11am: Hope for America’s Most Segregated Hour
A 60-minute documentary film followed by a 60-minute Q&A time, hosted by David M. Bailey, executive director of Arrabon
John Witvliet: As we get set for a formal launch to this Q&A session here at the top of the hour, I would be so grateful if you would join in prayer together. Let us pray.
Loving God, how grateful we are today for this inspiring vision. Thank you for Arrabon, for David, for each member of their team, and for the amazing work that you’ve done in and through them.
And then we pause to lament the grievous displays of racism and nationalism that have been so clearly before us over many weeks and months, but also this week in such vivid ways. We express our profound sadness.
Thank you for raising up David and so many others during this time, and we pray that we will talk together today in ways that are filled with truth and grace, looking to Jesus Christ as the perfect embodiment of how those two things come together. Inspire us by your Spirit, even as we talk now. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Thanks so much for joining us. David, I’m wondering if I could ask you to turn on that camera and say a word about this good work of the film. And actually, as David begins here, I’d invite us to—we need a Pentecostal outpouring of little emojis. I think that’s what we need right now. Get those reaction buttons out and say a word of thanks.
David, we are so grateful, and we look forward to hearing from you. We’d love to hear a bit about your reflections on doing this documentary and what you’ve been learning along the way. But then also, as you look ahead to the next steps for Arrabon. And then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of discussions and themes to follow up. So, David Bailey, God bless you. Thank you.
David Bailey: Thanks, everybody, for coming. I think it was just so good to see so many folks online … to be here and to be part of this conversation. I’m very grateful. Also, just really grateful for the Institute. I came back in 2010, but now we’re going on eleven years, and it’s just been a really great gift being a part of this community. If this is your first time, I highly recommend staying a part of this community.
A little bit about what we learned. You know, I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. My parents were particularly involved in a lot of urban-suburban partnerships, a lot of racial reconciliation initiatives. I was really kind of born into it. And when I got married, my wife and I … we just felt like, “Hey, we should be kind of engaging and figuring out what we could do in this generation to be part of that.” And so this happens about 2008. We move into that neighborhood that y’all got a chance to see, and this kind of moved things from—it’s one thing to live in the suburbs and then drive into the city and engage across economic, race, and class, but it’s a whole other thing to actually live and be embodied and doing this work.
In 2008, when we got a sense of calling to begin to do this ministry in reconciliation, I was partly recognizing a story that God was doing in my life. My wife said, “Hey, David, you realize you have to bring people together across differences and this has kind of been part of your story for really your whole life.”
But then, when we started this church, it became a place where it was almost like a sociological experiment. This was during the time when President Obama was the president, so a lot of the talk at the time was like, “Look, we have a Black president. We are in that post-racial society now.” But yet, living in a community, we were confronted with these things on a regular basis. And our church, we were just like, “Hey, what does it look like to be a faithful embodiment? What does it look like to be committed to a place and a space for forty years?” And I said, “Hey, let’s evaluate every ten years.”
So, the time we’re shooting this documentary, this was year nine. It was 2017. We moved in 2008; it was year nine. And it was just really—it was both beautiful, hard, tiring. I think it’s kind of similar to either being married or having children, where it’s the most beautiful thing that you have, the most tiring thing that you have, the most infuriating thing that you have. But hopefully you wouldn’t trade it. So that’s kind of how it’s been for us.
But I think about kind of where we are in this moment in 2021 now. Thinking from 2008, where folks thought we were in a post-racial society to literally this week, being in a—like, folks storming the Capitol. And some of that felt very—I can’t find another word other than the word sacred, something set apart—you know, like, the Capitol, where you think, “Oh man, that’s one place in America that just wouldn’t get violated.” Or maybe the voting process. Or maybe things related to our Constitution. And you just see the complexity of all these things happening.
And I’m thinking about this, and then we were also shooting this documentary where in 2017, we had the Charlottesville riot, where this looks like something that—I mean, this is an hour away from our house. Members of Urban Doxology, as you saw, were there when this is happening. And when I’m hearing about this, I’m like, this sounds like a really bad civil rights movie, but this is happening in real life.
One of the things that I’ve kind of heard folks say before is like, “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” And I think one of the biggest findings that I’ve found is that trying to be a community of practice, being a reconciling community, I think that’s the best thing that we could do. That when tragedy happens, when the cycle of sin manifests itself, we don’t have to get ready because we stay ready, because we’re trying to practice this space. And I think that is one of the biggest things that I’ve learned, after being committed to do something now for going on thirteen years of being in a place, in a space, being intentional, just being a dude trying to love the neighbor and love the community and be part of this. That’s a little bit of—John asked about what we learned.
What do we do as a ministry, as Arrabon? We equip Christian communities to be reconciling communities. And we do this by creating formational discipleship tools that help folks engage in the marathon work of being reconciling community.
