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HIV/AIDS and Youth At-Risk (A Harm-Reduction Approach)


This purpose of this post is to educate the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people and to highlight the work young people are doing across the country to respond to the epidemic.

Today’s young people are one of the first generations to never know a world without HIV and AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24. Every month, 1,000 young people are infected with HIV and over 76,400 young people are currently living with HIV across the country. While there has been much talk about an AIDS-free generation, we know that this is not possible without focusing on our nation’s youth and their various intersections.

 

Here are some suggestions for youth that are at a high risk:

 

  • Get tested for HIV, alone or with your partner. To find a testing site near you call the CDC National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) / TTY: 1-888-232-6348 (24/7) or find the nearest testing center in your area/health department.
  • If you have HIV, start treatment as soon as possible with HIV medicines (also known as antiretroviral therapy or ART), and stay on treatment. ART can lower the level of virus in your body enough to improve your health, prolong your life, and prevent you from spreading HIV to others. For enrollment in HIV Care: hivcareconnect.com
  • Get tested and treated for other STDs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, and insist that your partners do too. Being infected with other STDs makes you more likely to get HIV.
  • Choose not to have sex or choose to have sex with one partner and agree to be sexually active only with each other. Both of you should get tested for HIV, and share your test results before you decide to have sex.
  • Choose lessrisky sexual behaviors. Anal sex, especially if you are the receptive partner, is the highest-risk sexual activity for getting HIV. Vaginal sex is much less risky, and oral sex carries much less risk than anal or vaginal sex
  • Use latex male condoms or female condoms correctly every time you have anal or vaginal sex. Condoms are the only effective form of birth control that also helps reduce the risk of transmitting HIV and most other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
  • Talk to your doctor about HIV medicines to prevent HIV infection (known as PrEP) if you routinely have sex with someone who has or may have HIV.
  • See a doctor immediately if you have sex with someone who has or may have HIV if you are not already taking PrEP. Starting medicine (known as PEP) within three days after a possible exposure reduces the chance of getting HIV: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/pep.html
  • Limit the number of people you have sex with. The fewer partners you have, the less likely you are to have sex with someone who is infected with HIV.
  • Don’t share injection drug equipment, such as needles, syringes, works, or anything that might bring you into contact with someone else’s blood or bodily fluids.

Chris Wade, HIV Care Connect Project Coordinator

Illinois Public Health Association, HIV Care Connect

CWade@ipha.com

HIV Care Connect is a program of the Illinois Public Health Association and is funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health http://hivcareconnect.com

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What about the “T” in LGBTQIA+?


More and more transgender people have come out in recent years. With the popularity of the reality show “I am Jazz”, a show about the journey of a transgender adolescent trying to navigate school, dating, and gender, the public transition of Caitlyn Jenner, and the rise of the #metoo movement challenging toxic gender expressions, we appears we are in the midst of another sexual revolution.

We have also seen the rise of what our transgender brothers and sisters have been saying for decades, which is discrimination, dehumanization, hostility, violence and even murder of trans people.

A 2014 survey on transgender discrimination in the United States reports startling data; 41% of transgender adults have attempted suicide compared to the overall population (1.6%). The numbers only get worse from there: 90% report having experienced harassment or discrimination at work, 57% have experienced significant family rejection, 26% have been fired for who they are, and 19% have experienced homelessness because of their gender identity. In recent years, the number of trans people who have been murdered has gone up too, in particular, trans women of color.

With this information in mind, consider this famous parable, as explored by author Austen Hartke (transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians):

Luke 15:4-7 The Message (MSG)

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

Many of us probably heard this story for the first time as children – it’s a Sunday school favorite, and for good reason! It’s incredibly comforting to imagine yourself as the lost sheep, riding back home on Jesus’ shoulders after an exciting but ill-advised adventure. There are times when this story is exactly the gospel message we need – when we need to hear that we are worthy of God’s love, and the God will risk everything to have us back home again.

But what if we imagined this story a different way? What is the lost sheep didn’t wander away from the safety and goodness of the shepherd? What if it was just trying to escape the cruelty of the flock? Sheep will occasionally pick out a flock member who doesn’t fit in – maybe because of an injury or a strange marking – and they’ll chase that individual away. There are times when I think Christians need to see ourselves more in the ninety-nine sheep who stayed put, and ask ourselves if we may have been a part of the reason that the lost sheep got lost in the first place.

