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Listening/Action Steps after the Racial/Justice Protests 2020

Listening/Action Steps after the Racial/Justice Protests 2020

(Readings/ Videos/Organizations)

Initial Reading for Greek Orthodox Faithful

Alexander Schmemann (2018) For the Life of the World. An Orthodox critique of secular
            culture… and… belief that Christians, while not “of the world,” must be “in the world.” Advances our thoughts on being in the world as a heavenly, eucharistic presence, but, as Schmemann has admited, needs to be brought up into our challenging times.

“FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church” With Patriarchal Endorsement. This important document carries further the ideas of the respected and beloved Schmemann. https://www.goarch.org/social-ethos, accessed 16Jun20.

            “When the eternal Son became human, divesting himself of his divine glory… he elected thereby to identify himself with the most marginal, politically powerless, and socially disadvantaged persons of his age….”  (IV:32)

            “Among the most common evils of all human societies… are the gross inequalities of wealth often produced or abetted by regressive politics of taxation and insufficient regulation of fair wages, which favor the interests of those rich enough to influence legislation and secure their wealth against the demands of the general good.” (IV:35)

            “Most of all, along with St. Basil and St. Ambrose, and other Fathers, the Orthodox Church must insist upon the responsibility of society to provide a social safety net that genuinely protects the poor and disadvantaged from absolute penury, degradation, homelessness, misery, and despair.” (IV: 38)     

Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America

http://www.assemblyofbishops.org/news/2017/response-to-racist-violence-charlottesville-va, accessed 17Jun20

“The essence of the Christian Gospel and the spirit of the Orthodox Tradition are entirely and self-evidently incompatible with ideologies that declare the superiority of any race over another. Our God shows no partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17, Romans 2:11). Our Lord Jesus Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility that had separated God from humans and humans from each other (Ephesians 2:14). In Christ Jesus, the Church proclaims, there can be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, but all are one (Galatians 3:28). Furthermore, we call on one another to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them (Ephesians 5:11). And what is darkness if not hatred? The one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness (1 John 2:11)!”

And, in response to racist exhibitions in Charlottesville (12Aug17):

Finally, such actions as we have witnessed in recent days, by self-proclaimed white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and various racists and fascists, betray the core human values of love and solidarity….

Learning through Reading (for Whites) 

Debby Irving (2014) Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race,

            An excellent place to start… a liberal, warm hearted teacher who didn’t want to offend, found herself at a loss with her Black students and their parents. A graduate course on Racism helped her review her background, including a significant exchange with her mother, and her colorblindness to her privilege in light of historic systemic racism. Could make for a good book discussion group.

Robin DiAngelo (2018) White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
            Another White woman, a professor, writer and workshop leader for twenty years, is more strident, irritating, and more up to date, than Debby Irving. This New York Times best seller has plenty of critics (see Amazon Reader Reviews), but it presses into the critical issue as to why many Christian and non-Christian white Americans, including some in our present administration, don’t believe there is systemic racism in our country today.

Ibram X.Kendi (2019) How to Be an Antiracist

            Another current Best Seller and much discussed…this one from a Black male. Surely a book for our times. From reviewers: “Antiracism is a transformative concept that reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value…. Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism.”

Jemar Tisby (2020) The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity

            in Racism. Strong voice of a Black Christian, cutting through the historical and theological weaknesses of White Evangelical historical and theological weaknesses… without bitterness. (To see negative philosophical and theological arguments against books listed here, note the work of Jason L Bradfield under Top Reviews)

Jemar Tisby (January 2021) How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey
            Toward Racial Justice.
This promises to provide practical steps churches and individuals can take to move past racism in society and in our churches. (See Amazon Reviews)

For Teens leading to Family Discussions

Jason Reynolds (2017) All American Boys. Two teens—Black and White—“grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and ultimately, the country divided by racial tension.”

Nora Neale Hurston (2020) Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.” The amazing story of 86-year old, last survivor of slave ships to America—from homeland to slavery and aftermath.


