Racial Healing, Videos That Will Make you Think

TED Talk: How to Overcome our Biases?

Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we’ve seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Vernā Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable. In a funny, impassioned, important talk, she shows us how.

Racial Healing, Videos That Will Make you Think

How Racism Makes Us Sick?

Why does race matter so profoundly for health? David R. Williams developed a scale to measure the impact of discrimination on well-being, going beyond traditional measures like income and education to reveal how factors like implicit bias, residential segregation and negative stereotypes create and sustain inequality. In this eye-opening talk, Williams presents evidence for how racism is producing a rigged system — and offers hopeful examples of programs across the US that are working to dismantle discrimination.



Culture Change, Racial Healing

This is Much Deeper Than The Flag

Gavel and Justice.

People are seeing football players kneeling during the National Anthem and are getting upset,  turning off their televisions, demanding refunds on their NFL Sunday Ticket packages, and burning their favorites player jerseys.  Unfortunately, because people wrongly assume this act of kneeling is about respect or the lack thereof for, the American flag, our great country, or our amazing dedicated military veterans and active duty servants (who are my real heroes), or our perceived unity as a nation.  What gets lost in all these quiet demonstrations are the deeper issues at hand.

I have a higher tolerance for disrespect.  I see the burning of the flag as disrespect.  These protest, started rightly or wrongly, with the right champion or not, as a way to bring attention to a rip in the social justice wormhole.  Athletes have power, they have an influence; they have a powerful voice.  Athletes wanted to draw the nation’s attention to the injustice, lack of fairness, and inequality facing so many in our great country. All the things America is known for, being the land of opportunity, a land of prosperity, a nation where you can come with nothing and become a success, by worldly standards.  That is not true for so many trapped in the dark corners of our urban centers.  That elusive American dream has passed them by, and many are trapped in an American nightmare.

The world sees America as a beacon of freedom and the land of opportunity, but that is not the reality for many of the people I served when I was in urban America.  Far too many, living in the shadows of some of the greatest architectural designs on earth are struggling to survive, and living lives of hopelessness.  Can you imagine that, being hopeless in America?  Their children live in fear for their survival on a daily basis.

In Chicago, we achieved a new milestone.  But it is not a milestone we are having a parade to celebrate.  As a matter of fact, we are trying to bury that story in the newspaper and the media.  Chicago just hit the 500 mark for homicides for the year, it’s September.  Five hundred families have been ripped apart by gun violence.  Has the nation stood up in outrage?  Not that I have heard.  Have we called for an investigation into the causes?  Not that I can find.  Have we started a GoFundMe page to help the victims?  I can’t find that on Facebook.

What we do have is football players taking a knee to remind us that while America is the greatest country on earth, but we are not without our flaws.  We don’t need to burn it down, but we do need to come together to reform it.   What makes America great is that we have the capacity to tackle any problem and solve it if we put our collective minds to it.  It reminds me of what God said in Genesis 11.  When the people came together to build a tower to reach the heavens, God stepped in to stop them, And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”     God is right as always, we can solve the problems plaguing our country.  Maybe the awareness of the problem is just the beginning.  Once we put our collective minds to it there is nothing we can’t accomplish.  And this would be a God-pleasing venture.

A chart showing the violence in Chicago.  This is a story that is getting lost in the debate.


Other related posts:



Racial Healing

Enough Already! It’s​ Time to Defeat Racism

Racism Concept Metal Letterpress Type

When I began this writing journey nearly two years ago, little did I know where God would lead me.  The summer before this writing adventure launched, a teenager named Michael Brown’s unarmed shooting death ripped a hole in the racial universe.  Ferguson, MO started a race riot heard and seen around the world. What made this event different was these riots would go on for weeks raising the tension levels and unrest to high alert.  The tension was felt in every community across the country.  Riots and protest would break out in Baltimore, Dallas, Baton Rouge and Milwaukee after other shootings took place.  The fuse was lit, the powder keg about to explode.

