Unrelated nonsense

Madness, Despair, Wonder: My Albuquerque Backyard Refuge Program Application

Garden with a sighting of the Flower Fairy holding her Popsicle Wand

As you can see, many of my plants, trees, and habitat in general are very young…thus the sidewalk chalk and tricycles fit nicely as part of an overall theme.  You thought it was unsightly clutter, but it’s carefully curated yard art.

When we moved into the house, the front yard had two Texas red yuccas and a pair of doomed lavender plants–with 8 inches of gravel over TWO layers of eternally-accursed weed cloth, held in place by “garden staples” rusted enough to cut your hand but not enough to loosen their miserable chokehold on the earth. There used to be grass and a cottonwood, but the whole thing was ripped out when the cottonwood’s roots compromised the water pipes.

Part 1, Summer 2020

Since the heat of July is unquestionably the worst time for planting in Albuquerque, that’s naturally when I was struck by the irrepressible compulsion to transform Satan’s armpit into something lush and green. When I asked for help picking out a tree at local nurseries, they stared in gentle disbelief before explaining that it’s best to plant trees in fall. But I couldn’t wait; I needed GREEN!

One bucketful at a time, I moved the rocks from my front yard to a pile by the side of the house. It was unbelievable how much work it took to clear a 2x2ft space. The previous owner generously hadn’t skimped on gravel. My dad and husband snickered as I labored over my “personal patch of Death Valley.”

A patch of weed cloth poking out through red gravel rocks, surrounded by flagstones making a small path.
I hate that weed cloth. If it blocked weeds effectively I’d give it a grudging respect, but it doesn’t even do that. The grass roots spread underneath and the weed cloth ends up protecting them from being pulled out completely.

I got the chinquapin oak and frontier elm in the ground. Probably they’d be bigger by now if I’d listened to advice and planted them at the appropriate time, but I’m clearly on some kind of personal journey here (think of the growth metaphors!), so let’s just celebrate the fact that the trees are growing like gangbusters. They will provide excellent shade in a couple of years, eventually becoming big and strong enough to bust the water pipes themselves! (The roots won’t cause problems if I water the trees properly, but since I don’t seem to do anything properly, it’s a crapshoot. But: GREEN!).

That first summer was pitiful. I plopped a few unlucky flowers into the burning ring of fire that was my front yard and anxiously watered their brave little botanical souls while humming Eliza’s “stay alive” refrain from Hamilton. Noting the desperation in my eyes as they walked by, neighbors chirped, “Looks good!” It didn’t.

But I’d been hooked.

My baby desert globemallow that first year.

Part 2: Summer 2021 – 2022

I spent the next winter reading about southwestern plants, and armed with all the wisdom and experience of book knowledge, I confidently pulled out my shovel for some serious garden action when spring rolled around.

I made pathways from a random assortment of used flagstones free or cheap online and liberated larger patches of soil from their gravel oppressors. I’m not sure how to fit mulch into that questionable metaphor, but I added it, too.

My kids and I threw down a ton of seeds, and a bunch of them sprouted! Then died. Turns out you really do need to water them at first, so my preschoolers got an important lesson about death and returning to the soil. A few little sprouts survived thanks to accidental shade from abandoned garden tools and buckets, and I was unduly proud of those hardy successes that survived thanks to my disarray.

My whole yard is very much a work in progress.  Many of my plants are babies and it will take at least another year for them to “fill in” and flower.  

Neighbors walk by looking worried instead of pitying. They don’t quite understand what I’m up to, and I have the unfortunate habit of starting a new garden project before finishing the last one. It is, admittedly, chaotic. I didn’t make a plan with graph paper and forethought, I’ve just been shoving stuff in the ground, then transplanting it when necessary, clearing gravel-free patches and cutting out weed cloth as I go. I wince when I consider how horrified Judith Phillips would be.

Even so, I love my garden.  It amazes me that in just two years, I’ve created a space where I like to sit and just look, a place that’s already welcoming critters.

A roadrunner came to inspect the birdbath only an hour after I put it in the front yard (sadly, the roadrunners don’t usually stay long because of the neighborhood cat patrol). The autumn sage is incredibly popular with shiny, black carpenter bees and white-lined sphinx moths. There’s a constant insect bustle around the blue flax, gaillardia and globemallows—this morning was overcast, and my five year old excitedly called me over to see the bee still nestled asleep in the blanketflower bloom. Birds are usually swooping about, while the evening primroses and desert four o’clocks keep the critter party going after the sun sets.

I plan to conscript my brothers into helping me finish the walkways and patio in a few weeks, and I’m calling around for estimates for gutters and rain barrels. Hopefully that will be in place before next year. For today, I need to transplant a few winecups and plop a Penstemon superbus in the ground somewhere.

I’m also submitting my application to the Albuquerque Backyard Refuge Program. Their goal is to certify 570 acres worth of mini-habitats throughout the city of Albuquerque to match the 570 acres of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Whether you’ve got potted plants on your apartment balcony or a big back yard with a field of flowers, you can apply for certification and be counted towards the wildlife refuge goal. Every little bit helps!

Unrelated nonsense

A Tale of Woe and Wonder: Flying Flamingos and Beavertail Blooms

Forget prickly pear, it’s more like prickly peril.

My mom gave me a beavertail prickly pear as a housewarming gift when I moved to New Mexico a few years ago. I was pregnant, constantly vomiting and short of breath while taking care of my toddler, so I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for a cactus.

My husband dug a hole and tossed it in the ground, right above the water pipes that had to be replaced before our arrival because of destructive tree roots (I’ve christened the dead cottonwood tree “Norma Jean” so I can sing “Candle in the Wind” to her lingering ghost every time I slam my shovel into an old root).

Two years later, in the middle of a covid lockdown, I decided to turn my desolate front yard into a water-wise oasis. I shoveled, mulched, and planted like a woman possessed by a particularly aggressive tree nymph—probably the spirit of Norma Jean.

The prickly pear was quickly overshadowed by desert plants with green leaves and flowers. You know, things that are actually pretty. The prickly pear meandered, got a little wider, but remained short and squat, a greenish-purple non-color that is a decidedly anti-climactic centerpiece.

I mean, it’s fine? Not what I’d call a showstopper.

And of course, it’s an agent of pain and suffering.

That’s where the real drama begins. Remember how I was pregnant and barfing at the start of all this? Well, it paid off and I got an awesome kid out of it (or out of me, to be precise). I had a kid who loved a flamingo, and the flamingo loved to fly.

Meet Mango, as in fla-mango, which is a concept you could probably package and sell to moms at Target somehow. (We got the name because “flamingo” is quite a mouthful for a toddler. It took me way too long to understand as my frustrated child told me for the umpteenth time that she didn’t want to go shopping for fruit).

