As a Latino – Abel Arroyo

Linda Thomas at CTS eventThis week I am teaching an intensive course called Identity and Difference: Theological Reflection on Race/Ethnicity; Gender/Sexuality; Class/Political Economy or Theological Reflection on Intersectionality. Our purpose is to critically investigate the concept of identity by reading primary sources on the categories of race, gender, sexuality and class, and our goal is to explore the ways that the scholars we read and we ourselves address contemporary challenges of racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism/homophobia. Part of the job of being a leader in a Public Church is to develop alternative models for the transformation of religious institutions for witness in the world, and by doing so push religious communities towards becoming spaces of greater inclusion and welcome.

As a compliment to this class, today we will be featuring a marvelous blog post by recent LSTC graduate Abel Arroyo Traverso. A reflection upon his life as a Latino, as well as his time in seminary, he gives us a good look at what it means to deal with intersectionality, whiteness, and what it means to self-affirm. Read comment and share!

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


 

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Street fair in Miami.

While at LSTC, as a Latino has been one of the phrases that I’ve learned to say almost compulsively. As a Latino has become a kind of mantra, a battle cry, as well as gospel and a grounding phrase. Living and serving in Chicago, I learned that the only things that are acknowledged by others are those that are said bluntly and loudly, and as a Latino is the start of my journey into that practice of self-affirmation.

Timely affirming one or more of my identities – such as man, cisgender, queer, Latino, and beloved child of God, to name a few – became a need for the first time in class, when I learned in an Old Testament class, that the professor wouldn’t grade one of my papers because “it was too culturally biased” to which I replied “well, yes, they all are.” I got a passing grade. That was good enough.

 

And this was when I learned, vividly, that as much as academia tries to break the elements of my identity down – my gender, my sexuality, my ethnic back-ground, immigration and economic status – in order to quantify and qualify who I am, they can’t. All of these over-lap, in classic intersectionality, creating a web of privilege and marginalization that will be a permanent part of my life (for example, I am an immigrant and suffer because of racism, but as an immigrant who is now a naturalized citizen of the United States I have unquestionable advantages over someone who was where I was one year ago, or who has no documents at all). But acknowledging was, sometimes, too hard for the people in school.

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From then on, I learned that in academia the default was white, the normal was US upper middle class. I wasn’t any of those things, so by reclaiming my own labels, I embarked in a journey of creation and reinvention.

As a Latino, I learned to claim my roots as not only welcomed in the ELCA, but to recognize them as necessary for its survival. This also means that as a Christian, I bring particular gifts to the body of Christ, and as a person looking to be ordained in the ELCA as a minister of Word and Sacrament, I bring into the conversation a gift of bridging cultures.

As a Latino, I learned that talking about how down one is with the idea of community doesn’t mean that a person is actually willing to be in community. I learned that it’s easier for people to interact with my multitude of identities through an academic filter rather than acknowledging that as a person, I have specific needs as real as my need for air and water, and just as necessary for my survival. 

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LSTC students and faculty traveling in India.

As a future pastor, and as someone who is expected to do competent theological reflection, I learned that I will always need to educate people about my cultural understanding of community, accompaniment, who Christ and Jesus are, and why those labels carry a deep significance for me and my community.

As a Latino, I learned that it is my responsibility to remind students, professors, pastors, and authorities that Latinx, Liberation, Mujerista and Queer, are no longer terms, theories, and theologies to be examined and approached as a distant other, but rather, they are just as valid and should be considered just as seriously in a classroom, parish, and synod as any – or could I perhaps dare to dream, over- exclusively white theology.

As a Latino I’m not only Latino, and as much as I AM Latino, I am any and all of my intersecting identities as well. Fully and unashamedly.

I learned that as a Latino the church needs my experience, my knowledge and my whole self to survive. I am willing to give it my all for my call, a call that is God given. What I won’t let happen is let myself become a vehicle for the dominant culture to perpetuate the discounting of the Latinx experience of God, and the multitude of gifts the Latinx community bring.

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Me and my beloved parents.

As a Latino, I learned that my theology is formed in community, that it’s multidisciplinary, that my theology is one grounded in liberation and the cross, and as a pastor my strength is the strength that comes from my community, and the Holy Spirit that works through it.

I learned that I can navigate spirituality not as a trend to shop for the spiritual practice of the month, but as a reality that connects me to my ancestors, a reality that allows me to access the wisdom of those who came before me, to know that listening to the songs of creation is not pagan but it’s recognizing God’s voice ringing through the fullness of the cosmos.

I learned that embracing ambiguity is not only good because Lutheranism and Luther embrace ambiguity, but also because that’s what the spirit inspires in me, to look for the ambiguities. I am called to be a witness where some people think that it’s a waste of time to witness. I learned to know God not only as creator and father but as God of many and all things, journeys, and times.

God of everything good and delicious.

God of every pain and indulgence.

God of every breath.

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I believe in the sacredness of my skin and my accent, in the holiness of my shortcomings, I believe that God prefers me, as one of the poor, and that I should never be ashamed of that.

As a Latino I believe in engaging my feelings. I administer my time in a different way and prioritize relationship to punctuality. I believe in ranking my priorities in a different way than my white colleagues, and that’s okay. I believe in standing up for myself, but I will always be more willing and ready to stand up for someone else, which is why I need to trust that my community has my back.

In my time at LSTC, as a Latino I’ve experienced a number of realities, a multitude of spaces, people, classes, services, parties, meals, hugs, tears, laughs, and tea. As I prepare to move on from this part of my education, I believe that the God who brought me here will never ever abandon me.

As a Latino, I believe this. I can do no other.


11218883_10207263354805841_6667861799582009906_n.jpgAbel Arroyo is a graduate from The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Originally from Perú, his journey has taken him to explore almost all of Central and North America (no love for Canada yet). He has spent parts of his journey in Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico as well as living in Washington state, Arizona, and California. A bona fide wanderer who struggles with linear time as an absolute, he is currently in Phoenix, Arizona where he journeys with the Queer, Latino and Homeless communities of Central Phoenix – as well as the occasional suburbanite. All are welcome.

