Church and Main

Note: This podcast originally aired on December 8, 2021.
Black Lives Matter. Those three words have launched a million arguments over the last 8 years or so. What began as a hashtag in the wake of the killing of young black men by the police has become a phrase that has gone global and all the while it has been controversial. Some think it is exclusive and even racist because they think it only focuses on black people. Others like the phrase and take it on without asking questions.
Methodist Pastor Drew McIntrye wanted to look at black lives matter from a theological standpoint. What does it mean for followers of Jesus to say this phrase? Can followers of Jesus say this phrase? The answer is an emphatic yes. We will talk about what blacks live matters means theologically and what it means for African Americans to hear the church say black lives matter.

Show Notes:
The Scandal of Particularity, Black Lives, and Jesus by Drew McIntyre
Drew’s Website
The God & Whiskey Podcast- Drew and Evan Rohrs-Dodge
Drew on Twitter

Lectionary Q Podcast
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What is Church and Main?

Church and Main is a podcast at the intersection of faith and modern life. Join Pastor Dennis Sanders as he shares the stories of faith interacting with the ever-changing world of the 21st century.


Hello and welcome to Church and Main, the podcast at the intersection of faith

and modern life. I am Dennis Sanders, your host.

Church and Maineis a podcast that looks for God in the midst of the issues that

are affecting the church and the larger society.

Now you can learn more about the podcast, listen to past episodes,

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So I have another best of episode, which is quite common this time of year when

people are scarce for interviews.

And this one feels somewhat timely again.

This is an interview I did in December 2021 with Drew McIntyre,

who is a Methodist elder, Methodist pastor at a church in Greensboro, North Carolina.

And he wrote an article for Firebrand Magazine on Black Lives Matter.

And that has always been, unfortunately, a very controversial topic.

For some people, It is, um, kind of the, the, the kind of vanguard of a movement for others.

It just seems like what would be considered a reverse racism.

Um, but Drew is looking at this from a theological standpoint and,

um, the article that he wrote, which is the scandal of particularity,

black lives in Jesus in 2021, uh, was a thought provoking article.

I thought that I would, um, share it again.

And, you know, the whole movement of Black Lives Matter sometimes can be how

it has gone down, sometimes has not been very helpful,

I think, to racial reconciliation, racial justice,

but that doesn't mean that the phrase doesn't have some theological significance.

I think sometimes some important theological significance.

And so, um, I wanted to share this article again, um, and also this interview

I had with, uh, drew again.

And so I hope that you will listen and, um.

As he says towards the end of the interview, let him know what you think.

You can find out. He'd like to know.

He'd like to learn from others and hear from others. And I will put contact

information, especially to his website, on the show notes.

One note again, you will hear the word, the podcast being referred to as En Root.

Um enroute of course it was the prior name

for the podcast before it became church in maine um so

just so that you know that that's when you hear that and wondering where in

the world what what in the world is this old enroute all about that's what it's

all about um we will have another special episode um coming up it won't be an

interview episode but uh just before christmas Um,

and I'm still kind of working out some things for a recap episode episode for,

uh, some of the, uh, noteworthy interviews I had in 2023,

what I'm looking at coming forward in 2024.

And, um, and so I'll talk about the year in the past.

It's been kind of a big year, um, in my life personally.

Um, there've also been some really good interviews. So stay tuned for that episode,

which hopefully will come next week.

But for now, let's listen to this 2021 interview I had with Drew McIntyre.


Hello and welcome to EnRoute, a journey of faith and modern life.

I am Dennis Sanders, your host. Welcome. Welcome. This is the podcast where

we explore the who, where, what, why, and how of religion and the intersections

with other aspects of life.

Black Lives Matter. Those three words have launched a million arguments over

the last eight years or so.

What began as a hashtag in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman concerning

the death of Trayvon Martin has become a phrase that has gone global.

And all the while it has become controversial.

Some think that it's an exclusive term, maybe even racist, because they think

that it only focuses on black people.

Others are suspicious because of the organization that also bears that name,

that takes incredibly far-left positions on various issues.

But there are others that like the phrase, but they seem to take it on without

really asking any questions.

Methodist pastor Drew McIntyre wanted to look at Black Lives Matter from a theological

standpoint. standpoint, what does it mean for followers of Jesus to say this phrase?

Can followers of Jesus say this phrase? The answer is an emphatic yes.

And in this episode, we will talk about what Black Lives Matter means from a

theological viewpoint and what

it means for African Americans to hear the church say Black Lives Matter.

Join us for the journey this week.

Drew is a pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I have known him for several years, and I always appreciate what he has to say

because he moves from the surface level to really dig deep into theological issues,

that far too many of us really don't want to deal with.

So I hope that you will enjoy this conversation with that let's listen to Drew.


Well, Drew, it is good to talk to you. You too, Dennis. Thank you for having me.

Well, for those people who are definitely kind of in the TLDR camp,

would you be able to kind of give a summary of the article and kind of go from there?

Sure, sure. As a preacher, I'm used to people telling me I ran too long.

So I'm used to that. that. I guess if I start by saying sort of what I wanted

to do with this piece, and what I wanted to do with this piece really was just

bring some theology to the conversation around Black Lives Matter.

