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 →
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 →
I’ll be honest right from the start, I’m growing weary of hearing about Critical Race Theory and the debates swirling around it. I think far too much time is spent on either debunking or supporting it. In my honest opinion, it is jeopardizing our focus on Christ and kingdom matters in the manner prescribed in Scripture. From what I’ve observed, the arguments are rife with lazy and uncharitable assessments that have pit members of the family of God against each other. This also has made it harder for pastors who are striving to be faithful and navigate through issues of race and justice from a biblical perspective. I’d really not even write about it any further especially since so much ink is being spilled already.
However, there is one argument that keeps emerging that I feel compelled to address because I think it is a generalized and unfair allegation that misses the mark on why many Christians are opposing CRT. It’s simply this: those who claim that CRT has some compatibility with Christianity or at least can be used as a tool to diagnose the problem of racial stratification, tend to repudiate any claims of opposition as an endorsement of white supremacy. Why? Because the idea of CRT is to address white supremacy that has had its tentacles wrapped in the warp and woof of American society (I’ll expound on this in a minute). So it was no surprise to me when six SBC seminaries released as statement clarifying their position against CRT, that it was immediately met with charges of perpetuating white supremacy with pastors actually leaving the SBC over it.
Now in fairness, I do think that some of the opposition against CRT is based on strained and superficial arguments from those who see addressing any issues of race and justice as a deviation from the gospel. For this group, the SBC statement only adds further fuel to this opposition. I do think it makes it easier to dismiss raising any concerns related to race and justice. And we should be honest that a sub-group actually do want to maintain some sense of racial superiority and use opposition to CRT as a mask to cover it up.
But that is not the entirety of opposition. From my own perspective based on some extensive observation and interactions, I believe the lion’s share of criticism comes from Christians who strive to be faithful to Scripture and believe that addressing issues of race and justice should be sifted through its lens. These are ones who would not be quick to sweep racism under the rug and are honest about the travesty of our historical record. But they also see the how the framework of CRT produces fruit that is at odds with Christian practice according to Scripture, and in some cases can be a deviation from the gospel. God has provided the means by which we can analyze and address the underlying sins of race and injustice and CRT is seen as incompatible. I am one of those people.
You may be thinking from the title that this is going to be one of those posts that bashes white evangelicalism. After all, there has been a plethora of pieces over the past few years that have done just that. You know the ones. It’s where the author decries how white evangelicalism doesn’t really model the Christ in Scripture, isn’t accommodating to people of color, and wraps itself in a blanket of Americanism. Well I suppose if that is the description of a congregation and its worship services, then it makes sense to want to leave. Our churches are to model the other worldly kingdom with Christ enthroned and everyone subject to his authority. When we enter a worship service we need to be reminded that we are citizens of another kingdom.
However, I get the sense that the blasts against white evangelicalism have turned into generic diatribes against predominantly white denominations as if they all fit the description of American culturally entrenched gatherings that wave American flags as a symbol of faith and proclaim Republican loyalties as a mark of Christian commitment. I came across this piece in the Jude3 Project blog, The Catch-22 of Theological Decolonization. Cam Triggs cautions that spurning white evangelicalism can also lead to abandoning the faith. It’s a good exhortation but sadly, I found it echoes the same sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly concerning the rejection of white evangelicalism;
First, let me clearly say that we do in fact need to decolonize our faith. We don’t worship white Jesus or bow down at the altar of American exceptionalism. We need Gospel activists and multiethnic mediators proclaiming justice, teaching truth, and defending the faith from the cultural syncretism that so often plagues our churches. In that sense, we must be on guard against ways we have sinfully fused our articulation of Christianity with predominant cultural affinities.
Here is the problem with this exhortation, it presumes that unless a congregation is multiethnic (or at least promoting multiethnicity which I take to mean multi-racial) and speaking against justice (which I presume to mean promoting our present day justice causes from the pulpit), THAT congregation has bowed down at the altar of whiteness especially if the congregation is predominantly white and there may even be Republicans in the mix. This is the congregation I presume worships a white Jesus not that they are actually declaring Jesus is white. Never mind if the fabric of the service itself focuses on Christ with the acknowledgement that he has come for all people’s from every tribe, tongue and nation, that there is truth proclaimed from Scripture with exhortation on what it means to be sojourners in this world, there are commands to love our neighbor, and the faith defended from cultural syncretism.
I recently got into a twitter exchange over the issue of church’s hosting of a racial reconciliation conference, panel discussion, etc. The thrust of the argument was that it puts a focus on the reconciliation according to skin and we should do as Paul says ‘to know no one after the flesh.’ I pushed back on the notion that anytime a church calls for a racial reconciliation, it is a “false gospel.” As typical with Twitter exchanges, I start getting lost in the comments. So I thought I’d sketch out some thoughts I’ve had on this issue in a more cohesive fashion. This is not so much about that exchange but rather examining the broader scope of racial reconciliation efforts in the church, my observations of them, and also to identify some concerns. This is not meant to be anything exhaustive but more like me dumping some thoughts on this topic into a single space.
First let me note that I do heartily endorse the idea that believers should anchor their identities first and foremost in Christ. I believe that our first consideration for dealing with other believers is based on our union in Christ. When you see another person with whom you are united in Christ, the first thought should not be a [______] Christian but a fellow heir, regardless of their race, ethnicity, physical characteristics, or place of origin. We should take serious Gal. 3:28;
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
But of course there are distinctions and we can appreciate them according to how God made us. Are we not male and female and are we not different in that regard? We are not nondescript blobs. We can appreciate the ways in which we bring our ethnicity, heritages and experiences to the table. We also have to recognize when those distinctions have caused and do cause dissension in the body of Christ, especially when dealing with a long-standing one like racial disparities that were not only deeply ingrained in society for hundreds of years but also in our churches. Racial reconciliation is ultimately about reconciling hearts towards one another. Continue reading →