Posts by Annie Newman

Radically Liberal Christian. Autism/Girl/Pitbull mom. FarmHER. Incurable maker of things.

Romans 06 – 36 Minority Writers for you to Add to Your Reading List

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. (Read the rest of the chapter here!)

This chapter is actually a chapter about freedom and redemption, but I specifically pulled these two quotes out because I imagine it’s also a chapter that has been used to chastise women and validate slavery.

I see why those in power didn’t want the laity reading the Bible.  I see why they fought so hard to keep it to themselves, not have it translated into native languages, and literally burn people at the stake for trying to expand access to the Bible.  They knew, they knew that if the laity could study the Bible on their own, they would see that the very verses used to oppress the people were written to uplift the people.

What makes me so mad is that we’ve had an English Bible since the sixteenth century. Since then, English-language Bibles have just gotten more prolific and commonplace.  And yet, we still have church leaders using it to uphold white supremacy and other racist notions, oppress women, and deny the sanctity of anyone who doesn’t fit in their tiny little box of “normal.”  The sick genius of it is, they’ve also made it so the majority of Christians either don’t want to read the Bible (believing that it’s too boring or dense), or they’re so indoctrinated that they read it through the same narrow slant as the narrow-minded people who taught it to them.

The Bible is a book about radical love and radical freedom.  Even if you just know the big stories that becomes apparent. Yes, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, but even with their transgressions they are spared worse punishments, such as death.  Noah is spared from the flood through God’s love. Abraham receives a divine covenant because God loves him. Moses leads his people in revolt from Egypt because God is with them.  David is beloved by God.  Jesus is sent to Earth to disrupt the whole existing power hierarchy because God so loves us all. God is anti-hate, anti-oppression.

There are lots of wonderful, straight white guys out there sharing wonderful things about God, Jesus, and the Bible.  I love the podcasts Almost Heretical and The Bible for Normal People, both hosted by white guys.  I also love Richard Rohr and appreciate the work of John Shelby Spong.  But they aren’t the only voices in theology.  This year, I’m going to start focusing on theologians of color, female theologians, and any other minority voices I can find.  From my small corner of the internet, I’m going to do my part to open up the discussion to voices from other experiences.

That being said, I’m only one person with very finite time, so I’m not sure how long it will take to get to all of them.  I want to share a (very incomplete) list with you of some of the authors/theologians/books I’m looking at.  It’s a dense list (WordPress editing only lets me do so many things for readability), but please read through it.  Bookmark it and come back to it several times if need be.  If something or someone on this list speaks to you, I encourage you to beat me to it and start reading.  My hope is two-fold: that we can promote these minority voices in a way that they deserve, and also that you, dear reader, may find something that has been missing from your own spiritual journey. Perhaps you haven’t seen yourself fully reflected in Christianity yet, or perhaps you are missing a perspective you didn’t even think was possible.  Even if you are not a woman, or black, or gay, it’s still important to read these experiences because understanding leads to empathy leads to acceptance leads to love.  Finally, one more big thank you to Marla of @whitegirllearning who seriously recommended almost half these books/authors to me. Follow her if these aren’t enough book recommendations for you, she touches on a much broader subject base than I do. Enough preamble, here is my list:

1. Thabiti Anyabwile-A pastor right up the street from me in Washington, DC!  His books include Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons and Reviving the Black Church. He also has a blog that I’m looking forward to reading.

2. Karen Armstrong-Armstrong’s book The Evolution of God is the book that got me started on thinking critically about faith.  I just finished (and loved) her book St Paul: The Apostle We Love To Hate and am looking forward to reading more of her works, particularly The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity’s Creation of the Sex War in the West and The End of Silence: Women and the Priesthood.

3. Anthony Bradley-professor, author, and director of  Center for the Study of Human Flourishing at The King’s College.  His book Black Scholars in White Space caught my eye, and he’s published several other that look good, too.

4. Sarah Bessey– Co-organizer of the Evolving Faith Conference, contributor to a number of publications, author of Jesus Feminist and also has an archive of essays, here.

5. Nadia Bolz-Weber-Lutheran Pastor, former stand-up comic, and three-time New York Bestseller list. Her latest book, Shameless, “offers a full-blown overhaul of our harmful and antiquated ideas about sex, gender, and our bodies,” to quote the blurb.

