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John Blake explores the world-changing power of relationships: Compass 108

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We’re talking diversity, inclusion, integration, hope, the church and divine intervention with John Blake. John has some interesting stories to tell about family and relationships… including his relationship with the church.

John Blake is an award-winning journalist for His 2020 essay, “There’s One Epidemic We May Never Find a Cure For: Fear of Black Men in Public Spaces,” was recently selected by Bustle Digital Group as one of the 11 best essays on racism and police violence. He is a Baltimore native living in Atlanta… and his book that just hit the proverbial shelves is “More Than I Imagined” which prompted our conversation with John.




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This episode posted on May 3, 2023

Michelle Maldonado (00:02):

This is the Compass Podcast where we disrupt the every day with a glimpse of the divine. My name is Michelle Maldonado.

Ryan Dunn (00:08):

And I'm Ryan Dunn.

Michelle Maldonado (00:11):

Ryan, what do we have for this episode?

Ryan Dunn (00:13):

We're talking diversity, inclusion, integration, hope, and divine intervention with John Blake. And John has a really interesting backstory as he's the child of a black father and white mother, who really, he did not know whether or not his mother existed throughout his formative years. And even John's father was kind of in and out of his life during his childhood. So John has some interesting stories to tell about family and relationships, including his relationship with the church. And if you're wondering why the name John Blake is familiar, it's because John is an award-winning journalist for and is 2020 essay called, there's One Epidemic. We May Never Find a Cure for Fear of Black Men in Public Spaces. That was recently selected by Bustle Digital Media Group as one of the 11 best essays on racism and police violence. John is a Baltimore native living in Atlanta, and his book that just hit the proverbial shelves is called More Than I Imagined, which actually prompted our conversation with John.

Michelle Maldonado (01:21):

This was such a great conversation I have with John. He touched on a lot of great topics, so I'm really looking forward to sharing that conversation with him.

Ryan Dunn (01:31):

John Blake, thank you so much for joining us. First of all I hope you're doing well today.

John Blake (01:36):

Thank you. I am. And

Ryan Dunn (01:39):

Good, good. So you've been living your life story for a couple of decades now, we'll say. And what prompted you to, to share your story now? Where did your book come from?

John Blake (01:52):

The, the idea for the book started when I went back to my hometown in Baltimore in 2015 to cover these violent protests. The Freddie, some people call it a race riot, some people call it a uprising, but a lot of people know it as a Freddie Gray Riot slash Uprising. And that, that those protests literally took place where I grew up. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So it was a very strange experience to go back through my own neighborhood and to see it literally go up in flames because of racism. And so while I was there, I was struck by this contrast. I'm here going back to my hometown and I'm seeing it come apart because of racism, but with my personal life, I'm seeing the white and black members of my family come together despite racism. So I was trying to figure out like why were these divisions in my family melting away when in our country they seemed to get deeper and deeper.


So I was trying to an trying to kind of answer that mystery. That's part of the reason I wrote it. And secondly as a journalist, I've been covering a race for about 25 years. So I've been in the thick of some of the most painful racial episodes in this country's history. And I've always said to myself like, I am so tired of writing about racial divisions and I wanna write a story that shows us a, a way of getting past those divisions. And so later in my life I realized, wait a minute, I'm living such a story mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and this is worth sharing with people.

Ryan Dunn (03:31):

And we probably need to name that for much of your life, you were like estranged from the, the white side o of your family. Were you able to get the story from them if, if there were events happening at that time that really kinda opened up an awareness for them of moving closer towards you or opening a deeper relationship with you?

John Blake (03:56):

No. I mean, my, the white side of my family didn't exist for me for the first 17 years of my life. They rejected me and my brother when we were born. So when I grew up, all I knew all my, the black side of my family told me was this, your mother's name is Shirley, she's white and her family hates black people. That's all I knew. So I grew up in this all black world, in this inner city neighborhood in Baltimore, where everybody seemed to hate white people. And so I had no awareness of the exist existence. I didn't know if my mother was alive. I didn't know what she looked like, the sound of a voice or anything. It's like what I said in the book. I said, I came into the world with half of my identity amputated mm-hmm. <Affirmative>.