As a ministry professional, are you committed to holding the front door open for all who seek the welcome of its sanctuary or have you placed your foot behind the door so they cannot get in?

How many “lost sheep” are there because we have chased them away?

How do we help them find their way back home?


chrisChris Schaffner is a counselor and veteran youth worker. He is also the founder of CONVERSATIONS ON THE FRINGE. CotF is an organization seeking creative and innovative ways to bridge the gap between the mental health community and those entities (particularly schools and churches) that serve youth in contemporary society.

June 2018 LGBT Pride Month and Queer Youth


June is National LGBT Pride month. Here at Conversations on the Fringe, we celebrate the beauty of diversity. In doing so, we are dedicating the entire month of June to exploring the world of LGBTQIA+ youth. We will explore several themes written by several writers, all from diverse backgrounds.

We want to be clear about the Rules of Engagement up front. Please read the following:

1.) Be Kind and Courteous

We’re all in this together to create a welcoming environment. Let’s treat everyone with respect. Healthy dialogue, even when difficult, is natural, but kindness is required.

2.) No Hate Speech or Bullying

Make sure everyone feels safe. Bullying of any kind isn’t allowed, and degrading comments about things like race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender or identity will not be tolerated.

3.) No Promotions or Spam

Give more than you take to this conversation. Listening might be the most significant thing you do. Self-promotion, spam, and irrelevant links aren’t allowed.

4.) Respect Everyone

Being part of this group requires mutual trust. Authentic, expressive discussions make the site great, but may also be sensitive and private. Disrespecting someone will get your comment immediately removed and you will likely be blocked from the site.

Thanks,

CotF Admin

Thirteen Reasons Why (Season 2) Is Back


The controversial Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why is back for its sophomore season. The producers promised to further delve into the challenging subject matter initiated in season one, placing the spotlight on sexual assault and gun violence.

We’re busy at work developing discussion guides for season two but, in the meantime, here are our discussion guides for each episode of season one:

Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion Guides: Season One

If you are not familiar with the subject content of this series, BE WARNED. Each episode has content that can be triggering to people who have experienced trauma and/or suffer from depression and self-injury.

It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that the series be watched with parents or other adults to help process the strong visual content and to help manage the risk of triggering stimulus. If you are particularly vulnerable to strong visual triggers, it is recommended you not watch. 

If you, at any time, feel helpless and hopeless and are considering harming yourself or contemplating taking your life, please call one of the hotlines below to talk with a trained staff member immediately, call 9-1-1, or go to your closest emergency room.

 

What We’re Reading


The War On Kids: How American Juvenile Justice Lost Its Way 

“Dramatically and rapidly, though, the United States became an international outliner in the severity of its juvenile sentencing practices. Each year in America, police arrest more than one million juveniles, and about 250,000 of those kids are charged with a crime and processed in adult court. In some states, children as young as six can be transferred out of juvenile court into adult court without any judicial oversight. Once there, they face sentences – often mandatory ones – that were drafted with adults in mind. If convicted, these children are sentenced to a term of years in a correctional facility fraught with problems, not the least of which is that it was designed for adults. Until 2005, the United States was the only developed country that subjected children to the death penalty, and today we are the only nation that employs juvenile life without parole. Because of their physical and mental vulnerability, youth inmates experience the highest rates of sexual and physical assault, as well as suicide. The Pope, U.N. officials, and international human rights organizations have condemned American juvenile sentencing practices.

So how did we abandon the groundbreaking model of juvenile justice that we constructed only a little more than a century ago?”

 

How To Say Goodbye (The Voices Project ep. 13)


How do you say goodbye?  It seems like such an existential question and yet it is one that has come up all too often for me as of late. It is one thing to have to say good-bye and move on from people who are your friends. But how do you say goodbye to clients? How do you say goodbye to the people who have trusted you in such an implicit way?

In this blog, I talk about giving a voice to the voiceless. I try to invite the reader in to understand the lives of some individuals who may never have the chance to tell you their stories from their own perspective. I have been privileged to be able to be a person in so many people’s lives who are given the gift of receiving those stories; to bear witness to their pain, their struggle, their hopes, their joys and to weave it all together into this story that is theirs uniquely and worthy of dignity.  And then to share it with all of you, in hopes that we can be more compassionate and more merciful to one another.

