What in the world is a girl like me doing talking about social justice?

Earlier this week, someone asked me to record something that I had written in the past for her podcast.  She wanted it to have a social justice theme.  Her theme for this season is “amplify” and I was looking for something I had written that might make sense and fit within these parameters.  I quickly realized that I have written very little in the last three years. A few Instagram posts. A lot of papers for school, but nothing substantial that made sense.  It caused me to go back and look at my old blogs from the early days of bringing my adopted sons from foster care into my life. Looking back, I could see the threads that God was weaving together that brought me to this place. And after having a podcast url for nearly two years, the time is now.

When I started writing, I originally wrote about childhood trauma and raising boys of color.  I thought I was ready for that season. Even as a single parent, I felt equipped. I have a masters in marriage and family counseling; I have worked in group homes. I did overnight shifts in youth detention centers. I had seen the trauma.  I am a reasonably patient person. But I quickly learned that none of that prepared me for the next decade. I now see it as a slow process, which is continuing. The process of God telling me to let go of thinking I have any control of anything. And the process of standing up for those who often don’t have a voice.

With all that, I started researching childhood trauma, how it affects children, how it affects adults, and how it crosses generations.  I started an LLC to train non-profits in trauma-informed work. I learned how trauma sits in our DNA and is passed on through generations. I got engaged in racial “reconciliation” work as I felt called to speak out about social justice issues.  I experienced the difference between raising my younger boys and raising my white son.  I engaged with people and writers and started to see how the church had hurt so many of our sisters and brothers of color by ignoring their pain. I engaged with these sisters who have felt this pain, sadly, by the white church in our inability to address social justice and race and white people’s (in general) inability to listen to their experiences. 

I never meant to talk about social justice. 

In fact, those who knew me in my younger years might be surprised that the compliant little girl they knew would step out on a topic that seems fraught with misinterpretation. I was a do-gooder and a rule follower growing up.  Always fearful to rock the boat or do anything to make someone mad at me (real or imagined).

But clearly, life doesn’t always turn out like you think it will.  I ventured out on the ledge and immediately got intense pushback about being a socialist or a Marxist. I struggled to understand how people did not see that Jesus lived social justice. I returned to school to start a master’s in theology and social justice to ensure my words were grounded in Biblical truth.

So here we are. You may see yourself in the words you hear; you may be angry; you may quit listening; you may argue; you may feel guilty or defensive; or you build a wall so the truth cannot penetrate.  I have experienced all of those feelings. It is hard work to look at things that make us uncomfortable, things that rock the status quo of our lives. In addition, I needed to look at the church’s role and inability to address the systems that have caused pain. As followers of Jesus, we can be part of the problem. 

The justice and mercy part of Jesus

The original idea of this podcast was to tell my story and to share the history of the white evangelical church and race.  I even started a book on it. As I studied and learned. I listened to the pain in my sisters’ voices.  I saw how systems and generations of being the offspring of those systems created more trauma, particularly in a world that didn’t seem to value black or brown lives. White evangelicals seem to miss some of that when we are in our privileged spaces. I also experienced the pain that my boys felt. Trauma is hard to understand. It shows up in strange ways. It does not exhibit itself as a compliant kid, which is the standard as a good Christian parent. Clearly, I had failed in that respect if that was the goal. I began to see that the church needs to be about the work of Jesus. The justice and mercy part of Jesus.

As my podcast season starts in late January, I jump into a series I call “what white people should know about race” for Black History Month. Weekly podcasts drop on Tuesdays, and my Jesus, Justice, and Mercy Instagram will have daily posts that add to the topics we discuss. After that, I will jump into a month-long series about social justice in the Bible, starting in the Old Testament and working our way through.  I have some other episodes planned, but I hope to see what resonates with you all on this topic.

So here I am. Hoping to create a safe place to ask questions and wrestle with some hard topics. With all the books, articles, and stories and a commitment to never quit searching, I am a witness that no matter where you start, you can learn.  God has called us to do better. So put on your armor and take a deep breath. Do whatever you need to do and let’s begin.  Because at least for me, silence and complicity are no longer options.

Episode link here

 

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