Anti-Racism Looks Like Partnership : A Follow Up of My Exvangelical Critique

In response to my critique of Exvangelicals as a movement that centers whiteness, I wanted to offer some examples of movements led by people of color against white supremacy, as well as multi-racial movements led by people of color.

It’s important for me to highlight POC-led movement because white led movement cannot lead communities out of right wing authoritarianism, as white supremacy exists as the ideological and cultural backbone of right-wing authoritarianism in our current age.

Some folks have observed that I have not addressed explicitly that the Exvangelical movement is not a Christian movement, which I do believe misses the heart of my critique, which is first and foremost about racism in the movement and the need to commit and unite over dismantling white supremacy. My critique is not about those who remove themselves from Christian religion altogether, and I can understand why someone who is not a Christian may come to that conclusion upon knowing that I myself am a Christian. However, my critique is about the ways that whiteness is still centered in a movement that believes itself to be anti-racist. Because participants of Exvangelicalism overwhelming fail to address and conspire against racism in that which they critique (white authoritarian Christian religion), I believe that my analogy, where I compare Exvangelicalism to the Women’s March, still stands. Whether or not communities of Exvangelicals choose to identify with Christianity, what matters is that these communities must ultimately decided to decenter whiteness in ideology and in action.

White people must engage and do the heavy lifting of anti-racism work, but this means that white folks must be willing to take leadership and direction from communities of color, who can voluntarily and involuntarily reflect to white people how whiteness manifests in the world much more clearly than most white people are able to observe about themselves. White people need new role models. One cannot dismantle white supremacy by continuing to uplift white leaders, white ideologies, white culture, and white ways of being. I myself, as a queer black woman, have not been able to begin my healing process until I decided to stop being around progressive movements that centered white people and white culture. I experienced white progressive spaces as emotionally hostile and spiritually lonely; I constantly experienced overt and polite aggressions about my race in white-led congregations and festivals. I could barely find anyone who would show up for people of color like myself. I wasn’t meeting people who were living anti-racist lives.

Anyway, I want to begin with this article by Deepa Iyer, where we commit ourselves to resisting cycles of outrage and numbness about the issues we see in the world. I appreciate this piece because Iyer asks us to look at the ways that our gifts and inclinations might align with roles we can play in fighting the many fights we are up against. What role(s) can you play in our current movements for social change? In anti-racist movements?

Now, here are some of the examples of movements and networks that I find are taking seriously the anti-racism part of challenging and resisting authoritarian Christianity. My short list also contains resources created by people highlighting some these movements/networks. I hope to share more in the future.

The Good Neighbor Movement describes itself as an “inclusive, multiracial, people of color led network of house churches (city villages) that seeks to be devoted Jesus-followers who cultivate intentional relationships, work collaboratively, and seek justice with diverse neighbors in Greensboro to create inclusive, local communities that are abundant, just, and whole.”

I am a part of the Good Neighbor Movement! This is a space where I feel like I can bring my whole self as a queer Christian and a black woman. This movement is multi-racial and includes white folks. White people — straight, cis, trans, single, coupled — are part of our communities, but they are co-laborers with people of color. Individuals in the Good Neighbor Movement have partnered with organizations in Greensboro (such as the Homeless Union of Greensboro) and with grassroots leaders in the fight against racist state violence.


Second Acts is a multi-racial community of Jesus followers that I deeply admire and deeply respect. Many of their members are part of the congregational life of First Congregational Church of Oakland in California, a church that made headlines last year for their commitment to refuse calling the police or involving police in any conflicts that may occur at the church. I became acquainted with this collective during my time at a convergence for Christians involved in or supporting the Movement for Black Lives. The convergence was entitled, Arise in Power. You can keep track of Second Acts by following their Facebook page, here.


La Mechuda by Carla Sofia Vargas — I wanted to uplift Carla Sofia’s work as a lesbian Christian living in Nicaragua. She is a leader in the movement for LGBTQ justice in the Central America Church, which drips with the influences of white evangelicalism. I met Carla Sofia when I was part of The Reformation Project’s 2018 Leadership Cohort. Our cohort met at an LGBTQ+ affirming congregation, but I remember how Carla Sofia courageously shared the lament she felt upon seeing a church bulletin with pictures of missionaries with brown children in Central America. Carla Sofia reminds us that the violence experienced by queer and trans individuals worldwide is a directly related to Western colonialism. Her work reminds us that our lands of origin are not inherently homophobic and patriarchal, but have become so because of the direct influence of Western-led international missions which many people of color understand as a colonialism enacted by the Christian church. Support her work on Patreon!


Check out this video by Bianca Louie, entitled Queer Asian American Christianity. She discusses the ways that queer Asian American millennials are disrupting and transforming Christian religion by resisting white supremacy.


Mystic Soul Project — Mystic Soul Project is a POC-led and POC-centered network for those interested in black, indigenous and people of colored centered spirituality, healing and social justice. There is so much to learn from within this community and they host gatherings, webinars and conferences. I was able to attend their conference last January and find that the network is full of leaders doing amazing things within their own contexts. If you want to see if there is a Mystic Soul community group in your area, click here.


Lastly, I find that Kenji Kuramitsus critique of Wild Goose Festival to be an invaluable resource for those who are trying to move away from whiteness in progressivism. Wild Goose Festival attracts a lot of Exvangelical types, mostly Christian, but many who are moving away from Christian faith as well. As someone who has attended the festival about 4-5 times (more than half of the festivals lifetime), I’ve experienced that whiteness is the greatest barrier to many of the festival’s ambitions which seems to be to provide gathering space that welcomes all and inspires spiritual and faith-led people towards peace and justice. Meeting Kenji and other leaders of color here was a deeply formative experience for me. Kenji also has a book of Uncommon Prayers which uses prayer to “confront white supremacy”. I have this prayer book and find it helpful, as prayer has the power to transform our hearts, minds and actions.


