Love Is Stronger than Fear: Rethinking the Conversation about Privilege
“Privilege” is a word that comes up often in the media, classrooms, and even in conversation, and it is a word that often provokes strong reactions: guilt, shame, defensiveness, denial. But what if we thought about privilege differently? We can acknowledge privilege as a reality, look at how it operates in society, and consider a response that is not driven by guilt or shame or defensiveness but rather by a loving desire to connect with others and to understand a deeper meaning of privilege. What is the true privilege of being human comes from turning away from fear and toward love?
How Children’s Books Helped Me Understand Privilege
When I realized that our bookshelf only contained books with white characters, I embarked on a quest to expose our kids to diverse populations through reading. This discovery prompted me to reflect on my upbringing in a small Southern town and the ways the social advantages that came with being white both protected and nurtured me and cut me off from relationships, risk, and beauty. Books similarly can function as mirrors that reflect back to me my own experience of the world or as doorways into other worlds that invite me to have empathy and make connections outside my own small sphere.
Every Life is a Gift: Discovering Our Common Humanity as a Way to Embrace Diverse Identities
“Poetry is useless,” the poet Michael Longley once said in an interview. He went on to explain the value gained through poetry, value that comes not through economic productivity but through prompting thoughts about beauty and meaning and truth. When we measure and compare human lives based upon their usefulness we often fail to recognize the intrinsic value of each human being. But if every human being is loved—by God, by other people—not for what they do but for who they are, then it both connects us to one another through that common identity and allows us to freely explore and claim the different interests, abilities, needs, and gifts we all hold.
What Ineffective Prayer Taught Me about Social Justice
After the 2016 Presidential election, two different friends invited me to participate in a national prayer effort. I joined Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between when I signed up to pray every week for thirty minutes on Mondays. The experience of praying weekly for justice, mercy, and healing felt exhilarating at first. Then it felt discouraging as my prayer didn’t seem to be changing anything. Then it felt humbling when I realized how much arrogance I brought to prayer—as if a few weeks of my attention would change historical injustices. And finally, it felt hopeful, as I began to see the way prayer called me first to seek God, then to examine myself, and only then to enact change in the world.
Turning toward Love: How God’s Love Transforms Us and Heals Our Broken World
“God is love,” writes the author of 1John. What does it mean that God is love? How can we turn towards that love and allow it to both transform us and empower us? This talk explores the Biblical idea that human beings are created in the image of God with the purpose of receiving and giving love. I talk about the way fear and sin keep us away from love, and how turning towards love can help us to experience personal healing, identify our purpose, and connect with others to bring God’s kingdom of love to a broken world.
Healing the Wounds of Privilege
Privilege means being set apart to receive an advantage based upon an unearned aspect of identity such as white skin, high socio-economic status, ability, or religion. Over the years, the social advantages afforded to people of privilege have created social divisions. Privilege harms people outside its boundaries by cutting off access to education and opportunity. But privilege also harms the people within its boundaries. It provides a false sense of superiority and security. The homogeneity of a life of privilege often leads to anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. But when we identify the wounds inflicted upon all people by the divisions created through social privilege, it opens up possibilities for healing and transformation.
How My Daughter with Down Syndrome Helped Me See the Problems of Privilege
Our daughter Penny lives in what sociologists call a “liminal” space, in between two realms. On the one hand, she inherited the social privilege that accompanies whiteness, affluence, and married, educated parents. On the other, her genetic code placed her outside the invisible walls of privilege. She joined a history of people who had been maligned and rejected for centuries and into the present day. Despite the disadvantages—both socially and in other ways—Penny has as a result of Down syndrome, she has also demonstrated the possibilities inherent in every human being who has an identity rooted in love, who connects to others through a common understanding of human giftedness and need, and who has the social support necessary to demonstrate that giftedness. Her life has exposed the injustices of the way our social system works while also making clear the endless possibilities for human flourishing in each and every person.
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“In a world of too much information on the one hand and too much sentimentally on the other, I am so grateful for a communicator like Amy Julia who both stimulates the mind and stirs the heart. Not only do I always find her words extremely interesting, but I also want to live differently because of what I have heard. She helps me and others who listen to her love the Lord with our minds, with our hearts, with our lives.”
– Corey Widmer, Executive Pastor, Third Church
“Amy Julia has a rare gift of bringing us alongside her as she thinks through complex issues of the Christian life. You will not hear simplistic or unexamined answers. What you will hear is an honest and intelligent voice engaging in a robust examination of a wide range of issues from the quality of life to keeping one’s sanity while raising small children. She is disarmingly honest, funny, wise and winsome.”
– Director of Women’s and Children’s Ministry, Stone Hill Church, Princeton, NJ
“Through her speaking and teaching, Amy Julia uniquely engages individuals to be attentive to their lives in order to recognize how God is revealing himself to them…Her unique gifting to be able to give words to our shared experiences allows her to be seen as a trusted friend and guide for the journey.”
– Jacky Gatliff, Associate Pastor, Stanwich Congregational Church.
“It was a pleasure and honor to have Amy Julia join us for our womens’ event at Princeton University… Amy Julia is a gifted communicator. She is comfortable on stage and is able to engage with the audience while she speaks. She is easy to follow, and her stories illustrate her points perfectly. You can’t listen to Amy Julia without having your heart touched by her message.”
– Danielle Sallade, Senior Staff, Princeton Evangelical Fellowship
“Amy Julia quickly earned the trust of our community with her probing and insightful message and engaging delivery. She challenged us as to how we define “purpose” and “perfection” and invited us to look through God’s lens – a perspective of wholeness, completion and becoming who we are each created to be. We were inspired to re-examine our relational encounters as opportunities for learning, growth and transformation.”
– Rick Woolworth, President, Telemachus