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

 

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.

Praise the Lord I Can Sing….

How shall we sing the Lord‘s song in a foreign land? (Psalms 137: 4 ESV)

Growing up I always was reminded of my race, which allowed me to be aware of those who were of a different race around me. One way my family, school and church would remind of my race was to bring up slavery and black history. Most of my life I heard about the hardships of slavery, the racism of the south, and civil rights leaders. However, I also learned how they sang. They sung to songs like Wade in the Water, Oh, Freedom, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, and We Shall Overcome. They sang these songs while often abused, oppressed, dehumanized, beaten, and seemingly hopeless. Although, they sang these songs with hope that one day they will escape their temporary hardships.

The scripture in Psalm 137 is in reference to the exile of the Israelites and how they remember Jerusalem. They remember the temple or the house of the LORD. They were away from the place they called home, which was destroyed. The temple they remembered was demolished and they were taken captive. They were down cast and in a state of deep sadness. Their captors asked them to sing one of the songs of Zion in a land far from home. Israel was haunted by the desire to be back in the land they loved.

Often times I survey the news headlines and the condition of the world is depressing. This world still is plagued with poverty, oppression, abuse, illness, disaster,death, and sin. We have all been affected one way or another by this. There is no where you can run or hide in this world to escape it. As believers we know we have a inheritance that awaits in a place not made or contaminated by the sickness of this world. The news is if we are believers we have reason to sing because we know this world is corrupted, sinful, and temporary. We have reason to sing because of 2 Corinthians 5:1

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

However, if the hope of Christ did not flood my soul  and I had a accurate view of the condition of the world, no song would come from my lips. I would live too downcast to sing a song knowing this world is full of wickedness and it would come to an end. The knowledge of pain and suffering would haunt my mind knowing it would always be this way. The thoughts of my death would make me hesitate to close my eyes.

BUT, Praise the Lord, I can sing now because I know the truth. I can sing the Old Negro Spiritual with joy:

Soon-a will be done a-with the troubles of the world
Troubles of the world, troubles of the world
Soon-a will be done a-with the troubles of the world
Goin’ home to live with God

Amen.