KTF Press
Shake the Dust
Christian Counseling, Colonized Marriage, and White Seminaries with Kyle J. Howard

Christian Counseling, Colonized Marriage, and White Seminaries with Kyle J. Howard

Season 1, Episode 14
A square image. It is a somewhat abstract Illustration in warm, bright colors of a blue and white landscape with flecks of orange. The landscape itself is undulating in about 4 waves descending from the top right to bottom left corners of the image. The sun is partially visible on the top left and the sky is blue. White, cursive lettering spells out “Shake the Dust” across the ground.

This week, we have the first half of a two-part interview with Kyle J. Howard, a theologian, preacher, and counselor to people who have experienced spiritual and racial trauma. We talk to him about what spiritual and racial trauma are exactly, his approach to counseling in a Christian context, the devastating effects of incompetent or uninformed counseling in many churches, how and why he talks about race in interracial couples counseling, his experience as a Black man going to a white seminary, how white supremacy plays itself out in the deconstruction movement, and a lot more! 

Article referenced in the conversation: When Churches Colonize Femininity

Shake the Dust is a podcast of KTF Press. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Find transcripts of this show, sign up for our free mailing list, and subscribe to our blog at KTFPress.com


Jonathan Walton – follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.  

Suzie Lahoud – follow her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.  

Sy Hoekstra – follow him on Twitter.  

Our theme song is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra – listen to the whole song on Spotify

Our podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam – follow her and see her other work on Instagram.  

Shake the Dust is produced and edited by Sy Hoekstra. 

Questions about anything you heard on the show? Write to shakethedust@ktfpress.com and we may answer your question on a future episode. 


Kyle Howard: And this is one of the reasons why spiritual trauma is so devastating. And I would argue that it's one of the most comprehensively devastating forms of trauma, is because it occurs within the most sacred of spaces. Spiritual trauma is the result of entrusting someone with your soul, opening the door to your soul for them so that they can care for it, and then throwing a grenade in it.

[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]   

Sy Hoekstra: Welcome to Shake the Dust, leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, a podcast of KTF Press. My name is Sy Hoekstra, here alone again, doing this intro for you all. We just have some scheduling difficulties, people are in different places. I am coming to you from Canada because the border is open again to people who are married to Canadians like me, and I haven't seen my in-laws in a year and a half. But enough about me. What are we doing today? Well, we have another two-part conversation with you. This one is an interview with Kyle J. Howard. For those of you who don't know Kyle, he is a theologian, preacher and trauma-informed soul care provider, specializing in counseling people with spiritual and racial trauma.

Don't worry, he will explain what all of that means in the interview. He has a bachelor's in biblical counseling, and a master's in historical theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. And today you will hear us talk to him about his approach to counseling people with spiritual and racial trauma, the devastating effects of incompetent and uninformed counseling in many churches, the racial dynamics of interracial marriage counseling, his experience as a Black man in a white seminary, how white supremacy can play itself out in the deconstruction movement, and a whole lot more. This is a really good conversation that you should definitely listen to. There's also an article of Kyle's that we mentioned a couple of times throughout the interview. There's a link to that in the show notes, in case you want to read it.

Okay. As always, the best way to support this show and this company, is to go to KTFPress.com and consider becoming a monthly or an annual subscriber. That gets you our newsletter, bonus episodes of this show, writing from the three of us, and it also helps support future book projects, as well as this, the free episodes of this show that we're doing every week. If you can't do that, then please do subscribe or follow this podcast wherever you're listening, leave us a rating and review, and follow us at KTF Press on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All those things are really important and we really appreciate them.

Okay, I'm going to get out of your way now. So here is the first half of our interview with Kyle Howard.

[“Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in briefly, then fades out.] 

Jonathan Walton: Kyle Howard, thank you so much for taking the time to be present with us today, especially after just a long day of emergencies. We just really, really appreciate you taking the time to be with us.

Kyle Howard: It's my privilege. Thank you for having me.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. And so, we're going to jump right into it. Just like at the top of your Twitter page, you lay out a great definition of spiritual racial trauma. You've got a number of clients that have been hurt by the church. And so can you just briefly define for us, what's racial trauma, what's spiritual trauma, and how do you talk, and can you talk about your approach to counseling people out of that?

