When you pray, move your feet

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John Lewis marching in Selma prior to being attacked by state troopers

They say it’s an African proverb (who knows if it actually is):

When you pray, move your feet.

The reason I know this phrase is not because I grew up in South Africa, but because it is a favorite saying of John Lewis, one of the key leaders of the USA Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Lewis was responsible for helping to lead a lot of the grassroots college protests in the 60’s– the Freedom Rides, lunch-counter sit-ins, and also led the famous march in Selma for voting rights.

In other news, we just finished a small group study of the book Generous Justice with some people from our church. The book systematically goes through the Bible and shows how justice is central to God’s character, and to the way he expects his people to live. One of the most interesting things Keller brings up is the term righteousness in the Bible doesn’t mainly refer to private personal morality, but rather refers to the individual’s role in bringing social justice. Throughout scripture (but especially in the book of Job), we see the definition of an unrighteous person is one who advantages himself at the expense of the community, while the righteous man disadvantages himself for the sake of his neighbour. Whether that is clothes, food, legal counsel, or paying a fair wage–righteous people actively seek justice for their neighbours, even at cost to themselves.

I’ve been thinking about prayer, and justice, and what it means to pray while moving your feet this week, because South Africa just had possibly its largest ever prayer meeting. Thousands of people gathered to pray for our country, and for just leadership in our nation. I believe the work of justice is spiritual work, and so I was encouraged to see so many people willing to travel for hours in order to pray for just leadership. Continue reading

Why sometimes an African doctor is better than an American one

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wikipedia

In 2005, Dr Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian doctor living in the US, published a paper about a degenerative brain disease. This disease was causing serious personality changes, violent behavior, memory loss, and even suicide. People— famous people— were exhibiting these horrendous symptoms for years, but no doctors had published papers or studied it enough to come up with a cohesive theory of how these symptoms were connected.

Why?

The famous people exhibiting these symptoms were American football players. Continue reading

Easter Sunday (or,Ta-Nehisi Coates, Miroslav Volf & NT Wright have a conversation about bodies)

We are back again. This time it’s very early, and the sun is rising. And the kindly looking bishop takes the pulpit.

“Our scripture reading for today comes from the gospel according to John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

Bodies matter. Disembodiment is evil. But we are people who believe in resurrection. Because Christ is raised from the dead, we believe that all will be raised. Resurrected to judgement or to eternal life. What I do in my body as a white person matters. And what happens to a black body matters. There will come a reckoning. Continue reading

Good Friday: The Day God Dies (or Ta-Nahesi Coates, Miroslav Volf & N.T. Wright have a conversation about bodies)

We are all gathered in a small chapel for our normal good Friday service, the candles are lit, the incense is ready, but then Ta-Nahesi Coates stands up in the middle of the service, faces the congregation, and begins to speak:

“When a black man dies, everyone wants to talk about forgiving the killer.They want to weave his death into some kind of higher meaning, some purpose. But I don’t believe in God. I believe in bodies. When I sat in the church Prince’s funeral, my black friend who was rich, well educated, whose mother had groomed him for Yale, when I sat there I couldn’t see a higher purpose in his death. Continue reading

On Corporate Confession: A Prayer for Black History Month

Over Christmas break, I was drinking coffee with two of my favorite people in the world (who actually had never met each other). We only had an hour, so there was zero small talk and we went straight to the good stuff like the role of women in the church and diversity and reconciliation and these pressing issues that keep us up at night. At one point we were talking about reconciliation in the church, and black lives matter, and why our white churches can’t/aren’t doing anything on this issue. And at one point I said something like,

“The white church’s problem is we see everything as individualistic, and so we think if we’re individually nice to the black people we know then we’re loving our neighbours and everything is fine. (Like this study pointed out). But if the problems are bigger than that—if they’re structural, if racism is more about a system—it’s harder for people to grasp that.”

