100 years later

I’ve heard enough people in my circles say we live in a post-racial world. And I just want to give a little perspective. Why? Because when we say things like that today, people get hurt. It angers them, and for good reason. People made in the image of God… our brothers and sisters.

Not discounting the certain fact that progress in many areas has been made, we ought not think we’ve finished the race. I love how Deidra Riggs put it earlier today: “…if we were all running a marathon together (and we are) we wouldn’t stop at the one mile marker, look back toward the starting line and say, ‘Wow! Look at how much progress we’ve made! We’ve come so far! Let’s go do something else now.'”

For me, these 2 images when placed together are quite profound.

The first one is from July 2, 1917: a peaceful march in New York City, following a horrific event of injustice in St. Louis earlier that week that should never be forgotten. I unpacked that event more here.
silent-march-nyc-1917

The other one is from about an hour ago – June 16, 2017, nearly 100 years later. Another peaceful march, this time in Minnesota, following the announcement of the verdict in Officer Yanez’ trial. I didn’t sit on the jury, and I can’t know all the intricacies that went into the reaching of that verdict. But we all saw the Facebook live video. And given the (enormous) track record of oppression from law-enforcement on people of color, the smell of bs here is strong.
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My heart aches for everyone directly involved (including Officer Yanez), and my heart aches for the millions of people who feel the pain of this moment from afar – pain that in many ways I will never be able to feel. I believe we need to pray for those in law enforcement like never before, and I believe we need to pray for minorities just as much.

Can we stand with one without hating the other? I believe we can.

But in the process, may the Lord help us never ever stop asking these gut-wrenching “Why” questions until the stubborn stench of injustice is burnt out of our nostrils for good.

Humility

“If you’re modest and have an awareness of the limits of your own knowledge you know that you need the people who disagree with you to correct for your own errors. [However] if you think you have the truth 100% then the people who disagree with you are just in the way.”

-David Brooks, NY Times

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The Drowning Man Trial

Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge on someone, on God if they can’t find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There’s an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He’s taken out on the water and he’s dropped. He’s bound so that he can’t swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they’ll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn’t always just… that very act can take away their sorrow. Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.

The immensely profound paragraph above comes from The Interpreter, one of my favorite movies. You can find the clip here.

A lot of people have been thinking more about the death penalty these days, (thanks in large part to the disgusting nature of all that’s going on in Arkansas this month) and I’m certainly in that crowd. Though I last saw this movie over 6 years ago, this scene has continued to come to my mind as I’ve pondered, searched, and sought out the morality of capital punishment. Not because I plan to directly influence legislation (though I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea some day) but because I believe to my toes it matters how we think about other people. Even, (especially) the people we despise the most. A person’s thoughts on the death penalty draw that out like few other issues being discussed around dinner tables today.

However, in these discussions, the grieving process of the victim’s family often don’t get talked about enough, or at least not talked about well.

If you’re still reading, my question for you today is this:
Does taking the life of a loved one’s killer truly bring the family the closure they’ve been promised?

drowning man trial

The one thing that can unify a church

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Nice idea.

Would love to watch that Kirk Cameron movie.

But how IN THE WORLD is that ever supposed to become reality in the Church today?

  • How is that supposed to happen within the global collection of Christians from all around the world, speaking different languages, practicing different customs and traditions?
  • How is it supposed to happen among several hundred or several thousand members within a local expression of the church?
  • How is it even reality to think church leaders in the same church, who come from a variety of backgrounds and faith experiences, can be ‘perfectly united in mind and thought’?

Especially in a cultural moment like ours right now, where every post and idea and thought quickly polarizes, offends, and antagonizes?

If I’m just being honest (which I’m really trying to be), to me today – this all definitely feels like wishful thinking. Frankly, this verse was pretty frustrating to look at this morning.

