Category: Christ & Culture (Page 1 of 37)

A Story About Race

We’re not going to solve race relations in the United States with one blog post. I’m writing this post as a hopeful suggestion for a different perspective.

Three years ago, during the height of the protests against the murder of George Floyd and the reemergence of Black Lives Matter, I found myself in the middle of a discussion about race at the home of one of our church leaders. There were a dozen of us around the table that evening and the conversation had turned toward the Confederate statue in the city park across the street from our church building. One man at the table claimed there was no racism in Amarillo. He told us he had lived in Amarillo most of his life and there were no issues there related to race. He said any controversy over the statue was fabricated by the media, that before Floyd was killed and before BLM began making noise, there had been no problems. It’s all made up. He’s had several black friends over the years, and none of them have ever complained about the statue.

To which I replied, “Who would they complain to?”

I then described a potential scenario to the group:

Let’s say there’s a Black guy living here in Amarillo and he’s poor. He’s always been poor. His great grandfather twice had his home burned down and his property destroyed. His grandfather never finished grade school because he had to work to support his family on somebody else’s ranch. All four of his grandparents were segregated by school and residential zoning policies, in public places and on government property, in churches and buses, in restrooms and restaurants, and at water fountains. He knows the stories. He’s seen the scars. His father has been in and out of jail for years on petty theft charges. His younger brother was pulled over and harassed by police last week because he was driving in a nice part of town. Let’s say this guy lives in a two bedroom rent house on Taylor Street and he walks both ways every day to work at the meat processing plant. Twice a day he walks right by that Confederate statue in Elwood Park. Two of his children attend Robert E. Lee Elementary in the Black part of town. He works lousy hours at a lousy job for minimum wage. It’s a terrible job — he hates it — and he barely makes enough to pay his bills and support his wife and kids. And every single day he has to walk by that statue in the center of Amarillo’s largest city park. If he hated that statue and found it to be an affront to his dignity and a source of deep pain, who would he complain to?

At that, the wife of the first man looked at me and said, “Ohhhhhhhh. You’re trying to put yourself in his shoes.”

Yes. Yes, I am.

Shouldn’t we all be doing that? Isn’t that exactly what our Lord did? Isn’t that our calling as disciples of the Christ, to empathize, to sympathize, to walk alongside and understand?

Here are some realities that are not made up, some hard cold statistics from the 2021 U.S. census. The following numbers represent non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks.

38.3% of Whites have at least one college degree compared to 24.7% of Blacks.
The median household income for Whites is $77,999; it’s $48,297 for Blacks.
19.5% of all Blacks live below the nation’s poverty level; it’s only 10% of Whites.
The life expectancy for a White person is 76.4 years; it’s 70.8 years for a Black person.
The homicide rate among men ages 15-34 per 100,000 is 6.1 for Whites and 126.1 for Blacks.

On this day when we honor the significance of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, allow me to humbly offer this one suggestion: have a conversation with a Black person. Somebody at work, somebody at church, somebody in your neighborhood. Take him to lunch. Invite her over for dinner. And just talk. Do it before this month is over. Just talk about life. Talk about your kids or your jobs. Talk about the weather or the Rangers. Do more listening than speaking. Come to the conversation prepared to hear something different, something new. Be open and receptive. Ask this person if you can pray for him or her. Be a safe space for your friend.

Blacks have a much different experience and viewpoint about life in your city than Whites. Our Lord would try to put himself in their shoes. Actually, he did.



Take a Break on Your Take

“Everyone has to have their take. That’s how it works now. If you don’t have a take, you don’t have a voice. If you don’t have a voice, you don’t exist.”
~ Quintin Sellers, Vengeance

Ashton Kutcher’s character in the movie Vengeance perfectly describes today’s loud and polarized culture. We have rapidly been conditioned by the internet over the past twenty years to react immediately and strongly to every single thing that happens and to take a side. All of us are compelled to take a position on everything as soon as it occurs, staking out immediate and immovable opinions on matters large and small before any conversation or reflection can transpire. Those hastily formed opinions then become our identity and our “cause.” You’ve chosen a side. And the other side will take the other side just to take the other side. Louder and more aggressive. On and on it goes, proving, as Quintin Sellers says, the defining truth of our time: everything means everything, so nothing means anything.

