Race-less Gospel

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


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Race Is Not Enough

not-enoughI am more than what the eyes can see or what they tell you I am or will be.  I am not just flesh and bone but soul and spirit, not tied to earth but bound for heaven.  I don’t just walk.

More than this flesh and its members.  I have more than feet, wings tucked in because I don’t have many flying partners.  But, trust me, I can soar– without a running start or a push.  I don’t even have to jump.  I am more than this body will ever be, more than the words provided, suggested by society.

Race only offers rope, strings attached to stereotypes.  I can be– but only this way.  I can go– but only so far.

My identity trapped between rocky relationships and hardened points of view.  I want out.  There is someone more here.  There is more to say here, more to say about me and race stopped talking about me long before I was even born.

Race is here but not for me.  A provider of things I have no need of; a protector of a past I have not interest in living with or repeating.  I’ve had enough of race.

It is simply not enough and I know this because… I am more.


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Given Not Earned

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“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

~ Ephesians 2.10, NRSV

“In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of every human being.”

~ Job 12.10

America says that our meaning and subsequent worth is earned.  We make light of our common human nature and believe that importance is nurtured, birthed.  It matters whose house you were born in– not that we all live under roofs.  It matters the kind of spoon, silver or wooden, not the fact that we all need one to eat.

No, we have our own separating, segregating, social anointing process.  We choose importance and consequent greatness based on the lineage, the legacy of last names.  And depending on our name, we either come in first or last.  Our names can elevate or demote us; it all depends on who we are tied to and what they have earned with their name.

We cannot see the importance of a name unless it is in lights.  Starring.  It is a matter of how many people know us and know of our name.  Unfortunately, fans are more important than family members; its the numbers that count.  Meaning and the subsequent value of a life is a popularity contest for some of us.

And it matters who knows you, the “who’s who”, we call them.  Based on who knows us, we are considered known and even well- known.  Sadly, the truth that God knows us all is problematic as it does not make us feel special, single out, distinct.  Starring.

Our meaning is also gained through material acquisition.  The more things we have, the more meaning we possess.  The more money we have, the more value is given to our name.  We even “name drop” to demonstrate our connections to those who have more meaning than others.

And if our name happens to mean that we are someone of importance and it is forgotten or not acknowledged by special treatment or deference, then we ask, “Do you know who I am?”  I wonder if we even know the answer to such a question if our self- knowledge lies in our last name, family legacy and/ or wealth.

With God, our meaning is given, assumed.  We are here so we belong, are important and necessary– as God does not create what or who He does not have need of.  Consequently, it does not what we gain or lose, what our names are or who we answer to.  But, if we have done what we were created to do, whether or not we lived into (versus up to), lived by the name that God calls us.

Our meaning is God- given and not something that any human being can take away– no matter what our names earn us.  Neither we nor our parents had a hand in it.  It is given to us by God not assigned to us based on our social earning potential or reality.  No, our identity and being are in His hands, given to be pierced so that we could be made whole, nailed down so that our lives could be freed from the bondage of sin and no one can change that (cp. John 10.28).  He prepared it beforehand.  When He gave us His Word, He promised us that.  Thanks be to God.


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Post- Racial America: Why We Can’t Get Past Race

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There aren’t many fans of the word post- racial.  It seems utopian for some, unrealistic for others.  And from what I hear and read, it seems almost mythical.  It’s magic talk and there isn’t a huge market for this fairy dust.  We just cannot even imagine the characters for such a story.  Because exactly what would we call ourselves?  Perhaps, human beings would be a good fit.

We say that we want out of race but we don’t want to hear about race.  We say that we’re tired of the fruit of race but that doesn’t stop up from sowing the seeds of history.  We keep watering our present with the same stereotypes and prejudices.

We keep talking about race the same way: omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.  The change comes when we realize that we empower race and we can strip it of its power.  We carry race; it stops moving from place to place, person to person and conversation to conversation when we put it down, when we let it go, when we no longer allow it it to travel with us.  And race only knows what we tell it; race simply says what we believe about others– sight unseen.

