Just days after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, France left 129 people dead and over 350 others injured, Syrian refugees have once again become a topic for debate. It is believed that some of the terrorists gained access to Europe by using refugee status after a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers from the attacks. However, Serbian police recently arrested a man carrying a Syrian passport with the exact same details as the documents found on the bomber in Paris and officials are almost certain now that both were forged in Turkey.

While the media both here and abroad have used this information to stoke the flames of Islamophobia, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has urged political leaders to continue to take in those fleeing from conflict. At the G20 summit in Turkey Juncker said, “Those who organized these attacks and those that perpetrated them are exactly those that the refugees are fleeing and not the opposite.”

According to CNN,
More than 250,000 people have died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011, and at least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes. Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population, according to the United Nations.
President Barack Obama took to the podium at the same G20 summit to declare that the United States would stay committed to our plan of letting in 10,000 Syrian refugees despite governors from Alabama and Michigan announcing that they would reject refugees. Since his speech the list of states whose governors have stated that they would refuse to resettle Syrian refugees has grown to 27. There is no lawful means that grants state governors the authority to overrule the federal government on matters such as immigration policy. Nonetheless, governors from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin have vowed not to cooperate with the federal government and to make it as difficult as possible for refugees to be relocated to their individual states.

Their main reasoning is that they believe refugees will pose a possible security threat. But this graphic might help dispute that claim:

Given their views toward immigrants, particularly those of color, it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that 26 out of the 27 governors to make statements refusing refugees are Republican. And because this is America and some voters still want their leaders to have biblical values it should not come as a surprise that all 27 governors claim to be practicing Christians. I don’t have the authority to declare someone to be an authentic Christian or not. But, I do observe the actions of followers of Christ, especially in times of crisis because Scripture says, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”

Here is a quick reminder of what the Bible has to say about the treatment of refugees:
  • Leviticus 19:33–4: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were refugees in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
  • Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a refugee or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
  • Zechariah 7:9–10: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the refugee, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
  • Malachi 3:5: “I will be a swift witness against…those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the refugee, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”
  • Isaiah 3:4: “Give counsel; grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon; shelter the outcasts…”
  • Deuteronomy 27:19: “Cursed be anyone who deprives refugees of justice.”
  • Ephesians 2:9: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
  • Jeremiah 22:3: “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
  • Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
  • Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
As the season of advent quickly approaches I am reminded of the birth narrative of Jesus and how Mary and Joseph became refugees as they fled from the murderous King Herod. One would think this obvious parallel between the life of Jesus and the lives of refugees all over the globe escaping war, oppression, and inhumane treatment would be enough for all of our political leaders to show compassion, instead they prove to be heartless and callous. Imagine if the so-called biblical values of these political leaders extended beyond policing both how women treat their bodies and who people choose to marry. Christians should push those leaders that claim to share the same faith as them to act according to Scripture and to not allow their states to become safe havens for racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.
I recently picked up a fascinating book called Octavia's Brood co-edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown. In a discussion about the book Walidah Imarisha said, "All organizing is science fiction. What does a world without poverty look like? What does a world without prison look like? What does a world with everyone having enough food and clothing look like? We don't know. It's science fiction, and it is as foreign to us as the Klingon home world."
I had never heard of organizing being discussed in such a way and it led me to reflect on the importance of envisioning and dreaming of the society for which we fight to create. I also found myself reflecting on this statement in a different light. All organizing is also theological and spiritual. A simple explanation of this is that organizing/activism is faith in action. As Christians, justice is at the heart of our discipleship. We are called to fight for and with the marginalized and the oppressed so that every person's humanity is recognized to the fullest extent and equity becomes a reality. But when we work vigorously toward this goal we are doing more than just being faithful and obedient to our call, we are attempting to embody and bring into fruition the summation of the Christian message: a 'New Creation.'

Read the entire article HERE.
"Tell them about your dream, Martin."

These words spoken to Martin Luther King Jr. 52 years ago on August 28, 1963 by Mahalia Jackson inspired perhaps the most well-known prophetic use of spiritual imagination in modern history. King's "I Have A Dream" speech was filled with hope and radical imagery. King envisioned a nation where injustice and oppression were no longer prevalent -- a nation so transformed by hope and love that freedom and justice rang "from every state and every city." This kind of dream, conceived with a keen spiritual imagination, is integral to the foundation of any liberating work. As the great spiritual writer C.S. Lewis argued, "reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition." In other words, we do not really grasp the meaning of any concept until we have a clear image that we can connect with it. We cannot create a better world if we do not first envision a better world. We cannot liberate ourselves if we do not imagine what liberation looks like. We cannot fight for justice if we are stuck with only images of injustice. As we continue the struggle for the liberation of all oppressed people we must let our imaginations run wild. We must dream.

