Jim Davis and Justin Holcomb welcome Trillia Newbell to talk about some of the unique relational dynamics facing black women. Newbell covers being racially profiled as well as many false stereotypes and the exhaustion black women face as they navigate others’ expectations and perceptions. Newbell shares that the painful or awkward moments in the world also exist in the church, yet there is hope that springs out of lament, having faith in a good God.
The three discuss:
- An introduction to Trillia Newbell (1:02)
- Coming to faith in a “holiday Christian” home (2:18)
- Common challenges black women face in our culture (6:45)
- Picking her battles (9:53)
- Facing down unfair assumptions (13:19)
- False stereotypes of black women (17:51)
- Stereotypes mirrored in the church (23:58)
- A Christian response to stereotypes (28:42)
- Parenting through racial stereotypes (33:15)
- Creative God, Colorful Us (36:35)
Explore more from TGC on the topic of race.
- Have you ever caught yourself thinking of any of the stereotypes of black women in your mind?
- What kind of emotions come to mind if other people judged a whole group of people by your individual speech, personality, or actions?
- Were you surprised that all of the same awkward or painful moments experienced outside the church were also experienced inside the church? Why or why not?
- Can you imagine the cumulative weight of the expectations, stereotypes, perceptions, and awkward or painful interactions over time? If yes, what does it feel like?
Books referenced in this episode:
- God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell
- Creative God, Colorful Us by Trillia Newbell
- United: Captured By God’s Vision for Diversity by Trillia Newbell
- Sacred Endurance: Finding Grace and Strength for a Lasting Faith by Trillia Newbell
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Trillia Newbell: I have a friend who was at dinner, and someone walked up to him and just said, “Black Lives Matter.” And so, there’s these weird assumptions that we all speak alike, and they have taken entertainment and applied it to every black person walking. So the assumption would be, culturally we’re all the same, and it is so bizarre.
Matt Kenyon: You’re listening to As In Heaven, a Christian conversation on race and justice. In this episode, we welcome Trillia Newbell to the podcast to share some of the unique relational dynamics facing black women. She covers being profiled, as well as many false stereotypes and tropes that she’s experienced as an author and speaker in the evangelical space.
Matt Kenyon: Trillia was just an absolute joy to have on the podcast. She has such a warm, radiant energy and clearly loves the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also as a side note, her book God’s Very Good Idea, is my three-year-old son’s favorite right now, we read it almost every single night, so Trillia is kind of a celebrity in our household. Anyway, Jim Davis is your host. Justin Holcomb is the guest co-host on this episode. Mike Graham is the executive producer of this podcast. My name is Matt, I’m the technical producer. And now, please enjoy this episode of As In Heaven, with Trillia Newbell.
Jim Davis: Welcome to As In Heaven. My name is Jim Davis, I am your host and my co-host today is Dr. Justin Holcomb, over there at the other end of the table. And we are thrilled today to welcome Trillia Newbell to the show. Trillia is a writer and former director of community outreach for the ERLC. You are an acquisitions editor at Moody Publishers. You have a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee, and you’ve written numerous books, which we were all talking about before the show. You started with United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity, Sacred Endurance, Fear and Faith, and you have an excellent children’s book called God’s Very Good Idea, and you have a brand new kind of pre-teen, teen book called Creative God, Colorful Us, that we definitely want to talk about and mention, and put on the website. And you are the married mom of two children. So, thank you so much for joining us today.
Trillia Newbell: Thanks for having me, looking forward to the conversation.
Jim Davis: Trillia, as you know, we’ve discussed this, we really want it to devote an entire episode this season, to some of the unique challenges that black women face. And we fully realize that just like black people are not monolithic, neither are black women. However, we recognize that there are some common challenges that many black women face, that our average viewer might not know about if this isn’t their lived experience. So, we know that this is a challenging topic, and depending on who we have on the show, answers we know would vary a bit. But with that being said, I just want to say we’re excited to hear from you, your perspectives on this topic. And if anyone knows Trillia at all, you know that she is one of the kindest, humble and loving people that you’ll ever meet, so I just want to say thank you for engaging on this topic.
Justin Holcomb: Just to get started, a good place to start is, I would like to hear how you came to know Jesus, and what your church background-
Trillia Newbell: I grew up in a very loving home, but not a Christian home. And I would say we were holiday Christians, that’s what I call us. We would go on Easter and Christmas, and that’s about it. And so, I didn’t grow up in church, and my mom is the only one who I saw, she would pray every night, so I saw her on her knees praying every single night. And so, I believe she is a Christian. My father who passed away, we’re not really sure. My mom seems to think that he was, but he didn’t lead us in that area.
