Thursday, December 24, 2015

merry christmas!

welcoming the baby born on the margins,
outside of the circle, 
the one with arms wide open!

wishing you all a merry christmas 
rob g

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

[the gift of fragility]

Jean Vanier, in Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness, writes:

I am interested in an ecclesial vision for community and in living in a gospel-based community with people with disabilities. We are brothers and sisters together, and Jesus is calling us from a pyramidal society to become a body.


Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that God has chosen the weak, the foolish, and the crazy to shame the clever and the powerful; he has chosen the most despised, the people right at the bottom of society. Through this teaching we see a vision unfold in which a pyramid of hierarchy is changed into a body, beginning at the bottom. One might ask if that means Jesus loves the weak more than the strong. No, that is not it. The mystery of people with disabilities is that they long for authentic and loving relationships more than for power. They are not obsessed with being well-situated in a group that offers acclaim and promotion. They are crying for what matters most—love. And God hears their cry because in some way they respond to the cry of God, which is to give love.

These quotes are from Chapter 1, The Fragility of L'Arche and the Friendship of God. Read the rest of the article based on chapter 1.

Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness is a new book by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier.

Find out more about the book on the IVPress website.

Monday, December 07, 2015


Just a quick note to say that there will be fewer posts for a while, as I am working on a new presentation, which I will post here once it is completed.

Friday, November 27, 2015

church of the illiterati

church of the illiterati. cartoon by rob g

This church declares itself clearly as a place that welcomes and embraces those who can't read.

Well, maybe.  Their sign does raise several questions:

If this really is a church for people who cannot read, what does it matter what the sign says? Or would it be better to call it "the church of non-readers"? Now it is possible, of course, that this church has specifically used the name "Illiterati" to reclaim the name, perhaps similar to the way queer has been reclaimed by some lgbtq+ groups, or like the church which calls itself the Scum of the Earth Church.

And then one might ask, how would someone who doesn't read know this is the church for them? Would some kind of image be helpful? Or would people find out about it via word of mouth and radio ad campaigns?

And does the Church of the Illiterati embrace everyone? We don't know, as they haven't said. And this means that overall, they are still an uncertain space. Except to non-readers. Maybe.

Friday, November 20, 2015

[transgender day of remembrance 2015]

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015. Image by HRC

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

Read more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The 2015 list of people killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

[red works photography]

Photo from Concrete Indian series, by Nadya Kwandibens. From profiles the amazing work of Nadya Kwandibens, an Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) from Northwest Angle #37 First Nation in Ontario, Canada.

I love her vision statement:
We, as Indigenous people, are often portrayed in history books as Nations once great; in museums as Nations frozen stoic; in the media as Nations forever troubled. These images can be despairing; however, my goal seeks to steer the positive course. If our history is a shadow, let this moment serve as light. We are musicians, lawyers, doctors, mothers and sons. We are activists, scholars, dreamers, fathers and daughters. Let us claim ourselves now and see that we are, and will always be great, thriving, balanced civilizations capable of carrying ourselves into that bright new day.
Love the photos on her site too! Check it out at!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[st. lydia's dinner party church]

St. Lydia's Brooklyn - snip of homepage

St. Lydia's is a small church in Brooklyn, where the service takes the form of worship happening around a dinner shared together. It is particularly counter cultural in Brooklyn, where the pace of life is fast, meals are often eaten on the go or standing up and often alone, kitchens and eating areas are often too small to accommodate many people.

However, even in my city, in the churches I've been part of, communion is usually done in pews or going up to the front in rows. Having the eucharist as a real meal eaten together is unusual, and would be especially meaningful if eating with non-family members.

I also like the way that they make some declarations right on the home page. Along with affirming GLBTQ, they refer to dispelling isolation, reconnecting neighbours, and subverting the status quo.

Read more about St. Lydia's:
St. Lydia's website.
Article in The Atlantic
Article in Faith and Leadership

Monday, November 09, 2015

[if the gospel is truly good news...]

If the gospel is truly good news, it has to be good news for everyone, for it is either an inclusive gospel or no gospel at all.

Prejudice, paranoia, the politics of exclusion - all these little systems have their day, and there are moments when they appear to prevail, but the church, we know from experience, will eventually do the right thing once it has exhausted every other alternative. We who struggle today know that a social gospel and inclusive gospel are the consequences of a hopeful gospel. In a world surrounded on every hand by bad news, we turn now to the reasonable hope of the gospel, the good news toward which scripture, Jesus, and the Spirit all point.

Peter J. Gomes in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus (2007). Page 207.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

historical example of declared space

historical example of declared spaces: jewish temple. drawing by rob g

The Jewish temple in Jesus' day was definitely a declared space. In fact, each literal space in it was declared as to who could enter and be in it.

The progression was from the Court of the Gentiles, to the Court of Women, the Court of Men, and then the Court of the Priests.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

jesus visits the new synagogue...

