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Mayor Turner's Rare Opportunity for Radical Leadership Blog: In an aggressively changing climate and culture, today’s politicians navigate the most perilous political challenges to face our communities in generations. America and her cities now face both environmental and economic catastrophes today because we refuse to face the realities of environmental degradation and the radical racial and economic inequalities that shape our way of life. In these ways, Houston is a poster child of our nation’s crisis.
War on Black Families

Ending the War on Black Families

The North Star: Since its inception, America’s violence against Black people has often targeted Black families. Auction blocks not only sold enslaved Black people, they severed sacred bonds between spouses, parents, and children. Four hundred years after this war began, the United States continues to perpetuate this war against Black families through a racist child welfare system that is rigged to tear children from the embrace of poor Black parents and place them in foster care.

Opening the Door to Reparations for Black Americans

The North Star: Our nation’s poorest communities are not simply victims of our nation’s racist ways — they are survivors of our nation’s war against the poor and Black. These survivors are worthy of our profound respect and assistance.
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Capital Punishment and the Racial Execution of Justice

The North Star:Wendell Griffen, an African American judge from Arkansas, is battling what he refers to as the state’s “white power structure.” The case centers on Griffen’s struggle to regain his right to oversee capital punishment cases.

In 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison planned to end the state’s decade long hiatus from executing incarcerated people with a record breaking proposal to rush through eight executions in a 10-day span.

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The Declaration of Independence Haunts Black America

The North Star: On the Fourth of July, many Americans celebrate the US Declaration of Independence. Yet there is no denying that it is fraught with tensions. By ignoring how white supremacy was the cultural ideology of the Colonies, most interpretations of the document twist the meaning of Thomas Jefferson’s famous words. It is impossible to separate the history of racism and white supremacy from the Declaration of Independence. Misunderstanding the Declaration of Independence makes these facts easy to ignore.
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Black Mayors and the Power of Local Politics

The North Star: The continual chaos emanating from Washington, DC makes it easy to lose sight of the local political transformations taking place in communities and cities across our nation. Movements like #BlackLivesMatter, #Metoo, and #fightfor15 are empowering a new kind of politics that prioritizes the needs of marginalized citizens.

Nothing embodies the power of these movements better than the elections of Black mayors who made social justice and economic equity the pillars of their political platforms

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The Fight for Educational Equity 65 Years After Brown vs. The Board of Education

The North Star: By the time I began reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, the racialized world the book describes failed to startle me. I knew a little bit about that world — at least in its Houston form. What surprised me in Coates’ writing was his surgical ability to use words to dissect our country’s racialization; his ability to empower readers — seemingly even white readers — to see our nation through his eyes and his relentless interrogation of the racial edges of “the American dream.”

A Palm Sunday Reflection on America’s Addiction to White Supremacy

The North Star: Generations ago, one of my relatives fought alongside General Stonewall Jackson and continued the South’s struggle with General Robert E. Lee to the Appomattox Court House. There, on Palm Sunday in 1865, Lee surrendered and effectively ended the Civil War. His surrender was a significant day in white supremacy’s evolution, but its meaning gets lost in America’s racial mythology… Palm Sunday provides an opportunity for a more honest reckoning with Lee’s legacy, and how our nation’s addiction to radical racial inequalities perpetuates white supremacy.
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U.S. Christian Churches Identity Crisis Deepens

Houston Chronicle:An identity crisis is building in the American Christian church.

Since 1990, the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has grown from 6% to 25% , making them the largest religious group. Other research shows that increasing disenchantment with the Christian church is difficult to disentangle from the seeming indifference of some white Christians to injustice and the racial and partisan lines that demarcate contemporary religious life.

Unsurprisingly, some people’s faltering faith is often connected to the church’s institutional infidelities.


