Tag Archives: power

Lent 2017, day 45

lenten-reflections-on-the-confession-of-belhar“The mind of Christ joins us to Belhar’s great themes, struggling toward visible unity and reconciliation as we stand by the suffering. Many of us have great privilege, thanks to the color of our skin, the families of our birth, the value of our education, and the esteem of our professions. Others of us have less privilege, and face challenges the more privileged can only imagine. Still, nearly all of us have some privilege in some given context.

“No matter our privilege, the gospel calls us to use our power to follow Jesus Christ. He gave up his power in order to serve, so that one day every knee should bend and every tongue confess that he is Lord.

“What does this look like in your world?”
Charles B. Hardwick
Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar

This Lenten season I am using a new resource to explore the Belhar Confession: Lenten Reflections on the Confession of Belhar, edited by Kerri N. Allen and Donald K. McKim. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in which I serve as a teaching elder (pastor), added the Confession of Belhar to our Book of Confessions in 2016. This confession came from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

See you along the Trail.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Antiracism, Books, Lent, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

All people have voices

On 11 March 2016, I spoke about the work of advocacy at the orientation for the Presbyterians attending the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I was asked to post a portion of my remarks and did so on the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations blog. I reprint the words here with the permission of the blog editor (who happens to be me).

All people have voices.
The task of advocacy has nothing to do with giving voice to the voiceless, because
all people have voices.
Some people have voices we choose not to hear.
Some people have voices we ignore.
Some people have voices we force to the margins.
Some people have voices we oppress, repress, suppress.
Some people have voices we have silenced, sometimes for a long time, but
all people have voices.

The work of advocacy leads us
to uncover the voices of our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to listen, truly listen, passionately listen to the voices of our sisters and brothers
to heed the voices of our sisters and brothers
and then to work with our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence
to amplify the voices of our sisters and brothers
to bring the voices of our sisters and brothers to the halls of privilege and the tables of power
to invite and call and challenge all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, to hear the voices of our sisters and brothers
to demand that all people, particularly privileged, powerful people, listen, truly listen, passionately listen to our sisters and brothers whose voices we ignore, drive to the margins, suppress, or silence because
all people have voices.

See you along the Trail.

1 Comment

Filed under Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

Show up for each other

The Rev. Dr. Neal Presa, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) participated in the orientation for Presbyterian delegation to the 58th Session to the Commission on the Status of Women.

After being in New York, he flew to Whitworth University in Spokane, WA for the Third Moderator’s Conversation on Unity with Difference on Race, Gender, and Religious Differences.

The Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz was among the speakers at the conversation. As always, Laura made an insightful, challenging, hopeful presentation on Power and the Black-White Binary: Forging Authentic Church Identities in the Midst of White Supremacy, Patriarchy, and Being “Other Asian”.

Laura provides the following summary of her presentation:

Being church together is challenged by the ways in which various church communities and individual church members interact with power based on race and gender, not to mention class status and regional identity. The church, particularly the PC(USA), includes people with diverse capacities for a real conversation. Through exploring the place of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (who in the PC(USA) can check either “Korean” or “Other Asian” for demographic information on some forms) and others dislocated by the black-white binary in church and U.S. society, together we seek a way to move forward toward being a church that allows for complexities of identity and addresses real inequalities.
A couple of passages should encourage you to read the whole presentation:
Race and gender themselves are not the problems obstructing unity. The problems here are racism and sexism. Who we are isn’t the problem, but how we live into oppressive constructs that separate us from one another is. What I will say this morning is part of a longer conversation we in the church need to have with one another, because even though we have been in this conversation for decades, we have yet to diminish our capacity to sin when it comes to relationship with one another.
Our conversation cannot depend upon a generic experience of racism (usually defined by blackness) or sexism (usually defined by middle-aged white women) imposed upon other experiences. Racism is not just about color. It is also about language, culture, colonialism, national origin, and citizenship status. Sexism is not just about how many women get to be heads of staff of tall steeple churches or directors of church agencies. It is about how we continue to think about gender identity and gender roles, and how those thoughts are embedded in our culture and our policies. It is about earning potential; church policies around work hours, compensation, and family leave; about how well churches minister to the lived realities of women in their employ and women who choose to be part of churches. It is about the culture of church leading change in the culture of this country instead of propping up legal and cultural patriarchy.
 
Social issues are theological. It is a theological problem if Christians believe employment opportunity for those with varying levels of education, immigration, the criminal justice system, gun control, political gerrymandering, disenfranchisement, voter ID laws, the financial services sector, hunger, poverty, and economic inequality are not the business of the church. These are things that have a disproportionate impact on the lives of people of color. These are the problems that keep us from attaining a shot at racial justice. These are the problems that shape our lives because we’re always negotiating with banks to allow our in-laws to keep their homes, or finding lawyers so our mothers can stay in the country, or finding people to write letters attesting to the character of our wrongfully accused sons, or looking for ways to feed our families. We have to worry about elected officials who don’t look like us or care about our communities. This takes up a lot of time and energy, and it is our faith that keeps us going. These are the circumstances we bring with us to church every single Sunday.
Laura also identifies resources for further conversations:
I have read Laura’s presentation several times. I will read it several more as I seek ways to respond to her invitation and challenge:
So if we of varying races, genders, and religious groups show up for each other, and if we of varying spiritual gifts show up for each other, maybe that is a way of finding how to be authentically church. Maybe that is how we can create change.
See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Antiracism, Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The power of words

Words matter.

That’s the message of a recent post by my friend Grace Ji-Sun Kim. She reflects on Bill Maher’s observations about Paula Deen. As one who makes his living using words, Maher reportedly said, “It’s just a word, it’s a wrong word, she’s wrong to use it, but do we always have to make people go away?”

Grace joins a number of people, that apparently include Maher’s guest at the time of his statement, who remind us of the power of words.

As children, we grow up with the schoolyard phrase: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words may never hurt me.” Children say this because they know, too well, that words may hurt them.

Agreed.

If we look back in our lives, we will realize that there were certain words that people said to us that have stuck with us for a long time.

Agreed.

In both cases, my agreement arises from practical, personal experience as well as observation and reflection.

Words have power. Power to degrade. Power to inspire. Power to touch and move. Power to abase and wound.

Totalitarian regimes have long recognized the power of words. When the military junta seized power Chile, they arrested, tortured, and killed Victor Jara. His crime? He used the words of his songs to support the government of Salvador Allende.

As Grace writes:

Words influence our thoughts and our ideas. Words shape how we see the world, by causing us to stress certain things and ignore other things.

Once we realize the power of words, we recognize that we can actually start to embrace one another through words.

Our words should be used for moving us and making us into meaningful people who seek to encourage and motivate others. Once we realize the importance and power of our words, we can become more careful with what we say because we know that what we say matters.

Thanks Grace for your reminder about the power of words. May I choose mine carefully, lovingly, and justly.

See you along the Trail.

P.S. In the pile of books I hope to read soon is The Grace of Sophia by Grace Ji-Sun Kim. I look forward to the read.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Friends