We Need Another MLK Jr.

As we are nearing the end of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, MLK Day rolls around once again and while most of us are grateful for the momentary reprieve from the job or the classroom, I wonder how much time we’ll actually take today to “celebrate” the man that Martin Luther King Jr. was.

If you have a second, I’d love to honor this man with you by recalling his activism, his legacy, and then similarly contemplating what he would be fighting for if he were not a victim of 1968’s hate and violence.

photo by DiscoverBlackHeritage on Flickr

Born in Atlanta, GA in 1929, Dr. King was a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist; he practiced nonviolence and believed in engaging in nonviolent protests to push back against the racial inequalities of his day (voting rights, labor rights, and desegregation for African Americans). Dr. King was inspired by the teachings of Quaker groups and also by Mahatma Gandhi, so much so that he visited Gandhi’s Indian birthplace in 1959. In a speech, Dr. King reflected on his trip to India: “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” (The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., 1992)

Through nonviolent activism, Dr. King was instrumental in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For his works of nonviolence and humanitarianism about racial prejudice, King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Four years later, Dr. King was assassinated in April of 1968.

If he were here today, I wonder what Dr. King would have said about the fact that slavery still exists on the very land that he fought and died on. I wonder what he would say if he knew that not all citizens shared equal rights today. I can imagine his anger would drive him to speak, protest, and advocate with his every breath.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, so here we are today….celebrating the life of a man who fought injustice in our country, while simultaneously raising awareness that we are not done yet.  We have not arrived. Not all people have rights. Not all people are free.

I don’t think that folks wake up and consciously think: “Today, I’m going to focus on demeaning someone, or say, how about I mix in a little discrimination into my schedule right after lunch?” But I do think silence, passive as it may be, is evil too. Dr. King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Globally, we estimate there are currently around 27-30 million slaves. US law defines trafficking as: “An ACT or attempted act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person by means of force, abduction, fraud, coercion, purchase, sale, threats, abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation.” In 2011, 85 counties in Tennessee saw trafficking cases, with Nashville nearing the top of the list with over 100 cases of minor sex trafficking and 100 cases of adult sex trafficking. (Here are some more facts)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Dr. King.

So what can we do in the face of such injustice and inequality? How can we nonviolently fight against violence?

We must look inside ourselves and stop being so afraid of our neighbor because fear causes hate. Then we must persist.

I love what Anne Lamott tweeted recently: “Someone’s already said what you & I are trying to say in our work; and said it better. We can just tell our truest version, in our voices.” I love this because I believe that most of what we write has already been written in the past, but if it’s a voice working for equality, justice, and love, then redundancy is a most precious and necessary thing. Even if we are producing overlapping and redundant words, we must keep persisting. Keep writing, keep speaking, keep advocating. Until all are free, we must not stop.  This is the dream we carry.

To raise your voice against human trafficking in TN, check out End Slavery TN’s website. They do amazing work and I’m so grateful for their advocacy in Tennessee.

For national or international opportunities to end trafficking, check out Not For Sale or International Justice Mission.

The Fighting Church: Thoughts on Homosexuality and Christianity

Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church blog series! For the past three months, we have been exploring why Millennials (ages 18-30) have left or will leave the church. We’ve had some significant interviews with Millennials and are about to hear from some pretty great guest posters.

We are specifically addressing the six most common reasons why the number of religious unaffiliated Millennials is on the rise (in order, they are: antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, old-fashioned, out of touch with reality). Several weeks ago, in light of the coming presidential election, I addressed the church’s involvement in politics and today I wish to jump into the church and homosexuality. I realize this is an emotionally- infused topic, which is why I will attempt to write with honesty, objectivity, and grace. It is also why I only welcome graceful, constructive dialog in the comments section of this blog. It is certainly okay to disagree so long as it’s done in a constructive, kind manner. I don’t intend on changing your stance; however, I do hope to provide a little more perspective on why the church is overwhelmingly seen as anti-homosexual by Millennials and why, in my opinion, we are leaving the church because of this perception.

In times past, the church has not only offered strong objection to the gay lifestyle but made it an object of scorn, disdain, and dehumanization. Hostilely opposing the gay community hasn’t just become a cause of Christianity, it has, for some Christians, become intertwined in their identities. In his book unChristian, generational researcher, David Kinnaman writes:
“…hostility toward gays– not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals– has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.” Kinnaman’s research showed that 9 out of 10 Mosaics and Busters (ages 18-41) who are unaffiliated with the church viewed Christians as anti-homosexual.

I see a lot of fear floating around these days and fear tends to make us dehumanize folks.

And there’s a big difference in disagreeing with someone and demeaning him/her.

I wonder if this distinction is a little too muddy in the church.

Millennials are wondering too.

As of late, post-presidential election in particular, I’ve been hearing and reading claims of religious persecution… that some Christians feel their rights have been infringed upon by recent legislation, ACLU lawsuits and the such. I think it important to remember that there are men and women murdered for their faith everyday and that our history is stained with story after story of religious martyrs. These are events of persecution. Being bullied, having Bibles thrown at you, being told regularly that God hates you, or picket signs stating your eternal damnation may constitute the term “persecution” too.

I think it’s important to try to step out of yourself and look objectively. How do you love people? How do you love those that you fear or disagree with? How do you love the LGBTQI+ community? Do you fear working for causes like ending HIV/AIDS? Would you entertain the idea that the legality of gay marriage is actually a civil and human rights issue?

