Marxism is often mentioned when talking about progressive views of justice, but what are the secular concepts that shape conservative views of justice? Are they biblical? Corey Widmer, lead pastor of Third Church in Richmond, VA, tells his story of moving into, and out of, a neighborhood in the inner city of Richmond, and he talks with Amy Julia about race, white evangelicalism, faith, and biblical justice.
On the Podcast:
“As Christians, we’re called not just to preach good news of forgiveness but also the good news of the renovating and restoring and renewing work that the gospel can do for neighborhoods, communities, families, and societies.”
"Marxism is not the only secular concept of justice. Actually, the typical view of justice that we have as Americans is also profoundly secular and was birthed out of the Enlightenment...When you understand that, it’s not just that progressive Christians are malformed by this Marxist view of justice. It’s that conservative Christians are really malformed by this libertarian and liberal view of justice that is not from the Bible. It’s from John Rawls."
“A true biblical worldview and a true biblical teaching of justice is unlike anything that any of us probably have seen. And, therefore, you shouldn’t fit into any political category or any secular concept of justice.”
“The hope of Jesus won’t be as beautiful and clear and wonderful if we don’t first recognize the ways that we have put so much of our hope into false idols that ultimately don’t deliver.”
Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.
Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
I'm Amy Julia Becker and this is Love is stronger than Fear podcast about pursuing the hope and healing in the midst of social division. And this season, we are talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our own lives and in our society with our heads, our hearts, and our hands. And before I tell you a little bit about today's conversation, which I just loved, and I was so excited, you're going to get to listen in on, I do have one announcement. We have just put together a new resource. It's a paperback version of my short book, head, heart hands, which is the basis for this season of the podcast. So it includes in this paper back the e-book head, heart hands, tho in paperback form now, or a long with a three different discussion guides that accompany white picket fences.
Two of them are for a small group discussions. And then one is a longer, or a seven week Bible study and discussion group that goes alongside white picket fences. And you can find all of those things on my website, under the resources tab. I will now turn things over to what I thought was a really helpful conversation about race and evangelicalism and in faith and especially about justice with my good friend Corey Widmer. So I'm here today with my friends, my old friend Corey Widmer Cori is a husband and a dad and an avid early morning exerciser. I'm actually looking at his zoom screen right now, and he's got his cello in the background, but I don't know how much he's playing his cello these days.
1 (1m 32s):
And Corey is also a really gifted preacher. He is the lead pastor of Third Church in Richmond Virginia. And I've asked him to come on the show today because I want it to have him talk about his experiences as a white male Christian leader in Richmond, where he has been for the past 15 years. And I'm interested, especially in how his perspective on a recent political events. So Corey, welcome to Love is stronger than Fear.
0 (2m 1s):
Thank you. And just to be clear, when you said I am an old friend, very old friend, who do you just mean? We've known each other for a really long time, right? That is a good point.
1 (2m 12s):
And I will expand on it right now to tell our listeners that we have known each other for, I think it's 25 years. It might be 26 because you are my husband's roommate and best friend in college. And anyone who's read the white picket fences Corey and Coco, some of these other roommates show up in that. And he actually makes an appearance in a good and perfect gift. Although under a pseudonym that I came up with, I probably should of asked you about that ahead of time. But that is because Corey and his wife, Sarah are our daughter Penny's godparents, but that is not what we are here to talk about today.
0 (2m 48s):
I think I'm the Mark or her name Mark. And I told you Daniel, it was a biblical name. I gave you of the local name. I'm pretty sure it was Danielle. Jacob was good. I liked Daniel
1 (2m 58s):
M but the reason I bring up all of that is a, just so people know that we've known each other a long time, but also because 25 years ago, when you and Peter and a group of other guys all lived in the same house together for a couple of years, you started some conversations about possibly living together in a neighborhood and sharing life after college. And you, some of you, not us, but ended up making that move and living in the church Hill section of Richmond for a number of years. So I'm wondering if you could just bring us back in time to the decision to make that move to live together and talking about like what motivated you to be there and how did you get there?
0 (3m 37s):
Yes, and that, it was a long time ago when we did meet in college. And there were a group of us that were involved in some Christian community at the university of Virginia and the university of Virginia. Like All like many, many campus screws, less so now, but certainly at the time we're a very culturally and racially segregated. And so, you know, there was many different White student groups in that there was an Asian student group of a box and a group and so forth. So one of our dear friends who is a friend of yours named Romesh became really convinced that God's calling us, was to work for greater reconciliation between the campus student groups.
0 (4m 23s):
And so he started a, a group that just simply existed to bring together representatives of the different groups for the sake of conversation and listening and reconciliation. It was my first experience ever I'd have been a Christian. And for about 10 years, it was my first experience ever of being in relationship with a Christian who was not white. And it was certainly my first experience to ever talk explicitly about race and culture and ethnicity. And I was very uncomfortable only doing it because Ramesh dragged me into it. Also as part of that, we decided to do some spring break experiences where we had different Christians from these different groups, black, white, a in different folks for representing the different groups, go on a spring break trip together, down to, in our case, we went down to near Jackson, Mississippi to visit John Perkins in his ministry down there to learn about what the Christian community development association is all about.
