taking the words of Jesus seriously

The day after election night is like Christmas morning for bloggers and political pundits. Like eager children we come bounding down the stairs ready to rip open and reflect on wins, losses, gaffes and funnies left on the hearth of election night.

Oh but where to start?

I think I’ll start with race.

For as much as some would like to think that we are “over” race or that the whole reason we still have racism is because we keep talking about it, occurrences like John Sununu’s comments about Colin Powell and last night’s demographic breakdown have once again pushed race to the forefront of American political and cultural conversations. Other demographics: class, age, gender, etc. also play a huge part in the discussion, but over and over again, the pundits from both parties kept coming back to race.

The topic that has been particularly compelling to me has been about the future of the Republican party. In light of what one commentator described when talking about the impact of demographic racial diversity on the election saying, “The future as arrived” I am intrigued by how this mostly older, White Republican party will respond and adapt in order to regain influence?

Hey wait a gosh darn minute . . . White and older?

And this is where historically White and aging denominations like my own, the Presbyterian Church (USA) might want to tune into future discussions and developments in the Republican Party. Many of the Republican commentators described what is to come as anything from a pending civil war to a time for regrouping and deep soul-searching, but regardless of the intensity levels, there is obviously going to be some serious talk about how Republicans will reach the increasingly diverse United States population.

Yeah, kinda like what we Presbyterians and others need to do as well.

Also by Bruce: Christian Hypocrisy in Examining the Word of God and the Words of Politicians

While I doubt that I will be invited into the strategy meetings of the Grand Old Party, I do know that I may have the ear of some of our Grand Old Denominations. With this in mind let me not-so-humbly offer a few words of unsolicited advice.

First, we must stop seeing these demographic changes as problems that must be leveraged in order to avoid death and instead see these changes as transformational realities that must be embraced in order to experience new life.

And second . . . well, let’s see if we can get a handle on the first one ;-)

On more than one occasion, it was said that the Republican party has a “Latino Problem” that must be addressed. While I understand what was intended by the statement, this framing of an ethnic group as a resource to be leveraged only goes to commoditize a people and does not invite new voices into the conversations as equal partners in shaping and forming the future of the body. This perspective only encourages resentment and disdain, because it forces those who hold power to give it up out of necessity and survival and not out of genuine openness to a new way of being . . . of being Presbyterian, of being Lutheran, of being Republican.

Some might say that this election and the current state of most historically White denominations makes it clear that it is simply a matter of time before our need to hold onto power, privilege and status creates an institutional reality so narrow that, as Brian Williams said about Donald Trump, we may drive “well past the last exit to relevance and veer[ed] into something closer to irresponsible.” And while I am don’t believe that we Presbyterians will be as outrageous as Mr. Trump in the ways we express ourselves during this time, to allow our deep theological and ecclesiastic traditions to be retrained and confined by our unwillingness to express those things in new ways and through difference voices, we will not only move closer to irresponsibility, but we will move closer to being unfaithful.

So as discussions about race continue in politics, and I hope in our churches, let us do so with pastoral hearts for the struggles that change invites, gracious voices that are committed to the conversation and liberating eyes toward who God may be intending for us to become.

This is an exciting and opportune time for us all and I look forward to the ongoing adventure that it is to be the body politic and the body of Christ.

May the peace of Christ be with you and may we see God’s blessings in us all.


Bruce Reyes-Chow is a native Northern Californian and third generation Chinese/Filipino who has been living in San Francisco since 1998.  Until May, 2011 he was the founding pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, a church of 20/30-somethings in San Francisco, CA and from 2008-2010 was Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is currently one of those “consultant” types who makes his way, writing, speaking, teaching and drinking coffee. His social networks of choice are TwitterFacebook and his Blog

This article originally appeared on Bruce’s blog at Patheos.com

About The Author

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A 3rd Generation Chinese/Filipino, armchair sociologist, and technology enthusiast Bruce speaks and teaches on faith, race, parenting, and technology in a variety contexts from seminaries to conferences to congregations to pre-schools. While he speaks to both religious and secular audiences, he committed to living and expressing a Christian faith that is beautifully complex, unimaginably just and excruciatingly gracious. Bruce is the part-time Transitional Pastor at Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley, CA and is a Coach and Senior Consultant with the Center of Progressive Renewal. He is the author of four books, The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church (Shookfoil Books, 2012) and But I Don't See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race (2013), 40 Days, 40, Prayers, 40 Words: Lenten Reflections for Everyday Life (WJK Press, 2016) and, Rule #2: Don't be an Asshat: An Official Handbook for Raising Parents and Children. (Bacosa Books, 2016). He currently blogs for The Huffington Post, The Working Preacher, and Red Letter Christians. Bruce has been a Presbyterian pastor for nearly 20 years and founded Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco, a church of young, multicultural and progressive Presbyterians. In 2008 he was the youngest person ever elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the highest elected office of the 1.8 million member denomination. Bruce received his BA in Asian American Studies, Philosophy and Sociology from San Francisco State University (1991), MA from San Francisco Theological Seminary (1995) and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Austin College (2010). Bruce currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, three daughters, and two canines.

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