Black History: The Christian Witness of Hiram Revels

Black History: The Christian Witness of Hiram Revels

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to feature some of the Christian men and women who had a major influence on American history.

In the early day of Reconstruction after the Civi War, the Radical Republicans tried to ensure civil rights were extended to the estimated 2.3 million freed slaves.  Christian missionaries, teachers, and business owners all came to help rebuild and bring equality to the newly freed blacks.

When the Radical Republicans ruled, blacks were given unprecedented power and influence. One of those great men was a Christian pastor Hiram Revels, the first black member of the US Senate. Revels believed that his appointment to fill the empty MS seat would “be a weakening blow against color line prejudice.” The Democratic minority hoped that a black Senator would “seriously damage the Republican Party.” Following is a short biography of Revels.

hiram revels

Hiram Revels (R) MS Senator: February 23, 1870 – March 3, 1871

Revels, Hiram Rhoades (1822–1901). African-American Methodist minister, politician and educator. Born of free parentage in North Carolina, Revels went to Quaker institutions in Indiana and Ohio and to Knox College in Illinois. In 1845 he entered the ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), serving churches in the Midwest and border states. A local church dispute in St. Louis resulted in his shift to an African-American Presbyterian congregation in Baltimore in 1858. During the Civil War, he recruited for African-American regiments, served as a chaplain, helped set up Freedmen’s Bureau schools in Mississippi and rejoined the AME Church. In 1868 he changed his clerical status to the Methodist Episcopal Church (ME), which had returned South for missions among the freedpeople. During Reconstruction, Revels advanced from local political roles in Mississippi to the state Senate until he became the first of his race to serve in the U.S. Senate (January 1870 to March 1871). Elected president of Alcorn University, he spent the remainder of his career in education, as a contributor to the church press and as a pastor and presiding elder. A representative to the General Conference of the ME Church in 1876, he fought unsuccessfully against the policy to permit a color line in the denomination.

Daniel G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).

Revels served and fought for the rights of blacks at a time of great civil unrest. The white and black people who came from the North to help ensure freedom for the black southerners were called “Carpetbaggers” by the white Democrats who wanted blacks to remain enslaved and oppressed. White Southerners who supported equality were labeled Scalawags by these same Democrats who sought to restore white supremacy. As noted in this PBS article,

President_Andrew_Johnson

Andrew Johnson (D) 17th US President: April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869

After Lincoln’s assassination in April of 1865, President Andrew Johnson alienated Congress with his Reconstruction policy. He supported white supremacy in the South and favored pro-Union Southern political leaders who had aided the Confederacy once war had been declared.

Southerners, with Johnson’s support, attempted to restore slavery in substance if not in name. In 1866, Congress and President Johnson battled for control of Reconstruction. The Congress won. Northern voters gave a smashing victory — more than two-thirds of the seats in Congress — to the Radical Republicans in the 1866 congressional election, enabling Congress to control Reconstruction and override any vetoes that Johnson might impose. Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 that divided the Confederate states (except for Tennessee, which had been re-admitted to the Union) into five military districts. Each state was required to accept the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which granted freedom and political rights of blacks.

Eventually, the white supremacists employed methods such as Redistricting to ensure Democrat power, terror groups like the Klu Klux Klan, Rifleman and Red Shirts used force to keep white Democrats in power and suppress both the black and white voices seeking equality. Eventually, Reconstruction ended, and the Jim Crow Era took shape.

jim crow separate fountains

1950 Segregated Water Fountain under Democratic Jim Crow Laws (1876-1965).

Most whites rallied around the Democratic Party as the party of white supremacy. Between 1868 and 1871, terrorist organizations, especially the Ku Klux Klan, murdered blacks and whites who tried to exercise their right to vote or receive an education. The Klan, working with Democrats in several states, used fraud and violence to help whites regain control of their state governments. By the early 1870s, most Southern states had been “redeemed” — as many white Southerners called it — from Republican rule. By the time the last federal troops had been withdrawn in 1877, Reconstruction was all but over and the Democratic Party controlled the destiny of the South.

