the Church’s authority. So he was labeled  a heretic and in 1521 he was excommunicated by Pope Leo X.

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I’ve been thinking a great deal in these last several months about the Church and specifically about the ELCA – a Church that I have been a part of for most of my life, a Church that I know better than any other. A Church that I love and that I served in for 30 years as an ordained Pastor and yet a Church that is still 96 percent white – in part because in the words of Paul Kivel, “Racism is still a central constituent of American life.” The ELCA this predominantly white Church body is a part of this American life.

As we celebrate the 500 year Anniversary of the Reformation I believe that our great work as Evangelical Lutherans  is to reclaim the truth and the freedom that is rooted in the Gospel – truth that calls us to put to death any other claim that we might choose to hold up including the claim of race. We need a new Reformation that calls us to strip away the idolatry of race not just with nice sounding words, but with a commitment to live into the inclusiveness that the Gospel calls us to, even if it means that we lose membership in our current congregations and denominations because they are simply unable to give themselves fully to what the Gospel is demanding.

It was troubling to me and it continues to be troubling that 81 percent of white evangelical Christians voted in the last election for a man who rose in the polls offending women, disparaging Immigrants, and spouting racist and vitriolic language. Perhaps, more than anything else, it highlighted the bondage of white Christians and the bondage of the white Christian Church to the idolatry of racism – a bondage that had wrapped Jesus in the white skin of privilege.

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Black preacher in the 19th century south

African slaves brought to our land resisted the Christ of the white slave master because they knew deep down within that the Christ of the slave master was false. The slave masters had co-opted Christ and co-opted God to support their position of racial superiority and of all things white, and this God was silent in the face of the savagery and the cruelty of slavery and the nightmare of Jim Crow segregation.

Yet the slave knew that this vision of God was incongruent and inconsistent with the God they knew to be the God of love, a God who so loved the world that God allowed His Son Jesus to suffer death. Black liberation theologian James Cone writes about this god most eloquently in his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, worshiped by Christians who would leave their Sunday service to watch the lynching of a black mana god co-opted by racist fears.

This God came to the aid of Donald Trump, who won the presidency because he exploited the racial fears of whites. It’s also the god of hundreds of once all-white inner city congregations abandoned by their original members as soon as other racial minorities moved into those neighborhoods. To illustrate, an African-American female pastor serving an all white Lutheran congregation in the mid-west, recently shared what happened she invoked the names of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin in her sermon. The congregation’s response…?

“We don’t want to hear any of this Pastor. We just want to remain white and Lutheran.”

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There are many within our Church who share that sentiment but where such sentiment exists Jesus is absent. I don’t mean the Jesus who has been Americanized but the Jesus who is black and who suffers with those who are black and who are rejected because they are despised. This is the Jesus who welcomes all and who makes room for all especially those who have been the outsiders

This is the Jesus who is able to set all of us free.

This is the Jesus who is able to renew His Church

This is the Church that I and so many of us long for.

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wheelerBorn in 1952 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Rev. Kenneth Wheeler later moved to and grew up in Jackson. After graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN in 1974 he would eventually pursue his M.Div Trinity Lutheran Seminary, receiving it in 1982. He has served parishes in Florida, California, and eventually and Milwaukee, Wisconsin – where he served 18 years as Assistant to the Bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA. The last seven 7 years of his career he served as the Senior Pastor of Cross Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, then retired in 2013. He considers himself a student of the theology and ethics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., even spending time at the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, learning about non-violent approaches to conflict resolution. He’s made multiple trips to Tanzania since 2000, learning about evangelism and church growth, and even co-lead a trip to Israel for 12 days. He is additionally a sought-after speaker an preacher, has had reflections published by Living Lutheran, and Working Preacher, and has received Distinguished Alumni awards from both Concordia College (1995) and Trinity Lutheran Seminary (2012). He and his wife of 42 years, Cloria, are blessed with three sons, two daughter in-laws, and five wonderful grandchildren.
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500 Years of Lutheranism – Rev. Ronald Bonner

thomas110_1027092In recent years, this day – the second Monday in October, traditionally used to Celebrate Christopher Columbus’ so-called “discovery of the Americas” – is being more-and-more directed towards giving voice and attention to plight of indigenous people across the globe. However, since the colonialism that lead to the demise of countless indigenous culture on virtually every continent, discussion about confronting white supremacy invariably figure into many of these conversations as well – virtually beckoning the long ignored stories of millions across the globe to finally come forward. The Rev. Ronald Bonner, welcomes us into a similar discussion – reflecting on the presence of racism in the church, the season of Advent, and Lutheran theology. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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As a person who was ordained in another tradition I have come to embrace my identity as a Lutheran pastor.  It was Martin Luther, the German monk who began a non-violent conversation that became the first of a series of reformation movements that changed the Catholic Church and the world.  Martin Luther became incensed with the misuse of biblical text and practices by the Catholic Church.  He was appalled at the selling of indulgences to poor people to ensure their afterlife and the afterlife of their dearly departed. This practice that he considered fraudulent served as a fund raiser for the Catholic Church in Rome.  He saw this practice of selling indulgences as a major breach of Christian values and practice. 

About this Luther observed: “They have obscured the teaching concerning sin and have invented a tradition concerning the enumeration of sins which has produced many errors and introduced despair. They have also invented satisfactions, by means of which they have further obscured the benefit of Christ. Out of these arose indulgences, which are nothing but lies devised for the sake of gain.” [i]

In response to his displeasure, Martin Luther wrote an inspired argument that became known as the 95 theses. In this document, Martin Luther pointed out errors in church practices that were supported by the Catholic Church and the Pope.  He argues that these practices and beliefs went against the bible and what it teaches about love, liberty, and salvation.  It is widely believed that on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the main door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenburg, Germany, a sort of bulletin board for discussion.  Some also believe that a sermon or lecture in 1518 at Heidelberg may have been the actual spark that led to the acceptance of the 95 theses that created the impetus for the Reformation.  Regardless, there is little debate regarding the importance of the newly invented printing press, the internet of its day, allowing Martin Luther’s ideas to spread and gain momentum for church reform.