Continuing Martin Luther King's Struggle for Justice

The North Star: “The white backlash had become an emotional electoral issue… Political clowns had become governors… their magic achieved with a ‘witches’ brew of bigotry, prejudice, half-truths and whole lies.” These words come from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final book before his assassination. Originally published in 1967, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? analyzes the status of the movement for racial equality as it struggled against “the stone walls of white resistance.” For those seeking to honor King by continuing his struggle, Where Do We Go From Here provides a map for where he hoped his sacrifices would lead and is a framework for bringing American ideals closer to American realities.
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Spike Lee calls us to recognize the racism baked into America’s DNA

Houston Chronicle: Virginia lived under a spotlight during Black History Month. Revelations of racist pasts and accusations of sexual violence turned the state upside down. The allegations of sexual assault and rape against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax should shock us. But neither white Virginians participating in blackface nor their obliviousness to their own racism should surprise us. This is, after all, America. And nothing is more American than Virginia. In the midst of the backlash, Spike Lee… provided the frame to understand what we are witnessing in Virginia…
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A War Speech Worth Remembering: LBJ 1964 State of the Union Few American’s place much hope that 2019’s State of the Union will cure our crisis, but the exercise of reflecting on where we are as a nation and how we lost our way is critical to navigating our way forward. In that exercise, history helps—it reminds us of hopes and dreams and worthy political aims that we lost somewhere along the way.
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Finding hope on Martin Luther King Day, even in these times of struggle It is easy to wonder how to hold on to hope for King’s dream of racial and economic equity in an age at war with both. Celebrating King’s legacy is complicated and confusing when, as Ibram X. Kendi word-smithed it: “Racial progress is real. But so is racist progress.” For many, melancholy replaced optimism. Yet perhaps there is meaningful hope in this melancholy; perhaps this melancholy can revitalize the lost legacy of how King’s hope remained true even after it lost its optimism.
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Black Churches and White Evangelicals: Divided by a Common Religion

Houston Chronicle: As we reflect back on the 2018 election, few moments will leave a mark as indelible as Ed Young, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, describing the Democratic Party as “a religion that is basically godless.” Americans have come to expect that kind of theocratically twinged rhetoric during campaign season, but it might be surprising to know that only a few decades ago, religion did not determine our electoral politics. Once upon a time, Democrats and Republicans went to the same houses of worship, sat in the same pews and took their stands in the same choir lofts. So what happened? The civil rights movement changed everything.
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It's Christmas Time: A Sermon from Luke 1 I don’t know what season you find yourself in, your feelings about our nation’s life together, but Mary’s got a song for us about her baby Boy; a song written to bring us out of our life’s circumstances and harmonize our life with God work in His world. Mary’s song challenges us to rethink what Christmas is all about…

A Famiiar Formula: The Racial Politics of Ted Cruz and George Wallace For Republicans who desire to reject racism and bring an end to racial inequalities, Ted Cruz poses a significant problem. The problem is not that Cruz is ignorant on racial issues. The problem is Cruz is brilliant at campaigning and knows exactly what he is doing. The key to understanding what Ted Cruz is intentionally doing in his Republican campaign is remembering George Wallace’s Democratic Campaign. The connections run much deeper than a Joe Biden quip about Trump, Washington, and Wallace. From Wallace to Cruz, there is a time-honored and familiar formula for Southern political power: kindle racial fears, stoke those fears into a fury, and be the solution.
MLK a Trouble Maker and A Liar

The Most Dangerous Negro: We live in the ripples of the impact of Martin Luther King’s inspiring life. Yet as we celebrate the first MLK day with President Trump in office, we must remember what is often lost from popular history and public memory during our memorializing. We must remember that King’s self-sacrificial life inspired more than the passage of the Civil Rights Acts. His life also inspired the white backlash that led to his crucifixion and has played a formative role in US politics ever since. Most of the words that led to King’s Golgotha we choose to forget but today, more than ever, they deserve our remembrance.

