RECONCILIATION & How Billy Graham stood up against racism and modeled reconciliation, as told by someone who was there: Amos C. Brown.

by Amos C. Brown, Sojourners Magazine, 6/16/29.

… In July 1952, when I was 11 years old, some of my relatives took me to witness the Billy Graham Crusade in Jackson, Miss. Ropes were strung across the athletic field and stands where more than 300,000 people would gather to hear him preach during those hot summer nights. The ropes had one purpose: to keep the crowd segregated by the color of their skin.

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I still remember, nearly 70 years later, watching as Rev. Graham walked down off the podium where he was to preach and pulled down those ropes. That was the day that he declared he would never again preach to a segregated congregation, because the gospel of Jesus Christ welcomes all equally. It was a courageous act for which he was heavily criticized, notoriously so in the segregated South. Nonetheless, in pulling down those ropes he demonstrated his belief in the words of the gospel, and over the rest of life stood with other religious leaders who were working to bring down the barriers of racism.

From the article “BILLY GRAHAM RAISED HIS VOICE AGAINST RACISM. SO SHOULD HIS SON.” Read the full article here … https://sojo.net/articles/billy-graham-raised-his-voice-against-racism-so-should-his-son

And watch a video here …https://billygraham.org/video/taking-ropes-segregation-part-4/

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Image: LancasterOnline.com

BIAS & The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: UNC professor Dr. Keith Payne has written an important book for understanding how racial bias is splitting Americans. To understand how the Church can bridge this divide and bring people together, church leaders must first take a look at this well researched book. Here are some excerpt from an article the author wrote about this important topic.

The Truth about Anti-White Discrimination

by Keith Payne, Scientific American Magazine, 6/17/19. Dr. Payne is a Professor in Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC Chapel Hill. He is author of The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die.

…News stories are full of statistical evidence for disparities between black and whites, such as the fact that the average black family earns about half as much as the average white family, or that the unemployment rate for blacks is twice that for whites, or that the wealth of the average white family is ten times the wealth of the average black family. But this kind of evidence is like a political Rorschach test that looks very different to liberals and conservatives. What looks to liberals like evidence of discrimination looks to conservatives like evidence of racial disparities in hard work and responsible behavior.  

The only kind of evidence that can hope to bridge this divide comes from experiments which directly measure discrimination — and these experiments have been done.

…Consider an experiment by sociologist Devah Pager, who sent pairs of experimenters—one black and one white—to apply for 340 job ads in New York City. She gave them resumes doctored to have identical qualifications. She gave them scripts so that the applicants said the same things when handing in their applications. She even dressed them alike. She found that black applicants got half the call backs that white applicants got with the same qualifications.

This study inspired experiments in lots of areas of life. One study, for example, responded to more than 14,000 online apartment rental adds but varied whether the name attached to the email implied a white applicant (e.g., Allison Bauer) or a black applicant (e.g., Ebony Washington). The black applicants were twenty-six percent less likely to be told that the apartment was available.

These kinds of experiments are not ambiguous like statistics on disparities are. There were no differences in merit. Race was the cause. Real employers and landlords discriminated against blacks and in favor of whites, by a large margin.

The key is to keep repeating the facts and their basis in reason and science, until they become part of the background that any conversation takes for granted. It is frustratingly slow work. But to even get started, we need to move the conversation about discrimination beyond evidence of disparities, and focus on the experiments and the stubborn facts they deliver.

Read more at … https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-anti-white-discrimination/

POVERTY & The trauma of perpetual poverty.

“Dr. King, Racial Trauma, and The Church”

by Kyle J. Howard, 1/29/18.

