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!

Isaiah 62 – Conscious and Joyful Work

10 Pass through, pass through the gates!

    Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
    Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations. (Read the rest of the chapter here!)

There is work to be done, and we are called to do it

I love this chapter.  I found it by Googling “Bible Passages for Christmas Eve.”  It’s so joyous, so regal: Perfect for the birth of the person we call our Lord and Savior.  I also like how grounded it is, despite all it’s jubilation: There is work to be done to prepare for this party, and this chapter recognizes that fact.

I’d like to compare and contrast this chapter to another passage we haven’t yet read in this blog, but one you are probably familiar with if you’re a regular church-goer or Bible reader:  the parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13.  In it, there are five wise bridesmaids, who keep the oil for their lamps full while waiting for the bridegroom – who was very late – to arrive.  The five foolish bridesmaids did not plan ahead. When they did not have enough oil for their lamps they had to go buy more, missing the entrance of the groom, and were unable to gain admittance to the party afterwards.  The message: making sure you are prepared at all times for (the return of) God.

In Isaiah 62, just as in Matthew 25, we are anticipating the start of a large celebration. But this is not just passive waiting, in both passages we are called to do the work of preparation. And there is much to be done.  In the Matthew 25 parable, that work is summed up in the keeping of the oil, but here, Isaiah is a little more elaborate: we must keep watch, as the bridesmaids did; but also pray – pray until God has no rest; we must prepare the way for the people, build up the highway, and raise a banner.  There is also reference to harvesting grain and gathering grapes. Now, I’m not a literalist: I don’t think there is a highway waiting to be built that will literally bring God down to us.  So, if it’s all a metaphor, what does it mean we need to do?

Spiritual Callings can be fulfilled in many ways

I think it means we need to be engaged in conscious and joyful work.  We need to find our callings, and follow them.  This is not career advice, necessarily, though good on you if you’re bringing home a paycheck in an area about which you’re passionate.  But it can be through other ways, too.  Take this blog, for instance: It’s something I was moved to do after witnessing too many self-professed Christians making excuses for Trump’s deplorable behavior towards women, espousing hateful Islamophobic rhetoric, and disowning children – literally abandoning them on the street – for coming out as gay.  That is not what Christianity is, and I felt I needed to add my voice to those counteracting the worst examples of so-called Christian morality.  Am I a full-time writer? I wish…maybe one day.  Am I a theologically trained clergyman? Definitely not, and unless I win the lottery and can go to seminary school just for kicks, that’s never going to happen.  But it is still a calling, it is still something I am committed to do.

Other people achieve this type of work by volunteering, some are activists, and others are just caring individuals who feel called to kindness and stewardship of those immediately surrounding them.  So like I said, this conscious and joyful work may not be your main hustle, but I think it is something we all need to find time for in our lives.  Finding a cause that is larger than ourselves creates new relationships with others, enriches us spiritually and socially, and reinforces the best parts of society through stewardship.  This is the type of work that will metaphorically build the highway for the return of Jesus.  So follow the advice of this chapter: keep watch through close observation: see what needs are out there, and what makes you passionate. Pray to God for guidance in these passions (it took me two years, a lot of self-doubt, and a lot of prayer to actually get around to starting this blog after my initial idea), then go forth, do the work, and raise that banner: proclaim it to the world.  This is not to be boastful, but to let others know where you stand, and to rally them to your cause. In doing so, we have already become “a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of our God,” one of the Holy People, the Redeemed, and the Sought After, fully ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the promise of the second coming of our Savior, and the reward that is with him.

Hosea 12 – Impeachment is Just an Asterisk

Ephraim feeds on the wind;
    he pursues the east wind all day
    and multiplies lies and violence.
He makes a treaty with Assyria
    and sends olive oil to Egypt.

(Read the rest of the chapter here!)

 

Don’t let activism exhaustion set in (aka, don’t confuse winning the battle with winning the war)

This chapter is a political criticism, more than anything. It opens with Hosea bashing Israel’s foreign policy: “chasing the wind” is fruitless because you’ll never catch it, and that is what Israel is doing by bouncing back and forth between treaties with Egypt and Assyria.  Hosea then goes on to give a short recount of Israel’s mythologized national history – not unlike an American evoking the more sensational tales of George Washington – in an effort to contrast the poor moral fiber of Israel’s current political climate.  Unlike today, Hosea (and indeed, all of Israel) mixed religion and politics, claiming a return to God would save not only souls but national policy as well.  This difference aside, I still thought it would be a good time to offer up my own little political criticism, since that’s what this chapter is all about.