So I had no clue to their existence. They made no effort to contact me. And then suddenly at 17 not long before I'm on my way to college, my father comes to me and say, Hey, do you want to meet your mother <laugh>? So it was like he dropped the bomb on me. I'm like, whoa. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And that's when it started when I met my mom and then meeting her, and I began to meet other members of, of my white family. And that's when I had to figure out how, how do you become a family when you know this side of yourself? They, that they rejected you?

Michelle Maldonado (05:18):

Wow. That, that's a lot for a teenager dealing with already so many things in general. And then that bomb being dropped, like wow.

John Blake (05:26):

Yeah. Yeah. Because you know, when I was born in the mid sixties, interracial marriage was illegal. There was no Obama, there's no Kamala Harris, there's no Jordan Peele. There were no role models. So where I grew up, it, it was a mark of shame to have a white mom. Hmm. That's why I say I grew up in my world, is what I call the closeted biracial person. I didn't let any of my friends know that my mom was white. It was a source of shame. And so that in itself was enough to deal with. And then the suddenly at 17 say, okay, you gotta meet your mom, and you have to learn how to be close to these people who I thought hated me. Yeah. I, I, that was a very surreal experience when I first met her.

Michelle Maldonado (06:08):

So, in, in your childhood and, and youth church was not a happy or willing choice did, at what point did that change and how

John Blake (06:20):

It, you know, in my childhood, it was, you're right. It was not a happy choice. I was I didn't decide to, to attend church. I was drafted <laugh>, you know, by lot of kids. But it was also, it also gave me glimmers of another world of another way. So it wasn't all bad. But church really proved decisive for me in college. And that is right after I met my mom. So suddenly I have to find a way to connect with her and the white memories of my family. And I had all this hostility toward white people. One, because I knew this white side of my family rejected me, and two, because of where I grew up, nobody like white people, we hardly ever saw them. So I had to find a way to get over that hostility and find a way to learn how to see white people as just fellow human beings.


Church was crucial because when I joined this church in college, I didn't, I didn't know it at the time, I just joined because some friends had reached out to me. I went to a black college in DC called Howard University, but I didn't know it. But the church I had joined was at the forefront of an interracial movement. It was an interracial church when it was not so cool, and very rare. So when I joined church, it was the first time I began to see white people as friends, and I formed friendships with them. And that was key. That was like, it showed me another way to really connect with white people and, and, you know, words like forgiveness and showing grace to people that really helped me connect with my mom and her family

Ryan Dunn (07:54):

In the church. We talk a a lot about integration and mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and value diversity, but in practice it, it's, it's rarely ever there. So were there some aspects of that church that you were a part of in, in college that really drew out the diversity and integration in ways that are not so much practiced today?

John Blake (08:19):

That the church in college was not, it did not practice the type of integration that I think churches needed to do. It was a great start for me. Yeah. You know, I'm in my twenties. I didn't have, I was just glad to be in a setting where I could interact with white people as human beings and as friends. And so that church was what I call, I would call a racially mixed church. Okay. And that's good and we need that. But there's a huge difference between a racially mixed church and an integrated church. And what I experienced later when I moved to Atlanta was an integrated church. And the difference is this, in a racially mixed church, black, white and brown people share pews in an integrated ch a church. They share pews and they share power. That's the big difference. It's, you can, you can get a racially mixed church, particularly if you have like a megachurch like for example, Charles Stanley just passed away. You know, if you went to his megachurch in Atlanta, you would see different types of racial people. And you say that's racially mixed, but a genuinely integrated church is something far more difficult to achieve. But I think that's the type of church that lasts. And I think it's actually the type of church that is more in keeping with the biblical example of the first century church that we have in the Book of Acts.

Ryan Dunn (09:38):

Were there parts of your personal story that helped form this, this view of, of what it takes to build an, a really radically integrated church?

