Monthly Archives :

August 2019

About My New Podcast – Existential

About My New Podcast – Existential 1944 1944 Corey Leak

My new podcast (Existential) will be debuting in just a few days from now! (Tuesday 9.3.19) I hope this isn’t your first time hearing about it, but if you are…MY NEW PODCAST (EXISTENTIAL) WILL BE DEBUTING IN JUST A FEW DAYS FROM NOW!!! There, now you’ve heard about it twice. Before you listen to the podcast, I want you to know why I’m doing it and why you should listen to it.

Two years ago I was working at a large evangelical church. I would describe my job as the gatekeeper for how the church communicated its message on a macro and micro level – the former being each weekend service and the latter being who the church was and what it was about through web and social media content.

I’m not sure that’s how they would describe the job, hence one of the reasons I no longer work there. But, that’s a story for another day perhaps.

If you’ve heard the story I’m about to tell before, bear with me. I often forget who I’ve told stories to and who I haven’t.

I remember sitting in the auditorium of the church on a Saturday night and getting a text from my oldest daughter. She was 15 at the time. She texted me to see if I had heard about all the “Charlottesville” stuff people were talking about on social media.

She was relatively new to twitter, and she would pretty regularly send me funny videos from “black twitter” I initially assumed that there was a huge festival that featured some of her favorite artists performing and she wanted me to know about it. I wish it had been.

I honestly don’t remember what she said about what was happening, but I do remember that whatever it was made me get on Twitter during the sermon I was listening to in church that night. Who am I kidding, I was probably going to get on Twitter during the talk anyway.

You’ve done it too.

When I opened the twitter app, I was aghast. I’m not sure if I was more bothered by what I saw happening in Charlottesville or the fact that my 15-year-old teenage daughter had witnessed it. I don’t need to tell you what happened. You know.

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From that day on, I had this burning desire to talk about the stuff that was happening in the world around me. I wanted to say things and be part of discussions that were directly related to issues that affected people daily, especially the things that directly affected POC.

I would find myself sitting in church services and having my mind wander off to issues of gender, human sexuality, race, and the guy in the oval office. Did you catch that? My mind would “wander off” to these issues from my seat inside a church building.

I was starting to realize that I needed to find another platform to speak about the social issues that mattered to me. It seemed as if the church was focused more on heaven than it was on earth, and I couldn’t unsee what I had seen.

So I began to use my social media platforms to make statements and engage people in dialog about issues that mattered to me.  It seemed from the response that this stuff mattered to more people than just me.

After about six months of feeling this tension and dipping my toes into cultural conversations online, I found myself sitting in the head pastor’s office with the executive pastor, who was my boss. The meeting began with words I’ll never forget. “Get ready for a tough conversation.”

In that conversation, I learned that I would need to find another place to work because it wasn’t working out with me in my role. From a job performance standpoint, I was surprised, but I can’t say that I was surprised from a relational perspective. It was time. They just initiated goodbye before I dared to say it myself.

A month after the “tough conversation” I started blogging, and without the need to preserve my standing with a job at an evangelical church anymore, I started being more candid about issues of justice, faith, and culture. I’ve continued to share candidly to this day, and now the next phase of tough conversations will be in the form of a podcast.

I’m calling it Existential because the podcast will be conversations with humans about human stuff. Every issue we have within religion, politics, or race all begin with humans.

Often the reason we fail to find our way to real justice in the world is that we lose sight of others and even our selves as human. Existential aims at reminding us that we are all human.

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I’ll have conversations with you and other friends of mine about how the issues that polarize us affect us as wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, husbands, sisters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Each episode will explore issues of justice, faith, and culture from the human perspective. We will condemn racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry. I’m not trying to heal the world by making all of us blind to the realities we face.

I hope that we find ourselves more willing to see the humans on the other side of the issues, agendas, or arguments we all feel so strongly about and that we can contend for a better world together – one conversation at a time.

Why Sit-Downs With Oppressors are Overrated

Why Sit-Downs With Oppressors are Overrated 660 440 Corey Leak

There continues to be a lot of talk about Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL. People are going round and round about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing for him to have sat down at a table with Roger Goodell and the NFL.