THE TRAUMA OF PERPETUAL POVERTY

Historically, the black community in America has always lived in an airtight cage of poverty. From enslavement to ghettos and now through the agenda of mass incarceration which has robbed many black families of their sons and fathers; the black community as a collective whole is a forcibly impoverished community. This reality is largely the result of racialized systems that are in place that allow white people to flourish while black people fight to simply survive. Dr. King recognized the psychological toll that this reality had on his community, and it fueled him to fight for their equality. King saw economic equality as a key to the cage of poverty his people were in, King states, “WHEN YOU SEE THE VAST MAJORITY OF YOUR TWENTY MILLION NEGRO BROTHERS SMOTHERING IN AN AIRTIGHT CAGE OF POVERTY IN THE MIDST OF AN AFFLUENT SOCIETY… THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY WE FIND IT DIFFICULT TO WAIT.” Witnessing your community suffocating and without hope is a devastating thing to experience. Poverty plagues the black community, and there are racialized systems that have been in place for centuries ensuring that such poverty continues. Families have been broken as sons and fathers have been displaced due to mass incarceration. The pain and angst that comes from being a person of color in a racialized society can lead to various forms of self-medication and the “war on drugs” has seen to it that such self-medicating (racially traumatized) people are locked behind bars rather than cared for and rehabilitated. Once said people are released from prison, they enter into an even darker crevice of their cage as opportunities for work disappear as well as opportunities to be a productive citizen through acts such as voting. School systems in dense minority areas are left without proper funding, and so the hope of education being the key to exit the cage is abandoned at an early age. Living life knowing that you are stuck in poverty and there is no hope of ever flourishing is depressing and leads to deep despair as well. These feelings of hopelessness and despair are compounded as the media and political parties present such people of color as simply free loading criminals who are inconvenient burdens upon society. In light of all this, the black community and other communities of color witness the white community benefit from the same systems that have been put in place to keep them from flourishing. These realities can lead someone to question not only their humanity but their inherent value as well.

Read more at … http://kylejhoward.com/blog/dr-king-racial-trauma-and-the-church/

MULTIRACIAL & Planting/pastoring a multicultural church takes it toll on pastors. See what you can do …

“Dr. King, Racial Trauma, and The Church”

by Kyle J. Howard, 1/29/18.

PTSD AND RACIAL TRAUMA

… Tears streamed down my face, and my body shook as I witnessed another man who looked like me die. As I watched Philando Castille’s blood pour out of his body and his life slip away, my own past traumatic experiences with police officer’s flashed before my eyes. I kept hearing a voice inside tell me over and over, “it could’ve been you.” I watched live on social media as the police officer pointed the gun at the black woman’s body who sat next to her dying partner. It was clear that the police officer had lost all control and with a screaming black baby in the back seat, I felt like I was moments away from witnessing a double homicide and the beginning moments of life long trauma in the little girl. The woman’s life was spared, but the killing of Philando Castile broke me. For a few years now, I had witnessed the public execution of unarmed black bodies on a regular basis. I, along with many others, had to navigate living as men of color in a racialized society and a largely racially indifferent church and seminary community. As we felt like we were dying inside, we listened as friends and pastors spoke with racial insensitivity and at times antagonism towards issues concerning race as well as these traumatizing acts of violence. With the little emotional energy we had left, we sought to speak up about how these events made us feel, but many of us were quickly dismissed by our friends and white spiritual leaders as being divisive. Instead of being shepherded, many of us were told that we were threats to the unity of our church and that we needed to remain silent.

Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the psychological and spiritual affects that unjust murder had on the black community. He understood that witnessing the unlawful execution of black people perpetrated by white men in authority like police officers was traumatic. In response to white evangelical pastors telling King to simply wait for equality, King wrote, “BUT WHEN YOU HAVE SEEN VICIOUS MOBS LYNCH YOUR MOTHERS AND FATHERS AT WILL AND DROWN YOUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS AT WHIM; WHEN YOU HAVE SEEN HATE FILLED POLICEMEN CURSE, KICK AND EVEN KILL YOUR BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS… THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY WE FIND IT DIFFICULT TO WAIT.” The black community has always lived in a constant state of fear. This fear is perpetuated by the reality that unjust black death has always been made a public spectacle. Whether it be public lynchings or police shootings, the black community is constantly reminded that their life does not matter and this reality assaults the psyche of the black community on a daily basis. The assault on the black mind is perpetuated when they belong to predominately white spaces that do not affirm their value either. Over the past few years, we have seen a generation of new racial trauma victims birthed out of majority white churches. For the black community, the church has always been a place of refuge. For centuries, the Black Church has served as a hospital for racial trauma victims. As more African Americans migrate to majority white churches, these churches are not equipped to care for these traumatized saints and the indifference and antagonism these black saints experience perpetuate and deepen, rather than sooth what I call racial trauma.

Read more at … http://kylejhoward.com/blog/dr-king-racial-trauma-and-the-church/

CHURCH HISTORY & ARDA creates helpful and graphic-based online timeline of Race/Ethnicity & Religion in No. America

Commentary by Prof. B.: It is easy to be put off by the complex and intertwined history of diversity in America. Recognizing this, the Association for Religion Data Archives (ARDA) has created an online and interactive “timeline” here: http://www.thearda.com/timeline/tlTheme1.asp (screen shot below).

Easy to navigate, quick to read with reliable research, this should be your first stop to understand and explain the complex history of diversity in the No. American Church.