Kyle Howard: Yeah, absolutely. So first off, when I think about trauma, one of the ways that I've defined trauma in very, I guess you say in layman terms or simplistic terms, is the idea that trauma is like haunting pain. When you think about a haunting, you typically think about a ghost that has taken up residence in a location. If you watch scary movies, like Ghostbusters or something like that, the ghost has taken up residence, somebody moves in and what happens? That ghost basically terrorizes them. It constantly is knocking things over, letting them know that, “Hey, I've taken up residence, you're not welcome here.”

And trauma is like a haunting pain. It's not pain that simply happens in one moment and then goes away, but rather, it's pain that haunts an individual throughout their life. And when we talk about pain, I'm not talking about like a stubbed toe. I'm talking about a kind of experience or kind of pain that permeates a person's entire being. It affects, it devastates even, their entire constitution. Spiritual, emotional, psychological, even physiological dimensions of who they are. And so we're talking about a form of catastrophic pain that is so severe, so profound, that it doesn't just simply last a moment, but it haunts an individual throughout their life.

And in one sense, all trauma is spiritual trauma, because we are holistic people. We are both body and spirit. Some people like to break that down into a trichotomy of mind, body and soul, or mind, body, and spirit. But because we are that, we’re not just simply physical and we're not just simply spiritual, but we are both, there is no aspect of pain, whether it be spiritual or physical, that doesn't impact the other aspect of who we are. And so any kind of physical trauma or physiological trauma or psychological trauma or emotional trauma is going to have spiritual impact. Likewise, any kind of trauma that impacts someone primarily spiritually, is going to have physiological impacts, whether the… Again, so trauma is always comprehensive.

But when we speak about spiritual trauma, at least in the kind of context that you're mentioning it in, what I am talking about, is primarily the kind of trauma that is in many ways, has as its foundation, some kind of spiritual reality, or some kind of spiritual devastation. And so it's the kind of trauma that in some sense, its genesis is not say physical abuse outside of the church that simply overflows into spiritual pain, but rather it's a pain that finds its genesis within some kind of spiritual dimensions or spiritual experience or impact, that may as well, again, overflow in other things.

Same thing when it comes to racial trauma. What we're talking about, is the kind of physiological, psychological, spiritual, and emotional haunting pain that finds its roots within racialized experiences. And so we're talking about trauma as it relates to some kind of racialized pain, if you would. Or some kind of pain that is the result of living within a racialized society. And specifically, those who primarily experience that kind of pain, are those who are racialized within a racialized society. And so racial trauma is addressing specifically the kind of trauma that is unique to people who live in a racialized society and are experiencing profound haunting pain as a result of living under racializations. I hope that makes sense.  

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. It really does. Thank you so much for packing so much into that big definition. So, I really appreciate it. Can you talk about your approach to counseling people out of it? Like you’ve laid out that definition, how do you enter into it, and how do you invite people to liberation?

Kyle Howard: Yeah, absolutely. So I would hold to the view as I mentioned before, and I stress this because I think that often the church has failed here. I think that the primary posture of the church when it comes to counseling or soul care, has been kind of a Gnosticism light. And when I say a Gnosticism light, what I mean by that, is that when you think about Gnosticism, the ancient heresy, or ancient ideology of Gnosticism, which the early church fought against, it was this idea that there was some form of secret knowledge and the secret knowledge had to do with the spiritual realm.

And in that, the spiritual realm was seen as something that was sacred, something that was holy, while the physical realm, was something that was seen as being negative and something that was unhealthy or not good. And so the goal of Gnosticism was for people to excel and rise within spiritual awareness and spiritual identity and ultimately leave their physical realm apart. And so again, Jesus was seen as being just simply a spiritual entity rather than being both the Son of God incarnate.

And so, when it comes to counseling and soul care, there's often an overemphasis on the spiritual needs, at the expense of the physical needs that are necessary when it comes to actual comprehensive care. And so again, the church will often prioritize, again, what they'll call soul care or biblical counseling and people submitting, helping people submit to the Word of God. However you want to phrase it, but they will do it at the expense of the various psychological, physiological, emotional needs that a person has in order to have comprehensive flourishing. And so my role as a soul care provider, as someone who also believes that we best serve people when we remain in our lane and excel in the lane that we are in, my role is to help people process through, especially during the trauma dynamics, is helping people process through the complex dynamics of trauma in a way that is spiritually healthy. In a way that that is in some sense, a balm to the soul and allows them to heal spiritually.

