"Who We Are and Why We're Here" Transcript
Season 1, Episode 1
[00:00:00] Jonathan Walton: I would not be a believer if it was not for the Kingdom of God and the descriptions that Jesus gives in the gospels. When he says like, come unto me all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. When he describes what it will look like for no one to hunger and thirst anymore. When Luke 14, where he lays out, you know, this banquet and that all people are invited, and this is images of God through Christ by the power of the Spirit, like constantly uplifting oppressed people and not just uplifting, oppressed people and leaving them where they're at, but like sending them on their way and then saying I'm coming back, cause I'm gone to prepare a place for you.
On the flip side of that, I think it is depressing to me how many people don't want that. What they actually want is a faith that keeps the systems in place and keeps the structures in place and doesn't want to be canceled or called out or held accountable to anyone. And I think [00:01:00] that is worth shaking the dust off and leaving.
[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]
Sy Hoekstra: Welcome to Shake the Dust, leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, a podcast of KTF Press. My name is Sy Hoekstra. I'm here with Jonathan Walton and Suzie Lahoud, and we are so excited to have you here with us for our very first episode. We're going to introduce ourselves briefly and then we're going to talk a little bit about what this show is all about, what it means when we say leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, why we chose our title, uh, and what we're going to be doing. And we are just very excited to have you on board and for you to hear this discussion today.
Um, so can, uh, let's, let's start off with you, Jonathan. Can you give the people a brief introduction to Jonathan Walton.
Jonathan Walton: Uh,
Sy Hoekstra: And when I say brief, I really mean a few minutes.
[00:02:00] Jonathan Walton: [laughing] I can, I can, I am capable of that. Um, my name is Jonathan Walton, um, and I am, I'm just grateful to be a part of this project for one. Um, I am from, uh, a small, small rural town called Brodnax, Virginia. It's in South Central Virginia, about five miles from the border of North Carolina. And, um, I came to Columbia University as a student in 2004 when I graduated from high school. And it was the first time I'd ever been north of Richmond.
Um, and life changed a lot. And I think my life is very much framed by, I think extreme realities. Um, I think, you know, a town of 369 people then coming to the largest city in the country, having never flown on a plane or traveled, um, extensively until I was 18 to like, by the time I [00:03:00] was, I think 23, I'd counted like 21 flights around the country performing and speaking and teaching and leading different things.
Sy Hoekstra: Performing what Jonathan?
Jonathan Walton: Oh, well, the reason I came to Columbia is not because I was an athlete contrary to all the hundreds of people who asked me that while I was on campus [laughs]. Um, I was there because I had written a book and was on academic scholarship, uh, funded by John Kluge.
And so, um, poetry is what got me out of Southern Virginia and, um, continues to animate my life and sustain it in ways that are deep and helpful. And then this last decade I've spent on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, um, and living in New York post-college with, in a life that I didn't imagine for myself, but am deeply appreciative of my wife, my two daughters, um, and the service that I get to.... to... which I thought [00:04:00] was just going to be for college students, but has ended up, um, being for the church writ large as people, um, experience the world and then desire to be formed by God, to bear witness to him in a more powerful way. Ah, especially, um, as you know, race-based, class-based, gender-based hierarchy, um, rules our world. And so I would love for Jesus to, to break into that and I'm glad to be a part of that.
Sy Hoekstra: What do you do now?
Jonathan Walton: Well, I am on staff with InterVarsity and what that looks like right now is that I am a Senior Resource Specialist with Intervarsity in the Multiethnic Initiatives department. So a hundred percent of my time post-COVID is spent developing resources, um, to help people respond to the, what I would call white American folk religion. Um, this race-based, class-based, gender-based hierarchy that, um, operates and masquerades as, uh, faithfulness to Jesus. And so I get to every [00:05:00] day, think about what it looks like to, um, develop resources and experiences that help people leave colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, which is why, you know, I get to do that with KTF as well in a more focused way. Um, because I love books and I love media and I love the creation and distribution and production of it. And, um, I'm really, really hopeful that I'm able to continue to do that inside and outside of the work that I do with InterVarsity.
Sy Hoekstra: You're also a published author with InterVarsity Press, which I feel like we should talk about. White American Folk Religion, if you're thinking, "Hmm, what is that thing that Jonathan briefly described?" we will talk about it at length. He also wrote a whole book about it- 12 Lies That Hold America Captive: And the Truth That Sets Us Free. Is that right?
Jonathan Walton: That's exactly right.
Sy Hoekstra: I did it.
Jonathan Walton: Congratulations [chuckling].
Sy Hoekstra: Okay. Um, Suzie, tell the people who Suzie Lahoud is.
