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DFW Church Cultural Connection History (Blog 59)

DFW Church Cultural Connection History (Blog 59)

In 2014, the Asaads saw the need for our congregation to celebrate the diversity among us while deepening the love we have for each other. Todd asked the Sagets to help meet this need by looking into a training model on the topic of diversity that would be appropriate for our fellowship. After a traumatic string of unjust killings of black individuals around the country and the unjust killings of police officers in Dallas in 2016, our need to develop a training grew into so much more. We saw the need to establish a team that could help us deepen our love and unity while we processed the harsh realities of the world through a spiritual lens and while still being a light to our communities. The team consisted of Todd and Patty Asaad, Pierre and Shara Saget, and Marcos and Kinny Pesquera.

Beginning in 2016, we were able to use the expertise of Marcos, who is the System Vice-President for Health Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at CHRISTUS Health, to put together a workshop that started the conversation around diversity in the body. This workshop was facilitated by the Pesqueras and the Sagets and was conducted first with the staff of the DFW Church. We then conducted the workshop with all of the Bible talk leaders, the singles ministry, and then with each worship center. In total, it took about a year to complete these workshops. Following the workshops, the entire staff was directed to read Michael Burns’ book, Crossing the Line: Culture, Race, and Kingdom. In June of 2019, Todd invited Michael to come to Dallas to conduct a mini-workshop based on his book. This event was held on a Sunday, during a congregational worship service. Michael also provided a time of teaching the next day to help further equip the church staff in our task of leading a diverse congregation.

To date, we have continued to expand our team to include two representatives from each of the six worship centers of the DFW Church. We did this because we recognized that the work in this area is vast and important, therefore, we needed more disciples involved. We also took on the name Cultural Connection Team because we felt it communicates, in a broad but adequate way, the objective of the team. The team has met regularly since 2020 and seeks to provide educational opportunities that will equip our brothers and sisters to talk about our various cultural and racial differences in a way that promotes greater understanding and value for each other and those we are reaching out to who are different than ourselves.

One of these educational opportunities was born out of a meeting with Dr. George Yancey, Baylor University Professor of Sociology. After reading Dr. Yancey’s book, Beyond Racial Gridlock, and finding out that he lived in the Dallas Metroplex, Todd and Pierre invited him to have lunch with a number of the staff and elders of the DFW Church.  We explored his thoughts and ways on helping multiracial churches develop greater love and unity because this is an area that Dr. Yancey is particularly interested in himself.  We then asked for a second meeting to discuss the possibility of him presenting some of his research to leaders of our Texas family of churches and leaders of the Chicago, Kansas City and Nashville churches who joined us. Dr. Yancey’s presentation of his research was refreshing and timely as he discussed a viable way for us to fulfill our calling to be like Jesus as we navigate the divisive times we live in.

Our relationship with Dr. Yancey has led to an invitation for the DFW Church to participate in a new research project which will help teach and inform us on how to better love all nations. Dr. Yancey is set to provide a training session that will teach us how to have collaborative conversations with each other. This training will be followed by six separate small group sessions that will test the effectiveness of the training and allow us to put into practice what we have learned. The potential for growth in our fellowship is tremendous as we anticipate each of us learning how to come together and love each other deeply in a way that values the diverse perspectives we all bring to the body. We also anticipate that participation in this research project will better equip us to be about our mission of sharing the gospel with others who are different from ourselves. Our prayer is that God will be honored and glorified as we strive to sincerely love each other deeply and be a light to our world.

Pierre Saget — DFW Evangelist

Todd Asaad — DFW Congregational Evangelist

The Silence Must End (Blog 3)

The Silence Must End (Blog 3)

The silence must end; the conversations must begin. I feel like my role in life right now has become the starter of discussions. My final letter regarding the last two chapters in my book, “My Three Lives,” was sent out to encourage more and more discussions about how to help our movement of churches get back on track in ways that we are not. The beginning of my blog about racial issues, primarily focusing on black and white relationships in the church, was designed to promote understanding, and understanding comes through honest dialogue.

