KTF Press
Shake the Dust
Living and Voting the Beatitudes with Mark Scandrette

Living and Voting the Beatitudes with Mark Scandrette

Season 4, Episode 4

Today, Jonathan and Sy talk with author and international speaker Mark Scandrette about:

-        How Mark went from fundamentalism to loving his neighbor through political protest

-        The cost of leaving a fundamentalist world and speaking out against injustice

-        Why the beatitudes should guide our discipleship and voting

-        How discipleship is practicing the way of Jesus, not learning doctrine

-        And after the interview, a discussion on a really thoughtful article about how patriarchy harms Palestinian men

Mentioned in the Episode

-            Our anthology, Keeping the Faith

-            Mark’s website, MarkScandrette.com

-            His organization’s website, Reimagine.org

-            Frederick Joseph’s article on Patriarchy and Palestinian men


-            Follow KTF Press on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. Subscribe to get our bonus episodes and other benefits at KTFPress.com.

-        Follow host Jonathan Walton on Facebook Instagram, and Threads.

-        Follow host Sy Hoekstra on Mastodon.

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

-        Our podcast art is by Robyn Burgess – follow her and see her other work on Instagram.

-        Editing by Multitude Productions

-        Transcripts by Joyce Ambale and Sy Hoekstra.

-        Production by Sy Hoekstra and our incredible subscribers



[An acoustic guitar softly plays six notes, the first three ascending and the last three descending – F#, B#, E, D#, B – with a keyboard pad playing the note B in the background. Both fade out as Jonathan Walton says “This is a KTF Press podcast.”]

Mark Scandrette: We all struggle with a sense of not enoughness, and what do we do with our lack. And we can either be closed handed, anxious, worried, and greedy, or open-handed and trusting. And that's blessed are the poor in spirit. It's hard to face the realities of a complex world, and so we wanna hide and escape, but Jesus says, blessed are those who mourn. And so that opens up opportunities for lament and confession and things like that. So in a way, I call it like the Beatitudes I think, and the Sermon on the Mount are like the psychology of how to live in the kingdom of God.

[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.]

Jonathan Walton: Welcome to Shake the Dust, seeking Jesus confronting injustice. I'm Jonathan Walton.

Sy Hoekstra: And I'm Sy Hoekstra. We have a fantastic show for you today. First, we are continuing our series of interviews with authors from our anthology that we published in 2020 about Christianity and the election, which is still relevant because it's the same election we had, are having now. Time is a flat circle. This episode we have Mark Scandrette talking about his journey from a fundamentalist devout Republican upbringing in the eighties and early nineties until today, the cost that leaving that world had on his personal life, and his thoughts on living out the beatitudes practically in everyday life and in voting, and a whole lot more with him. That's a great conversation.

And after that, hear Jonathan and my thoughts on the conversation, as well as our segment, Which Tab Is Still Open, diving deeper into one of the recent recommendations from our newsletter. This week, a powerful essay by the author Frederick Joseph about patriarchy and its effects on men in Palestine. You do not wanna miss that.

Jonathan Walton: Yes. Such a great essay. And if you like what you hear and read from KTF Press and would like for it to continue beyond the election season, please become a paid subscriber, like and share our work and encourage others to subscribe as well. Our goal over the next six months is 1000 paid subscribers, and right now there are 167. So we’ve got a ways to go, but we believe this work is valuable and we hope you do too. So like, share, subscribe, and tell a friend. We'd really appreciate it and look forward to reaching that goal.

Sy Hoekstra: Mark Scandrette is an internationally recognized specialist in practical Christian spirituality. He is the founding director of the ReIMAGINE Center for Living Wisdom, where he leads an annual series of retreats, workshops, and projects designed to help participants apply spiritual wisdom to everyday life. His multidisciplinary studies in psychology, family health, and theology, have shaped his approach to learning and transformation. Mark teaches as contingent faculty in the doctoral program at Fuller Theological Seminary.

His most recent books include FREE: Practicing The Way of Jesus, Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Healthy Family Culture, and The Ninefold Path of Jesus. That's the book from which a lot of what you will hear today come from. It's his most recent book. Mark is passionately engaged in sustainability practices and efforts to create safety in neighborhoods for all people. His essay in our anthology was called “Vote Like the Beatitudes Matter.”

Jonathan Walton: Awesome. Let's get to the conversation. Here is the interview.

[the intro piano music from “Citizens” by Jon Guerra plays briefly and then fades out.]

Sy Hoekstra: Mark Scandrette, thank you so much for joining us on Shake the Dust today.

Mark Scandrette: Great to be with both of you. Appreciate you guys so much.

Sy Hoekstra: Same to you. Absolutely.

Jonathan Walton: Absolutely.

How Mark went from Fundamentalism to Loving His Neighbor

Sy Hoekstra: So let's just dive right in. In your essay in your anthology, you write about kind of your upbringing in sort of fundamentalist Christian nationalist kind of spaces. I remember you particularly saying that Billy Graham and Chuck Colson were considered too liberal for the places… or were suspiciously liberal.

