You can try to be woke and still screw up when it comes to racism. That’s no excuse for not trying.

It’s not easy being anti-racist:

Schultz, whose company has been known for its inclusion and political correctness (to the point of occasional controversy), has received praise in the past for speaking out against racism. After the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, when President Trump blamed “both sides” for violence, Schultz said that elected officials were not using “their voice with due force and eloquence to elevate the ideal of equality.”

But the Philadelphia incident raises questions about how deeply Schultz’s sensitivity on racial discrimination seeped into the company.

Conservatives, of course, are gleeful:

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Let’s first of all say this: If Chris Stigall is defending you, you probably need to deeply examine whatever it is in your life he finds praiseworthy.

That said: You can try desperately to be woke and still find yourself screw up on matters of race. It’s not because black people are trying to trick you into screwing up — it’s an odd trap that would leave the trappers arrested by police simply for being in a coffee shop — but because it’s easy not to see one’s own blind spots when it comes to race.

I’ve written in these parts about my own experience realizing I’d screwed up a racial issue. I don’t need to revisit it again here: It was that painful. But my own experience came after years of writing about white privilege, of trying to be an advocate for racial justice. And I still fucked up.

That’s not an excuse.

To listen to the Stigalls of the world, one might assume white people are owed credit for not being racist. But, as my wife says in a different context, you don’t get a cookie for doing what you should do. The fact that you take a beating when you – or your employees – do a racist thing is not proof of the unfairness of anti-racism.

You work against racism because it’s the right thing to do. And you do it humbly, knowing those blind spots might bite you despite your best efforts. And when somebody stumbles on the journey, well: Best to point it out, try to see that justice is done, then welcome them to continue on the journey.

It’s not easy. But it’s better, wiser, than turning our backs.


Do Black Lives Matter in church?

White on the outside.

I’d like to recommend this piece at The Marshall Project about a man who ended up leaving his church because of its indifference to Black Lives Matter issues.

While there are probably some mostly white churches that get it right on issues of racial justice, studies show that the majority don’t. According to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, white evangelical Protestants stand out as the religious group most likely to say the criminal justice system treats people of color and whites equally with 57 percent endorsing that belief. More specifically, 62 percent say that police officers treat blacks the same as whites.

The distance between these beliefs and reality suggests that white Christians are failing to hear their brothers and sisters of color. And that failure raises serious concerns about the ability of mostly white congregations to advance the gospel of Jesus, a victim himself of state violence.

I think the thing that’s surprised me the most about the response of many white people — in and out of the church — is an underlying, rarely stated presumption that they understand the experiences of black people better than black people understand their own experiences. Listening is really hard. We’d all do well to practice it more often.

The battlefield amorality of Donald Trump

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Technically, he’s white.

A chilling bit of reporting:

Later, when the agency’s head of drone operations explained that the CIA had developed special munitions to limit civilian casualties, the president seemed unimpressed. Watching a previously recorded strike in which the agency held off on firing until the target had wandered away from a house with his family inside, Trump asked, “Why did you wait?” one participant in the meeting recalled.

On the campaign trail, Trump often said he would “take out” the families of terrorists.

Civilians routinely die when the U.S. drops its bombs, but our consciences are supposed to be salved because of all the steps the military takes to avoid civilian casualties. (The U.S. government also tends to undercount civilian casualties.) If you’re on the receiving end of U.S. bombs, those good intentions probably don’t count for much: You’re maimed or dead either way, probably angry as hell if you’re a survivor. But at least we can convince ourselves we’re prosecuting messy wars in as morally upright a fashion as possible if we understand ourselves to be trying.

President Trump would dispense with even that fig leaf of moral superiority.

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Read the full Washington Post story and you’ll come to understand that America’s wars abroad are confused affairs, that our country is apparently doomed to stumble around causing overseas bloodshed in perpetuity … or until such time as the cost, in blood or treasure or the simple willingness of Americans to ignore and tolerate what’s done on our behalf, becomes too much. I doubt it’s doing much to make us safer.

Trump’s approach makes all this worse. If the people we’re bombing can point to his words, that will create more enemies for America. In the terrorism era, it doesn’t take too many enemies to inflict some serious misery. Trump’s kill ’em all approach seems likely to make us less safe.  If morality doesn’t make adifference to the president — and clearly it doesn’t — utilitarian considerations might. Unfortunately, Trump only knows about (and seemingly only cares about) looking like a TV version of a tough guy.