And not Black Lives Matter, sort of the social movement or the hashtag or the

organization, but really just the concept, the concept of Black Lives Matter.

What does it mean to bring some kind of Christian theology to that.

Because I don't know what your experience has been, but what I've observed the last...

Since it's been around, is sort of, you have some folks that sort of immediately

appropriate that language, sort of uncritically, in my view,

and talking about the church primarily, and others who.

Dismiss it, I think, equally uncritically, just sort of react.

And so I really wanted to ask them in this key, sort of, what does it mean to

examine this theologically?

And how I got to that was, this just sort of hit me one day,

that the way people were reacting to Black Lives Matter was very much like what

Newbegin wrote about when he described a scandal of particularity.

Newbegin, are you a Newbegin fan? Have you read any of the Newbegin stuff?

I have read some of Newbegin's stuff.

Yeah, I'm a big Newbegin fan. I encountered him in seminary.

One of my professors, Jeffrey Wainwright, was close to Newbegin.

Newbegin was a missiologist and an ecumenist.

Wrote some really amazing books. Was later a bishop, I think,

in the Unified Church of India. India.

Um but he had this concept called the scandal of particularity.

Um that is a scandal to the modern mind that

that God works through particulars through particular through particularity

of Israel as a people not as a nation state want to bracket you know again bracket

that from the conversation but the biblical people of God and also that God

works particularly in and through Jesus as the you know as the word made flesh

as the the incarnate savior.

There's something that grates in the modern mind that kind of grates against that.

And in a similar way, there's something, I think, at least in American culture,

that grates against this notion,

that there should be or would be an emphasis,

on the importance of Black lives in the midst of too many unnecessary deaths

or killings and, of course, all the other things we've seen in the last decade or so.

And so it was making the connection to Newbigin was kind of how I started.

And then I sort of built on to that some insights from the new perspective on

Paul, which has really done important work, especially following E.P.

Sanders and biblical studies, reassessing the connections between Judaism and the New Testament.

Um and sort of getting away from some of the um overly

medieval kind of anti-catholic stuff that led to

some really harsh readings of of judaism and.

The new testament a lot of that came from one of my professors in

seminary douglas campbell was a big influence on me

and then also i looked at john wesley i'm a united methodist pastor

and of course i've got to go to john wesley um but

you know what the last letter we have from john

wesley um was a letter to william overforce who

of course was an evangelical christian that was fighting against slavery in

britain and in his letter wesley describes

american slavery as the most vile form

that the earth had ever seen you know the world had ever known and um

and so i kind of put all

that together along with some personal kind of anecdotes just

as a way of saying you know in the in

the biblical narrative the biblical drama god works oftentimes

from the particular to the whole we like

to work from the whole to the particular but god works from the particular

to the whole and that that might give us some i think

some spiritual warrants for the church right now to say

um you know it's a lot of

this we've seen in sort of memes and social media posts but just this idea

that like you know if i'm the fire department

and there's a house on fire what's important

in that moment is not that every house matters what's important in that moment

is that there's a house on fire and i think this is a way of theologically of

saying you know this is these are the people that are that are feeling devalued

right now whose lives are endangered who's who who feel devalued by the the culture writ large.

And the church should be able to say i close by saying we shouldn't be surprised that.

That people cannot hear us saying all people matter to Jesus unless we first

say Black lives matter to Jesus.

So I hope that's a helpful summary. I'm curious if you think that's what you read in the piece.

Yeah, that is exactly what I read. And I think there's a lot of truth in that

I think our modern way of looking at things is from a very universal standpoint.

Standpoint um and i think

that there are lots of things especially in our our

particular faith um that because

it's runs the other way and i think

we have a hard time dealing with things that aren't um

universal because we think i tend

to think that we have a bias against the particular that the

particular we somehow need think it means exclusive or

um so there is that kind of

of attention so that it seems

like that's part of the reason at least

from my um standpoint where black lives

matter can be grating because it

makes it sound like that's the

only person and only group that matters um anyone

that knows any i

guess i would think that people who are are at

least aware know that this is not some type of black separatism.

Um this is this is something really about looking at a a particular part of

humanity but it's not excluding um it's kind of like the whole thing of Jesus or the parable of.

Going after the one sheep and leaving the 99 behind.

Does that mean that the shepherd doesn't care about the 99?

No. He does. But there is this one sheep that's out there that needs help.

And I would think that that's kind of how you would be, at least look at Black

Lives Matter, especially from a Christian standpoint.

Yeah, and, you know, again, I think I say this in the piece,

I'm a United Methodist pastor, that doesn't mean I can endorse everything that's got a UMC stamp on it.

In the same way, I think Christians should be able to say, at least understand

why we need to say Black Lives Matter without having to defend everything that's

had Black Lives Matter on it.

Right we should be able to kind of be mature enough to

kind of bracket um those those things um

it's also i i one of the an

important part of my piece is um the work

of willie james jennings um dr jennings used to be at the keys at nail now but

i think a really important thinker um right now for the church he had a really

great interview that was in christianity today that i I drew on for this piece where he talks,

he really makes those connections about the origins of racism being in sort

of the de-Judiaizing of Christianity.

