Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Help and Why I Hate Racism

Last night, Anna and I watched The Help. First, I will say that I was really impressed with the movie. I have not read the book, but have heard enough hype about the book and movie that I was interested to see it. I was worried that it would be a lame, mildly entertaining, cute movie. I was pleasantly surprised. However, much of the story was disgusting to watch; it was disgusting in that it is truly horrendous to watch racism in action. Now I know that it is a movie, but there is a truly ferocious anger that rises up in me when I see racism. I hate racism with every bit of hatred that the Lord Almighty will allow me to put forth. It is even more despicable to think that the events portrayed in this movie and plenty of other things like it and worse actually happened in this country just a generation or so ago. My parents would have been a few years old at the time that this movie took place; therefore the adults in the movie would be of my grandparents’ generation. There are many that continue to think in these ways so it seems, but society does not allow them to fully express their hatred and racist feelings as many once were able.

The theme of racism seems to be sticking out to me lately. I have been reading Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper and I watched the discussion between Piper and Tim Keller, which was facilitated by Dr. Anthony Bradley. I found Bradley’s speech to be quite intriguing in that presentation and I am looking forward to reading his book, Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America and his other works. Also, when Anna and I attended the Theology conference at Wheaton College called Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture, we had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Reggie Williams from Baylor University. His speech on Bonhoeffer in the Harlem Renaissance was fantastic and really looked at how the church has had an impact on the state of race and racial issues, in a negative way. There is no need for me to attempt to add anything new to the discussion that these men and many other men and women have not already brought to the discussion of racism. Yet, with all these things floating around in my head, it has become personal as I did a project for my last seminary class on my community, specifically the Fairless Local School district in Ohio. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, about 2.4% of the population of the entire community are non-white residents and only a portion of that percentage are black residents. I do not have specific research to know the reasoning behind the small percentage of black residents in the community, but I can speculate. People will not live where they do not feel welcome.

As any of the above men state in their books and presentations, we have to do something, not just talk about it. We can’t just find out information, study communities and read books. We have to act. However, I suspect that there is something beyond simple human machinations that will change this in my community, the country and the world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has power to make ALL things new. Salvation is an amazing thing, but the Gospel or more specifically, God through His Gospel goes farther. What could a community with the Gospel being spread by God’s people look like in relation to diversity? What could an entire country of communities like this do to our nation? To our world? I would love to see more diversity in my community and in the churches therein. But hearts have to change, sin has to be clearly called out and killed. Racism is sin. In our individual lives as Christians we are to consistently repent and kill sin. It works the same way with a community. People and entire communities need to repent and the sin of racism needs to be dragged out into the light and killed again and again.

There is a scene towards the end of The Help where Minnie, a black maid, is treated to a dinner cooked for her by her employer. The dinner scene reminded me of another table that will be spread at some point in the future, where those from every tongue, every tribe, every nation and every color will sit down and feast together with God Almighty. Until then, we need to sit down at table with our brothers and sisters, black and white, underneath the name of Jesus Christ. Yes we have a black president, so Tupac would be happy, but there is more to do and strides made in politics do not change everything. Politics and the laws that it attempts to create are not the savior. Jesus Christ is the Savior and His people, namely the church, is where the change needs to continue to happen. We need to be out front. The world may not be free of racism this side of Glory, just as it will not be completely free of every other sin, but that does not mean that we give up. Many have gone before us and we would be remiss to not continue where they left off. The best part is, God will be glorified as the sin of racism is stared down and killed by the power of the Holy Spirit in and among God’s people.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Out of the Wilderness

About a year ago I blogged about having a break for the summer from seminary and I probably made some statements about being a more disciplined person, getting into scripture more and so on. Not sure how much of that happened… One thing I have learned after these past 4 years of seminary is that sanctification is truly a process. I had thoughts about what I would be like when I finished. I thought I would have it all together. I also thought I was fairly learned at the outset of seminary, I quickly discovered that I was not. The big idea is that it is hard to see growth as it is happening. Throughout all the struggles, frustrations, and life that has taken place over the last 4 years, I have frequently felt that maybe I wasn’t growing at all. Maybe I was just surviving, just getting by, just coping with the crazy workload of full-time employment, full-time seminary, an interim pastorate, being a husband, and other commitments. Now as I look back, there has been growth from that first day of classes. I have learned a great deal in my classes and have had my appetite stirred to continue in learning. Yet, what I have really learned is that sanctification takes time, the Holy Spirit works slowly or perhaps more appropriately, I learn/change/grow slowly. I do think that God works slowly, especially in relation to the pace of our society and the expectations that we have in relation to growth, change and results. Hopefully after these 4 years, I am a little better disciple of Jesus, a little better husband and a little better prepared to serve in ministry. A gentleman from church told me yesterday that since school is over, now my real education begins.

I do truly feel that I have stumbled out of the wilderness. It’s funny to hear from some parts of my extended family that they had no idea what I had been doing in school, let alone even knowing that I was in school. In some ways, it represents the cave that I have lived in these last 4 years. I have been grateful for the support that I have received first from my incredible wife; God has used her to truly be an encouragement and a blessing throughout school. I am also grateful for the support that good friends have showed me through this time as well. However, it is difficult to not receive support from others or even to receive some criticism, “Men cannot provide for their families as a minister,” “What do you want to do something like that for?” “That’s nice, but what are you going to really do?” Sometimes, just a general lack of concern or support is disheartening as well. Then again, I didn’t answer a call from God to seminary and to ministry in order to receive blessing and support from every person I have ever met. Yet, it still hurts to not feel supported at times. But God sustains us and urges us on.

This is a big year for my wife and I. From school being out to expecting our first little one in October, there are going to be big changes for us as a family. I don’t think that I have blogged about baby yet; my wife has done a good job of covering that :). Nevertheless, I am so very excited to be a Dad! It’s an awesome, humbling and exciting responsibility! Everyone asked me yesterday what I was going to do next now that I graduated. I confess I did tell a few people that I was going to Disney World…but I’m not really going, which is rather disappointing. Mostly what I told everyone is that I am planning to pray; to pray for direction, for opportunities, for open doors and for God’s blessing. There are things stirring in my spirit about what I think I may see for the future, but I need to discern if these things are from God.

Until next time…