Listening Space: An authentic conversation on race, tragedy, and healing

As I sat across the table from my friend Caron, each of us nursed a coffee, hers a dark roast, mine a cold brew. And we talked about pain and hope. Pain at recent tragedies affecting the nation – the fatal police shootings of young African-American men that seem to recur with startling regularity, spurring a racial divide that our current politics only seems to widen. But also hope in what Dr. King called “the American dream” – not material prosperity, but the essential promise of equality, freedom, and justice for each and every person in this country.

My friend at the table was Rev. Dr. Caron M. Allen. As we talked quietly in a coffee shop in downtown Colorado Springs a few weeks ago, my heart quickened at the unusual authenticity of this conversation: a thirtysomething white guy and a sixtysomething African-American woman talking honestly, face to face, about race, tragedy, reconciliation, and healing.

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The geography of home: restoring Iraq’s Christians

I recently spoke with Professor Stewart Harris of the Your Weekly Constitutional podcast on the topic of Christian genocide, which you can listen to here.

Among other things, I speak about the long-term goal for Christians, Yezidis, and other minorities in Iraq: restoration to their ancient homelands. The vitality, solidarity, and long-term survival of these groups, as groups, is inseparably connected to their geography, to the places where they historically have lived, worked, and worshiped.

Restoration is also in the long-term interests of the United States and the international community. A minority presence  in Iraq contributes to a healthy regional pluralism. Middle Eastern Christians in particular tend to be supporters of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for minority rights.

Like it or not, geography still matters. Territorial security is necessary to order, and order is necessary to freedom and self-determination. The great ideas that advanced human civilization – democracy, liberty, and the rule of law – are possible only when territorial integrity and stability are assured.

As I write this, the battle to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has begun. So, too, have the calls for Yezidi and Assyrian Christian homelands, semi-autonomous safe havens on Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, self-governing provinces in a greater federated Iraq. As Robert Nicholson writes:

The U.S. has spent more than a decade calling for democracy in the Middle East, but what we really want is stability and liberty for the people who live there. More liberty is better than less liberty, and imperfect liberty is better than instability and chaos. Democracy is a process; liberty is the desired outcome. A stronger emphasis on liberty will prompt a more organic transition to free societies, and the best place to start is with the liberty of peoples who have suffered, collectively, under the boot of rival peoples.

The InterVarsity problem: maintaining fidelity, breaking fellowship

I just finished up a presentation to a group of ministries on “Strengthening Religious Identity,” identifying legal strategies for ministries to maintain their Christian witness while carrying out their missions. It’s a topic particularly salient for faith-based organizations who hold to orthodox Christian views on sexual ethics and sexual identity and who dissent from the ascendant cultural ideology around these issues.

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