Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

Confession: I am a PK

The same twangy tune plays at the end of every Midwestern Mu Kappa Snow Camp, a man’s voice singing, “I’m an MK (missionary kid); I wouldn’t trade it. If there’s any better life, I couldn’t name it. Yes I’m an MK; I’m glad it’s true, and you can tell your folks you wanna be an MK too.” My friends and I have a lot of different thoughts on the song overall, but hearing it has made me realize something: I’m a PK (pastor’s kid), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My History

I grew up as a pastor’s kid in a church of thirty. Yes, thirty people. My dad did practically everything: setting up chairs, preaching, organizing the kids’ club on Wednesdays—everything except singing, that is. Mr. Jeff and I took over that for the sake of the congregations’ ears. When I wasn’t at school, music lessons, or friends’ houses, I was at church.

My Sundays began with a 9:15 a.m. Sunday school class through sixth grade, which later switched to a 9:00 worship practice and 10:30 church service. I helped lead worship; listened to my dad’s half hour message; chatted with the church family before, during, and after the service; and sometimes joined them at Wendy’s for lunch around 12:00. Mondays were my dad’s Sabbath from ministry, though he still had coaching and sometimes teaching or landscaping.

Wednesdays we went to Family Night at church, 5:45 p.m. on pizza nights and 6:30 on regular nights. There I first participated in and then led children in AWANA, an inclusive Bible club where kids memorize Scripture and play energetic, competitive games. The adult Bible study took place at the same time, making it easy for families to come and go together. For a few years we had youth group at that time, too.

Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

We did everything in the church. My dad even held his tonsil removal/birthday party there! Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

On Friday nights I attended a youth group at my friend’s church, where I would sometimes go for weekend conferences if I wasn’t leading worship. The church week never ended, and I was fine with that.

I never quite left the church grounds either. For several years, we lived in the parsonage, or what I called the “church house.” This meant I was seconds away from the actual church building, and Bible studies, Sunday school and youth group were in the living room or basement of the house itself.

If I haven’t made myself clear, I spent a lot of time at church as a PK.

Fighting Stereotypes

Toby Keith captures one of the stereotypes of being a pastor’s kid in his song, “God Love Her.” The young woman in the song is called “a rebel child and a preacher’s daughter.” The opposing stereotype is that PKs are goody two-shoes.

I suppose I have always hated stereotypes, because before I was passionate about racial conciliation or even aware of racial injustice, I fought against the PK stereotype. I didn’t face much flak for being a PK—perhaps because I was around so many Christians all the time, and my family was in good standing—but I overreacted when I did.

When the boy at church youth group said, “Oh you’re a PK” in a negative tone, I immediately countered him by saying, “And a coach’s kid and a teacher’s kid and a landscaper’s kid.” My point: don’t assume I fit the selected categories of (A) Goody-goody or (B) bad girl because of my dad’s job.

Reaching Understanding

Many people also thought that I loved Jesus more because my dad was a pastor. For about nineteen years of my life, I denied it: If my dad wasn’t a pastor or youth pastor, he would still love Jesus just as much. I would still have grown up in a Christian home. But both my parents are so involved in ministry that I cannot separate who they are from what they do. Others minister Christ’s love and grace in just law practice, honest accounting, cheerful mail delivery, compassionate medicine practice, truthful journalism, joyful car cleaning, patient retail work or tireless social work, and my parents do it through faithful church ministry.

When I turned twenty last year, I recognized that this has shaped me. I do not love Jesus more because I am a PK, but being in a Christian family devoted to church ministry certainly helped me to know God and see Him at work.

Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

My best friend, cousin, and I began a garden outside the church. Credit: Katelyn Skye Bennett

As a PK, I had to make sacrifices that were not my choice. We did not have much money, and we did not enjoy the privileges many middle class Americans have. However, God always provided what we needed. We were never without food or housing, and we always had sufficient clothes for each striking New England season. God blessed us with loving friends and relatives, although Connecticut did grow lonely for my family, due in part to their status at church. In all the trials we faced, God taught us how to trust Him and how to pray. He gifted us with “daily bread”: exactly what we needed at any time, usually not more, but certainly never less.

Achieving Growth

At just the right time, God moved my family to a new place where they could thrive. They are still so involved in ministry that the church directory had to cut out the allotted “hobbies” section to fit all the ways they invest in the church. They enjoy friends, good jobs, and warmer weather. Life is not easy for them—my dad works three jobs including his youth pastor position, my mom has one, and my high school sister has a couple—but God provides for all their needs.

My children, if I am blessed to have any, will likely face similar challenges, though with a cross-cultural component since I plan to do ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I doubt they will have much materially, at least by American standards, but I believe they will have all they need in order to rely on God and know his goodness.

I cannot predict how they might respond to the MK song, but as long as they love the Lord, I will be pleased.

 

 

 

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If I’m not Italian, what am I?

During my freshman year, my college’s group for racial (re)conciliation held an event in combination with the theater group in which we used our bodies to explore the concept of home. Through a Never-Have-I-Ever type of exercise, I discovered I was the only person out of approximately 40 in the room who had grown up surrounded by Italian Americans. At this point, I began to realize how important that is to my cultural identity.

There was only one problem: I am not Italian.

I grew up knowing this. Multiple teachers, from my kindergarten teacher through a high school Bible teacher, were Italian American. My classmate Sarah was Italian, Jordan was half Italian, Niko was fully Italian – most of my class had Italian in them, but I had none. Later on, my church was majority Italian, and I gleaned pieces of what it meant to be Italian from church family picnics, big meals together and fresh basil in the garden.

The list goes on: My neighbor Nick was Italian, the neighbors behind us were and the neighbor girls I babysat when we moved across town were also Italian. We lived in North Haven, after all. The owners of the local music store where I took lessons were Italian. My “second family” the Vecchios and half their church — many of the people I loved there, at least — were Italian as well. Again, we lived in the Havens, a very Italian area of  Connecticut. I was not bothered by being non-Italian, but I was aware of it.

I discovered I was the only person in the room who had grown up surrounded by Italian Americans.

Recently I have realized that I always study that which I am not. I think about race daily, read and speak about issues black Americans face. Most of my friends are either racial or ethnic minorities in the United States or people of any color from other countries. Yet, despite my interests and passions, I am white and American. There is value in being able to connect across racial boundaries and bring a voice to those who are not heard, but I am still conflicted about my own racial identity.

Likewise, I am conflicted about my ethnic identity. In studying Italian Americans in Connecticut for a class this past semester, I intended to study my home, my history. Yet as I study Italian Americans more and more, I realize how un-Italian I am. This culture that surrounded me and reminds me of home is not my ethnic heritage. Just as I am not black, so too I am not Italian.

What am I?

My parents did not celebrate family history, heritage and culture. I am a sixth generation American from England, Scotland, France, Ireland and (by way of probably one ancestor) Germany. I know I am white by race. I know I am American by nationality. I was born into these identities. Yet, despite knowing all this nominally, I still struggle with racial and ethnic identity.

Perhaps I am conflicted and confused because my immediate family does not find culture and heritage very significant. As an assimilated white American, I also do not feel attached to my heritage. Furthermore, my family is Christian, which means I have been socialized under the true yet often blanketing language of finding my “identity in Christ.”

While I am realizing that I might feel more stable if I secured my identity in Christ alone, I do not want to ignore the other aspects of my identity in the process. Evangelical Christian rhetoric tends to obscure or neglect the social markers that impact our lives, but I know as an evangelical Christian that my race, gender, class, sexuality and so on are too important to gloss over. I am a human being with a body and a history that impact my life — and those around me. Thus, I want to understand myself and how I fit into this country and this world.

I am a human being with a body and a history that impact my life — and those around me.

As I prepare to leave the United States for the summer, my queries take a new form: What does it mean to be a white American female in the Democratic Republic of Congo? I have yet to discover the privileges and hardships of this, and I am still working on understanding my identity appropriately in the States.

