I don’t want to be a white Christian.

I don’t want to be a white Christian.

And I don’t want you to be a black Christian. Or an Hispanic Christian. Or a Chinese Christian. Or an Indian Christian.

At least grammatically.

Because when I say white Christian I place my race in the position of an adjective, and it’s the job of an adjective to modify a noun. And when I allow the adjective of my race to modify the noun of my Christianity I always run into trouble.

What I need is the reality of my Christianity to modify every other reality of my life. Easier said than done, but that’s what grace does.

A white Christian’s reflections on Trayvon Martin

images-2

1. White America still doesn’t get it.

Please forgive the obvious overgeneralization, but some version of this sentence needs to be wrestled with.

There are many points to be made in the aftermath of the Martin-Zimmerman tragedy, but I’m not sure we’re even ready for that dialogue if we can’t first acknowledge this painful fact. For many whites, the idea of white privilege has never crossed their minds. Most whites never consider the benefits of being white.

When I was learning to drive my mother did not have to tell me to never drive with more than two of my white friends because I might get pulled over for DWW – driving while white. She never told me not to wear my clothes in certain ways or be out at certain times of the day. As a white man I do not walk through department stores looking over my head because of suspicious sales people. I send my children to a public school where I don’t wonder if their teacher will discriminate against them. When I’m late for meetings or miss a social cue I never hear people attribute it to my race. Even as I write this blog, I feel fully able to express my viewpoint and not have people roll their eyes because it’s the white party line. In other words, I go through life expecting people to view me as a unique child of God, not just another member of a racial group.

This is a big deal.

2. We need to get honest about the messages being communicated. I keep hearing the arguments. “Our system may not be perfect, but it’s the best system in the world.” As many times as I’ve heard that, it dawns on me, I’ve never heard that from a person of color. “But racism has gotten so much better.” Maybe this is true, but it’s like hearing a child abuser brag that he’s cut back to beating his children once a week. It’s pretty hard to celebrate the progress when you’re the victim of the beating. Or when you’re the one burying your son.

This is from a facebook post forwarded to me this week. Person 1: ‘9/10 statuses this morning are about the Trayvon/Zimmerman case. If only we could get people to care this much about more important things…’  Person 2: “This status message is a consistent witness of the mentality that dead black bodies are not important things. Do you know what your words testify? That dead black bodies are not worthy of our conversation, not worthy of our righteous indignation, not worthy of our attention, not worthy of our compassion, not worthy of our concern, and, apparently, not even worthy of the time of day it takes to update a status on social media. And that hurts.” The grief of a black family is valued as less than the grief of a white family.

If you want the evidence of such an assertion, just go google search the connection between the death penalty and race (you can view some graphics here). Bottom line, the pattern of racial discrimination is astounding. And embarrassing. Probability of execution rises dramatically if the killer is black, especially if the victim is white. Generations of black children watch this take place, and the message is clear.

Which is why Black America was much more interested in the Zimmerman trial than White America. This was more than an isolated case of a youth in a hoodie; it was a thermometer to assess the temperature of a nation. How do non-blacks value black dignity in the year 2013? The question was, what will happen to a light-skinned man who kills a dark-skinned youth? What would a jury say about this man who pulled a trigger and killed another human being?

Not guilty.

3. Which brings up forgiveness. It’s hard to forgive when there is no “guilt”. Listen to the heart of a grieving black friend from our church:  “Yesterday I wanted SO badly to be mindful of the power of forgiveness, and to be desirous of mercy, but what I realized was keeping me from being able to was the fact that there was not (and seemingly never has been) a confession and acknowledgment of the grievousness of the sin committed against blacks by the US & it’s people & policies. And that struck a nerve with me in this case. I would be SO thrilled if Zimmerman actually WAS forgiven, and actually DID receive mercy, and actually WAS allowed freedom — but with a ‘not guilty’ verdict there is no sin to be forgiven, no punishment requiring mercy.” Forget the details of this trial; do you hear this man’s heart?

