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Shake the Dust
What Defines a White Worldview? with Dr. Randy Woodley

What Defines a White Worldview? with Dr. Randy Woodley

Season 4, Episode 1

Welcome to the Season four kick-off! Today, we have our first interview with one of the authors from our anthology on Christianity and American politics, the incredible Dr. Randy Woodley. The episode includes:

-        How dualism defines White worldviews, and how it negatively affects White Christians

-        How love and vulnerability are central to a life with Jesus

-        Why our voting decisions matter to marginalized people

-        And after the interview in our new segment, hear Jonathan and Sy talk about the attack on teaching Black history in schools, and the greater responsibility White people need to take for their feelings about historical facts

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

-            Dr. Woodley’s essay in our anthology: “The Fullness Thereof.”

-            Dr. Woodley’s book he wrote with his wife, now available for pre-order: Journey to Eloheh: How Indigenous Values Led Us to Harmony and Well-Being

-            Dr. Woodley’s recent children’s books, the Harmony Tree Trilogy

-            Our highlight from Which Tab Is Still Open?: The podcast conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones and Jelani Cobb

-            The book A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life


-        Follow KTF Press on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. Subscribe to get our newsletter and bonus episodes 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.

-        Production by Sy Hoekstra.

-        Transcript by Joyce Ambale and Sy Hoekstra


[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.”]

Randy Woodley: So the Europeans were so set in this dualistic mindset that they began to kill each other over what they consider to be correct doctrine. So we had the religious wars all throughout Europe, and then they brought them to the United States. And here we fought by denomination, so we’re just like, “Well I’m going to start another denomination. And I'm going to start another one from that, because I disagree with you about who gets baptized in what ways and at what time,” and all of those kinds of things. So doctrine then, what we think about, and theology, becomes completely disembodied to the point now where the church is just looked at mostly with disdain.

[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. My name is Jonathan Walton.

Sy Hoekstra: And I am Sy Hoekstra, we are so excited to be starting our interviews with our writers from our Anthology in 2020 that we published when we [resigned voice] had the same election that we're having this year [Jonathan laughs]. So it's still relevant at least, and we're really excited to bring you Dr. Randy Woodley today. Jonathan, why don't you tell everyone a bit about Dr. Woodley?

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. So Dr. Woodley is a distinguished professor emeritus of faith and culture at George Fox Seminary in Portland, Oregon. His PhD is in intercultural studies. He's an activist, a farmer, a scholar, and active in ongoing conversations and concerns about racism, diversity, eco-justice, reconciliation ecumen… that's a good word.

Sy Hoekstra: Ecumenism [laughter].

Jonathan Walton: Ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, mission, social justice and indigenous peoples. He's a Cherokee Indian descendant recognized by the Keetoowah Band. He is also a former pastor and a founding board member of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies, or NAIITS, as we call it. Dr. Woodley and his wife Edith are co-founders and co-sustainers of Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice situated on farmland in Oregon. Their Center focuses on developing, implementing and teaching sustainable and regenerative earth practices. Together, they have written a book called Journey to Eloheh: How Indigenous Values Led Us to Harmony and Well-Being, which will come out in October. It's available for preorder now, you should definitely check it out. Dr. Woodley also released children's books called Harmony Tree.

In our conversation, we talk about what he thinks is the key reason Western Christians have such a hard time following Jesus well, the centrality of love in everything we do as followers of Jesus, the importance of this year's elections to marginalize people, and Dr. Woodley’s new books, and just a lot more.

Sy Hoekstra: His essay in our book was originally published in Sojourners. It was one of the very few not original essays we had in the book, but it's called “The Fullness Thereof,” and that will be available in the show notes. I’ll link to that along with a link to all the books that Jonathan just said and everything else. We're also going to be doing a new segment that we introduced in our bonus episodes, if you were listening to those, called Which Tab Is Still Open?, where we do a little bit of a deeper dive into one of the recommendations from our newsletter. So this week, it will be on The Attack on Black History in schools, a conversation with Jelani Cobb and Nikole Hannah-Jones. It was a really great thing to listen to. That'll be in the show notes to hear our thoughts on it after the interview.