But I also fully recognize the need for comprehensive care. And so the most ideal situation is for someone to be receiving mental health care, as well as spiritual health care so that they are getting comprehensive care for their own personal human flourishing. And so what I do in my realm, in my world, is again, I often partner with clinical therapists or licensed counselors, and we work together in a partnership to make sure that someone's getting comprehensive care. I will care for the spiritual dimensions of who they are and helping them process things as it relates to faith, and as it relates to spirituality, while, again, a clinical therapist will help them process things related to psychological flourishing. And as a trauma-informed soul care provider, my goal is to provide that care in a way that doesn't hinder, it does not hinder their psychological care, but rather aids it, and rather comes alongside it, for that, again, for that comprehensive flourishing.

Sy Hoekstra: Could you, just because I think some people have either maybe never heard the term, or have heard it but don't know what it means. Could you just explain, “trauma-informed,” what that means?

Kyle Howard: Yeah. It can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. When I'm using the term, trauma-informed, what I mean is that, a person who has heavily invested in becoming aware of the dynamics of trauma. Let me take a step back, say, have become comprehensively aware of the various dynamics related to trauma and the needs that come with it. And not only that, but also navigating the dynamics of trauma in a way that is actually healthy and productive, rather than compounding that trauma.

So for example, I often… most of the counselees that I deal with now, are people who have been counseled by biblical counselors in the church. But the lack of being trauma-informed has led these counselors or pastors to engage with these people in ways that actually compounds the trauma or compounds the pain. Whether it's somebody who say is clinically depressed, who ends up coming away from counseling even more clinically depressed, because they were told by their pastor or a counselor that they just need to stop complaining and just need to repent for being depressed. You know, all the different things that could be said.

Someone who's trauma-informed, is going to understand the complexity of depression, or the complexity involved in dynamics of anxiety. And instead of relegating everything over to just being some just sin issues or spiritual issues, they're going to recognize that complexity and seek to navigate care in a way where they're not compounding the anxiety, compounding the depression, or compounding the trauma. And so again, being trauma-informed to me speaks to both being informed about the complex dynamics of trauma, as well as being informed of how best to navigate spaces where there is trauma present, in a way that actually leads to greater health and flourishing, rather than leading to greater pain.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. That's so helpful how you unpack that and explain that, Kyle. And it just reminds me, I shared on one of our previous episodes about a childhood trauma that I experienced. And I'm so grateful that after that happened, I had a Christian therapist who worked with me, and actually took me through EMDR. And at the time we called it tapping therapy, but Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. And I'm so grateful that she had the wisdom to both have it be informed, it was a process that was very much informed by our shared faith, but at the same time she was taking advantage of clinical approaches to PTSD in children. And just incorporating that, I think, was so important to my ability to process through what I had experienced as a child. So that's so fantastic, all that you bring to that.

And just switching gears a little bit to another aspect of your work that we definitely want to touch on in this podcast, you also do couples counseling and you have written before about your specific approach to counseling interracial marriages, that takes seriously the racial dimension of a marriage. And coincidentally, all three of us are in interracial marriages.

Kyle Howard: Yeah. Well, it's all four of us, because my wife is Vietnamese. So it's all four of us [laughs].

Sy Hoekstra: That's right. Yeah.

Suzie Lahoud: Perfect! Yeah. So could you just talk us through, explain your approach to talking with couples about their racial differences, and is there something in particular that interracial couples don't expect going into their marriages?

Kyle Howard: Yeah, absolutely. That's a great question. All of these have actually been great questions, which is always my favorite kind of podcast interviews, when good questions are being asked. I’ve had awkward interviews [laughs]. But so, when it comes… so let me do this. Let me give you an illustration, and then I’ll build from that illustration, okay? So a while back I did counseling, I was kind of thrust into a counseling situation where someone who I knew, they were a friend, but it was more of a casual friend, kind of reached out to me to let me know that they were getting a divorce. They were an interracial couple and he reached out to me to let me know he was getting a divorce. And I reached back and said, “Hey, I know we don't know each other too well, but interracial marriage counseling is something that I specialize in. Do you guys want to talk? If there's any hope, I'm happy to walk alongside you guys.”

And now, they’d spent tons of money, they'd been to numerous therapists and counselors and biblical counselors and pastors, all trying to work through things, and none of it was helpful. I'm talking like seven years of counseling and therapy and none of it was helpful. All of it actually just made things worse. And by God's grace, I don't know why, but after all that they'd been through, they decided that they'd go ahead and try one more time. So they met with me and we began talking and trying to process through things. And within one hour, there was so much progress made, that it ultimately led to hope and them wanting to do, you know, meet more.