Jesus visits the new synagogue and has a suggestion:

Jesus and disciples outside of new synagogue. Jesus says, "I think what's missing is an 'everyone welcome' sign..."

Ah yes, the ubiquitous "everyone welcome" sign. That's all it takes to encourage people to come, isn't it?

Of course, with the Jewish temple, not everyone was welcome in the same way. Nor is everyone welcome the same way now. More on that in an upcoming cartoon.

See my article on uncertain spaces for a different take on the usefulness of the "everyone welcome" sign.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

exploring uncertainty and embrace at your own church

exploring uncertainty and embrace at your own church. image by rob g
As discussed at length in a previous post, which I highly recommend you read first, uncertain spaces are those which have not clearly articulated if and how they value and embrace diverse people. In contrast, a declared space has clearly articulated if and how it values and embraces diverse people. Uncertainty about a space - especially a church - can be a significant barrier to new people who are looking for a church home. This is of particular interest to churches that want to be more welcoming, especially as much conversation about being welcoming addresses what happens once the newcomer is in the church, rather than the barriers that keep people from entering. (If you have not read the article, I suggest reading it first).

At first thought, it might seem easy to cease being an uncertain space: declare where you are at as an individual or a community in terms of how you value and embrace people.

The process of creating such declarations, along with being a growing experience for the community, can be difficult and potentially divisive at the same time. It will involve conversations and dialogue about where one’s community is actually at and where it wants to be, which is entirely intertwined with where the community’s members are at and where they want to be. And it can result in the discovery that what might have seemed like a fairly homogenous community on the surface, has a lot more diversity when one digs deeper.

This post is intended to be a starting point, a help in exploring where your church is at and where it might want to go. Ideally, work through it with a group so that you can benefit from one another’s insights. Note that this document is a work in progress and may be expanded upon in the future.

Friday, October 30, 2015

an authentic ethic of inclusion...

Jesus saying, "Well, my disciples, we've had a good day of sharing the good news with the poor. Let's debrief over the lovely dinner some of the ladies have prepared for us."

I came across this nugget in Yvette Flunder's Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion:
An authentic ethic of inclusion must reach from the center to the farthest margin and work its way back. When we reach for the ones who are the least accepted, we give a clear message of welcome to everyone. Jesus modeled this type of radical inclusivity when he openly received those most despised by society and the religious establishment.

What does it mean to reach from the center to the farthest margin?

Can you imagine Jesus raising money to give to missionaries and mission agencies to do the work for him, and then mostly in the form of evangelism, poverty relief and development directed at worthy groups, as helpful as this is to some, and then considering his role finished?

Can you imagine Jesus helping an existing ministry to the urban poor by hosting a church service and providing a meal once a month, or serving meals and helping at drop-in centers, as important as this is, and just going to the synagogue the rest of the time?

These are not the farthest margins. And Jesus isn't an "at arm's length" kind of guy from what I've seen.

So along with sending out missionaries and helping urban ministries, shouldn't there be some kind of tangible, personal way that we are specifically reaching to the farthest margin?

Wouldn't it make sense to take some kind of concrete action in partnership with the least of these?

How can we follow Jesus in embracing the ones "most despised" by society and the religious establishment?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

an apology from Senior Deputy Ben Fields of the Richland County Sheriff's Department

To the unnamed black female high school student at Spring Valley High School who was violently assaulted by Deputy Ben Fields for refusing to get up and leave after being written up for not putting away her phone. Columbia, South Carolina. October 26, 2015.

Deputy Ben Fields of Richland County Sheriff's Dept. assaulting black female student at Spring Valley High School, Columbia, SC. Photo from AP.

i just want to say

Sitting at your desk
you wanted to use your phone
teacher said no
but you didn't listen

your parents didn't teach you right
so I taught you a lesson
about learning
while black

Forgive me
for teaching you the back flip
in math class
I should have dragged you down to the gym first

poem by rob g

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

[twelve key points about radical exclusivity]

twelve key points of radical exclusivity. adapted by rob g from "twelve key points of radical inclusivity"Twelve key points about radical exclusivity from yours truly, written as the opposite of the twelve points of radical inclusivity:

Radical Exclusivity is and must be conservative.

Radical Exclusivity recognizes, values, loves and celebrates the people at the center.

Radical Exclusivity does harm in the name of God.

Radical Exclusivity is intentional and creates ministry at the center.

The primary goal of Radical Exclusivity is to be the one and only true church.

Radical Exclusivity maintains existing ways of seeing and being.

Radical Exclusivity requires ambiguity, control and power.

Radical Exclusivity is based on shame and fear.

Radical Exclusivity ignores and devalues the margin.

Radical Exclusivity must be linked to preaching and teaching.

Radical Exclusivity demands conformity.