Jonathan Walton: Absolutely. And friends, we need your help. We're going into a new phase of KTF, and as you know, this is a listener supported show. So everything we do at KTF to help people leave the idols of America and seek Jesus and confront injustice is only possible because you are supporting us. And in this next phase, we need a lot more supporters. So we've been doing this show, and all of our work in KTF as kind of a side project for a few years, but we want to make it more sustainable. So if you've ever thought about subscribing and you can afford it, please go to

and sign up now. And if you can't afford it, all you got to do is email us and we'll give you a free discounted subscription. No questions asked, because we want everyone to have access to our content, bonus episode, and the subscriber community features.

So if you can afford it, please do go to www.ktfpress.com, subscribe and make sure these conversations can continue, and more conversations like it can be multiplied. Thanks in advance. Oh, also, because of your support, our newsletter is free right now. So if you can't be a paid subscriber, go and sign up for the free mailing list at www.ktfpress.com and get our media recommendations every week in your inbox, along with things that are helping us stay grounded and hopeful as we engage with such difficult topics at the intersection of church and politics, plus all the news and everything going on with us at KTF. So, thank you so, so much for the subscribers we already have. Thanks in advance for those five-star reviews, they really do help us out, and we hope to see you on www.ktfpress.com as subscribers. Thanks.

Sy Hoekstra: Let's get into the interview, I have to issue an apology. I made a rookie podcasting mistake and my audio sucks. Fortunately, I'm not talking that much in this interview [laughter]. Randy Woodley is talking most of the time, and his recording comes to you from his home recording studio. So that's nice. I'll sound bad, but most of the time he's talking and he sounds great [Jonathan laughs]. So let's get right into it. Here's the interview.

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

What Dualism Is, and How It’s Infected the White Church

Jonathan Walton: So, Dr. Woodley, welcome to Shake The Dust. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for contributing to our Anthology in the way that you contributed [laughs].

Randy Woodley: I’m glad to be here. Thank you.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. Your essay, I mean, was really, really great. We're going to dive deep into it. But you wrote in the essay, the primary difference in the lens through which Western and indigenous Christians see the world is dualism. And so if you were able to just define what is dualism, and why is it a crucial thing for Western Christians to understand about our faith, that'd be great to kick us off.

Randy Woodley: Yeah, except for I think I want to draw the line differently than the question you just asked.

Jonathan Walton: Okay.

Randy Woodley: When we say indigenous Christians, by and large, Christians who are Native Americans have been assimilated into a Western worldview. It's a battle, and there's lots of gradient, there's a gradient scale, so there's lots of degrees of that. But by and large, because of the assimilation efforts of missionaries and churches and Christianity in general, our Native American Christians would probably veer more towards a Western worldview. But so I want to draw that line at traditional indigenous understandings as opposed to indigenous Christian understandings. Okay. So, yeah, Platonic Dualism is just a sort of… I guess to make it more personal, I started asking the question a long time ago, like what's wrong with White people [Sy laughs]? So that's a really valid question, a lot of people ask it, right? But then I kind of got a little more sophisticated, and I started saying, well, then what is whiteness? What does that mean? And then tracing down whiteness, and a number of deep studies and research, and trying to understand where does whiteness really come from, I really ended up about 3000 years ago with the Platonic Dualism, and Western civilization and the Western worldview. And so Plato of course was the great dualist, and he privileged the ethereal over the material world, and then he taught his student, Aristotle. So just to be clear for anybody who, I don't want to throw people off with language. So the thing itself is not the thing, is what Plato said, it's the idea of what the thing is. And so what he's doing is splitting reality. So we’ve got a holistic reality of everything physical, everything ethereal, et cetera. So Plato basically split that and said, we privilege and we are mostly about what we think about things, not what actually exists an our physical eyes see, or any senses understand. So that split reality… and then he taught Aristotle, and I'm going to make this the five-minute crash course, or two minutes maybe would be better for this [laughs]. Aristotle actually, once you create hierarchies in reality, then everything becomes hierarchical. So men become over women, White people become over Black people. Humans become over the rest of creation. So now we live in this hierarchical world that continues to be added to by these philosophers.

Aristotle is the instructor, the tutor to a young man named Alexander, whose last name was The Great. And Alexander basically spreads this Platonic Dualism, this Greek thinking around the whole world, at that time that he could figure out was the world. It goes as far as North Africa and just all over the known world at that time. Eventually, Rome becomes the inheritor of this, and then we get the Greco-Roman worldview. The Romans try to improve upon it, but basically, they continue to be dualist. It gets passed on, the next great kingdom is Britain, Great Britain. And then of course America is the inheritor of that. So Great Britain produces these movements.

