Brothers In Conversation About Race (Part 8)

Religion is a space where the boundaries of God are fortified through tension and reified through reformation. It avails itself to a strong critique while offering solutions that are filled with active love. Oftentimes, this is not the picture that is painted by the Christian church. Walter, in part 7, introduced the notion of a space where Black people are given the freedom to be, inextricably, themselves. One of the few spaces where black people can relive their liberation is the black church. The black church has provided black folks with a liberating space where their visibility and presence is honored. Racism loses its power within the midst of this fictive kinship.

Racism is a retardant that hinders sound judgement from processing. The oppress are influenced to look past their oppression and reinterpret it as security, instead of seeking freedom. Racism discourages freedom because freedom fuels intellect. Consequently, it is hard to keep intelligent people oppressed. No longer can the plight of white power and white privilege be held as doctrines of a constructed god, who dehumanizes and beguiles black people into believing that oppression is acceptable and godly. When the oppressed start to rebel against the oppressor, their words against oppression are labeled as radicalized hatred.  James Baldwin declares this is when

“white power is broken.”

Baldwin also proclaims that when this white power is broken:

“an English man can’t tell an African what it means to be African and he believes it; a white man can’t tell a negro what it means to be a negro and he believes it, anymore.”

The black church has been the space where our humanity is unquestionable. It has been the sacred site of resistance where beauty emerges in spite of pain and trauma. The black church, constantly reconstructing herself as the avant-guard against this constructed, neo-liberal god that sanctions racism. The black church is a complex institution, constantly on the front-lines fighting against racism. It is a creative space where black genius reclaims the identity of Jesus. A Jesus that racism refuses to accept or serve.

Prophetic Urges from Orlando: Part 2

I am Nicholas Wright. I am a heterosexual male, single with no children. I am a black male who grew up in a traditional rural Baptist church. I grew up in Darlington, SC. I was raised in a single parent home, where my father was non-existence, but the community around me stepped in to make sure there was a sure foundation. I understand that the world is controlled by whites and know that in some circles I am seen as an object and not an equal person. I have fought to obtain a master’s degree, but I know that means nothing in some minds. I was raised to love everybody, but those of other faiths, or sexual preferences, but the scales have fallen from my eyes.

Sitting on the anniversary of the massacre of the Emmanuel 9, and peeping over my shoulders,while staring and thinking about the mass murders of my brothers and sisters in Club Pulse four days ago: I am still in utter pain and disbelief that malicious acts such as these are still accruing in 2016. It is all the more heartbreaking that there are some who feel and use the platform of faith, to believe and promote the acceptance of the acts of these mass murders to grasp the attention of those of faith. I cannot explain the amount of ignorance it takes for one to believe that God would promote God’s message through a malicious genocide of a beloved people, –regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation or creed. It is time out for playing god –judging those who so call sin differently than you, and start loving everybody as Christ has loved you.

I understand that the church catholic (the whole church) has been struggling and/or blatantly ignoring dialog with the LGBTQIA community, in order to understand and develop faith fellowship. While the church sits on the sidelines picking and pointing, the LGBTQIA community has taken the mantel of “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34) and taken it to a new level.  My life has been transformed by this community. I have seen a true love and worship for God that I have never witnessed from people who claim to be Christians. It is interesting to me that the LGBTQIA community has a burning desire for Christ, while those who are said to represent Christ are trying to oppress and transform them. Who is the true example of Christ?

How many places of worship addressed the attack in Orlando, FL? I am sure there where many churchgoers who wondered like me, why haven’t anyone said anything about this tragedy. What in the hell do we go to church for anymore? This is a question to all bodies of Christ across the world. Do we go just to say we have been, or do we go to actively engage in the matters of the world? It is so easy for everyone to say pray for this, or pray for that, but what happened to our call to be hands here on earth. I am tired of praying and nothing is happening. It is easy to pray because it does not call for us to be engaged with people or out in the struggle, but what good is prayer without human action. It is good to offer your prayers alongside your action. So we are left wondering, what are we called to do during this time? Will we continue to be The Church constantly sleeping during prayer, or an active agent of God here on earth?

Racism and Christianity

The constant rehearsing of the trauma of racism has placed an indelible chasm in the soul of black folks. As we wrestle to understand and try to reconcile how other Christians can stand around as such heinous crimes were/are being done to black and brown folks. How can Christians care so little about the poor and alienated while condoning the evil rhetoric of a Donald Trump? Yes, I applaud Donald Trump for at least being honest about his politics but he is an evil man. How do Christians even justify that black and brown lives are not vehemently abused by society? If you call yourself a believer in Jesus and live out the tenants of the Christian faith, how do you reconcile with such evil?

Racism kills the very essence of love and confines perspectives; there is no growth or progression. You can’t say you’re not racist but sit idly by and not combat racism. You can’t say you’re not racist and think that it is ok to allow poor education and poor healthcare to ravage through black and brown communities.

