What is privilege? How can we leverage it to proclaim God’s love to the world and create communities that flourish? Dominique DuBois Gilliard, the author of Subversive Witness, talks with Amy Julia about the church and privilege, economic justice, and how to leverage privilege in order to demonstrate the Gospel in innovative and faithful ways.
“Dominique DuBois Gilliard is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is the author of Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores, which won a 2018 Book of the Year Award for InterVarsity Press and was named Outreach Magazine’s 2019 Social Issues Resource of the Year. Gilliard’s latest book, Subversive Witness: Scripture’s Call to Leverage Privilege was just published by Zondervan. Gilliard also serves as an adjunct professor at North Park Theological Seminary in its School of Restorative Arts and serves on the board of directors for the Christian Community Development Association. In 2015, the Huffington Post named him one of the “Black Christian Leaders Changing the World.”
On the Podcast:
- Season 3 interview with Dominique (about his book Rethinking Incarceration)
- Books by Dominique: Rethinking Incarceration and Subversive Witness
- Subversive Witness video-based small group curriculum
- Amy Julia’s book about privilege: White Picket Fences
- Scripture: Esther, Lamentations, Isaiah 58:12, Jeremiah 29:6-8, Psalm 139:23-24, John 13:34-35
- Justice deposits
- FREE RESOURCE: Head, Heart, Hands Action Guide
“There’s privilege connected to embodiment, so how our bodies are constructed…race, gender, able bodiedness, mental cognition…this form of privilege slowly but surely starts to negate the biblical truth that we are equitably made in the image of God. It starts to create this sliding scale of humanity where some lives are respected, protected, and valued over and against others.”
“We have been conditioned, and dare I say discipled, to think about good intentions as more important than the impact of our actions.”
“What is our role as ambassadors of reconciliation, repairers of the breach, folks who are commissioned to be co-laborers with Christ in reconciling the world to God’s self—what would it look like for us to strategically and intentionally try to live in a way that enacts economic justice?”
“How am I being a blessing to others? How are some of the privileges and the resources and the assets that I have access to flowing through me as opposed to just coming to me and my family?”
“We know as Christians it’s no longer us who live but it’s Christ who lives now in and through us, and we get a chance to bear witness to that…I’m trying to help the church to reconnect evangelism and justice because they were always intended to be together, and when we live together prioritizing the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, we live into the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that’s when we become the transformative presence in the world that we were commissioned to be.”
Season 5 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my newest book, To Be Made Well, releasing Spring 2022. You can pre-order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Amy Julia (5s):
Hi friends. I’m Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. And this season, we are talking about all things, healing, personal healing, spiritual healing, social healing. And so today I’m going to have a conversation with Dominic Gilliard. He is the author of the newly released book, subversive witness. And you might wonder as you listen, what this conversation has to do with healing, because I’m not sure we even bring up the word healing, but it does in my mind, go back to the idea that when we use our gifts to love one another, when we recognize and address the harm that has happened in our individual lives and as a society, when we decide that we are going to participate in the larger work of healing, our social fabric, then that is what this is all about.
Amy Julia (1m 2s):
That’s what justice is about. That is what honesty and truth telling is about. That’s what bringing beauty into the world is about. It’s about a larger work of healing and wholeness that we all get to be a part of. And Dominique is certainly one of the people who’s giving us tools so that we can be a part of it too. I’m so glad we’ll get to hear from him today. Well, Dominic, it is a pleasure to be with you again here today. Thank you for joining the show and welcome. We talked about a year ago about your book, rethinking incarceration and all of the problems with the criminal justice system. And also what it might mean for particularly people of faith and Christians to respond in a biblical way to our incarceration situation.
Amy Julia (1m 48s):
And I love that conversation. And I remember you mentioning that you were working on a new book when we had that conversation. And I said, we would have you back and here you are. And I’m so glad because you’ve just released a new book, subversive witness scriptures call to leverage privilege, and we get to talk about it today. So thank you for joining us and for being here
Dominique (2m 9s):
Super excited to be back with you and your community.
Amy Julia (2m 12s):
All right, well, so I just wanted to start, I can see links between rethinking incarceration and thinking about leveraging privilege. And yet it’s also not like the follow-up to this, you know, really great and successful book. I wrote. So how’d you go, how’d you get here? How’d you get to subversive witness?
Dominique (2m 31s):
Yeah. So when I was touring the country talking about rethinking and as I do my nine to five, which I worked for a denomination and my job is to be a pastor to pastors within our denomination, helping them make connections between Christianity, biblical justice and racial reconciliation. I’d noticed that there were a lot of leaders and congregants who intellectually would find resonance with kind of what I was saying and, and, and believed it in their heart. But there was a disconnect between head, heart and hands.
Dominique (3m 14s):
And when it came to me, trying to think through like, well, what is the disconnect and why can’t we move from head heart to hands? It really started to crystallize for me in a lot of contexts, a lot of the disconnect was due to an inability to reckon with privilege and to have those conversations congregationally. And so one of the things I talk about in the book is really, I noticed that there was, there were really three predominant congregational responses to the conversation of privilege. The first would be a denial. That privilege is real.
