The Weekend Wanderer: 4 July 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Regnerus marriage“Can the Church Save Marriage?” – The cover story in the most recent issues of Christianity Today is an attention getter. Her is Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and co-founder of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture: “According to a Census Bureau survey taken in 2018, only 35 percent of 25- to 34-year-old men were married, a precipitous and rapid plunge from 50 percent in 2005. These numbers point toward a clear and frightening trajectory: Marriage is getting rarer. Fast. Getting married is something humans have done for millennia out of economic practicality, if not out of love. Some challenges in tying the knot are old and mathematical—for example, more women are interested in matrimony than men. Others are recent and ideological, including the new norm of short-term relationships and the penchant for ‘keeping your options open.'”

Screen Shot 2020-07-02 at 10.07.19 AM“Evangelical leaders are speaking up about race — but will this new focus last?” – Adelle M. Banks at RNS: “Many prominent white evangelicals have made statements about Black lives in the weeks since the May 25 death of George Floyd, but is this new focus among white conservatives — and white Christians in general — momentary or lasting? Researchers working at the crossroads of religion and race say it’s too soon to say. But highlights of a forthcoming study, which looks at racism, biblical interpretation and church cultures, may indicate a long struggle ahead. Michael Emerson, co-author of the 2000 book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, said 2019 findings indicate “zero evidence” of a closing of the long-standing gap between how white evangelicals and Black Christians view racial inequality.

merlin_173727378_812b7d4e-3b86-4952-8daf-dc0aa7cd78e9-superJumbo“America Is Facing 5 Epic Crises All at Once” – David Brooks offers his take on five epic crises that are hitting our nation all at once related to COVID-19, race, politics, social justice, and economics. The result? “These five changes, each reflecting a huge crisis and hitting all at once, have created a moral, spiritual and emotional disaster. Americans are now less happy than at any time since they started measuring happiness nearly 50 years ago. Americans now express less pride in their nation than at any time since Gallup started measuring it 20 years ago.” What does Brooks suggest? You’ll have to read his article.

Supreme Court“Supreme Court opens door to state funding for religious schools” – From CNN: “In a ruling that will open the door to more public funding for religious education, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of parents in Montana seeking to use a state scholarship program to send their children to religious schools. The court said that a Montana tax credit program that directed money to private schools could not exclude religious schools. The 5-4 ruling was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the court’s four conservative justices. ‘A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,’ Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.”

Hagia Sophia“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque” – Turkey is debating whether to turn the architectural wonder, Hagia Sophia, which is currently a museum, back into a mosque. The structure was built in the 6th century as the seat of the Orthodox patriarchate in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Later, when the Ottoman Empire sacked Constantinople and renamed the city Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. After World War I, the modern Turkish secular state was formed and Hagia Sophia was dedicated as a museum opened to the public in 1935.  Things have been changing in Turkey and this historic site is at the center of the latest controversy, which some see as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to erase Turkey’s Christian past.

Jimmy Dunn“Rest in Peace, Jimmy” – This is probably a scholarly footnote for many people, but renowned New Testament scholar James D. G. Dunn passed away last week. Dunn is best known for his work on the Apostle Paul, ranging from outstanding commentaries to groundbreaking theological work related to Paul’s theology. Dunn’s work was pivotal in what has come to be known as the “New Perspective” on Paul. On that theme, you might enjoy this ten-minute introduction to the New Perspective on Paul by Dunn and N. T. Wright from over ten years ago. This remembrance by Scot McKnight, one of Dunn’s students and a highly-regarded New Testament scholar himself, is well worth the read.

Iowa landscape“When Dvořák Went to Iowa to Meet God: Music that gives voice to the longing for home” – I grew up in the Mississippi River Valley of Illinois, just across the river from Iowa. While everyone who lived in Illinois knew for sure that Iowa was not “heaven,” there is still something special about the wide open spaces of the Midwestern prairies. I did not know that the famed Czech composer Antonín Dvořák spent a transformative time in Iowa “When Dvořák looked over the grassland vastness of Iowa, he felt that very strange and contrary coupling of hopeful contentment and melancholy we sometimes feel on summer evenings, as the stars and cicadas both come up and the grass lets off a damp, fresh smell.”

