Race-less Gospel

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

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Praying with Howard Thurman: Lord, open unto me


Open unto me — light for my darkness.
Open unto me — courage for my fear.
Open unto me — hope for my despair.
Open unto me — peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me — joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me — strength for my weakness.
Open unto me — wisdom for my confession.
Open unto me — forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me — love for my hates.
Open unto me — thy Self for my self.

Lord, Lord, open unto me!



Burning Churches Again

635713006015361010-fireThis morning, I learned of a seventh African American- led church set ablaze.  The cause for the burning of Mount Zion AME church in Greeleyville, South Carolina is still under investigation.  But, before the smoke signal of this latest burning reached the news, six others in Florida, Tennessee, North and South Carolina were struck with matches.  Three of them have been attributed to arson though it is still unknown as to whether the motive was racial hatred or in response to the recent murder of nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina by self- professed white supremacist Dylann Roof.

Needless to say, there are many who are disgusted, outraged and shocked by this new but old and familiar story of the destruction of sacred spaces where African Americans gather to worship.  And this is not the first time that it has happened to one of the churches.  Mount Zion AME Church was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan twenty years ago.  Added to continued cases of police brutality involving African Americans, the fight over the Confederate flag and the recent comments of presidential candidate Donald Trump who spoke derogatorily about persons of Hispanic descent, it is clear that we are not as progressive as we might hope and that we cannot even begin the work of reconciliation.

There is much work to be done not just in courts but in our communities, not just in churches but in our conversations.  We need to talk to persons of other cultures to establish genuine relationships and friendships.  Don’t count them; just create them. There is not a quota.  According to a Stanford study, “making friends across racial lines lowers prejudice.”

We also must challenge would- be friends of cross- cultural relationships to speak up and speak out when persons make racist comments or comparisons, remarks or jokes.  And we need not make excuses for those who make their prejudices and stereotypes known.  We cannot give them an easy way out but must hold people accountable for their false conclusions and judgments of others.

African American- led churches are burning again and again and again.  We are repeating the sins of our fathers and mothers.  Lord, forgive us.  God, help us.  Amen.


Jim Campbell, “America’s Long History of Black Churches Burning”

Emma Green, “Black Churches are Burning Again in America”

Ron Hall, Denver Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me

Sarah Kaplan and Justin Wm. Moyer, “Why racists target black churches”

Same Kind of different as me

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Praying after Emanuel AME Church Murders

imagesThe recent murder of nine church members to include the pastor, the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina has hurt me deeply. I am aching in places I cannot touch and for which I don’t believe that there is a salve on the market.  It is one thing to grieve the loss of those from history’s past.  I, like so many others, have watched footage after the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  I have even looked at photos of the bodies of the four little girls, distorted by bricks.  I have sat in the sanctuary and listened to the testimony of those who survived this attack of hatred.  But, it is altogether different to be living today and feel like you have been forced to time travel backward, forced to watch something that should never be seen again.

The actions of Dylann Roof are out of order, out of sequence and out of line.  He said to one of victims, “You all raped our women and you’re taking over the country.”  But, these are not his words; they are too old for him.  Instead, they are identical to those used to lynch African American men without due process of law in the 19th and 20th centuries (At the Hands of Persons Unknown is a detailed account of the terror and injustice of lynchings in America.).  Furthermore, African Americans are not taking over the country.  If Mr. Roof is talking about numbers, then he wrong.  It is projected that Hispanic Americans will be the largest minority.  He need only pick up a newspaper or a book and learn of the unequal representation of African Americans in leadership in America.

Still, he is too young to know these words and to draw such conclusions.  He, too, has reviewed footage of the terrorism suffered by African Americans and listened to conversations– but from another angle and perspective.   This poor tortured soul has entered a war, a race war, for which there is no cause, holy or otherwise.

So, what do I say now?  How can I talk to God after this happened in a place of worship?  Most days, I can’t.  I drive in silence.  I sit in the sanctuary in silence, believing God knows and located the words that I can’t find to express the agony that I feel.

Thomas Merton believed “silence is the first language of God.”  Perhaps, this will become my mother tongue as I still don’t know what to say.  Pray with me.

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Help After the Emanuel AME Church Murders

CIc0VYkW8AEbyRY“Knowing what’s right does not mean much unless you do what’s right.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

There is so much terrain to cover and so many layers to our continuing conversation on race and its progeny.  To be sure, I agree with President Obama as to the nature of our conversations moving forward.  He said during Wednesday’s eulogy of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine murdered by accused killer Dylann Roof, “We talk a lot about race. There’s no short cut. We don’t need more talk.”

He also said, “To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change… That’s how we lose our way again.”  He warned others not to “slip back into a comfortable silence.”

