Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

It’s Time Church To Stand and Speak Out!

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Dear Christian Church,

As I look at the racial pain all around and the way it is portrayed in the national media, it saddens me. The tone is so negative, and it is feeding into the darkness that is already out there in our sin-sick world. I don’t  expect the world to have real solutions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dear Church, especially the Black Church, just as you answered the call in the Civil Rights Movement, you have a pivotal role to play. You have the Light. You know the only real Love. The world is lost without your voice. Without your direction. It is time to stand and lead. Now is the time to speak out.

Sincerely,

Those looking for Answers.

The writer of Ecclesiastes shares these words of wisdom,

“There is a time for everything.

A time to tear apart and

a time to sew together,

a time to keep quiet and

a time to speak out.” Ecclesiastes 3 (ESV)

There are two things the Christian church must do.

  • Identify the real enemy in the racial divide.

Take a step back from the emotional ties you have to this issue of racial divisions and look at the bigger picture.  Make sure you are asking the right question. Who benefits most from this problem getting ramped up and intensifying?  America isn’t winning.  The communities that are under attack are not winning.  The police, who are on being slain on a daily basis and their broken families are not winning. For the cops who have to deal with the new reality that every decision, every traffic stop, or response to a domestic dispute depending on how that call ends could face scrutiny, or now death are not winning.

Black America who feels the American dream has left them behind are not winning. And the white America that wants to help solve the problem is afraid to speak out for fear of being called a racist is not winning.

So, all those groups seeking solutions, searching for a path forward and are lost in the midst of this tension.  We are living in a broken world, and the racial issues only serve as a stark reminder of our need for a Savior, a healer, a reconciler.  There is a spiritual reason behind this racial rift.  Church leaders you have the power to change things.  Our Lord and Savior armed you with the spiritual weapons of God.  Battle Satan’s lies the way Jesus did with the truth of the Scripture.  All people have value because we are created by the same One True God. We all begin our journey of the foot of the cross and end our trip at the grave.  The dash in between in our legacy.  Racism devalues people.  Our color-blind God reminds us that all lives matter. The apostle Paul tells us of how God sees us in Galatians 3, “26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”

 The good news for us is that we have all we need to win this battle.  We need to be aware of who is the enemy, and the tools required to defeat him. Christ has broken down racial doors and overcomes divisive thinking by creating for Himself a new nation through His death and resurrection.

 

  • Commit to Reconciliation

The divide did not happen overnight, and it can’t be solved quickly.  The process will take time. You don’t just get back to business as usual.  You need to repent and see a turning away from wrong. You need to take small steps forward, to look for little windows of progress. Yes, there will be setbacks.  But if the relationship is worth saving you don’t give up.  The real question in all this: “Is the racial divide worth repairing?”  If so the church needs to lead the way.   We preach and teach reconciliation every Sunday, now we need to model it, lead it, and never lose hope in the power of it.

A resource to help the conversation in your church or small group.

http://books.cph.org/healing-racial-divides-in-america/

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Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Warning: Your Labels​ Have Consequences

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In the ancient world, names had more significant meaning. Your name could define your divine purpose. It could describe 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 in 2017 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, CEO of LCEF

http://books.cph.org/healing-racial-divides-in-america/

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

Caught Between Two Worlds, Racial Healing

Are Statues Really Our Biggest Problem in America?

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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.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/03/23/racial-healing-where-do-we-go-from-here/

Caught Between Two Worlds, Search For Identity

Fearfully Made

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Growing up black in America comes with a healthy dose of fear.

Looking back I don’t know exactly at what age the veil of innocence was lifted, and I became aware that I was different from other people around me. The most vivid memory was when I was in the Third Grade.

We were playing this paper fortune telling game. In the game, you would pick a series of numbers and then letters. Once that was complete, the paper fortune-teller would reveal your true love. What the heck, I was game. Let fate decide who my heart was swooning after. It landed on a young lady named Cindy. She was quite a looker. Fate had done a pretty decent job. Cindy was a very sweet little blonde cutie. So I asked Cindy to be my girl, and she agreed. Fate had picked correctly. I was on cloud nine. I could not wait to get home and share the news with mom. When I did my mother, she seemed less than, pleased. As a matter of fact looking back on it the color sort of went out of her cheeks. She did not say much. I thought she would be as happy as I was, but that was not the case.

Maybe mom just did understand what a monumental event it was to have your first girlfriend. I knew my dad would understand? So when dad came home, I repeated this story and again, he seemed more excited. Then mom calls him into a closed door meeting to discuss this situation. When he comes out from this executive session, his spirit looked downcast. What could Mom have said to change his mood so quickly? He came out knelt down and looked me straight in the eye and man to man he said, “Son, are you trying to get us killed?” I didn’t get it. I didn’t know that some girls were off limits. My heart was shaken, but Cindy was unique enough that I was willing to buck the system. When she came back to school the next day her parents also had a similar response. Our young romance was short-lived. I discovered that day that color does matter. It was a hard lesson, a painful awakening. My innocent little world was shocked to the very core. It was the beginning of many lessons I would learn.

This event took place in the early seventies. Now some of you might be thinking; this should not have been an issue. On July 2, 1964, the Civil Right Amendment was passed. That landmark piece of legislation granted these new provisions. It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unfair practices in voter registration requirements. Racial segregation in schools, at the workplace that served the general public. So why was this a problem? I was just trying to advance race relations. It was too soon I guess; the law does not change hearts I suppose. That event opened my eyes that day. The veil of innocence ripped off my eyes.

