Prosper

www.bible.com/1713/jos.1.8.csb

It’s not a word I used daily. I don’t actively think about “prospering”. But I think it is tied indelibly to the concept of “white privilege.” Of interest is the fact that “white privilege” only exists in the contexts of “white” cultures, that is, American and European contexts. Elsewhere in the world, it’s simply known as “privilege”. If you are born into wealth and/ or power, you are born into privilege. If your father is the chief of the village, you are born into “privilege” or if your family has done well in business, your family is “privileged.” It only becomes “white privilege” when whites are involved. We don’t call “affirmative action” privilege, even though it was a way for people of color (specifically people who identify as “black”, regardless of how “black” they actually are) to get ahead of other students, regardless of skin color, and be admitted to colleges. This was a system which put whites as a disadvantage because of their skin color, and blacks at an advantage. That sounds like privilege. But I’m probably wrong about that.

The argument that I’ve been hearing is that black people (specifically black people, not Asians, who were treated as slaves on the West Coast for many years), nor Irish (who were considered slaves on the East Coast for many years), nor the Native Americans (who were treated like trash pretty much the whole time), have suffered so much and have been hampered in their progress today because of American Slavery that ended in 1865, 155 years ago. The argument as I understand it goes (and I’m probably wrong, so take it with a grain of salt) is that Black African Slaves, who were brought over against their will, were put to work as slaves in the American South. Because they began their lives here as slaves, they missed out on financial opportunities to thrive and prosper, and instead spent their valuable time working for others, so that prominent white families thrived at their expense. Therefore, white people (who may or may not be related to those prominent families) owe reparations and justice to black people (who may or may not have had ancestors who were slaves). I know this is just one facet of the current Black Lives Matter issue, but one thing at a time.

So as this “justice” is playing out, it becomes okay to take and to destroy what white people have to even the score. It becomes okay to loot and pillage white-owned businesses because that’s just getting even. It is even okay to kill white people, because blacks have historically been killed in the name of white supremacy. Do you follow me so far?

So what happens to black-skinned people who prosper? Of course, they defy the narrative of justice and are marginalized. A number of black-owned business have been destroyed. Successful black individuals have been labeled “Uncle Toms” or even traitors. Black people who don’t believe in systemic racism have been ignored and excluded from the conversation. It doesn’t matter what Justice Clarence Thomas says about the issues, or Dr. Ben Carson. It doesn’t matter that people with black skin have defied the “systemic racism” and are prospering today. They are irrelevant, because they don’t support the narrative.

Is it true that there are places in this country where skin color matters? Absolutely. But isn’t it also true that there are places in this country where the content of your character matters more? Where your job experience, your wisdom, your view on the world matters more than the color of your skin? Are there places in this nation where your faith shines brighter than your melanin? Are there voices you listen to for whom their skin color has no bearing on your willingness to listen? Or does skin color make all the difference? Tell me again what racism is? Remind me what “privilege” is? Do you privilege certain people to speak into your life because of their skin color?

When the words of the Bible were penned, they were penned by people who do not share my skin color. They were inspired by a God who has no skin color, but whom sent His Son to the Jewish nation, a people whose skin reflects their residency around the Mediterranean Sea, not the abodes of the northern Europeans. Jesus wasn’t black, but He wasn’t white either. But that doesn’t mean He didn’t die for me. Jesus considered all human lives to be of equal value and worth. His red blood was shed for all who possess red blood and human souls.

That’s why His words work for everyone. Everyone who follows the words of His book will prosper. Everyone can enjoy the privilege of prospering if they heed the words of this Book and do them. Prospering is not limited to whites, but for all who obey the Word of God and do it. Would you rather prosper, or feed off of your hate, anger, and bitterness?

Heavenly Father, we’ve made mistakes. You know that we have. And Father I believe that today we are paying for those mistakes in a national sense, with not only the disruption of our economy and normal lives, but also with the violence, the hate, and the disruption of our general welfare. Our sins are coming back to us tenfold. And we are being destroyed from within. Father, may we repent on behalf of our nation. May our nation see its faults and return to its Creator? Father may Your people be salt and light in this corrupted world. May we be a preservative influence, and a light in dark places. May You embolden us to stand for You, because You died for us. May I pray these things in the name of Jesus, my Savior, Amen.

In the Hood

www.bible.com/1713/col.4.2.csb

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that 2020 has not gone as planned. It seems everyday has become a feature news story. My only explanation that ties all of these various events together is that it is an election year, and every possible weapon (short of nuclear) has been expended to change the political landscape of America. However, if you’ve seen 24 (the TV show), nuclear weapons may still be on the table if America’s enemies figure it out.

I titled this blog specifically because of the image from the Youversion app. But I think it also speaks to where our attention is diverted today. We’re no longer concerned about social distancing in Minneapolis or in many other cities across the nation. So it will be interesting to see if COVID-19 is still a potent threat, or just a fear created by the media. I think at some point the media will have to start manufacturing stories about how protesters are testing positive for the virus and overloading the hospitals if they are to maintain their credibility.

But wearing a “hoodie” as this gentleman is in the picture doesn’t not constitute in and of itself an issue. I think many people could look at this picture and see someone who is engaged in serious Bible study. Others can look at it and see a criminal planning his next big score. It’s not what’s on the hood but under it.

The average person’s ability to make snap judgments these days is impressive. The ability to do a “hot take” on a single image I believe is what has driven most people’s understanding of George Floyd’s death based on a single image of a police officer holding Mr. Floyd down with his knee. Just like the image above, I don’t have context for it. I don’t know everything that officer and Mr. Lloyd did up to that point. I don’t know what context the officer had for holding Mr. Lloyd down. I don’t know what context Mr. Lloyd had for being held down in such a fashion. Do you? Can you confidently assert that you know everything about that situation? Do you know the course of events which led to each man meeting in such a way? I don’t, and I consider myself an intelligent person.