I am beginning to understand my identity more, yet as I do so, I am faced with how complex it is. I seek to understand it rightly, not only to understand myself but also to use the privileges society grants me in the best ways possible to pursue justice and mercy. Jesus Christ’s place in my life inspires this. Constantly surrounded by newfound knowledge and questions, I still ask, What or who am I, and what are the implications of that?

 

THANKS FOR VISITING KATELYNSKYEBENNETT.COM! COMMENT BELOW ABOUT YOUR RACIAL AND ETHNIC IDENTITY. HOW DID YOU COME TO UNDERSTAND IT? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?

Embracing My Whiteness

I have always wanted to be Black. I have tried to tan as much as is naturally possible, and I can get pretty dark, but I am still clearly a white person. I have contemplated the texture of my hair, which is curly, half smooth and half kinky. When a friend told me it seemed like mixed hair, I was delighted, but I am normally the one to point out its potential blackness, not others. I have hoped against hope that I have some Black relative a few generations back so that I might be Black. Only recently did I realize that even if this was so, I do not look Black, I am not perceived as Black, and I am not culturally Black. I am White, and I cannot escape it.

The blacker I have tried to appear, the more I realize I am White. For example, I have braids right now. My dear friend Layla spent six hours braiding my head, in fact, and it looks good, but it does not look Black. Although my hair is partly kinky, it is not curly enough to have the braids stay without ponytails, rubber bands, moños, whatever you would like to call them. I am White, and even my poofy, curly hair is White.

This past year, I had gotten it into my head that being White is bad. Structural racism is caused by the white supremacy underlying Western society, and I do not want to be a part of that injustice. However, this line of thought led me to subconsciously generalize that being White is bad. This is not logical because people do not choose what color they are born, but it is still how I thought for many months.

Everyone knows the phrase “Black is beautiful,” right? But I had forgotten that Whites are beautiful, too. I had forgotten that White does not equal evil. Everyone has something unique to offer, everyone can walk hand in hand with God if they follow Jesus, and everyone was made by the Creator God. God does not distinguish between races.

God’s love extends equally to Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, et cetera. This does not mean that He loves minorities more than Whites in order to achieve justice on earth. No, God loves Whites just as much as He loves minorities. I do not know that many people have the same problem I do where their head is reversed to see Blacks as more valuable. Most people have the opposite problem, although it may be well hidden, and that is why the United States is still segregated and full of racism. But my attitude has been wrong. I have mentally degraded Whites and myself in an attempt to elevate Blacks from their lower position in society.

At All School Communion on Wednesday, I was contemplating my race. I did not see myself as beautiful, but God had been working in me for a long while to show me His view of humanity. As usual, He spoke through the music at All School. “Beautiful Things” by Gungor played just after I realized that I am indeed beautiful as a White person.

I am not beautiful even though I am White or despite being White, and I am not beautiful simply because I am White. I am beautiful regardless of my Whiteness. As the chapel band played the opening chords of “Beautiful Things,” I smiled broadly, having just realized that my whiteness is beautiful. Although I love dark skin, my pale skin is beautiful. But as I began to sing along, I realized that the song is not at all about physical beauty; “Beautiful Things” speaks of the inner beauty God creates.

God does not care what race or ethnicity you and I are. Yes, it certainly shapes us, but race truly is socially constructed. It does not have to define us. Race and ethnicity do not actually matter to God, for He has allowed everyone who trusts Jesus to be brought to Him.

In the Bible days, the big social divide was between the Jews and the Gentiles, who were otherwise known as Greeks. As their name implies, the Jews had grown up in Jewish religion, and they read the Scriptures about the coming Messiah, the Christ; the Greeks were the non-Jews. Many Jews were arrogant about “their” Savior, the Christ, after they became Christians. They wanted to impose their Jewish traditions upon the Greeks, and they basically thought they were more deserving than the Greeks. But when Jesus Christ came to earth about two thousand years ago, He actually did something shocking that the new Messianic Jews did not realize at first: He made both the Jews and the Gentiles become one through His sacrifice.