The second thing that we do is we create communities of learning. This internship is a community of learning. It’s a place of practice where—yeah, they’re focused on writing the songs, but I want to let you in on a secret: The magic of what’s happening, that transformation that Michael and Ray experienced, is not from writing songs. It’s actually from giving people the tools to know how to be better collaborators. Creating a deadline that they have to actually work on—engaging, reconciling, and culture making—and then creating that kind of oven, cooking-pressure thing to actually work and create something together and staying at the table and doing it.
Last year was the tenth year of running the program, and the great thing about it is that we’ve been able to get consistent results and raising up—we’ve graduated over sixty interns that have come through this program. As we’ve done that, we’ve literally taken that same process and helped institutions do that, organizations do that. … I think there’s something really beautiful and great—I think music is a great tool, but it’s not the only tool. I’m pretty sure that a lot of folks that think about worship think about singing or the nonmusical side—the arts. And we can have a conversation about that.
But my time over the last six years has really focused in on trying to help people think about institutions and how institutions have to think about reconciling and culture making. Because institutions form people and people form institutions. And so a lot of times in this work we think about transforming individuals, but we don’t think about transforming institutions. So as a ministry, we focus on working with communities over a period of time to help them to form institutions that are reconciling communities. That’s where a lot of our work is.
John Witvliet: Thanks so much, David. I’d invite any of you to put a comment or question in the chat that you would like to have David respond to, and a key theme that you’d like to follow up, or on advice about next steps in your community. And while you’re doing that: David, I’d love to ask you about those alumni of the program and what you see—especially those alums from eight years ago, nine years ago, ten years ago and what kind of fruit do you see emerging? And what kind of—honestly also, I mean, realistically—the barriers to that fruit from people who really did have a transformative experience but now may be in a place where those sensibilities are really hard to sustain.
David Bailey: So, ten years ago they start calling me Uncle David and now they are starting to have babies, so I think I’m like Grand Uncle David now. So this is kind of crazy that somebody 22 is now 32, and what’s really beautiful is that they’re pastors now. They are leaders. One guy who, coming from Shreveport, Louisiana—coming to Richmond was a big deal. But then learning to think like a missionary and cross-cultural stuff inspired him to be able to go to—he took a job in Germany … then went to England and got a master’s in missiology at All Nations and is now in Singapore. And while he was both in England and in Singapore, he did a similar internship thing with refugees and youth and engaging in writing and doing a similar type of thing. So it’s really cool just seeing the work that they’ve been doing.
There’s a lot of folks that are a part of our community. I would say, we probably have had twenty or twenty-five folks that have been led to stay and be a part of our community. So this has been a gift that keeps on giving. Some of them become staff at our church or pastors and different roles in spaces. So that’s been one great thing.
I think another thing has been challenging and is a lament that I hear from a lot of folks is that they can’t find communities and churches that are committed to this type of work. So that could be a frustration that [inaudible] and engage in. That’s a little bit of how would answer that question.
John Witvliet: We have a question here about the program itself. Could you say a little bit about the residential dimension of the program? So, when students experience the program—say a little bit about the nature of their life together.
David Bailey: The community’s residential. They generally live—so it’s been really connected with our church, East End Fellowship. Arrabon runs the internship program, but we’ve really been in partnership with East End Fellowship, and so part of that partnership means that people are like host families that the interns will stay with. And a lot of times they stay in contact with each other post the internship. It’s about eight weeks there and they’re part of our community, they become the worship team. And when I was the worship pastor at the church, summertime is like the worst time to be a worship pastor, right? Because everybody goes on vacation or they just decide not to come, whatever the case may be and … it’s just like really stressful being a worship director at a church during the summertime.
Well, for our church, what’s really great is because of the internship, it tends to be the most talented group of folks—like, our quality kind of goes up during the summertime, because of these really gifted (musicians) and then people kind of plan their schedule around—the volunteers kind of plan their schedule to be around these other great musicians and so it actually kind of helps to keep the quality and things going up. But they’re very much part of our church, they’re part of a small group that we call house churches in our community, and that’s been a significant part.
This past year was the first time we—like many people, we adjusted and did an online experience. And so we’ve been figuring out how to do that in a way—because I think ultimately, probably 2022, we’re going to try to give this package to folks to be able to do in their own communities, because this is a gift that keeps on giving. And so we want to equip other communities to do this type of work. It helps, one, to build reconciling communities, to create collaboration; it helps, two, to get young people engaged; and then, three, if it’s a decent community, they fall in love with community and they’ll stay around. It’s a great way of kind of growing young people over a period of time. So we want to share this gift with others.
John Witvliet: Thank you very much. David, let’s go to Jeremy’s question. Thank you, Jeremy Perigo. How can rural, monocultural Christian communities embrace reconciliation and multicultural practices in worship without engaging in the wrong kind of cultural appropriation or ethno-tourism?
David Bailey: Jeremy, it’s so good to see you, man, when things open up, I can come and explain this to you in England. So, I would say a couple of things. One of the things that I want to encourage folks to do is to share—a diverse community doesn’t mean it’s a reconciling community. Like, the NFL is diverse, but the NFL isn’t a reconciling community. … I think there are gifts that you can receive from having diversity. I think there are unique things that happen. There’s more diversity that you experience and unique challenge and opportunities that come in an urban context.
