A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Deconstructing Salvation with Megan Westra

June 02, 2021 Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker Season 1 Episode 25
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Deconstructing Salvation with Megan Westra
Show Notes Transcript

What does it mean to be "saved"? We talk with Megan Westra about her book Born Again and Again, which offers a compelling reframing of the typical white American evangelical concept of salvation. We touch on everything from the role of racism in how churches present this concept, to her experience growing up as a southern fundamentalist, to the importance of dialogue with people who disagree, to financial stewardship, and more. It's a rich conversation.

The books Megan mentions are Religious Resistance to Neoliberalism: Womanist and Black Feminist Perspectives by Keri Day and After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging by Willie Jennings.

The beer featured in this episode is Shelter in Case by 1840 Brewing Company.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher)

00:00

this episode is made possible by our

00:02

supporters on patreon who gain access to

00:04

special events, extra content, q&a

00:07

sessions

00:08

and more you can join the community at

00:10

patreon.com

00:11

a pastor and a philosopher now here's

00:13

the episode

00:20

so now on this podcast we talk a lot

00:22

about

00:23

evangelicalism we talk a lot about white

00:25

protestantism and the

00:27

the lack therein and today is going to

00:30

be another one of those and as i was

00:32

reflecting

00:33

i think you just can't talk about that

00:36

enough

00:36

and you can't unfold and unflesh that

00:39

enough this is

00:41

where people like us are in the midst of

00:43

a transformation

00:45

where we are recognizing that the faith

00:47

we've been given

00:49

doesn't hold its weight as much as we

00:50

had hoped and so we're in the

00:52

course right now we're in on this

00:54

journey of unpacking

00:56

and unlearning and taking things away

00:59

in a way that actually can build

01:01

something on top of a strong

01:03

good appropriate foundation and so today

01:06

we have

01:07

a person i call a friend who wrote a

01:09

book called born again and again her

01:11

name is megan k

01:12

westra and this book is one of those

01:14

must reads i think it's a book

01:16

about salvation but not in the way you

01:19

think it might be

01:20

she looks at salvation in a deeper more

01:22

profound more rich

01:24

complex and relationally rooted way than

01:27

you might imagine so

01:28

i'm excited for it and uh before we

01:32

before we do that what do we what treat

01:34

do you have for us here today kyle

01:35

so i'm so excited we are recording this

01:39

in person for the first time in i don't

01:41

know how many months last summer

01:43

i think was the last time too many

01:44

cheers so cheers here we are

01:47

and that's an actual clink

01:48

[Laughter]

01:51

um so because of that i've been sitting

01:53

on all this beer that i can't drink by

01:54

myself because it all comes in bomber

01:56

sizes

01:57

and i've been saving a bunch of stuff

01:58

for the podcast so

02:00

first time we're back to beer in a long

02:02

time so what i've got for us here is

02:03

something called shelter in case which i

02:05

think is hilarious

02:07

yeah yeah put it out during the pandemic

02:09

so this was bottled

02:10

in march of last year march 18th uh and

02:13

this is from 1840 brewing company

02:15

in milwaukee they're down in bayview one

02:18

of the best breweries

02:19

in the area in the state in my opinion

02:21

their motto is drink slow beer

02:23

they do a lot of uh traditional styles

02:26

and barrel age stuff so this is

02:28

a wine barrel aged saison

02:32

naturally fermented i believe and bottle

02:35

conditioned as well and it's been

02:36

sitting in my beer fridge

02:38

for like a year so um let's see what you

02:41

think about this i think it aged

02:42

beautifully

02:43

yeah i mean you a saison when i when i

02:46

think of a good saison

02:48

it makes my mouth water and when you the

02:50

instant you opened that bottle

02:52

and the steam rose up my mouth started

02:55

watering watering just smelling it yeah

02:57

i love it this is my favorite style

02:58

it's almost impossible for me to pick a

03:00

beer style but this is it

03:02

i think the best beer comes with corks

03:04

in it

03:06

that's just fantastic the flavors you

03:09

get in the barrel age stays on are just

03:10

far more complex

03:12

than anything else the yeast does some

03:13

amazing stuff in there

03:15

turns out being corked in a bottle since

03:18

uh march of 2020

03:20

do you well makes me yeah i wish i could

03:23

head out in a bottle that one

03:25

sounds like our culture it's so aromatic

03:29

oh man it's got such major

03:32

tartness in ways that like it reminds

03:35

you of eating that great tart berries

03:37

that's a great tart fruit

03:38

yeah that just like you you love it but

03:40

it almost feels like punishment at the

03:42

same time it's like

03:43

it's like makes your mouth water but

03:44

then it dries out you know what i mean

03:47

yeah it does have a drying finish but i

03:48

don't mind it at all no but i mean a

03:50

saison is like a pleasant summer

03:52

beer that also punches you in the mouth

03:54

at the same time

03:56

these are very unscientific

04:00

grapefruit multiplied by grapefruit yeah

04:02

but but the dry

04:04

finish i wonder if that's from the

04:05

because it's asian wine barrels

04:07

it it finishes like a wine yeah

04:10

chardonnay

04:12

yeah it doesn't say what kind of wine

04:13

they used unfortunately but

04:15

it definitely has a similar you have to

04:16

be a white wine right no i don't

04:19

imagine yeah this is the kind of beer

04:20

that i really enjoy i would enjoy it

04:22

more on

04:22

like a warm summer day but i can't enjoy

04:24

more than like a

04:26

a four ounce pour so if we drink it like

04:27

three days ago this would have been

04:28

perfect

04:29

yeah yeah yeah it's very good i should

04:32

explain we had a heat wave three days

04:33

ago

04:33

yeah it's back back to 50 the normal 50s

04:36

that it stays for eight months out of

04:37

the year

04:38

yeah well it's fun it's great yeah i

04:41

love it well done 1840 if you want to

04:43

send me more bottles i will be happy to

04:45

rate you

04:46

cheers to beer cheers

04:47

[Music]

