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White Privilege


There’s no denying who I am. I am a white, middle-class, straight, American, Christian male. I, and others like me, and we are legion, we are many, and we are in control of the American culture.

I have more power over my life than most others around the world. I didn’t steal this power from others. It was given to me by a generation of white males that didn’t steal it either. I’m not sure how far back we’d have to go to find the culprits but somewhere along the way (there are definite benchmark though), someone took power that wasn’t theirs to take. Using and benefiting from power that isn’t mine to begin with makes me complicit in the act of theft.

If someone steals a television from their neighbor and sells it to me without telling me it’s stolen, I cannot be held responsible for the theft. I may still have the privilege of using it and watching cable and movies on it but I’m not aware it shouldn’t be mine to begin with.

Once I learn the television is stolen (wake up), I have a moral and social responsibility to address this problem. If, instead, I just keep using the television, knowing it was stolen, I am complicit and an accessory to the act and I am equally responsible for the harm committed against the neighbor from which the television was stolen from.

I order to stay asleep (in denial about my privilege) I have to morally disengage. You can read about that here. Moral disengagement is the cognitive process where we justify our harmful actions towards others. It’s mental gymnastics.

I have come to the conclusion this year that I have not only profited greatly from this privilege but have sought to protect it by personally and systematically oppressing other people groups, other beloved children of God. I have undergone a personal, internal awakening, one in which I have become painfully aware of the origins of my privilege and the toll it has taken on others. Here’s a great post on how white people experience white privilege.

I once heard a talk at a conference in which the speaker talked about three phases of change; orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. 2016 has been a period of disorientation and I’m hoping 2017 will be a reorientation to a new normal. The disorientation started long ago but I became acutely aware of it this year while reading the following:

Peter’s Vision

9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

I spent the better part of the past year meeting with, talking to, interviewing and blogging and speaking about marginalized and vulnerable populations of people; LGBTQ youth, heroin users, racial minorities, refugees, people with disabilities, and people in the criminal justice system and the more time I spent listening to them the more ashamed I became of myself. I also became ashamed of my faith, for it was guilty of the same thing.

The focus of what I’ve learned this year is the danger of having too much (personal and corporate) dominance over a culture and how the systems that govern it may be contributing to a larger problem that will impact our personal and corporate faith for a long time to come.

As a white, middle-class, straight, American, Christian male, I am part of the power structure at the top of the ladder. When any group rises to the top it is often accompanied by a sense of privilege. It’s the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” mentality. And, it often happens without its members even knowing it. As a result of one group believing it has privilege, another group consequentially is oppressed. I have and you do not.

In other words, if people from the dominant groups, in this case, me, really saw privilege and oppression as unacceptable – if white people saw race as their issues, if men saw gender as a men’s issue, if heterosexuals saw heterosexism as their problem – privilege and oppression wouldn’t have much of a place in the future of the church. But that isn’t what’s happening. Dominant groups don’t often engage these issues, and when they do, it’s not for long or with much effect, and rarely do they address the systemic causes. I had developed throughout the course of my life; toxic ownership, entitled sense of power and control, unequal distribution of that power and control, a fear of scarcity, and a homogenous community.

When asked “How or Why?” certain responses pour out without hesitation. Because I benefited most in the dominant culture I don’t see privilege as a problem. Why couldn’t I see it?

  • Because I didn’t know in the first place. I was oblivious to it. The reality of privilege doesn’t occur to me because I don’t go out of my way to see it or ask about it and because no one dares bring it up for fear of making things worse. I also have no understanding of how my privilege actually oppresses others.
  • Because I don’t have to. If you point it out to me, I may acknowledge that the trouble exists. Otherwise, I don’t pay attention, because privilege shields me from its consequences. There is nothing to compel my attention except, perhaps, when a school shooting or sexual harassment lawsuit or a race riot or celebrity murder trial disrupts the natural flow of things.
  • Because I think it’s just a personal problem. I thought individuals usually get what they deserve, which makes the problem just a sum of individual troubles. This means that if whites or males get more than others, it’s because we have it coming – we work harder, we’re smarter, more capable. If other people get less, it’s up to them to do something about it.
  • Because I want to protect my privilege. On some level, I think I knew I benefited from the status quo and I just didn’t want to change. I felt a sense of entitlement, that I deserved everything I have and wanted, including whatever advantages I have over others.
  • Because I was prejudiced – racist, sexist, heterosexist, classist. My attitudes use to be consciously hostile towards blacks, women, lesbians, gay men, the poor. I believed in the superiority of my group, and the belief is like a high, thick wall. I developed circular reasoning to protect against myself against cognitive dissonance.
  • Because I was afraid. I may be sympathetic to doing something about the trouble, but I was afraid of being blamed for it if I acknowledge that it exists. I was afraid of being saddled with guilt just for being white or male or middle-class, attacked and no place to hide. I was even more afraid that members of my own group – other whites, other heterosexuals, other men, the ones that affirm my power – will reject me if I break ranks and call attention to issues of privilege, making people feel uncomfortable or threatened.

So there you have it. That’s me, or more accurately, the old me. A work is being done in me, as I look back throughout the last decade, especially as I look back over the last year and what has brought me to the place I am today. In my heart I want to have this vile, evil purged from me. I want to do the right thing.

Although doing the right thing can be morally compelling, it usually rests on a sense of obligation to principle more that to people, which can lead to disconnection (injustice) rather than to restorative justice (reconnection). I take care of my children, for example, not because it’s the right thing to do and the neighbors would disapprove if I didn’t, but because I feel a sense of connection to them that carries with it an automatic sense of responsibility for their well-being. The less connected to them I feel, the less responsibility I feel. It isn’t that I owe them something as a debtor owes a creditor; it’s rather that my life is bound up in their lives and theirs in mine, which means that what happens to them in a sense also happens to me. I don’t experience them as “others” whom I decide to help because it’s the right thing to do and I’m feeling charitable at the moment. The family is something larger than myself that I participate in, and I can’t be a part of that without paying attention to what goes on in it and how everyone is affected.

So, maybe that’s where I start today, maybe that’s where we all start…paying more attention to all the members of the family. Not just the few that look like us. But, it can’t just end there, as it usually does. We must share our lives and resources, breach cross-cultural barriers, take risk, and sacrifice our comfort if the church is to ever be what God intended for it to be.

Where do you see privilege in your heart and your community? Where do you see overt or subtle oppression? What unconscious biases are you becoming more aware of? What conversations do we need to start? How are our youth being shaped by privilege and oppression? Do we have real friendships with people not from our tribe? Do you have ideas and beliefs about people but don’t intimately break bread with them on a regular basis? Maybe that’s where we all start…That’s what Peter did when the Spirit showed him the vision. It took him three viewings, so know that we’ll struggle with this initially. That’s ok, embrace the disorientation and trust that God wants to reorient you to a new way of thinking, living and loving.

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013


 

Top-10

So 2013 was an amazing year for our ministry.  Some of the highlights we increased speaking and writing opportunities, new partnerships and more importantly, new friends.  Below are the TOP 10 blog posts of 2013.  Thanks so much for support CotF.  We believe in the work we are called to do and hope to continue that work into the new year.

 1.   Engaging Resistant Students in Youth Ministry

 2.   The Importance if the Imago Dei in Youth Ministry

 3.   Sex: A Little Porn Never Hurt Anyone

 4.   Sex: Porn Zombies

 5.   Sex: There’s An App For That

 6.   Youth Ministry and the Glee Effect

 7.   Moral Disengagement: Bombers, School Shooters, and Bullies

 8.   Incarnational Ministry to LGBTQ Students

 9.   Credibility in Youth Ministry

 10. Trauma Stewardship in Youth Ministry

 Honorable Mention:   The Power of Permission in Youth Ministry

 I’ve also been given the honor of blogging on one of the most popular youth ministry blogs morethandodgeball.com on the topic of Soul Care.  This is a recent partnership with Group Publishing (SYMC and KidMin) and part of my new job is to coordinate their ministry to pastors/workers called The Shelter.  I’ll be blogging over there periodically and there are some other really great bloggers there so give it a look.

Moral Disengagement: Bombers, School Shootings, and Bullying


google_moralityThis post will be pretty clinical in nature but I think it is important to understand just what goes through the mind of an individual that detonates a bomb at the finish line of a marathon, or enters an elementary school and unloads on unsuspecting children, or the bully that relentlessly victimized that Aspie at school, or that spouse that steps out on his partner, or any number of us who have compromised our convictions, great or small.

Albert Bandura (born December 4, 1925, in Mundare, Alberta, Canada) is a psychologist who is the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. For almost six decades, he has been responsible for contributions to many fields of psychology, including social cognitive theory, therapy and personality psychology, and was also influential in the transition between behaviorism and cognitive psychology.  He developed the Moral Disengagement theory in which he describes eight different mechanisms by which people disengage from moral self-control.

Reprehensible Behaviors

One important factor in engaging pro-social thinking/behaviors is the need for activation.  Moral self-control does not come into play if it is not triggered by empathy.  If moral self-control is only partially triggered or fails to activate completely, the individual will become disengaged humane conduct and anti-social behavior can be shown without the negative consequences of one’s self.