Trillia Newbell: And so, I grew up just kind of living for myself. And then in high school, I believe it was around, maybe 16. Someone did try to get me to go to a church, and so I went. And they basically told me, “You’re going to hell,” and I was like, I don’t want to go to hell. So, I started to attend this church, but they weren’t preaching the gospel, and so it was very works based. And that didn’t stick with me, because after a while of working really hard, I realized, nah, I really want a boyfriend. And so I stopped going, and yeah, it was just really… That’s a true story. And so, I started dating this guy, and in between then… I don’t even know if you want the whole story, so I’ll shorten this, but in between then-
Justin Holcomb: Go ahead. You teased it, the whole story makes me feel like we’re missing something. So just go for it, we’ll see.
Trillia Newbell: Well, when I was about 19, I was leading a camp, and I had a co-camp instructor, and we happened to be, we all know now this is all to do with God, but I happened to be in the same room with her. And in short, she shared the gospel with me. It’s interesting though, I was very opposed to Christianity at this point. I thought Christians were weird, I pushed against a lot of that Christian thoughts, and ideologically, I was for lack of a better word, you would have put me on the left, quote unquote. I really hate those labels, but that’s the best way to probably describe my general thinking on all things, everything. And so, when she opened her Bible to have a quiet time, I immediately got defensive and was like, “What are you doing?” And she’s like, “Having quite time.”
Trillia Newbell: And I was like, “Well, you do that over there,” but the next thing you know, I’m on her bed and weeping. But I still had this relationship with this guy, and so I did not submit my life to the Lord at that moment. But she kept up with me, she was a little evangelist, and so she I would have lunch every now and then, and we would just, she just slowly kept… And then I would do something that I thought was terrible, and I’d talk to her about it, and she would just remind me to go to Jesus, and that I can confess. And she was just slowly, really, she was just being a friend. And then after two broken engagements, I went to her church, and you know the hymn, Rock of Ages? “Wash me, savior, or I’ll die.” I sang those songs, and I knew. That lyric, and I knew I needed Jesus, or I was dying. There was a real spiritual death, and I needed Jesus.
Trillia Newbell: And so, after the service, I went to her and a few other people, and said, “I want to know Jesus.” And we prayed, and my life has been transformed ever since. It was pretty radical. I am cutting a few things, because it’s just, a lot changed. But one thing that’s really neat, is that guy I had the two broken engagements with, and really dated for a long time, a year later he became a Christian. Yes, and then a year later, we barely talked to each other, but a year later he asked if we could date. And I was doing campus ministry at the time, and so I said no, because I thought I was Paul. And I was like, I don’t want to be disturbed or whatever. I’m just kidding. So, a year later he asked again, and now we’ve been married for 17 years.
Justin Holcomb: It’s Thern? Thern was the guy? Wow.
Trillia Newbell: I like that you know his name.
Justin Holcomb: I was waiting to hear, like where does he show up in the picture? But he was in the early part of the story. Because you guys really like each other, he adores you, and likewise. You can tell from the stuff you guys say, I love seeing that. Oh, that’s beautiful. I’m glad you told the whole story.
Trillia Newbell: Yeah, it’s really a great story. And I feel like in a lot of ways, Ephesians two, the entire chapter, sums up our relationship. First reconcile to God, then reconcile to each other. As family, but we’re now one. And of course that is talking about how we are as Christians, now one, because the veil of hostility has been broken down in the body of Jesus Christ. But it’s just, it is a sweet thing that the Lord brought us together, so I’m really grateful.
Jim Davis: Well, I didn’t know that story and I really appreciate you sharing. I too, my conversion in my early twenties was a radical, this moment kind of conversion. My wife is somewhere in these 10 years, it happened, and I hope my kids have that story, but there are some real ways that God has blessed me with that kind of conversion. And I actually met my wife in campus ministry, so I appreciate that. Now you are a believer, you have a whole new worldview, you have the Holy spirit. So looking at this issue that we’re talking about, broadly speaking, what are some of the challenges that you have either observed, or have been your personal experience, that some black women had experienced in the broader culture?