We must begin to say more about the word’s limitations and restrictions.  We must begin to criticize race and its progeny.  And it begins with an evaluation of race but we must begin to supervise it.  We live as its employees but we need to reverse the role.  This is the only way to rid ourselves of it, to rise above it and to make race past tense.  We must entertain the possibility and not dismiss conversations that race can be moved, demoted and cast out of our cities, our communities, our churches, our houses, our mouths.  It’s life and death are in our mouths (cf. Proverb 18.21).

We cannot get past race because we believe that:

1.  Race is in front of us.  We must realize that when we agree to live by this social construct that we put ourselves in second place.  We accept that we are second- class citizens and second guess who we are, believing that that we get no second chances because of stereotypes and prejudices.

2.  Our social history will always be our present.  We must begin to live in the light of God’s eternity not the temporality of this life.  Just like our material possessions, we cannot take race with us when we die so why hold on to it so tightly while we live.

3.  We believe in its color- coded adjectives and have come to trust them more than any other word, even God’s.  We believe that we are socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige and we just can’t see anything else.  So strong is the vision, so attached to the reality are we that letting go would be like losing ourselves.  We believe that we are nothing more than a color and if it is taken away, then we cease to exist.

But, we are not a color and people don’t come in colors like some packaged deal or social product.  We are children of God.  We are spirit, apart of Spirit and will live beyond our flesh and its social colors.  The adjective that I would use is eternal.

4.  We are more carnal than we realize or want to accept.  Race makes us comfortable judging, walking, living in the flesh rather than the Spirit.  But, the post- racial life is a call to walk after the Spirit, to no longer walk according to the flesh, to live by and based on our skin (cf. Romans 8.5).

Trust what I’m saying to you.  Accept the possibility of a race-less life.  Take my hand and let’s walk right past race.


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Post- Racial America: Why It’s So Hard To Say

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Post- racial.  Post- racial?  Are you serious?  Is it really possible to put race behind us?  Just how is that going to happen?

We shake our heads and shoo away the thought.  I cannot say what I cannot see and have you seen the news lately?  Do you know our history?  I do not see how that is going to happen so let’s not even entertain the conversation.

Too often we cannot believe the word of God because of our reality.  We do not believe  “Christ is greater in us than the Devil or race that is in the world” (First John 4.4).  We do not believe Christ is stronger spiritually or vocally and we act as if we cannot hear him during conversations that involve race.  I would disagree, asserting that it is us who do not “have an ear to hear” (Matthew 11.15).  And faith comes not by seeing but “by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10.17).

And I have heard the word: post- racial.  It is ringing in my ears.  He said to me like Isaiah, “And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (30.21).  If you are following Christ, then race is already behind you.  You just have to accept the liberty of His words and walk in them.

But, more often than not, we do not consider race based on our faith.  We do not speak of our faith as if it is more powerful or has the final say.  Instead, we allow race to talk over our faith and cause us to doubt God’s promises.  When we hear challenging words like post- racial, we say things like:

“It takes too long.”   And it’s true.  This work takes patience not in a process but ourselves.  Change is hard but it is even harder when we think that the problem is systems or societies.  We create the systems and we make up the societies; consequently, the change begins when we do.

Moving from a hyper- racialized to a post- racial society will not be a quick fix but will require not hours, months or even years of conversation.  It will require lifetimes, generations committed to de-racializing our lives, our beliefs and speech, our perception and perspective, our habits and traditions. We will have to talk about race and its progeny for the rest of our lives in order to rid our hearts, minds and souls of its presence.

But, the conversation must address race as the problem with humanity as opposed to particular cultures of humanity as the race problem. We must all come over to the same side, erasing the color line and its boundaries.

“But, it’s scary.”  Yes, this move takes guts.  We don’t know how to live without race. We’ve never had too so why try?  It is hurting us and our relationships with others. But, it’s all we’ve got, right? Wrong.

We have been so conditioned to believe that exists that we are afraid that nothing can exist without or apart from it. We live as if race is the source of our existence and believe that if we stop using it, we will disappear. We have become more invested in the social coloring of skin than our actual person. We are more socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige than human. We know more about how to act and react as a racial person than as a human being.

