More wisdom from my friend Mark Tidd – especially for white males in Christian ministry.

You may know Mark for his deservedly famous and contagious "welcome to church" - this reflection after a recent conference struck me as important to share in these times when the "gates of white supremacy" are being challenged - and fighting back. Mark captures the stark choices white leaders face - pouting and withdrawing, or a lifetime of uncomfortable kenosis?

Blessed Are Those Who Squirm
With Discomfort

Were you one of the lucky kids who got to play “kick the can” on the street in front of your house or apartment growing up? I did, and I loved it. I got to play it again the last three days at the National With Collective (W/) conference in Denver that our church helped sponsor. Only this time I was one of the cans. As a straight, white, male I know I’m at the top of the heap of privilege in our country, but at this conference some of the cans that were being kicked included women and LGBTQIA persons – if they were white.

And I thank God for this extremely uncomfortable and exhausting time which was quite a shock after having just returned the day before from 3 weeks of bliss in Europe with my wife, Leanne.

I thank God because about 25% of the people at this conference were people of color, which is way higher than last year. I thank God because the conference planners made sure to center those voices and experiences.

In our short history together, this gathering of mostly white people has focused on supporting churches, leaders, artists and thinkers who have parted from their Evangelical background in order to create LGBTQIA inclusive and affirming churches and spaces. In each other we found our “tribe,” a place to belong; but this place to belong was really, really white. And that had to change.

It’s one thing to say that the work of dismantling racism and white privilege will be long, hard and uncomfortable. It’s another thing to be involved in a Christian conference where white men, in particular, don’t know what to say for fear of looking stupid, insensitive, ignorant or self-important. Imagine that! A Christian conference where white men feel unwanted, unneeded, in the way, and at a complete loss. “Praise be to God,” says much of the world that has felt like that, not for two and a half days but millennia. Hallelujah, it’s about time.

It’s hard for us white male pastors when we can’t clear things up and give a hopeful spin to difficult times with our mouths. We are so used to being thanked for our words and wisdom that when we get the message that we need to shut up and listen we are shaken to our core. When we realize there is nothing we can do but stay present and squirm, we want to retreat to our phones and computers because surely someone “out there “will validate our voice, since apparently no one at the conference will!

If only redemption could happen with two and a half days of discomfort rather than a lifetime of kenosis; having the mind of Christ who emptied himself of all privilege and became our flesh and blood. With eyes fixed on Jesus will we endure the cross while scorning its shame, or will we pout that we can’t help being white, carry the shame and withdraw from the race? (Hebrews 12:1,2)

Nothing but love—and a few bruises,

Mark

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A Short Video about Cory and the Seventh Story

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You can order Cory & the Seventh Story - and the companion e-book for adults - here:

theseventhstory.com

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Teaming up with Barbara Brown Taylor, William Paul Young, and Jim Knipper …

I've just been invited to join with friends and colleagues Barbara Brown Taylor (Walking in the Dark, Leaving Church, An Altar in this World, and many more),  William Paul Young (The Shack, Cross Roads, Eve), and Jim Knipper (https://www.facebook.com/teachbelief/) on an Alaskan cruise, May 25 - June 4, 2020.

If you'd like to consider joining us, you'll find all the details here:

https://www.clearfaithpublishing.com/god-is-better-than-we-beleive/

I'm told these cruises always fill up early - so if you're possibly interested, please don't delay!

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If You Don’t Really Like Reading Books …

I have a good friend who doesn't read much. I've given him a few copies of my books as a courtesy over the years, but I know he never got past the first few paragraphs.

I recently gave him a copy of my new book, Cory and the Seventh Story, co-written with Gareth Higgins and illustrator Heather Lynn Harris. We often call it a children's book, and it is, but my friend's reaction told me it is more than that.

"I put your book beside my bed," he said, "and I've been reading it and re-reading it before I go to sleep. It's really great that you've distilled what you write into a short story like this. As someone who knows you, I realize this isn't just a story you wrote. This is the story you live."

 

I've spent twenty years now writing traditional books of 60 - 90,000 words each. And I hope to write at least a few more in the years ahead.

But it took this little book of just 2500 words to connect with my friend.

That might be you too, or someone you know. If so, I hope you'll check out Cory and the Seventh Story.

 

It's a fable about "Us" and "Them", and how we can build bridges and not just walls between us.

For folks who do like to read, we've also written a companion book for adults, called The Seventh Story: Us, Them, and the End of Violence.

It starts with a fable for adults and then explores film, politics, sociology, history, and our own biographies.

You can purchase Cory and the Seventh Story and The Seventh Story now.  If you'd like to learn more and order, head over to www.theseventhstory.com.

Thanks! And thanks for helping us spread the word.

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Q & R: Social Trinitarianism … why?

