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Shake the Dust
Losing Faith, Embracing Empathy, Interracial Family – A Season Finale Mailbag

Losing Faith, Embracing Empathy, Interracial Family – A Season Finale Mailbag

Season 1, Episode 21
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 is the season 1 finale of Shake the Dust! The team takes questions from listeners and discusses the difficulty of maintaining faith when the Church can be so awful, the role of empathy in leaving colonized faith, interracial family dynamics, why we don’t cover more current events on the show, how we did this season in reaching some of our goals, and a lot more. Thanks so much for listening, and see you next year! 

Shake the Dust is a podcast of KTF Press. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Find transcripts of this show and subscribe to get our newsletter and other paid content (like monthly bonus episodes during the off season) at KTFPress.com


Jonathan Walton – follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

Suzie Lahoud – follow her on Facebook, Instagram, 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.  

Production and editing by Sy Hoekstra. 

Transcript by Joyce Ambale and Suzie Lahoud. 

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


Suzie Lahoud: The initial article that kind of sparked this empathy debate, kind of one of the arguments that was being made, is this idea that when you're empathetic to someone, when you enter into their suffering, there is this danger that you'll just be consumed by their suffering. You'll lose your objectivity. You'll lose your ability, as you alluded to Jonathan, to speak truth. I think there's a false dichotomy that's been created there, where either you enter into someone's suffering and you're consumed by it, or you have to maintain this distance. And I think that Christ offers us a way that is so much deeper and richer than that, that transcends that false dichotomy that's been laid out before us.

[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 the season finale of Shake the Dust, leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, a podcast of KTF Press. My name is Sy Hoekstra here as always, with Jonathan Walton and Suzie Lahoud. We are going to take some questions from listeners today about things that people wrote in about, or things that we've heard just over the course of our doing this season and try and wrap this up and celebrate a little bit having done this thing over the course of the last five months or so, that we're all very excited that you're here with us to celebrate this and to do a little bit more processing like we've done before.

Before we get to all that, as always, a quick reminder, and this will have some information about what we're going to be doing going forward. So if you skip this, don't skip at this time. If you want to support not just this show, but everything that we do at KTF Press, the best way to do that is to go to KTFPress.com and become a subscriber, and you can get a free month of that by going to KTFPress.com/free month. You get a free 30 days of the subscription, and that gets you the bonus episodes of this show, which will continue to come in the off season. We're going to do at least one a month. It's possible, we do more than that. But, and then it also supports the free version of this show. It helps support the book projects that we're doing. It gets you our weekly newsletter, which we will talk a little bit more about later today when we’re answering one of the questions actually.

It also gets you writing from the three of us, which I… Well, it'll be the two of us, because Suzie is about to go on maternity leave, which is another thing that we all are going to celebrate. So we're going to be off for a few months. We will be coming back to you in 2022, which is a little bit of a wild thing to talk about. But in the meantime, you will, the subscribers will get some bonus episodes from us. And so we hope some of you consider doing that. You also get access to the archives of all the old writing that we've done and all the old bonus episodes and everything.

So we're going to get into our first question from a listener. I think this frames a lot of the questions that people have around trying to leave an expression of faith that they've known for a while and find something else. And this actually does come in the form of a voicemail and then a little bit of a clarifying question afterwards from an email. So this is from a listener named Julie.

Julie: Hey Jonathan, Sy and Suzie. I want to say thank you for doing this podcast and having these conversations. Your podcast has been a great source of encouragement to me because, for about a year or more, I've gone through a journey of convictions and disillusionment with the church and other thoughts around the social issues of our day and feeling more aware of those and feeling very discouraged by the church's response to… the majority of the church's response. So it's been hard to keep a hold on, I guess, what I believe, because it's so murky out there and I don't know where I'm going to end up, but I just want to say thank you for being a positive voice in all of that.

Sy Hoekstra: So thank you so much to Julie for asking that question and for being kind of open and vulnerable like that. All three of us, I am sure empathize deeply with those feelings. She wanted to know our advice for thinking through what you do when you are questioning, not just like the expression of the faith that you're in, but your actual faith, because of all of the injustices that you've seen around you and kind of what people, what our thoughts are around how to frame that. How to understand it when you genuinely do not know where you're going to end up as a result of the questioning that you’re doing. Which I think is important because it’s just something that comes up a lot whenever you're having discussions like this. So what do you guys think?

Suzie Lahoud: No, I think, I struggle to even jump in and attempt to answer this question. Or not even answer it, but just kind of address it, acknowledge it, because, as you said Sy, I do empathize with this struggle. And yeah, Julie, thank you for being so open and vulnerable in sharing this. And thank you as well for the encouragement. Honestly, it really means a lot to hear that folks are resonating with what we're putting out there and are being blessed by it and encouraged by it.

