Confessions of A Black Seminarian Pt.2: Letter to Seminary Students

Dear Seminary Student,

We have been friends for a long time. Thank you for sharing your stories about the grace of God in your life. I love hearing about what God is teaching you through your classes. Thank you for enduring my conversations about racial issues. Thank you for displaying humility and asking me difficult questions. Thank you for not unfriending me after reading my social media posts. Thank you for your encouragement.

I know you want the church to dwell together in unity. You have expressed your desire to plant a multi-ethnic church. I have heard about your racist family members and church members. I know you love the church.

But I confess I get upset with us. We are quick to speak and slow to listen. Often I find myself more concerned about responding than listening. We need to consider asking more questions, before speaking. The bible tells us the one who responds before he listens “it is to his folly” (Proverbs 18:13). We must learn to listen for understanding, not to respond. The fool takes pleasure in expressing his opinion, not gaining understanding (Proverbs 18:2).

We have discussed doctrine a lot. We have discussed ethics, ecclesiology, and hermeneutics. You know God has given humans value because he has made them in his image. I can see you are quick to rebuke false doctrine. But I have observed you are slow to rebuke false practice. I don’t see you speak out against discrimination. Discrimination infringes upon the God-given worth of minorities like me. I want to hear you like Paul rebuke those who are out of step with the gospel.

Many injustices have occurred since we have known each other. Each one cut me like a knife, and I confess I kept it to myself. I saw you posting about how I shouldn’t feel hurt. You underestimate the sin of racism in America. You can identify individualistic racism, but not structural racism. You don’t believe it is in our seminary and churches. I have seen you question anyone who says otherwise.

Do you remember all those conversations about racial issues? I have enjoyed them all. Thanks for listening to me. But I want you to know I don’t have any special knowledge or skills. In other words, I ain’t got all the answers about racial unity. We have received similar educations. We are both capable of researching and discerning. I have to do research often about racial issues. You can do this too. I would love to talk about your research if you decide to do it. This research will help us develop a broader base for cultural apologetics.

You could start here. If you want to know how to think critically about racial topics from a Christian perspective look up: Jemar Tisby, Thabiti Anyabwile, Dr. Jarvis Williams, Dr. Anthony Bradley, D. A. Horton, and Trillia Newbell. These are only a few.

You are my brothers and sisters in Christ and I desire us to have racial unity. I desire us to see racial reconciliation as a gospel issue. We are the next generation of church, ministry, and denominational leaders. We are being equipped in seminary to reach the lost. We must dwell together in unity to reach the lost. The great commission is a multi-ethnic mission and our collaboration must start in seminary.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15:5-7

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Classmate

Supplemental Resources:

Jarvis Williams: How the Gospel addresses racial issues

Calling The Next Generation to Racial Reconciliation – Trip Lee Message

Racial Reconciliation, the Church, and the Gospel

Black, and White, and Red All Over: Why Racial Reconciliation is a Gospel Issue | Russell Moore

Panel on Race & Reconciliation in USA – Excerpt 3

Part One Letter to a Seminary Professor

P.S. You are welcome to comment, but I also invite you to sit down and talk about anything that you believe requires clarity. 

 

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Part 1: Letter to Seminary Professors

Dear Seminary Professor,

The Lord has used you to sanctify me and enhance my ministry. Thank you for introducing me to Augustine and Justin Martyr. Thank you for teaching me how to do a sermon outline. Thank you for challenging me to survey the whole counsel of God. I am grateful for the work that you do.

But I confess your syllabus is offensive to me. Your syllabus leaves scholars of color outside the gates. It’s segregated. I have listened to your lectures on the Reformation to Modern church history. I did all the assigned reading and book reviews. Where were the faithful African-American believers? 

You taught be about the preaching of Adrian Rogers, Billy Graham, and Joel Gregory. But you left out the prophetic voices from the black church like E.K. Bailey, E.V. Hill, and Gardner C. Taylor. I learned about William Carey and Adoniram Judson from you. You told me they were the first international missionaries. But you excluded George Lisle, an emancipated slave, who went to Jamaica.

