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Racism

The Unbiblical Evil of the Alt-Right

White Supremacists March with Torches in CharlottesvilleFor nearly 24 hours now, Charlottesville, VA has been a hotbed of racial turmoil. Last night, white nationalists marched on the town’s campus of the University of Virginia. They chanted racist slogans and marched with burning torches.

If any part of that feels okay to you, you’re part of the problem. Yes, I understand that freedom of speech means that people are allowed to spew their garbage beliefs. I’m not talking about a legal perspective. I’m talking about a biblical perspective.

The Alt-Right, White Nationalists, Neo-Nazi, whatever-you-want-to-call-it movement is completely incompatible with biblical Christianity. In the second chapter of his first letter, John writes:

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Additionally, the entire theological notion of the Imago Dei (Image of God) in humanity means that ALL people are created in God’s image. There is no ethnic group that is better than any other. I don’t have time to or space to cover all of the places in the Bible that CLEARLY point to the sin of racism and white nationalism. Let’s just end with Jesus’s golden rule:

Treat people the way you want to be treated.

There is nothing of God in the Alt-Right movement.

Nothing.


For more of my views on racism, check out other articles I’ve written...

 

Can We Please Ignore Our Racist Past?

I didn’t think I was being controversial. I wasn’t trying to be inflammatory. But this past week I saw a video that gave the statistics of the top 10 lynching states over a span of 8 decades. I shared the video on my Facebook page and added the message:

2,751 confirmed lynchings over 8 decades in ONLY 10 states. There’s NO WAY the Civil Rights Movement can undo all of the damage to race-relations. We have a lot of work to do…

Here’s the video…

While everyone who saw it agreed that the content was horrific, a couple people chastised me for sharing it, saying that I was stoking the fires of hate and that I should allow people to forget and move on. One said:

Absolutely disgusting….and tell me what purpose you serve in playing a video like this? Show me in the Bible what you are teaching? Sometimes I wonder what it is that you are trying to do with your posts…inspire people to be led to God or be inspired to be led by hate…

And another:

[D]welling on it is like not forgiving. How long can we live the sins of some one else’s father. I grew up in Atlanta, in the 70’s. I remember the bitterness. It was still there. Did it help, in moving forward with change, to bring up things, like lynchings? No. It just stirs up strife. The Bible talks about moving forward. Let’s follow what it says, instead of beating ourselves up in the 21st century, for things that happened over a hundred years ago.

I was astounded that people I know to be Christians would rather ignore the past than to deal with it. It’s not even as though this issue was long since over. This was still happening 49 years ago. It’s NOT ancient history. In Matthew 18, Jesus’s own model for resolving conflict when someone sins against you is to deal with it – not to simply bury it or sweep it under the rug. How do you plan to help reconcile people if you never address wrongs that were done?

“My husband had an affair on me!”

“Yes, but that was last week. Don’t dwell on it. Move on.”

ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!

Remember when Jonah was on his way to rebuke Nineveh and God said, “You know what, that’s in the past. Let’s just let it go and move on. It doesn’t do any good to dwell on old things.”

Yeah, neither do I.

The Bible is literally FILLED with examples of God calling out unrighteous behavior that needs to be changed. Racism is STILL a prevalent problem in our nation, and these sins of the past that some seem to want to forget only ended 49 years ago. People are still alive that witnessed and participated in such behavior. It is ABSOLUTELY okay with God to tell people that this is not righteous behavior/thinking and needs to be fought.

ostrichI care about reconciling people and that doesn’t happen unless we address the wrongs from the past. You can’t bury your head in the sand and move forward in ignorant bliss.

We need to move away from hate, but we need to acknowledge history and the wrongs we have done so we can move forward.

Shining light into darkness makes it harder for people to hide in the dark.


What do you think? Have you heard people advocating for a “forgive and forget” attitude when it comes to America’s racist past? How does this make you feel?

White People, You’re Still Not Listening

kids-churchI know there are quite a few who don’t believe it, but racism is still alive and well in the USA. I’ve seen people flat out deny it. The racism-deniers are, in my experience, always white. And all day today I’ve seen white people CONTINUE to act in racist ways.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is calling Donald Trump’s electoral victory “one of the most exciting nights of my life.”