But this is what happened. So the spouse was from Central America, and the man was white. And in counseling, one of the things that kept coming up was that they would have communication problems. And whenever they would try to communicate, if one of them was offended and he tried to communicate, it would always just go further downhill. And so they would go to counseling, and at the end of the counseling, they always, the counselors always came to the same conclusion. The problem was that the spouse just wouldn't submit to her husband. That if she wasn't, if she didn't have this fiery personality, if she wasn't so… characteristically, she's very animated, very like, has that fiery energy and everything else. That that was the problem. And if she would curb that, basically, if she would whitewash her cultural expressions, then they wouldn't have these issues. And he was like, “Yo, I know I'm the problem. When it comes to… I know I'm the problem when it comes to communication, I just don't know why I'm the problem. So when I go to these counselors, and they keep telling me my wife's the problem, I know it’s off.”

But within counseling, what ended up coming out was a couple of things. One, was that because English was her second language, when he would say, make comments, like use euphemisms and use illustration and certain words, she took everything literally, while he was speaking in categories that were more figurative in speech. And so, because she was interpreting everything literally whenever he spoke, she would actually be insulted by things he said, not realizing that he was actually complimenting her or trying to affirm her and then vice versa was happening. And so, and then furthermore after that, it was more dynamics related to just again communication, where when she would get super animated, super energized, he would, because he was somewhat of a calm and collected and kind of more chill kind of dude, he would assume that she was being aggressive, that she was angry. And really, she’s like, “No, I'm not angry, I’m just being passionate.”

So long story short, several years of counseling this sister, had to deal with people saying that she's a problem, and that her cultural expressions are a problem. And that she needed to whitewash herself in order to make her marriage successful. And he was being told that whiteness is right, and that essentially that he should have married a white woman, and the reason why he's having all these problems in his marriage is because he didn't marry a woman who’s white. And so there was a colonizing of the actual marital relation that was happening in that, which within just an hour of time of someone who was culturally aware about the way in which different cultural communities communicate, was able to basically break through that and show, “Hey, this is some of the primary issues that you’re having.”

And so I say that as an illustration to say that one of the things that often happens within an interracial manager counseling, is that the people who are doing the counseling don't understand the nuances and the uniqueness of various cultural expressions, and they all have a box, and they try to put people into these boxes. And typically, because most white training centers, when it comes to clinical therapy, or churches, say white evangelical churches, they're all grounded on white principles and white ideologies or paradigms. And so the box that they try to fit everyone into is a white box, a cultural box. And so when it comes to interracial marriage counseling from my approach, it's a culturally aware approach of recognizing the various different cultural dynamics, the different cultural expressions and helping married couples come to appreciate and even champion those cultural differences, rather than seeing them as obstacles.

And I think one of the things that interracial marriage couples do is that they, when they go… they take on a colorblind approach to marriage, where it's kind of like, “We're going to leave our culture at the door, and we're going to become just, and then, and get married.” Well, what often happens, especially if you're talking about white and then something else, is that whiteness becomes the paradigm of the marriage, where the other culture has to leave their culture at the door and they have to acquiesce. So they have to conform to white cultural paradigms, and then that's just considered normal. And so instead of interracial marriage couples being able and willing to see the beauty and glory in all the different cultural expressions and diversity and all those kinds of things, and out of difference, find unity out of the differences, or even in the midst of difference, still see the beauty of those differences and find unity in the beauty of their diversity, they end up trying to suck out all the differences and then thinking that, “Okay, this means that there's racial harmony or ethnic harmony within our marriage.” When really all they did was just cleanse it of any kind of diversity or ethnic expression.

And so I think one of the biggest challenges that a lot of couples have, is they don't know how to faithfully embrace one another’s cultural expressions and those kinds of things, and maybe even be scared of them at times. And so they try to bypass them and say, basically “Our love is stronger than our ethnic diversity, and so we’re just going to cling to love.” And so it's kind of a romanticized thing, and I would say that within my soul care when it comes to interracial marriage, what I try to do is I help couples. If there's already damage that's been done, then it's a matter of restorative work of helping people kind of heal those diversity wounds, and then after that, helping them to look at each other's diversity, see that as something that's worthy of glory and beauty and something that should be championed, and basically become a transcultural marriage rather than simply an interracial marriage. There's a radical difference between an interracial marriage, which just means two different ethnicities who are married, versus a transcultural marriage, where you have two people from different cultures coming together as one, and in that unity, you see that cultural diversity, which I think glorifies God because it represents the church.