Zacchaeus and Turning from Complicity – Matthew Zemanick, M.Div. student, LSTC

thomas110_1027092“Zacchaeus was a wee little man / And a wee little man was he / He climbed up in a sycamore tree / For the Lord he wanted to see.”

Thus begins the popular children’s song, based on one of the most memorable stories in the Gospel of Luke, the conversion of Zacchaeus. But for its popularity, there is a great deal this story has to teach everyone, not just children. M.Div. senior at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Matthew Zemanick, delves into some of these layers in this post – explicating how Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus brings justice to the world by transforming those with power and privilege. Read, comment, and share!

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


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‘Zacchaeus’ by Joel Whitehead. 

I believe the praxis of deconstructing the role of white supremacy in the life of white people is a doxological – a praise-filled – response to Jesus’ call for repentance. In the context of the ELCA, it is a faithful contextualization of Article XII of the Augsburg Confession, which understands repentance as a two-fold process. The first is the feeling of remorse (contrition) for violating God’s teaching.[1] The second is accepting, by faith the gospel, that through Christ sins are forgiven and out of this faithful consciousness of God’s grace, one’s repentance bears fruit in the form of good works.[2]

One of my favorite Bible Stories is demonstrative of repentance and salvation (healing) for those in positions of power – the salvation of Zacchaeus. As Jesus and his crowd of disciples were approaching Jericho, Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus better, and to hide from the crowd. He was scared of the people whom he had extorted as a tax-collector, and he knew Jesus had criticized the accumulation of wealth. But a part of him was curious because Jesus dined with the tax collectors too. Perhaps Zacchaeus thought that it would be the highest honor to dine with the Messiah, the one who would restore the Davidic Splendor of Israel.

As Jesus approached Jericho, he saw Zacchaeus hiding in the tree. Jesus hollered up to Zacchaeus, “Come down from that tree! I will be eating dinner with you tonight.”

 

The crowd was incensed that Jesus would dare eat with the man who had robbed them of their livelihood; a man who had taken even food from their children. They yelled, “Sinner! You have violated God’s command to love your neighbor, and blessings to the poor!”

Once, Zacchaeus had climbed down, and greeted Jesus, repented saying, “I have indeed defrauded my community. I will return four times the amount than I had taken. Moreover, I will take half of what I have left and give it to the poor.”

Jesus addressed Zacchaeus and the entire crowd, “Amen! Healing has indeed come to this community! I have come to seek out, heal, and save the lost.”[3]

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Interpreting this story from my multi-unal identity in the United States, I can see myself in the crowd and as Zacchaeus. However, if I am specifically speaking from my white identity within the white Christianity of the ELCA, I must see myself as Zacchaeus. My silence has affirmed disembodied, overly spiritualized, Christian discourses because I feared the consequence of challenging the theology of those in power. My silence has contributed to ELCA structures which economically, socially, and theologically marginalize people of color, and LGBTQ+ community operating outside of homonormativity. White complacency with the ELCA means continued divestment from economically depressed communities and a radical embrace of white supremacist corporate business models.

Repentance (literally ‘turning’ in Hebrew and ‘transformation’ in Greek) happens when one encounters the embodied Christ in the world, just as it happened with Zacchaeus once he listened to Jesus’ compassionate call, and responded despite his shame and the crowd’s heckling.

Zacchaeus had to give up living as a thief with Roman credentials, and restore the community’s abundance which he had privatized.

Through the lens of Article XII of the Augsburg Confession, Zacchaeus expressed contrition, the feeling of guilt, when he climbed up the tree. Zacchaeus sought the forgiveness of sins offered by the Messiah, but could not stand with his community. His sin (missing the mark, straying from the path) had damaged his connection with the people in the crowd. Climbing a tree to see the Messiah, Zacchaeus acknowledged he could not authentically stand with the crowd, but indicated his desire to encounter Jesus and his disciples.

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This indication that Zacchaeus desired to see Jesus was a faithful response to the role of the Messiah – grace incarnate – to grant the forgiveness of sins. His faith that Jesus would forgive his sins (participation in the oppression of his community), and thereby reconcile his relationship with his community, allowed Zacchaeus to be “delivered from his terror”[4] of retribution and respond to Jesus’ call. By faith Zacchaeus did get down from that tree and encountered the Gospel embodied in Jesus the Christ. By faith the Gospel was materialized in the form of redistribution of communal property so that all may live in God’s abundance. By faith Zacchaeus’ repentance – contrite, faithful, turning to God’s embodied presence – bore fruit: restoration of privatized creation to abundant communal life. The souls of Jericho were not the saved at the expense of their bodies; the salvation of their souls was embodied in their community.

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So how can a white church like the ELCA repent?

What will the fruit of our repentance look like?

First we must ask ourselves, “are we terrified?” There is a lot of reason to be terrified. White supremacy led to the election of a man who ran on a xenophobic, overtly white supremacist campaign to the US Presidency.  The ELCA’s white supremacy produced Dylan Roof. The more we deny the terror of our own sin, the more we will produce terrorism.[5]

The oppressors have fear, hiding like Zacchaeus. They (I, speaking from my whiteness) wonder, “where will we meet Jesus, the Gospel?” It is not in theories or sophisticated theo-philosophy, where we risk the idolatry of our own ideas. Rather, Jesus meets us, embodied, in the suffering of the world. The Incarnate God calls us down from our fear and our encounter will change the way we live. For those of us whose privilege, wealth, and comfortability are reliant upon the exploitation of our neighbors, an embodied response to God’s call means giving it up for the sake of abundant community. The deconstruction of white supremacy may begin with understanding its history and becoming contrite. However, it ends, as James Cone puts it, with “repentance,” which bears “reparation,” in order that “there [can be] hope beyond tragedy.”


unnamed.jpgMatthew Zemanick is an approved candidate for ordination in the ELCA. His passion for social justice grounded in God’s grace is rooted in his experience of the Prison-Industrial complex as the son of a convict. He calls many places home, but the Patapsco River Valley will always be first in his heart. He likes swimming in the ocean, cooking, and adventures with friends.

