#AllRiotsMatter

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In the above pictures “#BlackLivesMatter” is seen rioting in Milwau🙊……ooh oops! This isn’t a collage of shots from the #MilwaukeeUprising.

This isn’t a community that reached its boiling point after generations of living in socially engineered spaces of deprivation, racial oppression, & poverty. (Milwaukee is THE MOST segregated city in the the country. Segregation is often reduced to geographical separation. It’s more than that. It’s about where resources go & who gets them!)

These aren’t folks who in addition to the day-to-day trauma of peer-on-peer violence also have to worry about the ills of police brutality.

This isn’t a community full of folks with LIVED experiences that make it very plausible to believe that the system of policing creates an atmosphere wherein officers can commit evil with impunity & that official police reports should not be received as “gospel truth.” Nope. This isn’t a community that has been backed in a corner & forced to believe that their peaceful calls for transparent investigations will NEVER be heard. This isn’t a community with a GOP-beloved black sheriff who believes that “racism was done away with in police departments in the 1960s.”

These aren’t folks frustrated with how the criminal (in)justice systems renders them disposable at a very young age. These aren’t the folks whose cries for things like well-funded & well functioning schools, economic development, food justice, & basic compassion are met with calls for draconian “law & order” that throws its people into prisons at one of the highest rates in the U.S.

Nope, none of the above applies to the rioters in those pictures!  Ladies & gentlemen these are FANS of the San Fransisco Giants after a World Series win. Fans rioting. Why are they rioting you ask again? They. Are. Rioting. Because. Their. Team. Won. *sigh*

Yet, media outlets & everyday people found a way to resist the urge to call them animals, thugs, n****.  In fact, quite a few media outlets even found a way to avoid calling what they were doing RIOTING.

How did people in general & the media specifically refrain from demonizing, broad brushing, & dehumanizing this community of fans while being unable to manage the same level of decency for a community that rioted after the loss of a priceless life? (regardless of the debated circumstances)

Perhaps it’s the shared idol of sports that helps us empathize with these fans & their violent passion?

Perhaps their hearts are too tied to the idols that empower & uphold the unjust status quo in America to muster up any sort of empathy for the black community in Milwaukee. Whiteness necessitates the demonization of Blackness.

Perhaps we have internalized a kind of capitalist hyper-materialism that places the value of property over PEOPLE made in God’s image. Even mainstream economists like George Greider have said that “as it currently functions capitalism encourages human pathology…”

Perhaps we forgot about Jesus’s “people over property” insurrection in the romanized Jewish temple system? Perhaps our Jesus would set up shop with the money changers? Perhaps he would never exert physical force to disrupt injustice?

When we say, “they are burning down their own community”, perhaps we don’t realize that the businesses that occupy poor communities of color are disproportionately predatory & do little to contribute to the flourishing of residents?

Perhaps its because we know the “Imperial Christ” who yawns at nuclear weapons, & nation-devastating warmongering, and white supremacy, but incessantly browbeats black & brown & poor folks who damage property when the boiling pot of intergenerational oppression spills over.

Folks say, “What would Martin Luther King Jr do?” to shame black folks in Milwaukee. Perhaps we’ve got his legacy stuck on the ‪#‎IHaveADream‬ Speech “loop”. Perhaps it’s time to let the tapes run MUCH further & ‪#‎ReclaimMLK‬! If we did maybe we’d be familiar with his profoundly wise saying that “riot are the language of the unheard.” Perhaps we missed the following quote from King:

“As I walk among the desperate, rejected, and angry young people I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to show them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask and rightfully so: “What about Vietnam?” They ask if our nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted. I knew that I could NEVER once again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghetto without having spoken clearly to the GREATEST purveyor of violence today: The United States government. For the sake of those boys I cannot be silent.

Perhaps the above quote speaks to our current moment. Perhaps there are “chilling parallels between President Obama’s overseas drone program and how police treat America’s non-white citizens, with the slightest suspicion escalating into official violence and even death.”

Perhaps we should start listening to the unheard. Start lamenting over the conditions they live in. Start repenting for our complicity. Start showing compassion. Start doing justice. Start praying for liberated imaginations that see creative alternatives to violence.

Perhaps….just perhaps if we were silent about riots over a world series wins,  pumpkins, & the firing of legendary college football coaches then we should be silent NOW.

Because……#AllRiotsMatter.

 

-written by Terrance Hawkins

Holy Week of Resistance #ReclaimHolyWeek

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The Drum Majors Alliance for Justice & Reconciliation is very excited to present our 2nd annual “Holy Week of Resistance” starting on Palm Sunday, March 20th and ending on Good Friday, March 25th!

Each day, will afford the Body of Christ with opportunities to engage with the last week of Jesus’s life in fresh ways that mobilize us for the biblical ministries of justice & reconciliation. Too often we are discipled to view Christ’s death as a narrowly salvific & individualistic moment detached from its historical context & its socially transformative power. Profound wisdom embedded within the narrative goes untapped as a result. By illuminating the socio-political climate that made Jesus’ witness such a threat to the status quo–such a threat that he was “executed by the state”–we are empowered to see what faithfully “bearing the cross” in our current moment requires of us. This is the central aim of each event during Holy Week.

Below you’ll find brief descriptions for the events. Don’t get overwhelmed. 🙂 Take a look at the week’s itinerary & decide which event(s) you feel stirred by. (Please note: some event locations have not been nailed down. Final details will be communicated next week.)

HolyWeekOfResistance(CORRECT DATES)

FreedomRide2016 (CORRECT DATE)

FREEDOM RIDE (Sunday, March 20th 5:30pm-7:30pm)  – Hop on a bus with a diverse group of Christ followers & take a journey to strategic & historic locations to raise awareness about our city’s past & present & to lift up prayers for restoration & renewal. Plan to arrive by 5:15. Bus departs from Old Salem Visitor promptly @ 5:30.  RSVP for FREEDOM RIDE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/freedom-ride-tickets-22738294852

Reconciiation Huddle 2016 (CORRECT DATE)

RECONCILIATION HUDDLES (Monday & Wednesday, March 21 & 23rd) – Gather with or host your own small group of diverse Jesus followers for a guided & grace-saturated discussion on “Reconciliation Worthy of the Cross”. RSVP for MONDAY HUDDLE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reconciliation-huddle-tickets-22738510497

(If you’d like to host your own email us drummajorsalliance@gmail.com for the material!)

LOVE OUT LOUD OPEN HOUSE: Drum Majors Breakout Session (Tuesday, March 22, 6:30-8:30pm, Winston-Salem Christian School) – Learn more about how God is connecting & mobilizing local Christ followers for the transformation of our city in unique ways. Join the Drum Majors Alliance for a breakout huddle to learn how you can extend your ministry beyond the important work of relief & service projects to the work of addressing systemic & structural injustice in our city.

