Another Racial Parable

(Inspired by reading Divided by Faith)

Joe and James were best friends and high school seniors aspiring to attend the same notable college.  They both enrolled in an ACT Prep course hoping to attain an ACT score of 25, which was a requirement for the college they wanted to attend. They enrolled the same day but were placed in different classes.

Joe was placed in a class that was comprised of the top students in their county. They each had their own cubicle, which contained a laptop, a calculator, and ACT Prep books. Each student was given a significant amount of one-on-one sessions with an instructor.

James was placed in a class that was comprised of students who were struggling academically. They were given pencil, paper, and several ACT prep books they had to share.  The instructor was always late for their classes, so they were never able to cover all the required material. The room was over populated so the instructor was not able to answer all the questions posed by the students.

Joe and James took the ACT on the same day. Once they received their score Joe revealed he made a 20 on the ACT. Although, James scored a 14.  Joe was applauded and asked, “James, how could you make a 14 with the help of this prep course? Were you listening in class?”

They both decided to take the prep course again in hopes of getting a 25.  Joe was placed in a similar class to his previous one. James was placed in an overpopulated class, again. They took the test again and Joe received a 25. Sadly, James received a 15.

Joe was upset because he believed James had not applied himself. “These instructors are trying to help us, but I guess you don’t want to go to college. Why did you even come to this program if you weren’t going to try?” said Joe.

James said as he wiped tears from his eyes “I want to go to college. My whole family wants me to go so I can be the first male to get a college education. I really tried in this course. I think we had different experiences.” Joe ended the conversation by saying “Well you just have to try harder next time because this program is set up to help us, and I think they tried really hard too.”

“Joe, I sat in a crowded classroom with kids who were struggling academically. I had to share my ACT prep books. My teacher always showed up late and never finished covering all the information,” said James. Tears began to fall down Joe’s cheek and he said “I didn’t know. I just didn’t know.” Joe and James cried together. After that, Joe said, “Let’s go talk to that ACT prep course and demand they give you the same treatment they gave me.” “We should demand fair treatment for everyone,” said James.

“….to engage in a serious discussion about race in America, we must begin not with the problems of black people, but with the flaws of American society-flaws rooted in historic inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes. And we must acknowledge that structures and behavior are inseparable, that institutions and values go hand in hand”

Cornel West 

Key Points

  • The assumption that we all receive the same treatment ignores the facts.
  • Defending a structure without an adequate amount of information is dangerous.
  • Individual effort coupled with a broken structure is disheartening.
  • Listening can produce lasting fruit to assist in bridging the racial gap.
  • Listening moves you to have compassion.
  • There is hope.

 

 

 

Remembering Forward……..

 I have been in the audience of three graduations this month which is triple the number of graduations I usually attend a year. However, recently I attended the graduation at the seminary I attend, which was the most God-Centered graduation I have attended. I arrived at the graduation quite early so I didn’t see anyone I knew and could sit with so I sat on an empty back pew. The graduation began and desire arose in my heart to hasten myself to graduation. As I sat through the graduation I began thinking thoughts like “one day that will be me.”  Thoughts came to mind of how I could overload myself with school and be done. However, when the Provost stood up he reminded the audience of the why the seminary exist. As a result of his speech, my heart began to ache because I forgot why I was in seminary. The Lord changed my thoughts through the speech of our Provost.
Sitting in this pew I began to have to wipe my eyes because I could no longer hold back my tears of heartache. I sat there and I reflected on why God called me to seminary. I thought about all my African-American brothers and sisters who are prey to the wolves of this world. I thought about those who are in need mental health professionals but are given the label of “bad.” I thought about those whose theology is too small to handle the big questions of life. I remembered people I have met who have heard about a Jesus too weak to rescue a sinner such as them. God has called me to seminary so that I can be  one more soldier who is equipped to stand in the gap for them. He called me to seminary so his glory will be known and I may have more avenues to share the wonderful news of the gospel. As I reflected on my mission I thought of Paul and what he said to the Roman church in Romans 15:20:
and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, (ESV)
 
Paul knew his mission and it is what drove him. Paul was willing and did give it all for his mission given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s mission-mindedness led him to say this in the book of Acts:
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24 ESV)
 