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CHURCH HISTORY & Why Schools Fail To Teach Slavery’s ‘Hard History’

by Cory Turner, NPR, 2/5/18.

“In the ways that we teach and learn about the history of American slavery,” write the authors of a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “the nation needs an intervention.”

… the report lays out several key “problems” with the way slavery is often presented to students. Among them:

Textbooks and teachers tend to accentuate the positive, focusing on heroes like Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass without also giving students the full, painful context of slavery.

Slavery is often described as a Southern problem. It was much, much more. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was a problem across the colonies. Even in the run-up to the Civil War, the North profited mightily from slave labor.

Slavery depended on the ideology of white supremacy, and teachers shouldn’t try to tackle the former without discussing the latter.

Too often, the report says, “the varied, lived experience of enslaved people is neglected.” Instead, lessons focus on politics and economics, which means focusing on the actions and experiences of white people.

States and textbook-makers deserve considerable blame for these problems, according to the report. The project reviewed history standards in 15 states and found them generally “timid,” often looking for slavery’s silver lining; hence a common preference for coverage of the abolitionist movement over talk of white supremacy or the everyday experiences of enslaved people…

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/02/04/582468315/why-schools-fail-to-teach-slaverys-hard-history

INTERNET & A Mature and Biblical Response to Trolls & Cyberbullies #HaleyBodine #ChristianityToday

“We Are the Light of the (Cyber) World: Let’s Act Like It” by Haley Bodine, Christianity Today, 1/10/18.

… internet troll is a person who intentionally posts inflammatory, divisive, or otherwise upsetting messages and comments online with the goal of inciting quarrels and provoking emotional response. A cyberbully is an individual who attacks another person or people group directly, using shame, threats, and intimidation.

According to a recent study conducted by YouGov, 28% of Americans admitted to online “trolling” activity. The same survey showed that 23% of American adults have maliciously argued an opinion with a stranger, and 12% admitted to making deliberately controversial statements.

Most of us have witnessed this type of behavior. A new Pew Research Center survey found that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and even more (66%) have witnessed these behaviors directed at others. Nearly one in five Americans (18%) have been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, sexual harassment, or stalking.

This is a major behavioral problem, especially when 70% of Americans still claim to be Christian. If we profess Christ as King, we have a high calling to demonstrate character fitting for children of the Living God. We are to live as a sent people everywhere we are, including the cyber realm. Antagonistic, divisive, abusive, attacking, or otherwise harmful and destructive words have no place in the online lives of anyone who says they are a follower of Jesus…

Here are four things to ask yourself before posting anything online:

Will my words be useful for building others up (Eph. 4:29)? The power of life and death are contained in the tongue (Prov. 18:21)…

Is my post truthful?

Will my words reflect the character of Jesus? Before posting anything, we should run our words through the filter of the fruits of the spirit. Do our words come from a place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? We will never regret choosing to withhold words that do not pass this litmus test.

Do my words honor the image of God imprinted on the people who will read them?Contentious online arguments and dissension will probably never cause someone to change their view on a hot topic issue. When we post our thoughts online, we must keep people as the priority, not our positions…

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/january/we-are-light-of-cyber-world-lets-act-like-it.html

BLACK BONHOEFFER & How the Black Church in America helped convert Bonhoeffer from his racist roots

Commentary by Prof. B:  The following is an powerful excerpt from Reggie Williams’ powerful book Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus (Baylor Univ. Press., 2014). I hosted Dr. Williams when he visited IWU and was still conducting research on Bonheoffer.  He found prior to the time Bonhoeffer spent in NYC among the Black community, that he considered himself a theologian … but in hindsight not converted (in a similar fashion as did John Wesley).

The following excerpts (quoted at the bottom of the first page and top of the second) show how villainous Nazi ideology had crept into Bonhoeffer’s thinking prior to his experiences in African American churches. Soon after, Bonhoeffer would be converted in a Harlem, African American church. The African American community impacted this theologian so deeply (my students are encouraged to read the book to understand more) that Bonhoeffer became a brilliant and sensitive theologian who gave us among others, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . To better understand how Christians can reconcile in a polarized world, read Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus and then Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . You will find the call to reconciliation is difficult, but a cost Bonhoeffer reminds us that maturing Christians are prepared to bear.

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Black Bonheoffer 3.jpgRead more at … Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance.

ABOLITIONISTS & The Wesleyan Movement of young pastors who asked “Can you give you life for the cause?”

(Notes on a lecture by Bob Black, Ph.D., at the CCDA conference, Detroit, 2017.)