Suzie Lahoud: Hi. Yeah, I'm Suzie Lahoud. I'm also super grateful to be doing this, [00:06:00] mostly just to be able to have weekly conversations with you guys and the incredible guests that we're going to be having on this show and I'm grateful for the friendship, um, that that has developed with you all. Um, for, for those of you who don't know, Jonathan and Sy have been buddies since college, and I feel like I kind of got adopted into that just in this past year or so. Yeah.
Sy Hoekstra: For sure.
Suzie Lahoud: So as far as my background, uh, I am originally from the US. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but when I was eight years old, my family moved overseas to Uzbekistan.
My parents were missionaries there. My dad also started an NGO that did development work in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Um, so throughout high school, he was going back and forth into places like Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif on a monthly basis. And yeah, had a lot of really incredible formative experiences in that time, and then came back to the US for university and went back [00:07:00] overseas after finishing my undergrad and ended up in the Middle East in Lebanon and met my future husband there.
Felt like God was calling me to stick around there, so I ended up living in Lebanon for seven and a half years. And a lot of that time was spent doing relief work in response to the Syrian crisis. The war in Syria started my second year in Lebanon and so we started to see this massive influx of, of refugee families coming across the border and this unprecedented humanitarian need.
And so, um, yeah, I'm grateful that I had a mentor who kind of plucked me up out of my grad school program and trained me in relief and development work. And so I was able to do that on the ground, um, through my job and then also in, in partnership with my local church. So that was my reality and my husband's reality for um, for the rest of our time in Lebanon and then felt called to come back to [00:08:00] the States in 2017, to continue my education at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard. So did my Master's there and my husband and I are now still settled in the US in the Boston area with our 20 month-old, Nora, and my rapidly growing baby bump. So that's, that's something exciting on the horizon for us as well.
Sy Hoekstra: Yes.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.
Sy Hoekstra: Just cause I know you're a humble person and you're not going to brag on yourself: you speak Arabic and Russian, right, fluently? Both of them?
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. Yeah. Those two.
Sy Hoekstra: And other languages also, I think? Am I wrong about that?
Suzie Lahoud: Um, I would say mostly Arabic and Russian. I have a little bit of Uzbek, um, and, and I'm trying to work on my French, but, um, yeah, definitely nowhere near proficiency/ fluency with those other ones. It's mostly those two.
Sy Hoekstra: And then, I actually, I didn't ask John this, so we'll do this for both of you. Um, what did you study, Suzie? Both in undergrad and I know you've done Master's degrees also.
[00:09:00] Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. So, um, undergrad, I, I pursued a double major in Russian and Middle Eastern Studies. Uh, so that's what, what first sparked my interest in the Middle East. And, um, yeah, it was fun cause I got to spend, with my Russian studies, it was studying Soviet history, but also just a lot of Russian literature. Um, so you know, a lot of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Pushkin. Um, so that was, that was fun. And then I have two Master's degrees. One is from the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. It's actually a Master's in Religion in Middle Eastern Studies. So that was the degree that I completed while I was living in Lebanon. And, um, yeah, just at a, a local seminary. And then my Master's that I recently completed here, um, at Harvard.
Sy Hoekstra: Which was in what?
Suzie Lahoud: Middle Eastern Studies also. Yeah [laughs]. I'm one of those weird people that did two Master's degrees and then also in like some very similar things, although the [00:10:00] first one, because it was at a seminary again, it was focused on religion. So we were looking at, um, the history of Islam in the region, looking at the history of Christianity. So Eastern Christianity, which is really fascinating, and I think, um, even a lot of Christians don't know about that history. Uh, and so looking at the historical churches there and, um, you know, Muslim-Christian relations and peacebuilding, and also relief and development work, kind of all tied up together in that program.
And then the second degree was more sort of, uh, I would say towards the political science side of things and international relations.
Sy Hoekstra: Right. And Jonathan, your undergrad was Creative Writing. Your Master's was American Studies- is that right?
Jonathan Walton: Yeah, my undergrad was Theater up until my senior year and then it changed.
Sy Hoekstra: Oh, that's right!
Jonathan Walton: It changed to Creative Writing because the program was offered and my graduate degree is from CUNY City College. Um, it's a, Master's in the Study of the [00:11:00] Americas. It's an interdisciplinary degree. And, um, I really got to focus on, um, an intellectual history of Jerry Falwell. So, um, I know that for many of you, that sounds so exciting. Um, and riveting even, but yeah, so I have a very, you know, an academic level understanding of Jerry Falwell's work.
Um, and it is, um, I hope to continue that with a PhD in an American, in American studies, focusing on that. Um, and I also did a capstone project on, um, Jerry Falwell and his relations to political violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Sy Hoekstra: And again, a subject about which we will continue to talk.
