#Privilege

I always thought I was fairly open minded growing up. I would have proudly said that I was not racist. That sort of stuff only happens in the South. I thought I was a good person with regards to racial relations. Luckily, I have had this challenged in my life, but many people still have this mindset: racism is not something they are capable of, it is something everyone else does.

The first time I can say I distinctly remember realizing that I was operating from a place of internalized racism came when I was about 20 years old. My wife’s family lives in what some in the city may call “the not nice part of town”. In other words, its the part of town where the African American community has been segregated into. I was driving down to visit, and realized that I suddenly rolled up my windows, and locked my doors.

And in that moment it hit me- I would not do this if it was a group of white kids walking past me, or if I was in a predominately white part of town. And in that moment I realized that I needed to begin to analyze my own mind, and start to deconstruct this framework that had been embedded in me as your average white American.

It has not been the easiest thing, and it is so important to remember that I always have room to grow. That is why being able to attend the Selma at 50 conference was so wonderful. I kept my mouth shut, and listened to other people’s experiences. My life as a white American is not the norm for the whole world. That was hard to step away from. But I have learned so much and connected with many wonderful people once I was able to step back and realize that there is no norm, and that I needed to listen and learn from other people’s lived experiences.

As I have transitioned as a trans woman, I have watched male privilege disappear, as well as cisgender privilege. I can attest that both of those were very real things. While I have experienced what it is like to be seen as an object, or seen as a “freak”, I also realize that Trans Women of Color are far more likely to be killed for living their truth than I am. I have no clue what it is like to have to worry that police will constantly harass me. I have no clue what it is like to be profiled as a thief when I walk in to a retail store.

Instead, as a white person committed to racial equality, I need to check my privilege, and share the voices of those who have had these experiences. It is not my voice that needs to be heard, but rather the voices of those who have lived these experiences. I cannot say “I am Freddie Grey” or “I can’t breath”- because those are not injustices that I face, but I can say “Black lives matter” and call out racism and privilege that I see in the white community and in my faith, and instead use my voice and faith to empower change and not embrace the status quo.

I hope this all made some good sense- battling a headache today.

-Em

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#CTSSelma

This weekend I attended an amazing conference. I would even consider calling it life changing. It was the Selma At 50 Conference hosted by Chicago Theological Seminary. I was excited to attend, because it was also a chance to get to know what is now my Seminary home as well. Going there on Thursday, I was quite nervous, but it turned out I had no reason to be.

I thought I understood the Seminary experience, having attended a Bible College in undergraduate, and Calvin Theological Seminary. The idea of a Christian community of learning had lost a lot of its appeal to me. Seminary was a path to ordination, not a vital part of the journey. My perspective has completely changed.

This weekend I encountered learning and community that has altered how I understand the role of Seminary in my life.

As I sit here trying to mentally unpack everything…I simply do not know where to begin.

I was able to listen and learn from amazing people and presentations.

I live-tweeted a lot of thoughts.

I got to meet some amazing people.

I felt welcomed.

I was encouraged to challenge thinking I have held my entire life.

I came away from this conference confronting my own privilege. I came away ready to radically push for change. Ready to put my faith into concrete actions.

Going to the conference, I thought I had a rough idea about issues of racism and white privilege. As I headed down to Chicago, I told myself that it was most important that I just listen and understand. It is so vital to realize that any individual’s life is not the norm, and I wanted to learn about other peoples experiences. I am happy that is the perspective I went into the conference with, because I feel so enriched by getting to hear others stories and perspectives.

I hope to be a force for change in the world. But I also want people to hear the stories of others. I will share more later, but this is what I leave you with for today. I need a few more days to let everything sink in before I feel I am ready to share specific lessons learned.

Blessings on you all,

Em

Today’s Journey

I am headed today to Chicago to visit Chicago Theological Seminary and attend the Selma at 50 Conference. I am very excited about this opportunity to listen, learn, and network with some awesome people. As the summer draws near, I am getting more excited about the prospect of Seminary in the fall. I am definitely heading where God is calling me. I will press on despite the challenges, and see where this journey takes me.

I will not leave a long blog today, due to the trip I will be on. I hope to reflect on the conference in Monday’s blog.

Have a blessed weekend everyone

-Em

Book “Review”: Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker

Over the last few years as I struggled with my Dysphoria I found myself unable to handle reading very much and staying focused. Whether it was fiction, non fiction, theology, or really any book… I could not focus. Luckily I have had more luck as of recent. One of the most recent books I have finished is Bonhoeffer as a Youth Worker by Andrew Root .  Today I want to talk  about this wonderful book.

I found this book to be incredibly educational, but also incredibly encouraging.

You see, having grown up in Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches, and having the biggest youth group in my home town be one hosted out of a 3,000 member church… I had a very specific picture of what Youth Ministry looked like. It involved: fancy music, special services, sermons about “teen” issues like abstinence and purity, altar calls,  and “getting youth on fire for Jesus” (for those who are not familiar with this brand of Christianity, no actual fires are involved).  Looking back, I went to these services, and felt like it was important. In reality though it was not these Youth Groups that encouraged me to stay a Christian in the long run. These Youth Groups were raw, unsustainable, emotion. Some could even say they have very cult like symptoms.

What made a difference in my youth were the pastors at the Christian Reformed Church who got to know me as a person and helped me wrestle with the big theological questions.

But even when I went off to Bible school and Seminary, the individuals going into Youth Ministry were major extroverts. I liked youth a lot, but I did not seem to be anything like the others I knew heading down that path. I am an INFJ, and often have called myself a talkative Introvert. I need my space to recharge, and get drained having to meet a bunch of new people and talk to them all.

So imagine my surprise when God called me to being a High School Youth Director.

It is so hard to not compare myself to all of the extroverts I knew. And even harder to look at my Youth Groups from growing up and not compare what I am doing to those groups. Why do I not have 300 high schoolers all pouring over every word of my lessons? Am I doing something wrong.

That is why this book was so encouraging. There was a lot of discussion about how Bonhoeffer worked in the nitty gritty of Youth Ministry. He ran groups that had no one show up. But at the same time he was a Youth Worker that changed the lives of the youth he worked with.

It was also educational in providing a  lot of tools and wisdom about leaving the American model of Youth Ministry that I was raised with, and instead moving towards  what Andrew Root calls the “theological turn in youth ministry”. This to me means that we meet the youth where they are, and draw them into the Church community. Many people almost worship the idea of youthful energy, but that is a false idol. The goal of youth ministry is to be with these youth and be a presence for God in these young peoples lives.  Our goal should not be to indoctrinate, but rather to help them struggle with the tough questions- because usually we are still struggling through them too. Do the work of theology with them, instead of simply telling them they have to believe such and such doctrines. Our ministries should also not be simply factories for churning out youth attendance to Church, that will then cause them to leave the Church once they are done with high school.

I loved this book, and have about 80 spots book marked to go back and copy quotes from. It was amazing and I would recommend it to Pastors of any type, not just Youth Workers. It provides a lot of relevant thoughts for the Church.

And Andrew Root, if you ever stumble upon my blog, know that your book gave me great encouragement.

Have a great Monday everyone

-Em