I think one thing I want to acknowledge, is that I feel like there is some fear-mongering around even having these conversations, that it's going to cause people to lose their faith and walk away from God. And I think that we need to be addressing these things. I think we need to be calling out ways that the church has failed to deal with issues like so many of the things that we've tried to touch on and grapple with in this podcast, that aren't easy issues. And again, we don't expect to have easy answers to these things, but I think that we need to engage the critiques. We need to be able to wade into deep waters.

As far as what you do when you're there, I mean, I think- and this is something the Bible actively teaches us, right- that I think community is so important. Finding brothers and sisters, even if it's just a small group that you feel like you can have these conversations with, you can seek with, and ask hard questions with, and wrestle with. I think that's so important. That's part of what we've appreciated, the three of us, in being able to engage with these things, is having each other as sounding boards and then bringing on these amazing theologians and activists and practitioners who are doing really incredible work around these things, so are really at the forefront of where the church should be.

So for me, it's yeah, that combination of having peers that I can talk to and be honest with about where I'm at, and then having folks that I can look to and say, you know what, maybe the majority of the church is in a really discouraging, disillusioning place right now, but I can point to these leaders. And even if it's only a handful of leaders, but I can point to these leaders who are passionately following Christ, who are reflecting him, who are building up the church, who are incarnating what it means to be a true follower of the Jesus of Nazareth and not white American Jesus. And for me, that's made a world of difference.

Jonathan Walton: Well, one of the things for me that comes up when I hear questions like this is I think it says more about us than it says about God. And I think I've mentioned this before, but my wife and I and my brother and his wife were having a conversation one day, and they said, “Jonathan and Nathan, y’all don't believe that things are supposed to work out.” And I said, “No, I don't believe they're going to work out. I don't expect things to be better or good. My expectations are like really low. Whether it be like racism, poverty, the context I grew up in, whatever. But like, I don't… when I think about God, when I think about what I expect of him and from him, the way that injustice or the issues of the day and the church's response to it, those things don't change God for me.”

I don't know why. I don't know why that is, but I wonder if it says more about us than it does about who God says he is, because God doesn't change. He is consistent. Scriptures is pretty constant. The emotionally healthy question now is, what does my reaction say about me, as opposed to what does my reaction say about God? I think there’s a discovery of what we really value after that, because we know ourselves better. And if we know ourselves better, we actually can know God better because he made us.

Sy Hoekstra: That was a clarification I was going to make, because I think part of what you're saying, Jonathan, is that Julie's kind of not off the right track.

Jonathan Walton: Right. Right. She's doing exactly what she should be doing.

Sy Hoekstra: Which is questioning things that are bad and sitting with them and letting, like trying to figure out where those new realities take her. Right.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: And I think part of the reason I want to emphasize that that’s not the wrong way to go, is that biblically, it actually is very clear that the worst thing to be in terms of your relationship to God, is the tepid water of Laodicea, right? I'm thinking of Revelation 3, and God telling the church, “You're not hot or cold, you're lukewarm, and so I'm going to spit you out of my mouth [laughs],” are the words that he says. And Jesus consistently goes after people who are lost, he consistently loves and communes with people who want to commune with him. The people for whom Jesus always has the harshest words are leaders who are oppressive toward people, people who are in kind of his house, who are in Christianity, who are in Judaism for their own self-promotion to gain riches or glory for themselves, to weigh people down with unnecessary rules. People who try and stop his ministry actively from happening, and then like his own disciples, like people who are actually following him, who he's going to base his church on.

So that's the worst place to be. The worst place to be, is unfortunately where so many Christians are, which is just sitting in church and going through the motions or not questioning why things are happening the way they are. Not questioning why you don't feel close to God, but just going through it because you want to be a good person or you want to follow the people who are telling you what being a good person is, or because you want power for yourself or whatever. So being in the wilderness, being lost, that is an active part of discipleship, it always has been. And that includes not knowing where you're going to end up.

Suzie Lahoud: Oh, that’s good, Sy. Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: And I think, I would even go so far as to say like Church attendance, regular quiet times, regular prayer, some people just cannot do those things for a period, because they don't, they literally have no concept for how to do that in a way that isn't being tepid. In a way that isn't being completely formalistic and just doing it because you're supposed to. But like… this is probably not something you're going to hear from a lot of pastors [laughs], but there’s going to be a period where you don’t hear from God, where you don't talk to God a lot. Where you're not doing those things because you're having to try and figure out how to do them in a way that isn't actively harmful to you and God and other people.