In North Carolina, people of color had been called the n-word while trying to go into a store.

I’m not saying that racism is back on the scene in a new way. I AM saying that the current climate in the USA has created a place where racists feel free to express their views. Go read the comments section on ANY social media site or News story and you cannot avoid the racist comments, slurs, and insults.

hillary-41775_1280And this is NOT to say that everyone who voted Republican is racist. Not at all. I know good Christian men and women who are Republicans and regularly vote that way. But we cannot deny that the Republican Party has become the landing zone for terrible attitudes, thoughts, and actions. These are the kinds of people Hillary Clinton infamously put in “a basket of deplorables.” Not every Republican – just the deplorable ones.

The problem is that many Republicans approach the current issue of racism from their own lens and say, “I’m not racist, and my family members aren’t racist, so people who complain about racism are just inventing problems.” White people are STILL not listening.

The Bible uses the word “listen” over 600 times. There’s something to be said about hearing – really listening and not missing out on the conversation. For example:

  • If you listen for Lady Wisdom, attune your ears to her, and engage your mind to understand what she is telling you… (Proverbs 2:2)
  • All who have ears to hear, let them listen. (Mark 4:9)

And what conservative whites need to hear is that people of color are genuinely concerned. The safe space created for racists to speak openly is a threat to brown-skinned people. I cannot tell you (literally) how many times I’ve seen people talk or write about “white genocide” and that we need to save the white race. But behavior that pushes away and harms people of color is NOT a biblical attitude or characteristic. The Bible IS filled with words about helping outsiders and loving the outcast.

He enforces His justice for the powerless, such as orphans and widows, and He loves foreigners, making sure they have food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18)

It’s time for white Christians to ACTUALLY listen. It’s time to recognize that we have for too long been dismissive of the thoughts and feelings of anyone who is different – the outsiders. Then it’s time to act in solidarity and say, “We have heard your voice, and we stand in solidarity that this is not acceptable.”

  • Denounce white pride/white power movements.
  • Look for ways where we can actually listen to the voice of the “other” and not be dismissive.
  • Be an active participant in bringing reconciliation between all people.

What do you think? Have you heard any of these racist remarks or seen any racist behavior? Share your story! Just be polite – I will not tolerate rudeness.


** Author’s Note – the original post mentioned a KKK march in North Carolina. Those reports have been debunked – it was a pro-Trump group participating in the “Flagging 40” event. There was no connection there to the KKK.

The American Sin of Nationalism

usa-1439915_1920One of my theological pet peeves is when people misuse the Bible in order to support their own over other groups. One glaring example is Jeremiah 29:11, which reads:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

Or there’s 2 Chronicles 7:14, which states:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

These passages are HIGHLY misused because, even though they were written to and intended for ancient Israel, Americans take them and proclaim them as promises for America. The thought is that America is the new land of promise and God’s instrument in this world.

But it’s complete rubbish.

From a theological standpoint, America is no better than any other country in the world. We are not special. We are not unique. There is certainly no American exceptionalism.

Theologically speaking, of course.

Yet Americans, especially American Christians, CONTINUE to cling to national pride as though being an American meant divine favor. While this may not be true of everyone, all of the “Christians” I know who proudly claim to be nationalists are ALSO racist. They won’t say that. They say “pro-white” as though there is a difference. But being pro-white means you’re anti-anything else. And, quite simply, this nationalistic view is completely contrary to the nature and character of God.

God is the God of ALL nations. God is the God of ALL people groups. This is a lesson that we see in one of my favorite Bible stories – the story of Naaman.

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.

Naaman is filled with nationalistic pride. When the prophet tells Naaman to wash in an Israeli river, his immediate response is to question why the rivers in him homeland aren’t better. We see a lot of this attitude in Christians today.

Our way is better. Our way is the good way. God favors our way.

Rubbish. The story of Naaman shows us that God is the God of all. God even cares about this non-Israelite enough to heal him. After  Naaman’s servants talk some sense into him, Naaman does as the prophet instructs and is healed! And he realizes that there is only one true God.

earth-11593_1920Naaman almost missed the biggest blessing in his life because his arrogance and nationalistic pride prevented him from hearing God.