But being a reconciling community is really important no matter where you are. Before I did this ministry full time, I was a music teacher and I taught in a rural county. There’s a lot of need for reconciliation in rural communities, right? You got class that’s an issue. You got the old people that’s been around and the newcomers. Where I was, I noticed that the white people were here and the Black people were there, and then a lot of times the Hispanic folks in a lot of rural communities are just kind of seen but not heard, and even kind of not seen because they’re providing service for folks.
And so, class, race, gender is going to always be a thing that is always going to be some kind of divide, and so these practices of being a reconciling community is a really important thing for folks to engage in. So I always want to encourage rural communities to say, “Hey, where’s the brokenness in our community? How can we lean into being a reconciling community?”
But then also we can see what it’s like from the story of Charlottesville or what happened at the Capitol recently, there’s a lot of formational discipleship work that really needs to happen in the area of race, even in these rural communities, and this is a significant place and space. And so part of what you want to do—I would highly recommend two things.
One is to kind of frame this deal and say, “How do people need to be formed, no matter who’s here and who’s not here?” If you don’t have a kind of diversity, how can you have a kind of cultural liturgy of bringing some different voices in to try to help to speak and shape the imagination for people. And have imagination for what it is like to be a reconciling community and particularly looking at the area of—if you have no ethnic diversity or racial diversity, think about the economic diversity and the type of things that God—like James encourages and John encourages as it relates to how we engage in healing brokenness in the areas of economics.
John Witvliet: Thanks, David, and thanks Noel for your question about life in Princeton, New Jersey. David, we’ll go to that next. Noel, I think that’s going to be very helpful for all of us: Majority white congregation in Princeton. Working in reconciliation for the past twenty years with a majority Black congregation in a town, a congregation that split away from our church in the 1830s over issues of racial segregation within the sanctuary itself. Substantial power difference, size, finances—what recommendations would you have? Noel, I can picture that so vividly and think, David, about so many communities right near you where that would be the story too. And I’m looking around at the attendees here—this is all our story in some ways. So what word would you have, David?
David Bailey: I actually think the people with the most power—it’s important to understand that we are the ones that tend to set the rules of engagement. So I think it’s a really key thing to try to understand—like, it’s easy for us to see our wealth, it’s hard to see our poverty and our vulnerability. And so, I think … everybody as a human being has both a gift as an image bearer and they have a limitation as a person a part of experiencing the Fall. So it’s important to kind of understand these things, and I’ll give you an example in my neighborhood. And this is the posture that I think, in this church collaboration, which will be really key with this all-white congregation.
I was holding my grandma’s hand one time and she was like, “Baby, you never done any kind of hard labor in your life before, have you?” You know, my hands are soft and she grew up in an era where men’s hands were rough because they work with their hands and they built things and, man, I can’t build anything. If a thing breaks in my house, my wife is the Mrs. Fix-It. I might be the muscle, but she knows how to do stuff. She made the mistake the other day to ask me to fix this globe thing and it ended up being worse than what it was before she asked me to fix it. So she was like, “I forgot I don’t ask you to fix things.” So that’s kind of where I am.
And so in my neighborhood, there’s gentrification happening, but most of my neighbors who have been here for thirty, forty, fifty years, they’re blue collar workers. They’re folks that like get in a uniform and go somewhere. So I’m in my house all the time. I’ve made a living either through music or through teaching or talking—like, it’s all ideas. And so for a long time, they thought that we were rich, you know, because we didn’t go anyplace. And then I get on planes and I go places, and probably some of them have never been on a plane before.
So my neighbor, Keith—I had to realize there was some assumptions, because you’re dealing with this kind of class dynamic. And my wife and I had to be very intentional to let them know we didn’t think less of them, that we don’t take ourselves that seriously. We had to kind of deconstruct some stuff, and that was our job to do that, particularly as the people who have kind of a little bit more resources than them.
The second thing we had to do was, with my friend Keith, whenever something broke in my house, like plumbing or anything of that nature, I would go to Keith’s house and say, “Hey, Keith, can you help me?” Instead of calling the plumber first, I needed to kind of like show my vulnerability. And so I get underneath and we’re kind of joking and making fun of me not knowing something, and all that kind of stuff. And we kind of laugh and don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we got a chance to actually work on projects in our house versus just me being “more efficient.” In that interaction we built a lot of trust. We built trust in that space because he saw me vulnerable and then as that space worked out, we got a chance to talk. And it’s not about efficiency, but it’s about effectiveness and being neighbors and community and that whole deal.
So I think this is something that you want to do as an institution, is think through, Hey, what are the gifts and the assets, and what are the things that we collaborate on? … What are the things that we can give and receive with each other, but what are the things that we also can collaborate on? And that’s some of the things that I would really encourage you all to think through within that power dynamic.
