Race, Mental Health, and Faith: A Conversation
This month, Sanctuary has partnered with author, speaker, and activist Tiffany Bluhm to produce a devotional addressing the intersection of race, mental health, and faith. “Recovering Hope”—available now on the YouVersion Bible app—explores the realities of racial trauma and examines the themes of recovery found in Paul’s letters. Readers from every background will be encouraged to share stories, reflect on identity, and look for opportunities to cultivate hope and reconciliation in their communities.
Tiffany is passionate about seeing communities and individuals transformed, whether in the UK or in her own backyard of Washington state. Here, she tells us a little more about the mission and messages that motivate her, and reflects on the significance of bringing mental health into dialogue with race and faith.
You have an extensive background in pastoral ministry. When did you first feel called to work with marginalized people groups?
I’ve known I wanted to serve brothers and sisters on the margins since high school, and for me, ministry was the venue. After college, I served three years in the U.K. with at-risk youth. Upon returning home, I served as an Outreach Pastor in a local church where I had the opportunity to engage parishioners with minority populations such as convicts, people experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders, and teen moms. Gradually, my work in the community blossomed into the creation of Esteem—an outreach program to women in the sex industry. That led to an opportunity to assist the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force, local police, and Crime Stoppers in developing and speaking at John School, which addressed men who bought women. Each year brought new education and a deeper understanding of people’s pain, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve people day in and day out.
You’ve also written a few books! Can you tell us a little about your writing? Why these books? How have their messages impacted your life?
I’ve spent my life encouraging others to pursue the fullness, hope, and restoration of God and to serve others in turn. My books and Bible studies have been an extension of that mission. My first book, Never Alone, explores how our life experiences aren’t the breaking of us, but in fact fertile ground for the making of us. Acknowledging my own shortcomings, tender hurts, and abandonment at birth was the springboard to invite others to acknowledge how their past pains have shaped their understanding of the world and their view of God and others. My second book, She Dreams, examines the nature of our dreams, the role of prayer as we grow, the importance of obedience as we pursue God, how our failures can be a gift that help our dreams become a reality, and the life-changing love, power, and wisdom of the Dream-Giver. My latest book, Prey Tell (March 2021), examines the cultural practice of silencing women and demonstrates why everyone must speak up, even when it is unpopular or there is something to lose. As followers of Jesus, we have a call to stand with women who’ve been harmed in the church or whatever system they find themselves in.
How have you experienced the unfolding national dialogue around systemic racism?
I’ve experienced a myriad of emotions and have done my best to name my feelings as they arise while helping my son, who my husband and I adopted from Uganda, process what is going on within him and around him. After I’ve ached, I’ve been compelled to act. I want to raise my voice and use my platform to advocate for healing and justice, to give generously, and to continue challenging the faulty ideology around race and identity.
What makes you passionate about bringing faith and mental health into the conversation happening around race?
It is so necessary. I can’t imagine how helpful it would have been to have language to describe my experiences when I was growing up—and even as a young adult. Racial trauma cuts in a way that is difficult to share and process when others don’t see it as traumatic, but understanding how faith can be instrumental in healing is life-changing. It’s a reminder that healing from racial trauma isn’t dependent on change from the offender or system that perpetuates offence, although that is the goal.
Tiffany Bluhm is the author of Prey Tell: Why We Silence Women Who Tell the Truth and How Everyone Can Speak Up (Brazos Press 2021) as well as She Dreams and Never Alone. She is a speaker, writer, and podcast co-host of Why Tho, a show answering the existential and nonsensical questions we ask ourselves, with author and speaker, Ashley Abercrombie. She speaks at conferences and events around the world, and her work has been featured in World Vision Magazine, Pentecostal Evangel, TODAY Parents, YouVersion Bible app, the Hallmark Channel, The Jenny McCarthy Show, and more. She leads an engaged audience of 50,000 followers online and is committed to encouraging people of faith to live lives of conviction, substance, and grace. As a minority, immigrant woman with an interracial family, she is passionate about inviting all to the table of faith, equality, justice, and dignity.
(Source: Sanctuary Mental Health)