The Little Things: thoughts on race, compliance and subtle discrimination


Black_businessman among whitesI don’t usually write on issues of race and for good reason: it tends to garner heated debate, polarized perspectives and people talking past one another. In “post-racial” America, its tough to talk about issues of oppression and injustice because of all the progress Blacks have made in this country. After all, slavery ended 150 years ago, Jim Crow is over, the “Whites Only” signs have been removed, schools are integrated, and Blacks have risen to prominent stations in society.

Everything seems to be ok until something happens…like Ferguson and now Eric Garner. Then issues of race rise to the surface. Then something happens, I’ve noticed, something subtle yet prominent. There is still an undercurrent of inequality and trickles of suppression in drips of dispositions towards these kinds of incidences.

The premise of racism in America has been built on perception and belief that the Negro was inferior to Whites. It was ok to ship men, women and children like cattle and sell them off like property. For a country that was founded on the premise that all men were created equal, that equality came with a qualification for Blacks as the sub-dominant group. Sure there were free Blacks, but freedom was only free as long as it was granted.

As the dominant group, Whites also wrote the narrative for parameters and progress. Whatever Blacks had, they were allowed to have with the expectation of gratitude towards the giver, especially acute in places of slavery. There was also an firm expectation of compliance.

Go along to get along. Know your place. Lower your eyes. Don’t make waves. The negro dare not rebel or face the consequences. Continue reading

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This is a man’s world: why don’t women just get it together?

man-leading-wifeThis post is not to debate complementarian vs. egalitarian. I have maintained that there are godly men and women who take the authority of Scripture serious and arrive at different conclusions. I also believe that positions on male leadership are really only pertinent to church and home, which is why I think all the brouhaha in public disagreement is often misplaced.

With that said, Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger have come out with a book on how Genesis to revelation portrays God’s design.  In this interview, Dr. Kostenberger makes some good points about the biblical pattern of male headship.

However, I was struck by his response to question if this same paradigm applies outside of the church. His response;

With regard to women in the workplace, we’ve found that a helpful question for couples to consider is: Will the woman, if married, be able to give her best hours and energies to those God has given her to care for in the home and family? This applies to ministry involvement as well. Consider God’s creation design (Gen 1:26–28; 2:18, 20) in conjunction with the primary spheres of ministry given to the woman as highlighted in the judgment she received after the fall, which stands in direct relation to her role in childbearing and with her husband (Gen. 3:16; cf. 1 Tim. 2:15). Consider also the role model of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, who is portrayed as centered in her home and fully supportive of her husband. And note Paul’s references to women being workers at home (Titus 2:5), widows being honored who have been faithful wives, having brought up children and shown hospitality (1 Tim. 5:9–10), and younger widows being encouraged to marry, bear children, and manage their households (1 Tim. 5:14). Women on mission for God together with their husbands will be able to rejoice in all God has for them as they’re centered in the home and ready for all he calls them to do individually. Single women, too, unless called to permanent celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7–8), can prayerfully nurture and prepare for this and incorporate some of this in their extended and church family experience.

Regarding political office, there are no direct commands in Scripture encouraging or barring a woman from leadership roles. Again the question is: Will she be able to fulfill her primary God-given role in the home and family? Could she continue to support her husband’s leadership in the areas to which he has been called and to nurture her family if she were to take public office? This isn’t a question of giftedness or competence but relates to God’s design in making people male and female.

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Jesus’ name is not a magic wand

In the last hurrah of instruction to his disciples, Jesus tells them he is going away but sending the Spirit so that they can bear witness to him. (John 14-16). He told them.

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

Taken by itself, the passage seems to suggest that just by using the name Jesus, he will do whatever. But measured against the breadth of Scripture, and specifically in this pericope, praying in Jesus name relates to what he is instructing the apostles to do in terms of being witnesses. Tim Keller has recently wrote a book on prayer that looks pretty good. In this TGC interview, here is what he says about praying in Jesus’ name;

To pray in Jesus’s name means to acknowledge that we only have access to the Father’s attention and grace through the mediation and work of our Savior. So just using the words “in Jesus’s name” is not sufficient. We use the words to reinforce the required attitudes and motives. To pray “in Jesus’s name” is to come before God in both humility (knowing we don’t deserve God’s help) and confidence (knowing that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and worthiness), as well as grateful joy.