And the more that the people within the power of that white institution can understand their vulnerabilities, understand their weaknesses, understand their need, the better that they can be a better collaborator. In Arrabon we call that conscious displacement, and kind of working on being a place where you’re earning power to help you to know how to be a better collaborator.
John Witvliet: Thanks, David. I’d love to follow up on the detail, Noel, you put in there about the separation in the 1830s and how in a way that history seems so long ago, but in some recent work we’ve been doing with autobiographies written a hundred years ago, the connections that are made—and David, I’d love for you … to say a little bit about what we saw in the movie, too: You walking us through the spaces in Richmond. And I’m thinking of our family’s recent trip to Birmingham, and it was a city worker who said, “I want you to see and understand the cemeteries in the city. You don’t understand anything till you’ve been in the cemeteries. And when you’re in the cemetery together across racial lines, now then you feel the story in your bones.” And I just wonder—I take that so much from your work, David—if you’d say a little bit about being in the place and just what difference that makes.
David Bailey: It’s interesting you bring that up because there’s so much debate right now, and I think a lot of is a straw man/a bogeyman about critical race theory and intersectionality and all this kind of stuff. And I have thoughts and opinions about this, but I feel like there’s a lot of common grace tools that we could use. I actually think that one of the best tools that I found to be really useful in this work—and I read a lot of sociology and all kinds of stuff—but I just think understanding the history, how we got here, is very helpful. And actually reading the Bible and understanding how do these things work in the biblical narrative. I find those two things to be so helpful. And there’s so much—and I don’t say this in a derogatory way—but there’s so much ignorance about how we got to this moment, and I think the more that we can understand how we got to this moment is really key. And so, a lot of our work is really engaging in history.
And particularly for me as an African American, I’m constantly looking between 1865 to about
1930, right at the end of the Harlem Renaissance period of time, to really understand how do you move from, “Oh my gosh, I thought we were going to be slaves forever” to, “Oh my gosh, we’re totally free, but there’s a war that happened and a lot of angry white people around.” And chattel slavery was … done in such a way where if people left, they were so dependent on the plantation that they couldn’t survive on their own. And then all of a sudden you go, and for how you get millions of people to move from being enslaved people to a lot of the Republican parties that started in the South were started by African Americans. Like the collaboration—I think this is when Christians were at some of our best. You got both Black Christians who were free and white Christians that came and started a lot of the historically Black colleges and universities. Literacy rate went up. Political progress happened. I mean, there was so much stuff that happened that for first twelve years, it was unstoppable.
And then what began to happen was, the kind of modus operandi in America has been Black people cannot—they can do OK, but they can’t do better than white people. So then this starts what they call Black Codes and the Jim Crow and all of that type of stuff that led to another hundred years that gets us to about 1968, 1969. But in that process, it’s amazing to see the kind of progress and what people did.
And then we went through the Harlem Renaissance, where folks said, “Hey, we need to change the narrative.” It’s called the New Negro Movement. “We need change that narrative of what they’re saying about Black folks and have a new imagination.” And so I’m constantly—I feel like the work that we’re doing in our community is literally coming out of that Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells cultural imagination—James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes—just trying to name and see some things. And I encourage folks to say—or if you see something that’s done, like I know William Barber right now, he calls it the Poor People’s Campaign. He’s trying to finish the work that Dr. King started with the March on Washington, which is called the Poor People’s March.
And so, these are the things that I really encourage people to really be connected to our past and to reimagine a new future.
John Witvliet: Let’s go to Sarah’s question next, which is about other forms of culture making. What recommendations do you have about how folks in different contexts can begin the process of thinking through what kind of culture making they might be able to do? I mean, suppose that songwriting is not going to work or isn’t quite the right thing. What other examples do you have, David, or a process to think through that question?
David Bailey: My first piece is business: You know what shaped more culture in the last—? This right here: this iPhone. Remember, once upon a time, this wasn’t a thing? And this cultural artifact right here, by putting a computer in a phone, has literally changed the shape of the world. I think there’s a lot of—race is really about economics. It was created for economic reasons and created a racial hierarchy, a caste system, for economic reasons. And so I want to encourage as many entrepreneurs and people to think about their vocations and the kind of culture they’re creating. Who has access to what, and how do you do this, and how do you onboard, and how do you do things?
Let me give an example in gender. Thinking through the policies—I was talking about this earlier—a lot of times John gets a lot more opportunities than Jane. Because when I go to travel, I say, “John, hey, man, I’m going to Calvin. My wife’s not coming along with me. You can room with me,” and we go along. But Jane can’t get that same kind of opportunity. And so part of what reconciling culture making looks like is like, Hey, how do I not see that as an extra expense to like if Jane needs an opportunity that we just pay for two hotel rooms and we create these opportunities to voice.
