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Preach Racial Justice

by Holly Haile Thompson

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life…” – Tecumseh

I honor my Narragansett siblings and mark their 345th annual August Meeting – I respectfully remember Dr. Ella Sekatau, Mrs. Eleanor Dove and their families. I acknowledge nearly 600,000 lives around Mother Earth now lost to Covid-19. Yet, unbelievably, this is not quite ‘real’ enough to wear a face-covering to perhaps save the lives of others; “I might save another person’s life by wearing a cloth mask” then justify not wearing one?!

Modern-folk believe ‘holy work’ is flashy, famous, wrapped in finery, but I’ve learned it’s not the one with the fancy abode who is the measure of goodness, it is the one whose ‘well-worn path to their door’ who may not even have a lot but they always have enough to share. It is ‘holy work’ to do what is in one’s power to do that others might live.
We have found ourselves ‘alone to pray’ more in 2020 than ever before. Cloistered life invites meditation, contemplation and can result in new insights. Indigenous Peoples observe many forms of devotion, thanksgiving, prayer and meditation out-of-doors, and we are called primitive and heathen for doing so; while in a land where water, air and soil gives life, sustains life, why wouldn’t all devout people protect, nurture and share these God-given elements?

Matthew’s lectionary readings for August come after Jesus’ experience of a death in the family, he needed solitude – still, was not given the luxury of a restorative quarantine. When might caring leadership look at unscheduled interruption as opportunity? When might influential leadership see the unsatisfied throng of humanity and manifest anything but pity for the rabble who hunger and thirst for fairness, decency, healing and hope? ALWAYS. To look upon the community and not see humanity is a problem: big time.

Photo by Wesual Click on Unsplash

Feeding 5000 in a patriarchal system means feeding 5000 men; can we see what’s wrong with this snapshot of helpless disciples and their inability to act? Looking upon this humanity demands a compassionate and humane response – they need to be fed. Not counselled, not removed, not reasoned with, not dismissed, not sent empty away: Feed them. Don’t imagine the dozens of reasons as to why it can’t happen, feed them.

Walking on Water (doing the impossible): some can and some can’t? Focus; and if one’s eyes are not on one’s own bellybutton and its inadequacy, and eyes and hearts are on the action leading to the goal – what seems impossible can be accomplished. So many times a quick re-read of an Allan Boesak sermon from the 1980s will set a wondering wanderer back on the Good Red Road.

Apartheid can’t be changed – but maybe it can;

Racism isn’t a problem in an all White church – well, maybe it is;

Unceded Native Territory will never be recognized – that, too, might come to pass.

“Who do you say that I am?” A question to all who have ears to hear. I say that you’re the One ‘calling out’ and admonishing those who, with impunity, rule using violence. Jesus asks, “Who am I?” The One holding to account people and systems that with astonishing regularity send the needy away hungry, broken, economically and physically crippled, in a system that, by design, creates and maintains conditions resulting in ever-growing populations of desperate dejected, destitute, depleted human beings.

Additionally, “Who have I shown myself to be?” One immune from humanity’s cultural influence, or One who grew up hearing about “Crumbs and Dogs”? In our creeds we mutter some such about ‘fully human and fully divine’ and if the former is also true we must admit to the encompassing influence of one’s own culture; i.e. the ‘White lessons’ given to everyone in the United States – escaped by no one. Enveloping cultural indoctrination perpetuates the ideals of White supremacy and White normalcy in our Nation, Churches and American society. Only those who see beyond these inclinations – and those who learn to see beyond these predispositions – have a chance to become anti-racist no matter who they were born and raised to be.

Don’t become distracted by the crumbs…” Natasha Cloud said to all who work for justice. This WNBA athlete spoke with strength and clarity about the life-path she is walking today in 2020; don’t try and tell her that ‘life’ is not for her, ‘health’ is not for her, she will seek with faithful determination and a singular focus to lift her voice for racial equity in this miserly United States. The wind and the waves are distracting – but they blow where they will because Creator has made it so. The ‘least’ effort to attempt to appease injustice is distracting – but that’s not the focus – ‘Justice in this world’ is the only objective because nothing less can bring Peace.

An Onondaga Elder taught me, “Respect your brother’s/sister’s vision. Can our church-related siblings take a lesson from the Ancient Human Beings of Turtle Island? I pray that they can.


The Rev Holly Haile Thompson, DD is a blood member of the Shinnecock Nation, Long Island, NY, studied at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, IA, was graduated in 1985, ordained by the Presbytery of Western Colorado in 1986 becoming the first Native American Woman to become Minister of Word and Sacrament/Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Holly served congregations in Colorado and in New York state, is a member of several churchwide committees including the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC), the Native American Consulting Committee (NACC), and serves on the Doctrine of Discovery Speakers Bureau, all of the PCUSA denomination. Currently, Holly volunteers with the United Methodist Church’s northeast Native American Ministries Committee – supporting the UMC ongoing ‘Act of Repentance’. Holly most recently concluded her service with 1st Presbyterian Church Potsdam, NY as Transitional/Supply Pastor to explore what an “Anti-Racist Church” might look like. She works with the Poor Peoples’ Campaigns of Northern New York and of Long Island. Holly is married to Kahetakeron Harry Thompson of Akwesasne, and together they share 7 children, 16 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. “May our paths lead us to a time when we shall live together in Peace on Good Mother Earth.”

Holly is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and her writing focuses on indigenous theology and the lectionary.

America’s Optimistic Spirit is Killing Us Because We Don’t Know What Faith Is

by Chris Dela Cruz

There are a number of expressions and philosophies I have heard that cut across various ideological and political lines that have a distinct American ring to them. Things work out in the end. Chase your dreams. The sky’s the limit. Your inner state is all about how you decide to see things.

In short, American optimism and positive thinking.

I don’t deny the truth and power in many of these sentiments. In the wake of the stresses of modern life, positivity and reframing situations internally seemed to have gotten many individual Americans through these struggles. These narratives can be powerful motivators for both individual and collective action, narratives that tie in with grand American mythology. We braved the frontier! We flew to the moon! We foster innovation and entrepreneurship!

