A moral revival? for Election day

I had a faith renewal experience during this election cycle. I realize that sounds hard to believe. But what happened is, a Rabbi friend of mine invited me to Milwaukee recently, for a “Moral Revival.” I have to admit, the title left me chagrined – I haven’t been to a revival since I left Texas. But as it turned out, it was a “Moral Revival of Values” and the speaker was Rev. Dr. William Barber (who preached at the DNC, seriously… a sermon, at a political convention). Dr. Barber somehow touched on the heart of my faith. First we were inspired by a vision of the common good that God promises in scripture – wellbeing for the poor, healing for the sick, an end to unjust incarceration, and justice (all Jesus’ concerns… a person might be quoting his first sermon in Luke 4.)

We sang songs from the civil rights movements. We heard stories from the suffering community in Milwaukee – a place with the worst incarceration rate in the country for Black men, a place with deep inequity in the education system between suburban white folk and black and brown neighbors in the city. In Wisconsin we know a lot about the “school to prison pipeline”… if a kid can’t read by the second or third grade, they start building another prison cell here. In Wisconsin our prisons have lead in the water, and our (working) prisoners don’t get paid enough to buy a bottle of clean water/week. In Wisconsin the white/black incomes ($50,000/$25,000) parallel the white/black graduation gap (50%). We’re mostly “midwest nice” but it’s a racist place.

My Rabbi friend quoted the Hebrew Bible on these themes. A Muslim woman leader quoted the Quran on these same themes. It moved me to hear these primary concerns of Jesus reflected by our sisters from the Abrahamic religions.

And then Dr. Barber, who is an African American preacher, asked us why… if these are God’s concerns… there are no prophets in the faith community who are calling our communities and our politicians to account for what they talk about and work on.

Why are we Christians letting ourselves be divided:
-into Evangelical, and Pentecostal, and Mainline,
-into Left/Right?
-Conservative/Liberal and Progressive?
-Democrat/Republican?
-Why are we Christians letting ourselves be divided from Muslims, Jews, and other people of faith? When they suffer for their faith, why aren’t we suffering?

He concluded we have a heart problem – meaning, we lack compassion for the folks suffering these real injuries. He picked up the theme of our heart problem in Ezekiel, when his community was crumbling and no prophet was found, God promised “a new heart… and a new spirit [saying] I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Dr Barber is the leader, in South Carolina, of a coalition of 93 social justice and faith based organizations who come together on “Moral Mondays” for actions around these simple concerns – care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the unjustly incarcerated, the environment, immigrant neighbors, racial gaps, etc. He persuaded me that “why” is because we don’t have enough compassion.

I went home, and the next day heard on NPR a story about the working class white folks who support one candidate, at least in part because of the losses in their lives. And I feel broken-hearted today, that we would allow ourselves to be so divided as to lose our compassion for them. Jesus certainly wouldn’t. Remember he frequently “looked with compassion” when he challenged folks he encountered? I look at the news from my hometown Madison, a college town, and a white football fan came to the game wearing alternately a mask of President Obama (and Secretary Clinton) with a noose around his neck held by another white football fan wearing a Trump mask. In all the horrible black/white controversy that followed, no white leaders have seriously confronted this. Very few white leaders have simply grieved what students at our local university must be thinking and feeling as they process the horrible heritage of lynching and the current reality of white silence in the face of such racism, or male silence in the face of such sexism. “We have a heart problem,” said Dr. Barber. The wise Quaker writer Parker Palmer said something very like this, in his recent book, “Healing the Heart of Democracy.”

We have a serious heart problem. We need more love…. for our entire community, and particularly for the poor. So I’m going to vote, today. I hope you will to, if you haven’t already. I’m going to work the polls, and treat voters (and maybe some protestors) with respect and compassion. But I’m also going to start praying that God takes away the hearts of stone among people following Jesus, and gives us his heart, his eyes, and his commitment to challenging unjust people and systems.

I guess the Moral Revival of Values is working.