Just as these two social groups were unified in Jesus Christ and stood equal before God, so minorities and Whites stand equal before God. We all disobey Him. This sin is what separates us from God, not our color. But Jesus died for us all, should we believe in Him, and this is what bridges the gap between God and us. We can come to the Father God because of Jesus Christ alone.

The Ethiopian with whom the Biblical character Phillip shared the Gospel and baptized–this Black man will be in Heaven someday with Jesus, who was born as an Arab. White supremacy is not found anywhere in the Bible, but equal standing before God is found throughout the entire book.

I, too, stand before the God who cares about what is inside people and not about their outward appearances. I am White. I am beautiful. I have value. You may not be White, yet you are beautiful and valuable. We are valuable because God loves our souls and had Jesus Christ, His Son, give up everything to redeem them.

The first day I met Layla, the friend who braided my hair and one of my future roomies, I told her I wanted to be Black. She was quite surprised and encouraged me that God made me White for a reason.

Over half a year later, I now realize that I can use my whiteness for God’s glory. If I was born Black, would I have had the same desire to unify races and ethnicities? Maybe, but I likely would not have had the same ability to do so. Let’s face it: in the States, we live in a racist society. But because I am White, I have more voice, and I can use it to speak up for those whose voices go unheard.

This year has included the long process of becoming more racially aware, overcoming prejudices by God’s grace, desiring to be something God did not create me to be, learning to accept my whiteness, and finally embracing it. If I merely accept that I am White, I will not rejoice in who I am; I will still desire to be Black but merely realize its impossibility. Thus, I am still on that last step of embracing my race, for then I can use that socially constructed identity to fulfill God’s Biblical command of justice.

I must allow God to continually remind me of who I am in Him. Remember, it is our insides that matter! Yet because I am White, and I can reach out both to minorities and to other Whites to listen, understand, and bring greater unity among God’s “very good” creation. I am White, and I am White for a reason.picture026

Introduction

The idea of autobiographies has always seemed egotistical to me, but I must write one for the sake of this blog. Let’s call it a testimony to all readers instead of a biography, for my life is not mine, and this blog is not about me. It is about my Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God who came down to earth’s level to redeem His people. I am a prospective journalist and missionary, and my goal is that both of these future goals will converge in this blog.

My name, Katelyn Skye, contains my life’s purpose. It reflects my identity in Jesus Christ. Katelyn means purity, and Skye comes from Psalm 19, which says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” To glorify God in everything I think, say, and do and before everyone I meet is the purpose of my life as a Christian, and God is so worthy of praise. Fellow believers, our God is awesome.

What else is important to me besides Jesus, people, and writing? That’s a difficult question because most of my life ties back to God; He’s created my quirks and has given me my passions. I worship God through playing and writing music, I have a cactus named Fred, I enjoy coloring to relax in any spare time, dark chocolate is my favorite, and I go to Wheaton College in Illinois, where I’m studying sociology and journalism. Wheaton is an awesome place full of Christ-like and (get ready for this, Wheaties) intentional community. Besides being a place to grow spiritually, it has challenged me both academically and socially, profoundly impacting my life. I am so blessed to be here, but that’s enough about Wheaton College for now. Let’s talk about Jesus again.

The good news that Jesus came to bring disobedient, selfish, rebellious humans to Himself through His agonizing sacrifice on the cross–this news is not for me alone. His defeat of death when He rose from the dead is not for white Americans alone. Jesus said to His Jewish disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). In His time on earth, He brought Greeks and Jews together to become His church; this amazing feat demonstrates the racial and ethnic unity that God desires throughout the world. No person deserves His mercy and grace, but He extends it to everyone who would believe in Jesus Christ. He values humanity; that’s why He came to earth. Whether praise and worship takes the form of gospel music, Indian dancing, kneeling in a prayer chapel, repeated Korean choruses, frying flautas to serve others, rapping, finger picking on guitar, or painting, God is delighted and given glory. The time has come when men and women from all nations, states, races, ethnicities, and socializations worship Him in the Spirit and in truth (John 4). “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing” (1 Timothy 2:8).

To conclude, I’ll share something that the apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1:13-15).