The Silence is Real

Racial oriented discussions between races is rare in the church. Isn’t that an odd thing ─ brothers and sisters who share so much about their personal lives and sins not sharing about racial issues? Why are we not sharing? In a word, fear.

Black Fears

Our black friends in the church appreciate our diversity, as do our white members. We (an editorial we) feel accepted by those of other races in ways that we do not feel accepted outside the church. We are afraid (Satan using fear as one of his best tools) that if we were totally honest about how we felt about being black in our society we might not continue to be so accepted. We are afraid of being judged. We are afraid of losing the depth of friendships we have with those of other races.

We are especially afraid because we know that our white friends are woefully ignorant of our history, from the inception of slavery in America in 1619 to the abolishment of the Jim Crow laws in 1954 (to say nothing of life as black persons since then). Our race was enslaved in one way or another way for nearly 350 years. How can our well-meaning, well-intentioned Caucasian brothers and sisters possibly understand our feelings and fears if they don’t know our history? Hence, we talk to those within our race about these matters but not to those without; even brothers and sisters in Christ. The silence must end!

White Fears

Most whites in the church also avoid the topic. Why? Fear also. Fear of stepping on a mine field of emotions by saying something wrong or hurtful, even with the best of intentions. Fear of exposing our ignorance of black history, feeling embarrassed that we’ve waited so long to start learning. The good news is that we do not have to remain ignorant.

“Wait a minute,” some might be thinking. “I’ve seen at least a half dozen movies about the bad side of black history and read some things too, so I’m not as ignorant as you are saying!” Keep talking ─ you’re proving my point. I’m not just talking to you; I’m talking to me. In spite of the fact that I’ve read more and watched more about racial matters than the large majority of white folks, I’m still in the throes of ignorance. But I am dedicated to learning and willing to expose my ignorance in print as a part of my own learning process. I fully expect to be corrected and guided in love by my black fellow disciples, and I am anxious for this opportunity to keep learning and growing.

Where’s the Proof?

We know that many whites outside of the church are thinking and saying things like this: “”Get over slavery, it was in the past!” “Why do blacks feel the need to boast about their accomplishments every February?” By the way, these two statements came from a young black brother who said that an inner voice prompted these thoughts about how those outside his race are probably thinking. And why would his inner voice come up with these thoughts? Fears of how others might view him, of course. The fear factor is real, and it is often most strongly felt as the fear of rejection.

Black History Month

My friend’s mention of February was in reference to BHM (Black History Month). Actually, there are different views about BHM within both the black population and the white population. Here is my view, and in the context of this article, it’s a pretty dogmatic one. I think both blacks and whites need BHM and much more similar education beyond that one month.

Blacks need to know not just their history of oppression, but much more about black heroes who defied the odds and made their mark; much more about the character of their unknown ancestors who applied more Christian principles to their daily lives than most can even imagine. They would not have survived otherwise.

We white folks need to know about both. “Get over the past” is in one context a very biblical statement. The Bible doesn’t say “obey” unless you have been hurt in the past by society, parents, friends, church folk, or whatever else. It just says “obey.” Okay, I’m good with that, and preach it often in one form or another.

That being said, some things in our past we get over simply by repenting, and other things we have to grow out of after repentance ─ and that takes time, patience, prayer and help from others. But we do have to grow, for God is not pleased with less. Holding on to a victim mindset is contrary to the cross of Christ, no matter what our pain has been.

As an example, suppose a girl was sexually abused almost daily between the ages of 11 to 17 by a family member. Now a half dozen years later, she is at the marriage altar saying her marriage vows. She has been taught in pre-marriage counseling what the Bible says about the beauty of the sexual relationship within the bonds of marriage. Now for the first time she is in bed with someone that God approves.

What happens? Does she just throw an intellectual switch and have a fantastic honeymoon night? Likely not, for that switch doesn’t immediately control our emotional switch. Biblical knowledge of right and wrong is essential, but some things we have to grow in and some things we have to grow out of. Our backgrounds influence us greatly. Repentance of practicing known sins is one thing; Christian growth in difficult areas for us due to our background is yet another.