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“WHERE THE CROSS MEETS THE STREETS” Panel Discussion (Thursday, March 24th, Wake Forest University) – A powerful panel discussion centered around nationally known Christian theologian, activist, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association, Noel Castellano’s book called “Where the Cross Meets the Streets: What Happens in the Neighborhood When God is At the Center”. The panel will feature faith-fueled practitioners who are serving in various spheres of our city to bring renewal. The panel will wrestle with what a Jesus-like,  holistic witness looks like in our city. Christians who are passionate about outreach, ministry to the poor & vulnerable, & faith in the public square should not miss this paradigm-shifting discussion! FACEBOOK EVENT LINK: https://www.facebook.com/events/237471466588859/

GoodFridayVigil2016

GOOD FRIDAY VIGIL- (Friday, March 25th, St. Phillips African Moravian Church) – A time of prayer, worship, & deep reflection on the violent execution of Jesus & its redemptive meaning in a world marred by spiritual & social oppression.

Following Jesus in the Era of Mass Shootings

Vigil held in the wake of the lives lost in mass-shooting at an Oregon community college

Once again it has happened.

As a result of violence being visited upon people in a space that is uncontestedly assumed & expected to be “safe”, our nation has been forced to pause & ponder on who we are as a people. Unfortunately, equally tragic violence often gets overlooked or rationalized because of where it happens & who it happens to.

Yet, it is our duty as followers of Jesus to mourn ALL acts of violence & loss of life.

Whether it’s a mass-shooting at a mall, movie theatre, or school campus, or it’s a child caught in the cross-fire of a drive-by shooting in an economically deprived & oppressed urban community.

We mourn the violent deaths of persecuted Christians in places like Kenya & Egypt while ALSO being deeply grieved by the deaths of innocent Muslim children in foreign countries as a result of U.S. drones strikes.

Though shooting deaths of law enforcement officers are at a record low, our hearts break for the families of police officers who receive the call that their fathers will never return home again. As we affirm the humanity of individual officers we continue to feel anguish & despair over the 150 year legacy of systemic police brutality with impunity on the bodies of black people in America.

“Outrage olympics” are unproductive. Its important that we become a community that helps one another see our blind spots & ignorance instead of self-righteously declaring, “MY outrage is better than yours.”

We must seek to be a Jesus loving, Gospel preaching, peace-waging, oppression undoing, light shining force in the midst of this dark & crooked world.

As we pray for those who lost loved ones in Oregon may we recommit to holistically practicing the non-violent way of Jesus & influencing others in this vein. Jesus never said, “blessed are the war-wagers & gun worshippers“. He said “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God!”

Peacemaking is not passive. It is an active posture that prayerfully stands in the gap of hostility & prophetically speaks to diffuse it at the roots.

We have to teach the next generation (of all backgrounds) “creative alternatives to violence.”

Violence is the very seed by which America was sown. It’s in our DNA & the glorification of it in our movies, tv shows, video games, & music continues to numb our consciouses.

We cannot allow our “right to bear arms” to infringe upon our “birthright to bear witness” to The Wonderful Counselor’s in-breaking reign of peace. (see Isaiah 9)

As God’s salt of the earth we must engage on the soul AND systemic level to preserve life through Jesus-centered discipleship in our churches, evangelism in our communities, & activism around public policy in the political realm.

Of highest importance in this process is authentic discipleship in the radical Way of Jesus. Too often, we’ve trained people towards a “cultural Christianity” that morphs & bends to accommodate the status quo. The Jesus of Nazareth revealed in the Gospels is a far cry from the one that many traditions have taught. In reference to the historical misrepresentation of Jesus, theologian Curtiss DeYoung says,

“Sometime after yesterday and before today, His life story was co-opted, reconfigured, and reissued. The story of a colonized and occupied Jesus was replaced with a meek and mild savior who did not disrupt the status quo or with the image of a colonial Christ who sided with the powerful and blessed (violent) imperial realities. The colonized first-century Christian communities preaching liberation and practicing reconciliation were replaced by Christians who were quite and politically pious or who became colonizers, slaveholders, crusadors, terrorists, dictators, and the like.”

The Jesus who rebuked Peter’s violence by saying “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” is the same yesterday, today, & forevermore. It is time that we reengage His life & words. It is time that we go beyond merely applauding the non-violent activism of Martin Luther King Jr & do some serious soul-searching about what his prophetic words mean for us today! As reports come in that the shooter in Oregon targeted people who were Christians there is much that the broader church can learn from the best slices of the Black Church. Being one of the few Christian traditions in America that can truly claim “persecuted status” from its inception, its responses to racial terrorism are awe-inspiring. Instead of conforming to the world’s pattern of an “eye-for-an-eye” it chose to reflect Jesus by only bearing the arms of love & truth!

“Jesus reveals a way to fight evil with all our power without being transformed into the very evil we fight.It is a way– the only way possible– of not becoming what we hate…..Jesus abhors passivity and violence. He articulates a way by which evil can be opposed without being mirrored….”  Wink

May we follow hard after God revealed in Christ with hearts of love in a world of hatred, violence, & hostility.

Waterless Clouds, Hopelessness, & Freedom Rides: About Last (Monday) Night

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Contending for hope is a full time job!”   Christena Cleveland

Why Freedom Ride?

A week ago today, a diverse group of Jesus followers representing various organizations, churches, theological traditions, colors, cultures, & classes boarded a bus for what we call a “Freedom Ride”. The name found its inspiration from the multi-ethnic group of activists known as the “Freedom Riders” who rode public buses into segregated southern states as a form of protest in the 1960s. Our aim was to protest the powers of darkness, spiritual & economic poverty, racial division & oppression, & hopelessness in our city by lifting up prayers & prophetically raising awareness. The bus route was crafted to tell the story of Winston-Salem from the margins by visiting historic & strategic locations that are emblematic of both the pain & beauty of my city.

This was the 5th Freedom Ride and by far was the most spiritually potent one we’ve done to date. The bus was jam-packed with folks who are genuinely concerned about the trajectory of a city that is experiencing an economic renewal that seems to be “skipping” over the poor, the working class, and people of color. As God’s royal priesthood it is the Church’s responsibility to pray in AND work for a spiritual climate of liberation, restoration, renewal, & justice for all.  As Christians who affirm the dignity and worth of ALL people regardless of color, culture, or class it is unacceptable that the structures of our city (and country) continue to “over-affirm” some, while “under-affirming” others. Various national research has confirmed these local realities over & over & over again.