6. Steven Charlston-A Choctaw elder and retired Episcopalian bishop.  I’ve always loved the duality of faith that Indigenous believers often have, and am excited to include several of them on this list.  The Four Vision Quests of Jesus was the book recommended to me.

7. Patrick Cheng-I do love my Episcopalians.  Cheng has written several books on Queer Theology.  His first book, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology was the book recommended to me.

8. Christena Cleveland-I’m excited to follow her most recent project, the Center for Justice + Renewal.  She has also written the book Disunity in Christ.

9. James Cone (1938-2018) – Cone is often called the father of black theology.  He has been critiqued, especially by Womanist theologians (several are further down this list, too), but his historical influence remains.  He has written many books, with 1969’s Black Theology and Black Power being the most often referenced in my quick research on him.

10. Kaitlin B Curtice-Potawatomi and Christian, Curtice’s first book is Glory Happening, but I’m really looking forward to her May 2020 release of Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God.  She also has a blog.

11. Kelly Brown Douglas-An Episcopalian and Womanist Theologian.  I’m super excited to read her books Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God and Sexuality in the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective.

12. Mary Douglas (1921-2007)- Mary Douglas is actually more of an anthropologist than a theologian, but she’s written about Levitical law, mostly in academic papers, which I’m hoping to access through JSTOR.

13. Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019)-I am embarrassed to admit I’ve never read any of her books, but look to rectify that this year. Evans moved from an evangelical faith of certainty to a faith of questioning and doubt, which is scary and takes guts, especially to write about.  She died tragically young, but her work seems to show no signs of losing traction with today’s audience.  You can also read her blog, which looks like it’s being intermittently maintained by somebody else posthumously.

14. Stacy M. Floyd-Thomas-The book that grabbed my attention was Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion and Society but I’m also interested to read some of the works she co-authored with her husband, Juan Floyd Thomas, The Altars Where We Worship: The Religious Significance of Popular Culture.

15. Karen Gonzalez-As her website says, “I am a Christian, but I have not ceased to be Latina, Guatemalan, an immigrant, and a woman.”  As someone deeply concerned about the treatment of refugees and immigrants arriving in this country, I am eager to read her book The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to BelongShe also does a podcast called Dovetail intermittently, which explores the intersection of faith, justice, and culture.

16. Dominque DuBois Gilliard-recognized as a young leader of the Black Church at large, Gilliard has published Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores, writes a blog, and is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice initiative.

17. Lisa Sharon Harper-I love how many of these authors are also organizers, and Harper is one of those, speaking and consulting with churches and other organizations about how to mobilize people of faith to a more just world.  Her latest book is The Very Good Gospel and I also want to read Forgive Us, which was co-authored by Soon-Chang Rah, who is further down this list.

18. Drew G.I. Hart-Hart is a WordPress guy, so fellow WordPress-ers, he’s easy to follow.  His book is called Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism.

19. Austen Hartke-It’s hard to find a lot of specifically transgender perspectives on Christianity, but Austen Hartke has written the book Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians and also has a youTube series called “Transgender and Christian.”

20. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz (1943-2012) – Isasi-Diaz coined the term “Mujerista,” a specifically Latina liberation theology (and also the word used for it’s proponents). She has three books on Mujerista philosophy, the first one being Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the 21st Century.

21. Nyasha Junior-Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Temple University.  The book first recommended to me was An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretationwhich looks like a great start. But I’m even more excited about her other book, Reimagining Hagar because I love to see how people study women in the Bible.

22. Kathy Kang-Her blog is warm and personable and as someone thinking more and more about “but what can we actually do” when confronted with whatever injustice there is, I’m looking forward to reading her book Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up.

23. Mihee Kim Kort-Kort is a wife, mom, presbyterian minister…and queer. (Look, all those things can exist at once!  Sorry, couldn’t resist the little jab at some less accepting eyes…)  Her book, Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith is the one that was recommended to me.

24. Deborah Jian Lee-as a journalist and radio producer she has a slightly different background than many on this list, but that just makes me more excited to include her.  Her book, Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, was the one recommended to me.

25. James Earl Massey (1930-2018)-Massey was an influential voice in and out of the Church of God denomination.  His work is prolific, the book I’m starting with is The Burdensome Joy of Preaching.

