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All Posts Matter: Don’t Get Distracted

My first podcast (S1E1: Racism,Schmacism) is barely a week old and here we are with TWO more high profile incidents involving black folks and white folks in the US.

Racism and prejudice have, at their heart, a denial of the Imago Dei. That makes it (moreso than the very sanitized language ‘sin of partiality’) a Leviticus 19:18 issue.

Let’s bring you up to date on our three heavy hitters (and yes, there are at least three more I could bring up):

  • Christopher Cooper is a black man who likes birdwatching. He’s on the state board of directors for the NY Audobon Soceity. He was in one area of Central Park (The Bramble) bird watching. That’s it.
  • Amy Cooper (no relation) was walking her dog in the same area – off -leash (against the multiple posted signs in the park).
  • Christopher asked her to put her dog on a leash.
  • Amy, not happy about being asked to follow the rules, decided to use the fear of a black man threat and tell him that she was going to “call the police and tell them an African-American man is threatening me!”
  • Christopher told her do what you need to do and I will as well (as he begins recording the exchange).
  • After telling him to stop recording her (which he ignores), she immediately goes to the fake sympathy voice talking to the operator. It is downright demonic to watch her play the poor white girl in distress from a savage negro card.
  • Christopher carries dog treats with him (because sometimes dog owners don’t immediately like putting their dogs on a leash, but will do so when the dog goes for food) and took it out his pocket – at which point Amy puts the dog on a leash and leaves. Neither are there when the police arrive.
  • Christopher posts the video to his Facebook page.

As the video quickly made its’ rounds on social media, two men who’d walked her dog before recognized and identified her (you can read their account here). Amy previously worked as the Vice President in charge of investment solutions at Franklin-Templeton. In the past 48 hours, she’s been identified, put on administrative leave and then fired from her job and has had her life fall apart, see her face show up on multiple media outlets and has earned the nickname #centralparkkaren (with “Karen” being the current slang for an entitled white woman). Her trash-level apology (no mention of what she’s apologizing for) was given while she was on leave, but was a little too late – investors were threatening to pull their money from the investment giant (currently trading at 18.96 a share as I type this). The company fired her immediately and announced it on Twitter, stating that they had no place for racism in their organization. In addition, the rescue organization that she’d adopted the dog from took the dog back, as she was also mishandling it in the video. The only good news she’s had so far is that the police have declined to charge her with anything (though they should). Her weaponizing of Mr. Cooper’s ethnicity along with her birth-of-a-nation-esque cries for help were done to elicit a harsh and immediate response from the police, much like her ancestors did to men like Emmitt Till.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, MN, George Floyd was arrested for attempted forgery. Four videos are available online; the first shows the police pull him over and have what looks to be a fake struggle with him (his legs aren’t moving around and the police are moving and jerking him around a bit to handcuff him) to get him out of his car. The next, is the police walking him over to a wall to sit and the third is the police coming back over to him and lifting him up. In every video, he is cooperative and non-combative (the police already began circulating the lie that he was resisting arrest, even though the video shows differently).

The last video shows one of the officers with his knee on Floyd’s neck. His knee was there for eight minutes. Floyd became unresponsive after 4 minutes or so with his last words echoing Eric Garner’s (“I can’t breathe!”) and calling out to his mother for help. Floyd died during part of the video that captured the incident and was officially pronounced dead a few minutes later by EMTs. The officers in question (the three restraining him and the one standing around making jokes) have been fired. Charges are undoubtedly on the way.

In February, when Ahmaud was killed, his mother was told he was killed while in the process of breaking into a home by the home owner.

Once the video came out, this was shown to be a lie.

The story then became that he was a suspect in a string of break-ins and he was pursued and killed in self-defense.

The video showed this to be a lie AND the police said there’d been no reports of burglaries in the area for 2 months (and none of the descriptions matched Ahmaud).

Next, video of Ahmaud visiting the property multiple times was shown with the intention of trying to make it look like he’d been planning to steal something. THEN the homeowner came forward and said DOZENS of people (white, black and other) had stopped through the property before and he had no problem with it. He also condemned the McDaniels.

THEN video of Ahmaud in a 2017 police stop was brought out….because they had to keep trying to make it look like he somehow deserved to be murdered.

THEN the entire story of the McDaniels and the guy who recorded it came out. They’d been chasing him and trying to box him in for FOUR minutes before they finally cornered him.

The range of reasons for them (the McDaniels) choosing to not go after any of the other people who’d stopped through the property previously is a pretty short list. And they never chased any white people off the property.

Gregory McMichaels’ original police reports used all the standard “he fit the description” and “I feared for my life” excuses that have become standard fare on this topic. Of course, all of his ties to the local prosecutors came out and it became a little more obvious why this case was swept under the rug.

I’m glad the video came out. The lawyer of the guy who recorded it made a good mistake by releasing it. I’m not surprised at it (most black folks aren’t….we’ve seen this story before).

My hope is now that they appropriately charge all of the parties involved, censure or fire the prosecutors and provide some sense of justice in this life for Ahmaud’s family.

Proverbs 25:15
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
but terror to evildoers.
Deuteronomy 19:16-20
If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil person from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you.

When folks ignore/dismiss calls for justice in this life and default back to “we’ll never get perfect justice in this life” (as though we are not commanded to do justice and deal justly), what I and others hear is folks making unbiblical, anti-human excuses for injustice. Some of those same people are quick to point out Romans 13 gives the government the power of the sword in order to uphold justice and punish evil. This is part and parcel of Americanism and of an outward false piety and spiritualism, but foreign to the Bible. It is evil. Jesus would condemn you rightly as a Pharisee (Matthew 23:23). Paul would condemn you (Ephesians 4:25). James would condemn you (James 2:8-11, 4:1-4, 5:1-6). John would’ve condemned you (1 John 3:4-15).

I’ll say it again for the folks in the back – the way we (the Body of Christ) defeat this thing is Acts 6. I said it on episode 1 of my podcast and I’ll say it here:

“Oftentimes, folks will use ‘cultural marxism’ and/or ‘wokeism’ and accusations of believing ‘critical race theory’ or other throw-away terms to dismiss legitimate concerns and issues like these in the culture of the US. This is the common tactic of many in conservative political circles of the US, but not the practice of the Bible. Acts chapter 6 is a good example of this; concerns in other parts of the body of Christ were not ignored, downplayed, denied or dismissed. They were dealt with in a manner that built trust and unity.

As a side note, cultural marxists and subscribers to critical race theory do exist. But those accusations are tossed around too flippantly by people who want to avoid hard subjects. We will actually deal with them in a future podcast.

That said, being people of truth, believers should be the first ones out front to acknowledge the lingering effects of past institutional racism on different ethnicities in the United States at the present. For example, redlining (the systemic practice by the Federal Government and financial institutions of either refusing loans or overcharging customers with high interest rates, refusing services and arbitrarily raising prices based on ethnicity and skin color) happened. In fact, the Federal Government in the US made it policy with the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934. Denying it or blaming it on laziness, poor credit scores or some other conservative-media talking point is a dishonoring of the image of God in fellow believers whose families – TO THIS DAY – have been and were impacted by this. I say ‘to this day’ because the Civil Rights Act did not magically erase racist attitudes and actions – it just made folks have to conceal them – Bank of America just settled a redlining case as recently as 2013.”

and also:

“I believe that this is the pattern and the solution to dealing with the lingering effects of racism in the United States (and everywhere else for that matter). Believers have to acknowledge, disavow and actively work against those things in the country which reek of injustice. The larger culture may minimize, dismiss or make excuses for the sins of its’ collective past, but believers are not permitted to do so. Now when we handle things this way, it should be clear that the basis for doing so is the Imago Dei. Believers should be clear that the reason for doing so is because God is a God of truth – even when it is painful truth and goes against our cultural and political sacred cows. It’s not a difficult step to say “we are doing this because the gospel states….”.

TTM Podcast, S1E1 “Racism, Schmacism” – tcdc.me/ttmpodcast

A series of isolated incidents are no longer isolated. Falcon Heights, Minnesota (where Philando Castile was murdered by a jumpy, nervous and possibly racist officer) is only minutes away from downtown Minneapolis.

Yes, it’s no longer 1961. Yes, we do capture, arrest and prosecute folks for criminal actions based out of their racist attitudes. So a few of my friends on my timeline have concluded that American must not be racist because of these things.

Here’s the point you miss: if America did NOT have a problem with racism still existing, NONE of these issues would be happening.

What’s happening now is that people are getting CAUGHT. They are getting recorded, shared, tweeted and doxxed and outed on social media. THAT is the big difference. You think black men haven’t been kneed in the neck to death until Eric Garner ? Naw…it’s been happening. YOU may not have been aware of it. You think the excuses “I feared for my life”, “he fit the description” and “I’m going to tell them it was a black guy threatening me” are new and only happened since Obama got in office ? Talk to some older black folks. It’s not ‘marxism’ or any other foolishness. It’s BEEN happening. YOU are now aware of it because it can’t be ignored anymore thanks to social media.

There IS still a race problem in America. Has it gotten better ? Yes. Laws have been changed. More people are quick to call out racism when it comes up. There are plenty of white folks who GET IT and a larger number of them as of late are conservative theologically!!!! And it didn’t require them subscribing to CRT, intersectionalism or anything else other than understanding the Imago Dei and choosing to be Christians first rather than Americans.

The Acts 6 approach works. What doesn’t work is blame the victim, plausible excuses/deniability for racist behavior, smearing the victim’s name and whataboutism. Too many folks who are supposed to be Christian (especially, sadly, in reformed circles where we should know and think better) spend more time parroting these things (hint: they come from secular post-enlightenment, moral therapeutic deism America) and shut off all critical faculties. All this does (and has done) is build mistrust, drag down the name of Christ and make the general witness of anyone in the body of Christ question the faith and its’ genuineness.

“Y’all can’t even get white and black Christians together. Y’all can’t even deal with the issues we’re having…and you want to talk about my soul ? Chile, please.”

Even with this, I firmly believe (because I am a Calvinist) that the gospel and all of the Word of God, brought to bear heavily on this situation will work. Therefore, I work. I keep speaking up, I call out (Ephesians 5:11) and expose the wickedness of racism and as needed, name names of folks who constantly step in and defend it (you need to stop it). But most of all, I continue to push forward for a better solution than colorblind ideology or intersectionalism and critical race theory. I press for biblical solutions. And you should too. It will make some of you uncomfortable. You may have to call a relative out and call them to repent. You may lose a long friendship.

But we’re talking kingdom business.

These blogposts and long discussions on social media, bathed in scripture and prayer with the gospel and the Imago Dei as their basis for starting will yield fruit. An example of this ray of gospel hope happened earlier yesterday on my Facebook feed. I’ll leave you with a screenshot. Names and faces blurred or covered, except mine.

All Posts Matter: Expanded Thoughts Over 2.5 Years…

Originally posted October 12, 2017 on Twitter (back when we were only allowed 180 characters), my good friend Mike cut and pasted all 58 tweets  from that day into one document.  This is not just a ‘re-post’ – there’s a ton of new material added and it’s literally taken me two years to work through and write it out.