To pray in Jesus’s name, then, is to be aware of the grace of the gospel as the basis of prayer, and to have our attitude in prayer deeply enriched—both humbled and exalted. When we consciously or unconsciously expect God to hear our prayer because of our relative freedom from overt sin or because of our service and moral effort, we are praying in our own name.

Magic-WandI often get the impression that the name of Jesus is used like some kind of magic wand. All one simply does is declare “in Jesus name”, wave it around the target and wait for results. But it doesn’t work like that. Praying the name of Jesus is not an incantation that creates a mystical force that makes things happen. In fact, that is actually anti-Christian (like thinking that our words have power to change circumstances).

To pray in Jesus name represents our ability to come to the Father because of the mediating work that Christ accomplished on our behalf. That means praying in a manner consistent with his character and will in recognition of our union in Christ and what he delights in. Praying in Jesus’ name is an appeal to the Father for him to work according to his will. There’s nothing magical by using the name but there is something quite moving when we allow what the name of Jesus means in terms of our heavenly citizenship.  

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Have You Heard of My Pastor? Why it’s probably good that you haven’t

As the Mark Driscoll drama has unfolded, I continue to reflect on how this has happened and what it says about contemporary evangelicalism. Clearly, his behavior and myriad of charges against him have simmered under the surface for far longer than it should have. Now, that it’s boiled over, one thing is clear – everybody knows who Mark Driscoll is.

rock concert_man on stageIn fact, he was pretty popular even before the eruption . . . For a long time. And people praised and applauded him. They loved the splashes that he made, or more like the tidal waves he caused with machismo brand of Christianity and his (rather stunted) version of the new Reformed movement. And for me, this just further confirms the celebrity factor in evangelicalism.  Just look at how his story was displayed in Vox, Megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was an evangelical rock star.

Yes, a rock star. Famous. Known. Applauded

I believe this was a contributing factor to the longevity of his antics. Over at Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson wrote a pointed but needed commentary, Driscoll Drama: to those who sold tickets. He rightly criticizes other notable evangelical leaders (we may be able to translate that “celebrities”) who not only gave a pass to what should have been obvious disqualifications for pastoral leadership, but actually endorsed it.

Let’s not be fooled. It’s not just the leaders but the fan base in general. Yes, fans. Because that’s what happens with celebrities. It really didn’t matter what was going on in the course of actual pastoral relationships, Driscoll drew a crowd. He got men to come to church. He wrote books (well, kind of). He spoke at conferences and challenged the status quo (or at least what he thought needed to be challenged). And, he had a big church. A really big church. And people praised him.

This is why I cringed when I saw this article on the Blaze, He Survived Brain Cancer and Now Leads a Church of 11,000 – but have you heard of him? No, not Driscoll but Matt Chandler. Now, I am in no ways comparing Driscoll to Chandler. I’ve heard him speak a few times and know people who attend the Village Church where he pastors. He certainly doesn’t have the reputation that has surrounded Driscoll. Continue reading

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We Really Do Need the Same Old Thing

I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. But it does seem to me as I observe the evangelical landscape today, that what is tried and trust and true gets overlooked for the ‘new’. So many in the church today are captivated by newness – new trends, new ideas, new innovations, new buildings, new predictions, new words from God, new movements, etc that the old seems irrelevant. But really its the old that we need – what God did through his Son, how the church has been established, what God has already spoken. This is how we are refreshed, by gathering according to what has already been established, by remembering what God has already said and what he has already done to gather a body of people to himself through the work of the Son. But somehow that gets too boring and we get antsy for something new. Why?

It reminds me of this portion of the Screwtape Letter #25. If you are not familiar with the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, they are instructions to Wormwood on how to frustrate God’s people and get the church off track:

But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the same old thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect my reinforce corruption in the will…The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive and reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions. And they questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make. As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on. And great work has already been done. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and again others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ we have substituted the emotional adjective ‘stagnant’. We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain – not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

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Posted in church life, contemporary castophries, ecclesiology (church), ministry, reflections and musings | 2 Comments