Kiddo loves Mango and falls asleep with her at night. I love sleep and easy bedtimes, so you can see how both of us developed bone-deep emotional attachments to the stuffed animal. One fresh, spring morning, Kiddo and her big sister were in the front yard gleefully throwing Mango into the air so she could “fly” when the poor bird crash-landed on the prickly pear.

Imagine it in slow motion: screams, anguish, barefoot kids run full-speed at a cactus, a mother bellows and throws her body between her babies and their flamingo.

I plucked up Mango and held her high above my kids’ reach, unmoved by their demands.

“Yes, yes, Mango will be okay! Let’s go watch TV!”

Reader, Mango was not okay.

The problem wasn’t the inch-long spines, the ones that are sometimes barbed for maximum distress when you pull them out. The cactus is hoping you’ll be tricked and avoid the giant thorns in favor of the apparently smooth and welcoming spaces between them.

You’ll get something so much worse.

The true cactus villains are the itty-bitty glochids, so short and fine that you can only see them when you hold them up to the light at exactly the right angle. It’s not an enemy you can confront and conquer. I’ve had a few run-ins with them, and it took days for me to get the little jerks out of my hand.

No matter how carefully I washed, plucked, tweezed and stripped poor Mango, my child would end up with a face full of unfindable plant-knives the moment she got her hands on her beloved bird. We were going to have unlimited screen time until I ordered a new Mango online.

Frantically searching the internet…do you know how many different flamingos in tutus there are? SO MANY! It’s an entire genre of toys and decor: pink flamingos in pink tutus. How did this happen? I guess it’s not as bad as stuffed “animal” poop emojis, but it still makes me wonder about the future of the human race. Yes, I’m a hypocrite.

Mango in her natural habitat, expertly camouflaged for a pastel pink world.

About 4 search engine result pages deep, I almost despaired (Help me, Norma Jean!). Then one more click, and I found and bought Mango II, thankful not to end up in a bidding war with another desperate parent where I’d be forced to re-evaluate my fundamental values and beliefs as my finger hovers over the $100 “buy” button for a freaking toy flamingo.

I glared at the prickly pear through the window. It was gonna be history. Done. Flora non grata.

Perhaps it was unfair to project all my mama-bear fury onto this plant, which was only defending itself, after all. But there are so many things I’m powerless to protect my daughters from, and this was a threat I could utterly eradicate with nothing but a shovel and my rage.

It took a few days to dig a decent trench around the cactus and I was nearly ready to go for the taproot in one final, brutal blow, when…it bloomed.

The short, ugly, Mango-murdering cactus produced the most delicate and vibrant flowers I’ve ever seen.

The bees went nuts for them, my daughters oohed and aahed, and my my husband smugly noted that for all my labors, he’d planted the most spectacular thing in our garden. The blossoms were other-worldly in their splendor, like something from a magical, elven forest in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Kiddo clutched (the new) Mango close and looked up at me, “Mama, I think we should keep the prickly pear.”

So the cactus remains. That one week of dazzling brilliance atones for the other 51 weeks of ominous dullness and the tragic demise of Mango. I’m ordering an extra flamingo just in case.

What's the big deal?

Voddie Baucham and Critical Race Theory

This article was printed in The Daily Item on November 7, 2021, and you can read it on their site here. I’m posting it on this blog with additional citations and information.

Photo by Life Matters on

Perhaps like many of you, I first came across Critical Race Theory (CRT) about 18 months ago, when one of my dear friends explained that she couldn’t support the BLM protests because they endorsed CRT.

I believed then, as I believe now, that most of the people protesting George Floyd’s death hadn’t given a second thought to CRT. Sure, there were bound to be a few radicals ranting about capitalism, but ordinary people didn’t care about academic theories. They had seen a video of a police officer killing a human being; their grief and anger had nothing to do with communism. They wanted justice, not a coup!

But later, when BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors said that she and fellow activists were “trained Marxists,” I was genuinely alarmed. I’ve studied the horrors created by Marxism in Venezuela, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union. I’m not a fan.

So I started reading. I read over 50 articles about Critical Race Theory (CRT), aiming for an even mix of liberal and conservative sources. I chatted with Dr. Kelly Hamren, a Liberty University professor whose dissertation focused on atrocities driven by Marxist-Leninist ideology in Russia. Finally, I went straight to the original source and read a few journal articles by Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the lawyers who helped coin the phrase and develop the theory, and Derrick Bell, one of the earliest influences on CRT.

I thought, read and prayed, and I’m going to share what I’ve learned in a series of articles. For now, I’d like to lay some groundwork.

It’s hard to cut through the bias.

CRT started out as a legal theory developed by civil-rights lawyers in the late 1980s. It draws from Marxist frameworks that go further back, but I’ll get to that later. If you want to study the source material itself instead of other people’s summaries, it’s not exactly something you can skim while drinking your morning coffee as small children climb onto your lap for a cuddle.

But shorter articles summarizing CRT are pretty biased, even though they claim objectivity. Liberal sources define CRT as essential for justice while conservative sources define CRT as inherently divisive and unfair. Both make assumptions and present them as truth. Unless you’re a legal scholar who happens to own the necessary textbooks, it’s hard to fact-check critics and supporters alike.

The Case of Voddie Baucham

One example of how tricky this “understanding” can be is in Voddie Baucham’s book and sermons. Baucham is a Black pastor who became one of the biggest Christian critics of CRT, and I think he identifies valid problems with both the theory and recent activism.

I listened to a few of his sermons on Youtube back in the summer of 2020 and took notes. Some of his claims were easy to corroborate. It’s true that Michael Brown never said “Hands up, don’t shoot!” This became a main rallying cry of BLM protests in Ferguson, and it was based on a lie.

On the other hand, in one of his sermons (around the 6 minute mark) Baucham says he’s reading a direct quote from a Critical Race theorist: “whites are incapable of righteous actions on race.” When I first heard that sermon, I thought Wow! That’s absolutely damning! If that’s CRT, it really is evil! But I couldn’t corroborate that claim elsewhere. It just didn’t line up with what I read from Critical Race Theorists themselves.

Nearly a year later, Lamb’s Reign blogger Joel McDurmon* compared Voddie Baucham’s quotations to the CRT book he was referencing. It’s incontrovertible that in his sermon, Baucham misquoted Critical Race theorist Robert Delgado. Delgado did NOT say that whites are incapable of righteous actions.

Voddie Baucham’s book, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Impending Catastrophe, contains additional misquotes. Some critics feel that Baucham seriously misrepresents CRT’s arguments, to the point of outright deception. More conservative outlets say Baucham’s mistakes aren’t that important, but agree that his citations are sloppy and he misquotes Richard Delgado.

As a Christian working hard to understand the pros and cons of CRT, Bauchan’s misinformation is personally frustrating, and it also illustrates why I, like many of you, have had such a hard time defining the tenets of the theory to make my own judgment of it.

In future columns, I’ll discuss the history of CRT as well as the origins of concepts like white privilege and structural racism.

*Correction: When this article ran in The Daily Item, John Reasnor was credited with identifying the misquote, when in fact it was Joel McDurmon.