What Now Opportunity to Rebuild a City I watched as the rain fell in Houston’s 5th Ward. During the hardest down pours, I worried for the safety of our daughter and son. But when morning came, 5th Ward remained relatively dry and calm even as the water’s wrath rose across the city. As the water overtook the homes of families throughout Houston, we watched water rescues from the safe haven of our living room. And as we watched the suffering of the city we loved but could not access, our hearts grew heavy and sad, and our spirits rode the roller coaster of emotions between helplessness, gratitude, and survivor’s remorse. After the clouds broke and the roads were accessible, we provided helping hands where possible but, for the most part, our desire to help outpaced our ability to help.

In our house, as in houses throughout Houston, we wondered where Houston heads after Harvey finishes its work on us; we wondered what changes the crisis will bring to Houston both in the short-term and in the long term.


PASTOR IN CHIEF: Reflections on a Presidency

I began working at a church in the 5th Ward as President Obama ramped up his unlikely run for the White House. I never voted for a Democrat until 2008. I remember well awaiting the election results in our offices. The block party was prepared in the parking lot, and as the numbers rolled in, euphoria began filling 5th Ward’s streets. The party spilled into the church house the following Sunday morning as we worshipped with tear-filled eyes. We believed we had participated in the beginning of a movement to set our nation on a more just trajectory to realize Dr. King’s long elusive dream. And a movement certainly was afoot, but not one heading in the direction we anticipated….

WHITE SOUL MATES: How James Dobson Evolved the KKK’s Values for an Evangelical Embrace

I drove home from Baylor University on the evening of Election Day with knots in my stomach, knowing by the time I arrived home, a new president would likely be selected. While I drove my mind drifted to the issues facing our nation and communities. I thought about the murdered unarmed black men and the Black Lives Matter movement they inspired. I thought about cops gunned down in the line of duty, veterans broken by wars, poor folks needing healthcare, and the children who fear their parent’s deportation by ICE….
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The Gospel Next Door: Book Review

Usually, it is precarious to review a book written by a friend that you desire to keep working, eating and fishing with. The Gospel Next Door, thankfully, was a bit easier to agree to review because I started reading it in manuscript form and continued to reread promising drafts as it evolved into a rather remarkable book. I read and reread because it is the type of book that I believe we needed.
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New HISD Chief and 5th Ward Poverty

The Houston Independent School District’s search for a new superintendent is an important reminder to all of us that the most significant challenge and opportunity for our city is the success of our community’s schools.

Nowhere is the challenge – but also opportunity for change – more stark than in Houston’s Fifth Ward, on the city’s near-northeast side. Here, a profound poverty envelopes generations of families, setting back students before they even have a chance to start out in life.


The Power of Unspoken Commitments: Reflections on Wheaton College

I graduated from Wheaton College in 2002. Wheaton College made a deeper person out of me by providing a haven for me to reconsider my faith in the context of fellow sojourners seeking to live into the college’s motto: “For Christ and His Kingdom.” Upon graduating, I did not know if I was a liberal or a conservative, though I had a hunch I was neither.
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Fuel for the Fire: A Baby for Such a Time as This

In a barn outside a little-known ghetto, a baby was born to a woman with a questionable reputation. Such scandalous beginnings happen every day, but after this baby’s birth, the world would never fully recover from the light of His life. To this day, our ever-quickening world slows down a bit, and despite the decadence we incorporate into the child’s celebration, we know that it is the slowdown our souls need the most and that if we fail to slow down, we have somehow failed to connect to the baby we celebrate. It takes a certain posture and patience to receive the message of redemption held in that manager.
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Ambassadors of Christ in a world of wolves: Reflections on Syria, France, and the Christian response to tragedy

Government is never called upon to forgive or turn the other cheek…Donald Trump was absolutely correct when he said: ‘It is time to bomb the you know what out of Isis.’ That is a biblical response. I want to say this, if we do not confront and defeat radical Isam, or radical Islam is going to defeat us.” – Dr. Robert Jeffress

