#reHumanize Project: Seeing the “Me” Behind the Memes by Gaby Johnson

This blog post is part of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

It’s hard to remember that there is a living person behind that twitter handle, isn’t it? People are reduced to avatars and screen names and we forget our humanity. I tend to be much snarkier with a short, 10 word comment on Facebook than I would ever be in person.

Gaby helps us think about this phenomenon and how we can better #reHumanize one another in our digital spaces. I’m grateful for her contribution to our project.

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replace “students” with “all of us” and it might fit

I have many friends on my virtual friend list with whom I disagree politically and in other areas. I bet you do, too. Several of them are also friends in “real” life – people I worship, work, and homeschool with. 

And I would tell you that I don’t mind that we disagree, that I can handle people having a different opinion or perspective than mine. At least that’s what I thought.  

But then I began to take a closer look at what was truly taking place in my heart: 

One day my friend John* posted an angry and lengthy status about how people who are on welfare are lazy and simply don’t want to work. 

Later my friend Jessica excitedly shared a link inviting evangelicals to contribute money to build “The Wall.” 

Then my friend Mark put an offensive meme on his wall poking fun at “those hypocritical, narrow-minded Christians.” 

Because I have strong personal ties to and opinions about all of those issues: each article, status, and meme hurt and angered me. I felt disappointed by my friends and wondered how I didn’t know these things about them. I promised myself that I would erase them from my list of friends, virtually and physically.  

“I am done with ‘those’ people!” I fumed. Who could blame me? We disagreed fundamentally on issues dear to my heart in ways I felt were insurmountable. How could I possibly be in relationship with people who, in my mind, were so awful? 

However, the truth is that I was viewing people through the narrow, insufficient lense of social media. I was using that one post, that one shared article, that one meme to measure the whole of a person. I was willing to vilify and discount those friends as “all bad” or “all wrong” and I was prepared to discard them from my life. 

However, my perspective was soon challenged when I spent an afternoon working with John on a church service project and I saw how tenderly he spoke to the homeless people we were serving. He treated them with such dignity and I remembered that he has a heart full of compassion that breaks at the sight of pain. 

And then I went to a party thrown by the Hispanic congregation of our church and I watched Jessica rock the babies, play with the children, and laugh with the teenagers of the very people she wants to help keep out with her money. I remembered that she loves everyone in her sphere of influence with great generosity.  

I overheard Mark passionately defend a Christian friend we have in common to a co-worker who was mocking her beliefs behind her back. And I remembered that he is the protector of the underdog and would do anything for people to feel safe around him. 

The truth is, over the years I’ve learned kindness from John, open-handedness from Jessica, and courage from Mark. I am a better person for knowing them. And this is true about many other friends and family I drastically disagree with regarding issues that are important to me.

I have to constantly remind myself that people are so very complex:

That sometimes we can hold a belief yet behave in ways that completely contradict who we “should” be based on that belief.  

That more often than not, we put our relationships with other humans first, even if our politics don’t match in theory. 

That we react to life based on the experiences we have or have not had, the ways we were taught to believe or behave, and the perspectives to which we have or have not been exposed. (I view life through the lens of a Hispanic woman, raised in Ecuador by a single parent, an immigrant to this country, a person who did not grow up in a Christian home but came to know Jesus in my late teens. Hence, my worldview is significantly different from my husband’s worldview. He grew up in a small, mostly white, southern town here in the USA, in a two parent home, the son of a Nazarene pastor. Naturally, our political views are colored by our backgrounds but he and I have helped each other, over the years, to see the world through the other’s perspective and we are better for it.)  

That, at our core, most of us want to love truly others and are blind to the ways we hurt them. 

So, I am finding ways to fight the temptation to reduce people to one picture or post shared on social media and lose sight of their wholeness. Sometimes that means finding opportunities to engage in face-to-face, gentle discussions with them about those issues. It pushes me to think deeper and to listen better, to look at things from different perspectives, and to learn to disagree with grace and kindness.

Sometimes it means not engaging with certain people about certain topics because I know it won’t be fruitful and can actually be harmful to our relationship. And sometimes it means hiding some of my friends from my feed because it helps me to love them better in real life. 