You advanced my knowledge of the Old Testament and the New Testament in your classes. So is there a text that allows you to continue to make African-Americans feel like Gentiles? Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 stood up and rebuked Peter for his racism. Stand up and rebuke prominent Christain figures for statements like this:

As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt. … It is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without Negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all?

(George Whitefield)

Keep in the step with the truth of the gospel. Stand up for us in your classroom like Paul. The other option is to do what’s acceptable by the majority like Peter.

You taught me about the Southern Baptist Convention in Baptist Heritage. Our forefathers had strong convictions about holding slaves. They believed in white supremacy. Your classroom could be breeding more white supremacists. You must take action. Teach your students about scholars of color and the value of the black church. Without action, they will continue to believe you have to be white to be right.

I am hurt. I sit in class after class feeling like a Gentile. You want me to conform to your laws and practices for an “A”. You want me to leave my culture and history outside the door of your classroom to be perceived as intellectual. I confess I have sat quietly in your classroom, but I won’t any longer.

The theology of the civil rights moment is relevant in church history. The discussion of racism is part of the doctrine of sin. Proclaiming the bible is not limited to one culture’s way of preaching. Racial reconciliation and social justice deserve a lecture in your ethics class.

Your instruction will influence future pastors and denominational leaders. I beg you don’t leave my people out of your syllabus. Let your students know how diverse the church is. I plead with you, let your students know about the real black church. T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and James Cone don’t represent the black church.

Teach them about faithful believers of color. Use your instruction to bridge the racial divide in the church. Integrate your curriculum. A segregated syllabus creates divided seminary students. Divided seminary students will lead divided churches.

Sincerely,

A concerned Seminary Student

Supplemental Resources:

5 WAYS CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION CAN AVOID WHITE SUPREMACY

ARE ETHNIC MINORITIES EMOTIONALLY SAFE IN WHITE CHRISTIAN SPACES?

RACISM AND ELITISM IN HIGHER EDUCATION

For the City: Race, urban ministry, and cultural engagement

 Feel free to share your thoughts…..

Get Out: Movie Review

I left the theater entertained, but with many thoughts after watching Jordan Peele’s Get Out. SPOILER ALERT: For those who are unfamiliar with the film it is about a young black male (Chris) who is in an interracial relationship with a white woman (Rose). They took a trip to Rose’s parents’ home. While there Chris faced many racial microaggressions from Rose’s parents and guests at their home. He discovered her family was kidnapping black people, hypnotizing them, and selling them to white people. But you should go watch it to get the rest of the details. Get Out left me with many thoughts as a young black male, but it has many insights for believers.

Informed Suspicion

Chris and Rod (Chris’s best friend) were very suspicious of Rose’s parents. They were doubtful her parents were void of prejudice or racism. Their suspicion of the dominant culture (white people) is common among African Americans. This is evident when they are entering into their environment. If you are a member of the dominant culture you believe minorities have no reason to fear you.

But history tells another story. Trusting the dominant culture has lead to exploitation. Trusting the dominant culture has resulted in reservations and the Tuskegee Experiment. What does this mean for the church?

In recent years church planting has become popular, particularly in urban areas. Minorities populate urban areas. Expect informed suspicion if you are seeking to minister to minorities. John 4 gives us a great example of what informed suspicion looks like. The Samaritan woman was suspicious of Jesus. Her suspicion was informed by the history of Jew and Samaritan relationships. This suspicion didn’t stop Jesus and it should not stop us.

Side note: Rejoice if you have gained the trust of minorities in a community. It is a huge accomplishment. If not, pray for God to give your church trust in the community.

Authenticity Reaches People

My dad would vote for Obama a third time if he could,” said Rose. Rose and her dad both told Chris about his political affiliations as an attempt to gain his trust. A couple at the gathering told Chris that they knew Tiger Woods. They were name dropping attempting to make Chris feel comfortable. It may seem acceptable to discuss what you assume black people like, but your assumptions would be based on generalizations.