Despite the setbacks of the Democratic-led Jim Crow era, the legacy of the great Christian leaders like Hiram Revels who partnered with whites who shared his ideals should inspire all of us today who seek to insure the God-given rights of all peoples.

Conversations Using The Home Plate Strategy

Conversations Using The Home Plate Strategy

Learning to ask questions is a skill that leads to the greatest discoveries in life.

  • As a professor, I employ a Socratic method in the classroom.
  • As a coach, I help people discover their own path with questions.
  • As an apologist, I use questions to lead people to discover truth.
  • And, as a friend, I ask questions to build relationships.

But I am far from perfect.

That is why I am so inspired by the Home Plate strategy presented to me by Peter Strople. A few years back, I had the chance to sit in a room with a few select people and hear Peter share how he connects with other people using his Home Plate. These basic questions help anyone start a conversation that exposes both a person’s being and purpose. Here is the essence of each base.

  • Base 1. What is your biggest passion? What do you love to do?
  • Base 2. What is your unique contribution to the world around you? What draws people to you?
  • Base 3. What is the biggest impact you have made in your life?
  • Base 4. Is the impact yo’ve made sustainable? What will be your legacy in life?

Check out the video below to hear Peter Stople himself talk about the Home Plate strategy.

 

More Moms Who Worship With Oprah

More Moms Who Worship With Oprah

Oprah is without a doubt one of the most influential women on television. For decades, Oprah used her influence to talk about her spirituality. Her use of “Christian” sounding language has confused many who believe she adheres to some brand of Christianity. As reported in Charisma Magazine, she now has a new series of videos called “Belief” where she introduces others to her spiritual practices. She says,

“Today, I feel the fierce love of all that is God … so deeply, so strongly and so purely in my heart that it lifts and carries me and sometimes I actually feel weightless in the love that is God because I feel it in all things.”

“Here’s the question” writes Jennifer LeClaire, “Is she talking about the same God we serve? Some Christian media sites are positing the video with headlines suggesting Oprah was getting choked up over Jesus.”

Let me be clear, while Oprah uses the name Jesus, her belief has no connection to the historic man or the teachings of the Apostles. I know, because almost a decade ago I wrote on this very issue. To provide context for her present “Belief”, below is the article I wrote back in 2008.

Moms Who Worship With Oprah (2008)

Recently my beautiful wife Suzanne sent me a link to a video which discusses the Church of Oprah, her message, and her influence upon American Christianity. Oprah’s TV show alone reaches more than 10 Million Americans, mostly women, and is seen in 108 countries. In a previous article I shared my concern over Oprah’s willingness to let ideology rise above truth. However, concern over her influence goes much deeper than the Oprahfication of America. For women like my wife, who lead MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups, the concern is about the content of her gospel. Oprah calls herself a follower of Jesus, but these women are seeing the negative power Oprah is having on Moms who are being led to abandon their faith in Jesus as the only Way of salvation.

In this video, Oprah gives specific reasons why she left her church; Trinity United Church of Christ led by now retired Pastor Jeremiah Wright. Newsweek Magazine describes some of these same motivations in their May 12th Issue.

According to two sources, Winfrey was never comfortable with the tone of Wright’s more incendiary sermons, which she knew had the power to damage her standing as America’s favorite daytime talk-show host. “Oprah is a businesswoman, first and foremost,” said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity when discussing Winfrey’s personal sentiments. “She’s always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn’t be smart. She’s been around black churches all her life, so Reverend Wright’s anger-filled message didn’t surprise her. But it just wasn’t what she was looking for in a church.” Oprah’s decision to distance herself came as a surprise to Wright, who told Christianity Today in 2002 that when he would “run into her socially … she would say, ‘Here’s my pastor!’ ” (Winfrey declined to comment. A Harpo Productions spokesperson would not confirm her reasons for leaving the church.)

But Winfrey also had spiritual reasons for the parting. In conversations at the time with a former business associate, who also asked for anonymity, Winfrey cited her fatigue with organized religion and a desire to be involved with a more inclusive ministry. In time, she found one: her own. “There is the Church of Oprah now,” said her longtime friend, with a laugh. “She has her own following.”