The Bible is wise in its advice. Be slow to speak. Be quick to hear. Be slow to anger. Be quick to listen. Two (independent) witnesses are required to verify testimony and they must agree. Don’t make judgment until you have enough information to do so.

Oh but the injustice! Oh but the racism! Really? Is that what this is about? Give me a definition of justice where the punishment far outweighs the crime. Oh but you don’t understand. This has been building for decades. They had it coming. Who had it coming? The shop owners whose businesses have now been destroyed twice, once by COVID and now by protesters? The “white folk”? There are WHITE people in the protests! The cops? All cops everywhere ought to be punished because some committed crimes? That’s like saying all blacks need to be punished because some committed crimes.

Something we need to remember is that all of us, all of us live in the ‘hood. Someone once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” I might ask the same, “Who lives in my neighborHOOD? Everyone does. There is no “us vs. them”, because it is all US.

Something to chew on on this Monday.

God, please forgive my neighbors who do not know what they are doing. Please forgive my nation because we have lost our way. Help me and my neighbors find the light again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Appropriate, Don’t You Think?

www.bible.com/1713/eph.4.26.csb

I have been told repeatedly that I need to feel guilty about how my race, the white race, has kept the black man down. How my ancestors kept the black man from succeeding and continues to perpetuate a system where whites are favored over blacks. I have been told this many times. I haven’t witnessed this personally. And that’s the problem. It’s called cognitive dissonance.

I have been told repeatedly how I ought to think. That what is moral and just and right is the way of looking at a whole “race” of men, based on the color of their skin, as a single unit. And looking at my own “race” of men, based on the color of our sin, as a single, unified group. However that is eastern thinking. In the east, it is typical to consider yourself as only part of a group. Identity is discerned based upon what group you belong to. This is why Communism tends to do very well in eastern countries, like China. Group-think defines how people think, and people are not to think for themselves or have opinions that differ from the group. That is foreign to western thinking.

In the west, starting with the classical Greeks, we are allowed to think for ourselves, and decide for ourselves what we think. Everyone is “entitled” to an opinion, right or wrong. This is reinforced by western religion, Christianity (which incidentally started in the “center” of the world) which calls for individual salvation, and each man stands or falls before God based on his own choices, not the choices of his group.

So tell me. Do people act as individuals, or as a group? Do we place blame for a criminal act on an individual, or upon his entire “race”? Excuse me for doing some individual thinking here. Do we excuse an entire “race” from criminal acts because an individual of that “race” has been wronged? That’s absurd, in western thinking.

Yet there is a narrative being forced upon a group of people, based in eastern thinking, forcing us to reconsider our “whiteness” or “blackness” based on “justice”. Can a crime be committed against a “race” of people? Or do individuals commit crimes against one another? Do we hold an entire “race” accountable for the acts of an individual?

Oh, but its “systemic”. Everyone in that racial group to one degree or another commits acts of micro-racism all the time, don’t you see. I believe the word you’re looking for is “different.” We treat people we don’t know differently than people we do know. There are some be give more “benefit of the doubt” than others. Yes, we practice sterotypes in our own mind, and rightly so. These are defense mechanisms. Do not allow “white guilt” to redefine what are natural and normal defense mechanisms. Why do white folks treat black folks differently? Because they are different. It is the same way we react to someone who is handicapped, or between males and females. Our sterotypes are formed based on this instinctual behavior and information we collect through experience that either reinforces or dispels the stereotype. We do this all the time without thinking about it because it is built in to us. Blacks and Whites (and Yellows and Reds, and Browns, etc.) all do the same things. We don’t naturally trust those who are different. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, he would rather judge someone by the content of their character than the color of their skin. That is a Christian worldview:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
(1Sa 16:7)

God says that a man looks at the outward appearance. We look at skin color. We look at facial features. But we have to learn to look as God sees, to look at the character of a man’s (or woman’s) heart. And the only way to do that is to 1) talk with them, and 2) observe the fruit of their actions.

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
(Luk 6:45)

And

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So then, you will know them by their fruits.
(Mat 7:16-20)

The Jews once practiced this subtle form of racism (which is why many did not like them) because they considered themselves God’s chosen people because Abraham was their father. Jesus introduced an counter-cultural idea into their faith by saying that all who trust in Him and have eternal life in Him are brothers and sisters in Him.

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
(Luk 8:21)

Jesus established a new kind of family. Not one based on skin color, national origin, or even a common ancestor. He based this new family on faith in Him. So that my brother in Christ in the Philippines is just as much my brother as the one in Nigeria. In Christ, we unite western thinking (we all must choose for ourselves Jesus Christ as our personal Savior) and eastern thinking (we are all One in Christ Jesus) with tribal thinking common in Africa and the subcontinent (we all identify with Christ Jesus, our King and Tribal Leader). These are admittedly broad brushstrokes, but they also come from personal and eye-witness experience. But there is no place for “racism” in Christian culture. I don’t care who you are or where you come from. There is no excuse for the kind of us vs. them mentality on display these days.

If you see injustice, you are right to be angry. But in your anger, do not sin, but instead to see Christ’s justice done.

Lord, help me today to see with clear eyes and clear thoughts. Though the world may seek to pit me against my brother, my fellow image-bearers, may my eyes and mind be clear, so that I may see others as You see them. Lord, let me be quick to see and quick to hear, but slow to anger, and slow to act. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.