Educating Monty: (on racism, injustice and white supremecy)

“You have heard it said, ‘Whatever you do unto the least of these,
you do unto me.’
~Jesus

I’m a white guy who has been working through my lack of understanding of systemic racism over the last twenty years or so. While I have engaged and taught on injustice, reconciliation, and all “ism” themes through the years, my depth of understanding was insufficient compared to the realities of life for so many people of color. I have needed to stay engaged by doing the hard work of continual learning. I wrote previously about being complicit, complacent, convicted, and confused in an earlier post. I won’t rehash those thoughts here, what I’d like to do is offer some materials for you to begin doing your hard work of seeing the need for race equity. My journey has lead to repentance, listening, and doing more work. While the list isn’t exhaustive, it is a good starting point.

Glenn Harris, the President of ‘The Center For Social Inclusion’ notes that racism affects us all when he states:

“Racial equity is about applying justice and a little bit of common sense to a system that’s been out of balance.  When a system is out of balance, people of color feel the impacts most acutely, but, to be clear, an imbalanced system makes all of us pay.”

I was one of many in the energy-filled room for an organic neighborhood church conference in Seattle several years ago. One of the speakers was Dr. Christina Cleveland, and she was speaking on her book “Disunity In Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart.” Christina was a powerful and compelling speaker. As I began entering into her words, stories, and images, I hadn’t consciously connected how racial reconciliation and church planting might be linked. I left that day with a renewed conviction. I bought her book, and my journey of awakening went to the next, more rooted level. 

Previously, I would have been one of those who said, “I see all colors the same because Jesus has called me to love everyone regardless of skin color.” Or, to put it another way, “I’m color-blind, I treat everyone the same.” While there is some truth to that, the whole “colorblindness” is part of the problem as well. My journey has caused me to see and celebrate skin color because our skin color creates a lived experience and tells the story of generations. 

In actuality, being “colorblind” continues systemic injustice towards people of color. When I acknowledge color, I recognize a real human story, a tangible experience, a reality that our neighbors of diverse ethnicities encounter every day, and their stories are heartbreaking.

But, once you see, you can’t ever unsee.

As I began to grasp the more significant, accurate picture, I knew I had two choices. I could decide to live for justice and inclusion, or I could play it safe and try to keep everyone happy. I chose the former because the truth of the latter will leave us blind and numb to the plight of our brothers and sisters of color, and that is not the Gospel Jesus proclaimed. A Gospel devoid of social justice implications is a truncated Gospel at best, a half-Gospel that continues the generational curse rather than inaugurating generational blessings. I long to be prophetic, not political.

If you are a white person, and especially if you are a white pastor, it is time to do your homework. It’s your responsibility to educate yourself on these issues. Please don’t expect those who have experienced the boot of systemic injustice to try to teach you, that is not their job.

Let me list some things you can do to begin this journey, as well as some great resources to consider. There are many more books than the ones that I have read (I am still in the process), so if you have some that have impacted your life, please post them in the comments.

Things You Can Do:

1. Read books that make you squirm.

2. Watch documentaries and films that make you uncomfortable.

3. Shut down racist tirades by your friends, family & co-workers.

4. Share what you’re learning with the people you know.

5. Listen to the voices of People of Color without diminishing their story.

6. Let the lament of people of color become your lament.

7. Do life with POC, not as projects but as friends.

8. Start a discussion group using any of the resources I will list.

9. Speak out, show up, and say no to the status quo.

10. Never stop learning.

11. Repent and confess the bigotry and racism that you begin to see in your life.

Learning to “see what you don’t see” is an uncomfortable process. You will lose many of the illusions with which you have lived. Your pre-suppositions and pre-understandings will shake to the core. But lean into the disruption anyway, it will benefit us all.

As we begin to see every person as Jesus in disguise, as divine image-bearers, we will fulfill Jesus’ commands of the high ethic of love and Micah’s prophetic vision revealing how God desires we live: 

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8 (NIV)


Some of the Books, Documentaries & Films I have learned from:

Powerful: Ava DuVernay’s documentary explains the prison industrial complex from the 1800’s to the present.
Classic: To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s book turned into an Academy Award winning movie.
Eye-opening: This is Angie Thomas’ 2017 young-adult novel about a young black girl growing up turned into a movie.
Wow: This Netflix series follows five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they’re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story.

Another good Netflix series that follows a group of black students at a predominately white university.
This movie won Best Original Screenplay. I think my jaw hit theground a number of times. This is white-supremecy turned into a horror flick.
The Spike Lee film based on a Biography ofMalcolm X. Covering key events in his life including incarceration, conversion to Islam and starting the Nation of Islam movement.

