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Mother’s Day

He was the first black teacher I had ever had–the first the seminary had ever hired. In his class, we read about various groups of people often misunderstood– and tried to formulate a Christian response to their experiences.

The Black Experience?

I read first all the material on the black experience. I didn’t get it. Anger jumped off the pages, and I couldn’t understand why. What made these people so angry? Why couldn’t they address their own issues? Why could they not address them in a kind, thoughtful, appropriate way?

The way I would address them. The way a white, middle class, mother of two felt things should be done.

The Experience of Women

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Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

Then we began the section on women. I read of abuse, rape, assault, and oppression. Lack of job opportunities and lack of respect. And I got angry, Real, real angry. I knew sexual abuse. I knew cat calling and male “ownership,” demeaning social expectations, and even Christian pressure to shove myself into a mold I didn’t fit. I knew all this personally, not statistically.

I knew the fear of going out too early or staying out too late simply because of my gender. I knew the worry about looking in my back seat and carrying my keys to hurt an assailant. I knew about women who were blamed for their own assault because of what they were wearing–I knew some of them personally. I knew these things, and I knew men did not have any idea of them.

I did not feel kind or thoughtful about it all. I felt angry. Angry that I had to live with the background noise of fear because I was born a woman, and no other reason.

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And then, as God does, He lit the 500 watt lightbulb above my head that I had completely missed. Was this the way those black men and women felt? That was my first moment of grasping the tiniest bit of what my sisters and brothers of color feel. I will never forget it.

I have not watched the video. You know the one I mean. The one where a black man, on a jog, is murdered by vigilante men who still believe, apparently, that they live in the wild west and they are required to enforce laws themselves, with shotguns, or we will all devolve into some lawless dystopia.

Side Note: We live in one of the safest countries in the world. We have precious little need to be the good guy with the gun. Statistically speaking, the odds of a robbery in your home are approximately twice as likely as getting struck by lightning in your lifetime. “So proportionally speaking, you should prepare for a home invasion twice as much as you prepare for being hit by lightning.” 

Further, more than half of all armed robberies are drug related. So, steer clear of doing or dealing drugs, and your lifetime need for concern is miniscule. Good news, right?

But Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t breaking into anyone’s home. He was running. He was guilty of running while black. And that earned him the death penalty.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today, as I write this, his mama is having to live through Mother’s Day without her child. This is not a thing we would ever, ever wish on anyone. Yet this is both the common nightmare and experience of black mamas around our country.

I know some of them. I also know a number of white mamas with black sons. They know this fear in ways that we can never know. Ways that I can understand, because I’m the mother of three daughters. I have taught them from an early age that this world is not safe for them, either. It makes me angry that I have to do so. No one has ever had to explain to a white son that this world is not made for or safe for them. So I do understand these mamas fear and anger.

No one has ever had to explain to a straight, white son that this world is not made for or safe for them.

The deep need for a certain segment of men in this country to play vigilante self-appointed sheriff, living out their fantasy of chasing down the bad guys and making the collar, a mixture of all the John Wayne and Die Hard movies and cop shows they’ve digested, collides with something even more insidious to create the state we find ourselves in.

The belief, still, among some of those men that black bodies are theirs to do with what they like. The need to fly giant confederate flags is a symptom of this deeply embedded national sickness—some white men believe they should still have the right to be the masters over black men. They have not let this go. This is uncomfortable truth.

White Women–Listen Up, Please

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Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

White women, I’m going to talk to you. You are a large portion of my audience. And you are powerful. Demographically, you are said to be one of the most potentially strong groups to swing elections. Here is what I need to say to you.

  • It should not be deadly to run.
  • It should not be deadly to sit in your living room.
  • It should not be deadly to drive down a residential street.
  • It should not be deadly to fit any description that only includes “black.”
  • Existing while black is not a crime. It does not deserve death.
  • No mama should have celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday without her child because he was born black and that got him killed. None.
  • We can change this.
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Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

 

White women:

  • We cannot continue to vote for candidates who mouth the words “pro life” yet remain unconcerned about the death, demeaning, and destruction of people of color.
  • We cannot continue to rationalize and excuse and say “but not all” anyone. We need to see the truth that some, not all, need desperately to be talked about and dealt with.
  • We cannot continue to be silent. We cannot continue to not know. We cannot continue to offer thoughts and prayers alone.We have to show up.

