Grace Emerges

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Letter from Kelly

Thank you Kelly Dahlman-Oeth for permission to repost your article on my blog....  Brad

It took longer than I thought, and it's much too long for a single facebook post, but...

Dear white, male, heterosexual, U.S. born or naturalized, self-identified Christians,

I am a white, college educated, heterosexual, married, father-of-four, U. S. born and raised, ordained and appointed United Methodist, male, Christian. I place “Christian” at the end as the noun, as it is what I hold as most important. It is what I strive most to govern all that I do and say. The sum of the other descriptors add up to my being one among the majority group (i.e. I have almost all of the power and privilege anyone can have.)

It’s important for me to you know who I am as much of what I write here is about how I intend to use that power and privilege.

I understand that many of you have been struggling for some time during the slow recovery of our economy. While my family has had to make some adjustments to our budget, we have not experienced the hardships that many of you and others have.

As a pastor, I have worked with and tried to help hundreds of others (white and non-white) who have lost their employment, income and housing. Indeed in the past four years, the church that I led assisted over 150 households (individuals and families) move from living in their vehicles in our parking into housing.

I also know that many of you (63% of white men) recently cast a vote for president-elect Donald Trump. I do not presume to know all the reasons that you cast that vote. I do know from polls, interviews and conversations that I’ve had, that many of you cast your ballot as a protest vote against “politics as usual” and with the hope that radical change and the promises of Donald Trump and other republicans will improve your financial, employment, housing, health and overall situation.

It is certainly my hope and desire that our elected officials and all of us will work together to improve the lives of everyone in our great country. While that is my hope, I do not have much confidence that president-elect Trump, the new congress and all of us in the white male majority share that goal. Let me explain why, as I also try to explain why I how (and why) I will be using my power and privilege.

While I will certainly continue to help white men and women who struggle, I now have a much greater Christian mandate to stand with, advocate for and protect non-white men. Why? First and foremost, because Jesus was absolutely 100% clear that the ethics of the Kingdom of God command us to care for the poor, marginalized, oppressed, victimized, and vulnerable without regard to race, nationality, gender, or even faith.

You may be inclined to tell me that you separate your faith from your U.S. citizenship. However, I cannot find any support for that in the gospel. Indeed, the words of Jesus and much in the New Testament epistles, clearly state that Christian disciples are ‘resident aliens’ here on earth and our citizenship and allegiance belong singularly to the Kingdom of God. In other words, as I stated in my opening sentence, we are Christians, everything else is an adjective describing some secondary characteristic (see Paul’s point that we are “neither male nor female…”)

So, any argument that “politics do not belong in church” is completely unbiblical. Certainly, our earthly partisan republican and democrat politics cannot come close to representing the wholeness of Jesus’ politics. However, the very singular claim that “Jesus is Lord” is the most political statement we can make.

My claim that Jesus is Lord, brings me back to why I must now do all that I can, to stand with, advocate for and protect non-white men.

After January 28th, we will be living in the geographic boundaries governed by a man (and a congress that he has tried to bully into his image.) Donald Trump’s campaign has been overtly pro-white. While we could claim that a pro-white stance is not anti-everyone else, no one can deny the countless racist, misogynistic, anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, xenophobic, journalist bashing, statements that Donald Trump made over the course of the last 19 months in the debates, dozens of rallies and interviews. The video and audio is now a matter of historic public record.

I've heard and read countless Trump supporters and voters say "I care more about what she did, than what he said." That's fine. We no longer need to worry about Hillary Clinton getting into office, and despite two FBI reviews, leading Republicans of the House Oversight Committee seem determined to continue to investigate her until they find something to convict and imprison her.

Therefore, we can, and must, now focus all our attention on the reality of what president-elect Donald Trump has said. In part, because he has already fueled animosity toward minorities and normalized hate speech in our country.
Should you choose to question that claim, a friend recently told me about a meeting they attended in the days leading up to the recent presidential election.  Elected officials and others had gathered to address concerns in their respective communities. At some point in the meeting, one of the elected officials referred to Hillary Clinton as a “that c*nt.” Hopefully, that is as shocking and alarming to most of you as it is to me.

I find it very difficult not to lay blame at the feet of Mr. Trump, given his own words, his pattern of adultery, divorce and remarriage and the recent stream of accusers. Indeed, I find it incredibly difficult to believe that he is not a sexual predator.

To be clear, my shock is not a prudish response about crass language. My shock and alarm is that this white elected official felt comfortable to openly reduce, demean and dehumanize a woman by referring to her as a profane reference of her genitalia.