Radical Exclusivity is best sustained when the members of the community are kept under control of the leadership.

adapted by rob g

See also twelve key points about the radical inclusivity model.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

[twelve key points about the radical inclusivity model]

Bishop Flunder, author of Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion, discusses twelve key aspects about the radical inclusivity model in the appendix of her book. Here are the twelve summary statements from these key aspects:

Twelve Steps: The Refuge Radical Inclusivity Model from Bishop Yvette Flunder

Radical Inclusivity is and must be radical.

Radical Inclusivity, recognizes, values, loves and celebrates people on the margin.

Radical Inclusivity recognizes harm done in the name of God.

Radical Inclusivity is intentional and creates ministry on the margin.

The primary goal of Radical Inclusivity is not to imitate or change the mainline church, but rather to be Church.

Radical Inclusivity requires a new way of seeing and a new way of being.

Radical Inclusivity requires awareness, information and understanding.

Radical Inclusivity does not hide and works to undo shame and fear.

Radical Inclusivity recognizes diversity on the margin.

Radical Inclusivity must be linked to preaching and teaching.

Radical Inclusivity demands hospitality.

Radical Inclusivity is best sustained and celebrated when everyone in the community is responsible and accountable.

From Yvette A. Flunder, author of Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Racial Inclusion

For more information on each point, you can read a two page version of the appendix online. Click here -- the link to the actual article is "Read More" after first two points of Radical Inclusivity section at lower right.

Summary statements taken from a Word document linked from!maintenance/c66t; accessed September 15, 2015. Also appears in an appendix of When the Edge Gathers. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

[where the edge gathers: building a community of radical inclusion, by yvette a. flunder]

Book cover: where the edge gathers: building a community of radical inclusion, by yvette a. flunder

Where the Edge Gathers is quite a remarkable book, which is really no surprise considering that it's written by Bishop Flunder of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ.

"In Where The Edge Gathers, Flunder uses examples of persons most marginalized by church and society to illustrate the use of "village ethics" -- knowing where the boundaries are when all things are exposed--and "village theology" -- giving everyone a seat at the central meeting place or welcome table. Flunder focuses on the following marginalized groups: Same-sex couples, to convey the need to re-examine sexual and relational ethics, Transgendered persons, to illustrate the importance of radical inclusivity, Gay persons living with AIDS, to emphasize the need to de-stigmatize societies view of any group of people."

Flunder's book is divided into two main parts: the first contains four chapters on community, and the second contains nineteen sermons, given as an example of "one tool that defines, reinforces, and supports the collective theology of the community." I recommend it as an excellent book on the topic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

[peace community church's artistic declaration]

Peace Community Church in Oberlin, Ohio, wants people to know that its doors are open to everyone. As part of this, they have a new mural which clearly states where it is at when it comes to welcoming people regardless of sexual orientation or skin colour.

Painted by Robert Cothran, the five-panel piece shows a rainbow ribbon coming from the left and a racial harmony ribbon coming from the right, to join around a cross in the center panel. I especially like this because the incorporation of the lgbt ribbon with the racial harmony ribbon, which I've never seen before, acknowledges the diversity of people and the fact that people can be part of several minorities at the same time.

Mural shows a rainbow ribbon coming from the left and a racial harmony flag coming from the right, to join around a cross in the center panel. Located at Peace Community Church in Oberlin; mural by Robert Cothran (photo by VUrbanik).

Read more about this mural.

Read more about uncertain spaces and what some churches are doing to articulate how they value and embrace diverse people.

Friday, October 09, 2015

transubstantiation, carnivores and divorcees

Picture of St. Atkin's Church. People talking: "What do they believe about transubstantiation?" "I don't know but they're pro-carnivore. That's good enough for me..." "But what if they don't accept divorced and remarried people like us?" "Oh". Drawing by rob goetze

St. Atkin's makes it pretty clear that they are pro-carnivore (see previous cartoon in this post). Other things are less certain, but of greater significance to this couple. Will they be welcome even though they married each other after divorcing their previous partners? Not that many years ago, the answer would have been no.  In some churches, it still is.

If you're thinking, "Divorced and remarried? Who cares!", then I ask you: "What do you care about? What matters to you?"

What things make it difficult for you to accept someone else?

Who do you find difficult to embrace?

What's stopping you from loving people the way Jesus did?

And for what things have you yourself experienced rejection?

Read the article on uncertain spaces.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

uncertain spaces


uncertain spaces image, by robg
Your colleague tells you that Human Resources wants to see you right away. If you have no idea as to why, there is uncertainty ahead - perhaps combined with some anxiety or fear -- until you find out whether they are going to fire you, promote you to a special project, or just need a form signed.

You are in an uncertain space, even if just for a few moments until you find out what they really want.

Now what if you're new in town, or perhaps what's new is that you've decided you want to be part of a church. You drive by a church in your neighbourhood, and the sign out in front says "Everyone Welcome".

what does that mean - “everyone welcome”?

