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Hate is Big Business in America

Hate is Big Business in America

Image by FibonacciBlue on Flickr.

America’s largest Christian charity is funnelling millions of dollars to hate groups.

In a story being picked up by national news sources and originally broken by Sludge, the USA’s largest Christian charity (and 8th largest public charity overall) is giving millions to anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim hate groups.

Over the past three years, the National Christian Foundation has passed along $56 million to groups like ACT for America, Alliance Defending Freedom, American Freedom Law Center, the Family Research Council, and the David Horowitz Freedom Center School for Political Warfare. Each is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Let me lay out a bit about why each of these organization suck:

ACT for America (whose founder Bridgette Gabriel believes, “America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the CIA, at the FBI, at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They’re being radicalized in radical mosques, in our cities and communities within the United States.” Besides promoting Islamophobic lies, they also ran an online database called “Thin Blue Line” that gave law enforcement the info of prominent Muslim leaders that they should keep an eye on, usually for no other reason other than them being prominent Muslims in America.

Alliance Defending Freedom has worked to criminalize homosexuality and supported the rights of foreign nations to sterilize trans folx.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Freedom Law Center has proposed outlawing Islam and deporting Muslims and other “non-Western, non-Christian” people to protect the U.S.’s “national character.”

The David Horowitz Freedom Center is particularly tragic. Horowitz began as a leftist in the 60s who supported civil rights. Since then, he has become a leading force in anti-immigration, Islamophobic, and anti-black movements.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just right-wing charities that are directing funds to these hate groups. Sludge reports that Goldman Sachs, Fidelity Charitable, Schwab, Vanguard and other donor-advised funds have directed funds to these groups as well.

Islamophobia is Big Business

Millions in tax-deductable donations are going to benefit hate groups in our country. And, as I argued in an earlier article, millions more are being invested (with a healthy return on investment) through Christian financial service organizations like Thrivent Financial. As of early 2018, Thrivent had $297 million invested in the military industrial complex.

Christians are donating money to attack Muslims at home and are investing money in attacking Muslims abroad.

In light of recent attacks in New Zealand, and the rise of far right-wing nationalism (with it’s accompanying xenophobia, Islamophobia, and misogyny), we need to come to terms with the source of such hate. A toxic form of Christianity, which flourishes out in open as a subset of evangelical culture, has provided fertile soul for this demonic fruit. And we have no reason to believe the fruit is going to shrivel up anytime soon.

It’s Time to Divest and Disrupt

One huge reason that our society skews right-wing (even our major “left” party is, generally speaking, center-right) is that conservatives have more money, and they spend it to influence society. They invest in war. They donate to hate groups. They fund campaigns.

If our response is to out-spend them, then we’re fooling ourselves. War and hate are profitable. And the wealthy class is heavily invested in the status quo.

As long as white folks have more assets than people of color, anti-racist movements will be at a disadvantage. As long as oppressors are richer, the oppressed will be at a disadvantage. As long as war is big business, Islamophobia and xenophobia will plague us.

Nevertheless, whatever resources people of good conscience have at their disposal needs to be taken out of any and every organization that spreads violence and hate. For suggestions on how to put your money somewhere better, check out the tips on ThriventDivest.com.

But divesting isn’t enough. We need a massive movement of distruptors. As Bayard Rustin wrote: “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers. Our power is in our ability to make things unworkable. The only weapon we have is our bodies. And we need to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.”

As I wrote in my article It’s Time to Disrupt the Church:

Just as Black Lives Matter employed a politics of disruption to raise the national alarm about racist policing. Just as the water protectors at Standing Rock have created a human barrier against pipeline construction. So too, should we disrupt and confound any and every congregation that fuels militarism, economic exploitation, sexism, racism, Islamophobia, or transphobia.

However, we need to go beyond disrupting churches. Just as Jesus disrupted the moneylenders in the Temple (and occupied the temple for a week), we need to “tuck” our bodies into institutions that fund hate. We need to make it so “wheels don’t turn.”

It’s time for divine disobedience and sacred subversion. We need to take an axe to the root. As Christians, we need to get our house in order. Right now our “brothers and sisters” are fomenting hate around the world. Hate is big business in America. We need to help people divest. And disrupt those who refuse.

A Call to Disruption

The National Christian Foundation is headquartered in Atlanta, but has offices all over the country (www.ncfgiving.com/locations). It is time to disrupt their work.

To follow my words with action, I’m asking folks to explore the idea of shutting NCF down.

To start, I need to assess how much on-the-ground capacity there is for something like this. If you’re located in (or near) one of the cities listed below, and have the capacity to help, please contact me.

Please don’t contact me if you’re just interested in showing up or simply think it is a good idea. DO contact me, however, if you feel like you’ve got the mojo and capacity to help organize a local action in your city and are willing to coordinate (via email and Skype) with an organizing team to help with messaging, coordinating, outreach, etc.

