This post was originally posted on prettyforablackgirl.blogspot.com titled "How Did I Get Here?" that shares Nia's testimony of how she made the decision to do the "big chop" and her journey of discovering her identity as a black woman in the Lord.
Nia Campinha-Bacote is currently serving as staff for Chi Alpha at Yale University.
Several people have asked me if there was a reason why I did the big chop. The answer is yes and it’s a long one. I want to use this post to share part of my life story, and I hope others who have had similar experiences will know they’re not alone and may be encouraged to fully embrace the person God has created them to be.
I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, school system, and church. I was the only black person in my accelerated and AP classes, and I was constantly deemed as “the white black girl”. The oreo. To be fair, I very much bought into this jargon and these beliefs. Often times it was me calling myself an oreo and feeling proud as my jokes about being the only smart black person brought about laughter.
For a majority of my life, I didn’t see people who looked like me. I’m not just talking about not seeing a black person in a position of power or leadership (save a few high school teachers--shout out to Mr. Harris and Dr. Kennedy). I’m talking about not being surrounded by any peers who looked like me. When I looked around my classes I saw White, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani. But no black. Naturally, not being surrounded by anyone who looked like me meant not seeing anybody with hair like mine. So when my mom started chemically straightening my hair with a relaxer, I had no qualms. As a 10-year-old, I wanted to fit in and have long and straight hair like the rest of my friends. I wanted my hair to be “normal” and my kinky hair with curls and coils galore most assuredly did not fit that mold.
For the next 4 years, I used a relaxer to chemically straighten my hair until my scalp became too sensitive and the relaxer began leaving burns and scabs on my head. My hairdresser suggested I switch to Keratin, a protein treatment that loosened my natural curl pattern, but there was one catch--I had to wait 2 years to grow my hair out because using the Keratin on previously relaxed hair would completely break off my hair. Those two years I spent growing out my natural hair caused me to resent my hair like you wouldn’t believe.
Though I look happy in the picture, those two years of growing out my hair were THE WORST. Those two years were my freshman and sophomore years of high school--crucial years, y’all. To make matters worse, freshman year at my high school was the year swimming was required every week for gym class. EVERY. WEEK. I will never forget that class. Fit to Learn. Week after week I struggled fitting swimming caps over my ever growing fro, and week after week, my hair always managed to get wet and messed up. I remember trying to fit my hair into a nice bun or ponytail like all my other friends with the tiny elastic bands, but my hair ties were so quick to break, and even if they didn’t, my hair never looked right. It was too thick. Too curly. Too frizzy. Too nappy.
As soon as year two hit, I was in my hairdresser’s chair ready to do whatever I needed to do to get my hair back to “normal”. After she did my first Keratin treatment, I remember seeing my silky soft, smooth hair return and feeling a wave of relief pass through my body. Those two years on the wild side had made me terrified of my natural hair, and never once would I think I would return natural.
Stay tuned for part 2 out of 3 next week of Nia's journey on drivingdiversity.org!
A MONOLITH is a large single upright block of stone, especially one shaped into or serving as a monument or pillar. Figuratively, it is a large and impersonal political, corporate or social structure regarded as intractably indivisible and uniform. Webster defines MONOLITHIC as: constituting a massive undifferentiated and often rigid whole <a monolithic society;exhibiting or characterized by often rigidly fixed uniformity<monolithic party unity. In holding racial reconciliation conversations, I have made it a point to state that:
The African-American community is NOT a monolith. I nor anyone can speak on behalf of ALL Black people. No one
asks a Caucasian person, "What do all white people think about..." There are too many individuals, unique feelings, experiences and thoughts. This freedom of personal expression is one of the things we've fought for. It has taken many voices to get there: Dubois AND Washington; MLK AND Malcolm X; Carson AND Sharpton; Condoleeza AND Oprah, etc. Jackie Robinson, Angela Davis, the Black Panthers, Ali, Beyonce and Spike Lee have all moved the needle. Racism as an issue is so dire that leaders on platforms, legal officers, freedom riders, boycotters, analysts, artists, martyrs and quiet dissenters are all needed to expel its injustice.
Walter Lippman, an American writer, reporter and political commentator, coined the word 'stereotype' -a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person.