In fact, between the 14th and 17th century, they have the Renaissance, which is a revival of all this Greek thinking, Roman, Greco-Roman worldview, architecture, art, poetry, et cetera. And so these become what we call now the classics, classic civilization. When we look at what's the highest form of civilization, we look back to, the Western worldview looks back to Greek and Greece and Rome and all of these, and still that's what's taught today to all the scholars. So, during this 14th to 17th century, there's a couple pretty big movements that happen in terms of the West. One, you have the enlightenment. The enlightenment doubles down on this dualism. You get people like René Descartes, who says, “I am a mind, but I just have a body.” You get Francis Bacon, who basically put human beings over nature. You get all of this sort of doubling down, and then you also have the birth of another, what I would call the second of the evil twins, and that is the Reformation. [exaggerated sarcastic gasp] I’ll give the audience time to respond [laughter]. The Reformation also doubles down on this dualism, and it becomes a thing of what we think about theology, instead of what we do about theology. So I think I've said before, Jesus didn't give a damn about doctrine. So it became not what we actually do, but what we think. And so the Europeans were so set in this dualistic mindset that they began to kill each other over what they consider to be correct doctrine. So we had the religious wars all throughout Europe, and then they brought them to the United States. And here we fought by denomination, so just like, “Well, I’m going to start another denomination. And I'm going to start another one from that, because I disagree with you about who gets baptized in what ways, and at what time,” and all of those kinds of things.

So doctrine then, what we think about, and theology becomes what we're thinking about. And it becomes completely disembodied, to the point now where the church is just looked at mostly with disdain, because it doesn't backup the premises that it projects. So it talks about Jesus and love and all of these things. And yet it's not a reflection of that, it's all about having the correct beliefs, and we think that's what following Jesus is. So when I'm talking about Platonic Dualism, I'm talking about something deeply embedded in our worldview. Not just a thought, not just a philosophy, but a whole worldview. It's what we see as reality. And so my goal is to convert everyone from a Western worldview, which is not sustainable, and it will not project us into the future in a good way, to a more indigenous worldview.

Dr. Woodley’s Influences, and How He’s Influenced Others

Sy Hoekstra: So let's talk about that effort then, because you have spent effectively decades trying to do just that.

Randy Woodley: Exactly.

Sy Hoekstra: Working with both indigenous and non-indigenous people. So tell us what some of the good fruit that you see as you disciple people out of this dualistic thinking?

Randy Woodley: I feel like that question is supposed to be answered by the people I effected at my memorial service, but…

Sy Hoekstra: [laughter] Well, you can answer for yourself.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, I mean…

Randy Woodley: Yeah, I mean, it's a bit braggadocious if I start naming names and all those kinds of things [Sy laughs]. I would just say that I've had influence in people's lives along with other influences. And now, I mean, first of all when I look back, I look and the most important thing to me is my children know I love them with all my heart and I did the best I could with them. And then secondly, the people who I taught became my friends. And the people I've mentored became my friends and I'm still in relationship with so many of them. That's extremely important to me. That's as important as anything else. And then now I look and I see there's people and they've got podcasts and they've got organizations and they've got denominations and they’re... I guess overall, the best thing that I have done to help other people over the years is to help them to ask good questions in this decolonization effort and this indigenous effort. So yeah, I've done a little bit over the years.

Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] How about for yourself? Because I don't think, I think one of the reasons you started asking these questions was to figure things out for yourself. What fruit have you seen in your own “walk,” as evangelicals might put it?

Randy Woodley: Well, I think as you get older, you get clarity. And you also realize that people who have influenced you, and I think about a lot of people in my life. Some I've met, some I've never met. Some you've probably never heard of. People like Winkie Pratney, and John Mohawk and John Trudell, and public intellectuals like that. And then there's the sort of my some of my professors that helped me along the way like Ron Sider and Tony Campolo, and Samuel Escobar and Manfred Brauch. And just a whole lot of people I can look back, Jean [inaudible], who took the time to build a relationship and helped me sort of even in my ignorance, get out of that. And I think one of the first times this happened was when I was doing my MDiv, and someone said to me, one of my professors said to me, “You need to see this through your indigenous eyes.” And I was challenged. It was like, “Oh! Well then, what eyes am I seeing this through?” And then I began to think about that. The thing about decolonizing, is that once you start pulling on that thread the whole thing comes unraveled. So yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, I think like, just to speak a little bit to your impact, I think something you said to someone that was said to me, was like we're all indigenous to somewhere. And the importance of looking upstream to see how we're influenced to be able to walk into the identity that God has called us to. Including the people who led me to faith being like Ashley Byrd, Native Hawaiian, being able to call me out of a dualist way of thinking and into something more holistic, and now having multi-ethnic children myself being able to speak to them in an indigenous way that connects them to a land and a people has been really transformative for me.