Paul’s goal was to complete the mission that God had given him. He was concerned about the message of the gospel getting to hopeless sinners who desperately need Jesus. He saw nothing as too much to give to the spreading of the gospel. He was not concerned about the time it took or where the resources would come from. Paul’s focus was dedicated to the obedience to God in the tasks he has given him. 
Honestly, I feel sometimes the road to the goal is so long. Several times have I asked myself, “does God really want me to stay here?” In addition, I ponder the question “what if I just quit now?” However, when I go to class God lets me know he doesn’t want me anywhere else. When I think about how much God has provided for me here then I know he wants me to stay here. If you are like me sometimes you lose focus, but I think reflecting on why God has you in a particular place such as school, work, or etc. is beneficial. Let us not forget the mission and let us run with endurance to complete the mission God has given us. 
 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrew 12:1 ESV)

Charlottesville: What About the Next Rally?

What happened in Charlottesville, VA last weekend was depressing, but not unique. We have seen it in our history books when the Nazis chanted “blood and soil.” We have seen the videos of the KKK marching in the streets. The Mississippi Burning murders displayed to us that white supremacists are willing to kill. White supremacy has stained American history and politics. The violence in Charlottesville hits closer to home because the pictures are in living color, not black and white.

Laws and policies did not kill the ancient sin of racism. Racism has kept up with the times. It left the streets and hid in systems. Now it is back in the streets. It feels no need to hide anymore. The hidden white supremacy concerns me more than those people rallying in the streets. The racism under the white steeples is far more frightening than the racism under the white hoods.

Many white supremacists and neo-nazis were not in the streets last weekend but they were in the pews on Sunday. They profess to be saved by the blood of the Lamb but put their hope in their ancestor’s blood and land. Beware of the wolves hiding in God’s flock (Matthew 7:15).

Sin remains in this world so white supremacy is still alive. Time has not killed white nationalism. Men and women in their twenties and thirties were holding torches. We can’t eradicate sin, but we can fight. Jemar Tisby states:

Let’s also be clear that we can’t really end white supremacy. In the Christian view, racism is a sin, and sin cannot be completely eradicated on this side of eternity. But we are called to fight against sin in all its forms, so we should expect positive change in our churches and society at large as we fight against it.

Bruce Levell, the Executive Director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, stated we should ignore it. Levell believes if we don’t give events like this attention they will stop. Should we wait until white nationalist march again then post statuses about how sinful that event is?  Should we blame the left like Allen West? That has been our strategy for years. In the words of the infamous theologian Dr. Phil “How’s that working for you?”

Beloved, there will be another rally. How are you going to prepare?

Get Ready Church

To my minority brothers and sister speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Voice your concerns about our white superiority in the church. Pray for God to put the church on one accord. Engage in difficult conversations with your white brothers and sisters. Awkwardness in conversations means you are doing it right.

To my white brothers and sisters, be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19). White supremacy is not limited to the racists marching in the streets. It is in our churches, denominations, and seminaries. Initiate those awkward racial conversations with your minority brothers and sisters. Let your speech be seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).

Speak about the sin of white supremacy offline.  It requires honest and hard face to face conversations. It requires Holy Spirit empowered work. Don’t wait for the next rally, confront racism now.

This is important for us right now because many of those advocating for white supremacy claim to do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Some of them speak of “Christendom” — by which they mean white European cultural domination — and not of Christianity. But many others are members of churches bearing the name of Jesus Christ. Nothing could be further from the gospel.

Dr. Russell Moore

 

 Photo by Jason Zeis

Rachel Dolezal and the Sin of Discontentment

Our eyes are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20) with where we are or who we are. I once heard George Ross put it this way “We always want to be someone else, doing something else, somewhere else.” We envy the lives of others. Rarely, are we satisfied with who God has made us or where he has placed us. Introverts want to be extroverts. Lighter-skinned people want to be the tan ones. The left-brained people want to dominate by the right side of their brain. We are discontent.

The Discontentment of Ms. Dolezal

In 2015 Rachel Dolezal‘s parents revealed she was a white woman trying to “disguise herself” as a black female. She was the president of the NAACP’s chapter in Spokane, Washington. She disclaimed her white parents. She claimed her adopted brother was her son to carry on her facade. She frequents the tanning bed and hairdresser to maintain her appearance. She has admitted she was born white, but she chooses to identify as black. Dolezal identifies as black because of her discontentment.

