“Preaching About Racism” with Carolyn Helsel – The RavenCast

In this episode of the RavenCast, Adam Ericksen sat down with Carolyn Helsel to discuss her latest book “Preaching about Racism.” Watch the video below or listen to the MP3 above. You can also purchase Carolyn’s previous book “Anxious to Talk About It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism.” The show transcript is also available. Never miss an episode by subscribing to the RavenCast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or Podbean!

Preaching about Racism Transcript

ADAM ERICKSEN: Hi, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the RavenCast, my name is Adam Ericksen, the RavenCast is a product of the Raven ReView, an online magazine where we talk about Mimetic theory and the violence and conflicts and scapegoating that so often divides our communities and our world. Today I am so excited to have Carolyn Helsel on RavenCast. Hi, Carolyn, how are you?

CAROLYN HELSEL: Hi, Adam, I am doing well. How are you?

ADAM ERICKSEN: I am doing great and this is your second time on the RavenCast. Thank you for coming back. I had such a great time with you the first time and am so glad you are back with us.

CAROLYN HELSEL: Thank you, it’s good to be back, I am still a little nervous, but not as nervous as I was the first time. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: Well, you were so great the first time. We talked about your first book, Anxious To Talk About It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism and I really enjoyed that book and our conversation about it. And you have a follow up book that just came out called Preaching about Racism: A Guide For Faith Leaders. Congratulations on the book.


ADAM ERICKSEN: It is fantastic. And one of the things I really like about it, -so many things- is that you have sermon examples in the back which was really helpful for me to put these all together. So thank you for that as well. 

CAROLYN HELSEL: Good, it’s hard to be able to show what preaching about racism looks like whiteout actually giving the examples. So, in the past few months, I have been given plenty of opportunities to do that, unfortunately, just kind of use what I have been preaching recently. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: The last few months, when we had this… the midterm elections and it was kind of like the difference between overt racism and covert racism, dog whistle racism and how do you tell the difference and how do you tell when somebody is just being stupid? And how do you tell when stupidity and racism are… like they are always together I guess, I don’t know, but, it’s just been kind of like a test case for the wonderful work that’s you have been doing.

CAROLYN HELSEL: Well, thank you. I do want to say stupidity and racism don’t always go together, unfortunately. A lot of times it’s very intentional and strategic and so that’s one of the misconceptions I name in the books, one of the myths about racism is just assuming that it’s irrational, stupid people, who do this, but no, it can be very, very strategic, unfortunately.

ADAM ERICKSEN: Yeah, that’s one of the ten myths that you talk about in the book?


ADAM ERICKSEN: The ten myths of racism, can you just talk about like a couple of them?

CAROLYN HELSEL: Yeah, sure. Well in a lot of communities I have been part of are white communities where people feel like, well, we know what racism looks like and we don’t need to talk about it. So this is really for other people to have to address. It is especially true of progressive white communities, but unfortunately all of us, in this society are impacted by racism. And it’s important that we can kind of unpack how it affects us, how it continues to impact those around us. So just thinking it’s out there is one of the big myths and along with that, is another myth that only extremists ,only KKK people, the white nationalists, all of those people that are claiming this language those are the ones that are perpetuating racism. But as we see throughout history, it’s always been part and parcel of the dominant group in society kind of maintain their positions of power and that continues to go for us today who maintain power and privilege in society. So, it’s something that needs to be talked about, because it’s not just out there, it’s in here, no matter how progressive we think we are, no matter how well-intentioned, we feel we might be, we all need to be talking about it. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: So, your two books are about racism. How did racism become such an important issue for you to deal with? 

