An Invitation to Young Life & The Bible Churches that raised me:

An invitation to my Christian siblings from many and far traditions. But especially the ones that raised me. Namely Young Life and Bible Churches:

The other day I saw Young Life and communities I once belonged to participate in a solidarity “blackout” with the black community of this nation.

In one Young Life post it read: “Jesus came so that we could ALL experience God’s LOVE.
We lament the persistent walls in our society (e.g., racism, sexism, ableism, bigotry, and every kind of evil) that consciously and unconsciously replace that love with hate. We see you. We care for you. And we will stand by you.”

While the gesture and effort of solidarity are a huge step for that organization it fell flat to many people within the comments. Namely that they still appear hesitant to say “Black Lives Matter.”

I’m sitting at my computer for this one and I do hope if this header includes you, that you would take the opportunity to read the following. And I know that y’all read, even if you’re not comfortable yet with publicly agreeing or writing. I understand. I know that tension. I have shared it before.

It took the riots that followed the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO for me to be shocked enough and uncomfortable enough to consider that not all American communities share the same ease of experience that I had. It took the burning buildings, the marches in the street, and my social media blowing up with perspectives for me to finally be open to listening. And I did listen. And I learned things I never knew. Never considered. Never imagined. And I still am on that journey as our nation goes through this cycle once again. Hopefully, God-willing, for the final time.

When I finally opened my eyes and ears things were really messy at first. Even when I began to listen I still made ignorant arguments that got in the way. And some days even still I find my best intentions being pulled to the side and lovingly corrected.

It has brought me great hope to see faith leaders, ministries, denominations, come to the point where they feel uncomfortable enough to finally show solidarity with these movements and in most cases declare “Black Lives Matter.” To finally acknowledge the steps that they will lead their followers to take to undo the racism of their own communities. May we all lament the unrest, the violence and the abuse it took to get us there. And may we use this perspective to invite us to listen and to act before the unheard who peacefully cry out are left to desperation and wrath and in the end violent response.

Like the Samaritan story, many of us have walked by Black Lives on our way to our communities. We’ve made excuses, over-shown with counter-narratives of our own white experiences, and even diminished and individualized the point with our theological narratives. We’ve worried about our financial standings should we declare something “so bold” because we’ve known people in our communities, sometimes our donors, sometimes our employers, sometimes our congregations were not yet ready. We’ve worried about appearing partisan or political or too liberal in simply acknowledging “Black Lives Matter.” Worse, we’ve silenced and pushed out of our communities those who years ago tried to tell us what we now are beginning to understand. We’ve been over-patient for the comfort of white lives while black lives have been beaten and murdered publicly.

It is encouraging to see so many make this shift. It is encouraging to see pastors and youth pastors share books and resources to teach their communities about anti-racism and undoing white supremacy.

But in nearly all of those books your communities are going to find language and be invited to consider another history of abuse and marginalization that you are still openly encouraging, still defeating, still firing from your staff, still worried about what your donors will think, still silencing those trying to teach you, still worried about appearing partisan or political or too liberal, still defending with your narrow theological narratives that only protect your power through communal certitudes. As you awaken to all you are realizing with regards to Black Lives and white supremacy, and the discomfort of that weight, would you please consider that your same inaction and ignorance, the exact same sin has abused and even killed gay, bi, and trans lives.

Because Black Gay Lives Matter.
Because Black Trans Lives Matter.
It’s all included or your solidarity doesn’t mean anything.

The audacity to make statements like this: “We lament the persistent walls in our society (e.g., racism, sexism, ableism, bigotry, and every kind of evil) that consciously and unconsciously replace that love with hate. We see you. We care for you. And we will stand by you.” and yet continue to uphold the bigotry of homophobia in your ministries is maddening. It’s defeating. It’s harmful. It’s violent.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I’ve seen many share this Dr. King quote this past week. Especially from those of my former Christian communities.

Would you please take this moment of awakening and extend this justice to its proper place?

Would you be compelled by the love of God who has revealed to you a more urgent call and consideration than you previously imagined, and recognize that God is in the business of extending your heart and your concern for neighbor further than you ever dreamed.

Do you see gay and trans people yet? Do you care for them and make safe spaces for them? Because that was not my experience while employed and serving in your ministries.

The problem is not simply projected to “our society” it’s in your walls too.

It set me and my love back and taught me how to reproduce that same bigotry to the youth in my care.  I have said so before but I will say it again.

As a volunteer I misled many of my Young Life kids. As a preacher I allowed many young adults at Austin Ridge Bible Church to be against gay and trans people. I repent. I do not believe what I once taught. I was afraid for too many years of the social costs of my beliefs as I sorted things out and unlearned my uneducated and inexperienced foundations. Even as I learned and experienced against those teachings I was afraid of speaking up. My personal fears hindered the growth of Christians and I repent.

 

Part of that repentance is being available to you now in that similar place as I once was. I have received messages from people from each of these communities over the last several years. Some still trying to work it out. Some fearful of how it will impact their paycheck, their community, and their family. Together we have had wonderful and illuminating conversations and moved forward in love and bravery and inclusion.

Just as you have said in your statements, this fills God’s heart. Because we are more open to one another than ever. And the stranger becomes a friend. And love is the fruit.

Take this moment. Take all your discomfort, your openness and willingness to listen, and let God take it further to everybody everywhere.

 

Lament all you need, but action is what is urgently needed.

Please recognize that your role in racism, sexism, and the bigotry of homophobia and transphobia, and bi-phobia is still very harmful and very active within your ministries.

Young life in particular has such a powerful platform and opportunity to be an active fighter for our young black and lgbtq+ youth. Make it so.

Make it so.

May you stand in the face of all bigotry, may you see what you are learning now and the chasm of your ignorance that is being revealed to you, may that shock and discomfort invite you to consider that there is more to these communities and their experiences than your perspective and beliefs, may that responsibility to your youth, your communities, lead you to sincere reflection and challenge of your narrow certitudes. Certitudes built by oppressive white normative narratives, and may the undoing of this heal the future unrest and build Heaven in its place. It shouldn’t take another person’s unrest to make you feel like making a change.

You were made for this.

Grace & Peace

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