Music: Gustavo Dudamel with Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, “Dvorak – Symphony no. 9 – 4th movement – Allegro con fuoco,” recorded at a celebration for Pope Benedict XVI.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Pastors Forum on Race in America – part 4

Pastors Forum - July 2, 2020

Updated: You can watch the recording of this forum here.

A few weeks ago my friend Kurt Owens reached out to me about joining a panel discussion of pastors from The Milwaukee Declaration discussing race in America in light of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

After extremely positive responses to that first conversation, we decided to continue with follow-up conversations (Watch “part 1,” “part 2,” and “part 3” at the Milwaukee Declaration Facebook page). Join us today at 11 AM (CST) for “part 4” of the Pastor’s Forum on Race in America with me, Kurt Owens, Peter Borg, Kurt Boyd, Jay English, Arnitta Holliman, Kevan Penvose here. This time Shannon Sims of TMJ4 will moderate and this will be live streamed at TMJ4’s Facebook page.

Learn more about the Milwaukee Declaration and/or sign the Declaration here.

As part of previous gatherings for the Milwaukee Declaration we assembled a “Next Steps” guide of resources for furthering the conversation. I am again including that below with some updates with more recent resources.

Amistad (1997)
42 (2013)
The Hate U Give (2018)
Hidden Figures (2016)
Just Mercy (2019)
Selma (2014)
Twelve Years a Slave (2013; WARNING–due to Hollywood’s most accurate portrayal of slavery, some scenes are inappropriate for children)

Milwaukee: 53206 (2016)
Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 (1987, 1990)
13th (2016)
The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2006)
The Making of Milwaukee (2006)
Slavery By Another Name (2012)

By Dr. King
Strength to Love
Why We Can’t Wait
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Milwaukee and Housing
Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee by Patrick D. Jones
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Race and Inequality
Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit by Thomas Sugrue
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Race and Faith
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward Blum and Paul Harvey
A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow by David Chappell
White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah
Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter-McNeil
Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey by Sarah Shin
Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson
Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson
The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby

The Weekend Wanderer: 27 June 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Vince Bacote CT“Another Run at Freedom” – From Vince Bacote: “Many minorities would rather talk about anything else. We would much prefer to converse over the joy of sports, music, cinema, the beauty of nature, and many other topics. But many feel like we have to keep bringing up the topic of race, often in an exhausting effort to get other Christians to see that our concerns are not imaginary. From the personal to the public domain, we keep talking to pursue a life of flourishing in the church and society. There remains not only a need to say, ‘Racism is part of reality’ but also, ‘We need to construct paths toward fruitful life together in this world.'”

Warner Sallman - Head of Christ“How Jesus became white — and why it’s time to cancel that” – One of the greatest challenges in our faith is not to merely see Jesus and Christianity through the eyes of our own culture or personal perspective. The current moment has brought that challenge into heated focus around depictions of Jesus as white. As A. W. Tozer wrote in Knowledge of the Holy, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” In some ways, this is true with the literal pictures we have in our minds of what God looks like or what Jesus looks like. While I don’t necessarily with the framing of this current situation or cancel culture, this article by Emily McFarlan Miller at RNS highlights some of the current discussion points and challenge areas.

Jon Tyson - Portals of Belonging“Portals of Belonging” – Jon Tyson, Pastor of Church of the City in New York, writes about hospitality: “I couldn’t help but think how different New York would be if these portals of welcome became normal. If they broke out in taxis and on trains and in office buildings and in parks and everywhere in between. And of course, it’s not just New York that’s in need of hospitality. Alan Hirsch, a missiologist and fellow Aussie, and Lance Ford, a missional church leader, wrote, ‘If every Christian family in the world simply offered good conversational hospitality around a table once a week to neighbors, we would eat our way into the kingdom of God.’ Encounter by encounter, hospitality would deconstruct fear and reconstruct a shared humanity.”