Go deep into your experience and tell me you don’t know what it’s like to fear simply because of your genetics, and then look at your black and Latinx brothers and sisters. Look, and listen. We are more alike than you believe.

It is the opposite of pro life to accept them as collateral damage in order to gain some semblance of “rights” we think we need. This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity. What does it mean to gain the world and lose your soul, women? This is that intersection.

This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity.

Here are some resources I’m learning from. Please offer some you know of. We can lean in, learn, and act together.

I’m Still Here: Austin Channing Brown

Just Mercy: Bryan Stevenson

White Fragility: Robin Diangelo

If it Isn’t True for Everyone

(More Musings on For the Love book and new musings on the gospel)


I have been blessed for the last several months to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards (available now on Amazon).


For the last couple and one more week, I’m taking chapters of the book that meant a lot to me and discussing them. Thus far, we’ve covered crazy self-imposed expectations of parenting and responding to the millennial generation (without being crappy Christians 🙂 ).

This week another topic dear to my heart and the heartbeat of God’s kingdom: what is the gospel really, stripped of our ever-present tendencies to make it what we want it to be? Jen has a great standard from which to start that conversation.

But then God changed my life, and everything got weird. I discovered the rest of the world! And other cultures! And different Christian traditions! And people who were way, way different from me! And poverty! Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating. I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense. Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context, and I’m no theologian, but surely that is problematic.

There is a biblical benchmark I now use. We will refer to this criterion for every hard question, big idea, topic, assessment of our own obedience, every “should” or “should not” and “will” or “will not” we ascribe to God, every theological sound bite. Here it is:

If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.(Chapter 3, On Calling and Haitian Moms)


I love this. I absolutely, stinkin’ love this. It’s so simple. Some time ago, I wrote a post on the gospel and what it really is. I asked people to narrow it down to 25 words or fewer. Some of you did, and it was great. (Mine was fourteen. Top that. OK, maybe Jesus would not be quite so . . . competitive.)

If the last year of political posturing and pontificating on how Jesus’ gospel relates to this crazy world has taught us anything at all, it’s that Christians have wildly different views on that answer. And that we are quite pleased to knock our brothers and sisters out of the kingdom ring like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots if their interpretation differs from ours.

Ferguson a year ago touched off a hurricane of argument that has rebounded with every touchstone event. Staten Island. McKinney. Supreme Court decisions. Charleston. Perhaps the fact that the list refuses to end should be a clue that we are to take this seriously. There needs to be a gospel response. And it needs to be the real gospel. Not the gospel I carry around in my head and heart because it’s near and dear to all I’ve ever known.

It needs to be a gospel for the Haitian mamas. Because Jesus came for everyone—including me and everyone else. If what I’m saying is Jesus’ gospel response to the issues of our day is not true for the Haitian mama, it’s not true. If it’s not true for the black daughter grieving the loss of her mother in a church basement, it isn’t true. If it sin’t true for the illegal immigrant mama terrified of returning to a country that will sell her son to drug lords, it isn’t true. If it isn’t true for the gay person who won’t consider any claim of Christ because he’s read between the lines of “hate the sin but love the sinner” and knows he’s not loved at all, it isn’t true. 

Are these tough issues? Yes. Is the gospel capable of handling them? Yes. If we let it be what it is. All it is and not all it isn’t.

“Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God.”


Maybe speaking less for God involves first taking a scalpel to my God-in-a-pocket version of the gospel and learning what it truly is. All that it is and, maybe more importantly for today, all it is not.

God created. We broke. God loved. He fixed. 
We love back—we help fix. 


That’s the gospel. Winnowed down. All that it is. Not all it isn’t.

We messed it up. We all messed it up. We keep messing it up. But every once in a while, we have a chance to look around, see clearly how messed up things really are, and declare, “Not on my watch.” 


Not so long as the gospel means what it really means. That Jesus came to unmess our mess. And once we accept that beautiful, intense, mop-up grace, he wants us to help clean up the mess. He wants us to be restorers and reconcilers. Not restorers of the American God Dream. Restorers of God’s creation plan. I think it looks a tad different than we imagine. I think it’s beautiful.

To order Jen’s book, click here.

Are you interested in a book club discussion of her book? Comment below!