Why I Speak

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. – James 4:17

Dear Readers,

If you’ve followed me for any length of time on social media, Twitter most especially, than you know the journey I have been on. Maybe you are on the same one. Maybe you have appreciated some of the things I have RT’ed or articles I have shared. Or maybe you think I’ve gone off the rails. Maybe you think I’m speaking about things I have no business speaking about, because I’m a Christian novelist and it’s not my place. Maybe you think I’m being divisive. Maybe you think I’m being annoying.

I’m not sure where you fall on that spectrum. All I can tell you is what I know …

Isaiah 58:9 calls us to remove from our midst yokes of oppression wherever we find them.

Friends, God has been opening my eyes to a yoke of oppression in our midst and it would be sin if I did not do something about it.

This is why I speak. This is why I will continue to speak.

My heart burns within me. My heart breaks, too.

It breaks for so many in the black community, who are and have been living under a yoke of oppression.

It breaks for so many in the white community, who are and will roll their eyes at that statement. Especially Christians.

Oh Church, I can’t even explain to you the burden I feel in light of this reality.

The word God pressed upon my heart for 2017 was LISTEN.

And as I listen, there is a dissonance that disturbs me to my very soul.

So many black brothers and sisters in Christ, crying out until their voices are hoarse, while so many white brothers and sisters go about their day as if nothing at all is amiss. The disconnect is so loud and startling, it puts a chill in my bones.

Too many of us are living in ignorance. I fear too much of that ignorance is apathetic and willful. I fear too much of that ignorance is resentful and defensive. I fear too many ears are plugged, too many hearts are hardened. I fear too many identify the “noise” from the black community and willfully tune it out before they ever listen to the message. And I fear the consequences – both earthly and eternal.

With that said, I present to you a mash-up of voices I’ve been listening to, and this is just a small, small portion, with some quotes and links to specific articles and eye-opening threads on Twitter.

I pray you will listen, too. I pray your heart will be softened, and also pierced. I pray that this will be the beginning of an awakening for you and those around you, with ripples of justice that will spread into eternity.

Kyle J Howard, a Christian counselor and theologian currently attending the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Black Voices: We Are Here, But You Will Not Listen

“One of the greatest lies our country has embraced is the idea that white supremacy is a demon with swastikas as horns. The truth is, white supremacy looks like a pretty southern antebellum woman. It looks like a refined pastor calling a black man a liberal agitator for insisting that his life matters. White supremacy looks like a white washed seminary curriculum, and an American history class taught only from the perspective of those with power. Finally, white supremacy looks like well-meaning white people ignoring or dismissing black voices.”

White Privilege and the Mission of God

I found this article from one of Kyle’s tweets and it absolutely lit a fire under me: “Paul embraced Roman privilege. He embraced it, & used it to serve church, justice, & advance gospel. Same should be done w/White Privilege.”

Kyle defines White Privilege in this article: “White Privilege, for the Christian, is a providential benefit of God that when properly stewarded allows for white Christians to stand uniquely and promote social justice and ethnic reconciliation in a way that others can’t within a prejudicial society.”

“Think of it this way, because I am black; the moment I mention race I am labeled divisive and an agitator. If I speak out against injustice, it is assumed that I have a chip on my shoulder that I need to get over. However, when someone who belongs to the majority culture speaks, one who has the privilege of no preconceived negative assumptions, they are listened to. Yes, they may still be rejected, but they have access to a hearing that I do not due to prejudicial presuppositions.”

This morning, one of Kyle’s tweets pointed me to …

Chanequa Walker-Barnes, theologian, psychologist, and author of Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength

So Let’s Talk About This “Many Sides” Thing: Please follow the link and scroll down to read the entire thread. It is a VERY important concept for white Christians to understand regarding the white Christian’s role (both individually, and collectively) in racial reconciliation.

Here is an aside from me (Katie), but not an analogy original to me: If a woman was being abused by her husband, and she was crying out about this abuse, we would deal directly with the abusive husband. We would not critique the way in which this woman was crying out. We would not tell her how she should feel. We would not dare suggest any rhetoric of “both sides”. Brothers and sisters, it is no different here, and yet SO MANY white Christians are doing this very thing when it comes to the abuse of ongoing, systemic racism in America. It absolutely is an abuse that needs to be reckoned with. If you don’t understand that, please educate yourself by listening to/reading any of the resources I list at the bottom of this post.

Please listen to Propaganda’s Happy 4th of July performance, where I first heard this analogy. It is on fire.

Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy

Facing our Legacy of Lynching from Christianity Today, highlighting Bryan’s work

“More than 4,000 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and the rise of the civil rights movement in the early 1950s. Lynching was a brutal public tactic for maintaining white supremacy, frequently used with the tacit blessing of government authorities. It was a part of my heritage I had never been taught …”

“I was starting to wonder at all the untold history we would rather forget. Of the collective sins we long the most to disregard, America’s tragic history of lynching might top the list. But what struck me on our journey was this: Buried sins cannot be repented of.

Jemar Tisby, president of RAAN, Reformed African American Network

After Charlottesville, Will White Pastors Finally Take Racism Seriously?

“White Christians will inevitably ask, ‘But what do we do?’ This question perpetuates the problem. People of color did not create white supremacy; white people did. To ask a racial minority how to solve a problem they didn’t create and one under which they suffer only adds to their burdens.” (please click and read entire article to see four important principles in battling white supremacy)

“Despite their insistence on justice, black Christians who speak boldly about racism and white supremacy often get muted or silenced. We can only infer that the sensitivities of white listeners matter more than the pain of black brothers and sisters.”

Friends, if this does not break your heart, if this does not show you the urgency of the problem and all that is at stake, perhaps the tweet below will …

Latasha Morrison, a leading voice in the fight against human trafficking and founder of Be The Bridge

“Following the saddening. Reflecting on how many of my friends attended predominantly white churches two years ago… But majority have left because they’ve felt invisible and that comfort was more important for the Pastor.”

If you are hesitant to listen to these voices, may I lovingly but urgently push back with a why? If you are only willing to listen to white leaders in the church, if you are only willing to believe what’s being said by the vast majority of our black brothers and sisters as long as your white pastor gives it the stamp of approval … might this, in and of itself, point to a problem?

Books/Resources for You:

If you have other resources you have read that have helped you, please share them in the comments.

With Love,

Katie

When You Get Something Wrong

A funny thing happens when you write novels. As release day approaches, so too, does the anxiety. I’m not alone. In fact, most of my writer friends are familiar with this particular correlation.

Penning words that people in this broken world will read? It’s powerful stuff. Words hold the ability to shape and challenge and reinforce thought. And if I may borrow from Peter Parker’s uncle, with that power comes responsibility.

It’s a responsibility I feel profoundly.

So here’s where I get vulnerable.

Life After releases next week. I exhaled a giant sigh of relief when it received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Another Thank You Jesus when it showed up as one of RT Magazine’s Top Picks. Some early readers are saying its my best, most complex novel yet. All of which encourages me something fierce. Because I believe in this story. I believe in God’s ability to use it for His glory. I’m excited to get it into the hands of readers.

But recently, I was struck with an acute bout of anxiety.

All surrounding two lines of dialogue that occur in the book.

Two lines of dialogue most people will read right over and not think twice about. And that, right there, is what compels me most to write this post.

Over the past year or so, the Lord has been slowly and methodically removing the scales from my eyes. Scales that have made it easy to overlook the injustices so many people of color face in this country. God’s teaching me more and more each day, but I still have a long way to go. And sometimes, my ignorance smacks me across the face.

A la, these two lines.

They belong to Ina May Huett, an elderly black character living in Chicago. She speaks them as she’s flipping through one of her photo albums with the main character, Autumn Manning.

The first line comes after a photograph of her late husband and his family, standing in front of a clapboard house:

“Those were his brothers and sister. Smack-dab in the middle of the Great Depression. Black folk in America think it’s tough today, and I’m not discounting that. Lord know, there’s still plenty of injustice in this world, but, hoo-boy, it’s nothing like it was for a black family back then.”

I’m not discrediting the viewpoint. It’s one I’ve heard expressed before. Life was harder back then. When a black child could be tortured and killed for whistling at a white woman, and black men were hung from trees, and Jim Crow said black bodies could fight in our wars but they couldn’t have our same rights. It was most certainly harder.

But I cringe at the wording.

Black folk in America think it’s tough today …

That single word minimizes black pain now.

The racial injustice of today is not a figment of black imagination. It is real. It is pervasive. And we, the Church–a body that is called to stand against all forms of injustice–should be the first to address it.

The second line comes after a photograph of Ina May and her husband standing beside Martin Luther King Jr. before they marched in Washington. Ina May tells Autumn about some encouragement she recently offered a white mother who was having a holy terror of a time managing her three small children (two white, one black) in the middle of a grocery store.