Some people, like myself, believe that any partnership with the NFL that is aimed at addressing social justice issues that doesn’t include Colin Kaepernick is disingenuous at worst and suspicious at best. Others believe that the partnership is a well-conceived plan by Jay-Z to do good for the black community. Only time will honestly tell.

I’ve heard people compare J to prominent civil rights leaders of the past sitting down with racist government officials to advance the cause of Civil Rights for POC – the argument being that social change isn’t possible if we aren’t willing to sit down with the powers that be to affect that change.

Similar arguments were made over a year ago when a group of black clergy, most notably John Gray, visited the white house to discuss prison reform with the President.

People then and now are asking the question – “how can we do any good for POC if we don’t have a seat at the table?”

While I agree that there are a time and a place for POC to have a seat at a white man’s table, I can’t help but wonder if the idea is overrated. If we look at the actions of history’s most prominent agents of social change, how often do we see them sitting at the table with oppressors? Was that a significant component of their strategies?

If I were to ask you to name five revolutionary leaders of social change movements who comes to mind immediately?

I won’t presume to know all five names on your list, but I feel like I can say with high confidence that MLK, Malcolm X, or Jesus were among the names that came to mind when you read the question.

Since these are people universally recognized as people who brought about monumental change, it’s only reasonable that we look at their actions/in-actions as examples of methodology that brings about systemic reformation.

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Malcolm X famously said:

“As long as you got a sit-down philosophy, you’ll have a sit-down thought pattern.” 

Try doing a google search to see if you can find images of Malcolm X sitting down at the table with white men who were resistant, reluctant, or undecided about the equal rights of black people. I can save you the time – there are none.

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Similarly, there are no images of the sit-down between Dr. King and Bull Connor because no such meeting ever occurred. And while Dr. King is known for his diplomacy, he was also sharply critical of presidents whose approach to equal rights was to slowly and sparingly dole out freedoms to black folks.

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None of the gospel writers who tell the story of Jesus’ 30 plus years on earth write about a face to face meeting he had with any Roman authorities in a strategic effort to liberate the Jews from the oppression of Rome. Luke writes that Jesus, in the face of being threatened that Herod would kill him for talking about a Kingdom of equality, called Herod “that old fox” – a far cry from trying to sit at a Roman table to bring about change.

When people tell you who they are believe them the first time – Maya Angelou 

Many of the sit-downs POC have attended have been little more than publicity stunts and photo opportunities that allow oppressors to hide in plain sight from the liability of their participation in systemic racial oppression.

The league that Roger Goodell represents is still blackballing Colin Kaepernick. Donald Trump tweets and says racist things with impunity on the regular.

If POC sit down with these men and don’t also condemn their racist words and behaviors, why should we expect to see change come of their sit-downs?

When people with a history of complicity with racism invite POC to have a discussion, isn’t it reasonable to expect some contrition from the inviter before the invitee agrees to talk?

There is a time to take a seat at the table. That time is when the people who own the table have shown through their deliberate action a sincere desire to dismantle the system that allowed them to own the table you built for them.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts below or comment on social media.

 

 

Jay Z, Colin Kaepernick, the NFL and “Harold’s Grass N Feed”

Jay Z, Colin Kaepernick, the NFL and “Harold’s Grass N Feed” 1484 989 Corey Leak

I’ve been asked enough about what I think about Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL that I thought I would share my thoughts here in the form of a story.

Imagine you work for Harold’s Grass N Feed and one day on your way to work you see a cow being slaughtered inhumanely at Bobby Lee’s farm a few miles from Harold’s. You are so disturbed by how Bobby Lee nem treat their cows that you decide to make a demonstration at work.

Bobby Lee comes into the grass and feed store all the time, but you don’t care because you believe the cows should be treated more humanely. You know you’re putting your job on the line, but the injustice you’ve witnessed is too great for you to stay silent.

Soon after your first demonstration, other co-workers join you, and the display draws the attention of the local media. They ask you why you’re demonstrating. “I don’t believe we should slaughter animals inhumanely in this town,” you say into the camera. “I’ll continue my demonstration until something changes.”

