The Future Is Here

EP. 9: An Incarcerated Faith w/ Dominique Gilliard

August 19, 2020 UYWI Season 1 Episode 9
The Future Is Here
EP. 9: An Incarcerated Faith w/ Dominique Gilliard
Chapters
The Future Is Here
EP. 9: An Incarcerated Faith w/ Dominique Gilliard
Aug 19, 2020 Season 1 Episode 9
UYWI

Our Kingdom citizenship doesn’t allow us to be content with injustice, and neither does the future of the Church. In this episode of The Future Is Here podcast, our host and CEO Tommy Nixon sits down with pastor, author, speaker, activist, racial justice educator, Dominique Gilliard to discuss why we must remember incarcerated people the way scripture does. This is an episode you DO NOT want to miss.

Dominique is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice (LMDJ) initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). He is the author of Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores, which won the 2018 Book of the Year Award for InterVarsity Press. Gilliard also serves on the board of directors for the Christian Community Development Association and Evangelicals for Justice. In 2015, he was selected as one of the ECC’s “40 Under 40” leaders to watch, and the Huffington Post named him one of the “Black Christian Leaders Changing the World.”


Support the show (https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/WebLink.aspx?name=E12333&id=12)

Show Notes Transcript

Our Kingdom citizenship doesn’t allow us to be content with injustice, and neither does the future of the Church. In this episode of The Future Is Here podcast, our host and CEO Tommy Nixon sits down with pastor, author, speaker, activist, racial justice educator, Dominique Gilliard to discuss why we must remember incarcerated people the way scripture does. This is an episode you DO NOT want to miss.

Dominique is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice (LMDJ) initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). He is the author of Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores, which won the 2018 Book of the Year Award for InterVarsity Press. Gilliard also serves on the board of directors for the Christian Community Development Association and Evangelicals for Justice. In 2015, he was selected as one of the ECC’s “40 Under 40” leaders to watch, and the Huffington Post named him one of the “Black Christian Leaders Changing the World.”


Support the show (https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/WebLink.aspx?name=E12333&id=12)

Speaker 1:

Are you listening? Hey fan , welcome to the features here, podcast. This is for the leaders, the dreamers provocateurs misfits, the frustrated frontline leaders who are charging in the kingdom. You're tired of a reactive church. It's time to build a church we dream of now the future is here. So don't get left behind. Are you listening? Let's get into welcome to another episode of the future is here podcast. I'm your host, Tommy Nixon. Um , thank you guys. All you listeners out there. Thank you so much for tuning in. We see you. Um, if you can, you know, make sure that that you're sharing the podcast, that , that you're letting other people know about it because this conversation is so important for the future of the church and the future is here and we have an opportunity to really see the church that we've all dreamed of. And so thank you for tuning in today. I'm excited. I'm excited to , because I have a friend of mine on today. Um, that's going to blow your mind. He he's, he's written a book. I'm going to introduce him in a minute. Um, but I want to set up the conversation today. And so , uh, for a long time, I've said , uh , that one of the best spiritual practices is to confront your own hypocrisy. Now, what I mean by that is as believers, we have to be able to look at we, we come to this place. We go, Hey, we're sinners. We need Jesus. I that's a basic understanding of this thing called Christianity and following Christ. But what I'm finding a lot right now in our country is that , uh, many people are having a hard time with that when they're confronted with their own sin. When they're confronted with institutional sin, when they're confronted with the things that are wrong, that are, are clearly against scripture, there's a part of us that can't handle that. We see a huge part of the body of Christ that are going, Nope , that's not true. Um, they're , they're discounting other people's pain. Other parts of the body of Christ. They're not your pain is not real. Um, they, there , we're seeing people not suffer with each other and not have any sort of compassion. And so as we do that, we have two friends. If we're going to be the church of the future, we have to be able to look at and be critical of where have we gone wrong. Um , and what are we going to do about it? How can we actually continue to grow in our understanding of, of God's scripture of the , his kingdom and what the church, the vehicle that Christ has given us? How can that be better? Now, the reason why I'm always bringing this up is the young people. This next generation is already letting us know you have a million young people leaving the church every year, and there are not compelled by the life that we're giving them. And yet I've been accused of not caring or loving the church. Friends. Hear me say this? I love the church so much. Not only am I a pastor and have I planted a church, but I love the church so much that I'm willing to be critical of her to make her better, to see that, that the gospel in all its beauty is continued to give into the next generation, that they may also take it and continue the work of God and his kingdom. And so I'm excited , um, for our guest today because he has done an amazing job at taking a really complex issue and the way that that , um, I'm framing this and he not only has he been, not only does he love the church, but, but he's can be critical of it. It's part in history and what that's done to create the type of society that we're dealing with today. Um, but he also has landed on some hope with it. He, it's not just like critical, but has landed on some hope and have given us a theological framework. And so I'm excited to have Dominic Gilliard on the call today. My man, Dominique, thank you so much for being here now, whether you are the director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the evangelical covenant church, and you've also written an amazing book called rethinking incarceration, brother, thank you so much for being on the call.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thanks for having me and thanks for really , uh , framing our conversation in that way. Cause you know, add to love the church and I am heartbroken by all the young people who are walking away from it. And we got to think critically strategically and be led by the spirit and discerning how we , uh, re articulate our faith and embody our faith in a way that is attractional and invitational for young folk who are desperate for change. But , uh, aren't seeing it , uh, in the true source of change, which is the body of Christ.