CAROLYN HELSEL: Well, it mainly came about because it was a major justice issue that wasn’t talked about. It was this huge gap in my education and formation as a Christian, growing up and not hearing anything about racism as an ongoing sin, as an ongoing injustice, as something that we needed to grapple with. So when I went to seminary and was reading the Delores Williams, and other womanist theologians and realizing, wow, we are not equipped in the white community to be able to talk about this. Because one, we haven’t considered ourselves a white community and two, because we assume this is something out there, and those other people may deal with not we ourselves. So seminary I went in early 2000s and then was in ministry in various settings and it just came about as this itch, as this burden of feeling like I want to be able to talk about this with the people that I know, who are good people and who want to be able to talk about this but don’t have the tools and resources and who aren’t necessarily going to diversity trainings or anti-racism workshops. So how can I bring these to people in the pews, how can I bring this to churches that I might serve? So it really came about as a sense of call to meet a need that I didn’t feel that wasn’t being met. 

So, preaching about racism has come about, this book, from starting about ten years ago when I was working on THM thesis while working full time in admissions at Princeton Seminary and feeling like okay, this might be a solution. This might be not a solution but one way of talking about racism in the pulpit. So from there it’s kind of developed through continuing doctoral studies and then this first book, Anxious to Talk About It, really trying to reach people in the pews, people who can really get the meat of it without necessarily hearing it from the pastor, but can have these conversations in small groups. And then this follow-up book is kind of unpacks some of the theory behind Anxious and also to give preachers additional meat and tools and interpretative lenses through which they can interpret scriptures they are preaching every week. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: I want to let people know you do workshops throughout the country, so if anybody wants to have a workshop on racism and preaching about racism, contact Carolyn, let her know and bring her in. What have those workshops been like for you? What’s your experience been like with them?

CAROLYN HELSEL: It’s ranged from an evening session where a small group has videoed Skyped zoomed me in from across the country where I have gotten to answer questions that people may have. To a morning workshop where I am with a group of people for three or four hours and they’re hearing me talk but also having small group discussions, and acknowledging some of their own stories and feeling in the process. Then in January, I am doing a retreat at Mo-Ranch Presbyterian Assembly, in Hunt, Texas which will be a two nights, three day kind of event where we be talking about these things with time for people to also have reflections and to get away, and do things out nature and then come back and have these communal experiences. So there is a lot of different ways that I have been working on it with churches, and not just white communities, people that are in multi-cultural settings and very diverse churches, have also been working with this book. 

Metropolitan Christian Church here in Austin did the study for six weeks, I came and met with them every Sunday for an hour and a half. And it was so rich and fabulous; dealing with issues of intersectionality. The Metropolitan Christian church is 90% LGBTQ, so, it’s a denomination that formed as the majority of Christian churches were shutting their doors explicitly to the ordination of LGBTQ persons, but also didn’t make it feel welcome for them. So it has this tradition of being welcoming and inclusive yet not necessarily being good at talking about racism. So it’s again kind of… We can be good at talking about one issue of oppression and not necessarily get it from other people’s perspectives. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: You mentioned intersectionality which is a new buzzword, what does that mean?

CAROLYN HELSEL: Yeah, sure. Kimberle Crenshaw who is a legal scholar coined the term in the 80s to really highlight this issue for black women who were experiencing this intersection of oppressions. They were having to deal with racism from the white community but also having to deal with sexism within the black community. As black women not being able to preach, not being able to be seen and as fully human and in the eyes of their male counterparts. So a lot of people has been using intersectionality to kind of extend that analysis of how do we understand the multiple ways that oppression can come along these axes of power. That we might have a lot of privileges in one area and not a lot of privileges in another area. So based on that understanding, how can we have a more kind of complicated discussion and acknowledge that people aren’t all one thing or another; they are not all huge storehouses of power and privilege. Even the stereotypical white straight male, who people, say oh, they have all these power in the world. Well, you know, they may also have other issues that prevent them from fully feeling like they are privileged or feeling like they are oppressing other people. So how do you help them, enter into this conversation? How do you help them enter into a sense of saying, they have gifts to offer too, they have gifted the struggle as well? So that’s an example of some of the ways we talked about intersectionality, but it really comes out of Kimberle Crenshaw’s work talking about black women. 