There is a sacred trust when someone comes in and starts to unpack their lives in front of you. When they pull out the snippets of sentences that will begin to form their stories, they often hand them to you a piece at a time with shaking fingers and trembling hearts, so accustomed are they to rejection.  And I, by no virtue of my own, other than this determination of my heart to use it in the service of others, was God able to use me to help provide them with that shred of dignity they so desperately needed.

But here is the crux of the issue. When you work in this field, there is high turnover, people get moved, people leave to further their education, whatever the case may be; they go. For ourselves, our clients are individual stories we are compiling which will make up the tapestry of our experiences. But for our clients, we are the dogged protagonist who plays the important role of creating an environment in which change begins to feel possible. We are not bit players, we are perhaps the only character in their story that is willing to see beyond their present circumstances, and we hold their hope in our hands, and then we say goodbye. Sometimes, as it was in a few of my situations, it is an abrupt goodbye. There was not the necessary time to prepare or to make a plan to transition them to someone else. Or to prepare their hearts and psyches for yet another change, another person who is walking away. When you work with the most vulnerable populations, leaving feels cruel, and yet it is at times, unavoidable.

So how do you leave?  How? In my case, I had one lunchtime. I had one hope that all the usual players would assemble and that I would be able to take a few minutes with each to tell them how blessed I was that they gave me their trust, that they shared their voice with me. To tell them that someone else would come behind me and pick up where I left off and that everything would be OK.  There were the ones who asked me why? Why could I not stay at least until……until the housing came through? Until they got their I.D. until they got their 3-month coin from AA they were so excited to show me. Until they found out about the job interview they had just gone on…until. But worst yet were the ones, who simply said, of course, you are leaving.

There are no answers and this blog post is never about a simple answer.

The answer to how you say goodbye, is that you simply can’t.

I carry them all with me. I carry Frank and Chelsea, and Greg, and Shannon, and John…and they become a part of how I will approach the next person, and the next. They have all taught me so much, and there is no way for me to just leave them behind. And so I incorporate their stories and I guard them. I tell people who are complaining about “those schizophrenics who hang out in the library”, what it was like to watch Greg get his first paycheck.  Or when people say that you can’t build trust with a person who has been so brutalized by past abuse, I tell them what it was like the first time Shannon came in and sat next to me in church. When people say that a pedophile can only be treated as the monsters that they are, I will tell them about my friend who found his first job after 29 years in prison, and to celebrate he distributed clean socks and hygiene products he purchased with his first paycheck, to the people living in their cars at the truck stop. I will tell people that we are all a sum total of our stories, and these stories are vast and wide and can’t be put into a category or boiled down to simple experience. I will tell them that saying goodbye means breaking my heart a little wider so that God can fill it more deeply.

In the job that I do, in the organization I work for, we are told that we don’t say goodbye, we say see you later. And so this is what I said on my last day there, see you later.  Because I will; I will see pieces of them in every client that I ever serve. Stories told with the human voice are so powerful, because they can be retold and passed on. It is a sacred trust, and one I don’t take lightly. Not Goodbye. See you later.  


Karen Cassidy (stmichaelcas@gmail.com)

Karen is a mother of three amazing adult children. She works for a non-profit organization that serves some of the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals. She is passionate about people and believes every person has a story just waiting to be told.

Lessons on the Ascension: From my very wise 6th-12th grade youth


In my church growing up, the Ascension was rarely discussed or touched on. The only way I really knew about it was through our monthly reciting of the Apostle’s Creed on communion Sunday: “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty.” But even though I recited this every month, I didn’t really understand what the Ascension was about or recognized its significance for Jesus’ followers 2000 years later.

However, in the past few years serving in my Lutheran congregations, I have come to appreciate and see the Ascension as something really important in our Christian life.

I have my 6th-12th grade Lutheran youth to thank for this.

In these past several years, my youth have led the joint Ascension worship service for our three ELCA congregations in our neighborhood, Edgewater, which is on the north side of the city of Chicago. (Our youth ministry is a joint ministry among these three congregations and consists of youth from each of them, as well as some youth from the neighborhood.) Every year, I have asked a few of my youth to look over the different texts for Ascension Day, reflect on them, and write a short homily for our service.

Every year, I have learned from my youth and have been touched by their thoughtful reflections on the Ascension and how it is important for our Christian way of life today.