0 (5m 26s):
Okay. And again, that was a very powerful experience for me in writing on taking the long bus rides, especially with a Christians who were, Black learning about their experiences of Christianity, how different it was for my own learning to have, we would have really hard conversations about race don't deep into the night. And it was a, it was a very, very powerful and formative experience for me as a young adult Christian we were so impacted by the experience and by the Christian community development association, whose vision is to have Christians form intentional communities and move into urban areas in order to do the work of justice and reconciliation, that there were a group of us, they began to pray about whether we might do that together.
0 (6m 11s):
Yeah. So after college, we all went our separate ways, different grad schools and so forth. And eventually there were a group of couples that remained in the conversation. And we ultimately discerned that God was calling us to move together into an inner city area of Richmond, Virginia. We were invited by an African-American pastor named Don Coleman and he invited us into, to move into his neighborhood. And so we did, we moved in and we all bought a run down houses and this African-American community and living in close proximity to gather partnered with Don in the work that he was doing eventually out of that came a church that we plan on that I was co-pastor with Dawn where, and that's what I did for about seven or eight years.
0 (6m 57s):
And the vision was to build a, a multiracial church that mostly it was a black, white community and bridging the black white community. And it was really focused on doing the work of community development in that urban area. So focused on affordable housing and educational equity and discipleship with the youth and in the area. So I don't live there, sit at my wife was there and I don't live in that neighborhood at any longer, but all the couples that we moved into a neighborhood, which is still do you live there still are caring out that way.
1 (7m 29s):
And I want to talk about that in terms of the decision to move in a minute. But before we do that, can you describe it somewhat those a year? And when you were living in the neighborhood, in terms of M have a couple of questions and you can take all or any, I'm curious about the experience of seeing both brokenness and beauty within what was a new place for you to live a new type of setting. And also just as a white man who was going into this space, w what were their, what was the impact on you and on your understanding of yourself as a Christian and as a white person in our society. So again, take that wherever you want, but I'm thinking about like brokenness, but the neighborhood and then your own experience within it.
0 (8m 15s):
Yeah, well, it was a, it was a, it, it was a profoundly chastening experience for me. I mean, here we go, here, we move into this neighborhood in our late twenties, and we are full of idealism. And I, would've never said at the time that I believe that, that I was just, you know, a white savior coming in to this neighborhood, but yeah, of course. So it was down in there in my subconscious and I was just, you know, profoundly challenged by that. I mean, I think first of all, I realized that there were really, as you said, broken things in this community. I mean, the, this community, like many other inner city communities have been essentially abandoned by a cultural elites, four, you know, many decades. So it, for all the marks of have that profound brokenness, especially in the fracturing of the family and drugs and addiction, other things, but there are also things that we are just like, beautiful about it, the way that our neighbors, these surrounded by, you know, it was so funny.
0 (9m 10s):
I came in thinking I'm here to teach my community how to be a neighbor. And then I just realize very quickly, I had no idea how to be a neighbor. I grown up, I've grew up in the suburbs. Like I grew up, I didn't even know my name or his name's. I lived like 200 yards from them. Like, I, I don't even remember being in my neighbors houses as a kid and growing up in the suburbs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and here, I've got these neighbors who, you know, we can talk to each other. Our front porch is they've been doing this their entire lives. They live slower pace, or they, you know, they are actually know what it means to actually get into each other's eyes on a daily basis. And I just began to realize, gosh, I need to become a S student.
0 (9m 52s):
I am not a teacher here. I am a, I need to learn how to be a neighbor, or what does it mean to be neighbored and to, to set some of my, my pride here, really to be filled and come under the tutelage of my neighbors and the eye, and really learning what it means to be a part of this community. And I also realized that M earnestness, it's not enough. You know, we all have lots of earnest ideas about, you know, caring for poor neighbors. I'll never forget a, one of the most challenging experiences was we had a neighbor across the street who was a single mom with several kids. And I was sitting, we are sitting on the front stoop one day, just chatting.
0 (10m 36s):
And she said, you know, Corey, I'm just so grateful that you and your family moved into this neighborhood moving on to our street. You know, Love, you guys love didn't have your family, but, but I just got to be honest with you, you know, since he moved in, has gone up to $75 a month, and I'm pretty sure it's because you live here now has made my life very nice. And I was, it, it was my first shocking understanding of, of how injustice works, especially in ways that we can participate in without even realizing it.
0 (11m 18s):
Right. And my, my first taste of that was within How, you know, housing in, in the real estate market works and realizing that we, you know, with all good intentions moving in this neighborhood, we were actually participating and the gentrification of this community. And, and it was having a harmful impact on the people that we thought we were coming to help. And so I just realized as a, as a white person, that I had a lot of work to do to kind of understanding what justice and reconciliation word really entailed than that, it was way more than just being kind and being a good neighbor, doing helpful uplift programs, that there was just a whole lot more than it was going to be involved.
1 (11m 60s):
And just on that gentrification point for a second, did you come to a conclusion in terms of that conversation like, Oh, I shouldn't have moved in here or we should have moved in here and not fix up our house, or are we, this is just such a big problem that there's no way to do it right. Because it all wrong to begin with. I mean, w where do you land?