Jonathan Walton: Yes. Yeah. And Sy, what about you?
Sy Hoekstra: Oh, thanks for the question, Jonathan [Sy and Jonathan chuckle]. Um, so I was born in North Dakota, um, where my mom grew up and my dad, uh, went to high school and college, and then they lived for a few years after they got married. [00:12:00] I was born there.We moved very soon thereafter.
A lot of my family has still lived there for a lot of my life so I go back a lot, but, um, uh, I grew up in a few different places in Michigan, Chicago, and New Jersey. I moved to New Jersey when I was, uh, not quite six and I had already been to three different places in Michigan and Chicago, all related to just my dad's job.
Um, and then, so when I was. I'll pause in Michigan for a second. Cause when I was 15 months old, we were living in Ann Arbor and, um, I was diagnosed with retinal cancer. So, um, I had it in both eyes and they had to remove one of my eyes and then the other one, they treated with a laser, um, surgery. Basically, they just, they killed the tumor with a laser, essentially, is what happened.
And, um, that treatment, not the tumor itself, but the laser left me with very little vision in that other eye. So I identify as blind. We'll get into the [00:13:00] complications of, um, what that means versus what people think it means at some other point, I'm sure. But I do have a little bit of, um, residual vision.
When I entered into preschool, they put me into basically a school that was only for disabled children, and this was after, not long, but after the ADA was passed, long after the Rehabilitation Act was passed, like, when this shouldn't be happening anymore. But I was just placed into a school with disabled children of all different kinds of disabilities, and then, um, later when I got into kindergarten, my parents, in particular, my mom fought really hard to get me into, um, uh, you know, a mainstream kindergarten as we would call it.
And that's kind of been a defining, uh, factor throughout my life is basically trying to prove to other people and to myself that I belong places, [00:14:00] which is, we will talk a lot more about this I'm sure. But that's an important thing to know about me. Uh, we moved to New Jersey. Then I was there from kindergarten through the end of seventh grade. And then I did eighth grade through 12th grade in Zurich, Switzerland also because of my dad's job, where I went to an international school. So I was speaking in English and, um, you know, learned German while I was there. Went to college in New York city, met Jonathan when I was 18, I guess, like my first orientation week of school.
Jonathan Walton: Yes, sir.
Sy Hoekstra: Um, yeah, right. Where I, where I also met, like, you know, several other lifelong friends and the woman I eventually married, so college is wild [laughs]. And, um, like all in that first week, literally.
Anyways, I, um, studied history, mostly focused on American history while I was there. Uh, as well as German literature, just to like sort of keep up the German language, which sadly I'm not as good at as I used to be because I don't have any reason to speak it anymore. [00:15:00] Um, but, um, I then spent a year after college working for International Justice Mission, um, as an intern working with like their mobilizing students basically. Went to law school, um, did a lot of work, uh, in criminal law on both sides of the aisle, prosecution/ defense. We will talk more about that. Um, I, I did some work in disability rights too, like in education law. So basically the attorneys who, who frankly do the kind of thing that my mom did when I was, when I was a kid and, and, you know, fight for people to get the accommodations that they need to be in the least restrictive educational environment.
Um, and then I did a few years working for a court for like a federal appeals court, um, as a, what's called a staff attorney, like working for the judges. So not like advocating for anyone, but, um, helping make decisions on certain kinds of cases. And then spent a few years as a public defender in the child welfare system.
Um, I just [00:16:00] stopped doing that job in December, but I represented the parents who had neglect and abuse cases brought against them. I was a defense attorney in that situation. And that makes a lot of people go, how could you do that? Why would you do that? That's a terrible thing to do. And we will talk about that reaction and that horrible, horrible system more I'm sure, in future.
All right. So now that we've given a bit of an introduction of ourselves, uh, let's talk about the tagline of our show, which is “leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God.” First of all, what do we mean when we talk about colonized faith?
Jonathan Walton: Yeah, I think I'll go first, um, because I think the biggest thing for me in even being a part of this project was taking these big ideas and actually making them extremely practical because I believe that Jesus coming out of heaven and putting on flesh and wrapping himself in a body like ours is literally, like, a big idea, like [00:17:00] becoming like the hands and feet of God, right. And I think that's the call of discipleship is to take these large things and make them as, um, as useful in everyday as possible. And so I would say that colonized faith is literally the, the faith idea that manages the colony and the United States is a post-colonial project that is now taken on the role of an empire around the world. And I think if I was to, to put, um, uh, if colonization was a stool, it would have three prongs- it'd be race, gender, and class. And then the seat is a false version of Jesus and Christianity, a false representation of the divine.
