The problem is not about social justice

The past few days, I’ve watched the internet ablaze over this statement on social justice and the gospel. I read the statement and largely agree with many of the points and had trouble with others. My overall take, as I read through it was it seemed to set up a dichotomy where one was either for the gospel or for social justice as if orthodox believers can’t be involved in matters of social justice and still hold to biblical Christianity as historically articulated.

In his response to the statement, Joel McDurmon has expressed my concerns well;

In the name of a “closer examination” of the issues, the document not only offers no real “examination,” but precludes any future discussion on aspects central to the topic. It brings unnecessary division, demagoguing, grandstanding, pigeonholing, and fearmongering—all while neglecting any defined or substantial discussion of some of the actual points of disagreement or denial.

This document is not about issues, even though it uses pointed buzzwords. It is about power and alignment—tribalism. In the name of standing firm for Gospel truth, it works to solidify one group of believers against another group by demonizing the other with broad, undefined labels. The result is something like the following sentiment: “social justice” (undefined) is evil, and either you agree with us (sign the document), or you are dangerous to the church.

The aspect about power is a hefty charge that I’m not sure about. But I wholeheartedly concur that underneath the nebulous buzzwords lies a dividing stake that says either you are with us and for Christ or against us and against him. I’m pretty sure the crafters of this statement were sincere about upholding Christian orthodoxy and wanting to take a stand on factors that, at least in their mind, worked against it. But the the premise of the concern rests in an area in which there is a spectrum of beliefs that all do not work against the church. Continue reading

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More than a Movie

By now, the buzz around Black Panther is pretty evident. Not only has the movie busted the box office wide open by surpassing the $1 billion mark in just a few short weeks of release, but it is creating the same kind of iconic fandom garnered by Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Not being a fan of the Marvel movie genre, at first I was ambivalent to see it. But as word got out, I got the sense that in a way, this would be more than a movie. I have seen it twice so far and loved it!

Now, I do think some folks are going too far and I’m speaking of Christians when I say this. After all, it is just a movie. I’m hearing of sermon and Bible study series being wrapped around Black Panther themes. I’m not sure why we have to do this. But I’m also mindful that Lord of the Rings baptized many a Christian message. For consistency sake, if LOTR was ok for sermon illustrations and such, then Black Panther should be no exception unless of course, the Christian message is being changed to accommodate the movie. That’s a problem!

One of the issues where I believe Christians will find their most strident objections, is the film’s portrayal of ancestral African religion. Yes, I did grunt on these parts. However, to get stuck on this point, robs the film of an overarching messages I believe the film communicates. Make no mistake, those messages are compelling especially in light of our current cultural milieu. Over at Kaleoscope, I wrote about the dueling paradigms at work in the movie that seems to provoke some questions worth asking today. Check it out. Link is here.

To be sure, this was more than a just a movie.

Some more questions and a few thoughts on the church, race and social justice

A while back, I penned some thoughts about questions I had as it relates to issues of race and the church found here. I specifically directed my questions at those who feel like the cause of battling white supremacy takes such precedence that it becomes an overpowering force and actually defeats the purpose of reconciliation. I confess, I was a bit pointed and may even seemed to reject any lingering issues.

To be honest, I did not expect to be writing so much on this topic. I’ve been compelled to write because of concerns that I’ve had regarding the polarization of how issues of race were perceived in such disparate ways that increasingly, many in the church are decrying an urgency in addressing. I suspect that this is partially due to extended weariness and concern that things will never be right.

I want to wrap up some concluding thoughts as I don’t anticipate writing on this topic for awhile. As I’ve indicated recently, I’ve joined forces with a couple of other Christians who like me, are ethnic minorities who want to thoughtfully address these issues with honesty and through a Christ-centered lens at Kaleoscope. We don’t all agree but we do strive to prioritize the gospel above all else.  Please do check it out! Meanwhile, here’s a few more thoughts.