0 (12m 21s):
So, yeah, I mean, I, I don't know a J We sorry, I'm not allowed to call you ain't on this date. Amy Julia Becker
1 (12m 30s):
0 (12m 34s):
You know, I, I, as a preacher, I liked to S, you know, I can say inspiring things. And so I once wrote, you know, I, once he wrote an article on gentrification with justice, and the whole idea is that it's not that these, of course, these communities need a, a resurgence of money, capital cultural power to come back into places that have been abandoned for so long. And we've seen that happening, you know, and over the last couple decades, As as well. It used to be kinda the doughnut affect in American cities where a wealth and power a, there was a diaspora to it.
0 (13m 19s):
So they were kind of on the outer ring of a donut while the inside of the donut was left in a vacuum empty and powerless. Now we see that donut changing again, so that a lot of the power and cultural capital is moving back into the center. Yeah. And that's actually not a bad thing in itself because, you know, the, the, the poor and the vulnerable need that, I think that gentrification with justice means that how can we do that in a way that we absolutely ensure that the people that are most benefiting from that renewed resurgence of power and capital are actually the most vulnerable in it. So as long as, you know, as I take advantage of like a, a new flourish in a real estate market, where I can get a good deal of in the house that I'm ensuring that is not just me, but it has benefited Chrome in it, but the most vulnerable and my community that are benefiting from it as well.
0 (14m 9s):
Now, how that actually works out in policy and practice is gosh, really different. Bob leptin has a lot of great work in Atlanta where they've done things like capping on real estate taxes, bought a huge masses of blocks and built affordable housing to enable mixed income communities. And there's been a lot of great work in Richmond in our, in our neighborhood. We started out, we helped start up or restart a non-profit called urban hope that folks get it. I know that you have been a part of you are either that that helps get people who have not traditionally get loans from banks, for mortgages, getting them into homes in and helping them to become homeowners. 'cause if they can become a homeowner homeowners, then, then they benefit.
0 (14m 50s):
And there act as equity as is just with anyone else's. And so, but that all sounds nice. It's very complicated though. And I don't actually know how, how that's working.
1 (15m 2s):
It may work itself out in some positive direction, over the course of the next generation, but that doesn't do anything to help your neighbor. And in terms of that tension between looking for long-term sustainable solutions and the loving your neighbor right now, ah, it seems like that tension would remain even if you had the perfect plan for what could happen in the future. But thanks. I appreciate it. It just those thoughts, because I, I think that's the complexity of it all can leave us in a place of feeling like, okay, then it's pointless. And I might as well stay away. And I think we are called to engage. And yet not, as you said, with just as like simplistic earnestness and that's, that's not going to be enough, we've got to have a lot more both of the information and the history, as well as the relationships.
1 (15m 55s):
I mean, I think that's such a great example of like, you can have all of this exterior or internalized information and its a really different thing than sitting down with a single mom and asking it or not even asking or being told what are our experience as well. So after 10 years or so of living in Churchill, is that about right? You are hired as the lead pastor of Third Church, which you can describe in greater depth for us, but it's a predominantly white suburban Church about 30 minutes away and a different part of Richmond. And yet also a church that had supported The what became a multi-ethnic congregation that you and Don Coleman had more pastoring in a church Hill.
1 (16m 39s):
So there was a connection between the two I'd love to hear a, about the East end fellowship congregation. And then what moving from that to a third, as a lead pastor, what that experience was like, how they were similar or different and what even prompted the decision to make that move.
0 (16m 58s):
So that's a great question. Yeah. So you're right. A third Church, which is a Presbyterian congregation was actually the church that I was working at when I first moved to Richmond, I've actually worked for the same church. Now for over 15 years, I was hired as an associate pastor, but we were living in this urban community. Eventually we, I became a church planter actually. And then Third Church sense. It equipped me as a church planter to help start this new church. It was a, as you said, it was a multiracial church, couple, a hundred people M in some ways it was like my dream and I was, I was living my dream was, you know, I was co pastoring with all of my best friends.
0 (17m 38s):
You know, this is Don, who'd become a dear mentor and friend. And we were actually seeing real progress. We weren't, you know, we were seeing, you know, we saw a, a multiracial church that was actually flourishing and making an impact in the community. And so yeah, seven or eight years into that when I was approached to be the senior pastor back at the mother church, it was a initially it was just a, something that I didn't even want to consider because it, because it was, I, it was so different than what I had dreamed about it. It was a, you know, third as a large, as you said, a large, mostly white affluent suburban congregation.
0 (18m 20s):
And here we were living in the inner city and living our neighborhood and living in our church in our community. And so I just being in the ask, God like, why, why, why are you really calling me to this? And, and, and, and it was actually, I remember I mentioned this guy, Bob Lupton earlier, he was pretty famous and the Christian committee development world. And it was random. I was at an event, he was speaking about housing and I just happened to like, be talking to him afterwards. And I didn't think I was just so like, longing for a direction. I brought it up with him and I said, Hey, there's this interesting opportunity. Or this time, you know what I'm doing all of this work right now. But this church in the suburbs is invited me to be a senior pastor and I don't know what to do.