John Blake (09:47):

Yeah, yeah. Because the, the, when I went to this what I would call a racially integrated church, that was decisive, that was like a breakthrough moment for me. Because first of all, it also helped me u understand the mystery because I had been to racially mixed churches before, but racially mixed churches are often, like I have found to be like racially mixed neighborhoods. They don't last, you know, why they don't last. It's the same reason why a lot of racially mixed neighborhoods don't last. Once the, the, the ratio of black or brown people gets past a certain point. White people leave. I mean, that's just the reality that happens in neighborhoods. And that happened in churches that happened to a big racially mixed church. I I went to, in Atlanta, it was a church. It was a big megachurch. It was full of black and white people.


And we all talked about, you know, there's, we are all wanting, you know, we're all wanting Christ Jesus. But once the surrounding neighborhood changed, became pretty much dominantly black, all those white people left this new church I went to was different. I mean, they, when I say talk about sharing power, the way you kind of keep these churches make 'em worth is that it's, it's not enough for just people to be an abused. You have to bring your whole, you have to see your culture reflective. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> like, are you only singing hymns that white people are comfortable with? When you look at the, on top of the pews are the only people in charge, white men, you know, all these things. So in this church, and I went to where we were, I think you, we did it right. All those issues were addressed. All those things were talked about. And, and this isn't gonna sound strange, there were a lot of arguments. There were a lot of debates. And that was healthy because we were talking about stuff. We were bringing it out in the open, and we weren't just like you know, just look at all the different people in the pews. So that was very helpful and that was a breakthrough.

Ryan Dunn (11:43):

Hmm. How did they go about engaging in some of those debates and arguments? Cause there, there's a real fear of <laugh>, of even kind of addressing those for fear of coming off the, the wrong way. So did they have some guidelines around that?

John Blake (11:57):

You can have guidelines, but I think the most important thing is the reflection of the character, of the leadership. These are kind of intangibles. And they had great leaders. First of all, the minister when I was there, he was a white male. He didn't just see himself as a leader. He saw other people in the, in, in the congregation as co-leaders. I mean, he was the type of guy, for example, when a black me member challenged him for saying something that she thought was racist, that he listened and he admitted and confessed and adapted. So that was a reflection of his character. He was a man that had grown up in the deep south in the Jim Crow South. And he had always, and he grew up leaving, that black people were subhuman. So he was wrestling with this stuff. So I think it's a reflection of the character. You have to have leadership that's willing to be criticized and to change. And I think also, I mean, they took seriously, like I said, the Book of Acts. They took seriously what the Bible says about race. They took it seriously that these things should not prevent us from having a bond as human beings. That, you know. So, but I think in the end, it's, it's really reflection of the characters, the characters of the leaders.

Ryan Dunn (13:15):

Mm. Are are you comfortable naming who the pastor was?

John Blake (13:18):

Yeah. Yeah. Matter of fact his name is Gibson Stroppe, S t r o u P e. People call 'em Nibs. And this church that I went to in Atlanta was, is called Oakhurst Presbyterian Church. And it became a celebrity church because they did race. Right. It was featured in Time Magazine, national Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor. It was like this celebrity church because like I said, it was so rare. And that was just a, it just happened to be 15 minutes from where, from where I lived. But I was just so blessed to experience that.

Michelle Maldonado (13:54):

Yeah. It's really interesting how it, it's a similar experience for the Latino community when it comes to multicultural churches. Yes. because like you said, it's all the, the, the white hymns, you know? Yes. It's, it's missing that Latin flavor. Yes. Where if it's just a Latino church, you're gonna have salsa, worship music, you know, <laugh>. Yes. Yes. So a white church or a multi multicultural church can't compete with that. And it just kind of goes into this full circle of Sunday mornings the most segregated time Yes. In America.

John Blake (14:27):

Yes. You know, my wife is a Latina. She's from Central America. She, she has complained about that. You know, she you know, just the, there is a tremendous amount of racism in the white church, not just among the, the, the kind of typical buildings. We, we cite now conservative Christians, but I'm talking about progressive Christians. And I'll give you an example what I'm talking about. We, we went to a church, my wife, and she's from Guatemala. Guatemala. And I'm saying it wrong, I know it's all Americanized <laugh>, but they, they established a ministry for the church to serve people in Guatemala. My wife is a daughter of two missionaries from from Guatemala. She grew up there, and they never even asked her to be part of, of, of, of, of the ministry. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, they just appointed a white male to be the leader. And this is a liberal, progressive church. It wasn't conscience. They didn't, they, they weren't aware of it. So I, I, I think that that's the thing, a lot of progressive churches, they absorb a lot of these attitudes as well. Like, for example, if you're Latino, why can't you go to hear some of your, your language in the worship experience? Why can't you hear some of your song? You know, why you, you should see your culture reflected in a, in a place that you attend.