A Starting Place

Let’s decide to start learning and start talking about the very sensitive area of race. Really, the silence must end. I just received a note last night from a dear brother I hadn’t seen in years, and he told me that the silence on this subject had almost caused him to leave our fellowship of churches. He was not the first one to say that to me, by the way, and it is almost certain that others have already left us. We simply must talk.

Suggested conversation starter for white folks: “Listen, I know that this racial issue has to be really hard for you, and I’ll admit that my understanding of it is certainly limited, but I love you and really want to know what you are thinking and feeling. Can we talk?”

Suggested conversation starter for black folks: “Listen, this is really awkward for me, but our mutual friend Gordon said that we need to talk interracially about racial issues and I think he’s right. I’m feeling a lot these days, and would love to talk in depth about it with you.” If those don’t appeal to you, figure out one that works for you, and let’s start the discussions.

Public Education is Readily Available

I will continue to mention movies, documentaries and written material that I have read or watched, and I have a suggestion about a good way to jump into the deep water on this issue. Go to You Tube and watch a 4 part series by PBS entitled, “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.” This one will provide you with some amazing history (much of it gut-wrenching and heart-breaking), and it will also help you to see that the end of slavery was not even close to the end of black oppression.

In fact, many slaves were better off as slaves than as freed men and women. At least under slavery they were valued property; after slavery, their value decreased rapidly and thousands upon thousands were killed for no reason other than the perceived need to “keep blacks in their place.”

Proceed Carefully!

When we start delving deeply into black history, it is going to test your emotionality and your spirituality. As I said in the sermon on racism that I hope you have watched by now, seeing certain movies tears my heart out ─ and I’m white (mostly). Watching “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow” took me through a whole gamut of emotions. As I said in the panel discussion in St. Louis near the end, I discovered some pretty strong reverse racism in myself, realizing how prejudiced I am toward white supremacist types.

Satan is the enemy here, and we have to focus on him and his schemes and not on the human agents he uses to carry out his agenda. It was in the very context of the need to forgive others that Paul wrote about Satan’s schemes, and helping us feel justified in not forgiving is one of his grandest schemes. “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44) and do good toward them, trusting God to bring about his just vengeance in his ways and in his timing (Romans 12:14-21).

Talk to Me

Some have asked about why I don’t have a section at the end of each blog post a place for reader’s comments. I understand the question, since the practice is common to blogs. I hope you understand my answer. Every article involving the racial issue that allows such comments almost always devolves into racist comments that were common a hundred years ago. I see them and think, “Has this bigot found his way here in a time machine?”

Then I realize that Satan has managed to keep racial hatred alive and well right into the 21st century. We are all tempted to post our strong opinions about sensitive topics like politics and race on Facebook or other forms of social media, and we end up violating God’s commands such as those in this passage: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2). Keep in mind that Nero was the Emperor in power when Paul wrote this.

Therefore, I ask you to email me with your observations, input and suggestions. Please do not post replies to this blog on my regular teaching page. As you write me, I will learn from you or perhaps have an exchange in which you learn from me. Whether your comments are positive or negative, I will use some of them in future blog posts (without identifying you, of course, unless I ask and receive your permission).

A blog by an individual expresses his or her opinions, with which you are free to agree or disagree. I’m not looking for pats on the back; I’m pleading for much broader discussions about a subject that is dividing our nation and has the potential to divide our churches, even if only in subtle ways. Let’s talk. THE SILENCE MUST END! Until the next post…

The End of Jim Crow? (Blog 4)

The End of Jim Crow? (Blog 4)

As I wrote in my last posting, the Jim Crow laws that supposedly supported “separate but equal” status for people of color ended by decision of the Supreme Court in 1954. On May 17 of that year, Chief Justice Earl Warren publicly announced the court’s decision declaring, “We conclude unanimously that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

He further stated that the “separate but equal doctrine rests on basic premise that the Negro race is inferior,” but in considering the intellect and argument of the black councilmen Thurgood Marshall “proves they are not inferior.”

