Book Review: Raising White Kids

Book Review and Give-Away! (see below)

Jennifer Harvey,  Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017), hardcover, 306 pages.

raisingwhitekidsThis is a must-read book for white parents, educators and adults — and even if you are not a parent! The dominance and ignorance of white America has contributed to the racial tensions and injustice today. This book will help you unpack where you can and should change.

As a pastor and former educator, I know first hand that there IS a difference in how children are treated in the classroom. Non-white children frequently receive accelerated classroom disciplinary action, are less likely to be offered classes of academic challenge, and not given a “pass” for bad behavior choices.

As a white, suburban-dwelling wife and mother of two white children, I also know that despite our efforts to expose our children to a variety of experiences and people, we were far from perfect (and frequently made many of the parenting errors mentioned in this book!)

Since the election of our 45th President, I have become acutely aware of the disparity and prejudice faced by persons of color, particularly immigrants, undocumented workers and Blacks. Add to that a lack of intentional intersectionality in the public arena, from Congress to Cub Scouts, and the reasons for racial tension between us are clear. From criticisms of The Women’s March to the #MeToo movement1, the disengaged and unaware actions of white Americans have not helped the situation.

And I am one of them.

This book is written to help white parents in the challenges of parenting in an increasingly diverse, increasingly divided America. Racial tension is here. Chanting slogans and wishing  divisions would go away will not help. There is a lot left to do to dismantle racist thinking, and proactively work against racist laws and their enforcement.

Several of the vignettes shared by the author, Jennifer Harvey, parallel some of my own parenting experiences. She recounts innocent questions from her child in a public space about a person of color, and not always rising above her own anxiety to help them learn from their questions and their experience. She also brought to mind instances where, in encouraging my children to be respectful of others, I did not engage or teach them about systemic racism.

Harvey’s book is laid out with “Takeaways” at the end of every chapter. These would make great discussion points for a book club or honest conversation between white and Black parents. I wish I had her wisdom in hand when my children, now in their 20s, were in public school!  The “Takeaways” also help clarify the main points of every chapter (for those of us who need a review on a regular basis.)

There were two main areas that I found most helpful. First, Harvey is careful to explain why this is not about “equality” but about injustice. She identifies the main problems with “color-blind” parental approaches, which do not combat racist practices and biases. Instead, she emphasizes race-conscious parenting, suggesting that white parents notice and name issues of race “early and often,” and use age and developmentally-appropriate words and methods. As Harvey explains, the “color-blind” mindset allows a child “to just keep breathing in ‘society’s smog’ without benefit of a face mask.” (p. 35) Raising race-conscious children helps them see how and why our words and actions are perceived as racist.

The real and most truthful questions, I think, are what our children are going to teach us if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to make it possible for them to do so. And what might they teach us if we then slow down and listen to them when they try?
from: Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey. (p. 256)

I hesitate to highlight one chapter over the others (because I gained some significant knowledge from all of them), but I especially appreciated Chapter 4: Do we have to call it Racism? In this chapter, Dr. Harvey helps shape the conversation about racism by encouraging parents to explore kids’ experiences through naming, acknowledging and examining them, and remembering that we are on a journey of self-discovering and change. She suggests not just teaching about racism, but being explicit about “white peoples participation in racism.” (p. 160).

The book includes several pages of resources, some of which I have personally used, and others that I have added to my links. There are also books, organizations, curricula, and organizations which will help you in the ongoing work of raising color-conscious, caring children and impacting your own engagement with our world. (Care to read the Forward? Check it out here!)

As a pastor in a predominantly white congregation, finding ways to have this conversation is now increasingly important. We cannot ignore the ways our society has crafted a schism between white America and persons of color. Living out The Gospel demands we hold one another accountable for the ways in which we treat one another, and in particular, the ways in which we do not honor the Imago Dei (image of God) in one another. Racism, at its core, is refusing to honor a human being created in God’s image, even though they may go through life and look/cook/dress/worship/speak differently than we do.

God help me. Change starts with me. And you.

Now, about that GIVE-AWAY! Would you like to read this book? I have a copy to share and I’ll pay the postage if you live in the continental US. Comment below or on my Facebook page or Twitter (if we are connected that way) and I’ll draw a name on March 10th!