 

(You can learn more about Dr. Barber’s multi-state project here: http://www.moralrevival.org)

Beyond Colorblind: Seeing People Clearly

Being colorblind is a “virtue” that many people say they aspire toward today. They compare it to how America used to be “flat-out-racist.” Today we are colorblind and enlightened. Indeed it is a major improvement over slavery and Jim Crow. The problem with being colorblind is that while it is a good starting point, it is a poor destination. On the one hand, it is crucial as followers of Jesus that we examine the biases of our hearts, as we pointed out in our “Barnacles” post. But being colorblind will not get us to where God is trying to take us, to become God’s cross-cultural people, full of compassion, humility, courage, and actually seeing people for who they are.

When my wife, Sandy, was a freshman in college, it was a white friend who first asked her about her experience of being Korean-American. This white friend, Alison Siewert, was not trying to just accept Sandy and be colorblind. Instead she looked deeper into Sandy’s life, to see who she was under the surface, to discover more fully what God was doing in her. Who was Sandy going to become in Christ as a redeemed Korean-American woman?

It reminds me of a story in the Gospel of Mark of a man learning to see clearly. In Mark 8:23, Jesus heals a blind man, but only partly. After the first round of healing, the man says, “I see people, but they are like trees walking.” Jesus goes another round with him, and then the man “looks intently.” Jesus’ power, combined with the man “looking intently” does open his eyes. He sees the world clearly for the first time. In my opinion, aiming to be colorblind is like seeing people vaguely, like trees walking. Being colorblind means you see, but you see vaguely, not clearly. It is not really looking deeply who they are created to be. Alison did not just accept Sandy, but she looked intently into her life, asking great questions about who she is and how her family raised her. Sandy was not some diversity project…Alison was a good friend, practicing compassion, fascinated with Sandy and her story, which God used as a turning point in Sandy’s growth.

What is beneath the surface in this person’s life, their family, their culture. What is the beauty and the pain they carry within. How are they made in the image of God, and what is God doing in their life today?

I’m a better friend when I am asking these questions. This week I was talking with Megan Krischke,

Doug and Megan
Doug and Megan

a multiracial friend of mine, partly Native-American. She told me the story of when she took a tour of a Native-American college, Haskell Indian Nations University. At the end of the tour, she stopped to pray and ask God what he was doing on campus. She saw an image of a 6 year-old Native boy. That little boy stayed with her for weeks…every time she prayed, he was there at her side. Megan asked me if I thought he was a ghost. I do not have any personal experience with a vision like this. Do you? (Sometimes we white people can keep stories like this at arm’s distance because it is not part of our experience, but if we choose to engage with them, such stories can be used by God to change us.) Because I am friends with Megan, I am learning to share her heart for Haskell Indian Nations University. I am learning to look intently into Megan’s life, to care about her story and her people, and to wonder out loud with her about why God might have allowed her to see an enduring vision of a young Native boy. If I am not friends with Megan, and if I am not looking intently into her life (moving beyond colorblind), I just live in my little comfort bubble. I want to blink and see the world through her eyes. Jesus is teaching me learning to pay attention to my Native-American friends and their world. God is using these friends to make my life richer.

How about as a parent…how can I help my family move beyond being colorblind? Last week my daughter, Stephanie, brought over 4 friends who happened to all be Korean-American. Striking up a conversation, I said, “There are some differences between Korean culture and white culture. Do you notice any?” They shook their heads. Stephanie and four friends“When you want my attention, you say, ‘Hey Stephanie’s Dad.’ In my culture, you would say, ‘Hey Mr. Schaupp’ or ‘Mr. Doug’ or just ‘Doug.’ No one else around me says, ‘Hey Stephanie’s Dad’ except Stephanie’s Korean-American friends.” They all giggled. I continued, “When you want to talk about an event coming up in a few weeks, you say, ‘The party will be next-next Friday.’ We say, ‘The party will be two Friday’s from now.’ We white people don’t use the phrase, ‘next-next Friday.’” Again they giggled. One girl said, “We did not even know we say those things. But now we see it.” This is a simple example, but these girls are made in the image of God. They, like all of us, have distinct cultural values woven into the fabric of their lives. It is good for me to look deeper into their lives and how God has wired them.

How practically can we grow into people who look intently?
Be like Alison. Be a good friend. Make it a priority to have friends with different backgrounds from yourself. In some parts of the U.S., this requires a lot more effort and intentionality. Spend time with your friend in different contexts. Get into their world.
Ask good questions. Be curious. Be a learner. Not because they are your diversity project. Not because they will explain to you why so many Black people are angry today. Look beneath the surface.
Read. I love to read well-written books about Korean history. It is such a rich and fascinating journey through the centuries. That helps me understand who my kids are becoming.