However, it is now clear that America’s Optimistic Spirit is killing us.

These American coping mechanisms of super positive thinking, of “frontier” sky’s-the-limit mentality, and optimistic framing have ill-equipped us to take a horrific pandemic seriously, to confront the realities of long-embedded systemic racism, and to actually use our dream-thinking where it could matter – to pool our resources to deal with an unprecedented economic disaster with actual far-reaching solutions that help people.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

When it comes to our country’s unique COVID-19 crisis, America’s Optimistic Spirit has failed us on every level – our need for freedom has enraptured many to congregate bars, to open up businesses and churches too early, and to either wear masks haphazardly basically for show or not at all. While hindsight is 20/20, when the virus was first hitting the U.S. many officials failed to respond quickly, and many people dismissed its seriousness and wore their lack of concern as a badge of honor. So many people said this was just the media and government overblowing things as usual, that folks stocking up on goods were crazy. When the shutdowns started in March, I heard from many people “well, guess we’ll stay inside for two weeks, and then we’ll get back to normal,” even though basically every health expert was saying this could take over a year (at least) and require multiple lockdowns.

And this just scratches the surface of the systemic failure, of a President who asserted this was just going to be a blip that would go away, and all the ways we re-opened too early because America decided the virus was over. America’s Optimistic Spirit literally cannot cope with an emergency. It does not know how to acknowledge the negative in life, and it cannot handle things outside of its control. It is our demon, possessing us with a smile while we slowly die.

We know this because, in many ways, America has been in an emergency long before COVID-19. As the recent protests have brought into the open, there are entire communities that live in constant crisis situations that have been ignored for our entire history. Black people have been saying for decades that police officers were getting away with murder, that drugs and weapons were planted at crime scenes, that police reports weren’t telling the whole truth. If it weren’t for iPhones and pent-up lockdown energy, Americans wouldn’t ever have listened, because it gets in the way of our positive outlook on who we are and what we have done.

American optimism and positivity may have helped individuals cope with some of the stresses of our over-worked, capitalistic system. But did these mechanisms just help us soothe ourselves enough so that people don’t adequately process how inhuman and unjust the modern systems are, and therefore not stir the drive and desire to change the system itself? Rich people are optimistic that “things will work out” because they in fact always do – because they have rigged the system to make it so. Those who aren’t rich, unfortunately, also inherit that go-getter, dream big, things will work out attitude, because that’s what permeates our culture, because those with power put out a false mythology of meritocracy for the purposes of giving people false hope, not disclosing just how much privilege played a part in success. How many of those self-starting success stories started out with a loan from daddy?

What I am getting at is this: America’s Optimistic Spirit is basically a coping mechanism used individually and collectively to deny reality. Our entire mythology and national ethos is based on a lie lying to itself so it never has to confront the truth. The sooner we look ourselves in the mirror and purge ourselves of our grave certainty, the better.

There are many reasons we developed this Spirit, and many will rightly focus on the political, systemic roots – namely, a logical extension of our Manifest Destiny to wipe out, enslave, and exploit black and brown people in service of America’s never-ending colonial, capitalist “frontier” expansion.

I want to lift up a theological thread, though, that I think at the very least offers a foundation for the political. We simply don’t know what faith is. I’ve heard faith described colloquially from many faithful American Christians as believing really hard in a better future, because God will make things happen. “All things are possible with God” is a common refrain. Ask and ye shall receive.

Americans, because we have denied the existence of harsh realities and because certain privileges have shielded certain people from experiencing them, develop an immature faith that simply contends that things will just work out if you believe in your head hard enough. Our broken, corrupt systems provide goods for the privileged, the privileged call those goods “blessings” on TV, and everyone else recites the creed.

In practice, faith becomes a mastery of control, internally and externally. Internally, because the individual person is asked to control their emotions enough to deny the alarm bells those emotions are signalling about the harshness of reality and the injustice of the systems – yes, you should be angry that your back is against the wall, and yes you should be sad that people are dying for no reason! Externally, because America goes out into the frontier “by faith” while continuing the tradition of exploitation and oppression for anyone who gets in America’s way.

We don’t know a faith whose posture is more of surrender and mystery and loss of control. We don’t know a faith that allows for lament and doubt instead of explanation and certainty.

And so we are left with thousands of people dead of COVID-19 without acknowledging that it doesn’t have to be this way, with a country that cannot even deal symbolically with our racist statues without federal stormtroopers kidnapping people in rental cars.

And we are left to live by Faith alone. After all, demanding our government to provide a more sustainable, substantive COVID-19 response or to fundamentally change its racist systems would require us confronting America’s harsh realities in a way that our Spirit alone cannot cope with.

But I guess I should think positively. Sola Fide!


Reverend Chris Dela Cruz is the Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, a diverse, immigrant Queens, NYC congregation with over 30+ nations represented. His role includes building a co-working space for young adult entrepreneurs, coordinating kids and family ministries, and helping in community organizing efforts. He has written for Next Church, Presbyterian Outlook, and other outlets. Prior to being an ordained pastor, he was a journalist for the Star-Ledger in New Jersey.

Chris writes about the intersection of faith, cultural trends, and American life.

Symbolic Reckoning

by Rob Hammock

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, … think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

As the 4th of July passes, I have been thinking about the challenges we face in the United States – COVID-19, racial justice, divisive politics, and historical memory. I am thinking about my great-great grandfather.

Sergeant Major Marion Hill Fitzpatrick died 155 years ago, but through the dedication of my great uncle, our family has a collection of letters that he wrote to his wife during the Civil War –  over 170 pages written from 1862 through 1865. Reading them, I hear the voice of a man who loved his wife, loved his son, and desired to be of service to God. Consistently, I am struck by his humility before God. He also loved his country. In one of his last letters, written in March 1865, shortly before his death from battle: “Now is the time for all to rally around the standard of our Country and let us route Sherman and I firmly believe that peace will soon follow.” (Fitzpatrick 1976) The “Country” is the Confederate States of America. As with the large majority of my ancestors, Sgt. Major Fitzpatrick was a proud Georgian. Growing up, I learned to cherish this personal, intimate look into life along the battlefield while pining for home.

Photo by Rick Lobs on Unsplash

I have lived with what I have thought of as the “honorable” memory of my great-great grandfather. And yet I was also honored to be baptized at a sister Black Baptist church as ours had no baptistry. Despite growing up in Chicago as one of the few “Yanks” in the family, living into this tension never posed that great of a challenge. My immediate family was the only part of the family in Chicago and not in Georgia. And few of my Chicago friends and classmates cared much for Civil War history. The tension changed when I went south for school. What I learned then was that the notion of the Civil War as “The Lost Cause” or “War of Northern Aggression” was not dead. 

It has been over 30 years since I first moved south, and I still find myself fighting to reconcile my family heritage. I am slow to judge my great-great grandfather in his time, because I don’t know that I would have chosen any differently to support the Confederacy. It is quite easy to imagine myself an anti-slavery abolitionist a century and a half removed. However, knowing my own conflict averse nature, I’m afraid I would not have been so brave. I am not able to insert myself in those ancestral shoes to know how I would have acted.

There may have indeed been honorable and pleasing parts of my forbear’s conduct on a personal level. But I also know that to think on things that are true and just, I cannot but question the Confederate legacy in my lived present. During my younger years, I endured educational attempts to justify The Lost Cause by its focus on states’ rights. This is not an untrue notion, but it is a wholly inadequate portrayal when the overwhelming evidence points to a primary focus of those states’ rights being the ability to continue or expand slavery. The Articles of Secession were not part of my high school history classes, but had they been, I would have been quickly disabused of the notion that slavery was not a central issue. Yet, more insidious than the question of slavery was the blatantly clear white supremacy. 

In Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ now infamously named “Cornerstone Speech” delivered in March 1861, one month before the beginning of the war, he comments on the error of the U.S. Constitution and its call for equality of all men:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” (Stephens 1861)

The legacy of a post-Civil War south through Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era reinforces that Stephens’ words did not die when Lee surrendered. As the next 100 years attested, slavery may have been abolished, but the notion of white supremacy remained intractable. And it has not died yet.

The flag of the Country under which my great-great grandfather marched and fought is one inexorably linked to white supremacy. To clamor for the memory of this time as one of “heritage, not hate” is to be blinded by willful misremembrance. And this faulty memory is not limited to Confederate standards. When we hearken back to the Declaration of Independence and its “self-evident” truth that “all men were created equal” (Jefferson 1776), we now proclaim that this was but a partial truth as it only applied to white men. We must acknowledge that the Declaration, profound for its time, was a limited, aspirational document. 

It is high past time to be reformed to the vision that all are God’s beloved children and equal in God’s eyes. If our old standards and guides are built on lies and half-truths, then the time has come to reexamine and reimagine them. If we don’t, then they have become nothing more than idols deserving to be thrown down as much as any golden calf. (Exodus 32) As for my great-great grandfather, if he was alive today, I pray that his spirit of humility would allow his eyes to be opened to see the damage done in the name of Christ by the standard of the Confederacy, and that he would live into a true love of his neighbors, especially the Black ones.


Postscript. For those who may be wrestling with their own challenges of how to reconcile Southern history and process its impact after having been steeped in its mythology, I recommend the work of my friend, Pete Candler, and his website, A Deeper South. 

From his blog, “Closing Time in America” in April:

“If nothing else, my experiences attempting to reckon with Southern history and culture and my own place in it have taught me how those contradictions can co-exist with one another truthfully, and not without hope. It is not a question of reconciling contradictions between the American ideal and the American reality; it is more basic than that: getting contradictions in the same room together, around the same table, if only to sit in silence together for a while. For a nation that has arguably never really been morally sober, this may be too much to ask.” (Candler 2020)


Bibliography

Candler, Pete. 2020. “Closing Time in America”, A Deeper South. April 15. Accessed May July 4, 2020, 2020. https://www.adeepersouth.com/stories/2020/4/15/closing-time.

Fitzpatrick, Sergeant Major Marion Hill. 1976. Letters to Amanda: 1862-1865. Edited by Henry Mansel Hammock. Culloden, GA: Henry Mansel Hammock.

Jefferson, Thomas, et al. 1776. Declaration of Independence: A Transcription – National Archives. July 4. Accessed July 4, 2020. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript.

Stephens, Alexander H. 1861. Cornerstone Speech. March 21. Accessed July 6, 2020. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/cornerstone-speech.


Robert Hammock recently rolled off of the Session after a 3-year term at Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. Although trained at Princeton Theological Seminary (MDIV), the last 20 years of his career have been focused on affordable housing and community development efforts, primarily in urban contexts. He remains active in a leadership role through his church’s development of affordable housing through the re-purposing of part of its campus.

Rob is also a part of the NEXT Church blogging cohort, and his writing focuses on faith, ministry, and community development.

Who Deserves To Be The Sower?

by Holly Haile Thompson

“Massa keat mund summana wequannank soops nipi. Tabutne.” Our land has truly been blessed by the Great God of Nature. – A Shinnecock Prayer

In loving memory: Edythe Thunder Bird Gregoire returned to the Spirit World May 31, 2020. Sister; “Mother to many, grandmother to more;” A respected Shinnecock Elder, who passed during the pandemic but not of the virus – so her children could say ‘good-bye’, and she did not have to die alone; that meant the world to us. We are so grateful for her life, a loving woman of faith.


“My Daddy changed the world”

I quote Gianna Floyd, 6 year old daughter of George Floyd, killed by police in Minnesota last week. Yet, when I consider the unreasonable cost of Mr. Floyd’s accomplishment, surely there were less violent ways to get the attention of White sisters and brothers in this country, in this world.