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Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers

The story of Martin Luther is one that speaks to the power of one, and when a timely idea becomes a demand it can change the world.  The story of the Protestant reformation honors the story of Jesus and his revolution or reformation of Jewish religious tradition.  It speaks that the power of truth can weaken the stranglehold of orthodoxy and bring liberty and freedom to those who were bound.  It is this part of the story that a young Baptist minister traveling in Germany in 1934 became enamored with and fully embraced.  He was captured by the power of Martin Luther’s commitment to God and liberty, to the point that upon his return to the South he changed his name from Michael King to Martin Luther King and his son’s name to Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am glad to be part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) a young arm of the Lutheran family that was formed in 1988. This Communion was developed with a vision of inclusion and diversity.  However, it is not just my personal experience, but a shared experience with a growing number of persons of color within the ELCA, that unfortunately this vision of inclusion was not fully embraced by many of its membership.

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Graphic from Pew Research on racial diversity among religious communities in the US – the ELCA is second from the bottom, marking it as the whitest religious community in the United States.

The evidence is seen on Sundays and a recent PEW report that claims that the ELCA has not really moved the needle in terms of increasing the number or percentage of persons of color who gather in worship. However, during my nine years as a local parish pastor and increasingly within the past five years, I have become blessed to meet and interact with those who seek to truly reform this Reformation denomination with commitment and not just lip service.  It is these reformers that give me hope that this church will not continue to embrace behavior and attitudes that deter the full participation of persons of color and others.

It is these reformers who do not just embrace diversity or inclusion but stand against the tide of white supremacy and patriarchy that still flows through the veins of many within this denomination.  Of course, there are those who will decry being called white supremacist or racist, or heterosexist, or sexist but the truth is there are many within this denomination that hold fast to their normative sense of racial, gender, class, and orientation superiority.

From the book No Bigotry Allowed: “Thus, the inability to admit past wrongs, the inability to see how one has benefited from past injustices of racism, and the inability to see “I got there on my own” as myth are all by products of racism supported by the pedagogy and language of white supremacy. These are attempts to deflect the reality that racism is normative and that the vast majority of white people still benefit from its use and existence on a daily basis.”  [ii]

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I have seen on the ELCA Clergy page the comments that police brutality is sparked because black people do not know how to behave and deserve whatever treatment they get.  This comment long since removed or deleted was posted on the same day that a young white male Lutheran decided to kill 9 African Americans in an AME church in Charleston, SC.  I know of stories of how persons of color were devalued by different expressions of this church.  One such example is the nearly five-year wait between seminary completion and ordination for women of color.

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This church is not without spot or blemish, but there is a growing segment of committed persons who seek equality and not superiority based on any human characteristic.  These reformers are the ones who will tear down dividing walls within our church and will be the reformers who will embrace the changes needed to continue to grow the global Lutheran church.  These people are the ones who truly live in the tradition of Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr.  These people continue to breathe new life into this church and understand the promise of ecclesia reformata semper reformanda.  They are not seeking change for the sake of change but for the realization of the beloved community, for the realm of God.  Paulo Freire reminds us, that we must have reflection before we act.  It is important for the church to examine itself, to reflect, and then adjust the rudder and sails of belief to make sure that we are going in the right direction.

The reformers of our church who seek to end hatred and bigotry within our church understand that the gospel message of Jesus was never intended to create economic elitism based on skin tone, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background.  Yet, somehow the departure from the gospel message of “love your neighbor” was witnessed in countless segregated white Lutheran congregations where persons of color were not allowed in or not welcomed if they came in.  These modern-day reformers have seen the malignant bigotry that causes the cancer of racism and the dementia of white supremacy and it makes them ill, ill enough to take a stand within the church against this evil.  They see how the church has normalized white supremacy and seek to expose it, name it, and dismantle it.

Again, from the book No Bigotry Allowed: “There are white people who are well intended who can grasp the horrors of enslavement intellectually. There are some white people who consciously endeavor to understand the full impact of racism in our culture, society, the world, and people of color. They are the ones who historically have given their lives in support of freedom and equality for all people. In the 60’s they were among the Freedom Riders and other supporters of justice, whose blood also spilled on the landscape of hope as they gave the ultimate sacrifice to bring humanity back into harmony.” [iii]

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Jean and Robert Graetz

Two such reformers within the Lutheran church are Robert and Jean Graetz.  I know that there have been thousands of persons who have fought and continue to fight for racial justice and equality. But, these two stand out because of their involvement as a white Lutheran pastor and his wife and their role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement during the 1950’s.  They took to heart that this church could not simply be a repository of 16th century values and aesthetics and that it must share the gospel message as one of hope and not simply of following traditions. The Graetzs, whose home was bombed on two occasions, were willing to risk their lives to live out their understanding of the theology of the cross.  They witnessed, that like Christ who stands with those who suffer we too must stand with them.  We must stand with those in the margins of our society, the victims of predatory public policies. We stand with our siblings not to offer charity that keeps people at the margins, but in a manner, that liberates, empowers and encourages them to become part of the center as equals.  Today the legacy of the Graetzs is institutionalized and serves as a reminder of what love in action looks like.  My prayer is that justice will also become fully institutionalized within the ELCA and not remain in the margins of polite talk, toothless resolutions, and well-meaning social statements.

The new reformers must continue to fully embrace what it means to dismantle a world organized around the elite status of materialism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy and fight the power that is designed to protect it. As the Lutheran church and specifically the ELCA, we must move our world to understand and embrace Jesus’ teachings on love, liberty, and salvation as the cornerstones of biblical teaching and Lutheran practice.  And when we do, then we will be the ones and those who follow us to keep the Reformation alive for another 500 years.