26. Brenda Salter McNeil-Dr. Brenda (her designation) focuses on reconciliation and has been for over 30 years.  Roadmap to Reconciliation is her most recent book.

27. Osheta Moore-I was immediately intrigued as in her website menu there is a tab “Dear White Peacemakers.” Turns out, she has a series specifically tailored for (potentially) helpful white people on her podcast, Shalom Sistas (it looks like it’s on any platform you may use).  She also has a book is Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World.

28. Soong-Chang Rah-Co-author of the aforementioned Forgive Us. Much of his work centers around the harm that colonial attitudes continue to do to the church and how the church can move forward into a more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse way.  The two books I’m most looking forward to reading are Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery and The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.

29. Alexia Salvatierra-I heard Salvatierra interviewed on the podcast Can I Say This At Church.  Predominantly a working activist and organizer focused on issues pertaining to immigration and poverty, she has made time to co-author the book Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World.

30. D. Danyelle Thomas-no books out (yet!), but Thomas is the creator of Unfit Christian, which strives to be the “digital voice of Black Millennial Faith & Spirituality.”  You can also find her on Twitter, IG, and youTube.

31. Jemar Tisby – A Christian, historian, writer, and speaker, according to his website.  His first book, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, was released January of 2019.

 32. Richard Twiss (1954-2013)-Lakota, politically active in his youth with the American Indian Movement and later becoming a Christian minister, his book Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way was recommended to me, and he has several others.

33. Alice Walker – famed poet and novelist of The Color Purple is said to have coined the term “Womanist.” In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose is one of her non-fiction collections.

34. Johnathan L. Walton-Dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, he does have two books, but I’m most interested in some of his articles and book contributions that deal with megachurches and Christian consumerism.  He looks at them mainly through the Black Church, but I think it’s a topic that should interest the broader Christian community as well.

34. Tracy C. West-A Methodist working within the church for inclusivity, West is also a scholar and author of several books dealing with race and gender in the context of religion.  I’ll be starting with her book Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter, though they all look like good reads.

35. Dolores Williams-a first wave Womanist, Dolores Williams has been talking about how white feminism has excluded black women for a while now.  Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk is the book she is most famous for, but she has made other contributions through journals and the like.

36. Jarvis J. WilliamsRemoving the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, For Whom Did Christ Die? is a book I’m adding to my reading list.  Also, because I am in the thick of reading Romans (and a lot of background reading on Paul) Williams’ books The Extent of the Atonement in Paul’s Theology and One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology have also caught my eye.

Did I miss your favorite author? Please add them in the comments!  Also, if you are enjoying what you read here, please follow the blog for more.  Click the folder icon in the upper left corner of the menu, and you can follow via WordPress or email.  And don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter, too!

Romans 05 – Gifts of the World

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Read the rest of the chapter here!)

God’s abundant earthly gifts to us

Gifts. Spiritual gifts of hope, reconciliation, and grace.  These beautiful gifts are what Paul is talking about in this chapter.  It got me to thinking how God gives so abundantly in so many ways, not just spiritually, but physically, too.  Which makes our inability to share that much more heartbreaking.  To illustrate just how abundant God is, and how recklessly we waste Xyr gifts, consider these statistics:

Food Waste and Feeding the Hungry: I think I’ve mentioned this statistic before, but if not, definitely go check out Amanda Littletrip’s book The Fate of Food, which has an illuminating chapter on food waste.  It is estimated that the food waste in this country is somewhere between 162 – 218 BILLION dollars worth of food.  That includes the stuff that rots in the fields, gets thrown out from grocery stores and restaurants, and dumped from our own refrigerators.  Just one third of that wasted food would be enough to feed the 40 MILLION food insecure individuals in the US.  We make so much food in this country that we could feed all the hungry three times over with our excess.  Why aren’t we doing that?

Land mass, homelessness, and immigrants: This statistic isn’t as practical, but it’s more to illustrate a point.  If you gave every single individual in the US an equal amount of land in the contingent 48 states, each person – not family, but person – would get six acres.  To reiterate, this isn’t a practical statistic. If we actually went through with this it would leave no room for roads, hospitals, libraries, or grocery stores (not to mention Starbucks or Targets).  But, considering how many houses are built on quarter-acre lots, or how many multi-family housing units exist, we have enough room to house everyone who wants to be here while still making room for smart agriculture, green spaces, and business.