I naturally want to isolate myself from people who disagree with me, to label them as less than human and cut them out of my life. But there is so much more to my relationships with these people than political agreement. If I let myself get caught up in the social media drama, I will miss all the other ways these friends make my life richer. 

*All names have been changed to protect the innocent and the not so innocent 😊

No photo description available.

Gaby Johnson is a native Ecuadorian who has lived in the USA for the last 25 years. She is married to a chaplain and homeschools their two amazing kiddos. 

#reHumanize Project, Gender Issues, Uncategorized

#reHumanize Project: An Open Letter to John MacArthur by Pastor Emily Reyes

This blog post is the first of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

The timing of the launch of our series called the #reHumanize Project seems ironic considering the news of John MacArthur’s awful words about Beth Moore last week. I’ll link to Sarah Bessey’s treatment of it here.

While it has been devastating to hear this kind of dehumanization of half of the human race in the name of Christianity, it has also been encouraging to see how Nazarenes have risen up to be sure the ecclesial world knows that we have always affirmed women in ministry and still do.

ICYMI, we asked for photo comments of women in ministry over on our Facebook Page and the results were tear-producingly beautiful. So many lovely images of women serving God with their god-given gifts. You should take time to look through them.

I’m very pleased to present to you the first of our submissions for the #reHumanize project. I had the privilege of working with Pastor Emily Reyes in Kansas City and her wisdom, authenticity, and passion are captured well in her open letter.


Dear Mr. MacArthur,

This week, I watched a video of you laughing on a stage occupied by men as you mocked and derided a woman who has ever-so-cautiously stepped into her ministry and calling, has submitted herself entirely to the Church, and has spoken and led with grace and truth. You told her to go home. You told her to quiet down. And you did it all with incessant laughter, sarcasm, and scorn.

I say that I watched the video, but honestly, I only watched the first few minutes. I couldn’t take anymore of it, because it felt so familiar to me. And it felt so unholy. I’ve known men like you – men who told me where my place was, and where it wasn’t. Men who showed me what conversations and circles I was allowed into, and how to find my way back to the kitchen when I had wandered too far from its cozy feminine welcome.

Those men were good men. They loved me, they loved Jesus, and they were probably following leadership like yours. And I honestly didn’t mind at the time. I really liked the idea of being a housewife when I grew up; I baked a pie that could give any of the other church ladies’ a run for their money in our silent auctions by the time I was fourteen, and it felt safe to have some parameters set, some boundaries drawn.

It felt really safe to be quiet.

That is, until I had something to say.

[Disclaimer: my mom and sisters have been stay-at-home moms for most of their lives. That job is NO JOKE. It’s one I highly respect, one I view as hard & holy work, and one I think I’d love to have someday.]

I felt God’s call on my life when I was six years old, and I told my church that I was going to be a missionary, because that was an acceptable thing to say as a female in my context. I guess you could say education ruined me, but what’s really crazy to me is how long it took me to get voices like yours out of my head.

Voices of fear.

Voices of pride.

Voices that clung to power.

Voices that silenced the Spirit’s empowering, resurrection work in me.

It took a really long time to trust that God really had made Eve equal and partner in God’s image (Genesis 1) and had seen Hagar in her abuse (Genesis 16). God really had used Deborah to judge (Judges 4) and Rahab to lead (Joshua 2). Women really did preach the gospel first (Matthew 28) and Junia really was a deaconess highly regarded by Paul (Romans 16:7). There really is no male or female in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and God’s story really, truly, is big enough and bold enough and good enough to make room for all to be equal and all to have a voice and all – sons AND daughters – to prophesy in these days (Joel 2:28).

This is the scandal of the gospel – that in Christ’s death and resurrection all has been made right and all has been made new. The valleys have been raised up! The mountains have been brought low! In Christ is NEW CREATION – creation as it was first intended, devoid of culture’s systemic sexism and humanity’s broken power struggles. The scandal of the gospel is that it goes this far– yes! – far enough to level the fields and set EVERY silenced voice free to shout this good news to the masses. Men don’t have to live in such insecurity and fear that they puff up at the sound of a woman’s voice leading them to Jesus. There is space here. Don’t sell the gospel short.