In today’s Western culture, we need to be sure that our nationalistic pride and arrogance has not made us deaf to hear the voice of the Lord. It’s not us vs. them. Our country is not a theologically superior country. God doesn’t love one nation more than any other.

I’m fond of quoting Galatians 3:28 ~

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The human distinctions that separate us are just that – human. There is nothing of God in them. So drop the nationalism and the arrogance. Drop the racism and the sexism. Through our faith we are united. We are one.

We are God’s.

Black Power: Boycotting The Oscars

film-102681_1920Who could have predicted that the Academy Awards, those beloved Oscars, would be the next battleground for the civil rights movement? Yet here we are, and I’m not so sure Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently released their annual list of nominees for all of the categories. Some people noticed something they thought was wrong: there were no black actors nominated. Once the list of nominees was released, Jada Pinkett Smith took to social media and blasted the Academy for having two consecutive years with no black nominees.

Spike Lee joined her cause, and now Will Smith is backing up his wife. Smith said on Good Morning America:

There’s a position that we hold in this community and if we’re not a part of the solution, we’re part of the problem, and it was her call to action for herself and for me and for our family to be a part of the solution. [For] my part, I think I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and our Hollywood community great.

The response from the white community has been mixed. Some are quick to jump on board and call for change within the Academy. Others have replied with snark, saying things like:

But there won’t be any white people nominated for the BET Awards!

We’re actually talking about a couple different issues, and conflating them doesn’t do any good to anyone. Let’s talk about the first issue: minority representation within the Academy Awards.

Are the nominees primarily white? Yes.

Is there black representation among nominees (if not this year or last, how about the history)? Yes. Here’s a list of brown-skinned Best Actors/Actresses and Best Supporting Actors/Actresses:

1963 – Sidney Poitier, 1970 – James Earl Jones, 1972 – Diana Ross, 1982 – Louis Gossett, Jr., 1985 – Whoopi Goldberg, 1985 – Oprah Winfrey, 1986 – Dexter Gordon,
1987 – Morgan Freeman, 1987 – Denzel Washington, 1989 – Morgan Freeman,
1989 – Denzel Washington, 1990 – Whoopi Goldberg, 1992 – Denzel Washington,
1993 – Laurence Fishburne, 1993 – Angela Bassett, 1994 – Morgan Freeman,
1994 – Samuel L. Jackson, 1996 – Cuba Gooding, Jr., 1999 – Denzel Washington,
1999 – Michael Clarke Duncan, 2001 – Denzel Washington, 2002 – Queen Latifah,
2003 – Djimon Hounsou, 2004 – Jamie Foxx, 2004 – Don Cheadle,
2004 – Morgan Freeman, 2004 – Sophie Okonedo, 2004 – Jamie Foxx,
2005 – Terrance Howard, 2006 – Forest Whitaker, 2006 – Jennifer Hudson,
2006 – Djimon Hounsou, 2006 – Eddie Murphy, 2006 – Will Smith,
2008 – Taraji P. Henson, 2009 – Morgan Freeman, 2009 – Gabourey Sidibe,
2009 – Mo’Nique, 2011 – Viola Davis, 2011 – Octavia Spencer, 2012 – Denzel Washington, 2013 – Chiwetel Ejiofor, 2013 – Lupita Nyong’o

If you look at the list you’ll notice that there are some years with no brown-skinned nominee. This list is NOT to say, “See, there’s no racial bias in Hollywood!” (Quite the contrary, I DO believe there is racial bias in Hollywood. The bulk of the best roles seem to go to white actors. While this would make sense in biopics and period pieces, there are many films that don’t necessitate a white actor, yet the white actors get them.)

