My struggle with inner peace

My purpose in blogging every day(ish) during the season of Lent is to wrestle with complex issues in a public forum, hopefully in ways humble and vulnerable enough for other people to feel safe affirming but also challenging me, and engaging in an exchange of ideas as equals. So far, my posts have mostly tended towards the political, although through an experiential lens (that’s the core of liberation theology—we start by acknowledging how our lived experiences shape our lens on the world). Today, I want to take on a personal (and professional) issue, and do so in a confessional way. Now, I often experience that when I’m confessional, people respond, “Good that you realized you’re wrong about that issue which I was already correct about,” when my hope was that I was creating space for them to be self-reflective and confessional about something else in their lives. Nonetheless, I remain open to people affirming that I have a long way to go. Continue reading “My struggle with inner peace”

Boxed in: does gender identity take away our chance at full humanity?

[for accompanying music, listening to this in the background! And, yes, it does make me laugh to have suggested it.]

traditional male and female imagesgender blending                                     transgender symbol

Some of my friends were joking with me about dressing in drag. “I’m not sure I’d have a ‘drag persona,'” I commented to one friend. He looked at me and said, “She said, with her thumbs in the belt loops of her jeans.” Because that’s unconsciously exactly how I was standing.Continue reading “Boxed in: does gender identity take away our chance at full humanity?”

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

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. Continue reading “Oppression Olympics”

When we include, who do we exclude?

I had a conversation with someone recently who had considered being active in our church. I would have been THRILLED to have that person’s gifts and real-life experience in the congregation, but it never quite clicked. Then that person told me they appreciated that my church worked with people with addictions and unsheltered folks, but because we were meeting those needs (and we’re a TINY church), it was pretty clear that person’s more regular “vital worship and strong Sunday School and youth ministries” needs weren’t going to get met unless our church expanded a whole bunch.Continue reading “When we include, who do we exclude?”

You can’t go with this or that…you can only go with OTHER

I was on a conference call the other night for the committee that evaluates board nominations for all the different arms of our denomination. Someone was giving his report on the makeup of the NAPAD board (North American Pacific and Asian Disciples), of which I’m a member. He said, “Well, their racial-ethnic percentages are great–almost all Asian American, obviously, and a couple of ‘Others’ and an Anglo.” I didn’t pay much attention–the regional minister who sits on our board is half Latina, and the General Ministry partner is Anglo. Then he said, “Now, they’re almost all in the 50-59 category with practically none in the 30-39 category.”
“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, “on a board of 12, Cindy and I are both 30-39.” I flipped to the excel spreadsheet he was reading from, and I quickly interrupted, “Um, I’m on this board, and I just want to clarify that I’m still quite a few years from the 40-49 box.”
“That’s when a friend of mine on the conference call said, “And you’re Asian American.”
I looked over. And sure enough: the box that my own community had checked for me was “Other.”Continue reading “You can’t go with this or that…you can only go with OTHER”

The clutched purse phenomenon and The Warmth of Other Suns

I pulled my suitcase and my laptop behind me as I walked from Lake Merritt BART station towards home last night. I got to my least favorite part of the walk–a stretch with no businesses, poor lighting, and the highway underpass. A guy crossed the street towards me and I deliberately worked to make my face appear neutral and nonjudgmental.
“Hey! How’s it going?” he said in a voice far too friendly to sound natural as he walked past me, giving me an intentionally wide berth.
“Cool, thanks,” I responded, face still neutral.
That moment played itself out in a sad echo of our nation’s history with race. That guy, with his dreds and his hoodie, knew that an apparently white woman crossing the street at night would assume he was a potential assailant, and he sent every cue he could not to be afraid. And I worked hard to pretend that I wasn’t at all anxious as he crossed the road towards me, but I was thinking to myself, “I have EVERYTHING valuable in that laptop case right now and it’s the easiest thing to steal.” Because in this fragile community, many people are forced to steal and many steal because they can, and many of us of all races walk the streets in fear or don’t walk the streets.Continue reading “The clutched purse phenomenon and The Warmth of Other Suns”

How do we render visible the invisible?

I can feel it already. You’re going to roll your eyes when I say it. You’re going to think I got it from that movie about tall blue people who live in the rainforest. But it’s true–I think one of the most powerful things we can do for people is to SEE them, to render them visible when the rest of the world ignores, or as the expression goes, “turns a blind eye” to their story, their experience, their troubles.

I spent this weekend talking about the power of telling our stories and listening to one another’s stories without judgment. I have a little experience with people assuming they know who I am before meeting me and then being shocked when we come face to face. And I have a little experience with my community being rendered invisible (or sometimes seeking to make ourselves invisible so we don’t draw undue attention.) It can be rough stuff.Continue reading “How do we render visible the invisible?”