Speaker 1:

And see , I think, man, you're one of the Lee , I'm just going to say it and this not because I'm trying to butter you up, man. You know, I'm not blowing smoke, but I really think that your voice, you and a number of others are some of the leading voices for this, for this, this church renewal movement that I see the Holy spirit doing. And , um, and although my theology is not that God caused the pandemic, but I believe he's using it. Um, the uprisings that we're seeing right now, I , I believe that God's, that God's using that. Um, and, and redeeming , um, some of the places that we've gone wrong, you know, in the church. And so really quick though, I do want to just mention , uh, how I know Dominique , uh , say he's already smiling. Cause I know Dominique is a number of years ago. I think it was like three or four years ago. We were actually on a trip together in Israel with the , um, global immersion project, which we had John Hopkins on the show a couple episodes ago, man talking about peacemaking. But so me and Dom are on this trip now we don't know each other. Um, I, you know, I say hello. Um, and we are cool. And then we find out where we're actually , uh , roommates. And so we walk into this room , um, now we don't know each other, we walk into this room and they got literally like one bed

Speaker 2:

And we're like, Oh man .

Speaker 1:

So John Hopkins put me in this man that we don't know each other and he put us in the same bed man. And so we were back to back, right. There was no don't even try to front, like I was spooning nobody. Tommy was trying to pin them off. Yeah, man. So we had a wonderful time there and that's how , uh, this friendship started. And, and since then Dom, you've, you've done an amazing job in the kingdom

Speaker 2:

And just doing great work. So yeah ,

Speaker 1:

Let's get into it brother. Like you've written this book,

Speaker 2:

Rethink incarceration, give us a little bit of a framework of, of

Speaker 1:

What , what that book was about. Cause I want people to read it and get into it, but it tells us a little bit about that. And , and how you got to that

Speaker 2:

To write that book. And what do you see for the future of the church? Yeah, well, when we talk about the book, the book was really inspired by , uh, a number of things and I'll get into those in a minute, but one of the foundational premises for the book was really reflecting and responding to dr. King's words. Um, when he said that the church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state, it must be the guide and the critic of the state and never its tool. If the church does not recapture his prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. And when we talk about young folk leaving the church, they leave in because that's what they see the church as an irrelevant social club without moral spiritual authority. And, you know, growing up in Metro Atlanta, I'm in the shadows of dr. King with a father who was , uh, who worked for the Southern Christian leadership conference, which is the organization dr. King founded , uh, for a decade. You know, dr. King was very informative for my understanding of what it means to faithfully bear witness to our kingdom, citizenship in the midst of worldly empire that has other priorities. And so , uh, that, that vision and kind of King's prophetic word , um, really starting to manifest itself in our lifetimes was really a part of what compelled me to write the book. And in large part, I wrote the book , uh, with two target audiences in mind. Um, one, I was thinking about , um, our white evangelical brothers and sisters who , um, have been complicit in regard to , um, supporting punitive legislation that really flows from redder ground law and order. And I think not fully understanding the ways in which , uh, some of the legislation that has been supported, things like three strikes, you're out zero tolerance , um, supported the death penalty, not fully understanding how those things actually are, not in alignment with scripture and kind of the restorative nature of guys justice. Um, but I also wrote it in light of young folk who cared deeply about justice, but were disenfranchised by the church's silence. And I wanted to help them to see that there's always been a remnant. Um, even in the darkest moments of the church's life and witness, there's always been a remnant, a group of people who , um, who always understood that the gospel is about word and deed , um, evangelism and justice , uh , proclamation and embodiment. And , um, there, there are people even in the midst of so much of the silence of the church who are actively involved in going to these , uh, to the places and spaces that, you know, there there's not enough for witnesses in. And so I wanted to kind of frame issue that , um, was really profoundly felt within , uh , communities like the one I grew up in , um , major cities across the country. Um, and to say, you know, what, the gospel has something to say to this , um, and responding to how the brokenness of our criminal justice system isn't about being a progressive. It isn't about a social agenda. It's about living into scriptures call. Um, and I wanted to , uh, to write a book that , um, had the real raw historic , uh, social analysis that helped us to really understand the problem and not just the current problem, but the roots of the problem. Um, but then I wanted to give a theological landscape for how scripture commissions as to be concerned about this, to be engaged with our brothers and sisters who are behind bars and to point towards solutions. Um, and so that, that, that was really kind of my hope. And because of that, like, I can't tell you how many young folk who have actually reached out to me by me on social media somewhere and say, Hey, you know, I'm not a Christian, but if this is what the gospel is about, like I want to learn more or saying, you know, I went to church with my mom and dad or my grandparents once I got old enough to choose, I stopped going. But if this is , is what the church is up to, like, I need to, I need to learn more about this. And so that was the hope. And I'm so thankful that the spirit really helped inspire that hope to manifest itself. Um, but yeah, it's , these are critically important conversations , um, that the church has to be a part of. Um, if we are going to , uh , not fall into the trap that dr. King warned us about prophetically in the sixties ,

Speaker 1:

Man, that's so good, man. I , so give us a little bit of, because I know, you know, you're all about the theology and that's what I love about not only that, but, but, but connecting that to the, to the history of the church and our, of our country. But can you give us a little bit of a theological framework? Um , because here's what trips me up. You have a Matthew 25, you have, you have Luke four that Jesus starts his ministry out. And he's like, here , here's what I've come to do, set the captives free. But apparently that's not enough for a lot of Christians to be like, Oh, maybe, maybe, maybe Jesus was real and honest. And scripture was being just blatant about what our response to the prisoner, right. To , to the , to the immigrant, to the Sojourner, to , uh, you know, to the sick, to the like, like that, that apparently it hasn't been enough. Can you, can you give us a little bit of a theological framework? Um, and, and maybe, you know, you could throw in some of that history of, of how some of the theology has evolved to get us to this place where it, and I love how you said, it's not just about being, it's not about being progressive or about like, or even about like, just jumping on the bandwagon. This is rooted in our historical belief and theology and Christ. Can you , can you give us a little bit of framework?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I want to say, you know, part of the challenge we've looked for is, you know, a lot of this is, you know, our hermeneutics and, you know, so a lot of people, you know, it's about Jesus coming, deliberate, the spiritually captive and not the physically captive. And so I think, you know, there's a number of passages that had kind of get explained the way in those kinds of moralistic terms that don't have real grounding for kind of, what does it mean for us to take seriously when scripture says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to God self. So it says the world, but let's be honest, historically too many churches and Christians have interpreted that as a guy who was in Christ, reconciling broken people to gods , but the world includes not only broken people like you and me, but it also includes broken systems and structures like our criminal justice system. And so if God was in Christ, I'm reconciling the world. And if we are the hands and feet of Christ today , uh , kind of doing greater things than what Jesus could do in his earthly lifetime. Um, then the commission before us is not just about saving souls. It's also about , uh , how do we first understand that, you know, we can't have this kind of a Gnostic understanding of the body and the soul , uh, we're called to care for the entire we're called to and care for entire communities. And we're also called to reconcile and to , um, realign broken systems and structures to the original intention that God had for them. And so , um, I think once we start kind of from that premise, that's really helpful for us, but , um, let me give us just a kind of brief biblical overview. Um, when we talk about this , um, you know, for me, it all starts in Romans five eight, where it says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us while we were enemies of God, not once we got nice and neat and polished and put together , uh , but while we were actually violators in the need of God's grace, that's when Christ injuries enters in. And I believe that that grace that was first extended to us was meant to hallmark our lives so that it informs our disposition towards brothers and sisters today who Biolase things and stand in the need of grace. And so , um, the fact that we're only a part of the family of God because of the grace of God, is the starting point for me, I'm in this conversation. The next thing is Romans eight 38, where it tells us that nothing we can do can separate us from the love of God. Um , nothing. So prior to this pandemic, every week we gathered together, Sunday, we preach sermon, sing songs, prayer prayers, thanking God that nothing that we can do can separate us from the love of God . But that, that proximity patient gets tested when we actually interact with our criminal justice system, particularly , um, when we get the chance to , uh, interact with, or learn about brothers and sisters who have committed violent offenses, I mean, bow grow tests have been sometimes, do we really believe that nothing that they'd have done can separate us, separate them from the love of God, or is that just conditional? Um, and you know, so for me, one of the things I get the privilege of doing is I get the privilege of teaching inside of the maximum security prison. Um, and , um , I'm a part of a program in North park, theological seminary, where they're , we're the only institution in the state of Illinois that provides master's level education for incarcerated people. Awesome . Um, and you know, I interface with brothers every day cause was a man prison brothers every day who have committed grotesque bow , um, offenses, but I can bear witness to the restorative pass , uh, power of the gospel. These are men who have done some really vile things and the course of their lifetime, but many of which who've come and , uh, have actually given their life to Christ and actually have turned themselves around. And they are now in a program where they are actually being trained to beat the S uh, pastors. And they're serving as pastors with a focus on conflict, deescalation and conflict written spaces. Um, and so when we talk about like the future of the church, part of the future of the church is to actually reimagine the redemptive power of the gospel. And for people who have fallen down, people who have made mistakes to say that God doesn't write them off. And so therefore the church can't write them off either. Um , and a big part of what we get a chance to do in this program is to remind people that in spite of their crimes or their sins or whatever, they've done wrong, that God still has a missional purpose for their life. And God still has a desire to work in and through them for the kingdom. And so that that's, that's the next big , the foundational block for me. I'll give you two more. Um, so we all know Matthew 25, which says that if you're a follower of Jesus, you're supposed to be present behind prison cells and jail cells. It doesn't say with no conditions, it just says, if you're a follower of Jesus, you're supposed to be there. And when you're there, you're not just present with the least of these, but you're there with Jesus himself , um, which is critically important, which lets us know that when we go to prison, we don't go to prison to bring Jesus because Jesus is already there. And he says , I already at work, we're just coming to join in what Jesus is up to. Uh , the passage that parallels that is Hebrews 13, three, that tells us that we're supposed to, can me continue to remember those who were in prison as if we were in prison with them suffering alongside of them. Could you imagine the witness of the church in the year , if we remembered it incarcerated people like that live in a nation that has more people incarcerated here than any country in the history of the world, the famous stat , you know , that most people know is that we represent 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's incarcerated population. Could you imagine the weakness of the church? If we remember incarcerated people, the way scripture does it tells us too . And let me land it with acts 16, because this one is the one that's most pertinent for the moment that we find ourselves in today. So in acts 16, verses 16 through 40 is really this story that describes what will be akin to police brutality. Pala Silas , um, are brought before a crowd , um , by men who are upset that they have basically broken up their racketeering and exploitation that this demon possessed woman. And so the text says that by doing so, they threw the city into a chaos, which meant that it wasn't just these two men who were profiteering from this, but there was a whole economy that was connected to this exploitation of this demon possessed woman. So Paul and Silas liberate them and they choose to take them to the , um , before the magistrates, which the text tells us is in the city square. And that's important because it's hinting at the fact that the city is in collusion with this exploitation. And you have magistrates who are more committed to profiteering than they are to justice. Um, Paul and Silas are strip naked, beaten with rides, not even given a trial and then thrown into a jail Bosley . Um, and so when we, when we look at that, we see that this criminal justice system is also really riddled with , uh , ethnic bias, because it tells you that they were accused of being Jews. And as soon as they were accused of being Jews, like their , their fate was sealed. And so, you know, this mirrors, our present reality. When we're talking about police brutality, or we're talking about a broken criminal justice system, or we're talking about a system that's riddled with racial bias. When we're talking about a system that Bryan Stevenson always says works better for you. If you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent, like this is scripture telling us that these are real realities, that we're going to be confronting as the body of Christ. And it shows how a disciple of Jesus is actually supposed to interact with that system because Paul and Silas endure the brutalization, they, they endure the boss incarceration. And then the next morning when the magistrates want to come and let them out, they come and try to let them out early in the morning at the crack of Dawn when there's no witnesses around. And that's when Paul pulls out his Roman citizenship and he says, no, you try, you beat me publicly. You, you know, you embarrassed me publicly. You're going to have to take account for what you did publicly. And that's what, you know, that's a really critical conversation for us as we explored notions of privilege and racism and these different things, and folk are always like, what do I do? What do I do? Like the system is broken. I acknowledge it . But like, what do I do? Well, there are ways in which you can strategically leverage your privilege for justice and the further and said the kingdom. And this is a primary model of what that looks like. And I know we're here talking about reading, rethinking incarceration, but I'll give you a little, a little exclusive news, just sign my next book deal. And my next book, bill is going to be exploring this subject matter. What do we do? Um , and how do we faithfully leverage and steward our privilege for the further, instead of the kingdom and the good of our neighbor, it's called the verse of witness and that will be out next fall. So , um,

