Archive for the ‘global’ Category

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.


This post is dedicated to Israel Robles and Matthew Bivens. Matthew has no blog but he really doesn’t need one. The dude is epic. Israel can be found all over the world as he runs among many other things a non profit called Tu Contacto Global and a movement called Terra Tour which has led him to lead road trips from Canada all the way to Brazil

So I decided to start posting tweets of meditations/quotes and call them verses from the Book of Ramon. A narcissistic obsession. Maybe? But the story behind them goes a little deeper.

Last year around September I took a trip to Juarez and went to visit Israel Robles who is doing some amazing things there and all over Latin America. I was impressed with not just the activity that was going on and the things that he was doing but the positive attitude that seemed to exude from him and his team members. At the same time I was bogged down in negative thinking about how our church was doing but also just depressed about my life in general. After seeing Israel in action I became inspired to live my life with the same passion and gusto. The only thing was I knew I couldn’t take Israel home in my pocket. That’s when I remembered 1 Samuel 30:6 where it says that “David encouraged (strengthened) himself in the Lord his God” and I thought I may just have to encourage myself to live the life that I want to live. So that’s where the Book of Ramon comes in.

No I am not trying to add another book of the Bible.

No I am not starting a cult.

No I am not saying that everything that I posted was inspired by the Holy Spirit

I just wanted to remember and keep a record of all the nuggets of inspiration and encouragement that was helping me and I realized that this could also be helpful to someone else out there in FB or Twitter land.

But here is the bad news: I am sad to say I am closing it. I realize that I am now no longer encouraging myself but I am only doing it for the sake of others which although that is a good purpose that was not my original intention. So I have several tweets left and it will be officially closed. The good news: I am going to take each post and write a couple pages on it and turn it into an ebook which I will be giving away in the near future.

So that is the book of Ramon explained. Nothing super amazing. Just a guy trying to get out of a pit of negative thinking and low quality living.

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.


In my last and final post during Black History Month I want to talk about blackness in terms of identification with the group. Paul Hiebert’s theory of centered sets and bounded sets has been used alot in mission circles to define how groups operate. In thinking about what it means to be black I think this paradigm is helpful. Being black is a very fluid thing. This is because the original culture was stolen and destroyed and the remnant of it was given to hybridization and improvisation. The one thing that did galvanize black America was the civil rights struggle. Now that segregation has been abolished black America has been lacking a strong identity. Hence the book Disintegration.
The author of this book describes differerent types of African Americans: the ultra rich and powerful, the middle class, the abandoned ghetto dwellers, and the new immigrants and biracial people. I think these descriptions are good but they are lacking in one specific ingredient: identity requires identification. To put it simply if you do not identify with it then it is not your identity. There are some people (especially the new immigrants and bi racials who do not identify as being African American, There are even some who are middle class and ultra rich who do not identify as African American. The folks who can’t seem to escape this identity are the ones in the abandoned ghetto. This is what we mostly see as black in the media.

So enter Paul Hiebert’s centered set and bounded set model. In the bounded set people are part of the group by doing certain things and jumping through certain hoops. There are clear and established boundaries that keep certain people “in” and certain people “out”. This is what people do on a daily basis with blackness. Skiing-that’s not black! Surfing-that ain’t black! River dancing-that’s definitely not black!
bounded set

I think we need to change the way we think about blackness. I think being an African American should be defined as an identification with the community which leads you toward the center. If you identify with being African American that is enough to be included as an African American. It is not about how you talk or walk or dress or what kind of food you eat but more about your identification with the African American community. There are many utlra rich African Americans who do not identify with the African American community. They may do so verbally but their actions do not. There are others of the new immigrants and biracials who do not even identify verbally. They will say I am a Nigerian American or Jamaican American. No matter what the cops and their racial profiling might say this is definitely not identification with being African American.
centered set

So that’s my proposal. That we define blackness by willingness to identify with blackness. Would love to hear your thoughts. Is this a good definition? What do you think?

homeland securityThe holidays always lead me to be reflective because honestly I have to stop working and actually have to have fun and enjoy life. As I begin to “enjoy” life I automatically get into a space where I have time to think and contemplate. Besides New Year’s no other holiday does this like Thanksgiving. So I begin to think about the many things that I am thankful for…

My God
My life
My health
My family
My church
My education (a work in progress)
My many consumer items that I take for granted which most people in the world can only dream of owning (car, laptop, multiple brands of cereal) 🙂

