Race-less Gospel

A race-less life is a Christ- filled life.


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Pray Hard

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Life is the matter of words. It is the collection, the compilation, the composition of letters ordered and then defined by punctuation marks. We speak with both the end and the receiver in mind. We speak to move and to move on again and again. Thus, we can no more stop talking than we can stop breathing. It, too, is the substance and source of life.

Life is a matter of words: good and bad, thoughtful or ill- conceived, numerous and few. We are always in search of meaning, always looking for the right words to say to those we love and to hear from those who love us. Without these words, spoken or unspoken, our lives have no meaning and are without the ability to move, having no bridge to travel from one day to the next. Yes, we carry words but they also carry us.

The apostle Paul would agree as he describes the saints at Corinth as letters, “living epistles” (Second Corinthians 3.2). We are writing as well as being written upon. Those we speak to and who speak to us are our composers. So, who is writing on you?

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And what of our words, our conversations with God? Is it on- going or sporadic, savored sweet like warm cookies and reserved for Sunday morning services only? Is it quick and routine, a brief greeting to acknowledge His presence? Or, do we sit down and slow down to have a conversation, seeing His words in the trees with hands outstretched, the sky blue and clear or cloudy and dark, feeling His words beneath us, the earth immovable?

Unfortunately, despite the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we wonder how do we relate to God when God cannot relate to us. We somehow forget every single day that God knows what it means and how it feels to be human as both Creator and Created. Our forgetfulness makes praying hard.

Talking to the Divine is humbling and perhaps for some humiliating, remembering who we have been or what we have recently or consistently done can shame us into a self- instituted silence. Shamed and embarrassed, we find ourselves in the presence of the Word and at a loss for them. Talking to the Invisible and yet seen can be frightening as we cannot see the impact of our words on His face. Consequently, we don’t know when to start or if we should stop.

After a conversation with God, we might be left wondering, “Did God understand what I said? Did He hear me? Does He want to hear from me again?”

Yes, praying is hard but it becomes strenuous when we don’t talk to God every day. So behind in our words to Him and for Him and with Him, it can seem impossible to catch up on conversations, confessions, thanksgivings, listening, being. Consequently, we speak to Him as if rattling off a list. “Did you get…?” Did you see about…?” Check. Check. Check.

It may be even more difficult when we pray hard but feel that a need has gone unmet. In times of suffering and loss, when God seems to have gotten His answer wrong, it can be laborious to find two words to say to God. But, it is in these occasions that we must pray hard and perhaps hardest. We must talk when we don’t feel like talking, talk it through, talk it out. And word- by- word, we are led to new, unexpected and unplanned words.

Praying is hard but this is the work of maturing and growing in and through the Word. Ann Voscamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are, says that this is how we come to understand the world. We are to “wear the lens of the Word, to read his writing in the world.”

Prayer is a conversation and God is already speaking through His Word. He has provided us with “conversation starters” so as not to make praying so hard.


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Never Be The Same

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“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

~ Galatians 2.19-20, NRSV

We call ourselves baptized believers, born again Christians.  We are dead to the old self, new creatures in Christ, we say.  But, do we believe what we are saying?  I am not asking if you are aware of the Scriptures, if you can recite chapter and verse, if you have heard them in a sermon or discussed them in your small group Bible study.  I am asking if we have considered the depth of such a declaration and then, jumped down into.  Do we live this truth?  Unfortunately, we do not.

If we did, then there would be more funerals.  There would be more tombstones marking who we were, more eulogies of what was and never will be again.  Where are the cemeteries for our hatred, unforgiveness and jealousy that has died, for fear that is no longer with us?  Why are we still visited by prejudice and stereotypes, why are we still being called socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people– if the old life is dead to us?  How is this possible?  Perhaps, it is because we are performing our own private, rebellious resurrections, bringing back what God wants buried.

When we confessed Christ, when His name entered our mouths, the old names should have left.  The arrival of his name on the doorstep on our lips was their eviction notice.  Guess who’s coming to live in me not with me?  Jesus is not our supernatural guest but comes to stay and to give us a new life.  Guess who’s life I now live?

