Don’t Say Nothing: Preaching and Racism

In the summer of 2015, I was a chaplain at a camp in North Carolina. I preached to hundreds of campers and mentored approximately fifty counselors. In the summer of 2015, about four and a half hours from my camp, Dylann Roof walked into a church and murdered nine black people who were praying. In my preaching and teaching at camp, I said nothing. I knew what happened and I chose to say nothing. Honestly, I cannot say whether I stayed silent out of fear or out of foolishness or, perhaps, because of my own inherent racism. None of those reasons are acceptable. Lord, forgive me for the things I’ve said and the things I’ve left unsaid.

In the summer of 2017, I’ve been gifted with another opportunity to preach. This time, the community is a wild group of all kinds of people called Anchor Community Church. And though Anchor is more diverse than many churches in Fort Wayne, racism is still alive in our neighborhood. Confederate flags fly from two different houses near to the church building. As I walk to my church’s building, those flags remind me that we need to keep preaching to confront racism. The question is how do we preach to confront racism?

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Weekender: May 27, 2017

Weekender: 05/27/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

Quote Worth Repeating: “Preaching’s value is often in the subtle but powerful ways it forms us into people who have empathy for others, who assume responsibility for the needs of strangers, who feel that we are under judgment from a higher criterion than our own consciences, and who believe that, with the Holy Spirit set loose among us, we can be born again.” From Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism by Will Willimon (Abingdon Press, 2017: review forthcoming).

Blog Post to Read: “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson is a thought-provoking essay on what motivates us and what should motivate us. “Fear,” Robinson writes, “is not a Christian habit of mind.”

Interesting Insight: Christianity Today reports on a study by LifeWay Research that seeks “to discover [American’s] feelings about fear, shame, guilt, and other issues.” The results are interesting and, potentially, insightful for practitioners within the Church.

After seeing the results, you might want to read Kent’s posts on shame. You can find them here and here.

Questions to Ponder: At the church where I’m interning, I’m helping with a small group about the Bible and Christian theology. A member asked an important question: Why does it matter what we call God? The question was in response to me, perhaps arrogantly, correcting what I saw as a flaw in the curriculum a week earlier. Under “Great Doctrines of the Bible,” the author lists “God,” “Jesus,” and “Holy Spirit.” I suggested that a more helpful naming would be: “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit.” “Each of them,” I explained, “are God, and all together they are God. One is not God and the others something else.” This must have jostled his thoughts throughout the week, so I pose the question, and some follow ups, to you now:

  • Why does it matter what we call God? Or, I think, why does it matter that we call God the Trinity?
  • How would you respond to that question pastorally? How do you encourage congregants to see the significance (i.e. not telling them, “You’ll never understand so don’t worry too much about it.”) without frustrating them?
  • Are there helpful resources you’ve found to assist congregants and students with a fairly basic theological vocabulary to better understand the Trinity?

Recent Posts on Theology Forum:

  1. We Are Here to Love by Kent Eilers
  2. Dear Publishers by Kent Eilers
  3. Ascension Thursday: Salvador Dali and Karl Barth by Zen Hess
  4. Baptism, Preaching, and Politics by Zen Hess

Baptism, Preaching, and Politics

In a recent Weekender, I asked: Can preaching ever be apolitical? My hunch is that the answer has to be no, preaching can never be apolitical. But I need to explain what I mean by political if we are going to be on the same page. Former United Methodist bishop and professor of ministry Will Willimon offers a helpful way of understanding political:

To speak among the baptized, those who are dying and being raised (Romans 6:4), is to enter into a world of odd communication and peculiar speech. Baptismal speech need not conform to the reasons of this world (Romans 12:2). Conversation among the baptized is ecclesial in nature, political. A peculiar polis is being formed here, a family, a holy nation, a new people where once there was none (these images are all baptismal, 1 Peter 2:9)” (Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized, p. 4).

For Willimon, political does not simply refer to Republican versus Democrat, or America versus Russia. He leans on the root word polis, city, to describe what political speech does. It “forms” a city, “a new people where once there was none.” Yet that city is formed in the midst of the broader world. So, Willimon continues, saying, Continue reading