0 (19m 2s):
And I'll never forget. He said, here's this guy. Like, I just thought for sure, he can be like, what are you thinking? You know, don't leave the city. Don't, don't leave the poor, but I'll never forget. He said, if you really want to make a difference in this work, if you really want to make a difference on behalf of the poor, if you really want to make a difference, if you really want to move the needle on racial justice, if you really wanna wanna do the kingdom work for the city, you should go to this church. Why? Because, because it's, so that's the place were people who actually hold power and who can actually wield their privilege in their power and their influence for the good. And if we can, if we can get more and more of those kinds of Christians are really on board with this kind of work, that's when we can really see, Hmm.
0 (19m 48s):
Then you move. And I just remember thinking, Oh man,
1 (19m 54s):
It does not want that to be your answer.
0 (19m 57s):
Hmm. Right. So yeah, that's what we ended up doing. So in 2015, I was called to be the senior pastor. And that's what I've been doing here for since then. And then we eventually moved to the, you know, the, the, the Western part of the city where closer to the church where we live now. Yeah.
1 (20m 17s):
And so w what, what is your neighborhood situation now as it compares to when you were living in a church?
0 (20m 22s):
Yeah. Well, it's very that we still do live in the city. We live in the city limits, but what we're about two miles from the church, but yeah, it's a, you know, it's an all white neighborhood with no trash. My kid's often point out there's no trash here. Dad,
1 (20m 42s):
You never forget when our family first visited you in church Hill and spent a week, the questions that are set and William asked as a, I don't know, a four year old or five-year-old, but it was like, why is the music so loud? Why do the people have Brown skin? Why are the cars parked on the street? And why is there so much trash? And he, and he wasn't saying any of that as a judgment. It was just an observation that I have. What I've always seen in terms of neighborhoods is different than this. And I remember you saying that your daughter, Sophia, who had had the opposite question is when you all,
0 (21m 16s):
Yeah. We I remember the first time we drove to the suburbs, she said, dad, I'm scared. It's so dark here, because he was used to living in this urban environment where there were street lights and buses and everyday. So we were experience was very different. Yeah. Yeah.
1 (21m 35s):
Anyway, all right. So you're in a different, different neighborhoods situation, different Church situation, but you are in the same city, which I think is really interesting and obviously still connected and engaged, but from kind of a different, a leverage point then you were before in that city. And I, so I want to fast forward to 2020, not quite to 2021, but for 2020, I been thinking about for a while now, I feel as though 2020 was our year of living through a bad novel 'cause we had like, even just the word, like 2020 is like perfect vision, right?
1 (22m 15s):
It's like seeing clearly is 2020. And so then COVID hits in the midst of COVID of 2020. We had the killing of George Floyd, you know, all of these events, we had the election. And so there was this kind of a, like zooming in and taking a really long, slow, hard look at ourselves in that happened individually for any of us who were in some sort of lockdown at home. And it obviously happened on a national level as well. And as it relates to all of the things we've even been talking about in terms of disparities in how different communities are treated, and obviously it's just some racial justice issues and communities and all of these things.
1 (22m 57s):
So I've been thinking about 20, 20 as a bad novel, and then this bad novel at the same time, we did come face to face with ourselves. And I felt as though your sermon series last fall, when you chose to preach about the book of revelation was incredibly fitting for this time of Revelation of seeing ourselves. So I'd love for you for readers, who aren't familiar with. Revelation I mean, listeners, excuse me, who aren't familiar with Revelation can you just tell us about it, but also why did you decide to preach through it? It's a bold move for any pastor to decide to preach on Revelation and especially to do it in as comprehensive as a way as you did.
1 (23m 37s):
So can you tell us about Revelation and about the decision to preach to them?
0 (23m 41s):
Yes. Well, Revelation, I think it's just a literary masterpiece. I'm it is a book that I always avoided. Yeah.
2 (23m 52s):
She was scared of it for forever. You are, you have, you made me not scared of it, but I, yeah, I was a, I forget who said,
0 (23m 59s):
You said that that there's two kinds of Christians those who are obsessed with a Revelation and those who avoid it completely.
2 (24m 5s):
Yeah. I'm on the other way is a completely trained. I was doing,
0 (24m 8s):
You know, I was too, and it was actually a friend of mine, a guy named Rankin who's a pastor out in LA and he decided to do a series on Revelation several years ago. And I just remember thinking what his Rankin thinking like, but, but I listened to it, some of his sermons on it, I just thought, you know, he is right there. There is some riches in this book, in this book is way different than I ever imagined it to be. And what I realized is that it is not, it, it actually, I realized this years ago when I worked for this theologian John Stott, and he did this, he did a little book on Revelation. That revelation is not what we normally think. It's not just this fantastical, uhm, book of forecasting in the coming of Jesus in which he will destroy the world.
0 (24m 55s):
But it's actually a quite contemporary it's John this year John the, the, the, the writer is actually giving quite a contemporary and prophetic uhm, sermon. If you will, to the early Christians in Asia, minor who are suffering under great persecution, some of them are, Actually also dealing with Terminus apathy, and he's trying to get them a vision of Jesus. That's what Revelation means revelation as an apocalypse. It's not in the sense of something bad that will happen in the future, but pocalypse is really just in a disclosing of true reality. And so Revelation is just an in my understanding, it's a series of visions of the person of Jesus.