Randy Woodley: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. See? Right there.

Love and Vulnerability are Central to Christian Life

Jonathan Walton: [laughs] Yeah. And with that, you make a point of saying that you're somebody who works hard to speak difficult truths in a way that is loving and acceptable to everybody. I would say that's like Jesus, right? To be able to speak hard truths and yet people are curious and want to know more even though they're challenged. And so why, I could guess, and I'm sure people would fill in the blanks. But like if you had to say why that's important to you, what would you say?

Randy Woodley: Well, I mean, love’s the bottom line of everything. If I'm not loving the people I'm with, then I'm a hypocrite. I'm not living up to what I'm speaking about. So the bottom line to all of this shalom, understanding dualism, changing worldviews, is love. And so love means relationship. It means being vulnerable. I always say God is the most vulnerable being who exists. And if I'm going to be the human that the creator made me to be, then I have to be vulnerable. I have to risk and I have to trust and I have to have courage and love, and part of that is building relationships with people. So I think, yeah, if… in the old days, we sort of had a group of Native guys that hung around together, me and Richard Twiss, Terry LeBlanc, Ray Aldred, Adrian Jacobs. We all sort of had a role. Like, we called Richard our talking head. So he was the best communicator and funniest and he was out there doing speaking for all of us. And my role that was put on me was the angry Indian. So I was the one out there shouting it down and speaking truth to power and all that. And over the years, I realized that that's okay. I still do that. And I don't know that I made a conscious decision or if I just got older, but then people start coming up to me and saying things like, “Oh, you say some really hard things, but you say it with love.” And I'm like, “Oh, okay. Well, I'll take that.” So I just became this guy probably because of age, I don't know [laughs] and experience and seeing that people are worth taking the extra time to try and communicate in a way that doesn't necessarily ostracize them and make them feel rejected.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, that definitely makes sense. I think there's all these iterations of the last 50 years of people trying to say, “Hey, love across difference. Hey, love across difference.” And there's these iterations that come up. So I hope a lot of people get older faster to be able, you know [laughter].

Randy Woodley: I think we’re all getting older faster in this world we’re in right now.

Jonathan Walton: It’s true. Go ahead Sy.

The Importance of Voters’ Choices to marginalized People

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. So we had another interview that we did, kind of about Middle East politics, as we're thinking about the election coming up. And one of the points we hit on that we've talked about before on this show is that to a lot of people in the Middle East or North Africa, whoever gets elected in the US, it doesn't necessarily make the biggest difference in the world. There's going to be drones firing missiles, there's going to be governments being manipulated by the US. America is going to do what America is going to do in the Middle East regardless. And I assume to a certain degree, tell me if I'm wrong, that that might be how a lot of indigenous people think about America. America is going to do what America is going to do regardless of who's in power, broadly speaking at least. What do you think about when you look at the choices in front of us this November? How do you feel about it? Like what is your perspective when you're actually thinking about voting?

Randy Woodley: Yeah, that's a really good question. And I understand I think, how people in other countries might feel, because Americans foreign policy is pretty well based on America first and American exceptionalism, and gaining and maintaining power in the world. And I think that makes little difference. But in domestic affairs, I think it makes a whole lot of difference. Native Americans, much like Black Americans are predominantly Democrats and there's a reason for that. And that is because we're much more likely to not have our funding to Indian Health Service cut off in other things that we need, housing grants and those kinds of things. And there's just such a difference right now, especially in the domestic politics. So I mean, the Republicans have basically decided to abandon all morals and follow a narcissistic, masochistic, womanizing… I mean, how many—criminal, et cetera, and they've lost their minds.