4. Just because something is “legal” does not make it just. Many people have pointed out that the Zimmerman jury made the correct decision based on the law, the charges, and the evidence presented. But human laws are only just to the extent that they line up to divine law. Hitler enforced laws in his land that were not just. Slavery was once the law of this land, but it was not just. And abortion is now the law of the land, but it is not just.

5. I want us to do the hard work of trying to understand. After church on Sunday I had multiple black brothers and sisters in Christ expressing their deep pain over the verdict delivered the night before. Several had been weeping for hours. If you’re white, do you feel where they are coming from? I’m not trying to put you on the defensive. Guilt trips never work, so don’t twist these words into a guilt trip. Read this as my fallible attempt to cause our little faith family to truly understand. And love. And communicate. And struggle. And feel. And mourn. And weep with. With.

I need us to get over ourselves and any sense of self-justification or self-condemnation. I can’t weep with those who weep when I’m squirming in self-centered guilt. Or hardened with self-righteous excuses.

In case you missed it, we have the opportunity to do something special right now. Everybody expects all the kids to run to the black side of the cafeteria or the white side of the cafeteria. Everybody expects Sundays to remain the most segregated time of the week. Everybody expects whites to be predictably insensitive and blacks to be predictably angry. Everybody expects people to be defined by their race. But what if we embrace our race, while finding our ultimate identity in the family of God? What if we offered the unpredictable alternative made possible in reconciling power of Jesus Christ. God with us.

6. We’ll never understand each other until we look to the One who understands us. Black-white. Men-women. Hispanic-gringo. Easterner-Westerner. I can name a thousand ways to divide, but there is one way to reconcile. The gospel. Listen to these words from my grieving friend. “I have been greatly encouraged,  meditating on the sacrifice of Messiah. By understanding that divine gesture as a type of solidarity with oppressed people everywhere, whose blood is spilled without mercy and without justice at the hands of men greedy for power & control. Yesterday I wept in service because I couldn’t understand how this Man could pray ‘forgive them Father for they know not what they do.’ The men beating, and mocking, and scourging him didn’t know who they were killing and beating and spitting on. They didn’t know his power, beauty, and worth. They didn’t know who he was because they couldn’t see past his form, couldn’t see past his race.”

Yet it’s more than solidarity. There was a price to be paid and a dividing wall to be removed. Because we need something more than a cosmic example; we need a savior. We need someone who can turn away wrath, pay off debt, and soften the embittered heart. I’ve seen nothing but the Cross do this.

But it keeps going deeper. The gospel is no mere pillow to soften the blow of painful reality. The final scene of the gospel narrative is not just a feel-good happy ending; it’s a resurrection. I dare you to read the story to the end. It’s so real that it deals with the Cross. It’s so potent that it faces the pain and sorrow and tragedy of real life. This story takes injustice and sin and loss and pain more seriously than any other. Nothing less than the death of God in the flesh is enough to cover the severity of human offense. But hope rises out of despair. And life rises out of death.

Redemption.

Rating your dating – pt3 – What about online dating?

datingMore questions from our faith family…

Is it okay to be single and NOT be sexually frustrated?

I would have paid money for this while I was single. However, it’s less likely for anybody who is highly stimulated by sight. Modesty is a forgotten virtue, so even if someone starts to break free from porn, there is so much flesh in plain sight that purity is the fight of a lifetime. And if you do believe in spiritual forces of wickedness (a la Ephesians 6) you’d have to bet there is an influence of sexual lust-sensuality-seduction upon the culture at large. It’s like breathing smog in Mexico City; when you live there long enough, you stop noticing the effects. But over a lifetime, it changes the way you breathe.

Is it okay to just be passionate about your God given purpose without the second guessing of “Did I miss my window of opportunity to be married?”

This would be wonderful. Adam was clear about his MASTER. Next he received clarity about his MISSION. Then he was ready for his MATE. It is dangerous to be cloudy about the first two while working on the third.

