NOTE: In order to avoid overwhelming my readers with too much material at once, I will be posting the two articles by Tom and Sheila Jones in a couple of days, one at a time. This will also give you additional time to access the other materials by Michael Burns that I mention in this present article should you choose to do so (and I hope you will).
When I started this blogsite, I felt moved by God’s Spirit to do it. A few months before, I was asked to speak in the Dallas church of which I am a part, addressing racial issues. It was a time of high racial tensions in Dallas, right after a black man killed five white policemen. One of the members of our racially diverse church was a white policeman and on the Sunday after the shooting he had a small part in one of our regional services. He was still full of emotions as he shared thoughts about the “passing the plate” contribution time. Understandably, he said a few things about the recent tragedies in his law enforcement world.
Some of our black members found the courage to speak up and ask why we never heard anything publicly mentioned about unarmed black folks getting killed by white policemen. Our congregational evangelist wrote an apology email and sent it to our entire membership. He promised that we would do better to get in touch with our black members’ world – and we have. I don’t think we have done enough but I am thankful that we have done more than most churches and more is yet planned.
Following my sermon, the leaders of the two other main regional groups in our church asked me to deliver the same lesson I had done in our Southwest Region. After doing that, I began receiving calls from several churches outside Dallas requesting similar lessons. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the area and don’t have nearly the expertise of my good friend, Michael Burns, who speaks in our family of churches very frequently on the topic. He just recently spoke in Dallas. One of my older black friends in the church (pictured above with me) remarked after Michael preached that of all the sermons he had ever heard, Michael’s lessons would rank in the top five. I had much the same feeling. You can listen to these lessons on the dfwchurch.org website and also read other articles by Michael and watch his “Crossing the Line” video series on Disciples Today (disciplestoday.org).
One thing I do bring to the table in speaking about racial issues is that I am white, male, old and southern. That gives me a perspective about what racism looked like during the Jim Crow days, but only as an observer. Thankfully, during my teen years it was as a pained observer. I wasn’t one of those outwardly fighting against those of a different color. My parents were not racist in the same way that many of our friends and relatives were, a fact for which I am eternally grateful. But we were racist in unconscious ways. We were ignorant of the true plight of half of the population of our own city. We were comfortable with the status quo. We didn’t question the way things were. We did nothing to try and change the system as it functioned.
If I were suddenly thrust back into those days via a time machine, knowing what I know now and feeling what I now feel, I’m pretty sure my convictions would have led me an early death. But I can’t go back and do it differently, nor can you. We can, and we should, and we must do things very differently now. And that is the reason this blogsite was begun. As I often put it, I want to help my white brothers and sisters understand the world in which our black brothers and sisters live every day of their lives. I also want to help my black brothers and sisters deal with the injustices, prejudices and racism (overt and covert) that are a part of their world. If we claim to be disciples of Jesus, we must imitate him and how he dealt with those kinds of mistreatment in his life. The world is the world is the world – and it always will be without Jesus. Those of us who have Jesus, regardless of our skin color and culture, must embrace the new world the Bible calls the kingdom of God and live by its principles.
Tom and Sheila Jones
Since I do not profess to be an expert on racial issues, I post blogs written by others, Michael Burns being the most consistent contributor. The next two posts are written by a couple who happen to be among our nearest and dearest friends – Tom and Sheila Jones. They once headed up Discipleship Publications International (DPI), for years the publishing arm of our family of churches. They are quite simply, exceptional people and exceptional disciples of Jesus. Like me, they are old (although a few years younger than me), white, and southern.
What they have written will be included in an upcoming book by Tom, which he mentions in the introduction of their articles. They write about their journeys in life as it relates to race. They have been members of racially diverse churches for decades, so having black friends is nothing new for them. However, in very unique and extremely vulnerable ways, they each addressed their segregated childhoods and young adulthoods. I wept again and again as I read what they wrote. I also thought of the above title for this present article. As they poured out their hearts and their experiences, the process of Carthesis was taking place. I have admitted more than once in some of my previous blog articles that I was writing to get in touch with my own soul and bare it before God and others about this thing we call race.
But along with Tom and Sheila, we hope and pray that our examples encourage others to search their own hearts – deeply. We all need Carthesis, increased awareness and repentance in many areas, certainly in the racial realm. When I say “we,” I mean all of us, black, white and brown. We all have our prejudices whether we see them clearly or not at all. Heart-checks are an ongoing, essential part of being a Christian. I beg you to read what Tom and Sheila have written as they have poured out their souls. I promise you that you will be very grateful and very humbled. They are among my greatest heroes on earth. Read and see why. Please!