The real purpose of the Jim Crow laws was to “keep black people in their place” (i.e., subjugated to the whims and opinions of the white population). These types of laws came in stages and in various forms, depending on the state in which they were introduced. They were preceded by far worse laws. For example, the Maryland Colony passed in 1638 what later became known as the “Doctrine of Exclusion.”

These laws grew into the “Slave Codes” of 1705, and all of these laws essentially reduced the black population to being viewed and treated as inferior, degraded, and into almost sub-human status. You can Google these two terms if you want to see more of the horrid specifics of these two laws.

The later “separate but equal” period lasted from the 1896 “Plessy vs Ferguson” law, a landmark constitutional law case of the Supreme Court that upheld state racial segregation laws for public facilities until the 1954 case mentioned in the above paragraph. Sadly, the Plessy vs Ferguson battle started in my home state of Louisiana, and Ferguson was the judge in the case. I just pray that he wasn’t a part of my family tree.

I do hope that you have at least started watching that four part PBS series that I recommended in my last post. When Chief Justice Earl Warren declared those laws unconstitutional and said that blacks were equal to whites and not to be discriminated against on the basis of race, did the Jim Crow era end? Not by a long shot.

Seen Through My Eyes

I went to segregated schools all of the way through college. 1965 was a big year for me. I got married in January, graduated from college in late May or early June, and started my brief public school teaching as a Junior High School band director in September. Two years later, I became the band director at a new High School and the following school year (1968), racial integration began in Shreveport, Louisiana by bringing a few black teachers into the white schools. In our large High School, we had five black teachers. The following year, black students began being ushered into formerly all-white schools. I had quit teaching by then, having been bitten by the “preaching bug” and didn’t witness it personally.

Hence, the Supreme Court decision ending segregation may have been rendered in 1954, but it was 15 years before the actual integration of schools began in my hometown. Basically, the Court could rule but not enforce. Why in the world did it take that long to even begin practicing some semblance of what the Declaration of Independence itself demanded in 1776? “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” You already know the answer to that one.

It is important to note the obvious and not-to-obvious implications of that famous sentence. One, the origin of the statement likely traces back to the philosopher John Locke, of the 17th century, who had the term “property” or its equivalent as the final word in the trio of words ending the sentence ─ instead of the term “happiness.”

Two, Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of America, and primary author of the Declaration of Independence, is credited with making the change to happiness. I’m not sure how much of a change that represents in the 21st century, in that the majority of our citizens seem to have been brainwashed into equating happiness with possessions.

Three, Jefferson himself owned slaves, as a man of his times, but his views about the institution were complex and changed in some good ways as he aged ─ yet he never ceased to own slaves.

What Does This Background Teach Us?

Although the foundational documents of our country contained some wonderful concepts, they were clearly not designed with people of color (all colors not white) in mind. As a nation, we have historically prided ourselves on having a “melting pot” population composition, comprised of all types of people.

Yes, our country was founded as a place for new beginnings and opportunities, but those early inhabitants were mostly white. They may have found their way to our shores even from a prison in some European country, but the true nature of the melting pot was far more limited than we imagine.

Consider the inscription found at the base of the Statute of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It should be obvious that this inspirational invitation was not directed toward non-whites, for the blacks arrived as property in slave ships and those already here (Native Americans) were slaughtered and displaced under the rationalization of the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny.” Our history is not nearly so nice and tidy as most history books would lead us to believe. I love so many of the principles upon which our country is based, but their limitations in application have to end if we are to become “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” as our National Anthem words it.

The phrase “Make America Great Again” may appeal to certain white folks, but by now you can surely understand why blacks and other non-whites would say that the phrase is one word too long. “Make America Great” might express a worthy goal, but considering our national history from the perspectives described in this blog, the term again is hollow at best and repulsive at worst.