Soon after the media picks up the story, it becomes all anyone wants to talk about all over town. Some people are angry that you’re protesting at work – especially Bobby Lee. The local PETA group is thrilled that someone is bringing attention to animal rights, and others are on the fence. The local media LOVES it because people keep tuning in to hear the latest developments.

Months pass and Harold calls you in and says they have to suspend you indefinitely. It turns out Bobby Lee called and said he would be shopping at Menard’s as long as you were making a fuss at work. Harold knows he can’t outright fire you, so he finds a way to get you away from the store by suspending you quietly.

Months go by, and you’re basically unemployed. A few of your co-workers continue to protest, and tho the media doesn’t talk about the cows every day anymore. Bobby Lee’s farm is still killing cows inhumanely every day, and now, more and more people are becoming aware of the cruelty of Bobby Lee’s farm.

People are curious about why you aren’t at work anymore, and that becomes a part of this story as well. From time to time, the media will talk about how many days it’s been since you were last seen at work.

Harold insists that they’re just not scheduling you, but it has nothing to do with your demonstrations.

Due to the rising pressure from the local PETA groups and the conscientious people of the community, Harold feels the need to get involved in advocating for the cows. Harold doesn’t care about the cows, but he knows that he doesn’t want his store to be on the wrong side of history when 50 years from now the town re-tells the story of the cows.

Harold decides to take some money and bring in a consultant to help put together a campaign to save the cows. He decides to hire a well-known figure from the community named Jerry. Jerry agrees to help, and they have a press conference to announce their new initiative.

Jerry is a friend of yours who you met when you began to demonstrate several months back. He’s worked with PETA on other animal rights projects and is highly respected amongst animal lovers. Jerry has been an outspoken supporter of you getting back to work, but he never talked to you about his plans to work with Harold.

The media covers the story of Harold and Jerry’s new collaboration to commit dollars and action to save the cows, but Harold continues to keep you suspended from work indefinitely.

How do you feel about Harold and Jerry? That probably sums up my thoughts on the partnership between Jay Z and the NFL.

Why People Are Abandoning Christianity But Not Jesus

Why People Are Abandoning Christianity But Not Jesus 1280 720 Corey Leak

Last month Josh Harris, author of the popular Christian book “I Kiss Dating Goodbye,” made it known to the world that he was “falling away” from his faith through an Instagram post. In the post, he wrote that he was no longer a Christian. He kissed the faith goodbye. I couldn’t help it. I’m sorry. I’m ashamed.

Yesterday I learned that Marty Sampson of Hillsong fame also declared to the world that he was no longer a Christian either. Here is what he said:

This is a soapbox moment so here I go . . . How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet — they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.

The singer-songwriter who once sang “One way… Jesus… You’re the only one that I could live for…” has reached a place in his life where he can no longer reconcile the world he sees with the beliefs he’s held about the world through his Christian lens.

These two men were two of the most influential voices in modern evangelicalism, and within one month, they both publically declared that they could no longer stand under the umbrella of “Christian.” What led them to that conclusion? What happened that convinced them to abandon a faith that been the foundations for their lives and careers?

I hope you didn’t think I was going to answer that. I don’t know those dudes. If you were moving to the edge of your seat to read what the answer was – I’m sorry. I can’t speak specifically to why Marty and Josh turned in their badge and Bible, but I can tell you why I believe they and many others like them still believe in and even follow Jesus.

The Jesus we read about from the writers of his biography is one of drastic, culturally challenging acceptance. Jesus ate with, talked with, and put his hands on people who society deemed less than or unworthy of God. Much of that is lost in the Western view of faith and culture – as we tend to paint a picture of Jesus reaching out to people who “aren’t that bad.”

The reality is that Jesus accepted people that were outcasts and associated himself with marginalized people. The writers that told us of his life seem intent to prove that Jesus spent most of his time amongst people religious folks tended to avoid and label as outsiders.

Status quo and religious institutions tend to create a world of in and out, us and them, saved and unsaved. The in-crowd is always determined by how well a person fits within the confines of conventional thought and behavior.