But then also we need to think through, OK, how can Jane not have to communicate in kind of dominant masculine format in order to be heard? And what’s the gift that Jane is bringing in her feminine essence, and how she approaches and does things, and what do we create? … We’re constantly creating culture, even in the ways that we do stuff. The way Andy Crouch says it in his book Culture Making, he says that culture is what we make sense of the world and what we make of the world. So both in how we make sense of the world I think is really important in culture creation, but then also the materials that we make. And say, “Hey, what are we making here? How can we recognize what’s broken and create something?” Having community gardens. I think a big aspect of culture making is in parenting—who your kids are around, what kind of activities do you all do, things that you all spend time working on.
A friend of mine recently started to cook meals and do meals with the under-resourced basketball team—a high school with an under-resourced basketball team and football team—and when you go into the school, you realize how the conditions are so deplorable. It’s terrible. It’s depressing. But literally them coming in and making meals and engaging together is engaging in culture making. So these are just—and their family does it together, the kids … watch the basketball games, they feed them, they feel a part of the team because of the role that they’re playing—like those are the type of things that, you know, if you kind of have some imagination, your eyes could open and see some opportunities.
John Witvliet: Thanks, David. Very grateful, Chip, for your experience in Missouri there, sharing Bible study—majority white, majority Black congregation. The Color of Compromise catches my eye because Jemar Tisby will be with us on the Worship Symposium in our partnership with the January Series coming up. Jemar has a new book out as well on resisting racism that we look forward to engaging.
But David, what reflections and advice do you have about partnerships? So a shared Bible study or some kind of exchange between two congregations, very different culture. What advice do you have for how that can be done well and suggestions that you would offer to folks who might be interested in pursuing that?
David Bailey: I think that’s great. I think Jemar—we were hanging out yesterday through another Zoom thing. The Color of Compromise is great. I have his new book cued up; it just came out. About to get into that.
At Arrabon we have Race, Class, and the Kingdom of God. That’s actually a little bit designed to help people to have introductory conversations and to think through some imagination. So we go through things biblically first, understanding how transformation happens, what are practices, and then we begin to kind of move towards imagination of what’s possible. I’m saying how we got here and those things.
But what’s key about our methodology is it’s really about getting people to digest the dialogue and to kind of work and then work towards imagination. So I think that that’s a really key thing that you want to help folks do, and then the more you can kind of—you don’t want to rush too fast. (Thanks, John. John just put it in the chat.) You don’t want to rush too fast to start doing stuff, but at some point, let’s just say you might study for three months or six months. But at that time, particularly the people who are, when you think about the power dynamic, the person that might not be the stronger part of the that group power dynamic, you want to kind of ask and say, “Hey, what’s something we could partner with you on?” A lot of times in partnerships, when—particularly white organizations, they say partnership means, “Hey, can you help us do something that we’re already doing?” Versus asking, “Hey, what can we be a partner in to resource on what you’re doing?”
That’s one of the things that I would really encourage you to do. And I would encourage, particularly those who might be white, to spend some time learning and studying. But eventually … that’s enough preparation to start doing something. And when you come in to do, don’t try to do your own thing; try to do something where, “Hey, where can I partner where God’s already doing?” But the reason why you’re doing that preparation and study is not so that you could be so smart that you don’t make a mistake, because you’re going to make a mistake. You need to know that, like, crawling and falling is part of the learning-how-to-walk process. And you can’t, if you fast forward that, then something will go wrong in your cognitive development. So, you want to pay attention to learning, but not get stuck through analysis paralysis.
So allow the other partner to try to help take the lead and guide you to take—like a dancing metaphor. It takes both, but don’t feel like you got to be the person that’s taking the lead.
John Witvliet: Thank you, David. Let’s go to Robin’s question here. Thanks, Robin, for joining us and for this question about the documentary. David, say a little bit about how people can access the documentary, apart from the conference. I will add in the fact that I believe it’s still remains accessible on YouTube in the short term …. But say a bit about that, David.
David Bailey: We’re having a new website that will be available by MLK weekend, I believe. I can’t remember on this first round if getting accessibility to a license to watch, but this is one of the tools that we have for people to watch it in a community, have some discussion. We have some opportunities for people to like—what to do next type of thing. That is something that’s a resource that we have and so if you’re interested in purchasing a license to, it might be like a hundred people or less, a hundred to two hundred, two hundred or more people—it’s one of those things that we have. You can either go on the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s Alyssa, my assistant, and she can get you set up with that.
John Witvliet: One of the things we so value is, David, your commitment to having the film be a discussion starter and really pairing it with substantive discussions. And grateful—Kristin Verhulst is on this call, on this Zoom—for her leadership, and over the last few years we’ve been able to sponsor viewings with discussion at half a dozen or more Christian colleges and also congregations. And I would like to pause, David, and ask you about what you learn about how people engage this documentary in different contexts. To me, that’s the power. It’s the story, but it’s the discussion after that’s just often so powerful.
David Bailey: It sparks—so, whenever we as a ministry—like, I’m talking a lot right now because of this medium, but our general mantra is we just feel like we’re talking or showing the documentary enough to spark the imagination and kind of get you and your community talking. And that’s what happens. Like, people begin to, one, get some hope and inspiration. I mean, these conversations are really hard. You saw, there was some hard stuff in that documentary, right? There were some difficult things. There’s some difficult things that we experienced this week and we were experiencing all year, in the last X amount of period of time. But having imagination and hope is really key.