Then I stop and think about the origin of this holiday and that is something that I cannot be thankful for. It is the celebration of a revisionist history. Most people don’t think about it because the presence of turkey and stuffing, college football, the Macy’s day parade, or great sales on black Friday seem to numb them but for some reason I cannot be numbed. This holiday is based on the meeting between the Puritan settlers and indigenous peoples and that relationship ultimately led to disease, war, and starvation for the indigenous peoples. It is a day that commemorates the beginning of one of the most massive holocausts in history. Yes the puritan settlers were thankful and grateful to God but the question must be asked Which God? and Whose God? Now I do not want to become the person who eradicates holidays and spoils everyone’s fun but I do think there needs to be a rethinking of how we celebrate this day. Most people just see it as a day to generically give thanks and be grateful. That is commendable but maybe we need to remember the indigenous peoples in some form or another in order to acknowledge the suffering and the injustice. As I go to feast on turkey and stuffing and mac and cheese I will be glad and celebrate with family and friends but I will also keep this memory in my heart. To have the mind to even think about and acknowledge the mistakes of the past-that is something that I can be thankful for.

This week I finish up the last of the missionary biographies for my Communicating and Serving Cross Culturally Class at Fuller Seminary. For my second I chose Jim Elliot the martyr who died by the hands of the Auca Indians. As I read through the selected excerpts from his journals and letters I slowly discovered the second way that Christian biography has the power to speak into our lives. It is through seeing not just the big exploits and great accomplishments of those who have gone before us but seeing their struggles and weaknesses. I love how in James it talks about how Elijah was a “human being even as we are” (James 5:17). This is what I felt as I read the biography of Jim Elliot. It was not that he was in another category as a human but because he was a human and struggled with some of the same things I am struggling with that I was able to hear his life speak today. When I read that he woke up too late for his morning devotion or was feeling unsuccessful in his ministry or that he was head over heels in love I realize this is a


who was used by God. The key word is a man and that encapsulates all of the idiosyncracies and struggles that are involved with being human. This means that with all of my faults and failures and weird little quirks I can be used by God as well. Here are some quotes from Jim’s biography Shadow of the Almighty that inspire me to acknowledge my humanity and somehow reach for eternity:

Let not the longing slay the appetite for living

One treasure, a single eye, a sole master

God I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life that I may burn for thee

This last one was quoted at a conference way back in 1999 and encouraged me to set my heart in pursuing full time ministry and giving my all to God. I pray that it encourages many more to know the joy of giving their lives away for something greater.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose

Scapegoating is on the rise these days. I believe we all have a need to find someone or something to blame. This is not anything new. It has been done to my people for years. Once we were emancipated from slavery, the embittered Southern poor blamed African Americans for all of their problems and they took us out in the woods and hung us on trees. They found their scapegoat. Recently it has been immigrants. Yes they are to blame for all of our problems. They overspent our federal and state budgets. They sanctioned and unjust war and let the economy wither and die. Now as we are approaching the anniversary of September 11th we find scapegoats to blame for that horrible massacre and we say its Islam and Muslims. We have pastors burning qurans and people marching on Washington. All in an attempt to find someone to blame….a scapegoat. Scapegoats can usually be identified by three characteristics:

They have to be weak and voiceless. To be a proper scapegoat you cannot be in the center of power. You must be at the margins. Those with power do not get blamed for the problems that we collectively face even though they collectively lead us. It is those who have no say so and no voice in the decisions that get blamed and are scapegoated.

They have to be different. The scapegoat has to be in the minority and be different. Uniformity is often equal to holiness. This is quite opposite of the nature of God who is three persons in unity and not uniformity. He is a unity in diversity and yet we see difference and diversity as a stain.

They have to be purged. In order to deal with this problem the scapegoat has to be purged. Whether its lynching them on a tree or deporting them back to their country or burning up their defiling books or holding them without due process for being a suspected terrorist, it is a way to rid the land of their unclean presence so things can be made “right”.

On September 11th I will not be scapegoating. I will be baptizing people as they make a commitment to the one who was the ultimate scapegoat. In John 11:50 Caiaphas the high priest says “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” And so he died as a scapegoat for the Jewish people but also as a scapegoat for all of us. In so many ways I wish that was the end of this awful practice. Sadly it is not and all I can do is pray that we do not continue to blame innocent victims for our problems but work collectively to deal with the challenges that face us and look in the mirror at what needs to be purged and made right.