And I drew on that pretty heavily. He also talks in there about sort of Christians.

Christian anxiety about not being the center of the story, right?

That we de-Judiaize Christianity because we want to be the center of the story.

And so it's also worth naming, as I say in the piece, that I have a degree of

awkwardness about this piece and about talking about it because I recognize

I'm in danger of centering myself in a conversation that's not about me.

And in danger of putting, I don't know, my voice in the middle of a conversation

where other voices, frankly, are more valuable than mine.

I first drafted this piece about six months ago and kind of sat on it for a

long time, I had friends look at it, you know, left it alone for a while, went back to it.

I was very hesitant about putting this out there just because,

um, I wanted it to be as good as it could be, but also I just, um,

I don't know. We're both mainline pastors. I won't speak for you,

but I feel like I know a lot of progressive young clergy that,

that wants to sort of wear the mantle of fighting racism and make that a big part of your identity.

And, um, to me in some ways, that's often kind of an obvious,

um, I don't know, attempt at platforming themselves.

And I, I really don't want to be that. And so I was hesitant in some ways about this piece.

Um, Um, it's not kind of race, racism, race matters is not something I've often

written about, not because I'm not interested.

I try to read very widely and pay attention, but again, just because I feel

kind of inadequate talking about it and, you know, having an opinion about it, frankly, in some ways.

So I'm grateful for the chance to talk to you about it and just kind of get your thoughts.

Um, uh, because again, I, I feel like I have something to say,

but also I feel like I'm I'm just another white guy saying too much in some ways.

But, you know, I think that part of it is important.

And I can understand the concern about ending up centering yourself in that.

I don't think that's what's happening here. I think it's actually,

in some ways, and I know this word gets used way too much and usually doesn't

mean what people think it means,

but I do think that this was, in some ways, prophetic in that it's trying to.

To speak maybe a difficult word that to

help people understand what is the importance of this phrase

theologically and that can be i think disconcerting to a lot of people for a

lot of reasons um if there are people who've i think immediately appropriated

the word and just kind kind of go from there,

there's probably a sense that, you know, as I think you wrote that you're not going far enough.

And then there are those that hearing the phrase just kind of raises the hackles

and they just get freaked out and they need to hear this because,

even if they don't necessarily want to hear it or maybe try not to hear it,

but But there is an importance of what does this mean,

and especially about who is the gospel for.

And ultimately, the gospel is for everyone.

But I also think that there is a part of it.

And I think you use this in the article to borrow kind of from our Catholic

sisters and brothers, is that there is this whole preferential option for the poor,

this sense that the marginalized are kind of important in God's eyes.

Again, not saying that no one else is, but that these people hold some special value.

And I think that that matters. And I think the whole point of...

I guess, again, putting Jews in the center of that story of salvation also matters.

Because kind of the whole religion kind of doesn't work if you don't have the

Jews in there somewhere.

Yeah. I'm just saying. It just doesn't really work that well without them.

Yeah. Well, I mean, Paul's, you know, people meet up on Paul.

That's a separate podcast. guess but um paul's very

you know very clear about this that um you know

and this is in the piece that we are a wild gentiles or

a wild olive branch right we have been graciously included

in a story that was not ours right through the work of christ the the the blessings

and covenant of israel are opened up to us and when we forget that it gets very

ugly um and at the um uh at the at at the risk of,

you know, every internet conversation devolving into talking about Nazis,

there is historically a connection to Christians forgetting about the Jewishness

of Jesus and the Jewishness of Christianity,

um, making possible, uh, you know, the final solution.

That's a real historical thing. That's not just hyperbole. That's not rhetoric.

That's, that's real history.

Pretty much all you have to do is read the Barman Declaration and that will tell you.

Yeah. yeah absolutely um so so

bad stuff happens when um many bad things happen when gentiles uh christians

forget that the story is not centered on us um that we have been invited to

a table that you know was not ours originally um which is a scandal but it's also true.

Yeah i i think one of the things i remember in my first year in seminary we um.

We had a spent basically a saturday at um a local um synagogue and met with the rabbi of,

that congregation and there's something i remember him talking about in um referencing isaiah,

and kind of referencing what a certain

passage how you know we would interpret it

as usually referencing christ um and

you know he was trying to say how they look at

it and he the thing that i remember him saying is the importance that um you

know it's it's fine to to interpret it that way don't you know don't not do

that but just remember where this came from and the importance of where it came from.

And that's something that's that's stuck with me all these

years later is that how I'm looking at

that and let's say if I'm looking at a certain part of Isaiah that we think

is referencing talking about Jesus it's important I'm and I'm not gonna not

look at it that way but not everyone the original people who wrote this didn't

see it that way and that's important to know.

Yeah Yeah, maybe this is some of the wisdom of more liturgical traditions that

always include Old Testament and or psalm readings, you know, in worship.

That we can't just live in the Gospels and the letters, you know, all the time. Yeah.

So what led you to actually kind of take this on?

On. Um was there certain some events something that you had been seeing that

that made you feel like you needed to try to kind of look at what this phrase

meant in a theological focus.