We Are Still Disciples

This particular article is a heavy one, as have been the ones before it and some of those to follow. Yet, we are still disciples of Christ, set on following his example. Our primary citizenship is a heavenly one, not an earthly one. I keep thinking to myself, “Gordon, why are you writing this?” To restate some of what I have said before, I have several reasons of which I was aware at the beginning and at least one that is dawning on me more as I write.

One, I want my black brothers and sisters to know that their white brothers and sisters want to learn more about the world from their perspective, and become more empathetic and supportive. Two, in order to accomplish that goal, I want to help educate my white brothers and sisters about the broader scope of racism.

It is a systemic American sickness and our society is far from being cured. I chose my blog title mainly to catch people’s eyes and prick their interest in reading, but black tax is the mild form of what many blacks now face in their lives, and their ancestors faced a far, far worse environment.

Three, I want all of us, regardless of race, to get help biblically in order to respond to all of life’s challenges as Christ teaches, and as he lived it when on earth. Perhaps the best description of following Christ in the midst of emotional pain induced by others is this verse: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

Four, I do need to get this all in writing in order to help me work through my own pain regarding racism, even if my pain comes simply from observation as a white person. Maybe there are more reasons for writing, but these answer my question to my satisfaction about why I have chosen to write this blog. More to come, soon…

Personal Perspective: What Was It Like After 1954? (Blog 5)

Personal Perspective: What Was It Like After 1954? (Blog 5)

From my perspective as I entered my teen years, nothing had changed. Blacks were expected to keep in their place, and that expectation covered a very broad spectrum. They lived in what many called N______town, separate housing developments that were disgraceful. They avoided at all costs the possibility of offending white people, for it was dangerous to do so. They made little eye contact with white strangers, and they definitely made no eye contact with white women.

Any Excuse Will Do

One of the paranoid claims made to justify treating blacks terribly was the idea that the black men were always planning ways to have sex with white women. As historical fact, many white men, especially slave owners, essentially raped black women with no real possibility of being charged legally. That is one of the big reasons that large percentages of blacks in this country have some white blood in them and many whites in this country have some black blood in them.

I’m living proof of that one, and you might well be too. You could find out with a readily available (and fairly inexpensive) DNA test. I believe that my 12% African mixture came from a great-grandmother “passing” as a Cherokee Indian, which gives me hope that I came by my racial mixture through a consensual situation. But most didn’t, shamefully.

By the way, it might be a good time to restate that my being 12% of African descent doesn’t mean that I understand the experiences of black Americans. I was raised as white. My knowledge of the viewpoints of black people in America is coming from my serious efforts to increase that knowledge, as I am asking you to do if you are white.

Just Stay in “Your” Place!

As I stated in an earlier article, the movie The Help was an accurate demonstration of what life was like for “coloreds” when I was growing up. They sat at the back of the bus, and always said “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” to white women and men. They were expected to come to your back door, not the front, and ate their food outside if they were working for you. Separate and quite unequal was the order of the day.

They were expected to be servants in almost every way. My father was a bricklayer, and all of the “skilled labor” workers were white, whereas the blacks were mostly the “common labor” who assisted them. More on that situation later as it related to me. They had no ladder of advancement to climb, at least in the South. It really wasn’t much different in most parts of the North, although there were some notable exceptions for at least certain time periods.

Much more could be added to this list, including many specific laws in various states that were totally demeaning to the black population and flagrant violations of our very Constitution. Their living conditions would be hard to imagine by younger people in America today, particularly white young people. But all of that was the order of the day, and fear for one’s life and safety kept blacks from crossing the line as it had been drawn by the white population. Of course, there were many wonderful exceptions of white people who were repulsed by the status quo, but they were a minority.

How Did Blacks Accept Such Injustice?

Most accepted it as simply inescapable, as their lot in life. The remarkable thing to me in looking back at the black men and women I knew was that they appeared to accept it with grace. They had to know about those of their race speaking out and writing about these injustices, but most of them didn’t respond with hatred toward white people. They had little choice about accepting their way of life, for otherwise they could not have made a living, such as it was.

