Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The "O" Factor...

Or "3 Reasons White Folks Deny the Existence of Systemic Racism"

In my post yesterday I talked about standing with oppressed people as an act of love for our neighbors. I am sure there are people who read it and thought, "the slaves were freed in 1863, what are they complaining about?!" or "the Civil Rights movement happened 50 years ago, it's their own fault if they aren't succeeding!" 

Statements like these are heartbreaking, because it means we truly do not see what is all around us. We have convinced ourselves of a narrative that the day Dr. King dreamed about has come and everything is fine. The idea that we are all judged by the "content of our character" and not the color of our skin makes us feel good, but the truth is we are not there yet. The following are actual things I have heard people say as reasons they do not believe racism (systemic and personal) exists:

1. "I love Oprah and she is black!" or "Oprah has more money than God and she is black!" 
2. "OJ wasn't convicted and this proves the system is not rigged against black people!" 
3. "We elected Obama. We can't be racist because we have a black president!" 

Here's my brief response to each of these statements:

1. Oprah is amazing. She has worked extremely hard for everything she has and is an inspiration to many people. However, we (white Americans) have a history of using black people for our entertainment. The fact that you love Oprah does not convince me that you are not racist. Especially when you say things like, "she's not like other black women...most black women are angry and all Oprah wants to do is give people new cars." I'm just gonna leave that one there. 

2. A couple weeks ago I watched ESPN's "OJ: Made in America." It was really well made and extremely painful to watch. The commentary on race relations and the history of LAPD's violence against the black community made me weep. After hearing all the 911 calls Nicole had made over the years and seeing photo after photo of her bruised face from OJ beating her, I nearly threw up when I saw the crime scene photos. When it was over I thought two things, "you don't stab someone you don't know that many times..." and "I suppose if I were black in Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, I would've been rooting for OJ's innocence too." 

The problem with using OJ's acquittal as proof that systemic racism does not exist is the Mark Fuhrman tapes. That trial hung on 2 things: tapes of Mark Fuhrman (who you can catch on Fox News as an "expert") detailing racial profiling and use of excessive force against the black community and a glove that didn't fit (for reasons I won't give away here). The reality is that (because of their poor choices) the prosecution failed to prove their case and OJ's history of spousal abuse was overshadowed by the history of the LAPD's abuse of the black community. Both are tragedies because, like I said before, injustice is everywhere. 

3. Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America- we have arrived! The fact that we are "proud" of this (like posting on social media that we helped an elderly woman cross the street) shows we have so far to go. He is 1 of 44. Yes, we elected a black president. We also have never seen people try to disprove a president's birthplace like what we have seen against President Obama. It pains me to say that even in the last year of his presidency I've heard people say, "but he wasn't even born in America!" Let me put your mind at ease, my friend's neighbor is the doctor who delivered him here in Hawaii. He's American born (and even better- he is Hawaii born!). 

These examples or, The "O" Factor, are household names because they are exceptional. Their stories are not the norm. We know them and cite them as examples of our progress because we don't want to be racist. Racism = bad morals and we want to think of ourselves as moral people. However, the fact remains they are exceptions to a not-so-silent truth that black people cannot get as far as white people in our country. 

This must continue to change- but it won't happen by pretending we don't see color...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


For months I have been drafting something on this subject, but have not published until today. I suspect this will be the first in a line of posts that will ruffle feathers, but I've never been one to shy away from conflict and this is one I consider worth my energy. The intention of these posts is not to offend or upset, although I realize that will happen, it is to help us love our neighbors. Or maybe just realize who our neighbors are...

Over the last year I have posted statements of solidarity with an oppressed population of people. When I first began posting these statements, I did not realize how many people it would upset. I did not realize how many people in my social media would fiercely oppose this idea of standing with a group of people who are being oppressed. I certainly did not realize that it would go so far as being trolled by people I once considered friends.

Standing with the oppressed is something I believe in because I am a Christian, not in spite of it. I believe that when there are people who are pushed down, it is my call to stand with them and say "this is not okay!" or rather, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven!"

There is no shortage of injustice in the world. Violence happens in every corner, in every culture. It happens among people who look the same, and it happens against people who look, speak, and believe differently. We live in a fallen world and this is just the way things are. However, I think we can all agree, this is not the way things should be.

The #blacklivesmatter movement was born as a response to historical and systemic injustice. It was never a statement that meant "black lives matter MORE" or "other lives don't matter". Anyone who is affiliated with this movement has said that the silent word at the end of the phrase "black lives matter" is "TOO" or "ALSO" or "AS MUCH AS OTHER LIVES". It is not excluding white lives, blue lives, rich lives etc. It is a plea for their lives to matter as much as the aforementioned. If you are violently objecting my use of this phrase you either A.) don't believe that black lives matter as much as other lives or B.) still do not understand what it means.