And so, um, I would say colonized faith is a race-based, class-based, gender-based hierarchy. Um, that is, uh, that masquerades as, um, the ultimate arbiter of all things good, just, and [00:18:00] beautiful. And so in the United States that looks like white Jesus downstream of post-colonial Europe, looks like false Jesus. And, um, we are constantly, I think, at, at odds with white supremacy, patriarchy and exploitative capitalism, um, or exploitative economic systems.
Sy Hoekstra: Suzie, what do you think of when you think of colonized faith?
Suzie Lahoud: Oh, man. I think what Jonathan said is about as good an answer as you're gonna get [Suzie and Sy chuckle]. Yeah, I think because, yeah, I mean, I think just like Jonathan said, you know, if you think about the, the colonial project, it's, it's a project rooted in white supremacy, um, that is inherently exploitative and dehumanizing, um, because it's all about yeah, placing, placing, profit over people and even over Creation. I think that's, that's something so important that's come out of sort of this, this emerging decolonization movement in [00:19:00] Christianity is voices like Dr. Randy Woodley, um, who talk about how we also need to reconnect with the earth with God's creation in, in all of its forms. Um, not just with our sense of humanity and upholding the Imago Dei. And, um, yeah, I think the way that that colonialism has seeped into our faith is again, I'm going to go back to Jonathan Walton, where he talks about White American Folk Religion.
Um, yeah, again, I don't think I can expand much on what Jonathan said, cause he literally wrote the book on this, but um, yeah, I'll just say amen [laughs].
Sy Hoekstra: So for me, when I think about it, I just think of like, there was a theology and a practice of our faith developed in the same context as colonialism designed to both accommodate and uphold a colonialist project that Europe was embarked on and the rest of the world and that America in a lot of ways continues. [00:20:00] And we'll talk about what that means, but yes, that's, that's kind of how I think of it really, really big zoomed out picture. And then I think a lot of the things that you guys said are like more concrete ways that that plays out. Does that make, would you guys agree with that?
Jonathan Walton: Yeah, absolutely. And I would say there's a way that colonization, pervades every place of life. Um, which is why also I think the Kingdom of God, you know, competes and goes into every space. And so if we call for the Kingdom of God to be present in every portion and piece of our lives, we must remember that the enemy, the flesh, and the world are at, at, in those spaces too, right.
And so, I would say like colonization, animates the intimacies of our lives. So how we speak to one another, who we think is valuable, what work we think is good, what jobs we would like to see ourselves in, like all of those things are downstream of, um, of this [00:21:00] project.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. And I think too, um, Sy you're, you're absolutely right that, yeah, those are, those are big picture terms and big picture ideas. And I think part of the work that we're interested in, in yeah, hopefully contributing to through this podcast and other things is breaking that down to the everyday and the nitty-gritty, because I think, you know, when you talk about being transformed by the renewing of your mind, I think part of that is disentangling your faith from these ideas and these ideologies and, and that's so much easier said than done.
Um, yeah, it's easy to speak in abstract terms, but I think it's when you get down to the ground level, what does racism look like in the everyday context? What does American imperialism in the Middle East look like in the everyday context?
Um, what are the, the theological ideas and concepts and beliefs that prop that up and support that and, and seeing how, how insidious they are. And, um, how sometimes it's difficult to [00:22:00] identify on the surface. Um, and so I think having, having conversations around that are so important to, to help folks understand and for us to continue to understand how we can root those ideas out and root those idols out. And, um, yeah, separate the wheat from the chaff.
Sy Hoekstra: So then let's talk about the second half of our little tagline here, um, “leaving colonized faith forthe Kingdom of God.” And, you know, specifically why, why we say that and why our title is Shake the Dust. What do those things mean to the two of you?
Suzie Lahoud: I mean, I'll jump in on just the, the second part. Um, but when we talk about leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, um, uh, I think I'll just share personally. Um, a real turning point for my husband and I theologically was realizing that following Christ is about so much more, and I know I'm not the first person to say this- there are a lot of folks saying this, um, but it's about so much more than just [00:23:00] praying a prayer and, um, you know, praying the sinner's prayer and then being, you know, quote unquote saved it. Really Christ preached about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven.
And so it's this expansive far-reaching idea and way of life. And it does mean justice. It does mean freedom from, from poverty and oppression. And it does mean that that's a part of what, what we are called to as disciples of Christ. And we need to look to the margins. We need to look to those who are in need. We need to look to the downtrodden, to those who are in bondage in, in real concrete ways.