ADAM ERICKSEn: Ok. Let’s talk about race and how you define race and racism because that’s often one of the stumbling blocks to discussing this issue, just defining the term. 

CAROLYN HELSEL: One of the things that I write about on the chapter in communicating what we mean about racism and preaching about racism is that both race and racism have come to mean different things over time. So I gave a brief history over the ways that we classified people who are Hispanics over time. The word Mexican was racial category, beginning in the middle of the 20th century and the Mexican government pushed back and said, no we are not a different race, and so they, later on, people were considered Hispanic as an ethnicity in the 80s and 90s for our US Census. And so that and court cases in which individuals, because they are had to be white to be naturalized and receive the benefits the of citizenship would protest and as Asian, a Japanese man, I am white and should be able to keep my property. Unfortunately, those early Supreme Court cases, ruled against him, Osawa, said no, you are not white. 

So race been this, it is a social construct, and it’s changed over time and it’s politically contested. So what we understand by the word race is always not just this kind of abstract idea that comes to people, but it’s worked out in conversation, in political discussions of how we want to talk about ourselves. Because ultimately, there is no distinction and in human beings, as clear distinct races. That is not a biological truth in any sense of the word and yet we need to talk about it because of the ways our racialization as a society continues to harm certain people/groups. And then the word racism, along with that has to do with, again not just the individual feeling or beliefs that we have about another person, or group of people, but the ways that these beliefs have been systematized and adopted through laws, through social customs, and traditions that make it really hard for one person to make a difference. So it again requires this collective response and it also includes a justification for inequality. So it’s just not the beliefs that we have about the superiority of one group over another, but it’s looking at inequality and justifying that inequality by blaming those that have less for having less based on some characteristics or quality. So it’s complicated, it’s not just one thing, it’s multi-layered and it has to do with our beliefs, our justifications for inequality, and the structures that continue to perpetuate that inequality. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: Yeah, that’s really helpful. We have some viewers at the moment and if you would, if anybody watching us wants to make a comment or questions, we will bring those in. So we invite you to make those. Carolyn, you had mentioned that’s it’s important for us to talk about racism, one of the myths that you talk about in the book is, this claim that talking about racism just perpetuates it. So we should just stop talking about it. What do you say to that myth, because I often hear that? 

CAROLYN HELSEL: Well you can say that we tried it, we tried that for a long time and the move towards becoming color blind was really strong in the 80 and the 90s and yet we didn’t see that working effectively to eradicate racism. So it’s challenging because like we just said, race isn’t a biological fact, so isn’t continuing to talk about it as if it’s real, reinforce this myth. And it’s like being able to see the waters that we are swimming in. If you don’t see what we are swimming in, it’s hard to navigate that. And so helping us name those realities helps us to do what we can to try to mitigate the harm that continues to be perpetuated and to make a difference in our own spheres of influence and to argue for laws and policies that work to make a difference. So when people say just talking about race, perpetuates racism, you can say well, I hope not, but try not to talk about race and racism in the past, hasn’t worked in eradicating racism. So we trying something new again. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: One of the things that I love about your work is that you refuse to say – you have already said it that in our conversation today – you refuse to say that racism is just something out there. So when we talk about racism, it’s something that it’s out there, and we need to change laws and things to deal with it. But it’s also something that’s in here, it’s in me, it’s in our culture that forms us, and so, instead of pointing a finger at others, it’s important to look within ourselves as well, as we talk about racism. 