Now, some of you are probably really angry right now. You may be saying:

1. "But all lives matter!" or
2. "But that guy killed those cops in Dallas!" or
3. You are convinced that the only way to get beyond racial injustice is to pretend it does not exist ie, "we have to come together! we can't talk about race! talking about race only divides us!" or
4. "I have black friends and they don't feel this way."

1. Yes, all lives matter. But right now, there are oppressed people who are asking to be seen and heard. Let's open our eyes and ears and hear their stories.
2. That was a horrible tragedy. It has shaken many selfless law enforcement officers and their families to their core. But that psycho on a rooftop no more speaks for #blacklivesmatter than the Westboro Baptist Church speaks for all Christians.
3. Yes, we need to come together. But ignoring racial injustice does not bring unity. Honest dialogue about real issues brings unity. Crying with those who mourn brings unity.
4. Maybe this is true, it is not my place to say how anyone else feels. But, maybe you guys aren't really "friends". (A test of this would be to ask yourself, "how often do we eat together? how often do we talk about real stuff?")

Tune in tomorrow for my top 3 reasons white folks don't believe in systemic racism...

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Recently I have read a lot on social media about the appropriateness of asking questions. Rather than adding to the speculation of those particular situations, I would like to share a couple of stories from my own life.

My teary-eyed 10 year old self once asked a youth leader, “How do you know God is real?”

“It is better to be safe than to be sorry,” replied this good-intentioned, well-meaning leader.

In other words, it was better for me to “believe” and go to Heaven than doubt and end up in Hell. Being the people pleasing pastor’s kid, I prayed whatever prayer she led me in and walked away thinking, “that did not answer my question”. I spent the next several years of my life praying every night that God, if God was indeed real, would not to send me to Hell.

Though traumatized and confused for much of my adolescence, I am not angry with that leader for her response. I have spent a lot of time considering why an adult would say something so irresponsible to an impressionable child and the answer is simple.  


The only reason a person would answer that question with “better safe than sorry” is because they are afraid. Maybe she was afraid for me. Maybe she was afraid that I could not handle a deeper answer. Or maybe, just maybe, she was afraid of what her lack of answer said about her own self. Either way, her response taught me 2 things, 1. Hard questions scare people (so I should not ask them) and 2. People who are afraid of hard questions are usually hiding something.

(For those of you who read that last statement and immediately got defensive, I don’t know you, so how could I possibly mean you? I am talking about myself here as much as anyone else.)

When I was in my early 20s I had a friend who was really obnoxious. He was a nice guy and very likable, but he asked A LOT of questions. One day he asked me a question that I thought (prayed) no one would ever ask me. I gave him a non-answer answer (kind of like that youth leader gave me) and hoped that would suffice but, like I said, he was really obnoxious. He called me out on my non-answer and kept pressing until I completely lost it. I yelled at him until I was in tears because of how terrified I was of acknowledging the truth and having another person know the truth. 

That was one of the most difficult (albeit life-changing) conversations I have ever had and it taught me a couple things as well. 1. Hard questions terrify people (but they are necessary and I should be willing to ask and answer them). 2. People who are afraid of hard questions are definitely hiding something (I certainly was).

It also taught me: 3. if you want to know something, ask. It is the only way to learn. 4. The truth hurts- but in a liberating you to new life kind of way (like childbirth).

So here is my response to all those who think we should not ask questions: 
Questions are not the enemy. 
The person asking questions is not your enemy. 
The truth deserves to be heard. 
The truth will set us free. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Isaiah 61, Romans 8 and all that jazz

Five years ago at this time I was preparing to move to a foreign country to be a volunteer missionary. It was something I felt I was meant to do and was extremely excited for the opportunity. I had no idea what to expect and had all sorts of expectations all at once. There are parts of that experience that I would not trade for anything including the friendships formed, my Spanish language skills and my Arequipa family.

After I had been there about 8 months, my cousin Brandon died tragically. It hit my entire family like a freight train and being isolated from them made it worse. It was the first time I had experienced grief like that and I suspect I will never fully recover. Amid my grief, I chose to stay because I felt that was the right thing to do. I guess I figured that most people don’t get to quit their jobs when they’re grieving, so I would keep going.

About six weeks later, something happened within our organization that I considered extremely unfair and hurtful to someone on staff. The boss man called and invited those of us who were upset to sit down for a chat. I went to this meeting with the intention to voice my concern and ask what the reasoning was for the action taken. I was greeted with contempt and hostility- and I in turn responded with contempt and hostility. This person accused me of “not liking him” (well, I definitely don’t now) and conspiring against him (which I did not) and THEN used my grief against me saying he thought I should leave the organization because my grief was dragging the team down.

Brandon’s death was the worst moment of my life…that conversation was the second.

