ON Scripture: Making All Others’ Work Possible

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“Domestic work is the work that makes all other work possible.”

These are the words are found on the front page of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), the “nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States, most of whom are women.”

Founded in 2007 by activist and MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Ai-Jen Poo, NDWA works for the respect, recognition, and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers.

“Domestic workers care for the things we value the most: our families and our homes,” the organization states on its website.

“They care for our children, provide essential support for seniors and people with disabilities to live with dignity at home, and perform the home care work that makes all other work possible. …These workers deserve respect, dignity and basic labor protections.”

Many workers who provide a myriad of services on a daily basis face huge disadvantages, and are simply overlooked. In the wider population, they are some of the most marginalized among us. Jane M. Saks, the curator of Work in America, asks: “When did we stop valuing the worker? When did we stop valuing the person who does the job?”

We have lost touch with the deep significance of work by separating the dignity, creativity, and livelihood of work from the individual person. In today’s emphasis on consumer capitalism — results and products — we have forgotten the interconnectedness of all our work, and the way we are baptized into the human community and live out that baptism through participating in purposeful work with our hands and feet.

For many Christians, baptism signals a new beginning and a clean slate for life. It is also an entrance into the Christian faith, and participation in the work of the community.

Read the rest at Sojourners here.

Photo credit to Roman Kraft at Unsplash.

What It Means

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I continue to cry on and off throughout the day. Tears of sadness. Tears of betrayal. Tears of confusion at the kind of community it seems we live in now – or apparently, have always lived in since we stepped foot in this country as immigrants.

I keep staring out the window wondering, Now what? 

We lost something on November 9th. More than an election. Something – call it humanity, compassion, hope – faltered and perished, and something in me, too.

A friend came over last night. To be in a safe space, somewhere she didn’t need to worry about how people read her – Is she Latina? Is she Arab? Is she a citizen? Is she undocumented? Is she a student? Is she a worker? Somewhere she could lash out and vent, rage and despair over what this election means now. What this election means in terms of the people around her, yes, but also what it means in terms of how the country views her as a woman, a woman of color, a young woman of color. Perhaps, that she will never be good enough, smart enough, capable enough, or that she will be all those things, and that she certainly is all that, but that in the end it won’t matter because they will still choose a man, a white man, even if in comparison he’s completely incompetent, morally devoid, and psychologically unstable.

I despair with her, for myself.

I despair with her for all the ways I have felt this defeat, and probably will in the future. For all the ways I’ve been told I’m not good enough, I do not belong, I should go back to my own country. And then, for the possibility of our little Anna, only five years old, what does this mean for her? Not only the question of women’s reproductive rights, the right to choose, Roe vs. Wade, but for what we believe about women? What they can do? What they are called to do?

What this election means right now is that hate, misogyny, and bigotry have won out. What it means is that racism and xenophobia are given free reign to fully and totally express themselves. What it means is that the utterly superficial platitudes of unity and reconciliation are just tools of white supremacy to get everyone in line. What it means is that this country has said very clearly who belongs here, who is safe, who is one of “us.” What it means is that I’m afraid. I’m afraid for myself. Afraid for my family. Afraid for loved ones and neighbors who have been targeted by Trump’s campaign these last two years. I’m not afraid to say anymore that I am afraid of whiteness, and white supremacy and for all the blatant and explicit, all the insidious and hidden ways it exists and perpetuates itself.

But, what it doesn’t mean is that I will roll over or that we will go running for Canada (maybe, Pittsburgh, though). For now, I will keep on doing the everyday, and feign some semblance of normalcy for the children, and continue to be hopeful and optimistic about our lives. Driving them to school. Going to the store. Attending church every week. Sports practices, music lessons, hikes, and somehow, making what we do together as a family mean something, for it to matter. We’ll keep trying to teach and model love, acceptance, dignity, consent as much as possible. We’ll keep doing work that matters – loving and leading our communities, and showing them that it does mean something.

God help us, we’re up against a lot. 

But. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m not alone. That we’re not alone. And that I can help others feel that they’re not alone either. I can be supportive of local groups and actions, and be an active part of these collectives and coalitions, and reach out to those groups in our community that need to know that we’re here for them and with them. I can work, to make this election mean something else, mean something good and real. And the little ways I can with what little I have at my fingertips – telling stories, lifting up those stories of those in the struggle, those who are fighting for what is right, for humanity, for the dignity of those who are considered the least of these. I’ll set that table wide, and fill it overflowing with good things to eat and share, and cram as many people around it as possible. I’ll look people in the eye as I pass them on the street and expect to see the imago dei, the image of the Divine, and all the beauty and courage possible.