04:49

well welcome everyone to a pastor and a

04:52

philosopher welcome to a bar

04:54

uh we're joined today by megan westra

04:57

who has spent her time doing a lot of

05:00

different things she was a pastor for a

05:01

long time

05:02

uh she's uh what would you consider

05:05

yourself now what's your role now um

05:07

i'm a hospice chaplain by profession and

05:11

i guess like itinerant writer

05:15

of sorts yeah

05:18

and and she's here to discuss with us

05:19

her book published last year

05:22

which has a title that i love born again

05:24

and again i immediately fell in love

05:25

with the book when i saw the title

05:26

because i had that exact experience

05:29

as as a nine-year-old so i know exactly

05:32

what you're talking about there

05:33

uh and this book covers a lot of

05:35

different things so uh this should be a

05:37

really fun chat

05:38

yeah megan i wonder with the title of

05:40

the book have you gotten any emails from

05:42

angry people who feel baited and

05:43

switched

05:44

they bought it because they thought it

05:45

was going to be this fundamentalist born

05:47

again book

05:48

and then it wasn't uh you know i have

05:51

gotten

05:52

zero angry emails which honestly

05:54

surprised me with some of the content in

05:56

this book and the fact that i'm

05:58

a woman trying to do anything in

06:00

christian spaces

06:01

uh but i haven't really gotten any any

06:05

bad email which maybe just means that i

06:07

have isolated myself from all the

06:09

fundamentalists enough that they aren't

06:11

even

06:11

checking up on my work anymore but uh

06:14

i'm

06:14

either way i'm grateful that they're

06:16

just not angry email good

06:18

good so far listeners megan who don't

06:20

know about your book or may not have

06:21

read it

06:22

born again and again can you just tell

06:24

us your background because you're really

06:26

personal in your book and you get really

06:27

down to

06:28

go through a lot of your history in the

06:30

church and in your family in the south

06:32

can you just bring us through and bring

06:33

our listeners into that world a little

06:35

bit

06:35

sure so i often will tell people that i

06:38

am like the stereotype if you want to

06:41

think of a

06:42

southern white evangelical especially

06:46

coming out of the trump era

06:48

i check all those boxes i grew up

06:51

primarily in the southern baptist church

06:54

i attended a baptist college

06:58

i was homeschooled for the entirety of

07:01

my

07:02

elementary middle and high school

07:03

education i

07:05

literally grew up down a holler and

07:06

across a creek uh you know all these

07:09

things that like if you just want to

07:11

create a little stereotype in your head

07:13

i i check all those boxes and so

07:16

what i do in the book is i kind of take

07:20

people through not just hearing my

07:22

thoughts about

07:23

life in the world in theology and god

07:25

and things like that but also kind of

07:26

how did i come to thinking

07:27

about things in that way because one of

07:29

the things i've noticed over the years

07:31

because i'm not still a southern baptist

07:34

living down a holler

07:36

and homeschooling myself or my child

07:39

i do none of those things uh and so

07:43

one of the questions i've been asked

07:44

over the years is like how did you get

07:46

here

07:46

because i don't make a lot of sense on

07:48

paper um you don't meet a lot of

07:50

former fundamentalists southern baptist

07:53

women

07:54

who became pastors um and

07:57

pastors in the in the city for for

08:00

that matter and so i i

08:03

have gotten a lot of questions over the

08:04

years like how did that happen

08:06

like no offense but how did that happen

08:09

and so i try to kind of trace that

08:12

not just to answer curious minds but

08:15

also because i think there are a lot of

08:16

people in that space

08:18

and increasingly more from the time when

08:21

i started writing the book to the time

08:22

that it

08:23

released and now people who are starting

08:26

to look

08:27

at their faith tradition the way that

08:29

they've always kind of thought about

08:31

things and it doesn't make it sense

08:32

anymore and so i really wanted to give

08:35

people

08:36

like the hand holds and footholds like

08:37

when you're rock climbing

08:39

not to get all the way to the top but

08:41

something to push off of and to

08:43

to keep to keep going to keep going

08:46

because i think often when we start

08:48

questioning things it's we get stuck

08:50

really easily

08:52

yep yeah i think so many uh

08:55

listeners who read this book are going

08:57

to resonate so deeply with your story i

08:58

mean whether you're from the south or

09:00

not

09:00

i think it's probably a little

09:01

exaggerated when you are from the south

09:02

and up the creek and down the hall or

09:04

whatever volume up a little

09:06

right right um but that story is such

09:10

a consistent and emerging story

09:13

of being born and raised and rooted in a

09:17

strong evangelical church and just

09:21

it didn't hold up and in your case the

09:24

beautiful thing is you didn't give up on

09:25

it

09:26

you could have instead you kind of

09:28

doubled down

09:29

and lived into it in an extreme way that

09:32

was really beautifully detailed in the

09:34

book yeah

09:36

i mean one of the biggest character

09:38

traits of my entire life which didn't

09:40

square very well with being like the

09:42

gentle quiet woman

09:43

that i was supposed to be in evangelical

09:45

circles was i'm

09:46

really stubborn um and so it kind of

09:49

became

09:50

this like i i can't let this go like i

09:53

have no choice but to double down and

09:54

figure this out and it's either going to

09:56

be all or nothing

09:58

and i have to figure it out yeah

10:01

so in chapter one megan let me just jump

10:03

right into it um i'm looking at the book

10:05

right now born again and again and then

10:07

it's

10:07

got saved save save so there's obviously

10:10

your graphic designer was trying to do

10:12

something with the theme and salvation

10:14

is all over it

10:15

um particularly as you get get right

10:17

into it and i

10:19

you got me in chapter one when you talk

10:22

about how you grow up thinking

10:23

salvation is about how it's all about

10:26

basically saving people from hell and

10:27

making sure that within six weeks or

10:29

less

10:29

you get them to have that fire insurance

10:32

basically and that's basically all the

10:33

whole thing is about

10:35

to now you say you describe salvation as

10:38

and i'm quoting you as a people to which

10:40

i belong and a practice to which i

10:43

submit

10:44

salvation is a people to which i belong

10:46

in a practice to which i submit now

10:48

i don't know if many soteriologists

10:51

would you know

10:52

uh i think actually there's probably

10:54

plenty of certain urologists who would

10:55

say that actually gets

10:56

to the point of it more than this thing

10:58

that we've created to be in the church

11:00

but

11:00

we don't think about salvation as a

11:03

people to which we belong in a practice

11:05

in a way to which we submit

11:07

describe in more words this new way of

11:09

what you're seeing

11:10

salvation being and how you got there

11:13

yeah so this really started to come

11:15

together for me

11:16

when i went back to seminary um i had

11:19

been in ministry for

11:21

gosh like seven years before i went to

11:23

seminary which i like highly encouraged

11:24

like

11:25

because then you kind of know as you're

11:27

in all these lectures you're like oh

11:29

that doesn't work

11:30

that's not gonna fly uh and also like oh

11:32

that's what good news sounds like

11:34

right because you're you're having to

11:36

put it into practice in real time and

11:37

when we were going through

11:39

uh soteriology in my theology classes

11:43

i was so struck and i'm like reading

11:45

these textbooks you know i'm reading

11:47

i'm reading torrents and i'm reading a

11:50

lot of the things i drew on from the

11:51

book was from

11:52

john sabrina who's a catholic theologian

11:55

and i'm reading

11:56

all these different things and then like

11:57

weeping into these theology textbooks

11:59

because i'm like oh my gosh it's just so

12:01

beautiful and this this is good news

12:03

that's actually good news

12:06

and as we're discussing it in my classes

12:09

with my classmates

12:11

so many of them are coming to the same

12:13

conclusions that i am just like

12:15

people in our congregations don't know

12:16

this they don't know that this is what

12:19

salvation can be and

12:20

and kind of to what you were just saying

12:22

randy like it's not

12:24

the way that most of us would think of

12:25

salvation as a as a people and as a

12:28

practice

12:28

and so i think the more that we can get

12:32

past this idea of like check backs jesus

12:35

the better um you know really we have

12:38

had that

12:39

understanding of salvation for a very

12:41

short amount of time in the

12:43

large scope of christian history and so

12:46

the idea that that would become

12:48

not just the predominant view but like

12:50

the only way to think

12:52

about it for so many people is just

12:54

asinine and really

12:55

arrogant um that we would ignore the

12:58

entire scope of christian history and

13:00

theology

13:01

and say like well this is this is it

13:03

billy graham fixed it

13:05

he arrived and like that's what

13:08

salvation means now

13:09

and so i i think that expanding it

13:13

right not diminishing it right that it's

13:15