Oprah’s message is affirmed in books like “The Gospel According to Oprah” by Marcia Z. Nelson. Nelson writes approvingly of Oprah’s Gospel and finds it uplifting to her own faith.

oprahThe best-known female talk show host in the world is a “reminder service of… values,” a font of self-help advice and a vision of humanity, says Nelson, a freelance religion writer (Come and See). She praises Oprah for using her entertainment pulpit to promote such positive spiritual values as gratitude, empathy, forgiveness and self-examination.

It is no doubt that Oprah’s message is a deceptive Gospel. As Nelson points out in the introduction to her book, “Oprah is, of course, speaking mostly to the nation’s women, especially the nation’s mothers. Oprah’s magazine and TV show advertise products for women. Her TV audience is overwhelmingly female.” So it is no surprise that leaders are seeing Her influence among Christian moms. To a woman struggling to understand the nature of Oprah’s message, Albert Mohler’s 2005 article offers a good summary of just why Oprah’s gospel is so dangerous.

Marcia Z. Nelson’s new book is intended as a celebration of Oprah’s significance as a harbinger of a new gospel. In the end, the importance of this book is grounded in the fact that it draws attention to Oprah’s influence and cultural impact. Oprah’s newly-packaged positive-thinking spirituality is tailor-made for the empty souls of our postmodern age. She promises meaning without truth, acceptance without judgment, and fulfillment without self-denial. Marcia Z. Nelson is certainly right about one thing–Oprah Winfrey’s “congregation” cannot be ignored.

Seeing the deleterious influence of Oprah provides us the opportunity to examine not just the content of her message, but how each follower of Jesus must respond. Here are some of the key aspects to Oprah’s message. As you read these, ask yourself,

“How many of these same influences do you see in other teachers and among churches that claim to teach the Gospel?”

“How many people, in the name of Jesus, have created a new way of salvation to replace the way of Jesus Christ? ”

Oprah’s Key Influences

  • Oprah has drawn huge crowds with her reductionist gospel of Social Justice.
  • In the tradition of Charles Finney, Charles Schuller and Joel Osteen, Oprah has captured the hearts of millions with a uniquely American Self-help gospel.
  • Oprah’s “Big Give” endorses a consumer spirituality and prosperity gospel that is shared by many millions of Americans.
  • Belief in a “god” who offers many paths to salvation reflects an inclusive gospel, shared by men like former Christian pastor Carlton Pearson whose church I used to attend, that lies in direct contradiction to Jesus own words (John 14:1-6).

I think Oprah is right in some of her concerns about the institutional nature of American Christianity. Yet she takes this palatable bite of truth and feeds it to her congregation with a serving of lies. Like so many others who fall under the broad category of “Emergent;” Oprah’s concern has unfortunately pushed her away from church and faith in Christ alone.

We are left then with the question asked by my wife, and other Christian leaders, “how do we convince the Oprah faithful that her gospel is contrary to faith in Jesus Christ?” Oprah’s vision of unity is wonderful, but unity does not come at the sacrifice of truth. Her desire for compassion is admirable, but compassion outside of the Gospel is a fleeting hope. As a matter of fact, unity can only come when we reject all other paths and submit ourselves to the person of Jesus. Compassion can only be given by feeding people the Bread of Life. The answer to the Oprah dilemma is found in this passage from Ephesians where Paul instructs every women, every believer, to take on the responsibility to speak the Gospel of Jesus to their neighbor.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:11-25)

The fact that so many moms who attend churches on a weekly basis are being so easily drawn away by a false Gospel is disturbing. What are they hearing week-in and week-out from the pulpit? Why has the dominant message coming from the church not equipped women, or men, to discern false from true?

Women–you are the solution! Moms–you must speak up and stand up boldly for Jesus Christ! You cannot wait for a recovery program, a prepackaged Bible study from Zondervan, or for a pastor to teach a series on Oprah. The Scriptures make clear that as a disciple of Jesus–you are responsible to speak Life to your neighbor. You have the knowledge, you have the Spirit of God in you, and you have the authority–use it and make a difference in the life of someone you love!

