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" 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.
I woke up a little after midnight unable to sleep. On Facebook, an African American student from one of our Chi Alpha groups messaged me asking for my prayers and help. The KKK is handing out flyers in his town (more flyers). I can't imagine the many emotions he is feeling, but he told me, "This really angers me, but it angers me to want to do something about it through spreading the love of Christ even more, and how we are all one blood under Christ." I am so proud of this student. In the midst of his own feelings, he is staying focused on Christ’s mission.
So, I am up praying and crying and asking myself, “How can this group still exist today?” But, of course I already know the answer. We are not a post-racial society. There is so much going on in our world, but most in the church are so very ignorant of it that I am inspired today to speak out and bring some truth to bear. Ignorance, by the way, is simply not knowing. There is no shame in not knowing, only in refusing to learn. Let’s start with some basic definitions to help us sort through some of the lies.
Racism. This word gets thrown around a lot, but what is it actually? I like the clarity that sociologist Michael Emerson brings in his paper, “The Persistent Problem”. “Research consistently finds significant differences in the way that racial groups tend to define racism” (e.g., Yancey 2006). Whites tend to view racism as intended individual acts of overt prejudice and discrimination…In short, it defines the person’s essence. To be called “racist” by others then is so very offensive to so many whites because it communicates an amazing charge. It says, “You, white person, walk around holding crazy stereotypes in your head, and you then go around intentionally and directly parading your racial prejudice and discrimination against me and others. Whatever else you may be, white person, this racist label is your master status.” Ouch. No wonder the word makes the blood boil. Most people of color define racism quite differently. Racism is, at a minimum, prejudice plus power, and that power comes not from being a prejudiced individual, but from being part of a group that controls the nation’s systems. So while anyone can be prejudiced, only whites can perpetrate racism in the United States, for they hold and have always held most of the power in American institutions. Even in a nation that currently has a president as black, nearly all senators, representatives, governors, and CEOs, to name a few, are white. This view of racism is called the structuralist definition, and stands in stark contrast to the individualist definition.”
Let’s be clear. Both definitions of racism are sin. The individualist definition violates the sacredness of humanity. The structural definition violates the very essence of the gospel. Those who claim the cross are called to serve and lay down their lives for others, not to use whatever power they might have for self-protection and self-aggrandizement.
White Power/ White Privilege. Here are some more terms that are incredibly misunderstood. Again I turn to Michael Emerson. When trying to understand sociological concepts, turn to a sociologist. He uses the term, “structural advantage” probably to lighten some of the weight.
“White Structural Advantage: As alluded to earlier, white Americans occupy the location of dominance—politically, economically, culturally, and numerically—within the racial hierarchy. They have disproportionate control of influence of political parties, legal system, government-controlled institutions, industry, and business. These structural advantages provide privileges to whites, where privilege here can be defined as benefits accrued by virtue of having a white identity. This advantage is in everyday situations and at institutional levels. Some examples, with varying degrees of significance for life outcomes: whites easily purchase movies, literature, or greeting cards with whites in them; white Americans can ignore the experiences, writings, or ideas of racial/ethnic minorities without penalty; whites are assumed to be middle class, law abiding, and well meaning, unless they prove otherwise (and they will have to work at proving it) whereas for other groups it is typically the opposite; whites have the ability to set laws and policies (in part because elected officials are overwhelmingly white)—including who is defined as white and who is not, the power to interpret what is a racial problem and what is not, who gets into the country and who does not, the ability to pass housing policies that favor their racial group, and whites shape the development of educational curriculums that emphasizes Western history and social experiences, and much more.”
I find people are often offended at the notion that they might have “white power”, like they have done something wrong. Look, if you are white (actually I don’t like that term, but will use it for the purpose of this discussion), the truth is that you do have structural advantages. This does not make you a bad person! If you are a Christian, then I would challenge you to use this advantage for the benefit of others who do not have this advantage. THIS IS THE GOSPEL. Jesus shares his power, privilege, and advantage with us. He has all of these, and does not deny it, but instead uses it.
KKK. I do not claim to be an expert on this group. On the website listed on this flyer they say, “Our goal is to help restore America to a White Christian nation founded on God’s word. This does not mean we want to see anything bad happen to the darker races... we simply want to live separate from them as GOD intended (Lev. 20:24-25).” A few things regarding these two short sentences.
