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urbanfaith logoSorry that I haven’t updated the blog in a while. I’ve been busy with work and family outings (trying to get in some final summer activities before the kids return to school). To be honest, most of my blogging energy is being used up over at UrbanFaith.com, which I’d like to encourage you to visit and bookmark, if you’re not familiar with it already. UrbanFaith is an online magazine that I work on as part of my day job at Urban Ministries, Inc. Here are a few of the interesting items we’ve posted recently:

• Redeeming a “Teachable Moment.”  This one goes beyond the beer summit to try and get at the real lessons from the Henry Louis Gates arrest and the subsequent racialized fiasco. We solicited commentary from seven Christian scholars and pastors, including William Pannell, Cheryl Sanders, Glenn Loury, Curtiss DeYoung, Art Lucero, Vashti Murphy McKenzie, and Tali Hairston. Pannell and Loury, especially, offer a trenchant analysis of President Obama’s handling (or mishandling) of the matter. The topic’s a bit dated now, but please check it out and let us hear your feedback.

• Justice or Socialist?  The legendary Christian reconciler and activist John M. Perkins shares insights on pursuing biblical justice without letting our politics, ideology, or suspicions get in the way. Very relevant in light of the current health-care debate.

• How to Handle Panhandlers.  Should we give without constraint, or does God want us to be more discriminating. My friend Arloa Sutter allowed us to adapt this one from her blog. This one will always be a timely issue for us to wrestle with.

• Aliens vs. Racism.  A review of the new film District 9, which isn’t your typical UFO flick. For starters, it’s set in South Africa. Plus, the human heart turns out to be a lot more frightening than the ugly extraterrestrials.

• Three Days in 1969.  Remembering Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix, and our continuing search for peace and love. If you’re a fan of Hendrix or the Woodstock era, you’ll want to check this one out.

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Sonia Sotomayor is an excellent Supreme Court nominee, but President Obama’s desire for “empathy” from the bench is off base. At least that’s what Yale law professor and bestselling author Stephen Carter believes. In the past, I’ve gone on record as agreeing with President Obama about his “empathy” test. Now I’m having to reconsider. What do you think?

Check out UrbanFaith.com for my interview with Carter about Sotomayor, diversity in America, the Supreme Court confirmation process, and other topics.

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Soong-Chan Rah9070UrbanFaith.com, my other blogging and writing home, has a new interview with Soong-Chan Rah about his book, The Next Evangelicalism, and why he still roots for the Baltimore Orioles. Also be sure to check out Soong-Chan’s new website, www.ProfRah.com.

Have a happy 4th of July weekend, everyone! Peace.

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The new Life.com features a collection of never-before-published photos of the events in the hours immediately following Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Here’s an AP story about the photos.

At my Facebook page, where I posted a link to the gallery, my friend Vinita Hampton Wright made the observation, “How ordinary the setting of such a pivotal event.” And I agree. I was especially fascinated by the image of King’s SCLC colleagues gathered in the small motel room after his death. It reminded me of the mood in the house when, as a little boy, I accompanied my parents to the home of a family friend who had just passed away. You can feel the awful silence, that sense of feeling lost but having no other choice but to carry on.

Tomorrow marks the forty-first anniversary of Dr. King’s death.

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Let’s see. It was way back in April when I first told you about the new online magazine/blog that I’ve been working on for the past year. It’s called UrbanFaith.com, and it finally went live this afternoon in a very, very beta version. We’ve still got plenty of glitches to work out, so please be patient with us. But just wanted you to know, “It’s alive!”

Please visit UrbanFaith a lot, leave lots of comments, and tell lots of friends. Most of all, please pray that God will use it as a worthwhile forum for insight, inspiration, and understanding.

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Have any of you seen RiseUp in your local newspaper yet? This groundbreaking weekly newspaper insert and online magazine is designed to stir our thinking on issues of race, ethnicity, and culture. It launches this weekend with a circulation of more than 4 million. In her note to readers, the publication’s founder and publisher, Janice Ellis, writes:

The mission of RiseUp is to engage all races and ethnicities in an ongoing conversation about how we can better understand each other, and build stronger communities, cities, nations and a better world.

RiseUp will strive for balance and inclusiveness in all its content. Our staff and writers come from all all races and ethnic groups. This is a magazine about us—all of us—and our need to better understand each other…

We are not approaching the subject with rose-colored glasses. We are taking it on with an unswerving commitment to make things better.

Ellis also tackles the elephant in the room, observing that the publication was not conceived in response to the current presidential election. But she acknowledges that the hot campaign season has certainly added to the sense of necessity for such a project.