And, I don't know, I just, Julie and anybody who's in that place, I feel really badly for you. I've been there. I'm not always out of there. Like I just, I feel it, and I want people to know that that's not wrong. It is not wrong to listen to yourself and say, “This doesn't feel good,” and I need to listen to that instinct and trust it.

Jonathan Walton: I think the question of like, what am I doing this for? What am I going to get out of it? What effect is this going to have? What fruit is this going to bear? are perhaps the wrong question in asking about the fundamental and foundational parts of our lives, and concerning destiny, morality, justice, and beauty, right. I think they’re the wrong questions, because I think those are production-based questions. They’re A-to-B-based questions. And if Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit are about relationship with us, I think we want to maybe change those questions to who do we get to do this with? Because if I'm not doing a quiet time with Jesus, I don't need to be doing a quiet time. If I'm doing, if I'm praying, but I'm not like in communion with God, I need to stop sitting there trying to make myself pray. Disciplines are organized to be with someone, not to do it, to be done and like have your personal righteousness list.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. So many people hear the word “discipline” and think, “I just need to try harder, do this more.” It's like making a schedule, you know what I mean? It's like, it's no different than a to-do list, and that is the total opposite of what we're aiming for.

Jonathan Walton: Right, there should not be like “Seven Healthy Habits of a Practicing Christian” [laughs]. That's not good. “Highly Effective Christian.” Like highly effective Christian is really an oxymoron.


Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, I appreciate what you guys have shared. And one thing it made me think of was just past experiences, and I think this is true of really anyone who's worked within churches, who's worked closely with churches. There are always going to be moments of disillusionment. Seeing things come out in folks that you look to as leaders, and that being sort of a stumbling block. And I remember at one point going through an experience like that and just realizing the Bible doesn't teach us that people are going to be good and that the church is going to be good. It teaches us that God is good. And so if I'm going to lose my faith over someone else doing those things, then I think I haven't even really understood what my faith was in in the first place.

Sy Hoekstra: Also- this is something I heard Erna Kim Hackett say on Brandi Miller's most recent episode of Reclaiming My Theology- is like, don't let racists take Jesus away from you. Don't let the people who are distorting who God is keep you away from him, because then they’ve done what they set out to do, which is separate people from the actual God who gives life and fights oppression, and is hope for vulnerable and marginalized people.

Suzie Lahoud: And I also think, I do think we're in… so I'm not a sociologist, disclaimer obviously. But I do think we're in a unique sociological moment in the church in the United States where just because so much of this ugliness is coming to the fore. Not that it wasn't there before, it was, but because these things have come to the surface in a particular way, I think that more people are in this boat than we may realize. And I think also being able to recognize that this is like, yeah, a sociological phenomenon that's going on because of political currents, because of yeah, stuff that's happening in our country and in our world.

And so I think being able to recognize that as well, because then you're bearing the weight of not just individuals messing up, but like a collective messing up and a collective tainting the face of God and tainting the message of Christ. And so that's heavy. That's heavy stuff to be wading through. I think we need to acknowledge that, but just, again, recognizing that that's a real thing that's happening in the world right now, and in our country specifically.

So, and then also, I just wanted to plug Tamice’s book, even though it's not even written yet.


Sy Hoekstra: Wait a minute… [laughs]

Suzie Lahoud: But I just appreciate, as we've been having conversations with her, and I think it's folks like Tamice who have been on this journey and chose, to Sy’s point, to not be complacent and to not settle for being lukewarm and just accepting the status quo, and I think that that's such a beautiful expression of just passion for Christ and ultimate love for Christ. That you're not willing to just say, “You know what, I'm just going to pretend that this isn't happening,” or, “I'm just going to walk away completely,” but rather, again, wading into the deep waters and then eventually coming out on the other side. I just think that's so valuable and I'm grateful that we have the honor and privilege of being a part of bringing one of those testimonies to a broader audience.

So our next question is from a listener named Mat asking if we could have a discussion around the direction the church is heading in terms of engagement with emotions. And is there a point where it has gone too far, and we are spending too much of our time focusing on all of the possible emotional reactions to our words and can't speak truth plainly. So, yeah, I'm going to open this up to you, Jonathan and Sy, first off.

Jonathan Walton: Man, let me go.

Suzie Lahoud: Go.

Sy Hoekstra: Go.


Jonathan Walton: So, I have so many responses to this question, because I… So when I read this question from Mat, I got, I had a lot of emotions myself, because in the past when I've had conversations like this, what I think the person is looking for, is permission to say things that are ignorant, that may be hurtful to the person who's listening. Instead of saying, “Hey, how can I say this in a more loving way? How can I say this so that someone might hear me? I don't know what to say here- what's the right words?” It seems like a resistance to correction and a refusal to be kind in a way that someone has asked for. So what comes up for me, is like the resistance of our culture to entering into the pain of other people.