[1] Here I have changed “law” to “teaching” to better honor Jesus’ tradition of understanding of Torah as a divine teaching rather than a divine legal (nomos) code.

[2] Article XII Augsburg Confession

[3] Credit is due to Dr. Westhelle for his exegetical work on the story of Zacchaeus, which he has imparted onto me and many in his lectures and writings.

[4] Augsburg Confession, Article XII.

[5] Vítor Westhelle, Transfiguring Luther: The Planetary Promise of Luther’s Theology (Eugene: Cascade, 2016), 56.

Becoming Human: My Confession and Response to the Mythologizing of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Patrick Freund

Linda Thomas at CTS eventWhere I teach – the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago – we do a lot of talking about the Rev. Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A spy for the German Resistance, scholar and pastor, professor and widely-respected author and public commentator, there is much to admire about him. But Bonhoeffer was human, as seminarian Patrick Freund is eager to point out. Patrick wrote this piece upon my request, as a student in his final year of seminary,  and as a response to Dr. Williams’ lecture at LSTC earlier this semester. For Patrick felt that for all of his greatness, Bohoeffer’s faults, too, are particularly instructive for white Christians and seminarians coming to consciousness about race in the United States.  Read, comment, and share!

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


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Dr. Reggie Williams at the burial location for the human remains and ashes at the Flossenburg concentration camp, site of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s execution (video).

At the beginning of his Lutheran Heritage lecture last month, Dr. Reggie Williams made two observations about Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s early life:

1) That the portion of his life which biographers term his “Academic Period” was spent in the predominantly racist context of the Weimar Republic, and…

2) That during this time he also travelled to the United States of America, where he “experienced developments in his understanding of himself as a white Christian.”[1]

Dr. Williams continued that when these observations are considered as correlated, two things become apparent:

“First, Bonhoeffer’s struggle was both external against Nazi racism as idealized conceptions of humanity and community and internal with a conflicted interpretation of himself as a western Christian. Second, the struggles he engaged in a racist society and with a conflicted self are as relevant today for his readers as they were for Bonhoeffer years ago. He engaged in both struggles for the remainder of his natural life, and we can learn from him for our own battles that we must wage today.”

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This impacted me in a major way. From my point of view, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been popularly sainted in the Lutheran cannon. In the popular imagination we have stripped him of his sinfulness so that we can see him as the pure and virtuous Lutheran Pastor who stood up to Hitler and the Nazis, and eventually died a martyr’s death. Bonhoeffer’s speech and action is a life of bearing witness to Christ; living into a daring trust and living out a bold faith. We cannot, however, forget that his struggle was not simply that of a virtuous person against an immoral, amoral, and devastating regime. His struggle was internal too. From early on, he was swimming in philosophical waters littered with flotsam and jetsam of racial pseudo-science. He saw the German people as being a superior people. He was familiar with concepts such as “Biologism,” which sought to explain human culture and behave as an aspect inextricably woven into race and biology. While he fought National Socialism externally, he wrestled with his own racism internally, and he died a racist.

This is painful to admit. But necessary.

Its necessary, because I know that I too have grown up in a racist society. I have grown up in a society that claims that all are equal in the eyes of the law but incarcerates Black and Brown men at a staggeringly higher rate than white men. I grew up in a society that ghettoized, stigmatized, and disenfranchised peoples of color while claiming to be the land of opportunity. I grew up in a society where I didn’t need to fear police brutality. I grew up white and middle class in the context of white middle class South Jersey. I spent my teens white and middle class in the context of white middle class Richmond, Virginia. It really wasn’t until I came to seminary that I realized that “America” doesn’t look like me, and Jesus doesn’t either. I think that this is what Bonhoeffer realized during his time in New York, which led to his internal and external struggles.

This has been my struggle too. I grew up in what was often called “post-racial America,” or “colorblind America.” And yet through the media and the cultural waters in which I was formed, I was conditioned to fear Black people.

I was conditioned to to equate drugs, poverty, and violence with Black people. I am racist because I living in and benefit from a racist system. What’s more, I’m racist because I was raised in a racist society. Racism is systemic. This must be affirmed. Racism is individual too. And this cannot be denied. I can relate to Bonhoeffer’s inner struggle. I struggle within myself everyday.

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Image via (medium.com)

I struggle against the thoughts and the feelings that arise within me, unsolicited and unwarranted, which bid me to deny the spark of God that has been implanted in every human. I struggle against the impulse to check “wallet, keys, cellphone” when approaching young Black men on the sidewalk. Especially the day after a “Security Alert” email is sent out. I struggle against the conflation of issues such poverty, drug use, and homelessness with my conception of the Black experience. I struggle.

When Bonhoeffer died, he was still struggling. And that struggle tells me that God wasn’t done with him until the day he died. I believe this because I know that I struggle, and I will continue to struggle all my life with the many and various ways that I seek to deny humanity to my siblings in Christ or my siblings in Noah. I am still human.

But, I also know that God isn’t done with me.

God isn’t done with us.

And the struggle cannot simply be internal.

God calls us to the external struggle for justice and humanity in many and varied ways. As I prepare to go on internship, I am looking to where God will be calling me to struggle externally in my new context. And leaving this place, I have regrets about the opportunities I did not take. I never went to a meeting of Seminarians for Justice, because my fear prevented me. I never marched, because my fear prevented me. I never preached, because my fear prevented me. I never took the Red Line to 95th, because me fear prevented me.

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If you are a student who has more time here – especially if you are a white student, a cisgender student, a straight student, a male student, a middle class student, natural-born U.S. citizen student, or any combination of characteristics from which you benefit from being a part of the “majority,” do not leave seminary with the same regrets that I am. Explore the ways in which God may be calling you to struggle for justice internally and externally. This is a call that you received at baptism, a call that resounds your whole life long. God is calling you to struggle for justice internally and externally while you are here, in and out of the classroom. Take advantage of answering for the now, while you are here.