The Nitty Gritty Details…

Because of word limits and the fact that it’s hard to make citation styles sound exciting, I couldn’t include all the information about Baucham’s misquotes in The Daily Item. I shared the main ideas in what you already see above, but if you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, read on!

On Alleged Plagiarism:

There is a bit of a hoopla over whether Voddie Baucham plagiarized phrases from author and mathematician James Lindsay. Lindsay himself says that Baucham didn’t plagiarize him, but Baucham does seem to lift specific phrases from James Lindsay’s June 20, 2020 New Discourses lecture. Neil Shenvi is a Christian apologist and conservative blogger who staunchly opposes Critical Race Theory, but he points out that plagiarism is still plagiarism even if it isn’t intentional and even if Lindsay himself disagrees.

I personally don’t care much about this, because it’s just a few phrases and is an understandable mistake, and borrowing a few words from a fellow CRT critic doesn’t change the meat of the argument. In other words, I don’t think it affected my efforts to understand CRT or its shortcomings.

On Misquoting Richard Delgado:

There’s also some hoopla over Baucham quoting (or misquoting) Richard Delgado. As far as I can tell, Baucham does NOT misquote Richard Delgado in his book, but he clearly DOES misquote Delgado in his sermon that you can still watch online. I shared the video link earlier, but here it is again around the 6 minute mark if you’d like to hear it yourself.

Neil Shenvi suggests that it’s a simple case of Baucham mixing up the quotation and his own commentary while glancing at his sermon notes, and I agree!

But we need to hold our pastors to high standards, and they should be very, very careful not to spread rumors or false witness about other people when they’re speaking from the pulpit. The phrase that Baucham misattributes to Richard Delgado is a doozy, and as someone who presents himself as a credible academic authority in the national CRT discourse, it’s not a mistake he should make.  

Saying that “whites are incapable of righteous actions on race” takes Delgado’s philosophy about group self-interest and transforms it into a sweeping religious declaration with breathtaking implications. But Delgado never said that.

Baucham must address the error. People have brought the misquote to his attention, and he should make sure a prominent correction is attached to the bottom of the online video. To do otherwise means he knowingly continues to preach false witness about Richard Delgado and CRT to anyone who clicks on his talk.

On Further Misrepresenting Richard Delgado and Critical Race Theory:

In both his Youtube talk and book, after the “whites are incapable of righteous actions” commentary, Baucham misrepresents another idea from Richard Delgado’s book.

He summarizes “So, Delgado writes, storytelling, narrative reading, is the way black people forward knowledge versus the science and reason method of white people. Science and reasoning is white. The scientific method is white.”

This isn’t what Delgado says! Honoring personal narratives does not mean rejecting science; ask any Christian sharing their testimony.

Delgado does analyze the power of stories to shape people’s understanding of reality, and says that it’s important to listen to the stories of marginalized people. This is hardly revolutionary, and is a far cry from saying “reasoning is white.”

(This July, the African American Museum posted an infographic on their website that listed the scientific method, “rugged individualism,” and hard work as aspects of white culture. So this idea is being pushed by liberals out there, and I’ll discuss this further in a separate piece. However, specificity is important, and Richard Delgado did not say or imply that science and reasoning are white–that is a gross oversimplification of his analysis on storytelling).

In Summary

I don’t think that Voddie Baucham is malicious, but even if it’s a mistake, he is misrepresenting Critical Race scholars.  This is pure conjecture, but I think he’s so upset about CRT that he gets carried away.  As Baucham tries to make a point, he exaggerates, makes assumptions, and loses track of what people actually say versus his own interpretation of what they say. 

Baucham would regain some credibility with me if he apologized and rectified his mistakes.  It would be a way to show that the truth is more important than winning an argument or always being right. Writers and journalists post corrections all the time; I attributed work to the wrong writer in the first publication of this very article!   But Baucham and his publisher flatly deny the misquotes and plagiarism claims saying it’s just a matter of citation style, and Baucham hasn’t addressed his broader misrepresentations of Delgado’s work.

Anyways, this is just one author/speaker that I’ve consulted in trying to understand CRT! You can see the multitude of sources I’ve needed just to fact-check Voddie Baucham, and then even more sources to fact-check the fact-checkers. It’s confusing and utterly exhausting.

Asked about Baucham’s discussion of his work by Faithfully Magazine, Richard Delgado responded:

“I think the writer whose work you are referring to was confusing me with someone else or just making things up, either of which is a bad idea when you are writing for an audience that values integrity and truth-telling!”

We need disciplined thinkers with the integrity to summarize the very best version of their opponent’s ideas before critiquing them, so that even their fiercest rivals admit that they’re fair. Such thinkers are out there, but it takes effort to find and identify them.

What's the big deal?

“Good Sinners”

Note: A more direct, edited version of this piece was printed in The Daily Item, and you can read it here.

Photo by Pixabay on

I’ve known I was a sinner for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t understand what it meant until the summer I was seventeen. That June, I attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for International Studies at Pittsburgh University.  

My favorite professor taught a course about the war and genocide in Bosnia during the 1990’s. Professor Hayes did not spare us; there would be no emotionally fragile “snowflakes” in his class.  

We read about atrocities that happened only a handful of years prior. Hundreds of old men and young boys were forced to march into the woods and dig their own graves before being systematically shot. Next-door neighbors and life-long friends betrayed each other.  Rape was a central strategy for “ethnic cleansing”—Christian Serbs held 35,000 Bosnian Muslim women and children in their “rape camps.”  They did things too grotesque to describe in a newspaper that might be read by children.  

The Bosnia “conflict” was like the Holocaust. I’d thought that Hitler was a monstrous fluke, that we’d beaten the bad guys and “Never Again” would the world allow such atrocities. “Why weren’t my parents marching in the streets, screaming and demanding an end to it,” I wondered. I didn’t yet realize that genocide and crimes against humanity are happening all the time: Rwanda, Darfur, right now in Xinjiang, China and the Tigray region of Ethiopia.  

We were kids, but Professor Hayes believed we were ready for the truth.  If we wanted to champion peace and justice, we needed to know what we were up against.  

Professor Hayes quietly, insistently asked, “How did this happen?” Sure, a few sadists might be found in any group, but how could ordinary people participate in such brutality? They were afraid, and fear is as dangerous as hate. Opposing the violence meant certain death, or worse, watching the execution of one’s own children. 

I thought about my little brothers and what I might do to protect them from torture and violent death.  I imagined myself in a scenario that people really faced:

Soldiers enter my neighbor’s house, gang rape the woman who lives there, and shoot her small children when they cry. The soldiers march the father over to my house at gunpoint.  It’s a test: if I believe in the cause, I must prove it by shooting my neighbor.  They’re going to kill him anyways, but if I pull the trigger, they’ll know for sure that we aren’t “traitors,” and they won’t “have to” torture and kill my brothers right in front of me.

