What does it Mean to say Black Lives Matters? A Biblical Perspective

What does it Mean to say Black Lives Matters? A Biblical Perspective

Allow me to reiterate this thesis statement: Violence or retaliation is not the answer to the racial crisis we’re now facing in this country.As Apostle Paul commands us Christians,”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

We have to learn to sit together, listen to each other, and find a solution to heal this national wound and transcend this national crisis.Simutaneously, we should continue praying for peace, understanding, and reconciliation in this country.

While we should sympathize with the people of France and Turkey at the moment, let’s not turn away from this predicament of human life, and the culture of violence and death in our country. If we remain silent, as we have always been and some of us still are, we will lose more lives and ultimately destroy this country. To destroy this country is to bring destruction upon ourselves. We must tackle the root of America’s culture of violence and death before we can have a genuine conversation about the value of (human) life and racial justice in this country.

The Christian Church in America has a tremendous role to play in the transformation of this culture of death and violence that dishonors God’s image in man and the sanctity of life to a culture that values human life and promotes human dignity. In the same line of thought, we need to cultivate a culture of positive values and be virtuous in our practical dealings with each other. Evangelical Christians  must engage the realm of the human intellect and the sphere of human reason to the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God. Correspondingly, we must also challenge the disastrous and unhealthy practices of American Evangelical Christianity in both civil and political societies that slander God’s reputation and his glorious name, as well as hinder the public witness of the Gospel.  American Christianity is a bourgeois faith. Bourgois Christianity is a dangerous religion that produces a culture of isolation and alienation. Bourgeois Christianity is selfish, arrogant, and not salvific. Bourgeois Christianity must die and be replaced by the Christianity of the cross and self-giving. Until we learn to foster a robust and consistent theology of life that is sourced in the doctrine of God and God’s majestic holiness and unconditional love for all people, Christian engagement with culture and in the public sphere will be unproductive and futile.

As we have mentioned in our previous writings, Christianity has the adequate resources to help heal the national wound, improve conversations on race relations and racial injustice,  and contribute to a more promising and constructive American life and humanism in this society. The Christianity we need in America is a transformative evangelical faith that is not afraid to affirm its past sins, its contribution to human suffering and pain, and the destruction of many individuals and families, in our culture. Evangelical Christianity must produce a new kind of species and a transformed community of faith that is  capable of sympathizing with the pain and wound of the victims of racism, racial injustice and inequality, and any type of human-inflicted oppression. Toward the process of racial reconciliation and harmony, American Evangelicals must be intentional in their doings and be ready to mourn and lament, and turn toward God for repentance and cultural renewal.

We have to allow the Word of God penetrate our hearts and pierce through our deepest cultural prejudices , our hidden sins, and human insensibilities–toward a holistic transformation of our hearts and minds, and daily living. It is only through the power of the Gospel of grace that produces sustaining life and hope we can have a change of conscience that honors Christ in our practical living and everday dealing with people.One of the greatest sins of American Evangelicalism today is that many of us know God with our hearts and not with our minds. God wants to be known both with the heart and the mind, and has willed that our knowledge of him should inform our Christian living and relationship with people.

Postcript

In the opening words of a recent sermon entitled, ” A Biblical Response to Race,” Pastor Tony Evans explains why abortion is wrong and correspondingly why racial injustice is unbiblical. His thesis is grounded on the doctrine of God and the doctrine of creation.  Here’s one of the most balanced, powerful, and articulate statements that I have ever heard on the justification of the sanctify of life, and the thesis that all life matters and therefore, black lives matter, rooted in a deep biblical theology that all people are created in the Image of God:

“All life is created in the image of God; therefore, all lives matter. however, underneath the banner that God is created all people in his image, there are equities that must be addressed. For example, the life of the unborn matters; and so, there’s the emphasis on injustice in the womb. But that injustice in the womb must be under the umbrella that is life and because all lives matter that life matters. Black lives matter as a subset of all lives matter, so any injustices to a particular group must be addressed specific to that group but under the banner that all life is created in the image of God.” Pastor Tony Evans