And I don't think that entering into the pain of other people is ever something that is costing the gospel. I actually think it's always something that is moving forward, because if I'm entering into someone's feelings, if I'm empathizing, or I'm sympathizing, if I'm trying to see where someone else is coming from, I'm actually moving towards incarnation. If I'm moving towards incarnation, I can't be moving further away from Jesus. So, if the invitation is to be sensitive to the suffering of other people, to empathize and sympathize and have compassion, and ultimately pursue incarnation with our neighbors who are suffering, because there’s someone who is angry or sad or depressed or traumatized, and we say, “Ugh, I just have to make more space for them.” I don't think that his love at all. And I think we actually need to like flex our emotional muscles to be able to be strong enough, to be able to enter in as opposed to giving up, because we don't feel necessarily like entering into that person's reality.

Sy Hoekstra: And can I add another layer to this Jonathan?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. Yeah, of course.

Sy Hoekstra: There's a way to fail to enter into someone's reality and fail to think about or show compassion towards someone while still acting like you are [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: That’s true. That’s true.

Sy Hoekstra: Meaning like, there are plenty of… a lot of times, this is like a reaction to people being too politically correct or whatever. And there are, of course, people- I see them all the time, having spent a lot of my life in liberal white institutions- who are going to, they know all the politically correct language to use. They know all the right words, but they don't actually have any compassion for anybody. They're doing it because they want to be a good person. They're doing it because they want to be seen as polite and not discriminatory or whatever. That happens. So I think that's what a lot of people were reacting to, but people who might end up like using the same language or the same caveats before they say something or whatever, often have an intent that is good and Christ-like, whereas some people don't. And so it's a, you have to be a little bit more nuanced I think, than some people are.

Jonathan Walton: Loving your neighbor and being politically correct or not the same thing.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Mourning with those who mourn and being nice and polite in American dominant culture are not the same thing. And I think there's a poor exchange, because the definition of what it means to be kind in America is not the same as the definition of what it means to be kind in scripture. Or the definition of kindness in your family is not the same, necessarily, as it is in scripture. And so I think there's an invitation to do much more, and it's most of the time differently than what culture is presenting. So, for Mat, my hope is that, I don't think we're spending too much time focusing on people's possible emotional reactions. And I think speaking God's truth plainly is loving and it can be done in a way that blesses someone and doesn't just disregard their emotional reality.

Sy Hoekstra: And I think part of what actually pushing into engaging with emotional health does, is kind of takes you a little bit outside of the category that we so often think in, which is like, is what I said offensive or not? If you're really working on being emotionally healthy, like a point that you're going to get to is when you realize that you have no control over whether or not someone else is offended by what you say.

Jonathan Walton: Exactly.

Sy Hoekstra: That is, you're never going to be able to control that. But what you can control is your reaction to their offense, and like whether or not you're willing to sit there and question your own emotions as you react to it and say, “Why am I getting defensive?” or “Why do I not like that they've acted offended?” and like really interrogate and think about what that says about you.

And you can also sit there and say, “Regardless of how I feel about their emotional reaction, like what truth can I glean from how they reacted? Like what in there is true, what in there is right, what in there can I use to shape myself going forward and the things that I say and do?” So yeah, I just think it doesn't stop you from caring about when someone is offended or caring about that person. But yeah, it just kind of blows up those categories, or those ways of thinking a little bit, I think.

Suzie, what do you think?

Suzie Lahoud: So, first of all, I love the way that you initially reframed this, Jonathan, to move from an approach that is self-oriented to an approach that is other-oriented. I think that's so important. Like if we're just asking this question because we want to cover our own butts, that's not a Christ-like response. I think a Christ-like response is oriented towards the other. And when I say “the other,” I think the other who is our fellow human being created in the image of God and the other who is God Almighty. Yeah, that's the perspective from which we need to be asking these kinds of questions.

I also loved, Jonathan, that you took this to the idea of incarnation. When I was thinking about this question, I thought about Hebrews 4:15, where it says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.” And all of the ways that scripture talks about Christ entering into our suffering in a way that I think is the most beautiful expression of empathy. I think the cross is the most remarkable, complete expression of empathy. I think it’s empathy taken to it's furthest conclusion.

Having said all that, this question also made me think about, and in general, this empathy debate that's been going on, also made me think about some work that I did in grad school that I've mentioned before on the theology of hospitality. And interestingly enough, in philosophical discussions around hospitality, one of the questions has been sort of what are the limits of hospitality? And basically what that's trying to get at, is what's the point at which the host becomes sort of annihilated in their attempt to care for their guest, and so they cease to exist as a being. They cease to have needs.