I think, you know, maybe it was just, I think maybe getting tired of sort of

the, the typical internet back and forth of black lives matter.

And then someone responds, all lives matter, blue lives matter.

And that sort of kind of hackneyed back and forth in some ways was annoying to me, but, but also.

I did kind of want to challenge in some ways,

both sides in this for the church because i

really had not seen any what i would

consider a very substantive theological engagement um

with this idea um you know the

most you'd see that i'd seen anyway is um sort

of a easily imagined kind of liberationist you

know view on this um which is

fine that's not gonna convince everyone that's

gonna work well with mainline clergy it's not

going to work great with people in most rural pews

um you know um there's a

i don't know it just it's not enough you know

and i think there's just a richer case to be made and

that's what i wanted to um to try to do um

to really think through this theologically um bracketing

sort of the uh the

ideological stuff because that's just noise and.

I think most of the response to this is has been

a lot of noise um in terms

of it not being very thoughtful and so i wanted to

offer kind of a thoughtful um analysis of this

i thought i would get frankly more pushback from both sides

i didn't get as much pushback as i thought i would um on

this piece i got mostly mostly positive comments

um i got you know a few of

the sort of um expected like no

all lives matter kind of you know kind of push back

on this um but most

folks um and i did you know i had

friends read this and um i will say

where i landed on this was a little bit

of a stronger statement than where i kind of drafted it to start i

had friends that read it who said this is good i think you could push

it a little bit more and i did where it ended up i pushed a little bit more

um than where initially i had it um but i don't know i i like writing because

it forces me to think and it was enjoyable to think through this and what hopefully

is a robust theological way.

So one of the questions that i this article

has brought up in me is why do you

think think there has been a push in some ways to de-Judaize the story and to

put Christians in the center of the story instead of realizing that we're guests

basically in someone else's house.

Yeah i think part of it

is just historical ignorance and forgetfulness i think

part of it is a lot of people raised in churches that only ever preach

out of the new testament and people just don't

know you know um if you

ever teach you know a bible study on the book of revelation the book

of revelation something like can't remember the exact

statistic but something like two-thirds of the of the

passages in revelation are either a direct or

indirect direct allusion to something in the old right so um

i always tell people like you really can't understand the

new testament unless you have some grasp of the old

testament um but at least in my experience most

christians have very little grasp of the old

testament um so i think that's that's a part of it um and there is certainly

the whole sort of protestant background of um readings of of Paul in particular

of the new Testament that were overly shaped by.

Debates about medieval Catholicism, you know, coming out of Luther and all that.

And so I think Protestantism, a lot of this is the underside of anti anti-Catholicism among Protestants.

Um, because, right. because Luther read all the stuff about the law in the New

Testament as being about the Catholic Church that he was rebelling against or trying to reform,

whatever, which is all going well 500 years ago,

but it gets sort of applied, I think.

I think Luther was too shaped by his experience of the Catholic Church,

and in turn protestants have been two-shaped by

that misreading of luthers which is a

lot of what the sort of new perspective on paul's kind of uh

trying to correct but i think we've inherited too much of that anti

quote-unquote religion which is really which is anti quote-unquote which is

anti-catholic which ultimately is anti-jewish um i think that's sort of where

it where it comes from um yeah and combined with a sort of american i don't

know populism or something.

That everything is about the individual and the idea of anything having to do

with community or it's something like israel um versus like no salvation is

about my individual choices,

um i think the idea that that we're caught up in this larger story is very difficult

for a lot of of again american protestants especially of a more sort of um fundamentalist um,

radical individualist kind of variety does that make sense does that track with

you yeah yeah i think that i know i just word vomited a lot right there i i

think that that makes some sense um.

There is something, especially in American society and in certain sectors of

American society, that is very much focused on the individual.

And I always like to say that there's nothing necessarily wrong about the individual,

but it's kind of like salt.

If it's too much of it, it can be a bad thing. and so

that there's this concern that anything that kind

of is communal it's like well obviously

this is socialism and it's kind of

like uh no it's not and

and i think that that's you know the bible i

think is especially in the old testament but i

think in the new testament is really rife and

looking at things from a societal uh level in

a way that i think is hard for us to at least in the west to understand i i

think sometimes in other parts of the world they might understand it more because

they have a very different understanding of of individuals and society and all

that but here that's always been hard,

no i think that's exactly right and i fully agree i mean i got a lot of i guess my sort of.

Um i don't know and i feel differently about yeah i echo you

and i think the individual is very important i mean i'm a you

know free speech and all those sort of classic you

know kind of classic constitutional values i think are

very important and um individual conscience and

all all those things um i think that when we when

we bring that into the church and we become allergic to anything that

is outside of myself or larger than myself that's where it becomes a problem

because as you point out the the bible both the old testament are both largely

written to by two and four communities right whether that community is israel

whether that community is the church.

It is communities that produce the documents that became our Bible,

and they're largely written to be read and lived in community.

And I think we miss that to our peril.

Yes, it's important to have personal discipleship, but you have to have your

own relationship with God. Never take that away.

But it's also meant to be a journey that we do together. And there's a reason

that Jesus, the first thing he does is gather 12 disciples.

We're meant to do this thing together.