By Francis Asbury’s death in 1802, the Methodist Church had become the largest church in America. Still, the bishops decided not to rock the boat by opposing slavery, so prevalent in the south. A presiding elder, Orange Scott (what we would call today a district superintendent) opposed slavery on biblical grounds as well as citing John Wesley’s strong condemnation of slavery.

Feeling he could no longer remain in the Methodist Church, Orange Scott  started a magazine called “The True Wesleyan.” He also called for the formation of the “Wesleyan Methodist Church,” titled thus because it was “Wesley’s view of Methodism.” There would be no slavery and no bishops. The movement, though organized in the north, began to appeal to anti-slavery Methodists in the south. A church of 40 antislavery Methodists in North Carolina ask the Wesleyan Methodist Church to send them a pastor because not pastor would lead them.

Adam Crooks, a not yet fully ordained 23 year-old minister in this new movement, left to pastor the North Carolina church stating he was glad he did not have a wife or family because he then did not need to worry about surviving. Within six months had built a church called “Freedom’s Hill” in Snow Camp, NC. Soon they planted eight more anti-slavery churches. In High Point Adam found noose with a likeness of him handing from a tree. He was poisoned and in the church he preached there were bullet holes in the door.

The Freedom’s Hill Church and the other churches in the network became stations on the underground railroad.  Many of these young pastors were harangued, attacked and even hanged. Still, the movement grew under the example of young people who, like Adam Crooks, asked “Can you give you life for the cause?”

 

DISCRIMINATION & A Review of James Cone’s theological response to the dark history of lynchings

When He Died Upon the Tree: James Cone’s seminal book gives a theological response to the dark history of lynchings in America.

by Bruce Fields, Christianity Today, 8/16/17.

The Cross and the Lynching Tree is the most significant theological perspective on lynching—which includes not just hanging, but also “burning, beating, dragging, and shooting—as well as torture, mutilation, and especially castration.” Based on impressive research, Cone argues that the lynching tree is a viable reality/symbol for reflection on the cross of Christ. According to Cone, understandings of the cross and lynching tree can mutually inform one another and explain how events of trauma and injustice can still inspire hope for the African American community.

Cone’s book begins by advocating for confronting white supremacy, which is evident even in the church. He claims that the cross placed alongside the lynching tree could “help us to see Jesus in America in a new light.” He first engages lynching in the United States from a historical perspective, which was used a means of reminding blacks “of their inferiority and powerlessness.” Cone then considers the “Christian realism” of Reinhold Niebuhr, seeing a potentially useful theological perspective. Cone applauds Niebuhr’s focus upon matters of “self-interest and power” in human relationships, but faults Niebuhr for not addressing lynching as an obvious example of sinful human abuse.

Cone moves on to discuss how Martin Luther King Jr. saw the cross and the resurrection of Christ as inspiration for his ministry, though ”it did not erase the pain of suffering or its challenge of faith.” Cone then explores the tension between Christian truth claims and the reality of the black experience as expressed in the black literary imagination and also the ministries of women like Ida B. Wells who, at the risk of their own lives, fought against lynching.

Cone concludes with a message of hope: “God took the evil of the cross and lynching tree and transformed them both into the triumphant beauty of the divine. If America has the courage to confront the great sin and ongoing legacy of white supremacy with repentance and reparation there is hope ‘beyond tragedy.’”

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/august-web-only/reflections-on-cross-and-lynching-tree.html

DISCRIMINATION & how can I be a stronger ally to those who suffer?

“For our white friends desiring to be allies”
by Courtney Ariel, Sojourners Magazine, 8/16/17.

Author’s Note: I’m writing this in hopes that it can be used to lighten the load of marginalized folks, keeping in mind that not all marginalized people want to engage in the ally conversation, and that is perfect as well. For those who do, my prayer is that when someone asks you the question, “how can I be a stronger ally?” you might choose to save your breath/energy and send this in its place.

I have been asked by two dear friends, “how can I be a stronger ally?” Being the slow emotional processor that I am, I wanted to spend some time with this before I answered them. I surely appreciate and love these two individuals, and I appreciate their vulnerability in asking me this question.

1. Listen more; talk less. You don’t have to have something to say all of the time. You don’t have to post something on social media that points to how liberal/how aware/how cool/how good you are. You are lovely, human, and amazing. You have also had the microphone for most of the time, for a very long time, and it will be good to give the microphone to someone else who is living a different experience than your own.

