An Outsider? An Insider? – Di Kang

LSTC Ph.D. student Di Kang has a particularly insightful post for Asian/Pacific Islander Month here at We Talk. We Listen. Carefully unpacking the many aspects of her personal identity – she then reflects not only how these different identities interact in her day-to-day life, but also why they make Lutheran theology so meaningful for her. Read, comment, and share!

Francisco Herrera – Interim Editor, PhD student

modern day china_LI

I live a hybrid existence.

I am Chinese but I am also a Christian.

I am a Christian but I am a Lutheran.

I am a student but I am an international student.

In these ways, I am both an insider and outsider. Some scholars would refer to my being both an insider and an outsider as a hybrid identity. I am neither fully one identity or the other identity—-I am both at the same time, which allows me to create a new hybrid self that I can fully live into and come to know myself in a new way.

Being a Christian in mainland China, I am an outsider. Growing up and receiving education in mainland China, I was immersed in the traditional Chinese cultural context, contemporary Communist ideology, and lastly, the Confucian worldview. Confucius concedes the existence of supernatural beings, and emphasizes the importance of sacrifice. However, the Confucius’ practical rationality and this-worldly morality led to distance between human beings and the “so-called” supernatural god, which is manifested in his sayings in Analects.

For example, “Confucius never talked about odd, puissance, turmoil and deity”, “while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them may be called wisdom”. At the same time, Confucius also places emphasis on this life, instead of deities, or life beyond death. He says: “We cannot even serve people enough, how can we serve gods?” He also adds: “While you do not know about life, how can you know about death?”

An excerpt from Confucius’ Analects

The dominance of Confucius’ teachings influenced the Chinese people’s general attitude toward religions – in general, they believe in the existence of supernatural beings such a deity/deities, but reject the deity/deities’ absolute dominance of every aspect of human life. On the other hand, they put faith in the deity/deities’ ability to solve specific issues that are out of the control of human hands. Such attitudes are reflected in the prosperity of Buddhism and Taoism in China. Taoism, being the folk religion, exemplifies the practical nature of the Chinese people to worship deities, for each deity in Taoism governs a specific aspect of human life and can offer blessings or solve the issue on that aspect.

The adoption of Confucianism and Taoism eventually marks Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, considered an indigenized religion or truly “Chinese religion”, although Buddhism itself first originated in India. Compared to Buddhism however, which entered China hundreds of years earlier, Christianity is always seen as a foreign religion. This situation is due to its relatively short history in China, its lack of indigenization and its rejection of Chinese traditions. Christianity was also used as a tool of western colonization and oppression before the new China was founded in 1949, so much so that one of the first acts of the People’s Republic of China was to initiate the total expulsion of all missions and missionaries.

Entering in the new era, the ideology of the Chinese Communist party, built on Marxist theory, emphasizes atheism and the suspicion of religious belief. Religions, being an “opium” to the people, are thought to be nothing more than a tool of pacification that brings temporary comfort to those who need it. Such views coincide with Confucianism’s practical rationality and pushes it to a new level.

As a result, the ideology of the Communist party is yet even more antagonistic towards Christianity. Hence, being a Christian thus not only means being a minority, but also engaging in something “foreign” and the abandonment of the root and heritage of China. Among the majority of Chinese in mainland China, and even in my family, being a Christian marks me as an outsider.

Augustana Chapel – LSTC.

Being a Chinese student in the United States and at my current seminary, the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, again, marks me as an outsider, as I am labelled an “international student”. Being an outsider is not limited to my skin color, the red cover of my passport and the documents I hold to study in the US, nor the different cultural aspects, mentality, and habits that I grew up with and carry with me. The cultural clashes and difficulties I as an international student face when traveling and entering this country is just a small part of being a stranger.

Being an outsider means that I am constructed as “other” in contrast to being accepted as part of “us”. This sense of being an outsider shows itself when I am asked questions such as “which country are you from?” and “when you will return to your home country and what will you do?” Or “as an international student, tell us how you feel about …” These questions constantly remind me that I come from somewhere else, and that I am not fully part of the “us” in the US. At school, me being the “other” is highlighted by participating in activities primarily for “international” students, rather than for the student body. More than any other obvious label, I am always marked as an international student at LSTC, instead of as a PhD student, or even as a student in the LSTC community. Being an outsider also means the value judgment and bias I have received based on the differences, and my obligation to correct the misperceptions people have of me in the US.

Being a Lutheran, I am also an outsider to the majority of Chinese Christians. Many times, when meeting a Chinese Christian (regardless of being in the US or in China), I always receive such a question: “How did you become a Lutheran?” The easy way to answer this question is that I became a Lutheran while I was an exchange student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Hong Kong, but the implication of this question is still there. When they ask this question, it is as if they are asking: “How are you so different from either the non-denominational, three-self background of mainland Chinese churches, or the heavy influence of Calvinism and Pietism in mainland house churches and in Chinese churches in the US?”