Trillia Newbell: For me, and again, I’m really glad that you started this conversation by saying we are not monolithic, because we’re not. And so, there are going to be a whole lot of different experiences that people have experienced, but I will talk about just some of the ones that I have. When I was younger, before I became a Christian, I remember talking to a mother of one of my friends, and he was just a friend. I don’t know that we were attempting to date each other or start a relationship, but she explained to me that we couldn’t, and the reason why was that we were different. But these weren’t the good differences that I try to proclaim because God’s made us different. She was basically saying I was subhuman, like I was a different species of a person.
And that is an experience that I’ve experienced over and over again. Even just maybe four years ago, I was speaking at a church about the topic of Imago Dei, the image of God, and how God’s created us. And a man came up afterwards, and tried to show me that I had a curse, we were very different, curse of Ham, it’s a thing, and that we were not actually the same. So that I think, I don’t know if it’s just a female problem, I think it goes beyond female, but that is an experience of females. And I know many men who are African American, who are black, who are people of color, who have been rejected because of the color of their skin because they’re seen as subhuman.
And so, that to me is deep-rooted sin, but it’s also something that’s been taught in their churches. And so, when he came up to me with his Bible open, it’s because he had learned that somewhere. And so, I had to correct all these things, but that’s one experience. Another experience just happened yesterday. I was at the doctor’s office because I had a sore throat, and had to have the coronavirus test, which is negative by the grace of God.
Jim Davis: That’s A terrible test, I’ve had it. I’m sorry.
Trillia Newbell: Oh, I was like, I will blow my nose a little. And so, she did some things for me because I was like, “You’re not sticking that all the way to my brain,” but anyways, we digress. But as she started to talk to me about all the different tests that we were going to have, so I was getting a flu test, and a strep test, all the tests because because of the season we’re in. She wouldn’t give me a flu test. And I was like, “Yeah, go ahead and do it because I might as well. And if you’re doing strep and coronavirus, you might as well.” And she said, “Well, it’s just going to cost a lot.” And I was like, “Well, we have insurance, so maybe we can take care of it.” And she was like, “Well,” and as she continued, I realized, she said, “I don’t know who has insurance and who doesn’t,” and then she started talking as if I’m a single mom, and just all these different things.
And I was like, I’m being profiled. It’s been a little while, so I couldn’t… And so I said, “Well, I want the flu test,” and then I was like, “So, just go ahead and do that.” But I said, “We have insurance, and you don’t have to carry that concern. We will take care of it.” And I could tell she started backpedaling. She kind of got that I got what was going on, and she was like, “Just trying to take care of us girls,” and I was like, “No.” But I didn’t have the… I pick and choose my battles, and that was one I just thought, she gets it. It was very clear that it was wrong. But that’s another thing, being profiled. So, what does that mean? So it’s socioeconomic assumptions, parenting assumptions, marriage and family assumptions. There was a lot going on in that one experience. And that is something I know without a doubt, that women experience. Another assumption, I got into law school. That’s part of my story.
Justin Holcomb: Can I jump in one second, because this is a side comment about something you said, so I want you to put a pin on the applying to law school, going to law school. You said a phrase, you pick and choose your battles, which stood out to me, because I don’t-
Justin Holcomb: You said a phrase, you pick and choose your battles, which has stood out to me, because I don’t think I choose my battles. When I’m offended, I say something, because I have a luxury of saying something and people would expect me to say something, but that’s something that we have heard a lot of the, “I’m going to pick and choose my battles,” and the idea that a sister in Christ has to talk like that sucks and it makes me angry. So that just stood out to me. And I wish you didn’t have to pick and choose your battles.
Trillia Newbell: Well, thanks for your tender heart, Justin, and for you just recognizing that. I pick and choose my battles for one biblical reason, and one time reason. Be slow to speak, and so I want to abound in love, I want to abound in grace, and so I’m going to hear, I’m going to try my best to be slow, to make sure I’m assessing the situation properly. In this situation, she stepped in it. She just totally did. She made the assumption, but we’re at a doctor’s office and time is at the kind of essence there. So I took that moment to assure her of things and also correct her, but not dive deep. So I didn’t say, “Actually, you’re racial profiling me,” and I want to make sure not to accuse. I wanted to make sure to tell her, “Okay, this is actually my reality,” so that maybe the next time she won’t make those assumptions. SHe can ask questions.
