The words you are currently reading are about this important book, Raise Your Voice by Kathy Khang. This introduction is also about the background of my personal/ emotional/ connection and how it is all interwoven with taking back and raising my own voice. (while clumsily learning how to spend my own privilege)
Three years ago on an early Saturday morning at the beginning of May, I think it was May 9th, 2015, I walked into an unfamiliar venue alone after taking an Uber to get there when I was living in Chicago. I knew only one or two faces, and a couple names of the speakers. I had been at my new job and practicing yoga for one year, I was able to attend the event because of a generous scholarship. (These details aren’t in themselves the main point, but they were key milestones, and important to the overarching story and my freedom. I guess you never forget every little breadcrumb trail that contributes to your freedom.)
I remember hearing Kathy Khang speak that morning and eagerly following her work online afterward. I took notes, though I admit I don’t remember much, but that she was engaging, and I think the impression I recall is that she was funny and deeply thought-provoking. Recently, I enthusiastically reached out to Kathy, cheering her on as she received her yoga certification and sharing our common love for yoga, excited to read as she voiced her own yoga journey.
What was happening internally and behind the scenes in my own world at that very moment of that event in 2015 was a little bit of finding my voice when it turns out my personal agency and decision to travel to visit my sister for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend was being strongly discouraged…to the point that my abuser wouldn’t grant his blessing but threatened that I shouldn’t go. (That I would be choosing cursing instead of blessing by failing to listen to spiritual authority, blah, blah, blah. Bah humbug.)
To visit my sister. When she was pregnant. For the first time. My only sister, 8 hours away. On my long weekend holiday.
The whole thing was ridiculous and caused much unneeded emotional tension and turmoil and I was determined to go, had the means to go, and no reason not to go…so I went.
This also coincided with the beginning of the end of my abuser’s tight grip on my life. Gratefully, I lost a great deal of trust in him at this point. I was absolutely perplexed & bewildered why in the world he was making a big deal about this. As you know, I recently recorded my story, raising my voice, this literally taking back my voice and telling my story in my own words, with my own voice. Since this post isn’t about me, I won’t link to that today. You can find it on my site if you dig around. 😉
Upon hearing about Kathy’s new book, I jumped at the chance to be part of the launch team and help amplify this incredible book. It’s so delightfully practical, spiritual, and encouraging. Filled with enough anecdotes that give honest, real-life examples. Weaving in narratives from the Bible from her perspective. I loved the way the author described Esther’s cross-cultural, dual identity, having two names; Esther and Hadassah, along with a time to step up and raise her voice – for such a time as this – to hear it told from Kathy’s perspective was vivid and powerful. As an MK/TCK (third culture kid) growing up outside my passport country, though very much still privileged, not economically, but because of my skin, I could identify with that in my own way as well.
This is a book I want to hand to several people in my life, in hopes that it might help them see past the binary issues of our day, and see more nuance, but also how our silence can speak loudly, and especially the need for diverse voices, and to stop the silencing story about a false kind of unity and niceties.
Kathy articulates this point wonderfully; with the verse from 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 and verse 26 about the beauty in the diversity of our gifts and how we are one body of many parts. This doesn’t detract from a holistic desire for unity, but unity isn’t about sameness, or homogenizing. Repeat after me, sameness isn’t unity. Sameness isn’t the goal. Sameness isn’t the gospel. This very point from Paul was counter-cultural, that each individual person had a part to play in their community, in their church, in Roman society, affirmed and loved uniquely by their Creator.
I was reminded of the familiar verse about every tribe, every tongue, every nation. How dare we as Christians think that is the vision of heaven and simultaneously refuse to actively live that out in our world, in our neighborhoods, and in our cities right now. Instead, despite our great intentions many are promoting or at the very least permitting racism and white supremacy, because of one or a few singular complex issues, stubbornly refusing to budge from, but are unwilling to hear and listen to the voices crying out demanding to be heard, for their own safety, for their own survival. By the way, reverse racism is not a thing, you guys. Not a thing.