Here are the locations of NCF offices:

Alpharetta, Georgia (HQ)
Birmingham, Alabama
Austin, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Houston, Texas
Costa Mesa, California
Charlotte, North Carolina
Arlington Heights, Illinois
Lansing, Michigan
Knoxville, Tennessee
Honolulu, Hawaii
Overland Park, Kansas
Houston, Texas
Indianapolis, Indiana
Lexington, Kentucky
Albuquerque, New Mexico
New York City
Seattle, Washtington
Columbus, Ohio
Orlando, Florida
Littleton, Colorado
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Tampa Bay, Florida
Edina, Minnesota
Ada, Michigan
Brookfield, Wisconsin

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The Pathology of Liberal* Spirituality

The Pathology of Liberal* Spirituality

One pathology of political liberalism is to equate calmness with maturity and anger with immaturity. Many who have been enculturated as middle class liberals (particularly the white ones) may shed tears for injustice, but don’t get too riled up about injustice. And so, when they come into contact with an angry poor person, or angry person of color, it is easy for them to think: “Well, I certainly care about injustice, but I don’t get worked up about it…these folks are behaving like children!”

This tendency gets spiritualized as such folks go to nice liberal churches where the homilist never raises their voice as they calmly read their written reflections. And when they prioritize silent spiritual practices and read (or perhaps misread) authors like Richard Rohr or other writers that encourage a sort of anti-dualism. They conclude that calling anything “evil” is just some sort of immature form of spirituality.

At a certain point, out of a paternal or maternal compassion, they go forth to help the angry oppressed mature spiritually, as they did. They quote MLK and Gandhi and Jesus (or at least the nicer bits) to remind everyone of the better angels in our nature. They lift up nonviolence as a virtue whenever voices cry too loudly for justice.

Deep down inside, they know that if we can come together in civility and vulnerability, we can figure this out. But first these angry folks have to let go in the spirit of reconciliation.

This reminds me of an old tweet from Zellie Imani reminding us that calls for nonviolence from the privileged to the oppressed are fraught:

Context matters. Pacifism and nonviolence ONLY make sense when they are developed among folks who would otherwise see violence as the reasonable course of action. A prescriptive nonviolence that comes from comfortable oppressors is worse than worthless. It usually reinforces the status quo.

A spirituality centered on silence and detachment can be powerful. But, again, these practices only really make sense within the context of solidarity. When we are pathologically disengaged or prone to political apathy, contemplative practice becomes problematic. If we habitually avoid the oppressed and become, therefore, inattentive to those who suffer, our practices will become a spritualized buffer.

Please understand. I’m not rejecting nonviolence and contemplation. I am a mystic, a contemplative, and a pacifist. In my life and work, I advocate a contemplative posture in the quest for spiritual and political liberation.

Nevertheless, many of us learn contemplation and nonviolence in a way that wittingly enshrines a sort of disengaged white middle class consciousness.

Unfortunately, so many advocates of contemplation and nonviolence fail to recognize this problem. Instead, they seem to operate from the assumption that, merely by doing contemplation, people will simply wake from their slumber to the pulsating world of reality and become aware of the nature of oppression.

But this is impossible without real compassionate solidarity with those who suffer. The key words here are “compassionate” which (at root) means to “suffer with” and “solidarity” which basically means “to be bound together.”

Without suffering with the oppressed, and being bound together in the struggle for liberation, contemplative spirituality and nonviolent politics are dead.


*”Liberal” is a contested term. For more of what I have in mind, read my recent post Liberal/Leftist/Progressive/Radical: What do they mean?

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The Program in Prophetic Spirituality

The Program in Prophetic Spirituality

Our first intensive is at Tettegouche State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The Center for Prophetic Imagination exists to nurture prophetic witness. And one of the ways we do this is through our two year Certificate in Prophetic Spirituality.

Do you long for a just world? Do you believe that it is the Spirit that has put that longing within your soul? Now, more than ever, the world needs prophetic voices. We’ve created our Program in Prophetic Spirituality for people like you.

Maybe you’re a young adult that is struggling to find your niche in the world. Or you’ve been working in ministry or activism for a while, but feel on the edge of burnout or simply recognize that you need to make changes in the way you are living out your vocation.

There are two ways to engage in our Program in Prophetic Spirituality:

  1. Apply for our 2 year cohort-based program. Over the course of 2 years, you’ll take five 1-week intensives and two online courses.
  2. Apply to individual intensives and online courses on your own schedule.

Folks who complete all five intensives and the two online courses will be awarded a Certificate in Prophetic Spirituality, even if they don’t taken them in sequence.

By participating in our Certificate in Prophetic Spirituality, you will:

  • Reclaim a Christianity where justice and spirituality are one.
  • Discern a deeper sense of vocation.
  • Experience the Spirit of God in a deeper, transformative way.
  • Understand the interconnection between God, the land, and humanity.
  • Receive validation that you aren’t alone.
  • Find new courage to take the lead in reshaping or challenging unjust systems.
  • Cultivate new practices for integrating spirituality and action.
  • Earn continuing ed credits.
About the Certificate in Prophetic Spirituality.