2. For one out of every three opinions/insights shared by a person of color in your life, try to resist the need to respond with a better or different insight about something that you read or listened to as it relates to their shared opinion. Try just to listen and sit with someone else’s experience. When you do share in response to what someone has shared with you, it can sometimes (not always) feel like “whitesplaining” — meaning to explain or comment on something in an over-confident or condescending way. This adds to the silencing of the voices of people of color.

3. Being an ally is different than simply wanting not be racist (thank you for that, by the way). Being an ally requires you to educate yourself about systemic racism in this country. Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and so many other great books and articles that illuminate oppression and structures of white supremacy and white privilege. Use your voice and influence to direct the folks that walk alongside you in real life (or follow you on the internet), toward the voice of someone that is living a marginalized/disenfranchised experience…

Read more at … https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies

RACISM & Each dot on this map is a place where a person of color was lynched.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Many Caucasians have not understood how lynching has been used as domestic terrorism to intimidate people of color. For example, a Marion, IN white police officer jokingly kidded a black colleague by tying a noose in a rope. The white officer was taken back by the immediate and deserved backlash. Take a look at this map to better understand.

By Adele Peters, FastCompany Magazine, 1/26/17.

…In total, in the century after the Civil War, as many as 5,000 people of color were lynched by mobs in the United States. In the 1890s, on average, nine people were lynched each month. A new website documents each known death on a map, often along with gruesome details about the killing and the size of the crowd.

RJ Ramey, who created the site, was inspired by a book about the history of lynching called At The Hands Of Persons Unknown.

“It blew me away,” Ramey says. “I thought of myself as a history geek, and I thought of myself as well-educated, but I had never really realized the breadth and depth of the atrocity.”

“…This is our history,” he says. “Every high school kid should know about it.”

Read more at … https://www.fastcoexist.com/3067374/change-generation/each-dot-on-this-map-is-a-place-where-a-person-of-color-was-lynched and http://www.monroeworktoday.org/

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BIAS & Why It is Hard to Grasp, When You Haven’t Historically Experienced It

Saturday Night Live, SNL, 11/12/16.

RACISM & Everything I Know about Racism I Learned in the Church #ChristenaCleveland

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In addition to writing the popular article, “Everything I know about reconciliation, I learned in the church,” Christina Cleveland wrote a previous article (below). To you understand spiritual and physical reconciliation, we need to heed this message equally.

WHEN I LEARNED THAT I WAS A NIGGER

by Christena Cleveland, 8/5/13.

Every summer, my mom would sign us up for vacation bible school (VBS) programs at local churches so we could experience God in diverse settings. The summer I turned six, we attended VBS at an all-white church in a neighboring city. During recess, my brother and I were so engrossed in our tetherball game that we didn’t hear the teacher calling us to return to the classroom. Exasperated, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Get in here, niggers!!” Being six and all, I had no idea what the word nigger meant; I just knew that it referred to me and that it was negative. I ducked my head in shame and ran toward the classroom. The teacher’s words violently contradicted the VBS theme: “God loves all the children in the world” and made me question whether God’s love was meant for me too.[i]

The church taught me that God’s love is only for the white kids.

WHEN I LEARNED THAT ALL BLACK PEOPLE RAP

Many people recall junior high as a dark and stormy stage in their identity development timeline. But as one of two black girls in my class at my Christian school, I had the unenviable task of figuring out who I was and where I belonged while surrounded by a sea of white classmates who only interacted with me long enough to ask to touch my hair. Feeling different and excluded, I signed up for choir class, hoping to find a place to belong.

That year, the Christmas musical script un-ironically called for a “Rapping Angel” who rapped Luke 2:14. Without holding auditions for the part, our choir director (with obvious support from my classmates) cast me as the rapping angel, saying, “You can do it, right Christena?”

Nope, I couldn’t.

But since I did not fit in with my classmates, I was desperate to prove that I belonged to another relevant social group – namely, black people. So I went along with our director’s decision and now have the distinction of being the most woefully miscast Rapping Angel in the history of cheesy Christmas musicals.

The church taught me that I belong nowhere – not even in the tiny stereotypical box that they tried to stuff me into.

WHEN I LEARNED THAT I WAS OVERLY SENSITIVE

When I was a high school student, I walked into a local pastor’s home and was immediately assaulted by the sight of a large confederate flag hanging on the wall. I gasped and asked them why they had a confederate flag. With disarming matter-of-factness, they told me that they liked the colors, the aesthetic and the “rebel” image that it projected. I tried to explain (as best I could as a frazzled teen) that the flag invokes painful images of black oppression but they remained committed to their blissful ignorance. Ultimately, they shoo-ed me away, telling me that I was making a big deal out of nothing and that I focused too much on negative events that were resolved long ago. The flag remained mounted on the wall for years.