I am an outsider because I am a Lutheran.

I am Lutheran because I believe that I cannot do anything to earn God’s love, or to add to God’s glory. I am an outsider because I do not believe that prayers can manipulate God’s will. Not to mention the fact that I am even an outsider among other Chinese Lutherans, who lean on the conservative side. However, when attending a Lutheran church in the US, and thinking that I am no longer an outsider there, I am still an outsider because I am not white, and I come from a country on the other side of the world.

Wherever I am, whether in mainland China or in the US, whether at church among Chinese Christians or among white Lutherans, I find myself both an insider and outsider. As I learn to live with this hybridity of identities, which seem to contradict each other, I am in the process of “knowing thy self” in the variety of dimensions that define who I am. It is not an “either/or” question; I do not have to turn my back on one dimension in order to fully embrace the other dimension. It is rather about living with this hybridity at the same time. This hybridity was something that Luther knew about—when thinking about who he was in relation to God, Luther famously asserts, “I am a sinner in and by myself apart from Christ. Apart from myself and in Christ I am not a sinner.”

As someone who knew he was both a sinner and a saint at the same time, Luther helps me know myself as both a Christian and as Chinese.

karenDi Kang, who also goes by Karen, is a PhD student studying the Hebrew Bible at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her dissertation examines the theme of the “vengeance of God” in Psalm 94. This topic is inspired by the concept “redressing injustice” (申冤) for the disadvantaged in the Chinese society.

Transient Workers Matter, Too – Rev. Martin Yee

We don’t hear often of Chinese Lutherans, but this is exactly how you could describe Rev. Martin Yee – a Chinese Lutheran pastor, born in Malaysia, who after several years in the parish works at the main offices of the Lutheran Church in Singapore. He is our first author for Asian/Pacific Islander History Month – the first such time We Talk. We Listen. commemorates the month. He writes about not only the plight of migrant workers in Singapore during the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also what Luther’s theology has to say to the situation. Read, comment, and share.

Francisco Herrera – PhD student, Interim Editor

Screenshot (52)

The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic exploded around the world in March 2020, changing many facets of human lives and activities forever. In Singapore, this is certainly true. The economy which largely depended on open global trade was badly hit, sending the country reeling into recession and drawing on its past reserves for survival. The pandemic also exposed something else that Singapore is vulnerable to – the lightning-like spread of infection among its migrant foreign workers, sending the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus infection soaring into the tens of thousands which now stands at 23,000 plus and counting.

Singapore which has a population of 5.7 million (2019) has a migrant worker population of about 300,000. These are migrant workers from various impoverished communities in the surrounding countries of Bangladesh, India and China who are employed in low-wage jobs like construction, road works, shipyard work and cleaning. These jobs are regarded as dirty and rough, shunned by the local population. Between 12 and 20 workers typically live in one room, according to the Transient Workers Count Too, a non-profit organization that supports migrant workers in Singapore.

Migrant worker dormatories in Singapore

They share common facilities, like bathrooms and kitchens.

The dorms are thus structurally not able to provide for the social distancing that is necessary to avoid the virus from spreading quickly. Over the last several weeks, Singapore authorities have worked to move the workers out of their dorms and into vacant public housing blocks, military camps, exhibition centres, and other floating accommodations. But the country has suffered; as many economic, construction and public health activities ground to a halt due to shortage of these workers, many who have tested positive for the coronavirus are quarantined.

The migrant workers themselves suffered tremendously, mentality and emotionally plagued with worries about their income and health. Most of them have incurred debts to come over for their agents to secure the visas and jobs, which they need to repay, and they have a family waiting for them back home to send money for daily sustenance.

In the black tshirt with the Luther Rose, Bishop Terry Kee of the Lutheran Church in Singapore – preparing care packages for migrant workers in the city.

Reflecting on this, I have two thoughts. One is on vocation and the other on how God views migrant workers and cares for them too.

Firstly, it dawned on many of us living in Singapore how important migrant workers really are. We have taken for granted these workers who performed menial and non-glamorous tasks. Singapore is a meritocracy and has promoted excellence and skills upgrading for its citizens leaving the menial jobs to foreign workers. But without them our parks and streets will be choking with rubbish as the locals have yet to develop sanitary rubbish disposal and recycling habits.


Without them our houses, buildings, bridges and roads cannot be built. All of a sudden, the unglamorous cleaner’s job became “essential service” that was allowed to continue while other more elite jobs ground to a halt and became “non-essentials”. A great reversal indeed.