I agree one there are several

things here that are um always fascinating

but towards the end of

the um of the essay you recount a story um from graduate school um with the

pastor and he basically says and this is quote don't tell me what you believe

about jesus tell me about,

tell me how you feel about black people.

And then I will tell you everything I need to know about what you believe about Jesus.

Yeah. I find that a fascinating statement.

And what do you think he meant by that?

And how did that, how did you take that when you first heard it?

It definitely, you know, it struck me obviously, because I remembered it,

you know, this is more than 10 years ago. This is gosh, over 13 years ago.

It definitely stuck with me. And at the time, I think I said this in the piece,

I was taken aback by it initially, very much because of the scandal in particular.

Like, wait a minute, what do you mean?

But the context of that, and I didn't have space in this article to explain

this, but the context for him saying that was.

I'm pretty sure it was a conversation just about, talk about scandal,

this whole notion that, you know, people who consider

themselves orthodox christians who communed every

sunday who baptized their kids who you

know chanted the psalms whatever it was people that went

to church every sunday gave to their local churches um

who also at the same time uh

either owned slaves or underwrote jim crow

or had a clan robe in the closet right that

that whole notion that for wide swaths

of of american christianity and beyond america um

there are millions if not billions of

christians who did not connect their

faith to how black people

were treated right he was naming that sort of dissonance and saying and i think

i think what he was trying to say was lots of people say they they love jesus

i want to know about their orthodoxy but these people who are saying that the

Nicene Creed and the Apostles freed every week are also being their slaves on

the way home from church, right?

And I think he was kind of naming that.

But just the way he said it, I thought it was very powerful and it stuck with me.

And it's, again, this idea of it's Matthew 25, right? As much as you did it

to the least of these, you did it unto me.

So, there's a real way in which um.

If my faith in Christ, my following, you know, the poor Jewish Jesus is not

leading me to at least care in some way about the marginalized, the oppressed,

in particular in this conversation,

what's happening with African Americans in the U.S., the legal system in particular,

then I've missed something significant about Jesus.

Um yeah i um it was funny to recall

that story um that was a very formative class

for me um that was a fun class he

was an african-american presbyterian pastor who also kind of taught in seminary

on the side and he was very i mean especially for me at that point um you know

he was very radical compared to where my politics were at that point in my life

and you know he would walk into class and say i'm look i'm a socialist i'm you

know all these things i was I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

But I learned a great deal from him.

And that was just one of those pieces, yeah.

So what do you think can be the implications of...

Basically theologically saying black lives

matter what does that mean for for for a

person what does that mean for a church if they

take that and not just say it because

everyone else is saying it but say it in a way

that they've thought about it and what what it means for

followers of jesus christ to to say this yeah that's a good question i i think

it needs to be more than you know there's nothing wrong with having a sign in

someone's yard um that's not really my thing,

um sort of the i mean you ever watch seinfeld or you're a

seinfeld fan at all you know the episode where seinfeld

doesn't want to wear the ribbon you know i'm a

i'm a i don't want to i don't want to wear the ribbon i'm one of those people

like i don't want the sign i don't want the slogan um that's that's kind of

my personality uh i'm an enneagram four so i am an individualist in that sense

um i do think for me what this should affect is kind of the posture of the church.

Um how do we how do we engage with our neighbors so i'm for instance my ministry

context i'm in a a downtown congregation.

Until a pandemic, we've often had all sorts of ministries to kind of the downtown

community, which in my context is heavily African American.

So what does it mean for us to be neighbors to folks who are experiencing these incidents with police,

who are seeing these stories on the news.

You know, it was really...

It's been like I have African-American had and have had African-American staff members.

And what does it mean for me as a, as a pastor and as a supervisor to,

to walk with empathy through these things, when these stories were in the news

and all that. And I don't know that I've done any of that.

I definitely haven't done any of it perfectly. I hope I, I hope I've stumbled and done it. Okay.

And tried to, without making it about my feelings and my need to be the,

you know, know the good white guy um i hope i've because

of thinking through things like this but able just

to be sensitive and to listen in a lot of

ways i think that's a big part of it because again i

said i said this at the beginning but especially with gosh a

lot of mainline clergy it just seems like coming from

a good place and unintentionally it often

becomes about you know the young

white white person that needs to be seen as the radical or the

prophet um i don't think

that's the answer um i i they're man

there's a name i'm not going to say but there are people that literally built

their platforms on on doing this um for maybe a better example is because of

taking things like this seriously what it looks like is me texting a friend

when one of these horrible things hits it's the news and just saying to your

African American friend, Hey.

I don't have anything meaningful to say, but I'm, I'm, I'm praying for you today.

I know, I'm sure this is hard to watch. I can't imagine what you're going through.

And I just want you to know that I value you and, um, and I'm sorry that you

have to see this and experience this. Maybe that's part of it.

Yeah, I think that one of the, I mean, it's interesting,

being an African American, I have a reticence sometimes to talk about race in

the church, not because I don't want to, but I think because it hasn't been done well.

I think that there has been a lot of a center of kind of look at me type of attitude sometimes.

For in a way of kind of guilting people that isn't really healthy and it doesn't

really cause people to really think.