“And all I could think was, you should see us now, Dr. King. You should see us now.”

Of the two lines, this one jars me the most.

All of us want to feel comfortable. We don’t like to squirm. I think it’s a big reason why so many of us steer clear of hard, honest conversations about race. We want MLK’s I Have a Dream speech without his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, where he calls out the white moderate. Because indifference, beloved, is the greatest enemy of love. And oh, how the blood of indifference has stained our hands.

White history in America is ugly, y’all. Ugly with a capital U. And when it comes to history, we have two choices. Just two. We can either learn from it. Or we can repeat it.

If Martin Luther King saw us now, I’m not so sure he’d be very pleased.

We might not have lynchings anymore, but we still live in a society that de-values and de-humanizes black and brown bodies.

Jim Crow laws might be a thing of the past, but we still live in a segregated America. We are a product of the past and until very recently, red-lining was a thing. I hear so many people talking about how “those people” just want government handouts, ignorant of the fact that our white ancestors took government hand-outs that our black ancestors were denied, essentially creating the urban ghettos and in effect, the grossly unfair distribution of opportunity we see today.

And this is just the tippity-top of the racial iceberg.

When we choose to look away? When we choose comfort and warm fuzzies over the very real cries of our marginalized brothers and sisters, we are the problem. We become the white moderate MLK called out in that letter. We become Jeremiah 8:11 …

They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
    saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
    when there is no peace.

When I wrote that small snippet, my intention wasn’t to perpetuate white comfort. My intention wasn’t to add to this rose-colored mentality so many of us want to cling to. My intention came from a personal experience, wherein I was that struggling white mama, and a black woman became my Ina May.

But at the end of the day, the intention behind our words does not matter more than the impact our words have.

Hence, this post.

About how sometimes, we don’t recognize our own biases until later, when they are staring up at us from the pages of a novel. One that you happened to write.

One I hope you will read.

Perhaps when you get to that particular scene, it will serve as a reminder. A challenge. To pause and pray for the scales to fall. For eyes to see. This is how I’m combatting the anxiety. Through prayer. That God would bring good out of my mistake.

Essentially, this is my prayer for every book I write. That He would take my paltry offering of words, and draw hearts closer to Him.

May He do the same now.

If you’d like to learn more about the issues facing black Americans today, here are just a few of many, many invaluable resources:

Pass the Mic, the official podcast of RAAN (Reformed African American Network)

Truth’s Table, three black Christian women who love truth and seek it out wherever it leads

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum

13th – a documentary on Netflix

A Warm Reminder Giveaway

*WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN. THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED*

I need a happy place.

Does anybody else need a happy place?

I mean, I have my new cover with which I’m a wee bit obsessed. When the world looks dark and gray, this has become a sort of happy place.

Life After

But even that can’t shoo away all the divisiveness that seems to be lurking around every social media corner these days.

We’re all so busy feeling offended or slighted or defensive or indignant that we’re forgetting about Romans 12:10.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Man, what would our life, our churches, our world look like if we could tattoo that verse on our hearts?

It’s a hard one to live, though, right? (Please tell me I’m not alone.)

There’s this song I love by Hillsong United. It’s called From the Inside Out. In fact, this is the song that inspired the title of my novel, The Art of Losing Yourself.
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Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
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Here’s what I’ve experienced:
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True joy, true peace, true contentment and courage comes when we lose ourselves in Him.
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That’s my ultimate happy place.
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And when I do that–when I lose myself in Him–I’m no longer so darned concerned about my rights or my opinions or my feelings or my fears. It’s about Him and His Kingdom, which is made up of real-life hurting people living real-life complex stories. And when He and His Kingdom become our heart’s cry, Romans 12:10 becomes as natural as breathing.

So in that vein, I’m giving away some gifts.

I hope that for anybody reading, and especially for the five people who win, this will be a warm reminder that our happy place is never more than a prayer away. I hope it will be a warm reminder that we will never regret kindness or grace, and sometimes, the very best way to honor anyone is by listening. While I probably shouldn’t attempt to tattoo anything on anybody’s heart, I can give you something that will allow you to wear it close by.

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To enter to win this necklace and an autographed copy of The Art of Losing Yourself, fill out the form below. I will use random.org to select five winners!
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Please note, you do not have to subscribe to my email list to enter. It is, however, the best way to stay up to date on my latest book news, such as new releases, bargains, giveaways, etc. I detest spam, so you never have to worry about that with me!

Much love, reader friends!