The church taught me that my perspective is invalid and that the pain of my people is unimportant.

WHEN I LEARNED THAT RACISM IS HILARIOUS…

Read more at … http://www.christenacleveland.com/blogarchive/2013/08/everything-i-know-about-racism-i-learned-in-the-church?rq=everything%20i%20know%20about

RACISM & Preaching To Confront Racism by retired bishop Dr. Will Willimon

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By William H. Willimon, excerpted from Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism (forthcoming from Abingdon Press, February 2017)

Moralism (substituting law for gospel, exhorting better human behavior without dependency upon God’s grace) is no match for racism. While urging us to preach justice, Lutheran James Childs warns: “Preaching that always goes directly from sin to salvation or from cross to resurrection without ever stopping off at sanctification is missing something of crucial importance…. The grace of God in Christ, which justifies, also sanctifies … The good tree bears good fruit … (Matt. 7:18).” (Childs, Preaching Justice, 2000). I thank God that I am a Wesleyan Christian who, after admitting that I’m guilty of the sin of racism can say that’s not all I am. I’m someone in whom the grace of God is actively, daily, persistently at work healing me of my sin, perfecting God’s intentions for me, in spite of me.

Moralism is unavoidable if a preacher conceives of the congregation as good people who come to church to be even better. The Christian faith is presented as common sense with a spiritual veneer. Moralism is notoriously anthropological rather than theological in its assumption that listeners already have all they need in order to be good. History, structural injustices, the human propensity to self-interest, the various psychological binds in which we are caught, human feelings of vulnerability and threat are all ignored in moralism’s appeal to our “better angels.” The sermon is in the imperative mood as the preacher fills the air with should, ought, must.

As Chuck Campbell points out, preaching on social issues tends to imply that good people of good will have the power to solve their own problems (a thought dearly loved by liberal white people who enjoy thinking of ourselves as the masters of our domain). Moralistic preaching overlooks how structural, systemic, principalities and powers have us under their sway. Campbell urges us, “always rely on the power of God, not on our own strength, in resistance.” (Campbell, The Word Before the Powers, 2003).

Sermons whose intent is to build guilt are universally resisted. Not only does Jesus tend toward forgiveness rather than guilt but also preaching that provokes guilt backfires as hearers are encouraged to become more introspective, more obsessed with ourselves and our histories, more egotistical, not less. White people ascribed far too much power to our egos and are already narcissistic without help from the preacher. The default Christian position with regard to guilt is to confess sin, offer it up and then allow ourselves to be unburdened by the justifying grace of God and to be spurred on by sanctifying grace in our acts of contrition.

Conservative, Reformed pastor, John Piper’s sermon, “Racial Reconciliation” begins by asserting (without citing support) that, “There is strong evidence that stressing differences does little to improve race relations, and may even exacerbate them.” The rest of his sermon attacks the notion of racial difference. Using Scripture, Piper asserts that, “God made all ethnic groups from one human ancestor,” and that all “are made in the image of God.” Your “ethnic identity” is of no consequence when compared with the biblical truth that we are all created “in the image of God.” That’s why programs in “diversity training” “backfire.” We ought to teach our children to put all their “eggs in the basket called personhood in the image of God and one egg in the basket called ethnic distinction.” The problem is not the sin of white racism, the problem is a failure to think about our humanity in a biblical way. Though Piper is a strong Calvinist, there is nothing in the sermon about confession of sin, forgiveness, repentance or the need for the grace of God.

While it’s good that Piper attempts to think theologically beyond rather limp, secular notions of “diversity,” Piper’s exhortation to color-blind Christianity overlooks that persons of color did not come up with the idea that skin color was a valid way of defining humanity in order to oppress nonwhites — that nefarious idea came exclusively from white people. Piper, perhaps unintentionally, bolsters white evasion of engagement in issues of systemic racial injustice when he ends his sermon with a stirring call to “banish every belittling and unloving thought from our minds,” “to show personal, affectionate oneness” with Christians of all ethnic backgrounds, and to be “salt and light” “with courageous acts of inter-racial kindness and respect.”

We don’t need “diversity training” because racial reconciliation is a personal matter of individual piety in thoughts, speech and kindness, according to Piper’s sermon. We wouldn’t have racism if Christians refused to acknowledge the reality of race. This is the call for “reconciliation” white folks love to hear.