The Lutheran concept of vocation thus is of value here as it articulated that all human vocations have equal value as the “masks of God” in serving the neighbour. Luther had said that the humble shoe cobbler in their vocation is to serve the neighbours in as good a manner as the priests and other elites.

Secondly, I have learned previously from an Oxford University Professor of Hebrew, Hugh G.M. Williamson, in a lecture series given at Trinity Theological College in Singapore, that God specifically highlighted the migrant workers for protection in the OT. He commanded the Israelites to provide for them so that they may not go hungry. If God cares so much for the migrant workers, we should too. It is heartening to note that the Singapore government is now making good efforts to take care of migrant workers’ welfare and health. Churches, temples and mosques are also chipping in to do their part. This is another unique aspect of the harmonious relationship in multi-religious Singapore. Christians comprise only 20% of the population here.


“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34

“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ Leviticus 27:19

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” – Martin Luther

Indeed, transient migrant workers matter too.


Born in and doing his undergraduate work in Malaysia, Rev. Martin Yee worked for 12 years as a transient worker in Singapore before receiving his Bachelor of Theology degree from Singapore Bible College in 1997. After working as a parish pastor for seven years, he then moved into his current role – as part of the administrative team of the head office his denomination – the The Lutheran Church in Singapore. He is happily married, with two college-aged children.

Living Stones – Rev. Justin Thornburgh

So how to respond as a Christian leader when dire human need and foolishness and arrogance mix into a toxic brew of death? Pastor Justin Thornburgh of Emerson Avenue Baptist Church in Indianapolis has an answer: become a living stone. Please read, comment, and share!

Francisco Herrera – Interim Editor, PhD student

Indianapolis, Indiana

“Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

I’ve been sitting with these words all week as I’ve been preparing my sermon for Sunday. Something about them has been rattling in my bones. I couldn’t name what it was though until I started looking through my Facebook feed on Wednesday afternoon and I began to see the news of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery. I began reading the familiar story of a black man living only to end up dead; chased down and lynched.

And then, just several hours later in my city of Indianapolis, Dreasjon Reed was murdered by police after being shot with a taser and running away. And to spit on his corpse one of the officers said, “Looks like you won’t have an open casket, homie.”

And I began to seethe.

I began to seethe and I woke up in some kind of mood.

CORRECTION Georgia Chase Deadly Shooting
Protest for Ahmaud Arbery.

States are opening up which will lead to more people dying (IN’s projection is up over 500% due to reopening). White people armed with assault rifles have taken to protesting because of their lack of ability to get a haircut or have a beer at the bar. They threaten and intimidate legislators who are actually trying to save lives, all the while the authors of the falsely called pro-life movement cheerlead a death march. A death march that leads to cashiers and security guards be sneezed upon and even killed.

All the while, as the white militant terrorists are storming state capitals, young unarmed black men continue to be lynched by the state, and children are still in damned cages.

Natalie Hijazi

These death dealers are littering the ground with gravestones; monuments to their worship of Mammon and Moloch. In their wake lives are destroyed. Children are left without parents; parents without children; lovers without their beloved. They leave their stones strewn across the road to silence and to scare; to intimidate and annihilate. Gravestones cover the ground.

Ahh, but here’s the thing, here’s the thing, when the powerful, tell Jesus to shut the rabble up; to pay attention to the signs along the road; to see the gravestones of those whose lives did not matter and to remember his place, Jesus turns it around and tells them that even if the people are silenced the very stones will cry out (Luke 19:29-40). The symbols of death will cry out and say their names.

And so, I was thinking about this week’s text from 1 Peter when all of this washed over me. What does it mean to be a living stone in the time of pandemic?

What does it look like when white supremacy is running rampant and unchecked privilege is killing people?

What does being a living stone look like when black and brown bodies are daily left on the side of the road, dead?


I’d like to think that it means that, resting on the cornerstone of Christ, we are being called to say their names. We are being called to join with the voices of the dead and dying and raise up a voice that proclaims life. I’d like to think that being a living stone built into the spiritual house means check our privilege if you are like me a cis-white man. I’d like to think that it means that we do everything in our power, having been ourselves called precious in God’s sight, to fight for the dignity of all of those lives left out and left behind.

The week’s reading concludes with these words, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1Peter 2:10) We have received mercy. We, living stone who have could have been cast aside have been shown mercy and been given a place in the work of God Realm.

Oh, and when we get that we are living stones, my how the world begins to change.

The church I serve is on the eastside of Indianapolis. For those who don’t know Naptown, the eastside is the side that people don’t want to go. I’m sure you can guess why. Our congregation rests in the highest poverty zip code in the county. Even before the pandemic, our unemployment was above the average, abandoned homes dot each block, overdoses and gunshots are regular occurrences. It can be rough, but it is also the most beautiful part of town because as this neighborhood has been ignored many have refused to be still.



