There has been a lot of mention of freedom in recent years. There are those who tout the concept in relation to liberation of black people as if the shackles of slavery and Jim Crow still pull weight on the flourishing of black and brown people. They’ll speak of the persistent oppression that must be exorcised and prescribe remedies for this to happen: equitable policies, reparations, just policing, etc. They will conclude this is a freedom worth fighting for.
Then there is the freedom granted to us Americans in our Constitution, particular the freedom of Christian expression and to live in a pluralistic society without encumbrances to Christianity. Some will even argue that this freedom was packaged in our Christian founding as a nation and we shouldn’t relent to preserve it under the rubric of promoting a moral and just society. They will conclude this a freedom worth fighting for.
And while there can be merit (not to mention some challenges) in each of these “freedom” fights, I am struck by the freedom spoken of in Scripture, particularly in the book of Galatians.
It is for freedom that Christ set you free…(Gal. 5:1)
We would do a disservice to this simple passage by imposing the above categories as if Paul is making room for our contemporary concerns. Rather, his statement must be considered in the context of what he is addressing in this book. And I think it’s pretty important in light of these temporal areas that seem to get so much attention today. Because, if we’re not careful, we’ll allow the the freedom that referenced here rises far above. Continue reading →
I haven’t written an end of year reflection in a couple of years. But was we approach the new year in just a matter of hours, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts and also some personal updates.
The last time I wrote a reflection was the end of 2020, months into a pandemic and increasing divisive heat. At that time, here was an observation;
If there is one thing I can say about this year, it’s been one of exposure of hearts and where our loyalties really lie. I say this primarily of the Christian whose first loyalty should be to Christ and his kingdom with loose commitments to the social and political factions of this age. But this year with all that’s happened–from COVID, more police shootings of unarmed black people, lockdowns, and a bizarre election cycle–has pulled back whatever veneer resided over socio-political orientations we tried to mask with our Christian presentation. Not to mention the tensions that have ramped up in the church over the issue of Critical Race Theory that has created more divisions. That’s why I say it’s the year that got us. It exposed us. It showed what we truly valued. We can no longer hide.
Since this time, I have observed that exposure has provoked more of a camp settling and less persuasion efforts on why so and so or such a such position is wrong. What do I mean by that? It seems that people, professing Christians in particular, have resigned to their perspective camps. There is less persuasion with an interest towards Christian unity and more of a huddling together around respective socio-political agendas. And that goes for issues on the left AND the right. And while that may make for some superficial peace, I’m not sure it’s a good thing. Continue reading →
While scrolling through Twitter yesterday, I got wind of the kerfuffle in Los Angeles where City Council president, Nury Martinez, was caught on tape in a private meeting where she and her colleagues used racial slurs towards the black son of a fellow council member. She apparently felt comfortable in the presence of her colleagues to say what she really thought. You can read more about that here (pardon some language). Update: the context was a meeting about redistricting that would diminish the voting power of black residents, according to this article. I understand she has now resigned as president of City Council but still remains on.
To be honest, it really didn’t surprise me. My family moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in 1969 when I was 5. Growing up in that area (predominantly Inglewood), I observed a lot of tensions between Blacks and Latinos. Stereotypes, segregation of the two groups, and even hostility was not that uncommon. I moved to Boston 1n 1994, just a few years into the start of my professional career. So I really wasn’t that aware of the inner workings of city infrastructure, particularly among social or political coalitions. But from what I witnessed as a teenager and young adult, I can imagine how these kind of attitudes would spill over into the social and political infrastructure of the city. I would have thought that dynamic would have changed by now but maybe not.
In fact, observing some threads on Twitter from those with more first hand knowledge of the dynamics there, I saw allegations of power structures among Latinos who were in positions to orchestrate elevating their group and creating barriers for others, namely Blacks. How much this is true, I cannot say. But the charges obviously resonated with several people who believed that Latinos who held the purse strings, so to speak, made it difficult for other groups. Again, I’m just observing the charges made, not affirming them. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →