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The ten most-read posts of 2022
Here are the most-read posts this year. Cancel culture, abuse, the Resurrection of Jesus, antiracism, forgiveness, Encanto, and polarization were popular topics.
Hey friends, thanks for reading this year! I am honored to have you as an audience. I write mainly for the edification of my church and congregation, but also any other that are inspired in the same way I do. I love faith, the Bible, politics, and pop culture. Please subscribe to follow me in the new year. I am now writing at jonnyrashid.substack.com.
A modern dichotomy between restoration and retribution falls short. Too often, people equate retribution with a public confrontation and restoration with a private one—but that is also wrong. While private offenses should be countered privately, public ones should be addressed publicly and require a public confession.
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If you want to talk about the follies of retribution, start with the Nuremberg trials and Chauvin’s murder trial -- those are examples of retributive justice that nearly everyone praises, despite their violence. Starting with what social justice activists are doing is transparently partisan and an argument made to advance a particular talking point. Begin with police brutality, the incarceration system, and other forms of violence that minorities are burdened with – not those fighting against them!
Like Dyson, we often hagiographize our prophets, such as Tutu and King, but these prophets would have been seen as retributive in their day and age. A prophet is always hated in their home town. As much as we want to idolize Tutu as being opposed to today’s cancel culture, he clearly took a side. Here’s a famous quotation: “To be impartial is indeed to have taken sides already with the status quo.” Tutu is called us to change the world by taking the side of the oppressed. You might think of that as cancel culture or retribution, but it is the Gospel.
I think it’s essential to point out that having the right doctrine, theology, or philosophy will not prevent abuse. But, we must question our theology and our doctrine if abuse occurs. It is worth throwing out Bruxy Cavey and John Howard Yoder’s books because of their behavior. But throwing out their books isn’t enough, we must unlearn what they taught us. Similarly, the Southern Baptist Convention needs to discern what parts of its theology to let go of, in addition to the sensible reforms that the report offered. The recommendations the investigators offered to the denomination should be adopted, but the denomination needs to also change how it sees women and sex if it wants to move into new territory. If that kills the denomination, then so be it. Sometimes it’s impossible to extract a disease and preserve a life. The report offered to the SBC shows us that the rot in the denomination is deep and wide; the denomination has a chance to change, but it won’t without bold leadership that potentially threatens the entire group. Ensuring the safety of women is more important than maintaining a denomination though.
But the truth is that we need a little belief in absurdity and foolishness to overcome the despair of the world. We need imagination to overcome what they tell us can’t be imagined. During some seasons, the peace of God that will feel like it surpasses our understanding, and so our faith may sometimes feel like it surpasses our understanding.
Holding on to the impossible can feel like a daunting, impossible task. But envision faith as a kettle grill full of burning coals. The ones that are alone, go out quickly. But when they are near hot ones, they stay hot, sometimes even lighting unlit coals. That’s what the hope of a Christian community can be. We can keep each other warm. The pandemic made that almost impossible. Our rituals were disrupted, our faith was undone, but we found new ways to keep moving forward. The best way to believe the impossible then is to stay disciplined, keep praying, keep worshiping, keep talking, and keep communing with God. The disciplines matter as we receive the gift of grace and hope from God. We keep accessing them through our shared lives and our shared journeys.
The politics of Jesus, of the Gospel, are not varied and not discerned in political tension. We need to expect that true discipleship will transform our politics, just as it does our minds, our hearts, and our action. We are moving toward a new way of being and doing and that certainly has political implications. Political tolerance or indifference is the way of the world. We’re told to put politics aside, to not let it get in the way of family, friends, or worship. But Jesus expects us to disrupt those systems that keep us from him.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
Discipleship will indeed cut us like a sword. It will challenge our loyalties. But as we demonstrate loyalty to the God of the Oppressed, we will be transformed into a people, into a church for the oppressed.