If anyone still thinks that Donald Trump’s hate speech was “just talk” and we should all just ignore it and “join together” and “give him a chance,” I must say, “Stop!” Hate speech spreads, and the more normalized and acceptable it becomes the more hate crimes will occur.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the fliers that were posted on the campus of Texas State University after Donald Trump’s election stating: “Now that our man TRUMP is elected and republicans own both the senate and the house — time to organize tar & feather VIGILANTE SQUADS and go arrest & torture those deviant university leaders spouting off all this Diversity Garbage…"

Maybe you’ve read about the white middle school children in Michigan that began chanting “build the wall” while their latino classmates cried. The list of similar behaviors is growing after only one day.

These are the next step toward putting hate speech into action. Once we reach the tipping point where the majority group in power is willing to rationalize such language and eventually violent acts, the reasonably civil democracy that we have lived in will be lost.

So, if you want to “wait and see” while you give Donald Trump and his congress “a chance”, so be it. However, if you are truly interested in "coming together to make our country great" as many of you have said to me, especially those of you who claim that Jesus is Lord, I invite to join me.

Because I claim Jesus as Lord, I am compelled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to stand with and speak up for and act for justice alongside those in minority groups who are now justifiably terrified. First, I invite you to join me and repeating what I have from many of them: "unless you are one of the vulnerable minorities speaking to your vulnerable minority group (female, black, latino, LGBTQ+, undocumented, Muslim, etc.) you do not have any credibility telling them 'to calm down', 'stop overreacting,' 'let's give him a chance', 'let's wait and see,' or anything else that tries to silence them or stop them from advocating for themselves.

I know that leading up to the recent election, many of you felt that you were the overlooked minority. It turns out, we weren’t and aren’t; we white folks still make up over 70% of the voting population, and clearly we are well represented in government. However, there are millions who are and have been for most of U.S. history an overlooked and underrepresented minority. While some of them were making some progress, and perhaps feeling a bit safer, the scales of justice and equality have once again been weighted toward us and against them.

I am compelled to put a human face on these “minority groups” about whom I’ve written.

I fear for my 18-year old daughters as they make their way through college in a culture where sexual assault is rampant and female victims often feel too intimidated to come forward in part because we are relatively dismissive of their claims of rape and sexual assault.

I have many very dear friends who have been in same-gender relationships some for 20 years or more. They have raised amazing children, who are amazing young adults. None of these friends have an agenda to push on others other than the earnest desire to be given the same rights and treatment as other mature, consenting married couples.

My black friends and dear members from congregations I’ve served who are in biracial marriages or have mixed race families have all shared experiences of being pulled over by police more than once for practically no reason. They were completely respectful and did not experience any escalating tension or violence. I have great respect for our law enforcement and I grieve for every family who loses an officer in the line of duty, but I must say, n all my years as an adult driving in Atlanta, Chicago, and the Seattle area, I have never been pulled over unless I was speeding or violated some other traffic law, and whether I received ticket or not, I was always treated with the utmost respect. I firmly believe we have a significant racial bias in this country that has seeped into our law enforcement, likely in unconscious ways, but not always.

I have friends who have been in this country illegally for over 15 years. They have children that were born here. They are the hardest working people I have ever met. I do not know any white people, including my own family, who would do the work that they do: hard labor, long hours, low wages with no benefits. They do not accept handouts or seek any government assistance (in part because any encounter with the government terrifies them.) They love this country and its people.

I know a few young adults who are transgender. I’ll tell you up front, I still don't quite get it, but they are always very loving and patient with me as I ask questions that must be stupid at best, and shamefully embarrassing at worst. They are incredibly dear souls who live in fear that any day someone will discover that they are transgendered and they will be humiliated, beaten, raped or killed. A fear that is obviously quite justified if you read the news.

I am very close to a young man whose family immigrated from Egypt. He was born here in the U.S. He and his family are Muslim. Sometimes when he has worn the traditional checkered scarf called a Kufiya, people have told him to “be careful” and in one instance yelled some slur from a car. He is one of the most respectful young men I’ve met.

These folks and others I know and love are rightfully concerned by what Donald Trump has said about them. What he has said he plans to do will have a profound impact on them. Perhaps more importantly, they and I am terrified by the fever pitch of hatred that Donald Trump has stirred in our country.

I know that there have been one or two incidents of violence against Trump supporters. This is equally wrong, but no less a result of what is being birthed by the hatred and division of Mr. Trump’s words. 

However, I have very little concern for my safety or yours. We have about as much privilege and status as anyone can get in America as straight, white, heterosexual, married, educated, employed, housed, financially stable, male Christians.