  •  Moral Justification:  this is an attempt to describe how the behavior serves a moral right, acceptable or even desirable outcome or purpose.
  •  Soft Labeling:  The label given to certain behaviors that attempts to “clean up” the negative or harmful actions, making them smoother and more acceptable.
  •  Advantageous Comparison:  This is the tendency to contrast negative or harmful behaviors against perceived greater wrongdoings.

Detrimental Effects

A necessity for moral control is the acknowledgement of one’s own wrongdoing.  If, however, the responsibility for the harm one causes is obscured, the possibility of acknowledgement of responsibility and self-control is lessened drastically.

  •  Displacement of Responsibility:  This works by distorting the relationship between actions and the effects they cause. People behave in ways they would normally oppose if a legitimate authority accepts responsibility for the consequences of that behavior.
  •  Diffusion of Responsibility:  This is when the services of many people, where each performs a task that seems harmless in itself, can enable people to behave inhumanely collectively, because no single person feels responsible.

For moral self-control to exist, not only the behavior itself and responsibility for the behavior have to be accepted, but also the (negative) effects of the anti-social behavior have to acknowledge. 

  •  Minimizing, Ignoring, or Distort the Consequences:  The farther removed individuals are from the destructive consequences, the weaker the restraining power of guilt is regarding the effects of the behavior.

View of the Victim

The degree to which moral self-control takes place depends on the way the individual perpetrators view the people they mistreat.

  •  Dehumanizing:  These means the loss of all human features, i.e., feelings, hopes, wishes, concerns, and therefore are viewed as an inhumane “object”.
  •  Attribution of Blame:  Similar to the mechanisms of displacement and diffusion of responsibility, the consequences of a person’s wrongdoings can only be dealt with if the person accepts responsibility for his or her engagement in anti-social behavior.  Often the victim or external source is blamed as the cause of the destructive behavior, therefore the behavior is seem only as a reaction to provocation through other circumstances, leading to feelings of justification or self-righteousness.

We are all capable of these kind of justification regardless of the offense.  Whether you are lying to your boss to get off work early or are manipulating a loved one to get what you want.  These mechanisms are in play. 

Pay attention this week to your own thoughts and behaviors as well as those of your students to see if you can identify moral disengagement.  If you can, then maybe we’re all in need of some supernatural interventions.

Privilege And Oppression In The American Church


There’s no denying that there are a handful of Evangelical churches that largely shape and control the American Christian culture.  You can probably think of a handful of them right off the top of your head.  Those churches have contributed much to the Kingdom and this post is not an attempt to argue whether their success is God-driven or marketing-driven.  Regardless, many necessary issues/concerns have been addressed by churches like this and they honored and glorified God in the process.

The focus of this post is the danger of having too much dominance over a culture and how the systems that govern many of these churches may be contributing to a larger problem that will impact our faith for a long time to come.

When any group rises to the top it is often accompanied by a sense of privilege.  It’s the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” mentality.  And, it often happens without its members even knowing it.  As a result of one group believing it is privileged another group consequentially is oppressed by the very nature of this belief system.  I have and you do not.

In other words, if dominant groups, in this case, larger affluent churches, really saw privilege and oppression as unacceptable – if white people saw race as their issues, if men saw gender as a men’s issue, if heterosexuals saw heterosexism as their problem – privilege and oppression wouldn’t have much of a place in the future of the church.  But that isn’t what’s happening.  Dominant groups don’t often engage these issues, and when they do, it’s not for very long or with much effect, and rarely do they address the systemic causes.

When asked “Why not?” certain responses pour out without hesitation.  These dominant church don’t see privilege as a problem.

  • Because they don’t know it exists in the first place.  They’re oblivious to it.  The reality of privilege doesn’t occur to them because they don’t go out of their way to see it or ask about it and because no one dares bring it up for fear of making things worse.  They also have no understanding of how their privilege actually oppresses others.
  • Because they don’t have to.  If you point it out to them, they may acknowledge that the trouble exists.  Otherwise, they don’t pay attention, because privilege insulates them from its consequences.  There is nothing to compel their attention except, perhaps, when a school shooting or sexual harassment lawsuit or a race riot or celebrity murder trial disrupts the natural flow of things.
  • Because they think it’s just a personal problem.  They think individuals usually get what they deserve, which makes the trouble just a sum of individual troubles.  This means that if whites or males get more than others, it’s because they have it coming – they work harder, they’re smarter, more capable.  If other people get less, it’s up to them to do something about it.
  • Because they want to protect their privilege.  On some level, they know they benefit from the status quo and they don’t want to change.  Many feel a sense of entitlement, that they deserve everything they have, including whatever advantages they have over others. 
  • Because their prejudiced – racist, sexist, heterosexist, classist.  They’re consciously hostile towards blacks, women, lesbians, gay men, the poor.  They believe in the superiority of their group, and the belief is like a high, thick wall. 
  • Because they’re afraid.  They may be sympathetic to doing something about the trouble, but they’re afraid of being blamed for it if they acknowledge that it exists.  They’re afraid of being saddled with guilt just for being white or male or middle-class, attacked and no place to hide.  They’re even more afraid that members of their own group – other whites, other heterosexuals, other men – will reject them if they break ranks and call attention to issues of privilege, making people feel uncomfortable or threatened.