President-Robert-Briggs“American Bible Society Names Robert L. Briggs as President and CEO” – “American Bible Society, one of the nation’s most enduring nonprofit organizations, announced today that Robert L. Briggs has been appointed as president and CEO of the 204-year-old Bible ministry. Briggs, who served most recently as interim president and CEO following the retirement of Roy L. Peterson, has served at and led American Bible Society through various leadership roles for nearly 20 years.”

DACA Supreme Court“Priest Balances Christian Conviction and Legal Strategy in DACA Case” –  Here’s one from last week that didn’t make it into last weekend’s edition: “Among the thousands of immigrant Christians, church leaders, and advocates praying for a victory in this week’s US Supreme Court decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA), one was an Episcopal priest on the team who worked on the case. Armando Ghinaglia is himself a DACA recipient, a native of Venezuela who was raised in Texas. A curate at Christ Church New Haven and a law student at Yale, Ghinaglia worked for the Connecticut legal clinic that argued against the Trump administration’s rationale for rescinding DACA in 2017. The Supreme Court ruled in its favor on Thursday.”

_113093310_d0e8e9a3-d0c5-4bce-9387-9c49a83bed81“Massive Saharan dust cloud shrouds the Caribbean” – In the midst of other challenging moments in our world, I heard from a friend about this unique weather pattern moving from the Sahara toward the Caribbean. From the BBC: “A huge cloud of Saharan dust has darkened the skies over parts of the Caribbean. The dust has been moving from Africa over the Atlantic Ocean. On Sunday it reached Puerto Rico and has since covered Cuba and parts of Mexico. The Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are suffering their worst haze for at least a decade, and health officials in Cuba are warning it could increase respiratory problems. The dust cloud is also affecting parts of southern Florida, including the city of Miami.”

Bethel College“Dozens of Christian College Faculty Eliminated in Spring Budget Cuts” – From Christianity Today:”Five evangelical Christian colleges and universities have eliminated more than 150 faculty and staff positions this spring. While some officials cite COVID-19 as the reason for the cuts, most say the financial reckoning comes in response to the ongoing crisis of higher education and their efforts to prepare for the future.”

Music: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 June 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

black anger“What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger” – Here is Esau McCaulley in The New York Times connecting the psalms and the Cross of Christ with this present moment: “For Christians, rage (Psalm 137) must eventually give way to hope (Isaiah 49). And we find the spiritual resources to make this transition at the cross. Jesus could have called down the psalms of rage upon his enemies and shouted a final word of defiance before he breathed his last. Instead he called for forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,’ he says in Luke 23.”

N T Wright“Undermining Racism: Reflections on the ‘black lives matter’ crisis” – Here is a reflection by N. T. Wright on the current crisis of racial justice. The basic summary from Tom: “The churches are in the wrong, not because they haven’t obeyed the politically correct agenda, but because they haven’t obeyed their own foundation charter.” I encourage you to dig into this insightful take from one of the best New Testament scholars and biblical theologians of our day.

Robert Larry“These Are My Reactions” – A couple weeks ago, a friend and former ministry resident at Eastbrook Church, Robert Larry, shared some of his thoughts with me on what it’s like to be a black man and Christian at this time in our nation. After sharing those thoughts with me, I asked him if he would be willing to share it with a broader audience, which he agreed to do. After yesterday’s celebration of Juneteenth, I hope Robert’s words inspire us to think, listen to one another, and grow toward greater authentic unity as the body of Christ.

alan jacobs“On Misunderstanding Critical Theory” – One of the more heated debates within the recent conversations about racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and much more relates to the domain of what is known as critical theory. Some will utilize critical theory to question some of the basic elements of societal structures, while others will criticize the use of critical theory as self-undermining and antithetical to rationality. Alan Jacobs, author of numerous books including the pertinent How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (which I highly recommend), has helpfully written about critical theory on his blog over the past month. I’d encourage you to take a read of these posts, which I found insightful:

Andrew Sullivan - debate“Is There Still Room for Debate?” – Andrew Sullivan enters into the difficult, if not disappearing ground, of public conversation over contentious issues. In past days, I have increasingly wondered if it is possible to have conversation and debates over difficult issues. It is something I have been considering deeply since reading Jacobs’ book How to Think (see above), as well as Christopher Smith’s book How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church. I ask myself both in regards to society and the church, “Do we even know how to talk anymore?” Sullivan makes an interesting attempt at addressing this flashpoint issue amidst flashpoint issues.

Supreme Court“Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ persons from employment discrimination” – There has been a lot of attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling related to employment discrimination against individuals within the LGBTQ community. Here is a quick summary from RNS on the case and ruling. You may also want to read Russell Moore’s take, “After the Bostock Supreme Court Case,” and Daniel Bennett’s take, “LGBT Rights Ruling Isn’t the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty.”

Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 6.57.24 AM“Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic” – From Christianity Today: “Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need. As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching on eschatology in lockdown. ‘The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,’ he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.”

Music: Wilco, “Love Is Everywhere,” from Ode to Joy

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Guest Post: Robert Larry – “These Are My Reactions”

A couple weeks ago, a friend and former ministry resident at Eastbrook Church, Robert Larry, shared some of his thoughts with me on what it’s like to be a black man and Christian at this time in our nation. After sharing those thoughts with me, I asked him if he would be willing to share it with a broader audience, which he agreed to do. On this Juneteenth, I hope Robert’s words inspire us to think, listen to one another, and grow toward greater authentic unity as the body of Christ. This post has also been cross-posted at the Milwaukee Declaration website.

Robert Larry

These are my reactions. By Robert Larry

In the midst of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others recently, as well as the Central Park incident with Amy Cooper, I’ve been asked multiple times to share my reactions to what’s happening in the United States, as both a follower of Jesus Christ and also a black man living in the United States. These are my reactions. Once again, I find myself reacting to yet another sickening demonstration of the reality of the danger that I, my family, and my friends face living as black Americans in this country. I find myself looking at these deeply disturbing  scenarios where they are publicly killed, which is more than disturbing enough, but even more so are the narratives that surround each of their deaths and listening to how they were somehow at fault all in their own specialized, individual ways. They “looked suspicious” or had the wrong clothes on or were somewhere they didn’t belong or perhaps didn’t speak the correct way or sitting in the wrong house (even though it’s later revealed that it’s their own house). What could a black person ever do to look less threatening to someone who is threatened by a black face? And though there are always extenuating circumstances surrounding scenarios like this, I am not and will never be convinced that it warrants no-holds-barred execution; without a trial, without a day in court, without a chance to be defended and without the very rights guaranteed to them as African “Americans.” That is directly violating rights and promises that we earned as citizens of a country that we were brought to illegally to serve an inhuman purpose and had to fight to initially obtain in the first place. And then afterwards watching as no consequences ever ensue to the offenders. Our murderers regularly acquitted in court if it ever even goes to a trial; their inhumane actions excused as their victim’s loved ones grieve. I find myself reacting to the cold reality of racism and systematic oppression in the United States; and shockingly I even find myself reacting to racism and compliance in the Church in the manner that we choose to react; or rather not react to it.