Did you know that a study done in the U.S. found that three of the top words non-Christians ages 16 to 29 associate with Christians are judgmental, hypocritical and anti-homosexual? (source: unChristian and article)

Which means that there’s a good chance the person driving past your church and wondering about it, is already doubting the truthfulness and reality of the “Everyone Welcome” sign. Add to that any past negative experience they've had with the church or with Christians, and the uncertainty is even stronger.
The church you drive past is most likely an uncertain space. Will it be hostile or indifferent to you? Or will it be welcoming and embracing? Most times you just don't know.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

confession, baptism, and the radical, far-reaching rethinking of everything

My last confession was two weeks ago, and these are my sins... I confess that I have an exclusive, hostile and elitist identity. (priest replies, Huh?). Drawing by rob goetze

This quote from Brian McLaren seems very fitting for this time:
John (the Baptist) defines the essential meaning himself: he proclaims not a baptism of conformity but a baptism of repentance, which means a radical, far-reaching rethinking of everything. If one was previously formed by a conventional Temple establishment identity, one rethinks that way of life. If one was previously formed by an Essenic antiestablishment identity, one rethinks that way of life. What might have been acceptable before – hating Gentiles, hating priests, hating the poor, hating the rich—now seems like a sin to be confessed. What might have been considered unacceptable before—reconciling with enemies, showing kindness to outcasts, putting the needs of people above religious rules—now seems like a good thing. That kind of repenting would determine the kinds of sins people would confess as they descended into the Jordan for baptism.

So for John, baptism is hardly a second-rate tribal rite comparable to sitting on Santa’s knee. It is the radical reversal of identities of exclusion and hostility. It is a defection from all exclusive, hostile, and elitist identitieswhether they be establishment or antiestablishment in nature. It is a sign that one is repenting of all hostile identities, knowing that those identities can only lead to violent cataclysm. By de-identifying with oppositional identities—by dying to them, one can identify with something new: the kingdom, reign, or commonwealth of God—which is a call not to separation and exclusion, but rather to solidarity and reconciliation, as we have seen again and again.
Brian D. McLaren, pp.183, 185, in Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World

What Brian says makes good sense to me. I want such a radical reversal, both in my own life and in the life of the church.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

whose names do you not mention?

a list of people whom we cannot name as our brothers and sisters. drawing by rob goetze

Whose names are not mentioned in your church? Of whom have you never heard it said, "they are our brothers and sisters?"

Consider this from Brian McLaren:
The vestiges of Imperial Christianity are not always as obvious as this inscription in stone. But they are no less present in most of our churches. Racism, colonialism, exclusivism, elitism, and other members of the hostility family often hide camouflaged in songs and hymns, devotionals and prayers, sermons and Sunday School lessons. And it’s not only what is said that aids and abets hostility: it’s what is left unsaid. For example, I remember preaching in a predominantly Tutsi church in Burundi. After I made an appeal for the Twa people, the nation’s oppressed minority, someone came up to me and said, “The word Twa has never been spoken before in this church. It is as if the Twa didn’t exist. Thank you for reminding us that the Twa are God’s children.” I thought of how many real-world hostilities around the world are similarly protected through avoidance and silence in churches today.

Brian D. McLaren, p.168, in Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World

I spoke up at a church meeting a few years ago, and talked about wanting the church to be a place that is welcoming of our gay brothers and sisters in Christ. Later I realized that I had never heard anyone use the expression "our gay brothers and sisters in Christ" at our church, ever. Perhaps that was the first time it was even said there....

Perhaps it reminded some that this isn't an issue to be debated and ideas to be objected to, but that there are real people involved....

 Hopefully, some who never thought about it might begin to consider the breadth and width and depth of God's love and of the body of Christ.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

words you can't say in church

words you can't say in church. drawing by rob goetze.

How do you understand Pastor Stickman's silence?

Is he silent because not even he is allowed to say these words?

Or is it because he believes that all words, all topics are open for discussion, and thus there is nothing for him to list?

Monday, September 28, 2015

an apology from Manitoba Child and Family Services

For the babies and children seized by Manitoba Child and Family Services, predominantly from Indigenous families.

This is not about Indian Residential Schools or the "60's Scoop"; this is about what is happening in Canada today.

we just want to say

You give birth to babies
again and again
and take them back to huts
without running water

it would be unkind to leave them with you
so we take them away
we give them away
cuz we know what's best

Forgive us
we hoped to have solved
the Indian problem
years ago
poem by rob g

Read making a difference, one baby at a time.

Read #StopStealingOurKids - Christi Belcourt's indictment of Manitoba's child welfare system.

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.
Read an explanation of false apology poems.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

[hotel 22]

I first saw this video on Richard Beck's blog (one of the few I follow regularly). It is the eloquently told story of the early hours of the morning for some of our neighbours.