While I am  a lover of words, they should not replace the work of justice and reconciliation.  Several organizations have stepped forward to provide tools and resources.  And I too want to offer a space for that list to be extended.  I am a Baptist by tradition and so my support will come predominately from that community of faith.  But, don’t let that scare you off.  In order for our country to be healed of the wounds of race, we will need all hands on deck.  So, please add to this list from your tradition and perspective.

The New Baptist Covenant has provided a template for a covenant of action.  Mosaix, “a movement toward multi- ethnic churches,” provides a “Multi- Ethnic Roadmap.”  The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University has published an entire issue on racism that includes a worship service with hymns, prayers, readings and scripture.  They also have articles by Michael Emerson and Mikeal Parsons among others.  The good folks at Ethics Daily have a DVD and study guide called “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism.”  Robert Dilday at Baptist News Global captured the sentiment of some who struggled to find the words for the Sunday message after the murders.  Pastor Peter Haas’ “Confessions of a White Male Pastor” is powerfully honest.  Also, Ministry Matters offers lots of articles that could serve as points for dialogue, reflection and action items to include David Gushee’s “Do we need guns in holy places?”, Mark Lockard’s “Can the church reckon with racism?” and Jonathan Merritt’s “What does it take to forgive someone like Dylann Roof?”

There are also numerous book and movie titles, links to articles and the like on my resource page.  But, this work is not just mine or that of a few.  You can offer a helping hand by sharing Bible studies ideas, materials for small groups or sermons that might be of help to us after the murders at Emanuel AME Church.

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After Emanuel AME Church Murders: Sanctuaries as safe places

HT_SCSUSPECT_150618_DG_16x9_992Where can we go and be safe?  Safe from hatred and prejudice, from oppressive ideologies and violence?  Is the cross of Christ not a white flag, a symbol of ultimate sacrifice and a place of surrender?  Does it not remind us that the war for our souls is over and won, that we have the victory in Christ (First Corinthians 15.57)?

If the answer to the last question is yes and I believe it is, then why didn’t Dylann Roof see it as such?  Why did the Scriptures described as a double- edged sword not pierce his heart with conviction (Hebrews 4.12)?  He came to a Bible study, was warmly welcomed and accepted by those he would accuse of “raping our women” and “taking over our country.”

And what do we do when persons do not view us as new creatures in Christ, but kill us because of the historical social coloring of skin (Second Corinthians 5.17)?  If our Bibles don’t protect us from bullets, if bowed heads are viewed as better targets, then what are we to make of our faith and its practice?  Like so many others, I am left with nothing but questions after the disturbing murder of nine souls at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday.  The name of the church is a reminder that God is with us and yet, when someone can enter a church and take faithful lives in an effort to start a “race war,” it causes me to question, to doubt if God is… with us.


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After Emmanuel AME Church Murders: No Confederate Flags

477933854-hundreds-of-people-protest-against-the-confederate-flag.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge-1Yesterday, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley did not hide behind the Confederate flag but said it has “no place” on statehouse grounds.  Charleston, South Carolina is being connected to Birmingham, Alabama of 1963.  The nine lives lost while gathering for prayer and Bible study are connected to the deaths of four little girls who came to attend Sunday school at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.  And while persons are discussing why 21 year old confessed shooter Dylann Roof came and political verbal shoving matches continue, another connection is being made to the Confederate flag and its tie to American slavery.

Some say that its meaning is complicated while others argue that it is clear cut.  The Confederate States of America, as they would come to be known, seceded from the Union shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s was elected president.  As we all know, he would go on to abolish the enslavement and forced employment of African Americans.  We’ve had hundreds of years dissect and discuss this subject.  Whether it is the original flag or not, the original meaning remains intact.  If it offends some, it offends all.  Consequently, I agree with those who call for its removal, which now includes Governor Nikki Haley. Take down the flag.


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After Emanuel AME Church Murders: The Grieving Process

kubler-ross-grief-cycle-1-728Yesterday, during our morning worship service, I read the names of the nine people murdered at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday by suspected killer 21 year old Dylann Roof at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday.  I am still at a loss for words that would capture all of the feelings and thoughts that are running around in my mind.  I am sure that there are countless others who feel the same way.

And there are plenty of people who want to tell us how to feel and offer appropriate ways to respond to this violation of sacred space.  But, amidst calls for justice and quick forgiveness for those uncomfortable with the reasons for their death– the fact is that Roof wanted to start a race war– still this indescribable loss of life death warrants grief.  With too many instances of police and community conflict, this recent mass murdering calls for a time of lament.

So, how do we grieve?  Elizabeth Kubler- Ross offers these five stages:

1.  Denial: “This is not happening.”

2. Anger: “Why me?  Why my loved one?”

3. Bargaining: “If I/ he/ she/ they do this, then everything will be as it was before.”

4. Depression: “I can’t do this.  This/ They will never change.  There is no reason to continue.”

5. Acceptance: “It’s unfortunate that it happened but I have to move on now.  What can I learn from this?”

As we remember them, consider these steps in your journey toward healing.




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