0 (25m 40s):
If we were seeing Jesus for a different, through, through different facets of a diamond, if you will see in different facets in, and then it's telling and retelling the whole story of history from the first and second coming to Christ in seven or eight different different ways. And so it's actually much less scary have a book than we ever imagined is more hopeful of a book. And it's a very contemporary book. It's not mainly about that. There is a lot about the future, but it's more meant to be a great challenge to people in the present. And I, I just, as the more I thought about it, it actually started with knowing that we had an election coming up and people have often said that Revelation is the most political of all my books, because behind everything is in the book of revelation is Rome and the power of Rome.
0 (26m 32s):
Yeah. And then the temptation or the Christian community to marry their fidelity, to Jesus to their fidelity, to Caesar and to, to the idolatries of the Roman empire and God, that sounds relevant, doesn't it, it people of faith of marrying their faith to a national empire and seeing the compromise that results from that. And so I just want you to think, gosh, I got to preach this because the Christian community in America is in danger and then George will it happen? And, you know, you know, all of these others in a pandemic happened in and, you know, just like, Oh gosh, what a moment to preach this book.
0 (27m 15s):
So I'm glad we did, but it was very difficult to define the most difficult series that I've ever I've ever preached, just because of the book is so complicated.
1 (27m 23s):
So you did a great job of making it accessible and I'll make sure we have links to at least the first of those sermons in the show notes. Because a as I said, I w have been one of the people who avoided isolation forever. And I felt like, yeah, you really helped me. Not only to understand it as its own like book in the Bible, but also as a way to bring a gospel understanding of our current political moment and of the ways that I am tempted. I think especially as a white American Christian to see, to wed politics and my faith in an unholy marriage, right. And to think that I'm looking for our salvation from whoever our next president is going to be, or I'm looking for, ah, the answer to our problems to come from politics.
1 (28m 14s):
And I don't mean that there are no political solutions that God would ever improve, or that might actually enact real flourishing. But at the same time, I think I, for much of my life have put hope and trust in a political system rather than recognizing the ways that there are always going to be whenever the power is involved and whenever human systems are involved, I'm going to need to take a critical eye towards that as a Christian.
0 (28m 44s):
Yeah. Yeah. It's a very, I mean, it's very difficult. I have the needle to thread if you will. I mean, because on the one hand, I don't think Christians, I don't think we should be apolitical. I saw a sign in October in someone's yard and it said, Jesus for president, you know, I'm voting for hope or something. And, and I just thought, you know, that it's so nice, but unfortunately Jesus is not running for a minute. We, you know, we actually have to, it, it's actually not faithful citizenship. It's not painful discipleship. I don't think they are just remove yourself from politics, move yourself from politics.
0 (29m 27s):
Just simply means, you know, public life. And as Christians, we're called to be engaged deeply in public life and to bring our faith to bear in public life. And so we shouldn't remove ourselves from politics or we should vote. We shouldn't participate. But at the other hand, and especially because Christians have had so much cultural and political power for so long, it's very difficult for us to engage publicly in a way that doesn't want to try to seize cultural and political power and to marry those two things as if they were synonymous and to put the hopes of our own kingdom desires and ambitions onto a particular social and political platform.
0 (30m 9s):
Jesus, in my opinion is out of this world, there is no political entity, there's no political leader, there's no political platform that will ever align fully with the values and the principles of the games of God. And so it's just, it's very difficult to be faithful as a Christian. And I think in the public sphere, because we were just so prone to either removing ourselves or we're at, or I think just compromising ourselves by, by so giving our allegiance so deeply to a particular social political grouping.
1 (30m 38s):
Yeah. I think that's one thing similar to being someone who avoids Revelation. I think I've also been tempted to retreat into a, basically an individualistic understanding of the gospel where it really has to do with me having a personal relationship with Jesus. And of course that plays itself out in my life. But even just to think about that in more individualistic terms, and I wonder whether as a pastor, a, whether that's like a temptation for you, because it would be the easier to kind of make it smaller and be how you've learned to broaden the implications of the gospel. So that it's not just about, you know, having some time with Jesus in the morning and, you know, being a, I don't know, upright citizen in terms of paying your taxes and not embezzling or So.
0 (31m 27s):
Yeah, yeah. Going back to what John leptin said to me earlier about how, if you really want to move the needle on some of these things, you know, you really have to work in the white conservative church or church. It, it was actually years ago. I read a book by two sociologist named Michael EmersonThe send in Christian Smith called divided by Faith to recommend that for any of your listeners, it had an enormous impact on my life because he said basically that unfortunately evangelicals often voice the most support for things like racial reconciliation, but in there is in the research they've actually done the most.
0 (32m 10s):
They've actually done tremendous damage and the long run or at least inhibited. And he said, the reason for that is because we have these tools in our toolbox that the tools are free wilt individualism, not a relational CISM and an anti structuralism. And So because we were so focused on personal Faith individual relationship with God and relationships as the key to solving every problem that no matter what the issue is, we just sort of apply those tools to go to the issue at stake. Now, unfortunately it is something like, like, like Racism those tools don't work very well.
