It’s our time: Responding to Richard Spencer

Richard Spencer is coming to town and Gainesville is nervous.

Every time I hear the story of our nation’s racial past I struggle with understanding how so many people could stand by and do so little. Until I watch how deeply we struggle acknowledging our racial present. We have a problem, and it won’t evaporate with the passage of time.

So how do we respond to Richard Spencer and the fear-fueled hatred of the alt-right?

We are not calling you to complacency, inaction, or silence. We must resist hate and white supremacy in all its forms. We are just calling you to resist in ways that will demonstrate true power.

Use our heads.

First, don’t show up and physically protest. To do that you are walking into a trap that has been set for you. You are an extra in a play where Richard Spencer is the playwright. You are on his turf. He’s set this stage on many university campuses across the nation. Violence and even death have been his applause. You don’t have show up to the set. You don’t have to take cues from Spencer and company.

Think about it. If a handful of people show up to his gathering, its impact is quelled right then and there. The press would expose that type of hate for the powerless movement it is without real clout or sway.

If 3,000 protestors show up and violence erupts, hate is the ultimate victor and Spencer gets exactly what he wants: national/international coverage, a bolstering of confidence for his white supremacy base, and the impregnating of thousands of counter-protestors with hate.

Don’t fight hate with hate. Don’t give hate the momentum of a home turf contest. Don’t stoke the flame by walking directly into the publicity trap.

Resist this. Fight it. Do not give in.

Let me clear. Doing nothing is not an option. Saying nothing is not an option. But let’s do the right thing. And let’s say the right thing.

Pray.

Acts 12 tells the story of the apostle Peter being imprisoned by King Herod and surrounded by squads of guards in preparation for his public execution after Passover, “but the church spent the night earnestly praying to God for him.” Acts 12:5. How did this story end? An angel of the Lord arrived at the prison and set Peter free.

Who held the most power in this story? King Herod? The prison guards? No. The church in constant prayer.

Don’t roll your eyes too quickly. Prayer is not the only thing we do, but it better be one of the first things we do. Otherwise everything else we do is impotent.

Pray for God’s protection over our city, it’s leadership, and our law enforcement. They are laying their lives on the line right now. Pray for the kingdom of God to come in Gainesville as it is in heaven. Pray for the safety of the citizens in our city and our uninvited visitors.

We are called to pray for our enemies. You and I both know that Richard Spencer is a hurting, broken and fearful person who has placed his hope in sin. We know it because we were once hurting, broken, fearful people who looked for life in sin. But with the grace of Jesus there is hope and power and freedom. We are now free to resist hate, even unto death. We know the King! Pray and intercede for the salvation of Richard Spencer and his followers.

Pray for the Church. This is our chance to talk about race and injustice. This is our chance to get right what the church got wrong during the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement. This is our chance to come into agreement. This is our chance to forsake all of the unbiblical, colonialized versions of Christianity and return to the world-changing, counter-cultural masterpiece we read about in Scripture. I don’t want conservative Jesus. Or liberal Jesus. I want the real Jesus. But it takes humility to see Him.

Fast.

This is why believers from multiple churches all over our city are choosing a day to fast and pray this week. Ask the Lord to search our hearts for the ways in which these ills of racism and hate remain in us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is true. If God’s people humble themselves and repent He will heal our land. Let’s be honest, our land is not healed.

Imagine what would happen if Christians did what nobody else in our culture does: humbled ourselves.

It would be a sign.

Protest.

The absolute best resistance is to counter-protest far away from where Spencer wants us to be. Where we engage not with him, but the white supremacy that he stands for through a unified front in ways that will not feed into his publicity stunt. Without physical protest, he loses and his voice is silenced.

Earlier this week we recorded a panel discussion trying to wrestle with the insidious nature of hate. Of racism and how it divides us. But also true reconciliation and what are some of the steps needed for moving forward. These issues of tribalism and racism are common to man. It has destroyed many nations and kingdoms before us. Law enforcement has asked us not to hold any large gatherings in any form of counter protest as this will lead to a significant security risk. Security for Spencer’s event is already costing our government and the University of Florida over $500K.

Instead of one gathering we are asking you to imitate the early church. Meet house to house with your microchurch, with friends, with neighbors all throughout the week and watch this video together. Talk about it. I strongly urge you to gather with people of other racial backgrounds and listen to them. Hear them out. Be slow to speak. Become meek enough to inherit the earth.

Boast!

Yes, things are tense. We acknowledge the clear and present danger. But something happened by 6:00 on Good Friday. The same Cross that tore down the wall of separation between God and humanity has the power to tear down the walls of fear and hatred and division. No more boasting in race; no more boasting in nationality. I agree with Paul: As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:14)

 

Dear United States,

I love you. (I love us.)