Racism sucks the life out of organization. It demeans in order to tear down. There is no redeemable quality within racism. Racisms presents a subtle approach but it comes with obvious and intentional outcomes –keep black and brown people poverty. There is nothing accidental about racism. It is an intentional weapon used when the majority finds its status sleeping away.

The mere thought of racial reconciliation is laughable at best. What exactly would this reconciliation mean? Here the words of James Cone,

Reconciliation does not transcend color, thus making us all white. The problem of values is not that white people need to instill values in the ghetto; but white society itself needs values so that it will no longer need a ghetto. Black values did not create a ghetto; white values did. Therefore God’s Word of reconciliation makes us all black. Through this radical change, we become identified totally with the suffering of the black masses. It is this fact that makes all white churches anti-Christian churches in their essence. To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people.

Now these words can be easily misconstrued if read through the eyes of racism. But Cone is very simply stating that God is on the side of the” least of these.” Black is not a color but a place where “your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are.” To be Christian is to know what the underside looks like and to feel the pain of the margins. Reconciliation is not just a pathological response of forgiveness but it is a deep intrinsic reframing of one’s authentic God-self.

 I love the words that introduce Dr. Yolanda Pierce’s website,

“I am not interested in most conversations about equality. To whom would you like to be equal, given a broken and morally bankrupt system? Do you want to be equal to the persons, forces, and systems which generate the very terms of your oppression?  I am, however, interested in the weightier matters of law: justice and freedom.  How can we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?”

These words echo the sentiments of a generation that’s been disproportionately jailed, harassed, overlooked and abused for the sheer nature of their skin. Honestly, the system is not broken, it is working exactly how it was programed to work. When corrupt people build a system, you can rest assured that the system is corrupt. America was established through corruption, theft and racism and those sins continue to wreak havoc on all people locked “in these yet to be united states.” Maybe KRS-One was right when he rapped,

“There can never be justice on stolen land.”

There is no simple strategy or words that can make things better overnight. But a collective sorry that is entrenched in justice is a good place to start.

“How can we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?- Pierce

Oil & Water: Developing a Multi-Racial Church

First appeared on The Malphurs Group

Growing up in the south, you learn quickly how racism impacts every facet of life.

One story that sticks in my mind is one about two teenagers. (I have heard this story told many times from two different perspectives, but the outcome is still the same.) There are two sets of parents, from two different racial groups (black and white) with their respective sons/daughters who are in an interracial relationship. The parents take some oil and water, then place them in a clear jug and tell them to look intensely – the oil and water do not mix.

It is possible that this very concept has latched onto the church and replaced the very essence of fellowship. There is a lot of talk about multi-racial churches, but the actual completion of that appears to be a task that many leaders refuse to engage.

I have shared 5 thoughts that I feel are valuable to developing a multi-racial church:

1.  Indigenous Representation
There is always a need to “resemble what you are trying to assemble.” If you are trying to develop a multi-racial church, then your leadership should have that very same element represented within its ranks. There should be leaders that have a familiarity with the context that your church represents.

Dr. Aubrey Malphurs writes in Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century: “The church will not reach everybody but will initially attract those who are culturally similar to the people who make up the core group.”

2. Dedicated Dialogue within a Safe Space
Leaders must be willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations that get at the crux of the issue. They must be willing to live on the edge of being insulted without taking it personal. A concerted effort to exegete truth within a safe space about racial and cultural differences is an impetus for change. Once “safe space” is identified, it becomes the door for real conversation about real topics. The importance of dialogue unpacks the very things that have the potential to hinder growth and progress.

3. The Mirror Complex
Leadership must be willing to be the first people to examine their own perspectives about racial and cultural differences. They must be willing to own up to their own biases and be ready to deal with it in a very open manner. They must live their lives in a state of constant personal reflection and formation-being serious, intentional and honest about what they think as it relates to racial and cultural differences.

4. Adaptability
The need to adapt to new styles must always be at the forefront of churches. As new people connect with the church, their perspectives must be taken seriously as integral parts of the fellowship. It may necessitate making a difference in worship and preaching styles. It may cause the church to get outside of its four walls for effective change. Leaders must be willing to wrestle through scriptural differences without causing too much conflict. (This may not be a doctrinal issue, but one of cultural perspectives. See Ephesians 6:5.)

5. Fresh Perspectives of Koinonia
Pastor Doug Logan synonymously connects koinonia with investment. This connection symbolizes a companionship that at any time can become one-sided. When building a multi-racial church, the importance of trust looms large with all parties involved. At times, it may appear and could possibly be true that one group gives more than the other; therein beholds the beauty of kiononia (fellowship). If there is a true investment in the lives of others, then clarity of purpose (providing a service) will supersede personal recognition/repayment. The ultimate goal is to find some common ground upon which to connect.

Oil and water may never mix but they are extremely capable of adapting to any container (situation) they are placed within. The church can learn a lot from such a concept…

What have you found helpful in developing a multi-cultural church?