And not that they have ever had the best interest of the people at the bottom of the social ladder in mind. Because I mean, it was back in the turnaround when things changed a long time ago that there was any way of comparing the two. But ever since Reagan, which I watched, big business wins. And so right now, we live in a corporatocracy. And yes, there are Democrats and the Republicans involved in that corporatocracy, but you will find many more Democrats on the national scale who are for the poor and the disenfranchised. And that's exactly what Shalom is about. It's this Shalom-Sabbath-Jubilee construct that I call, that creates the safety nets. How do you know how sick a society is? How poor its safety nets are. So the better the safety nets, the more Shalom-oriented, Sabbath-Jubilee construct what I call it, which is exactly what Jesus came to teach.

And look up four, that's his mission. Luke chapter four. And so, when we think about people who want to call themselves Christians, and they aren't concerned about safety nets, they are not following the life and words of Jesus. So you just have to look and say, yes, they'll always, as long as there's a two-party system, it’s going to be the lesser of two evils. That's one of the things that's killing us, of course lobbyists are killing us and everything else. But this two-party system is really killing us. And as long as we have that, we're always going to have to choose the lesser of two evils. It's a very cynical view, I think, for people inside the United States to say, well, there's no difference. In fact, it's a ridiculous view. Because all you have to look at is policy and what's actually happened to understand that there's a large difference, especially if you're poor.

And it's also a very privileged position of whiteness, of power, of privilege to be able to say, “Oh, it doesn't matter who you vote for.” No, it matters to the most disenfranchised and the most marginalized people in our country. But I don't have a strong opinion about that. [laughter]

Jonathan Walton: I think there's going to be a lot of conversation about that very point. And I'm prayerful, I'm hopeful, like we tried to do with our Anthology like other groups are trying to do, is to make that point and make it as hard as possible that when we vote it matters, particularly for the most disenfranchised people. And so thank you for naming the “survival vote,” as black women in this country call it.

Dr. Woodley’s new books, and Where to Find His Work Online

Jonathan Walton: And so all of that, like we know you're doing work, we know things are still happening, especially with Eloheh and things like that. But I was doing a little Googling and I saw like you have a new book coming out [laughs]. So I would love to hear about the journey that… Oh, am I saying that right, Eloheh?

Randy Woodley: It’s Eloheh [pronounced like “ay-luh-hay”], yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Eloheh. So I would love to hear more about your new book journey to Eloheh, as well as where you want people to just keep up with your stuff, follow you, because I mean, yes, the people downstream of you are pretty amazing, but the spigot is still running [laughter]. So can you point us to where we can find your stuff, be able to hang out and learn? That would be a wonderful thing for me, and for others listening.

Randy Woodley: Well, first of all, I have good news for the children. I have three children's books that just today I posted on my Facebook and Insta, that are first time available. So this is The Harmony Tree Trilogy. So in these books are about not only relationships between host people and settler peoples, but each one is about sort of different aspects of dealing with climate change, clear cutting, wildfires, animal preservation, are the three that I deal with in this trilogy. And then each one has other separate things. Like the second one is more about empowering women. The third one is about children who we would call, autistic is a word that’s used. But in the native way we look at people who are different differently than the West does: as they're specially gifted. And this is about a young man who pre-contact and his struggle to find his place in native society. And so yeah, there's a lot to learn in these books. But yeah, so my wife and I…

Sy Hoekstra: What's the target age range for these books?

Randy Woodley: So that'd be five to 11.

Jonathan Walton: Okay, I will buy them, thank you [laughter]

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Randy Woodley: But adults seem to really love them too. So I mean, people have used them in church and sermons and all kinds of things. Then the book that Edith and I wrote is called Journey to Eloheh, how indigenous values bring harmony and well-being. And it's basically our story. The first two chapters really deal, the first chapter deals more in depth of this dualism construct. And the second one really deals with my views on climate change, which are unlike anybody else's I know. And then we get into our stories, but I wanted to set a stage of why it's so important. And then Edith’s story, and then my story and then our story together. And then how we have tried to teach these 10 values as we live in the world and teach and mentor and other things and raise our children.

So, yeah, the journey to Eloheh, that's all people have to remember. It's going to be out in October, eighth I think.

Jonathan Walton: Okay.

Randy Woodley: And we're really excited about it. I think it's the best thing I've written up to this date. And I know it's the best thing my wife's written because this is her first book [laughter].

Jonathan Walton: Awesome.

