WE DON’T GO THERE: RACIAL RECONCILIATION AND THE GOSPEL

We don’t go there.” My mom told me this when I told her I was going to a local Southern Baptist church in my hometown for the first time. I knew what she meant. She meant that the church had a history of restricting black people from their services. She meant you would not fit in there. She meant people would look at you as if you didn’t belong there. Despite her warning, I said, “Well, I am going.”

Southern Baptists have a sinful past. Convictions about slavery resulted in the formation of the SBC. Our denominational leaders defended the right to own black people as property. We have a history of excluding African-Americans from our churches. Southern Baptists opposed and/or didn’t support the Civil Rights Movement.[1] 

There are still churches where African-Americans are not welcome. Churches continue to fire staff because of the church’s racism. Many churches are still reluctant to speak up for equality and injustice. In the past, we thought racial reconciliation was a social issue. We willingly gave the task to the secular world. Racial Reconciliation is a Christian issue, but more than that it is a Gospel issue.

The Gospel Speaks to Racial Reconciliation

In Antioch, Peter began eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles. Then the Jews came to town and Peter changed. He began to withdraw from the Gentiles. He feared his circumcised brothers, which even caused Barnabas to act hypocritically.  They were afraid the Jews would think they were associating with Gentile sinners.

Paul was so outraged by Peter’s behavior that he rebuked Peter in front of everyone. Paul comments about their conduct saying their “conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel,” (Galatians 2:14). This comment implies the Gospel speaks to racial reconciliation and racism.

The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14) and now we are fellow citizens of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). God has provided us with a message that brings together even those who have a history of hating one another. No philosophy or secular idea has the power of our Gospel. We have a message that reconciles. It reconciles people to God and people to one another.

Resolved

In 1996, Southern Baptist resolved “to pursue racial reconciliation in all our relationships, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ.” [2] Racial Reconciliation begins with listening to brothers and sisters in Christ from various ethnicities.

Listen to learn.

One conversation is not the final solution, but one of many can help in discerning it. Are we resolved to do so? Church, we can’t change yesterday, but we can set the pace for tomorrow. We can’t allow the past and cultural differences to prevent the unity of God’s people.

When my mom said “We don’t go there” she wanted the past to prevent me from going to that church. After the warning, I attended that church. That day I had the opportunity to see an African-American deacon preach. I could have missed seeing someone who was once not allowed in the services preach there. We must remember the past but not let it prevent unity.

I know the SBC used to prevent my people from membership in their churches. I know they fought for the right to have slaves.

But I refuse to let that prevent the unity of the Body of Christ. I am resolved to pursue racial reconciliation. I urge you to join me in the pursuit of uniting God’s people through the power of the Gospel. This must be an intentional effort or it could be said about your church, ministry, or seminary that “We don’t go there.”

References

Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention Atlanta, Georgia – 1995

http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/899/resolution-on-racial-reconciliation-on-the-150th-anniversary-of-the-southern-baptist-convention

 

[2] Ibid

 

 

Originally Posted on Geaux Therefore

 

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What Are 5 Facts I Want My White Friends to Know?

Dear White Friends,

I have been a minority in many white settings for several years. I have been studying your culture. I have listened to your music and watched your movies. I have learned your terminology. Minorities have been studying your culture for years. I would argue we know more about you than you know about us.

Our country continues to have racial tension, and you often wonder how do I respond as a white person?  Or what should I be aware of? Let me offer you 5 things to be of aware in this post and five ways to respond in the next post. 

1) You Stereotype Black People

  You question our blackness, which demonstrates a narrow view of black culture.  You call us Oreos (black on the outside and white on the inside), which displays you have a stereotypical view of black people. How prideful is it that you tell black people what blackness is?

Black people come in all shapes, sizes, shades, and cultures. Kendrick Lamar and Darius Rucker have cultural differences but they are both black. Heed the words of Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air “Black is not something I am trying to be, black is what I am.”

2)  Your White Shame is Worthless

Please, stop apologizing for being white. God made you white. He placed you in your ethnic group for a reason. Brothers and Sisters, you are a part of an ethnic group and don’t forget that. You carry the heritage placed on you by history. You have privilege. You can deny all the evil your people have done, but history remains. You can’t escape history. Those who ignore history will repeat it. Don’t ignore it, learn from it. Friends stop fantasizing about being a minority and embrace who God has made you.

3) Your News Sources Are Homogeneous 

The words of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal are not gospel.  Bipartisan news sources are hard to find. So read various new sources to have an informed opinion. I remember researching the Philando Castile shooting on various news sites. I noticed several of them focused more on his history with the police and the others focused on who he was. Conservative news sources alone will hinder your understanding of racial issues. Try reading NBC Black or Huffington Post Black Voices. Diversify your News feed. 