You know, it's, it's tangible, this isn't just about people's spiritual wellbeing. We need to care about every aspect of humanity, this creation that, that God has, has blessed us with and entrusted to us as stewards on this earth. And so, yeah, I think really grasping the [00:24:00] expansiveness of what we're called to as followers of Christ is, is the beginning of that decolonization process, because as Jonathan was sharing, colonialism, the colonial project is so much rooted in, in this economic system of exploitation that just reduces everything down to so much less than what God intends. And I think in the same way, we've reduced our theology to just a sliver of what it was meant to be in a way that has just been completely, um, has completely erased what was meant to be there, what was meant to be proclaimed and lived out. And so I think it's bringing back that richness and that depth and that truth.
Sy Hoekstra: I think that one other thing that's worth pointing out about the "for the Kingdom of God" part of our tagline is that we, the three of us, are not trying [00:25:00] to decolonize or deconstruct or whatever word you want to use ourselves, like, out of the faith. Like the three of us, for various reasons, just don't, that's not the direction we're going. Like, we are very much, you know, committed to Jesus and his way, and we believe that he is the answer to a lot of the, um, problems that we see expressed in our colonized faith.
And so I don't think that, um, that, that doesn't mean that we have all the answers, right. Or that we know how to solve everything and whatever, I, we're just saying that for us, you know, like, like Peter says, like, "You have the words of eternal life." Uh, and that, you know, the, the faith that we've inherited in a lot of ways seeks to destroy, seeks to dehumanize. And we are, um, committed to a path where we follow Jesus out of it and disentangle, like Suzie said. Um, which is also something that, [00:26:00] a word that, um, uh, Ekemini from the Truth's Table podcast, which everybody should listen to, uses a lot, talking about disentangling our faith from what is just untrue, what comes to us from America, what comes to us from Europe, like idols that we have, um, that are not of God.
And so that's, that's kind of why I thought that that part of the tagline was important that like we have a direction we're going and we believe it's exactly the direction of the gospel. The good news of the Kingdom of God is at hand. And that thing about the gospel being bigger, uh, than just salvation, we talk about that a lot more in the interview that we're going to have, uh, next week with Rich Villodas. He goes into a lot of detail about that and makes it very practical about what it looks like for him to preach a gospel and leave the type of harmful faith that we're talking about while actually shepherding a church, which I think is a great conversation.
So I'm just plugging next week's show. That's what I'm doing [chuckles]. Uh, Jonathan your thoughts?
Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I mean, I, I [00:27:00] would not be a believer if it was not for the Kingdom of God and the descriptions that Jesus gives in the gospels. You know, when he says like, come unto me all who are heavy-laden, I will give you rest. When he, um, describes what it will look like for no one to hunger and thirst anymore. When Luke 14, where he lays out, you know, this banquet and that all people are invited and, you know, these images of God through Christ, by the power of the Spirit, like constantly uplifting oppressed people and not just uplifting oppressed people and leaving them where they're at, but like sending them on their way and saying, "I'm coming back, cause I'm gone to prepare a place for you," right.
Um, I think, not in the trite, like we all get to go to heaven sort of way, but in the, um, heaven has come near to you because the Kingdom of God is close in Christ is the most beautiful thing that I have ever encountered. On the flip side of that, I think [00:28:00] it is, um, depressing to me how many people don't want that.
And what, what they actually want is a faith that keeps the systems in place and keeps the structures in place and operates in an unidentified kind of way, and doesn't want to be canceled or called out or held accountable to anyone. And I think that is worth shaking the dust off and leaving to its own end because the wages of sin is always death.
And I think "shake the dust" for me means like, if we are faithful to sharing, if we are faithful to bearing witness in word and deed and power, like, to a Jesus that desires for all people to know that they are deeply loved by him, experience the flourishing that God intended, for all of us to flourish, work, rule, and create as he purposed in the beginning- if you don't want that, [00:29:00] like we can shake the dust off and go on.
There's something transformative about being honest, sharing the good news of Jesus in word, deed, and power with people for the long haul and then releasing their eschatological post-earth journeys, like, to them and God.
As opposed to what Brandi Miller talks about in her podcast, I believe with either, um, Sean Watkins or Pastor Michael Kim-Eubanks, he talks about, like, this false sense of urgency around sharing the gospel and reducing it down to a decision about heaven or hell. Whereas, like, the invitation from God is to be with him in all of what that means on this side of heaven and the next, or to not be with him, which is a very different question than like, am I going to suffer forever? Or like, [00:30:00] um, be singing forever, right?
