Holy Week & SCOTUS

These are thoughts from my friend DJ. It is rare that I post Facebook statuses in this space, but two in one day?!?! Must be Holy Week!!

By Darria Janéy Hudson

All week, I’ve been wondering if I’m crazy for drawing parallels between Holy Week and all of the attention and excitement over Prop 8 & DOMA in the Supreme Court… But then I remembered that the Lenten season and Good Friday are my most anticipated times of the year for an important reason: They force me to consider who is on the cross in my world today, and who is baying for the blood of the innocent. Meditating on Christ and the crucifixion compel me to see my reality as the site of violent oppression, oppression often carried out in the name of the law, or in the name of God, an oppression that silences and kills. And both Lent and Good Friday force me to take time to mourn, to grieve, to repent for my own complicity and to wrestle with myself and with God in the darkness.

And I can value these painful reflections, because Holy Week is always a reminder of the strangest reality of our world; that there is no dark without light, no despair without hope, no silence without clamor. All things change that is the only truth of the world that can be counted on. And the hope for me, the hope that dries my tears at 3am, the hope that bolsters my weary spirit, the hope that brings me back to the struggle again and again and again no matter how many times it breaks my heart and my body– that hope lies in the knowing that despite what appears to be the end, in spite of the depth of the grave and the sting of death, all thing that live will die, and all things that die will live again.

Regardless of all the ugly evil that some have been fooled into believing is Christianity, there are deeper truth of love, of hope, and of struggle in the image of Christ. Banksy’s image is a much needed writing on the wall about our times, and one that on this Easter weekend, I’m immensely grateful for.

Thanks D.J.!!

Make A Difference . . . . . . . For Life! ! !

Infomercial CHRISTIANS:

There are only a handful facebook statuses that I take time to actually read. Generally I skim. I do read the weekly sermon introduction my friend and pastor Sonnye Dixon. Except for Sonnye’s messages I have not really seen anything that I would repost in this space. I ran across this post this morning and, with the author’s permission, thought it worth sharing in this space. Those of you have enjoyed some of our previous posts will enjoy this one as well.

By Dawn V. Rogers, Lead Writer at Write the Vision Ink

Have you ever looked at an infomercial and found yourself tempted to buy the product because of before and after shots, or how the product was advertised? I personally have wasted money on products that I believed would “work for me” only to be disappointed in the results. I always wondered if I missed a step, or if I was doing it right. I would go back to the manual often in confusion and read the directions in English and Spanish to gain understanding. I would attempt to do what it said, but I still could not achieve the amazing outcomes that were advertised.

Made me think about …well you know, this witness thing.

Sometimes we display these amazing results of our lifestyle, our walk with God, our attitudes, parenting, our marriage, and other relationships, like we came like “this” out of the box.

I look at Jennifer Hudson today, and give her a side eye for every Weight Watchers commercial she’s in because I know her results took more than counting calories. I want to know what else was done so I can do it too and get better results.

The point of this lengthy post is to encourage believers NOT to become infomercial Christians. Witness through your process. If you see someone going through what you’ve been delivered from, don’t just say God will fix it, just pray, and be still, [God will] work it out. Those are brush offs; that’s the Infomercial after photo. Most struggling believers already KNOW God will fix it, the issue is how and what do I need to do in my everyday living? We need help on application, our walk. Tell them that before your marriage looked like this, you cried many nights, prayed over your spouse in their sleep, read Psalms 91 over and over, got a trainer (counseling). Tell them that after he hit you and you left him, you still missed him, and couldn’t move forward so you had to create a calendar of activities to do with yourself so you could learn to love yourself again. Tell them you took yourself on dates, joined a singles ministry and sometimes you still cried until one day out of nowhere, you were thinking of him less and less, and before you knew it, you were so into God it blew your mind.

Tell them that you had a job too, but was always a paycheck away from the food stamp office, until you started a budget and told family no. Tell them you gave yourself manicures and perms to save money, tell them your car has been repossessed too. But the more you tithed, the more you HAD to budget. We need help in our process, not our outcomes. There is power in your testimony. Our after shots can run people away because when others try to live like we are “now”. They get frustrated and do what has always worked. We have their attention. Iron sharpens iron. That’s bible.