The Solution to Climate Change: Alright, it’s not that simple, but I want to illustrate how God has provided solutions to problems we make ourselves, and trees are the perfect example.  Depending upon how you calculate it, (there’s a great article here with a bunch of different statistics) a mature tree can sequester 48 pounds of carbon dioxide while producing enough oxygen for two people.  Additionally, a mature tree has 10-30 acres of leaf surface area. When waving in the breeze, these leaves act like a broom, picking up impurities such as dirt, soot, or exhaust.  Trees also seed clouds, provide food and habitat for wild animals and ourselves, and prevent soil erosion and flooding.  Trees are literally a solution to problems of our own making with extra gifts thrown in.  And that’s just trees – I haven’t even touched upon the carbon sequestering abilities of grasses or the oxygen-producing capabilities of sea plants.

I also haven’t touched upon the therapeutic possibilities of stem cells (even with some ethical questions they still show great promise), the nearly unlimited source of energy God has given us in the sun, and the vast amount of money that could be redistributed to alleviate poverty (again not a practical statistic, just illustrative: if the 10 richest Americans donated their net worth, each of the 38.1 million individuals below the poverty line would get over $12,000).  God has given us abundant gifts. Why aren’t we sharing them with each other?

We need to start sharing

We all feel put upon in some way.  I always have too much month at the end of my money. I never have enough time or energy after the kids are dealt with.  But I’m finding small ways to make it work anyway.  I take ten minutes out of my week to call my representatives.  As discussed in my last blog post, I literally raid my change stashes so I can donate to causes I believe in.  I make the effort to buy second-hand first because it is more ecologically sound: with online thrift stores this is easier and easier.  I try to double up on errands while I’m out so I’m not burning gas needlessly.  I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m telling you this to illustrate that we all can do a little better, this mindset of consideration and service is one that needs constant cultivation.  I still have a long way to go: I use way more single use plastic than I’d like. It has been years – decades, maybe – since I’ve donated my time to a soup kitchen, clean-up crew, or similar activity.  I don’t volunteer at the polls, the PTO, or church.  But I’m trying in the ways that I can for now.  And so can you.

Most importantly, we can demand change from our communities.  Fostering a mindset of consideration and service in ourselves is important, but we want to change society as a whole.  Here are some ideas as to how to do that (and I’d love if you add yours in the comments!): Attach your monthly book club to a cause – bonus points if you take a collection for a nonprofit or use your meeting time to occasionally volunteer.  Suggest outreach activities at your church – especially if you have the time and talent to spearhead such an endeavor.  Support businesses that have an ethos you can get behind, and stay away from those with practices you dislike.  Finally, I can’t say this enough – talk to your representatives.  Attend public hearings, and speak up!  Call those congressmen and senators! Let them know your thoughts and that you are voting your conscious.

God has given us so, so much.  The world is filled with the potential for healing, with beauty, resources for our every need.  Even under all the abuse the Earth suffers, God’s gifts flow seemingly unending from it.  The problem is, those gifts are hoarded by the greedy few.  I truly believe the bounty of the Earth and the Spirit has no bounds.  But in order to receive abundantly, we first have to give abundantly.  It’s up to us to find out how much more blessed we could be if we took care of the Earth, and took care of each other.  God has given us the resources to make it so. We are the only things standing in our way.

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Romans 04 – Hope over Faith

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Read the rest of today’s chapter here!)

When faith may be too hard…

It is easy to get disheartened watching the news.  This is probably true at just about any point in history, but I’ve been really affected by it lately:  Mitch McConnell seems hell-bent on rendering the Constitution ineffective in an effort to keep white males in power. Singed koala bears make for a pitiful sight, and then I feel guilty about feeling bad for them before anything else because, yes, there are other problems not being talked about: like the impact those same fires have had on Australia’s indigenous people (a topic totally missing from any news story that I haven’t gone out searching for). A change of residence for Harry and Meghan seems to be the top story in the news cycle over deteriorating international relations and continuing impeachment developments. Yet who am I to judge, because I can’t stop thinking about Kanye and Kim’s walk-in fridge for a family of three – another story that has zero impact on my life but bothers the hell out of me for its sheer excess.