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1 The #MeToo movement was created by Tarana Burke in 2006 and she deserves the credit for organizing and empowering girls and women of color to fight back against sexual harassment. It was co-opted by white women, who have since credited her with beginning this work.


Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America. Jennifer Harvey. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017. Hardcover: 306 pages. ISBN-13: 9781501856426

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Bunnies and Coloring and Hymns of the Heart

 

Last Sunday, I preached from the book of Amos, and talked about the unlikely messengers who bring us hard words from God. I reminded the congregation that if we only dwelled in the message bearer, we could miss God’s Words to us.

In a fit of honestly, I admitted I often look at the appearance of someone first… and then I decide if I will listen to them. And that if we are all honest, we all do this. I challenged my church to look for God’s unexpected messengers this week…

And this week, I heard God speak to me through knitted toy bunnies, coloring, and singing the same hymn over and over and over. It wasn’t what could or couldn’t be said to me. It was seeing the faithful, caregivers, the kind responses to the same questions, the calm words of reassurance, all to bring comfort to a patient.

That’s God talking. I pray that I listened well.

And now, THIS!

bread

My grandfather’s bread

As a pastor, I have the privilege of seeing the highs and lows of Life. Some of the hardest journeys I join are those families who have a relative with Alzheimer’s Disease or the related dementias.

The exhaustion is real. The emotional, physical and spiritual impacts are immense. There is progress towards finding a cure… but there’s quite a ways to go!

So, in October, I’m walking in the DC area Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We’ll be there, rain or shine, on the National Mall. I’m joining my co-workers and friends as we raise money for research, support and education about this disease.

You can read about my reasons for walking here — and if you so desire, you can also donate. On behalf of my patients and their families… thank you!

In amongst the potatoes… the messy work of marching for justice

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In amongst the potatoes this evening, I’m making signs.  I started to edit the photo, you know, make it Instagram-worthy. But I decided it was a good representation of how things really are.

You see, my life, like my kitchen counters, is cluttered with stuff and tasks and obligations. I could create an artsy sign-making photo  and pretend I live in House Beautiful. But that’s living a lie. (And besides, if you know me, you know… my counters are cluttered with dirty dishes, mail, and… potatoes!)

Here’s the issue, the ugly truth that we who have white privilege have to admit: when it comes to social justice and living out our faith, we either make time for it (in the middle of the mess of our lives), or we move on, busy and oblivious, and go on about our business.

So tonight, I’m making signs. Signs for my fellow marchers, friends or strangers. Signs for an obvious statement that has not been said loud enough and often enough.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Despite all the years of our black brothers and sisters  praying, preaching, protesting, speaking out and acting out, the signs are still necessary.

Like many of you, I have been silent too long. I have let the “stuff” of life fill my calendar and my commitments. I have said one thing… and done another. Let me be clear: We have not stood with our friends and co-workers, fellow clergy and lawmakers. We have just… done nothing. And said (probably, no — actually) way too much.

Tomorrow is the 54th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Dream is still there… quietly percolating to the top, alive with hope and promise.
The Dream is still there… motivating, cajoling, reminding, challenging, encouraging and emboldening us.
The Dream is still there… unrealized.

We are late to the protest, but join you in solidarity. As long as we need to carry signs and protest, we will…

Black Lives Matter.

I Can’t Breathe.

Hands up. Don’t Shoot.

Say Her Name.

Say His Name.

Silence is Violence.

Book Review: Healing Spiritual Wounds

Book Review

Carol Howard Merritt, Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God after Experiencing a Hurtful Church
(New York: Harper One, 2017), hardcover, 232 pages.

HealingSpiritualWounds

Carol Howard Merritt, known for her insightful writing in the Christian Century and her previous books* offers a gentle work for those who have endured mistreatment by the Church. This book is not intended has an apologetic for “why” one should be in a church, or even be a Christian. Rather, it is intended to help those who are struggling to redefine faith’s role and want help finding the path back to belief and wholeness.

I began this book in the throes of the flu, and thanks to “flu brain” was not able to finish it as quickly as I wanted. But a few weeks, ago, as I read and reflected over her words, I was encouraged that, once again, she has brought clarity and a much-needed re-teaching of one of Christianity’s main tenets: Love God, love yourself, love others.