There are many living stones in this neighborhood.

One is the director of our food pantry, who has used their imagination and ingenuity to not only deliver meals to people every day during the pandemic (over 2,500 to date) but has created an efficient, safe, and dignity providing pantry. And when why they do it, why do they every day drive around the city to pick up meals to deliver they say because someone did it for them. Someone lift them up when they were on the side of the road. They were hungry and someone showed her mercy. And now, this living stone daily shows mercy to those in our community.

Because in a time like this, a time full of fear, full of misinformation, and ignorant rage we the only things that can make a change.

The pretentiously pious politicians have had their turn and and have showered shame upon the hurting and the vulnerable. The prosperity proclaiming preachers have had their turn and they shred the Gospel with every turn of phrase. Now is the time for the living stones to cry out, to organize, to rebuild, to create, and to fight to bring about God’s Realm.


There will be sacrifice. It won’t be easy. Some of us will need to have our edges chiseled so that those parts of us loosen — our power, our privilege, our over-inflated egos—so that we align with the plumb line of God’s justice. But when we do, when the living stones cry you and are fully part of the temple of Christ, in the words of Sam Cooke, “a change is gonna come.”

justinJustin Thornburgh is a 2012 graduate of LSTC and is serving as pastor of Emerson Avenue Baptist Church in Indianapolis, IN – where is an active faith leader with Faith in Indiana, part of the national community organizing network Faith in Action. He is a husband and father of three. If you would like to support the ministry of Emerson Avenue Baptist Church and the myriad ways we support our neighborhood in mind, body, and spirit – click here.

That We Might Have Life: Black Healthcare Matters in the COVID-19 Pandemic – Rev. Lamont Anthony Wells

Rev. Lamont Anthony Wells, Program Director for LuMin/ Campus Ministry and National President of the African Descent Lutheran Association, shares a stirring post as the COVID-19 virus makes its mark on Holy Week services across the United States. With a word of judgment against the many systems in this country that oppress black people and people of color, as well as a word of charge to the rest of the church to address these problems head-on – he adjures the faithful of our country to vigilance and action as the spread of the epidemic exacerbates life and danger for the most vulnerable in among us.  Read, comment, and share.

Francisco Herrera – Interim Editor, PhD student

Virus Outbreak Pence

Just as we entered Holy Week 2020, we heard some of the most grim news from U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams who told the American people on Palm Sunday that “this (week) is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment” as COVID-19 infections continue to rise.

Many leading public health officials have described the week of April 5th 2020 ( Holy Week) as potentially the hardest and saddest week of increased deaths related to the coronavirus.  This pandemic has affected the entire world in very alarming ways.  It has also continued to spike the globally uncured diseases of racism and xenophobia.  The University Health Services at the University of California, Berkeley recently retracted a statement (@tangcentercal) advising students that “xenophobia: fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and guilt about these feelings” is a normal or common reaction. This shows the high level of insensitivity and present day normalization of racism even from a school who’s demographics report that more than 30% of the student body is of Asian descent.

This institution’s culture and ethics in communication should be far above the curve for understanding racism of any kind as an unacceptable reaction to this pandemic.  But like many institutions, it continued to be complicit in the propagation of systematic and systemic racism. This must stop. Especially at a time when we are finding that people of color are and will be affected fatally by this pandemic at disproportional rates.

In fact,, reported that early data shows African Americans have contracted and died of coronavirus at an alarming rate. In the very city that hosted the African Descent Lutheran Association’s (ADLA) August 2019 Biennial Assembly (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 coronavirus cases and 81% of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is only 26% Black (as of 4/3/20).  This level of disproportionate rates of infection and death is a direct result of economic, political, and environmental factors that have been growing for decades.  These factors along with so many other sociological trends have put Black people at higher risk of chronic conditions that leave immune systems vulnerable and battling pre-existing illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, HIV, and asthma.

ADLA has ramped up advocacy  efforts to pressure the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release race data related to the coronavirus. The CDC typically tracks widespread demographic data with all virulent outbreaks, but has provided little information  about race during this current pandemic.  This data is and will continue to be important to address racism and other disparities to healthcare access.


“You Do It to Me” – John Petts

If (this) Holy Week 2020 will begin the deadliest season (to date) of this pandemic, then America will experience a devastating loss of Black lives.  Now more than ever we must be reminded that Black Lives Matter.