“Reconciliation” too often focuses, as in Piper’s sermon, upon interpersonal reconciliation without focus on systemic and structural justice. Many black people push back against the call for “reconciliation” because it presumes there was a time when we were in a right relationship. It also implies that we work toward reconciliation from an equal footing. “Hospitality” also implies that we, the powerful, are the hosts; the less powerful are the guests, outsiders whom we graciously welcome. Talk of reconciliation without recognition of power arrangements degenerates into sentimentality. (see Jennifer Harvey, Dear White Christians, 2014). And speaking of my church family, sentimental accounts of human nature, racial harmony and Christian ethics is killing us. Recently a United Methodist told me that her preacher had preached a sermon on racism.

“What did you learn from the sermon?” I asked.

“That we ought to be nice to black people,” she responded. Far from being confrontation with the sin of racism, sentimental narrations of racism and sentimental appeals for white people to be nice are a primary means of avoiding conversations about race among United Methodists.

A white male (Paul Tillich), preaching to white males, preached a famous sermon: “You are Accepted,” (Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, 1963) as if unconditional acceptance were the core of the Good News. That I am graced, loved, and accepted by God, just as I am, racism and all, at first sounds charitable. But there is a more sinister side to such cheery, sentimentally blissful ignorance. Preaching is also a call to conversion, transformation, detoxification. The evil we face is more than wrong thinking about ourselves; it’s our captivity to principalities and powers.

Grace, Wesleyan grace, is not a paternal pat on the head; it’s the power of God that enables us to live different lives than the lives we would be condemned to live if we had not been met by God in Jesus Christ.

As Luther said, apples do not come from a thorn bush. Good deeds arise from good people. At our best, we preach to defeat racism every Sunday because every Sunday’s sermon contributes to the character of Christians. That’s why some of our best preaching against racism will not seem to the congregation a direct attack on racism. Preaching’s value is often in the subtle but powerful ways it forms us into people who have empathy for others, who assume responsibility for the needs of strangers, who feel that they are under judgment from some higher criterion than their own conscience, and who believe that, with the Holy Spirit set loose among us, who believe that we can be born again.

Before consideration of the obviously ethical “What ought we to do?” preaching considers the theologically determinative and ethically formative, “Who is God?”, “What doth the Lord require?” Human action is responsive reaction to God’s initiatives. Our discipleship is our human affirmation of how God is already busy in the world. It’s not for us to defeat the sin of racism; God in Christ is already doing that. Our chief ethical question is, “Will I join with Christ in his world-changing, world-ending, resurrection-work or not?”

Chuck Campbell, speaks of preaching in the face of powers like racism as “exorcism”:

Don’t many folks — preachers included — long to be set free from the powers of death that have us in their grip and won’t let us go — powers from which we cannot seem to free ourselves no matter how hard we try? After all, this is the key characteristic of demon possession: We are no longer agents of our own lives, but go through the deadly motions dictated to us by the powers of the world that hold us captive — that “possess” us. And we need a word from beyond ourselves to set us free from our captivity. (Campbell, “Resisting the Powers” in Purposes of Preaching, 2004).

The challenge is for us to move beyond being non-racist to being actively anti-racist, always remembering that,

We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

That’s why it’s not enough for us to share our personal story or to exhort the congregation to greater striving for justice. “We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord…” (2 Corinthians 4:5). In Campbell’s words, “We need a word beyond ourselves to set us free,” Jesus, the Word made flesh, God’s word in action.

QUOTES & John Wesley’s Quote on Racism & the Legal System

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  This is an ongoing series of quotes from the Wesleyan Movement with citations to the original sources.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a “law’ in our colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this?

Letter to William Wilberforce, February 24, 1791 (the last letter John Wesley ever wrote)

For more such quotes see: The United Methodist Church General Board of Church & Society, http://www.kintera.org/site/c.frLJK2PKLqF/b.4452011/k.7E8E/Quotations_by_John_Wesley.htm

BIGOTRY & Love and Terror in the Black Church #NYTimes

by Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times, 6/20/15.

At the sprawling Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas one day last spring, I was met by five men with earpieces who escorted me to the pastor’s office. As I prepared to preach that morning, a rolling phalanx of bodyguards shadowed my every move — when I greeted parishioners in the church’s spacious narthex and even as I made a stop at the men’s room. We walked from the church study into the 4,200-seat sanctuary, the security team whispering into their wrists.

I was entering a sanctuary, a sacred space to speak the word of the Lord and to lift the spirits of God’s people. But I was also entering a black church, a site of particular power in this country, and a site of unspeakable terror.

That is what the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., became on Wednesday, when a young white male wielding a .45-caliber handgun unloaded his rage on nine souls, and that is why for the foreseeable future we will enter our houses of worship wary of violence.