National Philoptochos of Social Work:  Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America


Poor Peoples Campaign (lead by Rev/Dr. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis)
https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/, accessed 15Jun20

See Home Page: Learn

            Poor People’s Moral Budget

            The Souls of Poor Folks Audit

            Facts Sheets
            Arts & Culture

            We Cry Power

Five Pillars of PPC:

Systemic Poverty, Systemic Racism, Degradation of Natural World, Militarism,

Distorted Narrative of Religious Nationalism

Black Lives Matter (BLM)

https://blacklivesmatter.com/, accessed 15Jun20

News… About…  Programs…   Global Actions…   Watch+Listen
Share… Donate

Sojourners  Christian community in Washington D.C. Magazine promoting justice and truth.

            Jim Wallis, Director and writer (2010) Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus
https://sojo.net/magazine/current, note striking picture and article: “A Christian Case for Reparations”

Bridge Alliance—Bridging Ideological Divides. A collaboration of 32 organizations.


National Institute for Civil Discourse (The University of Arizona)  https://nicd.arizona.edu/. “Our Program to engage communities of faith reaches thousands of churches across the theological and political spectrum in making the call for greater dignity and respect in our politics. Throughout 2020, a year in which Americans will select our next President, congregations will emphasize how we treat others—even those who disagree with us—as an important moral issue.” See: Take the Pledge. “Can we apply the Golden Rule to political discussions? What would happen if we did?... The Golden Rule—a personal spiritual practice… a practical strategy for change (with reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.)”

Further Learning: View… Listen… Hear—so we can act

“A Time for Burning,” is an amazing 1-hour, 1966 documentary about a white pastor’s failing attempt, to take his Lutheran Augustana Church in Omaha, Nebraska one voluntary step toward possible diversity. Sadly, so much of these objections remain. (Note especially one white woman’s poignant lament that she just can’t take any more tension—toward the end of the one-hour video.)


For a clearer and shorter update, 40 years later, on the making, and the gist, of this documentary, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaK7mfp3fm4
The Rev. T.D. Jakes is a Pentecostal pastor of a megachurch, The Potters House, in Dallas, Texas. (And more… pastor to NFL players, etc.) Here we see and hear him as a powerful Black voice against Racism. It is long… more than an hour and a half. But its first 30 or so minutes and last 10 minutes provide a vivid starting point for thoughts about Christians, Black and White, against racism. (And you can find other shorter T.D. Jakes’ takes on racism and the church.)


And for a truthful, yet loving, Black Christian response to our present racial and political crisis, we should listen (even another time) to the Episcopal Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry… his message to a troubled country and church on Pentecost Sunday:


Finally, Possible Discourse Across our Hostile Divides

Madeline Halpert (13Jun20) “Talking with Relatives Across the Political Divide,” The New York Times:

Manage Expectations, Practice Active Listening, Take a Break if you need one, Set Boundaries, Keep Conversations Off Social Media, Remember your own Evolution, Unlearn Racism together.


Kevin Aldridge (17Jan18) “When talking about race, the first step is to listen,” Cincinnati Enquirerhttps://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/columnists/2018/01/17/when-talking-race-first-step-listen/1037835001/

Isaac Chotiner (7February19) “A Conflict-Resolution Expert on Whether Political and Racial Dialogue Has Value in the Trump Era,” The New Yorker. Interview with Paula Green, founder of Hands Across the Hills and leader of dialogues between Northern Democrats and Southern Republicans.  Much effort for little gain… is it worth it?  https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/can-conversation-bridge-americas-political-divide.


Anyone coming off a heated family (or friendship) debate… or forcing themselves to listen to one hour of Fox News and then CNN… or following an extended viewing of FaceBook or Twitter, realizes we have a communication problem. It’s not about incidentals, but the vital direction of our country… and our own—and our children and grandchildren’s—identities.

Just to read through these four pages takes some serious commitment. To dive into its contents even more. This is for an extended family, a serious group, or a church determined to engage.  Only with open and humble hearts, a deep desire for truth and justice, and Divine power can all this be at  productive.

But let justice roll down like waters,
            and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.    Amos, 5: 24, NRSV


Dean Borgman, June 2020