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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Racism

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.

Movie Review: Zootopia is Really a Race Relations Morality Story in Disguise!

Like most Americans alive today, I had seen the trailer for Disney’s Zootopia. If you live in a cave and HAVEN’T yet seen it, here it is:

So it was with great anticipation that my wife and I took our three kids, ages 9, 6, and 4, to go see it. And it was NOT was I was expecting.

Sure, it had the funny scene from the trailer. Who hasn’t been stuck in a DMV line and thought about the incredible slowness with which the employees move?!?

But Zootopia is much more than some funny scenes strung together. It was actually a VERY well-done story that tackles some tough issues in a way that is accessible to children and adults alike.

Character_zootopia_judyThe basic premise of the movie is that a cute and lovable rabbit named Judy Hopps moves to the big city of Zootopia to become a police officer. She has big dreams for making the world a better place and sees Zootopia as a wonderful place where animals have moved beyond their preditor/prey natures and live together in harmony. If you’re not a literary sort of person, there is a loose reference to Thomas More’s Utopia, which is about a perfect society but whose name literally means “no place.”

Anyway, while there she runs into a fox who is cleverly named Nick (nick being an American slang term for cheating or taking something from someone – just ask Dora) who tells her that the world isn’t great and that they don’t all hold hands and sing Kumbayah.

I won’t give out any spoilers, but Officer Hopps and Nick go on an adventure trying to solve a case that shows the true nature of reality – that underneath a smooth exterior of love and acceptance, deep down at the core there is real friction between different groups. This is where the story really shines as an example of American culture.

On the surface we like to pretend that our society has evolved beyond some of the old racist attitudes and expressions that used to be so commonplace. I’ve even heard some (white) people say, “Of course there’s no racism any more – we have a black president.” This sentiment is really quite stupid and naive. Like the cute bunny, we’re often blind to the reality that there is raw friction between groups and the fact that racism is still prevalent in our world.

Case in point: racial tensions in America. Just yesterday at a political rally, violence broke out as minorities demonstrating against a political candidate squared off against the candidate’s supporters. Then the candidate publicly proclaimed many of the protesters to be “thugs.”

I confess that I don’t know the background of all of the protesters, but labeling them as “thugs” seems to be an easy way now for white people to dismiss people of color with whom they disagree. An angry black man isn’t necessarily a thug – he could just be an angry black man.

This is part of what Zootopia addresses. When we expect others to be bad (and label them thus), we end up being small-minded jerks and do damage to others. This is where the teaching of Jesus practically screams at us:

Treat others the way you want them to treat you!

It seems so simple, yet we’re so far away from living in a culture that can actually do this. Instead we yell, scream, and throw punches at each other. By the end of the movie, Officer Judy Hopps tells the audience:

Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.

The Bible actually talks about equality. About fairness. About one-ness. And we do damage to the faith we claim to hold to when refuse to make the kind of change that brings the world to see all of us through the same lens. We can’t hide behind out politics and our family upbringing. There is no excuse for treating anyone poorly, no matter who or what they are or believe.

It’s time for those of us who claim to follow Christ to leave the garbage behind and make moves towards love, peace, and reconciliation among ALL people.

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.  😉

TV Show Review: Mercy Street

Mercy StreetEvery once in a while you’ll come across a tv show that captures your interest and imagination from the very first few minutes in. Downton Abbey was such a show.

Mercy Street is not.

Oh, I wanted to be a believer. I’m a history buff and a big fan of historical fiction. I enjoy seeing how writers can take real history and create fictional stories in and around real events and lives. I’m also a fan of PBS – it’s a terrific channel with some great programming. When I saw the trailers for Mercy Street, the first original series to come to PBS in years, I was excited.

It is executive produced by Ridley Scott. The cast includes Gary Cole and Donna Murphy. It should be EPIC! Right? Right? Yet it falls short.

The Rundown

The cinematography is fine. Not great, just fine. It’s a tv show, so normally you don’t go into it thinking you’re going to seeing something spectacular. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled with Downton Abbey, which DID have spectacular cinematography and came across more as art than television. I guess that’s my biggest beef with Mercy Street (well, that and the Union doctor who insists that the war isn’t about slavery at all but rather about preserving the Republic).

It’s just a tv show. It isn’t art.

The dialogue is painful in places. There were some questionable casting decisions. The delivery of the performances is bland at best and painful at worst. The story-line itself drags and we spend an hour really going nowhere. Some of the characters seemed better suited to be in a 21st century setting (which I’m not yet sure if the fault is with the actors or with the writing). And you can thank Ridley Scott, I’m sure, for the graphic gore of a Civil War era hospital. All said and done, it felt lackluster. My wife and I have yet to determine if we’re going to stick around for episode 2.