Mark Scandrette: Yeah. Yeah [laughs].

Sy Hoekstra: Which is, that is a niche community right there [laughter]. And so we have a lot of listeners who probably… you said that your view started to change basically after the 1992 election. You were very active in the Republican party, and then things started to change after that. And we have a lot of listeners who are either people who had their whole political outlook change from conservative kind of Christian politics recently, like in the past several years because of Trump in 2016. Or we have a lot of listeners who are kind of helping… who know a lot of people who are in that situation.

And so as somebody who is at this point more than like 30 years out from your own political shakeup in your worldview, what would you say to people who are kind of experiencing the shock and confusion of that change, or who are trying to help people through the shock and confusion of that kind of change?

Meeting People Who Didn’t Fit Stereotypes

Mark Scandrette: Yeah. When I… you tried to put a point on it of being like 1992. I think that was maybe towards the beginning of a very long process. It's not really a binary. So I think that there were some gradual steps. Like I was repeating the things that my community was saying and believing about the world and about politics. And maybe my first step was not… like pausing to not say those things anymore, or not feeling like I could say them. And the sense I got was that there was some very clear borders of what would be considered in and out ideas or perspectives in the Christian communities that I was part of, and in my family. And so I just, I was just quiet for a lot of years sifting through what do I really think about things?

One of the key things for me was having experiences beyond the boundaries of the community that I was raised in. For me, being around… I'm a White male, so being around people of color and people in poverty and struggle. And actually meeting people that my community would've labeled as liberals and finding out that they weren't the, those people weren't the caricature that I had been given. And that there wasn't this clear, there wasn't this binary. Not all of them were atheists and not all of them… Like they still had values and ethics. And so these were like layers of kind of surprise to me and a little befuddlement that I'd been given a narrative that just real… like my experiences in the world did not confirm.

Sy Hoekstra: Right.

Mark Scandrette: And another thing that may be good to know about me, is I moved to San Francisco in 1998. And so you have this little house on the prairie, White, Midwestern pastor family moving to the mission district of San Francisco that was mostly immigrant in a very progressive city. And I could, like I would trot out some of those ideas about the world that I'd inherited and grown up with. And to see the reaction and the kind of check on those things was really powerful for me.

Accepting Complexity, and Loving Your Neighbor Politically

And I think a lot of us who have spent time in evangelicalism, we like a simple world. We like it, we wish the world was really simple and that there's a couple of things that would fix everything [laughs]. And so I've entered into, in my neighborhood, into complexity.

And that was a big part of my shift in perspective. I would say it all came to a head in 2015 when a young man on our block was shot and killed by the police. And I had enough information to know police broke their protocols. He was shot six times in the back. They didn't address him in his native language and they misread a situation. And that was a series of about 15 police killings over just a couple year period in San Francisco. And I think that prior to that, my sense was as a follower of Jesus… and I think, I don't think I'm alone in this. I'm just gonna be apolitical and try and live out the teachings of Jesus in my everyday life, love my neighbor as myself. And I'm not gonna participate in the political world because It's dirty. It's a dirty thing. It's full of crooks and [laughs]…

Sy Hoekstra: Which isn't wrong. That's not a wrong thing to say about the political world [laughter].

Mark Scandrette: But with the killing of my neighbor, I realized there was all kinds of complexities to this about police hiring practices, their own protocols, the police commission and the union and all these things. And then when I would go to these organizing meetings, I would find out that most of my Latin and Black neighbors had had similar experiences. Everyone had somebody in their family that had been mistreated or killed. And I would say, “When they broke into your house and woke you up with guns [laughs] to your faces, did you make a complaint?” And they said, “No. We were just glad that they eventually left and that we're still alive.”

And so I was like there's an… if I wanna love my neighbor as myself, it's more than just my direct action to love that person. I also need to advocate for them, and that gets me into politics and public policy. And so that was kind of a huge learning curve for me, to go from being apolitical to actually feeling like I needed to have a voice and participate at a different level.

Sy Hoekstra: That's a useful story for people to hear because I mean, a number of things that you've highlighted is like, I mean, the story highlights is proximity to marginalized people is the willingness to enter into complexity and not shut it down by making things simple. And the how loving your neighbor actually takes shape when you get involved with real people in the real world as opposed to what you've been told about them. I mean, all those points, there's probably more in there that Jonathan could point out, but at least those three points come out of that story [laughs].

The Importance of Firsthand Experiences in a World of Secondhand Media

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the biggest thing that stands out to me for folks who are on the like, “I want to help this person,” is that we can't help people who are unwilling to put themselves in close proximity with folks who are different.

Mark Scandrette: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: The information is not gonna be the transformation. I'm sure you saw documentaries about what happened when your neighbors are hanging with you. But when you’re breathing the same air in the same room, you shop at the same grocery stores, you get on the same public transit, you ride on the same bike lanes, it creates a different narrative, right? And that I think, particularly for folks who are like, “Oh man, I don't know how this person would change.” I think there's a powerful invitation that Jesus says when he says, “Come and see.” And you came and you saw. And the interpretation of that was what then you're able to respond to, which is great.

