Dark Stripes

See the Stripes Poem

This poem was written and produced a year ago. It’s about Clemson University’s dark and striped past, in its link with the brutal institution of slavery.

I’m sure that people will react on all parts of the spectrum. Some will embrace the words too much and resist a hope that can only be found in the gospel, and some will oppose this poem too much and resist a chance at gospel-centered reconciliation.

Take a few minutes to watch and listen to See the Stripes by A.D. Carson:

Here’s a snippet that stands out to me:

“for some reason or another—
it’s uncomfortable for some people to talk about
slave owners, supremacists and segregationists on those terms,”

You can read the full poem here.

What’s the call-to-action? I think it’s about acknowledging the facts and having others-centered conversations. Too often, we (and I’m pointing at myself, too) want to assert our feelings and opinions and facts, and insist on being heard first.

As I tell kids at in our programs, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, because He wants us to listen more than talk.”

Let’s be open to loving dialogue.

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Colossians 4:6

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29

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Confederate Flag Controversy: What’s Your Worldview and Identity?

confed_flag SC_Statehouse getty miaden_antonovA few weeks ago, I had to apologize to someone in my church. This wasn’t an insignificant apology, like, “I’m sorry I forgot our appointment.” This was an issue when I deeply wounded someone in the body of Christ.

A whole bunch of thoughts were going through my head, as I walked into this mediated apology session:

  • Through my pride, I hurt someone who God cares about deeply.
  • I didn’t deserve forgiveness, but I needed to ask for it.
  • I sinned against this person, against others who were involved, and against God (Psalm 51:4)
  • God values peace, and I needed to do everything I could to make that happen.

But one thing I wasn’t thinking: I never thought that I could walk into this meeting and demand forgiveness. I wanted reconciliation, but I would have understood if this person wasn’t ready to give it to me. (Thankfully, they were a lot more gracious that I would have been, and I was forgiven immediately.)

Even though God commands us to forgive each other, just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), I couldn’t insist on being forgiven. Forgiving is a choice of one who has been offended.

The Question at Hand

I am writing this blog post to my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially my white southern friends. Other people are invited to read this post, but I don’t think you’ll fully grasp where we are coming from. (Truth be told, I don’t fully understand these complex issues, but I’m working on it.)

Shortly after a recent racism-motivated massacre in Charleston, SC, many people were calling (once again) for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in Columbia. Others said that people were using this tragedy for political reasons, and it was not the right time to bring this issue up. (But exactly when is a good time to discuss this? It’s been an issue for at least 20 years. Thankfully, Governor Nikki Haley has bravely called on the SC Legislature to remove the flag from the Capitol grounds.)

So, this is the issue: Should Christians support the removal of the Confederate Flag from our State House grounds? And if we want to take it further, we can ask: Should Christians freely display this flag?

Click here to keep reading…

My Boys

Teens Greenville Trip 14May
Remember this reunion?

I miss my boys.

No, I don’t mean my sons. I mean the guys I was blessed to coach in Allendale. And I especially mean a handful of them who became particularly dear to my family.

Any coach or teacher knows that you ought not to have “favorites.” But it’s hard to avoid this.

We’ve had a dozen or more guys over to dinner. (Not at the same time. Good Lord. It was all we could do to prepare enough food for 3 or 4 at a time.) Some of them helped us with summer camps and spring break camps. I did a book study with four.

They played with my own kids — chess, Lego, Wii, soccer, baseball, whatever. (Hint: You ever want to win a parent’s heart? Love on his kids.)

And despite us looking nothing alike and having little in common, I treated them like my own kids. I was demanding (often) and sensitive (occasionally). I gave them practical advice, which sometimes sunk through their stubborn teenage skulls.

We laughed with each other, and we yelled at each other. I let them borrow my car, even after one of them wrecked his sister’s car.

I guess I’m thinking about “my boys” because a couple of guys (whom we were very close to) just graduated high school. A few them finished their freshman year in college. And a few are still in high school, and are getting ramped up for summer workouts.

For only having known them a few years, I’m amazed how much I think about them. I’m sure I’ll lose contact with most of them over the years.

That’s OK. They’ll always be “my boys.”

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The Injustice of Prison and Slavery

book letters_incarcerated_brother amazonUpon a recommendation from a friend at Allendale Correctional Institute (he is a “resident,” the term they prefer over “inmate”), I bought a copy of Letters to an Incarcerated Brother by Hill Harper. This book would have made little sense outside of my experience working with guys at that state prison.