Sweeping generalizations of people often disagree with God's truth. In Acts 10, the Apostle Peter had been indoctrinated that certain foods and all Gentile people were unclean and to be avoided. He felt justified in his stance until it was challenged by the Lord,
"Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." (vs. 15) Peter had to be told 3 times that his conditioning was not God's truth. He then had to come into community with the very people he was devoted to shunning, "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean." (vs. 28) It wasn't just Peter, all the Jews believed this. Christ's cause to make One New Humanity, (Eph. 2) was higher than Peter's ideologies and self-interest. Peter had to accept and unify with Cornelius and the other Gentiles who were vastly different in background and upbringing than he. UNITY is not the same as UNIFORMITY. If I have to lose the core of who I am to join with you, to be relevant and heard, that's not unity or harmony.
This monolithic concept is also an issue with class, gender and even Christianity. All poor, middle class or wealthy people don't think the same, nor do all women or all Christian leaders. In fact, we address issues of injustice and disenfranchisement very differently, and often do not agree on methods or statements. However, Christ followers have the opportunity/responsibility to agree on Jesus Christ as the Answer to all the 'ism's' root cause - SIN and evil. He is the Way to reconcile with God and heal divisions. (2 Cor. 5)
According to Wikipedia, a monolithic church or a rock -hewn church is a church made from a single block of stone. Because freestanding rocks of sufficient size are rare, such churches are usually hewn or cut into the ground or into the side of a mountain. Reminds me of Isaiah's admonition, "Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance--all who seek the LORD! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined." (Isa. 51:1) The uniform New Testament revelation we all DO have is... that ROCK is JESUS!
CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES do not diminish in the face of ATROCITIES - extremely cruel acts, typically involving physical violence or injury- in fact, they intensify. The injustices and reprehensible behavior we have seen in the senseless executions of unarmed African-American men, AND in retaliation against innocent police have us all in shock, anger, disbelief and grief. However, holding the truths we believe, even at potential loss of life is what Christ followers around the world have exemplified for centuries. They believe steadfastly that Jesus is enough, and are armed with these truths:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt. 5:43-45) Jesus gives us a counter-cultural, no vengeance, yet winning strategy.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36) I can hear the push back on this as I'm writing...but I didn't say it...
I am an African-American woman with a husband, a son and two grandsons whose lives DEFINITELY matter to me! I also have friends whom I love in law enforcement, government and the military. I pray for their protection, and my emotions have swung the pendulum. Historically, I've marched and protested injustice more than the average person. I've also had more racial reconciliation discussions than most. When I devoted my life to Christ and was baptized, I began a NEW LIFE and immersed myself in Kingdom Culture. My first allegiance and priority (even over ethnicity, class or gender) is following Christ. (Gal. 3:28) In pressure-filled times like these, I might not like what the LORD directs me to do in His Word. Sometimes I rebel, or I'm hesitant to obey, but God's ways are ALWAYS right. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:18)
Rigoberto is a guest contributing author on Driving Diversity and is currently serving as a Chi Alpha Missionary Associate at The University of Virginia.
Hello, my name is Rigoberto and I’m diverse. Okay, glad we got that out of the way. I bet you’re dying to know if, as a Hispanic, I dream in English or Spanish. The answer is both. Anything else you’d like to know about my diversity before we continue?
Years ago, as a teenager, an older Caucasian woman asked me a question about my dreams. I don’t fully recall the context of the conversation, but I do recall what direction the conversation went towards: the emphasis of my “otherworldliness” as a Hispanic. I have no doubt this kind woman meant no harm, and luckily, I was too young to take offense.
Unfortunately, the trap of racial assumption, more eloquently termed by social psychologists as categorizing, is one that we as Christian leaders often fall prey to.
I recently met a student at a university. He described himself as a mixture of different races, including Indian and Turkish. Due to the fact that his prominent physical features resembled that of someone from India, fellow Indian students criticized his lack of proficiency in the Hindi language and rejected him.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Assumptions make donkeys out of you and me . . .
Fortunately, no one is innocent of this! Categorizing is a normal process that helps us all make sense of our natural world, including interacting with diverse individuals. It’s only natural that we would identify individuals of a cultural group by our previous experience with that specific culture.
Christena Cleveland, a social psychologist, professor, and author of the book Disunity in Christ, writes that when we categorize individuals we cease to view them as members of the body of Christ and perceive them as indistinct members of a cultural group instead. “By focusing on smaller, distinct categories for church groups, we erect and fixate on divisions that are far less important than the larger, diverse group of members of the body of Christ,” writes Cleveland.
Operating with an awareness of our natural tendency to categorize and to make sweeping racial assumptions can help us honor one another better. We must intentionally rise above our habits to pursue more personal levels of understanding that show us we are one body with many parts.
