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April 29th

Implicit Bias and Racial Reconciliation

Continuing on from my blog post yesterday; a couple weeks ago, I received an email about the Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism’s Framework for Anti-Racism and Racial Reconciliation Training in the Episcopal Church.

I shared about this in my Christian History class and one of the responses summed things up fairly nicely,

Yes, there are a number of initiatives, programs, and efforts across the Episcopal Church to try to frame these discussions, address our past, and think about ways to move forward. Anti-racism training is required of everyone in the ordination process, and many dioceses have their own programs. Part of what Executive Council is trying to do is think about how the church as whole can move forward in these areas.

In my discussions around racism, particularly around racial health disparities, I’ve often run into the idea that various groups have their anti-racism training, their cultural competency training, or other trainings that count as checking off an issue on a list, but perhaps might not really be having as big an impact as desired or necessary.

I thought a lot about this earlier this week when I attended the Connecticut Health Foundation’s conference on the future of health care. Dr David Williams shared a lot of important information in his presentation Making America Healthier for All: What Each of Us Can Do.

He notes that if White America was a country, its life expectancy would be 34th in the list of industrialized countries. Black America would be 96th. In 2012, the infant mortality rate for black Americans was over twice that of white Americans. Recently, a friend shared a link to a New York Times article addressing infant mortality, Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis.

As life expectancy increases, it takes forty years for black Americans to catch up with white Americans. The life expectancy rate for white Americans in 1950 was 69.1 years. It took until 1990 for black Americans to reach that rate.

In a study in Portland Oregon, it took black male pedestrians of similar age and dressed similarly as white pedestrians had to wait 32% longer to cross the street. In 2012, the average wait time to vote for African Americans was 23 minutes. For white Americans it was only 12 minutes. In Connecticut, the county with the highest heart disease death rate for white women was better than the county with the lowest heart disease death rate for black women.

For median household income in the United States, for each dollar a white American household makes, a black American household makes 59 cents. For every dollar of wealth that white Americans have, black Americans have six cents. As an aside, I am not suggesting that wealth is what people should be seeking. I suspect some of the problem is caused not only by too many black Americans not having enough wealth and income to meet daily needs but also by too many white Americans having too much wealth.

I hear a lot of people talking about ‘racial reconciliation’. Is this what we want black people to be reconciled to?

What are the causes of this and how can we address this? One important factor that gets listed as an ‘essential concept’ in the Episcopal framework, but not explored deeply is implicit bias.

During Dr. Williams talk, he mentioned the work Patricia Devine is doing to address implicit bias such as mentioned in this Atlantic article, Is This How Discrimination Ends?. You can see more in a YouTube video, Patricia Devine on Kicking the Prejudice Habit

I’m not sure how much anti-racism trainings address the issue of implicit bias. The ones I’ve participated in don’t seem to address it much. Yet it seems like it needs to be a starting point for anti-racism trainings.


April 28th

Christcon: Does Jesus Love the Incel?

It has been an interesting to week to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other to borrow from a famous quotation from Karl Barth. The Rev. Patrick Conroy found that speaking truth to power, even in an opening prayer can present risks and he resigned his position as House Chaplain without having to be let down through an opening in the wall.

How do we talk about stories from the time of Jesus in twenty-first century America? In my New Testament class, we’ve been talking about pseudepigraphy; texts attributed to an author by members of the authors community. As an example, several of Paul’s letters are considered by many scholars to be pseudepigraphic. I posed the question of how this is different from fanfic today. In a class discussion forum, I wrote:

Looking at pseudepigraphy through a twenty first century lens, it seems to be a fancy word very similar to fan fiction today. I'd encourage people to read The Promise and Potential of Fan Fiction as you think about pseudepigraphy.

Perhaps our worship services are really weekly fanfic conventions. ChristCon?

Expanding on the idea, imagine a gathering where fans of a particular literary opus met weekly. They would start their gatherings with a person walking in carrying a replica of a device used to torture and murder the hero of the literary opus. Some participants might even wear small pieces of jewelry in the shape of the torture device. People would read sections of the literary opus. A keynote presenter might get up and expound on some of these sections. Later, they would re-enact a significant scene from the literary opus.

This week we also read about an attack in Toronto where the Toronto suspect apparently posted about an 'incel rebellion.'.

A friend of mine just posted about this on Facebook. He asked to what extent people who identify as Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) or ‘involuntarily celibate’ (incel) are privileged men who have not developed necessary social skills, perhaps because they are neurodiverse or other similar reasons.

What jumped out at me in the CNN article was a quote from an incel website, this "enters the realm of having no possibility of finding a partner, either to get validation, love, or acceptance from".

To me this gets to the core of Christianity and key issues American Christendom faces. Whatever your thoughts on substitutional atonement are, the cross is the ultimate offer of validation, love and acceptance. Yet so much of American Christendom fails to show that love to those that are different, that are other, whether the otherness comes in the form of neurological differences, differences of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, class, or anything else that is used to try and separate ourselves and those around us from the love which is in Jesus Christ.

Yes, if we want an authentic ChristCon, we need to sit down and eat with incels and everyone else who feels ostracized from society. We need to accept and validate every person as a beloved creature of God, even if they do things we find morally reprehensible or a simply different or other than ourselves.

The final topic I want to talk about from this week is implicit bias and racial reconciliation. However, that is a long post in and of itself, so come back later for that post.

April 25th

The Particularities of Our Concerns

(This is another blog post adapted from a discussion for one of my seminary classes. The references to Boring are to An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology by M. Eugene Boring. Thoughts and comments are always welcome.)

As a blogger, I am struck by Boring’s discussion of ‘real letters’. Boring describes them saying, “a real letter is composed for a particular person or limited group sharing a common history, known to the author and addressing the particularities of their concerns.” (Boring, Kindle loc 6667). Later, Boring says, “Letters mediate the presence of the writer to the distant reader” and “a real letter thus is part of a conversation”.

It seems like the epistolary form mirrors my thoughts about our relationship with God. God is not just addressing all of human kind, God is address each one of us in the particularities of our concerns. God is seeking to be present to each one of us.

This fits nicely with the twenty first century literary form of blogs. Good blogs also address the particularities of the concerns of their readers. I have to wonder what form the scriptures would be written in if they were written in the twenty first century as well as what sort of communication we are called to today.

April 21st

What can we learn about the Three Self Movement today?

(This was written for a discussion in Christian History II and I thought I'd adapt it to be a blog post as well.)

The discussion of the Three Self Movement reminds me of Roland Allen whom some of my friends are very interested in. It led me to try and find out more information about Henry Venn, "honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873."

I am struck by the different approaches of Indigenisation that Venn supported, of having missionaries start the churches which would then be handed over to the indigenous people and Indigeneity which Groves and Allen supported of having the indigenous people start the churches themselves.

This raises for me the question of how we reach out to the “nones” of today. Are we trying to get them to return to the churches of the previous century? Are we trying to set up churches we will hand over to them? Or are we trying to help “nones” develop communities that meet their spiritual needs?

April 16th


Furtively we crept to the wake.
The room was dark and full of pictures.
We had hoped he would be the one
We had hoped that this would be the week
when we arrived at the capitol
with great fanfare,
but the crowds turned against us.
They gave him the death penalty,
executing him like a common criminal.

Now, we huddle in silence, sadness, shame, and fear.
Will they come for us next?

Suddenly, there’s a commotion.
One of the women has returned.
She says the body is missing.
Is this the final insult,
a desecration of his grave?
Another returns.
She has seen a vision.
She says he’s alive.

I am shaking;
terrified and overjoyed
with no way of understanding
what all this means.