The book is grounded in her own spiritual journey and invites the reader to begin their own path of healing and discovery. Can one find a place peace and wholeness away from an internal conflict about a “God of love” and the way religious people act? Carol suggests there is a way, and it is in a place of peace and being “in God.” She shares her own realization that her “inner skeptic” (p. 5) was searching for God, even in the midst of disappointment and pain. And she invites the reader along to ponder their own places of raw hurt, discouragement and doubt.

This is not a “how-to” book. Merritt doesn’t give you simple formulas and Bible memory verses to “fix” yourself. Instead, she models a way of meditating on the Sacred text, on seeking God in the unspoken words of the suffering, and then she provides creative exercises for reflection in the journey back to wholeness. The author is clear in her own realization that “religion heals… but also brings suffering” (p. 8) and names the knife-in-the-gut wounding from the Church’s teachings that are sexist, racist, homophobic and politicized.

Carol groups the “spiritual wounds” we may experience around seven distinct areas, each with their own path for healing: healing our image of God, recovering our emotions, redeeming our broken selves, reclaiming our bodies, regaining our hope, reassessing our finances, and being born again. Each area of spiritual wounding offers vignettes from her own life, stories from the struggles of others, and exercises for reflection. The process begins with understanding our own experiences of religious wounding, not just what we experience, but where we have wounded others. I have started a collage recommended in the chapter “Finding Shalom” and it has been very thought-provoking, one that I will be working on for a while!

As a trained chaplain, several of the chapters reminded me of my own work in my spiritual identity and pastoral identity. In particular, the chapter on “Healing Our Image of God” took me back through the process of experiencing the “life-giving God” through a process Merritt calls “communal and personal” (p. 55). I remembered how I learned to experience God outside of a list of do’s and don’t’s. How photography, poetry, writing and music changed the “replay” of God’s work in my life. It was soul-stirring.

Other chapters had equally thought-provoking moments and I know I will want to return to this book for a more lengthy reflection, perhaps with others in community and accountability. It is not a quick read! You might want to make it your summer reading project, or schedule it for Lent 2018 (as this year’s Lenten season is underway).

For those who have struggled against a “father” image of God that conjures up the worst memories of the Church’s patriarchal abuse and misuse of scripture, I encourage you to get this book and dig deep. Merritt writes: “We don’t always realize that we’re working under patriarchal conditions because we’re so used to them; it’s like not knowing when we’re breathing polluted air” (p. 202).

Rediscover that God is not a white male, nor an authoritarian killjoy, and is completely and utterly bent on the loving work of restoration and reconciliation – with you. And me.

*(Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital ministry in a New Generation)

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Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God after Experiencing a Hurtful Church. Carol Howard Merritt. New York: Harper One, 2017. Hardcover: 232 pages. ISBN-10: 0062392271

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 Another day, another stole

amani-stole

My stole from Amani Ya Juu (Peace from Above)

Today I took a quick trip into downtown DC, to the plaza in front of the US Supreme Court building. Before I started my rounds with my hospice patients, I put on my collar and this stole. The stole was made by refugee artists from Amani Ya Juu. It was the first stole given to me when I was ordained, and has a special place in my heart.

(Make sure you visit their website — see the beautiful things they have created, and read their stories!)

The artisans of Amani Ya Juu use their love of African textiles, their commitment to their community thriving, and their skills in creating beautiful items. My stole is just one of the items they make. But the beauty of their craft is just part of what I have learned from these women.It is their example of faithfulness in the face of horrible injustice. It is how they move past those experiences and find “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” They have learned to survive life’s twists and turns, and to make sure their community thrives with them.

It is this selflessness, this desire deep within them to serve others that inspires me in my ministry. I do it so imperfectly… but their example challenges me.

So I stood on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court this morning, with flurries and a stiff, cold breeze. There, I gathered with many other faith leaders to speak out…

…for those who are unjustly detained

…for those who are denied due process in our courts

…for the attack on our civil liberties — ALL of our civil liberties — by those who refuse to obey court injunctions, who defy our Constitution, and who act for selfish gain. 