This IS to say that I believe the Smiths are blowing things out of proportion to boycott the Oscars in one of the off-periods. It seems less about the race issue and more about a reaction to Will Smith not receiving a nomination Jada thought he deserved. She wasn’t saying anything about the issue in 2010, 2007, 2000, etc. Even Will Smith’s former co-star on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air commented:

I’m a real freedom fighter. I’m not a pretend freedom fighter. I stand up for other actresses, other people. The Smiths just irked me because they are such pretenders, and everything is a photo op. It’s just self-contrived because her hubby didn’t get a nomination. ~ Janet Hubert

No, Mrs. Smith, I don’t think you have a legitimate beef to bring against the Academy Cheryl_Boone_Isaacs_87th_Oscars_Nominations_AnnouncementAwards, which has been nominating people of color for over 50 years and even has a black woman as its president. It’s not the Academy that has bias against brown-skinned people. Producers and directors, perhaps, but the Academy Awards have been supportive of minorities for a while.

The second issue raised by people in this recent segment of the race war is white people complaining about the BET or Image Awards. If black people have those awards, why are they complaining about the Oscars? White people don’t complain about not being nominated for a BET Award….

Well, that’s true. But we don’t need other awards. We have the Oscars. It’s not that the Oscars are designed to be a “whites only” club. It’s simply that American culture, for the most part, is geared TOWARDS whites. We don’t need our own television station – we have almost ALL of them! We don’t need our own awards show – we get ALL the rest.

Black television stations, awards shows, etc. are not about elevating blacks and diminishing whites. It’s really about validation. In a culture and society that, historically, has NOT validated minorities, it’s completely reasonable and understandable to create programming and events that validate your identity.

So how should Christians respond to all this drama? I believe that we have a biblical mandate to pursue justice and to seek racial reconciliation. We are called to be peacemakers. This means we can show empathy and understanding for our brown-skinned brothers and sisters who feel that society diminishes their identity. We can speak out against injustice. We can pursue avenues of equality.

In the big picture, is an awards show a HUGE deal? I don’t think so, no. But white people must not invalidate the feelings of minorities by burying our heads in the sand and pretending that racial bias doesn’t exist.

But that doesn’t mean Will Smith should get an Oscar this year.  😉

Is Star Wars Racist?

No. It is not.

Perhaps you saw it, too. An African American commentator on MSNBC made the audacious claim that Star Wars is racist. After all, Darth Vader wears a black outfit, “he was terrible and bad and awful and used to cut off white men’s hands, and didn’t, you know, actually claim his son.”

As a Star Wars fan I find this conspiracy theory to be ludicrous and absurd. She has no idea what she’s talking about. The dichotomy of black/white or darkness/light is not about race. It’s a concept about good and evil that transcends race (not to mention that Storm Troopers, the classic evil henchmen, wear white). lego-631850_1920

It’s a strong biblical theme, and the Bible is a book written BY non-whites (sorry, white people, if you didn’t know that by now). The Bible is written by Middle Eastern men – brown dudes (and possible a dudette, depending on your view of the authorship of Hebrews – but that’s a debate for another time and place).

Darkness has long been associated with what is less-than-goodarth-vader-147014_1280d. Bad guys do their work under cover of night. Night conceals and hides the truth. Job talks about God as one who “reveals mysteries from the darkness and brings the deepest darkness into the light.” The Psalmist declares: Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”

The Gospel of John says about Jesus:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5)

Indeed, even Jesus says of himself:

“I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

See – even brown-skinned people use the dark/light and black/white dichotomy to talk about good vs. evil. Star Wars isn’t racist – it’s a representation of the classic struggle all of humanity faces.
But here’s the kicker – in Star Wars, the struggle between the good side and the dark side of the Force is a Yin/Yang balancing act. Good and Evil are equal opposites.

This is not the biblical perspective.

In the Bible there is no evil that equals God’s goodness. There is no darkness that is comparable to God’s light. Every power is subservient to the Almighty. There is no balance to the Force – there is only Jesus, the light that cannot be comprehended or overcome by the darkness.

So every time you watch Star Wars, do so with a racially guilt-free conscience. And as we wrestle with our own good side and dark side, remember that we know the ultimate outcome.

Jesus wins.

(and just for fun, here’s one of my favorite Benny Hinn videos!)

Sorry, Charlie – Racism Is Real

I just saw this short video from Brave New Films. It’s totally worth the 3 minutes to watch it.

So let’s speak frankly. I’m not naïve, and I understand that statistics can be skewed to meet particular agendas. Statistics also don’t give the REASONS behind statistics. By that I mean that some racial discrepancies COULD be attributed to factors unrelated to race.