And so for those situations, I just have to be really prayerful and think, okay, because I’m an ambassador of Jesus, I just have a different call. And so I got to think, what am I going to leave her with? Because this relationship is ending right now. Or what if I do see her again? Will I have that chance to share the gospel or truth? So I pick and choose, because I want to proclaim the good news ultimately, and if I lashed out … I do believe that there’s a place for strong rebuke, but I just think if I lash out in any way, it could hinder that potential for the future. I also do think that this conversation can be done in such a way that is grace-filled and full of life and actually full of goodness and understanding.
And so if I can provide a place where that can be that way … and I’m not talking about bowing to some supremacy, kind of making people feel comfortable. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking biblically speaking, I just have a different call, and so I’m going to think that way in regarding my picking and choosing. And I also … what’s the word, is it a proverb, answer a fool and something or another … I can’t remember it. Yeah, that’s another pick and choose, because I don’t want to waste time on something that is only the Lord … I mean, only the Lord could do any of this, but I also very … I’m cautious. This person … especially if you could see it on Twitter, for example, if you look on someone’s profile and that’s all they do is argue, I’m not going to engage. No thanks, because I know what you’re doing. And I in good faith, I just think this isn’t going to go well. So does that make sense? So that’s how I pick and choose.
Justin Holcomb: It makes a lot of sense. I’m sorry to interrupt. That was gold right there, but it just stood out to me. So I interrupted you, so thank you for that. And that’s one of the things you do that I just admire, is how clear that was, how gospel infused your thinking on that was and your response, but I’m happy to get back to law school and your story too.
Trillia Newbell: Well, I got into law school, and I did well on the LSAT and I had a good GPA, blah, blah, blah. But when we were in a … I was in a class, it was assumed that all people of color get it in because of affirmative action. And so that’s another assumption, is that we can’t earn anything or we are lazy. Again, I’m not talking … this isn’t necessarily women’s specific, but that is an assumption. And so that … I, in tears actually, went all in on that, because we were in a class where that was perfect. Another assumption is … I don’t know if … I know that I’ve heard that … yeah, okay, I’ll say it this way. There is an ideal beauty that a lot of people of color would not fit into.
It’s very European, and even a real specific European look, I mean it’s white. And so a lot of people of color had just now, for example, felt more comfortable wearing their hair natural, and natural would mean in the way our hair grows on our head, which is typically tighter curls or some can have fros. It just depends on your culture, on your background, that that is something that I do see. I would not say that people don’t think we’re beautiful. So I don’t think that people would say that women of color aren’t beautiful, but I do think the ideal beauty is an all around slender shape with a certain hair that would be European or white. And so if that is the standard of beauty, that means a whole lot of black people have to assimilate.
So you’ve got all these products and all these things, and in order to fit a certain … to be in business meetings or to be on TV, which you see … and when I say TV, I’m talking about news. I’m not talking about television in general, but television in general was like that. It’s changing, but so is news. If you look on national news channels, you see black women with curly hair now, or braids, where before, in the eighties and nineties, you would never have seen that, ever. And so I am seeing that this ideal beauty is kind of going out the window with … but it is something that has been fought for. And so I don’t know if that’s a hardship, but it is a hardship if your body shape is not stick figure … and I don’t know what I was going to say. Anyways, and so I’m just trying to be appropriate.
Justin Holcomb: I think hardship is the right way. I mean, I’m the father of two daughters, and the idea of a person not fitting the impossible … so there’s an ideal standard of beauty and it’s also unachievable by most people by natural means and actually eating. And so the pain that that causes to be convinced that you’re not beautiful is evil.
Trillia Newbell: It makes me cry thinking about it, but there was this young girl who … she had to have been maybe three or four, and she had dark, dark skin and kinky, beautiful hair, and she kept saying how … she was talking to her mom and they videoed this, and she was saying that she was ugly. And her mom was saying, “You are not ugly. You are beautiful,” and she was just reassuring her that that’s how God has made her. She’s beautiful. But when you only see really light-skinned people with bone straight hair and you look the absolute opposite, then you’re going to wonder, “Am I acceptable?” And so yeah, it is a hardship or problem, but I do think that there is a real encouraging … pushback’s not the right word … re-emergence. That’s not the right word. I don’t know. There’s just this beautiful … we’re seeing different images being displayed and celebrated, and I think that’s a good thing, because we’re all created in the image of God to reflect Him and He made us and He made us so different. And so I’m grateful for that, but when I was growing up, that would have been a hard thing. Jim?
Jim Davis: You’ve done a great job of, even through your own experience, talking about assumptions and painful experiences. And if I’m imagining a Venn diagram, there’s a lot overlapping here with, let’s say, false stereotypes. And so it’s a separate thing, but it’s a lot overlapping. How would you speak into false stereotypes in our culture when it comes to black womens’ experience?