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pastorfotoRonald Bonner, is the pastor of Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Atlanta, GA, author of No Bigotry Allow Losing the Spirit of Fear: Towards the Conversation about Race and The Seat. And has recently been called as a Director of Evangelical Mission/ Assistant to the Bishop of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA

 

[i] Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord: Confessions of the Evangelical Church, Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1959, 328

 

[ii] Ronald Bonner, No Bigotry Allowed: Losing the Spirit of Fear, Towards the Conversation About Race, North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Publishing, 2015, 49

 

[iii] Ibid., 48

 

Closed for Remodeling – Rev. Lydia Hernández-Marcial

Linda Thomas at CTS eventThe people of Puerto Rico have had hard days of late. Buffeted by Hurricane Irma and then brutally inundated by Hurricane Maria, the island has had little to no rest in recent days. Most of the people are without power, flooding has hundreds of miles of vital roads and supply lines, relief efforts are slowed by the weakened infrastructure, and adding insult to injury, our president has derided the heroic efforts of the Mayor of San Juan – not to mention the island’s entire population of 3.5 million US citizens – as a paltry excuse for his slow response to the suffering of these brave boricuas. Puerto Rican PhD student Lydia Hernandez-Marcial shares what has been sustaining her on these hard days, and gives us a reminder that even when the relief efforts for the island have officially ended, that there will still be much to do to ensure the freedom and prosperity of her people. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”

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By the shore of Lake Michigan,

There I sat down and wept

when I remembered the beaches of Puerto Rico.

I hung my cuatro[1] up in the nearby trees

 Because there was no way make myself happy again.

How could I possibly sing

our people’s songs on foreign soil?

It has been twelve days since Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico. I started to write this piece three days after Maria hit my island, seeking a way to reflect on the event as a Bible scholar.

But I gave up.

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Satelite photo of the full size of Hurricane Maria – note the green outline of the island to the left of the storm’s eye.

Today I cannot write as a PhD candidate, nor as a Bible scholar. Today I am just a brokenhearted woman bracing for the aftermath. It’s hard to put into words what you are feeling and thinking in a language foreign to your heart. As a Diasporican—a Puerto Rican living in the diaspora—this category 4 hurricane not only wreaked havoc on Puerto Rican but also on the entire being of the many boricuas[2] who, like me, have said goodbye to their homeland and their loved ones.

So now, our thoughts and hearts are many miles away from where we are now.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are part of our reality. Even though the hurricane season starts in June and ends in November, September is the month where a large number of tropical cyclones often hit Puerto Rico. I was back home for a short vacation when Irma’s trajectory threatened to pass across our archipelago. Most of us had never heard of a Category 5 hurricane coming close to our country before, so even meteorologists were afraid of Irma. And even if it didn’t hit as roughly as expected, nevertheless it knocked over and uprooted trees, caused some flooding, and left the island without electricity.

And two weeks later, the service was still down in many places when Hurricane Maria then hit Puerto Rico.

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Night-time shots of Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria.

María was the first hurricane I experienced from afar. What can you do to help when you are miles away from home? Frustration and powerlessness were transformed into prayer for the well-being of my people, especially for those who waited until the last minute to make themselves safe, hoping that María would steer away from Puerto Rico as Irma did. But on September 20, the day when María paid her unwelcome visit to my country, I had no other choice but to wait and hope that no one would die, but unfortunately, there were casualties.

Eventually, I found out that my family was alive and well, but some of my closest friends suffered the consequences of María’s fury. In spite of the sense of frustration that being far away produces, I found a way to help: I became the hands and eyes of my family and friends. I spent the past several days connecting people—even those who I have never met before—with their relatives and friends. With no internet connection and a limited cellphone coverage, friends whose families have lost almost everything needed help with the paperwork needed to request FEMA assistance. Even for me, here in Chicago, contacting FEMA has been a challenge, but it is still the least I can do.

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Mayor of San Juan, Maria Yelin Cruz, comforts a resident at a senior residence facility last week.

Communication with the island is difficult—sometimes even impossible, but every call serves as a refreshing oasis to those living  the bleakness of the post-Maria Puerto Rico. Prayers are necessary and important, but my people also need to see these prayers transformed into tangible actions.

I have heard numerous stories that testify to how these prayers became acts of solidarity and support – faith in action amid the process of coping with the hardships of the hurricane’s aftermath. A person sharing a bottle of water with a neighbor. Communities gathering what they have to eat, cooking a meal and distributing among them. Someone bringing a cup of coffee to a worker fixing the post lines. Bakeries giving bread to people in distress for free. These stories made my heart sing for a while.

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Volunteers sorting supplies at a Hurricane Maria relief warehouse in Massachusetts.

Nonetheless, after six days of watching the tragedy unfold from the diaspora, the comfort of knowing that my family is alive is fading. The joy of helping my fellow boricuas and of listening to those stories of hope has transformed into a deep uneasiness, sadness, sorrow, and anger. Images of the horrific devastation of my country are heart wrenching. It is like sitting in the front row watching a re-enactment of Job 1. Just when you are trying to process what your eyes are witnessing, another visual messenger of calamity comes through, underscoring the precariousness of the situation. And with devastation everywhere, Puerto Rico is like the valley of dry bones of Ezekiel 37. It is hard to escape from the sense of frustration and impotence. We, the diaspora Puerto Rican’s, are experiencing survivor’s guilt as well.

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A convoy of relief supplies being lead into the mountain regions by the Puerto Rican National Guard.

I look back and recall how my people have coped with the effects of past hurricanes. Boricuas are a resilient breed. We have re-emerged after many hardships. However, Puerto Rico has never experienced a catastrophe such like this. The tenacious spirit of many manifests itself in their will to rise from the ashes like the phoenix. The question is, though, is such a rebirth truly possible? Irma and María have ravaged my Borikén in a time of severe financial crisis, exposing it’s shaky infrastructure, its lack of political power, and all the issues brought by the imposition of the PROMESA Act as well as the governance of the Fiscal Control Board.

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Mass protest and general strike in Puerto Rico in protest of austerity measures imposed by the United States government.

Puerto Rico faces the challenge of rebuilding when its population is suffering from substantial cuts to the pensions of retired teachers and government employees, personnel reductions in all areas of work and life, an increase in the cost of utilities, to name only a few.