It was out of this that my Bible Study One Nation Under God-Healing Racial Divides was birthed.  This is not a sales pitch.  I toyed with several endings to the study; I wanted to call for a day of reconciliation where we could come together as a nation and all voluntarily lay down the burdens that have been built on mountains of hurt, injustice, and the dehumanization of not just black Americans, but Native Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, and White Americans, we have all been gravely wounded by all this fighting and division.  Recent events have opened this tender wound a new and caused even more hurt.  I don’t have the clout to pull that off and reconciliation is something all parties need to equally desire.  As the Bible study was field tested, it was obvious that would not work.  Several test congregations had the same disappointing response, “Racism is too big a problem to solve. Things will never change.  We just have to deal with it.”  My response was a bit snarky but sincere.  “Well, I see how small your god is, but I am convinced my God is bigger than racism.  If God can solve the sin problem, I am sure He can handle racism.”  I know you who are reading this think how Polly Anna of me.  But here are some verses to consider.

Nothing Is Impossible!

In Genesis at the tower of Babel, the people were building a tower to reach the heavens.  This is what God said, “And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” Genesis 11:6

In Matthew 17:20 when Jesus is talking about faith. “He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

When Jesus is teaching the disciples about salvation, He reminds them in Mark 10:27.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’”

Calling on ALL people of Faith! “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received[a] it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:23-25

If like me, you are fed up with the hateful, destructive, painful impact that racism is having on our country and the world then join with me and take to your knees in prayer.  Pray for an end to racism in your congregations, synagogues, homes, workplaces, in the parks, whenever you see violence breaking out around you, or you hear hateful, divisive speech, pray.  Church leaders lead prayer vigils. Church members pray alone in your small groups.  Join with me and just pray, pray, pray, that God would melt the hearts of those who have hardened their hearts to people who are different from themselves.  Pray that we stop seeing color and start seeing each other as human beings endowed by our Creator, with the right to live out lives in the peaceful pursuit of God’s dream for us, to be a holy nation set apart for a divine purpose, to point the lost and erring to the Savior.   We have the tools to win this fight.  Greater is He who is in us than he who is deceiving the world.


Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Are Statues Really Our Biggest Problem in America?


It is the final weeks of summer in 2017, and the racial tensions have flared up anew.  This time in Charlottesville, Virginia where nineteen people are injured and hospitalized, and one has died: 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Here is how one journalist describes what led up the tragedy, “This spring Charlottesville’s ultra-liberal city council voted to remove an equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee that’s been standing in a park in downtown Charlottesville since 1924 and to change the park’s name from Lee Park to Emancipation Park.”[1]  Historian Arthur Herman

Rolling Stones reports the events this way, “’Just a few blocks from Emancipation Park, where the white supremacist rally had been scheduled, the marchers appear nonviolent but raucous, chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and holding signs like, “Nazi carpetbaggers go home.’”

“This town has grown from its sometimes great but often difficult history and is marching toward an inclusive future,” DMB writes of “hometown.”

Moments later, the crowd hears a loud, sharp thud. People start screaming and running north, up 3rd and 4th streets to Main Street, a seven-block pedestrian-only stretch of restaurants, shops, and bars. On a typical summer Saturday, this historic Virginia city would be teeming with families and tourists, but today it is filled with police officers in riot gear, who form grim lines to block pedestrians’ access to various points along the mall.’”[2]

As enticing as it is to plunge in and demand that we tear down all offensive statues and mistakenly believe that will start to heal our land.  I want you to think deeper than what is only at best a surface and band-aid solution.  Something lies beneath the surface that no matter how we try and bury it keeps resurrecting itself.

The Issue with Statues.

The psalmists give us an unambiguous warning about the nature of images.


Their idols are silver and gold, 


the work of human hands. 


They have mouths, but do not speak; 


eyes, but do not see. 


They have ears, but do not hear; 


noses, but do not smell. 


They have hands, but do not feel; 


feet, but do not walk; 


and they do not make a sound in their throat. 


Those who make them become like them; 


so do all who trust in them.  (Ps 115:4–8)

Here I will risk people reigning down fury on me.  Because people will fire back that, “We are not worshipping these statues.”  Before you attack this point, we should identify and define idolatry.  Idolatry is any “Man-made images or representations worshiped as deities; any natural or manufactured objects worshiped as a deity; anything receiving worship other than the one true God.” – Carl E. DeVries. We tend to think of idols as tiny god-like figures that we bow down to and offer our worship and praise. However, it is any object that we place above the one true God.  In the time of Isaiah, the prophet, he described idols made in human form (Is 40:19, 20; 44:9–17).

The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. Isaiah 44:13

I lay all this out to ask us to take a step back and examine the passion we are putting into this debate.  It is not about the statues, nor about the history, we are trying to preserve.  The deeper under the surface issue is what Satan is doing to our democracy.