Leviticus 20:24-25 says, “But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations. “‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you.”
Regarding the scripture reference- Yeah, I don’t get it either. I guess they bank on most people not actually looking this up or they think that God’s command to the Hebrew people to live separate from idolatrous nations around them somehow equates to racial segregation today. Race is a human construct that was not part of the ancient world and that is one, among many reasons, why this Scripture is horribly misapplied by the Klan.
Secondly, White and Christian are not synonymous terms, though I think perhaps the Klan thinks they are. Christianity was in Africa before it made its way to Europe. Most Europeans were idolatrous “barbarians”, much like the people Moses warned the Israelites to separate themselves from, before the gospel took root there. Christians are people who have embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior and actually live by his ways and do his will. By the way, believers were first called Christians in Antioch because their multi-ethnic congregation of Jews and Gentiles necessitated a new term. Thank you, Luke, for recording the leaders of this great church for us so that we will not get sucked into the lies of groups like this. “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas (Jewish), Simeon called Niger (Sub-Saharan African), Lucius of Cyrene (Greek), Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul (Jew from Greek city).” Acts. 13:1. Italics are mine.
Lastly, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are not racist because they celebrate the culture and contributions of often over-looked groups. Ethnic specific events, media, and resources exist because many of us feel we are completely lacking from the general culture. If we want to make these things obsolete then let’s create school curriculums, movies, and events that truly represents all of us.
Here’s the bottom line, brothers and sisters. Everything that quotes Scripture and claims Jesus’ allegiance is not of God. Jesus taught us to judge a tree by its fruit. This is a good standard to apply to all of our lives.
The kingdom of God is made up of every nation, tribe, people, and language. THIS IS TRUTH. As Mark Deymaz says, “if the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, then why on earth is the local church?" It is time to deal with the reality of the racial injustice in our world through a Biblical lens. Like my brother put it, "This really angers me, but it angers me to want to do something about it through spreading the love of Christ even more, and how we are all one blood under Christ." Me too. Will you join us?
Martin Luther King day is a national holiday, but is it a holiday for the nation? Does it affect every single one of us? Or is it just for African Americans? Should I, a Colombian born, naturalized American citizen of Cuban parents, care about MLK Day? I mean, after all, the civil rights movement did not affect or involve my family or me.
Yet, I am planning on honoring the day in several ways. Not because of my ethnic heritage or even my naturalization, but because of my spiritual allegiance to the kingdom of God. As a follower of Jesus I am compelled and challenged to involve myself in the commemoration of this life.
MLK fought for those who society had marginalized and oppressed. Jesus too cares for the “least of these”. He cares for those others would prefer to ignore. His kingdom is one of justice and righteousness as Dr. King so often reminded us. “In words of the prophet Micah, he hoped that one day all persons elected to public office will ‘do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with [their] God.’ His hope for an end to war was rooted in Isaiah's vision that people will ‘beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.’ Biblical promises of ‘peace on earth and goodwill toward all’ were Dr. King's antidote to despair.” 1
As a believer in Jesus I am bound to love what he loves and hate what he hates. Martin Luther King Day is a day of celebration for us all because he, along with many others, helped the nation we call home to move from a place of segregating and discriminating against half its citizens and towards a place of equality. This is something we can all rejoice in. We were all set free. Some were set free from oppression and others were set free from oppressing. It is difficult to know which is the greater freedom.
Yet as we remember the life of Dr. King we must also remember that his vision, his dream has not yet become a full reality. We still live in a world battled with racism and injustice. There are still battles to be fought, perhaps not as obvious as those of his day, yet still as prevalent. As believers in the one who came to set men free, we must work within our spheres of influence to affirm justice, righteousness, and truth. We must fight, not just the battles that affect us personally, but also those that stand against the name, the ways, and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the words of Dr. King, we must be extremist.
“Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”2
1. “Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. King's Vision of Justice: Rooted in the Bible" David J. Lull
2. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Dr. Martin Luther King
By Sadell Bradley, Co-Pastor
New Life Covenant Cincinnati
Fatigue is extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness; it is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity or stress. Racial means on the grounds of or connected with difference in race - each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics; a group of people sharing the same culture, history, language, etc.
The movie "Dear White People" (above) recently opened, decrying the racial injustices that are unfortunately still experienced in college campuses. Watching it, I was faced with some eery flashbacks of college days! Though my identity as a Christ-follower is now primary, I believe God also uses the uniqueness of culture, gender and experiences to His glory to help sharpen His Body toward love.