Ryan Dunn (15:47):

Let's talk about that a little bit because it, and a couple points in your book, you also bring up the the existent racism practiced by people who, who proclaim to be advocates or, or allies. Can you name a, like what a couple of those traits are you know, that underlying racism that maybe somebody of a progressive mindset might practice?

John Blake (16:18):

I mean, I can understand the question. You mean like, what are some of the examples or Yes. Traits of progressive Christians acting in, in racist ways that they don't, they're not aware of? Is that

Ryan Dunn (16:28):

Yes. Yeah. <laugh>. Yeah. Thank you for putting Yeah. <Laugh>. Hey, you're good at this. Ya oughta <laugh>.

John Blake (16:34):

I've been wrestling with this stuff most of my life. <Laugh>. No, I, I think you know, like some of them mentioned, like, some of it is, look at the pews who's standing in the pulpit every Sunday. If it's only white men or only white people, you have a problem. I mean, particularly if you live in a mixed area. I mean, we're so segregated. So if you're a church in Iowa, I get it. But if you're in a large urban center city and it's just, and you have people of color in a congregation, and your leadership is primarily pretty much all white, that's a problem. Look at the hymns you see, you know, they reflect other cultures. And I think also just how you deal with conflict is, is this a place where a person of color, brown or black person will feel free to criticize people in leadership?


Mm. And, and bring their culture. I give you an example of, of how this racism works. My brother used to attend this interracial megachurch in Charlotte. You'd go there, it was like the United Nations. And they, and they bragged about it from the pulpit. Oh, you know, there's neither, you know, black nor white. We're all one in Christ's Jesus. But the worship style was very, I don't even want to say it. Euro-Centric. And there used to be this black man who sat on the front row and he was this large, dark, imposing physically black man. And when the preacher would preach, he would get up and shout and go to the pulpit and urge him on. Now that freaked white people out in the church. It didn't freak me out because I grew up in a black church ion where there was call and response where black people did that.


But it freaked them out so much. Do you know what they did? They asked that man to leave the church. They couldn't give. It was too unsettling to them because that was another, that was a, another cultures tradition. And they had to have their tradition be the dominant one. And this same church, when the whole George Floyd protest broke out, the white pastor didn't even address the racial justice issue. Didn't talk about, didn't wrestle with it. And all, most of those people of color left his church. And it's a shell of what it used to be. That's what I'm talking about. And this was a what called, we called a progressive church.

Ryan Dunn (18:48):

Hmm. Yeah. Oftentimes it feels like it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in that, you know, where you say, well, that's not our people. And so we engage in these practices, <laugh> that that feedback into that because we think, well, we're catering to who's here. And just keep catering to who's there. Yeah,

John Blake (19:10):

Yeah. What you said, you know, you cater to who's there. And I almost think, let's not even almost think what's clear is that if the church is gonna survive, they have to cater to people who are not there, who are not showing up. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, as I I, I wrote a story a couple weeks ago about the, the future of the church. And it's clear if this church is gonna survive in this country, that they have to be able to attract non-white Christians. Because that's all these non-white Christians who are like who are living in the global south and places like South American Asia that coming in the United States. That's where the growth is. That's where the vitality is. If you want to remain relevant white church, you have to cater to them and make them feel welcome. And a lot of churches just don't know how to do it.

Michelle Maldonado (19:59):

So, shifting to, to the hope for the future during Easter, you published an article precisely about mm-hmm. <Affirmative> hope for the future of the church. What inspired this hope?

John Blake (20:12):

I think for me what inspires the hope is like two things. What's happened to my family? There's tremendous pessimism among black people about whether white American could really change. And then there's tremendous pessimism I think among all Americans about whether we can really have a multiracial democracy and a multi-religious democracy that works. I mean, you know, so many people feel like maybe human beings are too tribal to, to have this thing work. And I, I struggle with that in my job because I see some of the worst. But yet I look at the people in my family, white members of my family, people called my father the n-word, violence against him. People didn't want anything to do with me. Called me a zebra child, you know, zebra child, zebra child and everything. And that we were able to come together and say, yes, we love one another.