Personally, my main concern is for those who the more vulnerable in society: nursing homes, the elderly, the disadvantaged, and the numerous poverty-stricken communities which the hurricane left in ruins. Hurricane María left exposed an existing inequality that cannot be ignored anymore. Is the help coming from the Puerto Ricans in the diaspora and many other people across the world enough? Will the aid reach the needy on time?

Desperation and hopelessness start to make home in the soul of both the boricuas in the island and those living far away from the homeland. We are like Judah in times of the prophet Ezekiel (see Ezek. 37:11). I know that the Puerto Rico I left behind this past September 13 will not be the same that I will find the next time I land in San Juan. Right now it seems that my island has become a re-enactment of the valley of dry bones of Ezekiel 37.

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Can those bones live again?

I want to believe that our resilience and good nature, together with the aid of those who walk with us in solidarity, will make us rise from the crisis and start over again as a new people. I need to believe that the breath of God will bring my people back to life. I hope that sometime in the near future I hear again the sound of the cuatro together with the sound of the coquí[3] in the middle of the boricua night.

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6E8A4E9E-C4D5-4222-8624-6F0BF244C387Lydia Hernández-Marcial was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is an ordained minister from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as well as a PhD student in Hebrew Bible at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. both an official scholar with the Hispanic Theological Initiative, as well as a doctoral fellow of the Forum for Theological Education. Her favorite pastime is traveling around Puerto Rico enjoying its beautiful scenery and its food.

[1] A traditional Puerto Rican string instrument.

[2] Another name for Puerto Ricans. The Taíno indians called Puerto Rico Borikén.

[3] A small Puerto Rican frog

Taking a Knee, Then and Now – Prof. Reggie Williams

ThomasLindaOver the weekend, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a criticism of kneeling, protesting NFL stars – trying to conflate athletes protesting violence against black people with disrespect for the country and our military. In response, members of roughly two dozen NFL teams either knelt, locked arms, showing solidarity not only with the suffering of black people of the United States, but Colin Kaepernick – the originator of the protests. Blog contributor Rev. Dr. Reggie Williams weighs in on the conversation. Please read, comment, and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what would be his last sermon, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was there to help promote the cause of black sanitation workers who were on strike in resistance to the brutal injustices they were subjected to at work. At stake was an understanding of the very notion of human being that would include black people. The striking sanitation workers were seen carrying signs that read “I Am A Man,” in opposition to the practice of reducing the black sanitation workers to treatment reserved for animals.  

If we are human beings, than black people should be seen as welcomed to the Civil Rights that correspond with the condition of all human beings within the democratic republic of the United States. One of the common methods of protest during the Civil Rights Movement available to the sanitation workers was marching. But city officials in Memphis were opposed to their marching, as were the people of Montgomery Alabama, thirteen years earlier, and all other towns and cities where the Movement sought to arouse the conscience of the nation during it’s thirteen years of life.

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Memphis sanitation workers protesting in 1968.

The sanitation worker’s protest was illegal. It was in violation of a court ordered injunction put in place at the request of the city officials two years prior, forbidding municipal employees from just such protests. During his sermon, King appealed to democratic ideals that are understood to be core the nation when he said, “Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” Thirteen years earlier during the Montgomery bus boycott, peaceful protesters were also denounced as disturbers of the peace, and immoral. In Albany, Birmingham, Selma, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, protesters were described as lawbreakers, malcontents, anarchists, and un-American.

Opposition to Civil Rights protests was buttressed by lofty ideals like patriotism, law and order, and Christian piety. What’s not so clear is the way that those very ideals served to sharpen the blades of dehumanization and oppression.  In his book An American Dilemma, published in 1944, the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal examined the paradox of a slave-owning nation that espoused lofty ideals like liberty and justice for all. What he found was that the lofty ideals were part of the problem. In order to hold on to slavery and their lofty ideals, Myrdal claims that racism became the mechanism that held it all together.

Racism was the creation of a sub-human category, a hierarchy of being with white at the top, and black as the anchor. The category of the human did not apply to black people.  We were partially human, which is to say, sub-human. That logic helped maintain the integrity of the lofty ideals in the practice of slavery, as “liberty and justice for all humans.” The place of the subhuman within a civilized democratic republic is one of subjugation to the civilized human—to whites—not co-participation in the democratic republic, or co-humanity. The greatness of this country was indeed in the practice of its democratic ideals, but they were sutured to a hegemonic notion of universal humanity. They were for whites only. Any protest from the racialized subject, from black people, is anarchy, or lawlessness and demands for equality are profane. And in a civilized Christian nation, such things are unheard of.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the movement for Black Lives that is demanding that police be held accountable for murdering unarmed black people.

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When Colin Kaepernick knelt on one knee during the national anthem at the beginning of football games, he was continuing the unfortunate, but still necessary historical protest for Civil Rights. His protest was peaceful, but that didn’t matter. It was on behalf of black life, rendered something other than human life. The protest was meant to draw attention to the concrete reality of brutal loss of life, and the injustice that allowed it all to happen without accountability from the nation’s justice system. His gesture of solidarity has cost him his job, and continues to be a source of disgust and vitriol.

 

Although the protest was to give attention to brutal injustice, opposition to Kaepernick is focused on concepts like disrespect for the national flag, and anti-America. Yet, like King, Kaepernick and other protesters recognize protest, as within the moral boundaries of the character of the U.S. that would distinguish this country from dictatorships and oppressive regimes, “The greatness of America is the right to protest for right!” With Kaepernick, and now many other professional athletes, showing solidarity with black people who are demanding co-humanity and police accountability has run headlong into the honor of the nation and its flag.

There’s something ironic and historical about that. Is it possible for black people to be perceived as co-human in this country? What does the nation stand for, with its lofty ideals?

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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., kneeling in prayer before a protest.

Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to the nations lofty ideals as the spokesperson for the civil rights movement. By doing so, he placed black people on moral ground not intended for us by the founding fathers who so shrewdly crafted that moral ground on the backs of enslaved black people. The fashioning of that ideological structure of white supremacy and black inhumanity, what I’m calling the national moral ground, is an historic act of violence, which makes sense of black suffering in the context of a nation whose laws and justice are for whites only.

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Jacksonville Jaguars kneeling at their game in London, England – one of many to do so in response to Twitter criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump.

That is the problem we face, today. Any protest, any perceived effort to move in a direction other than subjection to white supremacy, will be met with vitriol until the greatness of America is no longer tethered to white supremacy.


reggiewilliams-cropThe Rev. Dr. Reggie Williams before becoming Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary in 2012, he received his Ph.D. in Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2011. He earned a Master’s degree in Theology from Fuller in 2006 and a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Westmont College in 1995. Dr. Williams’ research interests are primarily focused on Christological hermeneutics, and Christian morality. He has a particular interest in how the Western-world understanding of Christianity has been calibrated to a false ideal that corresponds with racialized interpretations of humanity, morality, and Jesus. Dr. William’s book Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance (Baylor University Press, 2014) was selected as a Choice Outstanding Title in 2015, in the field of religion. The book is an analysis of the influence of exposure to Harlem Renaissance thought and worship at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist on the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, during his year of post-doctoral study at Union Seminary in New York, 1930-31. Dr. Williams’ research interests include theological anthropology, Christian ethics derived from interpretations of Jesus, race, politics and black church life. His current book project includes a religious critique of whiteness in the Harlem Renaissance.

The Nashville Statement, Faithfulness, and My Story – Troy Medlin

thomas110_1027092On Tuesday, August 29, 2017 a group of conservative Christian leaders released what they called The Nashville Statement, an attempt on their part to give public witness “to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture” – essentially declaring that it is impossible for anyone in the LGBTQAI+ to be a Christian. Critical response was rapid, as Christian leaders from a variety of communities condemned the document for its theological and Scriptural basis. This week’s author, Troy Medlin, however, frames his response as both a critique of the evangelical Christianity that formed him, as well as a life line to those who – like himself – struggled with their sexuality while being part of churches that would likely stigmatize them if they came forward. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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A few weeks ago, Southern Baptist and other Evangelical leaders, the president of my alma mater among them, composed and signed something called the Nashville Statement – the main message of this manifesto is basically that one cannot be both openly LGBTQ and Christian.

When I heard about it, I felt called to respond, but not by arguing hermeneutics or theology. I felt called to simply share my story as someone who has been impacted by some of the signers of the statement, is an openly gay seminarian, and who feels called to follow Jesus into the ministry.

It was among the Southern Baptists where I received my first formation – where I learned so many of the hymns that I still love, learned to love Scripture, where I fell in love again and again with the God revealed in Jesus, and this good news of grace that felt like fresh water to my weary soul. It was in this southern baptist church where I met dear saints who had traveled this journey of faith for much longer than I had and who inspired me to live a life of faithfulness, following Jesus no matter the cost.

It was these siblings in Christ who also encouraged me as I preached my first sermons.

I began preaching when I was 19, with no formal education, just a call and a passion. And, the people in this congregation affirmed my calling in such a beautiful way. They would encourage me to keep preaching and keep exploring this call to ministry and became dear to me.

Eventually I applied to Moody Bible Institute to continue to pursue this call to ministry. I spent the first part of my time at Moody commuting and continuing to preach and serve every now and then at my home church. But it was also at Moody, thanks to a good friend who shared part of his story with me, that I began to come to terms with something else that was just as true for me as this call to ministry, but that I hadn’t expressed before.

I was able to say for the first time that I was gay…

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In that moment I knew that whatever was going to happen in my life it was going to be informed by this – that I was gay –  and that moment felt holy, sacred, faithful. I felt free and liberated.

Shortly after that I began to experience some dissonance, for though on one hand I had been held and loved and accepted by God for who I was, on the other hand I was in a school where I could not be completely myself – where I had to be selective about who I shared this part of my story with. I had to deny these feelings that felt so intrinsic to me and so God given, that I wanted to spend my life in a covenantal, self giving, and committed relationship with another man and the fact that I felt convinced that I could in relationship with another man still image Christ and his church.

I had to wrestle with this conflict, between this peace I felt that I was blessed by God and the fact that, theologically, I was surrounded by people who had confirmed my calling to ministry and had taught me so much about what it means to be faithful – and yet who viewed my sexual orientation as a “struggle” that I had to deny and suppress

I had to wrestle with the fact that the Southern Baptist Church that had affirmed my calling, and had seen my gifts, who had let me preach, who had learned from my Bible studies, who I had prayed fervently with and for; these same people just would not understand.

They just did not have categories for who I was. It was simply confusing for them that someone who was so much like them, who shared so many of their values, and who had shared their same faith who also happened to be gay.

Moreover, I began to feel further isolated and on the margins as I slowly came to terms with my sexuality. I slowly began questioning some of my inherited theology around sexuality and other aspects of my faith. I tried to make sense of what was causing my cognitive dissonance. Despite the struggles I experienced throughout Bible College there were two things I just could not shake:

I was gay

And, I still felt called to be a pastor.

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The further I searched, prayed about, and discerned my sexuality, the more and more I felt confident that I was supposed to be a pastor – even when I thought it impossible.

There was this tension between what the Spirit was calling me to, and the communities who had given me so much – but I did not have the language to understand all I was experiencing.

As I was about to graduate college….as sort of a last attempt to remain in this inherited community, I attended a few sessions of a very mild type of reparative therapy known as healing prayer. It was here that I realized I was going to have to come out. I was going to have to live openly and honestly, and that denying my sexuality and denying myself intimate relationships with other men was not what God had called me to.

It was through something that was supposed to change my sexuality that God confirmed to me, that faithfulness was found in bringing all of myself to God.

And, so I began to come out to family and friends slowly and carefully, sharing that truth with those I loved and who loved me, and who had seen this calling to be a pastor grow inside of me.

