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KTF Weekly Newsletter: Transgender Athletes, Christian Imagination, Independence Day Confessions
July 8, 2021
This is one of our occasional free newsletters. To get the newsletter every week, bonus episodes of our podcast, writing from the three of us, and access to the complete archives of all of those things, please consider subscribing using the link at the bottom of this post. Alright, here we go with this week’s resources to help us leave colonized faith for the Kingdom of God.
You may have heard that the founder of the 1619 Project, Nicole Hannah-Jones, applied last year for tenure in the journalism school at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC). Some donors and board members interfered with the process and tried to stall what would have otherwise been a routine decision because of Hannah-Jones’ writing on race and American history. When a journalist made this story public (Hannah-Jones herself wasn’t going to say anything about it), a public outcry forced UNC to offer her the job. This week, like the absolute boss she is, Hannah-Jones turned the tenure offer down to found a new journalism center at the historically Black Howard University along with Ta-Nehisi Coates. What everyone should read is the statement she released on Tuesday. It explains her decision-making process throughout the whole affair. It’s a master class in refusing to let the logic of dominant culture institutions direct your steps or your thinking, even in high-stakes situations, and remaining undistracted from the truth.
I have to put an odd caveat on my recommendation of the below article, which is that you might only be able to read it on an iPhone using the default browser. I don’t understand USA Today’s paywall, but after some testing, that seems to be how it works. Anyway, the advocacy group and occasional cringey Christian movie producer, the Alliance Defending Freedom, is experiencing some mission drift. The organization bills itself as “the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.” But ADF recently decided to lead the charge to ban transgender girls from girls' sports. They have filed lawsuits and shared their model legislation with Republicans all across the country, citing several stories of trans girls who were allowed to compete against cisgender girls and dominated the competition. The trouble is, as USA Today points out in a recent investigative piece, these stories range from highly misleading to entirely fabricated. ADF also typically fails to mention the rules that exist in the NCAA and elsewhere requiring trans girls to undergo testosterone suppression if they want to compete, leveling out competition quite effectively. This is a very useful article to have around as a reference in a discussion that is often in desperate need of some facts. It also helps us reflect on the lengths to which fearmongering about people we don’t understand can take us.
The fact that Britney Spears is forced to wear an intrauterine device caused me to stop washing the dishes and pay closer attention to the podcast that was background noise to my morning chores. The fact that Naomi Osaka has been fined and chastised for politely refusing to participate in media appearances that were compounding her depression and anxiety caused me to sigh in exasperated disgust. And, reading about Michelle Wie West’s powerful response to the “funny story” that Rudy Giuliani shared about the objectification of her 14-year-old self at a golf tournament caused me to take three deep breaths to slow my heart rate. Reckoning with the world as it is and not how we imagine it to be is something we must get used to. James 5:16 calls believers to “confess our sins one to another so that we might be healed” and the Lord’s Prayer is a constant invitation to give and receive forgiveness. Thus, for Christians, it should be easier to engage genuinely with this broken world. Confession and repentance are essential practices to our faith. These pieces spark a range of emotional responses for sure. But my longing is that, like Wie West, they would create a fruitful urgency to see a world that is different from the one we experience today — one where we recognize that women are made in the image of God, and not reduced to what they look like or how they perform. Toward that end, Rev. Dr. Willie Jennings’ book, Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, presses readers to look squarely at how our society became so hellbent on dehumanization, and how Jesus offers a more than worthy alternative to the racialized, patriarchal brokenness in which we find ourselves.
This past weekend marked America’s Independence Day, but as Christians engaged or abstained from the festivities surrounding this national holiday, it is good to remember that Christ does not call us to love of country. Instead, he calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mt. 22:36-40). For white Americans this means challenging ourselves to step outside the mythology of our nation founded on principles of white supremacy, and to step into the shoes of those who have suffered under the weight of the oppression that this historical legacy has produced and continues to perpetuate. Sasha Banks’ powerful article in The Atlantic published this past week provides one perspective through which we can begin to do that. Christian readers will surely recognize that being an American confessor is closer to the role of the prophet in speaking unmitigated truth than the flattering triumphalism of the patriot.
As the world witnesses the situation currently unfolding in Haiti following the assassination of prime minister Jovenel Moïse and new reports highlight the increasingly dire economic crisis in Lebanon, Christians ought to seek out opportunities to actively pray for and support local communities who are weathering these storms. For starters, MERATH, Tahaddi, and INSAAF are three organizations doing good work in Lebanon. MERATH equips and partners with local faith communities to provide for the needs of the vulnerable, Tahaddi serves in one of the most impoverished slums in Beirut, and INSAAF addresses the plight of migrant domestic workers. In Haiti, an organization of young activists called Nou Pap Dòmi is providing much-needed aid to people displaced due to the political instability and violence that had been ongoing for months even prior to the assassination. Gabrielle Apollon, our former Shake the Dust guest and resident Haiti expert, suggests donating to them here. All of these organizations embody a beautiful ministry of presence that is needed now more than ever.
Shake the Dust preview
This week on the show, the team is talking about foster care, how child protective cases work, the racism and other problems in the system, misconceptions Christians have about this system, and how we can reimagine a better way of reducing harm to families by taking seriously the perspective of affected parents. Since Sy worked in family court as a public defender, he is effectively our guest. He gives us some insight into a small but growing movement to transform the way we think about child and family safety, a perspective many Christians need but do not hear. It’s a tough topic, but an important one. Don’t miss it.
Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week!
The KTF team