As the racial tensions escalate, it is fitting for us to address the heart of the conflict.  Who is the enemy we are fighting?  On the surface, it appears that we are fighting against people who have an issue people of different skin color or nationality.   But are we fighting people with radical beliefs and an ideology that is outside of mainstream America?  You would not believe how many people I have had to unfriend on Facebook because of the toxic political posts.  The solution to healing racial divisions is not as simple as spending more time in authentic, vulnerable, and transparent conversations?  The solution to acknowledge and realize we are in the middle of spiritual warfare.  We are fighting Satan and his minions for the soul of America. We are not blacks people, white people, Hispanics, and Latino people, nor Asians people, first.  No, first we are humans, created by the same Almighty God and labeled by that same God, as good when we were created.  Unfortunately, sin has distorted that once perfect creation, but sin changed it for all humanity equally. The enemy who lurks in the darkness who have you believe somehow that your sinful life is not as bad as your neighbors.


Read the words of Paul in Romans 3, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: 


“None is righteous, no, not one; 


no one understands; 


no one seeks for God. 


All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; 


no one does good, 


not even one.” 


“Their throat is an open grave; 


they use their tongues to deceive.” 


“The venom of asps is under their lips.” 


“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 


“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 


in their paths are ruin and misery, 


and the way of peace they have not known.” 


“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9–18

As the young people might say so don’t get this twisted, we all stand before God the same way.  We appear before Him broken, flawed, sinners, all in need of forgiveness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  As much as share the same fallen condition, we also share the same redemption.  To fight what is ripping our country apart point to the real enemy, Satan.  Call him out in public, in your churches, on your social media pages, in print don’t let his devious actions go about unrecognized because that is where he has the greatest influence.  We have the weapons to win this fight in our country; the power is found in God’s Word and putting on the full armor of God.

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/08/17/charlottesville-never-had-to-happen-how-craven-local-politicians-led-our-nation-into-tragedy.html

[2] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/charlottesville-white-supremacist-rally-erupts-in-violence-w497446

Other posts on race.


Published Work, Racial Healing

A New Bible Study: “One Nation Under God -Healing Racial Divides In America”


We are a nation divided.

This division stems from a lack of communication, empathy, and understanding.

This Bible Study encourages everyone to seek answers to racial tensions in the only place where truth and peace can be found—God’s Word. Healing must begin with Jesus. In this six-session study, you’ll openly communicate and begin the healing process.

Let’s be a nation united—united under God.

Here are a few reviews:
“Pastor Haney has offered the church an honest, heartfelt, and deeply personal study that touches on some of our most tightly held prejudices and divisions. The study is dangerous and risky. It will demand open and honest conversation. Participants will be asked to listen and process information from another’s point of view. The study will likely make a predominately white-Missouri synod feel discomfort as we talk about prejudice, discrimination, hatred, diversity, and divisions. So be it.

Pastor Haney has the right diagnosis despite skin color. The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature are constantly battling against us. More importantly, this study unfolds our true identity in Christ. Those baptized into Christ, white and black, all come as foreigners, adopted children, grafted as outsiders into the very body of Christ. A new identity that allows us to boldly love and serve our neighbor, no matter their color.” -Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of National Mission for the LCMS

“Pastor Keith Haney has a message. It is a message that some may not want to hear but need to hear. In this study, One Nation under God. Healing Racial Divides in America, he calls all to consider carefully the reasons behind the societal conflicts that devastate some communities and confound other communities.

The uniqueness of Pastor Haney’s approach is that he tackles sensitive and difficult issues that arise from within the fallen human heart. The final answers are not political and regulatory but repentance and renewal on both sides of that racial divide. Change in our culture can occur only when we confront our own sinfulness as exposed by the Word of God and live in the gift of forgiveness won for fallen humanity in the Cross and Resurrection. May this contribution to the Church’s direct us precisely to this truth and may the Church lead the way in becoming One Nation under God.”
—The Rev. Daniel L. Gard, Ph.D., President, Concordia University Chicago

“One Nation Under God: Healing Racial Divides in America is biblical, thoughtful, reflective and interactive in its approach to help us heal racial division. This is a wonderful resource for individual congregations and sister congregations to walk and work through the healing process of race and racism in our community as One Nation Under God.”
—Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray, Jr., Director of Black & African Ministry, LCMS Office of National Mission

