Race-less Gospel

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


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What is race doing here?

We are very spiritual people… in church. We make for great Christians between 11 a.m. and noon. It is so easy to share a hymnal, to forgive someone who steps on our toe as she slides into the seat next to us, to smile and greet a new visitor.  We behave as if God only sees us in church, that we must only do our Sunday best.

Once the benediction is pronounced and before we walk out the door, we have already flipped the switch, turned our minds over to the ‘real world.’  We think that it’s okay, understandable, acceptable even to be carnal.  I mean, let’s be serious. This ain’t heaven and the world is not full of angels.  There is a time and a place for the practice of our faith and it’s on Sunday at 11 a.m. But, in so doing, we reveal that we are wearing a mask and our worship is a mere performance.

We don’t really believe that we can behave or believe in the world as we do in our sacred communities. We can’t be kind to persons outside of the church, right? We can’t forgive persons who are not members of our Sunday school class. We need to know them in order to practice our faith with them. Our love is only for those who love our God, right? Uh-uh.

Our society caters to the flesh, appeals to it, supports it.  And race does this so well. It says that we give our best to those who look like us. We are only kind, understanding, forgiving of those within our culture. Our systems support it. Our families teach it. Our egos like it.

But, what is the place of race in the life of a Christian? What is the role of race in our lives?  Why do we need it and why does it seem that we can’t do without it? When we go home, when we gather for worship, when we sit at our desk at work or school, why is race there?  What is race doing here with us very spiritual people?


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Why go to church?

why-go-to-churchFor the past few weeks, I have been writing to my children, youth and young adult members, questioning why they come.  We know that most children attend church because their parents bring them.  I mean, they can’t stay at home by themselves.  Teenagers attend because their parents make them.  I’ve heard parents say, “If I’m going to church, then you’re going to church.”  And young adults come (back) to church because they are getting ready to settle down, get married or start family.  This last group is looking to provide a spiritual foundation for their children who will come to church because their parents bring them.  So, why go to church?

This, of course, has me thinking about race and the many reasons why older adults come to church.  How do we come to church and not change our perspective on our neighbor and the stranger?  How do we go to church and not leave differently?  Now, I don’t mean that we should leave inspired, leave with goose bumps or leave happy.  I mean leave unsettled, leave challenged, leave angry because we have been provoked to do something that we know is right.

Why do we go to the house of God, the house of Love and leave still hating, still prejudging, still comparing the accolades and accomplishments of our flesh?  Why do we sit in the house of worship and leave still unable to sit in the presence of those of other cultures?  Why go to church at all if it is a segregated church?  I mean, if our church is no different than the world, then why go to church at all?  Why not just stay in the world?

It is my prayer this morning that we would become a house of God, a house of His love so that  when persons see us, they would ask themselves, “Why don’t I go to church?”  Amen.

 


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Living From Offense to Offense

“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory.”

~ Colossians 3.1-4, NRSV

Baptized and raised with Christ, we are dead yet born again.  It is both a funeral and a wedding, earth and altar, old nature gone: “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” and new name given: “I now pronounce you…”  We are not said the same because we are not seen the same.  So, what of our own eyes?

We have been raised with Christ and are commanded to search, to actively look for things that are above.  We have been raised with Christ and thus, are also able to rise above situations, to set our minds on things that are above.  It is not due to our own strength but Christ’s resurrection power at work within us.  It is only because we have been raised with him, lifted, elevated, positioned higher and consequently, given a different perspective.

This is how we are able to get above the battle, how we are equipped to look beyond the war of words, the latest and most tragic event brought to us by racism.  It is because we have been positioned in Christ (John 15.4; Galatians 2.20; First John 4.15).  And we must see and speak from this place.  We must live and move from this place that is not race neutral or colorblind but race-less.

This place is not ensnared by race’s prejudicial history or positioned to respond based on stereotypical expectations.  It owes no one, has no cultural or social allegiances, is without economic dependence or investment.  Instead, it comes from an eternal place; its decisions and decisiveness not determined by time, media cycles or the fickleness of what is in and out, popular, acceptable, correct.

This place is much deeper, a steeper ascent for the soul.  A place that does not require or depend on flesh: the Spirit. And while this seems easier to write than do, still we must do it or we ought not say that we be it: Christian, Christ- like, believer, disciple, follower of the Way.  We must speak from our birthplace as Christ said to Nicodemus, “You must be born from above” (John 3.7).

The other option is to wait for the next injury, to lie down and take it, to talk about it and take it, to protest and take it, to debate it and take it.  The only other option is to continue to live as race’s latest and greatest victim.  And every time that it hits us, we say, “That’s it!  I’ve had enough! I cannot live with this! I can’t take it!”  But, then we do. Again and again and again.

Then, time passes and the distance of days makes it hard to maintain our position. Our anger and disgust wanes. Our tears dry up. The pain and our hurt subsides.  We have to go to work, to school, to church, to the theater, to the grocery story, back to business as usual, to our cultural corners to recover and prepare for next time… because there is always next time.