Staying “Woke” & Fighting Hopelessness

For me, the Freedom Ride is about creating space for people to have what I call a “Nehemiah Experience”. In the biblical account, Nehemiah was a Jew who worked in a place of privilege in a foreign empire. He was the king’s cup bearer and could have easily allowed his distance to foster a spirit of apathy in regards to the plight of his people & his homeland. Yet, when confronted with bad news about the spiritual & structural condition of Jerusalem he wept, repented for the sins of his people, fasted, & prayed. Eventually he was granted permission to return to Jerusalem to bring restoration. His story teaches us what should happen in the hearts of spiritually conscious women & men when they are awakened to the reality of oppression. True awakenings to the love & glory of Jesus ALWAYS leads to an awakening to the pain & problems of society.

“When the Spirit of God gets a hold of a person, they are made a new creature prepared to move head-on into the evils of this world ready to die for God.”  Cone

This crash-course collision with the internal darkness of the soul & the external darkness of society is ridden with moments where the lure of hopelessness is strong. In the words of social psychologist & theologian Christena Cleveland, “contending for hope is a full-time job”! This is SO true. Those of us who claim to be “woke” (socially conscious) can fall prey to depression, cynicism, & an overwhelming sense that we are fighting an unwinnable battle. The constant onslaught of tragic stories we encounter in our on-the-ground work & through our social media networks can have a numbing effect. We must do the necessary spiritual self-care to avoid this. We must ask ourselves the hard questions & also allow others to gut-check us when necessary. We must be keenly aware of the fact that there is a thin line between righteous indignation & self-righteous irritation. Those who long for God’s in-breaking Kingdom walk in the tension of joyous gratitude & what MLK Jr called “divine discontentment“. It is necessary to recognize that sometimes its God Himself who is inducing our tears. Yet, in other moments we must humbly accept the fact that our anguish may just be the outflow of our own sin & brokenness.

Cheap Grace & Waterless Clouds

Last Monday, seemed to be one of those days when Creator God was the cause of my grief. That morning as I went outside to my car I noticed an overcast of dark clouds that remained the entire day. As the day progressed I kept waiting for it to start raining, but the most that happened was a few occasional drizzles. Around midday, the words “waterless clouds” began to press on my heart. After pondering on those words for a few moments I was reminded of an obscure passage from the tiny book of Jude that reads:

For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.…..They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted…… 

(Jude 1,12)

Immediately after reading the passage I thought about the institutional church in my city. It’s probably an “urban legend”, but I’ve heard many natives of Winston-Salem say that our city appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records a decade ago as the city with the most church’s per capita in the nation. Whether we made it in the Guinness Book or not, it is undeniably true that there are churches on almost every corner in our city. Church buildings cover & blanket our city streets like the dark clouds that hovered over it last Monday. The rate at which old sanctuaries & new church plants appear in our city has not matched “the rate” of which a witness of God’s gracious rain (reign) has been seen in Winston-Salem from my vantage point. Are our institutional churches “waterless clouds” that give the false impression that life-giving, soul healing, neighborhood restoring, & justice flooding RAIN is falling? Yet when one looks for the evidence of such rain they only experience the drizzles of our weekly services, “scheduled revivals”, “hood volunTOURism”, & reconciliation “events”.  I asked myself, “Terrance are you a waterless cloud? Are you mastering the language of liberation & reconciliation without having been MASTERED by those truths within?  Are you seeking to live the Way of Jesus without being worshipfully dialed into the Person of Jesus?”

Perhaps we, like those who Jude spoke of in the 1st century, have frustrated and/or perverted the Grace of Jesus. The grace of Jesus forgives sin AND fuels righteousness. It does not give us a pass to be lax about the lost & the unjust status quo. Scripture tells us that this Grace appeared to create a people “zealous to do good works”. The New Testament term “good works” should be understood in one sense as the equivalent of the Old Testament term “doing justice”. Perhaps our unfamiliarity with the radical Jesus of the Gospels & unspoken allegiances to hyper-individualism, racial hierarchies & division, immoral capitalism, & political parties have obstructed the flow of God’s costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack’s wares. The forgiveness and the consolations of are religion are thrown away at cut prices……Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance….Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living AND incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has…..It is costly because it calls us to follow, and grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By the time I boarded the bus last Monday night my grief had subsided & given way to a deep sense of hope. Seeing the faces of the multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-class, & multi-church crowd that had assembled only further solidified to me the reality that God is raising up a strong remnant of folks who are pressing into the Kingdom! In essence, we spent the night driving from site-to-site identifying the historic effects of “waterless clouds” over our city & praying that God would send rain. HERE & HERE you’ll find pt 1 & 2 of the Freedom Ride itinerary put together by the Drum Major’s Alliance along with a powerful liturgy crafted by Wake Forest M-Div student & Winston-Salem native, Kenneth Pettigrew.

Join us in praying specifically on these issues with the understanding that:

“The need for a city to care about injustice, poverty, or despair is not liberalism or socialism, welfare or radicalism. It is simply genuine humanness authorized by the God of the Bible.”  Walter Brueggemann

written by Terrance

Black Political [PUPPETS] Pundits: Why Their “Black Lies” Matter

Black Political Puppets

• black lie [blak lahy] – a lie told to hide wrong-doing and to protect the liars from the trouble likely to arise if the full truth were known about a core secret of secrets.

• A half truth is a whole lie. –Yiddish proverb

• “There are always people willing to put [what’s perceived as] their special knowledge at the disposal of the dominant group to facilitate the tightening of the chains. They are given positions of prominence, and above all a guarantee of economic security and status. To love such people requires the uprooting of bitterness of betrayal, the heartiest poison that grows in the human spirit….”  Howard Thurman    (parenthetical phrase added)

A couple months back I posted the following on Facebook:

“Please understand that putting a “black person” in front of a camera that parrots racist, uninformed, ahistorical, & oppressive views does not fool us. It does not transform bigotry & willful ignorance into righteousness & intelligence either.”

This post was inspired by the onslaught of folks who justify problematic positions & views concerning race, class, & injustice in America by amplifying the voices of people of color who hold similar views. It’s an old play from the playbook that seems to be much more prevalent & disheartening in the age of social media. Like clockwork it happens when a black person posts a video on Facebook either documenting a “sweet encounter” with police, or chastising his or her people for not “caring” about black-on-black crime, or brilliantly parroting the colorblind, I’m an “American” first, pull yourselves up by your bootstraps rhetoric that some folks salivate over. It doesn’t take long for these videos to go viral and for the people who posted them to be invited to share their “expert” opinions on national television. Even sports analysts like Stephan A Smith, who spend very little time wrestling with history, sociology, and economics become the “exceptional negroes” who “get it”.  Once a minority has “co-signed” a portion of the dominant culture’s ill-informed views it makes it 10x harder to penetrate their conscience with truth.