So yeah, there are all these debates around at what point is it too much? Or can you place limits on it- would it cease to be hospitality if you did? And empathy and hospitality are often linked together as being very much a part of this same conversation. And what my conclusion was, and some other theologians talk about this, is that the third way that scripture offers us, is a Trinitarian relational model, where you can be a separate being and entity, and yet still in full community that transcends what we as humans experience even as community. And so you can have this exchange of giving and receiving of love and care and emotional being that goes beyond, again, our full human comprehension of what that should look like. But then also, I think, is what we should seek to strive for as we seek to follow God and be conformed to the image of Christ.

And so I bring that up just because the initial article that kind of sparked this empathy debate, kind of one of the arguments that was being made, is this idea that when you're empathetic to someone, when you enter into their suffering, there is this danger that you'll just be consumed by their suffering. You'll lose your objectivity. You'll lose your ability- as you alluded to Jonathan, but in reverse- to speak truth. Whereas I love that you were arguing that no, speaking truth is not antithetical to expressing empathy. They can go together. So that's just a bad argument.

Jonathan Walton: Right [laughs].

Suzie Lahoud: But yeah, but that's why I bring this up just because I think. Yeah, I think there's a false dichotomy that's been created there, where either you enter into someone's suffering and you're consumed by it, or you have to maintain this distance. And I think that Christ offers us a way that is so much deeper and richer than that, that transcends that false dichotomy that's been laid out before us by our culture.

Jonathan Walton: So as we’re talking about communication, feelings, emotional health, we talked with Kyle Howard about ways that racism can be harmful in the area of how interracial, multicultural couples communicate and interact with each other. We got a question about how the families and family culture of interracial couples can also negatively affect marriages.

Sy Hoekstra: So, first of all, it’s super different dynamics when it's white and something else, versus two people that are not white.

Jonathan Walton: This is true.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. So not that there isn't like a ton of bigotry or difficulty between groups that are not white. It's just that like, at least in the American context, the one has not sought to dominate the other one for centuries, and there aren't the same power dynamics. There can be power dynamics, but they're not the same.

So I think, I actually want to connect this back to our conversation with Chuck Armstrong, because we talked about within white families, the degree to which you spend your time talking to your family members about kind of the racist stuff they say, or speaking up when they say things, when you are in the inside and you really have to balance the relationship that you have with those people, and how effective you're going to be, and all those things with the desire to obviously speak up and say what's right and correct people.

That pressure just gets ratcheted up when you're married to somebody who's not white, because now you're not just thinking about your own relationship with that individual, you are thinking about your relationship with your spouse. You are thinking about the ways in which they are actively being harmed by the stuff that your family members are saying and the need to stop your family members from saying those things. It becomes vastly more urgent.

So then if you are like, if you're the white family member, actually, this probably goes a little bit for anybody, but this is the context that I'm familiar with. If you're a family member and the… like basically what's on you is to learn, and to try and understand and to listen, to do some of the empathizing that we were just talking about so that you're not creating that pressure or increasing the pressure on your family member’s marriage. And it's also then kind of on you to speak up when other people are doing it, because it’s a huge relief off of the marriage again, if like the cousin is willing to talk to the uncle that said something, or the parent is willing to talk to the grandparent that said something or whatever. That is where you can really tangibly love people, I think.

What Couples might have to do, what interracial couples might have to do, is just start drawing more bright line, stricter boundaries around their interactions with certain family members. And that's like, obviously, not ideal for anybody. That's going to hurt everybody in one way or another, but it is something that you may have to do, especially around kids. Like I don't have kids yet, but you do not want your mixed race child to be hearing stuff from their own family that is creating insecurity about who they are or the culture that they come from. Because just like the world's going to do enough of that, and what you want home to be is somewhere where your kids are safe and secure and all that. And so that's an unfortunate thing that has to happen in a lot of places, in a lot of situations.

Suzie Lahoud: So when I think about this question, the main thing that comes to mind for me, is actually the ways that I need to hold myself accountable in relation to my family and their experience of my marriage. And what I mean by that is, Sy, you're absolutely correct. The power dynamics really are different when it's a white person married to a non-white person. And that's the case in my marriage, I'm a white woman married to a Lebanese man. So for me, it's recognizing the ways that when we hit up against something in our relationship. And honestly, oftentimes it is related to how we interact with his family and his home culture. We lived in Lebanon for seven and a half years. That was where we got married and lived as newlyweds and established ourselves as a married couple. And so when I would hit up against things that culturally were hard for me, I realized that it would be so easy for me to run to my white American family and find sympathy and an excuse to not grapple with why it was upsetting me and the ways that maybe I was wrong, and the ways that maybe I needed to grow and be challenged and maybe needed to change, be willing to change, or just have a different perspective that wasn't just judgmental or defensive or, yeah, thinking that my way of doing things was superior, or just wanting to have a pity party.

