The Disconnect.

I’ve been reading Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil’s new book, Roadmap to Reconciliation, and it has been rocking my world. I came across one thing she said and it made me stop, "What we believe about God will tell us what we believe about people, and what we believe about people will tell us what kinds of communities and societies we believe we should strive to create."

This is it. This truth is why I get so passionate about justice issues, about equity, about any situation where someone's treated like their life is valued less. This is why it’s hard for me to understand why we don’t talk about the hard things and stand up for the right things in church. This is why it’s hard for me to believe someone who professes to follow Jesus can be racist, homophobic or turn a blind eye to such broken systems like our education and criminal justice systems.

Our theology informs everything we do, how we view people, the decisions we make, the causes we take up. Theology is just what we believe about God. If we really believe everyone was created in God's image then we would treat them like they did. If we really believed that God meant it when he said to love our neighbors and even our would change how we treated others. If we really believed God meant it when he said to take care of widows and orphans or that he's on the side of justice...wouldn't we care more about justice? Wouldn't we believe we should be doing everything we can to bring more love into the world and help create a place that affirms that image of God in others? If we believed God created the earth and all that inhabits it and declared it good, why wouldn’t we help steward that and care for it well?


I think we’ve allowed a disconnect to happen between what we believe about God, what we believe about people and what kind of communities we should strive to create. We don’t see how they’re connected. We lose sight of how our theology should shape how we treat people and if your theology involves following Jesus it should be rooted in one thing…love.

This is why it matters that we stand and declare that #blacklivesmatter because we recognize that for too long they’ve been treated like they don’t. Because my theology professes that each human is stamped with the image of God and that no life matters more than another. So I should be outraged and broken over the fact that there are too many examples of how white lives matter more. I can't turn a blind eye to that.

This is why it matters that we stand and declare that refugees should be welcome here or that our goal isn't to isolate ourselves from "outsiders." No amount of American exceptionalism should trump our theology. Because what we believe about God will tell us what we believe about people  and what we believe about people will tell us about what kinds of communities we believe we should create…and I’m pretty sure Jesus said to welcome the stranger and to not neglect showing hospitality to strangers. If we believe everything else he says…we can’t ignore the things that make us uncomfortable.

I’m tired of living in a world of disconnect. I ache over the lack of shalom in our world, but I believe there’s a better way. I believe God is love. I believe God created each of us in his image, therefore declaring that we have value, worth and that we belong. Everyone. No questions. No exceptions. I believe God is on the side of the oppressed and on the side of justice. I believe God has shown us what kinds of communities and societies we should strive to create when we pray your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We should strive to create communities and societies where everyone is welcome and loved. Where grace is shown and kindness is a universal language. Where the table is big enough for everyone. Where we are peacemakers and we remember that we belong to each other. Where we live into the truth that God loves us and out of the overflow of that love we are able to love each other.

I believe in a world built on connection, where the disconnect is no longer present because we remember that what we believe about God tells us what we believe about people and what we believe about people tells us what kind of communities we should strive to create.

And if it all starts with what we believe about God well...God is love.


Last week, a horrific, evil act happened in Charleston...motivated by racism and hate. I've had this post sitting in my drafts section since I heard about it. I would type and erase, type and erase, sit and stare, and cry and cry and cry, so angry, so sad. I've been reading and listening a lot...partly in fear that anything I would say may not be the right thing, partly because who am I to even comment and partly because I wanted to hear from others, but ultimately coming to the conclusion that I cannot be silent. Feeling so angry about it all and while yes, it's hard to wrap your head around such evil, I can wrap my head around the attitudes and culture of whiteness and white supremacy that moved him there...because it's everywhere. I refuse to sweep it under the rug as just a hate crime that is isolated to this "white guy who was a loner" or explain it away as "it's just sin". It's more than that. There is nothing new about this killer's worldview. As Joshua DuBois says, "Yes, the killer was deranged, but he simply had a more extreme version of a common malady." (please read the article that comes from here). It's a further example of the racial injustices and racism that courses through the veins of our country and our society. And yes, while I was born white, a fact that does give me privilege and power, I was not born silent, I do not have to invoke that privilege and distance myself from this awful event, among so many others, and forget.

