The Work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is Hard!

The Work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is Hard!

One of the most depressing activities to be engaged in in the American society is the work of racial justice, and the imperative of racial reconciliation and harmony in Christian churches in America. Sometimes, it seems to be an isolated or lonely journey. (You will lose friends, and people will call you names, stop talking to you or will not interact with your work.) However, racial justice and racial reconciliation are a necessity for human flourishing, to heal America’s “sick soul,” and for the triumph of the Gospel message of grace in our society.

While we must continue fighting together against systemic oppressions that seek to tear us apart as a people, and those that devalue human life and dehumanize the image of God in targeted racial groups and ethnic communities in our culture, we also have an equal responsibility to teach little black, brown, and white boys and girls about the success and triumph of these underrepresented individuals  and communities in our society. Their triumph and success is also ours and ultimately America’s triumph and success.

The little white girl needs to know it is okay to have a black hero.

The little Asian boy needs to know it is fine to have a black heroine.

The little black boy needs to know it is all right to have an Asian role model.

The little white boy needs to know it is acceptable to have a Hispanic/Latino/a role model.

They, too, sing America!

In The Vocation of the Elite, published in 1919, Haitian intellectual Jean Price-Mars discusses the importance of affirming the contributions of other peoples and nations in the process of creating a new humanism and move forward toward a more promising human society. He writes perceptively, “Our task at the moment is to contribute to a national way of thinking indicative of our feelings, our strengths and our weaknesses. We can do so by gleaning ideas generated by ideas contained in the masterpieces which are the pride of humanity’s common heritage. This is the only way in which the study and assimilation of the works of the mind play an indispensable part in the enrichment of our culture.”

It is a very unfortunate phenomenon that in American Evangelical circles, the racial factor and sociological ties are stronger than the spiritual bond that should have been the catalyst or the fuel to ignite the inextinguishable flame toward intentional unity and friendship, and a relationship of mutual reciprocity and selflessness. Gospel reconciliation ministry is a doing and a practice. We need to do more of it and write less about it.Although we Americans have never been a “united country” and “united people,” we have to strive together for unity and common understanding. Unity regardless of our race, ethnicity, social class, economic status, gender, sexuality, and religion is what this contemporary American society desperately needs. On the other hand, we understand that  genuine unity and reconciliation will not happen among us until we learn to talk to each other, listen to each other, and bear one another’s burden. We are a society of profound wound. A lot of us are hurting. A lot of us are suffering. It is time for healing. It is time for unity. It is time for repentance. It is time for forgiveness.  It is certainly the time for reconciliation.

Churches that continue to be silent on the problem of race, gender, and ethnicity, and ignore the painful  experience and history of the black and brown christians and other disadvantaged peoples in our culture are not Gospel-transformative and human-senstive communities of faith. These congregations will soon be  declined in the twenty-first century American culture. Their ineffective lies in their consistent refusal to help heal the wound, suffering, and pain of these people.

In a recent article, “Many Americans have no friends of another race: poll” (Reuters, August 8, 2013), it  is observed that “About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race, according to an ongoing Reuters/Ipsos poll.” The author of the same article affirms that  “Younger American adults appear to confirm this, according to the poll. About one third of Americans under the age of 30 who have a partner or spouse are in a relationship with someone of a different race, compared to one tenth of Americans over 30. And only one in 10 adults under 30 say no one among their families, friends or coworkers is of a different race, less than half the rate for Americans as a whole.” Evidently, there is not only a crisis of American friendship, there is tremendous problem to be relational in the American culture.

We need to validate each other, rejoice in one another’s accomplishment, and bear one another’s burden. Without being relational, interconnected, and interdependent, we will not move forward as a community of faith and as a nation. We need to cultivate more interracial and interethnic friendship in our churches, communities, workplaces, and neighborhoods. The work of racial justice and reconciliation is hard, but it is very rewarding at the end.

Advertisements

How Now Shall We Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

How Now Shall We  Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

The American Political Constitution is a masterpiece and should be praised for its democratic and cosmopolitan language. It is one of a kind. However, the relationship between Americans of different racial and ethnic background and the attitude they express toward one another and the foreigner among them is disheartening and betrays the American democratic ideals.