Prophets and Poets: Langston Hughes and Habakkuk in Conversation

Prophets and Poets: Langston Hughes and Habakkuk in Conversation

As a literary scholar and theologian, I often find myself turn to poets and prophets for words of hope, insights, wisdom, and understanding. Both prophets and poets posses the rhetorical skill and an incredible discernment to precisely diagnose the human predicament, and tell us exactly where and why it hurts. They also tell us the “what” and the “who” and eventually, they will prescribe the right medicine to heal the wound–both personal and collective. Both poets and prophets always portray themselves as the conscience of society. They call us to sympathize with human suffering and pain, to do justice, to walk humbly, and to create emancipative future possibilities.

Prophets and Poets are deeply concerned about the value and meaning of human existence. They also write about the fragility of life and the miscarriage of justice in society. Like us, they also struggle with the problem of evil in the world, and protest against injustice, human oppression, and theodicy. In this essay, we bring Langston Hughes and Habakkuk in conversation on these sensitive issues. We will analyze Hughes’ excellent and provocative poem, “Let America Be America,” and the rhetorical language of selected passages in Habakkuk. We shall attempt to highlight literary parallelisms/connections and shared ideologies in both writings.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967), an African American poet, Habakkuk, an Israelite Biblical prophet lived in two different historical periods. They did not share the same cultural milieu and historical trajectories. While Habakkuk claimed the call to the prophetic ministry in order to channel  the will and message of God to the Israelites and orient the people of God to live righteously, walk in obedience and holiness before God, Hughes had appointed himself as the mouthpiece of the people, as we love to call him “The Poet of the People.” Habakkuk was chiefly concerned with the task of magnifying God among his people  and the nations. The supremacy of God in all things occupied the prophet’s conscience and doing. Hughes’ desperation involved exclusively the dignity and emancipation of his people (the African American population) in the American society. Arguably, Hughes’ poetic verses are anthropocentric; by contrast, Habakkuk’s prophetic words are theocentric. Yet, we would argue somewhat they complement each other in their respective duty. One cannot fully understand the predicament of man in the world unless he/she has a good understanding of the God who created them both male and female in his image. Man is not an autonomous being. He is intrinsically connected with God and depends on him for his life and everything else. As Apostle Paul urges his first- century audience,  which is also a reminder to all of us today, “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:28). What establishes a link between God and human, the prophet (Habakkuk) and the poet (Hughes,  is this: “We are his offspring.”  Humans are the special work of God their Maker.

Both Habakkuk and Hughes longed for justice, national renewal, and transformation–both at the individual and collective level. Their calling as poet and prophet and their commitment to human flourishing and freedom is what distinguishes their vocation to that of other individuals. Their audience was impressive and inclusive because Hughes and Habakkuk attempted to reach out to all people: men and women, the poor and the rich, the sick and the healthy, the religious and the non-religious, the educated and the non-educated, etc. This sense of multicultural audience and the diversity of the human experience is well articulated in these poetic lines by Hughes:

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

Perhaps, we should use the terms prophet-activist and poet-activist to reflect both the specific nature of Hughes and Habakkuk’s vocation and their active engagement with people. To call Habakkuk a prophet-activist means that he had employed both the written and spoken word as a catalyst to redirect the people of God to the moral vision of the Covenant; he had also appealed to all human faculties to challenge the people of God to live according to the divine design for them. Primarily, Habakkuk is an activist for God. He is also an activist for the people of God. In his first complaint in the first chapter, the prophet challenges God to remember his distinctive divine identity and to remain faithful to his covenant with his people.