Substitutionary Atonement is a dangerous concept… “to glorify suffering is to render [George Floyd’s] suffering sacred. To do so is to glorify the sin of defilement.”*


In the 1990s I had the honor of supping with Rev. Dr. William Sloane Coffin, we were guests of Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper. Naturally our conversation included my being a Shinnecock Indian, how my perspective was necessarily different to his. There came a point I felt that I was not making my meaning clear, so when in doubt, quote Dr. Delores S. Williams (that’s the best advice I can give anyone)! I’d recently visited Dr. Williams at Union Seminary, and we’d discussed White siblings who live in fear that someone might “push the proverbial button” ending life as they know it. She said, “…it could be said that ‘the button’ has already been pushed on my people.” A sentiment that, as an Indigenous woman, I could recognize.

And so I said to Dr. Coffin, “Professor Delores Williams says that “…it could be said that ‘the button’ has already been pushed on [her] people”; I added that Native people aren’t interested in helping the Whites continue a centuries long ‘reign of terror’ against the Brown peoples of the earth. He asked me if I really thought people would choose ‘to end it all’ rather than help this America continue? ‘Twas a decade before 9-11; I merely asked why would we willingly continue to labor in a deadly, unjust system for more of the same?

Dinner conversation has its limits; lessons are intended to plant a seed deep within those with ears who listen.


July’s lectionary considers the Matthean version of ‘sowers and seeds’, prefaced by particular actions and unexpected, yea unintended, results. In Mt 11, John the Baptist and Jesus, both divine messengers, one with fire, one with cool water, but neither seemed able to capture the hearts of those who, together, could have helped make their world more loving, more just, a better place; – the hearers would neither dance together, nor mourn together.

Photo by Neslihan Gunaydin on Unsplash

Even the untutored understands; a 6 year old can imagine love over hate.

And if ‘Sowers of Seeds’ don’t know the difference between Good Ground** and thorny, rocky terrain and soil with ulterior motives then why should they remain in charge of the planting?

John’s fiery doctrinal ‘law and order’ mandating “Repent!”, come to the Jordan, be baptized, prepare for judgement – make ready for new life. In contrast, Jesus’ commitment to the ‘least of these’, water for all who thirst, and his passion for the God of Justice didn’t appeal to those who revel in their ability to mete out provision, punishment, blessing or curse as they saw fit: religious and civil authorities covertly cooperating with occupying Romans are not interested in an egalitarian society.


Part of my perspective includes my own experience: Last summer I reported a troubling e-mail sent to my More Light church which I believed threatening in nature. This e-mail targeted – by name – the mother of an inter-racial family of church members; we also housed a HeadStart on the premises. I’d been home on Shinnecock, so showed the e-mail to my Tribal Chairman and several Council Members – all of whom had a criminal justice background. They recommended that I go to the State Police to have this disturbing e-mail documented and alert the authorities; after which, upon returning to my church with the NY State Police Incident Number in hand, I could alert the upstate police and ask that they take closer notice of our building and grounds for the safety of all concerned.

The State Trooper laughed at me. After my husband and I waited 25 minutes in the waiting area without seeing anyone, the tall, burly, White Trooper glanced at the text of the e-mail and laughed. “When you’re finished laughing, would you please document this report and kindly issue me an Incident Number to take to the Police Dept local to my church…” who, thankfully, took very seriously the fact that individuals, inter-racial families, HeadStart children and elderly church-folk must be kept safe in their town.

Black, Brown and Indigenous people have thousands of stories… so when will our White siblings listen?


Endnotes

*Womanist Theology on Atonement, by Delores S. Williams – as printed in The Nonviolent Atonement, second edition, by J. Denny Weaver, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI 2011; page 199.
**Good Ground is the traditional name given by the Shinnecock People to the portion of our Territory now known as Hampton Bays, Long Island, NY


The Rev Holly Haile Thompson, DD is a blood member of the Shinnecock Nation, Long Island, NY, studied at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, IA, was graduated in 1985, ordained by the Presbytery of Western Colorado in 1986 becoming the first Native American Woman to become Minister of Word and Sacrament/Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Holly served congregations in Colorado and in New York state, is a member of several churchwide committees including the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC), the Native American Consulting Committee (NACC), and serves on the Doctrine of Discovery Speakers Bureau, all of the PCUSA denomination. Currently, Holly volunteers with the United Methodist Church’s northeast Native American Ministries Committee – supporting the UMC ongoing ‘Act of Repentance’. Holly most recently concluded her service with 1st Presbyterian Church Potsdam, NY as Transitional/Supply Pastor to explore what an “Anti-Racist Church” might look like. She works with the Poor Peoples’ Campaigns of Northern New York and of Long Island. Holly is married to Kahetakeron Harry Thompson of Akwesasne, and together they share 7 children, 16 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. “May our paths lead us to a time when we shall live together in Peace on Good Mother Earth.”

Holly is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and her writing focuses on indigenous theology and the lectionary.

Seeking Refuge, Crossing Borders

by Rafael Vallejo, PhD

 As human beings, we all inhabit the earth as a shared space – The Charter of Lampedusa 2014

I begin this blog by thanking all my relations on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnawbe and the Neutral/Attawandaron peoples in Canada from where I live and write. 

“Seeking Refuge” is a trope that recurs in biblical literature along with displacement, deportation/exile and diaspora. Many psalms speak of chasah, seeking refuge in God, and God as “refuge” (e.g. Ps 46:1, 91:2). A core narrative in the Hebrew Bible recalls how a people fled from slavery in Egypt, a memory re-enacted in the Jewish festivals of the Pesach and Sukkot. The story of Abraham welcoming strangers under the Oaks of Mamre speaks to an ethic of hospitality and  “welcoming the stranger”. In the Christian New Testament and Coptic traditions one finds a story about Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod (Matt. 2:13-14). The hijrah in Islam recalls the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) fleeing persecution from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE (which became the beginning of AH, Latin:“anno hegirae” or the year of the hijrah.

Researching migration in the narratives of Abrahamic religions led me to doing mission theology starting from “the figure of the refugee” (Agamben 2000:16).