How shall we then proceed to heal our national wound?

How shall we then move forward to learn to live together, accept one another, and love another as Americans?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and each other in this moment of pain, trial, and seemingly great despair.

If I may appeal to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in the sixth chapter,  please allow me to share a few ideas with you.  Although I make a sharp distinction between Christianity and American Nationalism, I would like to offer a Christian perspective on these national issues I noted above. The Christian identity counters the American identity. Nonetheless, I do believe  and maintain that Christians are called by God to actively engage their culture with the message of Christ and be active citizens who must use the Wisdom of God and biblical principles to transform their neighborhood, community, city, and their country–toward peace, love, justice, truth, equality, etc. for the common good–to the glorious praise of the Triune God . Consequently, toward these goals, in this brief post, I would like to bring your attention to three underlying propositions: listening with care and love, doing good to all, and live gently, which may strengthen human relationship, bring collective peace, national healing, and foster racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony. Ultimately, I’m interested in highlighting some basic biblical principles on how to do life together and live gently in these tragic times in the modern world.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“–Micah 6:8

  1. Listening with care and love

In such a national predicament and collective crisis we’re presently undergoing as a people, it is critical for each one of us to listen to each other and try to understand the other individual’s perspective. You will not understand somebody’s hurt and moments of troubles-both in the past and the present–  until you learn to cultivate an attitude to listen and sympathize with that person. You will ruin the possibility to move  forward toward collective progress, goal, and unity should you undermine one’s suffering and point of view.  Do not interrupt! Listen!!!

Listen with care! Listen with patience! Listen responsibly! Listen with understanding! Listen with love! Moments of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation come at the time when we offer ourselves up to each other for the sake of love and unity. As Paul encourages the Christians at Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (6:2). The imperative for social transformation, communal shalom, national healing,  social justice, and radical spiritual renewal is to be relational to all people and to bear one another’s burden.

2. Doing good to all

Secondly, to work toward the common good and human flourishing in our society, it is crucial that we do good to all–with no exception. Doing good to everyone one meets means to be inclusive in one’s generous outreach efforts and activism; it also means that to deliberately extend acts of kindness, compassion, and love to those who cannot give back or do not have the means to return your favor. The ethical aspect of this biblical command and notion of goodness compels us all to forgive and love even those who refuse to love and forgive in return. Doing good to all is an act of justice and a form of loving activism and participation in the life of people or individuals in crisis. It provides a terrific opportunity to the Christian community to condemn social sins and human oppression–the antithesis of good–and to stand in solidarity with those to whom we have called to perform acts of goodness. According to James, the failure to do good and condemn what is unjust (or “not good”) contradicts the Christian ethic and the Jesus Creed: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).  The Christian community is also called to be exemplary models of goodness: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7-9). For  Prophet Micah, goodness includes both social responsibility and spiritual development. The prophet associates good with justice, kindness, and humility.  Doing good is also interpreted as a divine imperative, that is what God requires of his people and the community of faith. Social justice is integral to the spiritual life of God’s people and the Church in the modern age.  When we dissociate Christian discipleship and (or from) the call to justice, it will ultimately lead to a life of obedience and a life that dishonors God.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”–Micah 6:8

Moreover, in Galatians 6, Paul implies that acts of goodness should not be premised on a spirit of  aggressiveness and comparison, but rather should be framed within a  spirit of humility and gratitude. Paul characterizes the Christian life not only as relational living but as a life that pursues the best interest and welfare of others, and the common good. Christian discipleship or the Christian life for Paul is not (and should not be) measured by an attitude of competition and comparison: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (6:4); rather, it is/should be characterized by an attitude of selflessness, sacrificial doing, and  an attitude of  deliberate service and sustaining good : “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:9).  Even in the midst of unwarranted criticism, Christians in contemporary society should not be weary of doing and defending what is just, righteous, loving, and good.  Such attitude toward life and other individuals is a pivotal marker  of an exemplary and Christ-like discipleship.

“So then, we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).

3. Living Gently

Thirdly, the call to do life together and live  gently in this chaotic world and in this  life of uncertainty is not a free pass  nor is it the absence of weakness. This is a high calling for the Christian to engage the world and culture meaningfully, relationally,  and graciously.  In other for the Christian to foster such an attitude toward culture, life, and the world, his/her life must radically be refined by the Spirit of God and shaped by the wisdom of the community of faith  in Christ Jesus. Paul comforts us Christians that we should not be despair nor lose hope in these tragic times; for Apostle Paul, the Christian life that produces genuine spiritual transformation and growth is reciprocal, interconnected, and interdependent upon the community’s active collaboration and sustaining support: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (6:1). The christian life is lived in community and with the community of faith. This life of relations is in active solidarity with the community of Christ’s disciples–what we call ekklesia, “the church.” It is also a life in active solidarity with the oppressed, the disinherited, and underprivileged individuals and families. Genuine Christian discipleship means  the courage to follow Jesus Christ, the courage to love, the courage to forgive, and the courage to take upon oneself the suffering and trials of another individual. The cross of discipleship is not only a call to bear the cross of Christ continually; it is also an imperative to bear the cross of both the weak and the strong among us.

Paul’s articulation of these radical ethical principles of the new  community of grace in Christ and in the Spirit of love has tremendous implications for constructing a life characterized by the ethics and art of listening with care and love, doing good to all, and living gently. It is God’s desire for us to do life together, accept one another, and love another. It is only through the moral vision of the Kingdom of God that Christians and the Christian church in the American society and elsewhere could contribute meaningfully and constructively to a life of optimism, collective participation, a spirit of democratic communitarianism and humanitarianism, and a life of  collective solidarity and racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

To be generous and kind to everyone is a cosmopolitan attitude and human virtue to be praised and coveted; xenophobia or the fear of the “other” or even the immigrant is the antithesis of human kindness, generosity, and hospitality.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (James 6:10).

 

May we become the Gospel we proclaim!

 

We need Your Help Now!

Dear HTO Friends and Supporters,
 
In December 2015, Hope for Today Outreach sent a team (Dr. Celucien Joseph and his wife Katia Joseph, and other partners in Haiti)to the rural area of Corail, Port Margot (Haiti). As we walked through the neighborhoods, handing out small donations to families, we were have witnessed God’s love, grace, and mercy toward the people of Port-Margot. The people were very grateful and thankful for what they received from us. Their words of appreciation made us feel so proud of we have achieved so far at Hope for Today Outreach (HTO). We witnessed their poverty and suffering, and we realized how much we needed to add to our donations food such as rice, beans, and non-perishable food. And this is the reason why we are writing to you now, to request your help, with either a donation of funds to buy the food for the people or a donation of food (rice, beans, and non-perishable food) to provide for 500 underprivileged and poor families in Port-Margot.
 
Hope for Today Outreach puts great emphasis on feeding the hungry and the poor, as we believe the biblical imperative to always “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). I’m sure you know of how important it is to care for the less fortunate… They are our brothers and sisters after all. Obviously, we won’t be able to accomplish this task without the assistance of partners and supporters like you; hence, we beseech you to help us by sponsoring HOP or by donating the items needed for our June mission trip to Port-Margot, Haiti.
 
By sponsoring and helping feeding the poor of Corail, Port Margot, you will be reaching out to many undeserved families, alleviating hunger and poverty in the Region, and making a tremendous difference in the lives of children, young people, and families in such a big way!
 
For my Christian friends (being a follower of Christ), I’m sure you will understand the importance of giving to the poor and care for the needy; it is a way to spread the good news and love of Christ, and this is what this ministry’s main goal! We want to reach out to the people of Port Margot and help them to know the Lord in a personal way, yet through our act of kindness and compassion. Also, by helping us feeding the people of Corail, HTO will be providing a huge service to all the families.
 
If you would like to sponsor or provide assistance toward this coming mission trip in June, please contact me, Katia Joseph via the telephone (772-985-0696), or via email at customers@hopefortodayoutreach.org. If you would like to send the donations (financial support, rice, beans, and non-perishable food) to us, please send it to the address listed below:
 
Hope for Today Outreach (HTO)
P.O. Box 7353
Port Saint Lucie, FL 34985
 
HTO is sending a mission team to Port-Margot in June 4, 2016. If you are sending any of these items listed below, please do so by Monday, May 9, 2014 so we the items can be shipped to Haiti on a timely manner before we arrive.
 