Mark Scandrette: So one of the things I try and emphasize is that I want to have firsthand experiences rather than relying on second or thirdhand reports about things.

Jonathan Walton: Exactly.

Mark Scandrette: And I think that a lot of our media-fueled political discourse operates at that level of secondhand, thirdhand information. And I could see it in action. We spent a year doing weekly prayer vigils and walking from the site of his, the killing site to our local police station.

Sy Hoekstra: Oh wow.

Mark Scandrette: And on anniversaries there would be a particular attention from the media. And it would be mostly, it'd be a couple hundred grandpas and grandmas, observant Catholic folks from the neighborhood who were actually praying. And then a few radical communists would show up at the end with masks and hammers about six of them. And [laughs] that's the image that would go on Fox News.

Sy Hoekstra: Right, of course. Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Mmhmm, yep, right.

Mark Scandrette: Not these devout people praying and not saying mean things about the police, but saying our liberation is bound up with one another and calling on God's grace to help us learn to live together in love. And so yeah, firsthand experiences I think are really powerful. And I'll tell you, maybe a hard thing for me was when I shared my firsthand experience, how people would tend to go to rhetoric with me very quickly. And I would go around to churches and tell the story of my experience with my neighbor, and people would assume I was saying bad things about their uncle who was a police officer, or whatever.

Sy Hoekstra: Right.

Mark Scandrette: And I said, “I didn't say anything about your uncle. I'm a writer and a storyteller. I try to be very careful about what I say. And so you're really making assumptions and backfilling what I didn't say.” And it's hard to get to that. In conversations with family and friends, it's really hard to get to that person to person level if one of us is talking from rhetoric.

Why Should the Beatitudes Guide Our Voting?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I mean, I feel like if the willingness and ability to resist relationship and go to rhetoric for simplicity's sake, which really means my own safety and my, I don't have to change, right? You, as a storyteller, as a writer, as someone who's shepherding folks in the way of Jesus, you landed on what you wrote in your essay for us, which was like voting in line with what you find in the Beatitudes. So there's these things happening in the neighborhood. You resist oversimplification, you make these things personal, and then you're like, all right, “I'm gonna step into the policy ring and vote from the Beatitudes.” So how did you land there, and why is that the passage of scripture as opposed to Isaiah 1:17 or Micah 6:8, or Matthew 25. For the folks who don't know the Bible, those are all the justice passages [laughter].

The Beatitudes Are Some of Jesus’ Most Important Teachings, and They Show Us How to Think and Live Like We Will in God’s Kingdom

Mark Scandrette: Sure. There's two layers to the question. One is I was mentored by somebody, by a philosopher named Dallas Willard, who would often say that the Sermon on the Mount is the curriculum for Christlikeness, the best collection we have of the teachings of Jesus. It was sort of like, if you have a favorite comedian, they do the same set hundreds of times, and you just, when they record the special you're getting the best hits. And I think the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ best hits. So the Beatitudes fall at the beginning of that passage, and I think the Beatitudes can be seen as a way of Jesus naming areas of the human condition and human struggle that his teachings address.

So we often, we all struggle with a sense of not enoughness, and what do we do with our lack. And we can either be closed handed, anxious, worried and greedy, or open-handed and trusting. It's hard to face the realities, and that's blessed are the poor in spirit. It's hard to face the realities of a complex world, and so we wanna hide and escape, but Jesus says, blessed are those who mourn. And so that opens up opportunities for lament and confession and things like that. So it's like a, in a way, I call it like the Beatitudes I think, and the Sermon on the Mount are like the psychology of how to live in the kingdom of God.

What's the inner work, a new way of seeing that allows me to show up in new ways in the world. And so I think there's just incredible richness there. The other part of the answer is I did get invited into a project in 2015 called Nine Beats, where a group in the UK invited me to spend particular time on the Beatitudes and I developed a curriculum around it that we've introduced to groups around the world. And my main, my biggest passion is how do I invite other people to follow the teachings of Christ in the messy details of everyday life? Like, how does that work? Where do we start? What's the self-awareness we need to have? What are the practices that might help us learn to see and be like Jesus in the world?

And so we created some labs around the… I call it a learning lab, a lab around the Beatitudes that would look at those principles from the Sermon on the Mount, and then we'd invite people to do experiments and practices around them. And actually it's, I'd say there's a political component to that because some of those teachings really confront our habits around how we show up in civic life. Like when we were looking at “blessed are the merciful,” we asked people to make a commitment to practice positive speech for one week. For one week, I won't say anything critical or disparaging about myself or another human being, including politicians.

And we just asked people to do it for a week, and then notice how that changed the nature of their conversation and their attitudes. And most people, when we invite them to do this practice, they're like, “Oh, I don't know if I could do that.” Or there's a little bit of a chuckle knowing how much contempt is part of how we talk with each other.

Sy Hoekstra: I literally just called politicians crooks. So yeah, I got you on that one [laughter].

Jonathan Walton: And that piece, you said like “how much contempt marks our speech about each other and ourselves.”

