Confession

Christians believe in confession, right? We practice it in a variety of ways based on our own backgrounds, but it remains an important practice in our collective life.

Right now, I’m in the midst of doing a large research study. It’s the Final Project for my Doctor of Ministry degree. I’m conducting 40 in-depth interviews with people who are religiously unaffiliated and/or Christians who have stopped participating in traditional, institutional churches. I’m seeking to address this primary research question: 

When participants imagine or seek participation in a spiritual community, what traits, practices, and organizational forms do they most value?

I can’t talk a lot about the details of the study responses yet, because it isn’t complete. I can tell you that I am gaining so many important perspectives and hearing incredible wisdom from people.

I can tell you this too:

No one ever says…

… I’d like to be a part of a community where I feel boxed in, personally judged, and scapegoated.

… I’d like to be a part of a community where one person or a small group of people have disproportionate power and decision-making ability.

… I’d like to be a part of a community where there are layers of secrecy and a real lack of transparency. 

So. . . why, oh why, do people have these kinds of experiences so regularly in Christian congregations?

Therein lies the confession.

But also, hear the good news: There are other visions. There are other ways to live in spiritual community.

Renee Roederer

When Actual Fascists Harm Actual Students

Yesterday, I wrote about the anti-racist posters that were placed around the University of Michigan over the weekend.

I’m quite sad and concerned about what happened on Sunday evening. Fascists arrived on the campus, tore down Black Lives Matters flyers, threw some away, and then accosted students with others. They harassed students and made nazi salutes. It was scary. 

I want to share the statement from CAWS (Collective Against White Supremacy):

“Early this morning, several CAWS members and supporters posted flyers across U-M’s campus to counter a national white supremacist flyering action. This evening, two white supremacists tore down those posters in broad daylight, shoving them in people’s faces. When a CAWS member encountered them, they were aiming a nazi salute at three women, one who was a woman of color. Upon being called out, those same white supremacists then called the police on the CAWS member present, for harassing them. These white supremacists were bold, confident, and felt that the police are their allies. The police responded by “mediating” this “political dispute” and helping the white supremacists file a report. 

“We have a lot of work to do, Ann Arbor. . . To the Black folks, trans folks, and folks of color who had to see this racist event and see these flyers in the trash: we are sorry that this happened, saddened, and angry. Black lives matter. Your lives matter. We value you and if we can help you hold space to process this event, please contact us.”

This is how real white supremacy is. This is how emboldened white supremacists are becoming.

This is why we all have to be in the work. 

Less than 24 hours later, I was glad to discover that someone pulled the posters out of the garbage and displayed them again. The work continues.

And they forgot to tear this one down.

Our Destinies are Intertwined

BLM

Around the U.S. yesterday, universities were on watch because white supremacists from Identity Evropa and the ‘Alt-Right’ had announced plans to flyer college campuses with racist propaganda.

In my local context, a group woke up early on Sunday morning to check for flyers at the University of Michigan. Fortunately, we didn’t find any of theirs here. But we did post different flyers around the campus to address white supremacy and affirm the lives of those most impacted by it. Some of our flyers had a quote from Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. I would like to share that today:

“#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important — it means that black lives, which are seen without value within white supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on black lives, we understand that when black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative for society as a whole. When we are able to end hyper-criminalization and sexualization of black people and end the poverty, control, and surveillance of black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free. When black people get free, everybody gets free. This is why we call on black people and our allies to take up the call that Black Lives Matter. We’re not saying black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways. We remain in solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation, and we know that our destinies are intertwined.”

– Alicia Garza, #Herstory

Our destinies are intertwined.

We need to do the work of dismantling white supremacy. White supremacy does physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, social, and economic violence to people of color. This work before us involves internal questioning and awareness, and it involves external solidarity and truth telling because systems of power frequently discriminate and oppress along the lines of race. When we do this work, little by little, we will all untangle ourselves from the internalization that some lives matter less than other lives.

Our destinies are intertwined.

Renee Roederer

 

Slow Connections

Do you know what’s great? Handwritten letters.

I didn’t really know I was missing this. In fact, I viewed letter writing purely as a genre from the past. But one of my very best friends has started mailing me handwritten cards recently, and they are such a gift. In fact, she’s making this a personal practice. She sends many people handwritten notes these days. I love it.

