Those Deemed Different

NephsBy 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…
Acts 11:2-4

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.”
Acts 11:18

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.
John 13:34-35

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

A Faith of Expansive Hospitality and Prodigal Vulnerability

NephsBy 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

KICKED & PRODDED by the SPIRIT

Descending, Front CoverBy 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

I Am

Aireys, Early 20sBy Tommy Airey

Note: this was homework assigned by Dr. Lily Mendoza to a beloved community of ethno-autobiographical faith resisters in Detroit, Michigan

I am Southern California branded, but DNA stranded in a blue-eyed tribal scandal, maybe Goth or Vandal—or even a Saxon and Celtic quarrel from long long long ago.

I am the wandering whiteness of Cain, against-the-grain Abraham resisting an abiding city, the peregrini pilgrimage, the wonder voyage, the sign of the cross, always in process. Continue reading

We Talk, You Listen

Black Elk

Icon of Black Elk by Rev. Bob Two Bulls

By Tommy Airey, co-editor of RadicalDiscipleship.Net

“Our arms are tired of troubling the waters for you. Do us a favor and trouble your own waters and receive healing.”–Jim Bear Jacobs, Thursday morning at the Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute

Yesterday, on my flight back to Detroit, I had a front row seat for a rather disturbing dialogue. A young man whose family owns a limo company in the suburbs was aghast at Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) who called out the director of Green Book for publicly praising the watch-and-bicycle-company Shinola for their role in “saving Detroit.” Then the young man proclaimed, “In my opinion, gentrification is really helping.” His passionate conversation partner, a white woman about my age, gasped, “Why can’t people just be happy?” Continue reading

Behind the Scenes

baptismal

Detroit, MI

By Tommy Airey, a homily preached at The Abbey Church (Victoria, BC) on Sunday, January 20, 2019

“When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from…” (John 2:9a)

Theologian Kelly Brown-Douglas explains that when the earliest slaves in America listened to the reading of the Bible, they heard the voice of “The Great High God”—the free, sovereign divinity they knew well from their African heritage. This was the creator God who was far greater than humans and all “the lesser gods” in the universe. This is the God defined by Steadfast Love in this morning’s Psalm: in this Higher Power, there is refuge and abundance, feasting and drinking from the river of delight. Continue reading

Strengthening Community, Nurturing Souls, Amplifying Hope

Caring for Souls, ImageBy Tommy Airey, a review of Bruce Rogers-Vaughn’s Caring For Souls in a Neoliberal Age (2016)

It’s the economy stupid. This was the pundit-driven explanation for Bill Clinton’s victory almost three decades ago. It is also the root of our present crises. What we’ve been hearing is true. Times have changed. Not so much in the past two years. More like the past thirty. Yet as depression, addiction, panic attacks, suicide and debt have all skyrocketed, pastoral attempts to get at the roots of the pain and suffering can tend towards family dynamics, relational patterns and trauma.

These factors are real and important. However, in his recent Caring For Souls in a Neoliberal Age, Bruce Rogers-Vaughn implores readers that there are interweaving socio-political powers that shape us in destructive ways too. We must dismantle racism and hetero-patriarchy. But Rogers-Vaughn writes, “Any form of identity politics that ignores class, therefore, will be fated to support the ongoing domination of neoliberal interests” (216). It’s the profit-driven, wage-reducing, deregulating, free trading economy stupid. Continue reading