Like these, these questions that are thrown at us are not the questions that Jesus invites us to in the gospel. The questions that Jesus invites us to in the gospel are super specific. To the rich man: do you want to sell all that you have, right, to come and follow me? To Peter: do you want to leave your father's business and what you know, to come and follow me and be the rock? Like, do you want to be a tax collector anymore, Matthew? These very specific invitations, I believe that we, what I would love to see us do is be able to invite people as best as we can to those specific calls from the Spirit, and then to shake the dust off the places that are actively trying to destroy and denigrate them.
Because that's what the enemy is trying to do, right. Like he just wants to steal, kill, and to destroy, which is exactly what colonizers came and want to do and, like, to go into the Kingdom. So all of the rambling that I just did, I hope was clear, [00:31:00] but, um, to shake the dust, I think means that and to, to seek the Kingdom, I think they have to go hand in hand.
Sy Hoekstra: The passage that "shake the dust" comes from, which is Matthew 10 and Luke 10, Jesus specifically tells his disciples, you know, go and preach the word and anyone who doesn't accept it, shake the dust off your feet and leave the town. Right? Like that's, that's the idea is if people aren't going to accept the gospel, leave. Leave and come follow me. Right? Like that's where we, I think we're very much, you know, of the mind that the Great Commission is, is about making disciples, not converts, right? Like obviously you have to convert people to make disciples. But I mean, that, that was what Jesus said. Go and make disciples of the nations, not go and get people to read the sinner's prayer and then you're good. Right?
Like, and then the corollary to that is the gospel being, like, about the Kingdom and bringing people [00:32:00] into, being ambassadors of a coming kingdom that is near and not just bringing people to heaven, right. Um, that passage in Matthew 10 is also like the context of it as Jesus is telling his disciples specifically to go to the lost sheep of Israel. He says, don't go to the Gentiles and don't go to the Samaritans who were ethnically Jewish, but they were considered like religiously impure for various reasons. He's saying go to the people who are like, who identify with me and preach the word to them. And if they don't accept your word, leave.
So I think that's like a lot of what we're doing now is we have a lot of people in the US today who very much identify with Jesus, but who are not willing to accept his word when it comes to making any sacrifices to their own, like, power or sense of being the, morally the best or the people who should be wielding like actual levers of power, you know?
So I think that's part of why the title [00:33:00] was important to me too. And, and we want to talk to people about actually walking out of spaces, like literal places, churches, you know, universities, whatever, where people are unwilling to accept the Word of God. That's obviously something, we're not saying, we're, we're not prescribing one way to do that for all people, for all places. Obviously you need nuance and wisdom, but that is, um, something that we genuinely want to encourage.
Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I, I do think people need nuance and wisdom. And at the same time, I think our hope building on that side is like, we need to describe what it looks like to practically leave the plantations that we've been put on because a lot of the spaces that we're in- the churches, the seminaries, like we are forced to perform in ways that are not transformative, helpful, or reflective of the gospel so that we can achieve some formed collective result that has nothing to do with Scripture in spiritual spaces. And I'm guilty of that, which we [00:34:00] will get into in our podcast when we talk about, um, what it looks like to fight sex trafficking and slavery from an evangelical perspective, right.
Um, it's, it's one of those things where like, um, we actively have to leave the spiritual plantations and the physical plantations that we are on, uh, because God has called us to physical and spiritual freedom. Like, the gospel is liberation. Um, there is no liberation theology it's just meeting Jesus is liberation from captivity, in so many ways. And so, or in every way, actually.
Sy Hoekstra: You're using, um, plantation as, as a metaphor. Why?
Jonathan Walton: Oh. I'm using plantation as a metaphor, because if we leave a colonized faith, colonies set up plantations to produce resources that they could then sell, right. And so I believe in a lot of ways, the spiritual institutions that we have propped up are actually like spiritual plantations, except cotton has been replaced with books and resources. [00:35:00] And, you know, we, we sign book deals, you get another book deal, you get another resource, you get like, it's this mill of content that's actually produced for consumption, not for hagah, which what it means to literally chew on the Word of God that we might know him more perfectly.
Sy Hoekstra: And we're going to try and be very careful not to do that ourselves because we have a Christian media company. So we're going to try, and you know what, we might screw up and then hopefully we'll realize that and say, we're sorry, and do better. That's our general goal. Suzie, any more thoughts?
Suzie Lahoud: Um, I mean, I think the only thing I would add is one way it's been helpful for me to think about this is, is really spiritual divestment.
So when you guys talk about the need for nuance and discernment, when it comes to, you know, what does it look like to shake the dust? I think it's, are you, are you a part of an institution, of a community of faith where you can see collective renewal in, in ceasing to invest [00:36:00] in ideas and, and endeavors that are dehumanizing and destructive ultimately. Um, can you, can you be a part of that renewal? And if there is ongoing resistance to that, then I think you need to, you know, pick up your shoes and go.