This has helped me think about something within the letters too. It has me thinking about the beauty of slow connections. We need these.

When I say slow connections, I’m talking about more than the amount of time between sending and receiving mail, though that’s certainly a slow connection. I’m also talking about the types of life snapshots we might capture in handwritten letters – how letter writing depicts them in a slow and unique way, then uplifts their value as we share them with others.

As I mentioned, this person is one of my very closest friends. We talk over the phone about all the big things that are happening in our lives. I send her photos and videos over texts. We’re connected about large things and immediate things. But when she writes me a handwritten card, I have the opportunity to learn what’s going on that particular day and that particular moment through written words.

For instance, the cats just jumped across the room in a funny way, though they were cuddly a few minutes before. The tea is really good this morning. Her husband just said a funny one-liner.

Slowness takes time to capture these, prioritizing the small things as meaningful. Slowness takes time to share these with a friend.

To enjoy them. To choose them. To write them down. To put them in the mail in the anticipation of a friend seeing them too.

We need slow connections.

Renee Roederer

Wonder

This little fish, y’all.

This tiny, seemingly insignificant pufferfish astounded me the other day. I have never heard of such a little artist until I watched a BBC Earth video a few days ago.

Check out this video, and see what he does to impress a mate.

This little fish creates an artistic structure in the sand – one that’s complex in its detail and mathematical precision. It’s astonishing. We’re left curious, how does this little being have such an ability?

And we feel a sense of wonder.

I think we need a sense of wonder, particularly in times of great stress. We need to be reminded that there is a world worth feeling awe about – a world worth living in, a world worth protecting.

Perhaps there are times when we struggle to access a feeling of wonder. And if so, that’s completely understandable and okay. But thankfully, curiosity and wonder are things we can practice. They aren’t goals or benchmarks. They’re play. We can always engage them. 

So what initiates your sense of wonder these days?

Renee Roederer

Three Life Words

franchesca

Franchesca Ramsey is a writer, Youtuber, comedian, and podcast host. She is most well-known for her time as a writer and contributor on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and as the host of MTV’s Decodedwhere she cultivates conversations about race.

Among other characteristics, she’s smart, honest, and funny. Those are her three, chosen words.

I follow Franchesa Ramsey on Snapchat. Recently, she shared a story about a moment that changed her direction. She met with a coach who encouraged her to choose three words to define her work and way of being in the world. She was invited to say or ponder these words like a mantra before she engaged in work or meaningful tasks. She wanted these three words to come from her sense of who she was — from her aliveness, if you will. And she wanted those characteristics to weave their way through all that she was doing.

As she recounted this story, she encouraged us to choose our own three life words and do the same.

I’m curious. . . what three words would you choose?

Mine are hanging on the fridge now.

Renee Roederer

The Courage to Really Do It


Do you know this saying?

If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. 

Don’t get me wrong. I support hard work and excellence and all of that, but ultimately, I think this saying is garbage. G.K. Chesterton was known for turning common sayings on their head in order to gain greater meaning from them. He started to say this instead:

If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

That’s better. It may sound strange to our ears, but it’s more life-giving. Because if we think about it, it brings home this truth: If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing. Period. No matter the result.

– This saying bolsters people who are willing to try something innovative, even as they recognize the possibility for failure. If it turns out badly, it may be the necessary catalyst for learning. The process or the failure itself may yield insights and discoveries toward the next idea, one that would have never been conceptualized beforehand.

– This saying bolsters people who are pursuing a calling, even as they reckon with the reality that some will place roadblocks in their path. The journey toward any kind of calling takes twists and bends. At times, the these turns are remarkably unfair. At times, they are thoroughly unjust. I do not make light of this. They are harmful — not good. But the calling can emerge in spite of them.

– This saying bolsters people who are willing to tell the truth, even as they recognize it marks them for risk. Whistleblowers come to mind, in particular. There are times when we honestly cannot afford such risks. But when we can, there is life and vitality in speaking truth to power. Even if we do not shift the power entirely, those words of truth are out there in the world. They keep working. I trust that they take on a life of their own, especially as they inspire more people to come forward and speak truthfully.

It’s messy.

But if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

Renee Roederer