Values series: love and money

I turned on the car radio the other day and heard this electrifying refrain…
“think about love
(think about money)
think about justice
(think about money)
think about children
(think about money)”
(Life would really be better if you paused and turn the excellent soundtrack on, so you can enjoy the Afro-funk soundtrack while you read on.)

That juxtaposition of love and money struck me deeply. I felt so surprised.  White people don’t sing songs about love and money.  Why is that? Come to think of it, polite white people mostly don’t even like to talk about money. It’s one of those really personal topics we avoid, like politics, religion and sex.

The song goes on…
“better think about your future, and don’t forget your past
think about unity
(think about money)
think about you and me
(think about money)
think about righteousness
 (think about money)
think about positive vibes
(think about money)
think about togetherness
(think about money)”
I love those leading values: unity, togetherness, righteousness, children thriving, love.  They’re a lot of the values that we want, as white people, in interracial relationships. The point (and the title) of the song is “2000 blacks have the right to be free” and it was produced in 1980. And today, aren’t those still the values we want, as white people? Fela Kuti was saying, basically, the obstacle to achieving those precious values is money.

Loving children… and money. Of course, it’s out of my deep love for my own young adult children that I want to help them pay for college. I want them to have a chance to choose jobs without worrying about student loan repayment. And when I really pause to think about it, I want this for every child. There are a lot of children in my city that don’t have enough to eat… because of their parents’ income.

I went to a meeting the other day with a Rabbi I know, and I learned that the MacArther foundation (the folks who give away the “genius grant”) have a new competition going to fund $100 million for a game-changing social healing proposal.  It was reported to me, that one of the front line folk working with the poor in my own city said simply, “most of the poor folk I know, just need money. Let’s give them grants.” [In my city, the poor people are mostly black and brown folk.]

I lost my own job not too long ago, and when beloved spouse [white, European] and I [white, American] redid our household budget, we discovered that on half our former income, we can still pay our mortgage, buy food, and even… give away some money. Talk about white privilege. It’s different, sure, and as I pray and think about the future, my biggest concerns are helping our last young adult child with college and how can I myself avoid being poor in my old age. I’m not worried about regular bills. Talk about white privilege. So I declined a job working with rich and middle class people (because it did no social good). I’m still unemployed and I’m trying to figure out what all this means, spiritually, ethically, and economically, in my family’s life.

I’ve been rereading a book Dr. Martin Luther King Jr wrote, Strength to Love, copyright 1963. In one of the essays, he takes the role and tone of Paul writing an epistle to America. “Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but you have failed to employ your moral and spiritual genius to make of it a brotherhood (138).” And he didn’t even have social media. He goes on… “America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses and given luxuries to the classes… God never intended one people to live in superfluous and inordinate wealth, while others know only deadening poverty. God wants all of his children to have the basics necessities of life, and he has left in this universe ‘enough and to spare’ for that purpose (139).” The reason that essay is in a book about love, is that it takes strength, to think about money.

However, if we truly love, we will think about money… who has it, how do we share it, what do we do with our own money. A mentor of mine once told me, whenever somebody comes for spiritual guidance, she asks to see their checkbook or bank statement. Because – that document, with their calendar, tells the most about a person’s actual values. Her point was that personal budgets are moral documents. They reveal how much we love, as well as who we love.

Dr. William Barber is making the point right now that state and federal government budgets are moral documents. Among other things, Dr. Barber is picking up on Dr. King’s heritage with his call for a revolution of moral values. His charge is to “reframe the moral conversation in our local communities. Economic justice, criminal justice reform, equality in education, healthcare access for all, equal protection under the law – these are the moral issues of our time!” Did you notice he starts with money?

Jesus said once, that we can’t love both God and money (Luke 16:13).  Perhaps, we can’t love our neighbors deeply either, unless we are free from the love of money. Perhaps, polite white people don’t usually talk about money because we don’t have to. We have plenty of it, so we rarely have to think about what would happen if our income were cut in half, or if our spiritual mentor asked to dig into our finances. What would it be like, if you and I let our deepest spiritual values shape our daily financial choices? I’m asking, as white people, what is our economic role in humanity’s shared destiny?  What is yours, personally?  What if we all thought… about love, and about money.