Dominique (3m 55s):
And if that is even a biblical concept. And so the conversation just shuts down there in the second congregational response, there is an acknowledgement that privilege is real and things aren’t as they should be, but there’s also a decision made by leadership that is too tricky of a terrain to navigate. And so instead of pressing into it and potentially losing members and funding, we’re just gonna not address it. And then the third response I saw was where pastors and congregates work together and really pressed into the conversation, affirmed their privilege was real and tried to reckon with it.
Dominique (4m 42s):
But at the end of all of that, their witness really, there was a paralysis that was kind of taken over the congregation. A lot of folks didn’t know what to actually do with this new information and these new revelations that they had gained. And none of those three responses animate our faith and really invite us to participate in demonstrate the gospel and innovative or even faithful ways. And so those three responses really took me back to scripture. And in my meditative time with God, I really started to see that there was a fourth option.
Dominique (5m 27s):
And at that fourth option was a much more faithful option. And that option was that scripture affirms that privilege is real. And it says that we are always going to have the temptation to exploit privilege for our selfish gain. But if we are really intentional about trying to pattern our lives and our witness after our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, then we come to realize that when confronted with that temptation, when we submit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus and really allow our, our steps to be guided by the spirit, we actually can resist that temptation and start to move to strategically leverage privilege, to advance the kingdom and to sacrificially love our neighbors.
Dominique (6m 20s):
And so that’s really kind of what my time with God kind of led me to, and then subversive witnesses I’m packing of that. But to go back to your question about rethinking, I think for me, the real connection, the most explicit connection was in both cases. I was trying to take my experience on the ground with the people God, seriously. And I was trying to listen and respond to what I felt was ham streaming, hamstringing our witness in the world and not allowing us to participate and become the transformative presence in the world, the scripture commissions, Esther B, and in both cases, a problem started to kind of crystallize.
Dominique (7m 10s):
And then I took my time to go back into the word and to study the word has been a devotional time with God. And through those steps, kind of new revelation started to come to me. And the books were just a fruit of that time with God and that time of listening and being with our sisters and brothers in Christ, and hopefully a helpful hope map for how we can try to work this out together.
Amy Julia (7m 41s):
Yeah. I, as you know, have also done a lot of thinking and writing around that concept of privilege and have felt similarly where there’s people who want to deny it, ignore it, or just end up feeling helpless in the face of it, even though they want to respond. And so offering some roadmaps and some tools and, and also just some gentle, compassionate words and stories. And, and again, some instructions as you’ve done here is so important and so helpful and so necessary right now. So again, I’m really glad you wrote the book. I did think before we continue to dive in, we should probably do a little definition.
Amy Julia (8m 22s):
When you say privilege, what do you mean? Because there’s kind of like we have a conception in our culture of what privilege means. You’re also talking about what scripture, I don’t think at least in translations I use, no, I don’t ever read the word privilege. Right. But that doesn’t, as you said, like it’s there. So can you talk a little bit about what you mean by privilege and also like how you find that in the Bible?
Dominique (8m 45s):
Yeah. So let me first start talking about what I don’t mean. So when I talk about acknowledging privilege, I’m not talking about condemnation. I’m not talking about shaming. I’m not talking about guilting one another into coerced actions. I believe that we, as Christians are called to acknowledge privilege because it’s real. And because doing so liberates us from its power confronting and addressing privilege, frees us to fully live into our creative purpose. And so when I talk about privilege, I’m really talking about a range of things.
Dominique (9m 28s):
So that’s like about a privilege. Really. I see as something that is the by-product of our four parents sins and the riding fruit of the church is indifference to systemic oppression, oppression. And therefore our complicity with the evil in the world and privilege is something that’s really rarely neutral or benign, but it’s something that comes at the expense of our neighbors and privilege. You know, there’s different manifestations. So there’s privileged connected to embodiment. So how our bodies are constructed. And so these are, this is the place that most people are most familiar with.
Dominique (10m 10s):
We talk about, you know, race, gender able-bodied illness, mental cognition, these kinds of things, and this form of privilege slowly but surely starts to negate the biblical truth that we are all equitably made in the image of God. It starts to create this sliding scale of humanity where some lives are respected, protected, and valued over and against the others. This type of privilege really is the offspring of heart hearts and unrepented spirits. And it slowly but surely starts to conform us to the pattern of this world, where we start to live by a kind of worldly logic that, that affirms the isms that have become so entrenched within our culture and time.
Dominique (11m 2s):
And then there is another form of privilege that really comes from kind of the way those systems and structures are Stuart or it, or lack thereof and our society. And so we think about, you know, historic legacies of voting rights and land ownership and different things like that, that come from really the best judges of sin would say that some people have access and other people don’t have access, but then there’s other stuff that are just privileges that exist.