Evangelical Christians have been heard loud and clear that homosexuality is a sin, that it is an unacceptable lifestyle, and that gay couples should not be allowed to marry each other. I’m not sure we Millennials need to keep on hearing it, as we already know where these folks stand. I’d love to hear a little more about how the church is going to fight sex trafficking in Tennessee. Can you tell me how many counties in Tennessee have reported a case of minor sex trafficking in the last two years? Can you even tell me what sex trafficking is? Perhaps we should talk a little more about such things instead of continuing to fight and legislate a culture war.

As stated above, the intent of this post is not to dive into the few Bible verses that mention homosexuality or to change your views on the ethics of the subject, those are personal and you are responsible for researching your own beliefs, but you are similarly responsible for your actions in loving people. Trying to establish Christianity’s primacy in American culture by voting for bans on gay marriage isn’t really a victory for Christians at all. In it, we are completely disenfranchising a group of Americans, of humans. Millennials see this and they are tired of the culture wars. They are tired of the control that Christians seem to feel they must have on all things culture.

I say this as a Millennial who still dearly loves the emptying church.

Teach me how to be a strong woman. Teach me about the women of the Bible. Teach me about human trafficking. Teach me how to hug someone I hate. Teach me how to prevent diseases through education and vaccines. Teach me how to meditate on scripture. Teach me how to trade the sword for the plow. Teach me how to change my heart. Teach me how to rid myself of arrogance and pride. Teach me how to lead by serving. Teach me how to speak with grace. Teach me how to preach. Teach me how to fast for a cause. Teach me how to persist. Teach me to weep for the hurting. Teach me how to take care of the earth. Teach me sustainable farming. Teach me how to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control. Teach me how to embrace life’s seasons. Teach me how to pastor. Teach me how not to hate. Teach me how to rid myself of prejudice. Teach me how to get off the couch after a broken heart. Teach me how to love. I beg you. There are so many hurting people in this world… teach me how to love them like Christ, not how to fight a culture war, I beg you. Teach me.

For those Christians who cannot condone homosexuality, yet who still love folks and treat them kindly regardless of their sexuality, thank you. You teach me a great deal. Thank you. I’m sorry that you are sometimes labeled bigoted for your personal beliefs. I know that’s unfair and hurtful.

Let us find the grace that we beg God for and extend it to each other. Let’s put a name to a face and listen to each others stories; I bet we’ll begin realizing that we aren’t so different after all. When we consciously chose love, I sincerely believe we send a loud and clear message to Millennials, much more so than a picket sign or buying waffle fries at the Chick-fil-A.

Feel free to post any constructive thoughts or experiences below.

This post is the ninth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards



If you know me in the least, you know not to use the phrase: “love the sinner, hate the sin” around me. And you know that if you do use this special phrase in conversation, I will then muster of all the love that I can produce at that moment, and hopefully, lovingly express my strong aversion and repugnance for this phrase that has lingered in many pulpits over the years. I am of the opinion that there should be no hate involved anywhere in this process. Hate shouldn’t exist; it shouldn’t even be translatable in the English language. It should be taboo to hate anyone or anything. Take a second to think where hate has gotten us in history. Let’s not forget the most infamous: Adolf Hitler tops it off with his hatred and subsequent attempt to eradicate an entire gene pool, Maximilien Robespierre who brought about the “Reign of Terror” in France post Revolution, Idi Amin Dada: the evil Ugandan president, Pol Pot: the Cambodian leader of the Khmer Rouge, a group that successfully murdered 2 million Cambodians… one of the largest genocides in the world, let’s not forget Joseph Stalin of Russia who is now thought to have taken more lives than Hitler during his reign. Some of these men hated based on skin color/ ethnicity, some hated based on religion, some hated based on another man’s ideals, and some were simply evil, ruthless killers who enjoyed playing god… taking life at will.

What about Westboro Baptist church, the infamous church that protests homosexuality at military funerals while families are trying to bury their dead in peace? This is modern day hatred. Though I listed no American on the list above, America has its fair share of hate through the years. Hate of the native peoples here… look at Andrew Jackson’s forcing of the Cherokee and other tribes on what became known as the Trail of Tears. He hated Native Americans and he didn’t mind sending them on a cruel, west-ward trek during the dead of winter. What about our treatment of African Americans for years… for being the land of the free, America doesn’t have a great track record of not hating a race of people because of their skin. What about women? Women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1919… that was the same century that most of us reading this were born in. Women weren’t viewed as intelligent enough to be able to discern political beliefs and vote accordingly. How sad. (I still see women treated this way in the church, by the way). Anyway, I will digress from all the examples; I think it’s suffice to say that hatred has left wounds and scars on history that will never be able to be removed or forgotten. Black marks… blemishes… indicators of evil in the human race.

So don’t tell me to love the sinner, hate the sin. There should be no hate involved or we will be another generation that made the mistake of hating based on our categorization of someone. (Let me insert a comment here to also say not to misunderstand me: I believe in having one’s beliefs and morals; I am not encouraging a lack of any boundaries, I’m just asserting that some have gone to far with theirs). How many people hate another person and they’ve never even met that person? …never spoken to that person face to face.
But if you must have an intense dislike in your heart, then hate hunger, hate injustice, hate the selling of little girls into forced prostitution, hate unclean water, hate preventable diseases, hate rape, hate molestation, hate genocide, hate conflict diamonds. I’ll end with this quote by Anne Lamott: “And I realized once again that we’re not punished for our hatred… but by it.”