salvation

13:16

is it is a choice it is a thing that we

13:18

that we opt into

13:20

and i talk in the book about how it's

13:22

kind of like you know when your friend

13:23

comes and knocks on the door

13:25

not when kovit is happening ben says

13:27

like hey will you come play outside and

13:28

you like

13:29

you have to say like come in right like

13:32

i grew up in the era of like come home

13:34

when the

13:34

when the street lights come on or we

13:36

didn't have street lights down the hall

13:37

or so it was like come in when the sun

13:38

goes down

13:39

uh but you had you you opt into that you

13:42

have to run out the door

13:44

um but i think so often we think about

13:46

salvation is like well i ran out the

13:48

door

13:49

and now i'm just sitting here on my

13:50

porch steps

13:52

i made it and it's like no

13:55

you're missing everything um

13:59

and so for me that has looked like

14:03

constantly being almost in process of

14:05

like every

14:07

day how am i learning to love god and my

14:10

neighbor

14:10

and myself more and more holistically

14:16

every day how am i being invited into

14:18

that

14:19

that cycle of death and resurrection to

14:22

different

14:22

parts of myself or to systems that i

14:25

participate in

14:27

my own imagination of what's possible

14:30

and it's much more complicated than

14:33

answering if i've checked a box or not

14:34

but it's also so much more beautiful

14:37

and and good that picture

14:40

of being invited in stepping into the

14:42

foyer and then living your life there

14:44

it's so barren it's so so uh

14:47

wasted and that's such a such a

14:50

brilliant picture for thinking about

14:52

our salvation and being what it means to

14:54

be saved what it means to

14:57

live into this faith that we're born

15:00

into

15:01

i love it i love that and the way you

15:03

flesh that out in the book is really

15:04

really brilliant that belonging to a

15:06

people in particular

15:07

that you open yourself up to is

15:09

something that's so lost in the church i

15:11

want to talk about that more but kyle i

15:12

think you have a question

15:14

yeah so you draw attention several

15:16

points in the book to

15:18

what i think you identify as the main

15:20

problem with

15:21

the sort of billy graham evangelical

15:23

view of salvation right

15:25

and you label it consumerism and then

15:27

you talk about it in a lot from a lot of

15:28

different angles

15:30

and you contrast consumerism with the

15:32

better thing which is

15:33

connection so can you flesh that out a

15:35

little bit for us what do you mean by

15:37

those

15:37

two terms why do you think that's the

15:39

way that we should think about

15:41

what salvation could be yeah so i first

15:43

came across this framework when i was

15:45

reading a book by dr carrie day

15:47

who's a womanist scholar the book is

15:50

religious resistance to neoliberalism

15:52

very good very dense uh and and she

15:56

starts to pull this this thread too of

15:58

saying like okay

15:59

but the the consumer aspect of culture

16:02

the the way that we have learned that we

16:04

are fundamentally

16:05

uh at the end of the day and first and

16:07

foremost we are consumers

16:09

right like that my life is i'm a

16:11

consumer

16:12

um and you exist only in terms of what i

16:16

can get from you

16:17

um so we have to reimagine that

16:21

we have to remake that within ourselves

16:23

if we're going to move into

16:25

a way of thinking that i i think is

16:28

more based in like the the kingdom of

16:30

god and what jesus is calling us to

16:34

but the church has done a lot to just

16:35

reinforce that kind of thinking

16:37

uh graham certainly wasn't the first one

16:39

to start that but he made it real

16:41

popular

16:42

uh and so this idea that like even the

16:44

language we use right that

16:46

oh have you gotten saved like are you

16:48

did you get saved

16:50

like it's something that we can go to

16:51

the store and then put on our shelf and

16:53

many of us treat our salvation

16:55

as though that's what it is it's a

16:56

trinket that we talk up there and people

16:59

notice it when they come over and they

17:00

say oh tell me about that thing and

17:02

we're like

17:03

well let me tell you that story but it

17:06

doesn't

17:07

move us in any meaningful way you know

17:10

you can see really clear examples of

17:11

this

17:12

particularly when you look at the way

17:15

that

17:15

gender has been played out in the church

17:18

the ways that

17:19

particularly like women and children are

17:22

treated almost as if they are consumer

17:23

goods

17:24

um to prop up the biblical men

17:28

in their lives but we've done that with

17:30

so many things we do it with where we

17:32

attend church

17:33

as christians you know how many times

17:36

have pastors

17:38

heard like well i'm just not being fed

17:41

i'm just not

17:41

getting what i need here and there is

17:44

room for valid critique of

17:46

like what a church is doing that's

17:48

usually not one of them

17:49

and and so to say like because i am not

17:53

feeling good right because i am not

17:56

feeling as though my consumer needs are

17:58

met my

17:59

dopamine response isn't being triggered

18:01

in this moment

18:03

then clearly this is not where god wants

18:05

me does not square with scripture

18:08

at all not to go like biblical

18:10

literalist on us

18:12

but that doesn't square with scripture

18:14

at all

18:15

and so this idea that like god exists

18:18

and salvation exists

18:20

and the other people who are claiming to

18:23

follow christ exist for the purpose of

18:26

me feeling good about myself

18:29

is the subtext of a lot of our

18:31

interactions within the church

18:33

and in a lot of christian circles we

18:34

would never explicitly say that

18:36

but if you look at like where are their

18:38

fissures in relationship

18:40

what are the things that are informing

18:42

the choices for what we do and don't do

18:44

that's humming underneath the surface of

18:46

a lot of things we

18:47

like you alluded to megan i mean we in

18:49

the church are

18:51

by and large responsible for it and but

18:52

by we in the church i mean we church

18:54

leaders

18:54

are by and large responsible for that

18:56

consumeristic culture that we have

18:58

particularly in the white american

18:59

church white american evangelical church

19:03

and it's like i don't think i know many

19:06

pastors

19:07

i know some but i don't know many

19:09

pastors who really love that dynamic

19:11

who thinks it who think it's healthy but

19:14

they know that that's what they've

19:15

created

19:16

and that's how they pay the bills that's

19:18

how they pay the mortgage

19:19

that's how they keep a salary and that's

19:21

how they feel validated to be honest

19:23

with you is butts in the seats right and

19:25

so we just

19:25

keep going around in this hamster wheel

19:28

even though we mostly know

19:30

it's just not right and we'd rather have

19:33

something more biblical it's kind of the

19:34

monster we've created

19:35

it's it's a huge huge bummer

19:39

and i'm wondering what it's going to

19:42

take for that to kind of

19:44

for that for that model to break because

19:46

it's breaking as we speak right

19:49

what are your thoughts on that megan uh

19:52

i mean i feel like i could pontificate

19:53

on that all day long especially since i

19:55

don't leave a church anymore

19:56

so i have clearly all the answers now

19:59

kind of like

19:59

when you don't have kids yet and you're

20:01

like well this is how you parent

20:03

um so i i think that

20:07

one of the challenges is that we need to

20:10

redefine what leadership

20:12

is and we need to find ways of

20:14

quantifying

20:15

good leadership in ways that aren't tied

20:17

to finances or butts in the seats um

20:20

that sometimes good leadership looks

20:22

like standing up and saying this is

20:23

breaking as we speak so you know what

20:25

we're gonna

20:25

we're just gonna smash it right now and

20:28

then i'm gonna walk you through

20:30

what it looks like to pick up the pieces

20:32

that we're gonna preserve

20:34

you know what we're going to do right

20:36

here is we're going to break this

20:38

and then we're going to look really

20:40

closely at all the shards of glass and

20:42

see which ones we can meld together to

20:44

make a new window

20:46

with you know beautiful you know art in

20:48

it that will you know just

20:50

all the things right and so i think that

20:52

you need that

20:53

but again there's this aspect of like

20:55

the monster we've created and if you're

20:57

in a denominational system then you're

20:59

being accountable further up

21:01

to people who are saying no you can't

21:03

break that like we need all of these

21:04

metrics from you

21:06

um and if you're not then uh then that

21:09

comes with its own sense of precarity

21:12

but i think that that there is a

21:14

responsibility for people who are

21:16

leading the church to tell the truth

21:18

and that right now particularly right

21:21

now

21:22

we see so clearly what happens when

21:24

leaders

21:26

massage the edges of truth

21:29

and that it really is one of the most

21:32

revolutionary acts to

21:33

just tell the truth and to stay with

21:37

people through it

21:38

yep it's good i feel like when people

21:42

start

21:43

taking part or coming to our church i

21:45

can tell the ones who are going to stick

21:47

and the ones who aren't and the ones who

21:49

aren't are usually the ones who use

21:50