Back in early October of 2017 (almost two years ago), Lecrae dropped a brick cinderblock on the heads of quite a few folks with several interviews where he stated he was divorcing ‘white evangelicalism‘.  The October 12 article on the topic at Christianity Today gives a bit clearer insight into the issue. John Piper has a helpful (somewhat) reflection what Lecrae’s statement means as a whole to the evangelical movement in the US.  The original statement from Lecrae brought out a ton of angry denunciations in the comments sections from everyday folks (sadly, as expected). I’ve grown accustomed to seeing this level of anger whenever any black person who isn’t a Thomas Sowell follower brings up racism in culture, society and the church.

Some ‘white evangelicals’ are upset with Lecrae because the only ‘Christianity’ they’ve known is ‘white evangelicalism’ (we’ll give it a better name in a few). What Lecrae (and others) have been calling out is the fact that Christian expression in America has been shaped MORE by culture and cultural convenience than by scripture.

Some treat this as an ‘attack’ because they don’t recognize the influences of culture (good and bad) on their framework. By assuming your own cultural framework as the ‘default orthodoxy’, you may unintentionally present it as biblical truth when it is no more than cultural opinion.  The example that immediately came to mind as I typed this was the practice in the late 1800’s of having Native Americans take a ‘Christian name’ in the process of assimilation into the larger American culture (a practice which has resulted in interesting stories about multiple names in many Native families). Many members of Holiness churches in the United States have a ‘default orthodoxy’ that playing cards or women wearing pants go against scripture when scripture itself is silent on the issue (some older members are still offended when younger women come to church in pant suits). In the church we can sometimes see it expressed in music genre and style differences.

Not all cultural frameworks are bad. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a great document and faithfully represents the teachings of scripture. It was produced in a cultural framework borne out of the protestant reformation. As such, it had an understanding of the role of government different from past nation-states before it. American Presbyterians in 1747 saw the need to make adjustments to it (rightly) to reflect and comment on the society they were currently living in (which was moving away from being a monarchy). On the other hand, Jim Crow-era America wasn’t a good cultural framework; it assumed ‘whiteness’ to be orthodoxy and gave us false teachings like the ‘curse of Ham’ and warnings about the ‘errors of miscegenation’. These things shaped American culture (as a whole) and church culture (especially in conservative churches, regardless of denomination).

Secular Religious Conservativism (aka Cultural American Patriotic Churchianity) is a poor lens to view the world and one’s neighbors. At best, it comes across as uncaring, unloving, dismissive and unChristian. At worst, it comes off as racist, ethnically and culturally (and sometimes ethnically) idolatrous.

Secular Religious Conservativism is an interesting monster – Lecrae calls it ‘white evangelicalism’. It’s the default position that assumes that American cultural expressions, habits and norms are equivalent with Biblical mandates. It’s the position that assumes that 18th and 19th century hymns are God-glorifying, but theologically-sound gospel music is out of order for a church service, usually attacked via “the style of music is not appropriate” without giving an example beyond personal and cultural preference as to why. You can see multiple examples of it in Scot Aniol’s exchange with Shai Linne regarding Christian Hip Hop (a very respectful exchange by the way, so absolutely worth the read).

It’s no secret that American missionaries have, in the past, had the problem of bringing their assumptions about what ‘civilization’ should look like with them alongside of the gospel. Part of that culture and heritage may be bound up in things like a glorified (and largely fabricated) view of the South and the Confederacy (for example, check the Facebook comments on a post from Russell Moore on the topic of the Confederate Flag).

Liberals figured out this problem (sometimes called contextualization) a while ago, adjusted their speech and approach adequately in order to ‘speak the language’ of the people they wanted on their side.  As they listened, some genuinely (for non-political reasons) grew in empathy and compassion.  At the same time, liberal theology lined up (rightly) with the Civil Rights movement. Russell Moore’s historical analysis of how liberals won the day and the soul of the black community during the Jim Crow era into the Civil Rights Movement is documented in part here (check his references for more works on the topic). It is a good history lesson for both what came before and why we are where we are now (hint: it’s not ‘racial marxism’ or some other intellectually lazy excuse).

You cannot claim conservative theology and still treat your brothers and sisters with contempt. You will not believed (“if you really believed I was made in the image of God just like you, then why do you treat me as a sub-human ?”), people will call your hypocrisy a theological error and depart from you, believing that the rest of your supposedly “good theology” isn’t really that good or necessary in order for one to be a Christian because your ethics and praxis do not align with scripture. This was the error of conservatives in the US for centuries. The liberal church and liberal politicians exploited that for their personal gain. (1)

Some ‘white evangelicals’ wonder why black churches are typically more liberal, even when the black church is still mostly orthodox and conservative overall. The answer to that question is simple: during the Jim Crow-era, the majority of ‘conservative’ seminaries were holding to Jim Crow policies – if not on paper, then as general unwritten policy (for the purpose of plausible deniability). The very conservative (fundamentalist) Bob Jones University JUST (2000) reversed their stance on ‘interracial marriage’. That’s only 19 years ago (to their credit, they have publicly admitted they were wrong on this and their segregated past – see the link above). While you may find an occasional ‘blip’ on the radar (i.e. Southern Seminary with one black graduate in the 40’s), just about every ‘conservative’ seminary that held to inerrancy, the inspiration of scripture, Deity of Christ, Trinity, 5 Solas, etc…either did not admit blacks, or make it culturally and socially uncomfortable for them to be there.

“But wait! Our denomination/seminary didn’t have anything in writing with regard to Jim Crow!”

Perhaps so.  But as a matter of culture, conversations like these often happened (sometimes in print)….

“Some people are….uhmmm…. uncomfortable with you being here. We’ve had some complaints. You know how it is… things are different where they live and grew up…. we’re not saying anything is wrong with you, but maybe it would be a good idea for you to transfer to somewhere that’s a little more….friendly to your kind….we’ll give you full transfer credit…”

“While we were impressed with your academic credentials, we do not believe at this time you would be a good fit for our seminary.”

And as conservative, supposedly-bible-believing folks rejected or encouraged black folks to leave, liberal seminaries took them. Not only did they take them, but they fought against conservatives supporting segregation using conservative theological hermeneutics and arguments  – the same arguments used by abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Alexander McLeod.  That hypocrisy shamed many some of them out of their sinful habits and into repentance…..a bit late, but repentance nonetheless. Praise God for that.

We’ve heard the jokes about seminaries/cemeteries. Some of the older black folks recognized the difference in their pastors in the 40’s-60’s when they came back from these liberal seminaries, denying major tenets of the faith, but teaching a Christian moralism. In addition, the story of scripture was now being framed through culture and politics – liberation theology or the ‘social gospel’. The story of scripture was no longer centered on Christ as Savior, but on Christ as liberator from oppressive social systems. This approach acknowledged the humanity of those oppressed at the expense of other life-dependent biblical truths.

Crozer Theological Seminary produced Martin Luther King. King’s anthropology was biblical (he believed in the Imago Dei), but that fell right in line with liberation theology. King and others recognized the hypocrisy of their conservative counterparts by their denial of Lev. 19:18 and Gen. 1:26 in their practice. Unfortunately, in his seminary papers, King denied the Virgin Birth , Substitutionary Atonement (calling it ‘cosmic child abuse’), the Trinity, the Resurrection and more. There is no evidence he ever changed his mind on these views (apologies to all those who attended the MLK50 conference who thought otherwise).

As a result of these and other factors over the past century and a half, there has been a legacy of separation between black and white American Christians. That separation is social, cultural and theological; people grouped up with those who looked like them, believed like them or accepted them as equal human beings. Conservative whites who supported segregation (or didn’t speak out against it) were viewed as hypocrites; as a result, their theology in other areas was viewed as suspect. The so-called ‘liberals’ who treated black folks in accordance with scripture as full human beings were given a place at the table in black communities.

Thankfully, not all black churches went completely liberal. Quite a few stayed biblically faithful on the fundamentals of the faith, even though their neighbors down the road affirmed most of the same core doctrines but wouldn’t welcome them as brethren. The church I ‘grew up’ in was your average, biblically-solid, dispensational, inerrantist, independent baptist church. The founding pastor is a graduate of Captial Bible Seminary (one of the first if not the first black graduate) and studied under the late Charles Ryrie (at what was once Philadelphia College of the Bible). There were (and still are) many black churches in my home city of Baltimore that fit this description, despite their pastors having earned degrees from very liberal seminaries.

That brings us back to where Lecrae is now in his ‘divorce’ from ‘white evangelicalism’. The issues he mentions should be attended to. I remember when Curt Kennedy rapped at Piper’s church in 05 or 06, some of the feedback from ‘white evangelicals’ was harsh, unloving and downright anti-Christian. I remember Shai Linne chiming in on one of those conversations defending Curt and Christian Hip Hop as a whole (someone copied it in the second post on this link – the internet never forgets). Folks on the original post called it ungodly and worldly.  They did so because in their experience of ‘white evangelicalism’, there was no room for anything culturally other than hymns with an organ or piano. They equated their cultural expression of the faith to orthodoxy.

Yet, God was pleased, as Paul Washer stated, to use these men and others to go places Edwards and Whitfield could not go and reach. He still uses biblically sound CHH for this purpose today, even if folks choose not to see it or acknowledge it.

Even so, the same danger lies in wait for black Christians. Malcolm X once spoke on the difference between a wolf and a fox. The fox pretends to be friendly vs the wolf. Liberals – in general – have learned to listen to and sympathize with people of color in the US. Empathy and compassion won out. This gave liberals a foothold in black communities that remains to this day. Thus, when conservatives respond with Secular Religious Conservativism, they do more to continue the cycle of pushing people of color away from them. The bulk of people of color look at these folks and say “although we share some things in common, you do not and cannot represent me or a place I would be welcome because you speak against other core things I believe. You appear to care more about preserving the culture of the country than spreading the gospel and loving humans who look differently than you”.  An example of this can be seen in the comments section of Nathaniel Strickland’s blogpost (linked here) regarding John Piper’s comments about the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

Even with empathy and compassion, when the gospel and the whole counsel of God is reduced to social justice and intersectionalism, you are left empty. There is no hope in Christ with intersectionalism, as the only thing it will produce is a new set of  oppressors and oppressed (usually, with both parties simply switching places in an attempt at ‘justice’).  There is no true God of scripture with intersetionalism, since its’ focus is horizontal relationships and not THE vertical relationship. There is no hope or lasting solution in intersectionalism for actual solutions in the long-term because intersectionalism doesn’t have a solution for the human condition. That will always be the fundamental issue.

The danger is real – black believers must SHUN and AVOID the world’s classifications of the problems that we deal with. Black believers must SHUN and AVOID the world’s solutions for the problems we are dealing with. Watching some conversations happen, I see some black believers following the world’s trends, sociological approaches and verbiage. They adopt things which have a layer or two of truth to them, but whose foundation is poison and unbiblical.  The world is not oppressor and oppressed, but sinner and sinner.  Both stand in need of redemption in Christ, no matter which ‘side’ wields power. True unity begins with the cross.

Let me be clearer on this point. Liberals sometimes get things right. The problem is that they approach solutions without dealing with the root issue: sin.

