I was excited when I found the Intervarsity Press table at Book Expo this year. I don’t recall ever seeing such a large selection of faith-based books that talk about equity, race and social justice. Still, I dampened my excitement and managed expectations because I’ve often found myself disappointed with Christian literature and how even when it aims to be progressive it completely dismisses or ignores marginalized folks like POC, immigrants and those who identify as LGBTQIA+
This book was an outpouring of fresh stream water to my thirsty soul. It is a reminder of how God expects us to move in the upside down world that oppresses and kills so many innocent and marginalized folks. It is insightful, practical and affirming of the importance of speaking up and the reality that we all have a part to play in this active protest of the injustices we see, hear and experience on a daily basis.
The book is divided into two sections: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up.
Kathy is able to summarize some difficult and hard to name truths about the reasons why we stay silent. She expands on how “outspoken women are often called aggressive, arrogant and abrasive” and how “people of color face racial and cultural norms and stereotypes that often reward us for silence.” She goes as far as saying that “giving birth to a child was easier than giving birth to [her] voice.”
I could relate to this important introduction and I found myself reflecting on all the reasons I have internalized silence. Struggling with credibility and imposter syndrome. Wanting to avoid confrontation. Wanting to avoid judgment and criticism. Worried what other people would think. Worried that maybe I’m wrong. Feeling the weight of power dynamics and cultural norms. I also found myself thinking about Zora Neale Hurston when she said, “If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Kathy’s reflections and examination on the biblical story of Esther also helped me reflect on who I am in Christ and how I show up in the world. I sat and made a list of all of the parts that make up my identity as well as all of the privileges I carry in this world (because yes, we all carry privilege.) Kathy also speaks a lot about learning HOW to speak in such a noisy world and how fear and failure impact this process.
The second section of Kathy’s book is sprinkled with some interviews of artists who are using their voice to spread the good news and disrupt the corrupt systems of power currently in place in the United States of America. I will leave you with some of my favorite quotes at the end of this review, but please know there is so much more than what I am sharing in this review. My copy of this book is HEAVILY annotated, underlined and highlighted. This will be a book I come back to again and again.
Reading this book is actually what led to my changing my Facebook cover to an upside down flag. Kathy Khang mentioned that this was something she did for some time and explores the reasons why she felt this was so important. Having finished this book days before the 4th of July, I felt compelled to do the same.
The caption below my profile picture reads: Because in a few days the United States of America celebrates freedom. Because the U.S. Flag code states “the flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” Because life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been and continue to be compromised for marginalized folks. Most importantly, because silence is complicity and we cannot afford to be complicit any longer.
Kathy Khang has been labeled as too sensitive and criticized for prioritizing her ethnic identity over her Christian identity or being a reverse racist (as though that’s a real thing.) She is honest about her personal experiences, including her medication for depression and anxiety. I am grateful for her bravery, for this book and how she allowed God to use her to deliver this necessary message. Please consider buying a copy for yourself and multiple copies for your loved ones.
- Being a Jesus follower, trusting in God’s sovereignty and believing in our hearts that God is in control doesn’t absolve us from taking action or speaking out against injustice. In fact, it should be a reminder for us to take the rise and speak up in our churches and communities. Our church should be leading us to raise our voices.
- My social media world and my real-life world can quickly become echo chambers of posts and people who think exactly as I do and believe similar things if I am not intentional. Walk away from the screen. Commit to reading books by authors of color, particularly theologians and Christian leaders of color. Commit to reading books by authors who have a different viewpoint on issues than you do or come from a different racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic experience than you do. Think about the podcasts and subjects you are most interested in and then add a few from the “least interested” pile. If you are a man, listen to women preach. If you are a woman, listen to women preach. And don’t limit your consumption to Western voices. There is an entire world out there. Take a hard look at your circle of friends and be honest about the diversity reflected in your relationships. And then take your questions, along with what you are learning, back to spaces you can influence and use your voice.
- God wants to use our healthy selves as we wake up to the reality that there are people and forces who don’t want us, particularly people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQIA community.
- Raising your voice is not about creating disruption for disruption’s sake. It’s always about disrupting something in order to bring about change, something new that better reflects the hope and fullness of the gospel and the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven.
- Take your broken heart and make it into art.
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