We must also acknowledge that government and religious leaders have requested and strongly encouraged the nation to “shelter in place” and remain at home.  However, that becomes a very privileged request when many people do not have the same levels of resources to do so.  For instance, imposing curfews, demanding lockdowns, or even expecting people to stay at home without canceling rent, helping to secure adequate food and all other related bills is an unjust request.   With the impending rise in unemployment, this pandemic has created a greater wealth divide in access to basic income and adequate housing for all.

The CARES Act and stimulus package(s) will assist some people in this season, but it will not greatly protect the most vulnerable who are at higher risks related to this pandemic.

Holy Week 2020 should bring us all into a greater understanding of the realities of death and access to life in our nation and world.  We as people of faith easily grasp the understanding that Jesus died for all of our sins and brings us to eternal redemption.  He did it so that we might have life and that life more abundantly (John 10:10).  We are reminded, that God so loved the world and (God) gave us Jesus so that we wouldn’t perish but have access to eternal life. In the same way we celebrate access to a better life with Jesus, we must claim access to healthcare as a human right that provides a better life for all.  This COVID-19 pandemic is uncovering major disparities in access to health care. With the rising death tolls, we need high quality public health care that is guaranteed to all and not just as a private marketplace.


Many of the sociological trends (health, economic, etc.) affecting people of color globally and nationally can easily be seen among the participants, members, and leaders of color in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  For far too long, we have watched our friends and colleagues (especially of African Descent) die and grow gravely ill because of health conditions like those mentioned above.

The economic inequities among many of the ELCA’s congregations often reveals the most impoverished communities having to do so much more with fewer resources. Many rostered leaders of color are still struggling to pay health insurance premiums and deductibles out of meager church budgets and inconsistent paychecks.


We as a Church can do so much more to reverse these trends and inequities.  We need to continue to increase our support and advocacy for people of color who are disproportionately affected by this pandemic and are in critical need of help.

Let’s take up this cross that we bear right now in 2020 and follow Jesus who has led us to a better life for all.

thumbnail_FA8E4011-39C2-4606-BA51-BD06D77FB2D6Rev. Lamont Anthony Wells is the Program Director for LuMin/ Campus Ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). LuMin is a network of over 240 colleges and universities. He is also the National President of the African Descent Lutheran Association (ELCA). Pastor Wells is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Interdenominational Theological Center, both in Atlanta, Ga; and has studied at Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell University. As a dynamic speaker, Rev. Wells is frequently called to share prophetic messages of ecumenism and social justice which motivates him as a leader and community organizer.

Wearing Maundy Every Thursday – Rev. Hannah Bergstrom de Leon

For our first post during Woman’s History Month we are turning to Rev. Hannah Bergstrom de Leon – pastor at Minneola Lutheran Church in rural Minnesota – and a personal reflection she makes on the #ThursdaysInBlack campaign sponsored by the World Council of Churches. It may not seem like much, but wearing black every Thursday, snapping a selfie, and sharing it with the world makes a difference and in ways one doesn’t expect – this story demonstrates it. Read, commment, and share.

Francisco Herrera – Ph.D. student, Interim Editor


Every Thursday I wear black.

Two years ago a colleague of mine, having just returned from a conference of clergy women, decided to join the #ThursdaysInBlack campaign.  On her first Thursday of wearing black, she posted a picture on Facebook and as I was doing my regular morning scroll, her picture came across and I read her words.  They unnerved me.  A desire to do something rose within me and in that moment, doing something led me to comment on her post.  In reply, she invited me to join her in wearing black every Thursday and I said yes.  So now, every Thursday as I go to my closet, I pull from it the black dress, the black shirt, the black scarf and I don it in solidarity with the victims and the survivors of gender based violence and rape throughout the world.

#ThursdaysInBlack was initiated by the World Council of Churches having been inspired by a number of global movements motivating people to bring an end to global violence and rape.

From the World Council of Church’s online resources:

The campaign is simple but profound.

  • Wear black on Thursdays.
  • Wear a pin to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence.
  • Show your respect for women who are resilient in the face of injustice and violence.
  • Encourage others to join you.

It was simple. 

In the melee of the world’s politics, social struggles and human displacement here was a simple act in which I could participate.  #ThursdaysInBlack gave me something to DO in my weekly life that allowed me to be part of something bigger than myself and something for “the least of these. (Matthew 25:40)”  As a Lutheran Pastor I could no longer ignore Christ’s call to speak the truth about the world, the beauty and the horror.  As a Christian I could no longer ignore Christ’s command to love the neighbor but also to feed, cloth and welcome them too.

As a member of the human race on this globe, I could no longer do nothing.



As the public consciousness was rising around gender violence particularly in regards to #MeToo and #ChurchToo and as trans women of color continued to be murdered at a higher rate than any other demographic in the United States, here was a way for me to simply draw a line, make a statement and keep the awareness, the humanity of those suffering sacred by holding it every week by choosing to wear black.