I like to think that most found answers to their challenges in the Bible. During slavery days, the one escape they could often count on was attending church for a few hours on Sunday. This relief was combined with their soulful singing and looking to God for the strength to endure what they faced. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a black atheist. Religion was their only hope of a better life in the Great Beyond, and these men and women clung to it. Undoubtedly, some slave owners used the pulpit to further their own ends, but in the end, African Americans seemed inherently more religiously entuned than whites, at least to me through the years.

Still a Long Way to Go

By the time I was a young teen, the legal aspects of Jim Crow were winding down, but winding down very slowly. In the mid-1950s, the American Civil Rights Movement was beginning. Yet the practical aspects of those laws ingrained into the thinking of both blacks and whites were (and are) very difficult to eradicate.

That is why I love our church so much ─ our diversity. But the challenges in the midst of a nation still torn and divided by racial issues is a challenge for those of us in Christ as well. That is why I am so strongly pushing the idea of interracial discussions. By the way, our black brothers and sisters need to talk first and whites need to simply listen and ask questions for clarification.

Then it should become a two-way discussion as we share our perspectives, with an open mind to one another’s viewpoints. Parents have to provide a safe place for their children if they expect them to be honest with the true feelings. White folks have to provide that same safe place for our black brothers and sisters if we expect them to be honest with their true feelings.

Hence, the suggestion just mentioned how about how to approach the initiation of discussions that close the understanding gap. We are not as much on the same page in racial matters as outward appearances would lead us to believe, and the reasons are mostly ignorance and lack of communication. But by God’s grace, we can close the gap inch by inch until we are on the same page or hopefully close to it.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I do see light at the end of the tunnel. It has been a long, long tunnel, but with each generation, progress is being made. My hopes for many aspects of the future lie in our young people. Whatever evils the internet offers, it has also given our young people a global view. They are not confined to nor restricted by the views of the older generation, which is both good and bad. Regarding racial issues, it’s good.

I talk to black and white young people about race, and am encouraged. There is light at the end of the tunnel for them, and for us as well, if we will grasp it with God’s help. Most people of color have progressed away from relentless fear of outward harm (the fear of police being an exception for black males especially), but the attitudes as demonstrated through the concept of black tax is yet to change, and may never change in the world. It has to change in the church where it has not yet, leaving in its place trust and the lack of any type fear.

Again, Why Am I Writing?

As I write, it continues dawning on me that one reason I am writing lies in making an attempt to cleanse my own soul from what I observed and have learned about the racial struggles in our national past. I want to drink deeply of this passage about the church as Christ’s Body, and practice it fully: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:26). I want to understand and be understood; I want to help bear the burdens of my brothers and sisters, and I need them to help me bear mine.

We are one in Christ, and that oneness is not found in color and culture; it is found in heart connection through Christ connection. The world is a mess and it always will be until Christ comes and ends the nightmares. But the church for which he died is a beautiful thing by design, and dedicating ourselves to making it that in practice is a beautiful pursuit. Jim Crow laws were a curse (for blacks and whites) forced upon the inhabitants of the United States; Jesus Christ laws are a precious blessing to those in his kingdom, delivered only by his precious blood.

How Much Sad Background Information Do We Need?

I’m not quite sure, but I know I’m not finished with it yet. I admit that my need to purge my own soul is a part of it, but the need to help my white brothers and sisters feel the heaviness and horror of the past is real. I’m not trying to create sympathy or guilt in whites nor self-pity in blacks, but I am trying to help create genuine empathy in all of us, the ability to feel for another by feeling what others feel ─ as much as possible. If we are to “Carry each other’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2), we must know what they are, and we cannot know without honest discussions.

Please do this: if you are a black disciple, initiate such a discussion (about your racially related feelings) this week with a white disciple; if you are a white disciple, initiate such a discussion (about this subject) with a black disciple. If they know me, tell them I asked you to do it if you think that might help. I would strongly suggest that you avoid allowing your conversation to slip into the area of current politics.