Image source: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/art/refugees-la-sagrada-familia-kelly-latimore

The practice of “seeking refuge” or asylum has a long history. In today’s world, the 70 million refugees and internally displaced are the raced, classed and gendered bodies with whom we share our common humanity in God’s world. Currently the burden for caring for refugees is disproportionately borne by poorer nations with much of the work being done by faith-based non-governmental organizations.  

Laws that require nation-states to protect refugees also give them the power to discipline and punish, practices that have been described as “carceral humanitarianism” (Oliver, 2017). As social practices, these mechanisms of brutal expulsions (Sassen 2014) are enabled by relations of power. And where there is power, there is resistance (Foucault, 1978). In regard to refugees, this resistance can take many forms from protracted legal struggles, hunger strikes and collective uprisings to everyday resistance (Scott, 1984) by way of silence and subtle non-compliance using clever unobvious ways.

Refugee Studies suggest that corporate globalization driven by neo-liberal values led to the imbalance that produced today’s refugees. The war industry that sustains the economy of rich nation-states invariably creates refugees and internally displaced peoples. Nation-states use border imperialism (Walia, 2014)  to protect and preserve this global inequality while state sovereignty is the argument used to meet legal and political challenges that arise. What is being defended however are not just borders, but systems of wealth, power and privilege usually based on racial hierarchy. Border regimes are constantly being strengthened to support the agenda of capitalist expansion.

The Barmen Declaration of 1934 suggests that the state is not a God-given order. It declared as false doctrine the idea that the state “should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life.” (8.23) 

Prefiguration is the idea that our resistance ought to reflect the society we wish to live in and the social relations we seek to build. When refugees resist the powers that destroy life, they are declaring that another world is possible. They are performing parrhesia, truth-telling that speaks to the precarity and fragility of human life in conditions of “bare life” (Agamben, 1998 ). They are publicly calling out the powers that treat them as non-persons  and the migration-industrial complex of state and non-state actors that profit from their situation. 

If it is true that refugee camps in western modernity have become  the nomos of the political space in which we live (Agamben 1997:106) then our theologies of mission and migration need to explore how the outlander, the uninvited outsider, border-crosser might be seen as  a sacrament of  divine presence. Creating more equal social relations and dismantling the systems that produce refugees can be our way of participating in the Mission of God. This is an insight  from  Stranded: The impacts of US Policy on Asylum Seekers by the Jesuit Refugee Service last May 19, 2020. 

We are not good at asking questions like “Why do border controls exist?” and “Why are there borders in the first place?” or “Why is locking up people who are seeking refuge wrong?” These are difficult conversations to have in church and in the public square. 

It is from refugees and migrant workers and our indigenous sisters and brothers forced out of ancestral lands that we learn that borders are more than geography or lines on a map. All borders have a story about how they came to be ( eg. the U.S.-Mexican Border and the annexation of the Southwest in 1846). 

Interrogating the politics of  border-regimes requires deep work. The use of political metaphors framing Latinx refugees as outsiders, burdens, parasite, disease carriers is the subject of Santa Ana’s book Brown Tide Rising.  The saga  of Haitian refugees’ resistance to indefinite detention in United States’ prisons since the 1970’s led the way towards legal challenges to inhumane detention policies. They achieved landmark legal victories where the federal government was found to discriminate on the basis of race and national origin.  

Pablo Neruda captures the sentiment behind the refugees’ struggle: Podrán cortar todas las flores, pero no podrá detener la primavera.” They will be able to cut all the flowers but will not be able to stop Spring.


Rafael Vallejo started his theological career at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and San Francisco Theological Seminary and from there continued on with a Master in Theological Studies from the University of Waterloo and a Master of Divinity at the University of Toronto. From 2011-2016, he travelled extensively and studied with indigenous communities in Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina as part of his PhD dissertation (2018) on “Faith Perspectives of Mexican Migrant Farm Workers in Canada”. He serves as affiliate faculty at the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at the University of Notre Dame.

Rafael is also part of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and his pieces focus on the experience of refugees and mission. 

June Meeting

by Holly Haile Thompson

“Mequantash eeya-yan koose-coy-oo…” 

Rememberest, thou, me as unto our Sacred Hills…” – a Shinnecock Prayer

In Memoriam – To honor Kevin Tarrant, Hųųczii Zi, Bear Clan of the Ho-Chunk Nation of WI and Taal’wip’ hoya, Sky Clan of the Hopi Tribe of AZ.  Beloved and respected son, nephew, brother, husband, father, uncle, friend.  Traditional singer, dancer, teacher, a Keeper of Culture; our hearts are shattered.  Our dear Kevin and 340,000+ people have died during the Covid-19 outbreak.  


“Are you ready for June Meeting?”  A question asked with great anticipation among the Montaukett People, Unkechaug and Shinnecock.  My Shinnecock People have celebrated June Meeting without interruption for centuries, historically in our Sacred Shinnecock Hills, the ground upon which the Great Spirit placed us long before 1043 BCE – a date to which pottery shards attest – but a date much more recent than our DNA recalls. ‘David was doing something to someone in Israel in 1043 BCE’; we are an ancient People in our ancient Territory.

The English name June Meeting is not nearly as old as Strawberry Thanksgiving.  We offer gratitude that the good gifts of Mother Earth are ours for another year.  And June Meeting is more; it is a homecoming, a remembrance of those who have passed during the winter, a ceremony, flowers and strawberries.  June Meeting predates Christianity; our holy, primeval ritual might have been outlawed or destroyed like so many other of our God-given traditional ways were it not for the foresight of Priest Paul Cuffee’s inclusion of this traditional Strawberry Thanksgiving into the liturgical calendar.  Priest Paul, a Shinnecock Indian, or “Indian Preacher” as a roadside Historical marker states near his solitary grave. 