CAROLYN HELSEL: Yeah, especially because of the immediate physical reactions that the people have to seeing other people that have brought people to the point of calling the police and feeling that someone they see is a threat to them and doesn’t belong in their space and so, must therefore be potentially a criminal. The number of time we have seen people… Starbucks employees calling the cops onto black men sitting in the cafe without having ordered anything yet. People calling the cops on a black man who was overseeing as a person working for child protective services on a mother visiting with her son calling the cops on him because he wasn’t ordering frozen yogurt. Calling the cops on people for grilling out in a park, being in a place where they live. All these stories of somebody calling the police is something that comes out of our own individual fears and those fear reactions. Even if we ourselves don’t call the police, it’s important for us to notice, when do I feel that fear, when do I feel that someone doesn’t belong in this space where I am currently walking around. And to let that reminder that we ourselves have those feelings of fear, to remember that we are not immune. We also need to constantly check ourselves, and check that fear response to say, you know, am just as much a threat to this person as they are to me and I need to be able to again question the assumptions that society engrained in us from an early age. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: Yeah, you have a section called not recovered but in recovery, which was so powerful for me because I think this is one of the most important things that I have had to do in my life, and it’s been painful. One of the lectionary reading for – we going to talk about how to preach this kind of stuff – but one of the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday is from the New Testament and it’s John the Baptist, saying the Messiah is going to take the winnowing fork and separate the wheat from the chaff. And the chaff of racism is within me and it’s painful to look at it. In part because one of the most shameful things in the United States is to admit to racism, because then you get labeled as a racist and nobody ever wants to be a racist. And one of the things that is so helpful about your work is you deal with that shame. You have a way of gratitude as opposed to shame for moving forward and dealing with these issues, which is a way of really helpful for me to do this. Can you talk about gratitude and shame in a relationship there?

CAROLYN HELSEL: Yeah, sure. As Christian preachers, I think we come from a tradition that often has used shame as a way of moving people towards the gospel. To say, ‘you brood of vipers’, to quote the John the Baptist, but to say that because people are so bad, because we are so sinful, that that’s why we need Jesus, that’s why we need God, because of how bad we are. And over the course of my own spiritual journey and readings across the faith, I have come to really sense no, it’s not my badness that moves me towards God or that moves me to good action in world, but it’s the sense that God loves me in spite of my insecurities and doubts. And it’s that gratitude for that love and acceptance that inspires and empowers me to go out and make a difference. If we are just working because of our bad feelings, in some ways, we can satisfy those bad feeling by going out and checking a box and saying like, now that  I have done this, am no longer a racist, I attended this training, I have read this book, check, we have done that. And, if that’s why you are doing it, just to deal with those bad feelings, then you are not going to be able to sustain a long-term engagement. 

So one of the things that I try to do is to help people come to accept those bad feelings and to not shy away from them, or not deny them but to just sit with them, and to let us accept ourselves in those bad feelings and to feel like, this actually connects me with other people. These feelings that are hard is a form of suffering, and it connects me with other people. I am grateful that I get a chance to do something about it, that I get a chance to be part of larger community. So a lot of people ask me about gratitude when I have been part of study groups, I have been videoed in, because you know when people do a study group, not everybody shows up having read, you know. So you first hear someone is saying we should be grateful, when in talking about racism, that sounds really odd. I don’t know about that, but helping persons who have been reading Anxious to really see that this isn’t an easy gratitude. It’s not a Pollyanna sense of overcoming all the terror in the world or that this history and legacy of racism, but it’s a practice. It’s a spiritual practice of committing ourselves to do this work because of gratitude that we expect to feel. Maybe we don’t even feel now, but we expect to feel in receiving the gifts that others have to offer that we only be able to receive when we put ourselves out there in this hard conversations and this relationships. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: That’s excellent. One of the things about scapegoating that mimetic theory brings about is kind of this idea of forming identity over and against another, we receive kind of a sense of goodness, when we can label somebody else bad, right. The way you are talking about gratitude reminds us that our sense of goodness as Christians, our sense of being loved as Christians doesn’t come from defining ourselves over and against someone else, but by receiving it from God who is love, always comes to us in love. And always to others in love, too. So, yeah, that’s powerful stuff.  I like that a lot. What other…  