So I, yeah, I think that that's really important. And it wasn't just with my family. It was also, I was actually to be honest, kind of intentional about not even really seeking out the expat community while I was there, because again, I felt like I could have my white American friends, and we could all sit around and just complain about things…

Jonathan Walton: Which is what happens.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, and just find false fellowship in reinforcing our way of existing, because we all think we're right. And I didn't want to do that. And so, yeah, I think that's more a commentary on just how I need to engage. It's not a judgment on my family. I think they've been incredible. But just realizing that I need to be careful.

And also to Kyle Howard's point, he talked about how particularly Christian books on marriage will reinforce these white American tropes around what it means to have a quote unquote, “healthy Christian marriage.” And so I knew that I could also run to other supposedly good theological books on marriage and point those passages out to my husband and be like, “See, you're doing it wrong.” And I didn't want to do that either, because just because it's in a book, doesn't mean it's true, doesn't mean it's biblical, doesn't mean it reflects Christ. There are power dynamics with how books get published and what gets put out into the world. And so, yeah, I really loved when Kyle pointed that out, because that had certainly been my experience as well, that I just needed to be so careful and open to learning new things that I didn't know were true before. And being willing to question my own perspectives and allow this journey of marriage to unfold in a way that would change and reshape me without completely losing myself because that's not what it's about either. But just recognizing the ways that I've been socialized as a white American evangelical woman and that there are things there that, that aren't always right and true and God-honoring.

Jonathan Walton: As I'm listening to Suzie talk, I think I'm just reminded of how much work my wife Priscilla does to be an effective bridge between me and my family and my culture and her family, and I think that because she is Chinese and Korean, because she comes from a collectivist identity that I don't have access to. I think Black folks are selectively collective, and it's definitely not the default.

Sy Hoekstra: What do you mean by “selectively collective”?

Jonathan Walton: So Black folks will argue among one another about what Black Lives Matter means and what Black Lives Matter, the movement, should be and all those things. But if you add a white person into the mix, we will be one group. That's how I've experienced it, because we just need to make sure that this other person from us understands what's happening. Whereas like the, when we're having a kind of in-house conversation, there's much more debate and disagreement. With Priscilla, what I've noticed is that she works really, really hard for her, like for me to be understood by her family and wants to be, and is just a mediary for that. Whereas I want her to speak for herself and my family, which is very individualistic and it's totally out of the cultural norm for a Chinese and Korean person to have direct conversations with an older generation and another family. But I will just expect her to acquiesce to how I operate or how our family operates. Whereas she will basically orient me, invite me, set up ways for me to be able to have good interactions.

So I was reading this question about negatively affecting marriages, and I think the reality is, is just like, it's just difficult. I don't know if it's negative all the time. Certainly what Sy was talking about was like, there's people in my family I will never introduce Priscilla to. I'm just not going to do it because of the things that would come out of their mouths. So there is a level of protection that happens there. And it's like, I wonder about the consistent difficulties for me in like decolonizing my marriage. And what I mean by that is, I don't want to think about myself all the time and try to dominate her in our communication, and dominate like, and control the way that things happen, because you can't love someone and try to control them at the same time. You can't listen to someone and at the same time, you're trying to manipulate them to get them to do what you want. And so much of our society is about getting another person to do what you want them to do, and get them to behave how you want them to behave.

I think cross-culturally, because she is not Western, we clash, because there are things that I've been taught to value and actually like, because whiteness and efficiency and all these things are attractive. And so it's difficult for me to collaborate with her because it's cross-cultural collaboration. And like, so we end up like discussing an inordinate amount of things that I just would never discuss with a Black person.

Suzie Lahoud: So another question that we've gotten from multiple listeners is why we don't talk more about current events on the show, current affairs.

Sy Hoekstra: So yeah, we have, and specifically it's usually been like whether or not somebody, like whether or not we're going to discuss an individual thing that has happened. Which sometimes we do. We had Munther Isaac talking about Israel/Palestine close to when that was happening, right. We had, we talked about leaving Afghanistan pretty much right when that happened. But two things. One is, the ultimate goal for us, I think is trying to, as we always say, help people leave colonized faith for the Kingdom of God. And that, sometimes, means talking about the stuff that's in the news, but it also sometimes means we just have other priorities of things that we think are more important, right. Like our ultimate goal with what we're doing here, is education and discipleship. And the discipleship piece in particular, I think, necessitates having some more zoomed out, bigger conversations that are not about whatever's happening in the news that week.

