Race Relations

27Sep

Proverbs and Politics

Lately, it seems like we’ve bought into a lie that our words don’t matter, or at least that’s the only way I can explain how some of my friends, as well as myself, are acting on social media. Election season puts all of us in a bit of a frenzy but it seems like we’re furiously typing things on social media we would never have the courage to say/scream at someone’s face.

Below are 23 verses from Proverbs – a book all about wisdom in practical life. They’re broken up into 5 general categories – don’t miss the last one. It’s the most prevalent and possibly the most dangerous. 

See: How to Read Proverbs

I’m committing to read through all 23 verses before I post something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Would you join me? Our words matter. Jesus says that what we saw reveals what’s in our heart. Remember, our first allegiance as Christians is to King Jesus. See: God Doesn’t Need America

 

On Putting Trust in Politics, a Party, and/or a Politician

“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” – Prv. 1:19

“but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Prv. 1:33

“Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” – Prv. 29:26

 

On Engaging Political Opponents

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” – Prv. 9:7-8

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Prv. 10:12

“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” – Prv. 14:7

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” – Prv. 15:18

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.: – Prv. 18:2

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” – Prv. 24:17

 

On Thinking/Knowing You’re Right and Humility

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Prv. 3:7

“Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” – Prv. 3:34

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Prv. 14:12

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Prv. 21:2

 

On the Power of Words

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” – Prv. 10:19

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Prv. 13:3

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Prv. 15:1

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – Prv. 17:28

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Prv. 18:21

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prv. 27:6

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Prv. 29:20

 

On Lying 

This is by far the most pernicious. Think about it – every time you share an article that you’re not sure is really true but you like because it furthers your own opinion while pushing down your opponent, you’re lying. The Bible often calls that “bearing false witness” and it’s the 9th commandment.

See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Prv. 6:16-19

“Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right” – Prv. 8:6

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” – Prv. 19:9

 

What verse(s) would you add to this list?

18Jul

8 Books for White Christians on Race

#BlackLivesMatter…#BlueLivesMatter…#AllLivesMatter

Tragically, this is about more than hashtags. People are dying and the rest of us are divided.

I started down a journey a few years ago when I unexpectedly found myself mostly unaware of the experience of the average African-American, especially in the South, and especially in my predominantly white suburban church setting.

I remember feeling terrible when a tornado warning went through our town. As the sirens blasted all across the neighborhood, my wife and I headed down the street to our local tornado shelter and we quickly realized we, as white people, were the minority. I felt so ashamed because my church, my community of friends, and my life experience, looked so unlike the life that was happening all around me.

So I started having conversations with some of my minority friends, specifically my black friends. I wish I could tell you I had hundreds to pick from, but I didn’t. My friends mostly looked, thought, and lived about like me. But God graced me with a few black friends that were patient with my ignorance. I hope they know I saw them then, and even more so now, as much more than my token “black friends” from which to learn.

Out of those conversations came a realization that I needed to learn much more before I asked much more. The books listed below are recommended, in no particular order, because they have all helped to shape my journey toward racial reconciliation and understanding over the last several years. Some have helped more than others. I disagree with something in every one of them but that’s not the point.

Parts of these books might get under your skin. Good. I vented to one of my black friends one day after I was feeling discouraged and frustrated in the middle of one of these books. He simply replied, “You’re frustrated while reading for a few months? Imagine how frustrated we’ve been living it for years and years.” 

Make no mistake, race is not a political conversation; it’s a Gospel conversation. To consider others more significant than yourself, to refuse to look exclusively to your own interests but also to the interests of others, is exactly what Jesus did and exactly what Jesus commands us to do (Philippians 2:3-4).

If Jesus did not count equality with God something to be grasped, maybe we should not count white privilege as something to be grasped.

If you’re willing to humble yourself, and learn in quietness before you ask too many questions, allow me to recommend the following books. (FYI: I don’t get any sort of payment/reward if you buy these books, but you can click on any title/cover to purchase from Amazon. If you live in the Austin area, you’re more than welcome to come borrow one of these from me). 

 

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep us Apart, by Christina Cleveland 

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Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity, by Edward Gilbreath

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Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith

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Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, by Soong-Chan Rah

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Bridging the Diversity Gap: Leading Toward God’s Multi-Ethnic Kingdom, by Alvin Sanders

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

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The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah

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Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We’re Stronger Together, by Tony Evans

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After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10

29Jun

I Went to Church Anyway

We live in a broken world groaning for redemption (Romans 8:22).

Even though this is always true, it is evident some weeks more than others.