Suzie Lahoud: Wow, and if I could just ask a follow-up question. Where have you been able to find good resources for that? Or do you feel like you've kind of had to just…

Sy Hoekstra: …make your own resources?


Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, exactly. Because I'll be honest with you, when my husband and I first got married, and this continues to this day, I feel like it's hard for me to find good books on marriage, that I don't feel like are just written from that perspective of like you said, the status quo being subtly like the white model paradigm.

Kyle Howard: Honestly, I've had to, I've had to more or less create my own resources, my own kind of curriculums, my own kind of work, because kind of as you said, there is a severe lack regarding these things. Even within the secular arena there's a severe lack. Because the secular arena takes on largely a colorblind approach to these things as well. And as a biblical theologian, my views on these things are deeply rooted in scripture. I mean, the apostle Paul talks about how marriage is supposed to reflect Christ and the church. And I think that a transcultural marriage does reflect that in a profound way, just like a healthy transcultural church would. And so I think that, so I root these things within my biblical theology. My biblical and historical theology.

And so but I also received my degrees from a white evangelical institution where none of these things are talked about. Not even trauma isn't even talked about. And so I've had to do a lot of work on my end, in regards to the study of history, the study of racial history, the study of sociology. Just all these different fields in order to kind of bring that all together in a way that kind of weds biblical and historical and systematic theology towards practical care and flourishing, and marital flourishing, and kind of bring all that together myself. I wish there was more resources, but that goes with all of my work. When it comes to spiritual trauma, when it comes to racial trauma especially, though there are more secular resources on that front. But by and large, especially as a biblical theologian, there's been a lot of building from the ground up [laughs].

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. I read something of yours once Kyle, where you talked about counseling that you were doing, I think with a white man and a Black woman, where you sat down and you asked the white man point blank, who he thought was more feminine, Beyoncé or Taylor swift I think were your examples [laughs].

Kyle Howard: Yeah. There's an article that I wrote, “When the Church Colonizes Femininity.” Yeah [laughs].

Sy Hoekstra: I was like, “Wow, he's going in. This is no joke. This is a serious thing that he's doing.” So I appreciate the directness with which you're attacking those idols and those realities.

Actually, you just talked about what I wanted to ask you about next, which was, that you got your MDiv from a white seminary. And you've said that working as a Black man in a white seminary, you had to basically do enough studying where you could have earned two separate degrees. Why is that? What do you mean by that exactly?

Kyle Howard: Yeah. So within a white evangelical institution, we are… the goal, so like, so I have an MA in theology, historical theology was my concentration. But when it comes to a Masters of Divinity, an MA, a PhD within those spaces, the goal of that is ultimately to master white theology. White, western theology. There's no engagement with the Black church tradition. There's no engagement with the Korean church tradition or various Hispanic church traditions or Asian church traditions. You're mastering white, western theology, whether we’re talking about the reformers, whether we're talking about even the patristics for that matter. My field was North African patristics with again, North Africa, but even then most of those men are whitewashed despite being from Africa.

And so, there’s a whitewashing of theology and then a whitewashing in regards to theological formulations within those spaces. And so what ends up happening if you're a minority, a couple of things happen. One, if you fully commit to just that space, then when you get out of it, you’re inept to minister in any other space other than white spaces. And if you're going to minister in white spaces, there's going to be a required assimilation take place. And so what I have seen is, I have seen minority men and women, but mostly men, who go to seminary. They master the work there. They get their degrees. And they can't get, they don't get any ministry positions within white church spaces because they’re minorities, and they’re maybe even unassimilated minorities for the most part. And then they, but they try to go back into their own communities and they're not welcome there either because their theology has basically been baptized in whiteness. And so they're not trusted or accepted within those spaces, and they're not really trusted and respected within other spaces as well. And so they basically find themselves in the awkward situation of not being able to find a job or find employment without compromise.

And so for an unassimilated minority who does a degree at a white institution, if they want to be able to serve in spaces beyond white spaces, there is a necessity for them to compound their workload with work from other spaces. And so like for me, for example, if I wanted to be able to minister in any space, then I did not just have to master white theology, but I had to be able to master global theology. I needed to be able to study, I needed to study the church abroad. I needed to be able to study Latin theology, Black theology, Native American indigenous theologies just across that spectrum.