Sy Hoekstra: That’s great.

Randy Woodley: Yeah, so we're proud of that. And then yeah, people can go to www.eloheh.org. That's E-L-O-H-E-H.org and sign up for our newsletter. You can follow me on Instagram, both @randywoodley7 and @eloheh/eagleswings. And the same with Facebook. We all have Facebook pages and those kinds of things. So yeah, and then Twitter. I guess I do something on Twitter every now and then [laughter]. And I have some other books, just so you know.

Sy Hoekstra: Just a couple.

Jonathan Walton: I mean a few. A few pretty great ones. [laughs] Well on behalf of me and Sy, and the folks that we influence. Like I've got students that I've pointed toward you over the years through the different programs that we run,

Randy Woodley: Thank you.

Jonathan Walton: and one of them is… two of them actually want to start farms and so you'll be hearing from them.

Randy Woodley: Oh, wow. That’s good.

Jonathan Walton: And so I'm just…

Randy Woodley: We need more small farms.

Jonathan Walton: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Places where stewardship is happening and it is taught. And so, super, super grateful for you. And thanks again for being on Shake the Dust. We are deeply grateful.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Randy Woodley: Yeah, thank you guys. Nice to be with you.

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

Sy’s and Jonathan’s Thoughts After the Interview

Jonathan Walton: So, wow. That was amazing. Coming out of that time, I feel like I'm caring a lot. So Sy, why don't you go first [laughs], what's coming up for you?

Sy Hoekstra: We sound a little starstruck when we were talking to him. It's kind of funny actually.

Jonathan Walton: Absolutely.

Sy Hoekstra: I don't know. Yeah, I don't know if people know, in our world, he's sort of a big deal [laughter]. And we have, neither of us have met him before so that was a lot of fun.

Jonathan Walton: No, that’s true.

Sy Hoekstra: I think it was incredible how much like in the first five minutes, him summing up so much about Western theology and culture that I have taken like, I don't know, 15 years to learn [laughs]. And he just does it so casually and so naturally. There's just like a depth of wisdom and experience and thinking about this stuff there that I really, really appreciate. And it kind of reminded me of this thing that happened when Gabrielle and I were in law school. Gabrielle is my wife, you've heard her speak before if you listen to the show. She was going through law school, as she's talked about on the show from a Haitian-American, or Haitian-Canadian immigrant family, grew up relatively poor, undocumented.

And just the reasons that she's gotten into the law are so different. And she comes from such a different background than anybody who's teaching her, or any of the judges whose cases she's reading. And she's finding people from her background just being like, “What are we doing here? Like how is this relevant to us, how does this make a difference?” And we went to this event one time that had Bryan Stevenson, the Capitol defense attorney who we've talked about before, civil rights attorney. And Sherrilyn Ifill, who at the time was the head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. And they were just, it was the complete opposite experience, like they were talking about all of her concerns. They were really like, I don't know, she was just resonating with everything that they were saying, and she came out of it, and she goes, “It's just so good to feel like we have leaders.” Like it's such a relief to feel like you actually have wiser people who have been doing this and thinking about this for a long time and actually have the same concerns that you do. And that is how I feel coming out of our conversation with Randy Woodley. Like in the church landscape that we face with all the crises and the scandals and the lack of faithfulness and the ridiculous politics and everything, it is just so good to sit down and talk to someone like him, where I feel like somebody went ahead of me. And he's talking about the people who went ahead of him, and it just it's relieving. It is relieving to feel like you're almost sort of part of a tradition [laughter], when you have been alienated from the tradition that you grew up in, which is not the same experience that you've had, but that's how I feel.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I mean, I think for me, coming out of the interview, one of the things I realized is similar. I don't have very many conversations with people who are older than me, that are more knowledgeable than me, and have been doing this work longer than me all at the same time. I know people who are more knowledgeable, but they're not actively involved in the work. I know people that are actively involved in the work, but they've been in the silos for so long, they haven't stepped out of their box in ten years. But so to be at that intersection of somebody who is more knowledgeable about just the knowledge, like the historical aspects, theological aspect, and then that goes along with the practical applications, like how you do it in your life and in the lives of other people. He's like the spiritual grandfather to people that I follow.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: [laughter] So it's like, so I think you said it, like we were a little starstruck. I do think I was very conscious of being respectful, which I think is not new for me, but it is a space that I don't often inhabit. And I think that's something that has been frustrating for me, just honestly like the last few years, is that the pastoral aspect of the work that we do, is severely lacking.