Trillia Newbell: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting, because I think my brain thought that was the question and so I was kind of going into some of those stereotypes, because if I were talking about hardships, I probably would have talked about a few other things, but I’m interested in why it’s called false stereotypes, because I would say that any stereotype would be –
Jim Davis: That’s fair, yeah. Yeah, that’s a really good point.
Trillia Newbell: Yeah. I mean I guess there’s –
Jim Davis: It’s kind of an oxymoron of a phrase.
Trillia Newbell: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a double negative or something, but yeah, so it could be … sometimes there can be truth, I guess, is what some people would say. But when you come to stereotypes, I think one that wears me out, especially as someone who’s typically not given in to a lot of anger is the assumption that any time we speak with any authority or any strength, we are angry black women. That actually makes me angry, because I’m like, no, we’re just speaking direct and clear and we’re not angry. And so there is anger at times and there’s a place for anger, but I’m not sure where that stereotype came from. And if you even think about Michelle Obama, who it doesn’t matter where you land, but the images that were in a lot of the conservative media usually show her with her face disfigured. Her face is like … they find her in some comment where she looks like she’s angry. And that is the … it’s a strange assumption. I should know where it originated, where the stereotype originated, but I don’t at this time. But that is something that is a stereotype that I don’t … it’s a troubling stereotype.
Trillia Newbell: I think another stereotype could be … but I don’t know that I’ve experienced it, and so I’m trying to think of a time where I would have, is a false idea that we can’t be weak or that we have to be strong. Now here’s what’s interesting. I don’t know if that is actually something that we place on ourselves or if it’s something that the culture places on us. That would be a different conversation, but I would say it could be a little of both. We feel like we have to be strong because of what the cultural pressures and other things that we’ve just experienced, so we don’t want to show weakness. And that to me, I think would be probably more of the issue than people putting pressure on us to be strong. And so again, that would be a conversation I would need to think through a little bit more. But then that socio economic hardship thing that I was talking about, that was actually a stereotype.
Jim Davis: Yeah, I see.
Trillia Newbell: Yeah. So I think that’s a major one. Another one is … okay, so it drives me bonkers, but people will come up to me all of the time speaking in a certain dialect –
Trillia Newbell: People will come up to me all of the time, speaking in a certain dialect. I don’t know what they’re doing. But so they’ll be like, I can’t do it, but it’s like, “Yo, yo yes [inaudible 00:20:11].” They make an assumption that I speak a certain way or that I interact a certain way. And I have a friend who was at dinner and someone walked up to him and just said, “Black lives matter.” So there’s these weird assumptions that we all speak alike and sound alike. They have taken entertainment and applied it to every single African-American person. Black person, not even African-America. Every black person walking. And it is so bizarre.
Trillia Newbell: So the assumption would be that culturally we’re all the same. I think there’s culture, and I would definitely, when I’m with my sisters, there’s a loosening and a certain way that I’m going to speak to my sisters and family, but it’s so inappropriate. And it is so bizarre. And so, that is a strange assumption that people make. Really, it boils down to, and I want to say this in two assumptions that’s being made. One, the assumption is the person who does have a certain cultural dialect isn’t intelligent, which is a false assumption. The other one is that all people of color are not intelligent and have had a certain manner of which they speak and act. So yeah, I just think those are a few. There’s a lot more, but-
Justin Holcomb: The word that I hear that is like nails on a chalkboard, is articulate. Assuming the best, they’re trying to give a compliment, but it basically sounds like your assumption is that black people are not smart and can’t talk the way you want them to talk. And when you say, “Oh, they’re articulate.” It’s like, no one ever says about me or my wife or my children that we’re articulate, as if most people that might look like us are not. I hear that one so frequently. And so part of this, is because the people who are listening were trying to help them think through things they do and say, like, “I don’t see color.” And, “All lives matter.”
Justin Holcomb: What does that sound like to other people, brothers and sisters in Christ or other images of God? How does that sound like? And so, maybe it would be a good idea for people who use the word articulate with regard to other people and race, to be aware of what that sounds like they’re saying. We’re not saying you’re saying you think they’re all dumb, it just sounds like you’re saying you think they’re all dumb.