I walked around for a long time feeling like a failure, being angry and allowing that conversation to define me. I felt hurt, betrayed and pissed off to the point of obsession. My vision was so limited, as it tends to be when in the middle of difficult times. 

Well, it’s been four years and I still feel hurt but I am also incredibly thankful.

I am thankful that I can now see the light in dark places because I survived that whole ordeal. I am thankful that I can share this story and hold out hope to anyone who feels like the rug has been ripped from under them. I am thankful for the things that would have happened differently (or not at all) if my plans hadn’t been destroyed by that guy…

Like meeting my husband. 

Yes, I am thankful. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

For the Record

Before I begin I’d like to thank Papa and Annie for being the best friends my parents ever had. I’m so glad they realized that pastors are allowed to have friends. I love you. (There are others, thankfully, but you two will always stand out!)

As a pastor’s kid, there are some misconceptions I would like to clear up.

  1. The pastor, pastor’s spouse and the pastor’s children are not perfect. (I cannot stress that last one enough.)
  2. Nor are they closer to God than everyone else in the church.
  3. The pastor’s family fights. Sometimes the pastor’s family fights on Sunday mornings on the way to church causing the pastor to get out of the vehicle and walk the rest of the way to church and never carpool on Sunday morning again.  
  4. In the case of number 3, it is very difficult for the pastor to get up and preach an inspiring message. Give your pastor a break. Seriously.
  5. Your pastor’s spouse (particularly those who happen to be women) carries the weight of every criticism and attack you launch on the pastor and pastor’s children. Stop expecting them to want to be around you and attend all your “ministry functions” when you’ve done nothing recently but chew the pastor out.
  6. The pastor and pastor’s spouse answered a “call” to ministry. The pastor’s children did NOT. They do not know all the answers so please stop turning to them every time there is silence in your Sunday school class.
  7. For that matter, your pastor does not have all the answers. Especially about how to fix your kid. For all you know, your pastor’s kid is more broken than yours. Confide in your pastor, seek counsel, but don’t be pissed** if he/she doesn’t have quick fix for you. The good news is YOU also have the ability to seek and hear from God. 
  8. Your pastor’s family needs him/her more than you do. Do not hold it against your pastor if sometimes he/she has to say “no”. You should want your pastor’s family to be healthy.
  9. Though your pastor and spouse are flawed human beings, they are there because they love God and your church. (At least I hope that’s why. You may be unfortunate enough to find yourself in a church with a certified narcissist who just loves the sound of his own voice. If you suspect this, please RUN to the nearest exit and never look back.)
Okay, now that I’ve shattered your rose colored glasses, let’s get down to business. These misconceptions about the pastor and pastor’s family are a result of an invisible line drawn between pastor and congregation. Believe me when I say that this line is detrimental to the wellbeing of the pastor, the pastor’s family and the church. This separation creates loneliness for the pastor and pastor’s spouse, unrealistic expectations for pastor’s children, and the temptation for your pastor to abuse the position.

Maybe you like the lines because it makes you feel good to follow someone who seems to have it all together (seems is the operative word here). Yes, your pastor has probably spent more time studying the Bible than you have, but that is as much your choice as his/hers. Stop thinking (or letting your pastor think) it is not your place to ask how he/she is really doing or to inquire about a decision he/she has made (respectfully, of course!). Don’t conspire or attack, but go to your pastor with kindness and the intent to erase those lines and create a new kind of relationship.

Bottom line: The Church is a body. It works together. The parts all need each other. This INCLUDES your pastor and pastor's family. Your pastor needs you as much as you need him/her. Don’t let your pastor (or anyone in the church) get to the point where he/she believes he/she is the most important part of that body. When this happens, it is only a matter of time before your pastor’s family and your church are completely destroyed. 

Trust me on this one. 

**sorry, Mom, I tried to find another word but that is the one that fit best. Grammy would approve. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Power or Service?

After college I knew a guy who was a monk in the Catholic Church for a while. Ever bothered by the fact they do not allow women to be priests I asked him what the reasoning was. He told me that the priesthood was a position of service, not of power. I loved that! But then he said that a woman seeking priesthood was probably doing it for the power and not from a heart of service or she would just become a nun. (All my feminist friends just groaned in disgust).

I do not know if this is the Catholic Church’s official reasoning, so I won’t hold it against them, but I was very confused by whether or not he believed the priesthood was an act of service or a position of power. Now before all the Protestants reading this think “thank God we’re not like them” I’ll stop you and say, we are the same. Our pastors may get spouses instead of cool hats and robes to wear, but the same issues exist on our side too.