Dominique (11m 44s):
Like there are certain, certain benefits of being included in something. So like being able as a us citizen, there are certain benefits to come with citizenship, living in this geographic region and in this nation. And so those are just some of the ways that we think about privilege, but I also privilege is also about having access to the table. And so this is something that I think people in the recent years have become more aware of, but having a seat at the table, a chance to speak into decisions and legislation and institutional behavior, that is a privilege, it’s a power and having access to give voice to your concerns or concerns that arise from your community.
Dominique (12m 45s):
That’s a privilege that a lot of people don’t have. And so when we have conversations like today, so we’ll just go there a little bit. When we have conversations today about things like removing Confederate statues and folks respond by saying, well, your best of rewriting of history. Well, actually what it is doing is it’s actually shining a light on who actually was at the table of power to make the decision to say that these individuals should have been venerated in the first place. And because so many people didn’t actually have access, didn’t have the privilege to speak into that conversation.
Dominique (13m 25s):
Then the history was written in a certain way, and it didn’t include the voices of our full constituency. And so privilege is really just starting to reckon with those kinds of questions and the legacy that that has bred within our work. Particularly I focus here in our nation’s most explicitly
Amy Julia (13m 47s):
Well, yeah. And you give a couple of examples in the book of exactly I’m thinking about the Edmund Pettus bridge, as an example of kind of, when you look back at the history of this, it was not only venerating someone who a large part of the population had. They had a seat at the table would not have venerated, but actually doing that in order to say to the black population in Selma, look, who’s in charge here. Let’s make sure you stay in your place, which is to say, not at the table. And so if people now, whether they’re white people or black people, but those who are in a position of privilege want that to be the ongoing historical and current message to the citizens of Selma.
Amy Julia (14m 29s):
Well, then I guess you do keep it named the Edmund Pettus bridge. But if you actually want, not just the history, you don’t want the history to change. It can’t change, but we can change how we respond to that history. And there are things like changing the names of bridges that would actually demonstrate. We want to tell a fuller story from the past, and we want to honor different people. We want to acknowledge different aspects of the history of this bridge, which honestly many of us know by its name, but we know even more so by the courageous actions of John Lewis and others who marched across that bridge. You know, now what 50, some years ago. So,
Dominique (15m 9s):
And we know the bridge is name, but we don’t really know the character in which it’s the person in, which is named after. Like most people don’t know these histories and the legacies and what these people spend so much of their time representing and really advocating for and trying to embody, you know, so many of these folks were executive leaders within the clan and have like very toxic legislative histories of trying to push led relation that was suppressed, voting rights and racial equality and holidays, different things.
Dominique (15m 50s):
But I want to give one other example of what I mean when I talk about privilege, because you know, a lot of what we’re talking about in regards to privilege is not things that we ourselves did. Like we, these are realities that we essentially stepped into and inherit. And so an example of this would be when we about the creation of the suburbs here in the U S and so of the $120 billion worth of money that was put into new housing for the subsidized subsidizing of suburbs between 1934 and 1962, less than 2% of that money went to non-well families.
Dominique (16m 34s):
And so when we talk about like the racial demographics of the suburbs, there’s a reason why they look the way that they do. And there’s a reason why only 2%, less than 2% of that money went to non white families because now white families were excluded from being able to qualify for these subprime loans that ultimately allowed for the accumulation of wealth. And all of these racial disparities that we see today are directly connected to this history. And so like folks who were able to be beneficiaries of that, that was a privilege that was a privilege that informed your educational possibilities or colleges, your point fairs could afford to send you off to the debt that they would or would not carry as they’ve made those decisions, how that home has appreciated and value all of these things.
Dominique (17m 25s):
And even the school that your children were able to go through in K through 12, because in so many of our states property taxes are directly connected to school funding. And so it’s something like that’s that that decision has so many ripple effects that impact this conversation, a privileged so profoundly. But when we don’t know that it’s really hard for us to try to live responsibly in light of that and to think about, okay, given this access or given these benefits that I’ve accumulated, how can I try to strategically live for Jesus and bear witness to the fact that what I have now over the course of this time is not just for me and my, my biological family, but I’m actually blessed to be a blessing and to start to think more strategically and creatively and innovatively about how do we bear witness to who and whose we are as the body of Christ.
Amy Julia (18m 23s):
Yeah. I think that’s such a stark and, you know, horrifying example, as far as not only the benefits that we tend to think in America, so individualistically right, but you’re talking about like government money that benefited 98% white families in this period of 30 years, that was, you know, now a long time ago, but we can do the math to see what that led to not only in terms of accumulation of wealth, but even just generationally where people live, where they formed communities, how the schools, all that you just said. So I’m always struck by just that sense of this, the welfare quote, unquote, like the money that came from the government over the course of our history has gone in large part to white people.