God’s theologically significant penis


Forgive me for the headline, but here’s Rod Dreher again:

God is revealed to us in the Bible as a Father. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is a man. Mary, the mother of the Messiah, plays an important symbolic role too. You lose the male and female aspects of the story, you lose sight of why these things matter theologically.

This is why I cannot bring myself to fully commit to any kind of orthodox faith (though as always, my Mennonite connections still have a hold on me). Dreher takes something ultimately unknowable — outside of some assertions written in patriarchal cultures thousands of years ago — and elevates the assertion to the level of meaningful theology. He’s pretty typical in this!

But I cannot, for the life of me, begin to give a shit about whether God has a penis, much less what that should mean for any kind of faith system I adopt.

There’s not really a way to even begin to debate this, because it all goes to the level of our deep, individual psyches. Dreher, for whatever reason, needs his faith to be difficult, demanding, and masculine — needs, in fact, for it be be difficult, demanding, and masculine for everybody. Everything else is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a “feminized” — how his use of that term drips with scorn! — bastardization of faith. He believes this for the same reason, I think, that we all hold whatever theological beliefs we have:

Because we want to. The rest is rationalization.

What is Christianity for?


This is a question I’ve asked a few times here at SixOh6. It seems like a good question to revisit at Easter. And here’s my my quick-and-dirty answer: I don’t have a good answer.

Or rather: I have multiple answers.

If one takes Christianity seriously as faith, then the answer for many Christians is something like: Christianity is the way we come into right relationship with God. It plugs us into an eternal perspective, and we are redeemed from our sinful and broken natures by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus and choosing to live as He would have us.

I’m not sure I believe that entirely. As always, I’m one foot in and one foot out of the church.

The foot out: I don’t think I know precisely the nature of God, or what God wants from us, and some of the things traditional Christianity has told us are bad — and this, in my life, ranges all the way from “dancing” to “being gay” — I’ve found, with experience, are actually good.

Still: There’s the example of Jesus. Who warned us against living by the sword. Who ate with tax collectors. Who repeatedly confounded the social expectations of his time, and did it on behalf of adultresses, the meek, the prisoners and the rest of society’s castoffs.

There’s the foot in.

If my writings here at SixOh6 seem occasionally muddled, it’s because while I live my life with one foot out, I expect self-proclaimed Christians to live the former version of Christianity — with an eternal perspective. The tribalism I see in American Christians seems to me to be precisely the opposite of that.

Maybe that’s hypocritical of me.

Rod Dreher, as you know by now, is a source of some frustration to me. And I think he captured why in this essay about why traditional Christian notions of sex are so important.

Is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?

I think it’s kind of clear that for Dreher, the answer is, uh, “yes.”

But I also think he has the question wrong. He’s not interrogating whether Christianity’s purpose is to be a social force.

It gets complicated. I think if you live out Christianity with that eternal perspective, it will definitely flow through your temporal life an have social ramifications. But that’s a byproduct of living with the eternal perspective, not the purpose.

On the other hand, if you’re me, living with one foot out of the church, with maybe only a nodding hope of the eternal perspective — well, what’s left except the social ramifications? And if that’s the case, who am I to get mad at Rod Dreher for treating his faith that way?

I’m not a good Christian. That’s the choice I make, based on my best sense of what I know. But I want Christians to be the best Christians they can be.

This is partly right:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

I’m definitely seeing through the glass darkly. What’s Christianity for? Finding out if the rest of it is true, I guess.

Does religious freedom include a right to federal subsidies?


I don’t think so. But that seems to be the prevailing attitude among religious conservatives these days.

Take Rod Dreher, who is fretting that Christian colleges might lose federal funding unless they change their policies to include acceptance of gays and lesbians. ” Lots of Christian colleges (e.g., Notre Dame) have already capitulated. There will be some holdouts, but I’m not sure how long they can manage. If these colleges cannot access government funds, many of them will be forced to close.”

The notion also popped up in this week’s Kansas debate about letting private adoption agencies discriminate against gay couples.

Several supporters of the bill — sent to the House 28-12 — accused its critics of attacking the Catholic faith by asserting the change in state law would legitimize discrimination.