And answer the call in different ways.

Try answering the calls that put you out of your comfort zone. Not everyone is called to march, or organize, and that’s okay. Not everyone is called to write and teach, and that’s okay. But everyone is called to participate. If you march and organize, do not despise those who don’t. If you teach and write, do not despise those who don’t. But in whatever you do, strive for the justice that comes with faithful witness to Christ. We are paradoxical creatures. God calls us to affirm the humanity in each other. Our own humanness gives us the capacity to see God’s own loving image in others as well as attempts to prevent us from doing so.

But God is not done with us.


1175397_10202066809055372_1572783268_nPatrick Freund is a third-year M.Div. student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

[1]     Williams, Reggie. “Becoming Human: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Theological Confrontation with White Supremacy.” Lutheran Heritage Lecture, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Chicago, April 3, 2017. All quotations are transcribed from the lecture recording, and the author takes all responsibility for any mistakes in transcription herein.

The Church and Gender Inequality – Rev. Fatima Bass Thomas

Picture 002The history of the Christian church in Africa is a complicated one, and when associated with anything of US-European heritages the relationship moves from complicated to abusive and destructive. But when empowered by the Holy Spirit, and as free from colonial influence as possible, it has – since its beginning – as a light against inequality and a vehicle for justice. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in The Gambia (ELCTG), and specifically one of its founders – the Rev. Fatima Bass Thomas – shares with us her story, rebelling against sexism in her society and working to provide freedom and education to women and girls in her community. Read, comment, and share!

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


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My story begins like this: I am Fatima from a family of 8 children of a peasant farmer in the Gambia, and I was the first child.

I was denied going to school because I was a girl-child.

I knew my future would be composed of getting married, engaging in domestic work and raising children.

However, at the age of nine I fantasized about something more, the chance to go to school.

I believed that going to school was a prosperous direction to a brighter future for every individual person. It provided me with empowerment, self-confidence, reasoning capacity, ability to acquire knowledge, self-dependence, the  ability to handle differences, and interact with other people from different cultures, tribes, and races.

I have seen a few girls in my community who were given the opportunity to go to school. Their lives were different from those who were not in school, for several reasons. If women are educated, their family structure will be quite different. A great deal of evidence has shown this in my life.  I was able to attain education for my children, good health nutrition, a decent life and be respected by my husband as well as the communities I belong to compared to uneducated mothers.

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A class I taught on personal health (I am on the far right).

These women are solely dependent on their husband’s income.  School elevated me to be at the level I am today, benefit my family, serve my country and the church, despite many years of challenges during my primary and high school years. I could proceed on to teacher training college, and I was posted at a school a few hours from my village.

It was there that I met my spouse, a teacher also and volunteer evangelist in a 95 percent Muslim context, who was inspired to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. However, this idea came to Samuel Thomas when he encountered the Lutheran church in Sierra Leone during his studies. When he came back to the Gambia he served the government that send to study for 15 years. In 2000, he left his job and decided to establish the Evangelical Lutheran church of the Gambia.

Because of my educational level I was able to acquire a job and was the only bread winner of the family which was at the beginning a bit tough and challenging, but with the grace of God we were able to overcome those obstacles.

We applied for scholarships in 2007 from Lutheran the World Federation and we were accepted, went to Tanzania to study for the Bachelor of Divinity for five years. We came back for our internship in 2010. We went back again to complete our courses and in 2012, we were ordained.

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Some of our leaders and their families.

The church we started has grown to 2,500 members and it has been expanded to our neighboring country Guinea Bissau by an evangelist who was sent there to start the work. Through the leadership of the church, we have influenced the outreach priorities of the Gambia church, which is engaged in helping girls in a specific approach of not only primary education, but also high school and higher education. The leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran church believes in gender equality. The government of the Gambia advocates for free education for girls only in primary school. The government will pay half of the cost of middle school and high school. Still some parents cannot afford it, so most of the girls do not go further.  As the church grows, women in particular will be given the opportunity to be trained in theological schools and come back and be ordained to serve the church. However, for those who drop out of school, the church is making all efforts to train those girls in other areas in the church, so they will be able  to handle various positions.

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In 2015, we were invited to participate with other women from Lutheran backgrounds around the world at the Crossroad of the Reformation Seminar hosted by the ELCA’s International Women Leaders program.

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Immediately when we returned to the Gambia, I summoned women from the different parishes to give them feedback from the leadership seminar. I used the opportunity to conduct a workshop on how to educate these women to stand for the church just like the women of the reformation. I encouraged them to be actively involved in the activities of the church, participate fully and share the love of Christ among ourselves, support each other in times of need, and to teach our children the doctrine of the church. I also encouraged them to regularly attend the church. Most often I coordinate training seminars to equip the women with skills such as soap making, tie-dye, sewing, and many other things. I teach them how to read and write in order for  them to have self-confidence and the ability to participate effectively in the society.

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GIRLS’ EDUCATION -GENDER INQUALITY IN 1970-80 

My story fits into the wider context of gender inequality. Girls’ education in the 1970-80s in the Gambia was regarded as a waste of resources.

Most parents believed that these girls will become married women and dependent on their husbands so there is no need to send them to school.  Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza emphasizes this in her essay “Breaking the Silence—Becoming Visible,.” she writes “that it is justified by the assumption that all women are either temporary workers or work for pin-money because they will get married and become pregnant.”[1] Since it is believed that house work and child care are women’s natural vocations, they are not be remunerated or counted in the gross domestic product.

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Our school children – see all the girls!

According to Chelala, in” Girls’ Education”, “inequality and unequal access to education holds millions of girls and women backward across the world,”[2] especially in Africa. This has contributed to Africa poverty where by women are dependent on their husband’s income.  In the Gambia, three-fourths of the population in 1980-90 were uneducated women, who had no means of generating income than the vulnerable in the society.  Chelala continues to argue that “girls are still at a disadvantage, particularly in getting access to high school education.”[3] Like in the Gambia most Muslim men marry three to four wives. Let say each of the women has four or five children. The husband must put these children to school, and in most cases boys stand the chance to attendant compared to girls.