Dreaming in both the literal and figurative sense is essential to creating a better world. Jan Born, a neuroscientist at the University of Lübeck, argues that, "deep sleep and dreaming 'set the stage for the emergence of insight' by allowing us to mentally represent old ideas in new ways." This is essentially what Dr. King did when he detailed what it would look like if America lived out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

According to Sara Mednick, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, REM sleep is an essential component of creativity. "REM 'primes associative networks' allowing us to integrate new information into our problem-solving approach." Systemic evil is constantly evolving and may manifest itself differently over time. That is why we must remain creative and use our imagination to develop the most efficient ways to push back against systems of oppression. Methods that worked for past generations might not necessarily be effective in our generation's current struggle for freedom and equality.

While there are several psychological reasons why dreaming is important, there are also physiological reasons. According to Dr. J. Allan Hobson, the major function of the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep associated with dreams is physiological and during this time the "brain is activated and 'warming its circuits' and is anticipating the sights, sounds and emotions of the waking state." When we envision a better future we engage in the exercise of creating hope. We prepare our mind, body, and soul for the work that must be done to ensure the future we imagine comes to fruition.

In the Bible, dreams and visions were often used by God to communicate with people and to reveal God's plan. God utilized this method to create a bridge between the realm of the divine and the realm of flesh. Ultimately, though, Jesus stands in this gap as God made flesh. The goal of faith based activism is to create a better world. And if it is truly Kingdom building work then the life and ministry of Jesus stand as the perfect vision of the principles on which this new world is to be built -- principles such as love, compassion, sacrifice, humility, faithfulness, and justice. We have never tangibly seen this new world in its entirety. Therefore, it is necessary that we cultivate a spiritual imagination similar to Dr. King's. One that allows us to dream of infinite possibilities. Each time we use our spiritual imagination to dream of a better world we break down barriers that exist between the worldly and other-worldly. Dreams give us the ability to access this distant realm or alternate reality, a reality occupied only by God. We are able to transcend the hopelessness and despair that some of us might experience through the conditions created by our present world.

Lack of vision and underutilizing the discipline of cultivating a spiritual imagination is a cause for concern. In biblical times this was often a sign of disobedience. In today's society the absence of an active spiritual imagination can be demoralizing and paralyzing. Dreams are the first step in creating space for mobility. They give us hope and set our path. Without them we run the risk of mistaking realism for our reality.

For those of us involved in the Black Lives Matter movement it is vital that we carry on the tradition of dreaming. Our ancestors dreamed of the impossible and then worked tirelessly to make it possible. The world that is meant for us has still not yet come, but a part of it exists in us as hope and that hope drives us to fight for it. We must stay faithful prisoners of hope to break the chains of systemic evil. What is your dream for tomorrow? What does freedom look like to you?
One of the most frustrating aspects of social justice work is waiting for your hard work and dedication to finally pay off. Why must we wait so long to see change actually happen? It is not uncommon for a person to work their entire life toward affecting change and never get the result they desire. Following in the footsteps of our ancestors and the prophets of the Bible, when our patience is tested we begin to petition God and solicit God's presence and activity in our society. Where are you God? How long will you allow the unrighteous to reign supreme and for injustice to pervade our world? This becomes one of the biggest tests of faith. Do we truly believe God will be faithful to the promise to bring about justice? If so, when we become involved in a social movement of protest where the central methodology is nonviolent resistance, are we essentially agreeing with the sentiment that we must wait on the Lord?

Read the entire article HERE.

"I have never felt closer to a higher power than since the protests began." - Deray McKesson

There is a lot of truth in this statement. I feel this way, in part, because I am living out God's calling on my life. As a Christian I have always felt the call to use my faith to become an agent of change and to be a part of a community that is seeking to transform society. In various ways I have worked toward accomplishing that throughout my life. But never before has my work felt so validated. And never before have I felt like the presence of God and the activity of God was so abundantly clear.

