Our Pastors have failed Those Who are Suffering and Mourning This Sunday Morning!

Our Pastors have failed Those Who are Suffering and Mourning This Sunday Morning!

In such a  time as this (This Sunday morning (July 10, 2016)), many pastors and  preachers had a great opportunity to preach on the race issue and the culture of death that are destroying us and causing so much suffering and death in our society; the problem of racism and racial harmony has already divided and segregated American churches nationally. Unfortunately, this morning, many of these preachers have failed the victims and those who are suffering and mourning the death of someone they knew or the death of a friend or someone’s else friend. As many preachers have said in their sermon today, “only Jesus can change someone’s heart.” “Only Jesus can heal our land.”

While both statements are true, I refuse to believe that Christians in America are good for nothing, and that they’re unable to contribute anything meaningful and constructive to change the culture of death and the desecration of  human life in our society. Sometimes, I believe Christians who have answered in that manner are seeking an easy way out; they refuse to be agents of change and light of the world– an important responsibility Scripture has called them to perform in the public sphere. A Christianity that refuses to engage the culture meaningfully and biblically is a dead Christianity. A Christianity that is afraid to defend the oppressed, the disheartened, and the victims of  systemic racism and structural oppression is a faith that is not worth saving and celebrating. I also refuse to believe that Christianity  or Evangelical Christianity does not have the adequate resources to engage the culture of death, violence, and human degradation in American society.

Consequently, I would like to ask my White Evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ these three honest questions:

1. Is there biblical and theological argument to justify the sanctity of black life and the dignity of black and African American people?

2. In the same line of thought, is there biblical and theological argument to support Black Lives Matter Movement?

3. On a comparative note, is there biblical and theological evidence for the pro-life/anti-abortion movement?

If you believe there’s biblical and theological warrant for any of these questions, please share your perspective here. How should then we Christians respond to these sensitive issues in these times of trouble and political correctness?
For example, I’m thinking about the various ways American Evangelicals have brilliantly and ethically defended the life of the unborn child and passionately argue against legal abortion.

For change to happen in our hearts and in our society, Christians or Evangelical Christianity must confront the predicament of black history and the hurt of the black experience in America.

* As a black Evangelical minister and christian, I honestly would like to have this conversation with you. If you don’t feel comfortable answering these questions through this venue, please email your response to me at celucien_joseph@yahoo.com

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10 Recommended “Black Texts” for White American Evangelicals and Leaders:Toward A more Inclusive American history and experience

10 Recommended “Black Texts” for White American Evangelicals and Leaders:Toward A More Inclusive American history and experience

I want to begin this short post with the following threefold  assertions: (1) Black history is American history; (2) The Black experience is American experience; and (3) Black culture is American culture. My target audience is White American Evangelicals, and White American Evangelical Leaders.   American Evangelical Christians need to confront their own ideological tribalism informed by the racist structures of our country  and unhealthy theological discourse and imagination, which in turn, have divided Evangelical Christianity and Americans into different ethnic groups, racial categories, ethnic churches, ethnic minorities,   etc. What have you?   It is from this perspective that Southern Baptist Theologian Russell Moore in his excellent text, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, could write in this manner:

Our Churches must embody the reconciliation of the gospel by doing more “ethnic” ministry, whose very nomenclature assumes that there are “regular” people and “ethnic” people. We’re all ethnic. The “white church doesn’t “do ministry” to hose “ethnic” churches dependent upon it. We assume often without thinking that the church is white, American Protestants doing missionary work for the benefit of everyone else. But the church isn’t white or American; the church is headed by a Middle Eastern Jewish man who never spoke a word of English. We do not need more “ministry” to the poor or racial minorities or immigrant communities. We need to be led by the poor and by racial “minorities” and by immigrant communities (pp. 120-1).

Consequently, this present post is the sequel to my previous essay, “The Desecration of Black Life and The Silence of American Evangelicals.” One of the chief reasons White Evangelical Churches and leaders have been silent on the desecration of black life and are indifferent about the miscarriage of justice toward their black brothers and sisters in the American society  is because they have  believed a particular version of the American history and the American experience. For some of our White Evangelical brothers and sisters, only one history counts: the white narrative of America; only one experience matters: the white experience in America. These individuals have intentionally ignored the historical narrative of “ethnic Americans” and “ethnic Christian Evangelicals;”nor  have they made any considerable effort to learn a different narrative that may complement or even contradict their own version?

Such Evangelical Christians are content about this single story they embraced,  and regrettably, they continue to uphold to a monolithic American cultural nationalism and patriotic identity.  As Russell Moore  advises us in the same text quoted above, “Our task as the people of God is to recognize this culture where we see it, to know where this comes from, and to speak a different story” (p.121). On  the other hand, he also adds,  “The church must proclaim in its teaching and embody in its practices love and justice for those the outside world would wish to silence or kill…A Christianity that doesn’t prophetically speak for human dignity is a Christianity that has lost anything distinctive to say” (p.115).

The people of God as the church are called to be light and salt of the world, and a city upon the hill. We can not be and do what and who God has called us to be and do if we hold tight  to these destructive ideologies– such as white supremacy, white superiority, the triumph of white history in human history, etc.–which are  detrimental to the Christian witness in the public sphere and the proclamation of the Gospel of grace to the unsaved and lost. I’m afraid that American Evangelicals have become the very obstacle that hinders the progress of the Gospel in our society and in  the world; in the same vein, they face severe interactional  hurdles with their black and African American brothers and sisters. White American Evangelicals and Evangelical Leaders  must have the courage to first recognize there is a problem, and second, that they have  contributed enormously to that problem. Thirdly, they must have the courage to undo the damages they have caused, as the Evangelical Church (in the collective sense) in the twenty-first century seeks to be  a prophetic church and a community that affirms “human dignity is about the kingdom of God, and that means that in every place and every culture human dignity is contested… The presence of the weak, the vulnerable, and the dependent is a matter of spiritual warfare” (Moore, pp. 116, 120).

Toward this goal, a promising approach that  could bring White Evangelicals closer to  appreciate  the meaning of all lives toward racial healing and racial justice in their  churches and  culture is to be sensitive to the collective plight and struggle of the “ethnic minorities,” if I may use this phrase. White Evangelicals must cultivate both a personal and collective attitude  that would allow them to sympathize with the weak, the oppressed, and suffering communities in their city. It is vital for the sake of the Gospel that Evangelical Christians be open to and/or become intentional learners about another but complementary narrative of the American saga: the black experience and  history of African Americans in America.

The recommended readings below have all been authored by African American writers and thinkers–both male and female. Some of these individuals were/are historians, novelists, social activists, legal experts, cultural critics, etc.  These writers chronicle the black experience and the history of African Americans in the United States from an interdisciplinary angle. This list includes both fiction (i.e. “Invisible Man” ) and non-fiction (i.e.”From Slavery to Freedom”). Our goal here is to assist our White Evangelical brothers and sisters to be more acquainted with this version of their own history, which they have neglected or perhaps deemed unimportant to know. As the Spirit of grace continues his work of transformation in their hearts, he will enable Evangelical churches and Evangelical leaders to confront the meaning of black existence and defend the sanctity of black life.

  1. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
  2. Black Boy by Richard Wright
  3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  4. The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
  5. Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
  7. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans
  8. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

 

May the God of Peace,  our Creator continue to give us wisdom and orient us toward the path of racial reconciliation, justice,  and peace!

May He  guide the Evangelical Churches and Evangelical Leaders in America to become more sensitive to the plight of their black and African American brothers and sisters!