…for eviscerating the progress made under Loretta Lynch in defending the rights of all persons of color. #BlackLivesMatter

I am compelled to respond because I believe the God I serve demands it. I am compelled to respond because I believe in the worth and value of my fellow humans. And I am compelled to respond because we have done enough waiting. We have given enough “chances.” The actions over the last ten days are sufficient.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

I am angry. Angry that the powerful do not use their power for the common good. Angry that elected officials are not governing in a way that benefits ALL of us — our country, our world, our future.

I am motivated. I have called, written and tweeted my elected officials. I have encouraged them to stand firm and defend our Constitution. I have pleaded with them to uphold “liberty and justice FOR ALL.”

On Sunday, I led this prayer… and I stand by every word, knowing that God will be with us as we stand up to injustice and bigotry.

LET US PRAY.

Lord God, we gather in your Presence, aware of your care for us and for the world. We ask for your Spirit to guide our words and our worship this morning.

Gracious God, the hungry are all around us. May we faithfully share of our pantries and cupboards, our money and our time, that they will be bountifully fed.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

Lord of all, we pray for our elected officials, that they will serve the people and defend and protect our Constitution. We hear the words of the spiritually empty, the proud, and those who abuse their power. We pray you will burden their hearts with your Truth and convict them by your Holy Spirit.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

God of all nations, we pray for those in legal limbo, whose immigration status is wrongfully blocked, who are doctors and teachers, researchers and laborers, parents and children. May your justice prevail and may your angels take charge of them and liberate them.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

Healer of the broken-hearted, we your children humbly repent for the ways we have not cared for the aliens and the strangers in our midst. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and selfishness. Give us courage to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. May our actions make a difference as we join with others who follow Christ.
Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.

We pray all this in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Amen.

I do not understand the whys and breakdown of common decency that led to our country’s situation today. I lean on hope in a God who is more powerful than the power-obsessed. I am resting in that Peace from Above.

Pray with me, friends…

We must stick together and believe in God’s love for us and for all humanity.

If you have regrets…

Cross-posted from Facebook…

marchstole

My Women’s March stole-of-many-names and a “comfort pack”(miscellaneous necessities to share with others.)

At the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. yesterday, I carried many names on my stole. It was an honor and a privilege. When someone asked me, I could hardly talk about it without getting teary. There were many among my family and friends and coworkers and patients who could not go… and I was aware of your reasons.

So this is for you…

Perhaps you didn’t go to the Women’s March near you and are having some regrets. I’m thinking of all you who have a case of the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s. I’ve gotten a few PMs and wanted to say this…

  • Perhaps you could not go because you were doing something that needed YOU. No one else had your skills, your knowledge, the gift of YOU.
  • Perhaps you had to work (there were several of you who did that.) It wasn’t an option. Pay the rent, work your shift, be responsible.
  • Perhaps you had someone to take care of and couldn’t give that duty to someone else. (Thank you to all those parents, grandparents, caregivers, and overtired family members.)
  • Perhaps you were not physically able (my tired bones get that, too!)
  • Perhaps large crowds are not your thing.
  • Perhaps the cost was just too much — your job, your finances, your relationships, your time, your job security, your physical stamina, your emotional health, your workload for the rest of the week, your studies. You made a choice not to go — and I want to affirm… it was a good choice. It’s about your WHOLE life. It was a matter of balance and being real with yourself. Please don’t second-guess yourself about not going.

I want to thank you for reading our posts, listening to our stories and being in the moment, vicariously. While your voice may have been missed, you can start speaking up now.

HONESTLY? Now comes the hard part. Now is when we need each other. Now is when we need YOU. Your voice. Your gifts. Your focus. Your prayers. Your anger. Your integrity. Your wit.

This movement is JUST BEGINNING.

When the celebrities leave the stage, the busses go home, the pink hats come off, the signs start collecting dust, the pundits start mocking and dissecting us… NOW is when we are all needed.

To keep each other honest.

To ask the hard questions.

To be intentional in including ALL of us in the next days and weeks.

To read, write, think, discuss, pray and do things in ways we have never done them before.

To volunteer for causes and issues we are passionate about.

To support nonprofits who are the only backstop some folks have.

To watch our elected officials like a hawk and write them/call them/badger them.

To trust each other more and be less pissy. (Can a pastor say that? YES I CAN.)

I had a distinct honor to be able to march. I went as a white woman of privilege to bear witness. I left hoping to bring more into the story. So may we all.