0 (32m 50s):
I mean, they weren't well to have a relationship with someone who was a different race. That's great, but having my friendship with Don Coleman, who is a black man, it doesn't really help the The long legacy of institutional Racism that makes being a black in America is so difficult. And so as Christians, I think w a challenge for me has an evangelical Christian leader as a leader, is helping Christian see that the gospel is way bigger than just the personal relationship with God. It certainly includes that it certainly includes, you know, my own forgiveness and my own salvation, and that I can have deep intimate relationship with the creator of the universe, but it also means its also about the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God is God's new world, which has entered and the person of Jesus in his now on its way and will be fully culminated in the new creation.
0 (33m 45s):
And so we as Christians, we're called two, not just preach the good news for the soul. Good news for creation. Good news for the world of sin has not just disconnected me from God. It is disintegrated the, the social economic and cultural fabric of the society is that we live in it. So it was Christians were called not just to preach good news of forgiveness, but also the good news of the renovating and restoring and renewing work that the gospel can do for neighborhoods, communities, families, and societies. And so it just, so the gospel is just so much more beautiful and bigger than I think I, I believed when I was a young Christian thinking that it was really just about me and God.
0 (34m 26s):
And I think if we can get those new tools into the hands of Christians, so it's not just, you know, individualism and the anti structuralism, but that we actually have new tools to say, you know, like I'm a lawyer and then therefore I can do led just I can, I can work for just legislation as my ministry or, or, or I'm a, I'm a business person. And I can, I can, I can not just trying to not tell lies and not cheat on my taxes, but I can actually help bring about work of a business environment that actually helps this community. And especially the vulnerable flourish. I just think that really expands our vision of what, of what a faithful Christian life looks like.
1 (35m 4s):
I have listened to a whole series that the Bible project did on justice a couple of weeks ago. And it was really one of the things they said is that justice, you know, the word, the Hebrew word in the Hebrew Bible, the old Testament, the word for justice comes up, you know, hundreds and hundreds of times and 10% of the time. And it was mishpat and 10% of the time it's talking about like, what do you know a punishment for wrong? They were attributed if that was the word, but that 90% of the time it's talking about that proactive work on half of the, and not just, I think of restorative justice when it comes to like I'm still the court system because we started using it a little bit that way.
1 (35m 44s):
And there's that where it's like someone who's done it wrong and, and bringing them back into relationships in our community, but restorative justice also in the way they were using it, as far as like looking out for the poor, in the oppressed, looking out for the single moms and the people who have disabilities or whoever is on the margins for whatever reason, an actively working on behalf of systems and structures that will provide equal access to the basic needs that all humans have. So anyway, I think that to me, I agree as much as it's more comfortable and safe to have an individualistic gospel and I am tempted to retreat to that place.
1 (36m 27s):
It is so exciting and beautiful and so much more in keeping with God actually being the creator of the universe to see that bigger vision. And I think you do a wonderful job of casting that at least in your sermons.
0 (36m 41s):
Yeah. So going and going back to my, and my neighbor all those years ago, who sat down with me and talked to me about her rent. I mean, we're in a, purely with a purely a noodle. This is the gospel. I don't, you know, what do I do? It would just tell her about Jesus. And I mean, Actually, she already knows a new Jesus and she, she was, she, she had a, a, a much more vibrant person, a relationship with Jesus than I did, but she was on the edge of survival, you know? Yeah. And, you know, so w what, what, what does it mean to you to love, to do justice love mercy and walk humbly with God when it comes to someone like her, what does the gospel say to someone, someone like her, you know, Hey, you're forgiven of sin.
0 (37m 23s):
Yeah. She knows that, you know, you know, I think I did it, but what if, what if we were to say, As Christians gosh, look at the way that so many decades of terrible sin harmed communities of color, who terrible, like red lining through excluding them from getting mortgages, you know, wealth building still is, you know, the main ways that people build wealth in our society is through homeownership. And we know that the average black family today has a 10% of what the average white family has as far as the accumulated wealth. And a lot of that is because of the exclusion and that they've experienced from the housing market. And so what would it mean for me as a Christian to care about that and to care deeply about, you know, helping get her into stable housing, because we know when you get people in the stable housing, they flourish and all of these other area's, they flourish not just in education and in finance, but also in the physical health.
0 (38m 16s):
I mean, w w that's the vision that God has for the world is his, is a person's life made whole, that's the division of Shalom. It is, it is wholeness. It is flourishing this right relationship. She is a right relationship with our neighbors, with our community, with our city, with herself, that's a division of the kingdom of God, division of Shalom. And that, and that's just a beautiful vision that we can be a part of As Christians
1 (38m 43s):
Yes. I mean, a hundred percent agree. And I, it's such a helpful example. And I'm at the same time, I'm thinking about the, what I've seen in the white conservative Christian experience. And again, well-meaning beautiful faithful followers of Jesus who are nevertheless, seem to have a degree of, I think Fear more than skepticism that becoming involved in undoing racism in America, in talking about systemic injustice in a naming S and, and believing, even in institutional aspects of racism, mean's becoming a liberal Marxist atheists because it was aligning, you know, I mean that, that's, it goes out there really quickly, and I'm curious like where you are and whether you see that.