What about the prayer ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ on EARTH, right now. Like Kathy says at the beginning of her book, we have a responsibility, to steward, our domain.
In Raise Your Voice, Kathy says the following:
“I believe that Christians desire and can handle more complexity. Race and reconciliation can no longer be framed solely as a justice issue but rather as core to the gospel, theologically grounded in the Imago Dei (the image of God). As Christians, if we truly believe we are all created in God’s image, and that God the Creator had a hand in developing, creating, and shaping not just our embodied souls but also the places and spaces we steward and have dominion over, then reconciliation with one another is not merely an option – it’s part of God’s mandate. It requires us to speak up and speak out.”
“When more of us from different intersections and margins raise our voices, we live a fuller picture of the good news.”
“Words are powerful and can be used to free people from captivity or to sentence people into captivity. God created humans to communicate WITH one another, not so we would use words and actions to hurt and destroy one another but to be a blessing to one another. God used words to assure Moses of his identity as one beloved and known by the Creator, and then asks Moses to go out and speak up on behalf of the Israelites.” “Likewise, we are seen by God and called out of our imposter syndrome wilderness to proclaim freedom and good news to the world. God asks you to raise your voice.”
“Our unity in Christ does not erase diversity. Our unity in Christ affirms and even demands diversity for the flourishing and stewarding of this world. Our diverse voices allow God’s truth to be told in many ways.”
- “We are all children of God, and diversity is part of that unity – not conformity or assimilation.”
- “Knowing who you are also helps you recognize everyone else’s humanity.”
“Speaking up doesn’t increase division. It brings injustice and sin to the forefront. Speaking up can be an avenue of truth and healing, which can be painful for you and your friends.”
I’ll let the author’s quotes and excerpts continue to speak for themselves. This is where the practical, tangible, personal work comes in:
“Be informed and learn from people who are different than you.”
Here are some practical, tangible steps and actions that you can begin today, the following excerpt is a paragraph that I re-formatted into a list for you:
- “Walk away from the screen.
- Commit to reading books by authors of color, particularly theologians and Christian leaders of color (like this one).
- 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 the spaces you can influence and use your voice.”
The injustice we do not understand:
“We often stay silent and do nothing by convincing ourselves the offense isn’t actually that offensive. Sometimes we don’t speak up because the injustice doesn’t affect our daily lives. We don’t understand the impact of a law or the injustice inflicted on others because it doesn’t impact the people closest to us or it isn’t a matter of our heart or heart language.
Queen Esther may have been able to avoid getting involved if it wasn’t for the actions of her uncle Mordecai.”
“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 risk and speak up in our churches and communities.”
“How can we pray ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ without recognizing this is an invitation to raise our voices?”
“The reason I most often choose to stay silent is the one I don’t want to admit. If I benefit from the status quo, I have a vested interest in maintaining it. Silence is complicity. Speaking out is often labeled as rocking the boat or causing trouble, but silence is just as dangerous.”
“Speaking out against injustice isn’t about my personal feelings and opinions being prioritized over someone else’s feelings and opinions – instead, it’s about recognizing that our individual feelings and opinions about a situation are secondary in importance to the overall impact on our community and society.”
“However, I don’t consider it divisive to point out the problems as a way to work toward finding solutions. We can trust in God and still question what is happening around us. We can live out our beliefs even if the ultimate outcome isn’t changed for the better.
Mordecai understood that trusting in God doesn’t excuse us from speaking up when given an opportunity to name injustice and fight for justice….And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?
Thank you Kathy, for this incredibly powerful, practical book. For in raising your voice, you encourage us (me) to raise our (my) own voice(s), listen to the voices of others, and recognize how much we need each other. I needed this book, in my journey of reclaiming my voice, in my healing and freedom from spiritual abuse, in my own anti-racism internal work and education, and in learning how to amplify the voices of others, in doing so, even if I’m clumsily flailing about or imperfectly speaking out.
The book is out today! To order your copy from Amazon or directly from the publisher: InterVarsity Press