Stuff I’m Writing (1 of 3)

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

Photo Thanks to Leeroy

When I started the supervisory education program in CPE, I noticed that there were hardly any meaningful trails about the process on the internet. I decided to write through my process. So I have some “public process notes” on the blog in order to keep track of some of my experiences.

Related to that, I’ve been working on materials for a committee appearance in early April. While I won’t go into much about the appearance on this side of the meeting, I want to put up a few thoughts from the three papers I prepared for submission to the committee.

This slice comes from the section on my religious development. The paper speaks to my history, my venues of growth, my strengths and weaknesses, my religious development and self-understanding, and my appropriation of culture and how all those things subjects relate to who I am as a pastor, chaplain, and educator.

My religious development has paralleled my own “human” development. I was raised as a participant in local churches, serving in those churches, and understanding my sense of self in relation to the activity of the church.

This is as much underneath my view of what it means to be a person and what it means to be created by God. The church was the place where I was first called, where I questioned my understandings of it, and where I was given opportunities to flourish as an academically bent preacher who critiqued what was said, usually constructively, and who was unafraid to bring his experiences from other places into the church.

The religious community was the place—complimented and inextricably connected to my family as it was—where I grew. It’s hard to imagine how I would have developed without the seam of the church.

Church (and I’d use “religious development” as a synonym) was tied to my expansive understanding of family since I had a biological and a church family. Both were able to guide, mentor, correct, challenge, and inspire me. Both families were means of development. Through my religious upbringing the following three values were instilled in me—again, not intending to split these from the other developmentally formative community of my extended family:

 1.      Hospitality is normal. My mother fed other people’s children and took people into our home. That was how people in our church lived, and the residential and ecclesial behaviors taught me that hospitality-as-caring was normal.

2.      Salvation comes in many forms. The church’s focus was Jesus, but the saving influences of the community came through the mundane practices of teaching children to cook, after-school tutoring, playing games, and singing. Each act of religious expression helped me understand the broad ways in which healing, change, and growth happen.

3.     Everybody was welcome. My home church boasted a sign that was a joke and a mission depending on how we felt. Of course, both were true. The sign was “Sinners and Rejects Welcome,” and it was a clear statement of the explicit (and practiced) theology. It sticks in how open I want to be in my teaching and ministry to people.

“Concerted Effort By All Churches”

When it comes to racism in America, and specifically acts of violence against black Christians and black churches, the past is not even the past—it is a very present danger. While academics might argue about the death of the black church, racists know the history of the black church in America is a threat to white supremacy.

The current efforts to take down the Confederate flag across America, battle police violence, and improve black lives are also under attack. clergy and their church communities are spearheading much of this work.

The practicalities of protecting black houses of worship, however, are very much of this world. Many may not remember that during the years of 1995-1998, 670 churches burned, according to the Community Relations Service, and in 1996, the Church Arson Prevention Act was signed by then-President Clinton.

In light of the shooting at Emanuel AME and the church burnings, the White House, FEMA and Homeland Security recently held a conference call to help clergy members protect their churches and acquaint them with various governmental resources that churches can use to be “at the ready” in case of active shooter attacks, acts of arson, and other types of events that pose threats to buildings of worship.

While this is important, it focuses on prevention—not cure or eradication of racism or religion-based hate crimes.

These actions are a start, but they do not get to the root causes of racism and violence against black churches. Good white supremacists—some of them confessional Christians—fail to understand that the racial history of America has them captive. Some may have even come to their racist beliefs through biblical interpretations of the supposed inferiority of people of African descent.

What needs to happen is a concerted effort by all churches, black and white alike, to confront the issue of racism in America with fervor.

Read the full piece by Dr. Butler at RD here.