Here's the Q from a reader in Switzerland:
Your thoughts and writing in the book 'Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road' strongly resonates with my journey of discovery of trying to learn what it means to follow Jesus. But I was puzzled by chapter 15 and because I have tried in vain so far to even come close to embracing trinitarianism I have got to try and understand why even in your mind and heart it is still a concept that has meaning in understanding Jesus and God.
Reading about social trinitarianism, I felt like stepping from one confusing theoretical concept into another. A person who is not a person, a being as communion... You are brave in your thinking and writing, painting a new Christianity that is strong and refreshing. Braver than I am, who rarely speaks out. So why do you still embrace the concept of the trinity? Jesus never said he was God, always spoke of God as separate, as his father. What compels you to continue to think in terms of God as trinity with the result that you have to resort to conceptual gymnastics?
Please understand I am honestly looking for understanding although I am content to embrace the mystery of God over trying to capture what should not be caught. I admire your work and I would not have reached out if I did not think you may have something of value to share.
Here's the R:
This is a huge subject - one that I can't come close to doing justice to in a blog post. So let me first recommend Chapter 45 of We Make the Road by Walking. That's probably the clearest place (in just a few pages) that I try to address this subject, along with Chapter 15 of Why Did Jesus? I also highly recommend the book on the Trinity coauthored by my friends Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell.
In both passages, I do not minimize the fact that the doctrine of the Trinity has been horribly abused by Christians. For example, in WMTR, I wrote, "Sadly, too often our forbears wielded a warped and jagged understanding of the Trinity as a weapon. In so doing, they reinforced violent, static, dualist, hierarchical, and exclusive understandings of God," even though, I believe, meditation on and practice of the Trinity actually subverts violence, stasis, dualism, hierarchy, and exclusion.
You might think of it like this: both eastern and western religions struggle with an important question of human existence: the relationship between the One, the two, and the many. The One is what holds everything together, and monism absolutizes the one. The two highlights tension, contrast, dynamism, and struggle, and dualism absolutizes the two. The many transcends the two with complexity and difference beyond good and evil, and pluralism absolutizes the many. Christianity has occasionally been monist, has often been dualist, and has lately shown some pluralist tendencies. The teaching of the Trinity, rightly understood and practiced, seeks to hold the one, the two, and the many in harmony.
If you make the One absolute, you relativize the two and the many, and sadly, this kind of monism easily becomes authoritarian or totalitarian in the hands of politicians. If you make two absolute, you easily find yourself in a fundamentalist mindset, dividing everything into the righteous us versus the evil other. And if you make the many absolute, you can easily lose both unity and moral distinction. I see the teaching of the Trinity as (among other things) a Spirit-guided attempt among people who had absolutized the One, the two, or the many to rediscover diversity with unity and goodness, to see that the One, the two, and the Many are all inherent in ultimate reality, because God is One, God is gracious and good (not evil), and God's oneness contains diversity.
Social Trinitarianism has been (among other things) an attempt in recent decades to de-hierarchialize the Trinity, with the Father as dominant boss over the Son and the Spirit. By emphasizing the relationality (or sociality) of God's being rather than the hierarchy, theologians have been trying to redress a balance that had tipped (as is so often the case) in the direction of authoritarianism and patriarchy.
Now if you get to that same place by another route, I certainly won't criticize you. And, given the history of how the teaching of the Trinity and so many other features of so-called orthodoxy have been abused by authoritarian/imperial/patriarchal powers, including white supremacists and colonizers, I can't blame anyone for distancing themselves from the whole enterprise. But in the Spirit of the Trinity, I believe things that have beauty, goodness, and truth at their core should be redeemed rather than simply rejected.
After all, give us human beings time (and money and power), and we'll pervert anything good. If we simply reject everything that ever gets tainted, we'll quickly become new examples of  fundamentalistic dualists who lose the balance that we humans so desperately need - psychologically, intellectually, socially, politically, and even ecologically.
Which brings me to one last thought: our environmental crisis,  thanks to those currently in power, still waits to be addressed with the urgency it deserves. But to address climate change and other facets of our ecological crisis will require real change in policy, which will require deep change in our politics, which will require radical change in values. But values won't change unless at our deepest levels of being we embrace a view of the universe that learns to simultaneously hold the one, the two, and the many ... because the environment is a true unity that contains a real duality of good/evil, wisdom/foolishness, greed/generosity, etc., in the context of the glorious diversity of God's creation. For more on this subject, see EcoCiv podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ecociv-podcast/id1445620544?mt=2
Those are a few of the many reasons why I continue to speak of the Trinity today. That doesn't mean I endorse or use all the language of this or that "school" of Trinitarian thought. Nor does it mean that I believe this or that version of Trinitarian thinking is necessary to be considered a follower of Jesus or a believer in God. It simply means that I am trying to hold and practice this teaching in a way I find to be honest, humble, and healing, and in that spirit, I offer it as a gift to others. I hope that's helpful to you in your own journey of faith, hope, and love!

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