And I think the way that happens is by folks dialoguing and talking around what’s possible. We acknowledge what’s wrong. We process through that pain. We can leave some space to lament, and we pray through it. But then, a lot of times when we do our Q and As and folks talk, it really sparks a lot of imagination, and then we’ve provided different tools to get people to know how to think through some of these things.
So that’s one of the things that it’s done. And there’s a lot of people who have done different initiatives as a result, started different things within their church or within their communities as a result of this documentary.
John Witvliet: Good, thank you. David let’s follow up on Tracy’s question here. Any suggestions on how to approach people who are resistant to believing or accepting that there is racial reconciliation needed? And I am thinking, I’ll just add, of vivid displays of this on social media this week. And so, following your lead to actually rush toward, move into—there is a challenge. We have huge challenges again this week because of the resistance to the idea of just how deep the pain and the problem really is.
David Bailey: I’ve heard a lot of conversion stories in my life as a believer. And one conversion story I’ve heard about just—even faith or non-faith—I’ve yet to hear anybody that says, “I got convinced through Twitter.” And so I think a lot of it has to do with the medium. I think social media is just not the best medium for converting people. I think it is the best medium for echo chambers. That’s kind of how things work, how you see things. And so, my social media presence is kind of—we joke on it, and it’s not super great. It’s not super great. And part of it is that I really try to focus my time on presence with actual people and work on this in that space.
So here’s the secret of how our ministry has worked over the years. And this is what I want to encourage you all to do. It comes out of Luke and Matthew, where Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the laborers are few.” He was weeping over the city and said, “The harvest is great, but they’re like sheep without a shepherd. The harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he may send out laborers.” And then in the very next chapter he sends out the twelve disciples, or he sends out the seventy-two, and he does three things that are really important: One is he gives them a gift of proclaiming the kingdom of God; he gives them the power to proclaim the kingdom of God. Number two, he gives the power to both heal and the power to deliver from evil spirits.
And what you experience in Arrabon and my ministry is that God has given me a gift to proclaim the measure of the kingdom of God through being a reconciling community. ... You’re going to always hear me proclaim the kingdom of God.
And that’s one thing I would encourage you to do, is proclaim the kingdom of God, because one of the major problems that we have is that we have formed Christians in America to believe that the kingdom of God is going to come through American democracy. And people are upset right now that it’s either coming from the—you can decide it’s coming from the Republican democracy or the Democratic democracy, but the reality of it is that the kingdom of God is not coming through any kind of man-made political system. And unfortunately, we’ve been duped in thinking that that’s going to happen.
And so, proclaim the kingdom of God. Proclaim the kingdom of God in the way that—the way Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God had a tax collector and a zealot. I mean, it was somebody that was like super into the system and somebody who was like “Hey, let’s burn the whole thing down.” And so that’s the kind of kingdom message that I would encourage you to preach, and that’s the one that we try to preach every time we get opportunity.
The second thing is that Jesus gave them power to both heal and deliver. And so when we’re ministering to people—like, this principality of racism, the racial caste system, white supremacy—we all need healing and deliverance. I mean, it’s such a toxic environment it’s almost like … you live in one place and there’s a nuclear plant really in close proximity to you. It’s in your water, it’s in your air, and there’s this high manifestation of cancer—you’ve just got to realize that it’s malformed not only white people, it’s malformed people of color, Black folks. Like, we’re all dealing with this thing, we all need healing and deliverance.
So when you realize this, you spend time trying to minister to people, that’s people that need healing and deliverance. And that’s the thing that I’m trying to do—and even within me, I’m aware that I need healing and deliverance. So I spend time with a therapist once a month, I spend time with a spiritual director twice a month, and there are spiritual practices that I do to try to lament and detox a lot of stuff so that this principality doesn’t take over me. And in my team, I try to make sure that we are engaging in that kind of practice.
And then here’s the thing he told them once he gave them the power. He said, “Hey, go and do your ministry, go find people of peace.” So one of the things that I would encourage you to do is to discern—like, don’t say, “Is this person going to convert, is this person going to change, is this person ready?” because the Holy Spirit does that. A person of peace is somebody that seems open for the hospitality, open to your ministry, open to the thing—and then just go find people of peace. We don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince people that race is an issue.
There’s this recent study that came out maybe last year or the year before last about the hidden tribes, like on the extremes. There might be ten or fifteen percent of folks on the left or the right that’s really extreme or doubled down, but it says there’s a tired majority, there’s a significant majority of people—so it’s like the extremes get, the squeaky wheel gets most of the oil. And I think a plan of the enemy is to spend most your time and energy dealing with the extremes. Where there’s are ready majority of people that are like, “Hey, I might be a little bit left of center, I might be a little bit right of center, or I might be fully right or fully left, but I realize that we’ve got to work with one another.”
