The Scam, Silencing, and Sadness of Social Justice (part III; personal experience)
I was raised in a white family that detested racism. My parents taught my siblings and me that a good litmus test for racism is whether parents would bless and encourage their children to marry someone of another skin color just as much as they would a person of their own skin color. No matter how much a father might say he is no racist, if he frowns on his daughter marrying a man of a different color, because of the color of his skin, this man has racism issues; period. I never heard, not once, racist language in my home; it was not desired, permitted, or practiced.
When I was eight years old my Christian family moved to the inner city of Columbus, Ohio into a predominately black neighborhood. My parents did this, not because we had to or because my parents could not afford to live in another neighborhood, but because they wanted us to actually experience how people unlike us lived. They wanted us to know that not everyone, even in our nation (and definitely not in the rest of the world), was like us. Their aim was to be a light for Christ not only to the neighborhood we moved into (By the way, it is known as olde towne east. A documentary on this neighborhood can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KW7mq1dz5I. If you watch it notice how it was in the eighties. This is how it was when we were there.), but also to be a light to their children giving them life forming lessons; they accomplished both. Even though many people thought my parents were making a bad decision, they didn't, and thank God they didn't!
I had both many good experiences and some not so good. The neighborhood, at that time, had a problem with gang violence. I can remember us having to get away from the front window because of fighting and gun fire outside. My sister and I were jumped on at least a couple occasions by younger groups of children, around our age (pre-teen), and we would run home as fast as we could go. On one occasion, as I was playing basketball, a boy around my age came up to me, others gathering around as well, and told me that my mother owed his mother a dollar. This was simply not true. I did not know him or his mother and neither did my mom. When I protested, he asked if I wanted some Mike Tyson and I got hit hard in the face before I high tailed it out of there.
However, even though there were some bad experiences, overall it was a vastly good one. My friends were black. My best friend's name was Maurice, nicknamed Reese. He and I wrestled, played backyard basketball and football, and had lots of laughs on our front porches. I can still hear his father's booming voice from across the street calling him home. Even though we did not have T.V., he did, and I thought it was cool when he would talk wrestling; about guys like Junk Yard Dog. I have a Junk Yard Dog wrestling figure on my office shelf that reminds me of Reese (also inspired by talks with Mr. Rick and Shawn Pratt from our church, but that is another story.). I found out in recent years that Reese had been shot dead as an adult as he was trying to help somebody out. I hope one day I will see him again. He heard the Gospel in many a backyard, children's Bible program. There was Troy and Travis (brothers), Kenyata, and Quiata; just to name a few. These were great times!
My parents also took us to Chicago on several occasion to visit Jesus People USA, a community of believers in inner city Chicago. This was and is and exciting place: A diverse, multi ethnic group of people, living together and serving their community in the name of Christ! Later, after my family moved from Columbus to Pennsylvania I would travel back to Chicago and Jesus People to spend three weeks there, enjoying every minute of it. Inner city mission trips to New York City and Cleveland were also a part of my high school years.
In college I started, along with the help of my good friend Jason Braine, a children's program in a predominately black neighborhood of Waxahachie, Texas called Jesus Time. Every Saturday we would go to a local hardware store to pick up a donated generator that gave us the electric power we needed to conduct our exciting time of ministry. Dozens of kids would come and have a great time as they would hear the gospel and interact with our team from the Bible college we attended.
For almost the past twelve years I have had the privilege of pastoring a church in the city of Wilkes-Barre. We have had, to my great joy, a diverse group of people over the years.
This background does not automatically give definition to the things I believe today, but it does give context.
In my last post, I gave a definition of racism. Just as a side note, Scripture teaches that there is only one race and that we all come from the same man (Acts 17:26). The problem of racism can never and will never be dealt with in any foundational way without this historical fact undergirding it. These posts are using the word racism, with this clear understanding.
Tragically, we have had much white racism in our nation's history. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, and even so-called churches that have used the Bible to promote racism, among many other racist evils are a tragic and deep stain on this nation's history. Today there is still white racism present in our land. I have heard white people use despicable racist language and make sickening, stomach turning jokes about black people (When I worked in the construction sales business I would get used to telling people if they asked if I wanted to hear a joke that I would listen if it was not dirty or racist.). I know of a small child who is related to someone in our church who got called a "Zebra" by a stranger at a public place, because he assumed she had a black parent and a white one. God help us!
We need to say clearly, God hates every form of racism and so do we, by His grace alone. Our spirit needs to be one of sincere empathy and compassion for all those who have and continue to experience any form of white racism. We also need to have open hearts, outstretched arms, and listening ears to all people who have a different skin color and/or ethnic background than us.
While we are not responsible for the sins of our American predecessors, even natural fathers (Ezekiel 18:20), the Lord is looking for men and women who will stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) and plead with the Lord for mercy on our land, admitting national evils and interceding with Him for revival and cleansing.
For this post we end there, because this is the tone that needs to be set for the rest of this series.
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