The Story

Mercy Street is about a Virginia hotel that is turned into a makeshift hospital. Well, I suppose it’s REALLY about the people in and around the hospital. Think ER in an 1864 setting.

Here’s the recipe:

  1. Doctors vs. Nurses
  2. Medical professionals do crazy things to save patients
  3. Romance and relationships develop throughout the whole thing
  4. Hospital personnel wrestle with personal drama/issues.
  5. Throw in a healthy mix of slavery and North vs. South story-line.
  6. Mix vigorously for 60 minutes. Pour into PBS-sized containers and served chilled.

From a biblical point of view, my favorite part is the discussion on the universality of humanity. One of the docs says something to the effect that there is no blue blood or grey blood – Soldiers are Soldiers. It’s a good point that Christians often forget. All humanity is made in God’s image. That means there is inherent value in every individual.

Where the show falls short, though, is that the doctor who espouses this “all blood is the same” ideology only applies it to white troops and fails to see how the same reasoning applies to people of color. There is no white blood or black blood – people are people. Yes, one of the nurses calls the doctor’s view of race “unenlightened,” but it goes beyond enlightenment. It’s about a basic biblical understanding of humanity and the image of God. I believe this can be a point all Christians can and should get behind.

Will I watch the next episode? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m not excited about it.

Now ask me if I’m excited about the next episode of Downton Abbey…  😉

 

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!)

When the KKK Infiltrates Your Church

churchSo there I was talking to another pastor about race issues in the church. He told me about a friend of his (yes, I know that this would never be admissible in a court of law, but it’s just a story, so chill) who was pastoring down south. The pastor was new to the church, and when a black family visited one Sunday the board later asked the pastor what he was going to do about it.

His response? “I’m not going to do anything about it.”

But the family visited again. And the pastor was summoned to a special meeting with the board. Upon entering the meeting, the board members pulled out their wallets and showed the pastor that they were all card-carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan. ku klux klan

I don’t know how that story ends. That wasn’t the point of our conversation. Our conversation revolved around people who consider themselves to be Christians yet behave in ways that many Christians believe to be contrary to how authentic disciples of Jesus behave.

But here’s the thing: we can’t tell people what they are. Or aren’t. people are allowed to self-identify however they like. Oh, sure, we can tell people that we don’t think their way of doing things fits into the mold, but people don’t usually listen when we try to tell them what they are.

Like an article I saw from not too long ago. A local KKK leader in Virginia claims that the KKK is a Christian organization. They just want to make sure that the white race stays white and isn’t diluted. As he says:

It’s not a hateful thing to want to maintain white supremacy.
Yet I would like to think that the majority of Christians in the world recognize that the KKK is NOT a christian organization. It’s not merely about history and heritage.ku klux klan with flag They’ve done some really atrocious things and propagate animosity and hatred towards other human beings.

But here’s the kicker: I think it IS possible for Christians to be card-carrying members of the KKK.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think the KKK is unequivocally evil. But humanity is predisposed to be evil. It’s in our nature. In theological terms we call it sin-nature. Left to our own devices there is no way we can ever achieve heaven – we will simply never be good enough. That’s the whole point of the cross – Jesus paid the price for sin because the price was TOO steep for us ever to pay.

For Christians, that means we’re all a bunch of sinners in the same boat. We’re simply on different places of our spiritual paths. Some of us are farther along than others. Some of us still have a long way to go. But faith in Christ isn’t predicated on a list of rules and behaviors. The Apostle Paul never said, “Give up all your old ways, come to Christ, and then you’ll be saved.” That’s getting the order mixed up.

We come to Christ FIRST. Then our behavior ought to be in an ever-evolving state as we grow in our Christ-likeness. I’m fond of saying:

God loves you as you are, but God does not love the way you are.

As we mature in our faith, the old way SHOULD die out. Can a Klansman be a believer? Sure, just like the Christian-murdering Paul could come to faith. But after Paul started the road of faith HE CHANGED. This is where the rubber meets the road. God loves everyone, but authentic faith brings us to a place where we are no longer the same.

Can the Christian church have Klan members in it? Yes. I would hope it did. Just as I would hope the church would have drug addicts, drug dealers, spouse abusers, porn addicts, tax-evaders, and any other horrible thing you can think of. If the church isn’t reaching sinners then we’re not doing our job.

But the beginning-of-the-journey sinner can’t stay that way. It’s not enough to come to Jesus if we refuse to change. When it comes down to it, though, it’s not our place to force change. We can welcome people and speak the truth as we know it. Then we need to trust God to do the real work of changing hearts. Because my words will most likely never change hearts. That’s not my job – it’s God’s.

That means we should treat people with a whole lotta grace, even when they’re on a different part of the journey than we are. You might have a Klansman in your church. Who knows where God will have him this time next year.

May God be patient with us all as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Him.

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.

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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!

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