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I am advocating for the young women in the Gambia, especially the youths who are coming up in the church to be able to do something for themselves in the future.  Without higher education, they would not be able to have the confidence or ability to advocate for themselves and the generation coming after them. Carr insists in “Women, Work, and  Poverty”  that patriarchal structure which is embedded in home and society and which are  the source of the denigration of women’s labor are sadly what? women do much the  of work in the churches but it is  often on a volunteer or unpaid basis.”[4] As Lutherans around the world, we need to advocate for our children. It is especially important to support the ELCA and their initiative ministries through financial and prayer support. Without the support of the ELCA I would not be where I am today. Carr insists that it a situation which calls upon Christians everywhere, but especially those of us in more privileged contexts, for attention, analysis, and active transformation,” for the lives of other women around the globe.[5]

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Gambian women working on developing relationships with Muslims in their area.

When we look at the African continent, women are the poorest and vulnerable. They don’t have a voice to contribute because the women are surrounded by a culture of silence and the most important factor that leads to this is lack of education. For my life experiences, as first female Lutheran pastor in the Gambia, I will use all my powers to encourage and influence women especially young girls in the church to be actively involved in the development of our church. My prayer is that girls do not have to go through what I went through to get an education.


2014.02.19.03.jpgRev. Fatima bass Thomas is married with three kids and is the first female Lutheran pastor in the Gambia. She received her first degree in Tanzania at Tumaini University -Makumira  and presently is in a Master’s program  at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  


[1] Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, “Breaking the Silence—Becoming Visible,” The Power of Naming: A Concilium Reader in Feminist Liberation Theology,ed. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza(Maryknoll, New York:ORIBS BOOK,1996),164.

[2] Chelala, Cesar. 2016. “Girls’ Education.” Hamdard Islamicus 39, no. 2: 100-101. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 7, 2017) 100.

[3] Ibid

[4] Anne Carr, “Women,Work, and Poverty,” in The Power of Naming: A Concilium Reader in Feminist Liberation Theology,ed. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza(Maryknoll, New York:ORIBS BOOK,1996),85.

[5] Ibid,83.

The Persistance of the Flesh – Jessica Davis

ThomasLindaWe have been hearing many stories in the news of late, lauding women who stand up to unjust systems and dismissive men. However, these stories do not always have happy endings, but tragic and terrifying ones. A Christian educator based in Philadelphia, Jessica Davis shares some of her own story, as well as the stories of countless women who pay a terrible price for resisting, and how important it is for those of us in community to stand up for and protect these brave women in any way we can. Read, comment, and share.

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


She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted. – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 2/7/2017

If she was listening to me, I wouldn’t have used it. – New York resident Ming Guang Huang, shortly after attacking his long-abused wife with a meat cleaver, 2/24/2013

Mitch McConnell’s remarks defending his efforts to silence senator Elizabeth Warren during a speech criticizing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions earlier this year have become a rallying cry to women all over the United States. A quick internet search reveals that, if you wish, you can purchase that well-known refrain on everything from t-shirts to diaper bags to beer koozies.

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In the weeks following the debacle on the senate floor, the twitterverse exploded, the t-shirt printers got busy, and thousands of women went so far as to obtain “Nevertheless, she persisted” tattoos. What began as a debate about a cabinet appointee morphed quickly into an extravaganza of feminine affirmation and empowerment.

image credit: Eliza Kurt https://t.co/9WItceBjzO

So, why did that phrase leave me cold, when so many other women were literally and figuratively wearing it as a badge of honor?

As I sat with my reaction, I realized that the phrase didn’t just leave me cold, it left me frozen, with a very familiar sensation of ice in my chest. The iciness began to spread through my body, and more familiar sensations arose-the hair on the back of my neck stood up, goosebumps erupted on my arms, my heart began to pound. What first felt like apathy with regard to this phrase morphed quickly into fear, and then, into abject terror.

And suddenly, in that moment, I remembered where I had felt these sensations before.

McConnell’s words had called up the flesh memory of years spent in a physically abusive relationship. The terror flooding my mind and senses was none other than what I experienced night after night upon hearing my abuser pull up in the driveway, his key in the lock, his footsteps in the hall. Each time wondering “Is tonight the night he finally kills me?”

If you are reading this, you almost certainly know about intimate partner abuse. You have seen the news reports, you have watched the Lifetime movies, you have stood around the water cooler and heard people ponder “Why doesn’t she just leave?” If you are employed in any of the helping professions, you are likely so familiar with the statistics about intimate partner abuse of women and femme people that it has almost become a litany – 1 in 3 women abused…20 women per minute…1 in 7 stalked…4,000 murdered each year…how sad…those poor, poor women…wish she would’ve reached out…and on and on and on, In saecula saeculorum.

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Even if you have never experienced domestic abuse yourself, even if you’ve never seen it in person and know it only from the television and movie screen, you know how the age-old dialogue goes-a victim apologizing, begging for forgiveness for some tiny infraction, followed by the explosive violence, then an explanation for why the abuse was the victim’s fault. ‘if only you hadn’t…you gave me no other option…you just don’t listen.” We know this old, tired trope. And when that abuser finally murders that victim, we know what we will hear-”She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

We Know This Refrain.

And in millions of homes all over the country, this refrain is taken straight from the pages of a Christian hymnal. This is perhaps the most tragic thing about domestic abuse that is perpetrated against women and femme people in the Western world – it is supported, and sometimes, even lauded by, the church. The bible is teeming with stories about violence against women, often committed by their intimate partners. Though their stories are rarely heard in our lectionary cycle, their rhythms are in our DNA, and that old litany rings in our ears as we approach the altar and are sent out into the world, and if we are not taught how to interpret these stories from within our religious context, we are putting real women’s lives in peril (please note that this is in no way diminishes the importance of addressing intimate partner abuse committed against men and non-binary persons, but to focus here on the ways in which the church specifically promotes violence towards women and femme people).