Continue reading

Conversations on Privilege with Brett “fish” Anderson part 2

Conversations on privilege

Today we’re continuing this conversation on privilege with Brett! Check over here for part 1.

How do you feel about the idea of privilege now? 

i find it so frustrating seeing people who don’t ‘get’ it. Partly because i feel like i have to some extent ‘got’ it for a while now and been talking and writing and engaging with it for so long and so it always surprises me when i come across people who react so negatively to the idea of it. i completely believe that for the most part people have a wrong understanding of the concept of white privilege when they get so defencive. Feel bad for being white is the message they hear. White guilt is another one. You are bad because you have this white privilege thing is another.

Continue reading

On Labels & Learning

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Mmm, yes, canva good job on changing my text alignment.

I’m thrilled to welcome Brettfish to the blog space for the next little while to share his story of wrestling with the concept of privilege as a white South African guy. Brett is someone who is helping the white community in SA start to have conversations about race and privilege, and does a great job sharing his platform with thoughtful South Africans of all races in discussing this topic. I’ve learned so much from his posts, and even had the chance to do a guest post for him at one stage. With all that’s going on in SA right now with the #feesmustfall campaigns, there have been a lot of questions and conversations about privilege springing up. I think Brett’s story is a great place to start if you have questions about all this “privilege” stuff.

But before we jump into Brett’s posts, I want you to hear this. Because I think you won’t be able to hear anything unless you know this, and know it deep, deep in your soul:

You are loved.

Continue reading

The Weird and Wonderful of the Interwebs this week

I have a couple of guest posters coming up who are going to be sharing about hospitality. But in the mean time… there’s just too much stuff I’m reading these days to keep to myself. So welcome to the weird and wonderful of the interwebs:

The American Race clicks:

Race Bias in Photography: There was this 5 minute video on film processing that was sent to me by a photographer friend. Did you know that the chemical processes used to develop color film were created in order to make white people skin tones look good but just made black people skin tones look one, pretty uniform dark brown? The color-tests they were using to check their processes were of a white person (another example of how white = “normal”, but actually white isn’t normal). And they only started correcting this in the 1970’s when chocolate companies and wood furniture companies complained that the photographs of their products weren’t looking that good? WHAT?!

If you’re confused about Black Lives Matter, and think that it’s exclusive, or leaving people out, and that maybe we should talk about #AllLivesMatter, this article does a really good job explaining why Black Lives Matter is important. AND, how as Christians, when we say things like #AllLivesMatter we’re hurting our brothers and sisters in Christ, not helping.

“What, on the surface, “All Lives Matter” attempts to communicate – that is, we all matter, we all have value, we are all of the same race, all human, all the same color on the inside – actually accomplishes the opposite. Instead of bringing ALL lives together, “All Lives Matter” is, in essence, attempting to erase the experience of the black community. In saying all lives matter, you are choosing to ignore the lives that are not being valued now.”

-Lindsay Wallace, “Light Breaks Forth” blog. “Things Christians Probably Shouldn’t Say: All Lives Matter.  

And then there was finally an amazing speech by someone in government about the major issues that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is seeking to address. Yay to Elizabeth Warren for talking about broad policing reform to protect both police and the people they are interacting with. If you’re interested in signing a petition calling for some of these concrete reforms to our policing and criminal justice system, check out the Black Lives Matter movement website.

“We’ve seen sickening videos of unarmed, black Americans cut down by bullets, choked to death while gasping for air — their lives ended by those who are sworn to protect them. Peaceful, unarmed protesters have been beaten. Journalists have been jailed. And, in some cities, white vigilantes with weapons freely walk the streets,” Warren said. “And it’s not just about law enforcement either. Just look to the terrorism this summer at Emanuel AME Church [in Charleston, S.C.]. We must be honest: 50 years after John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.” – Elizabeth Warren in the article by the Washington Post


The South African Race Clicks: 