Although doing the right thing can be morally compelling, it usually rests on a sense of obligation to principle more that to people, which can lead to disconnection (injustice) rather than to restorative justice (reconnection).  I take care of my children, for example, not because it’s the right thing to do and the neighbors would disapprove if I didn’t, but because I feel a sense of connection to them that carries with it an automatic sense of responsibility for their welfare.  The less connected to them I feel, the less responsible I’ll feel.  It isn’t that I owe them something as a debtor owes a creditor; it’s rather that my life is bound up in their lives and their in mine, which means that what happens to them in a sense also happens to me.  I don’t experience them as “others” whom I decide to help because it’s the right thing to do and I’m feeling charitable at the moment.  The family is something larger than myself that I participate in, and I can’t be a part of that without paying attention to what goes on in it.

Maybe that’s where we start…paying attention to all the members of the family.  No just the few in my club that look like me.  But, it can’t end there, as it usually does.  We must share resources, breach cross-cultural barriers, take risk, and sacrifice if the church is to ever be what God intended for it to be.

Where do you see privilege in your community?  Where do you see oppression?  What conversations do we need to start?  How are our youth being shaped by privilege and oppression?

——————————————————–

excerpts taken from:

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson

Interesting Statistics On Cell Phone Usage


Cell Phone Usage
Via: Online IT Degree

Sometimes It Blows Up In Your Face


You pour your life into students, let someone else pour some life into you. At the National Youth Workers Convention they create an environment where times of worship, seminar speakers, and communicators pour some life back into you. Learn more at http://nywc.com/

French Gay Friendly McDonald’s Commercial Causing Quite A Stir


There’s a new viral ad for McDonald’s in France that’s causing quite a stir.  What are you’re thoughts on the video?  What do you like about the ad?  What do you dislike about the ad?  How can this stimulate healthy discussion about the issue of LGBTQ teens?

UYWI West Coast Conference


We have the awesome privilege of spending next week with urban youth workers from all over the country.  This is a unique and amazing tribe of people.  If you work with urban youth I’d like to invite you to join us for a week of training, rest, and fun. 

We’re leading two workshops at the conference this year on developing healing communities and current behavioral trends for at-risk youth.

Other presenters this year are:

Mobile Phones and Adolescent Depression


By Ian Ball

There are increased problems associated with the improper usages of mobile phones by adolescents; however, modern technological advancements also put its footsteps to use mobile phones as a wonderful device to identify adolescent depression. The Murdoch Children Research Institute claims for the crown in this aspect exclusively for its wonderful innovation.

The Murdoch Children Research Institute

The Murdoch Children Research Institute offers its valuable contribution to the field of research primarily focusing on different health aspects of children and adolescents. It is considered as the one of major child health research institutes around the world. The research team comprises of 900 passionate research scholars who are continuously contributing in the research era with their detailed understanding and creative aptitude.

The Innovation

The Murdoch Children Research Institute is offering a Java-based mobile application that enables an understanding of observation and early identification of warning-sign of adolescent depression. It is assumed to be first ever made application that can be used for such purpose.

The research had been conducted in Australia with a focus group consisting of 40 young individuals. The adolescents were supplied with Nokia 6260 where the application was pre-loaded.

As noted by Dr. Sophie Reid, adolescents’ anxiety and depression have become one of the major complications that need to take into serious consideration. The present strength of the adolescent sufferers may include a population of more than 30% and there is an increased possibility that this complication will strike the nation as one of the serious ones during 2020.

The application will primarily concern the idea how youngsters responds to the signal of distress. The application collects all the relevant data pertaining to the adolescents’ response to distress; this essentially comes out with several questionnaires popping up on the screen in a regular interval.

After one week, the researchers downloaded all the data using Bluetooth technology or infrared facilities and then analyzed the data.

The Future

However the application is a promising one in order to find out a real-time application for monitoring and detecting changes in health aspects. In recent future, the researchers are expecting to implement automated code generation technology to make the system more sophisticated refraining from the need to employ programmers. It also plans to include voice capturing facilities especially for open-ended questions. The Murdoch Children Research Institute collaborated with Harvard Medical Institute to make a safer place for implementing this technology in near future.

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