But then I found something that started to put the pieces together for me…

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Segregation & White Evangelicals

Over the course of the last year, a “holy discontent” has risen within me at a greater rate than ever before as it relates to the important issues of racial equality and true reconciliation. If you read on, this post will give a little more understanding of why I feel it’s a conversation we (as Christian leaders especially) need to openly and honestly engage in and why we should be leading the way forward. Especially for us as white evangelicals, we’ve been afraid to step into this space for fear of personal risk, being misunderstood, and I think, because we haven’t had to “feel” in ourselves the tension our brothers and sisters of color are certainly well acquainted with.

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Redlining

You have heard about RedLining, right? This is one of the things I don’t remember ever being taught in my history classes, but it has profoundly shaped the racialization of our culture and why still today there is such a divide between our cities and our suburbs. #WeBuiltAWall #OurHistory 

On Dylann Roof, the Charleston Shooting, and the Death Penalty

when the subject comes up, people know i’m very much against the death penalty.

which puts me in a precarious place: the default line for people of faith is overwhelmingly FOR death.

death-penalty

i used to be there too, but then i read this book. it’s brought me to a complete 180. it gave me a total knockout-to-the-face, as the hypocrisy and double standards of my beliefs were showcased before my very eyes.

book

to those of us in the Church, i’m convinced this is front-and-center to an arena we’ve chosen to not think well about, to our own detriment. we have lost our humanity along the way, using the bible to defend a position we’ve known deep down inside is just wrong.

we often look at the crimes that have been committed and in our understandable desire for “justice”, the words of the victims’ families are often silenced. the media will seldom pick them up, and there’s usually an attorney general or prosecutor on the other end wanting to be voted back into office.

which is why i’m so excited for this piece ran by the NY Times 3 days ago.

seriously, read it!

the families of the victims in the Charleston Shooting have been vocally AGAINST the death penalty for Dylann Roof, and it’s profound to see. i wish i could get to know these beautiful people… i wish their spirituality could rub off on me more.

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hearing their words – not just their extensions of forgiveness shortly after that horrific night – but now 17 months later, pleading for mercy… there’s just something very Jesus-like about their actions.

i think we’re witnessing here a version of Christianity profoundly close to the heart of God.

 

“Perspective”… ASL Gets It Right

if we’ve learned anything from this election it’s that the issues at hand are complex. i’m still amazed how surprised people are when i explain to them how i voted, which btw definitely did not fall in the norm for a white male with the evangelical (hate that term) label often tied closely around my ankle.

the thing is, there’s more than one way to look at the issues.

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and we often don’t want to admit that there are intelligent people who love Jesus and are genuinely following him on all sides of the debate.

there are multiple ways to look at…

  • immigration reform
  • health care
  • foreign policy
  • abortion
  • guns & violence
  • the death penalty
  • gay marriage
  • you name it

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in a word, you could say we all need a little more “perspective”.

american sign language gets this term right. in fact, the english term really doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

a friend of mine showed me this sign a couple months ago, and it’s profound. the sign is 2 eyes pivoting 360 degrees around a single point.

how often do we look at an issue from the angle we’re most comfortable? or an angle we “inherited” from our family of origin?

what if instead, we took the time and invested the emotional energy needed to truly view it from all other angles?

true perspective is looking at an issue from every single vantage point.

when you do that, you just might be surprised how your perspective changes.

2 Callings, 1 Marriage

our marriage is not perfect. we love each other deeply and are committed to one another no matter what. but it’s messy. and, like anybody, if you look at the pictures we post on social media and assume that represents our every moment, you’d be sadly mistaken. in fact, we had such a good fight the other day (2 days ago) that i finally had to just leave the house and throw some things. (it actually turned into me throwing a lot of things in a pile in our back yard and setting the whole thing on fire, nearly torching the whole friggin’ forest behind our house, but that’s a post for a different day…)

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amidst all that, there’s something i think we’re actually starting to get right. at least conceptually.
it’s still messy, though.
and we still have A LOT to figure out with it all.