But as often happens, after two years the intensity and my commitment began to waver.  Slacktivism is real folks, and I was beginning to suspect I had fallen into the trap of promoting a social cause on social media but without making any meaningful commitment, engagement or impact.  As 2019 came to an end, I began debating if I should let go of my Thursdays in black.

As I sat in this possibility, I began to notice odd little comments and moments that tied back to my wearing black every Thursday. Things like:

  • A church member giving me a black scarf because she knew I wore black on Thursdays and she wanted to support my effort in some small way
  • Our Sunday School connecting to our local womens’ shelter by making bathroom baskets full of staples so women had some essentials as they began to start over
  • A number of colleagues sharing that part of their inspiration to join #ThursdaysInBlack came from viewing my posts from the years prior
  • A family member telling me how important it was that she knew I would be praying for her, a survivor, every Thursday

cloudy night

Getting overwhelmed with the problems in this world is inevitable, yet my faith reminds me every single time I open my bible, that I am not the Savior.  The weight of this world is not mine to bear.  I can’t and I won’t, but I will see the world for what it is. I will name the places of pain and horror just as easily as those of joy and expectation.  I will do the things, small and seemingly insignificant things that the Spirit compels me to do and I will trust.  I will trust that God will make them enough because my God, our God, is a God who uses what is small, weak, lowly and foolish to change this world. (1 Corinthians 1:29).  Mother Teresa encapsulated this aspect of faith; “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 

Let God do the rest.

bio picHannah was born and raised in Iowa; the youngest of five to a relatively mobile ELCA pastor. After graduating with a degree in English Education from Iowa State University, she moved with her best friend to the Twin Cities, making MN her home for the past 15 years.  After teaching for two years and working for a software startup for five, Hannah got her call to ministry during her now annual silent retreat on the shores of Lake Winnebago.  Hannah attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul and during her time there she realized her love of congregational ministry and gave birth to twin boys.  She was first called and has now served Minneola Lutheran Church in rural Goodhue County for four years.


Sitz Im Leben for #America2020 – Rev. Ronald Bonner

Rev. Ronald Bonner is a beloved regular contributor for We Talk. We Listen. And as we share our last post for Black History Month, he gives us a stirring lament on how open bigotry and white resentment have roiled our country’s politics these last few years, as well as how we must respond. Click, read, and share with your networks, friends.

Francisco Herrera – Interim Editor, LSTC PhD student

I am asking a simple question…

Can you explain what has happened to our situation in America?


A country that once had moorings in truth, but now alternative facts or lies are valued as truth by persons in high places?  Is there a problem with the way our government is behaving, and if yes, how do we address it? Are we living in a situation that 60 million people wanted when they voted on November 8, 2016?  Are they happy, is the current situation what they desired?

Is this the government that defines what the American form of democracy has become?

Albert Einstein said that if we are to solve a problem, then we must ask the right question. Are we experiencing the world of Ephesians 6:12 that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Is this the Sitz im Leben, the setting, the situation that we find for ourselves?  Then perhaps we need to move the focus from a person and address the perception or spirit that permeates our government? Are we facing an ideology of instability for a change?

One clear perception that seems to dominate is that of white supremacy and not just in the understanding of an individual but in a nation that the current president represents.  Is he the messiah that will restore their sense of self-worth that some white people were fearful of losing during the eight years of the President Obama Administration?  Was the Obama Administration representing the hastening of the day when white people would no longer be a substantial majority in the United States of America?  Has this prediction led to an irrational fear of loss of control and the fear of being treated as they have treated other racial or ethnic groups in America?


The Howard Beale mantra was the core of the 1976 movie Network.  In that movie, he had a catch-phrase “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore” that became a rallying cry for an angst-filled population.  Did our current president use that model and tapped into fearful angst?  Was our society exploited?  Did he ride this angst, along-side increased xenophobia, latent misogyny, and oppressive heterosexism to a faux but legal political victory?  And now, do we get to witness the undoing of our democracy, the crushing of the constitution, the fracturing of our freedoms?  Will the recent Impeachment trial become a self-fulfilling prophecy of power over the will of the people? Are we on the edge of a discovery that we exist on a moral flat earth, and the freedom of truth is falling over the edge?


Is this the time that Gil Scott Heron predicted when he said that It is Winter in America …”the Constitution a noble piece of paper with free society struggled, but it died in vain, and now democracy is ragtime on the corner hoping for some rain?”

Are we firmly in the grasp of a society where the wealthy minority is using its power and influence to make itself even more prosperous? By offering in exchange, a dreaded delusion of inclusion, through the promise of the new American Dream, of “make America great again?”