I was at a Mosaix Cincy meeting of Tri-State pastors who have a heart for planting and populating churches that look like Heaven: with people of every tribe, language, people and nation. (Rev. 5:9) Our children and grandchildren have grown accustomed to diversity. If the Church continues to be segregated, it will be irrelevant and left behind. So we address the racial, class and gender divisions in the US Church.
"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) We seek to embody this statement of truth from Paul, and to help lead the charge toward the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23 (below), which is a redemptive revelation of the Sonship of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father for this world. Dwelling together in unity is where God commands His blessing and life forevermore. (Psalm 133:3)
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-I in them and you in me-so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
The term Racial Fatigue or Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF) was coined by William Smith in the Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Society (2008) It is a theory attributed to the psychological attrition that People of Color experience from the daily battle of deflecting racialized insults, stereotypes, and discrimination. RBF is the cumulative effect of being "on guard" and having to finesse responses to insults, both subtle and covert. Contrary to popular opinion, this is NOT a post-racial society.
Caucasians experience a different type of Racial Fatigue. They get tired of hearing of and talking about race. Minorities tire of talking about it too, but we are more tired of living with racism -as the ad above from Ferguson, MO suggests.The same holds true for poverty, and the gender inequality revealed in issues like domestic violence and human trafficking. I am an African-American female, who is an orphan, from an urban setting, in the male-dominated field of ministry. At times the Call to be the 'only one' in settings, or to insert the cause of the disenfranchised into discussions is overwhelming. The deep fractures that exist in this City, the US, and the Church are historical, complicated and necessitate deep, loving and honest discussion toward reconciliation.
If you are fatigued or weary in doing any of the Lord's work, be encouraged by these Scriptures: "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap of we do not grow weary (if we do not give up)" (Galatians 6:9) "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." (Jeremiah 31:25)
Yesterday’s events in Roanoke, Virginia seem to be one more step in a serious of events leading our country toward all out race war. While we’d like to believe something like that would never happen here, it is difficult to when you look at the 100 or so ethnic conflicts taking place in our world right now (ethnic-conflict.com).
Dylan Roof, the mass murderer of the Charlottesville Nine and Vester Flannigan both stated their desire that their actions would bring about a race war. In a fax send to ABC News Flannigan wrote, "As for Dylann Roof? You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE (deleted)!!!" the document reportedly said.
So what are believers in Jesus Christ to do right now? Well, not go on with life as usual- that’s for sure! It’s time to be shaken out of our complacency and into some serious action. Personally, I am not sure if a race war can be prevented at this point in time. The steps we take now, may be a few decades too late. That does not mean that we should not try. At the very minimum, we need to make sure the church of Jesus Christ is not dragged into it.
Here are some thoughts, please feel free to add yours:
We need to build serious cross-cultural/ cross-racial relationship NOW! Get out of your comfort zone and out of your building and connect with other leaders in your community. Don’t know what to say? How about, “Hey, this country’s heading into some seriously bad places and we, the people of God need to come together and work through whatever we need to so that we can be God’s people united in this place NOW!
Call for and participate in times of prayer and intercession. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10”3-5). We are fighting strongholds in our own and others minds. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7”14). Our land needs healing. We need to pray and we need to do it together.
As always, we need to take ourselves back to the cross and again ask our Lord to search our hearts, reveal the sin and the strongholds which are probably present, and repent. Nothing will happen in our land that does not happen first in our hearts.
So friends, it’s time to get real with our Lord, ourselves and with each other. It’s time to look around and pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s time to be the answer to our own prayers.
"Can you put something out there about how to process with our students what is happening in Baltimore? My heart is just breaking over it all. I think it's going to be a crazy summer and if I can find something to try to help them know how to process and respond that would be helpful. I think I have ideas but could really use some wisdom on this."
This request was made to me by one of our campus missionaries who, like the rest of us, is unsure how to respond to the news coming out of Baltimore. Situations like this make us feel overwhelmed and powerless and often we opt for doing and saying nothing. I don’t think that is the right answer. Here are my insufficient and inadequate suggestions which, I hope, will be helpful, if only because they are something to do, instead of nothing.
