Category Archives: Ethics Daily

Hello Racism!

Race and its progeny, prejudice, racism and stereotypes, are the elephants on our pew.  It’s a jungle in here on Sunday mornings and more than a tight squeeze as we attempt to lift our hands in worship, to fold our hands in prayer, to grab the hand of our neighbor in fellowship.  Let’s be honest.  They are not visitors but members of the Church in North America.

Disregarding our attempts at colorblindness, we can see that this is not working.  Still, we gave them all the right hand of fellowship the moment we accepted a new creation narrative: “In the beginning, God created white people and then, beige, brown, black, red and yellow people.”  Yes, this is the way that the race story goes and we are its narrators, its co- creators.  Race comes from our mouths.  Race is the covenant that we have made with each other—not God.  It begins, “Only my people are God’s people.”

It is the word we have fashioned with our own tongues and made fact by our decision to treat each other accordingly.  It is the way we choose to perceive people and consequently, certain places in the world.  It is the way that we choose to know each other, its categories help us keep track of where people belong or are expected to be, if only for our self- serving purposes.  And it is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are made one body, one people and one nation.

No race card, no race baiting, race and racism are a part of our personal theology and its practice.  We hear it in our reading of Scripture and its interpretation: “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as wool” (Isaiah 1.18), in our singing: “Jesus loves the little children/ all the children of the world/ red and yellow, black and white…”  But, this is not how Jesus loves us; this is how we love each other.  Most obvious, the social construct of race informs and influences our fellowship.  Buses and schools, water fountains and restaurants, hospitals and even cemeteries have all been integrated, but, not the church.

Our willingness to see persons created by God as somehow lesser or greater than based on the social coloring of skin is the issue.  Race is the word we made flesh.  White is the color we have deified and those who are identified as such are made socially righteousness.  This is good news in America, which should not be confused with the message of the coming kingdom of God.

Persons labeled socially colored beige, brown, black, red and yellow have no chance of experiencing this kind of salvation; there is no deliverance for them. They are subjected to seemingly endless abuse, aggression and assault.  And no matter how many times it happens, it is their body’s fault.  No body else’s.

We have to take responsibility now.  With countless video recordings of racial profiling, harassment, false arrests and even death, we have to change the story of the Good Samaritan.  True to the parable, this generation assumes that the Church will not get involved.  See no evil.

But, there is much that we can do.  I do not offer three steps to a more inclusive church, seven steps to a multicultural ministry or twelve steps to a race-less church.  The moves are not so easy as they must ensure that we all get there together.  Because we are not as far along in our conversations about the social construct of race as we thought or had hoped to be.  No church is doing it right until the Church rights its wrongs concerning race.

So, let’s start from the beginning.  Rather than race introducing us to ourselves and to each other, we need to learn more about race, where it comes from, what it does and how it predetermines our relationships with others.  Not simply repeating after its prejudices, we must question them.  Rather than continue to pretend that race does not exist or claim that we are all apart of one human race, let us accept that it does exist and that it does not help us.  Then and only then can we deal with the meaning of its reality and its implications in our practice of discipleship.

Because we must also interrogate ourselves, asking, “What would the Lord have us to do about race and racism?  How am I complicit in the compromise of Christian community formation?  What of my sight needs to change for me to see persons across cultures as my brothers and sisters?”  And then listen for a response.

Let us begin.  Say, “Hello Racism.”

 

 

Note: This post was originally commissioned by and featured on the Ethics Daily website on June 5, 2018

Ethics Daily reminds us that we cannot do this work alone

eps-RelationshipsI believe in partnerships, in hand- holding, of walking and working together.  While it is not always easy or pleasant and there are certainly cases for which it might seem impossible, the ministry of reconciliation requires such action and movement, crossing the tracks, the social color lines and the aisle.  And it not just coming together.  The goal is not mere fellowship, of our being able to behave peaceably toward one another or to hold a meaningful though timed conversation if we had to.

It is not just about recognizing differences or even offenses but discovering who we are more fully through relationship.  We cannot see ourselves differently if we do not see others who are different from ourselves. We cannot practice this sacred work by talking to persons of our culture, only working with the people in our communities as we are prone to have the same conversations and draw the same conclusions.

Instead, we must broaden our reach and consequently, our vision, which is why the work of great people like those at Ethics Daily is essential.  We cannot do it all alone.  Everyone has a part to play and they certainly assist me in doing mine better… because we cannot do it alone.

“EthicsDaily.com is a division of the Baptist Center for Ethics, founded in 1991 with the mission of providing proactive, positive and practical ethics resources to churches.  Our initiatives focus on ‘challenging people of faith to advance the common good.'”

 

 

 

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.

A Profile in Goodwill

imgres-2Today is a humbling one for me.  I received the email notification that I would be profiled on the Ethics Daily website early this morning.  I answered the questions for the interview about a month ago.  I knew that it was coming.  Still, I am deeply grateful for the acknowledgement.

Some people work for praise and expect it.  Others work because they are driven by productivity.  I am a member of the latter group.  I love work and I love my work.

People ask why I am so passionate about race and saying good riddance to it.  The answer is simple.  It’s what I was born to do.  I was created to do this.  I don’t have anything else to say to race.

So, when the praise comes, it is unexpected.  I am not writing for an audience so the applause startle me.  I must confess that while I share this blog with you, I am writing for me.  While I am thankful for the attention, this work is more personal than some may realize.  This is why I don’t argue in the comment section; it is because I am not an argument but an agreement.

I am in agreement with the Word of God and it is to God that I give the glory for this profile in goodwill for it is simply an expression of God’s will that must be done on earth: reconciliation.