And so there's at minimum, twice as much work, maybe even more, that goes into studying and seeking to master other perspectives and other writings beyond what you're expected to do for your degree program, if you're going to actually have a robust theological framework beyond being basically assimilated into just simply white theology. And it's not just me. I've talked to a decent amount of minority seminarians who come out of white evangelical spaces, who find themselves in the same boat where it's like, “Yo, when I was done doing my reading and writing my papers for my class, I then had to open up books written by Black theologians or other theologians in order so that I could apply what I just learned from this white theology, I could filter that in to how would this apply to my own cultural context.”

If I could take a step back real quick, because there is a very interesting intersection here between what I just said about the seminary culture and ministry and interracial marriage culture. And it's a very tough line to walk that is easy to get in trouble if I fall off on either side, but I still want to address it [laughs]. But so like that article that I wrote, “When the Church Colonizes Femininity,” that you mentioned, it’s on my website. In that article, I talk about how there's a paradigm of what is a godly woman. And the paradigm basically looks like a white, southern antebellum woman that most minorities don't measure up to, and also even there are white women who don't measure up to that. This whole concept of this gentle, meek, soft-spoken, you know, all those kinds of things. There's plenty of white women out there that don't match that as well, who are more outgoing and all those kinds of things.

But what ends up happening in seminaries and in ministry, especially within white evangelical spaces, is that minority men are expected to marry or pursue and marry women that fit that mode. And when they do, and them pursuing that becomes a barometer to test their own godliness and their own faithfulness. So, not only are women being forced to conform, but men are forced to marry specific women who fit a certain kind of paradigm. One of the most difficult, one of the most challenging… difficult is maybe not the word. The most challenging or tragic even counseling dynamics that I have been to, been involved with, is helping interracial married couples. And now get this, let me see if I can say this in a clear way: the husband is a minority, Black or brown minority, and they pursued their white wife primarily because she fit the paradigm that they would need in order to be accepted into ministry in that space. And as they begin decolonizing their faith and deconstructing their own toxicity of their faith and everything else, even as a couple, they come to terms with the fact that though they love each other, that the foundations for their relationship was him trying to… was him pursuing her, because by having her, he would be seen as safe.

And you can see this often when you think about even white evangelical culture, there's a reason why most of the men who are, most of the Black men who have platforms within that space have white wives. They’re not typically Black men married to Black women or Black men married to other women of color. And so doing soul care and interracial marriage counseling in a situation of trying to heal the wound of a wife who has to process that, that her husband pursued her for those reasons, and he trying to pursue the fact that he pursued his wife for those kinds of reasons, and now they're married. And, you know, all the different complexity with that, I'm sure that that is extremely challenging.

And so as much as I say I'm all for interracial marriage, I'm the byproduct of interracial Black and white marriage. My grandfather and, paternal grandfather and grandmother got married before Loving, and so they traveled south of Kentucky. They would have both been lynched. And so I'm thankful for interracial marriage. What I'm not thankful for, is when interracial marriage is weaponized. When sisters in Christ, white sisters in Christ are used as a test to determine the safety of a Black man for ministry. Does that make sense? Are you guys tracking with me?

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Suzie Lahoud: Oh Yeah.

Kyle Howard: Is what I'm saying making sense, or do I sound like I'm tripping [laughs]?

Sy Hoekstra: No. I can totally see a situation where you have a woman who doesn't fit the paradigm of the gentle, meek, and mild white woman, that being seen as a problem. Like you, like the patriarchal understanding of how marriage is supposed to work, I can see the man being blamed for not having his wife under control if she's not like that. Right?

Kyle Howard: Yeah. 100 percent. Yeah. And so, and of course the people who are also impacted by this, are the minority women in the church who are sitting there like, “Yo, we're never going to get married as long as we're in this culture and in this space, because we are seen, either we are exoticized by white men, or by other minority men, pursuing us would actually be a mark against them if they desire ministry, because we don't fit that paradigm.”

It gets messy fast, but my main point of that, is that when it comes to interracial marriage counseling, especially within white evangelical spaces, even when it comes to counseling leaders and all those… it gets messy so fast because of how much racializations play a role, but everyone wants to deny that they're actually playing any kind of role whatsoever. And so instead of actually being able to engage in care and help and process these things so that we can actually have some form of ethnic harmony as we navigate all these different things, no one wants to talk about the things, and all it is doing is hurting people and causing greater devastation down the road when it comes to things like marriage counseling, and other things like that.

Jonathan Walton: So like I, my wife is Chinese and Korean, and one of the most… I felt insulted when she said this, but she goes, “Jonathan, like you…” Me and my brother, my brother is a theologian. We drive whiteness like a stick shift. Like we know how to shift in the South and code switch, and use all the tools to get people to do what we want them to do, because we've been like that since we were children. And he said, “Jonathan.” Priscilla said, “Jonathan, you need to stop trying to make me like you.” Right?