1 (39m 34s):
And where do you think that fear comes from? And, and what my, how do we talk about that? How do we say, look, this is not about becoming an atheist and it's not about liberal Marxism, but it, at the same time, my challenge, the way you've seen race in society as a Christian in the past,
0 (39m 57s):
I love to think just because that's, yeah. That's my, that's my reality right now. Yeah.
1 (40m 5s):
I'm sure it is. Yeah.
0 (40m 7s):
So I've had some, some interesting things said about me are the last year, but specially, but yeah, I, I think that, well, I think a couple of things that we've done here is that we were actually doing a series on justice right now in our Christian education program that I think has been really helpful for people. And one of the things we try to do is just demonstrate that there's actually, you know, Marxism is not the only secular concept of justice. There was also, you know, actually the, the typical view of justice that we have is Americans is also profoundly secular and was birthed out of the Enlightenment. And so there is a libertarian vision of justice that promotes, you know, justice, as well as protecting individual rights.
0 (40m 51s):
There's a liberal view of justice that C's, you know, just as a society promotes fairness, there's a utilitarians is of justice that promotes mechanization of happiness. And then there's the, yeah, there's the postmodern view of justice that has really informed my Marxism, which is that adjusts society really subverts the powerful and reorders power. And, and I think when you understand that you realize that it's not just that Christians or malformed, like the more progressive Christians are malformed by this Marxist view of justice is that conservative Christians are really malformed by this libertarian and In liberal view of justice. That is not from the Bible it's from John roles in. And, you know, and, and, you know, for John Stuart mill, I mean, these are the guys that are really formed us.
0 (41m 33s):
And so just think it's really helpful to see that all of us needed to be profoundly challenge, because it was just like, we were talking about politics, the biblical view of justice, which in this amazing way, both of holds the dignity of individuals because we believe in the Margo day, the image of God, but also sees the responsibility of individual is to always be from the collective good, because I am always exist for my neighbor. That's the concept of stewardship that everything is given to me for the sake of my neighbor, because it doesn't belong to me. It belongs to God. Well, is that, is that an American view of justice? No. That's. And so the biblical view of justice challenges, all of you of justice, you know, not just the Marxist view, but the libertarian view and the liberal view and the utilitarian view.
0 (42m 19s):
And, and it really, so I think, I think if we can see that all of us need to be challenged and that a true biblical worldview and a true biblical teaching of justice is unlike anything that any of us probably have seen. Right. And therefore you shouldn't fit into any political category or any secular concept of justice. You just shouldn't. And it's always going to mean that you need to be a very critical and thoughtful and educated and aware person, you know, always think through and look at what you're learning and what you're practicing and never take for granted listened to the person who was arguing with you to really try to understand the argument, not just assume that there are a Marxist or assume they're, you know, libertarian, but really listen to what they're saying.
0 (43m 0s):
And so we're just really trying to do that work of helping us understand what true biblical justice is all about and how it challenges all of us. Does that, does that make sense?
1 (43m 10s):
Yes. And that's the most helpful answer I've had to this question, because I think that it makes sense, but I haven't heard it spelled out before that all of our views of justice in a secular society are secular views. And that doesn't mean there's no truth to them. In fact, there's probably truth in all of them. And so there's both a thoughtful critique and a thoughtful engagement that Christians can do in terms of both bridge-building and also being like really careful not to sign on to things that just upend what a biblical understanding it is. And yet, I also think having just been doing more reading and thinking about justice from a biblical perspective, the, this image of human flourishing and that, that is actually an aspect of justice is something that was pretty new to me.
1 (44m 0s):
Even as someone who has been reading the Bible for many, many years and something that's also really compelling and challenging, but I, I love the thought of the church actually being able to engage both critically and with compassion in these conversations and our culture rather than just retreating from them, which again, for me personally has been more of my life as a Christian has been retreating from conversations around a wholistic understanding of justice, because I have been afraid of what it might and, and all sorts of different ways. So that's, that's really, really helpful.
0 (44m 36s):
Yeah. Yeah. He requires a lot of humility too. I mean, to me, because I mean, I think what we all can do as Christians, as we assume that the scripture supports my point of view, we, we, we, we come to the Bible just assuming that. And so when we read a piece of scripture, that's sitting to support that and we, you know, we appeal to the scripture for supporting the evidence of my personal position. And or if a fellow Christian challenges are a view, we assume that we immediately slot them into one of those categories. And we don't like in S. And so it, it just requires like it's a deep humility to have to really listen. And to really say, you know, maybe, maybe I'm I'm I really want, you know, scripture to be the authority here or not my own cultural lenses.
0 (45m 18s):
No, I think that's why even things like interacting with people of different cultures can be so helpful when I moved to England after college, you know, I realized, Oh my gosh, these people, I believe the same things they do about Jesus and about the resurrection and on the Trinity, but they have completely different social and political views than I do, but they love Jesus. And I guess I just thought a lot of the things that I thought that I thought were, you know, non-negotiables for the Christian faith and are actually just a cultural and I need to really listen to my fellow brother and sister. Okay.