I think what it does is that it causes people to react. act.

Um and so I think one of

the things that I long for and want is is

better ways to talk about this issue

because it needs to be talked about and I

think that there still are a lot of people that you know if we go back to looking

at the phrase Black Lives Matter don't really understand it from a theological

standpoint and I think need to hear another another viewpoint but I think the

way that especially a lot of mainline clergy handle it,

is not doesn't work and I think it doesn't further the discussion or even further

bringing down the road towards racial reconciliation,

yeah I mean obviously I agree with that and I you know I think this is a both

if we can pick on the mainline also take on you can be evangelicals I think.

In part, this is because both, for me, a lot of the least clergy and lay people,

both mainline and evangelicals and Protestantism, are so formed by sort of what used to be cable news.

Now, I guess it's podcasts and YouTube. Podcasts, yeah, YouTube, everything.

But, you know, talking heads, right? Ideological talking heads on whichever

side, you know, you can name all the whoever's.

Um so much of it we are much

more shaped by that sort of those those talking

heads those ideological voices than anything biblical or

theological i think that's where a lot of and i

would say i'm mainline i can i think i'd say this a lot

of our clergy are educated institutions that in

some ways emphasize the ideological

the sociological more than the theological i

mean frankly i a lot of at least methodist seminaries

the theology is pretty weak um you

know one way of understanding the main line is um

you can believe anything you want theologically but you

better believe these things politically yep um

they're very very open-minded when it comes to

who jesus is very close-minded when it

comes to what your politics should be um and that that starts

in the seminaries in some ways uh but also again

the um there's certainly plenty on the right just

sort of this sort of knee-jerk reaction to anything like

a decent conversation about uh race and racism in america very sort of dismissive

and defensive right a lot of it is um i got some a few responses like this to

my piece is sort of what sounded like kind of just defensive old white dudes, honestly.

Um, I hate to put it that way. Um, but.

Um, yeah. Why do you think that there is, that there can be defensiveness?

Because I think you see that happening in, in a lot of different places.

I, um, read a lot of, of writings by, um, David French.

Um, and I think he wrote something, this was maybe back in the summer that talked

about racism and the importance of really coming to terms of things.

And he got just a lot of vitriol from it.

And what is it about even just having, not even just saying Black Lives Matter,

but even just talking about issues that,

you know, racial issues that are still a problem that people get immediately defensive?

Is it that they're looking at this from an individual standpoint and thinking

that it's blaming them or what's going on?

Yeah i think there's some of that i mean i think,

you know i've definitely had when i was younger conversations or listening to

a lecture or whatever about racism or something in racial kind of history or

you know i feel implicated right where there is this sort of.

That sort of personalized thing,

I think there's a lot of.

I don't know, a lot of fear of that conversation, a lot of, you know,

one of the things, I say this to this in sermons and in classes,

one of sort of the mythologies of the South, Stanley Hauerwas talks about this

in some places, one of the kind of mythologies of growing up in the South is,

of course, related to, you know, the Civil War was fought over states' rights, right?

Yeah, another big one is you never meet anyone in the South whose family owned slaves, right?

It's just kind of a trope in conversation but and i

can remember these conversations all just banished right

yeah like well yes you know slavery was wrong and slavery was a problem but

our family wasn't involved in that we were poor white people right um so i that

defensiveness i definitely recall a lot hearing um hearing growing up um i don't

know if you find that as as much in,

you know, 20-somethings now.

But I certainly remember hearing that stuff growing up.

I think, you know, it's hard to say.

It's multi, I think it's multifaceted and it's different for different people. I mean, there is a.

How do I say it? Well, I think I've already said this, right?

I had some trepidation about writing this piece and publishing it in part because it's about race.

And the conversation in a lot of places is pretty toxic on both the left and

the right, where if you veer from whatever the Orthodox position is,

you're going to be vilified very, very openly.

So I think in some ways, at least online, that conversation is pretty toxic.

I think it's unfortunate. And maybe what I should say is I think a better answer.

Is relation i think i think the best context for this conversation is relationships.

Right like i've learned you know i try to read a lot of books and stuff like that taking classes.

But you know it was one of the most again formative things for me was one of

my early in my ministry one of my district superintendents i won't say this

was maybe maybe shortly after the Trayvon Martin case or when that was still kind of pending.

Um, so this, this would have been close to 10 years ago.

I think the timing's right. I don't know, but my African-American district superintendent,

which in Methodist church is sort of, um, kind of like a mini Bishop, right?

Kind of my immediate boss and the Bishop is all of our bosses in our policy.

Um, our DS who's African-American describing

the conversations that he

had to have with his children when they were growing up but out of New York police right

um and I remember that moment like I'd

never heard a black person describe that conversation before

that was that was new to me right and that was in my

mid-20s probably

at that point I mean that was a new concept and so

just in the context of that relationship someone I trusted and looked up to

saying look I'm I'm not that old but I had to have this conversation with my

teenage son you know that was huge for me and that's not a talking head that's

not a bullet point that's not an article it's not a blog post it's not a tweet,

that's a person i knew and loved and trusted so this is what it's like for me

and my family in north carolina in 2011 whatever it was you know when.