And I said to her, “You mean like I'm cultured in this western way, and I'm trying to westernize you. I'm trying to colonize you?” And she said, “Well, yeah.” And I was like… Yeah, well, we don't curse on this podcast. But I was like… And so then I started to unpack this reality of like, if I don't decolonize my own soul, I'm going to do that to my wife and children.

Kyle Howard: One hundred percent. Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. And so something I'm wondering is, is there a place or places where you were like, “Okay, my marriage is colonized, I need to decolonize it.”?

Kyle Howard: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. So, yeah that's… Yeah, absolutely [laughs]. I didn't mean to jump on that so quickly with the, “Oh my God, yes.”


But, so here's the thing, okay? This speaks to everything that we're talking. Especially counseling and soul care. In my opinion, and this is one of the reasons why spiritual trauma is so devastating, and I would argue that it's one of the most comprehensively devastating forms of trauma, is because it occurs within the most sacred of spaces. Spiritual trauma is the result of entrusting someone with your soul, opening the door to your soul for them, so that they can care for it, and them throwing a grenade in it, and blowing it up. And so you have… I’m by no means seeking to undermine or downplay the dynamics or the devastation of physical abuse and all these other kinds of things. As I mentioned before, physical abuse is spiritual abuse. It has spiritual impact.

But when it comes to the dynamics that happen like in a church or in a sacred setting or a sacred space, that's why the kind of abuse that happens when it comes to like say domestic abuse or parental abuse and all those kinds of things, is because there is a deeper intimate trust factor that's being betrayed in these kinds of things. So in counseling, one of the reasons why it's so devastating when counselors or pastors get it wrong, are not trauma-informed, are not culturally aware, is because they are betraying sacred space when they fail there. Because the counseling context is a very, very intimate space. The counseling room is a very, very intimate space. It's you and another person and maybe you and another person, and say an accountability partner, and you guys are meeting, and you're talking about things that are very, very deep to that individual. And again, they're opening their soul to you. And so you got to treat that like sacred space.

Marriage is another one of those things. It's one of the most intimate relationships, a marriage. And the kind of conversations, the kind of relational dynamics that happen in a marriage, all the trust guards are essentially brought down and that other person, that spouse has in many ways full access to every part of you. And so if that level of sacred trust is betrayed through a member of that relationship using that sacred trust, intentionally or unintentionally, to essentially conform their spouse into an image of themselves, that is a profound betrayal. If there is a cleansing of cultural identity in marriage and an attempt to refashion cultural identity after that spouse’s own likeness, whether it be say, whiteness, then that can be profoundly devastating.

And so I would say that I think that it is within sacred spaces where the most devastating expressions of colonization actually occur. Whether we’re talking about the sacredness of a church space, whether we're talking about the sacredness of a marital space, or something of that nature. And so I think that that's one of the reasons why these are conversations that have to happen, and why there's a need for soul care within these kind of conversations, because when they go bad, they go really, really bad. The kind of, the devastation that they can cause can be catastrophic in many ways. In many ways, almost beyond repair. Now, as a Christian theologian, I believe Jesus is risen from the dead, so there's always hope for restoration and reconciliation. But there can be some profound devastation when these things are not understood and a spouse uses the sacredness of marital trust, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to colonize their wife or vice versa. Again, a wife could do it to her husband as well.

Jonathan Walton: Lord have mercy Jesus! One of the things that we also talk about a lot, and we've pressed, we've leaned into this a little bit, about leaving colonized faith. And you made a point specifically to people who grew up in white church contexts, that leaving conservative white churches for white mainline churches can be a form of white supremacy. So could you unpack a little bit of that?

Kyle Howard: Yeah. Well, the reason for that is, what often happens is you do have… and this happens within the whole deconstructing your faith movement that's happening right now, which in some ways, mad respect. I do that as part of my work is helping people deconstruct and rebuild. But within that movement, there are white liberals, white progressives who have kind of co-opted it, and are using it as a form of, their own form of colonization. And I get this all the time. I can't tell you how many times that there's been white liberals who've reached out to me as friends, and been like super supportive, “We love the work you're doing, thank you so much, yada, yada, yada.”