Trillia Newbell: Yes. Especially if you’re only saying those words to a certain people group. So if you’re only saying, and I who speak, I speak a certain way. I grew up in the South, I grew up in predominantly white culture, so some people have said, ” Oh, you sound white.” I don’t like that either. But I’m always told that I am articulate. I hear that all of the time. It is communicating exactly what you are saying, Justin. And so, if you don’t say that, one, why do you even need to point out that? That’s really interesting. So I would ask, what’s motivating that? Why do they need the reassurance of being able to articulate words in a sentence? I don’t know. So ask yourself why you feel the need to encourage that specific area. And then, just don’t say it. There’s so many ways that we can encourage one another.
Jim Davis: Mike Aitcheson was co-hosting, it was at Jerome Gay that we had on the show, and they were going back and forth on this. And Mike Aitcheson said, “I just so appreciate the way you articulated that so articulately.” But phrase, another way of saying this is, “You speak so well,” or, “They speak so well.” And saying this only to one group of people, and nobody says that to me.
Trillia Newbell: Exactly. Yeah. So you can just encourage them, “Thank you for what you shared.” And be real specific about what they shared, not how they shared it. That’s a problem. Get to the substance, not about the how. Because that is why it’s inappropriate or a stereotype, if you’re talking about how they share it. If they’re like a 12 year old, then say that they are articulate. When my son talks, he’s 14, he has a little history YouTube channel. I’m like, “Dude, you’re articulate. You’re 14. You should be climbing trees.” And so, I can say those things to, I think, a child. But when you are talking to an adult, I think you don’t need to talk about how they speak. You can talk about the substance of what they said.
Justin Holcomb: Amen. This is very helpful. Thank you. And I like hitting the bullseye on these things instead of just walking around them. We need clarity in these conversations. So I want to drill down if we can, we just talked about various stereotypes or assumptions that we have found in the world. Have you found these challenges and stereotypes mirrored in the church? The classical Christian, “We like to Bible, we believe Jesus died and rose again.” Have you seen these things we just talked about mirrored in the church?
Trillia Newbell: Every single thing I’ve experienced in the world, I’ve experienced in the church. And that is the unfortunate reality I’ve experienced from church friends. Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s because the people in the world are to be like the church as well. Where you’re investing your time and energy learning about other people, will affect the church. And so, if you’re really invested in, whatever it is. We all need some sort of educating, right? So it doesn’t surprise me that some of these things I would experience in the church. As a matter of fact, my first book United, I document a lot of it. Just some of the things said to me, like asking me if I burn. I get that question a lot. Like, “Do you burn this up?”
And so I get, “Can I touch your hair?” It others us, it makes people of color just feel like we’re other than, which is kind of something different. And so, I do think there’s a way to ask questions that are, that’s appropriate, but most of the things that people are asking makes us feel subhuman. And so that to me, is a problem in the church as well. I do you think that these conversations, and especially right now just given all that has happened, are helping that in tremendous ways. So I haven’t experienced it probably in the last several years in a church. I think there’s some awareness that’s happened, or that is happening, but it has been my experience, yes.
Justin Holcomb: I guess what sounds like it would be particularly challenging, sad, other words, but those are the first ones that come to mind, that that’s Romans 12. “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Our hope is that we are transformed less. I might even have blind spots on this issue, and that might be a consumer. I know we’re all conformed to the patterns of this world, but we have resources in scripture and in the tradition that are perpetually undermining those conforming to the patterns of the world. And that’s what just stings, is our family is looking more like we’re a national identity or some other cultural identity first, as opposed to members of the kingdom of God. That has inside of it, resources that undermined the patterns of the world, the patterns of evil.
Justin Holcomb: I thought they probably were your experience, but I didn’t know. I was hoping like, “No.” It was encouraging that it hasn’t been that much in the most recent few years, but that’s almost like a consolation in a sense, that what the Christian faith gives us, is a radical vision that undermines. I mean the image of God that we talked about earlier, the Imago Dei, and the way Jesus dealt with people is a good starting point for thinking about this. And it seems like so many people in the family, the Christian family, are at best blind to this and at worst complicit in the work of Satan.
Trillia Newbell: Yeah. Yeah. What has helped probably in the last several years, is that the leadership of the church has led in this area. I just want to say, if anyone’s a leader, you can shepherd your people, and they’re listening to you. And so that, I think, has helped. And that’s probably why I haven’t experienced the same. I’ve experienced all sorts of stuff. There’s been a sort of loneliness, because one of the things, if I can take us away from stereotypes for a minute and just, because one of the things I think a lot of black women experience is this loneliness. In so far as, if you’re in a predominantly white church, white space, white whatever, you’re likely one of the only. There’s a few. And so what I have experienced in the last couple of years, is trying to share my concerns with fellow people who don’t get it. And you don’t have to get it.