The recent impeachment of Donald J. Trump is historic, and I don’t want to take from that. He is only the third president to be impeached in 230 years of US presidents.  But what does impeachment mean?  Right now, not much more than an asterisk beside Trump’s name in future history books, just like Johnson and Clinton.  In truth, this impeachment is small potatoes compared to the more systemic problems facing this country:  voting districts are still gerrymandered, thousands are incarcerated for minor crimes, children are still in cages at the border, and McConnellism (more on that in a minute) is the new norm.

To pull from recent history: I don’t want the impeachment to become another Standing Rock.  Remember Standing Rock and the NoDAPL pipeline?  We all celebrated when, in December 2016, the pipeline’s easement was denied…and then it became a closed matter for most of the country (I’ll admit – myself included).  Barely a word was uttered on national outlets when Trump reversed the easement denial with an executive order and construction began in February 2017.  And guess what: the pipeline leaked five times in six months, exactly the kind of disaster that the Sioux of Standing Rock were worried about.  But the initial fight had already been won, our national liberal conscious assuaged, and as a country we couldn’t be bothered to keep fighting.  Long story short, don’t confuse winning one battle with winning the war.  It’s exhausting to keep fighting.  But it is so, so necessary if you care about your Earth, your fellow humans, your God.

Why progressive Christians need to be politically active

If you want something political to focus upon, it’s McConnellism.  Mitch McConnell has done more to hurt the American Democracy than Trump ever could.  There are multiple articles on this from a myriad of sources: pick which one appeals to you.  But in a nutshell, McConnell has made it his policy to put Republican wins over any other priority: refusing to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nomination (and I’m not even sure how many Federal judge nominations), refused to cooperate with election-tampering investigations (even lifting sanctions on Putin allies under FBI investigation), and now coordinating impeachment strategy with White House lawyers.  McConnell doesn’t care what the American people want, or even what is good for this country.  He just wants the Republican party (and his own self) to hold on to as much power as possible, no matter the cost.

Jostling for power is a normal part of politics.  In fact, the Founding Fathers counted upon it-hence all the checks and balances.  Now, however, the political culture in Washington has changed: it is power for power’s sake – not for advancing the good of the country. I think getting Mitch McConnell out of the Senate would be a great start.  But it’s going to take more than that, because the next Senate leader can simply follow McConnell’s example and keep up the race to the bottom.

I think the only thing that is going to make a real difference is if more – and I mean a lot more – people become politically engaged on a much more regular basis.  And this will take time, too, which is discouraging. We all like fast results, that’s why fad diets continue to be a thing.  But we can’t get discouraged to the point that we stop fighting.  The well-being of too many people (both in this country and out of it) are at stake.  Vote. Call your representatives.  And don’t forget local politics: town halls and city councils are great ways to get your voice heard.  Join marches and demonstrations.  Start fundraisers – it’s so easy to do a small birthday fundraiser on Facebook now for a cause you believe in.  If you feel really moved, you can volunteer for a campaign or polling station.  Here’s a great list of even more ways to become more politically engaged.  It may feel like we don’t have a lot of power because it takes so long for things to change. And I won’t deny there’s a lot of corruption that we’re up against.  But popular uprisings happen all the time through-out history.  And if we are loud enough, we can demand change.

Now why, you might be thinking, is a religious blog getting so political? Aren’t we supposed to have a separation between Church and State?  Yes, we have that separation. But 1.) I’m not in office nor am I running for office. 2.) I’m not trying to dictate anyone’s religious beliefs.  I’m simply saying that, as a Christian (hell, as a decent human being) the hollowing out of American democracy and all the racism/xenophobia/sexism/environmental destruction that goes with it are issues you should care about; AND here is a way that we can make a positive change.  Government is able to make broad policy decisions for the whole country that lead to the most amount of change in the least amount of time.  (Imagine how much plastic pollution would decrease if Styrofoam and plastic bags were outlawed at a national level.) Political change is not the whole fight (think how long it took some school districts to de-segregate after Brown v. Board of Education), but it is a large, large portion of said fight.  Don’t let that fight stop with the impeachment.  Keep fighting for the issues that are important to you.  You can bet your ass that this liberal Christian is going to be active in the political process and use my faith as a sounding board, and you should do so, too.