Two Hands: One Black, One White

2020-07-11 Two Hands
On one hand, someone once said, “If everyone woke up at 6:00am and found we were all the same color, the same religion, and the same nationality, by noon we would have found something to incite our prejudices.”  Prejudice, the ignorant, unreasonable, thoughtless and uninformed formation of an unfavorable view of someone before that person has done anything to warrant such a low opinion, is as constant as the sun.

On the other hand, the manipulation of perceived prejudice to gain personal advantage over someone else is just as constant, and often constitutes a “reverse prejudice” against innocents who differ only in that they resemble those who have expressed prejudice.

On these issues I see two conflicting perspectives, both of which hold some truth.  The difficulty will be in balancing these, especially in a public forum where emotions often can run high and thoughtful dialog can become difficult.  Politicians, police officers, city council members, or anyone publicly addressing racial conflicts must be at the top of their game for any such confrontations or presentations.  It is not enough to spout maxims for the media nor to post tweets or clips on social platforms.  We need serious and thoughtful dialog whenever it will be allowed.

On the one side is the obvious injustice too often suffered by people of color, such as Ahmaud Arbery, Travis Miller and George Floyd experienced.

Anecdotally, a strong young black man who often serves as a day-nurse for a handicapped neighbor was sitting in his car in front of my home.  He had arrived 45 minutes early and was dozing in his very nice new Toyota at 8:15am.  Someone in my neighborhood called the police!!  When the officers kindly knocked on his window and woke him up, he was as professional as he always is and explained clearly his reason for being there.  He even showed them his nurse’s id and driver’s license, a courtesy on his part not required by law.  I have to wonder if an unknown white guy had been dozing in the car, would the police have been called, or might the neighbor have knocked on the window to see if he was all right?

speaks of the racism she encountered (and overcame) growing up in the South.  Just Mercy is an excellent movie portrayal of the difficulty in minorities getting justice as recently as the 1990’s.  And of course, the more recent crimes against blacks in Alabama, Kentucky, and Minnesota simply aggravate a perception of white carelessness.

However, on the other side the BLM “movement” lacks validity based on its origins in Marxist philosophy and socialist intentions (https://thefederalist.com/2016/09/28/black-lives-matter-bringing-back-traditional-marxism/).  While it is true that black lives matter, why does the movement not address black-on-black crime that accounts for many more deaths than white-on-black violence?  Why is there no mention of one of the greatest civil rights leaders  in history in any of the speeches by BLM speakers?

“You can’t blame [these crimes] on a police officer, you can’t say this is about criminal justice reform.  This is about people carrying weapons who shot up a car with an eight-year-old baby in the car.  We’ve got to stop this.  We are doing each other more harm than any police officer on this force.  We’ve had over 75 shootings in the city over the past several weeks.  You can’t blame that on Atlanta’s Police Department.” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms, July 6, 2020.

A Facebook post that I copied for a guest blog (June 16, 2020) details a black police officer’s lament, “I realized that most in the African-American community refuse to look at solving the bigger problem that I see and deal with every day, which is black-on-black crime taking hundreds of innocent black lives each year, and instead focus on the nine questionable deaths of black men, where some were in the act of committing crimes.”

 

, along with Lexington Kentucky’s Police Chief Weathers, as well as men like Travis Miller, stand as heroes in my book.  We have had a black president and blacks have access to opportunity more than at any point in our history.  Black men and women have ably competed for seats of power in CEO positions, as governors, mayors; in almost every area of authority.  We must not let “white guilt” for crimes committed by ancestors excuse illegal and unjust actions that hurt black and white communities, nor allow “victim mentality” to rule our black communities.  The issue must not be devolved into demanding equal outcomes.

Furthermore what separates us in skin color is so insignificant, one source put it at 0.01 % of our DNA!  It is simply that more or less melanin is most easily identifiable to the ignorant who insist on seeing us as “different races” instead of recognizing we are all the human race with insignificant differences in melanin.  As Vodde Baucham, a black minister at a predominantly white church says, “We are all actually the same color . . . from our melanin; we’re just different shades of the same color.  Just because you don’t have as much melanin as I do, don’t you DARE think God does not love you as much as he loves me, because He gave me more!”

2020-07-11 Mother to Son

In Mother to Son Jasmine Holmes writes poignantly about “the talk” black mothers must have with their sons, not about the birds and bees like white moms, but about how to act when in driving downtown or across country and the additional dangers he will face just for having more melanin in his skin.  She offers us a window to see what black boys face as they grow into men in America. By giving voice to the perspectives of their mothers, Holmes offers Christ-followers a way forward toward racial unity and understanding.