And there is a very tired majority of folks that need [inaudible], and I think these people are kind of people at peace that want to try to figure out how to do something. And I would really encourage you to spend time with those who—they could be resistant because the only things that they know are things that might be kind of extreme, but they might be kind of open, they still might be a person of peace. And I think if you look at that lens and try to see how can you bring healing to them, how can you bring deliverance, how can you continue to share the kingdom of God to them? And that’s what I would encourage you to do.
John Witvliet: Thanks so much. It’s occurring to me as you’re speaking here that we’re getting a compressed, really full class, and it’s inspiring. I don’t know if I can convince our dean to grant academic credit for this afternoon, but I think that it would be well warranted. So we’re very grateful. There a few more questions, and we’ll be wrapping up here in about ten minutes or so.
But thank you to all of you who posted questions and I’m grateful will be able to get to them. Hillary, thank you for the question here about different generations. So what reflections, David, do you have on engaging different generations in this work, and the challenges but also the opportunities that different generational cohorts bring to this conversation?
David Bailey: Let me start with two things. I think one thing that’s really, really important to understand is that generations are shaped by events and experiences and technologies and things that have happened. And so there’s one conversation for boomers and older. You’ve got to realize that they experienced the trauma of Jim Crow and race and things of that nature. And so for them, we made a lot of progress. For them, racism meant that you sic dogs on people and put water hoses and Bloody Sunday and all that kind of stuff. And that’s not happening in the same way, so it’s like, “Hey what’s going on, right?”
But then Gen X and younger … it’s not a big deal to have more diverse relationships. It’s not a big deal for them—like Motown was the first group of Black American, Black folks, like, for them to kind of be in their home and be kind or normal and even be somebody they idolized. It’s not a big deal for a white kid to enjoy Beyonce or a K-pop star or a rapper. Or LeBron James. It’s just not a thing. And so, race—even the word racism, in the older generation it’s talking about personal things that people are doing, and in the younger generation it’s talking about systemic things. And so even within the same racial and ethnic group, they’re talking past one another. And I think it’s just important to kind of understand some of the generational dynamics of definitions and how things are working.
Two of my favorite artists that I, particularly when I was a professional musician, spent a lot of my time modeling after was Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. I know a ridiculous, obsessive amount of information about Quincy Jones, because I was like a producer. And you know you’ve got that game “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”—you can do that about Quincy Jones and popular music. So, one of the things that I learned early on in my career, and I think what helped me to get a little bit of imagination and vision for this work, is that when Miles Davis was 19 years old, he ended up replacing Dizzy Gillespie as Charlie Parker’s trumpet duet partner because Charlie Parker had a drug problem and Dizzy Gillespie just got tired of dealing with it. So he was 19 and he helped him. So then by the time—this is about the 1940s—by the time Miles Davis got to be 30 and he’s doing the Kind of Blue, he gets young people like John Coltrane. By the time he gets 40, het gets young people like Herbie Hancock. By the time he’s like 60s and 70s, he’s dealing with Chick Corea and he even got into rap music in the eighties and nineties before he before he died.
Quincy Jones was about 18 or 19 when he started touring with Fred Hampton, the vibraphonist. He was Dizzy Gillespie’s music director when he did a European tour, but he was 50 years old when the Thriller album came out and he started winning all these Grammys with Michael Jackson. There would not be an iconic Michael Jackson without having that 50-year-old Quincy Jones. And this is one of the things that I think as I look at the folks like—there was something that made him say, “When I turn 30…”—I think the key to longevity—these guys had fifty-year careers, and the key to their longevity was they stayed connected with twenty-somethings. And one of the things that I would really encourage you to do, whatever you’re doing in your career, is to stay connected to twenty-somethings.
They knew—like Quincy Jones, he knew how music worked, and he had this pool of wisdom that he acquired over his fifty years of doing music. But he knew that he didn’t know anything about disco and all of the kind of hip stuff, or like when Slash came in to do the “Beat It” thing, he knew he needed to call Slash to do that crazy guitar solo. He knew that a guitar solo needed to happen, but he didn’t know anything about rock music. But he was like, “Hey, you just do what you do and work,” but he knew how to pull that stuff together. He knew what his role was as an older man, a mature person, an experienced person.
I think that’s a little bit like—a lot of the generational problems that happens is that older people don’t know their place and make room for younger people. And that’s the thing—learning how to collaborate well across generations is one of the best things that you could do and it’s one of the most generative things that you could do. And that’s what I would really encourage you to do.
John Witvliet: Thanks, David. I see Lane’s question here about, What are some of the typical lessons that white interns learn in particular? Say a little bit about that.
David Bailey: I think Michael’s experience is typical. I think as white people, there’s just like a narrative that you get and if that narrative doesn’t line up with one person’s, like, what they’ve learned over the years, it just ends up being, they say, “Oh man, this must not be true.” And I think the biggest thing they learn is how to be a minority—is, I think, the biggest thing that happens. Because a lot of white people don’t get the gift of being a minority. And if they do, they might get it being in a different country. And a lot of times as an American, at least prior to recent years, your passport—like, being an American citizen—kind of puts you in a place of privilege. But literally be in a space where, like, Michael’s master’s degree, his white maleness, it just didn’t mean anything. It wasn’t—we didn’t create an environment where we criticized him or made fun of him as a result. But he just had to kind of figure out how to navigate a different space.