I don’t know what I would do. And now I ask myself—dear God—what if my own sweet, little daughters were at risk? Maybe I am capable of murdering a neighbor and friend. Once I’d killed someone, would the militias use that against me to demand more acts of violence? Would they use my home for “official business” or put me in charge of bookkeeping? Before you know it, I would be an active participant in genocide.  

Perhaps the path is simpler. Maybe protecting my family would mean staying silent as the soldiers moved unchallenged through my neighborhood, doing their bloody work.

The seeds for murder are in my heart even if they haven’t been activated.  I don’t have more innate goodness than anybody.  The core of who I am is no purer than the people who run death camps.  

In Matthew 5, Jesus says that avoiding adultery doesn’t make you better than people who have committed adultery.  Maybe you have kinder circumstances or greater self-control, but your heart is made of the same stuff.  Before God, you are the same.  

You haven’t killed anyone?  Good.  But if you’ve ever nursed spite in your heart (and if you’re human, you have), don’t fool yourself into believing that you’re fundamentally different from those in jail for murder.  Before God, you are the same.  

There were surely some Pharisees in the crowd as Jesus preached, and there’s no way that He was telling them to try harder or follow more rules. His point was for us to stop thinking of ourselves as ‘good sinners’ compared to these messier, weaker, ‘bad sinners.’ He’s not trying to make us feel anxious or guilty: He’s calling us to humility.

I’m not saying that every person is capable of every monstrous crime, but if you listen to enough stories about how evil takes over, you’ll see how sin could settle into your guts and turn you into someone you don’t even recognize.  

Of course, we’re not helplessly destined for evil—we make our own choices. Christians can follow or quench the Holy Spirit. But we’re particularly vulnerable to sin when we think that we’re above it. If you believe that you aren’t capable of hate, racism or abuse, you won’t watch for those things, nor will you heed the warning signs when they’re taking root. While you’re blissfully (and self-righteously) unaware, you allow time for the devil to get a foothold, lay a foundation and erect an entire fortress.

Early on, Serbs didn’t believe that their leaders, friends, brothers and sons were capable of mass murder and rape camps, so they denied the troubling warning signs or explained them away. They didn’t want to see what they were becoming, or more precisely: they couldn’t bear to face the reality that they weren’t ‘good sinners’ after all.

What about us?  Do our church communities think we’re above certain sins?  Does our perceived goodness blind us to passive acceptance or active contempt that hurts others?  What are we ignoring or explaining away?  

What about you?  What’s growing, unexamined in your heart because you don’t think you’re truly capable of evil?

I’ve heard many Christians earnestly quote 1 Timothy about being “the worst of sinners,” but Professor Hayes showed me some of the worst sinners in the world and how I’m not so different.  He gave me the context I needed for that verse to ring true, to sink into my bones. It was uncomfortable and troubling, but I wasn’t traumatized.  It was the truth, and it was freeing.

When I’m called out as a sinner, what is there to defend? I’m not afraid to face my sin or uncover ugly truths about myself, because I already know who I am.  I’m no longer shocked when I learn about cruelty in the Church, the United States, or around the world—I’m grieved, enraged, and determined to fight it, but not surprised. Sin is in all of us. 

And here’s the beauty and joy and triumph in it all—where sin abounds, Grace abounds all the more.


One of the books I read in my course with Professor Hayes was Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, written by Peter Maass, who was a reporter in the Balkans during the 1990’s.

What's the big deal?

The time my dad ran from the police

Photo by Kindel Media on

To properly enjoy the details of my dad’s delinquency, you need an idea of the man he grew up to be.

Pre-pandemic, my parents went to the Dominican Republic to visit their friend, Dr. Canario.  They’d run many medical mission trips together over the years. 

Strolling through San Juan’s downtown area one afternoon, a young man approached them shouting, “Hello, Dr. B.!  Don’t you remember me?”

Dr. Canario helpfully mentioned the young man’s name and reminded my dad of the burro ride and mountain clinic they’d done together.  The man gave an update on his life, thanked my dad, and hugged him.  My parents had absolutely no memory of this guy.

Later, Dr. Canario explained the young man had been a “problem kid,” up to no good and heading towards self-destruction.  He’d been hired to take care of the donkeys for my dad’s medical team, and after spending two days with my dad, everything changed.  The kid became a model citizen and built a good life for himself.  

The young man credited my dad for the turning point in his life, and my dad has no idea what he said or did.  

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go around changing people’s lives like that.  My dad is special.

A “problem kid?”

One evening when he was about eighteen years old, my dad was hanging out with two buddies, Dave and Ted.  They lamented the destruction of a nearby woodland to make way for new houses…and decided to do something about it.  

Under cover of darkness, the boys entered the construction site to wreak havoc.  The idea was to damage the machines enough to stop the work and save the woods.  

My dad shoved rocks and dirt down bulldozer exhaust pipes while Dave and Ted cut out wires, throwing them into the woods.  

When a police car rolled up, the boys took off running.  My dad was fast, knew the geography, and was determined to make a clean getaway.

The first “What if?”

Have you seen news stories about a young man shot while running from the police?  

Sometimes the fleeing man is guilty of something, like my dad.  

I’m glad my dad wasn’t shot.

Responsibility for his actions?

My dad was turning the corner to Ted’s house when the police car pulled up with Dave and Ted in the back.  My dad still gripes about “those idiots” who got caught, but he turned himself in, too.

The officers spoke with Ted’s parents and gave the boys a stern warning.  

The next day, according to my dad, “was a dark day, indeed.”  My grandpa drove him to the home of the construction company owner to apologize.  

And that was it!

They didn’t even make him pay for the damage.

Another “What if?”

My dad likes to make it sound noble: eco-terrorism on behalf of defenseless baby toads.  From the point of view of the construction company, punk kids intentionally destroyed expensive equipment they needed to earn a livelihood.  

The boys were guilty of trespassing, willful destruction of property, and running from police officers.  Depending on the circumstances and the strictness of the judge, that can land you with substantial fees, a criminal record, and 6 months of jail time.

I’m glad the officers didn’t feel obligated to teach my dad a lesson and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.  I’m glad he didn’t face a judge who was trying to make a statement about petty crime.  

If they’d pressed charges, he probably wouldn’t have gotten the scholarships he needed for college, and might not have been accepted into medical school at all.  

His whole life potential could have been crushed that night.  Instead, it’s just a funny story he tells his kids.

What would the world be like without my dad?

My dad is quick to redirect credit, but he made Geisinger’s heart attack response one of the fastest in the country.  If you live in the Susquehanna Valley, there’s a good chance that he’s saved the life of someone you know.  

He’s authored chapters in medical textbooks, started scholarships, and mentored more young doctors than he can count.  Sunday School teacher for 15 years, scoutmaster, church deacon, children’s soccer and basketball coach, mission trip leader.  All of this while being the best dad in the world.

Oh, and he’s an unrepentant vandal who ran from cops.