We're a family. That's a tremendous source of hope. Cuz cuz if people can change, a country can change. And the other source I hope I have is that the church already has the blueprint for this type of future. I, i saying in a book that when I was in college and this man came to me, knocked on my dorm door and said, I want you to join my church to be a Christian. And he came and talked to me about Jesus, the cross and salvation. None of that mattered to me. That didn't really have that much affected me. But when I went to that church and I saw black, white, and brown people hugging one another and sincerely being friends, going to each other's home, that had a tremendous impact on me. And to know that that came from an example of Jesus and the first Christians, Jesus, the one who would reach out to Centurion to reach out to women Samaritans, that is the thing that had an impact on me. So we, if we just tell our story and live our story, I think it will affect people.

Ryan Dunn (22:07):

You know, in, in that moment when you were invited to, to participate in that first biracial church, you had offense up about such scenarios because of, of your lived experience. So what, do you feel like it was something supernatural that opened you up to, to participate in something like that? Or, or was there, you know, or to find joy in, in even having those, those kinds of cross-cultural relationships?

John Blake (22:44):

There were lot, lot of different things. And I, I, I'm chuckling when you mentioned supernatural, because that is one of the unusual aspects of my story. But to answer it on one level, it was something that was totally not supernatural. It was just a day-to-day experience of living in a sustained authentic relationship with people who are different. What happens is people stop being a category and they become individuals, you know? So it's the, it's the boring, ordinary stuff. Going to people's home, having dinners, seeing them as human beings, talking about your struggles, talking about your life. And that's the same thing that happened to my family. I, I mentioned my Aunt Mary who didn't want anything to do with me. And I had tremendous hostility when I met her. This is my mother's sister. And I said that as we got to know each other, there was this point where she stopped being a white woman and became an individual, my, my Aunt Mary. So I think that's to stay in contact. That was the thing. Nothing dramatic, just time, relationship, community that changed me. And then of course, there's an unusual element to my story that will be called Supernatural that I can talk about if you want. But it, it, it might sound very strange, but that was also very pivotal.

Ryan Dunn (23:59):

Yeah. Well, let's go there. Let's hear the supernatural movement. Yes.

John Blake (24:03):

Okay. So this is the, the strange part of my story, and I don't know if you came across this, Michelle, and I know sometimes as journals we don't really have time to, you know, really read a book in depth or anything like that. You is, you know, but one of the things that happened to me as a kid is that, and this is with my brother we had no contact with any white members of my family, like I said, until I was 17. In some ways that's kind of true, but in some ways it's not true. Because when we were about, I don't know, about like seven or eight, we had an experience where my brother and I were, you know, sleeping one night and we get a visitation, we wake up and we see a white man walking through our na our our bedroom.


Hmm. And I thought I was hallucinating. My brother thought he was hallucinating, but when I awakened the next morning, there were footprints all over the floor. He left footprints, he left evidence that he had been there and we could never figure out who this white man was. And then finally when I met my mom years later and I began to see pictures of her family, and we saw a picture of my mom's father, the one who hated black people, it was that man Oh, and this man. Now when Whitney, so what do you do with something like that? You know what I did? I ignored it and lived my life. Cuz what can I do with anything like that? I didn't tell anybody about that I didn't want. However, I couldn't ignore it because when I got married, well, let's put it this way, you know, usually when you get married, you tell people about your family.


Like, you know, this is an uncle I want you to meet. Well, I didn't tell my wife that I had a relative that had visited me who wasn't alive. But what happened after we got married, she, she was, she, she awakened in terror on two different occasion tonight saying, I'm waking up and I'm seeing this white man standing by the bed looking at you with this troubled expression on his face. And it was my grandfather and I had, the part of my story is I had to figure out what did he want from me? Why was he, what were these visitations about? And the thing I concluded is, is this, when we talk about racism, a lot of people will say, racism hurts white people. And I believe that's true on one, at least on one level. We talk about how, for example, poor white people will vote against their economic interest because of racism.