The Fallacy of Success

The Fallacy of Success

The Church is enamored with success. Which, in and of itself, might not be so bad, except all too often we allow secular business, Hollywood, Nationalism, politics, the media and.. maybe worst of all… “Christian” publishers. to set the agenda for us. Through the lens of history, G.K. Chesterton offers significant insight that can help us shed light on the fallacy of success.

Success Is a Fiction

In his work, “All Things Considered” G.K. Chesterton laments not only the vanity but the emptiness in our pursuit of success. The term itself, he argues, is a misnomer because all of us are successful by virtue of our being.

 all things considered chestertonTHERE has appeared in our time a particular class of books and articles which I sincerely and solemnly think may be called the silliest ever known among men. They are much more wild than the wildest romances of chivalry and much more dull than the dullest religious tract. Moreover, the romances of chivalry were at least about chivalry; the religious tracts are about religion. But these things are about nothing; they are about what is called Success. On every bookstall, in every magazine, you may find works telling people how to succeed. They are books showing men how to succeed in everything; they are written by men who cannot even succeed in writing books. To begin with, of course, there is no such thing as Success. Or, if you like to put it so, there is nothing that is not successful. That a thing is successful merely means that it is; a millionaire is successful in being a millionaire and a donkey in being a donkey. Any live man has succeeded in living; any dead man may have succeeded in committing suicide.

G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered. (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 21-22.

I understand all too well what Chesterton is alluding to.  This past week I celebrated another birthday, which is really only a testimony to the fact that I succeeded in not dying since last year.

Sadly, too many pastors are consumed with books written by men who can’t write telling other pastors how to achieve their kind of “success”. Consequently, in the pursuit of fiction, the average pastor is blinded to the Divine-success they have every day when, by faith, they serve Christ and His Church.

Success Is Not Our Gospel-Mission

The problem with our success obsessed Church, is that it blinds us to our Gospel-mission. Chesterton reminds us of this very truth.

all things considered chestertonBut, passing over the bad logic and bad philosophy in the phrase, we may take it, as these writers do, in the ordinary sense of success in obtaining money or worldly position. These writers profess to tell the ordinary man how he may succeed in his trade or speculation—how, if he is a builder, he may succeed as a builder; how, if he is a stockbroker, he may succeed as a stockbroker. They profess to show him how, if he is a grocer, he may become a sporting yachtsman; how, if he is a tenth-rate journalist, he may become a peer; and how, if he is a German Jew, he may become an Anglo-Saxon. This is a definite and business-like proposal, and I really think that the people who buy these books (if any people do buy them) have a moral, if not a legal, right to ask for their money back. Nobody would dare to publish a book about electricity which literally told one nothing about electricity; no one would dare to publish an article on botany which showed that the writer did not know which end of a plant grew in the earth. Yet our modern world is full of books about Success and successful people which literally contain no kind of idea, and scarcely any kind of verbal sense.

G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered. (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 22.

Sadly, in the last 100 years since Chesterton penned these words, our books on success have not improved. So many of the most popular books driving the ministry are filled with drivel encouraging pastors to reach for the brass ring. But, success with a Jesus-veneer has become a euphemism for growing a big church, creating a wealthy church, building larger buildings, or increasing influence through video venues. And while none of these things are inherently bad, none of these are synonymous with our Gospel-mission.

Success is…

What, then, is success? To what should our leaders aspire? Chesterton again offers keen insight.

all things considered chestertonIt is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating. Both are much too simple to require any literary explanation. If you are in for the high jump, either jump higher than any one else, or manage somehow to pretend that you have done so. If you want to succeed at whist, either be a good whist-player, or play with marked cards. You may want a book about jumping; you may want a book about whist; you may want a book about cheating at whist. But you cannot want a book about Success. Especially you cannot want a book about Success such as those which you can now find scattered by the hundred about the book-market. You may want to jump or to play cards; but you do not want to read wandering statements to the effect that jumping is jumping, or that games are won by winners. If these writers, for instance, said anything about success in jumping it would be something like this: “The jumper must have a clear aim before him. He must desire definitely to jump higher than the other men who are in for the same competition. He must let no feeble feelings of mercy (sneaked from the sickening Little Englanders and Pro-Boers) prevent him from trying to do his best. He must remember that a competition in jumping is distinctly competitive, and that, as Darwin has gloriously demonstrated, the weakest go to the wall.” That is the kind of thing the book would say, and very useful it would be, no doubt, if read out in a low and tense voice to a young man just about to take the high jump.