Online dating – ADDRESS THIS asap with all AUTHORITY LOL (I love you). Is online dating evil?

Let’s try to be as clear as the Bible is clear, and remain as unclear as it is unclear. There is no rule that applies to online dating, so it’s not a question of good versus evil but rather wisdom versus folly. Disciples move beyond the questions of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Is it right? Is it wrong?) and they ask better questions (Will this produce life? Is this the wise thing for me to do?) I’d say this will be a different answer for different people. Here’s what is clear to me.

Online dating services have the potential to help you meet a lot more people than you would otherwise meet. We do not live in the world of 100 years ago; we now live in a global village. The internet allows for business and relationships that would have otherwise never existed or deepened. Because you have to pay for these services, the people involved are actually interested in a serious relationship, which weeds out those who know they are not ready. More than a quarter of marriages are now coming from couples who met online. It would be silly to say that God could not use an online dating service.

Yet wisdom says, keep your eyes wide open. Remember that these companies exist to make money. No problem. But advertisers make their money by stirring in us a sense of discontentedness. That could be a problem.  You’re missing something. You’re not good enough. You’d be happy if only you had XYZ. They show us pictures of giddy couples who found their soul mates and lived happily ever after. Remember that (a) Only 1-2% of online relationships end up in marriage, and (b) even if you are in that 2%, here’s the truth: if you’re not at peace before marriage, you won’t be at peace in marriage. Only one Being in the universe can meet your needs, and if you’re rolling your eyes, you still don’t get it.

There is so much more that I could say, but I’ll just mention this for now: godly, discerning community is a bigger deal than we think. When you read the book of Ruth it’s interesting to note how Boaz got to know Ruth: he discerned her within the context of community. “All my townspeople know you are a worthy woman” (Ruth 3:11). They watched her sacrifice for her mother-in-law. They watched her work when others were slacking off. They watched her stay true to his field instead of “playing the field” with other men. Boaz seemed wise enough to resist the urge of awakening love before Ruth passed the test of community. I have little confidence in the reliability of getting to know someone through an internet profile, and sitting alone in a car on a date. These kinds of dates are like a movie trailer: a highlight reel created to sell you on the product. You’re better off going to Fandango and reading the critic’s reviews. That’ll tell you the real story. If you do choose to go the online route, I strongly suggest: (1) you find a way to involve your community and the leaders in your life, (2) you guard your heart, and (3) you find a way to do a testing process. Pray!

Is it okay to think of our singleness as something else beyond “preparation for marriage” or “waiting room” for your spouse to come?

Dating is not just about dating. Sex is not just about sex. And marriage is not just about marriage. All of these realities are pointing to something deeper. Why do we even have marriage? It’s not like marriage had existed throughout all of eternity’s past, so God decided to use it as an object lesson. No, God invented marriage as a sign to point people to the nature of our relationship with him. We tend to defile a thing when we fail to recognize it’s purpose. If we see singleness as a necessary frustration we tolerate until we reach the promised land of marriage, we set ourselves up for unspeakable pain. Marriage is no promised land. Just ask all the people getting divorced, and the multitude of others who are living in a relationship that over-promised and under-delivered. Every time someone enters the marriage-as-promised-land paradigm they are set up for disillusionment because marriage is NOT about our happiness; it’s about our holiness. You don’t prepare for marriage by getting ready for your wedding day; you prepare for marriage by getting ready for His wedding day (Revelation 19:7-9). If that sounds like a cliche, you still don’t get it. Matthew 6:33.

Rating your dating – pt2 – What questions should I be asking?

dating

Disclaimer: these are responses to the questions from our faith family. I’ll hit a few questions each day.

1) Can you encourage godly men to be honest and clear when interested in a young woman?

Hey godly men, please be honest and clear when you are interested in a young woman. Unless – that would awaken love before its time (Song of Solomon). Unless – she is only 14 years old. Unless – being “interested” is just another one of your fleeting and fickle emotions that tend to come and go like the wind. Unless – you have not run this by the spiritual community around you. Unless – you are not in a stage of life where you can actually act on those intentions. Unless – you have not washed yourself and dealt with the issues that tend to defile a relationship down the road.