This race war causes us to live from offense to offense.  It has gone on for hundreds of years and I am afraid for the generations that will be enlisted as there is no discussion of surrender or solution.  There seems to be no end in sight, no new strategy other than fight, no white flags waving.

This is why we are not in a place of healing.  This is why we cannot address the wounds.  It is because we cannot live beyond our flesh; we cannot move above our skin.  Sometimes, it is hardest to do because we won’t say it: race- less.

We must live above race, move beyond the offenses and stop this cycle of socially acceptable violence.  We must have a way of being and seeing that is beyond the interactions of our flesh so that we can live with and love our selves, our neighbor and our God… so, that we don’t see our selves, our neighbor or our God as an offense, remembering that “whatever is born of God conquers the world” (First John 5.4).


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No Longer A Struggle: Declaring A Post- Racial Identity

struggle

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.  If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened.  But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Race is a battle behind me not ahead of me. It poses no threat.  I will never look over my shoulder because of it.

There is no wrestling within or without, no tug of war, no pull to one side or the other.  Race will not separate me from others or segregate me from myself.

I will not fight a social construct.  If people can build it, then I can tear it down.  If people can choose to say it, then I can choose not to.  I’m not fighting people over my identity, my perspective, my place on earth.  God was certain when He made me.

I have won the victory and have race’s white flag. It surrenders to me.  Race is defeated and I will not fight it again.  There is no competition, nothing that competes with me.

I am stronger; race is weaker.  I am superior; race is inferior.  I am the majority; race is the minority.  It is no match for me.

I have proven my strength; race is no rival.

I have held my position; race does not move me.

I know who I am; race does not threaten me.

I have nothing to defend when it comes to race. I can turn my back on it because race is not an adversary. I can let my guard down because it cannot attack me.

I no longer struggle with race because I am progress, moving beyond it, battle won: post- racial.


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Christ Saved My Life

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChrist saved my life from stereotypes. “In Him, “I am a new creature and all things become new” (Second Corinthians 5.17).  I am not more of the same old colored people, another addition to the racial group.  I am not another number, added into the racial majority or minority.

Christ saved my life from prejudice. In Him, I am clothed. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27-28).  In Him, I am one.  Christ makes me whole.

Christ saved my life from segregation. “In Him, I live, move and have my being” (Acts 17.28). There is no basis for fences or boundaries, assigned seating or separate entrances, warning or caution signs in Christ.  All can come to me because I come from All.

Christ saved my life from hatred. In Him, there is perfect love and God is love perfected.  “There is no fear in love. But, perfect love drives out all fear” (First John 4.18).  God casts out, calls out, circles the fear in me.  It must leave me first before I can second guess the motivations of others.

I don’t have to be the person that race says that I will be because of the social coloring of skin, the external markers of race. Christ gave me another life and way of being that is outside of this world and its oppressions, outside of me but inside of Him.  And all of me that is worthy of keeping, He has saved.


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Race and Misrepresentation

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mis·rep·re·sen·ta·tion/ˌmisreprəzenˈtāSH(ə)n/, Noun
1.  the action or offense of giving a false or misleading account of the nature of something

When we call ourselves racial beings, socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people, we misrepresent our Creator.  God is not a racial being or a Racial Being, a supreme among supremes, defined or confined to physical, external, carnal clues, bound to the temporality of flesh. God is not a racial being, ruling and being ruled by what is seen.  God is Spirit, unseen and yet known, too often unexperienced but in every instance needed.

When we prejudge and hate, we misrepresent God’s love.  God’s love is not conditional, based on the social coloring of skin, given only to those who “look like Him.”  We are all made in God’s image because He has no favorites, no stepchildren, no distant relatives  (cp. Romans 2.11).  There is no chance that He would ever deny us.

When we stereotype and segregate, we misrepresent God’s unity, God’s community- kingdom, God’s togetherness.  God has it all together and has us all together in the palm of His hand (John 10.28).  God’s connectedness to all that He has created is never questionable. God touches and is in touch with every human being.  No member of His Body can be disconnected.

It does not matter what race says; race does not speak for God.  So, when it stands up in our lives, when it rises to speak on behalf of Scripture, it is always a misrepresentation.


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Segregation is Decreasing in Some Churches

That’s what yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article by Laura Meckler is reporting in “How Churches Are Slowing Becoming Less Segregated.”  In the article, the senior pastor of the Peoples Church of Cincinnati, Rev. Beard, makes a necessary connection, “If the church is segregated, no wonder the city is segregated.” For Reverend Beard, the Church determines the relationships and the way in which we interact within those relationships– not the government.  Interesting.

Meckler doesn’t gloss over the problems that arise when persons of different cultures attempt to worship under one roof but Reverend Mark DeYmaz’s conviction after reading Scripture (i.e. The Revelation 7.9-10) settles the matter: “If the kingdom of heaven isn’t segregated, then why on earth is the church segregated?”   I’ll leave that answer up to you as well as the rest of the article. 

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