My dear white brothers and sisters, we cannot be silent and complacent, like @feministgriote said, "Black folks did not create racism, anti-blackness, or white supremacy, therefore it is not our issue to fix." Karon Walrond, says it well too. We can't even blame it just on a "white supremacist." As Nancy Rust says, "We can’t call it that because it lets too many White people off the hook.  The average White person (AWP) in America will look at the headlines, recoil at the sickening pictures and deplorable details circulating about Dylann Roof and then declare, “Wow, is he crazy or what? ...Until we are able to acknowledge the system that allows these acts to flourish, we will get nowhere.” 

Austin Channing, talks about how white supremacy affects everyone and says that we have two choices, we can acknowledge that and work to uproot it or we can let it grow...we are either nurturing love or hate. And knowing that those of us who are white, when we say things like it's not "all of us", that really isn't a comfort, but rather creates distance. So to her I say, “I see this sin in my own heart, my own life, my own church and I am working to uproot it. I don’t want to be this way, and I will do the work to submit this ugliness before Christ.”

To my black brothers and sisters, I am sorry. I am sorry that you are made to feel that your lives do not matter because they absolutely do. I am sorry your experiences are discredited and ignored. I am sorry you have to live in fear and for the pain, anger and injustice you experience, that I know I will never fully understand. I am sorry for the way I have distanced myself from things before because it was easy and have not stood up and worked to uproot this sickness.

There are so many more things that could be said, so many more articles or videos shared, so many more "explanations" about why white supremacy, white culture, whiteness is a thing (explanations shouldn't even be needed...just look around) but is a time for lamenting. A time where it's hard to see the hope, joy, peace and reconciliation that should exist. Where people refuse to be comforted and join in prophetic grieving. When these beautiful people in their place of worship welcomed a stranger and then were gunned down for their hospitality and grace, with the only crime being the color of their's a time to lament. It's a time to remember the victims of this tragedy and say their names because THEIR LIVES MATTER: Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., and Rev. Sharonda Singleton.

(p.s. please take the time to read all the links. Also, the sermon below by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is worth the 30 minutes)


It's About More...

A few months ago, I went to a church that was holding a panel on racial reconciliation. The pastor asked the panel, why should Christians care about this talk of race, reconciliation and justice? One individual responded about how we have to because it's what we should be about. He talked about how we too often take the pieces of God that we like, people cling to the piece that has the most in it for them and what they like the most, the salvation piece. We take the piece of God we like...the salvation piece. Too many people's version of Christianity is just concerned with our souls. It's all about going to heaven. I remember spending many days and nights worried as a kid that if I sinned, wasn't able to ask for forgiveness and then died, I would go to hell because I didn't ask for forgiveness and my soul wouldn't be clean because my Sunday School teacher told me that was true. This is just really bad theology in my opinion, made me live in fear for a long time and totally made me miss out on the beauty of the gospel. (and makes me realize that I was way too worried about deep things at a young age...these were my thoughts as an eight year old. Anyway...).

Our souls are very important...obviously. Salvation is important...but God has so much more for us. We don't get to just decide "we want to go to heaven" and take that piece of God and leave it at that. God is so much bigger than that. People ask me why I care so much about justice and equality and I honestly, truly think it's because we're supposed to. As people who believe in this great big God and claim to follow Jesus, we have to care about justice and equality. We have to care about our neighbors and what is happening to them. We have to remember that every single person is created in God's image and we are called to love each other well. We have to remember that when we claim to follow Jesus, we committed to be a part of a bigger story, that we decided to be a part of God's Kingdom coming here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Many people have said about me before, "Abby...justice and loving and caring too much is her 'thing'", but it shouldn't just be my "thing". It should be all of our "things". (And you know I'm no expert or that great at it, so we all need to be in this together!)

I was at the Justice Conference last weekend and got to hear Dr. Cornel West speak and one thing he said really stuck out to me...he said, as people who say they follow Jesus, we have to be about love and justice. They're not equal, but their indivisible. If our faith and beliefs are rooted and all about love, with that comes justice. To me, it just makes sense, that's what my theology is about.

We can't just take the pieces of God we like.  We can't ignore the injustices that happen around us. We can't think that the goal in life is just to make it to heaven. It's about so much more than that.

"The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial." - MLK Jr.