When Will I Arrive?

As a white person who believes in God’s multi-ethnic kingdom, have you ever found yourself falling into the trap of thinking you’ve arrived at a place of “getting it?” Do you ever think back on how many mistakes you used to make before you became one of the “good guys?” I have. I do. But sometimes we can think we’re one of the good guys, when we’re actually perpetuating harmful ideas and practices.

Let me explain.

Reverend Doctor Brenda Salter-McNeil opened last week’s Christian Community Development conference by confessing the limitations of her own leadership. Dr. Brenda is an African American leader who has spent her life leading the evangelical church in racial reconciliation. She shared a story of visiting young Ferguson activists on the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, and asking them what they thought of the Church. “We hate your misogyny. We hate your hypocrisy. We hate your complacency. And we could care less about your attempts to make yourselves feel better by making your churches more diverse. What we care about is you bringing real change.” Ouch.

The implications of these young activists’ critique were that Dr. Brenda had been complicit, possibly even participatory, in ideas and practices that actively contribute to their marginalization. Yet rather than react defensively, protecting her life-long legacy of leadership, she listened, she began re-examining her assumptions, and is going back to the drawing board.

If Dr. Brenda needs to keep learning from her critics and challenging her method and assumptions, then we do too.

Just because we may have been affirmed by “getting it” in the past—whether that means 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago—doesn’t mean we “get it” today. And the truth? We probably never “got it” at the level that we thought we did. I’m actually convinced that the more we think we get it, the more blind we are to our own faults, and the more dangerously we wield our cultural power as white people. What passed as cross-cultural competence ten years ago doesn’t make the cut today. We need to learn how to put ourselves in places of perpetual learning, especially learning from folks on the margins of cultural power.

Dr. Brenda went to Ferguson and listened. What will we do?

1. Enter into/Go deeper in a cross-cultural relationship: nothing holds a candle to keeping us growing like being in honest relationship with a justice-minded person of color. This could be a young activist, a mentor, or a peer. Forming new relationships is an art beyond the scope of this post, but more than any other thing, our relationships shape who we are. If we want to grow, we need to be in honest friendship with new folks who will speak truth.

2. Diversify your media: one year ago I subscribed to a daily RSS feed from The Root, a black-owned, black-issue-oriented media outlet. Not only has that decision given me more connective material to discuss in relationships with black friends, but has also led me into asking new questions that are changing me.

3. Discover black twitter: tap the benefit of un-censored conversation about race in America. Start with hashtags like #blacklivesmatter or #oscarssowhite and follow a few folks that intrigue you. Beware: you will see vitriolic bigotry in some of the comments…just a part of the learning.

4. Read non-white-male theologians: A Taiwanese friend recently asked if we could begin identifying certain theologians as “white theologians” in the same way we identify “latino theologians” or “native theologians”, so that white doesn’t equal “normal.” I was so grateful for that insight. Start with Grace Ji-Sun Kim, James Cone, Justo González, and Richard Twiss.

Even though she stands upon a mountain of integrity and decades of prophetic leadership, Dr. Brenda had the humility to let go of being overly sure of herself, and as a result Jesus is expanding the scope of her prophetic influence. How much more appropriate is it for us, then, to hold our own cross-cultural competence loosely?

Where do we not “get it” as much as we think we do? And how can we put ourselves in places where we’ll be equipped to answer that question?

Who am I? / Race vs. Ethnicity: what’s the difference?

As I continue on this long (and sometimes bumpy) road of ethnic identity and racial reconciliation, I am continuously amazed at how complex this journey really is. One way it gets even more complicated is the subject of ethnicity and race. A lot of white folks use these terms interchangeably. While they do go together, I have learned they are not the same thing.

My journey involves me owning my privilege and supremacy as a white straight man in the Midwest, and continuing to understand how I benefit from such associations and identifications. Discovering the implications of my racial identity is essential to my ethnic identity journey. Growing up in California and moving to the Midwest has been amazing but difficult too. I have never been made more aware of how different two white populations in the same country can be. When I express my emotions in church and other places, many people who look just like me (i.e. white) don’t know how to respond to my passionate, expressive personality. I feel so awkward. Why are these Midwest people not as excited as I am to talk about feelings? Is it a geographical difference in the United States? Or maybe the ridiculously cold winters in Wisconsin just freeze your emotions? While these are both true, maybe there is something more to it.

