Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Do What I Am

A local pastor and friend posted this on another blog, and I thought it was worth passing on. It is a very insightful observation.

"I preached a sermon a month or so ago on Ephesians 2:10, being God's workmanship created for good works. It encourages me that I'm not just called to be a gardener, planting and tending to this broken place which is being reshaped and destined for Edenic (and beyond) proportions, but I am the garden (rather, we are, corporate church), I/we are the planting of God's hand. I'm not just to build the new city now/coming, but I/we are the City, the New Jerusalem, as the Bride. So what I'm doing and what I am are inseparable. I'm compelled to do the work of ministry, tending, building, because I am God's work of ministry, tending, and building. I do what I am."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bridge Builders Rise Up

During this presidential election, more so than in any other election that I can remember, race is being talked about. This no doubt is due to the fact that for the first time in our nation's history one of our presidential candidates is African-American. For the first time ever, there is a very real chance that the president elect will be someone other than a white male. So because of this whether you turn to CNN or Fox News, whether you read the USA Today, New York Times, or Washington Post - race is being discussed. I think this can either be an exciting opportunity for the church here in the US to unify as a body or (and I am praying against this) it will further divide the church along racial and political lines.

Now before I go any further let me just state the fact that I realize that Biblically speaking there is only one race - the human race. Cultures, ethnic groups, and nations can be found in the Bible, but the Bible does not specifically mention race. Race is a sociological term or a social construct if you will. However, stating that "race" is not Biblical does not negate the reality that race to our detriment has played a significant role in the history of this nation and in present day realities of this nation. I don't think I need to go into detail of the atrocities and injustices done to Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Mexican Americans (and the list could go on), etc. during our nation's brief existence. It is with this in mind that I think that this election could be an exciting opportunity for the body to unify.

Secondly, this is not a "vote for Barack Obama because he's black" blog entry. I state this because when you start to discuss the significance of race in this election some people's knee jerk reaction is, "well, I'm not racist if I don't vote for Obama" or "well, you shouldn't vote for Obama just because he is black you know?" or "I have a black friend that told me that he/she isn't voting for Obama." This opportunity for the church that I am talking about is all inclusive for both Republicans and Democrats and those who are torn. It is for blacks and whites and every other hue in between. It is for Obama backers and McCain backers. The opportunity I think is this...

While race is being discussed in secular venues through polls, forums, interviews, articles, and blogs the church MUST NOT be silent. Can we as the church (and when I say church I am referring to the multi-colored, multi-cultural blood bought followers of Christ Jesus) speak up to acknowledge that....

1) We have historically (AND currently) blown it when it comes to race in this country. The fact that Biblically there is only one race makes this even more tragic. We have allowed this social construct to polarize us as a church, to destroy relationships, and to infiltrate social systems (systemic injustice) to the benefit of the majority and the detriment of the minority(ies). And for the most part we have been slow to acknowledge this, to repent, and to speak up and fight for justice TOGETHER.

2) God has not chosen either the democratic party or the republican party as HIS party. There are Bible-believing Christ followers who vote primarily for democratic candidates and can back up their decision with Scripture. There are also Bible-believing Christ followers who vote primarily for republican candidates and can back up their decision with Scripture. So how does race factor into this? Well, in general (statistically speaking) most Black Christians vote democratic and most white Christians vote republican. I KNOW that there are black republicans and white democrats who are Christians, and those of both racial backgrounds who are independent (I am just saying statistically). This rift then flows into the church, and I believe that it grieves the heart of God.

3) Economic disparity/inequality often times flows along racial lines. There is a web site that you can look at that will show any metropolitan area, and that will show where wealth is concentrated and where poverty is concentrated, and how this correlates with racial divisions. (Gus & Pete, help me out with the web site.) This web site soberingly illustrates the fact that most wealthy areas are white and most poverty stricken areas are black and brown. Now, I know there are areas such as Appalachia and others where there is significant white poverty - however, we must not allow limited examples such as this detract us from the more obvious issue. So the question/challenge to the church is can we unite across racial and political lines to construct a Kingdom agenda that is committed to justice, compassion, and a burden for souls regardless of race or economic background?

If you are concerned as a bridge builder and you want to see the Church step up to be a more prophetic voice and a more Biblical witness when it comes to eliminating the divide, what should we be doing collectively? Please share....