It’s so bad now that not saying anything, not having a take, not making immediate and loud conclusions about an event, is worse than having the wrong take or saying the wrong thing. Saying nothing is an even faster way to be labeled now as part of a side or a cause.

I think that happened to Nicodemus.

The most highly esteemed rabbi in all of Israel had met with Jesus under the cover of darkness – the conversation is recorded in John 3. We’re not really sure of his motives. Is he investigating Jesus on behalf of the Pharisees or is this a personal visit? Either way, when Jesus tells him he must be born again, Nicodemus sounds like somebody who doesn’t believe and won’t ever believe. He sounds immovable. It sounds like he has taken a side. Maybe.

By John 7, Jesus has stirred up some controversy among the religious and political set. The police and the religious-political leaders come together to discuss their options, and Nicodemus sounds somewhat sympathetic to the troublemaker. He asks the gathered leaders, “Does our Law condemn anyone without first hearing him out?” And they ripped Nicodemus to shreds.

“Are you from Galilee, too?!”

Are you on his side? Are you taking up his cause? Is this who you are? Is this your “take?”

There was no room in this heated political and religious environment for measured conversation and careful reflection. And this was several years before TV, much less the internet.

By the end of the Gospel, all the apostles have deserted Jesus during the night. And there’s Nicodemus, in broad daylight, with permission from the government, taking care of Jesus’ body.

Our society is in trouble largely because all the “thinking” we do is expected to be immediate and public. If you don’t have a position posted as soon as some question emerges, somebody’s going to ask if you’re really “one of us.’ Someone will say your “silence is deafening.” But that’s not how human beings change our minds about anything. We change after we wrestle through questions, as we ponder and reflect, as we talk with others and read new ideas, as we experience different views and cultures, as we pay careful attention to all sides and show grace and mercy to others and to ourselves.

None of that can happen under the pressures of our “post-your-take-now” culture.

Take a break on your take. Leave some wiggle room. Give yourself and others a cushion. And, above all, take your time. Show some restraint. There’s a big difference between reconsidering a viewpoint and losing an argument.



Season’s Greetings

I don’t really want to get into a whole thing here, but can we all just relax on this “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” thing? There is no war against Christmas. There is no threat in the United States to anybody’s freedom of religion or right to religious expression. Don’t get sucked in to the harmful hijacking of the Christian faith for national political purposes.

There are many American Christians who believe those who say  “Happy Holidays” are intentionally undermining Christianity and working to remove it from its rightful place as the dominant religion in the U.S. Many American Christians instruct their fellow believers to resist this movement, to fight back, by shouting “Merry Christmas” at every opportunity. We’re told to use the phrase as a weapon against the left-wing secularists and atheists and Muslims who are seeking to destroy our right to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

(Does anybody else find it ironic that those in the Churches of Christ who are making the most noise about this belong to a movement that, for most of its existence, purposefully ignored the Christ in Christmas? We refused to sing Joy to the World in December. We pridefully preached anything but the birth of Jesus on the Sunday before the 25th to prove some weird point that we were right about the season of Jesus’ birth, we were more biblically accurate, and we were not influenced by the culture to use religious words and displays to celebrate a pagan holiday.)

Is Christianity so fragile? Is our faith so feeble that when we are confronted with change that threatens our perceived power in a pluralistic and democratic society we respond with anger and defensiveness? True Christian faith is not frail. It doesn’t need to be propped up by a symbolic greeting snarled at every cashier and passerby  to assert dominance over other faiths. Or no faith.

The threat to Christianity is not saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” The real threat to Christianity is people who claim to be Christian not acting like Christians.

Our faith is much better served by following the lead of our Lord Jesus: feeding the hungry and clothing the needy, visiting the sick and those in prison, welcoming the refugee and loving our enemies, forgiving and accepting and loving every single person our God puts in front of us. That vision of Christian faith is much more compelling to our pluralistic and democratic culture than the one that proclaims “Merry Christmas” as an act of defiance with a hint of aggression and arrogance.