Over the last week or so our country has been engaged in nationwide debate, from inside the walls of the Supreme Court to the virtual walls of Facebook users.

The two arenas of discussion, race and sexuality, are obvious tinder for a digital firestorm because of their universal nature. It makes sense that everyone has an opinion even if some of their opinions do not make much sense.

While I was more pleased with the conversations I had in person last week surrounding these issues, I firmly believe in the purpose and value of engaging in these topics on the mediums we have available. Those mediums have changed and will continue to do so over time but right now, the Internet in general and social media in particular have connected the world in unprecedented ways.

Christians who leverage that opportunity and those mediums to discuss current issues through the lens of a Christian worldview can be missionaries like the apostle Paul, who reasoned with people in the marketplace for days upon entrance into a new city.

While there is definitely wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to be silent (See: Just Stop Talking), Christians should not fear engaging others with their various social media platforms as long as they are focused on getting it right more than being right. It’s true, Sometimes You Need a Facebook Timeout but sometimes you need to speak up.

“Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” – Proverbs 31:8

But what about when Christians cause problems by engaging others in conversations about current issues on social media?

The easy answer is something like, “The diversity of the Christians faith points to a diversity of opinions on various current issues.”

I guess…

But if we’re honest, doesn’t it feel more personal than that?

I wrote about my personal opinions regarding the Confederate Flag last week. The article took off, relatively speaking, as things that are written at the right time around hot button issues do.

I spent most of the next day responding to people’s questions and opinions (both supportive and critical). I didn’t necessarily care much what people felt about my opinions but I did care that people at least listen to the real opinions I gathered from black, Christian friends who are equally proud to be Southerners yet generally had very different experiences than the people I seemed to hear most loudly.

What was most frustrating was not people unwilling to listen to me but people unwilling to listen to them.

Some of these people were not just Christians but Christians in my city, and not just Christians in my city, but Christians at my church.

Most of the conversations went very well, and I was reminded how great the opportunity I have to pastor where I do really is. But some conversations did not go so well…my church might have shrunk last week, and I am okay with that because I honestly believe in what I wrote.

However, like it often does, Saturday night rolled around and my brain switched over to Sunday prep mode. I started running through the morning in my head. Logistics, set list, sermon, volunteers. etc.

One of my favorite parts of Sunday prep is praying for specific people to show up. It gives me chills to see people far from the Church and ever farther from God walk through the doors of our church on a regular basis.

Yet this last week I found myself struggling to want to pray, struggling to want to see some people I sincerely love but who also disagree(d) with me. Honestly, I think I’m right and I think they’re wrong but they feel the same way.

So Sunday morning comes, and I head to church. It would have been an easy weekend for me to miss. I was not scheduled to preach. I could have had a “stomach bug.”

But I went to church anyway. It had nothing to do with my job and everything to do with Jesus.

As I started to pray, even though I didn’t feel like it, a funny thing happened; I started to feel like it. I remembered that, for all the things that can divide us, Jesus is what unites us.

So I went to church. I shook hands and gave hugs and had a tremendous day. I was sincerely glad to see everyone, especially the people who disagreed with me most loudly because I know the list of essentials we must believe to be known and loved by the same God is small:

Jesus came. Jesus died. Jesus rose again.

When I said those words from stage during our welcome time, I meant them with every fiber of my being. That’s what makes us sons and daughters of God. That’s what unites us.

We don’t need to agree on everything. As much as we all wish everyone thought just like us, we actually don’t need to agree on most things but we must agree on the Jesus things.

Everything else is secondary.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

24Jun

Which Flag Will You Fly?

An astonishing amount of ink has been spilled about the Confederate flag in the last several days, and rightfully so.

This is not meant to be just another addition to that noise.

I’d like to talk specifically to Christians, those who claim to have been set free from the bondage of sin by the undeserved grace of Jesus “who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14).

Before we get to how all this specifically affects Christians, I’d like to address a few lines of thought regarding the Confederate flag I have seen tossed around by Christians in conversations, text messages, and social media.

All of the following statements were said/typed by white people.

1.) “It’s not hate; it’s heritage.”

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If you sincerely want to claim the Confederacy as your heritage, by all means do so. However, have the intellectual honesty to do so with full commitment. Your heritage died when the Confederacy did, at the conclusion of the Civil War, which the Confederacy lost. Everything after the Civil War is a different history, one in which you simply cannot share if you insist on claiming a dead heritage as your own. (See: What This Cruel War Was Over)

If this is sincerely your claim, feel free to abstain from celebrating the Fourth of July, an American (not Confederate) holiday.

See: What a White Man Knows about Racism

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2.) The Confederate flag’s original intent was never meant to be racist.