Thanks Dawn,

Make a Difference . . . . . . . . . . . For Life! ! !

check out the new blog from member Emily Walker. Follow her @http://www.love1always.wordpress.com


There is nothing more frustrating, confusing or “         ” than writers block! Having something to say but not knowing how to say it–rehearsing a thousand times, just for it to come out all wrong. Time after time I find myself staring at my empty Facebook status box hoping to post something meaningful to counteract all the random nonsensical statuses, next thing I know it’s an hour later and I’d surf the entire world wide web of my Facebook camaraderie and Liked all of the cute baby pictures posted by the proudest FBmothers, still no status. Meanwhile, the reality is I just haven’t figured “it” out yet, maybe once I do I’ll have more to say. Furthermore, who is to say what is and isn’t important to a person? A Facebook status as well as all other things in life have the amount of meaning that we give it. Therefore…

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We need our children and our children need us

This essay was written in 2012 for the opening session of the Garnett-Nabritt Lecure Series at American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee. It is reprinted here with the permission of Mr. Miles who, along with several of his fellow insiders, asked that we tell their story.

American Baptist College March 19, 2012, Joseph Miles, a student in a class currently being taught by Professor Janet Wolf for American Baptist College at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, has written the following essay for today:

My name is Joseph Miles; I am incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. First, I want to thank you all for hearing my words today. I want to talk to you concerning the kids in the Black Communities across the State of Tennessee. These kids are in real trouble and as a community, we should want to step up and take a more proactive role in the lives of these kids. They really need us to get involved and bring new alternatives into their lives, as well as into their communities. In 2006 all the kids in Springfield had was the streets and the carwash for hanging out. Today in 2012 they still only have the streets and a carwash. I was at the courthouse in Springfield, TN, in May of 2006, and they brought the inmates up from the jail. The day in question they brought in seven of what I thought, were Black men and put them into a holding cell with me. As we talked I quickly realized those black men were just kids. Not one of them was older than my oldest daughter, but all seven were closest in age to my youngest daughter who is nineteen (19) years of age.

I listen to them tell me how they came to be in jail and in the streets. My heart got heavy, because I could relate to them. When I think of them today, my eyes water up, because their words touched me much deeper than they will ever know. As I was being prepared for the trip back to prison, I overheard a lawyer telling one of them about the deal that would get him out of jail, but the deal was only good for that day. This kid was strongly declaring his innocence. The lawyer said to him, “Do you want to go home today, or do you want to go back over to the jail until trial? It is your choice!” On my way out the door, I looked back to see that kid signing those papers. He had to make a decision about his innocence, his future and his freedom without the benefit of having time to think, or talk with others about the so-called deal. He had to choose then and the only thing he was really sure about in that instance, he knew he wanted out of jail and this deal gets him out today. From talking with him in that holding cell, I believe he was much too inexperienced to know that deal was not beneficial to him, but destructive to his future. But, there is nothing that can be done about that now. But, I can tell you this. When I look at the ones that come in here from eighteen to twenty-five with new life sentences that they MUST serve fifty-one (51) calendar years of before they are even eligible for parole, I believe that most of them could have been helped.

Let me ask you all a question. How many of you think about the future of the young Black man? I need you all to think about this. What type of future are we looking forward to if our kids go into a prison at the age of fifteen and don’t come out until they’re sixty-six (66) years of age? What type of future are we looking forward to when our kids are dying faster than the elders of our communities? What type of future are we looking forward to when our kids value their self-worth by the price of the shoes they wear and the designer jeans they cannot afford? Ladies and Gentlemen, our kids are in REAL TROUBLE and it is going to take the community to save them. In 2007 I read an article in the newspaper that was wrote by a professor at Princeton University, and it read, “A white man out of prison has a faster chance of getting a job than a black man who’s never been in prison.” I found that study very interesting, but not surprising. Our kids are stereotyped by the clothes they wear, the way they walk, talk, even their hairstyles. Most of them in the streets probably cannot read good enough to fill out a job application. This is called CRIMINALIZING our kids. Making them feel inferior, at the same time destroying their self-esteem. Society is good at manipulating the psyche of our kids. I pray that you all are hearing these words, because these are your children, your grand children, your nieces, your nephews, cousins and the children of your friends. People, they will not and cannot survive without their community.

Maybe some of you are asking. What can we do? First, you have got to tell yourselves that these kids are worth saving, worth loving and worth our time. Second, the community must come together, push City Hall for the recreation programs, jobs and job training that the youngsters need and deserve. Parents must take a more active involvement in their kid’s education because too many of the educators of today are only concerned with trying to suspend these kids from school, putting them in the streets when they need and should be in school. Again, manipulating their psyche to feel inferior. Third, these kids need people they can talk to. People who can help them identify the madness in their lives. I see so many kids in these prisons and prison cannot help them. They need help before it gets to this! The only way to help them and keep them from destroying themselves is to come together as a community. Bring those kids in from the streets, hug them, and say to them, “we love you,” and reinforce those words with your actions and a commitment of saving them.