She explains how one of the most difficult challenges faced by black Christian mothers is helping these children strike the right balance between their blackness and their Christianity.  She makes us wonder if white Christians feel this same conflict?  Do white mothers instruct their children to subject their cultural whiteness to Christianity?

She admits that it has been hard to drive this point home with a black son.  She stresses he must reject media that might be culturally affirmed but violates faith values.  Bitterness, resentment, and hostility — though culturally justified — cannot be embraced by young disciples of Christ, and that is true no matter how much or little melanin you have, whether your hand is black or white.

What Is It Like to be Black in the Time of the Wuhan Virus?

What do I know about being African-American or black of any nationality? 
I have to admit, not much. 

2020-05-30-george-floydNone of my “best friends” are black, although I have several black American friends on my “prayer walk” each night, some who have been to dinner at my house.  Some of these friends worship with me at my church fellowship, others are acquaintances in our neighborhood.  Lots of friends serve black communities in exemplary ways, and others are international workers who live and fellowship as minority white people in other nations.  A couple of inter-racial marriage partners are close to my heart and we consider each other friends, exchanging occasional emails and travel and family information. I would not hesitate to invite myself to stay with them if we went through their cities, and they know they would be welcome here.

But with such limited interracial exposure, why blog on Being Black in the Time of the Wuhan Virus?  Probably because unless you have been living under a rock, you know who George Floyd is.  But just in case some cicadas coming out of 17 years of hibernation are reading, 46 year-old George Floyd was the subject of a viral video as Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned him to the pavement with his knee on George’s neck until he passed out and died.  This despite George’s pleas to the officer that he could not breath and attending witnesses who requested the choke hold be relaxed. (YouTube video with foul language)

Notice, none of the witnesses was foolish enough to assert with force that George needed relief.  The officers involved were armed, and at one point, when bystanders began to get close to Chauvin, he brought out mace which the bystanders recognized and so withdrew.  But they appealed to Chauvin repeatedly to relax the choke hold, and begged Chauvin take a pulse when George stopped speaking.  But Chauvin maintained the choke hold until he released an unresponsive George to the EMTs. 

George Floyd interestingly was active in Christian ministry in Houston, Texas, and had moved to Minnesota to help with a discipleship and job placement program.  (CT link)  The 6-foot-6-inch tall (200cm) man was called “Big Floyd” and recognized as an unofficial community leader.  He was regarded by the Texans as a mentor and peace-maker in Houston’s notorious Third Ward, a section of the great city wracked with gang warfare and drugs.  The videos deny the policeman’s claim that he resisted arrest.

As a white observer I could talk about the ensuing riots, looting and damage done to the police cars or the precinct station (it was set on fire by a mob), or about the fighting in uninvolved cities where protesters were shot for dangerous conduct (Louisville, just down the highway from Lexington was one of these).   

If only a Martin Luther King would speak to the protesters as the Civil Rights leader did to the marchers before the Selma, Alabama marches. (Selma March News)  I recall hearing his instructions in a speech that I can no longer find online, but the gist of it was that if you could not let a white man strike you with a baton and NOT respond in anger, “Get out of the line.”  MLK wanted no one to validate the abuse of the segregationists and racists who were sure to follow the march.

However, that is not the theme of this blog.  “Now is the time to move past our narrow thinking, worldview, and experience, and to step into the shoes of the other, for the sake of the other.”  (Ed Stetzer)    

  • What is it like to be black and jogging in a secluded community and viewed with suspicion just because you are black and running? (Ahmaud Arbery)
  • What is it like to be blocked from doing your job because you are driving a delivery truck, authorized by your customer to enter, but detained because you are black and therefore must be up to no good? (Travis Miller)
  • What is it like to be over-scrutinized because a black man robbed the store once before?  Did no white man ever rob it? Why am I not viewed with suspicion when I enter the same store?

Remember, Christ-follower, that our best-friend-ever was a member of a minority, likely somewhat swarthy looking, maybe even dark-skinned.  He was in an economically, culturally and politically oppressed group, looked at by his “Roman and Greek superiors” with suspicion and disgust.  How would we treat Him?  Of course, “I would be nice to Jesus,” we glibly say.

Heed His words carefully in this trying time with racial hatred, and social and medical disruption making headlines: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”  (Matthew 25:40) And pray FOR the protesters, even the ones reacting wrongly ().