What it means, is that I’ll keep trying, keep believing, keep hoping. 

“Today I believe in the possibility of love;
that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions.”
― Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

ON Scripture: After Tragedy, How Do We Trust?

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We are living in a world with no shortage of trauma each day. From floods to tsunamis, victims of gun violence and terror, refugees seeking to preserve their lives only to find themselves caught in wars and waves, we are constantly bombarded with the reminders of a relentless suffering experienced by God’s children.

Where can we turn to find assurance of God’s loving presence in our midst holding us in caring hands?

The words offered to us by Jeremiah in chapter 18 give us the famous image of God as potter. In this scenario God instructs Jeremiah to visit a potter’s house — as one biblical scholar notes, a common activity: “These pots were the everyday ware of a typical Judean household, serviceable, perhaps not perfect in shape or color, but useable by a family to hold grain or wine enough to sustain common life.”

There, Jeremiah observed the tedious work of the two wheels spinning together and the careful labor with the clay to create a useful vessel. How typical of God to lead a prophet to an ordinary sign to speak to something much more extraordinary for God’s people. And yet, what follows is a rather harsh interpretation of a God, who, like this potter remaking the vessel that has fallen apart in his hands, reworks the clay — seemingly callously kneading and pounding the material until it is malleable enough for the wheel once more. Likewise, God fashions the vessel with promises to “pluck up and break down and destroy” a nation or kingdom that does not turn from its evil.

This is not a picture of a God gently taking to clay to mold and coax it to the right shape, but a God that sees and does what is necessary to mercilessly rectify the situation at hand. If anything, one might feel discomfort and uncertainty in God’s power, and wonder if we are truly safe there. Can we find assurance of God’s good will toward us there in the very hands of such a willful potter?

Read the rest at Sojourners here.

Photo credit to Quino Al at Unsplash.

Resurrection as Shared Life

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Before Ozzie came into our lives the moms in my new moms group would often lament to me that they were trying to teach their child to share but having a single child made that task difficult. They assumed that the twins had an environment that would lend itself naturally towards sharing.

Except here’s the thing. The kids, I would say, 80% of the time truly suck at sharing. They are very territorial. Very possessive. Anna has developed a strong and alarming tendency towards hoarding – if I’m missing a magazine or book I’ve been reading inevitably it will be found in the top drawer of her dresser. Sharing is not innate. It’s not normal. It’s definitely not easy. But it is a major facet of being in community – not only individual families, but college students and living on campus, people being in a neighborhood or city, workplaces. </DO PEOPLE STILL WATCH REAL WORLD OR ROAD RULES ON MTV?\> The kids might not get it now but I know eventually they will have to figure out how to take turns with markers.

For a joint, campus group Dinner Church last night we read from Acts about the life of the early church. Luke narrates how in these idyllic days, the faithful sold all their possessions and shared all they had with their sisters and brothers in faith so that there was not a needy person in their midst. It seems so clear, so easy. No other New Testament passage depicts the ideal of sharing with the Christ-following community so vividly.

This is a picture of the ideal community, one in which no one lacks anything. They obviously did not have preschoolers in charge. But, guess what? Though they seemed to be of one heart and one mind, in the next passage Luke recounts a story of a couple, a man named Ananias and his wife, Sapphira who sold some property but kept back some of the proceeds, and lied about it. When he was found out he literally dropped dead. Talk about some major drama I mean Real World Confessional drama. Apparently even the first church had some flaws when it came to community.

Here’s the reality. They were not of one heart and soul because they obligated to do it or because tried really hard. They did not sell their possessions because it was in their mission statement or required by law or the morally right thing to do. Instead, everything they did was because of their belief in the resurrection. And it was not only that Jesus overcame death but that the resurrection itself was a relational event. God resurrected Jesus, Jesus did not resurrect himself. God resurrects us not just for ourselves but for our fellow human beings.

All these moments together – whether Sunday church in our respective traditions and communities or like this evening – when we gather to break bread and share the cup in this way, we are embodying the meaning of resurrection – not only the reality of life thwarting the clutches of death and destruction – but that our lives are tied up together. The resurrection is certainly about the power of God countering annihilation and insignificance, grace countering sin, reconciliation countering estrangement, but for sure, love dispelling hate. And, it is not meant to be in isolation – it is always about each other – it is about our lives being inextricably connected, intertwined, and joined together.

So the text from Acts invites us to see this passage not as a mandate or moral prescription for church life but a description – an image of what community looks like when we table together. When we come together on a regular basis – in the midst of our shared fragility and vulnerability – our brokenness and neediness – we get a glimpse of that kingdom-come, heaven-on-earth that we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. And yet, it’s not our commonalities that are the substance of this joining together but the reality that we can come together rooted in our differences and even disagreements, arguments and opposition. The miracle of our life together is that we are foreign and strange to one another, but in the same way God came to us – we who are so Other to God – it is at this table that we come to each other and experience the love that will not let us go – that love that will not give up on us.

