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!”


One straight Christian’s journey into Ally-hood (and a plea for ally-hood with people in the hood)

You may know the weird and sad story of my first college boyfriend.

I don’t talk about this a ton, because it was a messy and complicated and deeply personal issue, and publicly I usually only talk about it in terms of how it shaped my commitment to gun safety. But the fact is, it also cemented my commitment to GLBT inclusion within the church. (more…)

Shaima Alawadi’s murder: Where is the outrage?

My heart is really aching, and I have to confess that it’s aching with sadness and also a low-grade anger. I was furious along with many others that on the other side of the country a young black man was killed because of what he was wearing (and even if the allegations are true that he hit his murderer and provoked him, I’m furious about the Stand Your Ground law in Florida and other states that can allow a fist fight to turn into a murder instead of simply a call to the police). I’m furious that one of the most gentle men I know, my co-pastor, gets harassed by police even though I would stake my life on him not doing anything to provoke it, simply because he’s a Black man who wears a hoodie. (And almost all of the African American members of my church, faithful and good people, have stories of unprovoked police harassment or other forms of harassment due solely to the color of their skin.) (more…)

The New Jim Crow and the church (another old post)

Note: This is a devotional piece I wrote for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in October 2010. It uses some church-y references that I’m happy to qualify if anyone wants it “translated.” 🙂

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19, NIV

We’ve been talking about the joys of missional ministry in this region for a year now. I want to complicate it a little today.

Thirteen percent of African American men (1.4 million) are not able to vote due to felony convictions.

What could this possibly have to do with the church? (more…)

“But there are lots of people of color who support this policy, so it isn’t racist”

In a recent article about Michelle Alexander’s phenomenal The New Jim Crow, a book on the impact of the war on drugs on Black men and women, James Forman, Jr. of Yale Law School raised a criticism or two, including that he feels the book “ignores the violent crime wave of the 1970s and minimizes the support among many African-Americans for get-tough measures,” according to the article.

James Forman, Jr. is a brilliant scholar and comes from solid civil rights pedigree. His critique (soon to be released in the Yale Law Review) is not simply designed to swipe at the book in order to gain attention or diminish a colleague. While I might disagree with some of his analysis, the one thing that rubs me the wrong way is this: that African-American support for get-tough measures functions as a stand-alone argument. (more…)

Oppression Olympics

He fumed about gay (white) men being the most oppressed group in the Disciples because our version of middle management (regional ministers—the equivalent of bishops or conference ministers) was afraid to trust that a congregation might like a pastor for who he was and then not really care that he was gay. The more he universalized his story and the more heavily he carried that mantle of oppression, the more irritated I got. Which is funny, because I care a lot about GLBTQ rights. And it makes me furious the ways the church has dehumanized faithful GLBT members and leaders by speaking in generalities when they know that their music program, their deacons, their after-church coffee set-up crew has GLBT folks forced to stay in the closet by their rhetoric, while those pastors and churches continue to benefit from the very gifts of the people they marginalize.
And yet something about the conversation was making me crazy. (more…)