Mark Scandrette: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: It's good.

Mark Scandrette: Yeah. We did another… when we looked at “blessed are those who mourn” or “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness or justice”, we just asked people to think about, consider who tends to be excluded or on the margins in their context, and get curious and meet someone from that group. Or with “blessed are the peacemakers,” who do you put on the other side of us and them? Go have a conversation with that person, be curious and listen. And it's exciting to see. We had like, some of my work is in Australia and a lot of older White Christians in Australia carry some pretty judgmental I would say racist attitudes towards the original peoples of that continent.

And it doesn't seem to cause much conflict within them as followers of Jesus. But with this lab, we just say, who do you put on the other side? Look at how Jesus did this, hanging out with the Centurion and the Samaritans and the occupiers, would you be willing to meet someone who is from that original people group and get curious about them and to see the kind of changes in attitude and learning, “Oh, that's why they wanted to see the referendum go through.” And it’s been really powerful. And I’d just say, what I've noticed is by inviting people into the Jesus practices, you can get a lot further in the conversation around politics than you can by pushing your agenda forward.

Jonathan Walton: Right. Almost like if you lift him up, he'll draw all people unto himself [laughter].

The Beatitudes Are sometimes Unintuitive, and They Challenge Privileged People to Think Differently

Sy Hoekstra: Almost like that. I think thinking of the Beatitudes as the psychology of what it means to be a Christian, that you just made something click in my brain. And that was because there… and the reason I think it clicked is there are so many things in the Beatitudes that I find helpful, but it's not necessarily immediately clear why [laughs]. Like even just “mourn with those who mourn,” it's like—"Blessed are those who mourn.”

Mark Scandrette: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: It's like that was never a command. Like that's not a, here's what you do to be righteous, or here's what you do to live well or whatever. I don't know. Like why you need to mourn is not immediately clear versus why you shouldn't steal or kill or commit adultery [laughs].

Mark Scandrette: Yeah. And it's right there. It's the second thing Jesus says in this great sermon, is blessed are those who mourn. So that's probably out of all the beatitudes, the one that's hit people the hardest from dominant culture, is the scriptural invitation to lament and complain. And that it gives us an opportunity to both mourn how we've been hurt by personal or systemic forces, and to also sit with how we maybe have been complicit in systems and structures of oppression. And that it's okay and good to do that. And our healing's gonna come by realistically facing mistakes in our past and collective mistakes that we've made.

What Was the Cost of Leaving Fundamentalism And Speaking Out Against Injustice?

Sy Hoekstra: So in your turning to this way of thinking, you made it clear in the essay you've had some strain in some of your personal relationships. And I don't, without obviously you getting into the details of your personal life [laughs], I'm just kind of wondering in general how your relationships with people who disagree with you have changed and how you try to continue to approach people who are close to your part of your community who disagree with you in truth, but also in love at the same time.

Mark Was Misunderstood When He Left Conservatism, but Being Misunderstood Is Part of Following Jesus

Mark Scandrette: Yeah. I find it to be challenging, and it's been with my immediate family and extended family and with people who've even been donors to our work and organization over a very long period of time. And some of it really surprised me because… and I think that it has to do with that acceleration of divides that happened over the last four to six years. It surprised me who would be so adamant around and defensive around issues of racism and racial justice and things like that. I'm a sensitive person. Like I will say and do what I believe, but I don't go out of my way to offend. And so I like to, I'm a nice guy [laughs], but so it surprised me when I’m met with such anger from people I love. And I spent a lot of time trying to talk through things.

I had one friend who was very offended because we organized a group of people just after George Floyd's death to do a lab on anti-racism. And he was really offended by some of the Black voices that we had as part of that and what they said. And I just spent hours trying to compose a response to him that was gentle and helpful and non-reactionary. And one thing that brings me great comfort is that part of Jesus' spiritual formation was to be misunderstood by the people closest to him. And so his mother and brothers thought he'd become mentally unwell and should have been committed to a mental health ward during his ministry [laughs]. People in his hometown rejected him.

And not that any, like, we could go the wrong way with this to be like, oh, just because I offend people that means I'm following the Jesus way. But I do think there might be something archetypal in that if you keep trying to follow the Jesus way, you will be misunderstood and you will be misrepresented, and that that is part of your formation. So instead of taking it personally, just go, “This might be necessary because I've liked being liked. I've liked people agreeing with me thinking that I had wise things to say, and now people are not giving me that affirmation. Can I still be at rest and centered as a person who's trying to listen to God's voice and God's spirit when I'm not getting rewarded for it [laughs] by my community?” And that's a, it's a hard, but I think a necessary spiritual development step.

Practicing the Way of Jesus Is Discipleship, Not Learning Doctrine

Jonathan Walton: Amen. Amen. So, as we've had this conversation, you put a lot of emphasis on practicing the way of Jesus, right? Like following Jesus looks like this. The Jesus way looks like this, the kingdom of God is like [laughs]... And so your training and discipleship focuses on trying to exercise that muscle. That you, how you wanna behave in the world. You just talked a little bit about that, rather than just saying the doctrines about Jesus and what we believe is true. Okay? if you were to make it succinct for people, why do you do that? Who helped you get to that point?