Racially illiterate conservative AND liberal black men with large news media platforms like Don Lemon, Juan Williams, & Allen West have an intoxicating effect on their constituencies. They are like a STRONG hallucinogen that makes bigotry & willful ignorance look like righteousness & intelligence to those who cannot bear to look at the grim realities of racism in America. They are “weapons of mass manipulation” used to delegitimize & scapegoat movements seeking to undo REAL injustice!

Recently, I read a piece written by black conservative political pundit Allen West.In it, he rightfully seeks to condemn the hate-filled rhetoric of a self-proclaimed “black-supremacist” while wrongfully making the assertion that the misguided man represents the black lives matter movement. (WATCH VIDEO HERE)

Before I go any further, let it be known that I believe that “black supremacy” is neither a good, godly, or fruitful response to the 400 year legacy of white supremacy. Hate cannot drive out hate & it would take centuries of pillage to even come close to repaying an “eye for an eye” the atrocities committed on the bodies of people of color in the Americas. All that said, let us not be fooled by Allen West’s intellectual dishonesty in this piece. He is stoking the fear & apathy of his constituency & falsely trying to connect this hate-filled man to the “black lives matter movement”. All movements are imperfect & should be fairly critiqued. However, its irresponsible & inflammatory to say that this lone man represents the thoughts, goals, & intent of a WHOLE movement.

One would need to look no further than the 2nd video shared in the article to disprove West’s erroneous claims. The “black supremacist” clearly says that he believes “the black lives matter movement wasn’t enough.” In essence he says that attempts to non-violently appeal to political power through protest was an ineffective strategy. Two very obvious conclusions can be made from his comments:
1) In saying that black lives matter activism was/is not enough he is distancing himself from the movement.
2) He is calling for a distinctly DIFFERENT kind of movement. In doing so he is admitting that the idea of “picking off police officers” & “open season on white folks” is in no way, shape, or form a part of what the Black Lives Matter movement is about!

But that type of honest analysis would be like scratching chalkboard within the echo chambers that are conservatism AND neo-liberalism. While racism can regularly be found dripping publicly from the mouth of conservatism, neo-liberalism is just as deadly as it gives mere “lip-service” to the poor, the working class, & people of color. The “flavor” of racism doesn’t matter a whole lot. Once digested it has the same sickening consequences.

I am deeply grieved by & for people of color who sell their souls for a big platform & become puppets of the American empire. The rapid fire of “half truths” & BLACK LIES (pun intended) that spew from their mouths help protect the racially unjust status quo of America. In many ways, they are what the tax collectors were to 1st century Jews. Jewish tax collectors were members of an oppressed group but chose to side with the oppressive Roman empire in order to achieve “success”. They put their individual prosperity over the collective liberation of their ethnic group. As someone who is committed to being conformed to the image of Jesus I am challenged to STILL LOVE THEM! They are in need of forgiveness, liberation, & reconciliation much like Zacchaeus was in the Gospels. Howard Thurman’s words in “Jesus & the Disinherited” have been extremely helpful for me in this pursuit. Of the tax collectors & the call of Jesus to love them he wrote:

“It was they [tax collectors] who became the grasping hand of Roman authority, filching from Israel the taxes which helped to keep alive the oppression of the gentile ruler. They were Israelites who understood the psychology of the people, and therefore were always able to function with the kind of spiritual ruthlessness that would have been impossible for those who did not know the people intimately…..
To be required to love such a person was the final insult. How could such a demand be made? One did not even associate with such creatures….
All underprivileged people have to deal with this kind of enemy. There are always people willing to put their special knowledge at the disposal of the dominant group to facilitate the tightening of the chains. They are given positions of prominence, and above all a guarantee of economic security and status. To love such people requires the uprooting of bitterness of betrayal, the heartiest poison that grows in the human spirit….
To love them means to recognize some deep respect and reverence for their persons. But to love them DOES NOT mean to condone their way of life.”

While vigorously contending against their lies we cannot allow their internalized oppression to stop us from loving them or anyone for that matter. The Way of Jesus is no easy task  & demands that we be supernaturally empowered by the Spirit. Baptism in The Spirit should create an insatiable love for God & neighbor expressed through passionate worship & the pursuit of reconciliation (vertical & horizontal) & justice. We will hit brick walls at times as we labor to this end. As much as we want to see EVERYONE get it, we must understand that some people are addicted to their own MIS-education.

It does not matter how powerful & compelling your arguments are. You can put forth a thorough statistical, historical, & theological analysis & do it all with a spirit of gentleness & humility but it will not matter. As one dear sister in the struggle put it, they will look for “that ONE black person saying other black people are wrong and crazy for thinking racism is alive and well.” They are attracted to misinformation like a moth to a flame. They exchange sobering truths for intoxicating lies. Inhaling the opium of deception they hallucinate & see a world where there is no injustice & oppression to be concerned over. It matters not how many cell phones, surveillance videos, & body cameras capture unspeakable brutalities that communities of color have talked about for centuries,  “seeing they will not perceive.

This is not merely a problem of flawed logic or bad camera angles.  It is a problem of the heart that causes them to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. As a result, “justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.”

Yet, we who believe in the revolutionary call of Jesus cannot relent in our worshipful pursuit of reconciliation and justice!

Bear your crosses well!

4 Reasons We Should Stop Saying “I Don’t See Color”

The phrase “I don’t see color” may be a well-intentioned statement but it is inherently flawed. I applaud anyone who sincerely fights against the human proclivity of prejudice. God bless you for your desire to be like Jesus. However, not “seeing color” is a problematic way of trying to rid ones self of racial prejudice.

colorblind-racism

In love, let me give 4 simple reasons why we should abandon that language:

1.) Unless you are blind, you do in fact SEE color. It is not a crime to notice someone’s pigmentation just as it’s not wrong to notice a persons gender. (Don’t condemn yourself for that)

2.) It stops any meaningful, soul searching, and transparent conversation on race dead in its tracks. We have given everyone a free “I’m not a racist card” with minimal requirements. It’s as if the “magic words” to evade awkward dialogues on race are “I don’t see color”. This is not magic. It is tragic. We are ducking our calling to be reconcilers in the world.

3) Not “seeing” color ignores God’s glory, beauty, and diversity in creation. Nowhere in scripture are we asked to be star blind, moon blind, or mountain blind. We are told to behold these created things because they point to the glory of their Creator. Humans are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your ethnicity and my ethnicity are gifts, not curses.

4) Teaching “Colorblindness” in a society that has had racism in its DNA for 400 years is like bringing a butter knife to the front lines of a military battle. It is a very weak spiritual and moral weapon. The problem is not that we “see color” it is that we read horrible meaning into color. Innocence, purity, social worth, superiority, privilege and humanity has been attached to whiteness while inferiority, social disposability, criminality, depravity, and sub-humanness has been  attached to black, brown, and red folks. The institutional, systemic, and internalized affects of 236 years of land stealing and slavery followed by 100 years of legal segregation do not disappear in 50 years with no residual affects. (That’s not even including the ways in which racism actively operates in our society) Colorblindness inadvertently blinds SOME well meaning people to racial injustice. For others, it is a disingenuous rhetorical device employed to uphold the status quo of racial injustice without raising the eyebrows that overt brands of racism would.