“God wills our liberation, our exodus from Egypt. God wills our reconciliation, our return from exile. God wills our enlightenment, our seeing. God wills our forgiveness, our release from sin and guilt. God wills that we see ourselves as God’s beloved. God wills our resurrection, our passage from death to life. God wills for us food and drink that satisfy our hunger and thirst. God wills, comprehensively, our well-being—not just my well-being as an individual but the well-being of all of us and of the whole of creation. In short, God wills our salvation, our healing, here on earth. The Christian life is about participating in the salvation of God.”

Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith

And I am back at Jesus, again, thankful for the way God came to us, Emmanuel – GOD-WITH-US – who showed us the way to participate in this salvation – he shared his life with the disciples, he shared his life with us, he shares his life with all of humanity through the Holy Spirit so we can taste and see the ever present possibility of risen life, and life made new.

May you summon the courage, in Brennan Manning’s words, “to say yes to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.” May you feel that life shared and given for you in every moment of the day. May you live and love in the abundance of that goodness now and always.

The miracle of our life together is that we are foreign and strange to one another, but in the same way God came to us - we who are so Other to God - it is at this table that we experience the love that will not let us go - that love that will not give up on us.Click To Tweet

Confession as Resistance and Solidarity in Bloomington

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An Indiana University student was arrested over the weekend after police say he attacked a Muslim woman, yelling racially charged comments at her and trying to remove her headscarf. Police on Monday did not identify the woman, but said that she had been dining in a Bloomington, Indiana, restaurant’s outdoor seating area Saturday night with her 9-year-old daughter when she was approached by 19-year-old Triceten Bickford. Police said the woman claimed Bickford was yelling things like “white power,” “kill the police” and derogatory statements about black people.

The following are remarks I gave at the Bloomington Against Islamophobia event today.

Good afternoon, my name is Mihee Kim-Kort, and I’m a Presbyterian minister and director of a campus ministry here in town and one of the conveners of Btown Justice. I’m honored to stand with the wider Bloomington community to speak out against Islamophobia.

A major tenet of Protestant faith is the act of confession, both as individuals and as a community. Confession can serve as a means to honestly and genuinely express not only one’s failures – or the failures of a community, but as way to acknowledge and lament the fragility of humanity. In that vein, I want to offer these remarks up in that posture – I am wholly and painfully aware of the ways in which those who profess to follow the Christian faith have failed over and over in not only the areas of tolerance but compassion – we do lip service but when it comes to truly knowing and loving our neighbors we have so much more work in front of us. Moreover, we have also been complicit in perpetuating those value systems – guilty of prejudice and violence towards those who are NON: non-Christian, non-white, non-male, non-hetero, non-normative at so many levels.

In the same way confession acts as a mode for honesty and vulnerability, as a way of interrogation and self-reflexivity, it is a way to proclaim and affirm the realities of the struggle and what it means to cling to hope despite the realities around us. Click To Tweet

As I reflected on the actions of the IU student, I couldn’t help but feel sad for him. He is a symptom and product of white supremacy. It is in the air we breathe and we consume it like food. This is to not excuse him or his actions or justify any of the violence done towards our brothers and sisters but a way to hold us accountable for our own actions and what we are called to do with the words and opportunities before us, too.

I identify as Asian American. My family and I have experienced physical, spiritual and emotional violence. We have received demeaning and disrespectful treatment, we have been used and tokenized and propped up to support white supremacy while being made to feel like an outsider. This is typical of many AAPI. In the eyes of some, Asians in America are, writes Erika Lee, “perpetual foreigners at worst, or probationary Americans at best.” If Asians sometimes remain silent in the face of racism, and if some seem to work unusually hard in the face of this difficult history, it is not because they want to be part of a “model minority” but because they have often had no other choice.

But I believe as one theologian writes that “prophetic grief transforms our sadness into seeking faith-rooted justice for all so we must speak up and repent by dismantling systemic racism within our institutions, churches, communities, families and hearts, and by becoming humble, supportive allies in the #‎BlackLivesMatter movement, accountable to those who suffer most.‬‬” ‬‬As a person who is committed to a faith that is centered around the life of a 1st century Palestinian who from the beginning stood with the marginalized, the rejected and isolated, the non-normative of society, and even himself experienced state-sanctioned violence and execution, because of his life – I believe and confess and affirm that black lives matter. Muslim lives matter.