As several of my young preachers have suggested, it must have been extremely difficult for the disciples to deal with this emotional roller coaster of watching Jesus journey toward his horrific death on the cross and grieving as they thought they’d never see their dear friend and teacher again, then being surprised and thrilled to have him back in their lives, only to then be left by him once again as he ascends into heaven to sit at God’s right hand.

What the heck!?

As Steve (who was a 7th grader at the time) said in his sermon several years ago: “I mean: to see Jesus die on the cross, come back and then just randomly go to heaven. That must have been hard for the disciples. If I were one of the disciples at that time I would have felt as though Jesus was playing tricks with me the whole time, and to be honest, I would have probably felt that he abandoned me.”

I think many of us today can relate to this feeling. Throughout my work as a pastor with youth and children, I have heard numerous stories about experiences of abandonment… by my youth’s peers, by their most trusted friends, by family members, by politicians who don’t make decisions that promote equal rights for their families, and even sometimes by the Church. And I’m sure this is not just a common story for our young people today… I know too well that – though we may not share these struggles as openly as we grow older – the more years we’ve lived life on this earth and the more people we have encountered, the more times we have experienced abandonment.

And as humans, we too often place God in our own image; telling ourselves that this human abandonment in our lives is proof that God has abandoned us, as well.  

Just when God has come to be with us in the flesh, Jesus dies on the cross, and just as we get comfortable knowing he has returned to us through his resurrection, he ascends into a place that we too often feel is far, far away… up into heaven.

And we are like those early disciples, left looking up towards the sky, wondering in our darkest moments: “Where in the world are you, God!? Why have you abandoned me!?”

As Luz explained in her sermon her sophomore year of high school: “Throughout my life I lost hope in God. I did not believe he was there with me in the Holy Spirit anymore. I believed he left me for good like he left the disciples… This year, things were pretty rough… and I lost hope. I thought that things would never be okay again.”

And yet, in the Ascension, Jesus doesn’t just leave the disciples abandoned and alone, as they stand on the ground gazing hopelessly up at the sky.  And in the Ascension, Jesus doesn’t just leave us on the ground abandoned, alone, and hopeless alongside those disciples, either. 

In the Ascension, all of Jesus’ disciples receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: even though God will no longer be physically present with the disciples through the Son on earth, God will be present with them always through the Holy Spirit.

Kai (a 6th grader at the time) explained: “After Jesus ascends to heaven, these angels appear to the apostles and tell them to stop looking for Jesus in the sky. What I think they meant by this was that the apostles would never see him come back to earth again. So, instead of looking for Jesus in the sky, they should look for Jesus all around them. And this is also a message for us today. No, we’ll probably never physically see Jesus. But we can see the people that represent Jesus. The church community is the first thing that comes to my mind. We all represent Jesus in the good things we do. I mean, we’re not the perfect servants of God. Nobody is perfect. But we see people do good things for other people all the time… As a church community, we help, we serve God and others, too. We pray. We forgive and also ask to be forgivenThat’s just the little part of God inside of us that tells us to do good.  So WE are the Jesus of the Earth.”

And as Luz continues in her sermon: “[Although I thought that things would never be okay again], I was wrong. In the midst of my toughest times, I felt God’s presence with me and within me. He never left my side. I started noticing the little things that made me know God is here.” She explains how our youth group has embraced her and loved her for who she truly is and how it is in them and through them, that she knows God is present. Then she urges the congregation: “Just sit for a moment. Think about how the Lord has blessed your life even through all the obstacles you’re going through. Jesus went through many similar obstacles, too. And yet, God blessed him. We are all brothers and sisters, we are all alike no matter what we’ve been through or are going through right now. I know at one point I was confused like the disciples, about how Jesus could just leave us, but honestly, he never did because he’s in you, and you and even you. Our Christ is everywhere.”

And this is where we see the meat of the Ascension message. This is where we see and hear our great commission. When Jesus was building his ministry here on earth: preaching good news to the poor, and proclaiming release to the captives, he began his work of empowering and equipping others to do so, as well…

Because this work is not just his work: it is the work of all of his followers.

And the Ascension is where Jesus passes on this great work to all of us. It is when Jesus declares that though he will no longer be physically on this earth to preach the good news himself, his work will continue… in and through each one of us. 

And we can continue to do this work through the power we receive in the Holy Spirit as we share and build that power by being witnesses of God’s love.