I thank God for our nation and our liberties and our diversity and our exceptional approach.  Jon Stewart is right: “This ain’t easy … America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We are fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that no one’s ever done. That’s what’s exceptional …”

Which is why I plead with us to consider these four words: Fear not. Forget not.

Fear not.

Do not live in fear.

Do not lead from fear.

Do not look at people through the lens of fear.

Let’s be a land of the free and a home of the brave. Especially to any American who follows Jesus, I remind us that our way is not the way of fear. Our path is not the path of paranoia. I do not suggest that we abandon wisdom, but we are commanded to be anxious for nothing.

My heart was grieved this week as the news broke regarding executive actions toward refugees and the “extreme vetting” of immigrants. Having travelled to countries where antagonism against our country is the norm, I affirm the need for caution and discernment. Of course. But I absolutely reject the cloak of dread that I sense in people’s souls.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) I wish we realized that Scripture is just as clear and counter-cultural about fear as it is about sexual ethics. Fear is a moral issue.

And when our fears outweigh our compassion we have reached a troubling tipping point.

Forget not.

The same Scripture that calls us to a righteous private life has called us to a compassionate public life. The same Bible that caused me to become pro-life for a baby in the womb leads me to become pro-life for the displaced Muslim on the run. Pro-life means from the womb to the tomb. If ever Christians needed to lift a consistent pro-life voice it’s now. Jesus Himself was a refugee, on the run from a murderous ruler. It is this Jesus who commands us to live out of love, not fear, out of faith, not anxiety.

Here’s a small snapshot of God’s will in times like these.

  • Proverbs 24:11. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to slaughter.
  • Deuteronomy 10:17-18. The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing.
  • Deuteronomy 10:19. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
  • Leviticus 19:34 – The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
  • Psalm 146:9. The Lord watches over the sojourner; he upholds the widow…
  • Malachi 3:5. I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against … adulterers, liars, those who oppress, the widow, the fatherless … and those who deny justice to the foreigner.
  • Matthew 25:35. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me…
  • Hebrews 13:2. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers…

When our fear overrides our obedience we are walking on sinking sand.

To my Muslim friends and neighbors, you are welcome and loved and valued as one who has been made in the image of God. If you are ever in danger or threatened or afraid, you have friends among the followers of Jesus.

To my Christian friends and neighbors, this ain’t easy. We are fighting against thousands of years of human behavior to create something that no one’s ever done: become a people free from the soul-enslaving shackles of fear and self-interest. So let us urge our leaders to use their voice to rescue the endangered, not to arouse the fears of the masses. Let us give ourselves for those who could never pay us back. Let us speak for those who have no voice.  Let us show this world a people who know that death itself has lost its sting because of the death and resurrection of our King.

Quite concerned, yet utterly hopeful in Jesus,

Mike Patz

My Prayer on Inauguration Day

I pray that Christian Democrats will give Trump the same mercy they gave Obama in the areas where his politics violate God’s righteous standard. And I pray that Christian Republicans will give Trump the same prophetic scrutiny they gave Obama.

I pray for another spiritual awakening in our day. God, You oppose the proud, but give grace to the humble. Help us to humble ourselves, seek Your face, repent of our sins, and turn from our wicked ways.

I pray that Christians will unite under the banner of Jesus and be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Reunite hearts that were divided during the election.

I pray that Christians will hold fast to truth, while speaking it with love and meekness.

I pray that those with power will use it to do justice. May all branches of government seek justice and correct oppression.

I pray for the criminal justice system to be fair, just, and redemptive.

Use our President’s influence to help our nation to defend the foreigner, the refugee, and all of those in danger.

Specifically, I intercede on behalf of women on the streets, unarmed black men, and unwanted children in the womb. Preserve their lives.

I pray that our leaders will not call what is evil good and good evil. May we not put darkness for light and light for darkness. May we not be wise in our own eyes.

I ask God to deliver us from our greed. Surround the President with godly counselors who are not ruled by materialism and lust and pride, but by humility and a desire to serve.

I pray that our President and Congress will not feel the need to lead from fear.

Give our leaders wisdom and understanding, especially in appointing key positions.

Grant our leaders self-control with their words.

I pray for the salvation of our leaders. Provide conversations, divine appointments, dreams, and influencers that will capture their attention and turn their hearts in repentant faith toward Jesus. Amaze our culture with key people bearing fruits worthy of repentance.

…..

Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. (Blaise Pascal)

 

Jesus, justice, & the multicultural church

As I look at the church, I’m quite concerned about the white-washing of Jesus, the toxic absence of justice, and the potential dangers of the multicultural movement. Which is why I am so thrilled to spend the next few days with the great civil rights activist Dr. John Perkins. He lives for the biblical Jesus, true justice, and a truly multicultural church. Here are some random thoughts to prime the pump for anybody joining us this weekend.

The earliest church was multicultural from the jump. Acts 2 describes an incredible variety of backgrounds from Rome to Asia to Egypt and everywhere in between – ethnic Jews and Gentiles alike. Racially and nationally, the first church was all over the map. When the power of the church was the greatest, the membership was the most diverse. We read about the same reality in the Azusa Street awakening at the turn of the 20th-century. Led by the African American preacher William Seymour, the revival united people of all racial and demographic backgrounds. “One of the most remarkable things was that preachers of the Southern states were willing and eager to go over to the black people in Los Angeles and have fellowship with them,” Frank Bartleman wrote. “The color line was washed away in the blood.” As potent and far-reaching as that movement would become, as soon as racism set in, the power was diminished as everybody ran back to their homogeneous sides of the racially divided church.

The very diversity that reveals God’s glory challenges man’s sensibilities. Racism is not a 21st-century phenomena; it’s not a white or black thing; it’s a human thing. Wherever there has been power, and whenever there has been a majority who possessed the privilege associated with that power, there has been human struggle.

When I hear Christians express their desire for diversity, I wonder what they mean. If what we mean is to be in a room with a variety of colors on people’s faces, this is not only insufficient, it can actually be dangerous. If we want someone’s face on a stage but do not want their voice where it counts, then this is a deceptive diversity that insults the very image of God. It is a diversity of color, but not culture. And whoever sits in the seat of majority will always have a privilege that is as natural to a human as water is to a fish.

This is why, when a black man and white man engage in multicultural relationships (or church), it usually comes with a very different cost. In the mind of a white man, unity means he needs to flex a bit. Maybe 10%. That 10% feels like a significant concession, since he’s not used to giving much up. For the black man, that same unity usually means he’s moving 90%. The “unity of the Spirit” has a higher price tag for the minority than the majority. When diversity means minority adaptation to the majority culture, we’ve performed spiritual malpractice. What does this mean? For starters, it means Jesus is not just asking the minority to move toward the majority, He’s asking the majority to move just as graciously toward the minority. This is the “one new man” Paul described as who we are becoming.

It’s helpful to remember that the early church – which was turning the world upside down – had these same struggles. But they confessed it, they addressed it, and the they invited God to be God. You cannot change what you will not address.

Because many churches have majored on a righteousness-message that functionally starts with Pauline epistles while neglecting the totality of Scripture (like the Prophets) which never divorces righteousness and justice, much of our message rings hollow to our hearers. When we present the words of Jesus without doing the justice of Jesus, we lose our credibility.

If only this world could hear the whole Gospel.

Jesus. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus because it really is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. Jews, gentiles, black and white. They are precious in His sight. No more white-washed, justice-neglecting, majority-leaning Jesus. Let’s have courage to embrace the real Jesus with His whole gospel and become the church that turns the world upside down once again.

Somebody pray!

Repeat After Us

1. My all-time favorite Florida Gator is Joakim Noah.

Last week I was reminded why I loved this guy so much when the SEC Network aired their 52-minute documentary on the back-to-back Gator basketball champions. Repeat After Us is the story of the team who started school together, sweat together, bled together, beat the odds together, wept together, and put together one of the greatest teams in the history of college basketball. After winning it all, each of the big four had every opportunity to leave school early and make their millions in the NBA. Instead, they came back for the incredible repeat. I had forgotten how special this team really was. By the end of that documentary I found myself choked up as I realized again, these guys really loved each other.

It reminded me of Jesus: “By this all will know that you’re My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Joakim Noah was a ringleader of love.

2. It’s been another love-challenged week for the nation. As I watched the riots in Charlotte, you could feel the despair and tension in the air. Hope deferred really does make the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).

It causes me to revere again the otherworldly nature of Martin Luther King’s leadership. The more I watch current events, the more magnificent and virtually miraculous his influence is revealed to be. How in the world did those civil rights leaders do what they did? How did they maintain a non-violent conviction in the face of such evil? How did they persevere long enough to transform hardened hearts?

Repeat after us.

I’m not hearing enough of a call to learn from our activist predecessors. They did cry out for justice. They did lift their voice. They did take action. They did renounce evil. They did get angry without sinning. They did affirm dignity. They did not accept the status quo. And yet they found a way to do all of that without forsaking love.