Amy Julia (19m 10s):
And so that sense of I made it on my own is just on untrue. And that’s a, it’s a great thing for the government to support people, informing communities and having schools and living in places. It’s just not a great thing if it’s only some people, not just to the exclusion of others, but to the detriment of others. So I think that’s just another really profound example, and it’s a much bigger one than the bridges or the statues. Although those, you know, obviously serve these symbolic roles in our society that also speak to power. When I have talked about privilege, I’ve called it a set of unearned social advantages that lead to unjust social divisions.
Amy Julia (19m 52s):
And so that sense of, and you could talk about it being stacked, like privileges, stacked, and oppression. Oppression is stacked in people’s lives and that’s true individually, but it’s true collectively and generationally as well. And I think the, that can just feel in and of itself oppressive to talk about it, right, as you said, we can so easily just feel shame or guilt or fear in the face of all that. But there’s also the sense of this is nothing new. And I want to turn to your book a little more clearly because that’s why you go back to the scriptures like thousands and thousands of years ago. This was also going on and guess what, God has something to say about it, and actually to invite us into, into hope and into healing and into these really cool, as you said, creative, energizing opportunities.
Amy Julia (20m 40s):
So I would love to actually one of my favorite chapters in the book was the story of Esther you about a couple of different characters. And I think I’ve read Esther before, but your treatment of Esther was really informative to me. Like I definitely learned things and thought about things I hadn’t learned before, but what I also loved was the fact that, and I would love for you to tell us the story of Esther, but what I loved was that she was somewhat ignorant of her own privilege. And so I thought she was so such a great example because I can relate to her as a white affluent woman with married parents and all these things that have, and, you know, kind of bumbling my way happily through life and then reckoning with this idea of, but I have a lot of privilege and what am I going to do with it?
Amy Julia (21m 26s):
And what if it is hard? And then she also is like that. And so I would love for you to just tell us the story of ReSTOR and, and why that relates to us right now.
Dominique (21m 37s):
Yeah. So the story of Esther is really complex in a lot of ways, at least the way that I kind of tried to lay it out. And let’s one of the things I really tried to do in this book. I think there is a lot of complexity to life that we don’t usually take to scripture and read scripture in light of. And so Esther story kind of speaks to one of the main rebuttals we get about the conversation about privilege is I can’t be privileged because I come from a poor family or because I have endured hardships and these kinds of things. So Esther is somebody who ultimately becomes an orphan early in life because both her parents die.
Dominique (22m 21s):
And she ultimately goes under the care of her uncle Mordecai. And there is Kings Darcy’s impair. Persia is a king who is just full of himself and very intent on enjoying all of the trees that being a king may provide. And he throws the ethics out of the window quite often in regards to his engagement of the luxuries that being good king can provide.
Dominique (23m 2s):
And so Esther is somebody who’s trying to navigate the complexities of being an orphan, someone who is trying to make sense of the fact that the king has just coerced her into sexual activity, that she didn’t really have the right to refuse or the power of the status to. And she’s also having to culturally function as Persian though, that is not her ethnic identity. And so she’s there and probably in the midst of trying to recover from all of that trauma and all of that baggage, she really starts to assimilate into the love lavish lifestyle of the palace.
Dominique (23m 53s):
And she is there kind of functioning as queen and is really immersing herself in what’s going on to the extent that she is completely unaware of the fact that the king Xerxes brings a new number two into power Haman, who ultimately makes a commission that all Jews are going to be exterminated. And so she’s just living her life. And then she encounters her uncle who comes to the, the palace gates and in sackcloth and ashes, and he is weeping and wailing, and she is trying to figure out what is going on.
Dominique (24m 38s):
And initially she tries to silence his protest. And I think in part out of good intentions, and I think this is important because I think one of the things that really trips the body of Christ up is the fact that we have been conditioned. And I dare I say discipled to think about good intentions as more important than the impact of our actions, and that can lead us down some very dangerous roads, particularly around these conversations that we’re at
Amy Julia (25m 9s):
Well, and this, you do. I mean, just to pause for a second on this point, because in your writing of the Esther chapter, you point out exactly that that Mordecai comes and he is weeping loudly on behalf of his people who are also Esther’s people, although she’s out of touch with that reality at, by this point, it seems. And so she tries to quiet him and she really perhaps is trying to protect him. Or she perhaps she’s thinking the best way to actually do something about this is not to be so loud, right? I mean, who knows, or she’s embarrassed and to us, whatever it is, that’s what she’s doing. And I do think we, if we think about culturally people who are crying out on behalf of the oppressed in our, in our society and others who say, Hey, I’m really sympathetic, but could you tone it down?
Amy Julia (25m 56s):
Right. I mean, it’s just a really important parallel. And I’m trying to think, cause you right, who have this one line, okay, I’m just going to look for it real quick where you said yes. So you’re talking about lamination and how important it is to have limitation as a part of faith and how Mordecai demonstrates that. And Esther really wants to put it to the side and how limitation forces us to slow down. It requires us to stay engaged. And then you say, here we lament because paradoxically the cure for the pain is in the pain limitation, begets revelation. It opens our eyes to death oppression and systemic sin.