Sy Hoekstra: When you say the pastoral aspect of the work that we do, you mean like, in the kind of activist-y Christian space, there just aren't a ton of pastors [laughs]?

Jonathan Walton: Yes. And, so for example, like I was in a cohort, and I was trying to be a participant. And so being a participant in the cohort, I expected a certain level of pastoring to happen for me. And that in hindsight was a disappointment. But I only realized that after sitting down with somebody like Randy, where it's like, I'm not translating anything. He knows all the words. He knows more words than me [Sy laughs]. I'm not contextualizing anything. So I think that was a reassuring conversation. I think I felt the same way similarly with Ron Sider, like when I met him. He's somebody who just knows, you know what and I mean? I feel that way talking with Lisa Sharon Harper. I feel that way talking with Brenda Salter McNeil. I feel that way talking with people who are just a little further down the road.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Lisa’s not that much older than us [laughter].

Jonathan Walton: Well, is she?

Sy Hoekstra: You compared her to Ron Sider. I'm like, “That's a different age group, Jonathan” [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: Well, I don't mean age. I do mean wisdom and experience.

Sy Hoekstra: Right. Yeah, totally.

Jonathan Walton: Yes, Ron Sider was very old [laughs]. And actually, Ron Sider is actually much older than Randy Woodley [laughs].

Sy Hoekstra: That’s also true. That’s a good point.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, right. Ron Sider is, when the Anthology came out, he was legit 45 years older than us, I think.

Sy Hoekstra: And he very kindly, endorsed, and then passed away not that long afterwards.

Jonathan Walton: He did, he did.

Sy Hoekstra: He was such an interesting giant in a lot of ways to people all over the political spectrum [laughs]…

Jonathan Walton: Yes, right.

Sy Hoekstra: …who just saw something really compelling in his work.

Which Tab Is Still Open? Legislators Restricting Teaching about Race in Schools

Sy Hoekstra: So Jonathan, all right, from our recent newsletter recommendations. Here's the new segment, guys. Jonathan, which tab is still open?

Jonathan Walton: Yes. So the tab that’s still open is this article and podcast episode from The New Yorker, featuring a conversation with Columbia School of Journalism Dean, Jelani Cobb, and Nikole Hannah-Jones from Howard University and the 1619 project. They talked about the attack on Black history in schools. And so there's just two thoughts that I want to give. And one of them is that there are very few conversations where you can get a broad overview of what an organized, sustained resistance to accurate historical education looks like, and they do that. Like they go all the way back and they come all the way forward, and you're like “expletive, this is not okay.” [Sy laughs] Right? So, I really appreciated that. Like, yes, you could go and read Angela Crenshaw’s like Opus work. Yes, you could go…

Sy Hoekstra: You mean, Kimberlé Crenshaw [laughs]?

Jonathan: Oh, I mixed, Angela Davis and Kimber… Well, if they were one person, that would be a powerful person [Sy laughs]. But I do mean Kimberlé Crenshaw, no offense to Angela Davis. I do mean Kimberlé Crenshaw. You could go get that book. You could go listen to Ta-Nehisi Coates testimony in front of Congress on reparations. Like these long things, but like this conversation pulls a lot of threads together in a really, really helpful, compelling way. And so that's one thing that stood out to me. The second thing is I think I have to acknowledge how fearful and how grateful it made me. I am afraid of what's going to happen in 20 years, when children do not know their history in these states. And I'm grateful that my daughter will know hers because she goes to my wife's school in New York.

And so, I did not know that I would feel that sense of fear and anxiety around like, man, there's going to be generations of people. And this is how it continues. There's going to be another generation of people who are indoctrinated into the erasure of black people. And the erasure of native people in the erasure of just narratives that are contrary to race-based, class-based, gender-based environmental hierarchies. And that is something that I'm sad about. And with KTF and other things, just committed to making sure that doesn't happen as best as we possibly can, while also being exceptionally grateful that my children are not counted in that number of people that won't know. So I hold those two things together as I listened to just the wonderful wisdom and knowledge that they shared from. What about you Sy? What stood out for you?