The emphasis of our Certificate in Prophetic Spirituality is the work of prophetic ministry–that work that exists at the intersection of deep spirituality and radical praxis.

Our program has been designed with two complimentary constituencies in mind: faith leaders who long to go deeper into the practices of prophetic action and activists who want to anchor their work in deep spiritual vitality.

Our program draws upon the wisdom of spiritual directors and activists, scholars and storytellers, wilderness guides and urban artists. 

The five core intensives of our two year certificate draw upon a significant time in the life of Jesus:

  • Jesus in the wilderness (intensive one)
  • Jesus in the countryside as he heals the sick and casts out demons (intensive two)
  • Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (intensive three)
  • Jesus in the Temple (intensive four)
  • Jesus’ death and resurrection (intensive five)

Two online courses supplement these intensives with deeper study in the history of radical Christian spirituality as well as the nature of the oppression with which we struggle.

Together, we will embark on a journey of transformation that will re-shape our way of seeing and engaging the world so that, like the prophets, we might become people of action who are deeply rooted in the presence of God.

For more information, visit CPI’s website.

Scholarships are Available

Due to some generous grants, we are now able to offer needs-based scholarships. Availability is limited, so apply now to increase the possibility of receiving financial aid.

We will prioritize giving scholarships to applicants in our full 2 year program. However, assistance may be available to those who plan on applying to individual intensives. 

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What is Radical Discipleship?

What is Radical Discipleship?

Note: Originally posted at RadicalDiscipleship.net.

What is Radical Discipleship? This used to be a fairly simple question to me. Now? Not so much.

Fifteen years ago, with the confidence of a late 20’s white seminarian, I “planted” a church whose only real mission was to take Jesus seriously. Soon, that new church experiment mutated into a full on intentional community, a sort of hybrid between a catholic worker house and a hippy Mennonite Church. We called ourselves the Mennonite Worker.

At our most active, we were two dozen active Workers spread out between three houses of hospitality with up to a dozen guests at a time. Fueled by stacked boxes of dumpstered foodstuffs, we kept a nightly pace of community meals. Driven by a vision of Jubilee, we recklessly offered hospitality beyond our mental and emotional capacity. Inspired by prophetic legends, we marched and protested and disobeyed. Our weekly worship services were filled with laughter and hope, anxiety and discouragement, and above all, longing for a better world.

During our busiest years, I was helping throw radical conferences, editing a radical webzine, producing a radical podcast, and traveling the country talking about radical Jesus. Sometime in there my wife and I had a son and I became frustrated how it slowed me down.

I was driven. To me, being a radical disciple meant trying my hardest to be like Jesus, or at the very least I’d settle for John the Baptist.

It was John who said:

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:7b-10)

Being a “radical” disciple meant confronting and opposing Empire. It was an inner scream against injustice. It meant uprooting oppression. And being a radical “disciple” meant doing that first bit like Jesus.

Predictably, I was on the fast track to breakdown. And it didn’t come all-at-once. It was a four year process of crisis and exhaustion from which I’m still recovering.

You see, I kinda had it wrong. I thought “radical discipleship” was a performative thing. Something you strive for. Something external to me to which I must conform. It was work, exhausting work, and I assumed that if I pushed hard enough, it would all click.

Somewhere in the early days of burnout, when my soul knew it was starving, I read these words from Simone Weil: “Whoever is uprooted himself uproots others. Whoever is rooted himself doesn’t uproot others.” (from the The Need for Roots)

I knew what I was experiencing was a deep feeling of uprootedness. I didn’t feel firmly planted. I was spiritually malnourished. I was trying to live up to a radical blueprint, one that had been reinforced by hundreds of stories about radical heroes. I was trying to conform to an image outside of myself.

And I was falling short. I wanted to embrace simplicity like Saint Francis. Welcome the unhoused like Dorothy Day. Protest like a Berrigan. Organize like Dr. King. And, in all things, love like Jesus.

But you can’t make yourself into these things. Instead, I found myself increasingly resenting the affluent, hiding in my room from house-guests, becoming cynical about activism, and unable to even really love myself.

I wish I knew as a late 20s seminarian, what I know now: to be a radical disciple is to be rooted like Jesus, rooted IN Jesus.

A radical discipleship that is merely performative, one that is animated only by a desire to do everything right and oppose everything wrong is an uprooted discipleship. Radical discipleship needs deep roots. It must be animated by the Spirit, who give us life.

Please understand. I’m not saying (as so many do) that the struggle for justice is secondary to our personal spirituality. Nor am I saying that attending to our spiritual life, by some divine magic, will automatically transform us into radical practitioners.

No, what I am saying is that our radical discipleship must be transformative, not just performative.

Radical discipleship is about discernment, not following a script.

Radical disciples aren’t simply trying to be LIKE Jesus. Rather we try to do the work along with Jesus.

Radical discipleship flows out of love of God, the land, and people (including ourselves) for these are where we put down roots.

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