Here are three quick tips to help you avoid racial assumptions during first encounters:
1. Ask personal questions before you ask cultural questions. It’s important for people to know that you are genuinely interested in them as a person, not just a minority; African American, Latino, Filipino, etc. Ask them about their personal interests, what their dream job is, and where they grew up before you ask them about their cultural background.
2. Ask sensitive questions. Please don’t ask me if I grew up eating refried beans and tortillas as much as the orphans in Nacho Libre (the answer is yes, by the way). Ask significant questions -- questions that are thoughtful, and questions that foster depth.
3. Don’t focus strictly on questions about culture/race. Let’s make sure our conversation doesn’t single them out for their diversity. They have much to contribute apart from their cultural/racial experiences.
I’d like to emphasize that I’m no pro at this -- even as a Hispanic I often get this wrong. I don’t always have the right answers. That’s why humility is always the key when interacting with our brothers and sisters from diverse backgrounds. In Humility, Andrew Murray writes that “humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real . . .”
Be willing to listen, be willing to apologize when you unintentionally offend, and, please, be willing to persevere when it gets tough and potentially awkward (can I get an “Amen” somebody?). Love and humility will heal a multitude of sins.
In an increasingly politically correct mission field like the university campus, we need to get a better grip of loving well, lest we discredit ourselves with the first question we ask.
Now, tell me, where can I find the best taco truck in your town?
Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland
Humility by Andrew Murray
The Bible by God
The letter to the church at Ephesus is special. It contains the clear, fluent plan of God. Paul tells the Ephesian pastors in Acts 20:27 that he gave them the whole will of God through three years of effort with tears, night and day. And he calls them to keep watch over the whole church with their complete knowledge of the Kingdom.
What was so complete?
1. The Complete Church
Ephesians 2. Through the grace and mercy of the cross and the power of the resurrection, both Jews and nations are made alive, included and united in one new man. (Eph. 2:1-18)
2. A Dwelling in which God Lives
One united household of fellow citizens built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone, built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)
3. God’s Manifold Wisdom
Through His ethnically, socioeconomically diverse and united Church, God intends now to reveal His manifold wisdom to “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 3:10)
ALL OF THIS WAS ACCOMPLISHED IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD, and has always been the plan. (Eph. 3:11)
4. All Things Under His Feet
“[God has seated Him] far above all rule and authority, power and dominion...not only in this present age, but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his (Christ’s) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph. 1:20-23)
He’s given us the same incomparably great power as His holy people united together. The power is the same as what raised him from the dead and seated Him in heaven. (Eph. 1:19-20)
And He is our Head!
For clarity on this point, consider 1 Cor. 15:24-25, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
In other words, every enemy of Jesus is now being brought under His authority, in this age and for all eternity. Every evil, every injustice, every principality which oppresses people and opposes Him and His Kingdom ways. And the most powerful church, His very Body in the earth, is the Church united, Jews and nations as ONE NEW HUMANITY through Christ Jesus in which His fullness dwells by His Spirit!
5. A Kingdom, A Priesthood
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)
So, in simple terms, here is the Whole Plan (Will) of God, made known to the pastors at Ephesus (Acts 20:27): A Church of every tribe, tongue and nation, healed and loving deeply across the deepest human divides, Jew and Gentile first, full of the Spirit of God and His power and authority under His headship, bringing every enemy of Christ under His rulership, His ways, in all the earth, until the day He hands over the Kingdom to the Father... “And when He has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God [the Father] may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:28)
The key to all of this is one new humanity through Jesus Christ. Otherwise, there is not the complete body for Him to fill with His full presence to accomplish His whole plan.
Dale Stephens is a former missionary with Chi Alpha for 13 years (9 in Atlanta, GA) and currently serves as Pastor of Riverside Church in NW Atlanta. He and Andrea have three daughters, two goddaughters, and a dog.
I was torn with emotions of awe and frustration as I watched Macklemore perform the closing song at the MTV Awards a few years ago. I was in awe as I watched him declare a passionate appeal of a prophetic type. He proclaimed in front of a large audience what he believes to be true, while also preaching a kind of vision of tomorrow for the world to believe in. For me, it was reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr’s. “I Have A Dream” speech. I was torn with frustration as I empathetically knew he is proclaiming what millions resonated with, yet it was far from true peace and harmony. I couldn’t help but wonder who are the prophetic voices of the American church today for a Biblical vision of tomorrow. Was MLK an anomaly -- a once in a lifetime voice? Is God still prophetically proclaiming a gospel message for us all?