4) Your Black and Brown Brothers Don’t Have All the Answers

We don’t know the answers to all the racial issues in America. We have to do research too. I want you to know you can do the same research and study like we do. Friends, I have gone to the same institutions you have. We have the same training. Don’t make me do all the work when we have the same resources available to us. I can give you a starting point to narrow it down then you can began to research. Don’t hire minorities in your church and expect them to have solutions for your racial issues. The pressure is overwhelming.

5) We Love Our Folks

In Romans 9:3 Paul says he would endure the wrath of God if his kinfolk could be saved. Paul loved his kinsmen. We love our people. We love to see them succeed and we will champion them, which doesn’t mean we agree with everything they do or say. We have endured so much as a people and we love to see progress. We hate to see them fall. We despise hearing of black celebrity scandals. We deplore hearing about the unjust death of one of our own. It doesn’t matter whether we know them or not. Their geographic location doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are one of ours.  We want to see fewer people of color in poverty and prison. Our desire is to see more scholars, doctors, and judges who represent us. Don’t worry we are not planning a societal takeover. We just want our people to flourish. This is why we say #BlackLivesMatter. We don’t consider other lives inferior. Please, stop saying All Lives Matter it is an insult to our intelligence and it is offensive.  But we want people to know black lives matter too. I am not advocating for the organization, but I am advocating for the statement. For more on that checkout Dr. Carl Ellis’s blog.

Stay Tuned for Part 2……

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

Food For Thought: How Tacos Remind Us of Jesus and the Church

All creation speaks of God even tacos. Animals tell us he is a creative Creator. The mountains tell us he is a strong Savior. Oceans remind us of how expansive our God is. What do tacos tell us about God? 

One fact you should know is that my personal conviction is tacos are insufficient without sauce. I don’t intend to offend my brother and sisters who are sauceless sinners. I do believe you ought to know that because it will affect how I exegete tacos. Tacos remind me of four theological truths. 

The Shell Defines the Taco: Jesus Defines the Church

What do you call the combination of meat, lettuce, and cheese? It could be a salad, a bunless burger or a lettuce wrap. Could we call it a taco? No. The distinctive aspect of a taco is the shell because it defines the taco. Shelless tacos don’t exist. 

Christ is our taco shell. He is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). There is no church without Christ. An assembly without Christ as the head is an organization or institution, but it is far from a church. The culture has no authority to define what is a church. Numbers, ministries, and services don’t define a church, only Jesus.  Jesusless churches don’t exist. 

The Shell Holds the Ingredients Together: Jesus Hold Us Together

Tacos are filled with beef, shrimp, pork, fish, and countless other items. The ingredients inside the taco may vary, but all tacos are held together by a shell. The shell upholds the ingredients and prevents them from separating. 

Jesus holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). The Lord holds the universe in place with his righteous omnipotent hand. He also holds the church together. Christ is our cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6).  The body of Christ consists of people from various nations, tribes, and languages. Our differences could cause major divisions, but Christ holds us together. Sharing demographics doesn’t mean your church will stay together either. It takes Jesus to keep selfish sinners loving each other. Praise the Lord that his Church has not died out because he holds it together. Praise the Lord he can unite people from all across the world and hold them together. We worship in different buildings in different ways, but we share Jesus who holds us together.

Think Outside the Bun: Hold to the Fundamentals

For years Taco Bell has had the slogan “think outside the bun.” Taco Bell’s menu has changed many times over the years. They continue to introduce us to new tacos and burritos. Several of their menu items have been outlandish, but they haven’t had a bun. They have changed, but they hold fast to their fundamental beliefs.

Beloved, the culture has changed. Church attendance has decreased, but don’t shape your service for unbelievers to feel comfortable. We must update our evangelism strategies, but don’t try business tactics to win a soul. 

Church, remember the gospel.  Hold on to the fundamental truths of the gospel. The culture is changing.  It is tempting to change the fundamentals to get a bigger crowd, but the gospel is the only power unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  The ministries and the services may change but don’t let our gospel.

Don’t Forget the Sauce: Remember the Holy Spirit

Several years ago I took a trip to taco bell and forgot to get sauce. I ate my tacos but all I could think about was “I wish I had some sauce.” The sauce adds flavor to the taco. The sauce sinks into the open spaces within ingredients of the taco and fills them. Any taco that lacks sauce is incomplete.

I am aware each analogy of the trinity falls short and this one will also. Before you label me heretic hear me out. Christ is the shell and the Holy Spirit is the sauce. Christ upholds the church and the Spirit empowers the church. The Spirit sinks into every part of our lives. The church is led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit fills the church (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit gives us words to speak (John 16:13). He gives us the power to not live by the flesh (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit of God gives us flavor.  Believers, remember you have access to the Spirit of God. In conclusion, brothers and sister don’t forget the sauce.

Photo by Christine Siracusa on Unsplash

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….