And, in the process of coming out I tried one last time to shake this calling I had to be a pastor. Still maybe not fully believing that I could be openly gay and a pastor. I even applied for other jobs and thought that maybe it would be easier for me to not be a pastor, that is, not to work in the church.

The problem with that was there was always that still small voice, reminding me that I had been called; that God had made me to be a pastor. God had called me, with all of my story, in this body and everything that means…. to be a minister of the gospel.

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So, I came to seminary to further explore this call to ministry and to find a community where I could be fully myself and fully discern this call I had felt for the past 10 years.

The more I was honest about who I was, the more I embraced all of my story, even as I began dating another man, something happened:

I began to fall deeper in love with Jesus than I had in long time

My prayer life began to flourish again

My relationship with Scripture came to life.

My relationship with God was reborn.

And I felt more alive than ever when I was preaching.

This narrative is my response to the Nashville Statement and those who signed it – my story and how God’s faithfulness has proved itself in my life over and over again.

So to the supporters of the Nashville Statement, I say this: listen to my story. Listen to those like mine, look at our fruit, because Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.”

Let me, then, finish by talking directly to anyone who may be wrestling with his/her/their sexuality and are affiliated with Southern Baptist churches or other conservative spaces.

As a seminarian, a now-church intern, and as someone who still gets to preach, let me be one to tell you the deepest truth in the universe:

You are loved.

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To my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer siblings:

You are loved.

The God who made everything, made you.

God made you in all of your uniqueness.

No statement, no one person, no church, no denomination can take this truth away from you or change what is most true about you.

And finally – we need you, the church needs you.

For as the apostle Paul says, “…In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor statements, or churches, or pastors, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I am here as proof that it all belongs, it gets so much better, and God is more faithful and more loving than we could ever imagine.

Amen.


troyTroy has a bachelor’s degree from Moody Bible Institute and is an ecumenical seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He is also currently serving as a ministry intern at Urban Village Church in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. He is a progressive evangelical who is passionate about helping people ask new questions and creating space for transformation. He believes that intentional encounters with people who are different have the power to change us and set us free. Troy currently lives in Hyde Park and enjoys eating breakfast at diners, politics, liturgy, 80’s classic rock and talking endlessly about how much he loves his hometown of Sandwich, Illinois.

 

What I’ve Learned Since Graduating Seminary… – Elyssa Salinas, M.Div.

Linda Thomas at CTS eventThe beginning of seminary is such a powerful experience – the fact that you’ve been recognized by your community as have a call, the knowledge that you’re following the call of God to serve the church, the intense coursework, the community. Yet in the middle of this seminarians – let alone anyone seeking to serve the Church more fully – often ignore the way that God’s call works distinctly in each student, impeding their growth in faith as opposed to strengthening it. This week’s post by Elyssa Salinas, Ph.D. Candidate at Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary, vulnerably recounts her own journey from divinity studies to Ph.D. work, and the pratfalls she had to overcome in order to understand God’s true call for her, not the call she expected. Read, comment, and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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This year I’m starting my second year in a doctoral program, and seeing the new students enter the building has made me think back to when I started my seminary experience. I did not understand that seminary was a different kind of experience, one that shaped and changed me more than anything else. Seminary did not just give me tools for ministry, it also made me see true brokenness.

Nobody tells you on your tours that many people in seminary, future leaders of the church, are the ones that need guidance. I should know; I was one of them. I had this beautiful vision of a life in ministry where I was going to write sermons, make visits, and live a simple life. I had a scholarship that named me a future leader and a call story that I could whip out at parties. All of this made me feel like I was ready for what my classes had to offer, but what I was not ready for was the way that my faith was truly tested.

Throughout my time in seminary, I doubted and questioned my call, but I was too afraid to talk about it. I was afraid that if I spoke too loudly my scholarship would be taken away or that my doubts meant I could not hear God’s call clearly. Instead of voicing my questions, I buried myself in school work, socializing, and never admitting the worry I truly had. I felt that I had a call to ministry, but I only thought that ministry equaled pastor. Whenever I heard about other possibilities, they were shown to me as a stepping stone or second-rate version of being “the Reverend.” I came from an undergrad that housed both supporters and nay-sayers of me being a pastor. My school was a pan-Lutheran institution where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) mingled and met. In this space I was told multiple times, in not so many words (because church people have to be nice), that my call was invalid because I am a woman. This fueled my fire to be the best, but it blinded me to what I truly felt.

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I was so afraid of not hearing God correctly that I neglected my own intuition. This was intensified when I stepped into seminary because I did not want to make myself vulnerable to any more doubt. It seemed like everyone heard their call from the womb, only some people took a little longer to respond. What I did not know at that time was that the Holy Spirit dances throughout our lives, and our vocations are numerous. The wind of the Spirit never stops, so we need to keep feeling Her on our bodies, and respond when She blows us in a new direction. God is calling us throughout our lives, and She will make us shift and grow.

Therefore, Lesson #1 I learned from seminary: You need to listen to your own call, and ministry does not have to equal pastor.

While in seminary, I opened myself up to a lot of painful experiences and toxic behaviors, what I saw though is that I was not the only one. There is no need for me to expound on anyone else’s story, simply listen for a reference to a “friend” in your pastor’s weekly sermon. That friend is usually a lot closer than any of us want to admit.

Seminary gave me a wrestling ring to battle my demons, but I did not face them head on. I wiggled away, hiding in shadows, hoping that my committee would never see the real me. I was hurting and unable to fix it. I was in pain and unwilling to share it. I was broken and ashamed to admit it. Wrestling with my demons was too scary, so instead I ran towards toxic behaviors and secrecy. I think I tried to be the model of the wounded healer, but I forgot that I needed to care for my own wounds before trying to help anyone else. I was leaving a trail of blood from my open wounds, and not taking the time to let them scar over. Scarring is a painful process, but a necessary one. They never let you forget, but they allow you to move on.