But I’ve had a few push against it, and that has been hard. Because what’s going on in the national news or the national, or our country in general, has been so divided and so just, “Ugh.” I don’t know if it’s helped us. I know it hasn’t, it’s actually been terribly damaging to conversations progressing for some, not all. For some, the Lord is just doing such a mighty work and I’m so grateful. But in others, it’s made it that much harder to actually express sorrow or even any kind of lament, because they don’t get it and they’re like, ” So what? The laws have changed.” And so there isn’t this understanding that there’s a lot yet to do. And so, that is more of what I’ve probably experienced than stereotypes.
Jim Davis: Trillia, I just really appreciate you sharing all this. We’ve talked a lot about gospel listening over the course of the season, and I would just like to listen for a moment about, if you don’t mind, how this affects you. As a person, as a woman, as a human being, as a mom, how do you internalize and process these emotions? Because this is not an experience that I’ve had, and the more I hear about it, it just breaks my heart. And I would just like to hear how you process that as a Christian, as a mom, as a human.
Trillia Newbell: As a Christian, the moment I became a Christian, the Lord gave me a new identity. And so I understand fully who I am and whose I am. I’m His. And so no one, they can harm me, but they can’t take away my ultimate dignity and worth because it comes from God himself, the creator of the universe, who created me and who created all these women who we are referring to. I feel very rooted in that, so it’s helped me survive and thrive, because I’m not getting my worth from what you think of me. And so that’s helped. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever struggle with that. Of course, fear of man creeps in and you’re afraid, but in my general worth, God is really, that’s one of the first things he did, was teach, reveal to me through his word, the Genesis 1:26 truth, 27, that I’m created in the image of God. The Psalm, is it 143 or something like that? “I’m knit together in my mother’s womb.”
The Psalm, is it 143 or something like that? I’m knit together in my mother’s womb. That every tribe, tongue, and nation, that Jesus died for anyone who would believe, and he doesn’t discriminate in regards to race and ethnicity and culture. And he’s radical. Think of him and the Samaritan woman and all of the lines he crossed. That’s where my hope is. I know that wouldn’t be for everyone. And so I do hope if someone’s listening, that they would be encouraged to hope in God, to put their faith in Jesus, to find out what it means to be made new, a new identity in him. And how, in this new identity, he doesn’t strip our culture, he doesn’t strip our ethnicity. He keeps it. And it says in eternity, we’re going to be rejoicing together, every tribe, tongue, and nation. So it’s beautiful. And so I have found those truths to keep me.
I have also been in an interview somewhere and then gone to my hotel room and wept. I wept, but I didn’t wait for me, I wept for them, because ignorance divides so much and it does so much harm. And when people continually say things that are harmful, I’ve been able to absorb those things and to share truth, but not everyone can. And I recognize how painful and wrong that is, and so I lament it deeply. And so it hasn’t done anything regarding my identity, but there is a sorrowful yet always rejoicing in my soul, because there’s much to be sorrowful for. And I carry those burdens, casting them to the Lord, but I carry them. And so I’ve done so much crying and lamenting and crying out for the Lord to renew minds and to reveal truth to help with all this confusion that’s out there regarding people.
And I also am very aware that we have an enemy. Of course, we’re divided relationally. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. The scriptures tell us how will people know that we’re his disciples? Jesus says by our love for one another. So of course, it’s broken. And knowing that we don’t wrestle with just flesh and blood, but with the principalities and all the evil that’s out there, that really helps me in this battle. Because it goes beyond just is that person against me or do they not like me? Because I know there’s a battle for souls because the enemy wants to destroy us. And I believe that really strongly and deeply. And so when I keep that in my mind, then I’m going to fight the right battle here. And so that’s how I handle it. And I do think practically, get some good friends. I got some good friends. And some, unfortunately, have been broken because of these issues, because they just don’t want to hear it or they don’t… And I say, “Okay, Lord.” I lay that down. But I’ve got some really good friends who I can go to, who I can cry with, who’s going to cry with me, who I can share these things. And I am grateful for the leadership of my local church. I am a local church girl. I’m an advocate for the local church. I think we need to be in local churches. I believe ministry is made in the local church. And so I do think finding that local church that preaches the truth and that understands this beautiful, diverse message of the Gospel is important. So just practically speaking, good friends and a local church. And of course, my husband, who is also my good friend, help.