G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered. (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 22-24.

In short, success is found when we do the things we are called by God do. It does not matter who sees it or how much money we earn from it. Success, for the Christian, is simply obedience to Christ.

If I may take liberty with Chesterton’s example, it is my impression that the writers on church leadership and success most-often offer something like this:

“The pastor must have a clear aim before him. He must desire definitely to pastor a bigger congregation than the others around him. He must not be constrained by tradition or theology, but use any means to achieve his success. He must remember that growing a bigger church is distinctly competitive, and that, as Darwin has gloriously demonstrated, the weakest go to the wall.”

Have you been deceived by the fallacy of success?

Ferguson, Race, and the Voices We Hear

Ferguson, Race, and the Voices We Hear

In August, Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson MO. A few days ago, a Grand Jury evaluated all the evidence and determined the officer was justified in his response. Since the ruling came down, there have been reports of murders, riots, attempted bombings, looting, dozens of buildings burned down and shouting matches throughout the media. You can read some of the facts of the case on NPR or C-Span.  However, what I want to examine in this post is the different voices telling Christians how they should interpret these events.

I have been disturbed by the response of Ed Stetzer who seems all too willing to divide the world according to skin color. In his warning to “white Evangelicals” he writes;

ed-stetzerIn light of the grand jury decision handed down tonight in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, I think it is of utmost importance that all Christians, but specifically white evangelicals, talk a little less and listen a little more.
Or, put another way, maybe some need to spend less time insisting that African Americans shouldn’t be upset and spend more time asking why some are. Yes, this case reminds us again that the racial divide is clear, as a just released CNN poll demostrated [sic].

Yes, there is a divide and some are angry, but there are many people, Larry Elder is one example, that would say Stetzer is promoting a warped worldview in the guise of a”black” worldview. More on that below, but for now read again how Stetzer sharpens the focus on another group of Christians whom he segregates by skin color.

ed-stetzerI wasn’t in the grand jury room, and I don’t know the evidence, but many godly African American leaders are hurting and they are explaining why.

I think we should listen to them.

Stetzer makes it clear that he is going to present the voices he says white people must listen to if they want to understand why some are so angry. But notice again how Stetzer uses language that puts “whites” and “blacks” into monolithic groups who respond, in his view, based on skin color. He writes,

ed-stetzerPart of my hope is that many will ask, “Why are African Americans responding differently than the majority culture?”

As I survey the diverse voices speaking out, what I hope many will ask is,

  • “Why are some people afraid of listening to African Americans respond with a different answer?”
  • “Why are those people who have black skin, but have a different worldview called “Uncle Tom” or “Not Black Enough“?
  • “Why do people try to silence diversity within the African American community?”

My concern with Stetzer’s racially-divisive rhetoric that divides Christians by skin color is expressed well by Voddie Baucham who writes,

voddie_100_100What worries me is that Christians in the age of social media care more what “popular” preachers have to say on issues like this (and whether or not they agree with other “popular” preachers) than they are about taking advantage of an opportunity to work through challenges in the context of Christian community. More importantly, it worries me that so many Christians view themselves primarily as members of this or that ethnic community more than they see themselves as members of the body of Christ.

I read in Baucham echoes of the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Galatians who had their own share of racial division.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:25-29).

In Paul’s time, there was intense hatred between Jew and Gentile. Amongst the groups he listed there was a deep social divide that caused anger, yet for him, all these things passed away in the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ, the Church was unified beyond these worldly distinctions.

Two Voices

It is within the context of Galatians 3, that I would say there are at least two different voices speaking to these racially-charged issues. First, there is the voice that says it is all about skin color. Stetzer clearly falls into this camp when he demands “white people” acknowledge injustice (which wrongly assumes, once again, that all whites are ignorant or deny existing injustice in our culture).