Amy Julia (26m 38s):
We have failed to notice it attunes our ears to the torture, anguish and weeping that has become white noise in our fractured world. Limitation is a spiritual practice that softens hardened hearts, a revolutionary act that ushers us into uncensored communion with God as a Christian to live without lament is to live an unexamined life. So I’ve got stars in my book next to that, but I just, since you bring it up, I think it’s really important to just hone in on that because it’s so relevant. And our day of on the one hand kind of endless noise, right. Of people shouting at each other. But for those of us in the church who are inclined to say, Hey, just wait, just be quiet.
Amy Julia (27m 21s):
It’ll get better. You know, to really say, why are you not at the very least weeping alongside your brothers and sisters, if not hearing their cries and doing something in response. So, okay. So Mordecai is weeping. Esther says be quiet, but eventually she listens and she’s got a choice to make, right?
Dominique (27m 39s):
Yeah. And it, it, it, it re animates her faith through his limit. Initially she tries to quiet it. And then she finally gets to the point where she actually wants to see out what is actually compelling him to behave in this way to, to mourn and take put on sackcloth and ashes. And then she hears that the fate of her people throughout the region are hanging in the balance. And he has to prophetically speak life in the herb because as the queen, as the queen, you know, she can start to dilute herself into thinking that her fate is disconnected from her people’s space.
Dominique (28m 27s):
And that as the queen, she will get an exemption. She will be a privileged person that gets a pass on the rest of her people actually are eradicated and mortar Kaia tells her very bluntly that that’s not the case. And so she in response, and I love this because this is actually what we should do when we actually do, you know, follow scripture’s commission to weep with those who weep and more with those who mourn. The first thing she does is she gathers a group of folk and she asked them to pray and fast. And when she prays and fast, she gets back in tune with the spirit. And the spirit reminds her that the privilege that she has as the queen is not just for her own selfish benefit, but she’s actually been placed in the position of the queen for missional purpose.
Dominique (29m 19s):
And that missional purpose is to actually help the king change his mind and actually ignore the evil wishes of Haman, which are self-centered and driven and rooted in his ego. And so she ultimately is able to help her people to avoid eradication because she’s able to remember that the mission, the privilege she has is, has a kingdom purpose. And in doing that, she really has to put her life on the line because she has to go and actually approach the king with that being sequestered, which at that time, again, in this patriarchal toxicity, like a queen couldn’t even go and talk to her husband without being commissioned.
Dominique (30m 10s):
And so she has to go. And then she also has to reveal to the king that she actually is a Jew Mordecai told her at the beginning, not to do as a way of trying to preserve her life. And so she has to do this very vulnerable self revelation. And then she has to do this courageous thing of going and approaching the king without being sequestered. And then she has to use box spirit and use her intellect and her wisdom to ultimately help the king to see how, how catastrophic his plan would be if he actually continued to be wide with payment. And so it’s a beautiful story of how Esther really has to use all of what she is, her intellect, her wit all of these things to actually live into the point of purpose that God had for her when she is in throne as queen.
Dominique (31m 7s):
And so it’s a beautiful story. Somebody who had to come into a self-revelation that they weren’t missionally using their privilege, and then to reckon with all of what was that sake and what she was going to have to risk to live in that way and to advance the kingdom and sacrificially love her people. Hmm.
Amy Julia (31m 30s):
I want to get back to that in a minute. And I want to take a little detour before we do, because I have a kind of a final question I want to ask you. But before that, I want to talk about economics because another thing you bring up in the book is economic justice. And I was so struck by that term, which is certainly something I’ve thought a lot more about in recent years, but I was remembering back to when I was newly married and my husband and I signed up for a small group class at church about financial stewardship. And we sat through 12 weeks of class and we read all of the Bible verses and we came up with a budget and we talked about living simply and giving generously. And we’d talked about what it meant for everything in our bank account to belong to God.
Amy Julia (32m 13s):
And it was helpful. It was a biblical foundation. And when we’ve gone back to it many times, but the idea of economic justice, as opposed to financial stewardship like economic justice never came up if I’m remembering correctly. And I was so struck at, by thinking that through and how much it might have changed the way we pursued faith in general. But certainly when it came to money, if we had been talking about economic justice in the context of saving and giving and all these other good things. So could you explain what economic justice is and why that should matter to people of faith?
Dominique (32m 55s):
Yeah. So I think it’s reckoning with the history of where we find ourselves. So here, most people on this podcast in the U S S it’s taken seriously the history and legacy of things. Like what we talked about with the creation of the suburbs is taking seriously that so much of this country’s wealth and prosperity is rooted in oppression, be it from indigenous land theft, to the enslavement of black people, to alien land rights, which restricted Asian-Americans from purchasing and owning land for so long. And I think when we think about that, oftentimes we think about, oh, just the ways in which this infringed upon certain people’s rights and liberties and their possibilities, but we don’t also look at the flip side, which means that it gave white America so much more access to all of these things because they didn’t have to compete with their peers on an equitable playing field.
