A letter from Yaz Mendez Nuñez, Co-Executive Director, to their Soulforce family:
You all welcomed me so warmly into my Soulforce, and now, eight years later, I am transitioning out of my role as Co-Executive Director.
I joined our team in 2014 as a baby-faced 21-year-old community organizer seeking answers to a million questions about faith, spiritual healing, and collective dignity. Soulforce has taught me so much in nearly a decade: I have found our work to be the antidote to hopelessness and despair that permeated many communities after the election of 2016. I have reveled in how I saw our workshops, resources, and community spaces save lives, transform hearts, and change worlds. In return, I have poured my soul into our work — particularly, lending my writing and aesthetics to become the “voice” of the organization alongside Rev. Alba.
Like any coming-of-age story, I am being beckoned by fate to begin a new season of my life and explore different aspects of my call to service our liberation movements. But I will always draw close to Soulforce. In fact, don’t be surprised to find me working alongside our team on special projects in the future!
I am so proud of what we have grown together. In my time at Soulforce, we have shepherded the organization into a new generation of our mission, focused squarely on the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion-based violence. We have written a new generation of Soulforce print resources that address Bible-based violence, and we’ve shared them with activists and people of faith in all 50 states and 48 countries. We have developed a fully bilingual English-Spanish organization — a dream that Rev. Alba and I shared when we started at Soulforce more than eight years ago. We have more than doubled the size of our budget and our team through a global pandemic and an economic depression.
It is the exact right time for a change in our leadership. Rev. Alba has recommitted themself to the role of Executive Director, and our whole team is so talented and passionate in what we do. So I feel really confident in leaving my role at the end of this year. Between those brilliant humans and all of you, our Soulforce community…well, the organization could not be in better hands.
If you’ve read my letter in full, I imagine you love Soulforce like I do. So, I have two asks for you:
1. Send me a message at email@example.com with your fondest memory from the last decade of Soulforce. I would love to hear your highlights and reminisce with you.
Thank you, Soulforcers, for trusting me with stewarding this organization that has fought for the rights and dignity of LGBTQI people around the world for nearly 25 years. It means the world to me.
With hearts ablaze and spirits unyielding,
Yaz Mendez Nuñez
Outgoing Co-Executive Director
For the poor and people of color suffering from environmental injustice, every day is Earth Day, and this painful cycle of destruction is exacerbated by white Christian Supremacy. While the visual representation of Earth Day is often dominated by images of white women wearing overpriced organic yoga pants and appropriated hairstyles, those of us who are most impacted by the degradation of the earth are over being inundated with “reduce, reuse, recycle.” white Christian Supremacy erases Indigenous people who are fighting for oil not to flow through sacred lands; it ignores the people of Flint, MI who still can only drink water through a filter. And let’s not forget the millions of water pipes tainted with lead.
white Christian Supremacy hinges on manipulating Christian theology and scripture to elevate the power and privilege of white people above everything, including nature. European imperialism framed white people as being more righteous and therefore closer to God and fulfilling God’s purpose. As a result, one of the most important tenets of white Christian Supremacy is conquest and control, meaning that a “chosen people” possess a divine right to use people and places at their disposal. This attitude of human dominion, particularly white Christian dominion, is what has carried our civilizations through industrialization and ultimately toward ecological demise.
white Christian Supremacy has justified and reinforced this hierarchical system that places white men at the top, then white women, all people of color, animals, water and the rest of creation all on the bottom. This top-down worldview is responsible for not only the immense damage to the Earth but has also resulted in the detriment of anyone not at the head of the hierarchy.
The “dominion” in Genesis 1:26-28 has been interpreted as God’s permission to human beings to exploit the earth, control its natural resources, and exterminate the creatures in it; this translation does not make sense in the narrative. The word that is used—radah—also means “to take responsibility for something.” It is preposterous to think that after spending six days fashioning every piece of Creation, blessing it, and finding it to be “very good” that God gave the beloved Creation to humankind to greedily pillage and use up for our own material gain.
Rather, God entrusted this cherished Creation to human beings. As the creatures formed in the Imago Dei, we have the most power of all the creatures to create and destroy. And as those who are made in the reflection of the Creator, we should also have the most respect for God’s Creation and our duty to continue the sacred work of tending and caring for the earth and the treasured beings in it.