God wants us to SEE the #WalterScott’s, the #RekiaBoyd’s, the #CoryKanosh’s, the #AntonioZambranoMontes’, & the #FreddieGray’s of our world! God wants us to SEE, lament, and repent of the flagrant racial separation in the Body of Christ. God wants us to SEE the racial inequalities that still plague our educational, economic, housing, and criminal justice systems and commit to the love-fueled work of justice!

“….in a racist society, God is never color blind. To say God is color blind is analogous to saying that God is blind to justice and injustice, to right and wrong, to good and evil. Certainly this is not the picture of God revealed in the Old and New Testaments.”  -Cone 1970

We desperately need to wrestle in prayer, scripture study, and honest dialogue to have our minds renewed to SEE color in a way that bears witness to the Kingdom of God.

In closing,
it’s ok to SEE our complexion folks. 🙂
We give you permission.
Just don’t read meaning into it.
Racism is not “SEEING” or mentioning skin tone or ethnicity.
It is “READING” ungodly meaning into it.
It is oppressing, separating, hating, and prejudging because of it.

Love,
Terrance 

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Racism is man’s gravest threat to man–the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.   -Heschel

Drum Majors Alliance- Recommended Resources & Books

Ever been to a Super Bowl party and had a conversation with a very outspoken person with TONS of opinions & “insights” on the BIG game. As you talk to them it becomes clear that they themselves have not watched either team play ONE solitary game the whole season. They don’t know ANY statistics, haven’t engaged with any professional sports analysts, and really don’t have a descent understanding of the nuances of the game of football itself. Yet, when a big game like a Super Bowl happens they confidently assert their opinions with very little acknowledgment that they could be VERY ignorant.

This is how many of us engage the issues of race, social justice, and reconciliation in America and the Body of Christ. We have not spent time praying, reading, learning, engaging the statistics, and sitting under people who have committed their lives to wrestling with these issues with truth and love. Yet when BIG tragedies and events that illuminate the racial divide that already exists in America many people make bold and confident statements about what’s going on. We look for news outlets and friends that will back up our assumptions and “gut instincts”. We discount the arguments of oppressed people & declare that they are “playing the race card”.  Simple logic would say to us all that our ability to address and understand the nuances of an issue we rarely engage would not be very strong. Perhaps it would be much wiser to engage with people who labor to understand the racial, cultural, and class dynamics at play in our society and in The Church. Admittedly, it can be an unsettling and uncomfortable process but it pays great dividends. Every lie and misconception you uncover and every truth you accept will prepare you to be a better ambassador for reconciliation and justice in our fractured world.  This is central to the way of Jesus, the “Just One” who died for the “unjust” to bring us to God” and conform us into His image.

The following is a sort of “starter kit” of resources put together by the Drum Majors Alliance for Justice & Reconcilaition for those seeking to go deeper. Its broken down into 5 categories.
DMAJRBANNER
THE FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATIONS SHOULD NOT BE  VIEWED AS AN ENDORSEMENT of EVERY VIEW & BELIEF ARTICULATED BY AUTHORS.
RECONCILIATION BOOKS 
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Divided By Faith- Michael O. Emerson, Christian Smith
One of the quintessential books on racial division in Evangelicalism.  A must read for the person seeking to understand the dynamics that keep our churches separated. “[E]vangelicals desire to end racial division and inequality, and attempt to think and act accordingly. But, in the process, they likely do more to perpetuate the racial divide than they do to tear it down.”
Disunity In Christ- Christena Cleveland
Combining Faith, Reconciliation, & Social Psychology this book does a great job of unpacking why “we cluster in theological groups, gender groups, age groups, ethnic groups, educational and economic groups”. A great resource for leaders looking for practical ways to build bridges and work towards the vision of unity Jesus prayed for in John 17.
The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race In Interacial Churches  – Korie L. Edwards
This book “presents the surprising results of an in-depth study of interracial churches: they help perpetuate the very racial inequality they aim to abolish. To arrive at this conclusion, she combines a nuanced analysis of national survey data with an in-depth examination of one particular church. She shows that mixed-race churches adhere strongly to white norms.”
bloodBlood Brothers- Elias Chacour
“This is a story about people–not politics. This riveting real life story…reveals a little known side to the Israeli-Arab conflict” and wrestles with the question:  “Can bitter enemies ever be reconcilied?”
radrecRadical Reconciliation- Curtis DeYoung, Allen Boesak
“Reconciliation is ofter understood today as assimiliation, appeasement, a passive peace, and unity without cost , and maintaining power with only cosmetic changes.” Boesak & DeYoung thoroughly expose this idea of reconcilation as bankrupt and unbiblical and push readers towards a much more radical understanding!
Books on the Biblical Call of JUSTICE 
OverRatedJDischild
 OverRatedOverrated- Eugene Cho
“Many people today talk about justice but are they living justly? They want to change the world but are they being changed themselves? Eugene Cho has a confession: “I like to talk about changing the world but I don’t really like to do what it takes.” Cho does not doubt the sincerity of those who want to change the world. But he fears that today’s wealth of resources and opportunities could be creating “the most overrated generation in history. We have access to so much but end up doing so little.”
JDisJesus & the Disinherited- Howard Thurman
This classic book is regarded as the “bible” of the civil rights movement. Theologian and spiritual advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Howard Thurman, seeks to place Jesus in the social space he occupied as a poor Jewish minority under religio-political oppression.  Thurman “demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised” driving in the truth that only “through love of one another…can God’s justice prevail”.
With Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development- John M Perkins
Legendary pastor, community developer, & civil rights activist, John Perkins, is “persuaded that the Church, as the steward of this gospel, holds the key to justice in our society.” “With Justice for All” is an invitation to live out the gospel in a way that brings good news to the poor and liberty to the oppressed.” Extremely practical, it gives a blueprint for christian community development in marginalized communities.
 Where the Cross Meets the Street- Noel Castellanos
“In Where the Cross Meets the Street Castellanos shows the strengths and limitations of a narrowly focused church and broadens our imaginations to embrace a gospel that proclaims Christ and forms disciples. This life-giving gospel also demonstrates compassion, confronts injustice and restores individuals and communities to wholeness. This is the whole work of the cross; this is the privilege of those who follow the Word made flesh.”
childMy Name is CHILD of GOD….Not “Those People” -Julia K. Dinsmore
This personal and provocative look at poverty in America is shaped around the author’s own engaging stories, song lyrics, and poems, including the well-known Call Me Child of God … Not Those People. Through her stories and reflections, Julia Dinsmore puts a face on poverty and challenges readers to answer God’s call to respond to poverty and its effects.
BOOKS on SOCIOLOGY & RACIAL HISTORY

 

 NewJimCThe New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness–              Michelle Alexander

You’ve met “Jim Crow Sr.” but have you met his son “Jim Crow Jr.”? This book” challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America: we have merely redesigned it.” By Targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control…”

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Latino Americans: The 500 Year Legacy that Shaped a Nation – Ray Suarez

“Latino Americans chronicles the rich and varied history of Latinos, who have helped shaped our nation and have become, with more than fifty million people, the largest minority in the United States. This companion to the landmark PBS miniseries vividly and candidly tells how the story of Latino Americans is the story of our country.”