I was taught in my undergrad that prophecy operates in two possible definitions:
1. Forth-telling: proclamation of truth
2. Fore-telling: proclamation of future events
For many of us, the term “prophecy” or “prophet” transports our minds to Old Testament passages. We unknowingly take a dispensational stance toward the terms. We mostly consider them for the ancient world. Prophets were those crazy types that seemingly ended with John the Baptist or Jesus. Prophets were the standouts who spoke against current culture. They were outsiders and rebels who had a streak of non-conformity.
As a Pentecostal, there is a place for prophecy in our movement today. We acknowledge that God can use men and women to speak both fore-telling and forth-telling. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul seems to gives a prioritization for prophecy. In the early days of the Pentecostal American experience, there was a strong emphasis on prophetic utterances. I have even seen a couple of prophets in my time. They too had a flare of “uniqueness”.
The prophets and prophecy I have experienced have generally spoken to either individuals or churches. I wonder, why do we stop there?
From Urgency to Emergency
While in college, I worked at Bradley Memorial Hospital in the ER. In the ER, patients had to be identified as urgent or emergent. The label of “urgent” dictated the speed and effort by which a patient was received. “Emergent” received the highest level of effort, speediness, and care. As ministers, we have to see our world as emergent. Our communities and the individuals within, need life holistically today, tomorrow, and metaphysically.
We live in a world of tension.
We are progressing in our local society in many ways along racial needs. We see greater numbers of diversity all around us. Our country has progressed from recognizing individual human dignity to having key roles in government and society. Yet, entrenching along racial lines is happening. There are systemic and situational problems happening across our country. These are acts of injustice. As Christian Leaders, we have a responsibility to stand for justice. What will you do?
The situation is emergent locally, nationally, and globally. We, as ministers, must proclaim prophetic truth. When I envision this kind of proclamation, I am envisioning modern day Moses, Isaiah, John, Jesus, and MLK. I picture men and women standing up for Biblically based truth, which will resonate and capture the world. I see pastors and missionaries leading the charge for the fullness of salvation rooted in eternal and earthly freedom.
I am talking about being standouts not for the sake of self identifying with John the Baptist, but the kind of radical obedient Christ followers who recognize the time is now. Today, we must proclaim the fore-telling Truths of Scripture. We shall proclaim this Truth with a promise of a better life, community, and eternity for us all. Reconciliation is about Salvation...that all men, women, and children be found in shalom with God and His people. Prophetically Preach Preacher!
In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt, and a monument to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and witness to the Lord Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. So the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and in that day they will acknowledge the Lord. They will worship with sacrifices and grain offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and keep them. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
Follow Dale @atldrev or contact him via email at email@example.com.
As I interact with different people regarding diversity issues, I often come across those who tell me they are color-blind. Now, this does not mean they cannot distinguish between green and red. I think what they are trying to say is that they see everyone the same; they don’t “see color.” This, I perceive, is a response to our history as a nation of dividing people into color groups and granting them privileges accordingly. Today we recognize that such a system is evil. So the righteous response must be the direct opposite reaction -- to develop the ability to see everyone the same. But is this what Christians should do? Is being color-blind a Godly character trait? In other words, is God color-blind?
Well obviously, God is not color-blind. He sees EVERYTHING! We know that he created color, in all its endless shades and hues. He did this, we feel, because he is a creative God who delights in variety and beauty. He is artistic, reveling in splendor and majesty. It is not too much to infer that when he created humanity, he endowed it with all the variety and diversity that he gave the rest of creation. He did not desire a uniform representation of his being. Creation reveals God’s character (Romans 1), humanity his very being- “So he created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them: male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
It is not a great leap to reason that God, who is a wonderfully diverse being, would imprint his image on a diverse humanity. One of the things I love about having a Christian family is the realization that it takes both my husband and I to even begin to represent God to our children. In the same way, it takes all the different ethnic and racial groups of our world, all the cultures, in order for us to see God in his fullness.
We live in a time when our society is trying to erase the uniqueness of gender. For the most part, the Christian church fights against this attack, seeing it for what it is, an attempt to repudiate the truth that we are created in God’s image. So why would we, in like manner, join attempts to erase the uniqueness of our ethnic creation. In Revelation 7:9 John tells us, “And then I looked and saw a multitude that no man could count from every nation, tribe, people and language.” This verse makes it clear that at the end of the age, even after our physical transformation we will retain the uniqueness of our ethnicity.