The majority of people who enter ministry do so with good intentions. I truly believe that most people who feel called, destined, led, whatever, into church ministry want to share what God has done in their lives and thereby help others. This desire to do “God’s work” is not the problem. The problem is when that work is no longer done in response to a hurting world. When the work someone does in the church (be they pastor or lay person) becomes about anything but helping those in need, it is only a matter of time before it becomes a problem.

Imagine with me for a moment someone who has a job they do in the church. Once upon a time they did that job because it was something that needed done and they volunteered. However, now they’ve been doing it so long that God forbid anyone come in and do it differently or try to steal that position. Or consider a person who has substantial wealth and gives faithfully to his church. He began giving money as a way to help the ministry but now uses it to make sure everyone knows his opinion about how things should be done is the only one that counts. Or the pastor who was once eager to learn how to lead, is now convinced that he has it all figured out and anyone who questions him should move out of the way.

Crazy, right? It is crazy, but sadly, extremely common. Serving has turned into self-serving. Acts that were once done to draw people to Christ have become ways to attain self-importance. The people in these scenarios forgot that The Church is not about me, it’s about them.

Am I saying that people should not continue to serve in one position for fear they will abuse it? Certainly not, we all have gifts and we should use them. However, I do think it illustrates the need for accountability for everyone involved in the life of a ministry. Church should be a place of conversation, where lives are shared and people find acceptance and belonging. 

But, when a person holds on too tightly to their “position”, conversation stops, egos run rampant, people get bulldozed and the church becomes 


Monday, June 9, 2014

It took me almost 4 years...but I'm BACK!

For as long as I have breathed, my parents were involved in ministry and from the age of eight, my dad was a full time pastor. This means I spent the better part of my childhood and adolescence within the walls of a church. I have been incredibly fortunate to meet wonderful people and know the love and support of an enormous church family. But this post is not about them...

Like all parents, mine definitely tried to shield me from the ugliness of the world. For them, this also meant shielding me from the ugliness within the church.

I was twelve when they could no longer protect me from the truth. My father, who has always poured his whole self into whatever he does, was sobbing in a way I did not know a father could. He had, like always, given himself (and our family) over to an opportunity he and my mom believed was God’s call on our lives. He announced his resignation to our church in Kentucky and we were weeks away from leaving, but that afternoon there was a phone call and everything changed. After months of planning and life rearranging, all that was agreed on was ripped away.

I don’t know if my dad ever fully recovered from that, but he has pressed on in ministry to this very day (way to go, Daddio!).

What I do know is that this was the day I knew church people, particularly those in leadership, were capable of the deepest wounds a person can ever receive. 

Of course, this is not news to anyone who owns a television or has read an article about the countless priests who have molested kids, pastors who have had affairs with church members, or deacons who have stolen money from their congregations. These stories are all over the news because, in addition to being serious issues the public should be aware of, the media loves to watch the mighty fall. Stories like my dad’s, stories like mine, do not make the news. They do not make the news because the collateral damage is not dramatic enough to be entertaining.

Well, this story is not meant to entertain, and it certainly is not for the media to launch more attacks at the church. It is my sincere attempt to ask church people, especially those in leadership, to consider whether or not what they are doing is drawing people into the presence of an accepting, loving Christ or not? If it’s not, they should stop, fall to their knees and plead for mercy.

Let’s fast forward to my college years. Long story short, it was a square peg/round hole kind of situation. I do not know what it was exactly, but I just didn’t fit. Part of me was proud of this, and I kind of enjoyed being the sandpaper. But I was too young to fully embrace the beauty of being different and I suffered a lot between the desire to be accepted and the need to be honest.

My 21 year old self had written a little devotion piece to be published on my Christian university campus and someone in a leadership position was not thrilled about what I wrote. Basically I said that the consequence of being expelled would probably prevent a person who needed help with an issue (such as alcoholism) to seek treatment. Okay, okay, so I accused the system of choosing a high gloss finish over authenticity. That’s fine, it’s their prerogative to want me to change it because I pointed out a flaw in their system. It was, however, very unfortunate that members of leadership accidentally blind copied me to their email that was not very nice about me (although they did accuse me of being “subversive” which I now take as the highest compliment of my life). And it is especially unfortunate that this person also called me into a meeting that I still regard as the fakest interaction of my life.

Those people have probably not given me a second thought, but I have considered deeply how a person in leadership could have been so threatened by stupid 21 year old me.

Well, it’s taken me 12 years, and a few more awful experiences in the church, but I think I've pinpointed what was so off about that situation and what I now believe to be the biggest problem of the church: the quest for POWER and CONTROL.

Power is a dangerous thing, especially in the hands of people who believe their cause is from God. Sadly, the church seems to be filled with people who have forgotten that The Church is a place of service, not a place where one exerts authority over others without question.

I’m gonna stop here for now but I’ll give you a hint, when leadership in the church ceases to be synonymous with serving the needs of the congregation and community, the church is doomed.