In Christ is NEW CREATION as it was first intended, devoid of culture’s systemic sexism and humanity’s broken power struggles. The scandal of the gospel is that it goes this far, yes! far enough to level the fields and set EVERY silenced voice free to shout this good news to the masses

So I guess all I have to say to you is, you’re wrong, Mr. MacArthur. You’re wrong and I know it with every fiber of my being because I’ve experienced the goodness and joy it is to say yes to God’s leading – even when it pushes me beyond what I’ve been raised to believe is biblical and even when it’s the last thing on earth I have wanted. I know because the Church needs the voices and presence and gifting of women if She is ever to live fully into the Kingdom of God that the Spirit is leading Her toward. I know because women pastors have shown me Christ’s way and Christ’s gospel too clearly for them to be following anyone else’s leadership in their lives. I know because my heart tells me so, my Church tells me so, and my Bible tells me so.

The leverage that you hold on American Christianity is still great, even as the sun sets on Christendom and the cultural standing of evangelicals is waning with it. But be careful, sir. Men are drinking in your words, reading your books, listening to your sermons and your speeches and your sarcasm and they’re believing it. And they’re teaching their families it, they’re proclaiming it from their pulpits, and there are six-year-old girls who are listening with ardent hearts and sincere spirits and accepting what they’re hearing as truth. In this, you are causing others to sin, Mr. MacArthur. You are propagating falsehood and misusing power, you’re reenforcing the walls of the boy’s club, and this is not the way of Jesus. I urge you to pause before you sit on any panel again and open yourself up so lightheartedly to word association games. Your words hold power, and what you do with them matters. You’re too smart to have an excuse here. And while I believe that it is right and good to encourage one another and build each other up, I also believe that there is space, especially in the Church, for righteous anger and prophetic voices to ring out in the face of injustice and wrongdoing. And so, Mr. MacArthur, I appeal to you “by the humility and gentleness of Christ” to examine your heart, repent, and listen to diverse voices around you with humility – Christ comes to us in the least of these.

I won’t go home. I won’t because Jesus hasn’t told me to. Because Jesus didn’t tell Mary to go back to the kitchen (Luke 10), and he didn’t tell Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Susanna to return to their homemaking (Luke 8) and when the men tried to dismiss the woman in Mark 14, he told them “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me.”

I have a feeling he’d have similar words for you, Mr. MacArthur.

Pastor Emily Reyes serves as the associate pastor to children and families at Shawnee Church of the Nazarene in Kansas. She is a graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University and is currently pursuing her M. Div. at Nazarene Theological Seminary

Emily Reyes.jpg

#reHumanize Project: A Prayer for the Kurds

Syrian Kurds protest against Turkey in Ras al-Ain, Hassakeh province, on 6 October 2019
Image: AFP | Syria’s Kurds reject Turkey’s plans and say they will defend their territory at all costs

This blog post is the first of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

We thought it might be fitting to open the #reHumanize Project with this prayer for Syria and the Kurds. It is written by Jeff Sykes, theologian and servant of the church.

“Almighty God, we confess that every good and perfect gift is from you. Your servant James instructed us to be quick to listen and slow to anger. We know, oh Lord, from experience that our anger does not lead to your righteousness. Even so, our corporate brokenness seems to leave us weak and unable to address the problems of our world. Today, Lord, we read about your children in Syria–Kurds, Syrians, and others–who are long oppressed by violence and hate. We read about friends abandoned for political gain. We see the future where death and pain are multiplied: a future where expediency produces despair.

You have called us, o most merciful God, to extend mercy. You call us to the occupation of peacemaking. You call us, through the faithfulness of your Son Jesus Christ, to imagine and work toward a hopeful future. You empower us by your Holy Spirit to imagine a world where your will is done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Forgive us for sitting by too long and doing nothing. Instead, empower us to hear and respond to your gracious call to recognize that, in you, the dividing lines of this present age are erased by your love. Give courage to leaders to work for justice. Help us to hold them up and encourage them when their spirits fail.

Amen. “