Dominique (33m 59s):
And so when you start to create this kind of historic and yet inequality, then the vestiges of that are just going to continue to ripple down and trickle down. And I think economic justice really cause us to try to reckon with that and to say in the midst of me not being, again, this isn’t pointing fingers at us, we didn’t do it, but in the midst of us inhabiting this reality, how do we take the counterculture or call of the gospel seriously? And how do we try to live in a way that we truly are? And I love this, this spray, Isaiah 58 repairs of the breach.
Dominique (34m 41s):
And I think to do that, it really takes a kind of spiritual maturity. And one of the things I talk about over and over again in the book is how we really need to move from milk to solid food. And moving from milk to solid food would entail us actually asking real questions about what does it mean to live in a nation that has been so historically unjust and therefore systems and structures and things that are at play today still exists with the slant. And so, like, what is our role as ambassadors of reconciliation, repairs of the breach folks who are commissioned to be co-laborers with Christ and reconciling the world to God’s self, what would it look like for us to strategically and intentionally try to live in a way that enacts economic justice.
Dominique (35m 35s):
And so that those are some of the ways that I really am offering. And I think it, it makes us ask very, very tangible questions of ourselves, of our communities and how we engage from things like, you know, if I am moving into a community that is gentrifying, am I willing to send my kids to the local school? Or am I going to bus my kids from the neighborhood to a specialized school? Am I willing to shop at the grocery store in my neighborhood? Or am I going to drive 20, 30 minutes out of the way to go to this specialized grocery store that I know most of my neighbors don’t have access to.
Dominique (36m 19s):
And like, so there’s a ways in which we can think about what it looks like for us to faithfully respond to legacy of sin and injustice that we know that we inhabit that creates these gospel disparities. And when we live blindly and continue to just think about our own individual or familial flourishing, as opposed to the Jeremiah vision of seeking the peace and the prosperity of our cities in our communities, then we are really entering into the Imperial rat race as opposed to living as kingdom citizens who are intentionally again, taking on the mindset of Christ and putting the interest in the needs of others before our own and understanding that our individual flourishing is actually found when our communities are shunned prosper and when we seek shelter.
Amy Julia (37m 15s):
Yeah. And I think, I mean, to that point of just seeking Shalom and to proactive work of justice, which I’ve only recently learned is like so much more of the biblical understanding actually beginning with your book, but like that justice is not about correcting and punishing as much as it. I mean, it’s so much more often biblically used as proactively caring for those who need help. For whatever reason. I’m also struck by a couple of, I think there are both what means to participate in economic justice that are individual, as well as collective.
Amy Julia (37m 55s):
You give some great examples in the book we were talking even before we started recording about a whole foods that went up in a neighborhood in Chicago, which is great in and of itself. But again, if you’ve got a gentrifying neighborhood and this only serves as a way to push people out of the communities or provide a place where no one can buy food, except for the wealthy people who’ve moved in recently. And you gave the example of this whole foods moving into this neighborhood where actually the community was a part of bringing them and saying, okay, is this going to provide jobs for people who’ve lived here for a long time? Are there going to be items that are priced in such a way that the people in the neighborhood can actually shop here and whole foods said, yeah, we’re committed to that and made that happen.
Amy Julia (38m 36s):
So that’s like a big picture example, but I just want to bring up two other examples of ways that my husband and I have been talking about trying to participate in economic justice. And one is by being mindful when we are giving money to not only be giving to white owned, owned is not quite the right white led institutions. Even if it’s serving people who are not white, we often have given to leaders who are white. And so we’ve been really trying to shift our giving so that it is more locally based in general, which also often means having people of color in leadership because of the ties, the local ties to those communities.
Amy Julia (39m 17s):
So that’s one thing. The other thing I’ve learned about recently is something called justice deposits and for people who have the means to do so, literally just opening a checking or savings account in a bank owned by people of color who again are more often tied to local communities of color, where I learned. So if you are an, you know, opening a savings account and you’ve got $10,000 that you just want to have, you know, in your savings account or your checking account, that $10,000 enables a bank to give a hundred thousand dollars of loans. And that’s what, you know, perfectly good and fine if you’re in Midtown Manhattan to be giving a hundred thousand dollars of loans. But if you’re in a small and economically distressed community to have access to that type of capital for mortgages for small businesses to get started, I mean, that can make like, be a transformative impact.
Amy Julia (40m 8s):
So we are still exploring how to actually be a part of things like that, you know, where would it be wise to do that and who would be behind it and that kind of thing. But I think there are some, again, like kind of creative and exciting ways. And for some people like moving a thousand dollars from here to there could mean that $10,000 of loans are available in a community that wouldn’t have had that before. That’s pretty cool. And at no cost other than like a few clicks of a button, you know, to you the quote unquote investor. So I think thinking through the way our economic system works and how we can to your point leverage like push on points differently.