I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past seven months. My life has completely changed since August 9th, the day Michael Brown was murdered by police officer Darren Wilson. Despite this tragedy and the hardship that has followed there have been many good things that have come as a result of our fight for justice. I think about the community that has been built. I think about the friendships that have been formed. I think about the art and music that have been created. I think about the theology that has been constructed. In all of this I see the face of God. In my attempt to follow the advice given by the psalmist to "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always," I have found confirmation that God is truly on the side of the oppressed, marginalized, and downtrodden. It might not seem this way because we have a long battle to fight and the odds are constantly stacking up against us, but it was at that exact point in the life of Jesus, when the world had thrown all that it could throw at him, that the ultimate power and will of God was revealed.

The work that is being done through the Black Lives Matter movement is righteous. It is a faithful witness to the radical ministry of Jesus Christ and evidence of obedience to the mandate to love. Although this movement began as a result of the growing intolerance to the unjust and brutal treatment of Black people by those sworn to protect and serve us, it is deeply rooted in love. It is not anger, fear, or frustration that motivates most of us, but it is hope and love. Had the foundation of this movement been anything other than love we would be at a totally different place right now. Throughout history there has only been one type of response to the kind of injustices the Black community faces today in America and that is one of violent resistance. But for the betterment of society we have chosen a different path, for as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." A special kind of love has to be cultivated and diffused to both overcome evil and sustain a people whose humanity has been violated for centuries and whose dignity is threatened on a daily basis.

This special kind of love exists in the midst of Blackness as Black love; a love that emanates from God and is a central place to where we find the perfect image of God. Black love is powerful because it functions as a strong bond formed between brothers and sisters caught up in the same struggle; it is expressed romantically unrestricted by sexual and gender norms; and it overflows as redemptive goodwill seeking to preserve and create community. Every expression of love is triadic therefore every expression of love points to the triune God.

When the great theologian and early Church Father Augustine wrote about the Trinity he reasoned that we could not catch intellectual sight of the Trinity directly, but because we are made in the image of God we should expect to see something that reflects the Trinity in us. In his work, De Trinitate (On the Trinity), Augustine details several psychological analogies of the Trinity, one of which is the mind, self-knowledge, and self-love. Based on 1 John 4:8,  he links the triads found in loving something (the act of one who is loving something, the love itself, and the object that is loved) and in the process of contemplation (the mind that desires to know something, the activity of knowing, and the object that is known) to God's own movement found in the Trinity.

You cannot love that which you do not know therefore self-love implies self-knowledge. As Augustine writes, "The mind is not able to love itself unless it also knows itself." In a similar manner Black love is imperfect without knowledge of Blackness. Black awareness is a co-product of the love of Blackness. In other words, Black love implies Black awareness. Thus, producing a trinity of Blackness, Black awareness, and Black love. This trinity is a reminder of God's proximity to the disinherited people of this world.

Blackness exposes many evils that exist in society, some of which become internalized. When we push back against these evils through love we align ourselves with the will of God and become in tune with the vision that God has for this world. As we move forward in the fight for justice and continue to discuss and improve our understanding of Blackness and all that it encompasses we will undoubtedly continue to see reflections of God.
Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, protest leaders from Millenial Activists United held a very quiet and peaceful demonstration outside of a church in St. Louis. There was no chanting, just humming and signs being held. Signs that carried messages such as, "crucifixion = lynching" and "Mike Brown was the least of these." Their goal was to remind Black Christians of the radical message of Christ and the implications his death and resurrection have for the today's world. Some church members greeted the demonstrators with support and love. Others felt the demonstration was disrespectful. In the end, apparently, the church went as far as to call the police on the demonstrators. The demonstration was live tweeted using the hashtag #BlackChurch.

This action reminded me of a piece I wrote not too long ago but never got to share. Like those demonstrators I too wonder why many congregants of Black churches have been silent on the issue of police brutality, especially considering the parrellels that can be drawn between the cross, the lynching tree, and police brutality as it exists today. It would seem that the revolutionary life that Jesus lived and the history of activism that exists within many Black church traditions would be enough to garner support across denominations. However, this has not been the case and many young people involved in the nationwide movement to change the culture of police and bring justice to the victims of state sponsored violence have felt abandoned by their local churches.

The questions being raised and the pressure being put on the church can bring nothing but positive change. As more churches respond to the criticism from protesters the more likely it will become that the church will be an even better transformative force in society.