And then the moment I say something they disagree with, but is within accord with the Black church tradition, I become an enemy and the language becomes verbally abusive. But again, what ends up happening, is you have white conservativism or white fundamentalism. And then you have white liberalism, which is basically the fruits of German liberalism which included higher criticism, questioning the authority of scripture and the efficacy or sufficiency of scripture and all those kinds of things. White German liberalism comes to the West, comes to America, and then you've got kind of a white, progressive Christianity, and then even white liberal Christianity. And then over here, you have the white fundamentalists and you have white people who will just bounce from one to the other.

So they, in some sense, if you say that conservativism, think about the spectrum here. White conservativism, or white fundamentalism is California. Alright? And then you have German Liberalism is Washington DC. Okay? They will fly over the Black church tradition, the Hispanic church tradition, indigenous church traditions, various Asian church traditions, all the way over to DC, and they won't even look at anything else. So they go from one to the other because their paradigm for effectiveness or for truth or for anything that is valid, has to be white.

They can't learn from Black or brown, from BIPOC. It has to, they can only submit themselves to whiteness and white ideologies, it's just a matter of whether or not they're going to be on the right side of that spectrum or the left side of the spectrum. And so they’re still staying within the realm of white supremacy, even though they're talking about decolonizing or deconstructing. The only difference is that they've gone from again, white fundamentalism to white liberalism. And so what I would say, and even experientially, is that I encountered just as much racism and attempts at theological colonization from white progressives and white liberals, as I did from white evangelicals and white fundamentalists.

I don't have an experiential difference between the two as it relates to me. And in conversations that I've had with other minorities, they would basically echo what I just said. To which my response would be, I think that white Christians who are seeking to deconstruct and maybe rebuild, they should be willing to humble themselves and actually seek to learn from various church cultures that aren't rooted in whiteness and be willing to learn from them and not have to be centered in the conversation or lead the conversation. Same thing is happening when it comes to ethnic reconciliation conversations.

Ethnic reconciliation movement in the church was doomed to fail the moment that white leaders who knew absolutely nothing about ethnic reconciliation decided that they must be the ones to lead the way. And so when all these churches, instead of bringing in people, instead of looking to the Black church tradition, studying the Black church tradition or other traditions, they said, “Hey, we're going to be an ethnic reconciliation movement, and we're going to write the books, and we're going to be the ones who do the conferences. And we're going to be the ones to lead the way in ethnic reconciliation and ethnic unity, despite the fact that we were the ones that were pro Jim Crowand our ancestors were those who were pro slavery.”

It made no sense, it required profound audacity, and the fruit of it now, is this whole critical race theory crisis in the midst of a rampant up-ticking in white nationalism. And so I think at the end of the day, which, if there was ever to be any kind of movement or any kind of change, it would require the white church to actually humbly submit to learning from other church traditions. But again, what you ultimately end up having is white people just bouncing from different whites expressions of faith.

Sy Hoekstra: I appreciate that. There was a tweet thread you wrote on that maybe like four or five years ago, which was the moment I hit the follow button on your account.

Kyle Howard: Oh, wow, you’re old school. You’re MVP yo! 

Sy Hoekstra: I only found it because Jonathan retweeted it.

Kyle Howard: Well, I’m thankful that I haven't lost you all yet. Thanks for not blocking me yet.


[“Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in briefly, then fades out.] 

Sy Hoekstra: Thank you so much for listening. You can follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleJamesHoward. You can also go to his website, Kylejhoward.com. And on that website, there is a link that says, Support, and I think you should all very much consider clicking it and helping Kyle out a little bit. The counseling that he does, he provides largely for free to his clients, and he relies on donations from people like you. So please do consider that. Again, it's Kylejhoward.com. Do not type WWW. It won't work if you do that. I tried it. Kylejhoward.com. Also, please consider going to KTFpress.com and becoming a monthly or annual subscriber. We really appreciate it if you would. Follow us @KTFPress on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Our theme song is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra. Our podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam, and we will see you next week.

[“Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades back in. Lyrics: “Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” Song fades out.]  

Jonathan Walton: Welcome to Shake the Dust, a podcast of KTF Press.

Sy Hoekstra: Oh no, wait. Sorry, Jonathan, you don’t have to do the whole intro. You can just… [laughs]

Jonathan Walton: Oh, dang it. You're right. We just covered that. Kyle Har… oh my gosh, I'm going to mess up your name. Kyle Howard, thank you so much…

Kyle Howard: I can't deal with non-professionals. I got to go. No, I'm just kidding…


KTF Press
Shake the Dust
Seeking Jesus, confronting injustice–Shake the Dust features candid interviews and informed discussions that guide us as we resist the idols of America.