Believers of color who wish to address ‘white evangelicalism’, need to do so with scriptural solutions in hand. ‘White Evangelicals’ need to be open to criticisms and approach their brethren in a fashion other than dismissive or deflective (and yes, simply blanket-labeling everyone a Marxist is dismissive and deflective…it’s also intellectually lazy and a breaking of the ninth commandment).

Believers of color need to remember Christ’s patience with them when they were thick-headed, slow to understand and short on patience. They also need to remember that as Christ lives in the hearts of their white brethren, they need to curb the ‘anger’ approach. Yes, be angry and do not sin. So approach your brethren as brethren and not ‘the enemy’. Key word – brethren.

This requires black believers in Christ not simply to rehash old and current wrongs, but to forgive them.  You can’t hold on to anger about the past and expect to move forward.  This is not simply pretending the past never existed, but acknowledging it and all of the evil associated with it, but not holding it against those currently alive. This is what Joseph did with his brothers in Genesis 45 and 50:20.

At the same time, this also involves tell the truth about the legacy and results of institutionalized and cultural racism in the present day. Those things also exist.  We are not to back away from them or pretend that they do not exist, but point them out as issues and bring solutions to the table (more on the solutions aspect of this in a bit).  This is also what Joseph did with his brothers in Genesis 45 and 50:20.

Recently (2018), I came across a post in a well-known Facebook group, a member posted that in his observation, one of the great fears he has is that of being ‘right’. Specifically, being right about racism, right about white evangelicals and white conservatives dodging and ducking the inconsistencies in their own behavior and beliefs, purposeful (in some cases) ignorance of history, blind about their own cultural glasses that tint (and taint) how they approach scripture, culture and those who don’t look like them and so on. He noted that what has welled up in the black community is a continual anger, bitterness and attitude of  dislike and hatred toward white people. The poster also stated (rightly) that in this state, there is the danger of becoming smug and arrogant, thinking that ‘we’ have the moral high ground and turning into the very same people we argue against. “Both white supremacy and moral superiority are rooted in self-righteousness”, he wrote.  He’d had enough. Several other people chimed in and said they thought they were the only ones who felt this way.  Their common desire was to see healing and shalom for the entire situation and not a continued loop of rehashing and condemning.

When I called out James White in 2016, I carefully made it clear that I don’t believe he’s my enemy (I still don’t).  I’ve even had a recent exchange with someone regarding whether or not I think he’s racist (I don’t).  I just think he’s willfully intellectually lazy on this topic, since he insists on attacking as much ‘low hanging fruit’ as possible, while ignoring hard critiques of his position.

Still, He’s my brother in Christ. He may have missed some things I said – either willfully or on accident (his response on The DL back in 2016 half-quoted me at times, so I’m inclined to say it was willful), but that makes him a believer with a blind spot. It doesn’t excuse it. Hopefully, he’ll understand one day. If not, it’ll get resolved in eternity. I don’t believe he’s a racist (because one of his followers will come on here claiming I called him one).

I do believe that he, like many other white believers who dwell in SRC-land, is trying to navigate this discussion and is afraid of being WRONGLY labeled a racist. I also believe that he, like quite a few of his followers, view these discussions at least partially (if not fully) through the lens of SRC and mistake that for orthodoxy Christianity. Unlike many other times when he is careful and meticulous, I believe that due to the aforementioned fear, he has retreated into the quickest strawman argument he can find (the boogeymen of cultural marxism, neomarxism, racial marxism, etc…) and mostly stopped listening.  He ends up talking past the people he criticizes, since he believes (wrongly) that this discussion is about a never-ending blame game instead of addressing a real and practical issue. A somewhat recent exchange with Thabiti Anyabwile is a good demonstration of this.

Since I wrote the above paragraph in 2018 (it’s now July 2019), I’ve had additional run-ins with James’s twitter posts which seem to confirm what I’ve suspected (that on this topic, he primarily gets his information from secular conservative websites and websites pretending to be Christian that repeat secular conservative arguments, some of which are tinged with racism, but vague enough to have plausible deniability). One of my next posts will deal with this.

As a result, many black believers I’ve seen address these and other topics have grown tired (and angry) at cut-and-paste SRC answers culled from secular conservative websites. We’ve grown tired of explaining the same things repeatedly to people who should see it clearer than others.  It is indeed as though we (black and white believers) are living in two different worlds.

So both ‘sides’ come at each other like the world – angry, impatient and ready to hit the ‘post’ button. I’ve been guilty of it. The solution continues to be the gospel message believed and applied, Christ’s love & the Imago Dei as the starting point. Micah 6:8/1 John 3:4-10 is a gospel issue, not a pet social issue. But it must be handled rightly.

In the interests of moving the conversation toward action and not simply tons of blog posts and tweets designed to further resentments, I propose the following:

1. Think carefully before you post or speak. Speak graciously, truthfully and accurately. Speak truth even when it goes against your personally accepted and culturally accepted sociopolitical narratives.  Proverbs 10:19 reads “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.  This sword cuts both ways. Is what you’re saying truthful ? Is it helpful ? Is your objective to speak truth and impart grace or to be ‘right’ ? Are you seeking to win your brother/sister or win the argument ?  Are you seeking to separate  and divide or to bring  gospel repentance and gospel conformity (2 Cor. 10:5) ? Are you seeking to inflame ?  Yes, your words matter as do the intention of your words. Honest words matter. Gracious words matter. Jesus didn’t always flip tables and drive out money changers (John 2, Matthew 21).  With some, He spoke tenderly (John 4), offered grace instead of condemnation while still calling sin what it is (John 8).  Prayer, wisdom and maturity are needed to accomplish this task. Jude 22-23 alongside 2 Tim. 2:24-26 are good guidance in what to say and how to say it. Avoid simply parroting  secular websites and their approaches (conservative or liberal).

2. Acknowledge hard truths.  Listen to understand, not to ‘answer’. There are sociological and economic issues in the black community, but they didn’t develop in a vacuum. Yes, the legacy of slavery (family separations, Jim Crow/Segregation, lynchings, socio-cultural stereotypes of black folks, eugenics, domestic terrorism, redlining, etc…) still has a direct impact on black communities today. Racist socio-cultural pathologies in white communities (hate crimes based on ethnicity, ethnic and cultural superiority) didn’t magically vanish in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The ‘curse of Ham‘, for example, was still taught in American seminaries up through the 80’s (Tony Evans notes in the linked article that both the Old Scofield Study Bible and C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch’s OT Commentary published in 1987 take this position).  That goes against the accepted SRC narrative trope of ‘slavery ended 150 years ago, everything else is your fault individually from your choices ‘.  Behavior toward African-Americans is influenced by this, law enforcement policies are influenced by this, political policies are influenced by this[2]. The media  and American culture have been complicit for over 100 years in spreading this programming of fear of black people in America.

For those of you reading this who think that this is simply ‘liberal propaganda’, ‘rehashing old wrongs that have nothing to do with today’  and ‘race baiting that started under Obama’, check the research on footnote #2 above. We are living in a legacy of past decisions which included racial segregation and discrimination which does have a direct impac

These are not things which black folks have just ‘all of a sudden’ began discussing. The difference is that social media has enabled those stories to be told that you normally never heard. Remember this ? Yes, it’s from a sitcom.  Twenty-six years ago.  Yes, it was talked about in the black community regularly, but no, the topic didn’t have a national stage.  A friend of mine posted one of his DWB (Driving While Black) incidents in 2016 and asked others on his friends’ list to chime in.  The post is currently over 100+ responses with events shared by multiple people (myself included).

We didn’t all grow up in the ‘same America’ and we need to beware of the cultural/ethnic assumptions that come with this view.  The cultural divide is real, not imagined. Growing up in Roland Park is not the same as growing up in Sandtown (both in Baltimore City, Maryland). Kids in Roland Park have never known the police coming through their neighborhood, telling groups of three or more to ‘break it up’, ‘stop playing ball in the street’ or any number of other things kids do regularly as kids.  Neither have they known police to approach them aggressively and disrespectfully on first encounter, treating them like felons-in-waiting from the beginning (related note: Martin O’Malley, former mayor and governor, is largely responsible for the current mess that Baltimore City is in with regard to law enforcement, crime and the lack of community support/engagement). A family friend who works in law enforcement confirmed that different types of ‘policing’  are purposely done in different neighborhoods, mostly based on color and ethnicity (closely linked with income and influence) in order to produce the needed “Lockup Quotas” that the local governments contract with private prisons for.

These things are true. They are not simply perspective. It’s also true that black folks are no longer in the 1960’s. Despite the imperfections of the United States of America, it is no longer

3.  If you only bring up statistics to silence people you disagree with, you need to check your heart.  You care about being right, not about truth. Stay off secular websites that use this tactic (both conservative and liberal).

What’s your reason for bringing up the rate of unwed births in the black community ? Do you have a solution ? Do you plan on going into those communities, setting up a beachhead and preaching to the community ? Do you plan on going in and mentoring young black boys whose fathers may not be a part of their lives ? Do you plan on going into those communities and helping the single mothers with the task of raising a child ?

I’m serious.

I’ve seen a number of people who speak out against so-called ‘social justice’, ‘racial marxism’ and other related topics are very apt to try to use statistics to get their opponents to shut up. A basic logic lesson for you:

  • Group A points out problem with Group B’s treatment of Group A.
  • Group B points out that Group A has a similar problem caused by other members of Group A.
  • Assumed conclusion is that Group A should focus on problems with other members of Group A first.

The problem, of course, is that Group B never addresses their own behavior; they blame shift from the original complaint and deflect off to another issue.  That is a secular tactic, but should never be the approach of the Christian. Ever.  It’s lazy, selfish and a direct violation of Lev. 19:18 and Galatians 6:2.

When it comes to abortion, you don’t only speak; you vote pro-life, you support pro-life policies, you engage in pro-life activities (e.g. volunteering or giving to pregnancy centers, counseling women and men in unplanned pregnancy situations and even adopting and fostering kids born to parents who chose life, but can’t keep the child).  In these cases, statistics (e.g. the number of abortions per day, the number of families waiting to adopt) are never used as weapons to shut people up and never thrown out to deflect away from one argument with a distraction by another. They are never used as hammers to beat people into silence.

You are a hypocrite if you preach ‘be warm and fed’ to one group while bringing food and blankets to another.

4. Don’t be an ‘ally’ – be a brother/sister in Christ.  Let me be clear: the person on the other end of this discussion is not your enemy.  Stop approaching them as such.

Ephesians 4 gives some great guidance for this and all upcoming discussions:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (v. 1-6)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  and give no opportunity to the devil. (v. 25-27)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (v. 29-32).

Scripture calls for a different kind of relationship when discussing areas of disagreement with brothers and sisters and that extends to the blogsphere.  We absolutely cannot operate like the secular communities which may have some of our moral/political positions in common.

This sword cuts both ways.