Most recently in George Floyd’s incident, we see that a person can be suffocated for over nine minutes…completely uninterrupted…and in the vicinity of other community serving  officers who were all so numb to it and desensitized that their main priority was engaging the bystanders and keeping them at bay while a man was murdered in their care and by their hand. No one there thought to check a pulse, no one thought to allow him air, no one even thought to advise their colleague, “Hey, he’s not a threat,” and allow him the right to breathe; allow him the right to live. And so, now we have documentation of black men and boys and people being killed by former cops (Ahmaud Arbery), current cops (George Floyd), “wannabe” cops (Trayvon Martin), poorly trained cops (Philando Castile), and just indifferent cops (Breonna Taylor); and whether they are racists or not, for whatever reason these cops had no regard for the lives of these black people. Hence the phrase “Black lives matter”; not to be interpreted as mattering more than any other lives as it is wildly miscomprehended to mean. Yes, all lives do indeed matter and no one (certainly not a follower of Christ) should ever dispute this fundamental biblical fact. However, it is when it is offered as a retort to these glaring issues with the understanding that black lives have not historically and continually do not matter in this country presently that the phrase “all lives matter,” while fundamentally true, becomes indescribably insensitive.

And then after suffering such traumatic and humiliating events, and having a loved one being publicly killed, and listening to the country argue about whether or not it was a warranted killing, we now have the task of communicating to our countrymen why we’re devastated and the responses we receive are unfathomable. We’re often told that “it’s all in our head” or to “play by the rules and we’ll be fine.”  Isn’t walking down a street committing no crimes playing by the rules? Isn’t sitting in your own house playing by the rules? Isn’t going on a jog playing by the rules? The unwritten and often unspoken rule is that one cannot look threatening…or to clarify further, be black while doing so. And so here we are still dying.

“If you can talk, you can breathe.” How can that ever be the response of any decent person? To discredit a dying man’s pleas for his life to be spared, his wish to be allowed to live, what ended up being his final wish in the hands of officers who are sworn to serve and protect him as an American citizen, guaranteed the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And yet we can’t even get that first part right. A man: handcuffed, but not resisting arrest nor a danger to anyone, pleading for his right to live with what ended up being his last words. And your reaction to his death is, “if you can talk, you can breathe?” To discredit his words and therefor discredit the atrocity of the details that led to his death, thereby discrediting his very existence as a human being made in the image of God you claim to serve. If so, then where is your compassion? Where is your sympathy? Wouldn’t Christ have compassion? At its core, this is what “black lives matter” means. That even at the very least you would hear his cries for help and at least be sympathetic. And instead we’re presented with laughter and dismissal and belittlement due to the scientific technical inaccuracies of what this man said as he died like an animal in the streets by those whose salaries were paid for by the taxes given by people who look just like him and would’ve suffered the same fate had they been in his predicament.

While this specific example is sickening in itself, it demonstrates the far more disturbing tendency that America has to respond to its deeply rooted racism with skepticism about racism’s very existence. There’s always an excuse. For centuries there has been some type of justification offered for the unlawful death of a black person; even one as blatant and irrefutable as George Floyd’s. America excuses these deaths, never giving their attention to the matter again. We have become so addicted to our hatred and the rest of us so comfortable in our compliance of it that we discredit the truth in order to avoid the discomfort of even addressing it. It’s alarming. And what’s more alarming is that there are still people who don’t consider it alarming.

Guilt and remorse are real and powerful emotions but far from acceptable excuses to deny the truth of racism and racial discrimination particularly when it’s been embedded and personified in multiple, unending manifestations throughout the centuries of the United States’ history as a nation. Should we be considered “un-American” or “unpatriotic” for having the courage to speak out against it?  Is it really an acceptable or appropriate response to tell us to “leave if we hate America so much”? Would that response be acceptable in any other instance of an abusive relationship? Do we chastise the victim of a domestically abusive relationship for confronting the destructive, abusive tendencies of their spouse? Is not pointing out the deficiencies of a loved one a sign of a loving regard for them in improving themselves? Should constructive criticism be responded to with the ultimatum to accept someone as they are or abandon the relationship altogether? Confronting someone is among the most loving things that you can do for them if your desire is for them to be grow for their own betterment. Why is it then so unthinkable for America to be confronted with its issues? Facing your deficiencies can be  hard and painful but it’s a sign of maturity in yourself and love for the offended when you value their voice enough to allow yourself to change out of your love for them and your regard for their well being. And yet we somehow immediately lose our patriotism and our voice the second we even suggest that America has failed in their treatment of us; which it certainly has. The American experience is far different for its white citizens then it is for its black citizens. Please understand those differences before criticizing the criticism. The United States has the same responsibilities to its black citizens and has yet to afford them the decency to hear their cries of pain and criticism of their failure to execute them with anything besides intolerance and the debilitating unwillingness to even listen to it. Out of fear, hatred, guilt, and maddening stubbornness, America continues to refuse to hear the criticism that it has rightfully earned countless times over. Though it may be uncomfortable to realize and accept, America needs to understand and comprehend that African Americans have been in an abusive relationship with the United States for hundreds of years. And furthermore there is no escape for us. There is no “country we can return to.” This is our home. Many of us never asked to be brought or born here but this is our home now. And yet we are still waiting to be accepted here. To be loved here. To matter here. And while America continues to turn their backs to us and struggle with these truths, in the meantime we continue to be targeted and killed.