2) Can Christian communities resist the urge of trying to “set up” single folks on dates? Or is this unrealistic?

Probably not. Some of them are just trying to help. Some of them have been more discipled by chick-flicks than the Bible. Either way, you are going to have to learn to walk in wisdom. Blessed people find the way to NOT walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the path of sinners (Psalm 1).  I’m entertaining the option of arranged marriages. They seem to get longer lasting results.

3) Can you please FIND my husband as soon as yesterday? Thanks.

Sure.

4) Who conned us into thinking we ought to be anxious about marriage, spouse, sex, kids, etc.?

Disney Channel. BET. How I Met Your Mother reruns.

5) Is it okay to not have marriage at the top of your personal prayer list?

I hope so.

6) Is it okay to be single and yet not be “available”?

Yes. Isn’t that what a Christian fish on a car represents?

7) What questions should I be asking about a potential date? Or mate? If you were my dad, what questions would you be asking?

Okay, here’s the running list. I’d love you to add yours in the comments below.

  • Is he a disciple of Jesus?
  • Does he have a theology?
  • Does he have a healthy self-image?
  • Is he a man under authority?
  • Is he financially free? Can he support you?
  • Is he sexually free? Does he have a porn problem? How severe?
  • Does he know God’s will for his life?
  • What is his prayer life like?
  • Has he been filled with the Holy Spirit? Does he live a Spirit-filled life?
  • What is his reputation? Within the community? Within the church? With other girls/ladies?
  • What is his relationship like with his parents?
  • Is he willing to wait for you?
  • Does he have self-control in talking about his feelings for you?
  • How did his past relationships end?
  • Has he been tested?

Post more questions in the comments section. We’ll hit online dating tomorrow.

Rating your dating while waiting for mating – part 1

dating

Wow.

Studying the book of Ruth certainly stirs the pot on the subject of romance. Living in a town and being in a church with more singles than marrieds has forced me to think much more deeply about the subject.

My favorite string of questions so far have come from one of my favorite people on planet earth (listed below). Feel free to comment as I prepare for this weekend.

Because I have a Masters degree in Singleness and my invisible book title is “Waiting for mating, while engaging in Dating.” the inner mantra of every single female alive… (except five) in Christian circles at large…here are some Qs and comments:

1.) Obvious question — What does Ruth going to Boaz signify for single men and women in simple terms? 2.) Can Christian communities resist the urge of trying to “set up” single folks on dates or is that a non-existent, unnatural goal? 3). How would you encourage young adult professionals to date if they do not live in the ideal Gainesville Christian City of Angels bubble? 4). Can you encourage godly men to be honest and clear when interested in a young girl? 5). Online dating – ADDRESS THIS asap with all AUTHORITY LOL (I love you). 6). Can you please FIND my husband as soon as YESTERDAY. Thanks. 7). Please send more male missionaries to South Florida. Love you more. 8 ). Who conned us into thinking we ought to be anxious about marriage, spouse, sex, kids, etc.? 9). Is it okay to not have marriage at the top of your personal prayer list? 10). Is it okay to be single and yet not be “available” ? 11). Is it okay to be single and not be sexually frustrated? 12). Is it okay to just be passionate about your God given purpose without the second guessing of “Did I miss my window of opportunity to be married?” 13). Is it okay to think of our singleness as something else beyond “preparation for marriage” or “waiting room” for your spouse to come? I write these questions with JOY!! I prophesy a release of BOAZ’s in Jesus name….

The one thought I’ll throw down right now is this: our culture has trained us to squander our single years. Yet scripture says to steward your singleness and serve God “without distraction”, because once you get married it’s a whole new ballgame. (1 Corinthians 7) Most people I meet started the life of distraction at age 13 and never let up. More thoughts to come…

Post yours below.