Even if we’ve never read them, somehow we already know the stories of Dinah, Tamar, the wives of Ephesus – the cycle of abuse is so familiar. In fact, the story of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19 lays it all out in great and gory detail…she runs away from him to her father’s house, he follows her in order to “to speak tenderly to her and bring her back.” She agrees to go back with him, but before they get home, there is a complication. In echoes of Sodom, the wicked men of the town demand that the homeowner with whom they are staying send the Levite out to have sex with them. He refuses to do so, and instead, gives them his own virgin daughter and the Levite man’s concubine to “use them and do whatever you wish to them” (19:24).

“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel” (19:25–29).

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Video footage the breaking up of the assault and arrest of  Jinyia You’s attacker – note the visible cleaver wound in the police officer’s arm.

This story is so heart-rendlingly sad because it is so damn familiar. It is the story of so many women in scripture, of countless women throughout the ages whose stories will never be told, it is the story of Jinyia You, who, after leaving her husband because she could no longer stand the abuse, and reporting his continued harassment to the authorities, was hacked 17 times in the head with a meat cleaver, in broad daylight, in 21st century America.

So. As we who are leaders in the church encounter this oh-so familiar story-in scripture, on the news, in the lives of our congregants, how are we called to respond?

Let me state this as plainly as I can-In this nation where 33% of the cisgender women and 50% of the transgender women sitting in our pews will have experienced intimate partner violence; where thousands of women will die at the hands of their partners even after seeking out protection from law enforcement; where the leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 15 and 45 is domestic violence, Social Statements Are Not Enough. What we say we believe about violence against women means nothing if it is buried deep on a denominational website.

We must acknowledge, today, the ways in which we are perpetuating the abuse. If you are a leader in a congregation of more than 10 members and you don’t know anyone there who has experienced intimate partner violence, then the simple truth is that your congregation is not a place where people feel safe enough to say that it’s happening. In what ways are you suppressing their voices, demanding, like McConnell, that they sit down and shut up for your comfort?

Social Statements Are Not Enough. If we are to be bearers of the gospel in this world,we must persist alongside these women. We must let them know that if they trust us enough to share their stories, they will not be silenced. We must let them know that because we proclaim the love of a proundly incarnational G-d, we will never send them away with spiritual platitudes, but will instead provide physical harbor and safety. We must embody, individually and communally, from the pulpit, the classroom, and the parish hall, the G-d who rescues us from our distress, who sends out a word and heals us, who rescues us from the grave (Ps. 107). We must do it today and tomorrow and next month and next year, over and over and over, until that becomes the new familiar refrain. We must persist, like our risen lord, even unto the end of the age.

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credit: darkshadowmagus.deviantart.com

 


1-KSGjaiB1wQ7jzDBehb9LUg.jpegJessica Davis is a Christian Educator and Chaplain for #decolonizeLutheranism. She lives in the Philadelphia area, and received her MA in religion from the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia. Her primary areas of focus are the theology of trauma and developmental incarnation across the life span. You can follow Jessica at https://medium.com/@jessicadavis_96034

God’s Work? Our Hands? – Rev. Tom Gaulke

Linda Thomas at CTS eventGoogle dictionary defines solidarity as “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.” It is something we talk about quite a bit at my seminary, with our Public Church curriculum. But it isn’t such an easy thing to teach – as what most folks consider solidarity is, in sad truth, nothing but activist tourism, and as such is not educational, let alone transformational. Weighing in on this is Rev. Tom Gaulke – the pastor of a scrappy Lutheran parish in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago – and some trenchant observations on the subject. It’s a good bit of reading for the first week in Easter, and we’re sure you’ll agree. Read, comment, and share!

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


51d17yMqhVL.jpgPhilosopher Slavoj Žižek once made a very interesting observation about the 90’s block-buster, Titanic.

In Titanic, the main character, Rose, is seated in the upper deck, wining and dining, but yawning in her boredom. She is missing something. Is it romance? Is it adventure? Is it a spiritual experience? She’s not sure. But she thinks the answer, for her, might be found in the exploration of another realm.

In her search for some kind of resurrection, Rose descends. She moves down through the floors of the ship. She finds, at bottom, the proletariat – the working people far removed from her life among the gilded elite. There they dance. There is joy. There is a movement of bodies and loudness of voices that would be deemed crass and transgressive in the upper echelons of the ship. She gives in, is swallowed up by the joy of the ecstasy. She finds a lover in a character named Jack, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

To her the world of the poor is a Paradise, and for some moments, she escapes the restrictive confines of her privilege and finds unbound pleasure and ecstasy.

But then something larger than the ship appears. An iceberg. Suddenly that which was covered by the walls of the ship is exposed: not only were there floors on the ship, but the floors were obvious markers. Classes were divided by them. First class… Second Class… Bottom… And there was more than division. Those passengers’ privilege (or lack thereof) would now determine their fate or their salvation. Aware, Rose returns to her caste, and thereby saves herself from a poor person’s fate, from death by being defined and confined in poverty. Though she was temporarily positioned with the poor, her geography, unlike theirs, was not confined by her economics—she was free to move.

As the movie concludes, Rose recalls the good times she had.  In her recollection, something again is exposed. It seems in her travels that she saw not people, but rather romanticized caricatures of The Poor. There was no real community or solidarity. She had really only used them – for dancing, for pleasure, for ecstasy. They were chattel to her, goods manipulated as means to her end, merely 3/5 human.

tumblr-mlle87hghf1soiv6eo1-500-jpg.jpg They were her triumphant articulation of a “meaningful experience,” pleasure, “good times,” recalled from a stage or a fireside room. And instead of seeing more family, more of God’s beloved, she saw only more possibilities for “use.” Žižek calls this “Hollywood Marxism.”

And we see this everywhere.