Uh some of the pushback i got in this piece was like this is not practical what

do you do with this um and one response to that is something i think churches

can and should do is have partnerships between predominantly anglo predominantly

african-american churches and um,

i was there's a friend of mine in town he's a methodist pastor who's african-american and um Um,

uh, we, we began kind of a process of like, this was a few years ago before

the pandemic, we would get lunch once a month or so, you know,

have a burger and just kind of talk and catch up.

And most of what we did was not really talk about social stuff or even church stuff.

We're both nerds. And we talk about Marvel movies and comic books,

that kind of stuff, but just sort of bonding on a human level.

And, and we began to talk about, Hey, we should got our churches together.

What would that look like?

How can we, you know, should we do a Bible study together? Should we have potlucks together?

We were in the process of starting that and kind of the pandemic happened.

But I think that's sort of, for the church, a great place to start stuff like

this is just building local relationships.

I mean, I'm in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is in some ways,

you know, a hotbed of the civil rights movement in the 50s, the synonym, stuff like that.

I mean, my church is walking distance to the International Civil Rights Museum.

Him so we should be able in my context to have this conversation um and again

posture right to be able to not to go to our neighboring african-american church and saying um.

You know, we, we just, we want to have a relationship. We want to learn from one another.

We know that there's stuff that we don't understand. We want to just kind of

build a relationship in Christ as brothers and sisters, but also try to learn,

you know, from one another, what it's like to be you in this time and place and hear your stories.

I would say for me, that's been most significant is those personal relationships.

A good friend of mine who is an African-American Baptist pastor,

that I was a Duke with, um, you know, he's at the, at the risk of the trope of my black friend.

Let me name that. That's where they get the, that's a trope,

but it's been hugely important for me to sort of have those conversations and ask him questions.

I'm not going to ask other African-American people that I know,

um, through the course of the last five to 10 years when these things are on

the news and stuff like that.

And just to hear his stories about being pulled over

by the police and what it it feels like to be in a shop and

have eyes on you right and um and i've

i teach a class at a local college an ethics class and most of my students are

african-american and they write essays they talk about you know being 17 years

old in this progressive city that i'm in supposed to be progressive and they

still get those looks from the store clerks and all that right so,

it's conversations like that i think that have opened me up to be able to think

and and talk and write in these terms.

And I think absent those kind of relationships, it's hard to,

it's like telling people about Jesus, right?

It's really hard to have that conversation over a tweet or Facebook page.

No one gets converted. No one gets, has a meaningful change in their perspective

with that stuff. So it really has to be personal.

And I know that that's not grand enough. That's not like systemic.

That's not the Civil Rights Act 1964. 64 like it's you know the Voting Rights

Act but I do think that's the level at which people actually change is on that

human community relational level,

well and I think you know living as I do here in the Twin Cities especially

in the aftermath of of George Floyd.

I think, you know, the Twin Cities has had to do a lot of, in the last year

and a half, a lot of soul searching.

I think for a lot of white people, it was in some ways eye-opening that things,

that this was not Lake Wilbegon.

Things were not wonderful. beautiful um but i think we're you know then we're

all trying to figure out you know do we have to do something big to change everything

and and it's kind of like no i think what you do is,

you get to know someone and you talk about things and talk about life and those

stories will come and bubble up and i think you're right that's what's going

to change things it's It's, you know, yes,

there are times where you have to have marches and sit-ins or things like that.

But most of the time, it's people coming together to share their lives with each other.

I mean, most of what Jesus' ministry was, was basically being in relationship with other people.

That's what happened. It wasn't though he was, you know, doing something in

some big stadium somewhere.

It was just meeting people.

Yeah, absolutely. And if I put my Methodist hat on for a minute,

there are historians that argue that,

That the reason France had a bloody,

violent revolution and Great Britain did not is because the Methodist movement

had so uplifted the poor in Great Britain that it just wasn't the interest or

desire or that sort of mass of angry,

impoverished people to do that.

And Methodism transformed Britain not so much through at the level of legislation

or the level of sort of grand things.

The Methodist movement, the engine of it was relational, small groups,

three to five people, 10 to 12 people, society meetings where people confess

their sin, held each other accountable, in love, follow Jesus together.

And a lot of that uplifted uh the poor that built schools for poor kids and

and all that but it happened at a very,

micro level but it had

very large consequences for society writ

large um i think we often i

don't know that that doesn't sound big enough to people and not

to say there's not things that that couldn't be done uh for

sure um you know i

read last year i think new jim

crown that was a a very eye-opening book that was

a very um you know difficult book but also

very well researched and um a significant

book for me um but i do think for for people's perspective you know we we've

learned this with the abortion debate i think that changing legislation does

not change people's hearts and minds um and i don't think that we're going to

come to a better understanding,

of the history of racism and its implications today with legislation,

even though there's some that may be helpful and needs to happen at a level of people.

Yeah, I think, you know.

The way that the kind of racial progress has happened is I think in the,

you know, fifties and sixties, what was, what was happening was,

was dismantling the legal framework,

the laws that were in place and all of that what's happened in the years since

the 50 years since is more dismantling kind of the social framework.