Last post I talked about how it was Jesus’ own faith that saved us, not our faith in Jesus.  When faced with such bleak realities as the ones above, it’s even easier to say “why have faith at all?”  My answer, after reading today’s chapter, is that maybe faith is the wrong word. Maybe we need to have hope.  Faith implies “complete trust and confidence in something.” Don’t get me wrong, having faith is good, but may not be something we are able to carry with us all the time.  Even the most devout have times of doubt, which, by definition, would mean that they lose faith – even if it is temporarily.  That can feel like a failure on the part of the believer and do some real mental damage.

…hope still may be achievable.

Hope, however, means “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”  And it is not to be confused with optimism.  As N.T. Wright explains in his book Paul, “Hope could be, and often was, a dogged and deliberate choice when the world seemed dark.”  He was writing about ancient Jewish and early Christian history, but the same is true now: Hope must be a dogged and deliberate choice on our part.  Wright goes on to say, “You have to practice it, like a difficult piece on the violin or a tricky shot at tennis.  You practice the virtue of hope through worship and prayer, through invoking the One God, through reading and reimagining the scriptural story, and through consciously holding the unknown future within the unshakable divine promises.”

Who doesn’t wish for – hope for – a better world even in the darkest hours? Perhaps the darkest hours are when our desires are strongest, when our hope is strongest.  Our faith and optimism may be gone, but our deep yearning for a better world remains.  This hope is why we keep going to church, keep reading the Bible, keep praying to God.

I agree with Paul, that our righteousness (to use his word) will be attributed to us, especially when we continue to act when there seems to be no divine promise within eminent fulfillment.  Abraham had faith in God before his promise to be a father of many nations.  As I quoted Paul above, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.”  If we, too, act in hope – hope that we can restore the ecology of Australia and truly the whole world, hope that justice will prevail in the American political system, hope that the fate of those in need will become more important than the address of one royal couple – then we, too, will be blessed by God.

Take Action.

Practically, this means getting out there and acting.  At least I think so.  Paul may disagree – as he spends a lot of this chapter discussing how works alone cannot prove a person’s righteousness.  However, I think that this criticism was more about a blind adherence to the law (whether secular or religious) to the detriment of acting out of love for your neighbor.  In other words, self-betterment over community-lifting.  Religion at large (and Christianity in particular) seems to have a certain propensity for navel-gazing to the point of ignoring the outside world burning down around it.  Self-reflection is good, but you can think a lot of things. Getting out there and doing them?  That truly reveals where your heart lies.

Let me qualify all of this by saying: start small, and don’t burn yourself out.  The world’s problems are huge and cannot be solved by one person, let alone one person in one day.  As a mother who suffers with a chronic condition that can cause overwhelming fatigue myself, I particularly want to reach out to those just struggling to get out of bed and make PB&J’s for their kids’ lunch: you’re doing more than enough already – I am not asking you to push yourself past your limits.

Now, that being said, everyone else look around you. Think of little ways you can act in hope.  My favorite, as always, is calling your representatives.  (Something I did on Tuesday, to urge Congress to do everything in it’s power to keep the US out of a war with Iran).  It just takes a few minutes.  If talking on the phone raises your anxiety, write them a letter or email- it’s not as immediate (since anthrax scares have become a thing letters take a few weeks to get through the security back-up, and there’s just so many emails it takes a while for staff to wade through them, too) but it still gets your voice heard.  Do a change dig (you’d be surprised how much is lurking in your car/purse/nightstand/junk drawer), take it to a Coinstar, and then donate that cash to any cause you deem worthy. It’s money you weren’t missing in the first place, and can make a huge difference for an organization doing good work.  My favorite local organizations that just about any community has are food pantries, the library, and the animal shelter.  Most take cash donations at the door.  Make extra of whatever you’re cooking for dinner, and take it to that neighbor or friend who has the sniffles.  These are little ways to act in hope that require very little work on our part, but can set us – and indeed the world – on the path to larger changes.

Hope isn’t easier than faith. It is a practice, a rigorous practice, to hope.  For many, this post may be all just about semantics, since faith is a rigorous practice, as well.  But if you struggle with keeping your faith in times of trouble, do not worry: you are not alone, and you are not a bad person for facing that struggle.  My hope is that you will keep your hope.  Even if your faith falters, you can still hope for a better world.  Even if your actions seem futile, you can still take those actions. To you, your righteousness will be credited, and the world you hope for, that we all hope for, will be one act of kindness closer.