We can argue about the original intent of this flag, but that’s not my interest. I am deeply concerned with the flawed logic in this statement.

Regardless of its original meaning, it’s current and functional meaning is hate.

Take the well-known “God Hates Fags” agenda of Westboro Baptist Church, for example.

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Using this same “original meaning” thought process allows you to only be upset at their misuse of the word “faggot” which originally meant a bundle of sticks.

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Regardless of original or intended meaning, a “faggot” is not recognized as a bundle of sticks and the Confederate flag is not recognized by many people as anything but a symbol of racism and hate. (See: Why We Can’t Say Racism is a Thing of the Past)

The functional meaning of these words, no matter how grossly inappropriate, takes precedent over their antiquated, original/intended meanings.

 

3.) It’s my right to free speech.

It’s my right! You’re correct. While I applaud states, organizations, and schools that have removed the flag from an organizational level, I would never applaud the dissolution of one’s personal right to free speech, regardless of how evil and hateful I feel the expression of that personal right may be.

However, the whole “free speech allows me to spew hate speech” line of thought sure sounds like an avoidance of the problem. Passing the buck.

When we (Christians) insist on our personal rights regardless of what that means for others, we become Cain killing our brother in the garden of Eden then asking God, “What?!? Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is YES. We are our brother’s keeper.

Christians, we have a higher allegiance than to our country.

Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and we serve a King who reminds us that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and we are to live as aliens and foreigners in this world (1 Peter 2:11).

I’m asking you to consider forsaking your America-given right to use this flag and embrace your higher, God-given responsibility to love and care for your neighbor.

Do you love your neighbor? Do you KNOW your neighbor?

Christians, I’m asking you to consider the possibility that you only really get to fly ONE flag with your life.

I’m asking you to consider the possibility that if you choose to fly this flag on your truck or shirt or Facebook profile, you might be simultaneously refusing to fly the flag of Jesus.

But don’t take it from me. Over the last few days I’ve had conversations with over 40 of my black friends. I asked them all the same question, “How does it feel to see the Confederate flag? What is that like for you?” All of them live, or have lived, in the South and most of them are Christians. While their answers were all extremely similar, the most heart-breaking answers are listed below:

How Black (Southern, Christian) People Feel When You Fly/Post/Wear the Confederate Flag

Seeing the confederate flag honestly stirs up fear in me, that wherever I am or whoever has the flag up is a threat, that I am unsafe there or with that person. I understand that people say it’s the flag of the south, etc, but I don’t think people take into account what the flag really means and represents. Like they don’t want to accept or acknowledge the FULL truth of honoring such a flag. At face value, I consider whoever waves that flag to believe the values of the confederate flag 100%.”

“When we think about southern heritage, we must remember that the Confederacy was fighting to preserve a way of life, which was their right to have black slaves for farmers which was the primary economic engine of the south. So if the Confederacy had won the civil war, where would black people be today? There is a high likelihood blacks would still be slaves, not considered human, still considered a commodity to be bought and sold, and we would most likely accept this as the norm of society.”

“Anyone who asks does the racial divide still exist in America, needs to only look at their local church. How many blacks are in the area versus who attend your church? Churches are some of the most segregated places in this country.”

“From a southerner perspective it represents arrogance, a refusal to allow anyone to tell us to do anything we don’t want to do. From a racial perspective it cares nothing about what me or my family thinks or how we feel. In certain environments it creates feelings of fear for the safety of my wife and kids.”

“Flying the Confederate flag, or posting it on Facebook, conveys an attitude of longing for a time to return again where black lives weren’t valued. That one flag reminds me of all the times racists raped black women, dehumanized black men (only calling them ‘boy’ or ‘N-word’) and treated black children like pests to be exterminated. It represents with pleasure every evil the South could create against any and all black people.”

“It forces me to pay more attention to my surroundings. I have to stay cautious even if it’s as simple as stopping by a store to fill up the car. The flag itself has history attached to it, that’s what people are most afraid of…you never can tell who is friend or foe.”

“When I see it flying in the back of a truck, I simply do not believe the driver when he says he’s just celebrating ‘heritage.’ He’s taunting me. He’s taunting us. He’s even taunting the police.”

“I would never do anything to harm the American flag. I don’t understand anyone of any race that would do such a thing. But there is nothing good about that Confederate flag. How would white people feel if I drove around with a Black Panther flag in my truck? I would never do that because it is so ignorant. How can people not see the same ignorance in the Confederate flag?”

 

You are your brother’s keeper, and your brother has spoken. Will you listen?

 

Which flag will you fly?

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