Stetzer says “white evangelicals’ need to listen to Leonce Crump who writes in his article, “Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice?

leonce crumpWe live in an oppressive system, strategically engineered to subvert the progress of entire people groups and benefit the progress of another. This is the injustice.

We are still reeling from the effects of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and all associated behavior. Before the phrase “Get over it, it’s in the past” begins to form on your lips, consider my position. Consider that every time I look into my father’s eyes and see the pale blue rim around them, set back in his very dark skin, or, when I look at the texture of my mother’s nearly porcelain skin tone, I still see the residue of what I’m supposed to get over.

It is these injustices that will not allow white evangelicals to admit that they have built their lives on the backs of the oppressive systems that their grandfathers constructed.

Crump says that white people are the problem. Whites have built a system that favors anyone with white skin and punishes those with black skin.

The second voice Stetzer says “whites” must listen to that of Lisa Sharon who write about what she calls, “The Lie“.

lisa sharonThere it is—the belief that usually resides deep beneath the surface of conscious thought, safe from examination and extrication, but was born in biblical times, solidified in the days of the Enlightenment, and codified into colonial law in 1660 through the racialization of Virginia slave codes. Then 14 years after the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed “all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” the lie was embedded in the U.S. legal structure through the Naturalization Act of 1790, which barred the rights of citizenship from both free and enslaved black people.

These are the roots of the lie. Here it is—plain and simple: Black people are not fully human. In most crass terms—they are animals.

For Sharon, the problem is that the United States is built on a lie fostered by white people. If whites look inside, she says, they will all realize they see blacks only as non-human animals.

These are the voices that Stetzer says “white evangelicals” must listen to and accept as the truth of why people are angry.

But is there another option? Is this really the reason behind the anger we see played out on the streets across America? Yes, there is another voice worth hearing. Despite Stetzer’s desire to trade in stereotypes and frame Sharon and Crump’s argument as THE “black” response that ALL “white” people must accept, there is a different voice that goes beyond the racial profiling and comes closer to the charge given by Paul in Galatians 3.

For this second voice, we can once again turn to Voddie Baucham who puts the focus on something very different than skin color.

voddie_100_100The underlying malady that gives rise to all the rest of these epidemics is immorality and fatherlessness. We know that fatherlessness is the number one indicator of future violence, dropout rates, out-of-wedlock births, and future incarceration. And in the black community, more than 70 percent of all children are born out of wedlock! Fatherlessness is the bane of the black community.

Nor is this plague forced on us. It is as common as morning dew, and as overlooked as dust under a refrigerator. Where are the marches against this travesty? Where are the protestors who demand better? Where are the black “leaders” who . . . oh, that’s right, they have just as many illegitimate children as anyone else. Again, it is common knowledge that this is the most immediate root cause of the ills plaguing black Americans.

Now does Baucham’s choice to focus on the need for stronger families in the black community mean racism, prejudice, or systemic injustice have ceased? Of course not, but blaming whites is not the answer. In stark contrast to the racially-divisive accusations promoted by Stetzer, Jesse Lee Peterson offers a much different reason for the anger we see in Ferguson.

jesse Lee PatersonEmboldened by irresponsible public statements made by race baiters like Al Sharpton and Eric Holder, the professional community organizers have been planning to create havoc in Ferguson for months. Some are looking for an excuse to loot and riot. Racist black thugs in Ferguson even issued a $5,000 bounty on officer Wilson’s life.

If blacks riot, the blame lies with the so-called ‘leaders’ and elected officials who condemned the officer without knowing all the facts and who treated the thug Michael Brown like a hero by sending White House officials to his funeral.

The problem with most blacks in Ferguson and across America is that they want to blame police and scapegoat whites for their anger rather than taking responsibility for raising their children and improving their communities.

The “systemic” problems, says Peterson, are those created by charlatans who profit by fomenting racially-charged fear and anger and pride. There is no hope of moving forward when people are willing to exchange the truth for a lie.

Watch this short interview with Johnathan Gentry who was made famous for his epic video rant against Al Sharpton and the rioters.