 

 

HopeHostility

1963: The Year of Hope & Hostility – Byron Williams

“1963 was the year America lost the illusion of innocence. It was a year that began with George Wallace declaring “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever,” and concluded with Martin Luther King being named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. It was a year that cemented our current Cuban policy and shaped the events in Vietnam.” Theologian and author, Byron WIlliams takes you on a riveting journey of the hope & hostility that characterized 1963. Each step on this eye opening journey has relevance for today!

 

 

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Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life– Karen Fields & Barbara  Fields 

“Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics, and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft itself goes unnoticed.”
moreraceMore Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City– William Juilius Wilson

“In this timely and provocative contribution to the American discourse on race, William Julius Wilson applies an exciting new analytic framework to three politically fraught social problems: the persistence of the inner-city ghetto, the plight of low-skilled black males, and the fragmentation of the African American family…..Wilson dares to consider both institutional and cultural factors as causes of the persistence of racial inequality. He reaches the controversial conclusion that….public policy can only change the racial status quo by reforming the institutions that reinforce it.”

 

 

 

BOOKS ON CULTURAL & ETHNIC IDENTITY                                                                                                                             

 

LatinoChrist

BeingWhiteOneChurchManyTribes  CrossLynching

 

 

 

 

 

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Being Latino in Christ- Orlando Crespo

Life as a Latino in America is complicated. Living between the two worlds of being Latino and American can generate great uncertainty. And the strange mixture of ethnic pride and racial prejudice creates another sort of confusion. Who are you as a Latino? Who are you as an American? What has Christ to say about your dilemma? How can you accept who you are in Christ with joy and confidence? Puerto Rican Author Orlando Crespo provides answers.

 

BeingWhite

 

 

 

Being White: Finding Our Place in a Multi-ethnic World – Paula Harris, Doug Schaupp

“What does it mean to be white? When you encounter people from other “races” or ethnicities, you may become suddenly aware that being white means something. Those from other backgrounds may respond to you differently or suspiciously. You may feel ambivalence about your identity as a white person. Or you may feel frustrated when a friend of another ethnicity shakes his head and says, “You just don’t get it because you’re white.” This book explores the questions: “What does it mean to be white? How can you overcome the mistakes of the past? How can you build authentic relationships with people from other races and ethnicities?”

 

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One Church Many Tribes- Richard Twiss

“In this captivating chronicle of the Native American story, Richard Twiss of the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux sifts through myth and legend to reveal God’s strategy for the nation’s host people. With wit, wisdom and passion, Twiss shows God’s desire to use the cultures of First Nations peoples–in all their mystery, color and beauty–to break through to those involved in New Age mysticism, Eastern religions, even Islam.

 

CrossLynching

 

 

 

The Cross and the Lynching Tree- James Cone

“The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk.”

 

DOCUMENTARIES

Race: The Power of An Illusion (documentary uncovers the myth of “race”)

https://mediaspace.msu.edu/media/Race:+The+Power+of+An+Illusion,+Episode+1,+Part+1/1_flhyt56x

Eyes on the Prize  (documentary walks viewers through the civil rights movement)

White Like Me  (documentary explores what it means to be white in America)

The Latino Americans  (documentary chronicles the rich & painful history of Latino/Hispanics)

http://www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/watch-videos/#2365075996

 

BLOGGERS to FOLLOW

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austinchanning

Camacho

 

 

 

 

Blogs in order right-to-left (see bios on their page for more information on this list of thought provoking & courageous bloggers)

Christena Cleveland- http://www.christenacleveland.com

Drew Hart- http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/taking-jesus-seriously

Katelin Hansen- http://www.bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com

Austin Channing- http://www.austinchanning.com 

Daniel Jose Camacho- http://www.ecclesiasticalgraffiti.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘IN’stitutions But Not OF Them


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Against the clearly stated wishes of the family, thousands of NYPD officers in attendance at the funeral of officer Wenjian Liu turned their backs in protest as Mayor Bill De Blasio gave remarks at the service. Their protest was fueled by a belief that De Blasio and the thousands of anti-police brutality protesters “created” the climate that lead to the murder of Liu and fellow Officer Rafeal Ramos by a mentally deranged man who reportedly “acted in revenge” for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I do not wish to spend any time in this post responding to those erroneous claims. I have refuted them here. In this short post,  I want to zoom in on the picture below and the lesson it teaches followers of Jesus who desire to be salt & light agents of restoration & justice.

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In the above picture a police officer goes completely against the grain of the institution that he is a part of. The majority of his police department turned their backs on the Mayor in protest and in my humble assessment,  metaphorically turned their backs on compassion, truth, and  justice. Yet, he decides to keep his face towards the mayor and metaphorically towards compassion  and justice. This is precisely what it looks like to bear witness to the Kingdom of God in the idolatrous & unjust kingdoms of this world. It demands clear, concise, visible, and counter-cultural ways of Spirit-empowered living. It requires leaving the safety of “playing the middle ground” to stand in the place that Jesus stands. As I looked at the photo, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the officer’s mind. Had he counted the costs? Had he wrestled with the fact that he’d be marked by his co-workers as an outsider? Will he consider leaving the force or has he made a conscious decision to remain IN it but not OF it?

Anybody that has ever made any kind of unpopular stance as an act of worshipful obedience to Yahweh knows this feeling. It really doesn’t matter the vocation or sphere of influence. This is down right difficult! You will take heat for it, just as Pittsburgh’s Chief of Police has for his recent strides. (see pic below)

Pittsburg Chief of Police makes bold resolution to fight against systemic racism within his own department.

Pittsburg Chief of Police makes bold resolution to fight against systemic racism within his own department.

However, when institutional structures oppress God’s image bearers, injure the vulnerable, stifle creativity, & hinder progress we must find the courage to draw “outside the lines”. This does not necessarily mean that we abandon our jobs, school systems, political parties, firms, churches, etc. It means that we learn how to be “IN them” but not “OF” the ways in which they have failed to fulfill their sworn purposes. So often folks catch the next flight out of town and move on to the next job and miss an opportunity to bring healing and change.

