I remember growing up and singing a familiar song by Eddie Espinosa. Change my heart oh God. If you have learned it, you will know it instantly, if not; you can check it out (www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEtsHWFE6-w) and learn it quickly. A theme that I have always found meaningful from this song, is the desire to observe and learn about the characteristics of God. What does God care for, long for, desire to make whole again? Who does God cry for and what injustices need to reconciled? It is a similar sentiment to the words and prayers commonly cried out like, Break my heart for what breaks yours!
This shift in perspective is one that often goes from the mind to the heart, to the hands and feet. It does not have to go in that order, but in a troubled world facing pandemic, isolation and loneliness, we are likely at the starting place of our mind. And in troubled times, it may seem counter intuitive to be asking God to stir us... trouble us... unsettle us... but our lives have been disrupted already, so we might as well search for God's work in all of it.
Three excellent books that have done that for me lately have been: Unsettling Truths, by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah; Gospel Haymanot, by Vince Bantu; and Wrongs to Rights, edited by Steve Heinrichs. These are all books featuring multiple authors and a diversity of voices that are speaking to deep issues of historical significance impacting societies and faith communities today.
Unsettling Truths tells the U.S. story of the formation of that country with the difficult stories of slavery and Indigenous oppression all tied up with it. Charles and Rah do not hold back on their analysis of power, conquest, Doctrine of Discovery and marriage of church and state. A very short example of this is their statement, "Christendom is the prostitution of the church to the empire that created a church culture of seeking power rather than relationships." A strong, troubling statement. And while this is the US context, we share denominational and historical similarities in Canada.
Gospel Haymanot is a more scholarly dive into theories and reflections of race, centering around African and Diasporic Christianity. In it, the authors challenge our hearts and minds by pointing out, "The Church must treat the sin of systemic injustice as seriously as we treat personal sins of impiety or theological heresy." The authors tackle things like Christian exceptionalism, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, white supremacy and more. Troubling challenges of how we read scripture and who we see ourselves as representing, in those stories.
And finally, Wrongs to Rights is a collection of articles and essays directly collected for Canadian churches and faith communities. It was originally put together in 2016 when the Canadian government was adopting UNDRIP, but is even more relevant today because legislation to actually implement any legal change is still to take place. It has been delayed, failed in 2020 and is uncertain whether or not it will pass through the senate in time to be ratified again this year. It is an excellent book that urges churches to start action of their own, as well as call our government leaders to do the same. A troubling history and path to reconciliation for Turtle Island.
While these books highlight what is messy, painful and sad; grief and lament are parts of the journey towards recovery, hope and transformation. We cry out to a God more abundant and capable than ourselves and we can navigate troubled waters together. I would encourage you to consider reading one of these to challenge and trouble your mind, but also consider joining with others in your community or congregation to talk and work through it. A safe space to do so is with the Canadian ministries journey of Hearts Exchanged. Check it out here (www.crcna.org/hearts-exchanged) and consider being a part.
Jesse - NADC consultant - firstname.lastname@example.org