For the people that may be asking. What business is this of ours? I will say this to you. You are children of God; these kids I am speaking of are also children of God. I would ask you all to read Exodus 18:19-20 and 23. From that scripture, I appeal to all people of faith on behalf of these kids. I want to share a quote from Maya Angelou. “No man is free until all men are free. No woman is healed until all women are healed.” These are more than profound statements worthy of thought. They are the clues to the moral responsibilities we all have for one another. We should think about where we would be if there were no books or people to guide us when we need it. Then with an open heart and extended hand, we can pull someone else along. Some of you may be asking yourselves, who does he think he is? I will tell you this. In May of 2006 when I met those, seven kids in that holding cell, I made a promise to myself, to help them; not knowing where to start. Thinking about them almost every day. In June of 2007, a girl was shot in the neck for hanging out at the carwash the only hangout, those kids have and the following week another child was shot in the head and died on the way to the hospital. I knew I had to say something to someone and you all are the ones to help them. Because in 2012 our Black kids are still filling the jails, prisons, and graveyards faster than any other race in America.” – Joseph Miles

19Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; 20teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do.23If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.” Exodus 18:19-20,23 NRSV

These words echo those of Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness”, when she says that “the core challenge to ending mass incarceration is dispelling the myth that some of us are not worthy of genuine care concern and compassion.”

We are ALL children of God! Thank you for reminding us Mr. Miles!!

Make A Difference . . . . . . . . For Life!!!

Jesus People and The New Jim Crow

In a post last year (The Seminary) I took a look at the case of a formerly incarcerated individual who was fired from his job at a seminary because of a prior conviction. Since that time I have been involved in work on the issue of restorative justice and particularly “Mass Incarceration” as it is defined in the book by Michelle Alexander, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In the age of Colorblindness”. What I realized after reading this book is that the case of that individual and the seminary was only the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of thousands of men (and increasing numbers of women), primarily people of color, almost exclusively people on the lower wrung of the socio-economic ladder are being arrested, convicted, sentenced to prison, probation, or once in prison, eventually paroled and systematically denied the basic rights of citizenship in the United States.

Because many of these people do not have access to quality legal representation they often do not have the benefit of the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. “Tens of thousands of people go to jail every year without ever talking to a lawyer,” writes Ms. Alexander. Without legal representation these people are left to the aggressive tactics of federal, state, and local prosecutors many of whom are perusing their own personal political ambitions and agendas. Added to this is the proliferation of the private prison industry which literally trades in the caging of human beings. CCA, the largest of the private prison companies in the US recently made a bid to take over the prisons in 48 states in an offer to the governors of those states conditioned on a guarantee of 90% occupancy. The discomforting question in all of this is where is the church? Why is the church so seemingly quiet on the issue of mass incarceration in this country in particular?

Now this is not to say that people of faith are not involved in the work of dismantling the system of criminal injustice that exists in the US. This does say, however, that there should be a louder cry from the pulpits, and more action from the pews of our churches against the injustices of the system that we currently have in place. Ms. Alexander was correct when she stated that, “this is not a criminal justice issue it is a human rights issue.” Some fifty years ago or more Dr. Howard Thurman wrote of the system of Jim Crow was rooted in the mind and mood of the human spirit. That mood and mentality was and is no less prevalent in the segregated “north” than in the “Jim Crow south”. Thurman argued that if we did not get to that root then we would not truly defeat Jim Crow, rather something worse and more insidious would rise up in its place. Thurman’s words have proven true in the form of the system of mass incarceration.

Michelle Alexander voiced similar sentiment when she said at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in Chicago, that the “core challenge to ending mass incarceration is dispelling the myth that some of us are not worthy of genuine care, concern, and compassion.” This is essentially, the heart of the issue; how we view and consequently how we treat people. Do we treat people as if they are trash to be thrown away? Do we feel that they are not worthy of our care and compassion.

Surely for Jesus people this cannot be the case. For Jesus people who pray for their enemies, give to those who cannot give back in return, turn the other cheek, heal the sick, bind up the wounded hearts, surely every life has worth and value. For Jesus people understand that the very foundation of our faith hangs on just two things, “Love God with all you’ve got, and love others as you love your own self.” Let’s ask ourselves Jesus people, to what extent does how we treat those who are, or have been, incarcerated demonstrate that we really believe what Jesus said? What does it say about Jesus people that we allow people to be used to work at jobs for essentially no pay while in prison, that they will not be hired for when they are released? What does our silence say about us when 90% of drug arrests come from 14% of the people who are involved in illegal drug activity? There is a time when we should not want the rocks to cry out for us!