Still, you can’t negate the EXPERIENCE of many minorities in the USA, and experience (even my experience being a white guy married to a brown-skinned woman) shows us that racism is still a problem in our nation. No, this isn’t a post to justify the violence in Baltimore. The other day Barnabas Piper said:

Random violence and theft isn’t ever the right response to oppression. Neither can it be used as an excuse to overlook the oppression.

That’s it right there. Was the rioting, looting, and violence acceptable? Absolutely not. But that response doesn’t excuse the rest of the nation from hearing the complaints behind the poor response. We get into a dangerous circle of violence and blindness when we ignore the valid concerns. Many of our responses to the riots have been equally violent – not physically but mentally, psychologically, and, yes, even spiritually.

“What kind of hippie-dippy nonsense are you spouting, Chris?”

Just this – I’ve seen a lot of hatred and animosity directed towards rioters. I’m talking about pictures, memes, and posts that spew further racist idiocy. ObamaThis includes accusing Mr. Obama of WANTING the riots – one of the most idiotic accusations I’ve ever heard in my life. And that’s NOT okay. Why do we expect anything to change when we continue the violence against others?

This isn’t the Christian way.

Christians are called to rise above racial differences and be people who humble ourselves, strive to serve others, and consider others BETTER than ourselves (I didn’t make any of that up – it’s from the Bible).

It’s time to knock off the racist garbage and listen to the complaints. It’s time to engage in authentic dialogue. It’s time to pursue the well-being of people who feel oppressed.

This is the Christian way.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!

The Cool Kids

Sometimes it seems our world has lost it’s ever-lovin’ mind. We split into divisions and factions. We see people as “like us” or “other-than us.”

Whites Only

Here’s the thing – I don’t think it’s biblical to see people as “other than.” It diminishes the other and treats people sinfully. This is what happens with discrimination.

Every kid in the world knows what it’s like to play favorites. Have you ever played kickball on the school field? Every kid who has ever been part of picking teams knows first-hand what discrimination looks like.

I have never ever been one of the cool kids. All my life I was always on the outside looking in but I’ve always been moreCool Kids Club of a nerd (before nerds were cool, so I guess I’m an original hipster). When you’re picking teams on the field who are the first to get picked? The cool kids. Then the athletes. Then, standing off to the sidelines, are the rest of us.

 

Picked last.

Now 6 and 7 year olds don’t go around saying, “You know, I’m gonna discriminate today based on athletic ability and the cool factor.”

The biblical writer James has something to say about how we segregate and differentiate. While James specifically talks about discrimination based on wealth or poverty, the Bible would have us understand that discrimination isn’t cool. For any reason. James 2:1-13 says:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

In our society we have a belief that I can break one law while still obeying other laws. We may not cheat on our taxes, but we speed. We differentiate our lawbreaking and lawkeeping. But Jews understood The Law to be a unified concept. If you break any part of the law you’re breaking all of the law.

How can you pretend to be righteous when you have your little side sin going on? This is what discrimination is. It breaks God’s law and makes us lawbreakers. But James tells us that we cannot treat Christians differently because of differences.

I’m not so naïve as to think we will ever eliminate distinctions. I’m not advocating some futuristic classless society. The key question is this – can we treat each other equally and fairly in spite of our differences and distinctions?

Jesus is the great equalizer that wipes away the distinctions between us. No, not literally. But the way we treat people who are “different” needs to be the same as we treat the best society has to offer.

Kids.
Women.
Poor.
Dark skinned.
Uneducated.
Foreigner.
And on and on and on…

We cannot assign people value based on categories. This is human, but this isn’t what the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to be like. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day in America. Take some time to reflect on discrimination and racism. We’ve come a long way.

We still have a long way to go.

Stop looking at people through human eyes. Start seeing people through God’s eyes.

 

**For Reflection**
How have I faced discrimination in my own life?
How have I discriminated against others?
Am I willing to see beyond the labels and categories and treat people as children of God regardless of their differences?