Race is defined as a group of people with a common physical feature or features. Makes sense why I benefit from white privilege and white supremacy. Ethnicity, however is a state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition. For more, see Ethnicity vs. Race.

“Nana, why doesn’t more of our family speak Spanish?” That question is one that still rips a band-aid off a wound for me. I was doing a research project in college interviewing women in my family and I wanted to know more about the side of my family I knew least about: my Spanish heritage. Most white Americans don’t know much about Spanish culture and I grew up just as naïve. I grew up assuming, “I’m only a quarter Spanish so it doesn’t really matter, right?”

As I grew older, I started to realize my Spanish heritage was not the same as my Scotch-Irish side and that the experience of many of my white friends was not always the same as me. Why did some of my family burn to crisp in the sun and others turn an olive color? And why did some of my family have the last name Perez and others not?

My grandma explained that when her older sister was young, the principal beat her when she spoke Spanish in kindergarten. I cannot say if this is the only reason why my family stopped speaking Spanish, but it undoubtedly played a significant role. I do not pretend to understand what it was like for my Spanish family to enter the United States. Names and language can adapt, enabling me now to assimilate fully into white privilege and supremacy. But I wish my family would have carried on more of the language and the culture, the things that tied my family to Cadiz, Spain. I lost something in the process. We all did.

On a recent podcast, I heard Michelle Higgins talk about how white people in the United States, defined by their Italian or Irish ethnic heritage, also experiencing some discrimination for keeping their cultural norms. These communities quickly realized if they defined themselves by their race, they would no longer be the subject of such abuse and oppression. When our families made that choice, we knit ourselves with white supremacy and abandoned our ethnic identities. We no longer saw ourselves as having an identity in our community.

“We had Mediterranean exclusion acts, we had local civil laws about Irish men and women, about people from Germany. We have had a lot of anti-people laws that were directly connected to ethnicities. There was a time when you were Irish there was no way in the world you were going to marry anybody who was Italian. But somehow because of black and brown skinned people, because of the necessary subjugation of people who looked a certain way and that is including our Asian family members as well. Somehow because of that it became more beneficial, it became more secure to get rid of Italian, Greek, German, Irish, Syrian even, Armenian. It became more beneficial to just call oneself white. And when that happened everyone lost something even the people making the choice. They chose to be color-blind amongst people who shared some piece of the spectrum of their own skin color. But they lost in that because the thing that they were bowing down to was artificial. Power directly connected to race is artificial.”  (Michelle Higgins)

Over the last five years I’ve been on a journey of owning my ethnic background and learning what it actually means to be Spanish and Scotch-Irish. At the same time, I need to own my racial identity as a white man in the United States who has participated in and benefited from the oppression of other ethnic and racial groups. (The history of Spain in the Americas is not one to enter into naively or lightly.)

I don’t think the racial identity of being white by itself is a strong enough basis for us to participate in true reconciliation. Being racially white, there’s not enough be proud of as we enter into the pain we cause our minority sisters and brothers. At the same time, drawing entirely on ethnic identity (saying “I’m not white, but I’m Spanish”) is not the best way to approach conversations with minority sisters and brothers. However, a solid understanding of your own ethnic identity can propel you into dialogue when you need to own your privilege. If more white people could create places to explore the ethnic identity our families may have or have not abandoned, could that enrich our understanding of race, white supremacy, and white privilege? Could it give us the courage to enter into the pain of others?

Keeping the peace; improving our justice

My heart is breaking today. I just got the news about the deadly shooting of police officers in Dallas. This is completely unacceptable. And, earlier this week, other officers shot two black men who did not deserve to die, in two days. I wish we lived in a culture of peace and safety for all these brothers and sisters. I feel such a sense of loss for these public servants and their families. I hear the voice of a black four year old comforting her mother, who loudly grieves Philando Castile’s violent death. None of this should be happening.

How can we move past this impasse?