Even as it is, I still do not fully understand what it’s like to be in prison (and I hope to keep it that way!). Therefore, most of this book challenged my thinking. And that’s a good thing.

But there were also plenty of parts that were easier to understand, even while giving me new insight. This includes when the author makes a connection between historical slavery and the modern prison system.

The Slavery of Prison

In Chapter 8, Harper is reflecting on a statement made by a counselor in a state prison, “I tell all my students who become repeaters, ‘You’re volunteering for slavery.’”

Captivated? Click here to learn more…

What’s the Difference Between Race and Ethnicity?

We talk a lot about racial reconciliation. (Correction: I talk a lot about race and racial reconciliation (here and here and here, for starters. You may or may not.)

But we can do better than talking about race. We can be more thorough, and more Biblical, if we use the term ethnicity.

Grouping people into “races” began only a couple of hundred years ago, and has a limited number of categories (anywhere from 4-10, depending on who you ask). But ethnicity or people groups (ethnos, in the Bible) has many more categories.

For example, black Haitians and black Bahamians together live on some islands in the Caribbean. Most of us would look at them and label them as “black.” However, their ethnic cultures are very different and divided. Division between Haitians and Bahamians (or Israelis and Palestinians) is much bigger than that between middle class “whites” and middle class “blacks” in Greenville, SC.

Similarly, there is a very different ethnic culture for a white middle class family in the south compared to a white family who lives in deep Appalachia. Lumping them together into one group dramatically minimizes the cultural differences.

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of ethnic groups in the world. And when you think of that diversity, it makes the gospel and heaven more beautiful. Because now we are not talking about 5 or 10 “races” of people all worshiping God. We are talking about a thousand groups of people who all worship the same God.

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”  (Revelation 5:9-10)

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”  (Revelation 7:9)

Using the terms “races” and “racial reconciliation” minimizes what God is doing and will do, in bringing us to unity.

Or am I making a big deal out of nothing? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the use of the terms “race” and “ethnicity.”

**image courtesy of Dave Meier via Picography

Prosperity Gospel vs Racial Reconciliation

airplane how-the-prosperity-gospel-hurts-racial-reconciliation desiring_god

Russell Moore is spot-on, in How the Prosperity Gospel Hurts Racial Reconciliation:

The prosperity gospel targets the most vulnerable in any society, whether urban or rural, black or white. As it does so, it offers a simplistic path to upper mobility through “claiming” God’s promises for health and wealth or through planting “seed” money, usually in the ministry of one of the prosperity preachers. . . .

The primary harm the prosperity gospel does to racial reconciliation, though, is that it is not the gospel. . . .

The prosperity gospel teaches us to seek God’s blessing outside of the covenant fulfillment in Christ, and to hope not for the reconciliation of heaven and earth in him but instead to aspire to whatever Western culture deems as success. This is not gospel; this is witchcraft. And, as such, it cannot bring about reconciliation. You cannot reconcile people across carnal divisions with a gospel based on carnal promises.

These are the negative aspects of the false teaching of the prosperity gospel. Be sure to read the full article to see how the true gospel drives us towards racial reconciliation.

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Racial Reconciliation: 2 Videos + 4 Articles

From Lecrae (via Desiring God):  Engaging Race Face to Face

Lecrae makes the case that a conversation with tension will be healthy and beneficial, but the church is scared to go there.

And check out this video from Leonce Crump (via Verge Network): A Biblical Vision for Racial Reconciliation.

“Is not the mission of God to see people not only reconciled to God, but also diverse groups reconciled to each other?”

More Reading

5 Crucial Ways the Church Can Pursue Racial Reconciliation (Alex Dean). We need to think about this issue from a global, local, and personal level.

Racial Justice and the Gospel (Russell Moore). “Jim Crow is put to flight ultimately because Jesus Christ steps forward out of history and announces, with us, “I Am a Man.””

Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and Southern White Evangelicals (Justin Taylor). A panel of historians answers the questions of how much white evangelicals helped (or hindered) the Civil Rights movement.

You Don’t Have to Say ‘Yo’ Around Me (Trillia Newbell). “To see reconciliation and progress in our nation, communities, and churches, we must recognize that racial bias is indeed a possibility for each and every one of us.” Good words from an author whose book has shaken me.