However, I think race racism hurts white people on another level. I think it, it's something that's destructive to the human soul. My white grandfather was a tremendous racism in his life. He never bothered to have a relationship with me, and he died never knowing me. What I believe is that he was tormented by that, and he was felt guilty by that. And so what I said in the book is, in a way he haunted me, but I haunted him. And the only thing that really stopped those visitations is when I consulted a minister and he said, you have to pray for him and you have to forgive him from your heart. And when I did that, everything start.

Michelle Maldonado (27:02):

Wow. Hmm. Thanks for sharing that story. Yeah.

John Blake (27:07):

But that's, that's the part of, I didn't know whether to include that in the book. I had friends say, man, you don't wanna go there, don't put that there. But it was pivotal to me because you can't forgive anybody you don't know. So I had to get to know him. And this is, this is crucial to me. I had to learn that you can't define a person by their worst act. Yes. My grandfather had rejected me. He had used the N word, but there were these other sides of him that were good. And, and that, for example, when he died, the last person he called to say goodbye to was a black man who was one of his best friends. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So I had to learn that these different things could coexist within people. That a white person could express racism and be racism, but they had other sides too, and that people could grow. And that was very difficult for me. But he compelled me to do so because I was like, what does he want? I had to get to know him and that was very helpful for me. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>,

Michelle Maldonado (28:04):

I know, I'm, I'm glad you you told that story because and I get it again because of my, my Latino background. It's kind of what we were just talking about where it, it is taboo, not in all cult in our cultures. It's not taboo. Correct. But in the wider white Christianity of the United States, we can't talk about that stuff. <Laugh>,

John Blake (28:25):

Why is that?

Michelle Maldonado (28:26):

Right, exactly.

John Blake (28:28):

I'm asking you, Michelle, what do you think?

Michelle Maldonado (28:31):

I don't know. I've always struggled to, to figure out why, because yeah, there's some stories and some things that I have to keep to myself because I'll, I'll just look crazy <laugh>. Yeah. But in my immediate community, it's like, ah, yeah, it's just another Tuesday.

John Blake (28:45):

Yeah. And, and, and that's part of that's part of our culture. Like, it, it is not a big thing, but if you think about it, look at the Bible mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, it's full of visitations, apparitions miraculous signs. I mean, so why not this? You know, I mean, so hey, it happened. I had to put it in there because it was core to me, it was core to me, developing compassion and empathy for white people, express racism. Because when I see that, I see my grandfather and I try to remind myself people are more than their worst act.

Michelle Maldonado (29:20):

Yeah. So in, in the midst of this search you Sam, well you were simultaneously dealing with the imposter Christianity which I love that term imposter Christianity. How, how were you able to still keep your faith in, in dealing with that as well?

John Blake (29:48):

Yeah. You know, it's funny you say that because typical stories about biracial people with, they write stories about the tug of war between their white and black identity. Like, I don't know if I'm white, I don't know if I'm black, I don't know where I belong. Okay. I experienced some of that. But the biggest struggle between my dealing identities occurred between my identity as a reporter and journalist and my identity as a just a private person. What I mean by that is that as a reporter I've just seen the worst of racism in, in this country. And so I became very cynical and jaded. And when I write stories like say the imposter Christianity, when I see how racism has just taken over so many white churches, it's so easy to like be cynical, to give up hope. So many black people are, are, are so distrustful Christianity.


That's why a lot of 'em become Muslims because it is like, Hey, y'all use the Bible to enslave us. But to answer your question, the thing that gives me hope is because I look at my family, I look at all these incredible white Christians I met on my journey, white evangelical Christians, the, the one, you know, who helped me, who saw, who showed me that there was another side. And, and I know if they can change, others can change. So that's been a great example. One of the things I, I think I should mention is that what was key to me reconciling with my mother's family is that my mom and her family were devout Roman Catholics. So we both shared this Christian language. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, we both could talk about grace. We could both talk about forgiveness even though we couldn't see other things that was this commonplace where we met and when we met there, we could build from that and we could find a way to connect.