We cannot guilt present-day white believers into ‘feeling bad for being white because of what white folks before them did’.  Don’t get me wrong: redlining and discrimination in the 40’s definitely did give some middle and upper-middle class white families decades of advancement over their black counterparts so that the ‘starting points’ for their grandchildren in 2019 are different and disproportionate.  But that white millennial in 2019 stepping into the business world is not responsible for what his grandparents did

Neither can we ignore problems in black communities and pretend they are simply figments of the imaginations of black folks who experience them. A few

Neither can we demonize and speak untruthfully of those we disagree with. A little over a week ago, The Founders’ Ministry (a reformed sub-group in the Southern Baptist Convention) released a trailer for an upcoming documentary movie on the so-called ‘Dangers of Social Justice in the SBC’ called “By What Standard ?“. As Tony Arsenal rightly points out over at  the Reformed Arsenal blog, the video purposely uses unrelated clips to make people look like they believe something they don’t.  The music, setting, coloring, etc… are all made to incite negative feelings against those speaking out regarding social justice issues, as though their ultimate goal is to undermine biblical authority. This is blatantly dishonesty. It’s lying. It’s a 9th commandment violation.  Period. Believers are commanded to treat each other differently.

*there is an update to this section. See footnote #3 below.

5. Any and all approaches and discussions need to work toward fellowship, reconciliation and co-laboring together, not false accusations and division. That’s going to require BOTH ‘sides’ to back off harsh secular attack style tactics.  James White once (correctly) stated this:

https://twitter.com/DrOakley1689/status/1034933115553079297

Yet he posted things like this repeatedly:

Folks who normally support him (lay people) have been addressing him about it, but his response has generally been the same as you see above (additional examples aren’t needed….his twitter is still littered with them).

Let me be clear: these are the tactics of the secular conservative movement, not Christians. This behavior is not glorifying to Christ.  I *am* thankful that he has recently (late July 2019) decided to stop posting material like this on Twitter, other than show announcements and another encouraging post showing a different attitude (though it seems folks haven’t forgotten yet):

But this is after he has already produced a number of ‘clones’ who act in the same acerbic/acidic style of commenting and conversing that he has demonstrated over the past few years. I think one thing that would go far with him and others is a simple repudiation of past behaviors.

American politics and American society affect all of us, even those of us who think we are ‘colorblind’.

Why these five points ?

Simple. The church as a whole was part of the creation of the racism problem. We need to be part of the solution as well. I will say a lot more to say as this series continues. Notice, I said we. The Body of Christ.  Not simply ‘black Christians’ or ‘white evangelicals’.

I’d like to unpack a gospel-centered approach to what each of these points for moving forward look like.  In the next article, we’ll tackle point #1. Read up in Ephesians 4 between now and then.

Take care.

============
(1) For the record, all theological conservatives didn’t go along with segregation. The RPCNA rightly repudiated ‘perpetual negro slavery’ as antithetical to the gospel in the early 1800’s. Men like Charles Haddon Spurgeon spoke strongly against slavery and found themselves very unpopular in the Southern US (including standing death threats and book burnings). Men like John Brown led uprisings and rebellions over the injustice of slavery.  Unfortunately, their voices are often ignored or drowned out among the other ‘conservative’ voices that supported the practice.

(2) Literally: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_a_Nationhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/26/critics-say-the-media-makes-innocent-blacks-look-dangerous-heres-their-latest-example/?utm_term=.3111e5329792https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGJMgCn0fQs  for starters.  For a scholarly treatment of this subject, see these links:

(3) Within A week after I typed this section, three of the six members of the Founders’ admitted that in their conviction, the video did violate the 9th commandment (Fred Malone believed both the 6th and 9th commandments). They could not agree with the rest of the board that the video was sinful in its’ presentation, so they resigned. Several individuals originally filmed for the project have asked that their contributions be taken out of the film, Founders Min pulled the original video, edited it and reuploaded it (this time, also addressing the claims by points made by Tony Arsenal by labelling where each clip came from, even though the order of the clips makes no sense). While I believe there is a legitimate concern for intersectionalism and other unbiblical sociological tools being imported into the church, the approach of this project (based on the trailer) seems to be more about casting the folks at FoundersMin as the ‘heroes’ against an insidious foe (with dramatic music, grainy black and white-filtered video and more) rather than being a serious engagement with a desire to bring about Biblical unity.

Lessons from John Allen Chau

TL:DR – His heart in the right place, lack of wisdom and knowledge made for some unwise choices in visiting North Sentinel. God may yet bring fruit of his visit to the island.

The whole thing:

John Allen Chau died presumably between November 16th and 17th of 2018 trying to reach the people of  North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Sentinelese are believed to be one of a few people groups on the planet to have little to zero contact with the outside world.

Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail have extensive articles on the subject, complete with pictures of his last journal entries for you to read and a timeline of events that led up to his death (I personally recommend the Daily Mail first, then The Guardian).

And despite a lie from an article on Patheos, International Christian Concern has NOT called for the prosecution of any natives.

John had visited the Andaman twice in the previous few years, and grew a genuine love and heart for the people of the area. His friends and family say that he’s had this trip planned for at least 3 years and had a genuine desire in his heart to see the Sentinelese people come to faith in Christ.

On social media (including on my own timeline), I’ve seen commentary ranging from mocking (complete with profanity) to praise (calling him a martyr). That shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read their Bible – non-believers have zero reasons to view a Christian attempting to reach an unreached people group as a ‘good thing’.  Death of missionaries on first contact with unreached tribes is also not a new thing.  Jim Elliott and four other men were killed attempting to evangelize the Huaoroni people of Ecuador.

Christianity has always been a missionary religion, as the book of Acts documents the first missionary activity of the church as it expanded throughout the Roman empire.  Men like Stephen (Acts 7) and James (Acts 12) were killed by ruling parties to try and stymie the growth of the early church. That will never change.  The call to give up one’s life to follow Christ (Luke 9:23-27) is not simply metaphorical. We see it in the persecution of the church throughout the world (especially in middle eastern countries). Matthew 28:19 is a command, not a suggestion.  Christians have an obligation to either give or go.

John’s trip to the North Sentinel Island, though well-intentioned (and rightly intentioned), raises a number of issues related to missions including possible breaking of laws (more on this later) and an overall missiology (a theology of how to do missions).

First, the command to spread the gospel has not always gone out without cultural baggage and there have been consequences.  In 1880, Britains, in the name of colonialism, kidnapped several members of the Sentinelese and traveled with them to Port Blair, a nearby inhabited port in the Andaman islands. They did so with the objective of trying to integrate (forced contact) the tribes with the modern world at that time.  Two of the tribespeople died by the time they reached port, possibly of diseases contracted by contact with the British. The British returned the survivors to their island with some gifts, but the language barrier and the forcefulness of being extracted from their land and then returned may not have registered as anything but aggression. The British (who, at that time had colonized parts of India), were looking to use some of the Andaman Islands as a penal colony. Colonization of other nations by European countries was often done in the name of ‘bringing civilization to savages’ (which often included ‘taking the land in the name of Christ’), while at the same time (as we learn from Columbus’ journals), greed, conquest and sexual license.  Our knowledge of the Sentinelese and their history outside of our contact with them is limited; we know they have had contact with neighboring tribes in the area (one anthropologist noted, when they saw members of another local tribe, they became angry).  The same anthropologist (T.N. Pandit) recently commented that he was surprised that the Sentineli killed anyone. He gave suggestions on how to approach them, also relating his own face-to-face interactions with them over several decades.

When American missionaries went west and encountered Native Tribes, they often brought their cultural assumptions (i.e. adjust your clothing to our cultural styles, have ‘Christian names’, live our particular way of life) with them and tried to equate these with the gospel. Nothing in the gospel message says you must change your name to fit a standard ‘American’ name. Nothing in the gospel message says you must change your clothing style (although total nudity would be prohibited) from your native garb to our ‘Christian American’ way of dressing.  They also included things like the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced many Native Tribes off their land (some went peacefully). European Christianity has had a mixed bag of imperialism and colonialism which have sometimes clouded the gospel message.

The relevance of these facts above is simple; in the life of a tribe which has generally eschewed contact with the outside world, legends of ‘paled skinned men’ in large boats bringing death to members of the community may linger fresh in the oral tradition of the tribe, even a century and a quarter later.  John, being a young white male, had this as a disadvantage before he got off the boat.  The last group of ‘white men’ to visit the Sentineli people (National Geographic in 1974) were also greeted with arrows.

Second, for health and safety reasons, the Indian government has (in the past) declared the island to be off-limits. “Hands off, eyes off, leave them alone and to themselves” has been the official policy.  Every few years, the Indian government sends a boat or helicopter nearby to check on the existence of the inhabitants, but since the early 2000’s, all attempts to contact and integrate the group into modern society have been abandoned (though this may well change with the policies of the current government – more on this later).  The tribe, apparently desiring to be left alone, has been isolated from the remainder of the outside world and its’ diseases and pathogens.  Just as disease was brought from Europe to the U.S. that the Native Americans had no immunity to, so too it is a great concern that when making contact with isolated peoples, that it be done safely.

I’m well aware that this was not a major concern in the past when it came to missions, but as God has enabled us to grow in our knowledge of how the human body works, we now know how easy it is for diseases and pathogens to be transmitted and take precautions.  An uncontacted tribe in the Brazillian rainforest and the Sentineli may not have had the common cold virus between them, but the westerners visiting them do. Well-meaning westerners have spread disease unintentionally to tribes and peoples without immunity to them outside of a controlled and well-planned series of contacts. The Indian government has named this as an area of concern repeatedly.

On a related note, during some of my reading, I have learned that in August of this year, the current government under Prime Minister Modi has removed the RAP (Restricted Area Permit) status from 29 of the Andaman Islands, including North Sentinel. Visiting the island is not strictly off-limits (more on the implications of this later). The Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation of 1956, however, is still in effect, making it illegal to make forced contact with people in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands who are scheduled/protected tribes (i.e. the Sentinelese and the Jarawas for example).

Missions and First Contact

How should first contact be made with a group when seeking to share the gospel ? Every missions agency may not have a sound philosophy for engaging unreached people groups. Every believer may not have studied missiology enough (I confess to be one of them) to have a solid philosophy and approach to missions and evangelism.  There are medical concerns (mentioned) as well as the physical well-being of the people involved.  Most successful groups I’ve seen go in with the purpose of serving the local community first and then sharing the gospel as they work alongside the people in building their community’s resources. The trap, however, is to bring along too much of one’s culture in the process of helping the community.

The Rahab Dilemma

Under the Protected Tribes act, the fishermen who provided material assistance for John to get to the island are being charged (his family is requesting that they drop the charges). He paid off folks to knowingly break the law and get as close (within the buffer zone) as possible without landing on the island. In addition, there was forced (not initiated by the tribespeople) contact (he met face to face with them). Yet, it was done for a good reason (evangelism).

Unlike Islam, Christianity has no doctrine of taqiyaa, so Christians are not permitted to lie during times of war or to unbelievers in the name of evangelism.  At this point, one may try to point to Rahab, the Jerichoite prostitute who hid the spies in Joshua 2 because she knew from what she’d heard that the city was given to the people of Israel by God and would fall to them. She only pleaded that her family be saved when they invaded the city (they were….and Rahab is even an ancient ancestor of Christ).

Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 praise her as being faithful to Christ for both welcoming the spies and for hiding them….but never for lying about it to the King of Jericho when he came looking for the spies.  If you’ve talked with missionaries in unsafe countries, you’ll know that there are times now when Christians in persecuted countries, under duress, have lied to public officials in order to protect other believers or their families from being sent to prison, killed or worse (tortured then killed). They’ve done so with guilty consciences, praying for forgiveness for the lie. There were situations like this in the early church as well prior to the Edit of Milan in 313. This does not excuse the lie or the moral responsibility that comes with it.

