Exploring Issues of Faith & Race

Faith & Race This Month

Our monthly meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7pm. We’ll be discussing excerpts from Isabel Wilkerson’s new highly acclaimed (and rather lengthy!!) book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. You can download section one, two, three, and four. As always, you are welcome to join us whether you read it all, none or it, or something in between. Your voice, your thoughts, and your openness to continue to grow in grace is all that’s required. Hope you’ll join us!

New Resources

The (Basketball) World Loses a Giant

John Thompson, Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach at Georgetown University, as famous for building one of the nation’s best programs as the white towel he always wore over his shoulder, died on August 31st just days shy of his 79th birthday. When he was asked about what it meant to be the first black coach to win an NCAA championship, he was quick to say that he resented the question and pointed to a handful of equally or more talented black coaches that just never got the chance. He was a straight talker who was known as a molder of character in his players and for speaking his mind — sometimes in an uncensored way. Once when he was giving a colorful acceptance speech after being presented with the first Dean Smith award, he turned to sportswriter John Feinstein and told him, “You may have to explain (to the audience) that I speak two languages: English and profanity.” Feinstein wrote a tribute piece to honor his long-time friend with whom he disagreed regularly but who he said taught him more than almost anyone else. When Feinstein told Thompson he was working on a book about race and sports and wanted some advice, Thompson laughed as he responded, “You might as well try to explain the Holy Trinity.” Then he turned serious and said, “Which is why it’s a book you absolutely have to do.”

Faith & Science as a Guide

One of the core researchers on the NIH team working to develop a coronavirus vaccine is 34 year-old Kizzmekia Corbett of suburban Maryland. Originally from rural Hurdle Mills, NC, her academic and professional journey has landed her in a field that is has traditionally been dominated by white male scientists but she has made her mark and become accepted and respected for her considerable skills and intellect. And she is not shy talking about her faith, either. In a recent Washington Post article she says, “Science tells us how the world works, but it can’t tell us why…My religion tells me why I should want to help people, make the world a better place. Science shows me how to study the cornonavirus and do the work that one day, hopefully, will prevent people from dying of Covid-19.”

Carl Lentz, lead pastor of Hillsong East Coast, sits down with Emmanuel Acho to have an uncomfortable conversation about the role religion plays in fueling and/or killing racism.

John Lewis: Civil Rights Icon & Saint

Our country lost a great Civil Rights leader and a saint of the church, who in the words of historian Jon Meacham “was willing to suffer and die for his understanding of the Gospel…he was about the Beatitudes.” Watch and hear Meacham’s reflections on Congressman Lewis’s life, the one so many referred to as the “Conscience of the Congress,” and the imprint that he leaves on our nation.

Bob the Tomato wants you to care about racism. Back in June, Phil Vischer — creator of “VeggieTales” and voice of Bob the Tomato in the popular Christian animated series — posted a now-viral video called “Race in America” that attempts to answer the question:
“Why are people so angry?”

The Faith & Race Group

It is more important than ever that people in the church and our nation confront the hard realities of racial injustice, repent of our own attitudes and actions of prejudice and witness to a vision of God’s Kin-dom where we treat one another as beloved brothers and sisters.

For the last several years, SPUMC’s Faith & Race Group has been meeting monthly to explore how our core Christian values call us to treat people of all cultures and races with dignity, respect and love. We have been reading some of the best books on the history of racism in our country and the church, the hard realities of what it means to be a person of color in a culture of systemic racism (whether it be South Africa or the US), what it takes to raise children who are anti-racist and other resources that help us understand the intersection between faith and race.

We have also gone to movies together that deal seriously with issues of race (Just Mercy, Harriet) and have other field trips planned to visit historic sites in Annapolis, the African American Museum and the Underground Railroad Museum near Cambridge, MD. Mostly, we have been having honest, heart-searching and heart-breaking conversations about our own attitudes and practices related to race as we seek to become more faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Our meetings are always open and you are very welcome to join us anytime. We meet on the 4th Tuesday of the month at 7pm. This month we are reading and discussing Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, Caste, which looks at racism in a new frame and a global context. You can join us for conversation about this go-to book on Tuesday, September 22 at 7pm via Zoom.

Books We Have Read Together

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Blindspot by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Other Recommended Books

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Dear Church: A Love Letter From a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone

Other Recent News

SPUMC Speaks Out Against Racism

Earlier this spring, the staff recently put out a video statement in response to the protests about the horrific death of George Floyd that were taking place all over our country. As Christians and leaders of this faith community, we feel compelled to speak because to remain silent is to be complicit with this evil system of racism that continues to infect and affect us all — black and white. All Christians are called to love our neighbors and to work for God’s justice after the example of Jesus and the teaching of the Hebrew prophets. You can view the video here.

Reflecting on Frederick Douglass’ 4th of July Speech

The U.S. celebrated this Independence Day amid nationwide protests and calls for systemic reforms. In this short film, five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read and respond to excerpts of his famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which asks all of us to consider America’s long history of denying equal rights to Black Americans.

Is America Possible?

Vincent Harding was wise about how the vision of the civil rights movement might speak to 21st-century realities. He reminded us that the movement of the ’50s and ’60s was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society. He pursued this through patient-yet-passionate cross-cultural, cross-generational relationships. And he posed and lived a question that is freshly in our midst: Is America possible? Listen to his 2011 interview with Krista Tippett. Harding died in 2014.

Video Resources

To read Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, visit: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/letter-birmingham-jail