Category Archives: The Church

The Separation of Church and Race

2-FINGERS-TOUCHINGIt is my life’s purpose to encourage persons to hang this sign on their soul in response to race, its stereotypes and prejudices: Do not enter.  While I believe that God is without boundary, that God cannot be limited or restricted by the designations of society and culture, that God’s Being cannot be changed, I also espouse the position that the human’s understanding of being is too easily challenged.  I want to argue that there are truths about our being that must be protected and that a line must be drawn, a standard raised, a wall built and a watchmen hired.

We learn from the story of Job and from the mouth of Satan that God does put a fence around righteous persons (Job 1.10).  Satan argues that this is the reason for Job’s goodness and asks that the Lord would remove the hedge.  And while God does allow the devil entry into the life of Job, touching his family, finances, flesh and the perception of some of his friends, God does not allow the accuser to touch his soul, his essence, his life (2.6). This story reminds me that there are some things that are not up for discussion or up for grabs. There are some parts of us that are negotiable.

The increased connections made through social media allow us to share our lives minute- by- minute.  Our screens allow us to be seen by persons all over the world.  But, what of ourselves do we know?  Note: Social media updates are not synonymous with personal and spiritual awareness.  I understand that it is done in an attempt to be transparent and authentic, bearing all in hopes of seeing more of ourselves.  We have nothing to hide.

So, when we are introduced to the Church that keeps secrets and wears masks, we become angry.  The Church is supposed to show us who we are according to God’s Word– not according to the status quo and social suggestions.  This is why this generation has charged the Church with hypocrisy.

Frankly, the charges stick.  We don’t have to wait for a trial; we are guilty as charge.  There is a case against us when it comes to the social construct of race.  Because we have shared in society’s lie, in history’s ruse.  We have racialized the will of God and the Word of God, the presence of God and the people of God.  We have justified segregation.  We have demonized and sanctified the social coloring of skin.

God came to earth and was revealed in Christ; still, we have yet to understand what we have been entrusted with, that there is a need to keep some things for ourselves and from our selves.  Race is one such thing that must be pushed away in order that we might be found closer to who we are in Christ.

The house of God is for all people and all kinds of people.  The Church is not a box, a container or a storage space.  It is the place where we empty of ourselves in order to be filled with God’s race-less Spirit.  How else will we fulfill the Great Commission?  How can we go out into all the world?  We must place signs up in the souls of humanity and on the doors of the Church.  Do not enter.  Because there must be a separation between the Church and race.

Dear Body of Christ

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Dear Body of Christ,

We are the Body of Christ, not the race or races of Christ.  We are not colors but the children of God, not stereotypes but the saints of God, not prejudicial guesses but members of a royal priesthood.  I thought that we were called to walk in the spirit not after the flesh, that we had been called to worship in the spirit not according to our flesh, that we had been commanded to love as Christ does not as our culture requires.

We are the Body of Christ, the Church of the living Christ of which he is the chief cornerstone.  But, Christ did not lay the foundation of race.  Racism was not a part of the blueprint for our being.  Prejudice is not an architect of our humanity. None of this was ever a part of God’s plan for us.

We are the Body of Christ, the bride of Christ, married to one groom.  There has been but one joining, one wedding ceremony, one covenant shared, one vow made.  Christ does not have multiple wives: a Black Church, a White Church, a Red Church, a Brown Church, a Yellow Church, a Beige Church. We are called to be one Body, members of one another. It’s impossible to be a body if we are not.

Sincerely,

A concerned member

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.

 

Why we are the Church

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“The fellowship has its source and origin in Christ.”

~ Mary Rearick Paul

We are together because of Christ.  He is the Seamstress that knit us together (Psalm 139.13).

We come together because of Christ.  He is the Chief Cornerstone upon which our faith is laid (Ephesians 2.10).

We belong together because of Christ.  He is the Unity that unites us all (First Corinthians 6.17).

Together we are because of Christ.

Together we come because of Christ.

Together we belong because of Christ.

Amen.