With all that privilege and power, and above all else, because Jesus is Lord, we bear tremendous responsibility to do everything we can to keep all vulnerable people from harm and to protect their rights to fair and equal treatment. I know that some of you have struggled financially and may have suffered much greater loss than I. I certainly have not experienced loss of privilege, safety or power resulting from a granting of equal rights or protections to these minority groups. So far, even the white men I’ve met have been unable to tell me exactly how they have suffered directly from rights and just treatment granted to minority groups (e.g. “I was denied housing in a predominantly black neighborhood,” “ I was not allowed to be at my wife’s bedside because lesbians have been granted that right,” “I have been put on a “watch list” because I am a Christian,” “I have been mocked and beaten by a group of transgendered people because I’m straight and I walked into the wrong bar”…) 

Brothers, there is no denying that our government is a mess, white and black, gay and straight, citizens and undocumented, Muslim and Christian have all been struggling for some time. I won’t argue that we need to seriously overhaul our government and rid it of corruption. But, we have now elected a man whose words and actions are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The seeds planted by his openly hostile remarks, intentions and plans are already springing up like weeds.

He has also shown how irrational, unpredictable, and undisciplined he can be. He has shown a pattern of retaliation against anyone who has opposed him (most recently Lindsay Graham as expressed the morning after the election by Omarosa Manigault.)

You and I may hold different political views based on our understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus, but I trust that we agree that Donald Trump’s vile speech and recent growing racist, anti-Muslim, white supremacy behaviors are antithetical to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  While some white nationalist may try to hijack our faith, I know that you are NOT racist, Mexican-hating, anti-Muslim, gay bashing, woman haters.

So, I pray that you will join me in challenging president-elect Trump about his hostile speech and threats. Christian brothers, please join me in using your position of power and privilege to confront the growing threat of hate speech and violence against our sisters and non-white brothers and sisters.

If you truly want to join together to make “America Great Again,” I pray you’ll join me in demanding that this man stand up and apologize publicly for each and every hateful comment he’s made about women, blacks, Mexicans, Jews, Muslims, GLBTQ+ folks, journalists, etc. Then demand that he fulfill his promise to bring law and order back by first deploying as many as necessary to find, arrest and rehabilitate every individual and hate group member responsible for the growing rash of behaviors that we are seeing.

If you do that and we see Donald Trump carry those things out and continue to work for every person in this great nation for the next four years, I will make you a promise. I'll vote that man into office for a second term.

If you are not able or willing to join me, please consider this one last request. Do not ask my vulnerable brothers and sisters to “calm down” or “wait and see.” They do not need us diminishing their concerns. They do not have luxury of waiting for something to happen.

I will continue to offer compassion to all who come to me in need regardless of the characteristics that make them who they are. But it is now time for me to give even greater attention to bring the full weight of my privilege and power to protect those who now even more vulnerable than before.

Filled with the love of Christ, your brother,
Kelly Dahlman-Oeth

Friday, November 11, 2016

Love is Our Resistance

I love this song by Muse.  Definitely feeling it right now... Actually it's not very hopeful, about running away from the thought police and stuff.  But the point is that when we are afraid, we resist fear with Love.
Love is our Resistance:
to Fear
to Hate
to Reversing Progress
No matter who you are, or who you voted for.  You are safe with me.
Love is our Resistance.  
Out of love I will resist marginalizing any souls in this country.  Equal means Equal.  

If you don't treat people in that manner, I will resist you.  But peacefully and with love.  We need to all make this world, and this country, a better place.  

Is our secret safe tonight?
And are we out of sight?
Or will our world come tumbling down?
Will they find our hiding place?
Is this our last embrace?
Or will the walls start caving in?
But it should've been right
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
Let our hearts ignite
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
Are we digging a hole?
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
This is outta control
It could never last
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
Must erase it fast
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
But it could've been right
(It could be wrong, could be)
Love is our resistance
They keep us apart and they won't stop breaking us down
And hold me, our lips must always be sealed
If we live our life in fear
I'll wait a thousand years
Just to see you smile again
Quell your prayers for love and peace
You'll wake the thought police
We can hide the truth inside
But it should've been right
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
Let our hearts ignite
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
Are we digging a hole?
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
This is outta control
It could never last
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
Must erase it fast
(It could be wrong, could be wrong)
But it could've been right
(It could be wrong, could be)
Love is our resistance!
They keep us apart and won't stop breaking us down
And hold me, our lips must always be sealed
The night has reached its end
We can't pretend
We must run
We must run
It's time to run
Take us away from here
Protect us from further harm

Roadmap for the )open( church

by Brad Duncan

What is Possible? Introducing the )open( church

This post wraps up my series "Welcome to the )open( church" by summarizing the roadmap of how we can get there.