The old woman/ man and her/ his nature should have died right there, mouths gaping open because she and he never saw it coming but could do nothing to stop it.  And while the mortification of our flesh and its desires is ongoing, we should not take pleasure in reliving our sinful past.  We should not seek opportunities to strike up old conversations, to use old words and thoughts from the old mindset.  Instead, we should “cast down every thought and argument that seeks to exalt itself against the knowledge of Christ (Second Corinthians 10.5).”  We should not allow them to be resurrected by old conflicts, contests or comparisons.

Christ moved in with all of his words.  He should have taken all of the rooms inside of us.  No vacancies.  We should have given him all the space within us to include the attic and the basement.

The truth is this: Jesus does not come into our lives to do a paint job or to rearrange furniture.  He is not an interior decorator, hanging crosses on our walls and placing Bibles neatly on coffee tables (as a dust collector not a conversation starter).  And Jesus doesn’t just do house cleaning but Christ is in the demolition business.  He is a giant wrecking ball.

So, when we say his name, every time we say his name, something inside of us and something outside of us should no longer exist.  When I said his name, I became new and am becoming new every day.  I am always God’s new creation.  When I said his name, prejudice no longer fits in my mouth.  When I said his name, I could not return to race, the socially coloring of skin.  I could not go back to a life lived externally.  When I said his name, I saw his name everywhere, applied liberally and generously to everyone and I could never see people the same again.  I could never be the same again.


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A Trip Down Race-less Memory Lane

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I have written a lot about race and race-lessness these past three years.  So, I decided to reflect on a few of the posts that surprised me most in their creation and those that have been most read  my you, my readers.  I’ll try to keep the list short but it’s really hard to pick favorite memories of growth as all were essential.  Keep in mind, I have provided more than 600 posts that have included personal writings, resourceful article links and informative videos.  Of the more than 600 posts, I will choose 10… I hope.  Your applause and prayers are requested as this is a great feat.  Thank you.

1. The journey begins.  My first post and first step into this journey to race-lessness.  With one step forward and years of research, I asked readers to “Join The Daily Race” as the blog was called then.

2.  “The Ten Race Commandments” captured the revelation that race has commandments and that the commandments of race can prevent us from practicing the commandments of Christ.

3.  “Forgiving Words” challenged readers to view race as a bully and to acknowledge the pain that its words have caused us and then to forgive the words.

4.  “The Seven Deadly Sins of Race” pushed me farther away from the social construct and allowed me to see race as a sinful construct.

5.  “The Reconciling Race Series” asked, “What does our belief in race settle or solve for us?”

6.  “Race’s Model Prayer” uses Christ’s model prayer to demonstrate the differences between a belief in race and the Christian faith.

7.  “When We Color Ourselves” is a poem that points out the problem with the social coloring of skin and “the color line.”  See also “Undoing Race: Putting No Confidence in the Flesh.”  I suppose that would count as two.  Forgive me.  Keep praying.

8.  “Ten Ways that God Transcends Race” seeks to address and demolish the argument that God can be subjected to the social coloring of skin.  God is not socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige.

9.  “Black Disadvantage: Unpacking The Obvious Baggage of Blackness” is a popular post and it was written to be partnered with Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.”   I think that the title speaks for itself.

10.  “A Declaration of Racial Exceptionalism” captures my healing to date as it relates to the social construct of race and the practice of my Christian faith.

We’ve come along way it seems but we have so much farther to go.  I love the spiritual exercise of writing this blog and hope that I never forget the importance of this work.  I’m going to keep writing and walking this race-less path.  I’m so glad that I have you to journey with.

 


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Race Pop Quiz

Name ___________________________    Date _____________

1.  As a Christian, I believe in the social construct of race and that its power and influence are both natural and thereby inherent, both divine and consequently, supreme. True or False?

2.  As a Christian, I believe that the social construct of race is reflective of the image of God, is a part of my God- given identity and the means by which God has described humanity and ordered the world.  True or False?

3.  As a Christian, I condemn myself and/ or others because of the social construct of race, believing that the social coloring of skin and physical attributes define one’s identity, social value and purpose. True or False?

4.  As a Christian, I believe in the legalism of race and thereby, that some persons are unforgivable and undeserving of God’s grace due to the social construct of race and the beliefs/ practices/ experiences of those who are, according to race, the enemy. True or False?