Watch it and then read on.

Hotel 22 by Elizabeth Lo from Short of the Week on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

[rachel held evans on lgbt christians]

Speaking at the GCN conference in 2014, Rachel Held Evans had this to say:

Rachel Held Evans quote from Gay Christian Network 2014 Conference

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

[walking in the shoes of another - Timothy Kurek]

Timothy Kurek talks about intentional empathy and the year he spent walking in the shoes of another:

Timothy has also written a book called The Cross in the Closet.

Friday, September 11, 2015

making a difference, one baby at a time

manitoba - making a difference, one baby at a time. cartoon by robg

Our white friends to the south managed to do it. Jim Crow laws which enforced racial segregation in the southern states were in place until the 1960's. As the Civil Rights movement brought about legal changes, the state and local laws regarding segregation were overturned. In some ways, however, not that much changed and the U.S. situation evolved to what is known as the new Jim Crow, which is seeing (among other injustices and inequities) high percentages of black people (black men in particular) end up in for-profit prisons and many other barriers in place to prevent equal participation in society.

Here in Canada, one of our historical evils was the Indian residential schools: Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and put into residential schools, forbidden to use their own languages and not allowed to practice their culture. Abuse was wide-spread. This took place roughly from 1876 to the late 1960's. The recent Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls it cultural genocide.

Understandably, Indian residential schools are done with. However, that doesn't mean that those in power suddenly believe that Aboriginal lives matter.

Around the end of the Indian residential school system, the Manitoba government began "systematically apprehending aboriginal children starting in the 1960s and placing them with non-aboriginal families — a practice known as the ’60s Scoop." (source). Read more here and here. Thousands of children were taken and placed in foster and adoptive homes. Just this past June 2015, the Premier of Manitoba apologized on behalf of the province for the 60's scoop. Yes, this is Canada - the Canada we don't here much about.

But is it over?  And now what's happening in Manitoba?

Child and Family Services workers are seizing an average of one newborn a day, without assessing the parents or their ability to care for their baby, according to Cora Morgan, First Nations Children's Advocate. She says,

“In this system, you are guilty until you can prove you’re innocent. They’re not going in and investigating to see if there is another side of the story. They’re not going in there to say, ‘How can we help you?’ … They just take the kids.” (source)

You can imagine the effects on a baby of being removed from its mother, put in care for the key months of attachment, and then handed back. And the cycle continues...

Read more about the seizures of babies.

Read Christi Belcourt's indictment of Manitoba's child welfare system.

Estimated numbers:
The numbers of children in the system are staggering – it is estimated that there are today anywhere from 60, 000 – 70, 0000 Native children in foster care in Canada , a much higher proportion than the 20, 000 children taken in the horrific Sixties Scoop, where 20, 000 children were taken and placed into adoption or in residential schools, those institutions meant to “kill the Indian in the child”.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

[practice resurrection]

Practice Resurrection: Loving in a World of Fear. Richard Beck speaking at Oklahoma Christian University, Sept 10/15

Would love to be there! Am hoping that the talk is posted online and if so, will put the link here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

false apology poems - an explanation

false apology poems - explanatory page by rob g
I was introduced to false apology poems through a wonderfully funny children's book, Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine. You can read an excerpt of her book here.

Her poems follow the format used by William Carlos Williams (1883 - 1963), who wrote the following:

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

 —William Carlos Williams

The above poem by Williams is fairly innocent and rather humorous, and presents the standard format that I use. Note that the first stanza describes what happened, the second typically the consequences, and the third gives the apology that is not sincere.

If you've read any of the false apology poems that I've written, they are neither innocent nor humorous. They are dark and satirical, and are intended to bring the attitudes of white supremacy out into the open. Forgive me.

I welcome any comments and thoughts you might have about them.

See the whole list of false apology poems.

Friday, September 04, 2015

[mc1r photo project challenges how we see race]

Thom Dunn, in a recent Upworthy article, asks:
Despite making up such a small percentage of the population, most of us have the same stereotypical image in our heads when we think of redheads: light-skinned, freckled white people with curls of flaming hair and a fiery temper to match.

Aside from the obvious issue of assigning a temperament to someone based on hair color, there's one other weird conclusion here: Why do we think that all redheads are white?
(source, emphasis added)

three portraits from Michelle Marshall's MC1R project. Portraits by Marshall.

Michelle Marshall, a photographer based in London, has been taking portraits of redheaded people who are black or biracial. Dunn's article features some of her portraits interspersed with some of Marshall's thoughts.

Read the whole article -- easy (and beautiful) to read and thought-provoking at the same time.

Visit Michelle Marshall's website for more photos.

Friday, August 28, 2015

an apology from the Portsmouth Police and the Hampton Roads Jail

In memory of Jamycheal Mitchell, age 24, found dead in his jail cell at Hampton Roads Regional Jail on August 19, 2015, four months after being arrested for allegedly stealing $5 of food.