2 callings, 1 marriage.

i watched this video by shauna niequist a year or so ago, and then promptly passed it along to shanna. that video, along with a couple formative books and blogposts that we had read, drew us to something we had somehow missed all of our years growing up in the church and learning about ministry and marriage.
here’s the script we inherited and lived from for 10 years, the one we now are questioning:
  • man gets called into ministry
  • man finds a wife
  • wife drops what she’s doing (or planned to do) and follows him
  • wife helps husband by cleaning the house and writing notes to women in the church
  • if and when the kids come along (cuz, of course they will, right?) her help shifts to taking care of the kids full time and continuing to clean the house
  • meanwhile, he pursues his calling 100%, and she supports it
of course these are generalizations, but you get the idea:

HIS calling trumps her calling. end of story.

but what this video did for us was simply beckoned us to ask a different question:

is it possible to create space for TWO callings in ONE marriage?

 we didn’t know… but if there was, we wanted to find out!
again, it’s messy… but here’s where we are right now:
while we continue loving and leading our kids together, and while i continue pursuing the calling God gave to me for the church, shanna is pursuing a completely different and equally important calling. and it has helped her come ALIVE! her purpose bucket is much more full, and it’s so fun to watch her passionately lead.
what does she do?
she’s serving as an advocate for children’s relief international, an organization we’ve fallen in love with over the years, one filled with great people doing some great work for some of the world’s poorest. she spends her days identifying stateside donors and vision casting to them the role they could play in meeting the needs of those in deep poverty by…
  • providing college scholarships for young people graduating high school with a vision to reach their community for the common good
  • spreading awareness about a fantastic work called spark of hope
  • helping new ministries for AIDS orphans get off the ground with the proper resources and funding
  • interfacing with national leaders and CRI staff
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she was even able to jump on a plane this past summer to spend 10 days in mozambique while i took some time off and finagled my schedule to catch up on work while also keeping the house and kids going.
again, it’s messy. and every day seems to present a new challenge with this dynamic.
it’s definitely not the easier path.
but it’s so refreshing.

and it just feels right.

 

 

Silent Too Long

Silent Too Long

i’ve been silent too long.

i’ve had a lot to say but i’ve been waiting for the perfect words. i’ve drafted the posts, reworked the wording again and again and again and again. and then i’ve deleted those posts time and time again before tapping “send”.

there’s a lot of reasons for that, but i’m coming to realize they’re all pretty much rooted in pride and selfishness.

i don’t want to be polarized. i don’t want to be misunderstood. i don’t want people to get the wrong idea. i don’t want them to think bad of me. i don’t want to be disliked and rejected.

and it seems that anything that is said these days within the race conversation does all of that and more, the minute you start engaging.

but no more.

no more!

shush

the legitimate hurt facing my friends and brothers and sisters in the black community is grievous to me. and what i now realize is that my silence has actually been speaking for me. my silence has put me in a camp. and it’s not the camp i want to be in.

like at the republican national convention last night.

trump walked out to queen’s song (without permission), giving the perception that the band was part of team trump.

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not so, and they were (rightfully) pissed.

by simply doing nothing and saying nothing, i have said something.

and i’m no longer ok with that.

to those in the black community who are hurting and grieving right now, i want you to know that i am hurting and grieving with you. i want you to know that i recognize that you live with a reality i personally have never had to face in my lifetime. and i want you to know that you do not stand alone right now.
i want you to know that i do not believe we need to just get back to normal, as one politician recently said. normal got us to where we are today. we need to create and carve out and slug out a new normal.

a new normal that gets us all honest about prejudice and preference.

a new normal that attacks and dismantles the implicit racial bias we all experience, whether we know it or not.

a new normal that allows us the freedom to converse without being polarized.

a new normal that somehow brings us to true equality and freedom, the mutual respect and dignity that all humans have been given by their creator.

a new normal that genuinely celebrates and embraces the many different cultures within our communities.

i’m sorry for the silence.

no more.

#blacklivesmatter