As Ngbarezere, who was a 9th grader when he preached his sermon said: “The Holy Spirit gives us a choice to act, and we have a decision to do the act for good or for evil. This is the power Jesus was talking about, the ability to do good or bad, the choice is ours.”

Steve expands on this: “[Jesus] calls his disciples to be his witnesses, not just witnesses, but witnesses to the ends of the earth. Now, what do you really think it means to be a witness? These disciples had seen some pretty amazing things and I think Jesus wanted these disciples to tell people what they had seen… So how [does this] form us in our lives today? To me, the end’s of the earth is at our Care for Real food pantry, which is only a few blocks away from here, where we are witnesses of God’s love when we help all of these hungry people get food and feel loved.”

And Ngbarezere adds:  “Jesus said ‘And you will be my witnesses…’ How are we witnesses? With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be Jesus’ witnesses to all people – to follow in Jesus’ footsteps of loving the oppressed and standing up for justice and equality.

Here’s an example of standing up for justice and equality… A couple months ago I attended a community meeting, and the main cause for it was that they were about to close MY school down. Of course, I had to go, and although going helped a lot, I felt I could do a lot more due to the fact that it was MY school. I not only marched with over 500 people, but I also said a speech in front of 500 people, of how I felt about [the city] trying to close MY school down. (They didn’t close the school down by the way).

Now, how do we love the oppressed? We can contribute to changing their day by simply saying a hello. A simple hello can change somebody’s mood, like for another example; I was at the Care For Real food pantry and I was helping distribute the food. Every time I saw someone I tried having a small conversation with them, hoping that I can lighten their day in any way possible. Although tiring, I enjoy going there every time I can to help out. This is an act of what Jesus meant. During these periods of time, I used the abilities that I had for good, for justice, and equality, and each of them contributed in a positive way… When we leave here today, I want you- No even better, I challenge you – every day to receive the Holy Spirit and become a witness of Jesus.”

As my wise young preachers have articulated, the Ascension is not an event that we should just gloss over. It is an event that is central to our Christian faith and how we must consider what it means to live as followers of Jesus.

Jesus did not just leave us alone and powerless when he ascended… He left us with empowerment through the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we, too, can be witnesses of God’s love to the ends of the earth.

This Ascension day, may you be blessed by these wise words of my amazing youth who are doing just that.


Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran.  She runs a collaborative, multicultural youth group that consists of youth from the three congregations as well as youth from the neighborhood. Emily loves hiking in the mountains, attending indie and bluegrass concerts, biking along Lake Michigan, and singing opera and musical theatre. She has a heart for youth, justice, and the Huskers, and can often be seen with coffee or a Guinness. Emily is one of the writers for The Pastoral Is Political feature on HTTPS://REVGALBLOGPALS.ORG. You can find more of her reflections, sermons, and youth ministry ideas on her blog at HTTP://MUSINGSFROMABRICOLAGE.WORDPRESS.COM and connect with her on twitter at @PASTOREMILYH.

I am Racist


Dear white sisters, brothers, siblings:

I have a very difficult confession to make.

I am racist.

I wish so much that I wasn’t. I try so hard not to be. But I am.

I think this is such a difficult confession to make because we often think people who are racist are “bad” and are intentionally hateful. Yes, there are many people who say and do overtly racist things. But the truth is, most people who are racist are good and well-meaning people, who don’t want to be racist, try their hardest not to be, and don’t even realize they are.

You see, I don’t belong to extremist groups like the KKK, call people racist names, or say things that are overtly racist. I even shut down jokes and call out comments that I recognize are racist. And yet, I am still racist.

I grew up in a diverse town and went to diverse schools. I currently live and work in a diverse community, and I have friends, colleagues, parishioners, neighbors, mentors and even a family member who are persons of color. And yet, I am still racist.

I follow people of color on facebook and twitter, read books and articles about racism and white privilege, attend anti-racism workshops, preach and teach in my churches about racism and white privilege, and participate in marches and rallies that address systemic racism.

But despite all of this: I am still racist.

Why?

Because my entire life I have been socialized to be. I have been conditioned to see the world through my eyes (the eyes that belong to a white body, which is the kind of body our society has supported, deemed the “norm,” and uplifted as superior for 400+ years.)

My school textbooks have been written from a white perspective. My television shows, movies, and books have been dominated by characters who look like me. The media I follow often perpetuates harmful racialized stereotypes and biases – no matter how progressive it might be.