Jamycheal Mitchell. Photo from Facebook

we just want to say

bad choice that
taking a mountain dew snickers
and zebra cake

jailed in april
you wasted away
taking up space
waiting for a hospital bed

Forgive us
for wasting tax dollars
we should have executed you
at the scene of the crime

poem by rob g

This poem seems more harsh than some of the others. I think I'm feeling particularly  angry today. Don't know how our black brothers and sisters cope with it, and especially as they know that  any given day might be their last, just because they're black.

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

[voice of witness]

Voice of Witness - covers of four books."Voice of Witness (VOW) is a non-profit dedicated to fostering a more nuanced, empathy-based understanding of contemporary human rights crises. We do this by amplifying the voices of individuals most closely affected by injustice, and by providing curricular and training support to educators and invested communities."

To date, they have published thirteen books of oral histories, with stories from Palestine, Chicago Public Housing, Columbia, and more.

Check them out!

Read this excerpt from Refugee Hotel online:

Voice of Witness - Refugee Hotel book - excerpt screen shot from

Or check out your local library -- the Edmonton Public Library, where I live, has three titles from Voice of Witness.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

[re-imagining disability]

Debbie, Amanda, Gordy on left; Robin on right. Portraits by Warren Pot. From his FB page.

Portraits of L'Arche Daybreak members by Warren Pot. See more of them here.

Related to this, Professor Pamela Cushing discusses how photographs tell a story, and can also accomplish ethical work and confer the dignity of full personhood on their subjects.

Here's an excerpt:
However, photos can also accomplish ethical work. They can influence how we think about people who are different from us. Formal photos like portraits can be particularly transformative since they disrupt public expectations. The subject of a portrait is recognized as worthy of being photographed. The format implies that you are worthy of contemplation and commemoration. So the very acts of staging and taking the photos symbolize their membership in a valued group – those who ought to be gazed at.
(source, emphasis added)

Read her succinct and interesting post here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

[... space that protected and cared for the most fragile bodies]

Richard Beck, in his series discussing "The Gospel According to Ta-Nehisi Coates" (particularly in reference to Coates' book Between the World and Me), says this about what Jesus' kingdom looked like:

Jesus, by contrast, created communities centered around giving care to the most vulnerable in his society. Jesus carved out of Empire space that protected and cared for the most fragile bodies. That's what Jesus did as he moved from town to town, he created a community where the most oppressed and marginalized were welcomed and cared for. Communities of care that were open to agents of Empire, tax collectors and Roman soldiers, who were willing to work to buffer fragile bodies.

And this is what the early church did as well. The church carved out of Empire communities of care. Imperial Rome knew Christianity to be religion popular with women and slaves because of how these communities buffered their fragile bodies from the ravages of Empire.

To my eye, these communities of care carved out of Empire are what Jesus meant when he said "the kingdom of God is in your midst."
(source, emphasis added)

Read the rest of the article (the really good stuff is in the latter half of the post).

Read the series from Part 1.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

an apology from NJ State Troopers and the Mercer County Sheriff's Office

For Radazz Hearn, age 14.  Shot seven times on Friday, August 7, 2015, by New Jersey state troopers and Mercer County Sheriff's officer for running away. In stable condition in hospital.

Radaaz Hearns. Photo from the Hearns family.

we just want to say

You went off at a run
in your sweatpants
red as blood
and reached for a ?

our instinct said gun
we shot seven times
to protect the neighbourhood
from thugs like you

Forgive us
for not liking you black and red fashion
it clashes with white folks'
sense of decorum
poem by rob g

Read an apology from the Waller County Sheriff's Office.

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.
Read an explanation of false apology poems.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

august field trip to a church in London

Exterior of Dundas St. United Church, rented Sunday evenings by the church whose service I attended. Photo by robg.
I arrived about ten minutes late to find the door locked, not a great surprise considering the east-end-of-downtown location of the church and that it was evening, and rang the bell. A moment later, a friendly black woman wearing a colourful tie-dye shirt opened the door, introduced herself as Veronica, and welcomed me in.

She led me into the sanctuary - the rented space seats at least 400 just on the main floor, and there were only about fifty people present. I took a seat and discovered I had arrived just in time for the start of the sermon. Bruce, the pastor, was articulate, friendly and engaging. The service went on from there, not that different from what I experienced growing up Baptist and then attending Anglican churches as an adult. Prayer, Bible readings, hymns and contemporary songs (all familiar to me), sermon, communion, announcements. Across the board, the content was as evangelical as it gets.

In fact, if someone showed you a videotape of the service, leaving out announcements and a few identifying details, you might reasonably think this was any one of the many evangelical churches across our country. In reality, it's the London congregation of the Metropolitan Community Church,  a denomination that had its "origins serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people" and which has now "become an inclusive and affirming congregation that actively welcomes all people".