“Racial issues are always with us in the United States. Government and social agencies have been working for decades to bring about true healing, justice, and peace. And while thanks are to God, there’s been some progress, overall those efforts are far from successful. The only place this fallen world can find true healing, justice and peace are God’s Word: the wisdom of the cross and all that comes with it. Rev. Keith Haney’s Bible study takes us through many applicable Scriptures, and that is what we all need for the healing we so deeply need in this country. I gladly endorse One Nation Under God.”
—Rev. Dan P. Gilbert, President, Northern Illinois District


Christian Family, Racial Healing

How to Raise Children Who Embrace Diversity


“Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”  Nelson Mandela

If you are reading this as a parent, you have an earnest and sincere desire to leave a lasting legacy in your family line that will improve the trajectory of diversity in the world.  But if you are also like many parents that do not have diversity in your current ancestry, the glaring question is, “Where do I begin?”  Let me start by asking you some questions to ponder.

  1. What attitudes did the members of your family and your friends in school have toward people with a different nationality?

This may be a very sensitive topic, but I pose this question because you will need to dig deep to figure out what bias you are bringing into the picture.  If the answers to this question are difficult to hear, do not lose heart.  The amazing thing about what God does in the individual heart is that the attitudes of your family and friends are not necessarily yours.  While it is true that these beliefs were influential because they came from family and friends whose opinions we valued, these attitudes were often the result of misinformation, possibly based on some bad experiences with other people.  You have recognized that this is not what you want to instill and engrain in your children.  Now, you have an opportunity to take what you have learned and seen and be a blessing, a light to those who still carry negative views, while at the same time teaching your precious little ones to embrace people who are different.

If, on the other hand, those aspects of family and friends were positive, take the time to explore what mindset or family attitude led to that approach. It could be a good model to replicate with your family.

  1. What role are you playing in widening the racial divide in America? Are you passing along generalities and stereotypes that further this division? Are you judging a whole group of people based on the words or actions of a few? Have you remained silent when you could have spoken up to stop divisive talk?

You may have heard it said, “Do what I say don’t do what you see me doing?” Yeah, that sounds good, but the most impactful sermon you preach to your children is the one they watch you modeling daily.  You can speak all the flowery language you want, but if your actions don’t match your words, you are wasting your time and theirs.  They will follow your walk far more closely than your words.

Here is a very practical exercise for you and your family. Identify one person of a different ethnicity, national background, skin color or that you would typically struggle to love and begin building or improving an existing relationship. Add the person to your family’s daily prayer list, and ask God to open your eyes to opportunities and give you the wisdom to build a relationship with that person.

Make a list of ways you can reach out to this neighbor. Look for areas of common interest, ground on which you can stand with this neighbor.

It is my heartfelt belief that many people have good intentions, that they care about the racial divisions in our country. I also believe many have no idea how to help and where to start. And deep down, many think the racial division has reached a point that it is too far gone to save. I hope that is not true. If we give up, the outcomes are bleak.

Parents, you have a tremendous opportunity to share the hope we Christians have in Christ, the Light of the World, with your children as we create a foundation for future generations who embrace the beauty of diversity.  Help your offspring become that vessel that shines brightly in the lives of all God’s people. The forces speaking against unity and reconciliation resist the light of Christianity because it is a threat to their way of life. It is a threat to the darkness of sin. So, the world will hate Christians just as it hated Jesus. But remember Jesus, who rose victoriously from the grave. The expectant joy of the resurrection is a source of comfort for Christians. Jesus is saying, “Look to the clouds; your Savior will return.” Keep your ears open to the voice of the Bridegroom and drown out the voices in the world. “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, this joy of mine is now complete” (John 3:29).




Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Is There Life for Black America After President Obama?

White House.


On November 4, 2008, the 56th quadrennial United States presidential election was held. A changing of the guard was taking place. Republican President George W. Bush’s policies faced a stunning defeat and America was connecting with the campaign slogan of the junior Democratic Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.  America seemed invigorated with the idea of “Hope and Change.” Both presidential election campaign candidates ran on a platform of change and reform of the Washington establishment. Few could predict the emerging economic collapse that would provide an October surprise in what seemed up until that point to be a very tight election.

Democrat Barack Obama would take advantage of that moment and go on to defeat Republican John McCain. The election would come down to nine key swing states.  Those nine that had voted for George W. Bush changed allegiance in the 2008 election. In the end, the vote count was a sweeping landslide victory for Obama who received 365 electoral votes, to John McCain’s 173.  With that, the country would be forever changed, or would it?