Personally, I know, without a doubt, that when I call the policeUnknown-1, they show up and are helpful to me. My personal safety is assured, when I call the police. They are professional, and use good judgement about my safety. This has been true in the past and I believe it will be true in the future.

I also know, that African Americans cannot count on this professional treatment. Because of these repeated incidents of violence against Black suspects, they fear and distrust our police officers – even the ones who might do a great job. ProtectAndServeAmerica has a profound racial inequity problem, with regards to our policing. A lot of black folks feel they cannot depend on being protected, or served, by some police officers.

What can you do, as a white person who cares about justice and wants people of all races – and those who serve as police officers – to be safe, alive and experience well being? Here are some practical steps you can take:

Get to know your own police officers.

-You may have a neighborhood officer – have you met him or her?  It’s better to know people before there are problems where you live.

-Your police department may host events, do you attend and meet the officers?

Educate yourself about policing.

-learn how police officers decide when to use force? what defines excessive force? when do police decide to use deadly force, and how can communities influence the police who serve them?
-what is restorative justice, and how can communities practice it?

-read former Police Chief (and now priest and pastor) David Couper’s blog, improving police.

the President’s task force on 21st Century policing

Start to educate others about policing

-bring in speakers who know more than you do, and are committed to fair and just reforms.

-offer classes and conversations at your church, your campus

-write your legislators about new national standards and why we should hold police accountable for their choices around use of force

Join others working for change in where you live

-figure out who in your town, city or community is advocating for improved policing, and join the conversation. Look on Facebook, read the news, ask your connections.

-contact your local legislators, express your concern – (do this after you’re educated and connected… it’ll help you figure out what the request is.  Do you want to ask for a professional review of policing standards and use of force decisions; what is the accountability process, what is going on in the judicatory.)

Whatever happens, don’t fight (violently).  Don’t freeze.  Do something and let’s make a difference together.

 

 

Orlando, Intersectionality and the way of Jesus

Everybody is talking about Orlando this week, as we should be. After we express our concern for the victims and their loved ones…after we pray and keep vigil… I notice we all start to make claims.
-was it a gay event, and we need to beware of homophobia?
-was it because of guns, and how easy it is for Americans to obtain them?
-was it a Latino event, and we need to be less racist?
-was it a Muslim event?
-was it simply untreated mental illness?
-no, it was a domestic violence thing…

Doug and I were talking about all this, and what strikes us is that the folk making claims using these various lenses tend to use their claim to give themselves power.

How different that is, from the way of Jesus, who related to everyone uniquely how they were. Paul said let’s be like Jesus,

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (from Philippians 2, NRSV)

So first of all, Jesus practiced and invites us into a downward movement… becoming humble, considering others better than we are. I can’t think of a more effective position to take, in cultivating relationships with people who differ from us – listening, serving, learning.

But secondly, to go back to Orlando, it’s not that one claim is true, and another isn’t. It’s that they’re all factors. The tragedy in Orlando rose out of a complex intersection of all of those things.

Our lives are also like that. I’m white and straight, but I can use my experiences as a woman to empathize with what might be happening for people of color and LGBTQ people. I can use my racial power in listening, serving, learning: “emptying myself” like Jesus. As a pastor, usually when I walk into church, I have more power than others in the room. I can use that power to give others voice. Being alert to the intersections of my life, helps me become a more faithful person and leader.

Earlier this week (in part in response to Orlando, but other events in my city), I organized and moderated an interfaith (and interracial) teach in. Two Rabbis, a Pastor (Black), an Imam (African)… and me. Here we are answering folks questions.

image002

 

Left to right, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis (speaking), Pastor Stephen Marsh, Imam Sheikh Alhadjie Jallow, Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, and myself.

What fascinated me was that each one of us spoke in different ways about the fact that our three great religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) all taught us that God created our diversity, to humble us, to help us struggle, and ultimately, to heal us. You doubt this? Think about the passages in scripture about reconciliation, about church unity, about learning to love your brother or sister.

So I invite you, as you read and think about Orlando, and other situations, to become more alert to the intersections, and the complexity of our identities. What if God created all this diversity, to bless us? And consider your own complex identity… where do you have power? Where are you disempowered (and vulnerable)? Jesus, I imagine, intends to lead you in both places to bless others.