On the #IamStellenbosch campaign fail. In response to some of the recent protests and calls for certain symbols of colonial oppression to be removed (as well as calling for a more Afrocentric syllabus, among other things), one university tried to start a campaign to promote unity and break down stereotypes. Students were supposed to hold pieces of paper sharing a fact about themselves that broke a racial stereotype. Great idea? Except… not. This article explains why. It’s full of a lot of big words like hegemony, sooo, it might not be your cup of tea. But the title of the article sums it up well: #IamStellenbosch: Non-racialism, and feigning a perfect society. Basically, the author argues that this campaign is silencing the actual inequalities that still exist, and the ignoring the fact that race still has “currency” in South Africa– it does matter in our interactions, in who are friends are, where we live, in our syllabuses, when we look for jobs, or spend our money, or get pulled over by the police. And when we argue for color-blindness and enforce a narrative that “race doesn’t matter”– we’re just conveniently propping up the white (rich/capitalist/whatever you want to call it) status quo.

Oh wait– silencing? That sounds a lot like the #AllLivesMatter stuff that’s going around in the states. See– connections!! And plenty of food for thought.

“The #IAmStellenbosch campaign is microcosmic mimicry of the reckless, offensive and violent way which the Rainbow Nation project attempted to feign a perfect society.”

““Non-racialism” is the new magic cloak whiteness wears to disguise itself.”

Also, I LOVED this post on how we celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa by Peter Ruddock over at Vapours in the Wind. He argues Heritage Day should be a time of introspection and embracing all parts of our heritage and past: the messy parts, the privileged parts and the painful parts.

“Now there is something wonderfully communal and unifying about the braai, and traditional outfits reflect something important about culture, so I do not object to them per se. But I remain concerned that by celebrating only in these ways, we have reduced entire cultures to costumes and what it means to be South African to a spicy sausage.”


The South African and American Race Clicks Collide!

And THEN I read THIS article, shared by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which was talking about the removal of Confederate symbols in the USA (in this instance, he’s talking about Memphis, but with all of the #takedownthatflag stuff going on, it relates to Confederate symbols anywhere). The author compared it with the #RhodesMustFall campaigns on university campuses in South Africa. I like that he highlights the need to think about the meaning of these symbols and be willing to listen to people and wrestle through the issues. However, he slightly touches on, but doesn’t delve into the idea that it’s easy to make a symbolic gesture and say the past was unjust… it’s a little harder to make changes that affect present injustice. 

To make the process more constructive, there must be a more thorough and honest look into the past and its effects on the present.That includes acknowledging the pain caused by symbols of oppression and the disadvantages and attitudes that linger from that era. Dismissals of the relevance and legitimacy of that pain with statements like “let’s move on” or “you can’t change history” only make productive dialogue more difficult.

“Rhodes Must Fall”and Memphis’ Confederate Monuments


On Social Justicey things:

I loved this article on the refugee crisis and our limits of compassion by Ebony Johanna. I mean, it’s a pretty tough article, but she sure speaks truth! Definitely worth the time to head over to her blog and read the whole thing!

Have our hearts become so hardened, our humanity so compromised that we cannot recognize that of another unless we, with our eyes, see that they are dead? I hope not. But the current reality does not allow me to imagine another scenario. We do not seem to move unless blood is spilled, we do not seem to care unless the target of our affection is not breathing. We do not care about babies until they are aborted, black lives until they are dead in the streets, the lives of women until they have no more voice, refugees until they are drowning in a sea of forgetfulness. Our compassion towards each other begins and ends in death; with such a distorted perception of care, how can any of us truly live?

And now a HAPPY one! You know I like complaining about how people are presented in a lot of community development/ international aid fundraising campaigns, right? Okay, so how cool is it that when the UN announced their new global goals for sustainable development, they made this video by Africans, for Africans, featuring African artists? Africans are a part of bringing sustainable development to Africa, this isn’t just something that people in the West dream up and then fly over to implement, despite the picture that most big-name charities present. Also, I like that they portray urban culture and technology use– two other things you don’t often see in presentations of Africa. I’m sure someone more cynical than me can find plenty of things wrong with it. But hey, as things go, it’s pretty good.