For black American’s we finally had our champion.  I remember seeing older black Americans in tears.  Those blacks who remembered the injustice of the Civil Rights movement, the attacks of the dogs on innocent citizens, the arrest of law-abiding citizens who dared to speak out, and the unfair laws, saw in the election of 2008 the dawning of a new day.  I hear people shouting, “It is our time.”  Lots of hope was placed on the shoulders of this young junior Senator from Illinois.  He became a Messiah figure to some, a Santa Claus to others, but the hope of the entire black community fell on his shoulders.  That is a lot of weight for one man to carry.  How could he possibly live up to all those expectations?  I say that to lay out the point of this post.  Now that President Obama is no longer in office what happens to black Americans now?  There are three crucial questions to address as I see the future: 1) Do we return to business as usual? The pre-Obama years. Or 2) What progress have we made? Is it enough progress that there is no turning back? And 3) Where do we go from here?

1)    Do we return to business as usual?

Maybe it is just me but it appears rightly, or wrongly all the news lately has shifted.  We are not talking about the problems of race in America nearly as much today as we did during President Obama’s tenure.  Now I am not saying that is a bad thing, but did we suddenly solve all the problems plaguing our urban areas?  Have the shootings magically stopped or do those things no longer fit our narrative?   Have the poor suddenly found jobs and our young people trapped in dangerous situations all moved to the burbs? I think Jesus would remind us that probably is not the case.  In Matthew 26:11 when people were complaining about a sinful woman anointing Jesus feet with expensive perfume, Jesus replied about the seemly excessively wasteful gesture, “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”  That would give us some indication that the problems have not miraculously been solved.  Chances are things have just drifted back to where they were before.  People are still suffering, but now there is no one to raise awareness to the problems.  So, the message is “suffer in silence, please.  I have don’t have time to deal with it.  We have bigger fish to fry.”

2)    What progress have we made?

This is the statistical section of the article.  I will try not to go too crazy.

In the areas of education, employment:

  • Eighty Percent (80%) of African Americans over age 25 have high school diplomas. The average number of African Americans that have at least a bachelor’s degree increased two percentage points to 19% since the year 2000. This, however, is still ten percentage points lower than the national average.
  • Although African Americans have an unemployment rate almost double that of the overall population, the black workforce is just as diverse. Because the federal government was one of the first to integrate, African Americans have been over-represented in that sector.
  • More than 20% of the black working population over 16 years old are employees of the federal, state, or local government which is just over five percentage points higher than the national average. On the other end, a much smaller percentage of African Americans are self-employed (3.6%) than the national average of 6.2%.
  • Black women have made the greatest strides recently. In 2011 33% of employed black women had jobs in management or professional occupations compared to 23% of working black men. As a matter of fact, 64% of working African American women hold “white collar” occupations compared to 50% of African American men. Thirty-six percent of working black men hold “blue collar” occupations compared to 8% of black women.
  • Median Income “is the amount which divides the income distribution into two equal groups, ½ having income above median and ½ having income below the median.” The real median household income for all households in 2009 was $49,777; the Black median household income is $29,328 as of 2010. As of 2009, it was $32,584.
  • *All statistics used above are from the US Census Bureau 2008 – 2011 American Community Survey

Just a bit of hard data to show that while in some areas things have gotten better we are by no means living in a utopian time for black (or any other middle-class Americans to be perfectly honest).

3)    Where do we go from here?

In my humble opinion, we need to continue to work together for solutions to society’s problems.  Jesus has a chilling reminder to Christians about our responsibilities in Matthew 25:34-40, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”  Our mission does not just have pity on those in need but to get our hands dirty and our hearts broken when we see the need and to act.  We are called to care.  It is not the job of one President nor the government to care for those in need; it is our Christian duty and privilege.  We get the honor to make a difference.

Racial Healing

How Students of Color Confront Impostor Syndrome

RaciaAs a black woman from a tough part of the Bronx who grew up to attain all the markers of academic prestige, Dena Simmons knows that for students of color, success in school sometimes comes at the cost of living authentically. Now an educator herself, Simmons discusses how we might create a classroom that makes all students feel proud of who they are. “Every child deserves an education that guarantees the safety to learn in the comfort of one’s own skin,” she says.

Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Names Have Consequences


In the ancient world, names had greater meaning. Your name could define your divine purpose. It could define how you would be a blessing to the world or fulfill a generational punishment. For example, Ishmael which means, “God (El) has hearkened,” suggests that “a child so named was regarded as the fulfillment of a divine promise.”

Eldest son of Abraham by his concubine Hagar; born when Abraham was eighty-sixed years of age (Genesis 16:15-16), God promised Abraham that His blessing should be upon Ishmael, who, He foretold, would beget twelve princes and would become a great nation (Genesis 17:18, 20). Ishmael was circumcised at the age of thirteen (Gen 17:23-26). When Sarah saw Ishmael mocking her son Isaac, his brother, younger by fourteen years, she insisted that Abraham cast out Ishmael and his slave-mother. Abraham reluctantly yielded, having provided them with bread and a bottle of water. Ishmael was about to die of thirst when an angel showed his mother a well, repeating to her at the same time that Ishmael would become a great nation. Ishmael dwelt in the wilderness, apparently, of Beer-sheba, where he became a skillful archer; later he settled in the wilderness of Paran, where his mother took him a wife from Egypt (Gen. 21:8-21) [1]

He fathered the nomadic Arab nations. He was named to be a child of the promise. However, his life did not turn out the way he and his mother thought, but he did birth a great nation. Ishmael did his part to help fulfill God’s promise to prosper him. He realized the importance of family and had 12 sons. Their warrior tribes eventually inhabited most of the countries in the Middle East.

Then there is Joshua. Joshua began his life as an Egyptian slave. He lived under cruel Egyptian taskmasters but did not let that define who he was. Joshua rose to be the leader of Israel. He was faithful and obedient to God. Moses gave Hosea son of Nun a new name that would redefine his calling from God. He would be called Joshua (Yeshua in Hebrew) means “the Lord is Salvation.” This name indicated that he would serve as a “type,” or picture, of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

My favorite name is Emmanuel, (God with us). How fitting a name for Jesus Christ. When the disciples asked about the Father in John 14, I love Jesus’ response. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” John 14:6-10

Jesus’ name not only described who He was but also why He came. He came to be a perfect replacement for humankind and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin.

Today names still matter. They still have the power to define, empower or demoralize whole groups of people. For example, the word, “black” is described on Wikipedia as, “the darkest color resulting from the absence or complete absorption of light. In the Roman Empire, it became the color of mourning, and over the centuries it was frequently associated with death, evil, witches and magic. According to surveys in Europe and North America, it is the color most commonly associated with mourning, the end, secrets, magic, force, violence, evil and elegance.” Now just stop and think about this for a moment. We used that word to define an entire race of people. “Black Americans” are often feared and associated with force, violence, and evil. Did you ever stop to think that possibility we are projecting the name and its characteristics onto an entire race of people?

Now take the word “white” using the same source, Wikipedia describes “white” as, “a color without hue. White is one of the most common colors in nature. The color of sunlight, snow, milk, chalk, limestone and other common materials. In many cultures, white signifies purity, innocence, and light and is the symbolic opposite of black, or darkness. According to the surveys in Europe and the United States, it is the color most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude.”

Do you notice the contrast? One is dangerous, evil and violent while the other name points to purity and all things good. If we allow ourselves and our races to be defined by these labels you can see what happens when we live up to those definitions. One side is good the other is evil, so this racial division only grows wider.

Our names personally given to us, get lost when we are defined by our race, or gender or sexual preference. For us to get beyond the stereotypes, we must ditch these social identities. There are no black or white people. There are Sarahs, Thomases, Shamika and Jamaals. We are not the names nor the character traits associated with the titles, “black” and “white.” We were not all created the same. We are as unique and different as the snowflakes, clouds in the sky and the blades of grass. Each of us comes from diverse backgrounds and varied experiences. We are individuals, created by the hands of God, the master artist. For us to shatter the tensions of race, we must see each person as an individual, not a group. Names have consequences and so do perceptions.

My author page is up and running. You can click on it and get a free sample of lesson one. Check it out. The Bible study will be released on March 21st my father’s birthday. Wow, now that is a God-thing. Here is a new endorsement. “The study is dangerous and risky. It will demand open and honest conversation. . . . The study will likely make a predominately white-Missouri synod feel discomfort as we talk about prejudice, discrimination, hatred, diversity, and divisions. So be it.”
—Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of National Mission for the LCMS

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8251-ishmael