Mark Scandrette: You know, I came up in a faith tradition that emphasized having the right beliefs and doctrine. And I was a good student of my tradition, as a young person I was reading the Bible one to three hours a day, memorized

Sy Hoekstra: Okay.

Mark Scandrette: …chapters and books of the scriptures, sang worship songs for an hour or two a day. Went to church every time it was open, handed out tracks to my friends at school. I don't know if that is a thing anymore, but it was in the eighties [laughs]. But carried a bible with me wherever I went. And having a head full of scripture did not magically make me into a well-formed person. And so I came to a point of frustration where I was like, there's just a tremendous gap between how I know I'm being called to live and how I actually live, there's been a missing element here. And I think it's the missing element is a commitment to practice and to really considering how do I, not just what is the right thing for a Christian to do, but how do I learn to do that right thing?

What are the belief structures that need to change? What do I need to be honest about where the gaps are? What practices? And so we created something that back in the early two thousands, a program to try and approximate learning to have that student apprentice to rabbi relationship with Jesus. And the earliest disciples took him that his social place was as rabbi, and he was teaching them how to live his way of life. Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Learn from me. And so we called it the Jesus Dojo. I know that's a little bit of cultural appropriation. I don't use that term anymore, but it got to the point that to be a Christian in the way of Jesus looks more like being in a karate studio than in a college lecture hall.

And I'd spent so many years in the college lecture hall of my faith getting a head full of information, but had not been in a gym or studio where I could work it out. And so I just found that when I'd gather groups of people and we'd say, how do we learn to not judge? Who are the Matthew 25 hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and lonely in our neighborhood? How would we care for the least of these? Let's meet them, let's share food. As we got active in trying to practice the Jesus way, that's when my heart and life really came alive, and it was so deeply transforming to me.

Western Culture, All along the Political Spectrum, Privileges Words and Thoughts Over Actions

And I'll just also make this point that I think that this is not just symptomatic of people who identify as Christians, but I would say it's all Western culture, is our inheritance is that Greek Hellenistic way, trying to be objective and thinking that in our minds we can get the right picture together of life, and that words and thought is the whole game.

And so I would say across the whole continuum, from conservative to progressive, there's a lot of rhetoric around words, and Jesus invites us into embodied practice. So some people, when they make the, if they've grown up conservative and Christian, and they're making a shift to let's say a more progressive way of being Christian, it's still just words. They just have different [laughs] slogans now.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mark Scandrette: But you haven't changed the game. You haven't gotten up into the real thing yet. And the real thing is embodied love in practice. So there's a curious phenomenon where some people live better than their ideas. I would say I have family members like this. I don't like what comes out of their mouth about certain groups of people. I don't like the literature I see in their house. I have concerns about it, and I'm afraid of how they vote. But man, they live and love well. They live better than their ideas. And then I think some of us, maybe I'd include myself in this, I don't live as good as my ideas [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I agree with you.

Mark Scandrette: And so, I think to people both on the… if you, I don't like these binaries, but across the continuum of right to left, we're all being invited by Jesus to live our values, to live love rather than just spouting rhetoric.

Sy Hoekstra: Amen.

Jonathan Walton: And who is one person that you're like, if you all hear someone talk about this, who's your person? Who are the folks that have helped you imbibe that reality?

Mark Scandrette: Oh well, I think Dallas Willard to some extent was an early influence in that way, I think. I think Richard Rohr saying the best critique of what is, is to live a better story, has inspired me in that way. And to not…

Maturity Is Moving Past Deconstruction to Synthesizing What Is Good from All Your Experiences

I think the tendency when you feel like you're moving out of one community is to disconnect from it. You might feel rejection, but I think the mature posture of a Jesus follower would be to say, “I want to transcend and include.” Like I come from this community, I came up with these ideas, I'm moving beyond them. And maybe the first, let's say in a process of rethinking or deconstruction, it's very easy to disregard everything from your past, and to embrace the new.

The more healthy approach would be to value whatever was good. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Value what was good, and then add to it more nuances in your understanding of reality, and not do this in a binary sort of way. It's hard to do that, it takes time. And maybe there's early stages where you have, it's like maybe even psychologically necessary to reject and renounce and disassociate, but eventually a Christlike maturity would be, I try to stay engaged. I don't create walls and boundaries.

Jonathan Walton: Amen. Amen to all that.

Interview Outro, and Where You Can Find Mark Online

Sy Hoekstra: Amen to all that. Mark Scandrette, this has been wonderful. We probably should’ve had you on the show earlier, but thank you so much for coming on [laughter]. We really, really appreciate you taking the time.

Mark Scandrette: Yes. Yeah. I love what you guys do. I appreciate the way you show up in the world.

Sy Hoekstra: Thank you so much.

[the intro piano music from “Citizens” by Jon Guerra plays briefly and then fades out.]