We are a people who claim to be saved by grace, rescued by love. Why do we act like people who don’t see things the way we do will be saved by our contempt and confrontation and lines in the sand? Whatever you say should be said as a demonstration of kindness, warmth, peace, joy, acceptance, and love. Whatever you hear should be received with patience and understanding and peace. The world will be won when we act more like the infant Jesus who came here as a helpless and vulnerable baby, with no rights, to serve rather than to be served, to seek and save the lost with kindness and acceptance and joy.



Election Day Reminder

I live in the United States and they have a president here. They have governors and senators and mayors and congresspeople. All the people here are deeply divided. And desperate. And afraid. Angry. Hurt. Confused. Violent. Bitter. Outraged. Torn apart.

I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Lots of us are. And we have a King. An eternal King. This beautiful King has destroyed all the barriers that divide. He has assured us of his continuous presence and his faithful promises. He has  commanded us to not fear. He has given us perfect peace. He has healed our wounds.

But somehow a whole bunch of us have become mixed up with these  rival kingdoms and their attitudes and agendas. We are saved by the love of God, forgiven by the blood of Christ, and called by the Holy Spirit to belong to the lordship of Jesus and to live in and proclaim his everlasting Kingdom. But some of us act like the people of this country are going to be healed and peace is going to reign if only everybody would just vote correctly.

The people of this country need a peace that surpasses all understanding and can come only from our Lord. They need healing that only God through the righteous life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus can provide. They need forgiveness. They need comfort. Reconciliation. Acceptance. Unity. Compassion. Empathy. Grace. Love.

Christians know our hope does not rest in politicians or parties, platforms or partisan posturing. Our prayers are not answered in Austin or Washington D.C. Our salvation does not come from elections or laws, flags or speeches. But we need to be reminded. Often.

We have a King and his name is Jesus. He is not up for election. He has been crucified and raised to eternal life by the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth for the salvation of this world. He has become for us our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Despite what’s happening all around us, he alone is making everything new. And he calls his followers to practice peace. And healing. And forgiveness. Comfort. Reconciliation. Acceptance. Unity. Compassion. Empathy. Grace. Love.

May our God bless us richly with his peace. And may his people behave in the name and manner of our risen and coming King.




“If  people reject the Church because they reject Jesus and the Gospel, we should be saddened but not surprised. But what happens when people reject the Church because they think we reject Jesus and the Gospel? And what if people don’t leave the Church because they disapprove of Jesus, but because they’ve read the Bible and have come to the conclusion that the Church itself would disapprove of Jesus? That’s a crisis.”

~Russell Moore, Losing Our Religion

Common Ground

We Christians belong to a self-described God of reconciliation who has given us, in his words, the ministry of reconciliation. We are charged by the nature of our own salvation to be a people who seek common ground, who build bridges, who foster restoration of relationships. So, where is the common ground for conversation in the Pro Choice v. Pro Life standoff?

There is no conversation happening. Both sides of this contentious issue are dug in and refuse to budge. There are no attempts to understand, there are no efforts to empathize with the other side. There are only degrading insults and lightning-fast judgments. So, where is the common ground?

What if both sides of this fight have something valid and vital to defend? Don’t they?

Pro-Choicers are desperate to defend the rights of women. They are compelled to protect the bodies of women, to protect against the exploitation of women, to protect against women being told by men what they can and cannot do without any say in the matter. They want to secure the equal rights of all women medically, socially, and economically. That’s what is driving their position. And isn’t that something we all believe is a vital and valid cause? Aren’t those things to which we all should be committed?

Pro-Lifers are desperate to uphold the intrinsic equal dignity and protect the life of every single human being, born and unborn. The deep, eternal value of every person, regardless of perceived disability or inconvenience to society, is what compels their position. Speaking for and standing alongside the most vulnerable among us. That is a vital and valid cause. Aren’t those things to which we all should be committed?

Isn’t that the common ground Pro-Lifers share with Pro-Choicers? Isn’t there room in that realm for genuine empathy, maybe even a little identity, with the other side? Both sides want to take care of women and children and their families. Both sides want women in our society to enjoy the same rights and privileges of men. Certainly, children of God and followers of Jesus want these things. Aren’t we charged by our Lord to point this out and act on it?



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