Work and that takes a lot longer because

it's not as visible you know it's easy to take

down a whites only sign or um it's just

something like that or integrate a school well it's not

that easy but it it's done but it's harder

to start to really deal with some of the the maybe the biases or or misunderstandings

or things that have been there for decades and I think that that's that takes time.

Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

I'll name a resource that I found helpful. It could be a model for what we're describing.

It was one that I listened to, I think, last year. The author's name is escaping

me. It was called Be the Bridge.

I thought it was maybe the best book I've read that tries to approach racial

reconciliation, racial justice from a Christian lens.

A lot of what's out there is from a secular perspective. There's value to those two.

This was from a what i would consider a pretty robust theological

frame um and that's

that's one and it's got like um discussion questions

and stuff for church discussions and discussions

between you know anglo and a black church and things like that um that i thought

was actually a pretty helpful resource on this for what we're talking about

one question that i have is and you you kind of touched it briefly in the essay is what was,

what do you think was the role of John Wesley when it came to the issue of race

during his own lifetime?

And then after that, cause obviously he spoke a lot or, or had as the statement

that you had about American slavery, um,

he had some role in, in dealing with the end of the slave trade,

um, at least with Britain.

What do you think has been his role?

Yeah, he certainly was supporting Wilberforce and wanting to see it outlawed in the UK.

My history is not good enough to tell you how involved he was in that.

I want to say that maybe that was a fairly new discussion near the end of Wesley's

life, so I don't know how involved he'd been beyond encouraging Wilberforce.

The timeline is not there for me in my head right now.

I will, have you ever seen the movie Amazing Grace about Wolverine?

No, I have not. I need to see that. It's a good church group movie.

The guy that played Mr. Fantastic in the terrible Fox Fantastic Four movies plays Wilberforce.

But it was pretty good. And it features John Newton in there,

of course, who had been a slave owner, had an evangelical conversion, wrote Amazing Grace.

He's got a neat part in that movie. um but

that that's a powerful powerful movie i mean the early methodist

movement was was anti slavery um

actually i'm listening right now to this book

is so long it's ron chernow's new i think it's

new biography of washington um it's

very good it's long it's extensive um but

one of the anecdotes in the book is when the

two the two original american methodist bishops uh asbury and cope they actually

visited washington's house because they were they were putting forth a piece

of legislation in virginia to end slavery and they wanted washington's support of course washington.

Hemmed and hawed on that he didn't put his name to it explicitly he was sort of um,

he was going about on both sides of the fence about slavery

in his in his life from what i understand from that book but

that to say early methodism was explicitly um

anti-slavery but much like

the story of kind of america itself very quickly for the sake of unity kind

of gave up on that stance uh so that the methodist movement could grow in america

and all that so we started off kind of in a place where like the quakers were

but compromised on that pretty early on, unfortunately,

again, in the American context.

So I think the final question that I have is,

What do you think is your objective with this essay?

What do you think is you want someone to get from reading this essay?

I would want someone that has been, let's say, a supporter of Black Lives Matter,

who's a Christian, to walk away thinking that they have a more robust theological

frame for making that affirmation.

That it's not they're not just saying that because they're a

good liberal they're not just saying that because they're a

good person but that there is this significant

theological and biblical warrant for saying for how god works in history how

god works in scripture the arc of salvation history um all those things i would

want someone that's maybe not been as quick to affirm black Black Lives Matter,

who's a Christian, to think more carefully about that, the reasons for rejecting that.

And hopefully, I've given them hopefully some good reasons to think maybe differently about it,

both about why it's something that we can and should affirm from a Christian

perspective, and why it's worth rethinking.

And I think why our African American neighbors.

Need to hear the church say this maybe um

i don't want to speak for anyone especially for africans but

but again i i think um i don't

know silence is violence is sort of a trope and it's i don't

know it's a little silly to me but there there

is something to the church needs to

have a moral voice and i don't think that

should be an ideological voice you and i've had conversations

along these lines previously um so maybe

that's maybe that's part of it is that for the

christians that have resisted this language to see it not

as a political or ideological statement but to

see it as a statement of of god's grace uh for

all humanity in particular for our african-american sisters and brothers um

who are who at least we should be willing to hear them say we feel like like

based on not just hundreds of years of history,

but the last 10 years of history and all these horrible things that society

does not care what happens to us.

And as the church, we should be able to be the first people to say for us,

because we love Jesus, your life matters to us.

I think that that is a great place to end it. The essay is The Scandal of Particularity,

Black Lives, and Jesus, which is in Firebrand Magazine.

And there will be a link in the show notes.

And Drew, it's been good to talk to you, to have this discussion.

I hope that we can have this discussion again sometime soon on another topic.

Yeah, this is a lot of fun, Dennis. Dennis. It's nice to connect via Zoom face-to-face.

Thanks for the chance to talk about this piece. And I'd welcome your listeners

to reach out with questions or comments.

Part of writing this is I want to learn. And I want to learn from folks that

like it and folks that don't like it. So I'd love to hear from folks.

Shoot me an email. You can leave a link to my Twitter or whatever.

I'm not hard to find on the interwebs.

But thanks for the chance just to talk and for your insights as well. All right. Take care.