I first learned of Ta-Nehisi Coates through his writing in The Atlantic magazine. His article titled “The Case for Reparations” in the June 2014 issue is one of the finest examples of long-form journalism I have ever read. The article’s subhead effectively summarizes his point: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York City, 2012
By the time I read that article, a similar thesis had been percolating in my brain forseveral years. My thinking did not address the question of reparations, and I don’t think Coates really believes that will ever really materialize. His larger point, I believe, was that, while some kind of monetary reparation would be fair and helpful, if a strong majority of white Americans would simply come to believe in the justice of the idea, that would go a long way toward healing the gaping wounds left by the historical realities summarized in his article’s subhead. Continue reading →
I am not a medical person, so I don’t know if this analogy works, but I’m going to try it anyway. Imagine a disease or condition which comes on slowly with symptoms easy to overlook. Eventually, however, the symptoms are so gross and the patient’s condition so degraded as to require extreme and/or radical treatment.
The treatment appears successful, and symptoms abate, only to reappear, and sometimes maliciously so. Each recurrence, however, surrenders to treatment and the benefits of overall improving health. Continue reading →
If I am totally honest, I will admit that the impetus behind my movement in a more progressive direction over the past few years has been more ethical than theological. I can illustrate what I mean with the following question. Why are so few people, especially conservative Christians, offended, embarrassed, or possibly enraged over the name of the NFL franchise in Washington, DC?Continue reading →
I’ve been crying a lot over the past several days. (And indeed, I am crying again as I try to type this.) I’ve cried every day since June 17 as I’ve watched the news reports coming out of Charleston, SC. I’ve cried over the senseless and brutal murder of nine good people in a house of worship. I’ve cried for the friends and families of those victims, for the pain they are going through, and for the love and forgiveness they have shown in the midst of their pain. Continue reading →
I grew up conservative in every way—theologically, socially, and politically. But things change. Circumstances change. Perspectives change. People change. I changed. And here, as succinctly as I can make it, is an example of how and why.
As a faculty member in my eleventh year of teaching at a small, conservative, Bible college in the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition, I taught a course called Peace, Justice, and Simplicity. Prior to that, I had preached several series of sermons on the text of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When I taught that course, however, in the spring of 2005, I read that passage as I had never seen it before, and I heard Jesus saying things I had not previously understood. Continue reading →
Over the past few weeks, like many of you, I have read scores of articles purporting to offer analysis of the issues arising from and relating to the situation coming to be known colloquially as simply “Ferguson.” Many have been unusually insightful and helpful. I have learned much from them.
For me personally, however, the least helpful have been those written by church leaders—some prominent black pastors among them—who want to remind us that the pain and suffering experienced by the black community every time another Ferguson breaks upon our corporate consciousness derives, at least in part, from wounds that have been self-inflicted. Continue reading →