The other part though is, we do actually talk about a lot of current events in our newsletter. So, there are a couple of those that are free and then in our writing as well on the blog, we have, like when the Supreme Court case in June came down about LGBTQ foster parents in Philadelphia, I wrote a piece about Christian reactions to that. So, that's a pretty quick answer, and Jonathan, I don't know if you have any thoughts on it, but yeah, those are my thoughts.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I mean, I agree. The newsletter, I think, is where that happens. And, I think, what Twitter says is important, isn't necessarily the most important thing. And what shows up on our various algorithmed feeds is not necessarily the most important stuff. So I think taking a step back to have longer conversations about deeper things and looking for trends and patterns, not just what gets clicks, is more important.

Sy Hoekstra: We also, by the way, we do have conversations about what we should react to as a company. And sometimes we do that on social media. Sometimes we do that in the newsletters, sometimes we do that on the podcast. So we are thinking about those things, we’re not ignoring them. It's just not the main thing that we do.

So last question, guys. Not guys. I need to stop saying that.

Suzie Lahoud: Y’all.


Sy Hoekstra: So last question y’all, I guess, even though I never say that [laughs]. How do we think that we did in our goal of having vulnerable conversations across our lines of difference among the three of us? I want to hear some reflections from both of you.

Jonathan Walton: Yes, I'll go first. I’ve thought about this question a lot. And it's weird for me to say I was very vulnerable.

Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] I did great.

Jonathan Walton: I did great. But what it made me think about was, I wonder if we took in too much content and how much it will be worth more processing. When I go back and think about the past episodes we've done, I wonder how much of what has been shared with us have I processed and been able to chew on and then be able to apply. I think the vulnerability for me decreased towards the end of the season, because my trunk was full. Like I had enough or too much for the journey, but I'm looking forward to processing more and working with you all and hearing feedback from folks to really be able to apply and process and engage with the content so it's not just like Christian fast food. Not interested in that.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Suzie?

Suzie Lahoud: So Jonathan, you commented on the vulnerability part of the conversation. I guess when I was thinking about this question, I was thinking more about the second part, talking across lines of difference and how we did at that. And I have been thinking, and do tend to think a lot about what it means to be a woman in different spaces. And it's a challenge for me because I think, on the one hand, there is responsibility that comes with that in terms of bringing quote unquote “a woman's perspective.” At the same time, I feel like part of bringing a woman's perspective is just being a fully embodied woman. Like bringing all that you have to the table and being who you are, who God made you to be, not just as a woman, in like all of your fullness. And so a lot of the times for me, I feel like showing up, not just on this podcast, but in any space, it just means that I need to give what I have to give from my background, from my experience, from the way that my mind works and whatever it is that I have to offer, to be able to put that on the table.

And I think for women, in general, in Christian spaces, in particularly predominantly white evangelical spaces, I think there is this sense that a lot of times we're sort of pigeon-holed into this space where we can only speak up when it has to do with other women's experiences and how our theology impacts us as wives and mothers. And so I think it's important to be able to hear women speak. And I'm not just talking about myself right now. I'm thinking of all of the amazing women that we've had on as guests. I think it's important to be able to hear their voices as practitioners, as theologians, as activists, as advocates. And I'm so grateful for all the women that have been on this podcast and were able to do that. To again, just come on and bring everything that they have to offer, speaking to the full body of Christ, because we're so used to hearing our theology contextualized through the lens of men and predominantly white, middle-class men. And there are things that are going to be missing in our theology if we're not willing to learn from perspectives outside of that.

And this is a reference to an extra sort of podcast episode that's going to be coming out post the season finale, so a little bit of a spoiler alert here, but we're going to be releasing a conversation with Danté Stewart about his forthcoming book. And one thing I loved about that conversation, was he talked about studying womanist theology and how that's impacted and shaped how he views God and his theological reflection and journey. And that just got me so excited, because him saying that shows that he's taking hold of the fact that womanist theology, isn't just about theology for women. It's actually not about that. It's about learning theological truths that all of us need, specifically learning them from women of color. And that that's truth that the entire body of Christ needs to hear and to take in. And so I think just hearing him speak that insight, I think that's so important.

Having said that, I'm also aware of my limitations as a white woman, that I can't say that I've represented quote unquote,“ a woman's perspective on this podcast.” I've come as myself with my background, again, as a white woman, and I know that there are things that I have failed to see and failed to say because of those limitations. And that's something that we've talked about as the three of us as well, and sometimes I'm tempted with that to go into this scarcity mentality that Sandra Maria Van Opstal brought up, that like, “Oh, that means that I shouldn't be speaking at all.” And I don't think that's always the answer, but I do think it means that oftentimes, my voice should take a back seat to the voices of women of color who can bring that. And so, again, I'm grateful for folks that we've had on the show. Just phenomenal women that we've had on that have been able to speak from their experiences, from their expertise, from their wisdom. And I know that that's something that the show really needs on an ongoing basis and would have been severely lacking without, and I look forward to seeing how we can bring more of those kinds of perspectives in future seasons.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. I totally hear that, Suzie, and I think we have tried to specifically talk about what we can talk about, right. I am not trying to tell you what a blind Black woman's life is like, right. And I, yeah, in that way, I think that was one thing, I think, we did fairly well, was talking across lines in that way. Like trying not to overstep what our experience can be. And I agree, we filled in a lot of those holes with the guests. There are more holes to fill in that we can do next season.