 

Obviously, this is not and isn’t meant to be an exhaustive resource. I am only one person and there are millions of movements and bridge builders outside my sphere of influence that may be in yours. I hope that this will encourage you to notice the movements that are around you in your own context. People of color have long been fighting patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism and colonialism. We must cultivate the eyes to see. White folks must resist the narrative of the white savior and become partners and co-laborers. White progressives are not immune to the savior impulse.

If you are super interested in any POC ministries and movements, you should also consider supporting these ministries with your dollars. If you are part of a church community, consider partnering financially with one of these ministries, or including them into your monthly tithing cycle. Where you money goes speaks volumes to what you value, and people of color are often under resourced in our own ministries. We could use all of your financial support.

The Exvangelical Movement is Hella White: My Original Critique

The following is my critique of the Exvangelicals movement, in which I create an analogy comparing the Exvangelical movement to the Women’s March. If you are unfamiliar with any of the discourse surrounding race and the Women’s March, this analogy may fall flat to you.

You can find the original post on my Facebook account, which I still have listed as public. I have decided to repost it on my blog so that it can be easily referenced as I post follow-ups, given that I had received a lot of engagement over my critique than I had expected receiving. You can read it on FB or you can read it here below, typos and original language included:


I feel weary about the attention that the #Exvangelical movement is getting in the mainstream (re: Mark Ruffalo highlighting the movement). I believe the coverage of this movement is just another way that whiteness is centered.

I wish that POC and “global south” led liberation movements resisting white supremacist, right-wing Christianity would get the recognition that they deserve. There has long been resistance to Christian authoritarianism from non-white Christians and non-Christians a like to white evangelical authoritarianism. #Exvangelicals are late to the party, yet hardly mention or pay their dues to communities who have paved the way for them. I’ve seen Exvangelical types online and off paint global south and POC communities as “more homophobic” than white folks. This is violent, uninformed and perpetuates white saviorism. On top of that, I see online and off a lot of Exvangelical types appropriating the work of women of color (like Audre Lorde or womanist theologians or questionable use of “intersectional”), removing the racial contexts and applying what is relevant to them as mostly white folks.

I am tired of seeing movements conveniently say they are against white supremacy but failing to prioritize anti-racism with action. Saying “white cis men ain’t shit” doesn’t mean you are against white supremacy. It might give you some edge points and retweets if that’s what you are going for.

I would prefer that Exvangelicals just say they are against patriarchal abuse/purity culture in the church and that’s where their attentions lie (even though racism is connected to purity culture, but that’s for another time). It would be more honest, because I don’t see active anti-racism happening or defining Exvangelicals in a concrete and embodied way. But it is dishonest to suggest that Exvangelicalism is a movement against white supremacy, that it is “intersectional” in practice. And that is the part that makes me so angry and so so so discouraged and why I do not want to be “recruited” by them, even though, I, too, am angry about purity culture. To me, to be recruited by Exvangelicals would feel like being in relationship with any white-led progressive movement — it would feel like a one sided relationship — one where I am expected to show up against purity culture and patriarchy, but be left on my own to fight conservative racism, as well as their own “progressive” whiteness (is white anything ever really progress?). For me, the #Exvangelical movement is the Women’s March of Christian progressivism. What kind of world do these individuals and communities dream of? A world where whites have sexual agency and reproductive control but where people of color are still inferior? Forgettable? Disposable? Unnecessary? Used only to create white capital?

I am constantly discouraged by how little our dominant religious culture does not care about POC led movements. White folks desire to maintain their place as the heros of history. #Exvangelicals owe so much to POC, but whiteness will always center whiteness even as they profess to be against “right wing authoritarianism”, which protects/upholds/(is?) white supremacy.

Maybe my anger towards Exvangelicals lacks generosity. Maybe they are creating some meaningful change and I’m just too tired of racism and white people’s cynicism to notice if there is an up side. But deep down, for me, Exvangelicals as a movement does not feel like one that deserves my generosity or my trust or my excitement or that they care about people like me beyond what we can do for white folks mad about patriarchy. But as someone who navigates not just POC spaces, but also white spaces, I am constantly reminded about how much hype this group gets and it makes me tired. I am angry and unimpressed, and as someone who has spent a lot more time around white progressives than I wish I had, I believe that I have a right to be and to continually expect folks to do and be better.

What Beauty Means Now.

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In my 25 years of living and in the year 2018 I have found that

now, in our world, beauty means

hiding from people that your family didn’t love you well

hiding that your family growing up isn’t kind, a safe place and put together

hiding that things in your family have still not gotten much better

and hiding that this pain has shaped a part of your brain and body.

Now, in our world, beauty means

not being dark

of mind,

of story,

or skin,

not being sad

or moody

not struggling with confidence

or having to be reassured.

In our world beauty means

not telling the truth of how everything is hurting

and not telling how you feel about those who perpetuate the hurt.

It means to be silent about your pain

your anger,

and your questions.

Beauty means you must always be smiling

You must never show fear

never show doubt

never need

and cry

and ask

and hope for help.

In our world, beauty is confidence

and not having to consider that the world gives you this thing called “confidence”.

(What is confidence, now, in this world, except being affirmed by the powers that be?

In our world, beauty means

that those who are ugly,

those who are dark,

and bent,

and gnarled,

must find their significance elsewhere

in another world

in order to survive.

My hope:  in order to survive the world

where being ugly

and being dark

is not desired

or welcomed

or necessary,

we must find our desire for another place

where being ugly is magnificent,

is nothing to fear.

Isaiah 53:1-3

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Inspired by queer, disabled, transnational and transracial adoptee, Mia Mingus.