Amy Julia (40m 49s):
So that change is affected in a more just way when it comes to the whole system, whether that’s as individuals or again, as communities. I think it’s just really important for people of faith to be much more mindful of that, at least that I have been as you know, over the course of the past 20 years, kind of growing up within the church, which brings
Dominique (41m 11s):
One more story from the book of examples. So one of my friends, Kaitlin, I feature her story in the book and it’s a really powerful story. There are a number of different elements to it, but one of the ways in which she recognized that she was a person of privilege was the fact that there was a family death and needed to make it to a funeral. And she, you know, funerals and not like we have three months in advance to plan for those oftentimes. And so flights get pretty expensive when it’s going to happen in two weeks. And so she was making accommodations for herself and her husband, her and her child.
Dominique (41m 55s):
And then she was about to go and, you know, try to pony up and pay for it. And then our parents said, oh, no, we got it. We’ll cover it for you. And then she realized, oh, well, because my parents are covering this flight. You know, as I now have, let’s just say $1,400 that I was planning to use to try to get there that now is actually just excess funds that I don’t have to spend in that way. What would it look like for me to connect this now excess in my life to the need and my neighbors lives. And so she talked about how she had been paying attention, where must before there were a number of her friends who were in a similar situation, but ultimately weren’t able to actually make it to the funeral because they didn’t have the access funds to be able to pull those together something last minute.
Dominique (42m 45s):
And so that made her start to think more strategically and intentionally about this is a real problem that exists in so many of our communities, especially if we’re in relationship with people who might not be the same socioeconomic bracket as we are. And when we have the familial support like this, this really does create excess money for us that otherwise would be spent in these ways. And since we don’t have to spend it in these ways, instead of just thinking, oh, well, that’s money that I can do more home improvement projects with, or that I can go shopping for. Ha the, the real strategic thing to do would be say like, let me actually put this money aside.
Dominique (43m 25s):
And as I see this need in my neighbor’s life, as I see these things come up, I actually now have discretionary funds that I can actually connect to that need and actually do so, you know, in the name of Jesus and really help tangibly meet the needs of my neighbors in a way that again, advances the kingdom and allows us to sacrificially love our neighbor in a way that allows folks to be able to mourn the death of loved ones to be in community and with family and these precious times. And so it was just a beautiful example of how something very tangible. It happens in almost all of our lives can be that spark to help us to start thinking different and start thinking and behaving differently because again of who and whose we are
Amy Julia (44m 10s):
Well, and that does go back and you do this early in the book as well as later on, but to having proximity to people who actually might encounter need, and that’s a whole other conversation we could have, but I just want to at least put a pin in the head for people to consider, do I actually have real relationships? And even I think about that story, it’s so beautiful. Cause it’s not, let me give you some charity, so you can go home it’s to a funeral. I was given this. And so I want to give it on like, to recognize that sense of reciprocity and mutuality. I know what it meant for me to get this. And so I want to offer it to you as well, because we already know each other we’re already in friendship or in relationship, and I’m not seeing myself as superior to you.
Amy Julia (44m 53s):
I’m seeing myself as a long side you, because I was there, I was in that position and here’s what happened to me. And so as I, as we come to a close, what I want to talk about, and this does somewhat go back to the conversation with about Esther and lament and even just the courageous ways in which she ultimately did speak to the king and also, you know, all the things we’ve been talking about, but what are some of the spiritual practices that we need to explore and embody so that we can begin leveraging privilege for God’s work in the world? What are some of the takeaways you would offer to listeners from this conversation who are saying, okay, I’m in that third category, right?
Amy Julia (45m 35s):
Like I’m not denying it, I’m not ignoring it, but I do feel a little ill-equipped to deal with it. Like what are some of some starting points?
Dominique (45m 43s):
Yeah. So, I mean, just for Christians in general, I really believe that the starting point is starting to pray Psalms 1 39, 23 through 24 that really, you know, got the searches and to see if there are any unclean ways within. And really, and I would extend it to say, to help me to realize the ways in which I have conformed to the patterns of this world, so that the spirit to the renewing work that it desires to do in and through us. I think the next thing I would say is really start to, to try to ask yourself though, some of the questions you were just asking about proximity, who am I in relationship with, who, who is different than me that can actually speak prophetically into my life and who can help me to understand the lived experience beyond my own.
Dominique (46m 44s):
Then I would go into questions of really, as you, as you read the book, there are reflective questions that are designed to help you ask some of these kinds of questions about, you know, what privileges might I actually have. And, and I, I want to just sidestep real quick and say it would have been really easy for me to write a book about privilege, to just focus exclusively on racial privilege. But part of what I believe allows our witness to be authentic and legitimate and really transformative in the world when we’re vulnerable enough to actually do the self exploration and to, to start to do the work of seeing our own blind spots and actually trying to work that out together in community in a more public transparent way.