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There is a great deal of brokenness inside seminary walls, more than anyone wants to admit. Wrestling with God, we are all Jacob, and while we admit it during our call stories, we don’t acknowledge the wounds that aren’t healed. Many of us are drawn to seminary because of a great deal of pain: pain that we’ve experienced or pain that we’ve witnessed. There is something within us that hopes for something different, a way to heal, so we cling to our faith. We feel Christ’s fear in Gethsemane and ask to have this cup taken from us. We are broken and afraid to confront it. We cling to the cross, and, like Peter, deny that we even know Christ because how could anyone save us?

I remember crying in chapel more times than I can count when I was in my deepest pain. I kept asking for forgiveness and my brokenness to heal. I kept asking because I never thought it possible. My brokenness felt too far gone, and I could not imagine a God who still loved me. When I finally started admitting this pain, I was able to confide in a therapist and begin to heal. My brokenness is still part of me, but it no longer rules me. It is a scar that is part of my tapestry, part of my story, and it strengthens me. My scars make me remember the pain of the past and the knowledge that I am stronger than I realize.

So Lesson #2 I learned from seminary: I am broken, but I can be healed if I acknowledge and participate.

Bringing the conversation to the present, this past week has made me reflect on whether seminary taught me anything about what do to in the face of evil. When people in power go after the vulnerable among us, what, as leaders in ministry are we to do? What are we as Christians to do?

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I will admit to being paralyzed this week beyond hitting the “share” button on social media. Fear crippled me because, as a Latina, the DACA decision was going after my community and my family. DACA is about more than immigration reform, it is about acknowledging someone’s humanity, and chance to thrive. I cried more than once because throughout it all, I felt helpless. It is difficult to have hope in a country that is steeped in stories of blood, and death in the name of God; a history of colonization, assimilation, and decimation for an extra plot of land or a greater slice of the American pie.

But we need to start asking ourselves, what can grow in soil steeped in blood? What can flourish when the only light has been lies? What is there to trust when Lady Liberty herself may have been white all along?

Lesson #3 I learned from seminary: Stop hiding behind fear, it is time to get your hands dirty in the soil of justice.

This is a terrifying time, and one that has easily paralyzed many of us into silence. But people are hurting, and it is not going to stop unless we do something.

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Clergy and lay religious leaders marching in #Charlottesville, VA.

We have a call to serve God’s people, and that phone is ringing off the hook right now!

Whatever your God-given gifts are, use them to speak out, organize, and share the amazing truth of the Gospel.

The truth that love is a verb, a call to act and it is present whenever we respond to that call.


19030606_10210062178447962_3224229950823408292_n.jpgElyssa Salinas believes that her theology must touch her body; therefore, her scholarship encompasses her experience as a Mexican American and as a woman. Utilizing her own body as a crux, her research embraces sex and body-positive theology in order to combat a culture of disgrace. Currently beginning her second year at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Elyssa continues to write for www.boldcafe.org and on her own blog Coffee Talk With E, and performs poetry throughout the city of Chicago.

On Immigration and ‘Putting-Up’ with Oppression – Francisco Herrera, M.Div.

Linda Thomas at CTS eventLate this past Sunday evening, and after several suspenseful days, the White House began actively hinting at their plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative (DACA), suggesting that it might be extended only by about six months or so in order for Congress to pass some kind of immigration reform tied to either the US government’s debt ceiling or funding for Trump’s border wall. DACA is a popular program which allowed those who came to the United States as children of undocumented parents to have a measure of protection from deportation. The shock of this announcement moved swiftly and one of our regular contributors, blog manager Francisco Herrera was quick to respond. Both resigned and defiant, he reminds us that immigrants do not need, nor want, pity – rather incarnate solidarity and support, and gives some practical suggestions that are as easily applied as they are Lutheran. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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As you can probably imagine, like most Latinos in the United States these days (let alone countless undocumented immigrants from all over the world) late Sunday evening was a blur of rage and fear for me. That night, the White House finally broke weeks of tension and began leaking to the media that President Trump would likely not renew the Deferred Action Child Arrival program (instituted by President Obama in 2014) for anything more than six months, as opposed to continuing it. The news hit the country like a neutron bomb – the external structures of the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country and those who love them somehow miraculously standing and functioning despite all life and hope within us viciously vaporized. I was fortunate that my colleagues in #decolonizeLutheranism let me draft our official statement. But the first rush of despair soon passed and, as is always the case, within short order an ancient and eerily familiar calm settled over me.

Because let’s face it, what else is new?

Seriously.

What else is new?

Living in a country where millions of individuals denigrate you for speaking Spanish – never mind that your people have been speaking Spanish in these lands for close to three hundred years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence?

Being in elementary school and having to sing a patriotic hymn about a country that goes “from sea to shining sea” – even though one third of that country was violently torn from Mexico under the most pathetic of justifications, while the entire thing was stolen from its myriad indigenous people through a combination of disease, betrayal, and war?

That likes to call itself  ‘America’ despite the fact that this word covers two massive continents with 28.4% of all land on planet and more than 40 countries and territories filled with people who are just as equally American?

But you know, I don’t mind.

Really on some level I don’t mind, because despite all the ways that whiteness and white supremacy have doggedly impeded the dreams and aspirations of untold numbers of immigrants and their decendents, I’ll know we’ll be fine.

I mean, we’re still here – right?

Because if it’s one thing that immigrants of all times and all places know what to do it’s aguantar – a marvelous little Spanish verb that means ‘to endure,’ ‘to hold on for dear life,’ even ‘to put up with.’ The noun form ‘el aguante’ is equally pretty brilliant – meaning ‘resilience,’ ‘endurance,’ ‘resistance,’ even ‘guts’ or ‘nerve,’ similar to the US slang word moxie or the Yiddish chutzpah.

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L to R: René Pérez Joglar aka “Residente,” and Eduardo José Cabra Martínez aka “Visitante” – their stage names a play on immigrant visa statuses world-wide – ‘resident’ or ‘visiting.’

Calle 13, a music duo out of Puerto Rico, has even written an excellent song about it, simply titled ‘El Aguante,’ and it’s chorus perfectly describes the attitude of many who have come to our shores seeking a better life, their steps strengthened and steadied by a mix of resignation and fortitude:

Por lo que fue y lo que pudo ser

Por lo que hay y lo que puede faltar

Por lo que venga y por este instante

Levanta el vaso y a brindar por el aguante! 