Plus, it’s a catchy song,even if it’s cheesy propaganda. 🙂


And finally. I have to share how PROUD I am of myself for successfully making Peppermint Crisp Pudding for Heritage day with only ONE of the same ingredients that the original recipe calls for. Yes. I did it.

Here’s the ingredients: whipping cream (=same), coconut biscuits I found in the Mexican aisle (instead of tennis biscuits), Andes mint pieces (instead of peppermint crisp) and the BIG one: Sweetened condensed milk (instead of caramel treat). I boiled the tin of condensed milk for 2.5 hours using these instructions, and turned it into caramel treat. It worked! Best dessert ever.

FotoPeprCreated

The problem we all live with

By Norman Rockwall

By Norman Rockwell

I wasn’t going to post this week, because we’re in the process of moving in to our new apartment in Texas! Yay! Expect to hear lots more “y’all” and twanging in these posts in the future. But, I just had to share this, briefly. 

This one is for the Americans. I just listened to this story on NPR. Sometimes people ask me, “But what about poor white people? You make it sound like all white people are privileged, but there are lots of black people that are richer and have better lives than poor white people.” There are poor white people. True. But.

Here are a couple quotes that blew my mind from this podcast, which talks about the school district in Ferguson:

  •  “In the Saint Louis area, nearly 1 in 2 black children attend schools in districts that performed so poorly, the state has stripped them of full accreditation. Only 1 in 25 white children are in a district like that. That’s 1 in 2 black kids, 1 in 25 white kids….”
  • “Of course, there are poor white children in the Saint Louis area, but they live in mostly middle class areas. So they aren’t attending schools as terrible as Normandy (Michael Brown’s school). In Saint Louis, poor white children are twice as likely to go to good schools than black children of all incomes”.

And that’s the kicker. There are white poor people. And life is hard if you are poor, no matter what your race. I do not want to undermine that. But when it comes to a lot of things, it’s not only about income, it’s also about race. A lot of poor white people still experience aspects of white privilege, ranging from big to mundane. Off the top of my head, here are a few:

  • going to better schools with better teachers
  • knowing that when you’re walking into a store, you won’t be followed or suspected of shop-lifting
  • being able to wear sweatpants without being worried that people will think you are a thug
  • being called back for interviews and given the benefit of the doubt in job hiring (this article references a study done in 2000 that showed when people were obviously qualified or unqualified for a job, there was no racial discrimination, but when the qualifications were fuzzy, participants were nearly 70% more likely to recommend the white applicant than the black applicant).
  • being more likely to get off with a warning than being convicted (see The New Jim Crow).

And not only in the present, but historically, too. For example, Polish, Irish, Italian and (enter European ethnicity here) immigrants were all discriminated against when they first came to America. Many of them took low-paying factory jobs. Many of them had to work very, very hard to make ends meet. But, the book “How the Irish became white” explains that one way all of these immigrant groups eventually became accepted into main-line America was through discriminating against black people. Kind of a “You rich white guys think we’re bad? Well, we’re not as bad as them.” Some of the worst violence against black people at the turn of the century in the North (don’t just blame it on slavery, y’all) came from the poor working class white people. Managers would discriminate against hiring black people, and would go for the immigrants instead. So just because your grandparents didn’t own slaves doesn’t mean that your history is free from racial privilege.

We have made so much progress in the past 150 years. We have, we really have. We don’t have to claim that things are as bad today as they were during the Civil Rights era. Things are much, much better. But imagine the outrage you’d hear if we had a stat like, “In this area, half the poor girls are in a failing school, while only one in twenty-five poor boys are in a failing school.”  

I mean, we’d be put on UN watch-lists or something. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Okay, I probably am. But still. Listen to the podcast. It put a human face on a really big problem. And I might have cried at one point. Can you tell I cannot endorse this enough? 🙂