However, even for those who interpret Genesis 1 of the Bible as a responsibility for stewardship and not dominion over creation, there is still a hierarchical view of humans on top and the rest of creation below. Contrary to this viewpoint were the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi which called humans to live with plants and animals, thee sun, the wind, the rain, etc. not as masters or adversaries but as sisters and brothers created by God. Following this Franciscan ethic of fraternal love and reconciliation will go a long way in remedying our climate crisis.
It is also most imperative that we recognize that racism, spiritual violence and the climate crisis are completely intertwined. To fight racism and spiritual violence, we must fight the climate crisis. And to fight the climate crisis, we must dismantle white Christian supremacy and its arrogance towards humanity and nature. If we want to survive, we must start prioritizing being in good relations with the Earth all 365 days of the year.
This blog post is part of a series called How white Christian Supremacy Stole…Everything, where we’ll unpack some of the sticky feelings so many of us have around some of the US’s major holidays. The series aims to give a voice to us buzzkills who devote our lives to social justice and have a hard time not feeling like a grinch during every. Single. Holiday. You’re not alone in your grinchiness! Understanding what is harmful about a cultural phenomenon, or what doesn’t sit right with us, can help us identify how we want to reclaim our agency and observe those holidays (or not) in alignment with our ethics and beliefs. In that way, we hope this blog post feels like spiritual accompaniment.
As a gender nonconforming queer person from a military family, this has been a rough week for my people.
I have deep political and spiritual convictions that call me, personally, to demand an end to our military industrial complex. That conversation is deeply nuanced and complicated for me. And, at the same time, the rumors this week of a ban on trans people joining the military has also taken me way back to my childhood, being raised slightly-off base in a military town.
Growing up, I learned some basic lessons in kindergarten with the other Army/Navy kids. Lessons like: It is never acceptable to tell someone they don’t belong, or hurt them, just because they are different than you. If someone else is being bullied, you stand up for them. Everyone you meet is someone’s child, partner, parent, friend, or sibling.
Our Trans family has experienced some deep hurt this past week:
- Tweets from the Commander-in-Chief on a ban on Trans people joining the military
- A discriminatory bathroom bill, SB3 in Texas, passing the state senate
- The Breakfast Club host “joking” about killing Trans Women on their July 29th broadcast
Why is this kind of onslaught of hate ever acceptable in a society that prides itself on its diversity and tolerance? Why would people treat each other in ways most kindergarteners would find reprehensible?
The only way to make violence against our communities – physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual violence – “acceptable” is to make us unacceptable through painting us as deviant, immoral, and dangerous.
Because Christian Supremacist logic is based on extreme binaries (everything is black or white, good or evil, right or wrong, etc) and the idea that order (rather than chaos) is the ultimate sign of goodness and godliness. Anything that falls outside precisely “male” and “female” is considered morally reprehensible.
Ideals of what is called “Biblical manhood and womanhood” aggressively organizes all humans into two very small boxes that reinforce patriarchy and heterosexism. Everything else is an “indoctrination by liberal politics” or a “distortion of God’s intentions” (Focus on the Family, 2017).
That is the kind of spiritual violence that makes it socially acceptable to joke about the murder of Trans Women on national radio, or to nonchalantly tweet out the ban of a whole group of people from an arm of the government.
At Soulforce, we’ve just finished our first-ever session Vacation Bible School, created for LGBTQI Youth to unpack the messages we receive about ourselves and reclaim our spirits in an online learning community.
In our four-week course, two sessions of 19 LGBTQI people studied the wild and wonderful diversity of creatures who defy the gender binary that we as humans have assigned to them, and paired those lessons with Bible stories that give us a queerer perspective on scripture.
Spending time with other Trans and Gender Nonconforming folks, cherishing stories like that of male seahorses who give birth to their young, or the queer reading of Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, changed my understanding of what is truly natural, sacred, and possible for me and my people.
And it reminded me that we have to seek out, with our full spirits, the things that give us life as LGBTQI people, because we will be otherwise pummeled by the vitriolic messages coming at us from the Right Wing.