¡A brindar por el aguante!

(keep reading for translation*)

Because even though there is always plenty of scholarship money for already well-connected white students that want to get any kind of degree and never enough for people like us, we’ll still sweat in dish-rooms, teach adjunct courses, sweep floors late at night and work four jobs because we know if it worked for our ancestors it will work for us too.

And even though you sent a ship of our family members back to Europe to die in death camps and gas chambers, we will make here a life of beauty and abundance – despite the sideways glances and questionable jokes –  because we know that the Living God has our backs in part because you so readily stab them.

And we stay because, as that prophet James Baldwin so brutally remarked we have the advantage of seeing who you are and what you do clearly while you don’t really know much of anything about us – and this knowledge gives us a terrifying advantage – a reservoir of insight into the workings of white supremacy and how to protect ourselves from it.

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Arial view the ICE raid of the Agriprocessors Inc. facility in Pottsville, Iowa on May 12, 2008. 389 undocumented workers were arrested from five different countries – 18 of them were juveniles.

So therefore when horrors like the MOVE bombing or or the Postville raids occur we’re not really surprised. Charlottesville  may have put a lot of otherwise supportive white people on the defensive, but if your people would have lived through Wounded Knee and the Trail of Tears you similarly would have known for hundreds of years the orgasmic delight white supremacy gets over the violent exploitation of countless innocents and have long had multiple plans of action.

Having your ancestors sold on auction blocks, also for hundreds of years, kind of prepares you for the tragic inevitability of death and destruction at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect you, motivated by the sick wiles of people you didn’t vote for – or even did vote for. And just as science has shown that trauma actually alters human DNA, our readiness to both stand up to and suffer these attacks is hardwired into us and always gets us through.

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However, it certainly would be nice to have a little help in the fight. So if any of you Christian leader types are reading this, and especially if you’re Lutheran, pay close attention – because wonderfully enough, the classic Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms can give a pretty solid confessional foundation for how we respond to these problems in our days.

Though often used as an excuse to keep the Church and church leaders “out of politics” and focused only on a bloodless notion of salvation and sacrament, Luther indeed had another intent for it. For as someone who stood toe to toe with the Holy Roman Emperor Carlos V himself and said “Here I stand,” the Reformer understood there are times that faith leaders must stand against the power of the state – especially when the church is called by God to defend its people from the forces of oppression. 

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In her recent book, Resisting Structural Evil, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda points out that if white folks want to become serious accomplices in the battle against structural oppression, you need to learn from people in the struggle as opposed to about them – to take a few hits on the jaw, to lose sleep, the compromise your relationship and reputation to the powerful.

For certainly advocating for and assisting the undocumented in their struggles with governmental authorities it’s a great way to begin learning something from them.

So first, get connected to justice orgs that advocate for and protect the undocumented.  If you want to take it up a step, the next thing you can do is advocate for your synod to declare itself a sanctuary synod – as we see in the Sierra Pacific Synod, the Southwest California Synod, the Oregon Synod, the New England Synod and the Greater Milwaukee Synod. If your congregation is in close proximity, let alone in the middle of, an immigrant community and you don’t have any mission outreach to them, start one. Any use of your power and presence in order to protect the innocent is always needed.

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En la Cena ecológica del Reino – Cerezo Barredo

And if you really want to learn something from especially undocumented Latinos – often the first victims of these deportation frenzies –  take it a step further and do something to immerse yourself in the soul and context of Latinos in this country.

See  about signing up for the Spanish for Ministry courses available at an ELCA seminary. Go down to Austin, Texas and baptize yourself in the realities of the Borderlands between the US and Mexico through the auspices of the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest –  they have special intensive programs on specific themes in January and May and June.

And when you do this, do it as a labor of love, because though members of these communities may be wary of you and treat you with suspicion (and can you blame them?), working your way through their suspicions – even their indifference – will eventually reveal to you a likely never-before-experienced manifestation of God’s love and grace that will transform everything about you.

Everything about you.

And then when white people learn to struggle, sing, and dance with our immigrant kindred as they work through the obstacles of their lives – be they from Honduras or Libya or Venezuela or Syria or Mexico or wherever – they will eventually understand more fully why it is we keep going the way we do – and learn something about el aguante in the process – and why this resilience is so important to the faith of countless immigrants of countless religions all over the world.

*For that which was, and that which could have been

For that which is, when what we want cannot be

For what is coming, and right now in this moment

Lift high all your glasses! Raise a toast to our resilience!

Raise a toast to our resilience!

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Praise Dancing – Charles Harvey (2008)

Because it is through the seemingly endless struggle, where triumphs are often few and fleeting, that all of the little ways that the devil preys upon our souls and our communities fall from us like parasitic bugs in the caustic gas of a delousing chamber. And it may burn a little bit, but since we’ve long learned to squeeze our eyes and our lungs shut, hold our breath a long time, when we come through – and we always come through – we are just that much stronger, that much braver, and that much more saturated with God’s love that even the longest march to freedom and righteousness seems but a pleasant stroll – relishing in the company of our loved ones, singing and dancing on the way to the cross and beyond.


421302_4275580040705_820243508_nBefore coming to Chicago Francisco Herrera studied classical music (viola and orchestra conducting) in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and then Geneva, Switzerland. After feeling the call to ministry at his home church in Geneva, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva, he returned to the US to enter seminary in 2005, completing his M.Div. from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2012. Since beginning his Ph.D studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC)  in Fall of 2013, he has also been developing his skills as a seminary instructor at LSTC, Wartburg Theological Seminary, and the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest. And when he isn’t doing any of those things, polymath and scatterbrain that he is, Francisco likes to write worship and devotional music, blogs at www.loveasrevolution.blogspot.com, tweets at @PolyglotEvangel, and relishes in his duties as the Convener of #decolonizeLutheranism.