Are you not from everlasting,
    O Lord my God, my Holy One?
    We shall not die. (1:12)

In the opening verse of the second chapter, the prophet reiterates his concern to God about the welfare of God’s people, a candid indicator  of his activism and solidarity with the people:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
    and what I will answer concerning my complaint. (2:1)

The prophet’s longing for God’s hesed-lovingkindness toward God’s people is made known in a prayer of lament in the third chapter of the book:

O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
    and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
    in the midst of the years make it known;
    in wrath remember mercy. (3:2)

On the other hand,  the “I” in these poetic lines by Hughes bears the sense of collectivity; this realist stanza expressively declares the poet’s ethic of solidarity and human relationality, and a politics of activism regardless of one’s occupation/vocation in life:

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead.

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”).

The spirit of communitarianism and human solidarity is evident in the oeuvre of Habakkuk and Hughes. To move this conversation forward, it is good to note at this point that the  people of Habakkuk’s time experienced a devastating exile from their homeland; they also went through a terrific  moment of starvation, drought, and social alienation as a result of the collective sin of idolatry and disobedience, and  the grievous sin of autonomy and disbelief resulting in God’s deliberate withdrawal from them. Thus, Habakkuk complaint to God is crafted in this rhetoric of anguish:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save? (1:2)

The people of God had belittled God’s glory in their midst and among the nations, and brought great shame and damage to God’s name, his majesty and splendid transcendence. God’s abandonment of his people creates catastrophic effects in society and alters human behavior to violence, deceitfulness,  and great moments of darkness.

Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise. (1:3)

 So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted. (1:4)

The prevalence of evil in Habakkuk’s society compels him to reinterpret his understanding of  God’s most-praised virtue: holiness; in the same line of thought, Habakkuk’s historical witness of the tragedy of humanity, his complete depravity, and his desire to do nothing but evil leads him to lament over God’s refusal to intervene in the affairs of men to eradicate evil in their midst and prove himself to be the “Holy One of Israel.”

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
    and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
    and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
    the man more righteous than he? (1:13)

As the guardian of God’s holiness  and the one who clarifies God’s distinctive character and virtues to the people of God, Habakkuk is surprised by God’s indifference or lack of response to the plight of his people.  On the other hand, the African American people in Hughes’ era had suffered tremendous destructive social oppression and social death; they also endured immeasurably racial violence, lynching, racial segregation, and social inequality.  Consequently, Hughes’ clarion call for racial justice, equity, and wholeness is well crafted in this stanza:

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

Prophets and Poets question God, authorities, the nation-state (s) the individual, the people. They even interrogate those who have economic-political power and status to create the boundary of life, and establish societal structures and infrastructures. They are fierce individuals who are not afraid to question, to doubt, to laugh, and to die. They always stand for something greater than themselves and are ultimately committed to a cause.

In the following verses, Habakkuk showcases his prophetic wage.

8 as your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
    Was your anger against the rivers,
    or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
    on your chariot of salvation?
You stripped the sheath from your bow,
    calling for many arrows. Selah
    You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw you and writhed;
    the raging waters swept on;
the deep gave forth its voice;
    it lifted its hands on high.
11 The sun and moon stood still in their place
    at the light of your arrows as they sped,
    at the flash of your glittering spear.
12 You marched through the earth in fury;
    you threshed the nations in anger.

(Habakkuk 3:8-12)

Trusting in God’s covenant faithfulness and sustaining abundant compassion, the prophet cries to God for the freedom and shalom of God’s people, and for God’s retributive justice:

 I hear, and my body trembles;
    my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
    my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
    to come upon people who invade us.

(Habakkuk 3:16)

The praise song that brings a closure to Habakkuk’s prophetic ministry and activism is crafted in such a way that the people of God will always remember the faithfulness of God and God’s intervention in historical past; in the same vein, this song of human celebration of the mighty acts of God in history is also a letter to God in order that God will never forget what he had done for his people. As the people of God will forget God’s past deeds, God will always remember his people and maintain his covenant faithfulness toward them.

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

In the verses that follow below, Hughes displays the magnitude of his poetic anger. This is a long song of incredible lament with an emancipative intent or goal:

To build a “homeland of the free.”
The free?
Who said the free?  Not me?

Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay—

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

The poet cannot keep his silence; he wants to be heard. Yet,  he is very optimistic about the American future, which will bring democracy in black, and the potential future when America will keep her covenant and fulfill its promissory note to all of her children–white, black, brown, red, mixed, etc:

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

Finally, poets and prophets speak, write, cry, mourn,  lament, sing, protest, and rejoice. They always hope for another and a better world. Prophets and poets are men and women who hope and dream, but they also individuals who create the hope and the dream they long for.

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain….

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

(Habakkuk 3:19)

———————————————————————————-

 

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

 

Jesus, a Man of Color: Rethinking about the Color of the Historical Jesus and His Redemptive Message of Hope and Reconciliation during the Christian Holy Week

Jesus, a Man of Color: Rethinking about the Color of the Historical Jesus and His Redemptive Message of Hope and Reconciliation during the Christian Holy Week

The color of Jesus does matter in the present time because it could help reshape Christian theology and transform Christian churches in the 21st century, and enhance interfaith dialogue between Abrahamaic and non-Abrahamaic religions. Jesus’ skin color bears tremendous implications on how we should now rethink about theology and race, Christianity and the problem of the color line in the modern world, God’s relationship with the poor, the oppressed, and people of color, and how we should treat those who live in the margins of society.

If one believes that religion can be used as a potential tool to enhance the conundrum of race and ethnicity in the modern world, then Jesus’ non-European flesh matters. If one is persuaded that a non-racialized Christianity and Jesus can help improve racial reconciliation and harmony among Christians of different racial and ethnic background, then Jesus’ skin color is extremely important. If one is convinced that Jesus’ dark body matters, it could potentially be used instrumentally to ameliorate ecumenical conversations between people of different religious persuasions on the planet.

Let’s not spiritualize Jesus’ historical human flesh! Let’s not undermine the important fact that Jesus was a historical person, a Palestinian first-century Jew, and a man of color who chose to live among the oppressed, the poor, and the outcast of the Jewish Diaspora. He was not a white male as traditionally depicted in the American and Western media, and taught in religious, seminary, and divinity schools, and theological textbooks. He certainly did not have any European features nor has he any European ancestors. To affirm these truths is to take seriously the practical and sociological dimensions of Christianity and the Christian message.

To spiritualize the historical Jesus merely as a divine being without taking into account of his true humanity is to undermine his true identity as a person of color. To acknowledge Jesus’ true skin color and ethnicity is the first act of decolonizing Christian theology and an important move forward toward a theology of liberation and a decolonial turn in theological anthropology. Finally, to affirm Jesus’ non-European body is to dewesternize Christianity and Christian theology. Critical theological discourse always involves the process of rethinking about what we believe and practice, and why we believe what we confess and do.

Unfortunately, the Westernized Jesus has been used in the past both in the tragic times of slavery and Western colonization as a tool to make people suffer, to humiliate non-European people, and dehumanize the image of God in humanity. The Christian churches in the twenty-first century cannot continue to stay silent about these pivotal issues that have changed the world, transformed the dynamics and human relations between Western and non-Western people, and continue to have a devastating impact on Christian missions, evangelism, and the message of the Gospel in the world. Followers of Christ are repairers of bridges and light of the world.

The Christian message of Easter affirms that God has raised Jesus from the Dead. The Easter story is a message of repentance and reconciliation, hope and resistance, and love and peace. It is also a profound reflection on the humanity and Jesus’ physical body which God has vindicated. The Easter message is also a message of God’s universal love for humanity: men and women, male and female, the homosexual, the lesbian, the transgender, the disable, the orphan, the widow, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, people of all color, people of all ethnic group. Easter speaks loudly about God’s unconditional love for the world and all people!

The Jesus Christians everywhere in the world confess as both Savior and Lord was a real human being who was self-conscious about his own ethnic identity as a person of color of Jewish background. He was also self-conscious about his underrepresented social class in the first-century Jewish Diaspora and Palestine.

