Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

When talking about race in America we realize and understand that there are more ethnicities and cultures, labels and categories than black and white. At the same time we must face the brutal fact that this is the main divide in America. Whether you are actually black or white does not matter. These are two cultural categories that you are invited into whether you were born and bred in the good old USA or an immigrant from India, Korea, or Argentina. Why? The ugly and brutal racist history of this country has determined it to be so.

In the history of this country white has been associated with: good manners, wealth, intelligience, cleanliness, and morality. black has been associated with: bad manners, poverty, stupidity, filth, and immorality.

There is also the fact that there are two primary cultures in America: white and black. White culture is seen as more reserved, structured, and rational. Black culture is seen as more expressive, loose, and emotional. It is also evident when you realize the different Stuff White People Like and the different Stuff Black People Like

These are just some of the ways in which we are divided. But why the divide? It is all based on man made ideas that categorize and label people in order to justify injustice.

To put it more simply there is no such thing as white and black:

Black: A color based on racist ideology

White: A color based on racist ideology

In my short 34 years of life I have seen some really really dark skinned people but no one was ever the actual color black. The darkest of browns but not black. I have also seen some really really pale people but no one was ever the actual color white. No one is actually the color black. No one is actually the color white. These terms intentionally or unintentionally polarize and dehumanize us and keep us in the same racist paradigm.

It is my belief that to continue to use these terms is to continue the legacy of racism and slavery. African American and European American is the truth of who we are culturally and historically and I believe the more we affirm that aspect of ourselves and less of the racist aspect we will have moved towards true self definition on both sides of the black-white divide.

What do you think? Is there still a black-white divide in America? What do you think about using different terms to describe ourselves? Is it helpful or a meaningless exercise in semantics?

BTW If I use white and black outside of referring to this divide call me on it. Old habits are hard to break 🙂


This post is dedicated to two Steves: Steven Hamilton and Steve Schenk. You can check out Steven Hamilton on his blog Verve and Verse writing about theology, church, and his future plans to start a faith community in Pittsburgh and you can check out Steve Schenk writing on his blog Damascus 9 about his adventures as a church pastor in Buffalo here.

In recent years I have become aware of the issue of race more so as the pastor of a multiethnic church and through my studies at Fuller and this has caused me to explore not only the social issue of race but where I stand in regards to race and ethnicity. It has caused me to ask serious and honest questions about what I believe in regards to God’s perspective and viewpoint on race, culture, and ethnicity. Questions like

“Should there be a multiethnic church this side of heaven and is this a mandate for every church?”

“As an African American who has been robbed of culture should I place myself in a congregation where my culture is not dominant or at least valued?”

“Is there a place for a Christian black nationalist/separatist or is this going against God’s purpose for his church?”

“How can I be true to my culture and ethnicity while at the same time being a blessing to the different people around me?”

Many of these questions have been answered and many of them have not. The one thing that has emerged is that I do not want to be boxed in by race. Race is a social construct created to justify oppression. By being categorized in this way and operating within that construct I only give power to false notions of who I am as a person. To put it simply:  I am more than my skin color and physical features and these do not determine who I am. I am a human being who is capable of doing and achieving many things and experiencing the range and variety of human emotions and feelings.

With that being said.


I refuse to be boxed in. categorized. labeled. Stuck in what others have thought of me and planned for me. I refuse to be prejudged and placed in a fabricated construction of someone else’s reality. I am more than my skin color. nose size. hair texture. I am more than my history and my background. I am that but so much more. I refuse to be barred from anything life has to offer. I refuse to be excluded from all of the experience of humanity. I refuse to let my identity be dictated by others who do not know me. I refuse to grab at the small amount of options that society has opened for me.