This means that God values who we are in this world if he will retain our external ethnic identity markers for all eternity. In like manner, we also should celebrate our ethnic distinctiveness and uniqueness. We should realize that just as it takes a mother and father to represent God the Father to children, it takes the whole body of Christ to represent God to the world. Often you will hear sermons regarding this. These are usually focused on the need to have the varieties of gifts present in a local congregation. I believe wholeheartedly that the body is diminished by any form of uniformity, whether in abilities, ethnicity, or even economically. It takes all of who we are to represent all of who God is.
So, the answer to my original question is no. God is not color-blind nor does he discriminate. He makes his love and grace available to all. “He rains down on the just and the unjust.” Still, he does not see us the same, nor does he treats us the same. Just ask ten people how they came to know Christ; you will hear ten very different stories. Like a good Father, he knows we each have different needs and meets those needs in unique ways. To leave behind our country’s legacy of valuing its citizens according to their skin color and ethnicity, we need not deny that color. On the contrary, we must first embrace the reality of our history and the effects we live with today. Instead of seeing everyone the same and treating everyone the same, we should strive to see everyone as they are and treat them with the love and compassion they uniquely need. Ultimately, this will result in specific acts for each individual. Not color-blind, color conscious, nor controlled, but color aware and love controlled.
The statement “I have a friend who’s Black” or a similar statement is the verbal equivalent of your pre-pubescent crush punching you in the stomach to show her affection. When this statement is said by a white person, they are trying to show that they know about black culture and are not a racist. When this statement is heard by a black person, it lets them know that the white person who said it has no clue about black culture and likely has some prejudice.
I don’t want to insult anyone, but I felt like this might be an opportunity to explain to white people why black people feel this way about this statement and encourage black people in how to respond when this occurs.
For my white folks out there, the reason black people respond the way they do is because it sounds like you are trying to affirm your understanding of black culture or prove that you are not prejudice. However, white people who understand black culture and are familiar with it would never make that statement; they are already so comfortable being around black people that they fit in without effort and the black people know very quickly that they understand and are welcome.
Consider this, very rarely, if ever, have you heard a black person proclaim that they have a friend who is white. This is because they are already so comfortable being around white people and understand the culture so well that they just fit in. And the things that they don’t understand about white culture they can fake or avoid without their white friends even knowing.
I think you get the point, so I’ll move on…
For my black people out there, especially those of us who are followers of Christ, we need to change our response to white people who use the “black friend” proclamation. I know that I have been guilty of marking that person off as prejudice and refusing to have much more to do with them. I now know my response is exactly opposite of what I should have done and what I want to ask you to not do in the future. Instead, we should see that person as someone who is trying to build a bridge with black people and because of their lack of relationships with black people simply don’t know how. I believe that in most cases they want black friends and want to be accepted but have not had anyone really accept their, albeit awkward, olive branch.
Just like that 6 year old girl who beats up the boy she likes, this individual wants a relationship but doesn’t know how to show it. So, I’m asking you, black people, to respond by being their black friend. The first act of friendship can be telling them, “don’t ever say ‘you have a black friend’ again,” and then growing a heart level relationship with them so that they feel comfortable around you and your black friends. Truly help them understand your life, the things that concern you and how you feel about situations concerning race. That relationship is one that will produce fruit in more ways than we can imagine in the world and for the church.
Heart-level black and white friendships, especially in the body of Christ, will transform the church for the glory of God and bring more people into a relationship with Christ.
Have you seen this picture? It was shared by the Presbyterian Day School in Clarksdale, MS and has gone viral this past week.
While some view it as a positive commentary on race relations, a representative with the school said they want the focus to remain on the love of Jesus Christ, as captioned in the picture.
This brings up a vital question that, I think, as believers in Jesus, it is crucial that we ponder: What is going to improve race relations in our country?
Is it just going to happen because as a society we are moving forward and the bigots and racist will eventually die out, or do we actually have to do something to bring it about?
Recently, when I taught on God’s kingdom and the responsibility of the church to live according to its values, a kind older gentlemen asked me a version of this question. He shared what he saw in his neighborhood: scenes like those captured in the photo, children of different races playing together, which were non-existent in his youth. He asked me if I didn’t think things would just keep getting better and better until the day racial issues would simply disappear. His question implied that we need not bother ourselves with actively working against such issues, we need only wait.