CAROLYN HELSEL: Just hearing talk about the mimetic theory over and against others we can other ourselves in a way, where we feel that part of us is so bad and shameful and we are no longer that. We feel like okay, maybe once we have converted or had a religious experience now I am no longer going to be that bad person that I was then, now am a new person. But if we can accept that God was with us then and now, and that we are still the same person and God is still loving us, we can again project that othering that we ourselves onto other people too. I really appreciate the work that you are doing. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: That’s awesome, I love it. Let’s into preaching, about this. One of the things that I love is you write that the Bible has been used in harmful ways and also in beneficial ways. Can you talk about that a little bit – as much as you want – when it comes to racism. And also if you have an interpretative principle that helps you to use the Bible not in harmful ways but in beneficial ways? 

CAROLYN HELSEL: Sure. [You let me know if it gets a little too loud. There is a work that happening outside my window by my beloved husband, so if gets too loud, just let me and  I will stop put in headphones and have the mic]. So in thinking about the Bible in being beneficial and harmful, you look at the history of interpretation, even in the last few hundred years, you can see how in the fight for the abolition of slavery, there were abolitionists, freed black men and women who were using the Bible to argue for the abolition of slavery, as well as white abolitionists. And then you have plenty of white Christian preachers who were using the Bible to justify slavery.

So in terms of looking at the Bible and how it been used beneficial and harmfully, it is also helpful to know that the history of the Bible is all about the history of interpretation, a history of different communities who have been reading this book as this library of books, this library of resources. And that different communities in different times have interpreted those scriptures differently and then in spite of those communities, as part of communities that people understand what this scripture means. So there has been great scholarship done around how different interpretative communities over time have read scriptures in different ways. And looking at the history of African Americans in the United States, how in early slavery, when they were able to read the Bible, even those who couldn’t read it for themselves, able to enter the world of the story found within the Bible of liberation that became a world they can live in in the midst of everything they were experiencing. 

Even in the midst of having white preachers preach to them about God, ordering them essentially to stay in slavery and obey their masters using the scripture in a very different way outside of that space. So thinking about how over time different communities have used the Bible, as at today, we read the Bible thinking how has this particular text been used harmfully in the past? How has it been used beneficially? How might other interpretative communities today hear this text? And so we are not just thinking about our own experiences and our own community, we are also thinking about this worldwide connection that we have with believers all over the world thinking that how are other people hearing this text. And from there also thinking that the Bible doesn’t speak univocally across time as this good word. That as we seen in the devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness that scripture can be used to demonic ends, scripture can be used in really harmful ways. So we don’t look to scripture and read a section and say that this is univocally good at all times, but, we say, how is God calling me in this moment to stand up to and speak against some of the messages that I hear in this Bible and hear as others have been oppressed by this text, hear their cries coming out before God. Because that’s part of our responsibility as interpreters of this text, is to really take it seriously, its power and its harmful potential, as well as the ability to listen to the voices that have been silenced  and to see how is God empowering them to speak to us today. And to let that be a way that we let scriptures speak to us even it may not be in the way originally intended by the author but there are many things we wouldn’t want to tell our children and faith communities about what the original authors intended. It’s a mixed bag in terms of what was going on then during Jesus’ time versus today.

ADAM ERICKSEN: Yeah, sometimes when I say things, like this, people will come back and say, oh, you are just picking and choosing stuff from the Bible that you are wanting to keep and you are wanting to throw out. I think that a lot of those kinds of things are… I don’t want to throw out, I want to learn from them. So that’s the distinction, so we often get accused of being Marcionists… just throw that stuff out. No, that’s all true about what humans do. And we see how that’s true with racism. We project our own hostilities, our own issues, on to God and divine justification for it. You see that happening throughout the Bible and the whole thing is when Jesus is asked what are the greatest commandment he is picking and choosing. He’s like am going to pick and am going to choose. Love God and love your neighbor, that’s what it’s all about. So yeah, that’s fun, I like that. So when we are looking at the Bible, you mentioned in the book that the Bible doesn’t explicitly deal with racism, in part, because racism is more of a modern term. Like racism didn’t exist in the ancient world as we see it today, and so the Bible doesn’t deal explicitly with racism. So how do we talk about racism by using the Bible?

