I’m a huge sci-fi fan. I like it all from the cheesy to the spectacular. Some of the content that has come out over the years has been frowned upon by some Christians, but I don’t tend to freak out when I see a “Christian theme” expressed in secular entertainment. I see it more as making a Christian concept understandable in “layman’s” terms. One such concept was delivered in the 4th season of Angel, an episode titled “Sacrifice”. Episode 86 on netflix. I wish I had the video clip to share. The demon Jasmine had come to have influence on the human population, with promises of peace and love. For lack of a better description she had basically possessed the people exposed to her. She could see what they see, feel what they feel and control them. She referred to them as the Body of Jasmine. At the very end of the episode, her soldiers were descending upon the band of dissenters who had seen her true face and were no longer under her influence. As fighting commenced every slash, gunshot, or other wound visited upon those she dwelt in, manifested on her body. As I watched her demonically laugh, seeming to enjoy all this, it occurred to me that this is what it must be like for the body of Christ when believers indwelt with the Holy Spirit, strike out at each other. The harm is visited upon the whole body, unbeknownst to us. It had such a profound effect on me, seeing the VISUAL, that I’ve never forgotten it, and it always comes to mind when I see Christians at odds with each other or divided somehow on one issue or another.
One such divide resolves around race. We’ve all seen the historical photographs of black people being lynched or otherwise terrorized. Even now roughly 80% of Americans identify as Christian, so it’s not too far fetched to assume that these same people who could have a family outing for such morbid entertainment as a lynching on Saturday, were probably in church praising God on Sunday, and feeling guilt free.
So when I ask “Where is the clergy?”, I mean where are they when it comes to addressing racial injustice by perpetrators who identify as Christian. I know there have been clergy on the ground in Ferguson. Some have been injured standing with protestors. I saw all the pastors who attended the gathering with Al Sharpton, (when you proudly stood as he asked the clergy present to show themselves, y’all weren’t expecting that $100.00 donation request were you? haha…) and those who attended the Michael Brown funeral services. But where is the national church conversation, directed in-house, at Christians who hold racial biases and feel justified in doing so? Also where is the conversation with the black youth who see Christianity as just another form of “white oppression”, designed to keep black people pacified, and less likely to revolt when they experience perceived (read: real, actual, concrete, and video taped) wrongs? Should they feel they can trust the church when they do not see their white brothers and sisters in Christ even addressed for their actions or skewed thinking?
See, when Christians are being persecuted in some manner, what generally tends to happen is that the victims hear something along the lines of “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” or “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Perhaps, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. ” In other words, be patient they will get theirs. Just stand and watch the deliverance of the Lord. We hear promises such as “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Not really convincing when you’ve seen the future of an 18 year old ended by 6 shots and no guaranteed justice in sight. Not to mention remaining steadfast while seeking said justice when people vehemently oppose considering it for someone who had recently robbed a local store for cigars, as though that one act makes him ineligible for all time, or nullifies the wrong done to him by another. Weariness can definitely set in when you feel powerless and unheard. It wears one out to experience repeated insults and injuries while the world is either indifferent to or delighting in your misery. Death by 1000 paper cuts. You bleed out in the middle of the crowd, and remain invisible the entire time. This is not to discount the word. I believe the word of God has power. (I know there are those outside the faith that believe scriptures such as those above only encourage inaction and discourage working to change one’s situation, and while there are some who have used the word as such, the bible does not advocate this.) In times of challenges, these and other scripture have indeed been a real and present help, making it possible for Christians to hold on and weather hard times and injustice. However, when they are uttered as simple platitudes to absolve oneself from taking action to help another, or to allow evil to go unchallenged, we rob them of their power, and bring no real comfort to those who need it.
Where are the teachings that state “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” or “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” or “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” or “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.” or “But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” or even a simple “You reap what you sow”? I was always taught that “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” When is the clergy going to call out their congregation for sowing and speaking hate and division? Or do they not recognize black people as their brothers and sisters in Christ?
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to destruction.” is sometimes used to justify/excuse the actions of people. They just don’t know better. Victims are told to love everyone and not let evil overcome good. The perpetrators aren’t getting told anything. I was always taught that the word of God convicts you in your heart of wrong doing. You are compelled to change or go crazy rebelling. Yet when it comes to racism, race relations and indifference toward people of color and their experiences, white folks aren’t hearing the word that would convict their hearts, allow them to have compassion and possibly lead to repentance around their actions. People and organizations can shed light on racism, show it’s effects, and pass laws, but you can’t legislate someone’s heart and mind. People have to have their own epiphany, their own “Come to Jesus” moment. In failing to address this, the church is failing us.
