Book Review: "Black & White: Disrupting Racism One Friendship At A Time"

Teesha Hadra -- part of the pastoral team at Church of the Resurrection in Highland Park, CA -- recently cowrote an excellent book entitled, "Black & White: Disrupting Racism One Friendship At At Time" (Abingdon Press, 2019).  I was fortunate enough to meet Teesha earlier this month while visiting her church on a Sunday morning.  The members of her congregation were kind, authentic, and refreshingly reflective of their community's diverse ethnicities.  The message of Teesha's book clearly seems to be consistent with the faith community she serves.

Black & White_smI love this book!  It was engaging, thoughtful, and even at times -- humorous.  Teesha and coauthor, John Hambrick, have done a terrific job in describing the current state (and sin) of racism -- as well as its origins -- and done so in ways that are both compelling and convicting while still inspiring their readers to take action personally. They have also effectively explained how and why "systemic racism" is so important for Christ-followers to recognize and work at eliminating wherever it is found. Each chapter ends with excellent questions for reflection, designed to be used in a group setting or personally.

Here are two quotes out of dozens worth highlighting:

"Working against racism is part of what it means to call Jesus Lord and Savior.  Racism is opposed to God's desire to be reconciled to one another in one body that is reconciled to God." (p. 142)

"Friendship is a foundation for the concrete work of reforming systems and institutions infected with racism." (p. 189)

The message of "Black & White" is simple to understand, and simple to implement.  It may at times be painfully honest for some, but is repeatedly filled with hope and anchored in our faith.  If every believer were to read this book, embrace its content, and then live out its plea -- racism, both personal and systemic, would begin to crumble. Lord, let it be so.


Worship Wednesday: Consumer-Driven Worship

Worship Wednesdays will focus on a variety of thoughts, quotes, and insights -- all related to Christian worship.  Why? Because I've given nearly my entire life to Christian worship in one way or another and since I cannot shake this passion, why not share it!

Last Supper Inclusive In recent weeks I've been revisiting how contemporary culture, especially in the U.S., is driven by a mindset of consumerism. This results in the commodification of many things: our shopping lists, our bucket lists, our resumes, our relationships, and even our faith. I would like to suggest that more often than not, when things in our lives are viewed as commodities -- as products -- things almost always turn out badly. As consumers, we're trained to get what we want, how and when we want it.  We've been conditioned to believe that this is what we deserve, and when we don't get what we want, we are justified in either complaining or looking elsewhere until we find it.  Such an attitude is helpful when searching for a reliable grocer, but not so when it comes to our need to worship.  Yes, we need to worship and have been created to worship God in community with one another, but when we bring a consumer mentality with us into a worship gathering, we've already missed the boat -- so to speak.  Worship should never be about us, never be treated as a product meant to please us, inspire us, or meet our needs.  Worship is meant to be all about God -- acknowledging Him, thanking Him, surrendering to Him, serving Him, and glorifying Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we treat worship like a commodity -- like a product -- we dishonor and do violence to it.  Worship should never be evaluated like a head of lettuce: "it's too small, too big, not green enough, not dense enough, not fresh enough; maybe it's not even the type of lettuce we love -- we love romaine, but hate iceberg (I think you get my meaning)!" And yet consumer-driven worshipers do the same thing: "I love this song; I hate this song; not another hymn?!  Not another new chorus?! Why can't we have more _______, and less _______?!" And on and on it goes! 

So over the next few days, I encourage all of us to search our minds and hearts and come to terms with any ways that we've allowed our overly consumer-driven world to influence or affect what we think and how we act when we gather to worship God. 

Keep the "Mass" in Christmas!

Christmas worshipIt seems that year after year we inevitably hear the oft-quoted complaint: "Keep Christ in Christmas" -- and rightfully so, especially since the secularization of Christmas seems to have no intention of slowing down.  But keeping "Christ" in Christmas isn't the only thing we increasingly find missing from the true meaning of Christmas -- we also need to keep the "mass" in Christmas!  That's right, I'm talking about the "mass" -- the intentional, structured time of corporate worship.

We have forgotten (or never knew to begin with) that our English word, Christmas, is a shortening of Christ-mass -- and this, in turn, is derived from the Old English, Cristesmaesse, or literally "Christ's mass" (a term in use since 1038).  Here's the long and short of it: Christians have long celebrated the miracle of Christ's Incarnation and birth with a mass -- an intentional, structured time of corporate worship!  But I can't help but think that in today's world, we either skip such corporate worship times on Christmas, or we convince ourselves that singing a few carols just makes more sense at such a busy time of year.

This year, therefore, let's not be too quick at patting ourselves on the back for keeping Christ in Christmas.  We should also make a conscious effort to keep the mass in Christmas.  Let's make the corporate worshiping of Jesus an integral part of our Christmas practices. 

May you and yours enjoy a blessed Christ-mass!