Jonathan Walton: You can find Mark's work at Markscandrette.com and his organization at Reimagine.org. Lots of the content he talked about in this interview come from his most recent book, The Ninefold Path of Jesus. We'll have links to all of that in the show notes.

Jonathan and Sy’s Thoughts After the Interview

We Can’t Control When White People Respond Well to New Information, but the Spirit Is Always Working

Sy Hoekstra: All right Jonathan. After that interview, what are you thinking about?

Jonathan Walton: [laughs] Well, I think the thing that both encourages me and frustrates me is that I can't control how and when, and exactly what happens when folks encounter deep suffering and then are transformed or not. Like his sharing of like, okay, I'm a White guy, middle upper class, living in the suburbs in San Francisco, and all of a sudden, boom, police brutality is at his doorstep. Fifteen people are killed by the police, and all of a sudden the statistics he may have heard, or in the 1990s with Rodney King, prior to that, growing up in the sixties and seventies and eighties, like, there's these things coming up over and over again, but they didn't impact him.

But now, boom, it's in his neighborhood and now he's impacted. And then he makes radical, quote- unquote, radical choices in response to that. And it changed his life, it changed his ministry, it changed his leadership, changes his family. Like generations of his family are different because of how he chose to respond to the incidents in his neighborhood. I just wish I could control that for every White person that I know [laughter]. You know? But I can't. I can't. So I take deep joy and I love Mark. He's one of my favorite people, and I just wish that more people went on that journey. I just wish it was as simple as, oh, just put people in proximity to one another and their lives would change and they'll become empathetic and transformative leaders. But that isn't the case, you know? And so I think taking that to Jesus is what I'll do because I know that he is the power and the gospel is the power of transformation. I just wish it was my persuasion or oratory skills from lots of leaders, but it's not. And talking with him reminds me of the work that I must do, because who knows what God will do when these seeds are planted? At the same time, man, I just wish it was easier to control the bearing of good fruit for the seeds that are planted.

Sy Hoekstra: Okay, but so question, you said at the beginning, the first thing you said at the beginning of all that was that everything you just said is both frustrating and encouraging to you. I understand why it's frustrating. Why did you say encouraging?

Jonathan Walton: It's encouraging because if it was just me or just leaders then we're confined to space and time, but it's the Holy Spirit, so he can literally do it whenever he wants.

Sy Hoekstra: Oh, I see.

Jonathan Walton: He can have people all the time. Like God is sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient, can just be dropping stuff all over the world, and people are being ignited and lit up all the time. It's not just one organization or all those different things. And so as Tisch Warren would say, there's this mystery between what God is doing, what we are doing. And somehow that marriage of obedience and faithfulness creates an amazing transformation that we get to be a part of. And so I'm encouraged because God is at work. I'm discouraged because I wish what he did worked all the time. So, yeah. What about you? That was a lot. So tell us what you’re thinking.

How Listening Skills, Curiosity, and Proximity to Diversity Helps Us See Through False Media Narratives

Sy Hoekstra: I'm thinking along kind of similar lines, or at least the same story of him kind of moving to the mission and having his perspective changed. But it's kind of how it affects the, how we engage with media in a certain way. But before I get to that, actually real quick, you mentioned that he's just a nice guy and one of your favorite people, I don't think I ever told you this. When we finished recording with Mark, you had to go. You had some scheduled thing, you had to leave. And then Mark and I just sat there and talked for like 45 minutes.

Jonathan Walton: [laughter] That’s awesome.

Sy Hoekstra: Because he has this incredible… and he did not say, “I have time, let's hang out, Sy, let’s catch up,” whatever. He's just one of those people who starts asking questions, and he does it in a way where he's like, “I'm fully engaged, I want to hear your answer. It's important to me, and I’ve got all the time in the world.” You can just tell that from his tone, and that's a really cool thing that not a lot of people are good at, and he's very good at it [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: Yes. Yes, absolutely. He's genuinely interested in what you are saying.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, for real. And has been ever since I met him when I was like 19 and probably didn't really have anything interesting to say [laughter].

Okay, but getting back to him going to the mission, right? So he goes into the mission, he gets proximate to people who are very different than him. He exercises listening, he exercises curiosity. And that's how he finds his way past the media narrative about the marches in his neighborhood, right? Because he's got these, I can't remember if he said weekly or monthly. Oh, no. It was annual on the anniversary of the kid from their neighborhood who the police killed. They were doing these marches.

And he said it was mostly like older folks from the community, largely Catholic praying as they marched. And at the very end, there's these Antifa or whoever they are, guys show up and start breaking stuff, and there's like a handful of them and they're just being difficult. And that's always on Fox News, is the anarchists. Right?

Jonathan Walton: Right.

Sy Hoekstra: And it's so easy to get the completely wrong picture of people who are different and far away from you, that we need to get good at exercising the skills that he was sort of demonstrating, or at least that he demonstrated through the stories that he was telling about how his transformation happened.

Jonathan Walton: Absolutely.