The last, big “What if?”

“Yeah, if I were a Black kid doing the same thing these days, there’s a good chance I’d be shot.  Look at Ahmaud Arbery.”

It’s impossible to measure all the good that would have been lost that night if things had gone differently.

Neither can we measure all the good we’ve lost when a young man is jailed or shot for acting like my dad—when we treat him like a threat instead of the next Dr. B.

Read more:

Why do Black men run from the police? by Leah Blankenship

What's the big deal?

Why Do Black Men Run From the Police?

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

By Leah Blankenship

Have you ever jogged too far from your house or car and find yourself wondering how you’ll ever manage the run back?  My favorite time for a jog is early evening, and sometimes I miscalculate and find myself a long way from home as twilight settles in.  I watch for tree roots and uneven sidewalks, but stumbling in the dark isn’t my only concern.

I watch out for people who might try to hurt me.  I scan my surroundings, analyzing stretches of road that would make me vulnerable and looking for the closest drug store or dog-walker so I know where to go for safety.  I listen for footsteps behind me.  

I don’t think it’s paranoia.  I’ve never been assaulted while on a run, but I’ve had my fair share of creepy dudes catcalling, and one time a middle-aged guy followed me for a while in his white, unmarked van, yelling bizarre questions and offering to give me a ride.  

When I lived in Philadelphia, a serial killer dubbed “the Kensington strangler” raped and killed three young women just a few blocks from my home.  Years later and hundreds of miles away, I still get a flicker of the fear I felt in the weeks before they arrested a suspect.  I know that I’m probably safe, but I’ve also seen the newspaper headlines that prove it’s no guarantee.

In recent years, I’ve learned that a woman jogging at night is like a Black person getting pulled over by the police.  Black people are afraid with good reason. News headlines prove their safety isn’t guaranteed, either.

Before Diving In

First, I am a White woman. I’m leery of writing about Black people’s experiences, beliefs, and feelings. I do so now because I’ve heard many thoughtful and empathetic people express genuine confusion over why some Black men in news stories run from the police. This newspaper has printed letters to the editor arguing that if Black men just stop running they won’t get shot, and implying that they get what they deserve. It’s an important question, so I’ll share a few concepts that I’ve found as I’ve searched for understanding.

Second, Black people in America are not all the same–they are individuals with diverse opinions and experiences.  It’s essential to respect and listen to dissenting voices within Black communities, and fortunately many of them have far-reaching platforms through conservative media outlets.  

However, the Pew Research Center, consistently ranked as “least biased” by media bias watchdogs, has poll results that require attention.  84% of Black Americans think that slavery still affects the position of Black people in society today.  87% of Black Americans say that the criminal justice system treats Black people unfairly, and 84% say that Black people are treated less fairly by police.  When was the last time 84% of your community agreed on anything?  The numbers are pretty consistent across polls from other research groups, too.

In this article, I’ll say “Black people feel…,” because it would be clunky to continuously specify “84 percent of Black Americans”, and saying  “some Black Americans” downplays the remarkable majority consensus.  

It’s sort of like saying “women are afraid to go jogging at night in cities.”  There are women who aren’t afraid, but we still speak in broad terms since it describes most women and allows for more fluid conversation.  

Black People Generally Agree It’s Better Not to Run

I read about 20 articles in mainstream media and major Black publications like Ebony, Jet, and The Root about what to do when stopped by police. Every single piece unequivocally advised readers not to run. Every single piece urged readers to move slowly, keep their hands up, and not to resist arrest.

I’ve also seen multiple YouTube videos and articles about Black parents giving their kids “The Talk.”  “The Talk” refers to conversations in which Black parents tell their kids what to do when they’re stopped by police so that they can come home safely.  Frequently repeated phrases include “be respectful, keep your hands up, don’t resist.”

If this is typical advice from Black parents, why do so many Black people run from police? 

They’re scared.

Not Just the Media: Fear Comes From Personal Experiences, Too

Critics say that Black people have no reason to be afraid–that police brutality is rare and it’s silly to get scared because of a few, statistically insignificant incidents.  

Can’t you say the same thing about women being assaulted while jogging at night?  Yet no one has ever sneered at me for being nervous or careful about that.  (As a side note, mathematicians dispute the above claim regarding statistical insignificance of police brutality). 

My personal fear while jogging isn’t solely due to the cases that end up in the media.  I’ve seen black eyes and fingerprint bruises around a friend’s neck, and far too many of my loved ones were sexually abused as children.  My own experiences in broad daylight have shown me that plenty of men enjoy scaring a young woman out exercising, so it’s not a stretch to worry that they might go a little further.

Black Americans’ fear of police isn’t primarily based on media coverage, either.  In her article “Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Here’s Why.” for Pacific Standard, Nikole Hannah-Jones explains how incredibly common it is for Black people in her community to personally experience police violence. It’s ubiquitous, not just a few cases here and there.  She relates that even her Black friends raised to completely trust police officers have had frightening and humiliating experiences that shook them to the core.  

Black people hear real-life stories of negative police encounters from their grandparents, uncles and aunts, siblings and friends–the people they love and trust the most.  (And remember, the beatings, bombings and hatred of the 1960’s civil rights era are well within living memory. Imagine if your grandma told you about being clubbed and fire-hosed by police officers!)

In short, it’s not just about the headlines; it’s also lived experiences that create fear and distrust.  

It’s Not Just About Getting Shot

Whether or not a Black man is shot, an interaction with police can have serious ramifications. In “Why Do Black Men Run From Police?” in the Chicago Defender, Kai El’ Zabar explains that even small charges generally mean you won’t be home for dinner that evening, and may be detained overnight or longer.

Research shows that Black people are significantly more likely to be charged for minor or ambiguous offenses, like loitering or disturbing the peace.  They’re also likely to have longer sentences for minor infractions or be held for extended periods before trial because they can’t make bail. As a New York bail re-evaluator, Kai El’ Zabaar had a client with no prior arrests who was held in prison for 13 months for stealing a carton of cigarettes.

Furthermore, small charges increase your risk of being arrested and jailed for small infractions in the future.  It snowballs.  

Nikole Hannah-Jones describes a young Black man who lived on her block.  He was poor and disheveled, but quiet and polite.  The worst she’d ever seen him do was drink beer on the stoop.  An officer stopped the young man one day as he was leaving a shop, and when the young man asked why he was being stopped, the officer threw him on the ground and tased him.  The young man was arrested for resisting arrest.  He never found out why the officer stopped him for questioning in the first place.

The young man lost his job over the incident, and was given a fine that he’ll struggle to pay.  If he doesn’t pay on time, he’ll be facing a warrant for his arrest and may end up in the jail system.  

Admittedly, we don’t know the whole story.  Hannah-Jones says that neighbors recorded the incident, but didn’t publish the video.  