We need a starting place and we need it now. I talk to my black friends about these matters regularly, and I talk to total black strangers about them almost as regularly. Most of the time, I just ask questions. I want to know what others think and feel. I, along with nearly all of the blacks with whom I speak, see this as a HUGE issue. We must talk. Please join me. If we can enter into that discussion process, we will have started walking along a noble path. Until my next post…

Early Christmas Presents! (Blog 6)

Early Christmas Presents! (Blog 6)

Most of us like presents of all types, and for many people, Christmas is one of their very favorite times of the year. Therefore, early Christmas presents are really special. Personally, gifts are not high on my list of “love languages,” but occasionally I receive a gift that really strikes a chord in my heart. Within a 24 hour period, I received several such gifts from people who responded to my blog. I wasn’t having a bad day or anything, so the gifts weren’t essential to my emotional well-being. But they were heart-warming to an amazing degree, causing me more excitement than I have experienced since I started this blog.

A White Brother

The first one I read was from a white brother, who out of his love and concern for his black brothers, reached out to a number of them to just hear their perspectives and understand them as individuals better. Although this is something I’ve been urging in my blog, he didn’t need my urging, for it was already on his heart.

A Hispanic Sister

The second one I read was from a Hispanic sister, whose story is delightful and underscores how very fortunate we are to be in a racially diverse church. However, one thing I have been hearing lately from black brothers and sisters is that we are much more diverse in our church assemblies than in our relationships outside our assemblies.

Just How Diverse Are We?

Honestly, this one came as a bit of a surprise for me. Since I became a part of this movement of churches (officially) 31 years ago, my wife and I have had close friends of different races. In fact, we enjoyed these kinds of diverse friendships long before that, even in the Mainline churches of which we had been a part (although those churches themselves were far less diverse than those in our present movement). But I have asked enough of our African American brothers and sisters about this to become convinced that the observation is too often true.

While I’m not doubting that we are not as diverse in relationships as we should be, given the rather consistent input I’ve received, I think another factor might be involved as well. I wonder if we have just become more selfish and therefore naturally hang out with those we are most comfortable with? Another way of putting it is to ask if we have just become cliquish in our relationships? It may involve racial comfortability, but it may involve comfortability that is not racial in nature.

Racial Comfortability or Just Plain Selfishness?

Here is why I raise this question. I have noticed that when our church services end, we naturally start conversations with those who are already our closest friends. We don’t venture out much beyond that, even to visitors. There was a period when first time visitors to church were immediately surrounded by many disciples and often asked repeatedly to study the Bible (even when they had little clue of what that meant!). Our reduced evangelistic zeal has likely resulted in our becoming more cliquish and perhaps less involved with those of different races along with it. To put it bluntly, without evangelism high on our priority list, selfishness gains ground and all types of fellowship lose ground. Something to think about…

But back to the second letter. As you read it, you will note that one size doesn’t fit all regarding our interracial fellowship and relationships. What I have been hearing from some (too many, frankly) doesn’t fit me (and many others) and it certainly doesn’t fit the situation described by our Latino sister.

A Black Sister

The third letter is from an older black sister who has been in our fellowship of churches for decades. Her upbeat example brightened my day, and her hope for us gave me hope. As I have said and will continue saying, racism in the world is a given. I hate saying that, but we know it is true. 1 John 5:29 states what we all recognize as reality: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”

Satan has the world in his grip but we can pry them from his grip one at a time. On the other hand, we know that we are children of God, and with his help can change anything that he wants changed. To whatever extent prejudice, racism and cliquishness exist in us individually and collectively as a church, God can help us to eliminate it.

As you read these three letters, each published with the permission of the authors, I hope that your heart will be as warmed as mine has been. Enjoy!

Letter #1

Hey, Gordon. I just finished reading some of your blogs about racism, and appreciate what you had to say. I have done a good bit of research about slavery, the Civil Rights Act, population analysis, and racial representation in the history of the U.S. Over the summer, I preached to the Savannah church that as a white male, I do not and cannot relate to what Black America has been though (because it is not my history) and that I planned on talking to some of my black brothers to help me to understand. I got with a half dozen brothers that I was close to (and felt that we could be honest) and had long discussions predicated on the question of “What does Black America want from White America?”

