Conversations with Eboo: Nathan Stanton

Photo from Nathan Stanton

In January of this historic year, I sat with my friend Reverend Nathan Stanton at a 7th Grade boys basketball game on the north side of Chicago (both of our sons play), and casually asked what he had planned for 2020. Nathan responded: “I think we’re going to blow this whole middle-class thing up.”  

This is not a comment one hears very often amongst the corporate lawyers and strategy consultants who populate the chic neighborhoods that radiate out from Wrigley Field. But Nathan is not your average person. He’s an artist, a visionary, a minister, and a gentle, beautiful soul. Once, while we were chatting over coffee, I watched him paint pictures on a half dozen 4x6 notecards, one after the other. 

“What are you up to?” I asked.  

“Well, I figure there are about two and a half million people in the city of Chicago. I want to do a unique artwork for each one.”  

“You like this piece?” he asked, holding up the notecard he’d just painted. He handed it to me. “It’s yours.” Then he added, “The world needs love.”  

Over the past few months, Nathan (who is black) and his wife Liz (who is white) have sold their possessions and prepared for the next steps. 

Nathan and Liz launch Forgive.Us from Nathan S on Vimeo.

The plan is to take their family of seven on a year-long national tour focused on racial reconciliation. They will do ‘Forgive Us’ events all over the country, starting on the West Coast. The events open with an artist performing a work that offers a vision of what Nathan calls Jesus-flavored justice, and end with people signing a ‘Declaration of Forgiveness.' Nathan hopes these events will create enough momentum for there to be a large ‘Forgive Us’ festival in Washington DC, maybe in 2023, as part of the events that will commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington.  

Nathan and I sat down in my front yard last week so I could hear more about the plan. I began by pointing out that this was maybe the most historic week of the last fifty years in the United States. Nathan pointed out all the home construction vans maneuvering into parking spots on our street. “The world is changing, but people in our neighborhood are still getting new kitchens, still picking out fixtures,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye. We laugh, then we got down to business.  

I start by asking where the vision came from.  

Nathan says he’s known since he was twelve years old that he was supposed to do two things: preach the Gospel and bring the races together. But it wasn’t until 2015, specifically the atrocity at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, that he had an idea of how these things were connected.  

Here’s how he explains it: “I had a vision of me with a scroll in my backpack, traveling. As I thought and prayed more on that vision, I realized that backpack meant me traveling and that scroll contained a declaration of forgiveness that people would sign at a creative event that would signify their intention to let go of harsh bitterness towards people who don’t look like they do.” 

For Nathan, this kind of work is at the center of what it means to be a Christian and draws directly from the Bible.  

He quotes Jeremiah 8:22 to me: “Is there no balm in Gilead?” And then points out the obvious: he saw the Stanton family journey as a balm for America, a bandage for a nation wounded by racism.  

He hastens to add: “I by no means think this is the end-all, be-all. White folks still have a lot of work to do, to face the fact that this is a brutally violent country for people of color. But I think the spirit of what we need right now must be love and peace. You can speak the truth and say hard things to people in love and peace.”  

As I mentioned before, Nathan and his family have been planning this for months. I had to ask the obvious question. Considering the events of the last few weeks – the police murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor – does his racial reconciliation road trip take on a different meaning?  

“It shows us that the stakes are much higher than we could have ever imagined," says Nathan. "There’s this verse in Hebrews 12 that says: “Once more I will shake not only the earth but heaven as well.” 

“I think that what God is doing right now is showing that every attitude of our heart, every system (including the church), every passion that we have that is not from Him needs to be shaken. It’s going to be painful, and there’s going to be grieving and mourning and loss such as this country has never experienced before, but what we’re going to be left with is the actual structure which was here from the beginning, which is love." 

Nathan continues: “When God said, ‘Let there be light,' the three members of the Trinity got together and formed people from love. We need to be reminded of our true foundation and our true essence. It has nothing to do with political influence, wealth, racism, or status. Although God didn’t show us explicitly everything that was going to happen, He prepared us for it by putting a desire in our hearts that was greater than the possessions we had." 

I tell Nathan that what he is doing requires courage. “Nah man,” he responds. “All prophetic figures are on the move. You hear a call from God, you gotta go. I just have more kids than most.” 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

It is incredibly empowering to know that by protecting yourself, you can protect so many other people.  The Lord gave us the knowledge and people we need in order to defeat COVID-19.
"99.8% of U.S. deaths are of the unvaccinated. If you heard of an airline of that percentage dying, whereas a 0.02% on another, you’re switching flights." -- Dr. Jimmie Smith, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, Georgia.
As a scholar of religious studies, I frequently use critical race theory as a tool to better understand how religion operates in American society.
Inspired by their faith, four LDS students built new study resource that has revolutionized how hundreds of thousands of aspiring physicians study for their exams. "It really started because we just wanted to help people," one said.
We're now in one of the holiest seasons of the year for one of smallest and oldest religions in India -- one with a long history in the United States.
Organizing on-campus vaccination clinics, calling thousands of students, hosting informational webinars with medical experts – these are some of the ways in which IFYC’s Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors (FIVA) have been raising awareness around the COVID-19 vaccine on campuses and high-need communities across the nation.
Last year's winners, listed below, created a range of initiatives, from virtual retreats and criminal justice initiatives to book clubs and racial equity workshops.
Religious objections, once used sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
What will the campus chapel, and the chaplaincy, look like more than a century from now? Let the adventure begin.
The issue is not the presence of religion in the public square. Instead, the question before us is how to express those religious commitments within in a pluralistic society.
We don’t know what the year 5782 – as it is in the Hebrew calendar – has in store for any of us. But we have the power to act in a way to do right by each other and bring a little more peace and love and joy into this profoundly broken world.
The following interview features Dr. Toby Bressler, senior director of nursing for oncology and clinical quality at the Mount Sinai Health System and vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association.
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
After 9/11, there was increased intentionality in widening interfaith relations to include a broader number of faith groups and discussions. Twenty years later, it is not unusual to see interreligious conferences, joint advocacy efforts and disaster relief teamwork involving faith groups ranging from Adventists to Zoroastrians.
Twenty years later, we at IFYC, like so many others, collect the shards of memory, recollecting, reconstituting the trauma and horror of that day. And the sacredness is in doing so together.
As we approach this significant anniversary of 9/11, we must work to infuse the day with purpose and pluralism. Pay it Forward 9/11 is bringing people together to do 20,000 good deeds for the 20th anniversary.
In the first month since 9/11, The Sikh Coalition documented over 300 cases of violence and religious discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S. and has since grown to become the largest Sikh advocacy and civil rights organization in the country.
“If you were to quiz these students on what happened on 9/11, they think they knew what happened, but nobody really explained it to them,” Lisa Doi said. “I had to think through, how do you teach this history to somebody who doesn’t really remember it?”
My prayer is that for as long as we remember 9/11, that we will take time to listen to the stories of loss that break our hearts, and join together in finding ways to heal the division, violence and hate that continue to tear apart our world.
It has been 20 years, but the pain of that day is still present in so many places.
20 years after the 9/11 attacks, four remarkable people took profound suffering, loss and grief and “somehow managed to not center enemies. What can we learn from that? How can that be a teaching to the culture?”

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.