Why the Church doesn’t talk about race

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“I can’t think of a clever sermon title.”  “What words rhyme with race?”  “I don’t know where to begin.”  I’m not an expert.”  “It’s too sad.”  “People won’t come to church to hear that.”  “People will leave.”  “I will never forgive them for what they did.”  “It will make people angry.”  “It will hurt.  It’s too painful.”  “That’s the past.”  Race is not an issue here.  We love and accept everyone.” “That’s not the purpose of the Church.”  Excuses, excuses and more excuses.

The Church is about forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, justice, love, peace, fellowship.  And race prevents, delays and denies these things from happening.  So, race should be the enemy not each other.

We often say, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about that.”  Or, “the Bible doesn’t say that I have to do that.”  Such a statement suggests that because the offense, the stumbling block, the temptation, the sin is not listed, we are somehow exempt or excused from the consequences.  We are observing and making note of the absence in order for our poor witness not to be seen.

We talk as if the Bible is a sin narrative and not a salvation narrative.  The Book gives witness to, points to Christ as Messiah not us as sinners.  It is a collection of God’s good works not a list of our sins.  And we know what is wrong.  We are born in sin (Psalm 51.5).  We are familiar with sin.  It is the good and the righteous that must be learned.

I have heard Christian leaders say, “When the Bible is silent, I am silent.”  But, how can the Word- God ever be silent on anything?  Frankly, the historic witness of the Church has been sinful complicity and silent endorsement.  The Church in America supported the social construct of race, slavery and the abuse of human beings.  She allow race to divide the congregation and our worship.  Shamefully, we continue to practice Sunday morning segregation because though we confessed the same Christ and received the same baptism, we still believe that we are so very different.  And we make excuses for it like “the Bible doesn’t tell me so.”

So, the Bible doesn’t talk about race.  The word race is not apart of the Hebrew or Greek languages.  It is a modern word and invention.

The Bible does not list prejudice as a sin.  It does not say that we should not segregate based on the implied inferiority of the social coloring of skin.  It does not say that we cannot choose our spouse or friends or employees based on their cultural background.

But, it does say that we should not hate, that we should love our enemies (First John 3.15; Matthew 5.43-48).  The Bible does say, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7.1)  The Bible does say, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4.26).  The Bible does say, “Vengeance is the Lord’s” (Romans 12.19).  The Bible does say, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” “forgive,” and “be ye reconciled one to another” (Mark 12.31; Matthew 6.14; Second Corinthians 5.20).  All of these Scriptures can be applied to the reality that race has created and the relationships that it has ruined.

There is much that we can say about race but it will be to its demise as there are no Scriptures that support its existence and perspective, that align themselves with its purpose or practices.  To talk against race would be to go against the American empire and its systems.  We don’t say what the Bible says because are afraid that the world will no longer be our friend.  However, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you” (John 15.18-19).  We must daily confess that we don’t belong to the world, that we are not a member of its groups or its identities.  It is because we are members that we will not speak against the group.

We also don’t say what the Bible says about race because we have not fully grasped and allowed to take hold the identity of Christian.  We do not want to accept all of the terms and conditions of what it means to be Christ- like.  Consequently, we have yet to live Christ’s life.  We still do not allow Christ to live through us– because the Bible does not say that Christ was a racist or a segregationist or a lover only of those who “looked” like him.  So, whose life are we living if not our own, if not the stereotypical one handed to us by race?

Finally, the Church will not say what the Bible says about race because She, too, is invested in its the power struggle.  She believes in race and its proclamations.  She mixes her doctrine with its prejudices, Her worship with its stereotypes.  The Church proclaims that God is supreme while serving and encouraging members who believe themselves to hold the position with mindsets and habits, economic practices and geographical allegiances that say, “White power.  Black power.  Red power.  Yellow power.  Brown Power.  Beige power.”

But, She can speak up and when She does, she will talk race into silent submission because the Bible does say, “Indeed, we live as human beings but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (Second Corinthians 10.3-5).  Let the Church say, “Amen!”