Speaker 1:

The jobs here, you know what I mean, if you like what you're hearing, keep listening, but also make sure to check out our newest leadership resource, the leadership journey by hitting up our website , uh , UI wwi.org , uh, man, that's a dumb, I love all that.

Speaker 2:

And for those of you who are listening, I hope you're catching up on some of this stuff.

Speaker 1:

One, I , I just want to point out , uh, we, I want to make sure that we connect these dots.

Speaker 2:

One, you have all these junk people leaving. Is it

Speaker 1:

Not the strategy of God to then be like, no look I'm part of, of, of continuing to reach these young people with the gospel and to renew the church in it as well is to do what I've asked you to do it. Actually, if we actually get honest , serious about scripture, which, which a lot of times, you know, that, you know, people throw the social gospel or they're like, why are you trying to, you know, make it all progress ? Whatever, look Dom is being extremely serious about what the word actually says. And so when you actually take the scripture and live that out, that's part of God's strategy to continue to renew his church, that for these young people to go that that's it right there. That's compelling. Um , and Ken , when you said Don , when you said, can you imagine a church that was, that sat with prisoners? Like I felt the Holy spirit, like that gives me that movement. Cause I go, yeah, couldn't you imagine a church like that? I can, I've seen it. I've experienced it. You're experiencing it when you sit in a place of suffering with people. And that's what I feel like the church is missing. And yet , um, our community of people are these leaders that are out there. Those of you who are listening, you're on the front line of that , that that's, what's so beautiful. And so , um, I love that. I love God's strategy in this .

Speaker 2:

I mean, Tommy, let me, let me just jump in real quick. I mean, the reality is that five of the books of the Bible were written in prison. This is not something that's exchanged from our faith , uh , collections , Philip , uh , by laymen , Ephesians, Philippians revelations. But even more than that, if you took incarcerated people out of the Bible, like the Bible doesn't exist, like there is no gospel without incarcerated people. And I don't metaphorically mean that. I mean, you got Jesus, the hopper and perspective , our faith who is possibly incarcerated and possibly put to death by the state. You got John the Baptist who was called to pave the way for Jesus who suffered the same fate . You got Paul who wrote the majority of the new Testament. You got Peter who said, who Jesus said would be the rock of his church. You got Sampson. Hannah and I are the seer . Joseph Malecon, Steven, Jeremiah Shadrach, Meshach, Bendigo Silas, jr. Andrew. Nikas all incarcerated people. Now there's two ways to think about that. One is that if early followers of Christ understood their faith as something that compelled them to such a prophetic public witness, that they became a threat to the state, that the gospel was an interruption to the oppressive status quo. So they incarcerated them to try to suspend their witness. That's one way to look at it. And if that's what early Christians understood following Jesus to mean, why do we not understand following Jesus to mean that for us today? Come on the other way to look at it is if God chose so intentionally and to work in and through incarcerated people, then why do we believe the gaseous is to have that same desire today? Either way you look at it, there are profound discipleship implications for us as the body of Christ today, as we try to take this lived reality of scripture, seriously, and to ask questions about how it informs our understanding of discipleship and following Jesus today,

Speaker 1:

I love and that's guys, that's why I have such a, a heart and belief that , um, you know, that people from the margins, right? All the, all of us coming from the hood, you know, all the people that we work with, all, you know, we have a ton of leaders that are working with incarcerated youth , um, all the gang members we know, and , and all that, that these are the people that God wants to use to renew his church. Like, I, I deeply believe that. And so, and if the wider church doesn't get that, that's what I, that's what burdens me. So, okay . So I started off saying, Hey, we should, you know, if we love the church, you gotta be critical. And part of what you're talking about, we're saying it's, it's right here. The scripture says that. So one of the things I want to ask you and get your thoughts on is we talk about theology, but obviously there's a large part of the body. That's not getting this. And they're just like, well, I don't even understand what you're talking about. They've probably never even heard you , anybody frame it the way you just did very eloquently and quickly. You're just like, it's , it's right there. Um, let's talk a little bit about, let's get into a little bit of the critique here. Uh, talk a little bit about , um, what I see as like syncretism, it's really like this, this idea of taking these other beliefs and , and marrying it together with, with some type of Christian idea or theology or using the Bible in that way. Like where did , where did the church go wrong in this? Can, can you, can we share a bit ? Cause I think it's important because , um, and I , and I'm not only talking to, to the white church as well, but that has seeped through the institution in certain spaces. Now we have to deal with the white power structure. That's deeply embedded in the church , um, that , um, that's hard for a lot of our brothers and sisters to see, and I'm praying for that. Um, but can you, can you share a little bit about that as well? Cause you wrote about it. So