5.  As a Christian, I assume a person’s guilt or innocence, character strengths and weaknesses, goals and aspirations have been determined by the social construct of race.  Thus, there is no need to get to know them or the facts.  True or False?

6.  As a Christian, I trust race when making decisions concerning familial, personal, professional, spiritual and romantic relationships.  True or False?

7.  As a Christian, I am disappointed with God’s creative choice in making me or others due to my belief in and acceptance of the social construct of race.  True or False?

8.  As a Christian, I have harbored hatred, bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness, believing it acceptable and justified because it is racially motivated.  True or False?

9.  As a Chrisitan, I believe in the social colored image of God.  True or False?

10.  As a Christian, I believe that  if God is not socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige, then I will not accept God.

A Bonus Question for Extra Credit

As a Christian, I follow the commandments of race more religiously, more stringently than the commandments of Christ.  True or False?


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Ann Voskamp’s “When You’re Trying to Live Faith & Grace in a Black & White World

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We like to buy certainty and take home our little boxes — because we like to check out people andcheck off our little boxes. 

But the thing is: Truth isn’t found in trite boxes — Truth’s found in the richness of Christ. Truth doesn’t come marked as simplicity — Truth comes marked with the fullness of graceor it isn’t Truth. Truth is a Person and He is the complexity and the empathy and the integrity and the certainty and the supremacy of Christ.

And the river’s wide and deep and strong and long and there are layers to all this water, quiet depths. The travellers and followers and disciples, we navigate complexity. We acknowledgecomplexity. A river like this faithfully carries us Home.

Because the Truth is: We’re not called to carry boxes — we’re called to carry crosses.

Box carriers are about buying certainty for living. Cross carriers are about carrying the complexity of living.    

Box carriers strain for the power of controlled lives. Cross carriers surrender to the power of the Christ life.

Box carriers box things into simple. Cross carriers unpack things and sit with the suffering

It’s only those who carry crosses who can know how there is an intersection of the many complicated things that bear down on people. 

By this all people will know that you are my disciples — not if you label one another, but if you loveone another (John 13:35).”

~ Ann Voskamp

I don’t need to tell you what she’s talking about and I hope that I don’t have to tell you who she is.  I’ll let you discover the former and if you don’t know this mother- preacher- poet- seer- sage, then consider this your introduction to the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are.  I present to you Mrs. Ann Voskamp’s reflection from her blog http://www.aholyexperience.com.  Your eyes and ears and heart and mind will never be the same.


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Ferguson: Drawing Conclusions

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Race draws conclusions about people and experiences right from the beginning.  The social coloring of skin determines behavior and whether it will be right or wrong.  It does not matter our age, our temperament or even our socioeconomic status.  Race can never be wrong about you.  Its conclusions are as settled as the imaginary color line.

It predicts conversations and can even tell us what we mean to say before we say it.  Race has us all figured out.  Unlike God, race has revealed all that there is to know about us.  It wastes no time telling us who is guilty and who is innocent.  Because race makes decisions based on appearance, based on the fluctuating value of interest in particular external realities: thin versus full lips, petite versus full figures but most often the social coloring of skin: black versus white.

In Ferguson and all around the city, people are drawing conclusions.  We have the case all figured out.  It’s a open and shut case for persons on either side.  If Officer Darren Wilson is charged with murder in the death of Mr. Brown, then it was to be expected.  And if not, then you knew it would happen.  Race is right every time and no matter what.

In some respects, race makes us feel as if we are omniscient, that we know all that there is to know about a person… based on media reports and social media feeds.  As soon as we hear of who is involved, we believe that we know what happened.  We don’t need anymore information.  Say no more!  We can draw a conclusion about the person’s character, intention and the outcome of their meeting.

But, it is foolish to draw conclusions when we don’t know the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46.10).  We live as if our will is what allows the world to exist.  Thankfully, it is not our words or our counsel, not yours or mine or even a combination of two, that keeps the world going– because we don’t know it all about any one thing or person, not even ourselves.