3. Unity matters. “I plead with you by the name of Jesus, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

I am personally dumbfounded with how easily the political parties have hijacked (and divided) both the left and right wings of the church. For the life of me I cannot understand how we have allowed such blind spots to go on unresisted. Can we not agree that the way of Jesus is to stand with the oppressed? Can we not understand that the effects of hundreds of years of racialized sin will not disappear as quickly as white people would like to move on? Can we not acknowledge the need for police reform while simultaneously acknowledging the multitude of officers who serve above reproach? Can we not recognize that when right-winged Christians are silent in the face of racial injustice they lose credibility? Can we not recognize that when left-winged Christians are silent in the face of abortion injustice they lose moral authority? Can we not concede that cherry-picking our biblical issues is not a biblical option? Lord, make us one.

I relate to hip hop artist Sho Baraka, who feels left out by both major political parties. “Baraka, an evangelical Christian, recently wrote a column entitled Why I Can’t Vote For Either Trump Or Clinton. In that article, the son of a former Black Panther says that ‘as an African-American, I’m marginalized by the lack of compassion on the Right. As a Christian, I’m ostracized by the secularism of the Left.'” (NPR interview here)

Do we not see that when the church fails to lift her voice for justice with Jesus, we leave a void where culture offers justice without Him? This is why, while I really like a lot of the current media voices, I’m troubled when modern activists are reading more Shaun King than Dr. Martin Luther King. It is mind-blowing to go back and read the Scripture-dripping words of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. My heart is convicted, my blind spots are confronted, and my soul is challenged to take the holistic Gospel seriously.

Repeat after us.

4. Leadership matters. But leadership must become clear. I am highly concerned by the lack of clear leadership with a clear voice and a clear direction in this moment in our history.

  • Let us confess our sin. Call it what it is, and repent. Stop denying your racism. Don’t say black lives matter but ignore the 1500+ black lives that will be aborted today.
  • Clarify what we (you) want. What’s the goal? What would get Colin Kaepernick standing again? What constitutes discernible and acceptable progress? When goals are unclear, progress is unlikely.
  • Engage in relationships with people of other races. Share meals, share hearts, and listen.
  • If you’re white, please read The New Jim Crow. Or Just Mercy. If you’re angry, read more Bible and less internet. Stop reading the trolls on people’s social media posts.
  • Don’t surf the net more than you pray. Your response will be nothing but flesh.
  • Use your time. You can help us reach unto neighborhoods all over our city with holistic, strategic initiatives.
  • Use your voice. When tragedy strikes, say something. But do it in the name of Jesus. You can blog. You can march. You can sign petitions. You can affirm Campaign Zero. You can call your congressman. And when people get it right, let them know. In our very city I am watching first-hand as motivated (and woke) police officers are trying to bridge gaps and bring reform. Encourage them. Take it from someone who takes a hit every time I step out to use my voice: the negative voices are 10-to-1.

Repeat after us.

joakim

#TerenceCrutcher

1. Too many hashtags.

2. I keep hearing warnings not to overreact when another black men gets killed. It reminds me of the people of Israel responding to the cries of the prophets of old.

3. I’m not sure if we realize how toxic our silence is. When it comes to justice, the lack of a consistent, united, and culturally audible voice from the church is beyond troubling. Lift your voice.

4. Stop blaming the wrong people. I’ve watched abuse victims come into my office to bring to light the agonizing darkness of their family experience. And I have been horrified to watch families circle the wagons, turn the table, and blame the victim. Why are you trying to divide the family, they demand. Things are getting better, they argue. But the abused are not the problem. And insisting that people get over the abuse of the past in light of some level of improvement is absurd. Stop blaming the media for reporting it. Stop blaming Youtube for posting it. Stop blaming the onlookers for recording it.

5. There’s something potent about this word repent. But it’s impossible to repent of sin we won’t acknowledge. It’s impossible to repent of a transgression that we will not see. Systemically, historically, consistently this racial sin has been allowed to operate and devastate and multiply into subsequent generations. Like water to a fish, it’s the current in which we swim. That means, unless you intentionally fight it, you’re under its sway. It’s the air (pollution) we breathe. Which is why extremely sincere people could pass a lie detector test defending their lack of prejudice, and size up a guy calling him a big, bad dude. Racists don’t believe they are racists. Implicit bias really is as deadly as overt racism, because it operates undetected. And unconfessed.

6. We change by amazing grace. When I had no defense because of My sin, Jesus acted on my behalf from the tree of condemnation. He made my problem His problem, and worked His transforming miracle of mercy by His bloodied body. In my anger I am so tempted to try to shame people into a change that only happens by grace. I must cry out for justice, but I must do it while loving mercy and walking humbly.

