Book Tour! Day 7 – Racial Reconciliation

Welcome to my 10 Day Book Tour.  I love to read, and I am often given books to read for review.  Over the last year, I determined that I didn’t want to turn my blog into a book review site.  However, I can’t help that I LOVE books.  I truly do.  They add so much value to my life, because I learn from them and glean new perspectives from the authors who put their hearts to the page.  So, I’ve decided that each quarter, I’m going to do a 10 Day Book Tour.  What have I been reading, what do I honestly think about the book, and to whom I would recommend it.  Each day, for ten days, you will get a peak into my bookshelf.

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I received a copy of The Gospel Life Series- Racial Reconciliation from B&H Publishers for the purpose of reviewing.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is a big topic right now.  Some topics are really hard, complex, uncomfortable, and we may even try to avoid them.

If you want to have a voice in the conversation, you have to be willing to hear some hard truths.  Your eyes have to be open to see what may have been hidden from your life.  Your ears need to be open to hear the experiences of others, that differ from your own.  You also need to be prepared for what is going to come your way.

When you pray for the Lord to break your heart for what breaks His, expect to be deeply broken.  Invest in tissues, because you won’t be able to unsee or unhear.

It was in a recently interview, I heard a Pastor state that he believed that the Lord is bringing this issue forward, that we can no longer ignore it.  Another Pastor said the church needs to be on the front line on this issue, not hiding behind the pews.

The Gospel for Life Series – The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation is a great book to start your journey on this complex topic.  It’s a small book, which means it gets right to the point.  It’s also a collection of voices, with chapters contributed by J. Daniel Hays, Thabiti Anyabwile, Trillia Newbell, Eric Mason, Matthew J. Hall, and D.A. Horton.  There is also a list at the end of the book for additional reading to continue learning.

What I have learned in regard to this discussion, is that first I need to listen.  I need to read.  I need to watch.  I need to lean into those who have experience, not opinions.  I need to feel for those who hurt, not try to justify the how or why things happened.  I need to open my eyes, ears, and heart to what the Lord would say.  This book is certainly a great tool in that process.

We explore what the Bible says from our creation in His image (all of us), what the Lord purposed us for, how the Bible would have us interact with one another, how things went wrong, inter-ethnic marriage, how to get to know those who don’t look like us or come from a different background, how the church should engage, and what does the culture around us say (and how do we respond to that).

In Chapter 4, Pastor Eric Mason states:

“Churches need to recognize that one of the Enemy’s devices is to fight against reconciliation between God’s people (2 Cor. 2:11).”

When we recognize this, we know that we can’t stay silent.  It’s US versus the Enemy.

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Because, It IS Important – #Write31Days

 

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I requested a copy of The Gospel for Life Series:  The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation for review on this blog, from B&H Publishing Group.  I requested it, because this is an important issue.  In the New Year, the Women’s Ministry Council will be discussing this issue in regards to how we build up diversity and unity within our local Women’s Ministries.  I requested this book to help us prepare for this important conversation.

In 2016, the topic of race has been a hot button topic.   Deep generational woulds have been festering as the bandaids put in place are no longer working.  We are faced with truths that things are not that much better, at least not as much as we have convinced ourselves they had gotten.

I’ve listened to men and women recount their stories.  My eyes are opened to realize that something I perceived as a small percentage problem is much greater than that.  I’ve also witnessed people, who I have great respect and love for, say things that shocked me and made me question how well I know the hearts of those I include in my circle of friends.

When put on the spot, it is very interesting how our hearts will often be betrayed by our mouths.  We will say things that reveal who we are on a deeper level.  We also seem to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, and use that excuse to dismiss that there is a real problem.  We accuse the media of creating something, I would challenge the media is simply exposing the festering wound that has been there all along.

As Christians, if we believe that we are all made in the image of God… if we believe the scriptures that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, man or women, servant or master but that we are all ONE… then how can we turn a blind eye to racial injustice in our world?  How can we not demand better for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Lord take these scales from our eyes!  Let us see, truly see, what is happening and compel us to action!

In the book, The Gospel Life Series: The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation, the editors and contributing authors, begin at the beginning.

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The truth is beautiful.  Man and woman created in God’s image.  Not some men, or some women.  All of us.  Crafted in the likeness of our God.  Then man fell and we were distorted, but through Christ the old self died and we were a new creation.  A new creation in God, in His image.  All of us, regardless of the country we come from… the tint to our skin… the sound of our voice… the language we speak… the texture of our hair… the traditions of our culture… the food we eat… etc.   One people, united in the family of God. Sons and daughter of the Most High.

These first chapters explore the biblical truths of who we are, what we were created for, how ethnic and cultural differences were viewed in the scriptures, and how Christ would have us respond.  The latter chapters walk us through our personal response, in how we live out our lives, as well as how the church should respond.  Chapter 5 caps us off by looking at our modern culture and how racism exists today and what we can do about it.

This book is an excellent read, at five chapters it is one you could get through on a weekend.  I would challenge you to pray as you read through this book that the Lord would open your eyes, convict your heart if needed, and guide you to reconciliation when needed.  However, I would also challenge you to share this with your Pastors and ministry leaders.  As the church needs to be willing to stand up, united, to bring it’s family back together.

Opened Eyes

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Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend.  We were discussing racial equality, because any of my friends will tell you … I’m not afraid to talk about deep stuff.  Generally speaking, I prefer to do it in face to face conversations with people who know me.  Why?  Because I know they can see my genuineness vs. written conversations that lack tone, body language, and that personal touch that comes with seeing someone’s face.

I was sharing with her my inability to see that racism and discrimination were still as bad as she claimed they were.  (You most definitely can eye roll at this, Lord knows I am eye rolling myself so hard… I’m going to get a migraine.)    The argument she gave me, at the time, was that I didn’t understand what it was like to be discriminated against.  And I retorted back that I in fact did know.

As a woman, I faced discrimination.  As a professional working woman, I once had a man refer to me as “little girl”.  I couldn’t even count the number of times a man wanted to speak to my manager, only to see his disappointment when he found out my manager was a woman too.  Nor, the number of times this same scenario happened and I was in fact the manager.

Before that, in my youth, I can recall walking into local stores and being looked at suspiciously because of the way I was dressed and the people I was with.  The instant look of distrust, eyes watching us the whole time we were in the shop, just waiting for us to do something wrong.

At the time, I felt like “I get it” and “it’s not exclusive to any race”.    I’ll pause a moment, and let you get a few eye rolls in… and even a few verbal responses too.  I know…I know…

Now, I’m looking at things with a new set of eyes.  Why?  Because there are women who have taken the time to help me understand.  They are willing to have the uncomfortable conversations with me.  THANK YOU, ladies, for being gracious and not smacking me upside the head for my naivety.

These conversations don’t discount the fact that I faced discrimination as a woman.  However, even within those discriminating moments… there was never “hate” because I was a woman.  My male peers and counterparts respected me, my work ethic, and trusted me to do the job I was hired for.  My discrimination came only from those who didn’t know me.  Customers and clients who were interacting with me for the first time.  Even then, when they realized my authority (like it, or not)… their attitudes did shift.   In fact, one even came to prefer working with me exclusively after he was able to get over himself.  This is a different response than you’ll find in racial discrimination.  Where people of color (whatever ethnicity they represent) may not even be given that benefit of the doubt.

I recently reflected on a young woman I worked with, and how a customer once treated her.  She was a beautiful black woman, her skin was like midnight.  She was also disabled, only to the point where she moved a little bit slower than the rest of us.  Yet, she was one of my staff members that I could count on the most.  Need someone to stay late, she was the girl.  Need someone to fill in for another staff member out sick, she’d come in on her off day.  Never once did I have to fix a mistake she made, her work was accurate and dependable.  I can still recall MANY times I had to intervene with a client who was anything but pleasant with her.  At the time, I thought this issue was her pace.  But the more I have thought about it, the more I realized this was not their issue.  It was the “safe” complaint they could make, under the public eye.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook her thoughts about racial discrimination and our response to it.  She’s not a Christian… and her post was riddled with curse words that would make some of us a bit uncomfortable.  So, I’m going to paraphrase her (if you read this, I hope I do justice).

If you have never had to

  1.  run through scenarios of what not do in public places so you are not perceived as a criminal…
  2. have your parents explain to you how to behave if you get pulled over by the police so that you can survive
  3. wonder if a picture of you will be used out of context to justify you were a bad person…

… then sit down.

If your only contribution to the current conversation is to point out all the mistakes a person ever made as a reason why they deserved to die…

If you have a clean record, college honors, amazing career, beautiful family…. but do not have to live with a baseline of fear of being killed in the wrong circumstances…

… then sit down.

She was sharing her real feelings about her every day life.  This is her reality, so yes the news causes her to respond with her feelings.  And one thing I have learned over the years is that we all have a right to our feelings.  Regardless of the situation, our feelings are real.

And, as she finished her post she left the question:

Is that feeling worth at least a conversation?

Yes.  Yes it is.

It’s also worth some serious introspection.

You see, back in the day… when I walked into those stores and distrust was flung my way.  Yes, you could say I was discriminated against by the way I looked.  But, let’s be honest.  That look… I chose it.  Those friends… I chose them.  I could have walked right out of that store, gone home, changed into plain jeans and a t-shirt, adjusted my make up and hair, and returned to a very different response.  I would have been welcomed, no eyes would have followed me as I perused the shelves. I would have been greeted with a warm smile, a friendly how do you do, and thanked for my business.

That is not the same outcome for people who don’t look like me.   It wouldn’t have mattered if they walked in a track suit or a 3 piece custom fitted suit.  I could go home and change my choice of clothes, but they can’t go home and change their skin color.