The historical Jesus proclaimed a message of reconciliation and love between people of different social classes, of competing religious persuasions, and of individuals of different ethnic identity and background. Through his message of love and acceptance, he was determined to dispel the ideology of ethnic superiority—what we may call in the twenty-first century society racial heritage and racial supremacy. The message of this same Jesus, a person of color who is the Savior and Lord of White, Black, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Native Americans, Latino/a, and male and female Christians, provides meaningful lessons and wisdom to help us rethink critically about our common humanity, can help us break down the high racial, gender, and ethnic walls in contemporary Christianity and churches, and improve the human condition in the world.

Moreover, I believe that there are both creative and strategic ways to diminish the power and influence of structural racism in our society and the modern world. There is nothing “essential” about one’s racial identity, designation, or category; if this logical reasoning is valid or justifiable, then we do not need to wait for the great eschatological moment of the Christ or the future life…to work through our racial conflict or to dismantle the power of structural racism in our society. I believe we can undo race! There are equally important human factors that intersect with human racial identity (or racial identities) and shape the human experience in this world; these things include gender, sexuality, culture, ideological worldviews, economics, even religious and political identification. I would contend further that one of the devastating factors contributing to the conundrum of racism in our culture and the modern world is that we have miserably cultivated a low view of humanity and love. At the moment, our collective view of anthropology and love is defective and “messed up.”

Hence, potentially, a more constructive conversation about race and racism must begin with the fundamental question of what it means to be human and to love one another. We would have to deal honestly and responsibly with the existential dimensions of love, which bears substantial implications on human relations and our shared or common humanity. We can learn from Jesus as a person of color who has modeled for us a positive view of humanity/anthropology by intentionally promoting the dignity of all people including the Jew and the non-Jew (i.e. the Samaritan, for example), male and female, the religious and the non-religious. I would argue that the life of Jesus has provided the most useful resources, and meaningful life lessons and strategic methods to recreate a more inclusive, constructive, redeeming, holistic, and optimistic anthropology.

Jesus’ earthly interactions with people—both Jews and non-Jews—and his compassion toward men and women—the rich, the poor, the widow, the oppressed, the leper, the disable— (Yet, Jesus gave special attention to the outcast, the poor, and the disheartened) also provide effective resources to dismantle the power of race in contemporary world. Jesus’ theological anthropology was rooted in the social (lived-) experiences and lived-worlds of the people, as he was conscious about the socio-economic, and political dimensions that have stained the image of God in humanity. In the example of Jesus, we need to foster a view of humanity that is more dignified, inclusive, tolerant, and egalitarian. I suppose the modern conversation about race and racism in both intellectual and popular circles in the American society are missing these vital elements.

In the same line of thought, Christians and Christian churches have failed to respond appropriately to the crisis of race and its related problems because most of the churches in America are plateaued and are not applying the principles of Jesus to deal with life existential issues and to bring healing and comfort to the poor, the oppressed, the disfranchised individual, etc.

On the other hand, as a theologian, I must acknowledge there is indeed a theological aspect of race and racism, as the latter is a clear reflection of human depravity and our shortcoming to love God and our neighbor unconditionally and unreservedly. Racism is in fact a profound theological crisis; it is also an inevitable demonstration of the dark side of humanity. Nonetheless, the disposition in our hearts to sin and not to love another person as we’re supposed to is not an excuse to be racist, for example. We all need to be responsible for our actions and social sins, and make necessary amends or reparations for them. However, God through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ made it possible for humanity to achieve redemption in Christ.

The Easter message is also a story about God’s (and Christian) victory over sin and death. It gives us a reason to hang on in this life of uncertainty and despair. Easter is about hope, reconciliation, and love. By consequence, what are/should be the implications of the message of Easter for those whose humanity has been disvalued in our society? What are/should be the implications of the Easter message for the tremendous problem of racial reconciliation and harmony in Christian churches and our society? What are/should be the implications of the message of Easter for the problem of pain, suffering, and global terrorism in the modern world? What are/should be the implications of the Easter message for those who have the political, economic, and religious power and influence over people and to change the present and future worlds?

Happy Resurrection Day!

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.