Dolezal is an example of how far we will go when we are discontent. Have you ever put a significant amount of effort into conforming to the image of someone else?  What have you done to alter who God has made you? At times, we think our lives would be better if we were someone else, doing something else, somewhere else.

But God

God has made us in his image (Genesis 1:26). The Lord crafted us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). He gave us our eyes, smiles, and voices. He has gifted us with talents and abilities. He chose our ethnicity, personality, and family. God has had and still has control of every detail of our lives and he is using them for our good (Romans 8:28). Beloved, whatever hinders you from being content, God gave it to you. God has placed you where you are in life. You may be downcast about who you are, but the Master is still molding and making you (Romans 8:29). God has placed you at your wearisome job for a reason. Take courage that by God’s grace you are who you are. His grace has brought you where you are. When you are tempted to be discontent, remember the grace of God.

 

Side Rant:

I can’t leave this post without talking about Ms. Dolezal’s unique option or privilege. Canceling her appointments to the tanning bed and hairdresser could change her life. She could choose to identify as white. Black people don’t have that option. We are black twenty-four seven and that comes with some advantages and disadvantages. One of those disadvantages is pain and historical trauma. I would be curious to ask if Ms. Dolezal would like the whole black package.

Does she want to always wonder “Are they treating me this way because I am black?” What about the feelings of powerlessness? Or the feelings we have when people ignore our history? What about the televised misrepresentations? Does she want to look at injustice and say that could be me or my family? It is costly being someone else.

Whoever we idolize they have particular issues and sins that they have to deal with. Their social media accounts only capture a snapshot of what their lives are like. Instagram may capture their laughs but not their loneliness. Facebook post may reveal their wisdom, but not their weariness. Their emojis don’t show you their hearts. When you find yourself wanting to take a trip to someone else’s life remember that means you have to carry their baggage and yours.

Our Inadequacy and Christ’s Sufficiency

How do you handle feeling inadequate? Recently, someone asked me this question in reference to my clinical practice. But I have recently become a parent, which has revealed my insufficiency. I can’t distinguish her screams. I can’t get her to sleep when I want her to. I don’t know what is wrong with her sometimes. I feel inadequate.   

It is antithetical to our sinful nature to admit our inadequacies. According to Elliot Aronson, our brain labors to convince us our actions are right, despite contrary evidence. In the words of Paul Tripp, we have an “inner defense lawyer.” Our inner defense lawyer argues for our competency. Before the judge of life, it offers various excuses as to why we are sufficient.  Although, that is not what the Bible says.

Sinful Inadequacy

Russell Moore was asked by Anderson Cooper about a tweet in which he was called “a nasty guy with no heart.” Moore said he agreed with the tweet and “we sing worse things about ourselves on Sunday mornings. Our hymns contain harsh language about us, which aligns with Scripture. We are born in sin and by nature, we are children of wrath (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3). We are unrighteous and our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Romans 3:10-11; Isaiah 64:6). Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, and adulteries are within our hearts (Mark7:21). Sin touches every word, deed, and thought. Sin makes us inadequate.

Christ Is Sufficient

Nothing is outside the power of Jesus Christ. Christ created everything and he upholds it (Colossians 1:15-17). The Lord has the power to change hearts (Proverbs 21:1).

In other words, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Nobody has the power to stay his hand (Daniel 4:35).  In him, there is no darkness or trace of sin (1 John 1:5). He is perfectly pure. He has no equal. His power knows no end. Sin and Satan are subject to him. Christ is sufficient.

Look to Jesus

We lack the ability to have completely pure motives. Sin contaminates every aspect of us. It makes our service, worship, and work impure. Compared to Christ we are inadequate. Apart from Christ, we can literally do nothing (John 15:5). This is our reality until Christ comes or we go to meet him.

Let your impotent state cause you to look to Christ. Jesus sanctifies every aspect of us. He makes our impure service, worship, and work pleasing to the Father. Whenever you see your inadequacy gaze at the sufficiency of Christ. Robert Murray McCheyne says “For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ!” How do I handle feeling inadequate? I embrace it and let it lead me to gaze upon Christ.

I don’t have the power to sway the hearts of men, but Jesus does. My words don’t hold the power to save, but His word does. I am powerless on my own, but he is almighty. My intelligence has its limits, but he knows all. Beloved, don’t trust yourself. We are weak, foolish men. Trust in Jesus with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).  Trust God is more than enough even in your inadequacy and He always will be.