The full presentation of this material is now available as a PDF file which you can open here:

The )open( church is a grassroots movement that will work to organize this new model, mode, message and mission. What will it look like? It will look like love acted out. It will look like the kingdom of God!

the )open( church
  • Be the kingdom of God, love acted out
  • A church about people & loving God
  • A grassroots movement that shares grace with one another and the world

Love Acted Out

In order to transform our way of thinking about the church we need to imagine what's possible if we start with love, and act it out.  
  • We have to let go of ourselves, our comfort, and the ways that church directly benefits "me", and we need to think of loving others.  
  • We need to live for love, and embrace the life that comes from unselfish motives and compassion for others.  We need to live courageously and generously.  
  • Next, we need to listen first and talk later.  We need to practice our active listening skills.  We need to reassure people that they can share their ideas and be accepted and listened to, no matter what ideas they have.  We need to be a church that listens, if we want genuine sharing to lead to stronger community.  This will put acceptance and tolerance into practice.
  • Only in this way can we learn from one another.  We need to be humble and willing to learn, and committed to learning through practice!  There are many people around us that can teach us something.  Can we pay attention and grow as people, growing spiritually, by learning from one another?
  • Next we will find the joy in living life together.  We will laugh!  We will celebrate!  
  • Naturally in this environment, we will have people to lean on when we need it.  When people love one another they can lean on one another.  Pain for one is pain for all.  We will naturally know how to help each other, if the relationships are strong and we are more aware of the need.

Be the Kingdom of God

This diagram summarizes the key ways that the )open( church can respond to it's challenges and embrace it's identity as the kingdom of God.  This new model for church, leading to a new mode of operating, a new mission and a new message, will be a new grassroots movement to change the church, allowing it to transform to meet the needs of future generations.

Roadmap for the )open( church

A grassroots movement starts with a blueprint. Using social media, we will work to get the word out about the new model, and invite local churches and groups to start discussing it. Meanwhile, we will work to launch new online resources which will bring the )open( church to life and help people all over the world find out about this movement.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Responding to the challenges

by Brad Duncan

How can the church respond to the challenges facing it?  I am proposing not only a change of heart, but a change of many other things too, as a way of directly responding to the challenges we are facing.

These posts are excerpts from a full-length article and presentation.  For more information or the full documents, please email me at

Our Response

Can we create respond to these challenges with a will to change the church?  Can we create something new, a grassroots movement that will get people involved in the kingdom of God?  Something new, but something that doesn’t have to compete with the current system?

What I am proposing with the )open( church is a blueprint for a grassroots movement that can help the church grow, reach outsiders, and transform the heart of the church.  What I am proposing is a new model for creating intentional community that people inside and outside of today's churches can join. 

Let me describe how the church can respond to the challenges it is facing by embracing this new model. 
  • What I am referring to as a model is a way of thinking, a concept of what we want the church to represent. 
  • Secondly, in order to put that model into action we need a new mode of operating. We have to do some things differently in order to act according to the new model. 
  • The new model will also lead to a new message, one which will be more relevant and appealing to the world, meeting the world’s skepticism and hesitation with the good news of grace and love. 
  • Finally, with the new model we must embrace a new mission. This mission must put into action the message of love. We must act with love and demonstrate God’s grace, to one another, and to everyone. 
With these changes the church will LEAD the world in how to treat people and how to bring positive transformative change to the world. It will be a contagious transformation! 

We change ourselves first, so we can change things for others.  
As Paul says in Ephesians 5, we need to watch what God does as he pours out his extravagant love for all people, and we just need to do the same!

A New Model

The new model is simply to create a church that is more about people. We follow the lead of Jesus to put our desire to love and serve God into action to love people. We expand our notion of worship and pleasing God to the notion that God wants to build an amazing kingdom where his children worship him in spirit and in truth, by joining each other in community. This new model will transform our hearts and open our eyes to the people around us. We will want to be in closer community.

A New Mode

We put this into motion by de-emphasizing the weekly worship service, in order to apply more time and resources toward intentionally building community. We still enjoy worship, music and gatherings, but we recognize that it is just the starting point of our calling. We get our own hearts in order, and then we look around and see how we can participate in the lives of others. This will require planning, creativity, and a new way of generating the budget, to name a few of the aspects of changing our mode of operating. However, if people want the church to change, they can make it happen. A grassroots movement that calls for more community will lead to positive changes. 

A New Message

As the church, we need to start by listening to each other, and accepting each other wherever we may be in our journey. This includes both embracing the long-time church-goers and outsiders. With an attitude of Unconditional Welcome, we embrace all people. We listen. We share. 

The only rule is grace – which translates into good listening, acceptance of each other, and tolerance for one another. 

As we listen actively to one another, we need to break the silence and start discussing how the church will tackle its challenges. How will it respond to social change, and to social needs? What does it mean to love people in today’s generation? When will we be ready to speak up against injustice, and speak up for the little guy? How will our ideals and passions translate into a voice for positive change?

A New Mission

Finally, we need to act. The needed actions will be clear and obvious. Like the Good Samaritan, when we encounter the one needing our help, we simply help him. We open our eyes, our hearts and our arms to others, and God will reveal to us who is in reach of our love and assistance. The only limitation is our willingness and availability. If we fix that, we will be ready to embrace a new mission that brings positive change.
This is the kingdom of God, …, acted out!