the consumeristic words to tell you why

21:53

they're here you know i love the

21:55

preaching oh

21:56

it's so good i'm like okay the worship's

21:59

amazing

22:00

love it ah makes my heart sing i know

22:03

that's not gonna last

22:04

right the ones who last usually are the

22:06

ones who are like man

22:07

this feels like family wow i've never

22:10

felt like

22:11

known in a church so those are the ones

22:14

that are going to stick the ones who

22:15

stay because of the preaching or the

22:17

worship they're going to wind up being

22:18

disappointed in two years when my

22:19

preaching style changes or

22:21

you know our worship leader gets onto a

22:23

different group of songs that may or may

22:26

not like it's amazing how predictable it

22:29

is isn't it

22:29

um yep yep

22:33

so in chapter two of your book megan you

22:36

use this term that i was talking with my

22:37

wife about i loved it

22:39

and it's so simple i wish i have i i

22:42

wish i could

22:43

stake claim to that and say that i

22:44

created it but this idea of selective

22:47

liberation that you say

22:48

pretty much you start in chapter two and

22:49

then you go throughout the book

22:51

talking about how we in the church i

22:53

mean really it's

22:54

americans but let's just talk about the

22:56

church here the white american

22:58

evangelical church

22:59

um this idea of selective liberation

23:02

that we think that we're all about

23:04

salvation

23:05

and freedom and liberation for all

23:07

people who would say no to that

23:08

right the reality is is that that's just

23:11

not the way it plays out and that's not

23:12

what we fight for as a people that's not

23:14

what we stand for

23:16

and when you do talk about full and

23:18

total and complete liberation for all

23:20

people

23:20

that gets pretty rough i mean we just

23:22

had a summer where we saw what happens

23:24

when you actually advocate for that so

23:26

can you take us into this this

23:29

really this idea that you created with

23:31

this selective liberation concept

23:33

yeah well i i first have to acknowledge

23:36

that that is a concept

23:37

that i don't know if the exact term

23:39

comes through but probably at some point

23:41

but definitely the concept comes from a

23:42

lot of womanist theologians

23:44

which are black women who are doing

23:47

theology

23:48

uh and so this idea that like none of us

23:51

are free until all of us are free

23:53

uh which i think is audrey lord um who

23:55

is not a theologian but

23:57

is is worthwhile to read in her own we

23:59

can dispute that

24:00

i mean i'm okay putting her there i

24:02

don't know if she's okay putting herself

24:04

there i want her

24:05

she might not want it right um

24:08

but this idea that like the you know

24:10

whether it's

24:11

you know lords or whether it's uh if

24:14

we're going to look at martin luther

24:15

king jr and

24:16

letter from a birmingham jail where he

24:17

talks about all of us being part of a

24:18

seamless garment like

24:19

knitted together right and so uh

24:22

selective liberation

24:24

looks like me growing up as a white

24:27

woman coming into my own in my early 20s

24:31

and realizing like oh my gosh

24:32

like women are oppressed

24:36

this needs to stop and if i had only

24:39

focused on that and when i was only

24:41

focusing on that

24:42

it got kind of toxic and kind of shitty

24:45

i don't know if i can cuss on your

24:46

podcast or not

24:47

occasionally it's happened from time to

24:49

time cool i will try

24:51

to continue to not use those words but

24:53

sometimes it slips

24:54

um sometimes they're the best words and

24:56

content

24:58

just enough to not get us the e so many

25:01

freedom movements you can look at the

25:02

early suffragists who

25:04

were looking for the right for women to

25:06

vote and they neglected

25:07

the black and latinx and native women

25:11

among them bad things happen when we

25:14

only look for our own freedom um

25:17

you know you could argue that the

25:19

insurrection at the capitol was a group

25:20

of people looking for their own freedom

25:23

at the cost of ignoring

25:26

everybody else and so i think in the

25:29

church we have done that

25:30

looking at spiritual freedom and like a

25:33

purely spiritual

25:34

faith which that concept emerged like

25:37

during the reconstruction when all these

25:39

people were trying to like

25:40

form theologies that allowed them to

25:42

still oppress formerly enslaved people

25:44

so that's real fun

25:45

we shouldn't really talk about purely

25:46

spiritual faith with any sort of like

25:48

moral authority because that's just not

25:50

the roots of it

25:51

um and so to say that our our faith only

25:54

speaks to a spiritual liberation and

25:56

only for people like me

25:58

just leads us down some really dangerous

25:59

paths because that's not

26:01

how jesus operates that's not how the

26:03

holy spirit operates

26:05

um and if we look at you know even

26:08

like political histories or social

26:10

movements

26:12

it doesn't lead to good places there

26:13

either

26:15

yeah i loved how you um i think it's

26:18

chapter three

26:19

connection over consumption um detailed

26:22

how

26:23

white our religious world is

26:26

particularly as just white protestants

26:29

let's say

26:29

let's just say that uh

26:32

we're i'm completely unaware of how i've

26:35

been programmed

26:36

to live in a white religion that's been

26:38

programmed by white people that's been

26:41

given to white people that's been made

26:42

for white people and then i wonder

26:44

why my church isn't diverse right or why

26:47

why

26:48

i can't understand the way some black

26:51

people worship

26:52

or let that next people worship or lgbtq

26:55

people

26:55

fill in the blank that was so fun to

26:58

have that

26:59

that fleece pulled back and realized

27:02

this is really white

27:04

right here what we're dealing with and

27:05

we we transpose that onto the scriptures

27:07

and we transpose that onto

27:09

god god him or herself and

27:13

it's amazing how limited we are in under

27:17

understanding

27:18

because of our cultural experience it's

27:19

not our fault really i mean

27:21

when it's our fault is when we actually

27:23

say no that's not the case this is the

27:24

way things really are right but what

27:25

what ex

27:26

what pulled back the fleece for you

27:27

megan and seeing how just how white

27:29

of a religious world you grew up in uh

27:32

in the book i talked through one of

27:35

those watershed moments for me because

27:37

it was many

27:37

right just like uh just like salvation i

27:40

think that this realization

27:42

uh of one's own

27:46

social location and the space that you

27:48

occupy in the world

27:50

especially if you're coming from a

27:51

majority or dominant culture

27:54

it's a series of events that unfold over

27:57

time but one of them that i talk about

27:59

in the book

28:00

is watching president obama's

28:02

inauguration

28:04

in 2008 and i was still

28:08

very much like a card-carrying

28:11

evangelical republican at that point i

28:14

was working

28:15

at an after school program and the

28:17

majority of the

28:18

staff and the majority of the students

28:21

were african-american

28:22

and we watched the a replay of the

28:25

inauguration that day

28:27

while the kids were after school and i

28:29

was annoyed like i'm just gonna like own

28:31

the space i was in at that time i

28:32

thought it was a terrible idea i was

28:34

like these kids

28:35

are not gonna sit there and watch this

28:37

big ceremony like

28:39

this is such a bad idea i worked with a

28:42

first grade class that year and i was

28:44

like this is gonna be terrible and have

28:45

seven year olds

28:46

just losing their minds for however long

28:48

this takes

28:49

and i was wrong

28:53

and we sat in the auditorium and my

28:56

students and my co-workers were crying

28:59

and cheering and it was

29:02

this moment where i realized for the

29:05

first time

29:07

i think that's part of the way we can

29:08

kind of gauge our privileges like when

29:10

was the first time you realized that

29:11

something was going on that you weren't

29:12

an insider on

29:14

and for me i was 20. and

29:18

i realized like something is happening

29:20

and i don't know what it is

29:23

and that was kind of the first moment

29:24

where i started to to kind of dig i had

29:26

a theology professor that same year who

29:28

had me read james cohn

29:29

at my baptist college god bless that man

29:32

and

29:33

um so then it was just a series of

29:35

things after that you know when we moved

29:36

to milwaukee

29:38

the whole time that i've lived here i've

29:39

lived in predominantly black

29:40

neighborhoods

29:41

that has revealed more uh in my life

29:45

than many many things just living among

29:48

people and living in a neighborhood

29:50

where my neighbors don't look like me

29:52

and don't have the same life experiences

29:54

that i have

29:55

that when a police officer pulls them

29:57

over in our neighborhood do not have the

29:59

same interaction with that officer that

30:00

i do

30:01

um and so it's been a series of

30:04

unlearning

30:05

i talk in the book too about unlearning

30:07

and returning

30:09

and i'm still in that process of

30:12

of realizing what i'm missing

30:17

and what are my assumptions about the

30:18

world and

30:20

what am i imposing unto god and my

30:23

neighbor and myself

30:24

that isn't rooted in who god has created

30:28

us all to be

30:29

[Music]