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I think there's , there's a couple, couple of pieces. Um , I think one of the things when you're talking about syncretism right now, I think for a lot of Christians , um, it's hard to parse out the difference between how we define what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus and what it means to be a patriotic citizen. And there are profound differences in those two realities. And, you know, I think all too often, our gospel doesn't make us confront those differences. Um, and we never really have to ask ourselves like as Christians, can we truly pledge our allegiance to anything outside the kingdom? Um, that S not as an anti patriotic statement, but it's to say that we have to realize where our true citizenship is, and it's not in this world. And it is a kingdom, citizenship, and understanding kind of our witness in that way, really liberates us to live in , uh , in a way out where we bear subversive witness in a way that tend to dr. King again, kind of alluded to, I love it in his letter from Birmingham jail. He says, you know, never forget everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. Um, and he goes on to say, you know, this helps Tim really developed at the allergy, where you can say is that one has not only illegal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. And so, you know, when the church kind of, the majority church really has this blind allegiance to a misinterpretation of Romans 13, which says that, you know, regardless of what a leader does, we're supposed to submit to it. Um, because that leader is divinely placed well, that doesn't even align with scripture itself because when you actually look at the witness of scripture, the reality is is that if the people of God lived in that way, Moses would've been put to death at his birth, Jesus would have been killed at his birth Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have actually participated in idolatry. That was legally commissioned by [inaudible] . Um , and so there are all of these ways in which we see that the spirit of God literally leads the people of God to resist , um, unjust laws. And that's a [inaudible] . Yes . And we see that , um, again, going back to the story of Moses, when the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh's direct to main , it says the God was pleased and gave them children or their home when they were banned , because he was up pleased by their faithful with this. And so, you know, I think we theologically , um , start to hone in on one verse and one passage, but we build a whole theology around it that allows us to be complicit in the face of evil and oppression. And the gospel is actually telling the people like we are supposed to be assigned posts for guys love and justice in the midst of despair that surrounds us. And we are supposed to be people who are willing to be courageous enough, the bear of faithful witness, to the point that we become a threat to the status quo, to the point that we might suffer the same fate that we talked about with all of those people in the early church, where we do get incarcerated for our prophetic witness, to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to be clear, I'm talking about people who are prophetically disrupting injustice in the name of Jesus by biblical principles, in an active militant, civil, nonviolent disobedience. That's what I'm talking about. Um, and that's kind of what we need, but our theologies oftentimes keep us from even having that kind of theological imagination to participate in that kind of kingdom revolution. Um, the other way, I'd say that we've gone wrong. I talked about law and order a little bit earlier, but it's directly connected to Romans 13, but I think we have to take seriously the ways in which when we look at , um , criminal justice reform and the bite actually address , um, the real systemic problems that exist , um, the church and particularly the evangelical church, and most specifically the white evangelical church as a voting block has been the primary supporter of these punitive policies that actually are antithetical to the restorative nature of God's justice. And so when we talk about where we've gotten it wrong, theologically, as we're seeing language around modeling order resurface, right now, I miss the global uprisings as we're leading into , um, you know, election year in election year. Um, we have to be really careful that we don't make the same mistakes of our ancestors , uh , that we don't , um, be honest that we're not honest about the way in which , uh , lawn hoarder really functions as a kind of dog whistle politics that really , uh, has racially encoded meaning. Um, that really, again, is not in alignment with the kingdom. Now let's be clear. We all want our community safe. We all want our children to be able to grow up and thrive. We all want those things, but there is a better way then , uh , using kind of old racist tropes , um, and the ways in which , uh , that language really kind of is a silent alarm that rings the bell , uh, that says that, you know, we are going to say that safety comes when we actually , uh , use dehumanizing language towards certain communities and actually that criminalizes them, that legitimated their over representation within the criminal justice system. Um, and , and let me be clear, both sides of the house, do it. This isn't a democratic or Republican thing, both sides of the aisle, do it , uh, Democrats to call people in this context, super predators, and said that we need to do everything we can to lock them up, throw away the key and keep them safe from our kids. And on this side, we hear people talking about, you know, animals, criminals, and rapists coming from the Southern border. So we , we have to be honest about the fact that it's Christians. When we hear that kind of dehumanizing language, we have a responsibility to hold our politicians accountable , um, to say that that's not godly, that is nothing kingdom about that. And as we try to address social problems, we have to do it in a humanizing way, in a way that actually leads to people, having a chance to have , uh , an opportunity to take responsibility for what they've done , um , to be accountable to what they've done, but to be accountable in a way to actually , uh, produce as authentic opportunities for lasting transformation, true reconciliation and healthy reintegration into community. If your , if your plan for accountability, doesn't have a tangible plan for healthy reintegration is not gospel. Um, so

Speaker 1:

Man, that's so good, man. All right . So one of the things you said earlier too, and I just want to continue to put this out to our listeners and our community of leaders. We have, we really have to look at systems, I mean, are systemic issues. And so it's, and one of the things that evangelicalism does is it , it always brings it back down to the individual. Like, Hey, if you're just, if you just take care of your sin and Jesus sit on the cross, but if it's just you, you know, and, and , and so it's this hyperindividualism that that keeps , uh , power structures in place, right? Cause then we never, we never addressed it . We never look at it. So a big thing for me is always looking at the systemic power structures that we through the gospel through scripture have to look at and, and look at it through the lens of scripture and go, that's not right. What is our witness to that? What are we going to do? What does God calling us into that? Not only does that bring you individually deeper with God, but it collectively for the church and the kingdom of God, it's a witness like you said, and, and friends, I want to continue to make that connection. That's why it's so important to this conversation to reach those young people, because they're watching and they've already shown, they've already told us, like, I'm not with it. I don't see you guys. You're irrelevant to what's happening in the world. If your pastor is not talking about the uprisings, if you're not addressing the systemic issues in the United States , uh, the , this is the environment you're young people are , are living in and they're watching you and, and they're not with it. So it all fits together. But so systemically, when we think about systems, you are, I'll bring it up again. The director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the evangelical covenant church. And so you're within a system, which to be honest, I actually really applaud. I think that's wonderful and beautiful because friends, when I was younger, I was the burned-out guy. I was like, nah , forget it, burn it down. Let's go. You know, we got the answers, I get a little bit older. I go, okay, there's some wisdom here. We don't want to get of everything. There's some good things to hold onto . There's traditions,

Speaker 2:

There's practices that were good. There are also things that we need to get rid of and be critical

Speaker 1:

As you're, as you're the director of racial righteousness. Okay .