Now, many political analysts have tried to assure us that 45’s tweets are just political grandstanding, and that Texas’s SB3 will never make it past the Senate. Regardless, these events show that there is a status quo in place that accepts this kind of discrimination as par for the course.
Dehumanizing Trans and Gender Nonconforming people like me is incredibly dangerous, because it re-affirms that our bodies and our communities are unnatural, scary, burdensome, inappropriate, invalid, and ultimately less than fully human and fully sacred.
This blatant violence against our most vulnerable communities is what comes when discrimination is just allowed to BE. We will not sit idly by when a barrage of hate visits itself on our people.
This is exactly the right time to be in solidarity with each other. For us to show up and say NO to spiritual and physical violence. And if it doesn’t come from our leaders, our politicians, or our media, our then it has to come from the ground up – from all of us.
Some of the things we in Soulforce are doing this summer to resist violence are:
- Convening our online Vacation Bible School through the month of July for LGBTQI Youth to learn about trans-affirming theologies and join together in spiritual community
- Developing a trans theological resource to combat Right Wing theologies by equipping all of us with the tools we need to defang scripture used against Trans and Gender Nonconforming people
- Unpacking political and spiritual violence with Trans and Gender Nonconforming faith leaders at the Trans Faith and Action Network retreat in Asheville, NC, August 18-20. (Want to join us? Let me know you’ll be coming!)
Thank you, always, Soulforce family, for joining us in political and spiritual resistance.
“Frankly, DeVos is an alum of my college, Calvin College, and I’m very disappointed with her appointment.”
It has been days since Betsy DeVos has been confirmed to the position of Secretary of Education in Trump’s cabinet, and our people refuse to comply.
Alongside tens of thousands of calls from around the U.S. to convince senators not to instate DeVos, protestors continue to push at every turn — for example, refusing to allow DeVos to enter the building of a D.C. school after her confirmation.
DeVos is a billionaire and graduate of Calvin College in West Michigan. Her family outspends the Koch brothers on Right Wing political causes every year – particularly focusing on Religious Right infrastructure for Christian colleges.
Students at Christian colleges in West Michigan, the homebase of the DeVos family, are similarly refusing to comply with the ideals, theologies, and structures that bolster DeVos’s wealth and power.
A letter circulating in West Michigan has collected over 700 signatures from students and alumni of Calvin College opposing DeVos’s confirmation in the past month.
Today we lift up some of the voices of LGBTQI students from West Michigan on DeVos’s appointment.
From a senior student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI:
“As someone who has been spiritually violated by my college, purposefully and without purpose, Devos represents everything wrong with my college education.
“Her mother, the matriarch of the Prince Family, is one of the leading donators to anti-LGBTQIA+ orgs. Her brother is a war monger.
“To think that Calvin will put her higher on the wall of distinguished Alumni…
“I don’t know what I am going to do this year, as a student again, to take care of myself at a place that has “borne a degree” for this woman.
“The only political org that Calvin has, besides Student Senate, is the Calvin Republicans who invite the likes of white supremacists on campus, under the guise of learning constitutional freedoms!
“Must I go back to school to organize and then let my education go by the wayside again?”
From a junior student at Hope College in Holland, MI:
“Betsy Devos represents the interests of the billionaire class at the expense of low income families.
“Her confirmation is one step towards consolidating an oligarchy of elites with personal ties to Trump, which poses a dangerous threat to the American public.
“Her history of activism against public schooling serves to advance the agenda of the Religious Right, and her complete ineptitude on issues of national education is cause for grave concern.
“When thousands at your alma mater, and hundreds of students at the school your children attend, join together in protest against your position, maybe it is time to reevaluate your life’s direction.”
Youth in West Michigan understand the link between the DeVos family and their schools’ complicity in violence against LGBTQI students, shrinking social services, and gentrification in their communities.
Together, students in West Michigan have developed relationships and ideas that build the backbone for national campus organizing strategies at large.
Through tactics like the Kudzu newsletter, a student-led GiveBackIX campaign, and the Southern-regional Beyond Equality Ride in 2016, we work Youth-to-Youth to provide students with the critical resources, tools, strategies, and back-up they need to make bold stances.
To learn more on resistance against the ways that Christian colleges consolidate Right-Wing power, visit our website and support Youth organizing on our campuses.