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

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.

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)

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.