Speaker 2:

Um , reconciliation for the denomination, like tell me a little bit, man. I've just about doubled . What does that work look like? Um,

Speaker 1:

Some of the barriers you're hitting and what are you doing about it? Because a lot of our leaders would say, Tommy, I'm with you. I hear Dom read his book is dope . I'm all about it. And I'm excited. And I go to my lead pastor , uh , go to my denomination. I go to my, you know, my executive director for the nonprofit and I'm skin shot down. Like, can you share a little bit about your experience in that? You know what I mean? And, and what, what can some of us do about

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there's real. Um , every everything that they're saying, those are real stumbling blocks and challenges to the work before us. Um, so , uh, what am I doing? So really my job is , uh, I am a pastor to pastors helping them make connections between race space and discipleship. Um, I do everything from write curricula for our denomination to empower them, to understand the biblical basis for these conversations , um, to create what we call immersive discipleship experiences, where we take people out of their everyday comfort zones and take them to , uh, basically sacred spaces for the struggle for racial justice and , um, uh , reconciliation in our, in our nation. Um, we go to the border, we go down to spaces throughout the civil rights movement , uh, to, you know, bloody Sunday where , uh, our beloved Saint John Lewis, which is lost his life was, and I had a skull cracked open. We go to those places and we ask questions around the implications of pursuing racial righteousness of actually taking seriously gasp , uh , scriptures call to actually , uh, be collaborators with Christ to actually be ambassadors of reconciliation , uh , to be people who are uncontent with the racial animus and division that surrounds us , uh, people who want to be confessional about the church's role in legacy , um, in, in not only white supremacy, but keeping , um, keeping, keeping these racial divisions at play. Um, I think when, when we don't have real conversations around the fact that not only did the church play a role in, you know, things like slavery, but slavery will be impossible to exist without the theological of the church. Um , Jim Crow would have been impossible to exist without the theological legitimacy of the church. Uh , the doctrine of discovery would never have happened if it weren't for the church theologically , um, legitimising um, this kind of racism is systemic oppression and, you know, for some people are like, Oh yes, I agree. But those are all like ancient, you know, examples. Uh, but as if we can't point to, you know, how the church is , you know, unwilling to really wrestle with scriptures commission to welcome the stranger, the foreigner amongst us in these theological articulations that continue to sustain kinda this racial division that God never intended to be. Um, and so for me, you know, that's a lot of my work , uh, to help people to understand that, like we're not talking about political issues, we're talking about the illogical issues that have political implications, but these are first and foremost theological issues. Um, and so I , I try to frame for the body , uh, where we see these things kind of addressed within scripture. Um, so you were just asking a question about , um, systems and structures, and I'll get back a little bit to your question about what I do in regards to that, but I just want to give you an example. So when we talk about systems, you know, one of the critiques of evangelicalism is that is anti structuralists. And so that goes back to the work of Michael Emerson and , uh, the work in divided by faith, but they have a couple of different critiques, but one that's one of the reasons why he says that evangelical was by and large, can't understand and wrap their head around , uh , systemic sand, corporate sin , uh, institutional injustice, but it's like blatant in scripture. Um, and so , uh, for example, I'll go right back to exit his exit, his wine . I want to give you , uh , the text says clearly I'm in verse one chapter, one that talks about kind of the oppression that's mounting and the Egyptian empire whose entire flourishing is predicated upon the dehumanization subjugation and explain men of their neighbors, their Hebrew neighbors. Um, and the text says Barrow , the leader who's individual is saying, and this is important for folk . When people in positions of power , uh , when their individual sin is unbridled and not checked inhaled and contain it spills over into the systems and structures that they're tasked with governing. And so in this text, it says, come, we must deal shrewdly with them, or they will become even more numerous. If war breaks out will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country. So you see, right in this one passage, it talks about how Pharaoh's own sin of prejudice have no centrism , um, starts to swell because fear and, you know, a lot of what we're talking about when we're talking about racism is the toxic combination of sin and fear and how sin and fear lead us astray and, and lead us to oppose the will of God. And we see that all the oppression that comes afterwards is a result of Sparrow, sin, and fear. And it gets so bad to the point that he passes a law that says every Hebrew boy must be put to death. Like, that's the kind of, so that's how individual sin grows and Morrison metastasizes into systemic structural stand . Because at that point, what was just with Pharaoh ultimately bleeds out to the point that all of Egypt must be complicit with this sin. And so this is why it's important for us to address systems and structures, because it literally makes us complicit with things that are antithetical to the gospel. And so, but within the work that I do with the challenges you talk about, you know, I try to keep it really focused on like, how do we turn back to the word of God as a guide for us in a lamp unto our feet, as we try to navigate the complexities of the realities that we're confronting today. And the reality is a lot of people have been taught to read the Bible as if it's a collection of ancient stories that have no bearing on our life today. But when you actually sit before the text and actually spend time with God, you actually see like, you know, all this stuff they talk about is happening right now. And it's actually a strategy, a blueprint for us about how do we navigate the brokenness that confronts us in a way that bears witness to something that's deeper and truer than us. How do we allow our lives to be a signpost to the rest of the world? Because scripture is very clear. It says the world will come to know that we are Jesus's disciples by our love for one another. Now, everybody, you know, another challenge that your friends are, you know, people that you've been talking to, they probably pushed back with, from their leaders is like, we need to be worried about evangelism. Well, that passage just says evangelism is going to be made, manifest through how we choose to sacrificially love our brother and sister. And if we take scripture seriously, it's constantly telling us that the truest manifestations of love is when we're able to love people, that the world tells us that we're not supposed to love people that we're not supposed to be around people that we're not supposed to desire or see our sales as connected to. And so that's the immigrant, that's the incarcerated, that's the game member on the side of the , you know, on the corner, that's the homeless person on the corner. That's the, that's the returning. That's the , um, that's the bettering who's returned from war with P uh , post traumatic stress syndrome. That's the homeless child, like all of these places. When we think about the people that we're not supposed to be with, the gospel says that that's actually where the spirit is leading us. And when we choose to love those people in a way that doesn't make sense to the world, that's when actually people who are looking on and observing that witness say, there's something different about this cat. I actually want to know what compels them to do this. And that's when we have to be prepared. Now let me be clear. Sometimes we can live that way and we're not prepared, but that's when we need to be prepared to be able to share the good news of Christ in word, because this word ND . So I'm not just saying we need to go out and be a bunch of do gooders. And then we act like we do good, just cause we good people know , we go out and we do this. And when people see and observe and they become curious, then that's when we have the golden opportunity to articulate our faith and invite our brothers and sisters to join us in the kingdom work ,

