Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

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.

Here is my MANIFESTO OF A RACE TRANSCENDING PROPHET

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.

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.

He came to his own and his own people did not receive him John 1:11

Sometimes our search for belonging ends up empty because we do not realize that life as a believer is always full of paradox and tension. Why? It is because our Lord and Master is full of paradox and tension. Fully God and fully man. Poor and rich. Weak and powerful. One of the most striking paradoxes is that he belonged and did not belong. As a jew he belonged to the jewish nation. As a human he belonged to humankind. He was naturally connected to these groups and had an affinity for them. We also are connected to many groups and affinities. I myself belong to African Americans. I also belong to the hip hop nation. I belong to Fuller Seminary as well. On and on it goes until finally there is the tension of not belonging. When we side with Jesus we find ourselves in the predicament of not belonging to this world. We are then called to not only be accepted but to be rejected. The call of God demands this of us because it is the path that God chose as he became man and walked this earth. It is a call to be marginalized and rejected; to be on the outside. This is where our true calling lies. It is in belonging so much that we are touched with the infirmities and weaknesses of others. It is in not belonging so much that we can speak up for those who are oppressed. You will never be a part of the “in” crowd because Jesus wasn’t a part of the “in” crowd. He was ghetto and the people in the ghetto of galilee and judea rejected and despised him to the point of consenting to his death. When we belong and do not belong we are bound to encounter the cross and inevitable death. If this is the case then our only consolation is the resurrection where we will most certainly see that all along and throughout eternity we belong to God.