Before the final stages of Chris’s transformation, he asked the question “Why black people?” He is asking why this group of white people want to transform themselves into black people. The DeAron translation of the response is “Y’all seem better.” I will admit I love black culture and it has a number characteristics that make it unique. Every culture has distinctive features that make it unique and God made them that way. Embrace the culture God has given you.

If you want to evangelize to minorities don’t disqualify yourself (in our eyes) by attempting to imitate behaviors that are associated with black culture. Becoming all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) still requires you to be culturally appropriate. In other words, stay in your lane so some might be saved.

Hope for Interracial Couples

Get Out brought to light several significant struggles an interracial couple can have. The most significant is a lack of understanding about cultural distinctions. For example, Rose was unaware that sometimes black women disagree with interracial relationships. Black men, who date white women sometimes get mean looks that imply “Why is he with her and not a black woman?” I digress if you would like to know more about that click here. The main point is interracial relationships are hard, but not impossible.

I walked out of the theater thinking this film made the viewers think being in an interracial relationship is scary. In case you were wondering it is very unlikely you or your significant other will be hypnotized, auctioned off, and end up in a sunken place. Interracial relationships can be wonderful and flourish.

Interracial relationships can thrive through the power of the gospel. The gospel reconciles cultures and makes us fellow citizens (Ephesian 2:11-22). Gospel-centered compassion makes us love our neighbor, despite history (Luke 10:25-37). The gospel alters how we receive members of the body of Christ (Philemon). The gospel can change your prejudices along with those of your family and friends. Finally, interracial relationships are a reflection of an eschatological reality (Revelation 7:9). They are an earthly picture of what heavenly unity looks like.

Should You Go See It?

Yes, if you are seeking to receive the social commentary and have a discussion about it. Forewarning, it does contain a number curse words.

No, if you are looking for a funny, thrilling, or scary movie. It has a much deeper message than most movies in those selected genres.

Get Out offers many other insights that would be helpful for believers. However, I believe you can get better social commentary from minorities who are part of the body of Christ.

“Why We Can’t Wait?” By Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Take today to ponder the truth of these quotes and how they still apply to today. Ponder how the church can help further the legacy of Dr. King and what part can you play?

These are excerpts taken from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book Why We Can’t Wait?

Wait

“Undeniably, the Negro had been an object of sympathy and wore the scars of deep grievances, but the nation had come to count on him as a creature who could suffer quietly  endure and silently suffer and patiently wait”

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “Wait””

“when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.” (BLM)

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens’ Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the presence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct actions”; who is paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time  and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

America

there is a certain irony in the picture of his (the Negro) country championing freedom in foreign lands and failing to ensure that freedom to twenty million of its own.”

“Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

“It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro with no alternative”

“For too long the depth of racism in American life  has been underestimated.”

“It is this tangled web of prejudice from which many Americans now seek to liberate themselves without realizing now deeply it has been woven into their consciousness.”

“We need a powerful sense of determination to banish the ugly blemish of racism scarring the image of America.”

“The sooner our society admits that the Negro Revolution is no momentary outburst soon to subside into placid passivity, the easier the  future will be for us all.”

Opportunity

“When he seeks opportunity, he is told, in effect, to lift himself by his own bootstraps, advice which does not take into account the fact that he is barefoot.”

Christianity

I suggested that only a “dry as dust” religion prompts a minister to extol the glories of heaven while ignoring the social conditions  that cause men an earthly hell”

“We did not take this radical step without prolonged and prayerful consideration.”

“God’s companionship does not stop at the door of the jail cell.”

“Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that is higher moral law was at stake.”

Silence

“The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of good people”

“Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the  good people.”

Injustice

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice  everywhere.”

Tension

“I am not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth”

White Voices

“A few white voices spoke out boldly, but few people listened with sympathy.”

Revolution

“A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution.”

Solutions

“Solutions to the complex plight of the Negro will not be easy. This does not signify that they are impossible.”