The premiere issue of RiseUp features articles on “Closing the Racial Divide,” ethnic wedding traditions, and Baltimore’s Seton Hill neighborhood. It’s an interesting collection of pieces.

In a year when Barack Obama’s historic candidacy for president has sparked all kinds of new questions about race and culture in America, the time may be ripe for such a publication as this. If you’ve had a chance to check out the print or online edition, I’d love to hear your reactions.

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In the comments to a previous post, Tyson Aschliman reminded me about Christine Scheller’s suggestion that I check out the new blog Stuff White People Like. I meant to reply to her on that awhile back but got distracted. I’m sorry, Christine.

I had heard about Stuff White People Like (SWPL) earlier this year through TheRoot.com and another interesting blog called Racialicious. At the time, I wondered whether or not I should blog about SWPL. I decided not to because, while I found it funny, I wasn’t sure whether I was laughing with my white brothers and sisters or at them. Also, I realized that I like many of the same things that are supposedly the primary domain of white folk (e.g., #44 Public Radio, #40 Apple Products, #64 Recycling). Does this make me “too white” or “not black enough”? 🙂 

I may be overreacting about all of this, but I wonder what your thoughts are. Is SWPL a harmless site that’s good for a few laughs? A subversively instructive site that uses satire to help further our understanding of racial and cultural differences? Or, like that Root.com essay suggests, is it just the latest humor-clad gimmick exploiting our differences for one individual’s selfish gain (the guy got a nifty book deal out of this thing)? More importantly, does it help or hurt the cause of true racial reconciliation?

I don’t want to come across as a spoilsport. Frankly, I think many of the SWPL entries are hilarious.  And I believe it’s helpful to use humor in our discussion of racial issues. (Heck, I attempted to do that in my book.) But is there enough that’s redemptive in the SWPL approach to make it something that’s healthy and productive, and not just a slow-acting poison for the mind and heart that will ultimately make us more cynical?

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Last week I was intrigued by the case of Lenore Skenazy. Skenazy equipped her 9-year-old son with a map, a subway card, and 20 bucks, then dropped him off at a New York department store to find his way home by himself. Skenazy wrote about this in The New York Sun and promptly heard it from outraged folks accusing her of endangering her son. There was some supportive feedback as well. Check out the article and a Today show segment about the episode. Skenazy, who believes today’s parents have allowed the culture to make them more paranoid than in earlier eras, has launched a website called Free Range Kids, where she calls parents to stop being so overprotective of their children. Here’s how she describes it on the site:

Do you ever let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less. This site is dedicated to sane parenting.

This story caught my attention because I sometimes wonder whether I’m being overly protective of my kids. I grew up in the ‘hood of Rockford, Illinois, in the ’70s and ’80s, and my parents allowed me to do stuff on my own. We [the kids in my neighborhood] got to ride our bikes around the community (without helmets), walk to the local recreation center by ourselves, and play on metal playground equipment that would be deemed unsafe by today’s standards. And, as Skenazy notes, we survived.

Times are different today, of course. But, again, are parents too fearful? By not allowing our school-age children to do more things on their own, are we denying them the chance to develop the independence they’ll need to be functional and responsible adults? Are you sympathetic to Skenazy’s perspective? What has been your parenting experience so far?

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Okay, here’s a shameless plug for one of the projects I’ve been working on in my new job at Urban Ministries, Inc. The project is a new blog and online community for those interested in stuff related to urban ministry, racial reconciliation, contemporary culture, and more. The name of the site is UrbanFaith.com, and we hope to have it up and running sometime in May. Here’s how it’s described in some of our literature:

UrbanFaith.com is a blog and online community that will carve out a place on the Web as the premier Christian site for news, opinion, and lifestyle features from an urban perspective. Though rooted in African American culture, UrbanFaith.com will be ethnically inclusive and an online destination for anyone who cares about the people, culture, and issues related to urban life.

You can visit the site now and sign up to be on our contact list; we’ll send you an alert once the site is officially launched. Also, if any of you are interested in contributing articles or guest blog posts to the site, please let me know (you can go to my website and click on “Contact Me”) and I’ll send you more information about the kind of content we’ll be looking for.

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While in L.A. last week for Hollywood Presbyterian’s MLK celebration, I had the added blessing of seeing my friend Rudy Carrasco, whose Harambee Christian Family Center was the beneficiary of a special offering taken up that evening. Anyhow, I really like this recent post about Condoleezza Rice found over at Rudy’s blog.

And while I’m on the subject of Rudy’s blog, I should mention that he also has a post about the new African American webzine TheRoot.com, which is a collaborative venture between the Washington Post Co. and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. I’ve been checking out the site all day, and I like what they’re doing.

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