Think about mission trips in which, for example, churches from the tops of ships will come to churches in the city, often described as urban or poor (For the record, these are not always fun names to be called). Paint a wall! Plant some flowers! Take selfies! For these tasks, grandparents and football coaches and godparents give money—to make sure their youth have a “meaningful experience” among The Poor. A similar phenomenon happens at protests. Radical-minded church people and seminarians show up. This is fine, but what if we do not engage any of those we claim to love? What does it mean when we stay in a cluster and seem to avoid those who are different from our young, moisturized, [white] skin? Are we in the struggle or are we at a fun event like any other fun event, like going to see a comedian or a rock show?

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Hollywood Marxism emerges also in the classroom, as well. “I’ve got it!” students often exclaim after an afternoon of reading. That is, “I understand this,” or “I have got a hold on this.” “I possess this.” I own it. If our academic work, our reading, is only a project of reading so that we might “master” or “contain,” in order “to have a handle on it,” then our academic project ceases to be in line with the vision of the conspiring, companion-ing church.

But if our intent is only to master, we are Rose.

By ‘mastering’ we perpetuate a legacy of slavery and colonialism, whereby we use the writings of the poor and people of color as means for our own purposes. We appropriate. We steal. We hijack the weapons of the weak and melt them into glorious sparkling idols of the status quo.

Vitor Westhelle, in The Church Event, suggests that church happens in those spaces where and when we are at ease in the presence of the radically Other, where the truth is told in a revealing way, and captives are set free. Here we are transformed by one another, and shaped into companions and conspirators. Where is that space?

Is it possible to foster such a space? Can we help Church to take place? To happen? Or do we remain a bunch of Roses, without the salvation of metanoia?

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I very much love Westhelle’s image of our ministry—a tree. We can try! We can prepare—like Advent, like the women at the tomb. We can plant and nurture a tree. We can place it in the sunlight. And we can pray and hope that once our tree grows tall that maybe in it an orchid (the Church) will take root and bloom. Still, who knows what shape the blooming will take?

But we plant, we grow. We hope.

As we groom new trees for a new time, in the church and in the classroom, transforming Rose means intentionally exposing students, youth, and parishioners to the radically o/Other. In classrooms, this means even the non-academic other. This means song, poetry, stories of pain and struggle, putting voices in dialogue, and most importantly, real people, real flesh and blood, real experiences of pain—perhaps beginning with those in the room—with the aim of the student being transformed from the distant observer into the one who stands in solidarity, from understanding to standing with, moved to create spaces and communities for the sake of speaking the truth and setting captives free.

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Can my denomination make this motto a reality?

Hence if my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is to be such a place there should be no room for snobbery. Insisting on only MDiv preachers or only academic authors in our pulpits and classrooms reinforces class divide.

Any serious conversation about liberation needs to include the non-sanitized, political bluntness of real communities who struggle. If the church, if the academy, does not allow the poor to speak, it is only pretending to be Christian.

If the ELCA continues only to reinforce the class divide that exists in the United States within our own churches – gaining “inspiration” from visits to poor communities, then returning to the suburbs, gaining joy from the struggle of the disadvantaged, putting the poor to “use,” then jumping ship, watching them try to swim – then the church is only pretending.

After Jesus was killed by the Powers who found him to be a threat, his disciples gathered together in fear. Jesus invited them out of their locked rooms into the presence of Others to tell their stories of pain, to break bread, and to testify: to dream out loud of a different world, a new Reign, God’s Banquet where all are beloved and free, where crucifixion is no more. Jesus sent them the Spirit so they would never stop dreaming together.

Let’s strive for such companionship and such conspiracy. Let’s keep one another afloat so that no one sinks.

Alleluia.


10313960_10156582589050532_5840765783004842230_n.jpgRev. Tom Gaulke is pastor at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. He is a leader in The People’s Lobby and Moral Mondays Illinois. Tom enjoys scootering and is engaged to a wonderfully amazing human being named Daisy. Tom also studies Theology in the Ph.D. program at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. 

The First MLK Parade in Lexington, VA – Rev. Lyndon Sayers

thomas110_1027092.jpgSo what do you do when your community is in a strong-hold of “Confederate American Pride”? What is it like to be a white pastor in a community where the Ku Klux Klan disseminates promotional material and hate mail? You found a parade honoring the legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that’s what. The pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lexington, Virginia – Lyndon Sayers – gives us a brief account of what happened when progressive leaders in the community decided to make a strong stand for welcome and inclusivity in their community. I think this is an example of  Public Church ministerial leadership that we talk about at LSTC. Read, comment, and share!

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


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From the steps of The Church of the Beatitudes – Tabgha, Israel.

Through my seminary training and serving as a pastor in my first call, I knew that the Beatitudes are a hermeneutical key for understanding not only the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, but also Jesus’ ministry and witness to God’s kingdom. Until recently many of my examples for proclaiming this gospel were things I had read or heard second-hand, not immediately connected to the people and place where I live. Things began to change as I listened to stories from members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color who live here in Rockbridge County and Lexington, Virginia.

Some of us received a sharp learning curve when KKK recruitment flyers began showing up on our neighbors’ doorsteps one morning in the spring of 2016. We realized our postcard perfect college town was in need of a different narrative. People of color had known this for a long time, but for many of us white folks living in Lexington, we had falsely assumed that our town was largely the welcoming place it appeared to those of us not dealing with daily discrimination. Even after the KKK flyers arrived in all their grainy hatefulness, many white folks continued insisting our town is a safe place. These same neighbors never considered how unsafe people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, among others, were already made to feel living here.

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Anti-KKK Rally In Lexington, KY – Monday, March 21, 2016 (Photo credit, Amy Knadler).

Our anti-KKK rally brought out nearly three hundred residents, advocating for a different vision of who we are as a community. It also led to the creation of the Community Anti-Racism Effort (CARE). After the rally we hosted similar events throughout the spring and summer, but one issue we kept coming back to was the MLK weekend in January. This is the one weekend in Lexington in which many of our residents feel too uncomfortable to enter public spaces in our downtown. Virginia remains a holdout for celebrating Lee-Jackson Day the Friday prior to MLK Day. Several Southern states no longer observe this as a state holiday and some municipalities within Virginia have stopped doing so as well. The effect of this juxtaposition of holidays has been for Lee-Jackson celebrations co-opting the weekend, casting Jim Crow’s shadow over MLK celebrations.