Um, so I think, I think that's where it, for me, even as I try to discern these things in my own life, because it can be, can be tricky and difficult and painful, I think that that's the real question is can you see that, that spiritual divestment take place because it needs to take place. Um, so does it need to take place through work that you're going to commit to doing and creating a community to do, to move the place that you are towards where it needs to be.
Um, and if you're in a situation where that's not going to happen, you need to leave because you need to not invest your time and your energy and your tithes in, in something that's, that's only going to contribute to [00:37:00] a project that ultimately is counter to what God desires.
Sy Hoekstra: All right. So the last thing we're going to talk about before we explain to everybody what exactly it is that we're doing at KTF Press, this little company we have, um, why do we think it's important to center and elevate the voices of marginalized people?
Actually, I'm going to answer that question and then I'll kick it to you guys.
Um, I just think from a very practical standpoint, the people who best understand what's happening in a colonized faith are going to be the people who were, um, victimized by it. That doesn't mean that anybody who's victimized by something understands it or that anyone who's a part of, um, you know, uh, harmful faith, doesn't understand what's going on. And you know, there's no magic bullet. This isn't ideological or simple your, your, you know, your position, your status in society, doesn't determine everything about you and how you think. But, it is, I think just pretty logical that the [00:38:00] people to whom the harm has happened are going to understand how the harm works and affects, um, themselves and their communities better than the people who perpetrated the harm and who have a whole theology designed to, uh, uphold and make them accept the harm that is being perpetrated.
So, um, and again, you can be someone who is in both camps, right? Like it's, it's not a split right down the middle. It's not a 50/50, here's the oppressors, and here's the oppressed. I think it's, for me, it is really simple and straightforward. Like we need to hear from voices that we haven't heard from, if we want to leave harmful theology, right.
The thing that's going to get you out of a system that's based on harmful theology is not going to be the harmful theology or the people who came up with it. That's like, that should be a pretty obvious thing, I think. But I think when you say something like center and elevate marginalized voices, people have [00:39:00] maybe like a lot of baggage that comes into hearing that, um, sort of language.
And so, uh, that's kind of the way that I bring it down to a real ground level. How about you guys?
Jonathan Walton: The answer for me is, I'll try to be as quick as possible, and Audre Lorde, amazing poet, writer, author, womanist, feminist said, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." Um, and on top of that, she also said, "Your silence will not protect you."
Um, and so I, I believe that like, there is a measure of power that I've been given by the Kingdom of God in this world to, to wield. And I have no idea what it's like to live downstream of patriarchy. I need to ask women about that. I don't know what it's like to have land theft happen to my people. I know what it's like to pray and think through being the thing that was stolen, right. Um, [00:40:00] but I need to ask indigenous people what it's like to care for land that is still being taken in a genocide that is still in progress, right. And so I'm not going to ask a thief who has stolen things to then go fix the thing that they were stealing. I'm not interested in doing that. I'm interested in, what does it look like to create something new?
And therefore, I need to ask the people for whom the thing that was taken was most cherished. Right? And so I'm interested in going to Jesus. I'm interested in going to the oppressed. I'm interested in going to the marginalized so that we can create something new, not just a re-envisioning of the people who were taking and abusing and violating in the first place.
Um, and so I'm excited to see my daughter go to the bookstore and see books by women of color and women from diverse backgrounds. And men who understand and are asking questions to be [00:41:00] answered by people who know what it's like to be downstream of patriarchy. And, you know, for her to pick up an anthology and read voices that are translated from places downstream of the American empire, right?
Like, I want her to be able to see that. And right now she can't do that at Barnes & Noble, because of COVID, because you can't go in stores [laughs], but she wouldn't be able to do that, um, I want her to be able to do that on the local bookstore's website where she could pick that up. You know what I mean? So...
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, I mean, I, when we talk about centering and elevating marginalized voices, I think, yeah, it, that's not as like a pity project. Um, that's, that's me personally saying those are the voices that I need to hear. And Sy you spoke about how we're not doing this because we think we have all the answers. I know I certainly don't have all the answers.
Um, I have more questions than anything, and I think I've come to this increasing realization that I need new resources [00:42:00] to, to go to. I need new people that I can listen to. I need new books that I can read, you know, just like Jonathan was sharing. Um, and it's not that those voices aren't out there. Um, and so if we can play any role in bringing those, those prophetic people to the fore, then, you know, I'm grateful to be a part of that and, and to platform them and to, to enter into the work that they're already doing, but then a lot of people aren't even aware of, tragically.