Regardless, the point is that the overwhelming majority of Black Americans believe they won’t be treated fairly by police officers or the criminal justice system.  The story doesn’t sound at all unusual or unbelievable to them.

On a personal note, I’ve gotten a glimpse of how a misdemeanor or felony can follow you for the rest of your life.  My mom and her friend ran a little prison ministry for years.  They’re both smart ladies with plenty of resources and common sense, but when they tried to help a young man named Corey navigate his release from  jail, they couldn’t even get him a library card, let alone a driver’s license (which he needed to get a job).  I was shocked by the strict parole requirements, and sad but unsurprised when Corey ended up back in jail because he didn’t meet them.

I can see why a young Black man might run to avoid minor charges that could wreak such havoc on his life.

They Wouldn’t Run if They Weren’t Guilty

Another sentiment you’ll hear is that Black people have no reason to be afraid if they’re not doing anything wrong. That makes sense, right?

The first complication is that in the United States of America we presume innocence until proven guilty.

Secondly, it’s not always the case that a person running away did something wrong.

I grew up utterly trusting the police. Common sense says that if I haven’t done anything wrong, officers will question me and move on. But in most Black communities, common sense goes the other way: every encounter with police could go wrong, so avoid it if at all possible.

Finally, many of the Black people shot while running from police aren’t perfectly innocent.  They have unpaid traffic fines, marijuana possession, unpaid child support, or other charges.  They’re much more likely to end up in jail if they have any priors (remember, small charges snowball into serious jail time), so they may run because they don’t want to go to jail.  I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but running from the police doesn’t mean you’ve committed a crime worthy of death.

Many of my friends ran when college parties were busted by the police.  Some of them might be your children or the kids you taught in Sunday School!  My friends didn’t deserve to be shot for non-violent misdemeanors like underage drinking and running from the cops, and the same goes for Black people.

Final Thoughts

Most police officers are wonderful public servants.  In my own life, I’ve only seen officers provide protection and reassurance.  But at this point, I think that just about everybody agrees that the relationship between police officers and Black communities needs some work.  

The plainest answer to why Black men run from police?  Fear. Fear that their lives will be ended by a bullet or derailed by criminal charges. 

I don’t know the answers to this great problem, but as a Christian, I believe that “perfect love casts out fear.” Even on an individual level and in conversations at our family dinner tables, may we speak about Black people with love rather than condemnation—even when they run. That would be a start.

What's the big deal?

George Washington and the great heroes of the Bible

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My mom is a history buff.  When we were kids, she took my brothers and I to Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry, Ford’s Theater, and more.

Sometimes in spite of ourselves, we learned all kinds of weird historical tidbits.  And from an early age, we learned a deep reverence for the people who gave their lives for our country. 

I was nine years old when we visited Mount Vernon. 

My mom always told me that George Washington was a Great Man.  “All around the globe,” she said, “you can find street names and plazas named for George Washington, because he changed the whole world!” 

I knew the story well.  Washington could have been a king (or something like it), but he wasn’t seduced by power, glory or accolades.  He chose to step down and set a precedent of the peaceful transfer of power.

As we walked up the pathway for a tour of Washington’s old home, I knew I was treading on hallowed ground. 

And then the tour guide mentioned the slaves’ quarters. 

I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.  I hadn’t known!  It was like everyone — my mom, my teachers, the whole country — had lied to me.  At one point, my mom asked me what was wrong.

“Mom, George Washington owned slaves.” 

She nodded. 

“Yes, he did.”

For the rest of the tour, I walked around with my arms crossed, a pit in my stomach.  We heard briefly about Washington’s slaves who tried to run away to freedom and the families separated after his death. 

I couldn’t idolize a man who hurt people like that. 

It was around that age that I began reading the Bible on my own.

I read that Abraham had a son with his wife’s servant, Hagar.  I wasn’t too scandalized by the adultery, but I was horrified that Abraham exiled his son and Hagar into the desert to die. 

I read about King David’s affair with Bathsheba.  When Bathsheba became pregnant, David quietly ensured that her husband would die in battle so that he wouldn’t be found out.  Even as a man after God’s own heart, David didn’t repent until he received a strong rebuke from the prophet Nathan.  Later David ended up fighting a civil war against his own son, Absalom.  There’s no question that David loved the Lord, but he doesn’t sound like the best husband or father. 

The Bible doesn’t try to defend its heroes’ errors or explain them away.  There is no particular emphasis on Israel’s victories over their most horrible mistakes.  We get the whole story, and we learn from both the good and the bad.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve had time to make my own mistakes.  I understand sin better because I’ve seen more of the world and I’ve seen more of my own heart.  I admire King David for his faith and I can see his love for the Lord in the Psalms he wrote, but when I read about his life I’m also grieved for the people he hurt. 

The Bible shows us God’s goodness, and it tells the truth about everybody else.  I think we should do the same thing when it comes to our nation’s history and the Founding Fathers.  We can admire George Washington’s moments of brilliance, wisdom, and foresight while simultaneously acknowledging his egregious lack of wisdom and foresight when it came to slavery.  Sadly, George Washington’s role as a slaveholder was relevant to his legacy and the politics of the era.

When we talk of Washington like he was a demigod, somehow elevated above the rest of us, we lose what was so special about him.  The truth is more powerful: there are no demigods, Founding Fathers or otherwise.  George Washington was a human being and he still changed the world.  He was a part of building something better than himself. 

I saw an online petition recently demanding that Congress “defend the Founding Fathers.”  The petition wasn’t specific about what that entails, but ended with the plea that “this can still be George Washington’s America.”  That sentiment goes against everything that George Washington worked for.  He only ran for two terms of office because he didn’t want America to be defined by just one person. 

But it’s an interesting idea, “George Washington’s America.”  Does it mean that mean we scrub his image clean to exult the mighty general and wise leader?  Or does it mean that we acknowledge Washington’s successes and failures, as well as our own, and work towards something greater and better? 

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Juneteenth Celebrates a Great American Victory

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I love my country.  We are a beautiful land filled with incredible people, and I am grateful to be an American.  

Juneteenth is a new holiday for me, and I’m still figuring out how to celebrate it.  But along with Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, it celebrates the very best of the United States of America.  

First, what is Juneteenth?  

The word comes from combining “June” and “nineteenth.”  Legally, slavery ended on January 31, 1865, when the U.S. Senate ratified the 13th Amendment.  But in practice, slave-owners held people in slavery for as long as they possibly could, often until Union agents showed up to enforce emancipation.  For example, one Texas slaveholder said he would eventually tell “his” slaves they were free, but “not until after another crop or two.” On June 19th, General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced that the 200,000 Black people kept in bondage across the state were emancipated.  

Juneteenth has been a local and then state-wide holiday ever since, and in recent years, cities across the country have adopted official Juneteenth festivals and parades.  

Juneteenth celebrates American freedom.

I think we’re missing something when we say “slaves celebrated their freedom on Juneteenth.” Let’s rephrase it: Americans celebrated their freedom.