I am persuaded that the faux-promise of an America made great again will not invite or include the millions of blue-collar, rural, and lower Middle-Class workers, who believed in a xenophobic messiah.

Whose promise of a wall, may have energized a what some are calling a forgotten market, but will not benefit them.  Their desire to trumpet a clarion call of “build the wall” that was their hope, to shield them from the growing nightmare of racial parity at the hands of the growth of brown-skinned invaders. Those whose ancestors called this land home, generations before the first boats from Europe began sending waves of immigrants and migrant workers.

I believe that what these loyalists will soon discover is that the only wall this administration will build is the wall between the haves and the have-nots.  Those who fell for the faux-promise empowered an uncaring ideology, and will soon find that they have forfeited their futures and have indentured their progeny, for an imaginary morsel of inclusion.  #AlternativeReality, #HahaNoFunnyButTheJokeIsOnYOU, #TooLateToComplain, #Expletives, #HaveYouNodecency?


Is it true what President Lyndon Baines Johnson said: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Is that true for their vote or blind allegiance as well? Thus, is there the realization of an undiagnosed problem of unsolvable internalized oppression? Usually, that term is reserved for persons of color who value whiteness more than their heritage. But it is plausible that those who do not vote or work in their real and not ill-perceived best self-interest also suffer from a form of internalized oppression?

Perhaps the beauty of our current situation is that America will have clarity that the wealthy landowners of the 1600s invented white as a race to exploit the working class for their benefit.  And once enough of the rights and interests of those who voted for the current administration will have eroded, they will see that people of color and whites are in the same boat.  And the yachts of promise that all white people are equal will not allow them access to a “great” America except as the help.  And will they then realize they are in the same boat as people of color, and it is sinking and taking on Flint quality drinking water?


And maybe then they will see with clarity their future and apologize for their apathy.  Because, in truth, we can’t let injustice win, we must resist.  “The way things are now is not the way they have to be in the future[1].” And what is now lost, good people must work together to restore.

And in case you’d like to see/hear what our Found Fathers have to say, click here…

CST PhotoRonald S. Bonner Sr. is the Associate Pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, GA for Community Engagement with responsibilities for evangelism, outreach, service, and advocacy. Before his current Call, Pastor Bonner served as the pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Atonement, Atlanta, GA, for ten years. He also served as the Manager for Multicultural Resources for Augsburg Fortress Publishers in Minneapolis, MN. Pastor Bonner was ordained in The United Church of Christ through Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL, to his first Called position as the Assistant to the President for Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity for the United Church of Christ. Pastor Bonner is also the author of No Bigotry Allowed: Losing the Spirit of Fear, and The Seat a short story looking at issues of radicalized law enforcement and the editor of 3 religious devotionals.

[1] Elizabeth Liebert, The Soul of Discernment: A Spiritual Practice for Communities and Institutions, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, p3.


#TreasuresofDarkness, Day 3: Psalm 68:31 and the Stirrings of Revolution – Rev. Kwame Pitts

This week, We Talk. We very happy to welcome the Rev. Kwame Pitts back to the blog, and for the chance to introduce the wider public to her dynamic blog series on African and African diasporic thought and life Treasures of Darkness. Originally posted here, Rev. Pitts’ reflection on the richness and power of African-rooted spirituality and ethics is the kind of education and challenge that many white Christians say they appreciate, but so often don’t. Read, comment, and share – and follow the #TreasuresOfDarkness devotional for Black History Month.
Francisco Herrera – Interim Blog Editor, Ph. D. student

“Black was an emotionally partisan color, the handmaid and symbol of baseness and evil, a sign of danger and repulsion. Embedded in the concept of blackness, was its direct opposite-whiteness…White and black connoted purity and filthiness, virginity and sin, virtue and baseness, beauty and ugliness, beneficence and evil, God and the devil….Blackness not only had a distinctive negative connotation but also was personalized as the devil.” from Yorbua Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism, Dr. Tracey E. Hucks

“The missionaries who introduced the gospel to Africa in the past 200 years did not bring God to our continent. Instead, God brought them. They proclaimed the name Jesus Chrsit. But they used the names of the God who was and is already known by African peoples: such as Mungu, Ngai, Olodumare, Asis and thousands more. These were not empty names. They were names of the one and the same God.” Dr. John Mbiti, as quoted by Dr. Peter Paris from The Spirituality of African Peoples

One of the issues that I am rooted in my constructive and valid criticism of Westernized Christianity, is the factor that we, as African Peoples of the Diaspora are not religious or spiritual enough and need to be trained and educated in the right way of worship.

That Christianity was exclusive to Western European ideals, because we were obviously uncivilized because we worshiped the Creator in a variety of ways and languages. That we were cursed because of our skin, and therefore anything that we contributed to the global culture should be eradicated and erased.