The facts of what happened in Ferguson seem not to matter much anymore, so we might as well move on and recognize there are deeper issues of sin exposed by this incident that impact all of us. What are these systemic sin issues?

  •  73% of black children born into fatherless homes…
  • the systemic oppression of a welfare system that breeds hopelessness…
  • immoral race-mongers who live outside these communities and only come in during a tragedy to incite violence and claim the mantle of spokesman for all “blacks”, but do so only to keep their personal power and wealth…
  • people who speak of how “blacks” should respond and how “whites” should respond as if skin color puts us into opposing homogeneous groups…
  • a poor educational system that allows the masses to be manipulated by deforming the progress of history…
  • a news media that brainwashes people with lies instead of freeing them with the truth.
  • gangs who are allowed to control our streets and kill innocent citizens and recruit vulnerable young men into their ranks…
  • a Democratic party that needs to keep people poor and oppressed and angry and afraid to secure their vote and secure their own power…
  • ideologues who willfully manipulate people’s emotions by turning a criminal into a hero and a police officer into a villain without regard to any facts or evidence…
  • people who reject the wisdom, nonviolence, and love of Jesus Christ taught by Martin Luther King Jr. and embrace the violence, bigotry, and hatred of Malcolm X…
  • “religious” leaders who promote politics as savior because they do not themselves know the freedom found only in Christ…

Yes, there are deep systemic issues at work in our culture that all people, white, black, yellow, green, purple… must acknowledge… and that issue is sin. Our hope is not to divide people into “white” vs. “black” Christians. Instead, our hope is to recognize we live in a broken world, unite under the cross of Christ, acknowledge the beauty of all people created in the image of God and work to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who are lost!

The Hope Of Reconciliation

Clearly then there are at least two voices competing for our attention… and they are very different. With such disagreement, is there any hope of reconciliation? Is there any common ground between these two distinct voices? Yes. We can all agree that the anger we see in the streets is real. Where we disagree is to the question, “what is the root cause of this anger?” If we listen to the wrong voice, we will never have peace. If we want to bring healing, we have focus on solving the real problem.

The voice we need to hear begins again with Baucham who, in his article, describes his own negative experiences with police and concludes the following,

voddie_100_100Again, this experience stayed with me for years. And for many of those years, I blamed “the system” or “the man.” However, I have come to realize that it was no more “the system” when white cops pulled me over than it was “the system” when a black thug robbed me at gunpoint. It was sin! The men who robbed me were sinners. The cops who stopped me were sinners. They were not taking their cues from some script designed to “keep me down.” They were simply men who didn’t understand what it meant to treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve as image bearers of God.

It does me absolutely no good to assume that my mistreatment was systemic in nature. No more than it is good for me to assume that what happened in Ferguson was systemic. I have a life to live, and I refuse to live it fighting ghosts. I will not waste my energy trying to prove the Gramscian, neo-Marxist concept of “white privilege” or prejudice in policing practices.

I don’t care what advantages my white neighbor may or may not have. If he does have advantages, God bless him! I no more fault him than I fault my own children who have tremendous advantages due to the fact that they were raised by two educated, Christian parents who loved, disciplined, and taught them. Ironically, when I think about THAT advantage, I am filled with joy and gratitude to God for his faithfulness. People are supposed to bequeath an advantage to their children and grandchildren (Prov. 13:22). Why, then, would I be angry with my white neighbor for any advantage he is purported to have? And what good would it do? How does that advance the gospel? Especially in light of the fact that growing up with the gospel is the ultimate privilege/advantage! It is the advantage that has granted us all “American privilege”! Are we guilty for being citizens of the wealthiest republic in the history of the world? I think not!

As a father of seven black men, I tell them to be aware of the fact that there may be times when they may get a closer look, an unwelcome stop, or worse. However, I do not tell them that this means they need to live with a chip on their shoulder, or that the world is out to get them. I certainly don’t tell them that they need to go out and riot (especially when that involves destroying black-owned businesses). I tell them that there are people in the world who need to get to know black people as opposed to just knowing “about” us. I tell them that they will do far more good interacting with those people and shining the light of Christ than they will carrying picket signs.