Staying “inside” will inevitably create internal tension & external friction. Resist the urge to flea into the false comforts of the status quo. Embrace the tension & friction with the understanding that meaningful change never occurs minus struggle. There is a cross we must joyfully bear. There are pains we must endure as we cling to the Peace of Christ that transcends our intellect.
A joy that overlooks injustice and a peace that avoids the pains and conflicts of this world is not from Jesus. Joy does not flow from the absence of sorrow and pain. It is the outflow of God’s presence IN the midst of sorrow and pain. The truly joyful heart can engage in lament over the state of this world because the root of its joy is “extraterrestrial”…not of this world. The old saints used to sing: “This joy that I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away!” This “other worldly” joy does not gives us license to disengage from the “here and now” as we long for the “hereafter”. It empowers us to  ACT in the present, for the kingdom of God is not “OF this world” but is definitely FOR this WORLD.
“Your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”
As the Spirit of Christ leads in 2015, let us not abandon our vocational posts within institutions.  May we collectively learn how to work for renewal in AND outside of the present structures. “Who knows? Maybe God has you raised you up for such a time as this?”
Happy New Years!

 

Blood on Our Hands?: When Movements are Scapegoated


To be black in America historically has meant that at any moment your people can and will be held responsible for the actions of a few.

The Tuskegee Airmen knew that if they failed as military pilots that the door would never be opened again to other black folks with the same aspirations.

Jackie Robinson knew that if he cracked under the intense and racist pressure of being the first black MLB player he’d make it unlikely for future black baseball players to be given the chance.

Slaves on plantations knew that if one person ran away from the plantation for freedom that it would be “hell” to pay for those left behind.

1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma a black man who shined shoes on elevators ALLEGEDLY assaulted a white woman. The next morning a newspaper falsely reported that he raped her. The result was a riot and massacre that rivals the September 11th terrorist attacks. White mobs in the surrounding area killed an estimated 3,000 African Americans, destroyed 600 successful black businesses. Among them were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores, two movie theaters, a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. In two days one of the most affluent black neighborhoods of all-time was in smoke and ashes as a result of ONE mans alleged actions. (watch a full  documentary on this largely unknown event here)

This historical phenomenon of blackness creates in some of us what is called “stereotype threat anxiety“. We are aware that our actions in any moment can be interpreted as criminal, ignorant, lazy, irresponsible, and representing our whole group. Black and other minority groups often take deep sighs of relief when a mass-murderer is not a member of their ethnic group.

This brings me to the awful and senseless murders of the two NYPD officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

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Liu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My heart is extremely heavy over this ATROCIOUS act of violence and tragic loss of life. Based on the reports they were targeted because of the color of their uniform by a man who had made statements via social media that he would avenge the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner by putting “pigs in a blanket”. WICKED!!

My condolences and prayers go up for all the family & friends affected by this. As someone who has been targeted over and over again by police because of the color of my skin I empathize (to the best of my ability) with police officers and their families all over this country. My empathy skills in this moment are further strengthened by the fact that my family was struck with a similar tragedy when a cousin who was a police officer was randomly shot and killed by a man while sitting in his patrol car in ’07.

HarrisonIt was a very SHOCKING moment for my family. I remember the very painful questions that ran through my mind after the tragedy. Why did this happen? Could it have been avoided? Was this man, who was white, racially motivated in his violence? My family will never really know. The man who murdered my cousin was killed shortly afterwards in a shootout with police.

 

The NYPD police officer killings are a horrible tragedy that black folks en masse (including Eric Garner’s family) have publicly condemned and mourned. However, across the nation there are those that are blaming the actions of one MENTALLY ILL man (who a month earlier attempted to hang himself, and the morning of the incident shot and severely wounded his ex-girlfriend) on people who have PEACEFULLY protested what they believe to be senseless killings of black folks by police. It’s being said that that blood is on the hands of those who “who incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest” and “tried to tear down what NYPD officers did every day.” These are very strong words that are hard to swallow. For one, they suggest that the motive of protestors was not to fight for a more just society, but to stir up violence. These words ignore the fact that many protesters are Christians and MOST are practitioners of a non-violent tradition of civil disobedience that has had the moral fortitude to only bear the arms of love and truth in the face of racial terrorism.

Much of this blame game is fueled by ungodly political agendas. Conservative right media has an invested interest in denying and discounting claims of systemic, structural, and interpersonal racism in America. Like a moth to a flame they are attracted to any and every news story that has the potential to derail the growing conversations around racial injustice in our nation. In a twist of irony, the two cops who were murdered are a part of minority groups that are frequently victims of injustice. Its hard to imagine “Faux News” being on Officer Ramos’s (a Christian man who attended a multi ethnic church)  son’s side had he been one of the thousands that are racially profiled through the ineffective and dehumanizing policing tactic called “stop and frisk” in the very same precinct. As this piece makes crystal clear, black and brown police officers are just as susceptible to the same treatment when their blue uniform is off.

My questions for those who blame us for this tragedy are simple. What should we have done? Would it have been right to be silent in the face of the killings of God’s image bearers. Were we to trust the legal process of a nation that for 85% of its history has “legally” discriminated and marginalized black folks? Would it have been right to discredit the cause of Fredrick Douglas and other non-violent abolitionists in the 1800s because Nat Turner responded to the same oppression with violence? If the “Black Lives Matter” movement is responsible for the NYPD officers death, is the Tea Party responsible for the execution style killings of 2 Las Vegas police done by a couple who draped themselves in the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag  that has symbolized its movement. Are we willing to employ the same logic? Probably not. The overwhelming majority of protests and protesters have not been violent and have not contained “anti-cop” rhetoric. To make that claim is dishonest. You can be anti-police brutality and injustice while valuing, affirming, and loving police. Just as one can be anti-bad teachING while valuing, supporting, & affirming teachERS. Which is precisely why we refuse to dehumanize ANYONE. Even those who are a part of systems that dehumanize. This is the Way of Jesus & the legacy of Christian lead Civil Rights Movement. This is the responsibility of prophetic witnesses: to hate injustice but love people.

Let us not be fooled by the 400 year long tactic of scapegoating black folks for problems that find their social roots in anti-black racism. We must reject any unfounded transfer of guilt onto the bodies of black people and continue clinging to the Cross of the Lamb who “became sin” so that the world might be reconciled to God.  All of Creation groans and eagerly awaits for the revealing of a New Humanity that is uncontaminated by the hazardous germ of racism. One day, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom” and the glory of this New Humanity. In other words, our universe is  on a course towards liberation and justice in Christ and the Church is called to labor to this end!