Ryan Dunn (31:44):

John, thank you so much for dedicating some time with us this morning. For folks who wanna track along with what you're doing, you have a number of places where people can find you. Is there one specific spot online where people might get in touch with you or your writing? Oh,

John Blake (32:00):

Oh yeah. It's easy. I have a, I have a website john k and you can contact me there. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. I'm easy to reach and I know I'm easy to reach cuz I get hate mail <laugh>. So they find me pretty easily, so you should be able to find me easily. So yeah, it's, I'm pretty easy get in contact with.

Ryan Dunn (32:21):

Hmm. All right. Now I've got one, one final question. It kind of comes outta left field, but of course on this podcast we, we love to kind of highlight the strange and wonderful and surprising ways that the movement of God is happening in the world. And you've recently put up an article <laugh> that, that talks about the monster culture in America. Oh, oh, oh yeah. And how does that, how might that send a message of, of Hope <laugh> for people who are seemingly I don't know, not getting together, not integrated or, or feeling divided

John Blake (32:57):

Well's Funny. Okay. The monster culture, I think then that is a, that is a out of the left

Ryan Dunn (33:05):

<Laugh>. I just found it so compelling. I was like, oh,

John Blake (33:08):

It's a good question because I think it, it points to something I was reading today, and it's something I talk about in my book. Okay. So there's this conventional idea that the way you reduce racial prejudice is that you get, you know, black, white and brown people together to talk about race, you know, diversity training, the national conversation of race. We've been having those conversations for a while. I don't think that's true. And I talk about it because social science backs set up. I talk about this person in my book called Gordon Alport, who was a psychologist in the 20th century who was a giant and he talks about something called contact theory. And he says, when you get different groups together to talk about race that might work a little bit. But if you really wanna get groups, different groups together and reduce racial prejudice, you get together for them, you get them together where they have another larger common purpose beyond talking about race.


I'll give you an example to make it less concrete. Remember movies like, remember the Titans, there are all these sports movies where people divided by race, but once they joined the same team, you know, and they try to all go out for the championship, all those racial differences kind of, you know, just melt away. Yeah. You know, because they have a larger purpose beyond talking about race all the time. And so that's a key thing. I key finding, I think in reducing races that we wanna reduce racism in this country, one of the best things we can do is get people together for a larger common purpose for something other than race. And in doing so, they will see their common humanity. So for example, monster culture, you mentioned that, you know, there's a whole world of ghost hunters out there, whole up culture of, you know, bigfoot chasers and everything.


When you get all these different races, people coming together for that, they're not talking about race, but they're together for something larger, that's when the magic happens. That's when people start to see each other's common humanity. That's what happened when I became a Christian. I didn't go to those bible studies to talk about racism, but me going there for a larger common purpose, you know, to become a Christian or to learn about the gospel, I began to see the common humanity in people. And that really helped. And that's why a lot of people say one of the best ways we could probably reduce racism in this country, if we had like say a program for national service. Like if you, what if you had a program that kids outta college could volunteer for to clean up America, something to improve America. But you bring together people of all these races re you know, religions, ethnicities, that's when people's racial attitudes change. So whether it's chasing monsters, whether it's, you know, getting international service program, whether it's like joining a church, that's, that's one of the keys I find.

Ryan Dunn (35:52):

Well thanks for that perspective and for bearing with me on that. No, that's

John Blake (35:56):

Fine. I told you can ask anything you want.

Ryan Dunn (36:00):

Alright. We have been disrupted by looking at Faith in integration with John Blake.

Michelle Maldonado (36:07):

Thanks for taking this walk with us. The Compass Podcast is brought to you by United Methodist Communication. If Compass has been meaningful for you, then check out another episode,

Ryan Dunn (36:18):

I think episode 89 with Damon Garcia about radical. Jesus is a great follow up to this one. In episode 1 0 4, talking about Saints with Joseph U is full of more just kind of interesting stories. So while you're listening to those, leave a rating and or review,

Michelle Maldonado (36:36):

Compass comes out every other Wednesday unless we are interrupted by a holiday, in which case will hit your feed the following week. But we'll be back online within two weeks time in that case. Chat with you. Done. Peace.



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