“But, it’s unfamiliar.  It’s all I know.”  It is regrettable that we know so much about race and not much about ourselves.  We know how to react according to race but not based on our own beliefs and convictions.  We must be true to Christ alone as race and Christ have no relationship with one another.

The word post- racial does not come with a three- point plan or a twelve- step process. It doesn’t come with a group of supporters. But, we will have to make this journey alone at first. We must first say the word and allow the word to do its work within us.

There are no maps or keys because the course has not been charted. We are so afraid of its existence that we have not ventured to see if it does exist, afraid to take a single step away from race.

Due to our unfamiliarity, it will take a lot of faith.  This is not an easy thing to say or believe.  We don’t yet know what words go with it.  We cannot yet comprehend the benefits of saying it, of living it?  Still, we will have to take this trip with Christ one step at a time and we’re not the lead.

Our ability to say, “Post- Racial America” might start with the words post- racial me and post- racial Christ.  Perhaps, it is hard to say because we do not fully understand that Christ is the Word and that He should make words like race tremble and others like post- racial triumph on our lips.


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Leaving A Trail

Go-Where-There-is-No-Path-and-Leave-a-Trail-Emerson-Quote

Persons use incidents like the tragic and unfortunate death of Mr. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to say that we are not ready for a post- racial America. They shout down the word, shake their hands and heads at those who use it– both angered and saddened at our ignorance and naivete. They seem to ask, “Don’t you know how wicked humanity is? Don’t you know that we don’t forget? Don’t you know that we will never get over the history American slavery and consequently, cannot move beyond the structures and relationships that it set in place?  It’s too hard, too deep, still too painful to the touch.”

Responses like these are troubling because it is not enough to say that our sense of self has been injured, trust has been broken and relationships damaged by race.  It is not productive to yell about the wound, to scream, “I’m hurting!  I’m bleeding!  I am in pain!”  We must let someone look at it; an examination is needed and next steps that promote healing and our safe return to society and cross- cultural relationships is necessary.

Actions must be taken that address the wound instead of entertaining the on- going conversation of our woundedness.  I understand that you are hurt but what can we do about it?  What do we need to do to make our relationships with each other better?  How can we remove the pain?

We are always ready to express the pain of race but we struggle to address its wounds. We don’t want to touch it so we talk around it. We do not apply pressure to our private hatreds or remove the comfort of our stereotypes. We do not confront our prejudices.  No, we leave the beams in place as if they support our eye sight (cf. Matthew 7.3).

But, what we do not talk about is the damage that race has caused to our relationships. We don’t talk about healing, restoration, reconciling, what we can do to trust each other again. And let me give you a hint: It won’t come from the lips of a president, passed in legislation or agreed upon after a riot.

It is a sad commentary of humanity and Christians that our relationships have not matured beyond relating to persons based on racial attitudes and external appearances, that people of the Book judge persons based on their covers.  We are conditioned to look at the externals; but what of the work of regeneration?  We are encouraged to hate but what of the command to love?  The Church must choose Who or what She will serve, whether God or race.

And let’s be honest, race serves our egos and is a personal assistant to our pride.  Letting go of race is but a call to die to the self.  Stepping away from race is a challenge to walk in the Spirit and no longer walk according to the flesh (cf. Romans 8.5).  It can be hard to find our way as the way of the race-less life does not garner heavy foot traffic.

But, I am not deterred.  I’ve decided to leave a trail like other trailblazers in the faith.  Joel left a trail when he wrote, “ I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions” (2.28).  Jesus left a trail when we said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6).  Paul left a trail in Galatians: “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 3.28) and again in Colossians: “… Seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.  In that renewal, there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all” (3.9-11)!  And he was following Christ’s trail: “Follow me as I follow Christ” (First Corinthians 11.1).

This walk should begin and end with Christ.  Our lives should leave trails that lead persons back to Him.


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“Give Me Your Eyes”: How Race Defiles Us

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… for they will see God.”