That said, “Black Lives STILL Matter” and “we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes!”

 

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What’s Next?: 6 Ways to Walk In Solidarity AFTER “Solidarity Sunday”

 

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This past Sunday churches across color, culture, class, and denominational lines participated in what was called “Solidarity Sunday”. The purpose of Solidarity Sunday was to bear witness to the theological truth that Black Lives Matter because they are made in the image of God. After non-indictments of white police officers in the cases  of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and John Crawford many have awakened to the reality that black folks are the “disposables” of our society. This was in no way an attempt to say that other lives don’t matter. Rather, it was a needed emphasis in a country, and more specifically in a “Christian” context that has devalued, dehumanized, and destroyed black lives for most of its history. It was a call to protest against the horror of racism and a prayer for its end in our hearts, homes, court houses, & houses of worship.  For the black church this was nothing new. Protest has been in the blood stream of African-American Christianity from its inception. A seamless blend of unbridled praise, unwavering prayer, uncensored prophetic speech, and undaunted protest in the face of grave opposition is in the very DNA of the black church at its best. However, for many white and multi-ethnic churches this was an uncomfortable baby step. I use the term “baby step” not to demean the action, but to underscore this as the infancy stages (beginning) of such actions for many (not all) in evangelical spaces. To be clear, it was absolutely AMAZING to see and hear reports from all over the country of white brothers and sisters in Jesus wearing all black, “hash tagging” #BlackLivesMatter, interceding for justice and hope in the black community, and wrestling with how the America they have experienced is quite different from black folks AND brown folks like Luis Rodriguez.

I’m extremely grateful for that. But in my gratitude there is a passion to see the Church be all it can and should be. The reality is that many of the churches and denominations that made strides yesterday have been on the wrong side of history in previous pivotal moments. Yes, there have been public acts of repentance and reconciliation services but you don’t unlearn racism and undo its affects by “hug-a-thons” and a few Martin Luther King quotes. You certainly can’t cultivate prophetic perspective and mature activism by osmosis in a world that constantly reinforces racial stereotypes and numbs us to the pain and plight of “the other”. That said, there are many of us who are praying and believing that this “moment” will become a Spirit-empowered “movement”. I want to see last Sunday’s sincere gestures of solidarity turn into sustained efforts to heal the festered wounds of racial injustice and division. Because “solidarity is not mere sympathy”. [i] It cannot be relegated to a “special Sunday”. It is not cheap. It is not without pain. It is the supernatural work and fruit of Christ’s Spirit active in submitted souls and bodies in the beloved community. The Church’s unity in the heat of racial division and tension is an evangelistic apologetic according to Jesus. Our prophetic witness as God’s salt & light is key for renewal, justice, and reconciliation in the earth.

Biblical Unity comes as a result of prayer, prophetic truth telling, public dialogue, forgiveness, and comprehensive repentance. Unity in the kingdom goes against the grain of what the world has taught us. At times it is awkward & uncomfortable, yet it is beautiful & redemptive. Real solidarity is often counterintuitive. I believe God’s Spirit has used the chaotic void of the last few months to create a hunger in many hearts for authentic solidarity. I want to offer 6 practical, but deeply spiritual ways that individuals and institutions can work to that end. Each of them deserves a separate blog, but I’ll briefly try to make a case for their importance below.

  1. Listen- (James 1:19) Be slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to anger. By God’s Spirit you must resist the urge to immediately discount the views of your brothers and sisters. From a place of compassion you must seek to understand what people are trying to communicate. Listening is a deeply spiritual practice. So often these conversations go absolutely no where because people approach them “to defend their position” and privilege rather than to love and HEAR their sister and brother in Christ.

2. Lament- (Romans 12:15, Nehemiah 1:4-7) Enter the story. Feel the pain. Weep with those who weep. Evangelicals must stop trying to “police” and sanitize human emotions in these moments.  Lament is a biblical form of worship and prayer. Scripture tells us that “godly sorrow” leads to repentance but so often we try to circumvent this important part of the process. We need to allow sorrow to run its course through our souls as we repent for personal and corporate sin and apathy.

 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—  yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done….  (1 corinthians 2:7:8-11)

(For a powerful example of lament check out my friend and fellow CCDA Leadership Cohort #5 member Brandon Wrencher’s piece here!)

 

RaceConvos

3. Learn Cross-Culturally- (1 Cor. 9:19-23) We all have a habit of constructing echo chambers where the voices we listen to see it “our way”. We must resist the urge of running to our homogenous huddles to debrief issues of race and begin long-term learning from folks with different perspectives. How many books have you read by people of color? How many non-aculturated minorities have mentored you? How deeply have you immersed yourself in environments that you are not the majority and that your social, theological, and political views are the minority. Resist the urge to find “safe” people of color who “parrot” the views you already have. (Bonus: Diversify your news media sources. As this article points out, some networks are masterful at misdirection and misinformation.)

4. Lift the Voices- (Isaiah 58:1, Acts 2:17-18) MLK Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” At some point we must be willing to bear our crosses and lift our voices against racism. We must do so in a way that helps amplify the voice of God in unheard people groups. We don’t give people voices. We simply honor and give space for the voice that already exists. You are not called to be a “savior” of helpless black folks. You are called to solidarity.

equality-vs-equity

5. “Levelization”- (Isaiah 58:6, Galatians 3:28) Not a “real word” but I’m trying to get at the fact that racial injustice has created uneven “playing fields” in our country & in the Body of Christ. If the Church is called to “love mercy” and “do justice” it must participate with God in undoing oppression & inequity. Doing justice is the work of bringing “equity” (not equality) for those who have endured the brunt of oppression. (see pic to left) Don’t settle for charity work that ignores the root causes of oppression. Sign a petition, join a protest, support those who engage issues of policies, stick your neck out when you see injustice in your spheres of influence. If you believe ALL people stand on level ground at the foot of the cross let ACTION accompany that faith. When the implications of the Gospel take root in a community it causes a “social inversion”. Christ’s death takes us beyond tokenism and tolerance into honor and loving acceptance. Diversity by itself is disastrous. Diversity MINUS inclusion and solidarity equals implosion. Diversity PLUS inclusion and solidarity equals an explosion of God’s glory and influence. Working towards this type of radical oneness & witness gives us the credibility & “the chops” to be salt and light change agents in our city.

  1. LOVE- (1 Corinthians 13) If we eloquently speak the language of diversity without love we are only “a resounding gong or clanging cymbal”. If we speak prophetic truth to power and by faith move the mountains of historic injustice without love, we are nothing. If we put ourselves on the frontlines to be hated and martyred for our stance against racial disunity without love, we gain nothing.

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[i] Allan Aubrey Boesak, Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism (Maryknoll, New York;  Orbis Books 2012).