Justin Holcomb: What I love, you’re just Gospel infused. And so there was a division of everything you were saying there. That was a proclamation of good news. And as we know from Tim Keller, we are talking about good news, we’re not primarily about good advice. But I love what you did as the foundation of good news. And from that, can grow some good advice. You talked about church and friends. We could have ended it there, but I do have one question. I’m thinking about people listening. And the one question in the wisdom, advice, suggestion category is what about parenting in this situation? Because you hit all the practical questions I had. Like what about church? What do you do personally? And this is from Trillia. Again, you’re not speaking for everyone. But thinking through how does what’s happening now affect the way you parent? And I don’t know exactly how… I think you said your son’s 14, and I think your daughter’s a few years younger probably. I want to say 10, 11, maybe, but…
Jim Davis: There we go.
Justin Holcomb: So how does this affect parenting? Just one last piece of just as people are thinking through this, because your wisdom feels like gold dropping from heaven.
Trillia Newbell: Oh, well, you’re kind. I’m going to do something that I’ve never done. And I hope… Y’all can say no. I’m going to invite myself back to your podcast, because that could be an entire episode. I have a lot to say about parenting.
Jim Davis: We accept. This has been so good. I accept. Thank you.
Trillia Newbell: That really is a bigger conversation. So I would start by just saying this one practical piece of advice. Your kids are either going to be taught by you or the culture. What’s your choice? Who’s going to be teaching your children? Because they’re going to learn.
The other thing is, is whatever… If you don’t know and if you’re not equipping your own heart, if you’re not confessing sin and repenting, if you’re not evaluating the way you look at people and what you’re saying, you’re not going to be able to actually teach your kids these things. So it really starts with us. It starts with us evaluating our speech, evaluating our hearts, repenting where needed, and doing these things in front of our children. But then, I think making sure that we present this conversation clearly and broadly. So you’re going to teach, age appropriate, the hard things, right? So your kids are going to learn it, so let them learn from you. Teach the hard things. But also, teach them to celebrate differences so that they don’t think everything is wrong or bad. I think that’s part of the problem with our culture and why we’re having such a hard time, understandably so. Given the history of the United States, we’ve got to have the hard conversations because of our history and where we continue to be now.
History is not that long ago. Just in, I think it was 1970, was the loving case that allowed my husband and I to be married legally. That’s not that long ago. I remember my son was looking over my shoulder as I was researching these things. And he was like, “Whoa, mom. What? And I was like, “Yeah.” History is not that long ago. And even culturally, I don’t know when this episode will come out, but we’re living in a historical moment right now. So I think we need to be educating our kids about these things. But in regards to the Gospel and the Bible, we need to be teaching them all of it. If you’ve read Ephesians 1-10, read the rest of the chapter and teach it to them. If you’ve never done it, which it’s rarely preached, do it. Learn these things. Learn what the scriptures actually say. Do we know what Numbers 12 or 13 says? I’m not going to tell you. Go look it up. And research, read, educate. Because if you don’t do it yourself, you’re not going to be able to do that with your kids. But I do think that’s a longer conversation. And I’ve had the joy of writing and thinking about these things, and experiencing it because I’m raising biracial children, which I never mentioned, but my husband’s white. So yeah, so these are things that we’ve been talking about since the beginning.
Jim Davis: Well, I so appreciate our time. I’m excited for our next episode. We can figure that out later. And I imagine we’ll talk a lot about your new book. But just in case this is the only episode somebody listens to, I want to make sure we talk about your new book, Creative God, Colorful Us. Can you give us a little just quick description of it? Because we’re talking parenting.
Trillia Newbell: Yeah. So Creative God, Colorful Us is really about the Gospel and the image of God. It’s looking at really Genesis to Revelation, and trying to teach kids what is the Gospel? How do we relate to one another? Where can we go wrong? And Jesus rescued us, and one day he will finish all of this. And so it looks at that Gospel-infused conversation about ethnicity and differences in general, and how to apply it to their friends, in their local church, and what does it mean? So it’s a book about God’s delightfully different family, but for ages six to 12-ish.
Jim Davis: Well, I have four kids in that range, so I am going to get it, and I am looking forward to walking through that with my family. Thank you so much for all that you’re doing, for this time. We are thankful for you and your ministry, and certainly pray every blessing on you and your family.
Trillia Newbell: Thank you.