To everything… a reflection on seasons of a radical

I gritted my teeth as she said it. A colleague I deeply respect was speaking at a luncheon, and she, with the full force of her Memphis charm, put forward this statement: “When I was twenty, I wanted to change the world.” She paused for dramatic effect. “When I was thirty, I wanted to change my community.”

I could see the punchline coming, and I knew it would win over the baby boomer-plus crowd in ways that left the young folks on the fringes again. “I just turned forty—and forty looks GOOD on me”—she flashed a smile that could melt butter as I balled up my little fists—“and now I just want to change me.” (more…)

The Cross and the Lynching Tree—Atonement Theology and Beyond

Several people have expressed interest in my recent sermon about my concerns with atonement theology. Let me first say that I might never have preached this sermon if our church weren’t doing a sermon series on “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Bible But Were Afraid to Ask,” where congregants got to submit questions that formed the basis of our worship. One of my favorite congregants asked the question, “If we worship an all-loving, justice-oriented God, how could He demand that his son be sacrificed?” Here’s a close approximation of the sermon I preached. (I preach from notes so I can be more present with the congregation, but this is my best recollection of what I said.)


I remember the exact moment I decided to start hosting bible study in this congregation. I had been here a year or two, and one of the newer members of the congregation led a communion meditation about Jesus’ love and compassion and about the Roman empire’s violent murder of Jesus. He never mentioned how Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan of salvation. And so after worship one of the longtime members of the congregation said to me, “You have to start teaching these new people that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”


The new member overheard this and jumped in. “I’ve actually studied this. I know that’s what we’ve been taught to believe. I know it’s kind of conventional wisdom. But I’ve read a lot and I’ve decided that idea of God needing a blood sacrifice in order to forgive us is just Cosmic Child Abuse. It doesn’t fit with my understanding of a God of love.”


The longtime member turned away from him, faced me head on, and said, “See? You need to start teaching them that Jesus died on the cross for our sins!”


Monsoon Wedding, my childhood, rape culture and no-go-tell.

I was inspired by the tremendous essay “My so-called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters” by writer Deborah Copaken Kogan. One of the many issues she touches on is not talking about sexual assault because we will get smeared. We’ve seen that in the Steubenville case and also in the recent suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons, harassed because her rapists circulated a video of the rape and she was “slut-shamed” into depression and suicide. My very mild experience of unwanted sexual attention during childhood is so far removed and so clearly not my fault that I want to lift it up simply as a way of reminding people that harassment happens all the time to women, and the shame we carry because of a culture that judges us runs deep enough to misshape the most ardent of feminists. My silence contributes to rape culture, so I wanted to break my silence.


Malcolm, Martin, the Mahatma and a couple of Mary’s: A resurrection story

Malcolm, Martin, the Mahatma and a couple of Mary’s: A resurrection story
Holy Saturday sermon By Sandhya Jha
New Spirit Community Church, Berkeley, CA
March 30, 2013
The Gospel : Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Malcolm. I’ve been thinking about him especially as someone who saw brokenness and named it.
Now I’m a Martin girl. I’m all for nonviolence and I love me some Jesus. I love that Martin Luther King’s thinking was shaped by Mahatma Gandhi and is somehow, to me, inextricably connected to my own people’s generally peaceful struggle for freedom in India. (more…)

If “What To Expect,” “Traveling Mercies,” and “I and Thou” had a baby: A review of Hopes and Fears

It takes a certain amount of fortitude to read a book on the joys and challenges of parenting when you’re single and childless not by choice. To do so during the holidays takes flat out bravery. So I sat down on a Sunday afternoon, girded by a burrito in the mission district following a holiday concert by the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus (both things I can do on a whim, so that I was stocked up on the joys of being accountable to no one) and read Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People. (more…)

5 things I’d like to share with men about women (including you, because I can tell you’re a very progressive man)

I got called out. Gently. But I got called out by a colleague of mine whom I respect immensely.

He called me out because the other day I posted an article called 5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women. Now the piece is pretty harsh, and it paints in broad generalizations, and I think the author knows that. But my colleague pointed out that generally, I work very hard to talk about issues in ways most people will be receptive, whereas even the title of this article shuts down the possibility of conversation with most men, who will either say “But I don’t hate women” or “Society doesn’t have the power to train me without me knowing.” (more…)

Burning Man and the failure of feminism?

“I feel like feminism is dead,” I said despondently to my campsite mates at Burning Man 2011.

(For an uplifting Burning Man 2011 representation, click here, btw.)

“I’m walking around  and looking at these young girls dressed up in costumes that are all about marketing their sexuality.”

“You’re right,” said one of my friends, assuming that my concern was about the sexuality. “It’s the opposite of feminism–it’s utterly hedonistic.”

Frustrated, I said through clenched teeth, “Listen, it’s not the sexuality that’s the problem. I’m a third wave feminist–I’m about as sex positive as a pastor gets. But they’re using their sexuality as a tool to lure men, as if it’s the only power they have, and as if it’s power.” (more…)