Instead I choose to be different. unique. African. American. Loving myself. Loving my culture. I choose to be someone who lives and loves the thought that black is beautiful. I choose to contribute and give these gifts to the rest of the world. I choose to have an identity that embraces these things and goes beyond them. I choose to love others who are different. unique. European. Korean. Mexican. Chinese. Argentinian. Human. These are my people. They are me. For we are all human. I choose to speak life giving and affirming words that transcend language. transcend accents. transcend culture. transcend hatred. I choose to follow in the tradition of Martin and Malcolm. Mother Teresa and Cesar Chaves. Jesus and Buddha. I choose to speak the truth that transcends race. I choose to a be race transcending prophet.

It is early Monday morning and we have just spent nine days in Western Pennsylvania

We arrived by plane on Thursday October 20th and have been staying at my Mother in law’s in New Castle, PA. The kids got to meet and play with their cousins on this side of the world and Kaydon is excited about moving to Pittsburgh. I do not think he realizes what he is saying but he likes the pictures he has seen of the bridges, hills, and the Duquesne and Monongahela inclines.

I have been spending time at Mcdonald’s and the New Castle library working on my thesis and beginning to learn a new skill which I will tell you about in an upcoming post. All the while I have noticed a few things:

It’s hunting season (you don’t see that in Southern California)

It’s football season (these fans are serious out here. Go Steelers!)

It’s not Pittsburgh (I have never seen roadkill that big. 3 deer on the highway. You don’t see that in Southern California either)

On the Monday after we arrived we began looking for an apartment and getting twisted and turned around on Pittsburgh streets. It is nothing like LA. There is no grid. Just rivers and bridges and hills and diagonal and curved streets. Very easy to get lost.

We drove around different neighborhoods including Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Garfield, Friendship, East Liberty, Bellevue, Brighton Heights, and the Southside. We started focusing on Bellevue and Brighton Heights and we thought we had a place but somebody beat us to it and placed a deposit on it 😦

By Wednesday we were definitely frustrated but something interesting happened. We were sitting outside the Brighton Cafe and a lady comes out and starts fixing the umbrellas for us. We both obviously assume she is the owner or manager. Yvette then asks whether she knows anyone who is renting a place. Turns out that this lady and her husband not only own the cafe but also two barber shops and five other properties.

Yvette goes on to look at two available properties and we decide on a two bedroom in Point Breeze right down the street from Trader Joe’s. And yesterday I just applied and got called in for an interview on Tuesday. I really hope I get the job as it is only two blocks from our new apartment.

So to sum up week one in our Pittsburgh adventure…I love this city!

Here are some things that I am noticing:

  • Hills. Lots of hills. Steep ones. Beautiful but also a challenge when the snow and ice comes.
  • Bridges. Love the bridges. Love the inland waterways. Never really liked the beach in California but rivers….I can do rivers!
  • Lots of black and gold. There is such hometown pride. We went to church yesterday and people wore their Steelers jerseys! Never seen anything like this.
  • Quirkyness. I never realized how much I was addicted to quirkyness. The curvy streets, the accents (yinz, elongated “o’s”, Steelers pronounced “Stillers”) the hills and bridges. Even our apartment (the outside is a bright reddish pink. our master bedroom looks like it used to be a living room) is on the quirky side.

So that’s week one. Now time for a move, an interview, and some winter clothes. First snow was this past Saturday 🙂

In a few days we will be leaving on a plane to Atlanta for a nine day retreat and then on to Pittsburgh,PA.  Yes it is official. .This means I will be out of the blogosphere for a while. That’s until we get settled. Once we touch down and get things in order then I will be back with new posts, contests, and new plans (can u guess them?) since I will be seeking to create a larger platform for the ideas in this blog.

In the meantime, here is a preview of upcoming blogposts. Pick your favorite and I will dedicate it to you. Just comment below and if you have a blog or twitter give me your url or twitter handle and you will get free publicity from yours truly. So here they are:

Racism: Pointing Out the Problem or Being a Solution

Life in the Pitt: Week One

The Book of Ramon Explained

Manifesto of a Race-Transcending Prophet

Black or African American: What’s the Difference?