With these considerations in mind, I took a look (and a lot of reading) regarding what John Allen Chau did and what can be learned from it.  Here are my four basic observations.

1. John’s heart for missions was at the core of who he was as a Christian. This is good. He was not a ‘colonizer’.  His desire, first and foremost, was to see these people worshiping at the throne of God in their language as depicted in Revelation 7:9-10.  He has a consistent track record (even in his teens, he worked with FEMA during Hurricane Katrina and traveled to a lot of disaster areas to help out over the past decade of his life).

Non-Christians will not understand…well…most won’t.  Penn Gillette, one half of the duo of Penn & Teller, once remarked:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPe3NGgzYQ0

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

John’s journal entries (again – read The Daily Mail ‘s article and see his handwriting) demonstrate a true heart changed for Christ.  As a believer, you understand the eternal implications (John 3:18) of folks dying without Christ. You understand the implications of Romans 10:1-10. Someone must go. So you preach, you proselytize and you build relationships so you can share the gospel.  I would like to think that John was thinking that the tribespeople would accept him, he would live amongst them, learn their language, customs and ways and eventually be in a position to share the gospel with them. John took scripture seriously – He left the comfort of the US and went somewhere that he knew may well have been the place where he would be killed. He knew the danger and went anyway.

The gospel has that effect. 2000 years ago, a group of fishermen, a former tax collector, a former insurgent and some other guys were gathered together by an itinerant Jewish rabbi.  When their Teacher was arrested and killed by crucifixion, they all fled in fear, some going back to their fishing.  Days and weeks later, these men along with an extended group of followers found themselves publicly preaching the teachings of this same Rabbi without fear of these same Jewish officials.

What happened ?  Jesus changed a heart of fear to a heart of faith. They saw the resurrected Christ for themselves.  They knew that all He spoke was true and finally understood what He chose them for. They stepped forward and dealt with persecutions, attacks, slander, insults and a host of other things which make our present-day lives in America look like glory in comparison.

John Chau had that same heart.  Make no mistake. His journal entries speak in the same voice that the Apostle Paul did as he stood before Governor Festus in Acts 25:11 and again decades later in old age when he wrote from jail while awaiting execution, reflecting on his life’s work in spreading the gospel (2 Tim. 4:7). I have no doubt that I and every other true believer in Christ will meet John on the other side of this life. He seems like a pretty cool guy and is a good example of a life not wasted.

2. John’s zeal could not make up for his lack of knowledge and proper planning. Even with the training he received (he is a graduate of Oral Roberts University), his approach, as an outsider, lacked wisdom, proper planning and proper support. Indian anthropologist T.N. Pandit spent two decades attempting to establish contact with the group, slowly greeting them from a distance multiple times until they chose to come out to the boats in the lagoon area of the shore in 1991. After 1991, virtually every attempt at contact was met with hostile response.  Accidental contact (i.e. two fishermen killed when their boat drifted to the shore by accident in 2008) as well as purposeful contact (i.e. arrows shot at a helicopter checking on the people after the 2004 tsunami) have all been met with aggression.

Another large problem is that he was not sent by the local church.  Every example of missions work in scripture originates with the local church and not simply with individuals with a desire to ‘do missions work’.  Paul, Peter and all of the apostles were either sent directly by Jesus (Matthew 28:19) from the church at Jerusalem or the apostles sent others with the same goal of building communities of worshipers (church planting).  When Paul leaves the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20, it is with tears and thankfulness to God for him and his work as they walk him to his ship.  In 1 Thessalonians 2 and 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul recounts to the Thessalonians how he and Barnabus did not ask them for any funds for their living (even though they had a right to), but rather they labored for their own income so they could serve without burdening the local community. They also did this to serve as an example against idleness – if you don’t work, you don’t eat. This model of coming alongside a local community is a sound one because it gives the community and the individual(s) a chance to build a relationship. The individuals on mission to the community also get to serve the community (because no one will listen to what you have to say if you haven’t demonstrated your care for them as people first).

While I’m here, let me also mention that parachurch ministries (including missions agencies) are not substitute for the authority of the local church (1 Peter 5).  The structure of the church in scripture is consistently elders -> deacons -> laity.  Deacons serve and coordinate. Elders rule, teach and keep watch over the flock.  Hebrews 13:7 is a reminder of this as well.  God put these ‘wisdom systems’ in place to keep well-meaning believers from going out on their own and getting into trouble.   Elders appoint other elders – Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5 – you don’t appoint yourself as an elder. Likewise, as with the example of Paul, missionaries are sent out by the local church, not by the individual following what they believe to be a call from God.

You believe you have a ‘call’ for a vocation from God ? Tell it to the elders, have them pray on it and if it is from God (if it is biblical), He will set you on the path toward it with the blessing of the elders and their support.  He will raise up the infrastructure for you to accomplish this vocational call properly and legally.

If not, you may be full of zeal, but that zeal needs some knowledge, planning, support and maturity before you end up on the beach of an isolated island.

3. He broke laws in order to bring about good. This goes back to the Rahab dilemma I mentioned above. Is it right to do wrong that good may come ? There are times when civil disobedience is right and biblical. Christians in the 1950’s and 1960’s recognized this and followed Dr. King’s lead on non-violent sit-ins and boycotts of businesses in an effort to end segregation. The church grows in areas where Christianity is suppressed (i.e. China, Saudi Arabia and China) because believers gather to worship as commanded by scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I would submit, however, that these situations are different.  Church congregations had been established in these areas and these churches today are supported by local churches and missions agencies. John would’ve been wise, in my opinion, to work through a local missions agency that was working on establishing peaceful contact with the Sentinelese. Several such organizations (i.e. India Missions Association) exist and are already established enough to serve as a ‘command base’ to begin the initiative, including working with the government on a legal basis to establish contact.

I cannot commend John paying fishermen and a network of people to get access to the island illegally (legally, everyone is required to remain 3 nautical miles away from the island at all times).  He did so knowingly (per his journal entries).

4. His work may yet bear fruit in years to come.  He went.  He risked.  John Piper, in opening chapter 5 (pages 79 and 80) of his book Don’t Waste Your Life, states the following:

If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.
WHAT IS RISK?
I define risk very simply as an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury. If you take a risk you can lose money, you can lose face, you can lose your health or even your life. And what’s worse, if you take a risk, you may endanger other people and not just yourself. Their lives may be at stake. Will a wise and loving person, then, ever take a risk? Is it wise to expose yourself to loss? Is it loving to endanger others? Is losing life the same as wasting it?
It depends. Of course you can throw your life away in a hundred sinful ways and die as a result. In that case, losing life and wasting it would be the same. But losing life is not always the same as wasting it. What if the circumstances are such that not taking a risk will result in loss and injury? It may not be wise to play it safe. And what if a successful risk would bring great benefit to many people, and its failure would bring harm only to yourself? It may not be loving to choose comfort or security when something great may be achieved for the cause of Christ and for the good of others. (Piper, pp. 79-80)
Since John’s last journal entry was signed Soli Deo Gloria, I’m inclined to believe that somewhere in his personal belongings is a copy of this book, with these pages and this paragraph highlighted or underlined. He lived his theology out, rightly.
In my own reading on this issue (most of the links I post in this article have been my references), it seems that his encounter may bear some fruit in the area of anthropological studies later. Perhaps, God may raise up a Christian anthropologist at a time when the government is willing to make contact with the tribes and the tribes themselves are willing to connect with the outside world on a limited basis.  Perhaps a man or woman may be raised up to go (again) in this way.
In addition, as mentioned above, the recent (August 2018) revocation of the Restricted Area Permit requirement for North Sentinel island may yet  provide another opportunity for someone to make contact with the tribe positively between now and 2022 when the temporary reprieve on the act expires.  The government has opened 29 of the islands in the area up for tourism to bolster the economy and help bring the already-contacted tribes into modernity, but a window may now be open for the establishment of a church among the tribal populations already contacted.
We will pray and we will see.
Meanwhile, pray for the family of John, that they may be comforted at this time, knowing that He is in glory and worshiping before the throne of God.  His body (according to the fishermen who took him there) is lying in the open on the beach, presumably as a warning for any future visitors to stay away.
Pray for future missionaries, to whom the job of watering and planting will fall. Pray that God give them strength, wisdom and resources to complete the task that John started.
Pray for the Sentinelese people.  As with the Huaoroni, they may be a society whose first response to outsiders is violence.  As God changed the hearts of the Huaoroni, may He also change the hearts of the Sentinelese to be open to the gospel.

Pro-Life or Pro-Birth ? Observations and Answers

Just a quickie.

The usual argument is “pro-lifers are really only pro-birth. they don’t care about children once they get here.

I’m sure you’ve heard this parroted repeatedly.

It’s a lie.

Repeating a lie over and over again still doesn’t make it true.

There are currently (2018) over 13,000 pregnancy centers (pro-life) across the US. Please note the comparison to the number of Planned Parenthood centers in each region.   Yes, they do outnumber them. We’ll discuss what these centers do in a little bit.

There ARE republicans who only pay lip-service to the pro-lifers they court for votes (just as there are democrats who only pay lip-service to black folks they court for votes).  Usually, when these guys do something anti-life, conservative pro-life folks call them on it.   This article from very liberal news outlet The Slate shows the reaction from pro-lifers when republicans in congress tried to scrap the adoption credit.   These quote (among others) from Al Mohler and Russell Moore summarize the issue well:

“There will be, in effect, an economic incentive to abort those babies,” the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, told listeners of his popular daily podcast on Thursday, before the reversal was announced. The Republican Party “puts its moral character at risk by putting forward of tax reform proposal that would disincentivize the adoption of children.” The Susan B. Anthony list, an anti-abortion PAC, issued a statement critical of the provision; Focus on the Family said it has “reached out to every channel available to us” to save the credit. A blogger for the conservative site Hot Air summed up the social-conservative response to the proposal: “What the hell are they thinking?”

“The GOP claims to be the pro-family, pro-life party, but they are funding Planned Parenthood and killing an adoption tax credit that literally helps families adopt children,” wrote Erick Erickson, urging his readers to “shut down Congress’s phone lines” with calls to keep the credit in place. Russell Moore, the influential policy head of the Southern Baptist Convention, echoed that argument and called the credit’s loss “insane”:

Looks like the House leadership wants to double down on removing adoption tax credit, all while funding Planned Parenthood. This move hurts children, adopting families and actually costs the govt $ in the long term. Insane.Russell Moore (via Twitter)

Notice the priorities here – not just birth, but adoption, life, decent quality of life, marriages and families.

I appreciate the article on The Slate because it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a liberal news outlet actually tell the truth about what pro-life folks have as priorities and how we decry anti-life policies even when they come from the republican party.

A quick word or three on these pregnancy centers.  Are they only concerned with keeping women from having an abortion ?  Not hardly.  They are concerned with helping the woman who chooses life for her unborn to have a decent life.  And for those women who are post-abortive and have problems dealing with their emotions and such….they offer support for them too.   A few good examples of this:

http://www.capitolhillpregnancycenter.org/services.html
http://rwcdonors.com/services/
http://www.pregnancy-options.org/services.shtml

Notice that the services offered include job and housing referrals (and placements in some cases), parenting classes, prenatal care, testing and examinations, adoption referrals, etc….. FREE.  Again… the pro-life position is and has been concerned with more than just the birth of the child.