And I think it’s like, a lot of interns who are white, because they are minority in this context, they just literally get a significant conversion experience. And they’re like, “Oh, the world is different. Oh, there is a thing called white culture. It’s not just like normal culture.” And you can read about that. But when you experience it, you see it in a different type of way. So I would say, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of cognitive things that they get, but I think a lot of it is really more the experience, and there’s a level of sensitivity and cultural intelligence that increases that they take along with them, that they come back and talk. And the way they engage with the world is just very different.
John Witvliet: We have time here for two more questions, and I’ll start with the simple one, David. It’s a question about the internship experience during the coming year. And it looks like Amanda’s got a son who wants to sign up for it. So what opportunities?
David Bailey: This summer we’re going to spend a little bit more time actually working on (curriculum). … Elana’s getting married, and so, she got engaged—actually engaged to somebody who was an intern, so it was a nice little love story happened; we’ve had a couple of those happen over the years. So this summer, we’re actually going to spend more time working on curriculum, and this September we’re looking at doing a cohort … particularly around songwriting. So be on the lookout for that.
John Witvliet: So stay on Arrabon.com. Remember the email@example.com for any questions you might have. I have another question that’s been sent to me privately that I’ll raise. It’s a challenging question, but the topic of course invites this, and I really do want to make sure we get to it this afternoon. It has to do with the difficulties of trauma and how when there’s traumatic experience, that shapes how we come to conversations like this. And I’m so aware that there might be any number of layers to this, and I’m actually, as I hear this question, I think about how many times in the last day on my own social media feeds I’ve had people speak about the re-traumatization that they’ve experienced here. And so this is a very significant question. I’ll mention now that we will also be talking about this on Tuesday in the conversation with Christina Edmondson about antiracism, and Christina is an exceptionally gifted psychologist who reflects on trauma. So this is also a way for me to invite everyone to that conversation at 11 a.m. this coming Tuesday. But David, what reflections do you have about that big challenge?
David Bailey: I highly recommend—I’m going to try to see if I can do it, because first of all, I learn so much every time I’m in Christina’s presence, and Mika, and their presence in general. Two, this is literally her area expertise and so I feel like I’m always borrowing stuff from her or people in this area. I think that we’ve got to—this is my Cliff’s Notes, armchair kind of response and I cannot more highly recommend going to the thing at 11 o’clock with Christina, because you’re going to get a lot.
Here’s the thing: I think … racism is trauma. Racism is trauma. You’re either experienced—like, you’re the victim of it, you’re the perpetrator of it, or you’re the witness of it. And so part of the reason why for me, another thing that helps to sustain me in doing this work is that I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. And people text me or they might send an email or something like that, and I’ll kind of find out what’s going on that way. But I find myself feeling very apocalyptic when I’m just engaged in the media stuff, and it helps me to be a lot more soberminded when I’m not engaging that media deal.
I generally don’t click on the videos to watch stuff, you know, but the George Floyd piece, somebody sent it to me before I knew what was going on. I was like, “Oh my gosh.” I mean, that was just traumatic to see and experience. And so I think one of the things that’s key is that I think we really need to realize that everybody that watched that video experienced trauma to some level. And clearly, those who are like—the closer you get to it, the more traumatizing it is. And I think we need to understand that we are dealing with each other as traumatized people, that we experience trauma, and we need to learn how to take care of each other and take care of ourselves as a result of experiencing these things.
So I just highly—like without knowing super details about what’s coming behind that thing, I think that really understanding the way trauma works is key. And then also I will say, spending time with Christina would be really good.
John Witvliet: I’d like to invite all of us to say thank you to you, David. So this is applause and emoji fest, and you’ve got love coming to you from all over the world. We are so grateful for you.
On behalf of all of us at Calvin, we want to say thank you so much to everyone here. Those of you who have engaged this afternoon and those of you who have been engaging all week with us in many different sessions. And in many ways, we’re just beginning. And so over the next ten days, we’ll have this conversation with Christina that’s coming. You can listen to a podcast conversation with David Bailey on the Psalms of anger that you will find on the symposium website.
We invite you to both a lecture and a discussion with Jemar Tisby coming up. And so this theme will continue to weave its way all the way through the three weeks of our learning together, and indeed our all of our programming in 2021 and into the future. This is not a topic that any of us will outlive. It’s a lifelong calling and our experience is what a profoundly fruitful experience of the Spirit it can be to lean deeply into the pain, but also into the hope. And David, we can’t say thank you enough for all the ways that you’ve led and taught us. We are deeply grateful.
And so to all of you, we will say, may Christ’s peace be with you and may you be graced to be a faithful witness wherever you are—in your own homes, families, neighborhoods, and congregations. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.