And I think, you know, the starting point for all that is that the white American church is in deep trouble right now. And, um, let me just say, if that's still a question for you. Like if you, if you don't, you're not sure you agree with that statement, I'm not sure this podcast is going to be for you. That's kind of our launching point into all of these discussions that, um, something's not right. And we, we are at a really scary point, um, in, in white American evangelicalism, [00:43:00] specifically.
And, and just as Jonathan and Sy were sharing it's, um, it's not the same leaders that we've looked to in the past that are going to be able to get us, uh, get us out of this morass. Um, and so, yeah, I, this is, you know, me being a part of this project personally is me, you know, coming thirsty and, and, and knowing that these are the fountains of wisdom and deep, painful experience, um, deep, painful, prophetic experience. Those are the folks that, that are gonna give me the words of wisdom that I need to hear to, to grow and to dismantle and to change. And, um, that's what we need to see is redemptive, transformative change. So yeah, that's, that's kind of our launching point and our desire in all of this.
Sy Hoekstra: So here's what we're doing. Actually, I'll start by talking about here's what we did. Because Suzie has that conviction, [00:44:00] she put a project together last year, where we published a book called Keeping the Faith. It was an anthology of Christians who were specifically writing about why they weren't, um, voting for Donald Trump, but putting it in terms of the idols and the principalities and powers within American Christianity, that support for him represented and reflected.
And so that book kind of charts a way for people to move forward, comes from a lot of different diverse perspectives from within the church. Um, people who don't even necessarily agree with each other on all things, who we don't necessarily agree with on all things, but it was, uh, I think a really, um, special collection of, of, um, uh, voices.
We formed a company when we made that book and that's KTF Press. And now through that, we're doing this podcast. We also have a weekly newsletter that you can get by going to KTFpress.com. It's going to be, uh, basically, the frame [00:45:00] is "media worthy of your time and attention as you seek to leave colonized faith for the Kingdom of God." We're going to highlight, um, all kinds of these voices that we've been talking about.
Uh, and we're going to also have writing from the three of us on politics and faith and culture, and, um, all sorts of things as we go on this journey with all of you. There's going to be some free content from that blog. We're also going to have a paid subscription version, which we would be so appreciative if any of you were willing to sign up for, because that's what's going to support this show.
That's, what's going to support future book projects that we have planned that are in the works. That's going to support the continued writing on the blog. We also want to bring in other people to write for the blog, but we also want to pay them a fair amount for the work that they do, which is unfortunately, not the norm in the, in the writer world.
So, um, KTFpress.com is where you can go to sign up. It's where you can go to get on the free mailing list and to subscribe to the paid [00:46:00] version of the blog. If you cannot, uh, subscribe to the paid version of the blog right now, we completely understand. We would still, uh, really appreciate it if you just subscribe to this show, sign up for the free mailing list, you can rate and review this show wherever you're listening. All those things are extremely helpful to us and we really, really appreciate it. The anthology that we published last year is available at keepingthefaithbook.com, and we would also appreciate it if you check that out.
Okay. So we're going to see you next week. We have interviews coming up with Rich Villodas, Sandra Maria Van Opstal, Lamar Hardwick, Chuck Armstrong. A lot of different people who have a lot of great things to say. We've already recorded a bunch of them and they are, uh, fantastic. We think you're gonna love them. So to stay up to date, follow us @KTFPress on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Our theme song on this show, which we are so thankful for, is the song "Citizens" by Jon Guerra. We really appreciate him letting us use, uh, his song as our theme song. He, he got involved kind of early on, uh, in the book project and has just [00:47:00] been really supportive and friendly and great. And our fantastic podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam. You can follow her on Instagram @JacquelineTam. It's J-A-C-Q-U-E-L-I-N-E-T-A-M. Uh, you can see, and you can find links to purchase her work there.
Thank you so much for listening and we will see you all next week.
[“Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades 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.]
[Loud crackling noise followed by loud crunching]
Sy Hoekstra: Jonathan, you cannot eat that while we record. You understand that, right? [Suzie and Jonathan laugh. Jonathan continues to chuckle as he munches loudly.] You get your chips in now, and then we, you gotta stop.
[More crunching as Sy laughs]
Suzie Lahoud: Today's episode [00:48:00] will be hosted from inside Jonathan Walton's chip bag.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, exactly, right? [chuckling]
Jonathan Walton: Guys, guys, we should totally endorse Should Taste Good brand, which is the best name ever.
Sy Hoekstra: Should, should taste good?
Jonathan Walton: I'm sorry, Food Should Taste Good.
Sy Hoekstra: I feel like if you're branding, you want to specifically tell people that your food tastes good.
Not like the concept that food in general should taste good.
Suzie Lahoud: [laughs] Don't leave it as an open-ended question.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Right!