But repeating a lie often enough…..

“Well, maybe that’s how it is where YOU are, but I don’t see that happening here.” (I’ve been told this once or twice)

My response is that maybe it’s because you’ve chosen to surround yourself with media and people who only believe what you believe and you get your information from sources that don’t tell you the truth about opposing views. This is the ‘echo chamber’ effect.

That brings up another important point: liberals (especially Planned Parenthood, NARAL and like organizations) often LIE about what happens in pro-life pregnancy centers.  Not only do they lie about pro-life centers, but since they donate heavily to democratic mayors and city council officials, they lobby to create laws which either keep out, discourage or limit pro-life clinics from opening up in the same areas as abortion clinics.

No, I’m not making these charges up. Here’s an article from 2013:
https://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/05/health/pregnancy-centers-gain-influence-in-anti-abortion-fight.html

Cities like Austin, Baltimore and New York have tried regulating centers with ordinances requiring them to post signs stating that they do not provide abortions or contraceptives, and disclosing whether medical professionals are on-site. Except for San Francisco’s, the laws were blocked by courts or softened after centers sued claiming free speech violations. Similar bills in five states floundered. Most legal challenges to “Choose Life” license plates failed, although a North Carolina court said alternate views must be offered.

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll remember when Planned Parenthood tried to use anti-racketeering laws against pro-life groups who gathered to pray outside of abortion clinics.  The Supreme Court struck down this misuse of the RICO laws in 2006.

They also lie about their own services and activities. They say abortion are only a very small percentage of their services, but they come to this conclusion deceptively (a friend called it  “lying with numbers”). The procedure itself is a service, the medication is a service, the anesthesia is a service, the examination is a service, the prescription is a service….so out of those 5 things, only 1 is the abortion.

Again, here’s an article on the topic from a liberal news source:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/08/12/for-planned-parenthood-abortion-stats-3-percent-and-94-percent-are-both-misleading/?utm_term=.dfdf3702879b

I assume by now you’ve checked the links above. So with that in mind, read the following:

The objective is pretty simple: liberals have always been interested in silencing opposing views. Liberalism (modern liberalism) is egalitarian on including multiple ethnicities, but totalitarian when it comes to viewpoint agreement. They don’t want to hear from opposing viewpoints (i.e. https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/06/14/california-university-refuses-to-speak-with-pro-life-group-about-free-abortion-drugs/) and will routinely commit the strawman fallacy (choosing an exaggerated or inaccurate version of view of their opponent’s view and ignoring stronger arguments that make their position look weak).  The echo chamber effect is in place for a reason – it reinforces the status quo and helps maintain political power.

Again, these are things anyone can figure out simply from general observation. The current democratic left has gradually purged their ranks of pro-life democrats since the 90’s. Any who choose to speak up get censured and marginalized.  Read here: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/08/03/democrats-abortion-pro-choice-life-219154

Last summer, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez publicly proclaimed that “every Democrat” should support abortion rights, prompting an outcry that the party was implementing a “litmus test.” Democrats for Life arranged a meeting with Perez shortly after the dust-up but left still feeling like the skunk at the party. Asked about the DNC’s abortion stance in the 2018 midterms, spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said the party’s top goal this year is electing Democrats and “stopping Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights and the middle class. There is no doubt that Republicans are the biggest threat to women’s health, and we will work with all Democrats to stop them.”

Anti-abortion Democrats say they—and the voters they represent—aren’t just marginalized on this one issue: They say Democratic pollsters, fundraisers and vendors don’t want to work with anti-abortion candidates for fear of losing favor and business with the rest of the party. “If you’re trying to raise money on the national level, it gets very, very difficult,” Stupak said in an interview during the Democrats for Life convention. “There will be no money. There will be no help.” Email service vendors and pollsters frequently turn down Democrats for Life, according to the Democrats for Life president, Janet Robert.

And there are Democrats who insist that anti-abortion candidates shouldn’t get elected at all even if they have a “D” after their name—or at least that the party’s members should be defined by progressive values, as Representative Luis Gutiérrez said when he endorsed a primary challenger to Lipinski earlier this year (Lipinski prevailed). Outside the Radisson hotel, Colorado state Representative Leslie Herod was among those participating in a small protest led by the liberal group ProgressNow Colorado, which set up a truck with a giant sign calling abortion access a “progressive value.” Democrats for Life’s intentions are “quite nefarious. They’re looking for ways to divide us as a party before the next election cycle,” Herod said. “These aren’t core values that you can just pick and choose.”

The DNC is perfectly fine with run down cities, crime and low employment in black neighborhoods, in spite of their normal pandering to black communities in public. Those situations make people feel desperate and when pregnancy happens, they push and encourage people toward abortion FIRST. DNC operatives and candidates swoop in with “White Savior Complex” in tow and tell black folks and other minorities that they need abortion so they can be free to provide for themselves.

That money (from abortion) feeds abortion groups like Planned Parenthood (who donate to NARAL and similar groups). PP and NARAL donate money to candidates who help keep them in business. The federal government subsidizes PP. PP and NARAL donate some of that money back to the DNC to help elect candidates who will keep them in business.  Ad infinitum, ad murderum, ad re-electium.

Blood money.

And if you’re actually pro-black (and not pretend pro-black, where you support things which negatively impact the black community), approximately 17-18 million black lives have mattered to the abortion industry as profit, not as people.

Blood money.

And if you’re a feminist (specifically 3rd and 4th wave), roughly 51% of all abortion victims are female.

It’s easy to be for abortion when you’re already born…..

(But it’s the republican’s fault.)

There’s more than could be addressed here, but I’m running into my 1800 1900 2100 2300 2500-word limit.

Reading the scriptures, what other kind of world did you expect ?  In the ancient Roman empire, newborn children (mostly boys) were thrown away into the sewers underneath of brothels because boys didn’t make as much money for the establishment. Same motivations: greed, sex and convenience. Human abortion today should be no surprise.  We’ve just sanitized the language and sought to kill them before they leave the womb instead of afterward.

Abortionists need the gospel. Women who have had abortions need forgiveness, compassion and the gospel. People who’ve promoted abortion need the gospel.  1 Corinthians 6:11 states “and such were some of you” after listing a host of sins including murder, greed and sexual immorality in 6:9-10. Think of that carefully for a moment. “Some” of the members of the church of Corinth may have been former prostitutes who killed their babies out of convenience to their careers.

Christ changes hearts and offers forgiveness for even the sin of murdering your unborn child, whether you’re the guy who paid and pressured his girlfriend/wife to abort the child, the woman who decided yourself or the doctor who performed the procedure.

Let me push the point home: sin is a violation of God’s laws for human behavior. All sin, whether heterosexual sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, greed, gluttony, murder (and abortion is murder), hatred, etc…. creates a debt between the sinner and God. God is holy and just as a Judge; He does not ‘wink’ at sin and let it slide. God being holy presents a problem for humanity. As a Perfect Judge, He will not let any sin slide. It will be punished. Hitler ? Yep. He will have a day before God and answer for his murders. The kid who lied on you in 3rd grade ? Yes, that kid too.  The woman who lied on Emmett Till and got him lynched ?  She’s 83 now.  Her day before her Creator is coming sooner than later. And all those moments you lied, stole, held hatred in your heart as a grudge against others…. you too will answer.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 remind us of this:

 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (ESV)

No one gets away with anything, even if you don’t see them get justice now. There are eternal consequences in play here.

This is why Jesus Christ came; to both live a perfect life that you and I have not lived and to die in our place as a sacrifice and payment for sin that you and I could not pay (because we’re not perfect).

The Bible calls upon the individual (you reading this) to repent (meaning turn from – the same way you’d turn from driving to Maine when you meant to drive to Florida, but you took I-95 north instead of south) and believe (place your whole faith, trust and reliance in/upon) in Jesus Christ and His perfect sacrifice as the payment for your sins.   An individual finds forgiveness for these sins by placing their whole faith and trust in Christ as Lord the same way one places their whole faith and trust in a parachute to open and keep them from dying when skydiving.  It means coming before Christ right where you sit and read this blogpost, acknowledging to Him that you have indeed violated His laws and believing upon Him as your righteousness before God the Father. When you do this, His perfect life is counted on your behalf so that when you stand before God, you will be counted as though you lived Christ’s perfect life and never sinned.

The cost ? Your life. It will no longer be your own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). You are now responsible for following, believing and obeying what He taught (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the Bible, Christ forgives murderers (the Apostle Paul consented to Christians being murdered before Christ changed His heart), former prostitutes (Mary), the greedy (Matthew), and more. Don’t let self-righteousness or self-loathing and depression (you are not the ‘worst sinner’) keep you from Christ. Repent and believe the gospel today. That’s good news.

If you need help, feel free to contact me via twitter and I’ll point you to the right people to help you out.

(2462 words in case you’re wondering)

A Few Reflections on Robert Champion’s Death, Hazing and HBCU Bands

Those who know me know that my life has several different streams to it – I’m a band director, choir director, DJ, emcee, graffiti artist, been a dancer, been in marching band, member of a black greek fraternity, Christian apologist, small-time conference speaker and a few more things. The people I get exposed to allow me an opportunity to ‘examine life’ in light of other things. This is why I’m perfectly at home discussing reformed theology with a bunch of people who don’t look like me, don’t have my cultural background and I’m equally at home discussing most aspects of 70’s-90’s black urban culture including the origins of hip hop.

So this is one of those ‘stream crossing’ moments.

Robert Champion, freshmen drum major at Florida A&M University, passed away over a month ago immediately after the Florida Classic. That evening, twitter and everyone’s FB page was alight with speculation (later confirmed almost to the letter) that hazing was the cause of his death. The band director, longtime (since 1973) faculty member Dr. Julian White, has been served a termination letter for “gross misconduct and/or incompetence in handling confirmed reports of hazing” in the music department and specifically in the FAMU Marching “100” (the name of the band).   Dr. White’s lawyer has shot back with 150+ pages of documentation showing that White wasn’t the one dropping the ball on handling hazing allegations – it was the university. He also demanded that the letter be rescinded.

Meanwhile, it seems like everyone put their beef aside for a day to lay Robert Champion to rest.

To properly frame this, a little education may be in order for those whose conception of  band members is ‘band geek’ or some random throwaway line from American Pie.

At most historically black colleges and universities like FAMU, the band is revered either as much as or more than the football team, basketball team or any of the athletics. Unlike most white colleges and universities, HBCU marching bands are, to a point, a fraternity/sorority. People come to football games at most HBCU’s just as much for the bands as for the football teams – in some cases, more.  There is an appreciation among groups, as we all ultimately see ourselves as equals and family based on these shared experiences, no matter which program we marched for.