It somehow hits you differently, right?  

By the time the Civil War ended, it had already been illegal to import slaves from Africa for fifty-seven years.  That means most of the Americans celebrating their freedom had been born in the U.S. and had never known any other country—they were as American as apple pie.

Americans were tortured, forced into labor, and separated from their families. Over 4 million Americans survived and overcame crimes against humanity.

Imagine what it would be like if 4 million Americans were held prisoner  in an Al Qaeda labor camp. It would be a big deal when our troops finally saved them and set them free. 

It would be something we’d remember, talk about, and celebrate.  

That’s what Juneteenth is.  Juneteenth is equal to any other world victory for liberty.  It’s a big deal.  Shouldn’t we all celebrate it?

We remember.

On Pearl Harbor Day, we solemnly remember the U.S. soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.  It doesn’t matter that it was long ago, it is good and fitting that we acknowledge them.  

On September 11th, can you imagine the day passing without mention?  It was another “day of infamy” with ripple effects that changed everything from air travel to baseball games.  We grieve together on the anniversary each year, bound by the trauma that we shared.  Sometimes memorial services include a reading of the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died.  We say, “Never forget.”  

Juneteenth is a way of saying, “The Black people who endured slavery are worth remembering, too.  They are important.  Never forget.”  

It’s a chance for us to celebrate freedom, but it’s also a chance for us to grieve, as we do on 9/11.  It’s a day to acknowledge the trauma and ripple effects from 250 years of slavery.  It’s a day to remember patriots like Harriet Tubman, and others who sacrificed their safety and sometimes their lives for American freedom.  It doesn’t matter that it was long ago, it is good and fitting that we acknowledge them.

Juneteenth is especially important if we want our nation to honor the Lord.

On a personal level, Christianity isn’t about strength or power, or even about being the most righteous.  Christianity is all about acknowledging your sins and accepting God’s grace.  

If we’re a Christian nation, we must boast in our weaknesses so that God can be our strength.  We must not gloss over slavery and its legacy, but rather freely talk about our nation’s sins, knowing that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).  We’ll praise God—not just for delivering Black people from slavery, but for setting our whole country free from that stronghold of Satan.

Can white people celebrate Juneteenth?

Yes, it’s okay! But like any holiday, there are respectful and disrespectful ways to celebrate, and good intent doesn’t absolve negative impact.  Read up on it.  

One important way to celebrate is also really fun: get some kids involved.  If you have grandkids, nieces and nephews, or even a few neighborhood kids running around, light some sparklers with them!  My young daughters astutely identified Juneteenth as an opportunity to make special cupcakes with lots of sprinkles, so that will probably become one of our traditions.  Get some library books about abolitionists and Juneteenth. Tell them that as an American, you celebrate everybody’s freedom.  And don’t we all want a reason to have another party these days? 

End the day by ordering a copy of Annette Gordon-Reed’s most recent book, On Juneteenth.  It’s short, easy-to-read, and absolutely fascinating—especially if you like Texas history!

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I was a racist, Christian teacher. I hurt a child I prayed for constantly.

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If you spent any time with me in 2009, you knew about Darnell.

I was a first-year teacher at an amazing little Christian school in Philadelphia, and Darnell was one of my third grade students.  

I put my heart and soul into teaching that year.  I started most mornings by kneeling on the classroom floor, begging God to give me wisdom.  I loved my students.  They were embarrassed when they occasionally called me “mom,” but it warmed my heart.  We had fun together, and all of us learned.  

But Darnell drove me nuts.  

When he was in a good mood, he was the cutest, most charming 9-year old on the planet.  But if he was having a bad day, he’d just flat-out refuse to do his work.  He’d pout at his desk with his arms crossed and book closed.  

I didn’t know how to handle it when he “gave me attitude.”  It touched a nerve, one of my insecurities as a teacher; that I didn’t have “the look” that instantly made a kid freeze up in fear.  I mostly managed students’ misbehavior with humor, a raised eyebrow, or a little extra attention, but when Darnell’s defiance was just too much, I’d send him to the principal for a pep talk.  

Every single week at Bible study, I asked my Christian friends to pray for Darnell and me.  I asked for advice and ideas.  The kid was clearly brilliant, but I just couldn’t figure him out.  I couldn’t “get through to him.”

That June, my principal told me that Darnell would not be returning for the next school year.  His mother had suggested that I targeted Darnell unfairly because he was the only Black student in the class, that I was racist.  My principal scoffed.  She knew my heart.  She knew my devotion to my students.  She knew I wasn’t racist. 

I didn’t say anything.  It felt crummy.  But it was summer, the end of an exhausting and mostly wonderful year, and I let it go.

Learning About Bias: The Beginning

Several years later, I heard about implicit bias for the first time. Or at least, I listened for the first time.

By definition, implicit bias is a prejudice that you don’t even realize you have.  It’s totally subconscious.  Everybody has implicit biases, so in that sense we’re all in the same boat.  

Studies on teachers’ biases reveal what any middle school student could already tell you–teachers have favorites.  

Researchers sitting in the back of a classroom put a checkmark next to students’ names each time the teacher calls on them, smiles, encourages, reprimands, etc.  They’ve found some alarming patterns.

When teachers think a student is smart and capable, they smile more, nod more, give more specific feedback, and allow more time for answering questions.  Without even realizing it, teachers give extra support to students who need it the least.  

Teachers also have the same implicit racial biases as everybody else.  Educators are more likely to give a severe punishment to a Black student than a white student with the exact same misbehavior.  They are more likely to view a Black student’s facial expressions as “angry” compared to a white student.  They usually perceive Black students as being dangerous and much older than they really are.

One of my favorite, real-life examples of classroom bias was a teacher struggling with a group of Black students who would not pay attention.  When the teacher asked one of her colleagues for advice, they told her to look more closely at all the students.  Sure enough, both Black and white students were goofing off, but the teacher had unknowingly focused on her Black students’ misbehavior.

The statistics paint a disturbing picture.  Black students who have just one Black teacher in elementary school are more likely to graduate from high school.  Black students who have two Black teachers in elementary school are 32 percent more likely to go to college than Black students who only have white teachers.  Part of this is due to the “role-model effect,” but part of it is because Black teachers don’t have as many negative implicit biases about their Black students.  

Of course, teachers’ implicit racial biases are only part of the problem of educational disparities. Black educators know their communities and are leading the way, but unjust policies have hurt Black teachers and Black students, and it will take resources and work to repair the damage done.

An Epiphany

For nearly ten years, I’d scan an article here and there about implicit bias in education, taking mental notes and jotting down key points.  One morning I came across an article that hit me like a lightning bolt.  

Mia McKenzie describes how she’d always loved school, and her teachers recognized and nurtured her talent.  They built up her joy and confidence.  Then in the fourth grade, the author had her first white teacher.  This teacher misunderstood the author’s confidence as arrogance, and punishment and defiance escalated accordingly.  For the first time in her life, the author didn’t love school anymore.