Jesus says that the best way to save your life is to lose it. The best way to hold on to your legacy is to get out of your way of those who are moving with what the spirit is doing next. Jesus is calling his disciples to humility here, hoping that they won’t try to gain the whole world. Following Jesus means denying ourselves, self-emptying ourselves, and being filled with Jesus. Abuela has to let go of her vision for the house, her preservation of her legacy. She needs to stop pressuring her children and let go of her expectations. In many ways, she needs to let go of her power as the matriarch of the house and give way to her children. She needs to take up her cross, so to speak. Jesus calls us all to that self-emptying and humility, and not just with our families, our organizations, our households, and our churches, but also with things like the power we’ve inherited from our gender, our skin color, our abilities, and our socioeconomic status.
Abuela learned this nearly at the expense of her house. Abuela almost lost her soul and the Casita’s soul when she tried to save her whole life, and gain the world. Her arrogance and her pain blinded her from what was happening. She refused to see the cracks in the house until it was too late. She thought Mirabel’s vision for the house’s future would destroy the house itself.
Too often we think that critiquing organizations threatens the legacy of those who built them, or threatens the organizations themselves. But we need to pay attention to the Mirabels of our world and trust their vision, not ridicule them, gaslight them, or cast them aside.
We aren’t more effective at antiracism when racist people can listen to us, but rather when victims of racism are liberated. Our tone isn’t what needs to be addressed, racism is what needs to be addressed. Tone policing someone disguises the resistance to antiracism as resistance to an approach or a tenor. But let’s keep acting in solidarity, in unity, so that white supremacy cannot obfuscate its resistance to us. People resistant to antiracism, or critical race theory, or whatever they want to name it, aren’t critiquing a style or an ideology or an approach, they are demonstrating their recalcitrance. They actually disagree about racism and the fact that they are complicit in it. We need white allies to stand with us, assertively, and confidently, without fear of the backlash. That approach will empower all of us. Check your privilege, self-empty, and follow our lead. Act in solidarity.
Let’s remember Sider for who he was, “a burr in the ethical saddle of the evangelical world,” who didn’t let his occasional conservative views pollute his greater mission. As a queer man, I do wish Sider would have seen people like me as God did. I wish that he wasn’t swept up in the right-wing propaganda machine that opposed women’s reproductive rights. Despite these stains on his legacy, his legacy isn’t fundamentally marred, he fought for climate change, wealth redistribution, against police brutality, and war until the end of his life.
I’m inspired by his words when he asked, how he keeps going.
“I hope that I have, by God’s grace, allowed Jesus’ resurrection to shape the way I live — it certainly has shaped the way I hope. I expect to see Jesus. I believe that he will make good on his promise to complete his victory over the devastation Satan has caused in God’s wonderful world.
You see Jesus now, Dr. Sider. Death has been defeated. Rest in peace, my dear teacher.
The trouble came to me when I learned that I didn’t have to merely assimilate to belong, but that liberation was possible. I didn’t have to hide my sexuality and my culture, nor did I have to assimilate to whiteness. I only learned this when I listened to other minorities about their experiences. The trouble with being able to adapt to whiteness is that you never meet your own people, and you don’t even know or understand your experience. What we experience as an inconvenience or a misunderstanding or just the consciousness of being different is actually hatred, prejudice, and racism. We don’t know how to put language to that when we don’t relate to people with the same experience. White organizations keep BIPOC and other minorities apart from each other, and we get robbed from understanding our experience.
There’s room for everyone when we give people access to abortion. If you have a moral conundrum with abortion, giving people the right and access to one does nothing to infringe your freedom to not have one.
But overturning Roe infringes on people’s liberty in a complex matter, and judges people who have had abortions. There aren’t two sides here. The women who suffer because of SCOTUS’s unconscionable decision are the ones Jesus sides with. Make no mistake about who the oppressed are here. It is women. You stand with them or you don’t.
The key here isn’t to burn our books, but rather to unlearn what these people have taught us. I have to repent of how Yoder and Cavey, and other problematic abusers, have influenced me. This repentance and unlearning process is paramount to Christianity. If we can’t change and grow, we make a mockery of the God who endlessly forgives and pardons. Instead of defending ourselves and our influences, let us repent of the harm we’ve caused, and unlearn the theology and ideas that led to that harm.