Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.
Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.
Christianity is big on equality and justice. Jesus advocated that all people are equal in the eyes of God and deserving of divine justice, a radical idea that got him killed. Equality, justice. These are huge principles for Christians who have fought hard for their societies to be structured by these divine concepts.
When I was first married three decades ago, I discovered that equality meant something different to me than it did to my husband when it came to doing household chores. It took a while to come to a working agreement as to what constitutes equality, and, to be honest, it was always a struggle. I didn’t see things that he did; he didn’t see what I did. In short, we each saw things differently from our past experiences and current points of view.
In the complexity of human events, huge principles like equality and justice look different to different people in the particularities of life. I was not on the jury of the George Zimmerman trial, so I don’t know the particulars of the case like they do. (Of course, anyone who watches ubiquitous episodes of Law and Order knows that many trials are won by what evidence a jury is allowed to see.) What I do know is that justice and equality look different from female and African-American points of view than they do from white male points of view. And that our legal system was set up by privileged white males. This is not male bashing; white males can't help these facts of their birth any more than the anyone else, and I appreciate what they've done to work toward liberty and justice for all in our society. We are grateful for our rule of law, which is an improvement over a society ruled by violent retributive retaliation, as in days of yore, for example.
But we still have some work to do in the actual living out of our ideals of equality and justice. Many of us have a hard time understanding how young black men like Trayvon Martin are killed as perceived threats. Lamentably, his case is not unique in many ways. Every day black men like violinist and honor student Jordan Miles are beaten with impunity by the people we pay to uphold justice. At the same time, women with a history of abuse in their family, such as Marissa Alexander, can’t seem to stand their ground in Florida without getting twenty years in jail. When juxtaposed with the George Zimmerman trial, we have to wonder if we do, in actuality, uphold the larger concepts of equality and justice for all, or just for some. In the recent Lone Ranger movie, when Tonto is asked what his crime is for which he was arrested, he succinctly tells it like it is: "Indian." Justice is not meted out equally in our society. Whether we like it or not, race and gender are still issues that require our attention.
Again, I do not know the particulars in these cases. I am not a lawyer, judge, or jury member. Perhaps you may think, therefore, that I have no business writing about this. But as a theologian, in the name of Christ, it is imperative that I do. As Andrew Cohen reminds us, one legal case with its limited perspectives can’t be expected to do society’s work of fully addressing its grand moral ideals.
But the church can be expected to be the place where such issues are addressed. After all, the concepts of justice and equality for all is a part of the gospel we offer to the world on Christ’s behalf. It’s obvious that we still need to have larger conversations about these issues in our society. And the church is a natural place where such conversations should occur for the sake of and in the name of the One who teaches us the importance of living out the gospel with justice and equality for all God’s children.
To that end, dear pastors, consider hosting such conversations in the upcoming months. Check out the racial justice resources on the web at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/racialjustice, including a pastoral letter, worship resources, and information on the Big Tent workshop on equality and racial justice. Go to https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ and type in building the beloved community in the search box in the upper right corner, and various resources will come up for you to consider using to start the conversation. If your congregation is interested in anti-racism training, contact Nancy Benson-Nichol, Associate for Gender and Racial Justice, Racial Ethnic Women's Ministries/Presbyterian Women, at Nancy.Benson-Nicol@pcusa.org.
Benson-Nichol also suggests the following books:
A resource that is soon to be introduced is a guide commissioned by Presbyterian Women and authored by Teresa Chavez Sauceda called, Practicing God's Radical Hospitality: Reflecting on Difference, Change, and Leadership. It applies principles of cultural proficiency to the creation of welcoming and friendly practices and environments in congregations and fellowships. There will be a post Big-Tent event (slots already filled to capacity) to introduce and make use of this resource.
Also, Bruce Reyes-Chow's new book, But I Don't See You As Asian: Curating Conversations About Race is currently out, VERY accessible, and most likely, helpful to a lot of people.
Also, many of the techniques for dialogue contained within the Antiracism curriculum come from exercises developed by Eric H.F. Law, who is an ordained Episcopal priest and professional consultant on multicultural leadership. Two books I'd recommend of his are The Wolf Shall Dwell With the Lamb and The Bush Was Blazing But Not Consumed.
These resources will help you get the larger conversations going. But in the name of our beloved Christ, don’t ignore this opportunity to share the gospel of God’s justice and love and equality to a world confused about what these look like in actual practice.