7. “If My people called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Here’s a prayer: God, we confess our bias, our indifference, our slowness to turn from our racial sin. Change me. End racism. Stop the violence. Let justice roll. In the name of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, & Racialized Sin

Blog - Alton SterlingTroubling thoughts keeping me up late and waking me up early:

1. It’s devastating to see non-Christians more torn up over black people dying than white Christians. I’m sad and angry and embarrassed and grieving.

2. Implicit bias is more dangerous than overt hatred because it operates underground. It has been stunning to witness all the racism that has risen to the surface over the course of Obama’s presidency. My head was in the sand.

3. Refusal to address racialized sin has undermined our capacity to fulfill our Romans 12:15 calling to “mourn with those who mourn.” (Mika Edmondson) As a son still grieving the loss of my father, I can tell you how incredibly healing it is when you encounter people who choose to grieve with you. And how painful it is when people do not. I grieve and feel for the family of Alton Sterling. My heart breaks for the family of Philando Castile. Their lives matter.

4. Refusal to call out racialized sin has blocked our capacity to heed the warning of the prophets of old: Repent. It is embarrassing that it has taken the ubiquity of cell phone cameras to open the eyes of culture to injustice that has been there all along. If the church won’t say it, it seems that God will allow Youtube or BET to bring it to light. Injustice must be confessed. Hatred must be addressed. Indifference must be forsaken. The blood of the innocent cries out to heaven. God forbid that we block our ears. I have been a part of the problem, and I repent. My silence has been part of the problem, and I repent. I have benefitted from a system where the playing field is not level.

5. If you question the need to repent of corporate or systemic sin, then I challenge you to consider Nehemiah (1:6) or Daniel (9:20). These giants of the faith found the need and humility to repent of both personal and corporate sin. Tell me what I can do, people ask me. Please read The New Jim Crow. I don’t want to hear another white person tell me they never owned a slave. I never want to hear another white person bring up black on black crime. Enough. Lord we confess our sin of racism, which we have sinned against You. Have mercy.

6. Sunday morning is still the most segregated time of the week. Why are all the black kids on one side of the spiritual cafeteria while all the white kids are on the other side? Because the church forgot who we are. The church forgot our prayer, on earth as it is in heaven. And in heaven it’s every tongue and every tribe gathered in reconciled unity under the blood bought banner of Jesus.

7. I don’t want to hear another person invalidate the pain. Or fear. Or suspicion. Or anger. Or hurt. Or outrage. The tears are rolling and the hearts are broken. Friends are asking me, how can people be so passionate about abortion and human trafficking and clean water halfway across the world, and then be so cold to death in their own backyard. These same people that prayed with you, worshipped with you … How can they be so blind? And it’s hard to not feel like they’re blind on purpose. Maybe they wouldn’t pull a trigger, but how can they be so silent when it happens? If my white brothers and sisters in Christ don’t get it, what white person will? I thought they’d be different. I’m angry. We’re struggling – in a different way. A lot of us in a speechless way.

8. Someone has to be different. If you’re a majority, we need you to model the way in humility and understanding and contrition and repentance. Grieve. If you’re a minority, your challenge is something like what you’re needing from white believers. Be different. It is rare to hear a God-centered response in times like these. When the heat is on, Christians are so tempted to play the predictably tune of the rest of the world. Taking their cues and becoming echoes of whatever talking head they just heard. Stop being an echo when you were made to have a voice. I just hung up the phone with Civil Rights activist John Perkins. This is the man whose brother was killed by white policemen. This is the man who was imprisoned and beaten to the point of death because of the color of his skin. This is a man who bears in his body the marks of racial injustice. Yet he constantly warns me: Feel the pain. Be angry. But bring it to Jesus, and let Him make it redemptive. If your eyes move away from Jesus, you won’t see straight. You never beat hate with hate, you beat it looking at the One who took it with whips and thorns and beatings.

9. If you are reading this as part of our faith family, I charge us afresh to embrace our call to offer this world the Gospel alternative. It’s a day to pray and fast and weep. To have hard feet and soft hearts. To open our mouths and spend our lives. To be a community with too much brown to be called a white church, and too much hispanic to be called a black church – a body that models the diversity and reconciliation and redemption and healing and power and grace and justice and mercy of God’s kingdom. I was supposed to be on preaching sabbatical for one more week, but I’ll be coming back early to address these painful realities from the heart of the kingdom of God. Please pray for us.

10. The people with the most hope lead. So let’s go lead, because we have hope. Not because of where we are, but because of where He is: sitting on a throne of justice