Unlike most persons I talk to, I think about race in order to discern ways to never think about it again.  I talk about race in order to eradicate it from conversations about human identity and the ways in which we relate to each other.  I assert that we are not related because of race so why should it determine our relationships?  Instead, we are linked, joined, matched, paired two by two by two by two because we are all made in the image of God.  We are related to every single human being on the face of the earth.  We belong to every body.

Ann Voscamp shares in her book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are:

“Isn’t He the face of all faces?  He is infinite and without end, without jaw or sockets, everywhere eye.  The face of the moon, the face of the doe, the face of the derelict, the face of pain, His (is) the countenance that seeps through the world, face without limitation, face that ‘plays in ten thousand places.'”

“The Face of all faces.”  Are we not asked to love our neighbor as our self?  Would it, perhaps, require that we see our neighbor as our self, that we see ourselves in our neighbor, that we see the Self in those we share space with– whether neighborhood, city, country or world?  Could it be that race reduces our vision, restricts our sight in that we are only able to see and consequently, love those who “look like us”?  Could our ability to see be symptomatic of heart troubles, of a heart defiled?  I think so.

Race defiles our heart, corrupting the purity of love.  It tells us that we can only love those who are within our socioeconomic circle and culture, that you can love “us” but not “them.”  It limits the range, the span of love.   Race tells us that love can only go so far, that we should not reach for persons of other cultures.  This social construct tells us that physical features are an indication of those who are lovable, visible, touchable.

But, we are Christians who are called to love everyone who looks like God, made in His image.  This is problematic as race says that God looks like us and anyone who does not belong to our socially constructed race not only is evil but is the image of evil.  I look like God so you look like the Devil.  God forbid.

Race pollutes our heart, destroying the newness of love.  It teaches us that all relationships with persons of this culture or that one will begin and end the same.  Race simply has no faith in relationships with persons of other cultures.  It does not believe in love this big or wide or strong; it only believes in the love that it can contain.   And it will not entertain the possibility of loving someone who has long been considered an enemy.

Race taints our heart, spoiling the excitement of love with prejudice and stereotypes.  It says that every single person is the same.  So, why love?  Why look into her and his face for a relationship?  Walk away.  They are all the same.  It’s been done.  But, really it hasn’t.

The fact is that none of our hearts are pure when it comes to race.  We all hold prejudices, stereotypes, sacred hatreds close to our hearts.  This is the work of love; there is always something else to clean.  There is always some unfinished business within us and around us that must be addressed, ordered and made right.

And we know it based on what we can and cannot see.  We are pure in heart when we can see God in the face of all of humanity.  Lord, make us pure because we want to see.  Give us Your eyes, full of compassion, hope and faith.  In the name of the Pure One who became dirty for us, Jesus the Christ, we pray.  Amen.


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Seeing is Saying

A young new plant growing from palm in two hands, isolated

“I refuse to be intimidated by reality anymore.  What is reality?  Nothing but a collective hunch?”

~ Lily Tomlin

“Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization.”

~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

“All the world is window.  No material is opaque.  If we are willing to see– people, circumstances, situations, relationships– all is transparent.  All of this globe is but glass to God.”

~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Our reality and Reality are not the same.  We know this because Isaiah tells us so.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55.8).  So, when race says that our being, our identity, our purpose is tied to our earth, found in the skin made of dirt, it does not elevate us much, does it?

I believe that God’s thoughts about us are higher than those of race.  I believe that God has spoken something much higher than this social construct.  I cannot comprehend it though I know it to be true.  Race would attempt to quiet me with statistics, to shush me with history, to tell me to calm down for fear of punishment from “them” or perhaps members of “us.”  But, unlike many of us, race does not and will not tell me what to say.  It will not tell me what I see.

Race will also not tell me what I cannot see, what I don’t see.  It will not restrict my eyesight or assume to know the vision that God has given me.  What we are afraid to see, we are often afraid to say.  Our ability to see is in our saying.

Don’t tell me what cannot been seen; it just remains to be unsaid.  Because it is left unsaid, no one wants to believe that they will see it but I do.  I see it so I will say it: race-less.

 

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