Sy Hoekstra: And that's really hard. There are so many people… I have a similar story to him where it was like I was just displaced from a lot of super White spaces that I was in and happened to randomly end up close to people who are really different than me in college and beyond. So there's a lot of people like that for where it just, you have some point of contact that's, you don't necessarily seek out, it just happens to you. And then like you said, people's responses are just so different. But if you wanna get to know people well, you have to be able to discern through those media narratives in a way that is really hard if you're not there.

And I think a good example of that is all of the crime narratives that have been going on recently, not just because of the election, but have been going on for years now, that Trump is made into such a big deal for his whole political career. Is this idea that just basically if you live in the city, you're just, I don't know, you're just dodging bullets wherever you go [laughter]. You're just like, crime is up all the time, it's never gone down, whatever. And all the statistics are actually showing in general, crime going down, way down in 2023 actually, like murder and some other crimes have gone way down. If you looked at a graph of the crime in New York City from like 1990 until today, it would be comical to say that crime is up in New York City. It is so, so far down than it was when I was a kid coming into the city for Yankee games or whatever [laughs].

And people just, I don't know, you and I had both had the experience of people who used to live in New York City years ago coming back to visit us and being like, “Is it safe to walk through your neighborhood? Are we gonna be okay?” And we're just like, “Yes. It has not changed. Nothing has changed. I'm walking down the street with my toddler on my back in a carrier every day and we are fine.” But you wouldn't know that if you just watched the media. And so I think take some lessons in discernment from Mark, I think is what I'm saying [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: Absolutely.

Which Tab Is Still Open?: Patriarchy and Palestinian Men

Sy Hoekstra: So we're going into Which Tab Is Still open?, our segment where we dive a little bit deeper into one of the recommendations that we posted recently in our newsletter that you can get totally for free at ktfpress.com if you wanna go there and do that. Jonathan, this one was your resource. So why don't you tell the people about it?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, absolutely. The essay that I put in a newsletter a couple weeks ago is called “For Palestinian Fathers, Sons, and Brothers.” And I read it on Father's Day. It's by the bestselling author Frederick Joseph. It's about patriarchy and Palestinian men. That is the overarching container, but it goes so deep. And so Joseph argues that patriarchal power men receive from society is a devil's bargain because it robs men of humanity by making us people whose value comes from fitting a certain mold of being physically threatening, socially and sexually dominant, and emotionally unavailable. Like just a stoic figure. If you aren't those things, you don't get power and you aren't fully human.

And then he talks about the various disparities in the ways that the media discusses Palestinian men. And we always talk about, we see this on Instagram. We see this particularly on the major, quote- unquote, major news outlets already, where it's the number of women and children are killed by Israel are propped up as though the number of men are less consequential or inconsequential. Because men who are victims are always put under the guise of terrorists, or they must be doing something evil, they're different, they are subhuman. And I think that is exacerbated even more when we talk about the level of sexual violence that's perpetuated against Palestinian men, while the many stories about Israeli soldiers or prison guards violating them just gets less airtime.

When I encourage you, it is difficult, but to please go and read the New York Times' interviews of Palestinian male detainees. There's a long CNN article that also exposes just the terrible things that are happening to these men that are detained. And so this he argues, and I absolutely agree, that this is a pattern of dehumanization of what was largely like Muslim and Arab men coming out of 9/11, but especially true of just a campaign perpetuated by the West and Israel to dehumanize Palestinian men, specifically around the idea of occupation and giving Israel and the superpower allies just an excuse for their atrocities.

One civil rights leader said the first step towards committing violence against someone is their dehumanization. And we've seen that pattern start from the beginning of occupation before the Nakba started up through till now. And so, understanding these men as fathers, and sons and brothers, and humans who value their lives and relationships and have deep grief and suffering due to war, can move us towards liberation.

Mourning with Those Who Mourn Helps Us See the Humanity of Other People

I think Jesus's invitation command for us to mourn with those who mourn is a door for rehumanizing Palestinian men. It's a door for rehumanizing ourselves because we were actually made to be in relationships with one another, and our liberation is bound up in the liberation of all people.

So when I'm celebrating Father's Day, I can hold the beauty that comes with that, but I can also resist the reality that I do not have to dehumanize other dads to make myself more of a Father. I don't. I don't need to do that. And so the pictures of men from all different backgrounds holding their kids in deep, deep, deep, deep suffering is something that I had to engage with. And this essay was a door to that, because the reality is they are men just like me. They're human just like me. I am no more or no less human than them. And God has made all of us in his image. And pushing back against narratives of dehumanization is a way to reflect that theology and make it more than just a thought, but turn it into a feeling and a practice. So yeah. Sy, what'd you think?

Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] You just did a lot of really deep stuff and then you just ended it with, “So, yeah. [laughter]. This is how Jonathan and I talk, we get way too casual about very important things [laughter]. All that is so true and so good.

Men Need to Understand How Patriarchy Hurts Them to Sustain the Fight Against It

Sy Hoekstra: And I think another layer of why this essay is important to me is he's doing some really important psychological work that can feel awkward for men to do when it comes to talking about the patriarchy, because here's the background. I've been listening, I mentioned last episode I've been listening to Scott Hall, who's one of our previous guests from season three, and Erna Kim Hackett. I've been in a cohort with them from, with Erna's organization, Liberated Together, fantastic organization if you wanna go check it out.