Undiagnosed mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and many others are at an epidemic level in the black community. This stems from a variety of things but is mainly due to the stigma that is placed on mental illness within the black community. We are often shamed for seeking mental help because we have been taught to view it as some sort of weakness. Others believe that we should have faith and that religion can solve all of our problems. It is said that black people don't suffer from these disorders at a higher rate than any other race, but I would argue that we experience more trauma and receive less treatment than any other group in America. As a black person in America you are constantly bombarded with black death. Every 28 hours a black person is murdered by police. That fact alone is enough to make you feel depressed.  Not to mention the poverty, poor education, lack of equality in health care, and state violence that disproportionally effects black people.
The vast majority of people in society are able to deal with these issues on a surface level or are privileged enough to be able to overlook them altogether. I have been called by some higher power or force within me to face these issues head on, and when you do that, you really sacrifice a piece of yourself. Its almost like you sign a contract for mental anguish.

Being involved in any type of resistance or social justice movement is taxing physically, mentally, and most of all emotionally. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for about 4 years now. Dealing with these issues by themselves is hard enough, but add on the stress and strife of literally fighting for your right to live, and it can feel like living in hell. The waves of negative thoughts. Wanting to get out of the rut you're in but feeling hopeless. Not wanting to eat. Having trouble sleeping. Feeling sad for unexplainable reasons or no reason at all. And on top of feeling all of this, we deal with the burden of being ashamed of our condition and not wanting to inconvenience others by talking about it.  Most people who are close to me have no idea that I deal with this as I have developed a sort of social mask over time. My story is not unique as I have noticed that quite a few of my comrades in the movement deal with similar issues.

The frustration, anger, and sadness that comes along with this work can be very hard to deal with. So how do we deal with it? I personally just try to suck it up and keep moving, but at times it can feel unbearable. I've felt like "Why am I even doing this? It's not something that we can win." I'm not ashamed to have had these thoughts because I am human and at times the odds can seem insurmountable. I'm actually proud that I am able to battle these negative thoughts and emotions and continue to push forward and fight against injustice.

One place I have been able to find solace throughout these personal battles is with my fellow activists, writers, and organizers who are fighting alongside me. I have lost a lot of the person I was before August 9th, but I have gained so much more than I ever was alone. I have gained a community; a family. Without this community I would have given up on this work months ago. I would have given into the belief that this is just the way things are and this is just how things are going to be. I would have believed that I deal with these issues alone and that no one can relate to me. You all have given and continue to give me the strength to carry on. You all inspire me to keep fighting and reaffirm my belief that as long as we are in this together we can overcome all obstacles; personal or community.
Chad Golden is a father, activist, and writer. Follow him on twitter.
On March 15, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, MI entitled, "The Meaning of Hope." In this sermon Dr. King reminded the church of its responsibility to "keep the flame of hope burning" by becoming "custodians of hopefulness." For King, hope was absolutely necessary to survive in times of far-reaching injustice.

What is this hope that King speaks of? Where does this hope come from? Where can this hope lead us?

In this book I explore the meaning of hope from both a religious and non-religious perspective. I also provide quotes from some of the most important writings and orations by significant revolutionaries such as MLK, Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Huey P. Newton, and Angela Davis that have inspired generations of people to keep pushing through adversity in order to secure a better future.

This book will be a completely FREE resource that will inspire, enlighten, and be the sustenance needed to continue the fight for liberation. It will be available in PRINT on May 19th.

1. Why @TefPoe is Leading, and Clergy are Following
In the post-Civil Rights Black Church, Hip Hop culture has emerged as a powerful religious praxis in the black community. Filling a void that was once occupied by spirituals, blues, Dr. King, and the black panthers; Hip Hop has surfaced as a new movement of religious expression...continue reading
2. they would respect us if
With the Ferguson movement and other protests around the country highlighting the dual but interrelated problems of police brutality and racial profiling in African American communities, many public intellectuals have been pondering the reasons why Blacks are more likely to be profiled, brutalized, or worse, murdered in cold blood as Mike Brown was...continue reading
3. Racial Identity and the Church
Each week we sat in a circle, huddled in a dorm room preparing our hearts for worship. For an entire semester our small group of diverse women gathered together to pray. One day a new face joined our little group. When it was time for her to pray, she started off shyly, carefully choosing each word. A voice within the group gently interrupted, “You know you can pray in any language you want.” We all felt her body shift as she exclaimed, “Really?” We opened our eyes and nodded in unison...continue reading
4. 3 MLK quotes that convict me today
A fifth point regarding nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resistor not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him...continue reading
5. Neo-Anabaptist myths and Mennonite reality on the problem of white homogeneity in Anabaptist communities
Not so fast my neo-Anabaptist brothers (and sisters?). It seems like a brief and short response to the prevalent myth running in neo-Anabaptist circles, in regards to the problem of white homogeneity that needs broader insight to break past the myth and look at what is actually going on in reality...continue reading
The fight for justice in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old teenager killed in Ferguson, MO on August 9, 2014 by police officer Darren Wilson, has continued for over 140 days and into the new year. Many have already deemed 2015 as the "Year of Resistance." Since August 9th, other police involved killings from around the country and decisions to not indict the officers involved have fanned the flames of protest culminating in mass demonstrations in 37 states. It has become very evident that this is a movement and not a moment which consequently has led to people of all creeds, across the nation, scrambling to develop an analysis of and a response to racial profiling and police brutality.