In response our anti-racism group applied for a parade permit on the same day and time that a Lee-Jackson parade had been held on the Saturday morning of the MLK weekend for the past seventeen years. After months of confusion about the city’s receipt of our parade permit and surrounding process, Lexington City Council approved unanimously to grant us a parade permit for our Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Parade this past January 15. The Sons of Confederate Veterans were granted a parade permit for their Lee-Jackson parade on Sunday afternoon the following day.

The angry reaction that followed our receiving the parade permit served as an opportunity to reinterpret the Beatitudes in a different light. It was no longer possible to interpret Jesus’ call for us to stand in solidarity with the poor, meek, peacemakers, the persecuted, those who mourn, merely in an abstract sense. Jesus’ call for us to follow him, advocating for justice, and witnessing to his love needs an incarnational theology. This Jesus, fully human, is here among us calling us to recognize brown, black, queer, female, gender non-conforming, and disabled bodies that are not welcome to take up space in our churches and neighborhoods.

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MLK Poster, original woodblock print created by Amira Hegazy of Statement Letterpress.

I could safely ignore or at least downplay these lived realities of others without any repercussions to me. This privilege and fear to speak out is amplified serving as a pastor in a predominantly white Lutheran church in which I know that shirking my gospel responsibility to proclaim Jesus’ love more fully will not only not punish me, but even reward me for not rocking the boat.

I anticipated receiving some push-back within my congregation for speaking out and playing a public role in helping organize the MLK parade, trusting I would also receive support from leaders and members, which I did. Nevertheless I don’t think any of us as parade organizers anticipated the degree of the backlash. Neo-Confederate groups we had never heard of from North Carolina and beyond began weighing in on our local parade. There was an irony that they as outsiders to our community criticized us for not being from here.

Before long both another parade organizer, who is also a church member, and I were doxxed with our names, photos, home addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information shared repeatedly on-line. Community members began asking us for guarantees for their safety should they participate in the parade, which neither the police nor we could promise. Individuals and community groups who had previously pledged their support to march in our parade began backing out, citing fears of potential violence.

It didn’t help that seeming white allies were undermining our efforts saying things like, “Well, I like the idea of a MLK parade, but the way you went about it was all wrong” or “I support what you are doing, but you know that date has been traditionally reserved for the Lee-Jackson parade. Why are you poking the bear?”

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Flag raised by Virginia Flaggers in protest of Lexington’s MLK Parade.

At one point the Virginia Flaggers, a Neo-Confederate group based around Richmond, seized upon the division concerning the parade date and submitted a parade permit in bad faith, requesting to parade with Confederate regalia on the Monday of MLK Day. They attempted to hold MLK Day hostage, asking us to swap the Monday for the Saturday. We rejected the offer, not only on principle, but the Saturday was preferable since more people were able to participate on that day. Following this publicity stunt, they withdrew their parade permit. Instead they held a flag-raising event concurrent with our parade, erecting an 80-foot flag pole with a 20×30 foot Confederate flag next to a gun and pawn shop just outside of town. This would be the third such hate flag the Virginia Flaggers had raised along the entrance corridors leading to Lexington.

When parade day finally came none of us knew what to expect. Would people turn out or would they be too afraid? We instructed all our participants to adhere strictly to our rules of non-violence and non-engagement should any flaggers show up in counter-protest. In the end nearly a thousand residents and neighbors from nearby communities turned out for the parade. People came with homemade signs, rainbow flags, American flags. There were children, the elderly, and everyone in-between. It was a source of indescribable joy that we as a community, joined together, could take up space in our own downtown on the very day so many of us had feared in the past.

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Marchers with the front parade banner.

Together we articulated another vision of being community.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The very ones who have been dispossessed of the earth in this life will receive the earth as their home when God’s kingdom comes in its fullness. I look forward to living out glimpses of this community one parade and community celebration at a time. Much like church festivals, the festival comes alive through its being celebrated. The body of Christ nourishes, restores, and gives comfort in the sharing of the meal. Sins are forgiven and absolution is granted in the praying of the confession, gathering around the baptismal waters. As Lutherans we often forget the work of the Holy Spirit – how the Spirit enlivens and is at work in our flesh, joining our bodies to the one body of Christ, rooted in grace, mercy, and love.

Today I give pause when proclaiming Jesus’ gospel rooted in the Beatitudes. I imagine how the Spirit is at work building the coming kingdom here today. I remember how the ones Jesus blesses are especially in need of being centered and heard, while those of us more privileged need to step back. I think of my African American neighbors and what it means to live in a world that rejects their bodies and right to life.

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How do we as a church witness to Jesus’ promise that the meek will inherit the earth together with all people on the margins and intersections? To be sure many of these folks are not so meek, but amazingly bold and courageous, often offering free labor to those of us slow to catch on to the Spirit’s work. Together we are called to trust Jesus’ promise of a kingdom that is coming to life in our midst and not merely a spiritualized kingdom, indefinitely deferred. Let us as a church summon the courage and confidence to witness to the pain of those who have endured centuries of systemic injustice and pain. Let us witness to the beauty, justice, and joy of Jesus’ coming kingdom. I cannot wait for our next MLK parade, another glimpse of the kingdom, following Jesus by taking up space together with all our neighbors.


11904075_10154184239615616_7408041539713473524_n.jpgLyndon Sayers is a Lutheran pastor from Canada in his first call serving Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lexington, Virginia. He also serves as a leader with LGBTQIA+ Rockbridge Alliance and Community Anti-Racism Effort (CARE) in Rockbridge County. Lyndon doesn’t pretend to have the answers, but tries asking the questions like “can you hold the pickles?” Often he can be found wandering the streets of Lexington, talking to strangers, and listening to funky beats.