Despite that my family taught me that all people were created in God’s image and deserve to be treated equally, I am still racist.  When I first see a person of color, I still sometimes fail to see her as an individual and instead see her as a stereotype. When I hear people of color share their stories of being racially profiled or denied upward mobility in their workplaces, I still sometimes question if their experiences are valid. There are still times I say, think, or do things that I don’t even realize are racist and that perpetuate systemic racism. There are still times when I worry too much about ticking off my white friends or accidentally saying something that is offensive to my friends of color that I don’t speak up when I should. There are still times when I am in the virtual or physical spaces of my siblings of color and I end up wanting to center myself. And when people call me out on any of this, there are still times I feel defensive and focus more on my own discomfort than on the fact that black and brown lives matter more than my feelings.

You see, as a white person who was raised in a country that was founded on white supremacy (the belief that white people are inherently superior to people who are not) and that throughout its history has continued to reinforce this white supremacy through social and political forces (slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipeline, glass ceilings, racial profiling, racialized policing – to name just a few), it is extremely difficult to shed myself fully from my own racist views, biases, thoughts, and ways I believe the world should function… No matter how hard I try.

I am stuck in this 400-year-old deeply engrained racialized system that not even the activists of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s could completely free us from.

And I benefit from this system. My whiteness is a privilege in it.

For example, as a white person, people look at me as an individual, not a stereotype. I will never be denied a loan, housing, or job interview because of my skin color. A store clerk will never follow me closely to ensure I don’t steal anything, and I will never be taken advantage of by a car salesperson because of my whiteness. I have always had access to quality education and upward mobility. My white body is not seen as a threat. People will not call the cops if they see me taking a walk in their neighborhood past sundown or quickly move to the other side of the road when they see me walking on the sidewalk where they are walking. I will not be pulled over in my car for no reason or on my bike because I look “suspicious.” And if I do get pulled over, I will never have to worry that if I reach for my ID in my pocket, make a quick move, or even mouth back, I could get shot.

Among many things, racism denies the humanity in God’s beloved children and fails to see that God created all God’s children good, in God’s image, and beautifully and wonderfully just the way they are.

Racism is a painful and deadly sin.

And I am racist.

I live in a racialized society dominated by racist systems that were founded by white supremacy. And I benefit from and contribute to these systems.

Now, this may sound incredibly hopeless.

But it is not.

Because as Christians, we believe that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he freed the world from its bondage to sin. Does this mean we are no longer sinners? Of course not. Because we are human.

But this does mean that we no longer have to be bound to sin. 

When we confess our sins in the presence of God and one another, our sin loses its power over us. Confession leads us toward repentance, whereby the grace of God – our hearts, minds, and thoughts begin to be transformed and we start to turn away from our sins.

And whenever we turn away from something, we also turn toward something in the opposite direction. In this case, when we turn away from our sins of racism and white privilege, we turn toward a life of being anti-racists. But we cannot just turn away from our sin, turn toward a new way of life, and then pat ourselves on the back and go on our merry way. We must continuously and actively move toward this new way of life.

Since the sins of racism and white privilege are so deeply ingrained in us and in the racialized systems we participate in and are conditioned by, we must actively check our privilege and racism, confess it, repent of it, and be moved to take action. We must do this over and over and over again.

While I am still racist, I choose to not let racism and white privilege dominate who I am.

I choose to be actively anti-racist.

I choose to learn about and become more aware of my white privilege and how I can work to dismantle it and the harmful racialized systems of which I am a part. I choose to listen to and learn from the voices and the cries of my siblings of color, to show up, and to grieve and stand with them in their pain and anger. I choose to speak with my white friends, neighbors, parishioners, and family members about white privilege and interpersonal and systemic racism. I choose not to allow my discomfort, embarrassment, guilt, defensiveness, or the mistakes I have made (and will make) to take over me and hold me back from doing this important work.

While this new way of life is really difficult, in the Christian tradition, we believe that we do not pursue this way of life alone. We do this with the help of God and with one another.

So, fellow white siblings, will you join me in this holy anti-racism work of calling out and dismantling our white privilege, white supremacy, and the racialized systems we are conditioned by and benefit from? Will you support me and encourage me? Will you help open my eyes to the ways in which I am still blind to my own white privilege and racism?

I need you. We need each other. So let us do this holy work together.

