Post about Religious topics. My spiritual journey is a subtopic of this.

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.


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?


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.

On Being a Postcolonial Mystic

Note: This is a forum post I wrote for my New Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific class this week. We have been reading from Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel by Sandra S. Schneiders and from John and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter.

I have greatly enjoyed the juxtaposition of Schneider and Carter for this week’s readings. I am very interested in Postcolonial readings of the sacred scriptures. Whose story is being told? Whose story isn’t being told? How are these stories being told in hidden rhetorical or encoded ways? As a twenty-first century progressive politician, I’m very conscious of ‘dog whistle politics’. Are there code words in the New Testament that we are overlooking? Are there code words that Jesus or the writers might have used, but been unaware of their coded meaning? I find it very helpful to ponder this.

Likewise, I’m very interested challenging binaries and false dichotomies. Was John writing about Jesus teachings as they applied to the Roman Empire? Was John writing about spirituality? Could this be a both/and instead of an either/or?

For me, this comes together in the idea of Jesus being fully human and fully divine. The politics of empire feels very much concerned with the fully human aspect of Jesus. How do we stand up together against oppression? The language of spirituality feels very much concerned with the fully divine aspect of Jesus. How do we experience unity with Jesus, especially at those times where he is absent and fully present at the same time?

Perhaps the most important question is the fusion of the two. How do we stand up together against oppression while being in union with Christ and all believers? Perhaps this is the challenge of the twenty-first century Postcolonial Mystic.

The Parable of Returning to Church

The kingdom of God is like a church on Easter morning. A person who had been struggling with many parts of her life felt a strong need to go to church even though she had not been in a long time and didn’t want to seem like one of those people that just go to church for appearances on Christmas and Easter. As she sat quietly in a pew regularly occupied by a church stalwart, members of the clergy, tired from the long Holy Week along with some of the most active participants in the church community looked askance at her and others coming on Easter after a long hiatus.

When a friend who had been praying for a long time for her saw her, she rushed up, filled with God’s love, and gave her a big hug. At coffee hour, they said down and shared many wonderful memories of Sunday School years ago where they learned the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.

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