We thank you for the time you have taken to read this letter.
 
Blessings in Christ,
 
Katia
 

“In the Example of Bonhoeffer and ‘Costly Discipleship'”

“In the Example of Bonhoeffer and ‘Costly Discipleship'”

Oh how much American Evangelical Christians need to learn from the life and social and political activism of Pastor and Political Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, in the first half of the twentieth-century, stood up against Hitler’s political correctness and Germany’s racial violence and ethnic cleansing against the Jews!

Bonhoeffer was not afraid to denounce the  social evils and the destructive racial ideologies of the Hitler regime and totalitarianism. He was not afraid to declare in public and through his political  sermons the dignity of all people, even the Jews!

Sadly, there were powerful and influential  German Christians and theologians who were Hitler’s allies and who helped him carry out his plan to annihilate the  Jews.

In the same line of thought, sadly, contemporary American evangelicalism has fostered  certain destructive ideologies that are detrimental to the promise of American democracy, equality,  freedom, and pluralism; they’re also detrimental to true Christianity  and  the imperative of Christian love, tolerance,  racial harmony, and “sacrificial discipleship.”

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Trump’s racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric?

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Hilary Clinton’s crime against Blacks in America and her exploitation of the Haitian underclass and masses?

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Ted Cruz’s anti-poor, anti-immigrant, and anti-democracy discourse?

Who among today’s American Evangelicals will speak against Police brutality and racial profiling against Blacks and minority groups?

True Christianity rejects any type of human oppression, exploitation, and violence, and condemns human structures and actions that desecrate life and dehumanize individuals.  Genuine discipleship promotes a life of compassion, sacrificial love, justice, selflessness, human solidarity, and what Bonhoeffer famously called “costly discipleship.”

On April 9,1945, Pastor and Political Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer died at a concentration camp in Germany. Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazi because he refused to yield to the political correctness of the day, and his conviction to remain faithful to the practice of sacrificial and costly discipleship and his commitment to human dignity and solidarity was more important than political correctness and affiliation, and the triumph of German nationalism and the doctrine of racial superiority.
Some Important Quotes by Bonhoeffer:
On Silence: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
On Injustice: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
On Peace: “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”
To learn more about  Bonhoeffer,  click on the link below

 

Holy Discontent: These Things Make Me Sad!

Earlier in a post today on Facebook, I wrote that “sometimes words fail to communicate what we want to articulate.” Although words still fail me, here are the things I have been contemplating about today (Language will always remain a fallible vehicle to clarify effectively the human mind, communicate adequately the human thought, and action):

Holy Discontent: These Things Make Me Sad!

There are many things in this world that are very depressing to me, but the following fifteen issues are notorious:
1. The depressing living condition of the Haitian people in Haiti.
2. Politics in Haiti.
3. Politics in the United States.
4. The Race Problem in America.
5. The failure of Evangelical Christianity in America to care for the poor, the needy, and underprivileged families.
6. The unholy alliance between Evangelical Christianity and the Bourgeoisie class in America.
7. The failure of Evangelical Christianity to practice justice and be in solidarity with the oppressed and disheartened.
8. The disastrous effects of globalization and free market capitalism.
9.  The end of (spiritual) piety and the triumph of secularism and atheism.
10. The end of compassion and love.
11. The end of human hospitality and community.
12. The triumph of (social) evil in our society and the world.
13. The fear of the stranger and difference.
14. The desecration of life and dehumanization of people.
15. The continuous battle of people of color–black people in particular-in this country to acknowledge their humanity and show that they too count in America.

Poetic Lament!

In “Choruses from the Rock,” eminent poet T. S. Eliot laments over the lack of a sense of community in Western societies:

“What life have you if you have no life together?
There is no life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of God…

And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour
Unless his neighbour makes too much disturbance
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads but settled nowhere.
Nor does the family even move about together,
But every one would have his motorcycle,
And daughters ride away on casual pillions.”