I had done the same thing to Darnell. 

I knew it instantly and with absolute certainty: I’d hurt a student entrusted to my care.  

With other students’ outbursts, I’d pull them aside for a heart-to-heart and usually figure out what was really bothering them. But when Darnell did the same thing, I interpreted his actions as a personal attack on my authority as a teacher.

Let me repeat that: I felt threatened. I tried to control or squash the “threat.” The “threat” was coming from a 9 year-old. A child.

I’d seen the studies that teachers are more likely to perceive a Black student as “threatening,” but it took me years to connect this research to my biggest first-year teaching “challenge.”

I hurt a child in Jesus’s name.  I hurt a child and thought I was a loving, patient, selfless teacher.  

“Forgive My Hidden Faults”

The prophet Isaiah was right: even with prayer and good intentions, my best efforts with Darnell were like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  

I’m grieved by my sin, and every once in a while I let that grief settle into my heart for a bit.  It reminds me to be humble. 

I was a racist, Christian teacher. I still am.

Those implicit racial biases are still knocking around in my mind and heart, looking for a foothold. Satan is clever, and he’ll happily use implicit racism to weaken my ministry without me even realizing it.

I have to be on guard, but I don’t have to be afraid. I’m a racist, Christian teacher who is forgiven and redeemed, and most miraculously–God can still use me for good!

I can learn and do better, and I don’t have to do it alone. I can ask God to help me find the people and resources who will push me to become more like Him. Amen!

Equipping Christian Leaders

People who believe in sin shouldn’t be surprised by implicit bias.  If you’re sinful through-and-through, it makes sense that you have subconscious biases and prejudices.  We need Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and each other to identify and root out sins we don’t see.  

For centuries our society has been saturated with messages about race.  Racism isn’t just political jargon, it is a spiritual battle against evil.  When we don’t talk about implicit bias, we do a disservice to the Church and to the world.  

During that first year of teaching, I wasn’t a hopeless idiot or malicious crone—I was doing what I had been taught.  I’d been told to treat everybody the same, and that’s what I’d tried to do. Nobody warned me to watch for common implicit biases and how they might affect the way I treat Black students.  

Christian pastors, missionaries, authors, doctors, and teachers must be taught about implicit racial biases. Every servant-leader who cares about people more than their own egos will be grateful for information that will make them more effective in their callings.

Christ gives us hope.  Scripture urges us to seek God’s grace for “hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12), “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2).  With His grace, we can identify our implicit biases, expose them to the light, and love one another in “actions and in truth.”

What's the big deal?

Beautifully and Wonderfully Made!

Not my kid, though it looks a little like her. Cute, right?
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

When I held my newborn baby for the first time, I delighted in everything about her. Her ten little toes, impossibly cute ears, and the reddish-orange fuzz covering her head. Strawberry blonde, like my dad and brother! If you’d told me at that moment that my daughter’s hair “didn’t matter,” I would have chucked a bedpan at your face.

Of course it mattered!

Wouldn’t every proud grandparent with a phone full of pictures agree with me?

I don’t love my daughter because of her hair. The color will probably change over time, and I will love her whether her hair is red, brown, or purple! But her peach fuzz is a part of her, even if it’s just a small part, and everything about how God made her is good.

God looks at all of us the way that I looked at my newborn, though His love is bigger, stronger, and perfect. He looks at my freckles and smiles.  He looks at my best friend’s big, brown eyes and smiles.  He looks at our straight, wavy, curly or kinky hair—and He delights in every single strand on every single head (Luke 12:7).

In other words, when it comes to our skin, God’s not colorblind. 

Skin color matters because God made it!

I’ve always thought it sounds disingenuous to say “I don’t see race” or “I’m colorblind when it comes to race.”  Unless you have a visual impairment, you see skin colors.  You see facial features or hair textures that indicate race or ethnicity. 

You might think that skin color only matters to bigots.  The rest of us have no reason to think race is important, because we don’t use race to decide how decently we will treat someone.

But skin color does inherently matter.  God made our skin and hair, and declared them to be good, just like everything else He created.  He gave us a world full of rainbows and gardens; why would He want us to pretend that we can’t see the spectacular colors He’s made?

Furthermore, God made us in His own image.  It’s one of the profound mysteries of creation, a foundational truth.  When we ignore, dismiss, or even deny people’s skin color, we’re editing imago dei, the image of God.  We’re choosing which parts of a person to value and honor. 

The world tries to devalue imago dei, the image of God.

In college, one of my Black friends cut off her straightened hair to grow out her natural hair texture.  Callie styled, moisturized, and shaped her hair everyday.  It was glorious!  

But people told Callie that her new hairstyle was ugly, sloppy, and unprofessional.  She received constant, brutal criticism for letting her hair look textured, for letting her hair look…well, Black.

It would be insulting to tell Callie that her hair doesn’t matter.  God looks at her hair with joy, just the way I looked at my newborn’s strawberry fuzz.  And Callie had to defy a million comments telling her otherwise.  She insisted that she, too, was made in the image of God—no hair treatments required.

Differences aren’t shameful or dehumanizing.

Maybe we’re afraid that if we acknowledge differences, we won’t see people as fully human.  But it doesn’t dehumanize someone to see them as Black, because there is nothing bad or inhuman about being Black! Or being white, Asian, indigenous.

Differences aren’t degrading.  You can treat someone respectfully and equally while still acknowledging a part of their identity that may be very important to them, as it is for my friend, Callie.

I won’t confuse my daughters by pretending that racial diversity doesn’t exist when it’s right before their eyes.  I won’t teach them to ignore different skin colors as if they are something shameful.  

I’m showing them that we should celebrate and honor the bodies that God gave us: 

            Yeah, your Uncle Caleb is really tall!  

Grandma’s hair is short and silvery.

Yes, Aunt Ayesha has brown skin, isn’t it pretty?  Your skin is pink-ish, and that’s pretty, too!

Context matters, of course: a stranger at the grocery store probably does not want to chat with my toddler about his skin, but I can get a sense for what family members are comfortable with. We also talk frankly about skin colors when we read books and look at pictures together.  We thank God for giving people so many wonderful colors, sizes and shapes.

Scripture teaches to use words carefully.

Language is tricky.  It takes lots of work and intention to love people with our words instead of hurting them.  And Christians are commanded to be even more specific and considerate with our words, not less!  

Instead of saying, “Race doesn’t matter,” we can say “People of all races and skin colors are welcome at our church!”  Instead of saying, “I’m colorblind (with race),” say, “I try not to make assumptions based on race.”  

Truly, we are beautifully and wonderfully made!  In His eyes, every part of us matters.

Want to read more?

While this article doesn’t specifically discuss the language of “being colorblind,” it’s a highly relevant analysis of Critical Race Theory written by a Liberty University assistant professor.

“Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism and Biblical Ethics” by Kelly Hamrin in Christianity Today