To be honest, at some point in our lives, the mask comes off of all of our eyes. For some races, that unveiling accompanies some stronger realities. Once that veil comes off, I started to notice how many of my people live their lives daily in fear. Fear is a strange emotion to have to fight on a daily basis.

I have included a link to an article on 10 Things Black people fear. Here is the opening of that section:

“When black people wake up and begin the day, we have a broad range of issues we have to think about before leaving our homes. Will a police officer kill us today? Or, will some George Zimmerman vigilante see us as a threat in our neighborhoods and kill us? We brace ourselves for those white colleagues who are pissed Barack Obama won both elections and took out their racist rage on us. When we drive our cars, we have to wonder if we’ll be pulled over because our cars look too expensive for a black person to be driving. If we’re poor and sick, we wonder if we’ll be able to be treated for our illness. We have a lot on our minds, and sometimes it’s overwhelming.”

My eyes became open to the reality that people don’t see me as I see myself, a hard working honest man, who like everyone else wants the best for my family. I have learned what it feels like to live every day of my life with a healthy dose of fear. I would encourage you to read the article by Terrell Star. You may want to argue with his points or his stats or just dismiss all this as ridiculous.

Let me share with you a typical experience I have when I walk into a department store. When I walk into a department store, I get a lot of attention. The sales people are too attentive to my needs. They come over every few minutes and ask if I need help. They are never more than an arm’s length away just in case I have a need. If it appears as though I am struggling to decide on a sale they are Johnnie-on-the-spot to offer help. Just to make sure my I can get in and out of their store before they are the ones who have to close. Coincidence? I think not. My wife, who is of German descent never noticed this until we went shopping together. I said to her, “You go over there, and watch this” What I just described happens time and time again. Is it any wonder, black people are fearful? People just assume we are up to no good. They are waiting to catch us doing something.

Imagine living every day with that burden, that lack of trust, that degree of suspension. It is enough to make anyone crazy. Every day I discovered life for me on this plant were going to twice as hard as my white counterpart the dance began. I know I have to work twice as hard. In my vocation, I serve in one of 35 districts in my tribe. Those districts oversee 6,105 member congregations around the United States. I am the only African American pastor serving full-time on one of the 35 district staffs. This position while a huge blessing also comes at a huge price. It places a tremendous burden on me daily to prove I deserve it. I have to perform at twice the level of my counterparts to prove I am worthy of that position. That I did not receive it, nor I am keeping it based on the color of my skin. I live in daily with the fear of losing my job and having to try and find employment again. There are few opportunities to serve my tribe, for a person of color. My family spent the last 13 years in cramped housing in some of the toughest urban areas. I served many congregations that were five deaths away from closing their doors. I did so without complaint and gave them everything I had. But my family lived in fear of the crime around us, the influences around us. In fear that there was a higher probability, that one of my teenage sons would not come home one night. That kind of fear makes you unhealthy.

When everywhere you go people follow you, suspect you, are afraid of you, it wears on you. I remember going to a church in my tribe one Sunday. I have been to this church many times during the week, but never on a Sunday. So I knew my way around. I got up to go the bathroom, and two older white elders followed me out the door and asked me, “Do you need help?” My sarcastic response was, “No, I got this. I have done it many times before.” I would love to claim this was the exception but it happens to black people so often we are just used to it. But is that the way is should be? Should we live in a country afraid of the fact that our lives, families lives could destroy in the blink of an eye?

One traffic stop gone wrong. One case of mistaken identity. One wrong turn in the wrong neighborhood. One job loss. We live life always on the edge, always in fear. It makes people jumpy. Nervous people look dangerous, dangerous looking black people get hurt. This culture that we live in daily can be difficult to navigate if you are black.

Until we as a united society can create an atmosphere of trust and safety, we will have an entire race of people living in constant fear. We can change that. We can make this country a welcoming place for all Americans, but it takes us coming together as a people. Not to point blame or ignoring the realities, but we need to get together, to work together, to problem-solve together. We are so much stronger together that living in fear of each other. God made us all fearfully yet wonderfully made. Can’t we celebrate that fact that God made all the little children of the world? Red, yellow, black and white, they are indeed beauty in HIS site. Because God made all the children, He sees no difference. We need to look at each other through God’s eyes. Then and only then can we not see color!

Someone asked me so how do we fix this? So, this series has now been turned into a Bible Study has been released.

Here is the link:
https://www.cph.org/p-31186-one-nation-under-god-healing-racial-divides-in-america-downloadable.aspx?_hsenc=p2ANqtz–4pCH1YTtIWrvsc-jNn3DYZtK-wEnh4acDrAgDwLbZ-kfqSL5z9koDTCAa3U2S6Wn18ahaaDg4zRNxSHq3c9GvV4O9dQ&_hsmi=2&utm_campaign=Healing%20Racial%20Division&utm_content=51187451&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

Other posts in this series can be found on the blog under the category of Caught Between Two Worlds:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/12/how-guilt-feeds-racial-divison/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/07/diversity-in-the-church/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/05/dealing-with-race-in-america/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/21/how-to-see-beyond-color/

Resources used for this post.

http://www.futurehealth.org/articles/The-Psychology-of-Fear-by-Saberi-Roy-100903-820.html
http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/10-things-black-people-fear-white-people-dont-or-dont-nearly-much