Pray. Now I know some may find this trite, but may I remind us all that human solutions here are quite limited. We literally need divine intervention. And I am crazy enough to believe that God actually intervenes in human affairs and often does so in response to the concerted prayers of his people. Pray for peace and pray for justice. Pray for healing for the hurting and empathy for those who lack it. Pray for God’s perspective and God’s response from his people, especially those in Baltimore. Pray for wisdom for leaders in the police, city, state, and national government, and in the community. Pray, pray, pray.
Listen. In human conflict the most needed response is often the most lacking and that is listening. Listening to those who feel unheard and marginalized is a great way to show respect and honor. Even if you don’t understand or do not agree with another’s perspective, you can still listen. James tells us to “be quick to listen and slow to become angry.” You cannot control what anyone else is doing (other than to pray), but you can control your own reaction. An important element of listening is to listen to those who have something to share with you that you may not know. If you don’t personally know anyone like this, read and watch videos. Go to our resource page for help.
Care. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” The most troubling aspect of many of the posts I see on Facebook from fellow believers is the apparent lack of care. There is much debate about “facts” but little concern about feelings. In the end of the day, the only one who knows the facts for sure is God, but we all know our own feelings. So let’s care for the hurting. Is this not the gospel? Did Jesus not cry at Lazarus tomb? He knew, we are told, that he would raise him from the dead, so he was not crying about his death. He cried because he cared. He chose to mourn with those who were mourning and not to, at that moment, discuss facts. This does not mean that facts and circumstances are not important. I believe that for many of Christian brothers and sisters in the African American community caring about their history with the police and the complex relationship which this history has produced, would also communicate care. Here’s one video where this issue is discussed that is worth watching.
Connect. Research shows that most people in our country live a pretty segregated experience (see article). I think one of the keys to both understanding and at some point being able to respond is to connect with others who are not like you. At some point, and a big applaud to those who are already doing this, believers need to find kingdom responses to the issues of the day. In order to do this well with complex problems like what is happening at Baltimore, we are going to need to be increasingly connected one to another.
Discern. We need to discern the kingdom of God from the kingdoms of this world' this is not easy whatever your race, ethnicity, or political affiliation. In this country, God, the Bible, and Christianity has been used to condemn and defend the very same things throughout this nation’s history, right to the present day. It can get very, very confusing. First, a commitment to God’s word and his kingdom is essential. Next, the skills to read the Bible well would not go amiss (for this I recommend the classic How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart). Lastly, we must bring everything we hear, read, and think and compare it to the light of Scripture. This is NOT easy, but it is ESSENTIAL.
I hope like this missionary you are asking how to respond. If this is you, thank you. This is a great start. Next, respond, even if it's insufficient and inadequate.
"Christian refugees have revealed how they linked arms to form a 'human chain' in a desperate bid to stop Muslim migrants throwing them into the sea after an argument about religion". (Daily Mail)
"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." John 17:20-21
If you haven’t read the story of what happened when an argument over religion erupted on a raft filled with migrants from Africa, follow the link above to do so. The Christian refugees told how formed a human chain to stop Muslim migrants from throwing them into sea. This was after over 10 others had been thrown overboard. You cannot read a story like this without having a variety of responses. I want to highlight just two points from this recent event.
The first is very simple. Christians are being killed all over the world right now. Who is doing the killing is not what I want to focus on. Instead I want to point out that the stories we read in the news of attacks on Christians are not limited to a particular race or ethnic group. In the last couple of months I have read of attacks and persecution against Egyptian, African, Indiana, and Asian believers. We may divide ourselves into ethnic groups, but our enemies do not do so.
That brings me to my second point. These believers linked arms in order to protect themselves. They realized they were much stronger together than apart. It’s time that affinity issues like music styles and service lengths stop dividing us and instead that we come together. We need to have each other’s backs and fronts. We need to see our Christian identity as first and foremost in our lives, because it is all our enemies see. It’s time we rethink the things that divide us and focus instead on coming together. If you know anything about Africa, you know that they have their own division issues, usually along tribal lines. The Christians on this raft were from different countries and different tribes, but they all came together when their unity became a life or death matter. What are we waiting for?
So how do we come together, practically? Well, if your local congregation is made up of just one ethnic group, you can begin to pray and work towards changing that. You can also connect with other congregations in your area that may also be homogeneous, but made up of different ethnic groups. Begin to come together for prayer and encouragement. These are two things we all need right now. It's time we link arms with other believers around us.