For the Church, in particular the Black Church, many questions have arose. What is the role of clergy in this troubled time? Should clergy be priestly or prophetic or both? Historically, the Black Church has been at the forefront of the fight for justice. Does a place of leadership still exist for the Church in this movement or should the Church play a more supportive role? As a Christian what is my role in this? Should I be active in protest or should I stand idly by while people risk their lives in the pursuit of justice?

I have my opinions about the role of clergy and the Church, but I'm not going to use this space to discuss those. For now, I would like to address why justice-making is central to the Christian identity.

God, the Bible, and the Church are the foundation of my activism. Jesus was the first revolutionary I learned about; a first century Palestinian Jew who "courageously exposed the greed for money, power and adulation of the political elite." His movement existed under a police state in the midst of religious and political turmoil. He was arrested unjustly, brutalized and tortured by Roman guards, and executed in a manner "reserved almost exclusively for the crime of sedition." On the other hand, as James Cone writes, "He is also the divine One who transcends the limitations of history by making himself present in our contemporary existence. When God raised Jesus from the dead, God affirmed that Jesus' historical identity with the freedom of the poor was in fact divinity taking on humanity for the purpose of liberating human beings from sin and death. It is within this context that the resurrection is a political event."

Not only do I want to imitate Jesus' revolutionary lifestyle, but also the revolutionary love He exhibited. I experience God as the fountainhead of love. The love that flows to me from God is not meant to stop with me, rather it is meant to flow through me. Huey Newton was absolutely correct when he said, "...what motivates people is not great hate, but great love for other people." It is the revolutionary, boundless, and immense love that I have for people that impels me to seek justice. As Dr. Cornel West says, "Justice is what love looks like in public."

Scripture informs me further of just how central justice-making is to my Christian identity. To know God is to do justice (Jeremiah 22:15-16). It is not enough that we live righteously. We are required to do justice (Micah 6:8). Throughout the Bible we are given very clear reminders of God's love for justice and reminders that it is our duty to fight for those who have been crushed, degraded, humiliated, exploited, impoverished, defrauded, deceived and enslaved (Isaiah 1:17; Matthew 25:40-45; Luke 4:18; Mark 12:30-31).

My upbringing in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) helped me to see what it would look like for the Body of Christ to put those verses into action. I grew up with the understanding that the Church had a responsibility to save souls and to save bodies. In fact, the AME Church was the first major religious denomination in the western world to develop because of sociological differences rather than theological ones. It was literally born out of the fight for freedom and in protest to racial discrimination and slavery. My church involved itself in charity work that served the needs of the less fortunate. But I also saw my church advocate for fair and just public policies and push to change the social structures that lead to people becoming less fortunate.

In the world of faith, the term "social justice" gets caught in the middle of the perpetual tug-of-war between fundamentalism and liberalism. I don't align myself with either side. I am a Black man in America which means I neither have the time nor the privilege to get caught up in theological and ideological bickering. The effects of racism are not theoretical, therefore our response must not only be in theory but in practice. As long as we live in a world controlled by social institutions we should be fighting to ensure those institutions better serve the common good. One of those institutions being the church. In 2014, I witnessed Christians defend torture and label police officers as "agents of God." Certainly many churches and Christians perpetuate harmful dominant narratives and serve to uphold the status quo of a racist and violent social, economic, and political system. This must change.

There have been Christians protesting alongside of me that did not have a similar justice-minded upbringing. What we do share is a belief that we are not only supposed to have a faith that benefits ourselves, but a faith that benefits others, makes the world a better place, and prepares it for the coming of Christ. We have been transformed in a way that empowers us and requires us to transform the world. Faith, Bible, and Church come together to serve the world.

There is a role for everyone in the struggle for justice. If 2015 is to truly be the "Year of Resistance" we must individually and collectively reclaim the Christ of Resistance. Justice must be at the heart of our discipleship. 
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