My husband and I were talking about it, and he said….

It comes down to this, if you are pulled over by the police… what color do you want your skin to be?

He grew up in a predominantly black neighbor, and he can recall his own interactions with the police.  He told me that the cops in that area were hardened.  They were used to being lied to, and they expected the worst from everyone.  Everyone was suspected.  However, he also shared that he knows his interactions with them were far better than if he was a black kid.

Watching a documentary one night, our eyes were opened even farther.  When you can see the long standing distrust of the police in a community, from not so distant days where bathrooms were not only defined by gender but also color… you begin to understand.  You can see why communities, as one of the women interviewed stated, “protect their own”.  Because, at one time… innocence or guilt didn’t matter.  Those neighborhoods wouldn’t be so quick to hand over someone to the police, but instead would deal with it in their own way.  They took the risk that their lies to protect the innocent might mean a guilty person got away with it.  The recognized that the punishment that would fall on the shoulders of the guilty black man would weight heavier than if he was white.

If you think that doesn’t still exist, just look at the news.  A white, student athlete from Stanford raped an unconscious woman after a party… he was given a six month sentence.  A black, student athlete from Vanderbilt raped an unconscious woman after a party… he was given a fifteen year sentence.   And we wonder why a community of people has a distrust for our legal system?

We wonder where anger stems from?  We wonder where suspicion stems from?  We wonder where the pain stems from?  We wonder why “they” feel the way they do?

In the words of my friend:

Is that feeling worth at least a conversation?

This is where I believe we all start.  A willingness to at least have the conversation.  Maybe you have not experienced this discrimination or witnessed it.  But, I would challenge you to have those awkward conversations… the uncomfortable ones.  It exists.

It shows up when the teacher asks for the “black perspective” on a piece of literature from the only black student in the honors literature class.

It shows up when we assume a college student was accepted to an ivy league college because of the color of their skin vs. the merit of their work.

It shows up in how the media reports potential crimes, the photos they use and the details they share.

It shows up in how our judicial system dishes out punishments.

It shows up in the conversations that parents have with their children, and how different their life lessons are.

When we are willing to at least have the hard conversations, our eyes are opened a little wider.  Maybe things are not quite as we see them.  It may not be as bad as it was, but we still have a long way to go.

May we see each other with the same eyes that the Lord does, image bearers… our family of believers.  All of equal value, merit, worth, and love.

Thank you to those who are willing to have the conversation.  Thank you for the grace, as I am still seeking to understand.  May the conversations we have be fruitful!

Why the Harsh Words

 

I just don’t get it, and I pray that I never will understand it.    I don’t understand why when two people disagree it has to become so personal.  I fully believe it is possible to disagree with a person and still act like a decent human being toward them.  There is no need for name calling, there is no reason to question someone’s intelligence.

I don’t believe that all Muslims are terrorists.

I don’t believe that all Christians are guiltless.

I don’t believe that all Democrats are evil.

I don’t believe that all Conservatives have my best interest in mind.

I can be concerned about radicals from any religion without hating people.   Just as I am not bothered by those who worry about radical Christians.  Killing an abortion doctor is murder and negates the very thing you are trying to protect… life.    I also don’t believe that everyone working in an abortion clinic is inherently evil, because I truly believe that MOST of them think they are doing the right thing, helping.  Whether I agree with what they are doing or not.

I believe that MOST cops are good and decent people, but that there are a few bad apples.  I’ve never been one to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.  That said I don’t begrudge anyone who has had life experiences that make them weary of those who are in authority.   Authority has been abused, and we can’t ignore that… just as much as we can’t blame everyone.

I believe that MOST people who say and do stupid and careless things are not doing them intentionally.  Perhaps they don’t have the same life experiences to understand cultural sensitivities or realize that certain topics are just taboo.  I know that I am guilty of slinging words carelessly, regardless of what my intention was.  I’ve received some sharp words that cut deep, and I’ve had to weigh them against the person who unleashed them.

I tend to give the benefit of the doubt, forgive a lot, and I am growing more unoffendable every day.

I have a myriad of friends from different backgrounds, culturally and politically.  They have had life experiences of their own, or been influenced by tales of generations before them.  There are those who have walked hard roads, and others who have had it pretty easy.   This means with the current events hitting the news, well … it means I am hearing a lot of people’s perspectives and opinions.  I don’t mind conversation, disagreement, and even some stubbornness.  What is getting harder to accept is the cold, hard, and callous words people are choosing to use.

So much hate.  Why can’t we share our opinions and concerns with out broad generalizations?  Why must we assume guilt on everyone because of what a few have done?  Why can’t we even accept that we may have the slightest chance of being wrong (in part or in total)?

Why the harsh words?  Not feeling the love that we have be called to share with the world… particularly by those who are my family in the faith. 😦