Can we only imagine? on race and ethnicity in the eschaton

Recently, I’ve seen a couple of tweets that have caused me to reflect on how things will be in the New Heavens and New Earth. A while ago, I saw one tweet about black bodies retaining the same in the resurrected state. While I do believe this, it led me to think about how much race and ethnicity will matter in the new heavens and new earth. There is only so much we do know based on what is revealed in Scripture. So I’ll say from the outset that some of what I’m writing here is speculative in nature but bear with me.

My first thought was to wonder how much are we really going to focus on race or skin color? After all, we will be in the presence of the Savior and the sin that produced all kinds of hostilities, suspicions, and disputes will be absent.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw a holy city, new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. We will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:1-4)

It’s not lost on me the impulse behind this focus on melanin composition because of the way it’s been disregarded historically and to some extent in the present. It’s a quest for dignity and I get it, though sometimes think it’s overblown. I honestly don’t think a focus on race or skin color does justice to that quest for dignity, anyway.  I would insist the better, and more scripturally faithful way, to view dignity is based on being made in the image of God than in blackness. As the old saying goes, “God don’t make junk” and he certainly knew what he was doing to create such diverse people with varying melanin compositions. Continue reading

Tribe, tongue and nation means more than race

Anyone who has followed this blog knows I typically write about theological topics and cultural engagement. This is one of those rare posts where I will talk about what I do for a living. For the past three years, I have served as Executive Director of a nonprofit arts and culture organization whose mission is to celebrate ethnic and cultural heritages from around the globe. Our mission is prominently seen in our annual festival in May that brings many different cultures together for performances throughout the day that shows the various art forms from around the globe, including martial arts demonstrations. Dozens of vendor booths are present with cuisine, crafts, and cultural displays. It’s like a “It’s a Small World” festival and one of the largest in this area. There is no preference or prominence of one group over the other. You’ll see displays from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and everywhere in between.

Because our goal is to highlight different cultures, we also have culturally specific events for Lunar New Year and Hispanic Heritage Month. Recently, we added an event for Nowruz (Persian New Year), a significant celebration in Iran and Afghanistan and we’re gearing up for a celebration of African cultures in collaboration with another arts organization later this year. So you can imagine that with our festival and the other events, people and their cultures are identified with a national heritage, i.e., cultural heritages that come from a particular region that has certain customs and cuisines.

I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if we categorized the different groups according to skin color and use the black/white binary or even black, white, or brown people. Of course, it’s easy to speak of Europeans as white or Africans as black. But but what does that mean for the distinct nationalities and their accompanying cultures? How do you distinguish the Italians from the Germans from the Greeks if everyone is just white? And where do the Middle Easterner’s fit into this categorization? And if a person is just black, what does that say about the black person from Ghana vs. the black person from Brazil or the Caribbean who have completely different cultures? The ethnicities would get erased. Continue reading

Beware of the bootleg anointing

This phrase popped up in my head and now I can’t shake it. If you consider what makes something bootleg, it’s a knock off of the original. The bootleg coach purse may look like a real one but it wasn’t produced by the authorized agent. It’s a copy meant to mimic.

Contrary to how I see the term “anointing” use as a kind of special gifting of some Christians, Scripture informs us that anointing simply is in reference to the indwelt Spirit. If one has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, they have the anointing and what I believe John is referencing here;

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you have all knowledge. (1 Jn. 2:20)

Put together, the bootleg anointing is one designed to look like regeneration of the Holy Spirit. It copies the real thing rendering a person immersed into Christianity and Christian activity, reads the Bible, may even teach the Bible, engaged in discipleship, maybe even gone to seminary and pastors. The bootleg anointing will have you faithful to church and engaged with the saints. It truly looks legitimate. Continue reading

Ten years in the PCA: a reflection of sorts

By way of a personal update, anyone who has been following this blog will have noticed that my writing has slowed down quite a bit. That’s not intentional. I just haven’t been able to write as much or the way I’d like to as evidenced by the several unfinished drafts in my draft bin. I think it is largely attributed to my job as executive director of a nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate ethnic heritages from around the globe. I’m also a staff of one so my many hats pulls me in all kinds of different directions as I work to advance the organization’s mission and expanding programming. I may write on that more later. In the meantime, I have kept up podcasting on the Family Discussion podcast that I co-host with the Rev. Marcos Ortega. We just finished our fourth season as we continue the trek through the categories of systematic theology applied to the issues of our day. Season 4 focused on humanity and sin so we had quite a bit to say about gender, human sexuality, and race. We’ll pick that up in season 5 as we move into Christology.  You can check out more that here. But I really do want to get back to writing on a regular basis, if nothing more than just to download some of the processing that goes on in my head as I observe our current landscape.

And so that is what I intend to do here as the 49th General Assembly (GA for short) of the Presbyterian Church in America just concluded this past week. In case you don’t know, this is the annual meeting of commissioners (pastors/elders known as teaching elders or ruling elders) to conduct the affairs of the church. I’ve tuned in to the livestream since 2016 and been on a learning curve ever since. The parliamentary proceedings can get really complex. But in the deliverance of the committee reports and overture debates, you do get a sense of what the church is grappling with and attempting to bring in submission to the obedience of Christ and to be a faithful witness to him.

You also can hear where there are divergent opinions regarding the church’s direction, which has been increasingly heightened in recent years. That is compounded by the blogs, tweets, and posts seen on social media on a regular basis. There have projections of an inevitable church split produced by factional concerns under the rubric of the oft cited phrase “peace and purity of the church.” Despite what some may say, I do believe there is generally a strong commitment to Scripture though the applicational grid may be skewed in different directions. Continue reading

Anti-woke should not mean sleeping on racism

I get the concerns about what has been labelled “wokeness” as the product of secular ideologies that are sweeping the broader culture and infiltrating the church. In my opinion, these ideologies are unmoored from the scriptural witness of how we are to view and value each other. Even as a tool, I do not think CRT and anti-racism premises and methodology take us to a healthy place to actually be reconciled with each other as believers in Christ as the other-cultural entity that are we. In fact, as I wrote about here, they are likely to have the opposite effect and create unwarranted division in the body of Christ.

However, I have another concern some Christians are so adamant about refuting wokeness and CRT that any discussion on race and justice gets dismissed as a product of liberalism and a sign that the koolaid from the broader culture is being imbibed.

The problem is that actual racism does exist where mindsets deem the “white” race as superior even in subtle ways. I’m not saying this is true of white evangelicalism as a whole and I personally have a disdain for those generalized accusations. Nor should we impose the weight of historical injustices on to present circumstances and paint dishonest pictures. But we really aren’t doing Christ’s church any favors by ignoring racism where it actually exists. Unfortunately, anti-CRT campaigns have the tendency to do just that and will give cover to racial partiality because “wokeness” is deemed the real enemy.

In 2020, I learned of a story that happened in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. The story was published in Faithfully Magazine and the link is here. In a nutshell, a couple of families had moved from Idaho where they had been involved in white supremacists organizations. Even though they had come out of this affiliation, they convinced the pastor they left those kind of teachings behind. Apparently not, since the men became elders and began teaching racial superiority precepts in bible studies such as the “black” race doesn’t have the capacity for complex thought. The article is rather lengthy but here is the relevant portion to my point;

Continue reading