“The prejudice displayed yesterday towards the Catholic faith was offensive and extremely disappointing,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican. “This bill protects Catholic Charities and other religious affiliated groups to continue doing the most noble work — providing children a loving and safe home in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

Let’s take the last assertion first: I don’t think it’s discrimination to acknowledge that a private religion’s set of beliefs might not be entirely compatible with providing a service to the entire public. Would anybody call it discrimination if presidents pointedly prohibited Mennonites from serving as the Secretary of Defense? Life is full of tradeoffs, but religious conservatives seem to think they’re exempt from that notion.

And they seem to think that religious freedom includes the ability to be subsidized by the taxpayer. “We’re taxpayers too,” Dreher wrote. But I’m fairly certain he’d throw a screaming fit if Wiccans or Muslims funded their academies using tax dollars. What’s the difference?

I went to a Christian college that survived, in part, thanks to those federal dollars. I differ with it on some important matters of theology. But I still love it and the friends I made there: They are my family, for better and for worse. Still, I don’t think it’s entitled to those dollars, either. And I guess it’s a little odd that an institution that so self-consciously contrasts itself against “the world” — or, at least, it did during my years there — would be so reliant on it. Mennonite Christians, in particular, used to know how to shake the dust off their feet. I’m not certain that’s the case anymore.

Christie Appelhanz: ‘Prejudice and discrimination are bad for children, whatever their family structure’

0Earlier today, I posted my anger about a Kansas Senate bill that would let private adoption agencies discriminate against gay couples. My friend Christie Appelhanz, executive director of the Children’s Alliance of Kansas, shared with me her testimony against the bill.

Please read and share.



Christie Appelhanz, Executive Director
Children’s Alliance of Kansas
In opposition to SB 401
Before the Committee on Federal and State Affairs

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony in opposition to SB 401. Children’s Alliance represents 17 private, nonprofit member agencies that coordinate child welfare activities and programming across Kansas to strengthen families. While SB 401 would not directly affect the child placing agencies that are part of the Children’s Alliance, it negatively affects our top priority — the Kansas children we serve. With a record number of children in state custody, we need all qualified families who are willing to open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Rooted in religion and guided by research to serve the best interest of the child.

Historically, religious communities founded and managed most orphanages in the United States. Many of the member organizations of the Children’s Alliance are deeply rooted in religious traditions and some remain faith-based organizations. Thousands of our child welfare staff as well as foster and adoptive parents are active in religious communities across Kansas. It may have been their faith that motivated them to work in child welfare in the first place. A high level of personal commitment to the work oftentimes comes from a deep sense of calling or purpose it provides.

But no matter what personal religious beliefs we hold, our decisions must be guided by the best interest of the child. SB 401 puts the needs of some child welfare providers above those of the children we are tasked to serve. Our collective experience shows — and research backs it up — that children are most likely to flourish in families that provide love, security and support whatever their family structure. Prejudice and discrimination are bad for children, whatever their family structure. Whether children have one parent or two, whether their parents are male or female, whether their parents are of the same sex or the opposite sex, matter less for children than does the quality of family relationships and the support of their community.

Narrowing the pool of prospective families hurts kids.

Allowing any agency to turn away qualified families based on religious objections to those families means children are losing opportunities to find families that may be best suited to meet their needs, or possibly the only family willing and able to care for them.

For example, if an agency turns away a prospective adoptive parent who is a doctor or nurse with the skill to care for a child with severe medical needs based on a religious objection, the child may have to remain in an institution rather than have the chance to be part of a loving family. Or if a family willing to care for a large sibling group is turned away, there may not be other families able to do so and those brothers and sisters may end up being separated.

We can’t count on prospective families who have been turned away because of their sexual orientation, faith or other religious-based criteria will continue knocking on doors of other agencies, each time facing the risk of rejection. We can’t afford to lose any qualified families.

We are “no matter what” agencies here for the long haul.

The child welfare system was created and designed to protect children, to allow them to reach their full potential and to help them become thriving members of society. SB 401 will make that more difficult for many kids. As contractors, sub-contractors and partners of the State of Kansas, members of the Children’s Alliance work to match children with “no matter what families.” These are families that will love kids no matter what daunting challenges they face together. We also take pride in being no matter what agencies. While some agencies have threatened to close if they don’t agree with the rules, Children’s Alliance members are committed to serving children no matter what. We will not prioritize the religious beliefs of child welfare agencies over the protection of children no matter what. We will explore all potential avenues to ensure children join safe and loving families no matter what.