The Case for Reparations

The Confessions of an Ex-Pastor: Ten things I learned as a pastor

So there u go. Think of it like dedications on the radio except no mushy love song. Just tell me which one is your favorite and if you have a website, blog, or twitter handle I will mention it in my post. If you don’t get into the top 7 don’t worry I will still mention you in later posts.


One of the big differences that I have seen between the black church and the white church involves preaching. It boils down to this: the stated goal of preaching is different therefore the delivery and content are different. The black preacher preaches in order to lift up. He knows he is talking to people who have been down and who face huge obstacles. The white preacher preaches in order to inform and educate. He knows he is talking to people who want to increase their knowledge.

This influences the delivery and the content of the preaching. The delivery of the black preacher is circular and high context. Most people think that black preaching is too emotional and not logical. This is due to not understanding the context of black culture that is sourced in Africa. It is not enough to have a logical argument. There is logic in black preaching but The black preacher knows that it takes more than logic to drive the argument home. This is done through stating the point. Talking about something related to the point and then stating the point again. Repeat and end with a climactic conclusion and you have a typical black sermon. It is very non linear. This is due to black culture being a high context culture. In a high context culture words are not the primary vehicles of communication. Facial expressions, music, hand gestures etc. are also taken into consideration when weighing whether a message will be received. So the black preacher states the point over and over again and this immerses her in the message and what God is saying and the congregation sees that this message must be important and begins to feedback with Amen! Preach preacher! It is the truth and it is conveyed in a non linear fashion.

On the other hand in the white church logic reigns supreme and linear forms of thought and speech hold sway. This is due to the legacy of the Enlightenment and even Greek culture. There must be a beginning and an end point and it must be clear how we got from the beginning to the end. This is due to a low context culture. In a low context culture the message is primarily in the words and the words only. It is enough to state what you want to say. Everything else that comes along with your message is frivolous and unnecessary. Emotion is shunned because it may interfere with the delivery of the truth. In the white church you will not hear feedback from the audience or Amens! from the choir. The true test of whether the message is heard is whether people actually get up and do it.

Most people usually critique black preaching or white preaching based on what it lacks. Growing up as a black pentecostal and then being part of a multiethnic church and a predominantly white movement I have had the privilege of seeing both styles in action. This has led to some soul searching in my own ministry on how to deliver God’s message. Doing both in different contexts I can honestly say that there is no better style but I wrestle with how both of these styles can be combined in order to be a greater benefit to the body of Christ.

  • What do you think? Do you prefer one over the other?
  • Could it ever happen? Has anyone seen it happen?
  • Can you give any examples of preaching that is a mixture of both styles?

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

By Charles Bukowski

Just the other day I went whitewater rafting and came back with a little soreness in my ribs. Someone commented to me that I need to stop doing that kind of stuff because “you know we don’t do that kind of stuff” (implying black people). The comment struck me because I have always struggled with certain things being the sole property of another race. I think it is one thing to state that it is not the cultural norm but when it becomes racial and connected to genetics I think it devalues some things that are very clear in the word such as the image of God in all of humanity. It is the same as saying that African Americans cannot excel intellectually. It devalues our humanity and causes us to fall short of all that God has for us. So I will whitewater raft and camp to my heart’s content. I may even mountain climb one day but that’s another story.

An underlying question that the person’s comment brought up for me is “Why don’t black people go camping, hiking, or participate in any other outdoor sport?” In my latest adventures outdoors I have seen at least two black families but in my general interaction I usually get the impression that black folks do not like camping or any outdoor activity. We are very enthusiastic about sports such as football and basketball but not about the outdoors. I believe this is a severe limitation as not all of us are athletes in that sense (including myself) and we miss out on the beauty of nature and the sense of self reliance that outdoor activities bring. Missing out on the beauty of nature is detrimental because I believe that is a way of seeing God and his attributes (Psalm 19)

Why is that? What is the reason that black people as a whole don’t go outdoors? Why is there an aversion to camping and hiking in the general African American population? Is this even accurate?