30:32

so good if we could spend a lot of time

30:34

there also in chapter two you're

30:35

speaking of being connected to

30:37

to people being connected to people as

30:39

family being connected to people and

30:41

learning from one another and you talk

30:43

about the disciples as a model

30:45

which you're not the first to do but

30:47

it's um striking

30:48

in this time space moment we find

30:50

ourselves in right now right where

30:52

you articulate how jesus has politically

30:55

opposite

30:56

folks as part of his disciples as part

30:58

of his innermost

31:00

circle a zealot who's a complete liberal

31:03

and a tax collector who's a complete con

31:06

ultra conservative and they're still

31:08

following jesus and you say how that

31:10

must have been

31:11

some fascinating dinner conversation

31:13

right totally agree with you i wish i

31:15

would have was a fly on the wall

31:17

but that kind of runs against something

31:20

that we're starting to hear in our

31:21

culture and i even remember hearing

31:22

reading on twitter you posted on

31:24

election day this past

31:25

you know a couple months ago about how

31:28

basically

31:29

there are some people that we disagree

31:30

with that there are our values are so

31:33

off-center with one another that it

31:35

might be actually better to part ways

31:37

with that person that might be the best

31:39

choice

31:40

i understand that fully and i think

31:41

especially for oppressed people that's

31:43

that's that's the reality and

31:45

that's wisdom but it's also hard for me

31:48

to differentiate between

31:50

living in an echo chamber where i

31:52

surround myself with myself with people

31:54

that i just

31:55

agree with and who agree with me because

31:57

that's more and more of what we're

31:58

seeing

31:58

rather than saying even if you disagree

32:01

with me on something that i hold

32:02

really important i'm still going to hold

32:04

space with you and listen to you and

32:05

love you

32:07

how do you how do you hold all of that

32:09

intention megan

32:10

yeah i think that you're your note that

32:14

particularly for oppressed people this

32:17

is something that you need to do right

32:19

when i wrote my book i was writing for

32:21

people

32:22

coming from the same space i did so

32:24

white evangelicals or maybe i'm not

32:27

evangelical anymore i don't really know

32:30

you know people coming from that space

32:32

and so

32:33

i i will answer from that space too

32:36

that for people who are white

32:39

for people who are in dominant culture

32:41

for people who are

32:43

in majority culture however we want to

32:44

phrase that

32:46

there is both a responsibility to be

32:50

like the the landing place for folks

32:53

but in our responsibility to continue to

32:57

hold space for people

32:59

uh we need to continue to occupy the

33:02

space that we hold too

33:03

and i think that sometimes when we are

33:06

holding space for people when i have

33:08

held space for people i have disagreed

33:09

with

33:10

and maybe part of this is just that i

33:12

you know grew up in the south and

33:13

there's a whole lot of just like

33:15

southern nicety

33:16

uh but midwesterners are bad at this too

33:18

though of just

33:19

kind of shoving what you disagree with

33:22

down

33:23

and if somebody's saying something that

33:24

you disagree with you're like

33:27

okay and that's not holding space

33:30

that's not bringing both the zealot and

33:34

the tax collector to the table that

33:37

is the zealot going off and the tax

33:40

collector just like

33:41

biting the inside of his cheek until it

33:43

bleeds and

33:44

that's not relationship and that's not

33:46

coming together and so

33:48

i think that if we are truly going to

33:51

hold more space for one another

33:53

we're gonna have a lot more conflict in

33:55

our relationships but that that's not a

33:57

bad

33:57

thing that when we are in conflict when

34:00

it with one another

34:01

i'm angry at you and you know it it's

34:04

because i trust you enough

34:06

to like trust you with that big emotion

34:07

that i'm feeling

34:09

what we have a problem with is

34:12

indifference

34:13

and choosing to coexist alongside people

34:16

that we are indifferent to

34:17

and then retreat back to our own echo

34:19

chambers and then come together with

34:21

people that we are indifferent with

34:23

and that's what i want us to try to

34:24

avoid the other thing i will say on this

34:26

that like

34:27

has gotten really complicated in the

34:29

last year is i think there's a lot of

34:31

space

34:32

to disagree on how we go about fixing

34:34

problems

34:35

or how we go about navigating things we

34:37

disagree about

34:38

as far as like you know should uh

34:42

teachers or grocery store workers get

34:44

vaccinated first

34:46

you know should uh should we have

34:49

spaghetti or pizza for dinner right

34:51

things like that uh if we are

34:54

disagreeing on things that are

34:56

observable

34:57

facts then there needs to be less space

35:00

for that

35:01

because good things don't come from that

35:04

nothing creative comes from that

35:06

no good innovative solutions come from

35:08

that because all we're doing is circling

35:10

around like is it my version of reality

35:12

or your version of reality that we're

35:14

going to try to fix

35:16

and i think that we can get really

35:20

bogged down in trying to hold space for

35:23

for people or for viewpoints that it's

35:24

just like this is just not something

35:26

that

35:26

helps us move forward in any way it

35:29

doesn't help bring flourishing or

35:31

freedom

35:31

or hope for anyone and

35:35

and i don't think that the zealots or

35:37

the tax collectors would be bringing

35:38

that to the table

35:41

so quick follow-up so when you use

35:44

phrases like hold space for someone or

35:46

occupy the space that you're in can you

35:48

flesh that out a little bit

35:49

would that be analogous to um

35:53

just continuing a dialogue or what

35:56

specifically do you envision when you

35:58

use

35:58

phrases like that i think continuing a

36:00

dialogue or continuing in relationship

36:02

um i think that it looks different for

36:05

different people

36:06

and at different points in their journey

36:08

to hold space for someone that you're in

36:10

sharp disagreement

36:12

with may look like hey we can continue

36:15

to talk

36:16

once a month with these specific

36:18

parameters

36:19

for this amount of time and that's it

36:23

you know in the conflict mediation work

36:25

that i've done

36:26

you might even agree to those parameters

36:28

ahead of time and say hey this is really

36:30

hard right now

36:31

and i'm having a difficult time staying

36:33

in relationship with you but i

36:34

want to so here's what we need to do

36:38

right and can you agree to this can we

36:40

do we both value this relationship

36:42

enough that this is what we're gonna do

36:44

um you know i think that if it's in a

36:48

bigger setting um it can just look like

36:52

digging in and asking questions instead

36:54

of

36:55

presuming judgments i went to seminary

36:57

with somebody

36:59

who reminded me a whole lot of people

37:02

that i grew up with

37:04

and that was not a good thing by the

37:05

time i got to seminary i was like oh

37:07

no not this person and

37:11

we happen to both be from the same home

37:13

state

37:14

uh west virginia which automatically

37:16

meant that they were like oh hey

37:18

let's talk and i was like no no no no no

37:20

no no i don't want to

37:22

i came here to get away and

37:25

instead of deciding that i

37:29

was just gonna like totally shut down

37:31

block this

37:32

this person off in all ways

37:35

they would make pronouncements and they

37:37

were much more conservative than i was

37:39

they would make pronouncements before or

37:41

during class

37:42

and during breaks or after class i'd be

37:44

like hey can you

37:45

can you tell me more about why you think

37:49

that solves this problem

37:50

can you explain to me more about why you

37:53

think this theology is helpful for the

37:55

church right now

37:56

and we would go back and forth and after

37:59

you know after he would share with me

38:00

then he would usually return the

38:02

question

38:02

um to be like well well how do you see

38:05

this

38:05

and that really helped cultivate

38:09

a healthy respectful dialogue again we

38:11

weren't disagreeing on like

38:13

facts um but it was

38:17

it was hey we have two different ways of

38:19

looking at how this plays out in the

38:20

church

38:22

and in the world and i

38:25

got better my ideas got better and

38:28

sharper and more nuanced and

38:32

more clear the more i talk to him and i

38:35

think the same was true for him the more

38:37

he talked with me

38:38

um and so i think that it really depends

38:41

on the situation that people are in in

38:42

the context in which they're trying to

38:44

keep showing up for other people

38:46

but that work is important and it's

38:48

worth the energy

38:50

how about that when you engage with

38:52

somebody asking honest questions

38:54

in a humble fashion wanting to genuinely

38:56

know that what they think

38:58

things tend to work out how about that

39:00

you know it's it's kind of like

39:02

uh in youth group drama camps and stuff

39:06

when you just when you're doing the

39:07

improv exercises and you say yes and

39:11

uh it's a good guide post in all of life

39:14

i get the chills when i like actually go

39:16

back to those youth group skits

39:18

like in bad chills and like like not

39:20

good no no

39:21

lots of bad chills but the improv the

39:24

yes and is the thing we can take that's

39:26

the kernel of truth that we can take

39:28

with us

39:30

the one thing one of the only things

39:32

that i've kept from my old

39:34

like street evangelism days which i

39:36

really identified with certain parts of

39:38

your book

39:38

because of that uh was the the question

39:41

why do you think

39:42

that why do you believe that tell me

39:44

more it's so productive

39:46

it's a great question yeah so

39:50

your book has several chapters in it

39:51

that i got to be honest i didn't expect

39:53

to be in it when i

39:54

looked at the cover so there's a chapter

39:58

on politics there's a chapter on racism

40:01

there's a chapter on personal finances

40:03

there's a chapter on environmentalism

40:05

there's a chapter on gender

40:08

in a book presumably about salvation

40:11

so connect those dots for for the

40:14

listeners

40:14

if if you can why did you pick those

40:16

topics to be in a book

40:18

called born again and again i was trying

40:20

to choose the

40:21

least controversial topics that i could

40:23

talk about

40:24

in the church and that just seemed like

40:26

the list

40:28

um you know i think that if our

40:30

salvation is to mean anything then it

40:32

has to have implications in our

40:34

day-to-day life

40:35

i think that if our faith has any sort

40:37

of value then it has to be embodied in

40:40

some way and so i wanted to go

40:42

through some of the most

40:45

difficult kind of sectors of life that

40:49

we navigate

40:50

and say this is what that can look like

40:55

because i think that it's easy uh for me

40:58

to write a chapter like chapter two or

41:00

chapter three and like

41:01

connection over consumption and we

41:03

should be together and

41:05

i quote moana and i'm like the people

41:07

you love will change you

41:09

and that sounds really really good and

41:10

then you actually get around people

41:12

you're like i don't want to change like

41:13

that don't change me that way

41:15

and so i looked at different topics

41:19

that either have been kind of flash

41:21

points in my own life for

41:23

you know moments where you know looking

41:25

back i can be like oh that was really

41:26

where my

41:27

theology shook loose uh race gender

41:31

um this past year you know it going back

41:34

through the environment chapter now

41:36

uh is really interesting because i have

41:39

spent so much more time outside this

41:41

past year

41:42

um and i'm like oh there's i i would

41:45

write even more on that now if i was

41:47

writing it all over again

41:49

uh money is a is a thing that always is

41:52

tripping us up and what do you do with

41:53

your money and how do you manage your

41:55

money and

41:55

everybody's in tons of debt um at least

41:58

people in my generation i'm a millennial

42:00

so

42:01

um what do we do with that and what does

42:03

faithfulness look like

42:05

um that maybe doesn't look like you know

42:07

dead is dumb and cash is king and angry

42:09

white men on the radio

42:11

um that was that was dave ramsey it was

42:13

it was yeah it was dave ramsey

42:15

[Laughter]