“Unity has never meant uniformity”

“It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years. How then can he be absorbed into the mainstreams of American life if we do not do something special for him now, in order to balance the equation and equip him to compete on a just and equal basis?”

 

Take Time To Be Holy and New Years Resolutions

Take time to be holy.  Many began the year with an unshakable devotion to  New Year’s resolutions, but that devotion will die by February. It is hard to teach a legless dog how to walk.  Often, these resolutions ignore the real issue, sin. Working out will make you a healthy sinner. Getting organized turns you into a put together wretch. Saving more money makes you a rebel with a larger savings account. It is not unrighteous to set resolutions. But they often ignore the sin that lies beneath the behavior. In other words, they seek to change the fruit and not the root. I propose believers should pursue lifelong holiness and not periodical resolutions.

New Year, No Change

44% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions yet, only 8% fulfill them.  The reality is that few individuals have made immediate and significant life changes because of a dramatic New Year’s resolution,” says Paul Tripp. New Year’s resolutions may fuel behavior modification for a while, but they rarely alter our lives. Our flesh is too powerful. Our sin attacks every good intention. We can’t trust ourselves because we are deceitful and sick (Jeremiah 17:9).  We don’t need to pursue a yearly commitment to behavioral modification. We need to pursue a lifelong commit to holiness.

Little Moment of Change

We have all heard the testimonies in church about when God dramatically delivers a person. The story begins with the person telling how they were strung out on drugs, addicted to alcohol, or lived in sexual immorality. Then God saved them and one day they were completely delivered from a particular sin. Praise God he still radically saves people! But these testimonies are the exceptions, not the rule.

Salvation happens in an instant but, sanctification takes a lifetime. Most Christians take small steps to crawl out of the grasp of particular sins, which takes years.  The ideology behind New Year’s resolutions says,  “You have 365 days to change” and if you can’t change in a year you are a failure. Sanctification is a long, hard road that is filled with failure. The recovering alcoholics fail to stay sober numerous days. It is the day-after-day small decisions not to drink that help them have sober days. The journey to human transformation consists of many little steps.

“The fact of the matter is that human transformation is more of a mundane process. Changes typically take place in ten thousand little moments, not one life-altering event.” Paul Tripp

Pursue Holiness

Without holiness, no can please the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). The Lord has called us to be holy in all our conduct and to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). God has predestined us to be holy like him (Romans 8: 29).  The pursuit of holiness requires diligence and effort. It is a lifelong task. God has commanded us to be holy but it seems like an impossible endeavor. How can we become holy throughout our life if we can’t change a sinful behavior in 365 days?

How can we become holy? It is through the wonderful work of the spirit of God and the Word of God called sanctification. The good news is the weight of becoming holy is not completely on us. We do have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), but we are not alone (Matt. 28:20). When we fail on our journey to holiness we can know we are under grace (Romans 6:14) and there is no more condemnation for us (Romans 8:1). The Christian journey is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not about how fast we complete our race but if we are running the race with endurance.

Beloved, let us put aside the pursuit to recreate ourselves in 365 days. Let us pursue the lifelong goal of holiness. If we wage war on our sin our habits will change. Slothfulness will be replaced by biblical productivity. Disorganization will be overcome by a desire to do everything decently and in order. The urge to spend frivolously will be overpowered by the longing to be a good steward of God’s gifts. Pursue holiness to attack the root and change the fruit.

Don’t cancel the gym membership or plan to eat healthier. You don’t have to cancel your plans of becoming more organized. Keep your resolutions but ponder how are they going to help you pursue holiness. 

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;

Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.

By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;

Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

William D. Longstaff

Sources:

http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

http://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/new-year-new-you

Bridges, Jerry. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978.