First know that I do not want to be dismissive of concerns, especially where legitimacy still exists. I am reminded on a regular basis that prejudices of all kinds still abound, not just on race.  Sometimes it is in your face, like the alt-right gathering at Charlottesville. But certainly more subtle and subversive can create standards around acceptably that is centered in Anglo culture. Yes, implicit bias does exist whereby a deviation from the standard is deemed to be inferior and even unacceptable according to that norm as this survey highlighted by a New York Times article points out. Surely, this can happen in churches to varying degrees whereby minority perspectives are disregarded and/or dismissed. I personally know of cases where this has happened.

So I do not want to undermine the very real frustrations that people of color can experience in predominantly white environments, especially in our churches. Though I am still left to ask about the collective conscious of “white evangelicalism” that pervades the church such that people of color are harmed. I continue to see the cries for white evangelicals to disrobe their “whiteness” so minority Christians can feel safe and welcome. But what exactly are the expectations in this regard? What exactly is the extent of harm? Continue reading

New site announcement

A couple of months ago, I joined in a newly formed collaborative effort to address issues of Christianity in culture from a multi-ethnic, gospel oriented perspective. Please visit Kaleoscope when you get a chance.  As a collaborative team, we don’t necessarily all agree but we do seek to look at issues through a Christ-centered and scriptural lens.  Here’s are some links to articles I’ve written over there;

God did that! A 500th year reflection on Christ building his church

The devil is in the details: On distractions and causes

On Christianity and Confederate statues

The wisdom of God: a reflection on the life of Daniel Hale Williams

Is the imago Dei and race and misplaced argument? 

There is only one Jesus

In these times of racial tension and political polarization that has engulfed the mood of the church, I increasingly noticed references to Jesus as belonging to a particular affiliation: white Jesus, black Jesus or American Jesus. Typically, it’s to repudiate a cultural appropriation of Jesus that aligns him with particular causes whether it be racial or political and to embrace a Jesus that can speak to our ethnic identity.

Now, I get that cultural captivity is deserving of critique. I understand that when people use these terms it’s more of an indictment of cultural and political impositions on the work and person of Christ that has reduced him to a god of ideological fulfillment.  I do think that legitimate frustration is warranted when Jesus is made into the likeness of particular interests.

However, the problem with repudiating these myopic tendencies with an adjectival Jesus does nothing to really mitigate the problem of a marginalized Jesus. In fact, I think it reduces him further and makes him too small.

There is only one Jesus

There is only one Jesus in whom and through whom creation was made and to whom it all points. He was with God and is God (John 1:1-4; Col 1:15-18)

There is only one Jesus who responded to the Father’s will to call creatures to himself so that God will be their God and they will be his people. (Ex. 7:6; John 10:14-16)

There is only one Jesus who voluntarily left his heavenly abode, became fully human like us to become the obedient sacrifice for us so that all who trust in him would live. This one Jesus removed the most powerful stain of sin on humanity by bearing it on a cross and gives life through his resurrection. (Phil 2:6-8; Col 2:13-15)

There is only one Jesus who said, “Come unto to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” And this rest served as the backbone of survival for too many years, through too many tears of injustice and marginalization. This one Jesus offers hope to the hopeless through trials and pains of this life (Matt. 11:28; Heb. 10:32-35)

There is only one Jesus who is building his church according to the will of the Father that comprises every tongue, tribe and nation, has progressed under his sovereign rule and will continue to forge ahead across the globe. This one Jesus unites his people through his reconciling work by breaking down the walls of division that ethnic hostilities have erected (Eph. 2:13-16; Rev 7:9)

There is only one Jesus who can transform cold and prejudicial hearts and transplant the desire to love even our enemies if we are truly united to him. (John 13:24-35; Phil. 2:13)

There is only one Jesus who not only made the world but overcomes it and promises to one day come and make it right again. He is the anchor in which any reconciliation can be found. (John 16:33)

This one Jesus is bigger than our ethnic alignments and political affiliations. He is bigger than our racial infractions and divides. His work is grander than any scheme concocted to subjugate, malign, segregate despite man’s pitiful efforts to shrink him down to size of our myopic visions.

So instead of pointing to a white Jesus or black Jesus or American Jesus or any other special interest Jesus, let’s point to the one Jesus who has the power and authority to help us out of our tribal mess.