42:19

yeah and so i i tried to choose topics

42:22

that were like the tough case studies

42:25

right where like if we were having this

42:26

conversation in real life

42:28

that somebody would raise their hand and

42:29

say yeah but what about

42:31

i tried to kind of say like okay but

42:33

this and this

42:35

and this yeah um and you know it's not

42:37

complete like i said

42:39

i was trying to write a book that would

42:41

be like footholds on a rock wall

42:43

um but hopefully there's enough there

42:46

that people can push off into into more

42:49

questions as they come up

42:50

yep and i want to say that is such

42:54

a better way to hold and to think of

42:57

our salvation that salvation isn't a

42:59

membership card into this exclusive club

43:02

salvation isn't like you said a trophy

43:03

or trinket to put on a

43:05

on our you know on our mantle for people

43:07

to look at and for us to brag on a

43:09

little bit

43:10

salvation is messy and it's a process

43:14

and it's dirty and nitty-gritty and it's

43:17

beautiful all at the same time

43:19

and it affects all of our lives and if

43:21

it doesn't

43:22

we gotta wonder if we've got this

43:23

trinket kind of salvation that really

43:25

doesn't

43:26

doesn't account for much in our daily

43:28

lives i like that

43:32

yeah so one more question about racism

43:35

but really it could be bigger than that

43:36

we could expand it to other forms of

43:38

social stratification as well so you

43:41

talk in chapter five a little bit

43:43

about the attempt by a lot of white

43:45

churches to develop a more diverse

43:48

putting that in scare quotes for those

43:49

who can't see me diverse congregation

43:51

and it reminded me of

43:52

reading ibram kindy's book last year how

43:56

to be an anti-racist and he talks about

43:57

this too

43:58

and kind of comes down on the side

44:01

somewhat surprisingly

44:02

at the time for me on the segregation

44:06

that happens on sunday mornings is not

44:07

entirely a bad thing

44:09

and that there's actually some some

44:11

necessary healing that's allowed in

44:13

those spaces that wouldn't be allowed if

44:15

we were

44:15

forcing the reintegration uh so

44:19

what's your view of this how do we we

44:23

everybody in this conversation well at

44:25

least randy and i and elliot for sure

44:28

uh attend predominantly white churches

44:31

and spend most of our time in

44:32

predominantly white spaces

44:35

how do we approach this because we want

44:37

diversity diversity is a good thing

44:38

right uh we want to give positions of

44:42

decision-making authority to

44:44

people of color that's a good thing it

44:46

would grow all of us if we did that

44:48

and yet we're hearing from people in

44:51

those spaces that

44:53

maybe that's not what they want so

44:56

what's your take on this i think

44:57

that white people need to do their own

45:00

work first

45:01

before we try to do any sort of

45:06

diversity work we need to take a really

45:10

long hard look at ourselves and

45:13

i don't trust any white people

45:17

to do any sort of diversity work if

45:19

they're also not willing to say in the

45:21

same breath that they're racist

45:23

um i would freely acknowledge that like

45:26

i

45:27

am a racist a recovering one

45:30

but just like a addict of any sort

45:34

who's in recovery would never say like

45:36

oh i'm i'm i'm not an addict anymore

45:38

like you'd be like

45:39

maybe you need to go back to that 12

45:41

steps meeting like maybe

45:42

maybe you need to go back for a

45:44

refresher uh

45:46

whiteness is similar to

45:49

an addiction to power and an addiction

45:52

to a view of self

45:54

that is uh inflated

45:57

and diminished at the same time we both

46:01

over inflate our station in the world

46:05

and what we can and cannot do

46:08

willie jennings latest book after

46:10

whiteness talks about this summon like

46:12

the the

46:12

plantation mindset plantation pedagogy i

46:15

think is what he

46:16

calls it um but it's been a little bit

46:18

so if you read

46:20

that book and it's not that exact phrase

46:22

then my memory is a little foggy but

46:24

it's a great phrase somebody should do

46:26

this that's what

46:27

um so but this idea that like at the

46:30

same time we are

46:32

presuming we have so much mastery and

46:34

control over the world

46:37

and because that doesn't actually exist

46:40

because that is a figment of our own

46:42

imaginations and our own creation it

46:44

diminishes our humanity because we're

46:46

trying to live outside of the space that

46:47

we are actually created to be within

46:50

and so uh you know

46:54

we don't ever completely get over that

46:57

no matter how well intentioned no matter

46:59

how many books i read no matter

47:00

how many people of color who i submit to

47:04

their leadership i'm never going to be

47:05

completely over that and so i think that

47:07

white people need to do that work to

47:10

begin with

47:11

themselves and kendy's book is great

47:14

there's i mean

47:14

after this past summer there's lists all

47:16

over the internet of books people can

47:18

read

47:20

but not just reading the the books on

47:22

racial equity but also reading

47:24

fiction and reading poetry like my god

47:27

yesterday we saw this

47:28

incredible young black poet just

47:31

take us all to church and leave us

47:34

weeping at the altar

47:36

um or maybe that was just in my living

47:38

room but it was

47:39

it was very good i don't think so but

47:42

for the listen

47:42

for for in case whenever this airs she's

47:44

referring to the

47:46

uh poet laureate at the inauguration um

47:49

yes amanda gorman amanda amanda gorman

47:52

yeah yeah

47:52

my friend texted me while she was

47:54

speaking just the the phrase

47:56

this is an exorcism yeah and i thought

47:59

yeah

47:59

i think it is and so reading black poets

48:02

poets of color

48:04

reading uh nk jemisin and octavia butler

48:08

and uh tony morrison and letting not

48:10

just

48:11

our imaginations of power structures be

48:14

redeemed and restored but also just our

48:16

imagination of like

48:18

how do we create worlds in our mind be

48:21

liberated from

48:22

from whiteness to and so i think that's

48:24

the first thing

48:26

and then i would also say that if

48:28

there's uh

48:29

if there are white christians who really

48:31

really want

48:33

diversity in their spiritual life you

48:35

can go to a black church

48:37

like do your own work first like don't

48:39

just show up with all your racism and

48:41

like decide that you're going to take

48:42

over black but no no that's not what i'm

48:44

advocating for

48:45

but if you like are doing your work and

48:47

you do your discernment

48:48

and you go and you sit in the pews and

48:51

you

48:52

don't there's zero critical feedback

48:55

nope you sit down you listen

48:57

you you learn you take it in you let

48:59

your mind be reshaped and reformed

49:01

i think you can do that and maybe you

49:04

volunteer to shovel the snow but you're

49:07

not leading stuff

49:09

i think that for many many years i

49:13

approached ministry trying to cultivate

49:15

diversity

49:16

by saying oh look i've done all this

49:18

work please come to me

49:20

and i think that there's still a lot of

49:22

whiteness wrapped up in that idea

49:23

that i'm going to give you the mic

49:27

when there are people of color who have

49:29

mics in their own corners

49:31

and we're just not listening to them

49:33

some people listening might might listen

49:34

to you and say man you're going a little

49:36

bit far

49:36

right like i got in trouble in a sermon

49:39

for say

49:40

with a few people for saying we're all a

49:42

little bit racist at least um

49:44

that's a sensitive thing for some people

49:46

particularly for for some white people

49:48

and

49:48

some people might be listening being

49:50

like ah man

49:52

like do i really have to apologize that

49:54

much for being white you know is that

49:55

what we're talking about here

49:57

um i'm sure you've had that conversation

49:59

multiple times just a little bit

50:02

take us into that like answer that

50:05

question from our listener who might be

50:06

thinking that

50:08

generally think that apologizing for

50:10

being white is not helpful

50:12

most people are not looking for your for

50:14

an apology for being white

50:16

um there's an expression white lady

50:19

tears

50:20

um where you'll have a woman in

50:23

particular but men cry too you know

50:25

whatever

50:26

non-binary siblings cry to um that

50:29

uh you know you're crying and then

50:32

you're trying to

50:33

subconsciously even get a response of

50:36

sympathy like oh no no you're not that

50:38

bad

50:39

it's it's okay which then puts

50:42

the burden of that interaction back on

50:45

the person of color

50:46

um and so i think that generally i have

50:50

learned to view that feeling of

50:53

fragility or that feeling of like oh

50:56

i i don't think so no randy i think

50:59

you're off there when you said it we're

51:01

all a little bit racist that

51:02

um i don't i don't think that doesn't

51:04

sit right in my spirit you know

51:07

that doesn't feel like it's from the

51:08

lord

51:11

i have started to view that feeling

51:15

as an invitation from the holy spirit

51:18

and the moments when i'm being corrected

51:21

particularly from somebody that i have

51:24

otherwise trusted and otherwise

51:26

respected their work

51:29

to view that correction as a gift like

51:31

oh what am i not

51:33

seeing about myself what am i not aware

51:36

of within my life that this person is

51:38

seeing

51:39

right now and they are giving me the

51:42

gift

51:42

of their viewpoint they are giving me

51:45

the gift of their eyes and their ears

51:47

and

51:48

and you know the way that this is all

51:50

hitting them right now

51:52

and like what a precious opportunity

51:56

to engage in that and to sit with that

51:59

and so

52:00

i think that there needs to be a lot

52:03

less

52:04

urgency to fix it that's another way

52:06

that whiteness tends to operate is

52:08

there's a lot of like but we just need

52:09

to fix it

52:10

like what do i need to do to make it go

52:12

away

52:13

instead of saying like this is 400 some

52:17

odd years

52:19

in the making a racial hierarchy

52:23

and so it's not going to be fixed in

52:25

this one apology or statement that i

52:28

issue that this is going to take

52:31

400 some odd years to

52:34

free ourselves from and so to

52:38

embrace the discomfort of that of

52:40

knowing that this is a work that will

52:42

be unfinished when i die regardless of

52:45

whether or not i apologize to you today

52:47

but i do have a responsibility for

52:50

the way that i react

52:53

and the way that i navigate systems and

52:55

particularly systems where people really

52:57

value what i say

52:59

um and i'm responsible for

53:02

what jokes that i laugh at or let go

53:05

unchecked in my presence

53:07

i'm responsible for the policies that

53:10

the

53:11

people i vote for run on and an act

53:15

and those are things that i can change

53:18

and i can shift and those are things

53:21

that don't require a apology

53:25

but they just require a different set of

53:27

actions and there are places too

53:29

for sure where repentance is in order

53:32

not to just like throw all the churchy

53:34

words out there like salvation

53:37

but apologizing and repenting are not

53:41

the same thing

53:42

um and and so there's a real difference

53:45

in saying like oh i'm sorry i did that

53:48

i'm sorry for being white uh versus

53:52

that feedback you just gave me what you

53:55

just told me about myself

53:57

has shown me something different and i'm

53:59

going to walk a different way

54:01

after this moment because of what you

54:03

shared with me

54:05

theology in everyday practice how about

54:07

that

54:08

so in most of the christian spaces i'm

54:11

in i'm the most liberal person in the

54:13

room i'm guessing that may not be the

54:14

case at this moment so i want to ask ask

54:16

this to a fellow liberal christian

54:18

um especially one that wrote a book

54:20

about salvation i haven't thought of

54:22

christianity in terms of salvation in

54:26

more than a decade probably it's if i if

54:29

i were asked by some

54:30

like some legitimately genuinely secular

54:32

person

54:33

to explain christianity to them the

54:35

concept probably wouldn't be a part of

54:38

my introduction to be honest uh and and

54:40

i would i would probably expect that i

54:42

would need

54:43

to explain it away if it did come up uh

54:45

i don't any longer really think of

54:47

christianity in those terms and i don't

54:49

see it as a particularly helpful way of

54:50

explaining

54:51

what i think the core of the religion is

54:54

so

54:55

do you really think that because in some

54:57

ways i think i feel like your

54:58

your book is kind of aimed at um

55:02

other people on the road to a more

55:05

progressive form of christianity

55:07

and in my experience that took me away

55:09

from the concept of salvation altogether

55:11

so

55:11

i'm just curious what your take on that

55:13

is how many progressive or liberal

55:15

christians do you think really

55:17

really think in those terms anymore a

55:19

lot of them it seems to me think of

55:20

being born again as a

55:22

i don't know almost a cliche something

55:24

that calls to mind a form of

55:26

evangelicalism we left behind a long

55:28

time ago yeah for sure

55:30

i i i mean i was writing for the people

55:32

that are on that journey

55:34

and trying to really think through where

55:37

am i trying to meet people

55:38

um and how do we how do i kind of like

55:41

hold their hand

55:42

and walk with them along the road and i

55:45

did not pick the title of my book

55:47

although it is good um i think that born

55:49

again is a huge cliche

55:52

and gosh i know that

55:55

there are things in my life that i'm not

55:58

in power

55:58

to control them right that i am

56:00

powerless over right like

56:02

gosh i know that and so if i think of

56:04

salvation in those terms

56:06

of there are

56:10

powers and principalities if you will or

56:13

there are mindsets

56:14

and thought processes that were handed

56:18

down to me

56:19

from my parents my grandparents my

56:21

ancestors

56:22

that i don't even know how to begin to

56:25

untangle

56:28

i am comfortable at this point of saying

56:30

like yeah i need to be saved from those

56:32

things

56:32

like i need i need some sort of

56:35

intervention there

56:36

i need some sort of uh

56:39

assistance from from the spirit

56:43

um to to guide me through that

56:47

i need to know that life comes out of

56:50

the grave

56:52

i need to know that a resurrected body

56:55

still

56:55

bears scars and that there's still an

56:58

invitation to walk in faithfulness

57:02

despite of and because of all of those

57:04

things

57:05

and so i would say i still hold to a

57:08

an understanding of salvation as

57:12

important um that's part of why i wrote

57:15

a book on it the

57:16

first season of my podcast is all about

57:18

what does it mean to be saved because i

57:19

do think it's still important

57:21

but in a very very different way

57:24

than how i used to think about it

57:26

salvation in that all of creation is

57:28

being redeemed and how do i

57:30

participate in that that'll preach

57:34

so one unique or maybe at least unusual

57:37

thing about the book was that you pepper

57:39

in each chapter

57:40

uh little stories from other people

57:42

people from your life that you know

57:44

uh to illustrate the points that you're

57:46

making in the book

57:48

and they're really compelling they're

57:49

some of my favorite parts of the book

57:50

were those

57:51

those little vignettes uh did you write

57:54

those were those written by the people

57:55

actually themselves they

57:56

were they were some were quite well

57:58

written right i they were written by

58:01

all of those people um all my friends

58:04

and i did i read some of them and i was

58:06

like also i hope you get a book deal

58:08

next because this is really good

58:11

yeah so why did you choose to to write

58:14

it that way to include

58:16

other perspectives it was really

58:17

important to me to

58:19

illustrate even in the structure of the

58:21

book this idea of connection over

58:23

consumption

58:23

right this idea that like i don't come

58:26

to the place

58:27

i am in my life or in my understanding

58:30

of god or the world

58:32

because i have lots of good ideas and

58:34

wow isn't megan westeros super

58:36

um and she's so smart and it's like no

58:39

i came to these conclusions i

58:43

am who i am now to to quote

58:46

uh dr cornell west i am who i am because

58:49

somebody loved

58:50

me and multiple people loved me

58:53

and then some of them even said sure

58:55

i'll write a thing for your book

58:57

um and so you know i included the voices

59:00

of people who have been

59:02

formative for me in one way or another

59:04

uh who were

59:05

willing to go along with this you know

59:08

kind of

59:08

odd idea of hey will you write a 300 to

59:11

500 word

59:12

vignette from my book um but i wanted to

59:15

really illustrate even in the structure

59:17

that like

59:18

you know the way forward is through

59:21

listening humbly and letting yourself be

59:24

formed by the voices of others

59:25

and and that the people you love will

59:28

change you

59:30

and they will change the way you think

59:32

about god and about the world and about

59:33

yourself

59:34

and it will be a more beautiful thing

59:36

because of that yeah one of the people

59:38

that who's

59:41

whose writing really challenged me was a

59:44

pastor of a church called tippecanoe

59:46

presbyterian he called her pastor karen

59:48

and um

59:49

it was in the context of talking about

59:51

the distinction between stewardship

59:53

and ownership seeing yourself seeing

59:55

your own possessions as something that

59:57

really

59:57

belongs to god and belongs to the world

59:59

and

60:01

not something to be hoarded and uh she

60:04

was describing how they

60:05

had taken the grounds around their

60:07

church and actually turned them into a

60:08

garden that they would open up to the

60:10

community and help feed people and

60:12

at one point she said it's not about

60:14

this church these ministries don't

60:16

belong to this church

60:17

and it struck me because i don't i don't

60:20

see my own projects that way i have

60:21

i have a hard time sharing this podcast

60:25

i don't i certainly don't don't view my

60:28

own possessions in that way so

60:29

how can we get better well i had the

60:33

i had the same reaction when i was

60:35

talking with her that was the one

60:37

everybody wrote their own vignettes

60:39

except for that when i interviewed her

60:40

and then typed up the the

60:41

interview um and even as we were talking

60:44

i was like dang

60:46

i don't okay

60:49

um and that church is in it's local it's

60:52

in bayview you can

60:53

drive down and see the see the gardens

60:55

it's quite the uh

60:57

the operation it's pretty cool um

61:00

i think it's one of those things you get

61:01

better by by doing it

61:03

uh it like riding a bike you don't just

61:05

like

61:06

will yourself into being a more generous

61:10

and uh open-hearted person

61:14

uh you know oriented to the world in a

61:16

way that he

61:17

is is in some ways like very much rooted

61:19

in particularly like the hebrew

61:21

bible um this idea that the the earth is

61:24

the lord's

61:26

and not ours and we don't permanently

61:28

own anything

61:29

uh everything goes back uh every 40

61:32

years right like

61:33

the whole concept of jubilee which is

61:36

really really opposite to how we think

61:38

about anything in the united states

61:40

um where it's like this has been in my

61:42

family for

61:43

200 years and we're just gonna keep

61:46

passing it down

61:47

it's so it's challenging for us but i

61:49

think that in in small ways

61:52

you know whatever that looks like for

61:53

people and it's hard right now during

61:55

the pandemic because so many of the

61:56

things when i think about

61:58

how did i kind of start reshaping that

62:00

well the first 10 years that i lived in

62:02

milwaukee

62:03

i lived in a duplex and

62:06

it was kind of considered common space

62:09

for both the church that i was working

62:11

for at the time and also the kids in the

62:13

neighborhood

62:14

who we were trying to minister to and so

62:18

there were just people in and out all

62:20

the time and there were kids on my porch

62:22

from

62:23

in the summer from like 8 a.m until nine

62:26

o'clock at night sometimes

62:27

and it was very formative to really like

62:30

this is

62:31

this is my home and it's not just my

62:34

home

62:35

it is a home and it is a safe place and

62:37

it's a space where people

62:39

feel and find belonging and

62:42

a snack and sidewalk chalk whatever

62:45

right and that's not just for me that's

62:47

for everybody but

62:48

right now it's not exactly advisable to

62:51

say like

62:51

just have an open door policy to your

62:54

house

62:55

so i think that there's there's certain

62:57

challenges in this moment but even the

62:58

idea of

63:00

how do we think about our public health

63:01

measures and is this just so that

63:04

i feel more confident about my own

63:07

health right i'm

63:08

halfway vaccinated right now as a health

63:10

professional

63:13

working in the chaplain settings that i

63:14

work in but that's not

63:16

just for me that's for my patients and

63:20

it's for

63:20

their families and it's for um all these

63:24

things and so i think

63:25

you know even catching ourselves when

63:27

we're doing that self-reflection work

63:30

if we're keeping a gratitude journal or

63:33

whatever that we're not just thinking in

63:35

terms of

63:36

this is how this benefits me but then

63:38

challenging ourselves to think

63:40

does this have a benefit to my neighbors

63:42

and if so what is it and if it doesn't

63:44

how could i hold it differently so that

63:47

it benefits more than just me how do i

63:49

make this a channel of blessing

63:53

and not a well that just

63:56

sinks down

64:00

so megan in your in the second to last

64:02

chapter i

64:04

i mean you got me basically like you you

64:07

slayed me

64:08

telling your story of growing up in the

64:09

church as a as a young woman

64:12

um and i think if i would have one

64:14

critique with the book of megan it was

64:15

that

64:16

that second to last chapter was so good

64:18

i wanted one whole chapter on gender

64:20

in on women in the church and i wanted

64:22

one whole chapter on

64:24

sexuality yeah um so there's there's my

64:27

there's my little

64:28

little beef i want more from you

64:29

basically but that's fair

64:32

yeah uh i'm just gonna read this you

64:35

telling your story of growing up in the

64:36

church

64:37

built some rage in me and it actually

64:39

brought me into your story a little bit

64:42

and helped me empathize a little bit

64:45

with what it

64:45

what it felt like and what it feels like

64:47

for a woman in the church and young

64:49

women in the church in particular

64:50

so you say this is on page 128.