Dominique (47m 37s):
And so I, I try to do a lot of intentional work around patriarchy and male privilege in this book, because I think it’s important if we’re going to be calling other people into something that they see us living into it as well. And so I’d say, but in addition to those things, I think asking questions about our finances, I really do believe that scripture is pretty clear that as Christians, we are blessed to be a blessing. So asking real questions about how am I being a blessing to others, how is, how are some of the privileges and the resources and the assets that I have access to flowing through me as opposed to just coming to me and my family.
Dominique (48m 22s):
And so I think those are very tangible questions asking and things to be thinking about. And then I just ask other questions. The other question that I would really encourage people to ask, because I do make this distinction between privileges that really do come as a consequence of sin and patterns of this world and privilege in which God puts us in a particular place in space for us to actually again, demonstrate that we belong to Jesus in places of distinction, through how we choose to engage and interact. So I would ask us to think about, are there privileges or are there certain benefits in our life that actually cause us and really tempt us to turn a blind eye to suffering in the world, or that have created a safe geographic buffer from things that we don’t want to deal with.
Dominique (49m 19s):
It might the spirit be asking us to more intentionally press into that or tune our ears to the, to the cries of suffering around us because they’ll engaging with that stuff can actually be transformative and could actually be the next step into us, walking out on faith and living into the fullness and the freeness that the spirit brings when we’re willing to pay follow Christ. So those will be a couple of other things that I would add to that.
Amy Julia (49m 46s):
Well, thank you so much and thank you for the whole conversation. And I do think it’s important to just underline what you just said, right? Like these are hard questions and they will lead to things that at least on the front end feel like sacrifice whether that’s the sacrifice of just entering into lament and repentance, whether it’s actual financial or, you know, sacrifice of time, energy, but this is all a, a recognition of the blessings we’ve already received, that they might be extended to others and be, it is an invitation to fullness and freedom and to deep relationships, not only with the Lord, but with one another, and that are going outside of just our own little homogenous communities and boundaries, but into the wider body of Christ, which ultimately should be really exciting and beautiful and fulfilling.
Amy Julia (50m 42s):
But it is a matter of asking the spirit to be our guide into that place because otherwise we’re not going to get there. So thank you again for joining us today and for offering so much to think about.
Dominique (50m 56s):
Can I say one last thing I really do believe that the mission of the church is to make God’s name known and loved shown throughout the world? I believe it’s that simple. And I really try to take it seriously in this book. And in life, John 13 34 35 for Jesus gives us a new commandment. And he says, by how we love one another, the world will know that we belong to Jesus. And I think that’s so critical because the world really has kind of impressed upon us that we only have to care about suffering and injustice and pressuring when it directly impacts us or those that we see ourselves as identified with that.
Dominique (51m 41s):
I actually believe that the, the brokenness in the world gives us a prime opportunity to enter in again, in the way that Jesus first entered in on our behalf when he didn’t have to. And as we try to follow Jesus’s example, when we see brokenness around us, we get the chance to enter in and enter in, in the name of Jesus. And when people see us living in this way, this, this, this counter-cultural way, folks are gonna want to know why. And that’s when we get the chance to bear, witness to the fact that there’s something at work in and through us, that’s more powerful than us. That takes us beyond our own limits, because we know as Christians, it’s no longer us who live, but it’s Christ who lives now in and through us.
Dominique (52m 26s):
And we get a chance to bear witness to that. And that’s one of the ways that I think this book, I really am trying to help the church to reconnect evangelism and justice because they were always intended to be together. And when we live together, prioritizing the great commission and the great commandment, we live into the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s when we become the transformative presence in the world that we were commissioned to be
Amy Julia (52m 51s):
So glad you added that. And I will also just add to that, the sense that we have a culture right now, where at least a large portion of it is without Christ crying out for justice. And if we can actually wed those two things in a way that the church has maybe failed to do, then there is an invitation certainly for Christians to live into the fullness of what we believe and God’s vision for what the world could be. But there’s also a real, as you said, evangelistic component to that, like, Hey, this is good news for all people, and we want to welcome you into that. So thank you for adding that. And thanks again for being here. Thanks
0 (53m 31s):
For having me.
Amy Julia (53m 34s):
Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear. In the show notes, you can find out more about Dominick. You can buy his new book and learn about his new video series. I got a chance to talk to him after we finished recording. And he mentioned that he has produced an eight part teaching series for small groups. That sounds like a really awesome way to engage the topics in this book. You will also in the show notes, find a link to a free resource that is on my website called head heart and hands that’s something we talked a little bit about in the episode today, and this is a free PDF that offers my own thoughts on how we can use our heads, hearts and hands to participate in social healing.
Amy Julia (54m 16s):
I always would ask you to take five seconds to share this episode. Maybe think of three people who could really benefit from hearing this conversation and shoot it their way. Somehow subscribe to the podcast, give it a quick rating or review wherever you find your podcasts. And then more people can benefit from these conversations. And I always also want to say, thank you, thank you, of course, to you for listening, but thank you also to Jake Hansen for editing this show and to Amber Berry, my social media coordinator, who does everything to make this all awesome. I’m really grateful for her.
Amy Julia (54m 56s):
Finally, as you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.