Ask yourself, What Is It Like to be Black in the Time of the Wuhan Virus?
What is it like to be black and live in America in 2020?

Marked by Love (Part 4 – to love an enemy)

It is important when considering LOVE as the Mark of a Man or Woman of God to remember that “it is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion.”  This is especially critical when considering the third aspect of this agape (uh-gop-ae) love which is offered to an enemy.  Loving one’s enemy is not easy!  Sometimes it means giving up our “rights,” sometimes it means giving Tough Love.  But it is the only way to change an enemy into a friend.  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  MLKing, Jr.

As we have described in the previous blogs, it is clear that we should love our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.  This simply means considering our Heavenly Father in every decision in life, and talking with Him about everything and including Him in the processes.

Loving our families or spiritual brothers and sisters really should not be too much of a problem, assuming this is a mutual love in a family, and that our brothers and sisters accept many of the same precepts by which we live.  There will be differences and arguments, but we have a foundation of faith that we share that becomes the bedrock for building our relationships in love.

But what of the enemy we are commanded to love?  Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:43-44 bears repeating, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!”  Does He expect us to allow an enemy to harm us, take advantage of us, even kill us?

There are some practical considerations to loving one’s enemy that must be considered or we can actually wind up disobeying other commands Jesus gave, such as Matthew 7:6, “Do not give that which is sacred to dogs; do not throw your pearls to pigs.”

There is so much on this topic that it certainly cannot be fully covered in a 1000 word blog, so I encourage you to use this blog as a prayer stimulus, to ask Father for wisdom and clarity on how to love your enemies, but we cannot ignore this clear command of Jesus and claim to be loving the Anointed One (John 14:15-24; 15:10).

I offer two scenarios for consideration: 1) when you are the target of an enemy, 2) when someone for whom you are responsible is the target.  Again, in real time and circumstances, these situations will call for more wisdom than can be gleaned from a brief blog.

1) When Jim Elliott and Nate Saint flew their tiny plane to visit the Auca Indians in South America, this fierce cannibalistic tribe was to be feared, so they carried long rifles.  But as they left, Nate’s son asked if they would kill the Indians if attacked.  Nate’s answer was profound: “If they kill us, we will go to Heaven, but if we shoot them, they will go to hell.”  He explained they were carrying the rifles only to scare the Indians if attacked.  It did not work.  Jim and Nate and their coworkers were murdered by the Indians, but the long story of it is that almost all the Indians came to accept the Gospel because of their heroic actions and unwillingness to dispatch their enemies to hell!

2) However, in Paul’s description of agape love, he says it “does not delight in evil . . . , always protects . . .”. In Esther we see this in the lives of the Jewish people who had been targeted for genocide by an enemy, but in an ironic twist of “fate” the Jews were provided an opportunity to defend themselves against those who would attack them.  Note, it was not a carte blanch permission to kill their enemies, but to defend themselves if attacked, that is to protect their families from their enemies (Esther 8:11).

For further consideration, let me encourage you to read some Scripture pertinent to loving one’s enemies.  From Exodus 23:4, the Jews were instructed to treat an enemy’s possessions the same way they would treat a brother’s; Job 31:29 suggests it is sinful to rejoice over an enemy’s misfortune or to say bad things against him; David spared his enemy’s life, not once, but on two occasions when he could have killed him and claimed it was the LORD’s provision (I Sam 24:10-19; 26:8-21).

On the other hand, Jesus, the epitome of LOVE, made a whip of cords and overturned business tables in the Temple!  Was he hateful or was it Tough Love? (John 2:13-22); Paul warned not to have fellowship with pagans (I Corinthians 10:20-21) and to have nothing to do with enemies of his message (Ephesians 5:11; II Timothy 3:5).

Finally, remember, as Lane Martin said, “Nothing happens to a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happen for us.”  Your enemy has no power except what the Creator has allowed (Luke 10:19) and the issue is never on whose side God is, but rather on whose side are you? (Joshua 5:13-14).

You were once an enemy of God, but now He has made peace with God possible by His love (Colossians 1:21-23).  So “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18) and remember Proverbs 16:7: “When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, He causes their enemies to make peace with them.”  Ezekiel gives us the last word on the Creator’s attitude toward His (and our) enemies:  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23).

Love the Creator, Love your family, Love your friends, and LOVE your enemies.  Let your life be Marked by LOVE.