64:54

i have always had the spirit of a leader

64:56

and an entrepreneur

64:57

a spirit that often in my growing

64:59

growing up years got me labeled as a

65:01

jezebel

65:02

that's a southern thing i don't know

65:03

about that that's my commentary

65:06

when it came to matters of faith i

65:07

quickly internalized the conclusion that

65:09

these impulses to create

65:11

dream and lead were problems and not

65:13

gifts

65:14

i prayed for hours that god would give

65:16

me the gentle and quiet

65:18

spirit that good christian girls were

65:20

supposed to have

65:21

yet my big ideas opinions and dreams

65:23

continually disrupted my attempts

65:26

to become quiet and serene i'm going to

65:28

go on the waves of me too in church 2

65:31

survivor accounts resurrected familiar

65:33

feelings in my body

65:35

prickling shivers rushed from head to

65:36

toe and twisted my belly into nuts

65:39

they were as familiar as the pounding of

65:40

my heartbeat that i remember from my

65:42

years as a middle schooler and high

65:43

schooler

65:44

when church leaders would pull me aside

65:46

on a regular basis to tell me

65:47

that i was causing boys to stumble or

65:49

that i was being too much

65:51

quote unquote i didn't know at the time

65:53

how to name those feelings as

65:55

shame and a response to manipulation

65:57

instead i accepted the responsibility of

65:59

protecting the boys around me from

66:01

temptation

66:02

and tried to shrink myself to fit the

66:04

ideals presented to me

66:06

i feverishly wrote out a personal list

66:08

of do's and don'ts for my wardrobe in my

66:10

journal

66:11

i learned to hate my body i convinced

66:14

myself that policing it was a form of

66:16

love

66:17

i learned to hate my voice to see my

66:19

brains in ambition as a liability

66:21

i knew that no amount of praying and

66:23

asking friends to hold me accountable

66:25

was going to produce the quote unquote

66:27

gentle and quiet spirit that a true

66:30

woman of god should possess

66:32

but if i disparage myself as i spoke up

66:34

perhaps i would at least

66:36

signal that i was trying that right

66:39

there

66:41

is an indictment bring us into that

66:44

world what was it like to

66:46

live in that world and to feel like you

66:47

had to be an imposter

66:49

even though you've been created to be a

66:51

certain way

66:53

i think that i wouldn't have even called

66:57

it an imposter

66:59

because labeling yourself as an imposter

67:01

implies that you know

67:02

that you have a different identity a

67:05

different

67:07

solid self outside of that and

67:10

i thought i was defective

67:14

which is different than imposter i

67:16

thought that that was

67:17

my sin you know particularly in that

67:20

circle

67:21

it was my sin that was still holding a

67:24

grip on me that it was

67:27

satan who is stirring these things up

67:30

for me

67:31

and you know making it so impossible for

67:34

me to

67:35

just be quiet and meek and modest

67:38

and um

67:42

have less opinions i i've never

67:45

i've never really been good at any of

67:47

that and

67:50

i just assumed that it meant that i was

67:51

flawed

67:53

and that there would be a certain

67:55

measure of faithfulness that would never

67:57

be accessible to me

68:00

because of that

68:03

there was also a big lie in in the

68:06

circle as i grew up in and i don't think

68:08

i talk about this in the book but this

68:09

idea of like a switch would flip

68:11

when i got married or when i had a kid

68:14

and like well when you do these things

68:16

that make you really a woman

68:18

then a switch will flip and you'll just

68:21

want all these other you'll want to be

68:22

quiet you'll want to be in your

68:24

home and be the the homemaker and you

68:26

know cook and clean whatever and i do

68:28

like to cook

68:29

in part because i like to eat good food

68:32

but

68:34

the switch never flipped there was never

68:36

a switch

68:38

uh if anything i i had my daughter

68:42

and all of a sudden was like oh shoot

68:44

now i have another girl

68:46

i have to figure out how to teach her to

68:48

navigate the world

68:49

so i better figure this out um so i

68:53

you know i had a big blog post that got

68:56

pretty big when blogging was still

68:57

popular about how motherhood made me

69:00

into a feminist

69:01

um so i

69:04

i don't know how to exactly

69:07

bring you into the world anymore than

69:10

than what i wrote i think that that's

69:11

part of the reason why

69:14

uh it is so important for people who

69:18

have one lived experience to

69:23

really approach people with different

69:24

lived experiences with utmost humility

69:26

and respect for that

69:27

and that if somebody is sharing this is

69:31

what i

69:31

have gone through and you know if you

69:33

continue going through that chapter you

69:34

read

69:35

a vignette from a friend of mine who is

69:38

single

69:38

and a friend who is gay and celibate and

69:42

a friend

69:42

who is trans and a friend who right

69:46

and so like all of these different lived

69:48

experiences

69:50

are so important um to listen to with

69:53

the utmost

69:55

humility and just the deepest amount of

69:57

the sacredness of that because i will

69:59

never know

70:02

what those experiences are like and so

70:04

if i'm going to walk in a way that

70:06

demonstrates love for my neighbors who

70:10

have those lived

70:11

experiences then i need to understand

70:14

that i'm never going to get the whole

70:15

depth of it i'm never going to master

70:18

my understanding of what they've lived

70:20

through

70:22

any more than anybody would would master

70:24

their understanding of what i've been

70:26

through as a woman in the church but i

70:28

think it compels me to

70:31

listen carefully and humbly to others

70:35

and it compels me

70:38

to make sure that we're making shifts

70:42

so that we stop causing harm

70:45

um and and i'm encouraged sometimes like

70:48

i have a sticker on my laptop that's

70:52

from

70:52

uh the happy givers um and it says

70:56

something about like

70:57

jesus loved women and protected women

70:59

and listened to women and

71:01

lists all these things that jesus and

71:02

then at the bottom it says

71:04

our turn and i was like yeah a good

71:06

feminist christian sticker yeah

71:08

and my daughter who's almost nine saw it

71:11

like

71:12

this was like last year when i first got

71:13

it and she was like reading it

71:16

and i could tell you her eyes get all

71:17

squinty and she's like reading it

71:18

through and she's like

71:20

yeah and just like it was just like not

71:23

even a thing

71:24

and so then we had a conversation she's

71:26

like why did you put that stupid sticker

71:28

on your laptop like

71:29

why do you why does that need to be said

71:32

and so then we had a conversation about

71:34

it and i was like well

71:35

this is how i grew up and and this is

71:38

what i learned

71:39

and she got so i mean her little fist

71:42

balled up and she started shaking and

71:46

uh and and just this visible

71:49

right like whole body rage of just like

71:52

no and so in those moments

71:56

i feel hope because i'm just like oh

72:01

i have only thought this as long as

72:03

she's been alive

72:05

and she already is getting a different

72:07

story about what it means

72:09

and what other stories could we just say

72:12

you know what

72:13

that story's done we're not telling that

72:15

one anymore if there were more of us

72:17

willing to and going back to what i said

72:20

earlier about leadership willing to just

72:21

say no we're going to break that

72:23

right here we're not going to massage

72:25

around the edges

72:27

we're not going to talk about how okay

72:29

well in some instances god calls deborah

72:32

but usually it needs to be a man

72:34

you know we're just gonna break it right

72:36

here

72:37

um because how much more

72:41

quickly can we tell a different story

72:42

when we're willing to do that

72:44

stories equal power i mean

72:48

it's easy to have a theology that's nice

72:51

and neat and tight and

72:52

you know you have your list of bible

72:55

verses that can

72:55

corroborate said theology and then you

72:58

just

72:59

hear somebody's story then you hear what

73:01

that theology produced

73:03

and what happened you could have even

73:05

easily been a

73:07

gay or lesbian man or woman who had

73:09

those same exact conversations with

73:11

their youth group leaders and had to

73:13

suppress certain things and it's easy

73:16

for us to have these pet verses and to

73:18

have these theological claims

73:20

and then you just start listening to

73:22

people and

73:24

it's not only that a lot of that

73:26

theology starts crumbling or

73:28

it's not that like your view of

73:30

scripture has to change it's just that

73:32

you start seeing different scriptures

73:34

even right i mean i wouldn't advocate

73:37

for anybody giving up scripture because

73:39

it doesn't work

73:40

i would just say we're not seeing the

73:41

right scriptures and that stuff is there

73:43

in plain

73:44

sight but it's kind of hiding because we

73:46

haven't been taught to see it

73:47

right this stuff is christ-like

73:50

all the way through from beginning to

73:52

end what we're talking about

73:53

liberation not selective liberation but

73:56

the whole

73:57

beautiful full deal well done megan i

74:00

loved it

74:01

thank you are you working on anything

74:03

now do you have anything in your brain

74:04

or in your computer hard drive that's uh

74:07

developing

74:08

i do i have a few things that are in my

74:10

computer hard drive and in my brain this

74:12

year has not been great for having

74:14

time to work on creative pet projects

74:18

um but there are some out there if

74:20

people are

74:21

interested in following along and

74:22

finding out what i'm working on like you

74:25

said twitter is a great place for that

74:27

my website is good too and so we'll see

74:31

i really think that like spiritual

74:34

formation is still really really

74:36

important to me

74:37

which is weird for a liberal christian

74:40

or a progressive christian uh neither of

74:43

which are like

74:44

labels that i love but that seems to be

74:45

the the space that people like to land

74:47

me and

74:48

just own it it's okay it doesn't sound

74:49

as bad

74:51

it's more like i know too much about

74:53

church history and theology i'm like

74:54

well

74:55

actually there's this person that was

74:56

writing things like a thousand years ago

74:58

that

74:59

are pretty close to what i'm saying so

75:00

it's not really progressive

75:02

yep it's pretty old but then by that

75:04

point their eyes just kind of glaze over

75:06

and i don't want to hear anything

75:07

about like obscure people that were

75:09

writing in greece or ethiopia totally

75:11

it's fine

75:12

you can call it progressive theology as

75:14

long as it's ancient as well

75:16

yeah yeah um so

75:19

i i think that spiritual formation is

75:21

really really important

75:22

and most of the things that i kind of

75:24

have like humming around in the back of

75:25

my mind or what does it look like for

75:27

there to be like daily spiritual

75:31

practices or like small practices that

75:34

people who aren't necessarily looking

75:36

for like the sit down and spend 15

75:38

minutes in your bible and praying kind

75:40

of quiet time model but still want some

75:42

sort of like daily grounding practice

75:44

like

75:44

what are ways that we can think about

75:46

those things

75:48

um and and kind of writing about

75:51

that more there's lots of things that

75:53

are written on that already

75:55

but i could add my voice to the to the

75:57

chorus there

75:58

do it um so we'll see we'll see what we

76:00

come up with but

76:02

there are certainly things kind of

76:03

bouncing around in my brain

76:07

thanks for listening to a pastor and a

76:08

philosopher walk into a bar we hope you

76:10

enjoyed the episode

76:11

and if you did please rate and review

76:13

the podcast before you close your app

76:15

you can also share the episode with

76:16

friends or family members with the links

76:18

from our social media pages

76:20

gain inside access extra perks and more

76:23

at patreon.com

76:25

a pastor and a philosopher we're so

76:26

grateful for your support of the podcast

76:29

until next time this has been a pastor and

76:31

a philosopher walk into a bar

76:34

[Music]