The original title for this piece was going to be “A Grave I will Gladly Dance Upon.” I routinely wondered if I should email Alex and tell her to change it, but I’m trying to be a better person, so here we are. Easter, with its themes of rebirth and renewal, is the perfect time for that sort of thing, after all. 

To celebrate the beginning of this season of newness, my wife and I read through A Rhythm of Prayer, a collection of writings by noted authors such as Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Barbara Brown Taylor, and its editor, Sarah Bessey. It’s a brilliant book filled with the genuine rawness and struggle that comes from living in this world as it is and filled with its hurt and the birthing pains that come with praying for redemption in our world. 

A very natural part of that world is that we can’t have nice things sometimes. 

The Monday after Easter, a pastor on Twitter took to the keyboard, condemning one of the book’s most notable pieces, “Prayer of a Weary Black Women,” by Chanequa Walker-Barnes, as racist and anti-Biblical after reading the first few lines and not reflecting on the piece as a whole. As you can imagine, all Hell broke loose. Christians all across the internet cried “racism” in the face of a Black woman who was lamenting the burden that comes when Christ calls His followers to choose love instead of justifiable hatred in the face of constant racism. Folks have called for the book to be pulled from Target, Fox News decided to chime in to claim that Walter-Barnes is, in fact, asking God to help her hate white people, and Sarah Bessey has deleted her Twitter after all the threats and hateful messages she’s received after standing up for Walker-Barnes. In the midst of worrying for both of these brilliant women, their families, and all the other contributors to the book, another thought continued to nag at my mind: 

I’m actually glad the current church’s numbers are dwindling because who needs an institution that goes after a lamenting, struggling Black woman? How much peace can that place really be bringing anyone? How much peace can it bring to a nation? 

And I’ll tell you right now, I’m not entertaining any “Not All Churches” arguments because enough’s enough. Given how many women, queer people, children, and people of color are hurt by the institutional church as it has come to be known on the regular, I would say it’s way more than enough, and I’m glad that there’s starting to be consequences to that. I’m glad that tomb is closing. 

At the same time, I’m ecstatic that the tomb of radically loving, establishment-challenging, deconstructing Christianity is opening. I say it has slept in a tomb because, for most of my life, I’ve been taught that such a thing is dead—a dangerous heresy at worst, a bygone experiment the early church tried at best. 

It’s neither. It is a well overflowing with what this nation needs, really needs, if we could only allow the stone in front of it to be rolled away. Women need respect, honor, and a voice. Queer folks need acceptance and love. Racial minorities need spaces of healing and policy changes that promote real justice. Financially vulnerable people need ladders towards stability and so far, when it comes the church on a national scale, the only voices I hear advocating for such things are Christians like Walker-Barnes, Bessey, and all the crazy, beautiful, wild radicals that I look to when I need a familiar face in the wilderness. 

Death is a natural part of life, but if the Gospels are true, then so are rebirth and redemption for the things that are truly good and blessed by God. It’s probably too early to tell for sure what this particular rebirth is going to look like, but I’m excited for what it will bring.

After all, a new world is only a stone’s roll away.

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Loved this. As my best/friend/former pastor’s wife likes to say, “What’s wrong with people!” I hope these critiques also stay out of the book of Psalms because it’s full of similar thoughts and prayers.

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  2. Avatar

    Though I hadn’t heard about this particular instance of racism in the church, I wish I was surprised to hear of it. Instead, I sigh “that sounds about right” and wish you would have gone with the alternate title.

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  3. Avatar

    Sadly, many Christians do not understand grace. But many do and they need to get the word out.

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  4. Avatar

    Jesus says that the Spirit will “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”. How sad to see that the church refuses to be convicted like the church-less are.

    Reply
  5. Josh Parks

    I love, love, love this post, Finnely. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes, from theologian Marika Rose: “To love the church is to be willing to put it to death, to betray it in the name of what we love in it.”

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    • Avatar

      Glad to know I’m in good company 🙂

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    Thank you for this cry of protest and of Christ-following hope. Dying is rising is the pattern we should know in the church, but we resist it so hard.

    Reply
  7. Kyric Koning

    I do so wish people had more empathy. Seems like that would be a big start to cleaning up a majority of the problems.

    Not super convinced about the problem being with “the Church” as much as with “people.” The Church is made up of people, after all, and it is people who make choices.

    Reply

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