We’re told to look less threatening. To wear a mask. To make sure we appease the people we’re around and make them feel safe just to make it out of the room or situation alive. We need to smile even if we don’t feel joyful. To laugh even if we don’t feel cheerful. To speak in dialects that aren’t our own even if we want to be ourselves all to convince the people around us that we’re not a threat to them.  Essentially, we are asked to wear a mask. It’s amusing how quickly America has grown to want to abandon their masks after a just few months on danger. Imagine wearing a mask for centuries regardless of whether you want to or not. But in doing so, keep in mind a human heart filled with hatred is far more lethal than any virus could ever be.

Any of these people killed in the streets and in their own homes could’ve easily been me or my brother or my friends or my family and loved ones. Next time, it could easily be me. It gives me serious reservations in continuing to live here. Even more so as I consider raising my children here. Am I to be considered a poor father for fathering black children and sending them into this America to live their lives in the near future? I don’t know. The fact that the officer who killed George Floyd lived in freedom while protesters were arrested in outrage of his death is unfathomable. The fact is: racism is wrong and unbiblical and completely unbecoming of anyone claiming to be a member of the body of Christ. I don’t know what to do or say to those who cannot agree on that and I’ve run out of strength to listen to it. To make it clear and precise: racism does exist. It’s not in our heads. And it’s not okay. And while progress has certainly been made it can never be mistaken for completion nor does it exonerate the glaring issues that are still to be addressed and eradicated. I’ll never forget what it was like listening to my father tell me of his experiences with these very issues and how eerily similar the circumstances are to today.

As Christians, Christ himself has called us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” before adding to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). As God’s church, we would be creating a poor reflection of Christ if we refuse to listen to a cry for help simply because we found it personally offensive in some way. In His time on earth, Christ was personally attacked with questions of His very identify, even to the point where his power and anointing from God was accused to be the power of the same enemy that He would lay down His life on behalf those who made that blasphemous accusation. And yet He never once allowed the offense to become a hindrance to His mission. How then can we allow an offense to hinder our mission to love the Lord and our neighbors as ourselves? We have progressed to a point as a nation where patriotism has become a hindrance in loving our  African American citizens, which means that but very definition it has become an idol in God’s church in the United States. It has become a device for the enemy to continue to cause deep divisions in us as God’s children and silences the voices of oppressed people, distracting us from living out our responsibilities as God’s presence in this society and country. If these  issues are to improve it must be spearheaded by God’s church and people. If this is ever going to happen, we must put our patriotism and offense aside and listen to the cries of those who need our help as Christ would undoubtedly do.

And so the timeless question that plagued the existence of all mankind since the fall of man in the garden echoes in my mind once more, “from where does our hope come from?” Despite everything and through it all, our God is still and though beyond my ability to ever comprehend, so much greater. I call out to You, Lord, to soften our hearts. These issues are of the heart and they are sinful. Therefore they must be defeated through His power.  There is no sin in God’s kingdom. And so once again I say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!” In  the meantime, let’s all try to love people, all people in the manner that Christ would.  These are my reactions.