Speaker 1:

Man. I love it. And that's what I'm saying. I mean, that's the strategy. I think this is God's strategy and his genius. Um, we just got to join in with it, right. And , and a lot of you that are listening are, and so we just want you to keep going, man. I, a couple of things I took from, from what you said, man, and, and, and just knowing you too , and watching you , um, as you've just continued to do your work in the kingdom of God, one is I love, and you said it, if you're going to do this kind of stuff, friends, you got to do the work. You can tell that Dominique has done the work you spent the time in scripture. He's read the books. He's, he's thought deeply about it. He's gone. He's been mentored. He mentors other, like he goes to the, like , he does the work. You got to do the work. We can't be a culture of meme theology. You gotta, you can't just be like, Oh yeah. That's that makes me feel good. That that's how it, nah, you gotta do the work. So the word of God, second, I think what I loved about you Dom is your posture. I mean, you, you speak truth all the time, but I don't , uh , it's in a way that your posture of it always goes back to that first point, the word of God, but you always speak truth. It's not like you're afraid to tell people what's up or, you know, but the way that you do it, there's something to that. And, and then third, your love for the church that you're like, I'm trying to help these people move from here to here. Um, it's not just about having my voice heard or read my book or, you know , it's about now I'm talking about movement for people. I , you know, and so I love those three things about you specifically that I think all of us can learn from. So I'd love to ask you just , uh , if you'll be a little, little open and raw with it , like, can you tell us a little bit about any of the struggle for you? Like what kind of, what kind of pushback are you getting? You know what I mean? And, and what, what, what has that experience been ? Cause I think a lot of us out here are going like, man, like it , you know, Don, he , Dominique wrote this book and, and he's on these podcasts and he's doing all this stuff , uh, Sherry our , our , uh , creative director, you in a movie, right? Like , uh , you know , uh, and so she's like, Oh no, I see. You know? And so we can see that. Um, but even your posture, how you talk about it just seems like, man, you know, Dom's got it all together. Like it seems like he says, but, but tell us a little bit about that. What's the,

Speaker 2:

As you've been doing this work. Yeah. Um, I do not have it all together by in any way, shape or form. Um, I would say, you know, one of the most disheartening things about the moment we're in right now is how many, how many pastors, how many churches are trying to address these realities for the first time right now, as, as, as if they're brand new realities or even realities that we haven't seen. And , you know, a decade or 20, 30 years, we were literally right in this exact space in 2015 and 2016. So the fact that if your existing church, and this is the first time that you're addressing it, that means that you put your head in the sand last time and you didn't just put your head in the sand for when one or two or three kind of casualties. You put your head in sand for a whole 18 to 24 months like that. That is extremely disheartening when, when you're connected to people who are suffering , uh, and who are , are tempted to despair because of the silence of the church. Um, I can't tell you how many people I virtually pastor online, who reach out to me after something happened and said, I need to think I need somebody to speak to me about how I think about this theologically, how I think about this biblically, because my pastor chose not to speak to it. And I want to emphasize the choice because it is a choice not to speak, but when you choose not to speak, what you're doing is basically saying, I'm not going to equip my members to think about this biblically theologically. I'm going to let, I'm going to allow the rest of the world to inform how they think and respond to this , this watershed moment. And, you know, the pushback I get from folk , um, ranges from everything to , um, you know, a lot of what I get is people kind of saying what you're saying time year earlier. Like, you know, I hear you, I believe it. But if I tried to say that to my church, I'd get fired , um, or Hey , you know, some other people, you know, there's real pushback . Some people, you know, they just, it's not a, it's not a systemic problem. Systemic sands , not real generational sin, corporate sin. It's about the heart change and we need to focus on the heart. And if we go and we get, you know, each individual to just change their heart, then you know, all of this would go away. You know, we , I get the same thing that everybody else gets. You know, we're creating division by talking about these issues. If we just stop talking about them and they'd go away , um, to , um, to things like, you know, it's , it's a political agenda. Whether like you can try to twist scripture in the way that you want to. But basically what you're trying to do is push a political agenda. So, you know, I , I get the same pushback that everybody else does. Um, and you know, I try to receive it and try to figure out how, how I can pursue , uh, my brother and sister in Christ to really try to animate their base in a way to give them as see ears, to hear and a heart to respond , uh, because you know, that's what we urgently need. I mean, I think it's so easy to shake the desktop, our feet with brothers and sisters who, who are, are not attuned to what's going on. Um, and you know, a big trend, you know, I mean, you notice tiny , a big trend, particularly with our white progressive , um, to say like, I can't deal with those people. So I'm just going to leave them behind. And I'm just going to go be with my BiPAP, my BiPAP folk, and just, you know, enter into the struggle. But, you know, regardless of where we come from, we all got people like that. I mean, we got people in the black community who kind of are playing the same role. They just got a different skin tone . And, you know, the reality is we , we , we can't give up on those folks. Like scripture says that we're one interconnected body. So that means that the folk that we want to give up on so that we can go with the people who are in her amen corner. Um, if we leave those folks behind, then nothing's getting solved. Um, I mean, and the true faithful work is really going to the places and spaces that we don't really want to go, but we know that the spirit keeps nudging us and pushing us towards , uh , again, going back to that story , um, that passage in Exodus, you know, what's so profoundly transformative for me and my revelation around some of this is, you know, after everything that the spirit does to try to protect my hoses , ultimately at the end of the day, it comes down to the fact that Pharaoh's own daughter is willing to disobeyed her father and not only say Moses his life, but she ultimately brings him into the palace and raises him in Pharaoh's house. Like, can you imagine the difficult conversation she had to have with her father? And when we talk about the transformation that's needed, it is rooted in us being willing to have the difficult conversations with the people that are closest to us and not giving up on them. I mean, she could have wrote fare off a long time ago. I mean, the man pay passing oppressive laws and DUIs and things, and literally just says the Hebrews lives don't matter. That's what he said. I mean, when he said , you know , you pass a piece of legislation says you killed the baby boys, but instead of doing that, but she contends for the humanity, the dignity of the other, she enters in and she doesn't acquiesce or back down to her father because he's so powerful. I mean, we're talking about the most powerful person in the land and she contends, and that's what I think the gospel commissions us to do. Um, it commissions us to contend with our, our biological family , uh, the people in our congregation, the people in our realm of influence when we see them abiding by the patterns and the logics of this world, when we see them , um, really just acquiescing to the status quo, even when they know it's wrong, the gospel commissions us to be the person who goes and be becomes a thorn in somebody's side and says, you know, that's just not right. That's not faithful. That's not what our kingdom citizenship allows us to be content with. And so I really want to challenge our people on this podcast and say, you know, you know, you got people in your life who you've shaken the dust off your feet with . Maybe the spirit is using this podcast to send you back to those places and spaces to have some of those difficult conversations with people, because that's truly how we're going to move forward. Uh, you know, right now we live in a time where, you know, if we disagree, then we just separate and we just don't have anything to do. And we retreat to our echo chambers and change. Isn't going to come that way. Um, we got to enter in, we got to do a Holy struggle with our brothers and sisters, and we got to contend for people that we've been socialized to basically not have a care concern about

Speaker 1:

Man. I love that. I mean, friends that that's the other side of the gospel, right. We can be all about, like now I'm going to see , you know, I'm going to be with the prisoner I'm going to, so for people in on, you know, on listening to this podcast that were on that side, a lot of us are, we're already in, we're in the space where we're doing the work man friends. There's the other side of the gospel. And that's how I feel I am. And that's who you are. John were like bridge people and people walk on us. I mean, like we , but we're bridging that piece of it to also care about those that are struggling with that. We got to bring them along with us. Um, and I love that. And , and I know, right, I know what you're thinking of those of you guys listening. You're like, man, this just sounds so hard doing the work already. Why I got to care about these people and friends ultimately is because it brings you back into the presence of God and you just go, I can't do it. And I think God's sitting there going, no, I know that's, that's why I put it there. So you can come back to me. So, so we don't actually suffer from the pride that we're all trying to fight against that that creates these ugly systems that creates the pain of what we're dealing with. And so, and I think there's a beautiful strategy , um , of God and all this, and it all works together. And so Dominique man, thank you so much brother, for just for who you are. Um, and , uh , and I feel like even in this, you know , time that we've been together, that , um, I , I haven't even gotten to know you a little bit deeper man and add are deeply appreciate your love for scripture, your love for the church. Cause that's what I , I worry too for , uh , I got my issues and, and hopes and beliefs from my brothers and sisters on the right. But I also worry about my brother and sisters on the left, who are progressing their way we're at out of Jesus and out of the church. And, and, and I love how you sit in that space, that , that I call that radical middle space where you can hold the tension of all these things . And I love how you live in that out, man. And , um, and I'm appreciative to the evangelical covenant church for even creating, I think they created this right, this job that you now lead and man, praise God for that because we need it. Now, if you're part of a denomination that doesn't have that yet , um, you know, Dominique's writing this stuff, he's, you know, I , I'm not trying to give out your phone number, but you know, he has a lot of things that he's working on that maybe can help you in your situation. Friends, keep on pressing on, keep on fighting. Dominique, thank you so much for being on brother. We so appreciate you. Uh, the book is rethinking incarceration. We're going to have some copies that we're going to send out. Um, but go on it's on Amazon. Go check that out. Um, Baya , get that, read it. Um, start doing the work so that you can continue to do the work and the kingdom of God. Thank you brother so much for being on. Thanks for having me. Great. Yeah, man. So check out our next episodes coming out on the features here podcast . Thank you so much for , for joining with us and being on. And we are building the church that we've all dreamed of for the future pace. If you enjoyed what you heard today, we don't want to leave you empty handed series , a couple of resources to help you shape the future. Get access to our latest leadership resource by visiting U Y w y.org and join our email list.