That’s the question isn’t it? Are things such as institutional racism, bigotry, and hatred simply going to disappear? Are we improving as a society? Will the world of Star Trek one day become reality? It is true we no longer have slavery and legalized segregation. But let’s remember how those changes came about. They did not happen because society simply improved. They were paid with the sacrifice and lives of thousands of people. They were fought for and, sometimes, wrenched from the hands of those who were holding on to them with radical fervency.
The bigger question is whether the Christian worldview is one of a progressive future or one that calls for individual and societal responsibility? Well, when you put it that way, the answer is very clear isn’t it. Jesus himself spoke of the future, not as a utopia, but as a time when “the love of many would wax cold” and the world would be filled with ethnic strife, nation rising up against nation. As Christians we are called to “seek first his kingdom and His righteousness”. In other words, we are called to desire and pursue God’s authority in this world and his way of doing things. I think we can see in this a call to work for justice and equity. Not to bring about a utopia here on the earth, but to testify to the character of the God we serve.
It’s funny to me that we conservative, Evangelical Christians are all about personal responsibility when it comes to most issues. There are many among us who see poverty, for example, primarily a result of personal choices and not a consequence of larger societal issues. Yet, when it comes to racial issues, we are tempted to put our trust in society and abdicate our own accountability in the matter. Could it be we are quick to blame but slow to work? Brothers and sisters, this should not be. Those of us who are called, literally by Christ's title — anointed one — should be the ones on the front lines of manifesting Christ’s love, heart, and character to the world around us.
So I agree with the Presbyterian Day School, the picture is all about the love of Christ, for only His love lived out in real action can heal the racial wounds in individual hearts and in our society as a whole. This is the kingdom of God.
Last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that, “for the first time in more than a century, the front of our currency will feature the portrait of a woman, Harriet Tubman, on the $20 note.” He later told reporters, “Her incredible story of courage and commitment to equality embody the ideals of democracy that our nation celebrates, and we’ll continue to value her legacy by honoring her on our currency.”
Of course, like everything in our time, this decision has stirred up controversy. So how should those of us who love God’s kingdom and who are working to see the church live out the diversity of the kingdom today, feel about this?
Well, I am pretty happy and this is why.
One. While people are divided, they are not divided in the usual ways. I read stories on both Politico and National Review, two sites representing opposite ends of the political establishment, both praising the move to have Harriet Tubman on the $20. This means, Harriet has accomplished something almost impossible these days, she’s brought Republicans and Democrats together. Perhaps because she is from a time when a small minority of people chose to do what was right, not what was expedient?
What a challenge she is to all of us and what an encouragement for believers today to choose not the “lesser of evils” but the good.
That leads me to reason number two. Harriet Tubman was a real person, who made real choices (tough ones) in terribly challenging times. She could have escaped slavery and then hidden herself away living in whatever comfort and security she could find. But instead she chose to put her personal safety and comfort aside for the freedom of others. She did this her whole life. She lived a life of dedication to those in any form of bondage. Wow, this is something to emulate!
As a Christian, I am ecstatic to have a true follower of Christ on our currency. The history of our country is tainted by many who professed faith, but did not live it. How great for those of us attempting to represent our Lord accurately in our time to have someone like Tubman to look back on. “Tubman said she would listen carefully to the voice of God as she led slaves north, and she would only go where she felt God was leading her” (Christianity Today). We are in no less need for God’s divine direction today.
As an advocate for diversity in the church, I am thrilled to have an African American on our currency. African Americans helped build this country, though their contributions are rarely recognized. For any believer that would allow their political persuasion to criticize this decision, let these words be a challenge to you:
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
This past week one part of our national body has been honored and we should all rejoice!
As a woman, I am overjoyed to have Harriet Tubman representing me, not for her looks, that have been disparaged, (see “To the People Saying Harriet Tubman is ‘Too Ugly’ to Appear on the $20 Bill: Have Several Seats”) but for her actions. Yes! I am pretty sure that when I stand before the Lord to give an account and the books of “what I have done” are opened before him and all of my works are tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:12) he will or will not declare “well done thy good and faithful servant” not based upon my outward appearance in this life, but on how faithful I was to him.
Many have disapproved this decision calling it pure political correctness. Perhaps it is. Perhaps those who made the decision do not share my reasons. That’s ok. Like Paul before me, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” I know we are not talking about the preaching of the gospel here, but you get my meaning.