It is foolish to draw conclusions when God is still speaking.  How presumptuous are we to speak to the end of someone’s life when we do not know the end of our own.  Our judgments, our evaluations when spoken don’t leave the room.  They only have the power to control what we think about someone.  We do not own the words that control the destiny of another human being.

It is foolish to draw conclusions when it’s never over, not even when we die.  As believers, race makes us believe that we are excused from speaking words that are grace-full.  In times like these, we are deceived into thinking that we have a license to return to our old stereotypes and prejudices.  Race traps us in time past and present.  We get stuck in the moment and lose the momentum of a people being transformed, forgetting that we live not just for the moment but for eternity.

So, let us conclude that forgiveness, grace and mercy are always needed.  At the end of every matter, let us conclude that it is always time to reconcile our differences and to reconcile with one another.


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Before & After Ferguson

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Persons who are protesting the shooting of unarmed teenager, Mr. Michael Brown, Jr., are saying, “I can’t believe we’re here again, that we’re doing this again.”  Some are angry and even disappointed that they are seeing the same old seemingly race- based, race- driven stories and they are responding the same way, using the same words that they did the last time something like this happened.  They almost mumble, “I thought we had come farther along than this.  I thought that we were past this.”

Why does this scene keep replaying itself?  Why the same characters: police officer or one who wants to be one and unarmed African American male teenager?  Why aren’t things changing?  We witnessed.  We reported.  We protested.  We were jailed.  We asked for a charge and a conviction.  We did all of the things that we normally do and still no change.  Could it be that we might want to change our response to such tragedies before they even happen?

C. S. Lewis believed, “If conversion makes no improvements in a man’s outward actions, then I think his (and her) conversion was largely imaginary.”  As Christians, we are not being transformed in order to see people and situations the same way or respond as we always have.  If we are, in fact, new creatures, then we should have new thoughts on race and new perspectives on its power and presence in America, namely ridding ourselves of it and not allowing it to determine who we form relationships with (cf. Second Corinthians 5.17).

One obvious piece of evidence that points to our allegiance to race is the absence of the word: all.  We are all God’s children and all in Christ and yet, Christians are still employing the unclear and divisive language of “us” and “them.”  We may pack our boxes neatly and indiscriminately but the results are the same.  Still, there are no sides in God’s house but there are in race’s “house of bondage” as described by James Baldwin.

The fact is, people whose God is the Word should not be afraid of talking about any word, especially race.  We should always be talking about race as it is a very present injustice, one of the cruelest of crimes against all of humanity, that is to assert that our value is external, physical and depreciating and not intrinsic, given by God and unable to be lost or taken away.

We should be talking about race until we reach a mutual understanding, grounded not in our wounds but Christ’s stripes (cf. Isaiah 53.5).  But, too often, we talk to support our comfortable prejudices and be affirmed of our hopeless conclusions concerning potential relationships with persons of other cultures.  Our language has not been converted, our necks are stiffened by prejudice and our hearts hardened by stereotypes.  We dig our heals into our experience and what we believe to be the right way to see things, singing, “We shall not be moved.” Again and again and again.  Then, wonder how did we get here?

We should have been talking about race before the death of Mr. Brown in Ferguson and we should not end the conversation abruptly when the trial is over, less we return to the blame game and playing of “the race card.”  And while I am certain that we will talk about race in our safe, affirming and agreeable circles, it is my hope that we would say something new, that we might consider loving those we have been taught to see as “the enemy,” that we forgive persons for what they have done and/or what we thought they might do to us.

I find it saddening and strange that God calls us friends but that we, His children, are not able to say that of each other, that we have grown rather comfortable as a disconnected, disjointed Body (John 15.15).  Before and after times like these, we should seek reconciliation and not re-injury.  We should talk until it hurts us– not others.  We should be transparent, reveal our wounds but then allow them to be healed.  And we have to acknowledge and address the suffering of others.  Race victimizes us all; there are no heroes here.

We cannot afford to simply care for those in our circles or those belonging to our culture.  We must not withhold our tears, our mourning, our sadness because he and she did not “look like” me.  Instead, we must assert that violence against any body is violence against every body.  When any human being dies, something of ourselves also passes with them.

And we must know this before and after anything else like Ferguson happens as it may prevent it one day from happening… again.

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