Subverted by a Culture of Entitlements

Istock_000002129929xsmall_sm_2 The American cultural landscape seems to be increasingly riddled with a sense of personal entitlement.  What I mean is simply this: we convince ourselves that we are "entitled" -- entitled to respect, entitled to our own definition of justice, entitled to pay raises irrespective of merit,  entitled to personal comfort,  entitled to sensual and sexual gratification,  entitled to credit, entitled to high grades especially if we're paying the tuition, and on and on the list goes.

But the problem reaches far deeper, I fear, eventually impacting our own spiritual development.  It floors me when I encounter this attitude within people who feel entitled to unconditional acceptance, entitled to grace, entitled to the validation of others, entitled to community involvement on their own terms, entitled to their own personal set of beliefs and practices regarding their Christian faith, and entitled to "reaping" (spiritual benefits & blessings) without having to "sow."

Istock_000003025922xsmall_sm_2 Whether it be subtle or out-in-the-open, there's much about the concept of entitlement that flies in the face of historic, biblical Christianity.  Grace is given to us, not owed to us.  Being a disciple of Jesus involves effort -- it's not our birthright. Who are we to feel that God "owes" us?  IAre not the scripture s replete with advice like that found in 1 Peter 5:5-6?

"...'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time." (NRSV)

Is there anyone else out there who sees and is troubled by this phenomenon?  Who's writing about it?  Who's talking about it?  Who's attempting to change it?


Photo credit: © Caitlin Cahill (upper right), Mark Stout (lower left):

Time is Money: The Disappearance of 'Standard' Time?

Time_2The U.S. Congress recently began considering the further lengthening of "daylight savings time." If approved, "standard" time will be limited to the months of December, January, and February. The Bush Administration, however, has made known their opposition to the plan (along with several student safety groups).

Is this simply a pragmatic attempt to increase our workable daylight hours and save energy costs, or is it a symptom of something that ails us?



  • The theory of "daylight saving" dates to Benjamin Franklin. It was first used by Germany and Austria in April 1916 to conserve energy during World War I.
  • The United States adopted it in March 1918 but repealed it a year later because the measure wasn't popular with rural America.
  • Daylight Saving Time was readopted in the United States from 1942 to 1945. It was called ''War Time.'' From then until 1966, when Congress attempted to standardize its use, some states used it and others didn't.
  • Parts of Indiana and Arizona still don't participate.


Are You Sinning Against Your Employer? has just released the results of a fascinating survey -- revealing that the average worker wastes just over 2 hours per day out of their 8-hour work day (not counting lunch time and breaks).

Top Time-Wasting Activities
1 Surfing Internet (personal use)
2 Socializing with co-workers
3 Conducting personal business
4 Spacing out
5 Running errands off-premises
6 Making personal phone calls
7 Applying for other jobs
8 Planning personal events
9 Arriving late / Leaving early
10 Other

With more and more attention in our culture being drawn to the ethical sins of the business world, I wonder if this trend will continue to grow or, in fact, become rarer and rarer?

Read the piece, and then weigh-in here with your thoughts.


Love, Humility and Reconciliation

Navajo_hogan_3Over the past week, I've been in the Navajo Nation -- and not able to blog.  A team of teens and adults from our church partnered with an independent Navajo congregation in reaching out to some of their area's poor and needy.

Lacking electricity, gas, and in many cases -- basic health care -- our visits were sobering lessons for we who are generally insensitive to our own affluence.

The desire to reach out to native Americans has always been a strong desire of mine.  And like many of my previous trips to the reservation, this week's visit was filled with reminders of the injustice these people suffered as a result of our nation's obsession with western expansionism.

Feeding the poor here is always an honor -- a tangible way to demonstrate the love of Christ and keep the ongoing work of reconciliation alive.  "One-shot" attempts at this abound among evangelical groups (often as an attempt to appease guilty consciences) - but few are those ministries or communities of faith that maintain this commitment over the long-haul.

And so this has got me thinking...

When we attempt to bring about reconciliation with people we care about (whoever they may be), are we willing to stick with it -- repeating our overtures and initiatives?  Or... are we prone to absolve ourselves of any further resonsibility once we've made an honest attempt?

Spiritual Wisdom from Dan Brown?

Angels_and_demons_1_1Some people consider Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons to be nothing more than a Catholic-bashing, Christian-hating pagan.

And if all that's true, it makes the impassioned speech delivered by one of Brown's characters in Angels and Demons all the more remarkable.  So when you've got 10 min. to spare, read the following excerpt and then leave your impressions or comments concerning the cultural-spiritual insights contained in this amazing speech penned by the author.

Continue reading "Spiritual Wisdom from Dan Brown?" »

The 'Bleep' Over: "What The Bleep Do We Know?"

Ramtha1_1Finally, I had some time to sit down and watch the recent docu-fanta-movie, What The Bleep Do We Know.  I say docu-fanta-movie, because this film is a unique blend of documentary, movie, and fantasy.  But the unique "blending" that this film is comprised of doesn't stop here.  The producers of What The Bleep Do We Know have embarked upon a cultural phenomenon that we will no doubt see much more of in the future: the blending of science with New Age spirituality.