White People Should Take Responsibility for Their Feelings Instead of Banning Uncomfortable Truths

Sy Hoekstra: Narrowly, I think one really interesting point that Jelani Cobb made was how some of these book bans and curriculum reshaping and everything that's happening are based on the opposite reasoning of the Supreme Court in Brown versus Board of Education [laughs]. So what he meant by that was, basically, we have to ban these books and we have to change this curriculum, because White kids are going to feel bad about being White kids. And what Brown versus Board of Education did was say we're going to end this idea of separate but equal in the segregated schools because there were they actually, Thurgood Marshall and the people who litigated the case brought in all this science or all the psychological research, about how Black children in segregated schools knew at a very young age that they were of lower status, and had already associated a bunch of negative ideas with the idea of blackness.

And so this idea that there can be separate but equal doesn't hold any water, right? So he was just saying we're doing what he called the opposite, like the opposite of the thinking from Brown versus Board of Education at this point. But what I was thinking is like the odd similarity is that both these feelings of inferiority come from whiteness, it's just that like, one was imposed by the dominant group on to the minoritized group. Basically, one was imposed by White people on to Black people, and the other is White people kind of imposing something on themselves [laughs]. Like you are told that your country is good and great and the land of the free and the home of the brave. And so when you learn about history that might present a different narrative to you, then you become extremely uncomfortable.

And you start to not just become extremely uncomfortable, but also feel bad about yourself as an individual. And White people, there are so many White people who believe that being told that the race to which you belong has done evil things, that means that you as an individual are a bad person, which is actually just a personal emotional reaction that not all white people are going to have. It's not like, it isn't a sure thing. And I know that because I'm a White person who does not have that reaction [laughter]. I know that with 100 percent certainty. So it's just interesting to me, because it really raised this point that Scott Hall talks about a lot. That people need to be responsible for our own feelings. We don't need to legislate a new reality of history for everybody else in order to keep ourselves comfortable.

We need to say, “Why did I had that emotional reaction, and how can I reorient my sense of identity to being white?” And that is what I came out of this conversation with, is just White people need to take responsibility for our identity, our psychological identity with our own race. And it comes, it's sort of ironic, I think, that conservative people who do a lot of complaining about identity politics, or identitarianism, or whatever they call it, that's what's happening here. This is a complete inability to separate yourself psychologically from your White identity. That's what makes you feel so uncomfortable in these conversations. And so take responsibility for who you are White people [laughs].Just who you are as an individual, who you are as your feelings, take responsibility for yourself.

There's a great book that my dad introduced me to a while back called A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being White or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life [laughter]. And it's written by this black, female psychologist named Janet Helms. It's H-E-L-M-S. But it's pronounced “Helmiss.” And she just has dedicated her career to understanding how White people shape their identities. And she has so, like such a wealth of knowledge about different stages of white identity formation, and has all these honestly kind of funny little quizzes in the book that she updates every few, there's like a bunch of editions of this book, that it's like asking you, “What do you think is best for America?” The campaign and ideas of this politician or this one or this one. And she asks you a bunch of questions and from there tells you where you are in your White identity formation [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: Wow. That’s amazing.

Sy Hoekstra: It's really, “how would you feel if somebody said this about White people?” whatever. Tons of different questions, it's kind of like taking a personality test, but it's about you and your race [laughs]. That's just a resource that I would offer to people as a way to do what this conversation reminded me my people all very much need to do.

Jonathan Walton: Amen.

Sy Hoekstra: I just talked for a long time, Jonathan, we need to end. But do you have any thoughts [laughs]?

Jonathan Walton: No. I was just going to say this podcast is a great 101 and a great 301.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Like it spans the spectrum. So please do if you haven't, go listen to the podcast. Yeah, just check it out. It's very, very good.

Outro and Outtake

Sy Hoekstra: We will have that in the show notes along with all the other links of everything that we had today. Okay, that's our first full episode of season four. We're so glad that you could join us. This was a great one full of a lot of great stuff. Our theme song as always is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra. Our podcast art is by Robyn Burgess. The show is produced by all of you, our lovely subscribers, and our transcripts are by Joyce Ambale. Thank you all so much for listening, we will see you in two weeks with the great Brandi Miller.

[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.]

Randy Woodley: You know, I think I've said before Jesus didn't give a damn about doctrine. Excuse me. Jesus didn't give a darn about doctrine. I don't know if that'll go through or not.


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.