Read the stories of Jesus for yourself and see if I’m lying to you about him treating people utterly opposite of that.

Jesus once spoke a parable about separating sheep and goats. It’s a famous story in Christian circles, but not one that emerges as what it means to align with Jesus for most Western Evangelicals.

We tend to be more concerned with right doctrine and personal piety. However, Jesus describes the people who were on his team by explaining how they acted towards people who were outsiders. He doesn’t even welcome them based on how they treated God!

In the parable, he says that how humans treat the hungry, imprisoned, sick, foreign, naked, and thirsty will determine who gets to sit with him and who has to “go somewhere.”

Jesus embraced those who cared for the outsiders and rejected those who didn’t. But both were surprised.

Neither the sheep or the goats knew they had rejected or accepted Jesus. They seem to have lived their lives treating other humans in ways that probably seemed natural to them.

They were both surprised that how they treated people on earth mattered that much to the Divine King.

That story is a microcosm of the radical acceptance and mystery that is following Jesus. That acceptance and mystery are often lost in Christian practice and teaching these days, but anyone who is following Jesus is heading into a world of great mystery and absurd love and grace towards people.

I don’t suspect that is what Josh, Marty, or the many others who have deconstructed their faith are abandoning.

 

For more thoughts about Christianity and things our faith could stand to be more honest about, check out: https://coreyevanleak.com/if-were-being-honest/

 

 

Why Racism is a One Way Street

Why Racism is a One Way Street 960 500 Corey Leak

Racism in America is a one-way street. I know that is a hard saying for some of you, but it’s the truth. There are not multiple people groups equally responsible for the racial divide we’ve been talking about ad nauseam for the last several years now. There is one responsible party — one group who started and sustained racism in America – white people.

By now, if you’ve done any work at all to examine the history of race and racism, you know that white and black are made-up categories to ensure that white remained more powerful. Therefore, as long as we have people cherishing whiteness in America, we will have an unbalanced power dynamic. People clinging to their whiteness and others striving to achieve whiteness is at the root of our issue with race.

Instead of grappling with the history of slavery and dehumanization of Africans that was ground zero for American racism,  some people today approach racial healing as if black and brown people are somehow equally complicit in racism. I see this most prevalently among Evangelicals who talk about “racial reconciliation.”

Not too long ago I watched online as a young white pastor on a panel discussing race said that church leaders needed to talk about racism with caution so that they wouldn’t offend the white people in the room. I understand the sentiment, and I believe the pastor’s intentions were pure, but his ideology is lacking. The idea that reconciliation requires that we not offend white people is… I’m finding it hard to finish that sentence. Maybe it’s better if I let you finish it yourselves.

The president echoed similar thoughts when he said there were “very fine people on both sides” in the wake of the Charlottesville white supremacist circus.

Contrary to what you might have heard from gaslighters on tv or the internet, the president equivocated when talking about white supremacists. He stopped short of naming the power structure that keeps racism in place – white supremacy.

When we talk about racism without naming white supremacy as the leading cause of racial tension and hatred, we are doing nothing more than pontificating about current events. We will never move into a more just and equal society that way.

Unfortunately, this kind of honest talk about racism often leads to people hurling accusations at the truth-tellers. I’ve been accused of everything from hating white people to race-baiting for sharing things like this in the past, so I know that naming the pillars of racism won’t win you any popularity contests. However, those interested in deconstructing racism have no choice but to take a jackhammer to the foundations to tear it down.

Tearing down racism has never been more imperative in light of the El Paso shootings we just witnessed. A white supremacists drove TEN HOURS to open fire inside a Walmart known as the “Mexican Walmart.” He wrote a manifesto echoing rhetoric from our president and then proceeded to kill 19 people to maintain the supremacy of white people.

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There are no two sides to blame for that act of terrorism. There is no two-way street to go down to find out what happened in El Paso. There is one. Until we are willing to face the ugly truth and call it what it is, those who want so desperately to cling to the privilege afforded them by being white will continue to terrorize us all and keep us from justice and peace.