The affinity between quantum physics and postmodernity has long been attested to.  And the contemporary and widespread interest in spirituality has also been observed as our culture's response to the failure of The Enlightenment project -- of modernity's inability to deliver on its promise to cure the problems of our world and deliver a reliable hope for our future.  Science no longer reigns supreme in today's culture as THE guardian of truth.  This is likely a disturbing thought, no doubt, to secular scientists, and I'm not all that surprised that, while continuing to discredit organized religion (Christianity in particular), some scientists are becoming bedfellows with New Age religion, in an attempt to integrate the legitimacy of scientific advances with the popular appeal of mystical spirituality.  And that is exactly what What The Bleep Do We Know appears to be doing.

Now, the science being presented in the film is very interesting -- quantum mechanics, string theory, and recent advances in neurological studies.  The film makers have done a fascinating job of presenting fairly complex concepts in an entertaining and easy-to-grasp manner.  But what especially bothered me was the way What The Bleep crosses the line between science and mysticism, presenting everything as equally true.  And that is why...

This is a disturbingly misleading film.

I am one of many bloggers who have drawn attention to the syncretism found within the Church -- and the evangelical Church in particular.  But here in this film, is a good example of how syncretism is a characteristic of our entire culture paradigm.  Ours is a postmodern world, and we should expect to find syncretism (among many other things) in all sectors of our world.

What is especially telling about What The Bleep Do We Know, is how the producers have featured the wisdom of the supposed 35,000 yr. old god of Atlantis -- Ramtha -- as "channeled" through Anerican, J.Z. Knight, AND have done so in a way which places this "ancient wisdom" on equal par with their panel of Ph.D's, M.D.'s, and the like.  This is almost beyond belief.

But the most striking thing about What The Bleep Do We Know, is the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) arrogance which characterizes the film's message: we are our own gods, who can (in ways consistent with various scientific theories) control not only our future destinies, but our present realities.

I strongly suspect that many more films of this type will be produced in the years to come.  Hollywood knows that our culture is thirsty for spirituality.  Hollywood has also long been known for the way it commonly discredits and criticizes organized religion, especially Christianity.  We therefore need a new generation of apologists to arise within the body of Christ to engage this culture in thoughtful and effective ways.  Our modern techniques will no longer serve this purpose.  We need scientific theologians and theological scientists to help us navigate our way through the times ahead that will continue to challenge our ancient and most holy faith.

If you haven't seen this film, I urge you to.  And if you have, I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts regarding what I've shared here.

*for an interesting critique of the film, go here, or read my friend's newspaper review at Cinema In Focus.

Have Personal Rights Become Too Important?

Bill_of_rights_2Over the past week, I have been in Washington, DC, traveling through our nation's Capitol with a group of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders, and contemplating the role that Christianity played in the founding and formative years of the United States.

Bill_of_rights_3 As we entered the rotunda of the National Archives, and filed past the original "Bill of Rights", I started wondering...  have personal rights become too important in our culture?  Have the rights of the individual been stressed too much -- even to dangerous and/or destructive levels?

I fear they have.


In part, it was probably the timing of my visit to the National Archives and how it coincided with news surrounding Pope Benedict XVI's recent remarks concerning what ails today's society (e.g. relativism, radical individualism).  As I caught the news coverage each night concerning former Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, I was struck by how many interviewees opposed or were disappointed by the selection of this Pope because he did not espouse their own personal opinions on issues of morality, theology, or ecclesiology.  A host of various opinions have also begun to appear around the blogosphere concerning what the Pope's top agenda matter should be.

While not unique to this particular topic or subject; personal opinion always seems to rule supreme these days.  We commonly defend OUR RIGHTS, and our right to have rights... unless, of course, it's the right to hold conservatve, religioethical  convictions -- especially if one is being considered for judicial positions within our nation!

The Problem: we defend another person's individual rights until they infringe upon our own. Our own sovereign realm of comfort and self-justification must come first. We're bound to look out for "number One".

And so, ours is an out-of-control culture that rarely values self-sacrifice over personal preference and gratification.  The value of the individual is, however, important.  In part, this belief helps to identify and guard against the marginalization and victimization of fellow human beings.  But where's the counter-balance?  Where's the flip-side of the coin?  Where's the mediating and essential pursuit of humility, of self-sacrifice -- of dying to one's rights?

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.' (Mark 9:35, NIV)

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you." (1 Peter 5:6, ESV)

In light of scripture's many, many exhortations along these lines, I'm wondering: why are individual rights so vehemently defended with so very little being said about humility and voluntary self-sacrifice? Can we somehow begin to talk about a person's "rights" at the same time we emphasize the importance of laying down one's rights for a higher cause?  Can we find a way to embrace this paradox surrounding rights and sacrifice?  Can we admit that the new Pope may be right about radical individualism being an enemy of our faith?  Can we accept the notion that here -- in the 'land of liberty' -- personal rights have become too important?