Sites and spaces of black life have come under attack from racist forces before, but the black church is a unique target. It is not just where black people gather.

In too many other places, black self-worth is bludgeoned by bigotry or hijacked by self-hatred: that our culture is too dumb, our lives too worthless, to warrant the effort to combat our enemies. The black sanctuary breathes in black humanity while the pulpit exhales unapologetic black love.

For decades, these sites of love have been magnets for hate

Read more at … http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/michael-eric-dyson-love-and-terror-in-the-black-church.html?referrer=

RACIAL BIAS & A 7-minute Video That Will Startle You: A Girl Like Me #HBO

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “This documentary will open your eyes to what it feels like to grow up as a person of color in an America. Confirming the research of Kenneth Clark in the 1940s, this 7-minute video visualizes how people of color feel when growing up in a Caucasian culture.  Those of the dominant culture usually never realize the messages that are sent to people of color and so this 7-minute video is a must-view resource for Christian leaders.”

A Girl like Me, a 2005 documentary by Kiri Davis and Reel Works Teen Filmmaking (ABC News, 10/11/06 and the YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/mediathatmatters)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyI77Yh1Gg

COMMUNICATION & In cross-cultural ministry, silence sends multiple messages #KwasiKena #ReMIXbook

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “The following is an insightful posting on cross-cultural communication by a friend and colleague, Dr. Kwasi Kena who serves as a professor at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University.  As I write with another colleague the book ReMix: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press, 2016) Kwasi’s advice on what to say when a cultural eruption occurs is very helpful.  Read this excerpt from his Wesley Seminary blog post.”

How Would You Fill in the Blank?

by Kwasi Kena, Associate Professor at Multicultural Ministries at Wesley Seminary

For several years I taught an oral communication course. In that class, we examined a communication phenomenon called “filtering and completing”. Here is a brief explanation of these two concepts. When we are bombarded by too much information, we make conscious and subconscious choices to filter out what appears to be extraneous information in order to make sense out of what we hear or see. Conversely, when some of the message is missing, we complete or fill in the blank to create what we think is the intended message. We complete the message based on our own perceptions, life experiences, biases and worldviews.

For example, if you heard “Mary had a little _____, its ___________________________”, you would be able to compete the sentence based on your previous knowledge of nursery rhymes. If, however, you heard the following phrase “When elephants fight ________________”, you may not have enough previous knowledge or experience to fill in the blank correctly. While a person living in West Africa would recognize the proverb “When elephants fight the grass suffers”. Without context, shared memory, or the intention of the speaker, we are clueless.

Silence in Multicultural Ministry: Friend or Foe?

When engaging in multicultural ministry, when should you speak and when should you keep silent? The answer perplexes many people. It is not unlike the feeling one gets when reading the book of Proverbs where one verse urges you not to answer a fool, while the next verse contradicts the previous advice and states that you should answer a fool (Proverbs 25:4-5). If you find yourself struggling with such a decision, remember in cross-cultural ministry, silence sends multiple messages.

I sometimes use the following scenario to illustrate the effect of silence when attempting to reach people from a different ethnic group. We are all familiar with churches whose neighborhoods have shifted from one dominant ethnic group to another. Members of “drive-in churches” who often want to open the church to everyone usually don’t understand why community members do not come and join their congregations. Perhaps this issue of silence holds a clue to the answer.

In the midst of your congregation attempting to become more multi-ethnic, suppose a major disturbance occurs in the ethnic community you want to reach. Perhaps the local news airs a special report noting that an absentee landlord failed to maintain his apartments causing the ethnic residents to suffer unnecessary illnesses due to poor heating and insulation. Or, what if you learned that community members live in a food desert and their children’s cognitive development is stunted due to malnutrition? Or, what about the recent 911 caller who reported that a twelve-year-old boy was playing with a gun that was “probably fake” resulting in Tamir Rice being shot and killed by a policeman four seconds after the squad car arrived? If some tragedy like this occurred in which members of the community were angry, hurt, distraught, and outraged—how would your congregation respond?

If your church responded to any of these incidents with silence, how might the ethnic community you wish to reach “fill in the blank”? How would your congregation’s reputation in the community inform the way outsiders complete the void left by your silence? If visitors came to church the Sunday following a tragic event, would they hear anything in the sermon or pastoral prayer or any portion of the service that addressed the sorrow experienced by the parties involved? Can your church afford the cultural baggage of a silent response?

Read the original article here … http://wesleyconnectonline.com/break-the-silence-kwasi-kena/