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 →
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;
Not a day goes by that I don’t open up social media to find some kind of spurious rebuttal of concerns about CRT, labeling it as a boogeyman conjured up with hysteria by people who really don’t want to address racism in this country. And yet, stepping back from the battle over CRT, which in my opinion, has turned into a battle over words that obfuscate the real issues about the ideas in play, even the casual observer has to see that something has fundamentally changed about the way race is not only being addressed but also the way racism is being perceived. In the past 5-6 years, we have drastically shifted from a desire to mitigate racism through fair treatment of individuals to making everything about race that actually works against the desired goals of the long struggle for civil rights.
To quibble over words and technical definitions of CRT severely undermines what has been taking place with the social justice paradigm over the past few years. Whatever you want to call it, real people are being swept up in this ideology and regurgitating its doctrine that unfortunately is even impacting the church and relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ. On that note, please consider this post from guest contributor Kevin Briggins that he originally posted on his Facebook page. I think it really spells out why so many people are raising concerns and why I wanted to host it here. It’s a bit longer than my usual posts but definitely worth the read.
By Kevin Briggins, Guest Contributor
It has been brought to my attention that I haven’t been very clear on my engagements on race and culture. Some have said my engagements have been one sided, so I feel the need to clarify some things and to paint a broader picture of my engagements on race.
The 2016 presidential election was a major turning point in the life of our church in Augusta. This coincided with our church moving from a suburban setting to an inner-city setting in late 2015. This change in setting put us in closer proximity to poverty and with the reality of true historical racial division. The church we merged with was a dying church that had become the victim of “white flight” and unfortunately had not engaged the new community around it. This was something we desired to change as we didn’t want to be a church that drove into the inner-city for Sunday services and then drove back out with no community engagement, which is the practice of many predominantly black and white inner-city churches. We had several church members and pastors move into the community and we were also thinking of ways to engage the community. At the time our church was predominantly white and middle class with a mixture of black, Hispanic, and Asian families. We were also a Reformed (non-traditional) Southern Baptist church. I’m saying all of this to lay the context for what begin to happen in 2016. Continue reading →
Let me say right out the gate that this post is not a slam on boldness. I think in our present cultural moment there is a need to be bold and stand on Christian truth. There are cultural pressures at work that seek to undermine the fabric of Christianity and an increased hostility towards an historical witness of the Christian faith.
In recent years, I’ve observed how positions on issues are more determined by what is felt, particularly with a group identity at stake, than what actually is, especially when you have Christian doctrine and ethical applications at stake. People, even Christians, are being swayed by the mood of arguments, over objective reality. It can be hard to speak into this paradigm but necessary nonetheless.
Scripture calls us to speak truth in love. That means we should be willing to say what needs to be said in the face of opposition particularly when we believe an erosion of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy is at stake. We should be willing to defend the faith against people and ideas that oppose it. Continue reading →
I want to briefly sketch out a few thoughts I had as I observe the tensions related to the schisms in the church today over addressing issues of race and justice. This actually started off as a Facebook post but as I kept typing, I thought it would be better served as a blog post. It’s not meant to be exhaustive and know that what I’m about to write can be expanded on. But I just wanted to address this common charge that I see quite often in the woke/anti-woke wars (for lack of a better term). And its this: those Christians aren’t upholding Scripture and undermining its authority. Honestly, I see it on both sides.
Well it is true that some can be ignoring Scripture and disregarding its authority, I’m referring to the vast number of Christians in relatively orthodox spaces that preach the gospel, uphold scriptural authority, and believe the church is Jesus’ bride to accomplish his purposes. Based on some extended observation, I don’t think the problem is so much that people aren’t relying on Scripture or upholding its authority. Rather, it’s how the framework of Scripture is being interpreted and applied to present day circumstances with varying understandings of sola scriptura. Everyone who professes Christ and scriptural authority are coming to vastly different conclusions. Why is that?
The more conservative/fundamentalists tends to draw harder lines between the historical context of the Bible and present day issues. They are more likely to separate its application from academic disciplines related to life. On the extreme end, the fundamentalist sees no room for any thought outside of Scripture to have relevance to the Christian faith. When led by a resistance to worldliness for the sake of Christian faithfulness, they may be prone to divorcing faith and works as James commends in his epistle.