Photo by Oliver Hale on Unsplash

June Meeting is now observed the first Sunday in June at Shinnecock and the second Sunday at Unkechaug.  It is maintained to this day not because of any appreciation of our Native Culture by the European settlers who, arrogantly believed that they, alone, brought sacred beliefs to a land devoid of any Divine Spirit; these missionizers who recognize, “…no Supreme God that [they] did not name.”i

Among many Natives when the first wild strawberries are found in nature, we return thanks that this ‘first fruit’ continues to come each year.  Our June Meeting thanksgiving has continued unbroken for millennia and is, therefore, too important to allow it to be stolen away; Priest Paul wisely protected this inestimable rite.  

June’s lectionary begins with The Great Commission, an ambiguous first step as many biblical scholars are not persuaded these were Jesus own words: Go ‘hither and yon’. Soon we find admonitions to not take foreign roads and by the third Sunday in June we are inundated with legalistic equations quantifying the worth of masters over the worth of slaves, the worth of humans over the worth of wildlife, the benefit to those who welcome prophets and the virtuous over, seemingly, those who do not welcome prophets.  We might suppose that there is a transactional nature to the dispensing of Gospel Good News.     

With this sort of ‘wheeling and dealing’ it’s not surprising to uncover numerous papal bulls repeatedly declaring the Doctrine of Discovery – after all, manipulation of people and greed for riches is also absolutely biblical, albeit less dignified than a consecrated crusade: a divine quest.  Professor Mitzi J. Smith shines a light on another great “co-mission” of Church and Crown ii deeming ‘undiscovered’ lands terra nullis, empty land belonging to no one: allowing for a legal way to steal lands and a lawful way to dispatch those who may be found in those lands.  Under Church sanction, lands are stolen; people are abducted, enslaved, subjugated, mutilated, slaughtered and murdered.  To the brown and black peoples of the earth, the deadly anything-but-Good-News: “The white blue-eyed Jesus; Behold your God!… raping people and land in the name of the cloroxed Christ” iii

Baptizing in the name of love?  No, I see no evidence of love.  Those “ye” delegated and charged to go forth without benefit of gold, carrying neither staff nor provisions, might have recognized the general theme of hospitality – as they were supposed to teach hospitality – but they did not recognize the significance of the spontaneous hospitality proffered them by the Indigenous People of the Americas.  

‘Stick to the lost sheep of Israel’, and ‘go nowhere among the Gentiles’; the overwhelming message of this Jesus was to ‘love God with all that you are, then love neighbor as you love yourself…’   If Jesus had been their teacher, they utterly lack understanding as to the meaning of his life, his action, his words.    

And that today the US is sending Covid-19 infected people back to Haiti and Guatemala is heinous.  I’d venture to say that most, if not all, of those creating and implementing this cruel and deadly policy would proudly call themselves Christian; it is not a bridge too far to say that the Doctrine of Christian Discovery is not love; the theft of America’s Indigenous Peoples’ land and the theft of Africa’s Indigenous Peoples’ bodies is not love; and sending people with Covid-19 virus anywhere except to a hospital is not love; it is pretending to be Christianity.

Endnotes:

iMitzi J Smith, Resisting the Great Co-mission, Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization, Ed. Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada, page 185

ii Ibid., 184

iiiIbid., 185


The Rev Holly Haile Thompson, DD is a blood member of the Shinnecock Nation, Long Island, NY, studied at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, IA, was graduated in 1985, ordained by the Presbytery of Western Colorado in 1986 becoming the first Native American Woman to become Minister of Word and Sacrament/Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Holly served congregations in Colorado and in New York state, is a member of several churchwide committees including the Racial Equity Advocacy Committee (REAC), the Native American Consulting Committee (NACC), and serves on the Doctrine of Discovery Speakers Bureau, all of the PCUSA denomination. Currently, Holly volunteers with the United Methodist Church’s northeast Native American Ministries Committee – supporting the UMC ongoing ‘Act of Repentance’. Holly most recently concluded her service with 1st Presbyterian Church Potsdam, NY as Transitional/Supply Pastor to explore what an “Anti-Racist Church” might look like. She works with the Poor Peoples’ Campaigns of Northern New York and of Long Island. Holly is married to Kahetakeron Harry Thompson of Akwesasne, and together they share 7 children, 16 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. “May our paths lead us to a time when we shall live together in Peace on Good Mother Earth.”

Holly is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and her writing focuses on indigenous theology and the lectionary.

Proximity is Key

by Rob Hammock

At a time of Pentecost when we welcome the coming of the Holy Spirit as a flame, I am drawn back to an early life lesson that sparked me growing up on the south side of Chicago.

Like a large number of my fellow south-siders, I loved the game of basketball. This was the early 1980s in the pre-Michael Jordan era. We loved the game and played it before half of the city jumped on the Air Jordan bandwagon. My basketball temple was the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

“The Club” is where I first learned the game. Our coaches were two adult African American brothers, and they faithfully taught me how to dribble, shoot, rebound, and play defense. My love of the game was nurtured on that concrete gym floor with the all-wooden backboards. However, the greater education that began during my time at “The Club” was to begin to understand my privilege.

Hyde Park was one of the more diverse neighborhoods in the city. My elementary school was approximately 50% white and 50% black. However, in all of my years playing basketball with The Club, I never remember having more than 2 other white teammates. And for a number of years, I was the only one. But not only would I be the only white boy on the team, I would be the only white boy in our entire league! Being this oddity would result in chants from opposing teams of: “Larry Bird! Larry Bird is in the house!”

Most of our games in our league were played at The Club, our home court, regardless of which teams were playing. However, we would make the occasional road trip. And this time, when I was 14 years old, we were headed to ALC – the Abraham Lincoln Center.

ALC was less than 2 miles north of “The Club”. The neighborhood was vastly different. Not only was I likely to be the only white kid in the gym that day, I was quite likely the only white kid within a mile of it. There were times when playing at our regular venue that I felt a bit like a fish out of water, but that was at least our home court. On this day I was in a whole different ocean.

ALC was across the street from the El Rukn “Mosque”. This building would not be confused with any typical house of worship. This was the headquarters of one of the most notorious street gangs in the city. Along with the Disciples, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings, the El Rukns were to be feared. Walking around the streets on the south side, part of everyday life was to learn when to recognize different gangs and know which colors or hats you could or couldn’t wear, and where you could or couldn’t walk. It was anxiety-producing to try and keep straight where you could and couldn’t go in your own neighborhood, but that anxiety ratcheted up when you were outside of your normal territory. I was nervous to play at ALC. But it wasn’t just me. Our entire team was nervous and scared.

We piled in the van together and left “The Club” to make the rather short drive. We were joking about the game and where we were headed. Nervous laughter emanated from Jerry, Pierre, and “Speedy”. We passed the El Rukn Mosque, eyes wide open from all of us, and our van pulled into park.

I had been at the back of the van, but everyone was now pushing me out the door to be the first person off. Now, I’m thinking, I’m the only white kid anywhere near here, and I’m way out of my element. I’m scared, and I don’t want to be the first kid off of the van. I stop at the entrance of the side double-doors and look back and ask, “Why do I have to be the first one off?”

Speedy pipes up, “Man, if anything happens to you, at least the cops will show up!”

A bit stunned by the bluntness, I took a deep breath, looked at my teammates on the van, turned around, and stepped off the van to head into the gym.

I knew Speedy’s comment was not some throw away joke of a fellow teenager but street-hardened wisdom. I began understanding what white supremacy meant. It meant living with the knowledge that the lives of a dozen black boys weren’t worth as much as that of one white kid.

To my white siblings, as we once again have the unfortunate opportunity to reflect on the pernicious power of white supremacy in the United States, as we reflect on the specific injustices done to Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, what are we willing to do to learn about the historic systems preceding their deaths? Make no mistake, these are but symptomatic events. Protesting their deaths is worthwhile, but what is the long slow work of truly good news that we are willing to undertake so that we can understand and empathize as best as possible? And then, equipped with that knowledge and empathy, how will we act? Micah 6:8 asks us “to do justice”, not just occasionally talk about it so we can feel good until the discomfort goes away. In the words of Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, what are we willing to do to get proximate?

For my own journey, my proximity began with teammates that allowed me to build relationships. So, when I later ventured forth on a career path to help enable community development and affordable housing, it wasn’t just an exercise of doing mission and justice work for others. I carried along their faces to live into a vision of solidarity and love with my friends. I need this proximity to ground me and keep me humble. We need to each find our places of proximity so we can be willing to humbly learn and serve.


Robert Hammock recently rolled off of the Session after a 3-year term at Caldwell Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. Although trained at Princeton Theological Seminary (MDIV), the last 20 years of his career have been focused on affordable housing and community development efforts, primarily in urban contexts. He remains active in a leadership role through his church’s development of affordable housing through the re-purposing of part of its campus.

Rob is also a part of the NEXT Church blogging cohort, and his writing focuses on faith, ministry, and community development.

We The People

by Whitney Fauntleroy

We the people.
We the hidden
We the haunted
We the strong
We the suffering
We your muse.
We you abuse.
We black as night
and yellow as sun.
We you fight and
shoot with gun.
We the enslaved.
We the saved.
We the weary.
We the tired.
We the DJ.
We the MC.
We the people
not as seen on TV.
We who wear da mask.
We the stripped down.
We who rise up.
We who challenge.
We who write.
We who pray.
We who slay.
We the invisible.
We the unimaginable.
We who bother to be unbothered.
We whose magic scares those with power.
We who grow amidst rubble like a beautiful flower.
We the brown.
We the crown.
We the dark.
We who spark.
We the love.
We your hate.
We who get shot down and still dare to be great.
We who you imitate.
We who never get a clean slate.
We who create.
We who are never safe.
We who toil.
Skin the colors of beautiful soil.
We who rise and we who fall.
We expected to smile and forgive through it all.
We the freedom.
We the light.
We the people.

Photo by Smash The Iron Cage on Wikimedia


Whitney Fauntleroy is a North Carolina native. Now in her sixth year of ordained ministry, Whitney is grateful to have experienced ministry in many contexts. Whitney has served as Director of Youth Ministry at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, a Designated Solo Pastor at Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC. In the Spring of 2017, she began serving as Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Whitney is also part of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and writes at the intersection of popular culture, identity, and theology.

The SHIFT: How It Begins

by Freda Marie Brown

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,[a] for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”9 He said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind,[b] he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matt. 9: 22-33)

I cannot recall just when I read this passage for the umpteenth time and had the revelation that was so shocking it has become the driver for my life to this day. I was introduced to a painting of this scene from Matthew called, Jesus Walks on the Water, in the chapel of an independent living facility I served many years ago in Dallas, TX. Perhaps you have seen it too. Captured from behind, Jesus walks with an expanse of sea before him. I remember being drawn to follow him out onto the sea. The painting mesmerized me, and I studied it intently whenever I visited the facility for weekly bible study.

On the particular day that I was reading the text though, it dawned on me that Jesus was living in an entirely different reality from us but, that Peter had been invited into and actually lived that reality, too. Tell me more, I prayed.

Now my Mom used to say, “curiosity killed the cat, but at least the cat died knowing,” and I wanted to know more of this new way of seeing the world and life in it. I asked to receive and to know this reality for myself—to experience the reality that is beyond our 5 senses and the common perception of physical and material reality. That was 3 years ago. Life has been a whirlwind of wonder, awe, and mystery ever since. I have not learned to walk on water like Jesus and Peter—yet—but I have come to believe such behavior is not beyond the capacity of any human being. The origin of that belief has arisen with my independent study of energy medicine which has led me even deeper into a study of many topics like quantum physics, epigenetics and energetics.

Through my independent study of energy medicine, I have become much more in awe, appreciative and grateful for the mystery of my physical body and its energetic counterpart; and of the material reality and its energetic (or spiritual) component as well. I have become excited about the possibilities for humanity and of being human on planet earth.
If there is one word I would use to describe the Christian journey it would be, transformation. That transformation is into wholeness or full union with GOD through Christ. Where many Christians have been taught that “Jesus died for our sins,” not many have been taught to think reflectively about those words and their meaning for their own lives or for life in community.