The Church is not supposed to look like “the world”. It is supposed to stand on biblical principles, regardless of what the mainstream way of thinking happens to be at the moment. Sadly, the world has a lot more influence in the church than it should have. How else do you explain something like what happened in Mississippi? Members of a majority white church opposed having a black couple wed there. Not an interracial couple, which caused church controversy before, even though there is no biblical basis to oppose it – this was a basic black couple. So instead of the pastor telling them all to kiss his backside and the backsides of all the saints throughout all the ages, he gave in and officiated over the wedding elsewhere in order to save his job. Now maybe they don’t make pastors the way they used to, but as I was taught the word of God is the same yesterday, today and forever, I thought that Galatians 1:10 still applied: For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Guess I was wrong.
Some may say there is no issue because they attend where there is a multicultural congregation, or because some whites/non-blacks may be willing to “sit under” a black pastor, such as TD Jakes, Fred Price Sr., or whomever it is that is well respected locally. That is inconsequential. Aside from the wedding example given above (of which the couple was probably unaware of the attitudes held in the hearts of their fellow church-goers until they were refused a place for their ceremony), for one, black people have always been willing to take religious instruction from a white pastor. Secondly, when you have someone with the reach of Jakes or Price, or one who has amassed a certain amount of respect, they are seen as the exception to the rule of whatever negative image is held for black people in general. Believing there is not an issue simply because there are black people in the congregation, or white people receiving instruction from a black pastor, is akin to situations where someone says something racially insensitive and seeks to rationalize it as not being an issue because they have “black friends” or friends of whatever race they just insulted.
When ever something blows up in “the world”, I go visit Christianforums.com to see what the Christian view point is regarding politics or current events. I’m almost always saddened by what I read there. I made a recent trip over there to see what the commentary was around Ferguson. There are always opposing voices on both sides of an issue, and they have trolls just like every other forum, but to see someone, seemingly intelligent, argue as to why we (black people) should be feared (we are huge, violent, and own the sucker punch apparently) is disturbing to say the least. I don’t think they are “bad” people, necessarily, but I wonder how much exposure to black people these posters have had in their day to day lives. Perhaps they are one of the many who can live their lives and barely come in contact with black people, aside from what they see on TV. If so, maybe they are not hearing sermons about brotherly love in a racial context, because no black peers = no problem. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.
Regardless, it’s unsettling to see some of the mindset that Mike Brown couldn’t have been redeemed. Forgiveness and redemption are throughout the bible. Forgiveness is not just a get out of
jail hell free card when we have wronged someone. We are taught to forgive, as we have been forgiven by Christ. So it strikes me as odd that while Paul persecuted and killed Christians, and was worthy to go on and be a leader in the early church, Mike brown stole some cigars and is only worthy and deserving of the 6 shots he received, even if the officer in the situation wasn’t aware of it at the time. This is not to cast dispersion on ChristianForums.com, it’s a good place overall. I’ve asked for and received prayer there, and submitted questions to the ask a Chaplin section, and received very helpful replies. Also, as I said there is opposing views to balance out what I consider “the bad”. It just bothers me that (some) people who are my brothers and sisters in Christ (according to the bible, if not in their own minds) truly believe black people are superhuman, bullet proof, rowdy, violent machines and everyone should fear us coming for your wallets and your daughters at knife point.
In light of all this, I’d like to see an effort on behalf of pastors who have a national and international audience address these issues. Reprimand the members who would other wise look down upon and separate themselves from or even seek to harm or discriminate against other members who are all of the same Body. Get us to stop cutting ourselves, and doing harm to the body of Christ. I’d like them to tell the youth why the church is not outdated, and black youth specifically why it still applies to them. (A word of warning: Young people have a BS detector that is unmatched in this universe. They know when someone is being real, when someone is speaking on what they truly believe, and when someone is just spewing talking points because it is what they are expected to say. They are also highly observant when it comes to disparities in how they and others around them are treated, and will write someone off with the quickness who is being less than genuine.)
Now, I may come off sounding as ignorant as those who question “Where is the outrage about black on black crime?” Who assume because they haven’t seen it, there is none. (Though that is a separate, made up issue, the existence of such crime does not justify or nullify the existence of brutality at the hands of official police authority). Perhaps there had been an effort to discuss race, and I just haven’t seen it. I am not as avid a watcher of television ministries as I have been in the past, and it’s quite possible I missed it. I don’t recall anyone speaking out on race since Fred Price, and even he said he got flack and lost relationships over it. So if you have seen such a sermon, or your pastor has had such discussion please share, as I’d like my hope renewed. My faith in God is absolute. His servants? Not so much.
Comments about Ferguson made by clergy I have seen so far:
TD Jakes daughter, Sarah:
I thought I had seen a video response posted of Fred Price Jr. speaking on Ferguson. I was planning to watch it later, but I am unable to find it, and searching turned up nothing.
I came across this just as I was going to post this blog piece. He gets it, I think:
Scripture references used:
Galatians 6:9 Matthew 5:39 Isaiah 63:9 Jeremiah 29:11 Galatians 3:28 1 John 4:20-21
John 13:34-35 1 John 2:9-11 1 John 3:15 Galatians 6:7 Luke 6:45 Matthew 12:34
Proverbs 14:12 Romans 12:21 Hebrews 4:12 Galatians 1:10