CAROLYN HELSEL: Again, understanding the differences in our context, there were certainly slavery and biblical times, and there was probably, instances of colorism but, it not as kind of clearly justified, and systematized as has been in the past 500 years. So at the same time though, understanding that there are elements of liberation here in this text, that God throughout history, as we read through the Old Testament and the New Testament, God is continuing to work through imperfect people and bringing liberation in real tangible ways. So how can we look to scripture and find ways that God meets us in our embodied existence and speaks the word of freedom and new life and hope in those instances. So a lot of it is seeing how God, how Jesus, speaks in his network, in his world, about freedom and about liberation and salvation and meeting people where they are and then how we can do likewise in our own communities. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: That’s great. What are some pitfalls to preaching about racism?

CAROLYN HELSEL: I have a section on the book about theology for preaching about racism. And I draw from the work of Stephen Ray who is currently of the president of Christian Theological Seminary in Chicago. His work on Do No Harm: Social Sin and Christian Responsibility, he highlights how in the past even well-meaning Christians in talking about racism have perpetuated racism in their sin talk. Sinning about Sin Talk, one of the examples That he gives, is Reinhold Niebuhr who thinks this kind of a social justice person but the ways that he described African American communities, in many ways was very paternalistic and talking about the nature of their sin as being kind of qualitatively different the sin of white. So while whites have the sin of racism African Americans were mired in this cultural backwardness, that they needed to be redeemed from to be able to enter white society. So again, it has this kind of paternalistic pitying tone without seeing the racism inherent to those perspectives.  

So one of the pitfalls in preaching about racism today is that we preach about racism, again, as it something out there affecting only other people. And, yes, it harms communities of color, but it also harms white people. It harms us in our sense of community; it harms us in our sense of humanity when we cut ourselves off from other members of God’s family. So how can we open up our own eyes to how its harming us in our communities and not perpetuate a paternalistic view that oh well, once everyone who doesn’t have the same advantages we have, once they have all our advantages, then, yes, everything will be right. Well, there is a lot going on there that we still need to talk about.  

So that’s one of the pitfalls. Another one of the pitfalls, again is making all white people feel that, because they are white, there is this kind of special sin they carry. And again it’s not just white people who are carrying this racism. People of color can internalize racism and can perpetuate it against other persons of color. There is a colorism that people of color talk about where if you are a lighter skin, you can really be seen as not black enough, and yet not white enough. There are people  who have other identities, who are LGBTQ and who feel, again, oppressed within their own communities of color. So it’s not that white people are special in the sin of racism. So it’s important we not talk about it, as only a white problem, because all of us need to be working on this together. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: Who are some other people doing work on this topic that you would like to highlight?

CAROLYN HELSEL: That’s a great question, one of my friends Greg Ellison who is out of Atlanta; he is a professor of Pastoral Care at Candler School of Theology, and his dissertation was on “The  Invisibility of African American Young Men”. So his first book was Cut Dead, But Still Alive and out of that came this program that he leads called Fearless Dialogues, where he invites people from different statuses and positions and communities into this conversation, this Fearless Dialogue. He calls it fearless, not because people don’t have fear, but that in these conversations, they learn to fear less. They learn to have this conversation where they are connecting with one another, and they are really looking and seeing people so that people don’t feel invisible. So he and it’s now a group of people, who are doing this work, this Fearless Dialogue event. He does this all over the country and they were with a bunch of United Methodist Bishops, a few weeks, ago. I mean, really doing amazing work. 

