As we sat at breakfast Easter morning, my 10-year old son Theo asked me, “why does everybody go to church today?” I reminded him that Good Friday had just passed, and confirmed with him that he understood its significance. He nodded. “And today is the day Jesus, you know… came back to life?” he said, with more than a hint of skepticism.
His little sister Naomi scrunched her nose up. “Came back to life,” she said, “you mean like a zombie?”
On the outside I chuckled at their playful questioning of this seemingly unbelievable detail, but on the inside I cringed at the future judgement they will no doubt face as honest critics of unquestionable dogma. They know the stories of Jesus’ life and death, just as they know countless other stories. They’re acquainted with historical fiction, and they understand how true events often provide a pretext for further embellishment. We’ve never lied to them about Santa Clause or the tooth fairy, and they’re certainly aware that zombies are a product only of our imaginations.
“Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” In replying, it seemed the least I could do is acknowledge the obvious.
They both nodded, and Theo pointed out matter-of-factly, “But people really believe that happened.”
“Why would they believe that?” Naomi asked. Adults say the darndest things. Continue Reading »
A quick preface: this post is primarily for my fellow white Americans. It should be acknowledged that the ability to take a trivial tone toward the prospect of a Trump presidency is itself a form of privilege, and I only hope those of you most affected will forgive me this indulgence.
Yes, the headline is complete and utter clickbait. Now that you’re here though, I hope you’ll indulge me by considering this question: what does racial progress look like in our culture, in our society? There are likely as many different answers to that question as there are people answering it. Some might base it on factors like socio-economic indicators or sentimental metrics like happiness. But who needs to realize this progress is clear. Comedian Chris Rock gets serious on this point:
“When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”
I would argue that in a country still deeply fractured from centuries of prejudice, the next step needed to progress looks like a more honest public dialogue around race. It is impossible to exorcise a demon that is still hidden, and so revealing the grip that racism and intersectional issues like misogyny and xenophobia still have on America can be a real step forward. I think that Donald Trump is facilitating the emergence of a more honest conversation around such issues - granted, perhaps not in the way he would lead his followers to believe.
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I wrote this letter to my children on a plane as we returned from a recent trip to Washington D.C. For as much as D.C. represents gridlock and cynical politics from a distance, in person it is also a city full of promise and optimism. It is my hope that my children will in their lifetimes not only see this type of promise and optimism realized, but be instrumental in bringing it to pass – a dream perhaps, but one that I work hard to cultivate in them. While this is my first post here in some time, there is nowhere else I would publish something of such personal significance to me. I share this publicly because my challenge to my children as individuals is a public one, meaningful only within the context of the community they belong to. I hope these words live somewhere into perpetuity, as a reminder to them of what they, like each of us, are called to.
To my children Naomi and Theodore,
You are more privileged than you know. By being born to parents who value learning and whose own parents valued learning, you have the privilege of knowledge. By being born into this time and place in history, you have the privilege of unparalleled access to people and information. By having never felt personally the agony of starvation, war and material poverty… Continue Reading »
Like most everyone this weekend, my heart remains heavy with grief and confusion over the violence in Newtown, Connecticut. The answer to the question, “why,” is neither obvious nor simple, but to ask it seems the most human of responses to a tragedy of these proportions. In time, we will no doubt learn more about the killer’s circumstances, individual angst, and personal mental state. It is, I think, completely natural and logical to seek those details out in order to lend context to such deplorable actions. A larger question however, looms over our country, too often and too long dismissed and ignored in the public conversation. Continue Reading »
Like many of you, the growing Occupy Wall Street movement has gotten my attention. How can so many people be so dedicated to a cause that is – in my mind at least – still undefined? This much I’ve figured out – these so-called “99 percenters” seem to feel they’re being deprived of the American dream by the wealthiest members of our society. They, like most of us define that dream as the entitlement to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It’s hard to disagree with the dream, but what exactly does that mean, and how do we achieve it? It does seem sometimes like that last part of the dream has been redefined as the “Pursuit of Wealth.” Perhaps the events of the last five years have pretty clearly fingered Wall Street as a villain in our economic drama, but that’s hardly going to get us out of this mess. Who are the heroes that will save the day? Heroes make us feel safe, warm and fuzzy – happy. If we can figure out who the heroes are then maybe, just maybe, we can be happy. Continue Reading »