By Tommy Airey
The first time I heard her was in the middle of the night. She woke me up. I dragged my angry ass out of bed and bee-lined it for the bathroom. I strained straight up and pounded on the ceiling. Her scratching stopped. For five seconds, all was quiet on Washtenaw Avenue. But she would return. And would keep returning night after blessed night.
About 72 hours after the first episode, Lindsay and I hypothesized that the serial scratcher was a raccoon. Her nocturnal lifestyle gave her away. After midnight, she let it all hang out, hauling in branches and pinecones and rocks. The havoc played out in the vent that became her home that winter. Sometimes it sounded like she was playing a friendly game of marbles. Sometimes we were certain the light fixtures were going to crash through the ceiling. A raccoon roommate is like having an uncle who watches Fox News. He shows up at the worst times and he’s impossible to ignore. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey
Late last month, Ruby Sales lobbed me my first reading assignment: The Awful Grace of God: Religious Terrorism, White Supremacy and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock. Over the phone, she delivered a tutorial on its fresh relevance for late stage racial capitalism. We hung up a week before white men targeted Black and Brown bystanders in El Paso and Dayton.
As it turns out, the real terrorists are white Christians. The Awful Grace of God details the ways and means of white pastors and their KKK-congregants who conspired to kill Dr. King in the 50’s and 60’s. This clandestine movement fused religious passion, reactionary politics and the spirituality of hatred. By 1967, the price on Dr. King’s head was $100,000. The news of this rapidly circulated through federal prisons, where King’s supposed killer James Earl Ray was about to escape. Of course, this strand is still alive and well, but as King himself noted time and time again, the greatest tragedy remains “not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” The grandest conspiracy of all is the collective denial of white supremacy in all its insidious forms. Continue reading
Monica Lewis-Patrick and Debra Taylor leading up the ideology of the beloved community in Detroit
By Tommy Airey, on the Parable of the Good Samaritan
When the lawyer finally got face-time with Jesus, he poured out what was heaviest on his heart, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He groped for a guarantee. He wanted a divine will and testament. He was begging for a bill of rights.
As usual, Jesus pivoted on freedom. He was never much into being The Bible Answer Man. He asked the lawyer how he interpreted the sacred text. The lawyer’s answer, according to Jesus, was spot-on. Eternity’s most valuable asset has nothing to do with where we go when we die. It is a gut-busting love for both our higher power and our lowly neighbors. Right here. Right now. Continue reading
Dennis Airey (1941-2015) South Bend, Indiana (2014)
By Tommy Airey
“Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”–Luke 24:31
The night before Dad vanished, I caught him in his office watching the Oregon State Lady Beavers on his desktop computer. His alma mater’s women’s basketball team was ranked in the top five and he wasn’t going to miss the action while Mom and Lindsay bogarted the TV in the living room.
The next morning, I woke up fifteen minutes earlier than he did. I fetched the paper and brewed the coffee. But I waited for Dad to make the oatmeal. Just like he always did when we visited. We usually started these days together. In silence. I would read Scripture and journal in the dining room while he read the LA Times in the kitchen. Sports page first, just like he taught me. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey, last Sunday’s silent sermon
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step…
When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
In a previous life, I was the athletic director at a large public high school and an associate pastor at an Evangelical church plant at the same time. My single life and my Purpose Driven protein shakes subsidized my 80-hour workweek. It was a life of adventure. One week I was on a short-term mission trip to Nigeria. The next week I was dealing with the fallout of a teacher-and-coach who was sleeping with one of his students. Continue reading
By Tommy Airey (right: posting up with the nephews)
*This is part of a series of pieces from contributors all over North America each answering the question, “How would you define radical discipleship?” We will be posting responses regularly on Mondays during 2019.
In the wilderness journey of deconstructing the white suburban fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity of my adolescence, I am reclaiming a Christian faith of expansive hospitality and prodigal vulnerability. My foot race to the empty tomb has been spurred on by conversation partners who are non-white, non-male, non-hetero and more-than-human. The binary bombs are bursting in air! I am intentionally taking my cues from Black and Indigenous and Immigrant freedom struggles. This marks the trailhead for my journey of radical discipleship to a divinity defined by Steadfast Love. Continue reading
By Oscar Cole-Arnal (Oz)
A review of Descending Like A Dove: Adventures in Decolonizing Evangelical Christianity By Tommy Airey
As of April 4, 2018 I have lived a half century pilgrim’s existence hounded, kicked and prodded by the Spirit through weird and wonderful emissaries thereof. Of course, she had to act this way, precisely because I am of that abominable character best described as a white old fart privileged male—you know that demographic who helped give our world the gifts of Donald Trump and Doug Ford. So I say to the Spirit and her visitations to me—bring em’ on and more of the same. Yes, as a young Lutheran pastor well on the road to pastoral and academic success in my first pastorate near Pittsburgh, my world became upturned by martyr’s blood, not my own, but that of Martin Luther King Jr. With his shed blood pouring from Memphis into my heart, my family and I vowed to disdain our privileges and realign our lives after his model. So we became civil rights and antiwar activists, strong supporters of Cesar Chavez’ boycott—going to jail, facing baton-wielding cops, having anonymous life threats and ending my paid vocational career in Waterloo, Ontario teaching Church History at the Lutheran Seminary there. Since retirement, I remain active in a local group called the Alliance Against Poverty. Continue reading