Here in Austin, there is a group called Be The Bridge, also actually founded in Atlanta. And they are also doing great stuff, also a Christian based organization, where they invite people to these bridge building communities, where people and small groups, get together and have these conversations. So I encourage people wherever you are to look into the organization that is there in your city, in your area and to see, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to bring an outside consultants, often there are people that are here in your midst, who can help you have these conversations and equip you to do this work. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: That’s great, thank you. It reminds me of the first sermon that you have in your book, which is titled, “Do Not Be Afraid”, it’s a reflection on a resurrection account where people who have just killed Jesus, and here He is, appearing and I would be afraid. And you talk about how African Americans who have been killed, and what would happen if they just kind of appeared. And what does Jesus do when he shows up and what do the angels do when they show up? It says do not be afraid, do not be afraid. And this is for me, this was the big money quote, I wrote ‘so good’ next to it right here. And it also talks about gratitude and it leads me to maybe my last question. You write: “We rejoice that God is not done with us yet, who we just killed, Jesus. We rejoice that God is not done with us yet, that Christ is still shaking us up, shaking our world, calling us to challenge the powers of death that continue to crucify the oppressed and marginalized. We are afraid because this is a great responsibility to work for the kingdom of God, to proclaim the resurrection of the death when so much of the structures of the power depends on upon death and the threat of death in order to maintain control.” 

That was good stuff. And it is like this is one of the things that  I have had to learn to deal with is the powers of death, the powers of scapegoating, the powers of racism that are inherent in our world, that are inside of me and out there. And it is one of the stumbling blocks is when we talk about racism, we say well, am not a racist, so it’s not my fault. But it’s in the structures, it’s in the powers of death, that are in our culture. Can you talk about the powers of death and the powers of racism that are embedded within our cultures and how these laws that we need to enact  to transform it? What are some of those?

CAROLYN HELSEL: I go historical before coming into the presents day. There is a story that someone shared with me recently, about her family who owned a motel in the south, and there was an African American couple who was coming through town and it was discovered they were looking for a place to stay. And she talked about her parents, her dad also denying them a place to stay in their hotel and how guilty she felt about that. But also knowing that he has done that because a member of the KKK had come to him that day and said if you let them stay in your hotel, we burn it down with all your family in it. So those powers of death are very present in the sense that when you try to challenge these powers you bring risk on to yourself. 

Now that might be a historical example, maybe people don’t feel as threatened by the KKK today, but even through social media you see the amount of fear that’s perpetuated by these invincible powers of trolls. These invincible people who are extremists, who will come in and say all sorts of hateful and terrible things. I mean you hear about people who have to constantly block people on their feeds because of the threat of death that they receive from people who are anonymous. And so it goes on today, that fear is real, that fear is perpetuated by people who threaten us with death. And yet, honoring the very real nature of that fear, we still need to be able to stand up to it and say, no, I stand with Christ the crucified who is risen and with all of those who are being threatened with crucifixion. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: Amen. Thank you. It’s all good. So Carolyn thank you so much for this conversation and as always you are full of, you fill me up with gratitude. And I just love the way that you write your book, the compassion that you write with and exudes from your essence. So thank you for your work and being who you are. And if people want to keep up with you and your work, how can they do that? 

CAROLYN HELSEL: Yeah, contact me at the seminary at [email protected], and I love talking with folks, so send me email or give me a call, I will be happy to keep in touch. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: You can have Carolyn come to your church or your conference or wherever you are and she will do a workshop, you can also stream her in through Skype or something to talk to your church and that would be fantastic. Again, Carolyn first book is Anxious To Talk About It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism, and the book we have been talking about today, Preaching About Racism. So, Carolyn, thank you again so much for being with us and talking about your work today.  

CAROLYN HELSEL: Thank you, Adam, good to be with you. 

ADAM ERICKSEN: Good to have you and thank you for everybody for watching, you can keep up to date on the RavenCast at The Raven ReView at the Raven Foundation website, Ravenfoundation.org, you can also watch videos and listen to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher and Podbean. Everybody, thank you for watching and till next time, grace and peace be with you. Bye-bye.

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