Dare I suggest that this church is more evangelical - more full of good news - than evangelical usually gets?

In many churches, there are limits as to who is embraced, barriers keeping some out, conditions one has to meet, beliefs people have to agree with to take part. Here, everyone is welcome, all are embraced, the doors are flung wide open. That's good news! And here, in line with Jesus' model of going to those at the margins of his society, this church is about those at the margin of society - and everyone else - being welcomed and embraced.

The service itself was anti-climactic. It didn't have the showiness of seeker churches, the cool of hipster services, or the fervor of an old-fashioned tent revival. Sorry to break it to you, but it wasn't fabulously gay either. Embrace of all of God's creation with a focus on Jesus doesn't make for an exciting church; it makes for a local body of Christ where "come as you are" is real rather than a trite saying, where "just as I am" applies to everyone, where our common need for Jesus' love and God's mercy levels the ground beneath us, where we meet together to praise God and together learn what it means to be apprentices of Jesus.

One thing did stand out about the service, something that in my years of church life I've not seen before. During communion, after the priest or helper gave the bread and wine to the parishioner, they also gave a blessing. Not a simple "Lord bless you and keep you" or similar phrase and then on to the next person. Instead, they put their arms around each and every parishioner and said a prayer of blessing, different for each person.

Seeing this, and as it came closer to my turn to receive communion, I wondered if I as an outsider would also be given a blessing. I was, and part of it included these words: "May the love you experience here travel with you wherever you go."


bulletin board of Metropolitan Community Church, London. photo by robg

Sunday, August 09, 2015

an apology from St. Louis Police Department Officer Darren Wilson

In memory of Michael Brown, killed August 9, 2014 by SLPD Officer Darren Wilson.

Michael Brown. Photo by AP
(Photo by AP)

i just want to say

Newly graduated from high school
you stole from a convenience store
walked down the street
with your friend

I shot you twelve times in the front
now you are dead and I am hated
how inconvenient for me
that I came by and did my duty

Forgive me
those cigarillos
would have killed you in the end

poem by rob g

Read more.

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Eliel Cruz, a speaker and columnist, has started a series with The Advocate called, #21AceStories. It's intended to amplify the voices of asexual individuals and increase understanding and acceptance about a little known sexual orientation. 21 asexual people around the world were asked, "What's the biggest misconception about asexuality?" Their answers fell into different categories, for which visual graphics were created and are being released in a series of four installments (1) (2) (3). Cruz also previously curated #27Bistories, which similarly addressed misconceptions about bisexuality.

#21 Ace Stories, image #5 from The Advocate article

Saturday, July 18, 2015

an apology from the Waller County Sheriff's Office

For Sandra Bland.  Pulled over July 10, 2015 for a standard traffic violation (failure to signal). Dead in a cell July 13, 2015 at the Waller County Jail, Texas.

Sandra Bland, in picture she posted to LinkedIn.

we just want to say

You were angry
dangerously black angry
to the point of
not signalling

we dragged you out of the car
face down
you were angry so angry
you killed yourself in jail

Forgive us
for interrupting your dream
of driving yourself
off a bridge
poem by rob g

Read more about On #SandraBland And The Life-Threatening ‘Angry Black Woman’ Myth

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Friday, July 17, 2015

an apology from NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo

In memory of Eric Garner, suspected of selling single cigarettes. Put in an illegal chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the process of being arrested on July 17, 2014 and died an hour later.

Eric Garner - Facebook profile picture

i just want to say

I heard you say "I can't leave"
and thought
of course you can't leave
I have you in a choke hold

and so you died
surrounded by courtesy
professionalism and respect

Forgive me
I'm sure someone out there
is crying for you

poem by rob g

Read more.

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

[jeff chu: come to jesus, by whatever route you can]

From the beginnings of Jesus' life on earth, he has subverted our norms. From infancy, he welcomed outsiders, gentiles, the uncircumcised. As NT Wright puts it, the take away of the epiphany story, which he says is not the kind of cosy picture book story which we created for ourselves, is this: come to Jesus, by whatever route you can, and with the best gifts you can find. Come to Jesus, by whatever route you can, and with the best gifts you can find.

Can we offer each other that same generosity, that same welcome? Can we walk alongside each other by whatever routes we can, without you judging the gift I picked out, or me criticizing the route you chose?

From Jeff Chu's keynote address
at the GCN Conference,
Portland, Oregon. January 8, 2015
More from this talk (page includes
video and link to complete text of talk)

Thursday, July 02, 2015

an apology from a white supremacist arsonist

I just want to say

Seven churches burning
within a month
black churches getting blacker
by the moment

give me matches
a can of gasoline
and transportation
I'll make it seventy times seven

Forgive me
I didn't think to bring
enough marshmallows
to share

poem by rob g

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

[final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission]

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Logo

Honouring the Truth,
Reconciling for the Future
Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

From the Introduction:
For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.”

Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.

In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.
(emphasis added)

Link to full PDF online.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

an apology from the Charleston shooter

For Pastor Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Rev Daniel Simmons Snr, Rev Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson. Murdered June 17, 2015 during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, S.C.

9 members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church killed June 17, 2015. Photo from site (no credit given there).

i just want to say

You welcomed me in
to your prayer time
let me sit
were very kind

an hour of that
was all I could take
I shot nine of you
in little time

Forgive me
I shouldn't have pretended
that prayer
mattered to me

poem by rob g

Read more.

This is a false apology poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


This is a common theme on my Twitter feed these days -- black people mentioning that they are feeling traumatized by the continuous news reports, looping videos, etc. depicting police violence against black people.

This might be difficult for those of us who are white to relate to. We've grown accustomed to watching news of wars in far off places involving people whose skin is a different colour than ours, and this seems like a variation of that. Our senses have become dulled.

But for black Americans watching what is happening to their brothers and sisters in their own neighbourhood or in a city across a few state lines, this is real. Not just because real people are being killed -- in many cases, murdered -- by the police. But because they know it could happen to them just as easily. Just for walking down the street or looking at someone the wrong way.

The result is trauma, perhaps similar to being in a war zone. The world is not safe.

news reports on racial injustice ... can be traumatizing. Austin Channing on Twitter, March 11, 2015

#racialtraumaisreal. Tweet by Zakiya Naema Jackson, April 30, 2015
Related article.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

[god is black]

Daniel José Camacho writes:
Cone’s statement that “God is black” has always been grounded in Jesus’ Jewishness and the biblical narrative which presents God as being in solidarity with the oppressed. As he has clarified on numerous occasions, it is a symbolic statement and not a statement of biology or literal skin color. At the same time Christianity has said “God is white”—in deeds if not in exact words—for the past 500 years. That some hear God’s blackness as a zero-sum statement is a mistake.

In an interview this past January, Cone told HuffPo’s Paul Rauschenbush:
“God is red. God is brown. God is yellow. God is gay…I don’t use blackness as a way to exclude anyone.”

"Why James H. Cone's Liberation Theology Matters More Than Ever"
by Daniel José Camacho, including a quote by James Cone.

Listen to James Cone say more about this in an interview with Paul Raushenbush.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

strip jesus of whiteness

There was a time when I would have been offended by tweets like these by @FaithInFerguson:

But when these came through my twitter feed a few weeks ago, I stopped for a moment and then said, "Oh. That makes sense. I get it now."

What made the difference? I'm not sure about all of it, but certainly a lot of the difference was informed by the many black people I've been following on Twitter, and the many tweets over the past year about #BlackLivesMatter and about #MikeBrown, #NatashaMckenna, #FreddieGray, #RekiaBoyd and many more black people who have been murdered by American police.

Without their perspective, I would be more entrenched in the white privilege that I've grown up with and in. Their words, their emotions, their wisdom has been opening my eyes to see the world in new ways and from where they stand, which is really where I should also stand if I follow the way of Jesus.

So it's making sense to me now. White Christians own Jesus. The white western Jesus. He's become one of the establishment, along with his father, the God who loves war and corporations, hates fags and the homeless, is in favour of the death penalty, and is so many more things that are completely opposite to what the Jesus of the Bible looks like.

So just as Jesus when he walked on the earth was the opposite of what the Jewish people expected the Messiah to be (though very much what the people at the edges loved), it's time to "strip Jesus of his whiteness and center Him in his otherness".

And what better way to do that than having to choose whether we would follow a queer, female Christ of colour... or if that's just too high a cost of discipleship.

strip jesus of whiteness - presenting a queer female christ of colour. cartoon by rob g

For more on this, see the brief article The Black Christ by Kelly Brown Douglas, particularly the quote from her book of the same name that makes up the second half.

Link to article referred to in tweet.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

jesus gives his life for every tribe

This may come as a surprise to some... 

but if you're looking for really good news, 

this is it:

jesus prays - confirming that he's giving his life for lgbtqia. drawing by rob g

A while back I read A Spacious Heart: Essays on Identity and Belonging by Judith M. Gundry-Volf and Miroslav Volf. In one of Judith's essays, she suggested that Jesus' sense of mission might have evolved (viz., broadened) over time and that his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman had influenced this (see Matthew 15:21 - 28 and Mark 7:25 - 30).

This cartoon is playing off of that idea, to suggest that Jesus progressively learned that he was giving his life for "his own people" and for everyone, including tribes that were not formally known of in his time. He came to understand that, in fact, "his own people" were everyone in this world his father had made.

Sadly, it would seem that since that Jesus ascended into heaven, our understanding of whom he gave his life for has devolved, narrowed, to include only those who fit our ideas of who is acceptable....