I think, I don't know. I have a really hard time assessing myself when it comes to like vulnerability. It's something that I was extremely bad at earlier in my life, and I've tried to get better at. I think I talk… you're about to tell me that I did an okay job and I appreciate that, Jonathan.

Jonathan Walton: No, I wasn't. I wasn't. I was going to try and help you out. So my brother, Nathan Walton, who's now the new senior pastor at East End Church in Richmond, Virginia. Congratulations, Nate!

Sy Hoekstra: Hey, congrats to him.

Suzie Lahoud: Woot, woot!

Jonathan Walton: East End Fellowship- is that he said, “Vulnerability is transparency plus risk.” And so I wonder like, have you taken any risks in sharing?

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, this is kind of where I was going, actually, I think, and that's a good way to put it. I think, I do have, I am pretty good at transparency, but I'm much better at it when it's not as risky, when I've already processed through it or what, which I think is true for everybody, but like, I think that's a little bit more something that I would like to focus on in the future. Transparency plus risk. I’m not saying that I never did that, but I don't think I did it as much as I would want to. I think a lot of the things that I was transparent about, while they might sound like they are emotionally difficult and they were, they are things that are not like personally hard for me to talk about at this point in my life.

But taking on some of that risk, a healthy amount of risk, obviously there's an unhealthy amount of risk, but I think that, yeah, doing that is something I could work on. Because I think that is a place where we find God. It's a thing that Jesus did all the time. It's a thing where we find better communion with each other, is when we're able to take risks.

Any other thoughts, or shall I wrap us up?

Jonathan Walton: I just want to say thanks to people who listened. And if there are things that you'd like for us to talk about, or things you'd love for us to think about, please do send an email, send a voicemail, stuff like that. And also like, I think all of us would love to do more with what we're doing. So your subscriptions will let us publish more books. Your subscriptions will let us pay more writers.

Sy Hoekstra: Do more writing ourselves.

Jonathan Walton: Do more writing ourselves, absolutely. So yeah, thank you for those of you who listen and, we appreciate your support and your subscriptions, and I hope you spread the word.

Sy Hoekstra: And thank you so much to you two. I really appreciated doing this with you guys, with you two, the last several months. This has been a lot of fun. Suzie did all of it while pregnant, which is rather impressive.

Jonathan Walton: Sy, you learned how to produce podcasts.


Suzie Lahoud: I was going to say- shout-out to Sy! This literally would not have happened without Sy.

Sy Hoekstra: A year ago. I had no idea how to do this and now I do, and it's great. I'm very happy that I did that. And yeah, I agree. Thank you so much to the listeners. This has been, it's been a lot of fun, but it's also been challenging in a good way. And, I really hope that as many people got something out of this as they could.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. I agree. Thank you so much to our listeners and to our subscribers. As we said in the beginning of this episode, it's always such an encouragement to hear that folks are engaging with the content. That it’s been something that they can journey with and we're excited to bring more in upcoming seasons and episodes. And yeah, I appreciate you, Jonathan and Sy. It's been cool to have these kinds of conversations on air. I feel like we're always talking about wrestling with different, difficult topics together, and I've appreciated being able to share that with a broader audience because of who you both are and the insights that you bring and your willingness to be open and vulnerable. So thank you for that. And for listening to me ramble when I have pregnancy brain.

Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] Yeah, thanks for listening to Jonathan and I ramble without any excuse.

Suzie Lahoud: [laughs] It is a convenient excuse.

Sy Hoekstra: That's right. You can't use it next season.

Suzie Lahoud: No, then I can say mommy brain.

Sy Hoekstra: Oh, okay. That's fine.

Thanks again. As I said, bonus episodes for the subscribers will be coming. Like I said, at the beginning, please do consider going to KTFPress.com/free month and subscribing with a free month. Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Those will still be plenty active.

Our incredible theme song is by Jon Guerra, whose support we appreciate very much. Our incredible podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam, and we will see you all next year!

[“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.]  

Sy Hoekstra: And we will see you all next year.

Jonathan Walton: Thaaaaanks, bye! [Hums a random tune] Bada badada ba da!


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.