Is It Because I Am Black?

I wonder if he just noticed what just happened.” I was on a recruiting trip at a conference and it was lunch time. My white colleague and I decided to explore the mall in hopes of finding a place to eat. After looking at the long line and the other restaurants we decided to eat at a place that served chicken and waffles. There was no line. A Caucasian girl was taking orders and preparing food. We ordered the same meal. Before we received our order of chicken and waffles she asked if we wanted hot sauce and honey. We were both are from the south so we said “YES” without hesitation.

I watched her pour the honey into one cup. The bottle of honey was almost empty. She squeezed the bottle until no more honey would come out. The cup was filled halfway. Then she went to the back to get a new bottle. She finished filling the first cup to the brim. Then she filled the second cup only halfway. Next, she started to pour the hot sauce.  She filled the first cup, but the second cup was only filled halfway. When I saw the unequal portions of the cups I thought “She is going to give me the cups that are partially filled.” I waited, hoping I was wrong.  Sadly, I was right she handed me the half-filled cups.

I walked away wondering if my white colleague saw what happened. I also pondered another question, “Was I given less because of my blackness?”

The Hovering Question 

Is it because I am black?” I ponder this question quite often. Often I walk into spaces where I stick out because of my darker skin tone. However, I imagine many other African Americans ponder this question as well. But situations like the one mentioned above always bring the question back to mind. My white colleague was dressed similar to me, ordered the same meal, but he received more. I don’t know the reason the girl gave him more, so I am just left with assumptions. However, this is not the case in other situations.

The Hovering Facts

Black people make up 13.3 percent of the population in America. We make up 37.7 percent of the prison population in America. Black people make up 38 percent of the people in poverty in America. More than half of black children in America are born in single parent homes. Twenty-four percent of the people shot and killed by police in 2015 were African American. The unemployment rate for African Americans is 7.9 compared to the 3.8 white unemployment rate. African American boys are perceived to be older and are not perceived to have the same childhood innocence as their white counterparts.

I know that is a lot of stats and you may be able to forget them. I can’t. I was the black boy who was assumed to be older. I have family in prison. I grew up in poverty and in a single parent home. I have seen the videos of African Americans killed unjustly by police. I have family members who desired a job but struggled to find one. These stats haunt me because those numbers have names and faces attached.

The Steadfast God 

I am troubled by the assumptions and stats, but I am comforted by the God who is mindful and cares for us (Psalm 8:4). My soul rests in the fact that His love and His mercy is never ending (Lamentations 3:22). The hairs on my head are numbered. He knows and controls the stats. His sovereignty is enough to calm my vexed soul. However, I still have questions.

Though the stats may hover and assumptions may be many, my God is still on the throne. He knows what happens because of my blackness and He will never give me less than what is good for me (Romans 8:28; Matthew 7:11).

 

Would love to hear others share their stories or thoughts….

 

10 Reasons Why The Southern Baptist Convention Is Stained By Racism

Jones, K., & Williams, J. J. (2017). Removing The Stain of Racism From The Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives. Broad & Holman

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My thankfulness for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is difficult to express. If I were to attempt to verbalize it I would exhaust my vocabulary. A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry was instrumental in my salvation. God allowed me to be a part of various mission trips sponsored by Southern Baptists. My theological education has been at a Southern Baptist seminary. I have work for collegiate ministries sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention. I love the universal church, but the Southern Baptist tribe has a special place in my heart.

But I love the SBC enough, to tell the truth about it. Our convention is stained by racism. The stained has affected every entity of the SBC. Jarvis Williams, Kevin Jones, and the other contributors give multiple reasons why the stain persists, but I will only mention ten.

1) Insufficient Follow-Up

 “Since the formation of the SBC in 1845, the denomination’s leaders have passed thirty-one resolutions on race. Each one resulted from a growing realization that things were not right.”

Craig Mitchell (62)

2) Divorcing History

 “But I am convinced we need to make sure we allow the ghost of our racist forebears to haunt us. We need to be reminded often that we are no different from them and that we are just as susceptible to hatred, pride, and wickedness apart from the mercy of God.”