The work to be a part of the group itself is equal to or greater than any athletic team, physically and mentally demanding and would very easily ‘break’ most of the people who stand back and make jokes based on their limited experience. Making ‘the group’ and doing well at it is a badge of honor that many (including myself) carry and wear proudly. Even at schools with smaller programs (like my alma mater, Bowie State University) during band camp, members train physically at 5-5:30 – 8 before going to breakfast, spend 9 am – noon on the field learning drills and precisions maneuvers to create the great formations you see on the field, eat lunch around noon, hit afternoon rehearsal from 1-5, dinner at 5:30 and then evening rehearsals which incorporate music, field routines, the drill, dance routines and much more until 10-11pm then head to sleep and do it again. So think a bit beyond ‘Drumline’ and ‘American Pie’.

Third, bands like FAMU, SU, GSU and some others travel far and wide around the world. There’s a reason Prince (SuperBowl XLI), Barack Obama (2008), Bill Clinton (1994), and the city of Paris (1989) chose the ‘100’ to come and perform as a part of their festivities or as the main entertainment.  Southern University was chosen during the mid 90’s to represent the US in China. Tennessee State and Texas Southern have travelled to Japan on good will trips (maybe I shouldn’t mention TxSU….old joke). TnSU has also travelled and performed in Switzerland. Morgan State and Bethune-Cookman in the Bahamas. Bowie State University in Canada at halftime for some CFL games. Coming up in just a little under two months is the Honda Battle of the Bands, which fills up most of the GA Dome (which seats a bit over 71,000), draws folk from all over to watch 10 HBCU bands perform…and this is the 10th year of the event.

So these bands are, for the most part, an institution at these schools just as much as any athletic program would be at your average Ivy League school, Big Ten school, etc…

With that, comes long lines of tradition – sometimes spanning over decades.  Incorporated in some of that tradition may be hazing ranging from simple things like instrument cleaning (which in my opinion isn’t hazing…take pride in your section and your group), silly skits for entertainment for older members of the group to verbal abuse to physical abuse (which I definitely disagree with). “We did it…it’s part of the identity of who we are.”

Having pledged a fraternity, I understand exactly how things have developed up to this point. Some of the things we see from the program outwardly (and I’m referring specifically here to some of the visual things we see like people moving in sync almost perfectly, doing certain moves certain ways, etc….) may have been ‘taught’ via hazing.

“This is the way we’ve always done it. When we’re done, you’ll understand why.”

There is the argument that having gone through a ‘shared experience’ (it happened to me, so I understand it, you will too afterward, you’re being brought into a ‘family’), there will be built a feeling of family and the establishment of a line of tradition exclusive to only a few people and YOU will be part of that line of tradition.  This shouldn’t be a hard point to understand, as we see people use this same line of logic with why they have their kids play football (because they played football and credit it with giving them a different perspective on life, helping them to become a better person, etc….).

Human depravity takes a good thing and twists it. Always. There are good ‘hard work’ traditions that should remain in place and be ‘standard’ everywhere. There are life-lessons to be learned in good sports experiences, good music programs, clubs and other organizations as a whole.  The military, as a whole, has codified most of this as basic discipline (attention to details of uniform, learning facial commands, learning to do things together in unison and as a team, physical training to help prepare the body and mind for the tasks of a military life, etc….).  Even in the early days of fraternity and sorority rituals, pledging activities (many of which are now defined as hazing) all had a purpose which related to the individual’s life experience and ultimately proved to be something an individual could look back on and use as ‘fuel for life’. I speak for myself here, reflecting back on many activities (even recently) in which I had to put on a ‘pledge mentality’ and trudge through whatever it was I needed to get done and get it done.

So it’s with great sadness that I see something as useful as a ‘process’ or the concept of a ‘process’ being reduced to a simple tradition of brutality…and all for the purpose of being a member of a certain bus (bus C).  Since the start of this article, Robert Champion’s death has been ruled a homicide and 30+ individuals have been interviewed….charges coming. Dr. White has his job back, albeit he is still on administrative leave without pay.

Dekalb County, where Champion as a drum major at Southwest Dekalb High School, has suspended all marching band related activities at all schools – primarily due to many ties with FAMU and allegations of hazing by parents regarding the student band culture in the district.

A few of us over at The 5th Quarter began some conversations regarding alternate non-hazing ways of having people earn their way/work their way into HBCU bands, learn the traditions and grow an appreciation for the organization. I can definitely think of ways to do this, but appreciation is something that comes with time and wisdom, not simply via a hard entrance process. I know, for example, too many of my frat brothers who ‘pledged hard’ and have gone inactive…but they pledged hard! (eyes rolling). I also know some of my frat brothers who did not engage in a pledge process, but have grown to love the frat just as much as those who came into the organization via a process.

I can’t justify hazing in light of Matthew 5. Apprenticing new members of an organization so that they learn the ins and outs of the organization is a different story.  And even in that process, the dignity of the human being, made in the image of God, must be preserved. The individual must be made to work (for human beings were made to work), but must not be made to feel less than human.

A sad ending (forthcoming with charges) to a sad story.  One man’s life lost, several other lives about to be ruined, a legacy all but destroyed (I’m not the only person who sees a temporary – for YEARS – disbanding of the 100 coming….), dreams shattered, opportunities evaporated, families brought to mourning over something senseless and downright silly in the grand scheme of things.

Court rules against Jericho City of SHAME pastor……

City of Shame because ANY church set up as a business is doomed to fail. Apparently, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is not in their bibles.

Background:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/jericho-city-of-praise-leaders-file-dueling-lawsuits-over-control-of-md-megachurch/2011/07/07/gIQAQtt65H_story.html

And the ruling handed down a day or two ago by a judge:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/court-rules-against-jericho-city-of-praise-pastor-in-fight-for-control-of-ministry/2011/10/24/gIQA3piqDM_story.html

Several observations about this mess in:

1. Women pastor (his momma). 1 Tim. 2:11-14, 3 and Titus 1 violation.

2. No one ‘inherits’ a ministry. 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1 set out the qualifications for elder.

3. There is no ‘board of directors’ in scripture. In scripture, churches are run by the elders (pastors/bishops). Not a ‘singular’ pastor with some assistant pastors. Not the deacons (the lower cannot rule over the upper).

4. Fighting in church over the collection plate during a service.

May God shut down all of these 1 Tim. 4:3 houses of entertainment masquerading as churches.

Thoughts on Kim Kardashian, gay marriage and….marriage

There’s been jokes about the brevity of Hollywood marriages for years now. Britney Spears and her 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander a few years ago still strikes me as incredulous and nothing more than a publicity stunt. It got press, but not much, since it seemed to happen on a whim over the course of a weekend spent partying in Vegas. But it, along with the many other relatively short ‘star’ marriages (usually 2-4 years at most) that continue to happen (and dissolve) among stardom go to underscore a lack of understanding about the seriousness of marriage.

Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to NBA star Kris Humphries has been latched onto by homosexual activists and pro-gay marriage folks as proof that the problem (as purported by conservative politicians and talkshow hosts) is not ‘gay marriage’ eroding the sanctity of marriage.

In part, they are correct.

Gay marriage and the desire of homosexuals to ‘marry’, no-fault divorce, Jada and Will’s open marriage – all of these things aresymptoms of a de-valued view of marriage.  George Takei and Perez Hilton have both commented on their twitter feeds that ‘straight’ people are ruining the institution of marriage just fine without homosexual folks’ help.

Both men have a point – but it’s only a small point. They cannot rightly use Kim’s, Britney’s or any other short-term marriage as THE ‘examples’ of straight marriage that are ruining the sanctity of marriage.   To put it in perspective, one cannot look at Britney Norwood and any other two random black people who commit heinous acts of murder and conclude that they are ‘all’ making it bad for black people as a whole.  Just as Norwood’s actions represent her and not all black people, likewise, Kardashian’s 72-day wedding (with a huge payout for the rights to broadcast the wedding….seems like she just made 18 million dollars easy) doesn’t represent ‘straights’ or ‘heteros’ (as I’ve heard one gay person call us).

Where’d the low view of marriage come from ?

While it’s been the purview of the culture to wax and wane on the sanctity of marriage, it is the responsibility of the church to always uphold it. Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us that marriage itself is a ‘great mystery’ and that this great mystery refers to Christ and His church.  Think of it. Marriage is supposed to be an earthly ‘picture’ of Christ’s relationship to His church.

Marriage was the first societal institution created by God – even before the fall (Genesis 2:25-26).  So, political rhetoric aside, it really is one of the bedrocks and basic institutions of society itself, regardless of what form of government you believe is better (or what form of government you live in).

What happens when the church forgets this fact ? We get adultery allowed and almost encouraged in churches. When the church gives a wink and a nod to a pastor and merely ‘sits him down’ for a bit, but then ‘restores him’ to his previous office (even though 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 CLEARLY state that he must be above reproach – see my comments here), the church’s stance on marriage is taken to be a joke at best and the ‘rantings of clearly repressed individuals who are probably gay themselves’ at worst.  Eddie Long comes to mind immediately.

When we add to it cover-ups by other believers or the simple ‘excusing’ of sin under the guise of ‘grace’ (cheap grace at that) without biblical repentance (and where necessary biblical church discipline which may include excommunication for unrepentant sin), and the church indeed becomes no better than the world.

Notice – I’m not separating marriage and sex in this. God created them to be together, just like one does not get a first down by running off the football field and putting the ball on a parking lot line. We may expect the world to divorce the two – which Paul warned against repeatedly in 1 Cor. 5, 1 Thess. 4:3-8 and many other passages. But scripture never does and believers should renew their thinking to match scripture. Hebrews 13:4 reminds us that God doesn’t consider sex to be a bad thing – it’s undefiled in marriage.  Key words: in marriage.  And God defines what marriage is in Genesis 2. God wrote an entire book on the joy of marriage and sex with Song of Solomon.  God gave section after section of scripture to instruct couples how to deal with each other in marriage and what marriage itself entails (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, etc….) and how and why to avoid temptation toward unfaithfulness (Proverbs 5-7).

When the church abandons these things as foundation and begins to imitate the culture, homosexual folks coming up and trying tocall something that isn’t marriage ‘marriage’, folks trying to call open adultery a form of ‘marriage’ and so on really become commonplace.  And when the church knows these things, but does not support and proclaim them openly, the same thing happens.

Thankfully, there are men like Voddie Baucham, Bob Lepine, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Gary Thomas, organizations like Family Life Today and others that seek to purposely proclaim and present a biblically accurate view of marriage, even in the face of society seeking to do the opposite.  As these men continue to step forth and stand in the gap, may those of us taught by them also take up the charge – not to proclaim what we are against as political pundits often do, but to wisely present a biblical case for what marriage really is and moreso – present the person asking with a view toward their need for a Savior – whether gay or straight (remember: 1 Cor. 6:9-10 treats heterosexual sex outside of marriage the EXACT same as homosexuality).

While We’re Waiting: Thoughts on the SGM Controversy (weeks later)

Ah. Yes. This.

Those of you who’ve followed here for a long time know that a few years back, one of my exes was an SGM (Sovereign Grace Ministries) church member (she left there while we were dating).  There were stories she used to tell me about spiritually and emotionally hurt people (herself included) that resulted from not going along with whatever ‘plan’ or program was being promoted at her church.

In addition, my own bits and pieces of independent research (including talking to then-current members and a few former members)  turned up a lot of ‘things that didn’t add up’ (i.e. no mention of Larry Tomczak’s name as helping to start SGM in their official history – not even in the 30 year anniversary DVD with a skit of how their church and ministry started), even though it appears in scholarly works like The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.