Even today, when African Descent peoples here in the U.S. worship and celebrate the Creator God, with songs and dancing and drumming it is still seen as barbaric. When we venerate our Ancestors, it is seen as demonic. And yet, it is through the African Diaspora communities that the communications both ancient, sacred and now, sacred are still being utilized. That many peoples, for that matter of different cultures who have been oppressed and marginalized because of whom they are and that they did not fit the “accepted norm” of whiteness, also have a deeper connection to the Creator because of these rituals and traditions.

“The principle that holds all of these beings together is harmony. Every being, divine and human, is responsible for the nurturing harmony within and between the various levels of created existence and hence with the Great High God. The manifestation of disharmony is considered evil, and not reflective of the Great High God.” Dr. Peter Paris.

In other words, peoples of the African Diaspora, since we were birthed into Creation, have held fast to the practical and ethical obligations both to ourselves as Tribes of peoples, to Creation and to the Creator.

Here below, is my original post and contribution towards the #TreasuresofDarkness African Descent History Devotional.



The Revolution has always been birthed in the bosom of Africa

Curiously enough,

by scholars and theologians alike,

Psalm 68 has been difficult to analyze and decipher



Psalm 68, verse 31

Has routinely been ignored or not included

in much of the lectionary-

Sometimes it is everything BUT

Verse 31.

Let bronze be brought from Egypt;
let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God.

Papa Legba, Protector of the Crossroads; a presence for an exile and enslaved Peoples; a presence for Revolution

Rather interesting that the word “bronze” has been substituted for the Hebrew חַשְׁמַנִּים

which means ambassador, envoy

And in other places, the definition has been translated into nobles, Princes and even red cloth.

Curious about how items such as red cloth, bronze and other interpretations came to be, to describe one of the mighty civilizations of the world-or perhaps, it was only the material and the profitable that mattered on describing places in Africa-

because the Peoples of Africa,

where never seen as vital

or important

Or even, related to the colonizing white/European

as even human.

There are two key interpretations. One, cultivated by white abolitionists and subsequently used by Europeans who embark upon an African “civilizing mission”, holds that it is they — white/Europeans — who are God’s children. Hence, it is white/Europeans to whom Ethiopia is stretching for her hands for deliverance from slavery and primitivism. The other, cultivated by the enslaved and their downpressed descendants, holds that the Bible is their story — the “half never told“. Africans will therefore righteously deliver their own selves from bondage. Interpretation of Psalm 68:31

Treasures entrusted to the people of God-Resting place of the Ark?

In the Hebrew, כּ֥וּשׁ

is translated into Cush,


Son of Ham,

Cursed for all eternity

This curse passed down to all of his descendants

of being


which because of Ham seeing Noah his father’s most vulnerable moment

Was a sign of disrespect

And the excuse to enslave the entirety of a People.

And yet,

It’s hilarious because this particular Psalm

Speaks of God





Clearly throughout the Psalm,

God is protecting those who have been abandoned


And leads out those who have been wrongly imprisoned

By the early part of the 19th century various mystics, poets and preachers begin to proselytize this message in public. Prince Hall, a Barbadian freemason, resident in Boston, proclaims that the Haitian Revolution is prophecy revealed: “Thus doth Ethiopia begin to stretch forth her hand, from a sink of slavery to freedom and equality. Interpretation of Psalm 68:31

The Psalms are songs

Expressing our heartache, our sorrow and our determination

as Beloved of God

Psalm 68:31 then,

Is a Song of Freedom

Because the chosen peoples of God,

in times when humanity pits itself against one another,

In the name of dominance

and greed,

and selfishness

Reach out their arms to the Creator,

Because the Creator indeed,

protects Peoples

counted among the Sacred.


75095313_10218587923942285_6894276822024847360_oRev. Kwame Pitts (M.Div. LSTC2015) is empowered and emboldened by the presence of the Ancestors, living out her life as such. Her call is not only to prophetically teach and preach but also experience her Faith along a dual and sometimes complex spiritual pathway, as the Creator has called her. Following and continuing the responsibilities laid out through her Womanist theologian mentors and Elders, her Ancestors both known and unknown, and venerating her namesake in the work of building a nation, Kwame lives her life authentically, as a Woman of the African Diaspora, working and rooted in transformative and social justice. She has been ordained in the ELCA since 2015 and currently serves in Upstate NY Synod both as Pastor and Campus Pastor. She continues towards completion of her Master’s of Sacred Theology (STM) from Chicago Theological Seminary (May 2020).

Also, for those who wish to follow the #TreasuresOfDarkness devotional that accompanies Pastor Kwame’s series, click on and save this image as well as click here.