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Fungibility: A Vocabulary Lesson for White People

The author

The nerd force has always been strong with me. When other kids were competing in sports events over the weekends, I was competing in storytelling contests to see who could recite a story from memory with the most accurate detail. Middle school found me occupied with a group called Future Problem Solvers, who were given the task of “solving” invented, but based in reality, situations from ecological catastrophes to diplomatic disasters. (Designing the t-shirt for that group was the pride of those years for me.) During college, I ignored my chemistry homework in favor of reading theological tomes like David Bosch’s Transforming Mission for fun.

So, it should perhaps come as no surprise that I find myself to be something of a quasi-professional nerd these days: a full-time student, with a backpack to boot. Pastoral care conversations in parishioners’ homes have been swapped for intense chats with authors who don’t so much as offer me a glass of lemonade. During these chats, I’m frequently bombarded with words I’ve never heard of: leitmotif, interdiction, dehiscence, interlocutory, and thantalogical (and that is only in one article, alas). One word keeps cropping up again and again, especially in my studies of African American theology and ethics: fungibility. It sounds kind of cute, doesn’t it? The first images conjured for me were of gerbils who were the life of the party (fun-gerbility), or the special talents of fungi. But this word, despite containing “fun” within it, is not in the least bit fun. As I often do with confounding words, I consulted the oracle (Google) and discovered this:

“Fungible: being something (such as money or a commodity) of such a nature that one part or quantity may be replaced by another equal part or quantity in paying a debt or settling an account.”[1]

But here’s the rub: fungibility wasn’t being used to talk about bitcoin, or pennies, or bartered boxes of Girl Scout cookies. It was being used in my readings to talk about Black bodies. People as fungible: interchangeable, profitable, which made them understood not as people at all. Read more

The author with a fellow Moms Demand Action member at the annual Virginia Interfaith Lobby Day for Gun Violence Prevention

Striving for Justice and Peace Among All People: Advocacy, Activism, and the Baptismal Covenant

During Baptisms, Easter and other special occasions in The Episcopal Church, churchgoers are asked eight questions known as The Baptismal Covenant. It begins as a statement of faith laid out in straightforward question and answer style with questions aren’t all that questionable.

Do you believe in God?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

Then the covenant transitions into questions about how we will live out our faith.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching, their fellowship, communion and prayers?
Will you resist evil and return to God when you sin?
Will you proclaim the Good News of God in Christ?

And to these three questions we respond heartily, “I will, with God’s help.”

But then there are the last two questions, which have always been far more radical to me than the six preceding them.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

Again, we respond, “I will, with God’s help,” but I’ve always wondered what crosses through folks’ minds as they respond.

These fundamental promises define who we are as Episcopalians. The way in which we live and move and have our being as Christians is deeply embedded in these baptismal promises. We know that seeking and serving Christ in all persons, striving for peace and justice among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being are things we should be doing as followers of Jesus Christ, but, truthfully, I found living out these promises incredibly challenging while working as a parish priest. Read more

A Prayer for Syria… A Prayer for Peace

Women PrayAs I write this, the world waits to see if (or, sadly, when) the U.S. and its allies may launch some sort of military strike against the Syrian government in retaliation for the country’s use of chemical weapons last week. Indeed, the news reports and gruesome images of the ongoing violence occurring in that region have been difficult to watch. Even before the recent use of chemical weapons, thousands upon thousands have been killed. The recent attack involving chemical weapons has resulted in some nations – including the United States, Great Britain, and Germany – announcing their intent to hold the Syrian government accountable for its actions. Now, with the threat of retaliation of these countries who believe they need to intervene, many of us wonder how far and wide the violence may spread.

Sisters and brothers – let us pray for God to be present as we face this current struggle.

Creating One, Holy Parent of all the world, have mercy on us.

Redeeming One, Blessed Child of the Almighty, have mercy on us.

Sustaining One, Wondrous Spirit of the Eternal, have mercy on us.

O God, you created all people in your Divine Image. We praise you for the beautiful diversity that exists in your creation. In your wisdom, you call us to live as neighbors with one another – despite our differences. You call us to embrace one another in the name of your peace and your love.

God, we come to you in this hour with hearts that ache for countries that are in turmoil: countries that have become locations of horrific violence and strife. We pray especially for Syria. We cry with those who have lost loved ones. We weep for the thousands who have perished. We pray that the hardened hearts of those who have abused others may be softened by your Spirit.

Lord, for the countries that have threatened retaliation against Syria, we pray that they be guided into the ways of your truth and your justice. For the countries that have threatened retaliation against anyone who strikes out against Syria, we pray for your patience and peace to prevail. Encourage all leaders to make careful decisions – to seek peace over pride. Holy One, teach us to understand that an eye for an eye is not a solution – it only causes us to stumble about in the dark with no vision.

We know that there is a time for everything under heaven, O God. There are those who would have this be a time of war; but we pray – we plead, Blessed Savior – for this to be a time of peace. Teach us all – in every nation – to beat our swords into plowshares. Direct our hearts and our hands to transform our spears into pruning hooks. Let this be the moment when we begin to truly let your peace rule in our hearts and lives, for we are tired of war.

Creating One, Holy Caretaker of the cosmos, have mercy on us.

Redeeming One, Blessed Prince of Peace, have mercy on us.

Sustaining One, Enlightening Spirit of God, have mercy on us.

Amen.