The good news is that there are “other sheep” who may not be “of this fold” who are engaging these injustices. These other sheep do believe that every life has value and they are working, in that faith, to bring in the reign of God. That God’s will is “done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Jesus people these other sheep are all around you, in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, DC, Florida, all over. I have met them! Seek them, find them, join them! Be Jesus people, because every life does have value, all of us and each of us is worthy of genuine care, concern, and compassion.

Make a difference . . . . . . . . . For Life!!!!!!

Convicted by Our Common Humanity

From Wesley Urban Ministry Fellow, Lindy Bunch

Episcopal Commons

by Lindy Bunch

Matthew 18:21–35 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=228329319)

This past spring, I had the opportunity to travel with my fellow seminarians studying restorative justice to Riverbend High Security Penitentiary in Tennessee. Several educators and clergy from the Nashville area have been working at this prison for nearly 15 years alongside “insiders” (as the inmates are called) in order to build a group within the prison. This group, consisting of approximately 15 insiders, has been meeting regularly for years, and is self-directed and self-determining. In these meetings, they discuss books, theology, education, and their lives. They are a community. And this community invited us into their world, to exchange and learn from one another.

As I stood outside the prison, I girded myself for the unknown that awaited me. In some ways, this was my greatest fear. As a woman, I have typically felt uncomfortable around large groups of men, not…

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Just thought this might be worth a re-posting . . .

make a difference . . . for life

A few weeks ago, I found myself standing on the steps of the Municipal Courthouse here in Nashville Tennessee. Inside the Nashville Davidson metro council meeting was about to begin. As it happened I was standing next to one of the council members, (who shall remain nameless) and he was approached by a gentleman who introduced himself as the pastor of a church belonging to a Christian denomination in Davidson County.

One of the issues on the agenda was a vote on a bill that would prevent the metro government from firing anyone based on their sexual orientation. First, let us be clear about the bill. The bill is a protection of the right to work for all, including those who are in same sex relationships or who prefer, for whatever reason, same sex relationships. The pastor wanted the council member to join in opposition to, and vote against passage…

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Where Are Your Wounds?

The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference held their annual meeting in Dallas Texas this year where we were hosted by the Friendship West Baptist Church and Pastor Frederick Douglas Haynes. The Proctor Conference, as it has come to be known, is the brain child of Dr. Haynes and Dr. Jeremiah Wright who was a student of Dr. Proctor at Virginia Union Theological Seminary. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the conference which is spearheaded by the General Secretary, Dr. Iva Carruthers.

“The mission of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) is to nurture, sustain, and mobilize the African American faith community in collaboration with civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders to address critical needs of human and social justice within local, national, and global communities. SDPC seeks to strengthen the individual and collective capacity of thought leaders and activists in the church, academy, and community through education, advocacy, and activism.”

This year’s theme was “Living Waters: Unearthing Global Power for Justice”. The session was kicked off on Monday evening with a challenging sermon from Rev. Dr. Alan Boesak entitled, “Where Are Your Wounds?” Dr. Boesak is a veteran of the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa and challenged conference attendees to understand that the life in Christ is a life characterized by struggle. In that struggle there will be wounds. In fact the absence of wounds suggests that one did not find anything worth fighting for. Where are your wounds?

The question is a twofold question, not only “Where are you wounds?” but if you have no wounds then, “Was there nothing to fight for?” Dr. Boesak said this was the question that God is asking the Black Church today. I would suggest that this is the question for the whole church. Not only the church collectively but for each of us who profess to be followers of the Christ by who’s wounds we are healed!! This is the challenge to every one of us. Are we content to sit in relative ease and comfort while millions of men and women struggle to find the means to “get by” even from day to day. Where are your wounds? Is it enough to hand out sandwiches and blankets and not challenge the systems that create poverty and homelessness? Is there nothing to fight for?

Yes it is easier to blame the “other”, the drug addicted, the old, the poor. It is the popular thing to demonize those who are the most vulnerable in our society today. The challenge of the question is having the courage to speak truth to power. To say that there is something inherently wrong with making a health problem, like drug addiction, into a legal problem. The challenge is fighting a system of mass incarceration that denies the “inalienable rights” of citizenship and creates a social caste of second class citizens in a new system of Jim Crow. Where are your wounds? The challenge is speaking truth to a system of poverty governance that simply makes poverty less harsh while funneling people into low wage, dead end jobs. Is there nothing to fight for? The challenge is defending senior citizens, who have worked all their lives, from a government that wants to privatize their retirement while spending billions of dollars on military aide to foreign countries. “Where are your wounds? Was there nothing to fight for?”

This is the challenge to the church today, and the challenge of theological education, training faith leaders to know the right people, to ask the right questions, and to have the courage to do so!

Where are your wounds? There is much to fight for!

Make A Difference . . . . . . . For Life!