Related Posts:
Reflections on Racism from a Mixed-Race Couple
America: Still Racist After All These Years
My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black

Black Lives Matter Sunday – December 14, 2014

black lives matter

I am not attending a Church of God in Christ (COGIC) or Assemblies of God (AG) church, but this statement from George O. Wood, the Superintendent of the AG is a good statement about how Christians can love and support the Africxan American community and work towards reconciliation in America. I encourage you to read it through to the end. I have added the emphasis on my own, but I thought they were especially noteworthy parts.

– – – – – –

Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. of the Church of God in Christ has asked COGIC churches to observe Black Lives Matter Sunday this coming Sunday, December 14, 2014. As Bishop Blake’s friend and counterpart in the Assemblies of God, I ask that all AG churches do the same. I have two reasons for doing so.

First and foremost, black lives matter. The lives of all people are precious to God, of course, but at the present moment, many of our black brothers and sisters in COGIC and the AG feel that their lives are not highly valued by many in white America. As examples, they point to the recent controversial decisions of grand juries in St. Louis County, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, not to return bills of indictment against white police officers in the deaths of two black males, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Whatever your opinion of those controversial decisions, can we stand with our brothers and sisters and affirm the value of black lives generally and of their lives specifically? Scripture teaches that God does not take pleasure in the death of people, not even the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). If so, then whatever the circumstances, we can be certain that God did not take pleasure in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Therefore, neither should we. Can we affirm, then, the grief our black brothers and sisters feel about these men’s deaths? Think of it this way: If the families and friends of Michael Brown and Eric Garner attended your church, how would you minister to them in their sorrow?

Scripture teaches us to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Black Lives Matter Sunday is a way for all Assemblies of God churches to do that with our black brothers and sisters in the Church of God in Christ, our own National Black Fellowship, and the many multicultural churches in the Assemblies of God. Scripture teaches, “If one part [of the body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Let us suffer with our brothers and sisters in their time of mourning.

Second, America is racially divided and needs the Church to heal its divisions. The Pentecostal movement, to which both COGIC and the AG belong, traces a large portion of its spiritual genealogy to the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, at the start of the twentieth century. In that revival, led by a godly black man named William J. Seymour, the Spirit of Jesus Christ powerfully knit together the hearts of people who attended, regardless of race and ethnicity. For a shining moment at Azusa Street, when the surrounding culture was segregated by color, “the color line was washed away in the Blood,” as Frank Bartleman famously put it. Unfortunately, the forces of segregation reasserted themselves among white Pentecostals, and for many decades thereafter, they allowed the spirit of Jim Crow into their churches.

Great strides have been made in civil rights and racial reconciliation over the past century, of course, but America still experiences racial divisions. If Spirit-filled Christians cannot find a way to work together to heal these divisions, what hope is there for the rest of the country? The Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God share a like, precious faith, including our belief in and experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ has already united us in doctrine and experience, in other words. If we cannot unite at this hour, how can we expect America to be united, when it has no spiritual foundation for unity?

Because black lives matter, and because America needs the Church to heal its lingering racial divisions, I ask that Assemblies of God churches join the Church of God in Christ on Sunday, December 14, 2014, and pray for the following things:

• Pray during the service that God would bless the ministries of the Church of God in Christ, our own National Black Fellowship, and the many AG multicultural churches, enlarging their territory through Spirit-guided influence on the communities where they minister.

• Pray that God would unite the hearts of all Spirit-filled believers, but especially COGIC and the AG, so that together, we would become a “Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (Isaiah 58:12) in our nation.

• Pray for law enforcement and judicial officers, especially Spirit-filled believers among them, that they would be servants of justice, reconciliation, and peace in the communities they serve.

I recognize that some of you may find my request to observe Black Lives Matter Sunday controversial because of deep disagreement over the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. I do not wish to be controversial or to bring further division within the Church or within America. We have enough of that already.

Rather, I wish for us to find points of unity and cooperation across racial lines. We can take steps together in that direction by affirming the value of black lives and by praying for unity in our churches and our society this Sunday, December 14. I hope you will join me in observing Black Lives Matter Sunday with our brothers and sisters in the Church of God in Christ.

Finally, at this Christmas season, may we take to heart once again the glorious announcement of the angel that the birth of Jesus is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10)!

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