I talked very little and asked a few questions when I did not understand something, and I learned a lot from those brothers and feel that I got closer to them. I definitely think it is beneficial for people to sit down face to face and talk, without making accusations or judgements (like most do on social media), and I appreciate what you are bringing to light through your blogs.

Chris Fellows

NOTE: Chris is a deacon in the Savannah church and serves as a church administrator, although he and his wife own their own business. He preached, but is not “the” preacher, in other words.

 Letter #2

First of all, I want to thank you for starting the conversation about racism in America in our churches. Like you have stated, emotions run deep with our black brothers and sisters and we can all help. I am Central American and came to the U.S. when I was 12 years old. For the first time in my life I saw a black person when I arrived. When new Latinos arrived here, we were told by family, friends and neighbors (which by the way are Latinos because immigrants tend to move to other Latino communities and stay together) to be careful and stay away from blacks because they were dangerous.

In my early days in Miami, Florida, my mom and her friend got mugged at the train station by a black man. In another situation a black girl at my school (7th grade) wanted to start a fight with me for no apparent reason to me, since I did not know her. So, what I was told made sense for me after those incidents.

Thank God I became a Christian in the South Florida Church of Christ when I was 18 years old and I can say that Jesus transformed my heart. Half of my bridesmaids and half of the groomsmen at my wedding were black Americans and black Caribbeans. I married an Italian Cuban husband. The other half were Latinos and whites. By no means was this mix planned, it happened spontaneously. It truly was “the power of the blood” of Christ.

I’m sure my mom and dad were very puzzled, for they were silent about the racial mix. It looks like everybody in our churches needs to get more educated on black/white issues, if we are going to help each other. I might be wrong, but I don’t think black disciples talk much about racism to Latino disciples either. In my 22+ years in the church, I only have had conversations about racism with two people and that happened in the last two years. I believe the conversation is heating up. I look forward to following your blog because I love my church and want to see my brothers and sisters of any color and race being loved the way Jesus loves them. Thank God for putting this subject on your heart.

Monica Sincore

NOTE: When I asked Monica permission to print her story, she wrote back to give me permission, but also to express a concern. Here are her own words regarding that concern: “The only thing I have a concern about is that I shared how I was told by my family, friends of my family and neighbors around us to stay away from black people. I would not like readers thinking that I’m speaking for all Latin Americans or that every Latino that comes to America is told the same thing. This is simply my story and how my family viewed black people in Miami in the 1980’s. To my dismay, I have learned that a lot of the members of the most dangerous and violent international gangs are from my country. How can I in my right mind judge another group of people? I cannot do it, and we know our society doesn’t judge fairly.”

Letter #3

I am a 70 year old black woman, born and raised in the South. I’ve been a disciple for 40+ years. Your blog articles have encouraged my soul. Finally, the issue of racism is being talked about in the church. I have great relationships in the church. I’m a Crossroader, and when I was in the Crossroads church, my best sister/friend was white. Today, my best friend is white. But I feel like I never reveal certain feelings with them. I co-lead a Women’s Bible Study with a dear Republican sister. I’m ready to initiate a conversation with her – not about politics but about our unspoken feelings on the racial subject (at least mine). I believe God has brought his people to a place where we can deal with racism in the church!

Dorothy Nelson

NOTE: Dorothy’s disciple heart shines through bright and clear. One implication in her letter is very important, namely that relationships in the church supersede politics. I will have more to say about that subject later from both an Old Testament and New Testament perspective, but our highest allegiance is to the kingdom of heaven and not to the kingdoms of men, the United States included. If we have to agree on politics, we are in a heap of trouble. My most outspoken Democrat friend is an older white man. My most outspoken Republican friend is a somewhat younger black man. I know couples who cancel each other’s votes at the voting booth because they are in different political parties and have differing political views. As an older disciple, Dorothy understands what binds us together ─ the blood of Christ in the kingdom of Christ.