And one of the main points that they've made about Whiteness and White people doing racial justice work, and I'll connect this to patriarchy in a second, is that if you want to sustain motivation over the long term to do racial justice work as a White person, you can't be in it for altruistic purposes. Like you just can't. Because people, if you are there to help other people and not yourself, then at some point you are going to burn out, or you're going to demand that you be respected or rewarded or lauded in some way that makes you a bad ally. Right? You're going to burnout or be unhelpful, is what it comes down to because you're not doing what you just said, Jonathan, understanding that everyone's liberation is tied up together.

So you have to say that White supremacy actually harms me as a White person and figure out how that happens, and then figure out how you as a White person need to heal yourself and participate in racial justice work for that reason. To heal yourself and other White people because basically that motivation will sustain you.

It's kind of selfish, or it's kind of self-centered, but that's the reality of how humans work [laughs]. You need a personal motivation a lot of times to, or most of the time to do anything over a long stretch of time. The same thing is true of patriarchy. It's men need to understand how patriarchy harms us. And the reason it's awkward to talk about that is for two reasons at least. One is you can go too far with that and you can end up being like a men's rights activist, right? [laughter] Or like somebody who's just complaining about how men are victims and how women get unfairly treated, get stuff they don't deserve ahead of me or whatever. Go on that dangerous road. But the other reason it's awkward is when you think about patriarchy, obviously the first thing you go to is the way that it harms women.

And you don't want to, you might not want to be caught complaining about how it harms you, because the harm on other people is so much worse. And the answer to that is, yes, it's worse. Fine, that's true. But the fact that somebody else got hurt worse than you doesn't mean that you didn't get hurt. Right?

Jonathan Walton: Yes. Absolutely.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. If I break an arm and you, Jonathan, break two arms and a leg, that doesn't mean I don't have to go to the doctor [laughs], right?

Jonathan Walton: Right.

Sy Hoekstra: I gotta go to the doctor. And so what Joseph is doing is just some really good thinking, deep thinking, about how patriarchy hurts himself. He talks about himself as a Black man and how it hurts him, just like you did. And he talks about the Palestinian men and really digging into this so that you can feel the grief and then subsequently process those emotions and then be able to do the work afterwards that you need to do to fight patriarchy to help everyone. Help everyone get out of the snare that it is. That was a lot of talking. Jonathan, any thoughts?

Jonathan Walton: Well, yeah. I mean, I'll just lean into, try not to go even more down a rabbit hole, but I agree with everything that you said. And it's like you've talked about this before with like just hierarchies of dominance and power. It's a very different thing if a woman or someone from the a non-binary person says I'm gonna resist patriarchy. Patriarchy doesn't necessarily end because the folks downstream of it decide to stop. Patriarchy ends when men refuse to participate in the system. When the master walks off the plantation, that's when the plantation stops. And so we actually need men to say, “I'm going to opt out of this system of oppression because I can see that the first person it dehumanizes is me.” Because I am not a person anymore as soon as I decide to put myself on top of somebody else. That's not how God made us.

We were made for relationships with one another. We weren't made to dominate and rule over each other. And so, something that I wanna push back against too is like a soft acceptable misogyny, where it's like we just walk around with assumptions about women and assumptions about non-binary people. I think what Frederick Joseph is doing is like when he pushes back against these narratives, I think our response should be just like Mark had when he was first encountering these things, is radical interrogation. To say, “Where am I being complicit? And let me stop that.” And repentance is part of that. We say, I'm doing this thing, I'm gonna turn from that and do these set of things instead.

We need to make that as practical and as clear as possible as we can so that we can move towards freedom, not just by ourselves, but as we already talked about, like our liberation is bound up together. So the men and the folks downstream of me don't have to participate either. So, yeah, great job Frederick Joseph. Amazing essay. Thank you so much.

Sy Hoekstra: Great job [laughs]. He needs our validation, not multiple New York Times bestseller awards or anything, yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Awards and thousands of followers and all that. I hope my encouragement means something to you [laughter].

Outro and Outtake

Sy Hoekstra: All right, cool. Well, we will end it there. This was a great episode. Thank you so much Jonathan, for being here as always. Thank you all for listening, we will see you in two weeks. Our theme song as Always is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra. Our podcast art is by Robyn Burgess. Our editing is by Multitude Productions who just started doing the editing for us. We are so grateful to them. Transcripts by Joyce Ambale, and we will see you all in two weeks. Thank you so much for listening, goodbye.

Jonathan Walton: Bye-Bye.

[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 welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]

Jonathan Walton: Welcome to Shake the Dust, seeking Jesus, confronting injustice. I'm Jonathan Walton.

Sy Hoekstra: And I am Sy Hoekstra. We have a fantastic show for you today. First, we are going to be continuing our—I... didn't turn off my air conditioner. Be right back [laughs].

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.