As an outsider, I can’t say that I’ve *always* had red flags about SGM. I haven’t. They’ve been on my recommended list of churches for years now (even on the main portion of this site) because the good there outweighs what I thought were simply a few negative criticisms (after all….no one’s perfect and spiritual hurt occurs even in the most sound of churches). I’ve heard stories of entire care groups taking off from work to help an individual move, come alongside someone who is grieving and even help with cooking, housekeeping and other things as an outworking of what the ‘oneanother’ passages in scripture point to.  So there are some very good things about SGM. God is at work in that denomination (yes, I know they don’t call themselves a denomination….but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….name it Donald or Daffy and move on with life).

I only found SGM Refuge and SGM Survivors on accident about 2-3 years ago….visited a few times, read a few dozen posts and a few hundred comments (for perspective) and then got tied up in other things.  So they weren’t an ‘influence’ so to speak, in me formulating my opinion of SGM. My general opinion was that they’re a good church movement, their teachings are relatively solid (only relatively…they are baptists… 🙂 ) and as the leadership in the movement grows more reformed in their thinking, the movement itself will grow more reformed. I do think that theologically, they still had (and this was my 2008 opinion of them) some growing to do in a few areas, but nothing to pull people away from.

I also noticed (and this is me analyzing church culture) that it seemed like all of their churches are clones of the mother church (Covenant Life). There seemed to be a certain personality type that ends up at CovLife (I didn’t notice a real ‘diversity’ of personality types like I would at other churches I’ve visited  and I’ve visited repeatedly at different points between 03 and 06 with sporadic visits between then and 08).  I don’t mean that in a negative way….it’s just an observation I noticed.

Anyway, we fast forward to the present. I may have read about 70-100 pages of the first documents that belonged to Brent D.  The rest of the smaller documents (the 26 and 30 page docs), I read in full, since they tended to summarize the earlier documents.

I’m not too surprised.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely unless your name is Jesus and you’re fully God and fully man.   This isn’t a problem unique to SGM.  Stuff like this happens in other denominations as well, albeit on a smaller scale in most cases. There’s also a certain tendency toward shepherding in some pentecostal movements that SGM’s leadership may have held onto all this time – either knowingly or unknowingly.

I’m also not surprised that a number of Christian men whom I’ve met, talked to and respect very much have jumped to his defense. They are his friends and friends do that for each other.  I personally think it might be smarter of them to belay their public defense of him (notice – I didn’t say their support….just public defense).  The reason I say that is that watching the entire thing unfold on the web as it has (not discussing whether or not it should be up there or not now….it’s there… you can’t unpop a balloon), if the independent panel evaluating Brent’s accusations does come to the conclusion that CJ is at fault, everyone who defended him (and trashed Brent at the same time…see below….) will necessarily be tainted.

That also includes the independent three-man panel (who tried to appear impartial on the issue, but actually have lots of ‘links’ to SGM and CJ in particular) who just declared CJ fit for ministry.

I say that as a caution because of the multiple discrepancies visible in the handling of the situation to date:

  • CJ acknowledges some things as sin and sees deficiencies in his leadership style as well as the style of SGM as a whole.
  • Josh says SGM is being publicly spanked. Rest of the leadership disagrees, Josh decides to leave the leadership board.
  • Others jump to CJ’s defense as if ALL the charges are completely false (in contradiction to CJ’s own released statement). In addition, they (along with SGM leadership) say whatever is necessary to discredit blogs like SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge…along with all of Brent’s documents.
  • Josh, on the other hand, at a family meeting (as well as in the Sunday morning sermon), pretty much encouraged people to go read the documents for themselves, read the blogs and acknowledged that there are some ‘true truths’ in the documents – enough to be concerned about and address as they have been doing.
  • Josh recently (this past Sunday I believe), backtracks on his previous statement (it appears..at least according to reports. I’m listening to the sermon now….) and regrets telling people to read the blogs and documents.

I’ve seen plenty of CJ and SGM defenders pop up as well as CJ and SGM bashers pop up.  Some people are straight speaking out of the pain that they experienced as SGM church members and now this is their time to ‘get even’.  A few out of genuine concern for the movement and the people involved in all of the situations.  Some speak as though CJ can and has never did any wrong and SGM is the ‘most perfect church on the face of the planet’.  A few have just shaken their heads in disbelief and said ‘move along…nothing to see here’. To also be honest, some are popping up simply because they hate reformed theology (which is what I caught a few whiffs of when reading Refuge and Survivors for the first time years ago) and this gives them a chance to ‘blame Calvinism’.

There’s been lots of ‘honest and open dialogue’ now in SGM. I keep reading from current members how their pastors are now discussing issues, failings and shortcomings, seeking out reconciliation with former and current members and much more.  SGM has even (and this is a good thing) allowed negative comments to stay up on their blogposts, with their main media guy (big ups to Andrew for doing such an awesome and gracious job) answering comments as they come in.

Maybe along the path of reforming SGM from a charismatic shepherding-movement/Jesus-people-movement spin-off to a pentecostal/charismatic church with reformational tendencies to a more solid biblical movement, some changes to the leadership structure must happen. God is sanctifying his church. There are a lot of good people in SGM and a lot of good things there.  But apparently, there’s also some things that need to change….otherwise, you wouldn’t have Survivors and Refuge and the hundreds of people who read and/or post there.

I don’t have a horse in this race.  I’m just the random presbyterian guy who has interacted favorably with a few SGM folks, know a few of them and see many “evidences of grace” in the lives of the folks I’ve dealt with (including a few of the leaders that I’ve had passing and/or extended convos with). The last person who I was ‘starstruck’ with was John MacArthur, Jr. at T4G 2006 when I got a chance to shake his hand and tell him ‘thanks’ for The Gospel According to Jesus. All men are sinners – we are saved by grace and without grace, would be nothing more than sinners. Learning that lesson has reminded me not to put people I admire on a pedestal.

Reflecting on SGM’s spiritual trajectory and looking at my own spiritual history down to this point, I see quite a few parallels. Those who know me from my interactions with folks on HCR over the years (and other places) know that I can be (and have been) a really harsh dude at times to those I’ve disagreed with.  Over the years, as the doctrines of grace sunk in deeper beyond the surface, I’ve learned to be more gracious to those I disagree with (don’t get it twisted. I will still call something moronic, stupid and idiotic if it is…and if it’s heresy, I have no beef with calling it lies from the pit of hell).  My theology got solid first and it gave me quite a ‘zeal’, so to speak….a zeal that I’ve grown to learn how to temper (not eliminate or ignore) with mercy, forgiveness, patience and kindness.

So maybe SGM’s going through some of those same growing pains, but as an entire movement and not just individuals (even though CJ is a main focus, since he leads SGM).

I don’t think it’s wise to treat it like a free-for-all-bash-all-things-SGM-related-and-pray-for-their-collapse as I’ve seen some do.  Likewise, I don’t think it’s wise to jump up in automatic defense. I don’t think it’s wise to dismiss all of the documentation that Brent D. has provided (he himself did not put it on the web, but apparently knows who did post it anonymously).  But I also don’t think it’s wise to take only one presentation of the story at face value (Prov. 18:17).

The blogsphere has a tendency to polarize folks on issues like this – thus, I’ve waited until weeks later to post and tried to be as objective on the topic as possible before releasing my thoughts to the general public. My suggestion is to pray for all involved as more things become public, and weigh them with biblical wisdom before simply ‘choosing a side’.  Pray for the men leading the movement and that they would not succumb to cronyism (CJ mentored most of the board members who are now responsible for evaluating him for ministry), favoritism and the ever so tempting tendency to ‘spin’ truth, spin presentations and only appear to be doing something without actually doing anything. Pray for CJ. It’s real easy to resort to defending yourself, ignoring comments of critics in place of your own self-evaluation which seems ‘good’ to you (trust me…been there…done that).

Pray for those hurt by SGM’s practices who’ve left the movement (and even those who have left the visible church altogether). Pray for those SGM pastors left in the movement to exercise wisdom, patience and to discharge their office in a manner pleasing to the Lord.

Pray for those still in SGM’s churches.  Pray that their faith be not shaken, but placed rightly in the Savior first and foremost and not in men.

That’s all for now.  Got a few articles to write for the main site.

-KG

Abandoning Militant Atheism

I had no  idea Christopher Hitchens’ had a younger brother and his brother is a Christian.

Haven’t delved that far into his brother’s faith yet, but ran across (courtesy of a friend’s Facebook status):

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/7535715/Can-faith-bring-back-the-Prodigal-Brother.html

So Peter Hitchens travels through militant atheist land and ends up as a believer.

My favorite statement from the reviewer lies here:

Peter Hitchens’s case is that militant atheists dimly sense this truth, and this is what makes them so angry. If God does not exist, after all, why the rage against him? God’s really unforgivable characteristic is that he is alive and well and quite impervious to the assaults even of people as brilliant as Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Of course they dimly sense this truth. Romans 1:18-23. They realize that God exists – and you’re not Him. So instead of going about the routine of ‘making a god they like’, they simply make themselves their own individual god.  The louder they yell and rage (like this young lady), the quieter that ‘obvious’ knowledge of God’s existence gets to them.  It never goes away….underneath it all…they know.  They know, and they hate Him (Romans 3:10-18).

In the meantime, be mindful not to only pray for Christopher Hitchens’ conversion and salvation, but also for his throat cancer. Maybe the brush with mortality will serve to soften his heart a bit as well.

Why I Won’t Be Signing the Manhattan Declaration

Sproul: http://new.ligonier.org/blog/the-manhattan-declaration/

MacArthur: http://www.shepherdsfellowship.org/pulpit/Posts.aspx?ID=4444

Dan Phillips: http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2009/11/nineteen-questions-for-signers-of.html

Between these three, I believe the issue is pretty clear.

While I understand why Dr. Mohler signed it, I think his choosing to do so was a bit short-sighted….especially since he has stated that his signing it did NOT imply that he believed that Rome’s gospel and the gospel as found in scripture and held to by evangelical protestants was the same:

I cannot and do not sign documents such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together that attempt to establish common ground on vast theological terrain. I could not sign a statement that purports, for example, to bridge the divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals on the doctrine of justification. The Manhattan Declaration is not a manifesto for united action. It is a statement of urgent concern and common conscience on these three issues — the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the defense of religious liberty.

My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent — and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground.

Even though the document does the very thing he says it does not:

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.

and especially:

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Which gospel ?

So more than a few folks remain perplexed as to why Mohler, Grudem and a few more solid names have signed the document. We can freely pursue these causes lock-step with Catholics and the Orthodox without claiming to be all ‘Christians’, when in doctrinal practice and affirmation, we can’t claim each other (well…..protestants can’t claim Rome or the Orthodox…. Rome calls protestants ‘separated brethren’). People like Rick Warren, Colson and others, I expect to sign it, since they all tend to be wishy-washy on doctrine (and strangely, on things like THIS important doctrine).

I’ll admit: I was persuaded a bit by Mohler’s argument until I really READ the document. While I agree with its’ aims, there’s too much assumed by it in regard to the gospel. Ultimately, the only thing that will truly change the human condition from a social standpoint is the real gospel. Anything else is simply moralism and religiosity.