1 (45m 53s):
Well, and that I think is also where the black church and, you know, historically black church and historically like white evangelical church, however you want to parse those out sociologically, but never the less that theologically in terms of being like gassed, we believe in, in the Bible. And we believe in the atoning work of Jesus. And we believe in personal conversion, all of these things. And yet we come out to a very different expressions, have that in society and politics. So I think that has a similar challenge to just at the very least to say, I need to ask what is informing my view of society and politics, whether it really is this theological commitment to following Jesus or weather.
1 (46m 35s):
It has to be as much if not more to do with just the culture that I'm I'm absorbing.
0 (46m 40s):
Yes. I wish every White Christian. I do wish we could just assign every way Christian in the world to Reed. Esau, McCaulley these new book reading while black, because it's just not really, I mean, it's just so wonderful to read a black scholar saying, here's how I, as a committed Black Pollard, Jesus read the scripture and you just see it. You're like, Oh my gosh, I just see so many things, but I've never seen it. And this is why I like the black churches. So it has such a rich heritage because just because of their experience of oppression and they understand scripture differently in that you just see things that we don't see, and we need them desperately to understand the faithful interpretation of scripture for us today.
0 (47m 21s):
So I just couldn't recommend that a bit more.
1 (47m 23s):
Amen. Reading While Black, I've actually, I got to interview him about that, I think, in the summer. So there is a podcast here with Esau as well,
0 (47m 31s):
Or you got in early on him. He was probably, everybody is in the whole world is interviewing and now, all right.
1 (47m 35s):
You know, I know I somehow, I don't know how I snuck that one in, but I did, it was before the book came out. I got to talk to him about it. I mean, I've got an early copy. I got to read it. It's it's really great. And he is doing such good work well. So just as we come to the very end of our time, I would love to ask you to just a final question, take it wherever you want, but what do you think it looks like for people who are Christians to put their hope in the good news of Jesus and not in the good news of America or the good news of my neighborhood doing well right now, or the good news of my bank account, right? Like what, what is, what is the good news that we have to put our hope in and to proclaim to others in this moment in American culture in life?
0 (48m 22s):
Yeah. Wow. That's such a good question. Well, it's lent and lent for a Christians have been historically at the time when we focus on repentance and turning away from our sin and our idols, the things that we put our false hopes in. And so I think that it's, I believe, especially in light of some things that we've seen and the American church, or over the last a couple of years, some very unsavory things in ways that we have been captive to things like nationalism and consumerism and Racism and thirst for power.
0 (49m 5s):
It, it is time for us to repent and to really do some soul searching about where our hopes have a lot of late, you know, has our hope in and national greatness has our hope in and retaining cultural power. And I think is the first thing I just think we always needed to do is to prepare them and to turn away from what we have allowed to falsely shape us as an intern freshly to Jesus as the only hope of the world. And, but that is hope, the hope of Jesus. It won't be as beautiful and clear and wonderful if we don't first recognize the ways that we have put so much of our hoping to false idols that ultimately don't deliver.
0 (49m 50s):
And I think we've seen that. I've think we've seen, I say with, you know, with a real grief, I've seen that we've seen the, the paucity of the hope of so much of what American evangelicalism is that it has become that. And so I longed as a parent in turn to Jesus freshly as our only hope. Right.
1 (50m 5s):
Amen to that, Andy, thank you. I agree that actually the repentance aspect of Jesus's initial a proclamation, repent, I believe the good news, right? Like that it is when we turn away from all of that keeps us from God that we are able to believe the good. And it does. I don't think Jesus as being dismissive of sin and our need for repentance, but there's also a sense of like, get that part over with so that you can actually participate in the good stuff and be apart of this broad and expansive vision of God's love and desire to care for people and restore the world.
1 (50m 50s):
But thank you for being one of the people who I think does cast that vision and a really faithful Wei and in the challenging time. I so appreciate it. And I so appreciate your time here today. Thank you. And me Julia has been an honor to be here. Thanks so much for listening to Love is stronger than Fear Corey. And I made reference to it, a lot of books in some other podcasts and sermons and things like that today. So we will be sure to note all of those references in the show notes, I'd love for you to share this episode has been really fun because you all have been doing that. And I've been hearing from new people about the value that this podcast has brought into their own thinking and conversations.
1 (51m 30s):
So thank you for that. Please keep it up. Plus please keep sharing. And if you are new here, I would invite you to subscribe. We released one new episode every week, all on this theme right now of healing, social division. And of course, if you are going for bonus points, or even if you're not in, he just wants to be kind to go over and give it a quick rating or review wherever you find your podcast app. And then even more people will be able to benefit from these conversations when they're searching them out. I did mention at the top, but I'll say it again, that I have a new paperback version of head heart hands, which is compiled alongside the white picket fences discussion guides. And all of that is available on my website.
1 (52m 11s):
Amy Julia Becker dot com as always. I wanna thank our cohost Breaking Ground my editor, Jake Hansen, my social media coordinator, Amber Beery. And I wanna thank you the listener. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your support and your encouragement and all the feedback you offer. I do hope that as you go into your day today, you will be able to carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.
3 (52m 43s):