Transformation goes beyond adhering to the Ten Commandments and doing things right. As a matter of fact, we can all do things right and miss doing the right thing entirely. Transformation speaks to being and is the process of death and resurrection; of letting go of an old map of reality that is comprised of separation, competition, meritocracy, and me-and-my-tribe for an existence of union-in-diversity, collaboration, grace, love, and compassion (suffering-with an-other). Frankly, given the current state of our world and our own nation, the old map is no longer beneficial or desirable except, perhaps, for a few select people who hold the majority of the material wealth in the world or in the country.

My continued study of energy medicine and energetics has led me to a reality that is wondrously expansive and full of possibility and it is based on a different map of reality—that of quantum physics. What began as a way to heal myself and my own body has turned into brave new world holding the key to a healing of all of humanity on planet earth as well as the earth itself. But it does not come without cost. The cost is an entire paradigm shift of what we currently call “Christianity.”

Instead of finding God absent from this new map, however, I have discovered GOD in Christ more present in the new map than in my previous one. The beauty of this map-making process is that I am constantly amazed, delighted, and at peace with all that is. I have discovered that I really don’t have to worry about tomorrow. It has increased my faith through understanding just who I am in the midst of LIFE. And it all began, for me, with a desire to know more of this Reality that peeks out of every page of the Scriptures. Indeed, healing and the various modalities of energy healing are available to everyone without substantial price. Our bodies are made to heal themselves. Healing and wholeness are not just events from ancient times or current sporadic possibilities, but an inherent gift of every human being on the planet. I believe it is time to un-learn in order to re-learn, for that which we have learned to date, has not transformed us nor our society into a more compassionate and gracious one. Today, from the looks of things amid a global pandemic, I do not think it ever will. It is well time to make a change.

Just BREATHE!


The Rev. Freda Marie Brown is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland currently serving as Associate Rector at The Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore. She formerly served as the Executive Director of St. Vincent’s House in Galveston, a 501(c)3 non-profit and Jubilee Ministry of the Diocese of Texas. Prior to coming to the Diocese of Texas, she was the Associate Rector at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in the Diocese of Dallas. She received her undergraduate degree from Xavier University of Louisiana and was employed as a clinical laboratory director for 21 years at St. Paul Medical Center in Dallas before saying “yes” to God’s call to be ordained priest in His Church. She earned a Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Dallas and a Master of Arts in Religion (with a concentration in Anglican Studies) from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX. For 7 years she served as a Palliative Care chaplain in hospice and hospital settings and has spent many hours serving the dying and those who love them.

She loves her work among God’s people and is constantly amazed by the many disguises of Jesus Christ —especially among the marginalized. She enjoys yoga, gardening, cooking, hiking, reading, writing, and listening to jazz. She loves good food, good wine, and good conversation. She is Crystal’s Mom.

Freda is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort and her writing focuses on the intersectionality of Christian spirituality with what may commonly be called energetics or specifically energy medicine.

I’m Rooting For Everybody Black!…. I Think?

by Whitney Fauntleroy

I spend a significant amount of time on Youtube every few months watching writer/producer/actor/model/unrequited BFF, Issa Rae do press and various interviews. I was deep in one of these YouTube rabbit trails not too long ago and ran across her interview with a correspondent from Variety. The same correspondent to whom she told her now famous line on the Emmys red carpet in 2017, “I’m rooting for everybody black!”. What a line, what a statement, what a vibe (as the young folx say)?  The film and television industry has historically been a very white industry where privilege and nepotism reign supreme. I know another mammoth institution that can claim this history, do you?

Photo by Panos Sakalakis on Unsplash

I have always thought I was a prophetic pastor. But I also recently read Jeremiah and was thinking up “hard pass”. I also really liked to be liked. Maybe more than I like speaking truth to power but maybe I am just insecure. Insecure about what? Insecure about the pressure of tokenism. Yes, there is some pressure in being one (or one of few) to represent your race, ethnicity, gender expression, or sexual identity. I grew up being called an “Oreo” and told “I was acting White” from late elementary school until maybe yesterday? And you know what the crazy thing is? I started to believe it. So if I believed I was an Oreo how could I speak for a people for whom I wondered, all too often, if I was one of them? What a quandary of insecurity and internalized oppression? So as I sit here in my favorite Quarantine spot (my couch) trying to introduce myself to my soon to be tons of readers (so many I hope that I get the aforementioned Issa Rae’s attention), I wonder what frame of reference I will speak from.  I am black and southern and I have grown to love being both. I have been Presbyterian since 1996 when I was confirmed but am informed by a cloud of witnesses of Unitarian Universalists, Methodists, Baptist, and Catholic as well as Yo MTV Raps!, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the lyrics of the profound yet problematic John Mayer.  

Like the career of Issa Rae in the television and film industry, lately it has been a kinda decent time to be a person of color or historically muted voice in the mainline church. So thus this means it’s a great time for me, someone who on the low enjoys writing but never does it and has been for over 20 years in this place of tokenism and otherness in the PCUSA, to figure out what it means to tell this story of recovering Oreo and aspiring Kingdom Bringer with a penchant for 90’s R&B and hip hop, Moana, and a repeated Dave Matthews Band concert goer and to figure out what I can say. So now that, after so many years in a time where the house is divided( if it is standing it is surely on shaky ground).  In my mid-30s, I am ready to figure out what this means for me, perhaps not to speak on anyone else’s behalf but myself. 

So I am indeed rooting for everybody black unless they produce something that is utter trash. But then again those that have been systematically and strategically left out of this elusive Grand Narrative be it Hollywood or The Church should be allowed to make mistakes, right? Real privilege and real equality might just be the ability to mess up and try again.


Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy is a North Carolina native. Now in her sixth year of ordained ministry, Whitney is grateful to have experienced ministry in many contexts. Whitney has served as Director of Youth Ministry at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, a Designated Solo Pastor at Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC. In the Spring of 2017, she began serving as Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Whitney is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort, and her writing focuses on the intersection of pop culture, identity, and theology.