And as we begin this work through confession, repentance, and action, let us hold onto the beautiful gift we have: that God, who is rich in mercy, loves us even when we were dead in sin and made us alive together with Christ.

In Jesus Christ, we are indeed forgiven! So now together let us act!


This blog post was originally published at https://revgalblogpals.org/2016/07/18/the-pastoral-is-political-i-am-racist/ and is reposted with permission. RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use the material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.


If you are interested in further exploring race and racism, white privilege and systems of white supremacy, and how to be a good ally, contact us today to schedule our one-day workshop, Race and Racism: A Visitor’s Guide to Deconstructing Whiteness.


Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran.  She runs a collaborative, multicultural youth group that consists of youth from the three congregations as well as youth from the neighborhood. Emily loves hiking in the mountains, attending indie and bluegrass concerts, biking along Lake Michigan, and singing opera and musical theatre. She has a heart for youth, justice, and the Huskers, and can often be seen with coffee or a Guinness. Emily is one of the writers for The Pastoral Is Political feature on HTTPS://REVGALBLOGPALS.ORG. You can find more of her reflections, sermons, and youth ministry ideas on her blog at HTTP://MUSINGSFROMABRICOLAGE.WORDPRESS.COM and connect with her on twitter at @PASTOREMILYH.

Throwing Stones


“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This popular childhood mantra is used as a bulwark against verbal assaults. Words matter.

Throughout history, stones have been used to tell stories. Ancient cultures arranged massive stones (megaliths) for sacred contexts. The pyramids in Egypt and South America, the numerous monuments near Bouar in the Central African Republic, the Stonehenge in England, and the Tatetsuki stone circles in Japan are some examples of these ancient stones that tell a story.

Ancient Hebrews also used stones (masseboth) to tell the stories of how God interacted with the Hebrew people during significant points in history. For instance, Jacob set up a stone and declared it to be the house of God (Genesis 28:22), Moses ordered twelve stones be erected at the base of Mt. Sinai and sacrificed to God in honor of freedom (Exodus 24:26-27), and Joshua similarly had stones erected when the people of Israel entered the Promised Land (Joshua 4:9).

In the Christian tradition, Jesus seems to refer to himself as a rejected stone and cornerstone (Matthew 21:42). Later, the author of Ephesians also referred to Jesus as a cornerstone, the foundation of the household of God likely referred to in Psalm 118:22.

Both the Hebrew and Christian traditions seem to affirm a significant understanding of stones telling the story of how God interacts with humanity.

The imagery of story stones was extended to one of Jesus’ close friends and followers, Peter. The name Peter comes from the same Greek word that means rock, Petra. Jesus referred to Peter as the stone that would expand the household of God (Matthew 16:18).

Peter expanded the imagery of story stones as he told the story of God invading humanity in the person of Jesus, a living stone (1 Peter 2:4). Peter then extends the living stone imagery to all who follow Jesus and his example (1 Peter 2:5).

You are a living stone, and you have a sacred story to tell.

It doesn’t take much for someone to silence a story. Stories are silenced every day with flippant comments, derogatory remarks, microaggressions, and blatant oppression. These stones of destructive force are thrown without regard, and generally out of fear.

The sticks and stones that break your bones are not your true story. Despite the stories you may have heard that label you unworthy, you are part of a grand story – a story centered in hope and love.

Your story doesn’t begin or end with you.

Just like the sacred story stones you have a story to tell. You are a living stone. Tell your story.


Resources

witcombe.sbc.edu/sacredplaces/stones.html

witcombe.sbc.edu/sacredplaces/stonehenge.html

solarey.net/megalithic-stones-in-bour-central-african-republic/


Tony Clyde is a veteran leader with over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and adults in non-profit and corporate sectors. Tony is an expert at helping people recognize and remove the personal barriers holding them back. Through mentoring, training, and coaching Tony helps people and organizations achieve their true potential.

Tony is an entrepreneur, launching several new programs, and consulted with churches and other organizations on starting new programs, using technology, teaching effectively, and leadership. Tony is launching a new project called the Throwing Stones Project. The Trowing Stones Project partners with organizational leaders to facilitate environments of full inclusion for people who are LGBTQ+. Tony is a graduate of Northwest Missouri State University with a Master’s in Education and is in progress on a doctorate in organizational leadership. Tony’s specialty is in authentic leadership, personal coaching, and creativity.

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