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.
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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….

 

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…..

Three Souls of Black Folk

“So DeAron why do black people (insert action)?”  Before I attended college, I was never asked that question.  My friends and classmates had labeled me a black apologist.  I began to discover that my white friends had different filters for processing information. Our difference of filters caused many discussions. We need more discussions about how we process information in the church.

 Double Consciousness

W.E.B. Du Bois in his book “The Souls of Black Folk”,  introduces the concept of “double consciousness“. Double consciousness is having “warring ideals” within one’s soul.  He likens it to having “two souls”, “two thoughts”,  and “two unreconciled strivings”. The two warring ideals within black people are American ideals and African-American ideals. Schools and media teach us how to be good Americans.  Our families and churches instruct us in the ways of the black community. We attempt to balance these opposing cultures without being an outcast or losing opportunities. We fear Americanization and ethnocentricism. Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness is accurate. I propose black believers have another dimension of consciousness, which is Christian consciousness.

    Christian Consciousness

The war between Americanism and African-Americanism is often tiring because they rarely agree. The Christain consciousness is another opponent for both. Our Americanism and blackness must submit to our Christian consciousness. Romans 14 is an example of how our culture  can influence our Christianity. The Jews in the Roman church upheld holy days and did not eat meat because of their Jewish upbringing. Their Jewish culture and Christian freedom were at odds.

There have been times that I have discovered my thoughts are too ethnocentric or worldly. It is difficult because the Word of God has affected so much of my culture and this country. Our forefathers came to America for religious freedom. The Word of God gave black slaves the hope of freedom. The first book printed in America was the Bible and slaves had a yearning to read just to read it. Black believers have a triple consciousness that causes warring in our members.

Encouragement

Christians of color, our brothers need to hear our voices. They need to know why we are weeping and why we are mourning. They need to know we struggle with singing The Star Spangled Banner and supporting Black Lives Matter. Our brothers need to know we have wrestled with how to think and respond to racial issues. We have failed in responding without error, but we are trying. We must allow them to hear how we process information so they might develop compassion.

To our white brothers and sisters take the time to listen. Trust we have filtered our statements through history, society, and Christianity. We have wrestled before responding. Ask questions so you will comprehend our position(s). Listen before you identify us as heretics, race-baiters, or un-American.

I pray this helps us be slow to speak, quick to listen (James 1:19), speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) so that the body of Christ will be unified in thoughts, words, and deeds.