IF RUSSELL MOORE IS FIRED, “UNTO US” A TRUMP BAPTIST CONVENTION IS BORN

This a thought provoking piece about how we need Russell Moore in our convention. I wouldn’t consider leaving for the aforementioned reasons in this blog. #ISupportRussellMoore

Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

IF RUSSELL MOORE IS FIRED, “UNTO US” A TRUMP BAPTIST CONVENTION IS BORN

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

The first cabinet member that soon-to-be President Donald Trump will fire, may not be in his White House Cabinet. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics, and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC–a cabinet level entity head position within the SBC org chart–will be the first person fired by the direct influence of Donald Trump and his influential supporters within SBC circles, if they are successful in their unprecedented public attempts, to discredit and dismiss from office the most compelling and effective spokesman ever to hold that office in the history of the SBC. The lynch mob in SBC life who is going after Moore are taking their cues from Donald Trump who was among the first to attack Moore with one of his infamous tweets during the primary season:

“Russell Moore is…

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Why We Can’t Wait and Walter Scott

Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “Why We Can’t Waitstill speaks to the postcivil rights black community. Racist signs in the windows have come down, but there are still places we are not welcome. The dogs and the hoses aren’t that popular anymore. We don’t fear those in white sheets as much as we fear those with blue uniforms.

Walter Scott’s death is one of numerous of unarmed black males killed by the police. The case of his shooting ended with the judge declaring it a mistrial. Another life is gone, and no one held liable.  How do King’s words speak to us today?

Waiting

People frequently say in cases like Scott’s we must wait for the details. King writes:

when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”

Nobodiness” is why the Black Lives Matter movement exists because we feel as if our people are nobodies. We are dying in the streets while the shooters walk away unscathed. For example, in New Orleans Joe McKnight died in the streets. The shooter spent 24 hours in jail,  released, and then charged. Mcknight’s  life appeared not to be worth over 24 hours in jail.  It was as if he didn’t murder a brother, uncle, or cousin. It is as if he murdered a nobody. King also writes:  “Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “Wait.”” It is easy to saywait” when you and your people are not being attacked.

Silence Makes A Statement

The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of good people” (MLK)

Throughout history, numerous churches have been quiet about racial issues. Their pro-life statements didn’t extend to the black males shot in their cities. Educational and economic racial disparities weren’t discussed in their mission strategies. Mission organizations learned enough to empathize with those in Africa but not those across tracks. The same is often true now. Silence says these are not my concerns. Silence implies I will let someone else talk about that. Silence means I don’t care. Shame on us if we are silent when our brother and sisters need our voices. We must repent of the silence of Christians.

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the  good people.” (MLK)

Responding

It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city‘s white power structure left the Negro with no alternative” (MLK)

What are our options to responding to racial matters? How should we respond Scott’s mistrial or injustice?  King acknowledges we don’t have that many options that get the majority to listen. Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem. Bilal Powell wears cleats about gun violence. Beyonce performs “Formation” at the Superbowl These are examples of utilizing our options. This is why you have the Black Lives Matter non-violent protest. Trevor Noah  asks, “What is the right way?

People kneel during the anthem and they are told to leave the country. They protest and they are whiners. What are the right methods?

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens’ Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the presence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct actions”; who is paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time  and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Solutions

“Solutions to the complex plight of the Negro will not be easy. This does not signify that they are impossible.” (MLK)

The issues that African-Americans face are difficult to solve, but they are not hopeless. There is not a 3-step process to fix America overnight.  Finding solutions begins with awareness, confession, and action.

It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years. How then can he be absorbed into the mainstreams of American life if we do not do something special for him now, in order to balance the equation and equip him to compete on a just and equal basis?” (MLK)

 BUT GOD

“God’s companionship does not stop at the door of the jail cell.” (MLK)

    African-Americans have a history of oppression. We have been a people who have depended on God to deliver us from oppression. The slaves believed God would free them. Those under the yoke of Jim crow believed God would bring justice. They never believed God left them during the beatings, hoses, verbal abuse, and injustice.   God didn’t leave King when he was sitting in solitary confinement. Immanuel was still with him.

God is still with us. This why Judy Scott confidently proclaims the power of God in light of her son’s mistrial. God’s companionship has not left us in injustice. We should remember God’s presence and role in the fight for justice.