A thing you may not know about Emmett Till

The Jim Crow era of our nation isn’t ancient history. Today, I learned the Emmett Till murder case is still open — and, apparently, some key players are still alive.

I know this now because of some white Ole Miss students who posed with a memorial to Till … brandishing guns and smiling.

Emmett, who was 14 when he was killed in 1955, would have turned 78 on Thursday. The sign, which has been replaced multiple times after being vandalized, marks the spot along the Tallahatchie River where Emmett’s body was found after he was tortured and lynched. He had been accused of whistling at a white woman behind the counter of the grocery store where he went to buy candy. Last year, the cold case was quietly reopened by the Justice Department after the woman recanted parts of her story.

Emmett’s family said on Thursday that their resolve was even stronger after the episode.

“This is still an open murder case,” Ms. Watts said. “Damaging that sign is not going to deter me or other members of our family that are continuing to pursue justice.”

The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.

The difference between white and Latino evangelicals

group of people raise their hands on stadium
Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

You’ve probably heard this:

A Pew Research Center survey found that only 25 percent of white evangelicals in the U.S. said that the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country. The center first published the study last year, but recently tweeted a breakdown showing how answers vary along lines of race, age, education and religion.

“By more than two-to-one (68% to 25%), white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. does not have a responsibility to accept refugees,” the center wrote. “Other religious groups are more likely to say the U.S. does have this responsibility. And opinions among religiously unaffiliated adults are nearly the reverse of those of white evangelical Protestants: 65% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while just 31% say it does not.”

But this is new to me:

First-generation immigrants are leading the Latino evangelical expansion in the US—drawing in more unchurched believers and new converts than the average church plant, despite having smaller congregations, less funding, and tensions surrounding US immigration policy.

The Latino population is growing, especially in the South, where 59 percent of the 218 new congregations surveyed are located (half are Southern Baptist). And the evangelical faith is growing with it.

It is always the case that xenophobic folks miss out on opportunities. In the case of white evangelicals, they may be missing out on a chance to grow their faith community.

The Sin of Wishing Time Away

At the time that I’m writing this, it’s one year, 6 months, 0 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes and 22 seconds until Donald Trump leaves office. I’m hopeful that he will leave through the democratic process of being voted out and that he will leave in a peaceful transfer of power. I say hopeful because hope is a faith-based assurance of what is unknown. I can’t know, of course, that Trump will be defeated at the polls, that the polls will accurate reflect the voter’s preferences, and that he’ll move along.

Like many of us, I’ve been counting down the days until this presidency can be over.
Not because I think we can erase it and go back to some “normal” time. I’ve never argued that Trumpism is an anomaly; indeed, it seems to me to be very much in keeping with the America that I know–or, rather, is just how we should have expected white people to act if given the chance.

See the source image

So I don’t think we want to “go back.” But I also don’t want to be here anymore, you know? Like, I’d like time to pass along a lot faster. Whatever comes next has to be better, right? Like, if I could go to sleep and wake up 1 year, 6 months, and 16 days from now, I would, even without knowing what’s ahead.

There is something theologically troubling about this wish, though.

If God is God of creation, then that includes time. And that means that I shouldn’t be wishing it away. I can’t wish time away when God has given us time as part of creation, to be appreciated and to be respected and to be cared for. 

That doesn’t mean accepting how things are, of course, or treading water while time passes. And I can’t rely on the passage of time to do the work that God calls me to be doing.

It’s a privilege to hope that the passage of time will solve our problems, something that people who are safe in their homes, protected by their wealth and their race and their gender, can wait for. Embracing time, rather than waiting it out, is the harder, holier work.


On Christianity Today and racism


This is a good statement from Christianity Today:

White Christians have a long and lamentable history of silence (or worse) when people of color are under attack. On the one hand, I sense today an authentic desire among white Christians to build bridges of relationship and reconciliation with their friends and neighbors of other ethnicities.

On the other hand, I sense a profound frustration among non- white Christian friends that their white brethren keep silent as the president aims ugly and demeaning statements at people of color. These friends don’t like what the silence of the white church is saying, and neither do we.

“So let us not be silent” the editorial adds, and it’s good to see Christians challenge each other over racism in the Trump era.

The one problem: While CT speaks of the need to speak up and stand along non-white Christians, this editorial never quite gets around to directly challenging the president on these grounds. It suggests that doing so would be a good thing, but it mostly talks around the thing it’s about.

So while Christianity Today’s editorial is a good start, it’s not quite enough. If you’ve decided that somebody should speak truth to an about the president, there’s a good chance that somebody should be you.

Why are more people being killed by their partners?

I know you don’t need any more bad news these days, but we have a responsibility to understand the moment we’re in. Part of that includes a rising rate of murders related to domestic violence. Murders of both men and women are increasing, though murders of women have increased more than murders of men.

Research out of Northwestern University published this spring in Violence and Gender argues that the rise in murder in romantic relationships, which is almost always committed by men against women, are increasingly committed by guns. While murders by other weapons are falling, murders by guns have increased by 26%.

Intimate partner homicide by sex of victim, 1976–2017.

Broadly, men are more likely than women to die by violence–but just 5% by their female partners. In fact, murder of men by their female partners has declined with the liberalization of divorce laws faster than the murder rate of women by their male partners.

When women are easier able to walk away from a bad marriage, they do so rather than engaging in violence. Unfortunately, many divorces labeled “no-fault” are actually violent. Our court systems tend to focus just on ending them rather than on holding perpetrators of violence accountable.

Nearly half of women who are murdered are murdered by their male partners, and many of these occur after a woman leaves the relationship. In other words, when a woman walks away from a marriage, she maybe saving a man’s life, but walking away is also the time when a woman is most in danger.

Domestic violence is a key example of what sociologists talk about a private trouble that’s a public issue. Domestic violence endangers everyone. Almost always, mass shooters have a history of domestic violence. Even the most intimate of relationships are shaped by public policies–such as access to guns. Every day, four women are murdered by their partners–and everyone can do something to stop it.




That ‘Love it or leave it’ church


Amid a national furor over President Donald Trump’s tweet urging four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to their home countries, a Virginia pastor is gaining attention with a sign at his church saying “America: Love or Leave It.”

Pastor E.W. Lucas (said) Tuesday that he wanted to make a statement about the political divisions in Washington.

“People that feel hard about our president and want to down the president and down the country and everything, they ought to go over there and live in these other countries for a little while,” Lucas said.

Listen: We’re all tempted to interpret the Gospel in light of our own ideological predispositions. I certainly am.

All the same, a church that decides to greet the world with an “America: love it or leave it” sign is a church that is very confused — charitably speaking — about its mission in the world.

Mennonite Voices Profiled at the American Religious Sounds Project

Religion scholars Amy DeRogatis and Isaac Weiner lead one of my favorite online endeavors: the American Religious Sounds Project. It documents and interprets America’s diversity of religions through sound.

Right now, the ARSP is featuring Mennonite voices. Check out the interactive archive of sounds. You’ll get to hear a bit about the forthcoming Voices Together hymnal and also hear samples of Mennonites from White River Cheyenne Mennonite in Busby, Montana, Chin Emmanuel Baptist (confusingly, a Mennonite congregation formed by immigrants from Myanmar) in Houston,  the intercultural Upland Peace Church in Upland, California, and Sherbrooke Mennonite in Vancouver, Canada, which hosts English and Korean services.

It’s a treat to learn more about the many voices that are part of the Mennonite tradition and a joy to hear them.

The ARSP project is a great resource if you want to learn more about religion and sound in general, and I am so grateful that they worked with the Voices Together team for this contribution.