Baucham has been angry, he has been where Crump and Sharon are at, but he recognized blaming “white” people and blaming “the system” only fosters an unrighteous anger that solves nothing. Baucham goes on to write the following,

voddie_100_100In the end, the best lesson my children can learn from Ferguson is not that they need to be on the lookout for white cops. It is far more important that I use this teachable moment to remind them that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Moments before his death, Michael Brown had violently robbed a man in a store. A man doing the best he could to make a living. Minutes later, Brown reaped what he sowed, and was gunned down in the street. That is the sad truth.

The immediate lesson from Ferguson is that when we rebel against God and participate in sinful activities, we will reap the fruit of our sin.

Moving beyond Ferguson to the bigger picture, there is another voice I wish could speak directly to this circumstance. I had the pleasure of meeting Ken Hutcherson a few times when I lived in Seattle. Unfortunately he passed away in 2013. Still, we can learn from his story.

120208073211-pastor-headshot2-left-teaseI was born in Anniston, Alabama, in the 50s and had to fight for my equality most of my life. You see, there were many who thought I should be treated like a second class citizen, drink from a different water fountain, sit in the back of the bus, be counted as three-quarters of a person, go to a different school, eat and sit in the black section of restaurants, use a different bathroom; you know, be separate but equal. Then came Dr. Martin Luther King and all that started to change and praise God! I became a Christian in 1969. Today [as a Christian], I find myself again being put in that same category as a second class citizen, and I am not going to have that same fight.

Although Hutcherson has passed from this life and cannot speak about Ferguson, he did speak out strongly in a similar circumstance regarding the Trayvon Martin case. His voice is worth hearing.

120208073211-pastor-headshot2-left-teaseIt seems that being black allows us to not look at the truth even when it is screaming in our face because we just can’t help ourselves. It is hard to believe that blacks can be guilty of wrongdoing in our society. You know when you look at the truth of blacks making up 30 percent of the population and yet the majority of those incarcerated are black men and women. Can someone please tell me if it is not true that in Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and New York that blacks are killing blacks, you know, black on black crime? In those cities blacks perpetrate serious crimes with guns over 70 per cent of the time. Now don’t miss that comparison of 30 percent of the population committing over 70 percent of all crimes in our largest cities. There are many blacks who think whitey wants to get rid of us and the way we are killing each other the only thing they have to do is get out of the way and we will accomplish that ourselves. Then it does seem logical that most of the people that are in jail would be black.

Don’t turn me off because this is a conversation we must have. Black people will never be the great people that we truly are until we put Jesus above our blackness.

No one is innocent of this racial divide if we don’t do something to promote change. I am not talking about more talking; I am talking about doing.

I am struck by Hutcherson’s assertion that no one is innocent. We cannot blame “whites” or “blacks” alone. Each of us shares in the problem and each of us must share in the solution. In Christ Jesus, there are no longer white and black, there is only brother and sister. Therefore, the “white evangelical” response should be no different than the “black evangelical” response. There are white racists. There are black racists. Racism is a sin condition, not a skin condition. We need to stop profiling one-another based on skin color and start treating each other as individuals; each responsible for our own actions. If that sounds familiar, it should. It is the very same thing taught by Martin Luther King Jr. many decades ago.

martin-luther-kingI have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

In large part, King’s dream has come true. Although some voices want to distort the truth of history, white people have laid down their lives to help bring equality and freedom to their black brothers and sisters. Whites have marched hand-in-hand, fought injustice, gone to jail, and suffered attacks to help lift oppression. As a nation, we have not always lived up to the values enshrined in our Constitution, but people of every ethnic background have struggled together toward the beauty of equality. For Stetzer, and others, to then deform this history and blame “whites” and “the system” is a slap in the face to all of those who have suffered so that others can overcome.  And to segregate “white” from “black” Christians is an outright rejection of what Paul taught regarding the power of the Cross of Christ.

Hope and healing will not come easily, but as I read the wise words of NFL player Benjamin Watson, I believe there is hope that some people are listening to the right voice. He writes, in part,

benjamin watsonI’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

When it comes to Ferguson and race, there are many voices speaking out. How will you discern the truth? Which voice will you listen to?

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