Dr. Matthew Hall (14)

3) Intellectual Racism

“Among the most significant instances of racial disparity in South Baptist life is intellectual racism”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (19)

“Black and Brown scholarship is either dismissed or ignored in many colleges universities and seminaries”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (20)

4) Inferior Theological Development

“Formal theology has been disproportionately conducted by white men and the context of their theology affirms has become standardized”

Walter Strickland II (55)

“Superior theological development results for the diverse collective of the church (across age, genders, races, and cultures) rather than from individual or believers  isolated in their cultural context.”

Walter Strickland II (58)

5) Inadequate Pastoral Guidance

“Regarding the particular sin of racism, at least three consideration are relevant to preachers and pastors: their personal relationships, their understanding of leading from the pulpit, and their understanding of what repentance looks like in their particular context”

Dr. Kevin Smith (74)

6) Prayers for Revival But Not Reconciliation

“Our prayers for revival must include prayers for reconciliation in our denomination. However, prayer is not enough! We must pray and act. If when we rise from our knees God gives us hearts to love all races in our denomination, then we will see revival”

Mark A. Croston Sr. (87)

7) Minority Access to Education

“If Southern Baptist churches cooperate cross-racially to enhance ethnic minorities’ access to education, then we can make the stain less apparent”

 Dr. Kevin Jones  (92).

“Yet many of those same seminaries, especially Southern Baptist seminaries, often have failed to recruit and retain minorities”

Dr. Kevin Jones (91)

8) Mediocre News

“The gospel inherently entails reconciliation. So-called gospel publishing that neglects illustrating this unity in diversity may well not qualify as “good news” publishing, for it publishes only mediocre news”

Toby Jennings (109)

9) Whitewashed Teachings

“the SBC has historically neglected and still neglects to teach about people of color–including African/blacks–who played significant roles in the Old and New Testament, many Southern Baptists view biblical characters as being white, including Jesus.”

W. Dwight McKissic Sr. (133)

10) Indifferent Racism

“What you often find is not an active aggressive racism so much as a passive and indifferent racism. I gather with my tribe, and of course my tribe tends to look a whole like me. People of different ethnicities are certainly welcome to join us on our terms, adapting to our context and way of doing things. However, don’t expect us to change. Change is the responsibility of the others.”

Dr. Daniel Akin (138-139)

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Pt 3: Letter to Black Seminarians

Dear Black Seminary Student, 

God has used you to encourage my soul. I remember so many moments where we discussed our shared experience. You come from various places, but God has allowed us to connect. Your stories have been inspiring and saddening.

I remember the time you told me your child was a victim of discrimination on campus. You have been disrespected in class for telling about the about the African-American perspective. I was there when they misrepresented you. I know how you feel when people call you an Oreo because you do not fit a stereotype.

I understand the burden of having to be bicultural to survive. It is tiresome, feeling like you to have to know about the dominant culture and your own to succeed. I know how hard it is to learn about another culture while trying to hang on to your own.

You have told me about your frustrations. You are in a white space and it is obvious. All your professors are white. The preachers in chapel services are white. The scholars are white. The administration is white. Most of the people in your class are white. You wonder most days “Where the brothers at?”  It causes you to wonder “Who represents you here?” You expressed to me how saddened you are we don’t have more diversity. It is easy to seat back, do your work, be quiet, and get through your degree.

I know it is difficult but, don’t lose heart. Don’t give up on our brothers and sisters from the dominant culture. Don’t give up on the seminary. They need you. Do you remember the time you explained the difference between diversity and multiculturalism? Your classmates needed to hear that. What about the time you discussed pro-life vs anti-abortion? You stated pro-life must include black people killed on the streets. Or what about the time you helped your classmates view the black church rightly? Your voice is essential. Remaining silent denies the seminary the privilege of knowing you and your culture.
Brothers, there are so many people who are part of the seminary community who long to hear your voice. They want to know what you think so they may love their neighbor rightly. They are wrestling with ideas about Black Lives Matter, Racial Reconciliation, and cultural differences too. Several of them might call you a heretic, race-baiter, or black nationalist. In those moments remember “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)  and “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
Beloved, it is tough being a minority here, but we must stay because Jesus prayed that we might be one (John 17:11). The ability to become one is a product of the gospel (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Becoming one requires growing pains look at the early church in Rome of Ephesus. Our oneness will not come if we chose to retreat to mono-ethnic settings. We can’t complain that 11 am is the most segregated hour if we are not willing to sit a few minutes in another culture’s classroom or pew.

May Grace and Peace Be Multiplied to You,

Your Fellow Classmate