Faith and Family Logic in the 21st Century

It is often not clear to me what the writers of Scripture were thinking. Couldn’t we find more motiving examples of faith than the swindler Jacob or the seemingly bi-polar Peter? Nowhere is the frustration with Scripture more poignant than attempting to find an inspiring example at the intersection of faith and family. Jesus said Moses provided Israel certificates of divorce because of Israel’s hard heart, but certainly his own broken marriage informed his decision as well. David was David, strong in faith and pure in heart but terrible in the art of domestic life. In reading Hebrews’ catalogue of heroes of faith, it is clear that the heroes of faith in Israel were rarely heroes in their home….
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July 4th and the Black Church

In 2006, my life went in an unexpected direction due to a Wednesday night Bible study at Pleasant Hill Baptist that introduced me to the Black Church. I was studying with the same group on the notorious night of June 17, 2015. That evening, I returned home late, and my wife lacked the heart to tell me about the Charleston shooting. She knew it had been a long day, and I needed sleep. It was the next day that I learned of the tragedy and it has been hard to think of anything else ever since.
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Living on the Other Side of a Child’s Death

About a year ago, I held my twin daughters in the hospital. God allowed my wife and I to spend only a few precious hours with them. They were beautiful, but not in a photogenic sort of way. One of my daughters, Phoebe, was nonviable since conception. Junia, on the other hand, was perfectly healthy, but somehow her heart was pumping blood to Phoebe to her own detriment. A self-sacrificial heart was a part of her DNA. It was a 1 in 100k scenario, but it was where we found ourselves.
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Dancing in the Tension of Christian Unity and Integrity: The Osteens, Bisagno, Cardinal DiNardo, and a 21st Century Reformation

Growing up as a Baptist in Texas, I believed the desire for Christian unity…
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Freedom + Rights – Wisdom=?: Porn, the NRA and a Broken Moral Compass

The issue of how my Christian faith impacted my view of guns never matured past NRA rhetoric and her spokespeople, until I lived on a block where drive-bys were common and my house was not exempt. Seeing kids shot, watching blood get cleaned from the streets, and finding a bullet casing on my kitchen floor (and a bullet hole in my refrigerator) got me thinking on the reality of guns and this American life. At one point and time in my life the NRA’s rhetoric, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” rang both truthful and logical….
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For Those in the Desert: Reflections on the Temptations of Robin Williams and Jesus

Suicide is a topic shrouded in silence, a dark phenomena often known more intimately than we dare admit. The closer suicide or its temptation touches our lives, the less likely we are to put our knowledge into our words. Many of us have wrestled with our own demons. I know I have….
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Is the Heart of Texas Too Small for Children?

As children of Central and South America continue to stream to our boarders, we witness the growing cost required to keep our humanity. Fear is causing communities throughout our nation question their most basic convictions and questions arise. Can our institutions and communities support the weight of these children’s needs?…
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Reading Scripture to Survive: Reflections on the Ministry of Richard Hays

Beginning this weekend, my church will host my New Testament seminary professor Richard Hays, from Duke Divinity School for Sunday worship and our Healing the Brokenness Conference luncheon on Monday (sign up here). It is rare for professors to keep up with their “B” students and even more rare for them to be ready to spend a couple of their days investing in their students’ attempts at ministry. In Richard Hays participating in the life of Pleasant Hill, two ministries are coming together that forever transformed my life and faith….
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Through the Eyes of Christ: Art in Houston’s Shadows

Perhaps the audacity of the artist to see Christ as a fallen gangster would make Michelangelo smile, reassuring him his art has not lost its power. Perhaps it would scandalize him. I do not know. I do believe, however, that the Church will never play its role within the world very well, or the Holy Spirit its role in the life of the believer, until we seek to see this world and our role in it through the eyes of Christ – until we seek to see through the eyes of the dispossessed. …