The Spike Lee film that shows escalating tensions that ends with civil unrest. Patterns we are still seeing today when our focus is on the destruction of property over the loss of human life. The film ends with contrasting quotes on the use of violence as self-defense vs. the use of non-violence with Malcom [X] and Martin [Luther King, Jr.]
This is Ava DuVernay’s historical drama about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Marches, starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr.

USA Today noted that: “There’s a moment in the film when one of the racist Southerners slaps him and he quickly slaps him back. I call it the ‘slap heard ’round the world,’ ” Boyd says. “So instead of standing there, taking the slap and turning the other cheek, he fights back.
“That scene is really satisfying because it ties to the politics of the late ’60s after the assassination of Martin Luther King – a lot of people are no longer willing to be so peaceful.”

TIME’s critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote that “Peck’s aim seems to be to reintroduce Baldwin and his way of thinking to the world. Not that Baldwin is forgotten, but sometimes we need a bold red arrow to help us redirect our thinking, especially in a media world as cluttered and noisy as ours.”
imdb notes: “The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.”

These titles are an excellent starting point. I would appreciate hearing what resources have helped you grow in your understanding. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Posture, Pivot, Plans & Prayer

For my Alliance NW friends in ministry: Attached is a personal video and key resources to help move people from fear to trust in and through the COVID19 reality. I also look at ministry pivots and plans about transitioning into what will be the new normal post COVID. I wrap with an update on my transition into the District Superintendent position.

Links and mentioned downloads:

9 Ways we’re trying to engage online
24 Questions your church should answer before people return
24 MORE questions your church should answer
Alliance NW COVID19 Resources

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Interestingly, on the first Passover (Exodus 12), the Hebrew people were commanded to sequester themselves in their homes so that the 10th and final plague (death of the firstborn) would pass-over their homes and spare the the life of their first born sons. This would happen as long as the blood of an unblemished lamb was applied to the door lintel and mantle…The blood would be the sign of deliverance from the plague of the Death Angel.

The Apostle Paul taps into this narrative in 1 Corinthians 5:7 when he states:

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Passover is a memory of deliverance…

Passover is a reminder that God hears the cries of His people…

Passover invites into the Exodus drama, a movement from slavery to freedom…
from sin to righteousness…from fear to faith…

The Ma Nishtanah,” Why is this night different from all the other nights?” is answered with the ‘Four Questions’

* On all other nights we do not dip vegetables even once, on this night, we dip twice?
* On all other nights we eat both chametz and matzah, on this night, we eat only matzah?
* On all other nights we eat many vegetables, on this night, maror (bitter herbs)?
* On all other nights some eat and drink sitting with others reclining, but on this night, we are all reclining?

With the four questions asked, the food prepared, and the wine ready, we enter into the memory of the Exodus story; not as history, but in solidarity as the familiar story unfolds through symbol, smell, taste and Scripture.

This year I think should ask, “Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?”
Well, Passover 2020 is different from other Passovers because “it is similar” to the very first one in that we are quarantined in our homes because of a plague (Corona Virus)

Perhaps this Passover is a good time to remember that God is a God of deliverance. A God who hears our cries. A God who is involved with and stands in solidarity with His people. A God who provides the way to freedom and forgiveness. A God who gives us Torah (His Word) so that we can live in such a way that justice, beauty and shalom fill the land.

This is a good Passover to practice and sing  Dayenu…

Dayenu  means “it would have been sufficient” and is a song of gratitude sung toward the end of the seder when the story of the Exodus is retold.

In each stanza, we recall another kindness that G‑d performed for our ancestors and proclaim that it alone would have been reason for celebration.

The following are the fifteen “goodnesses”

If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הוֹצִיאָנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם וְלֹא עָשָׂה בָהֶם שְׁפָטִים דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ עָשָׂה בָהֶם שְׁפָטִים וְלֹא עָשָׂה בֵאלֹהֵיהֶם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their first-born Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ עָשָׂה בֵאלֹהֵיהֶם וְלֹא הָרַג אֶת בְּכוֹרֵיהֶם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had smitten their first-born, and had not given us their wealth Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הָרַג אֶת בְּכוֹרֵיהֶם וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת מָמוֹנָם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת מָמוֹנָם וְלֹא קָרַע לָנוּ אֶת הַיָּם דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ קָרַע לָנוּ אֶת הַיָּם וְלֹא הֶעֱבִירָנוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ בֶּחָרָבָה דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הֶעֱבִירָנוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ בֶּחָרָבָה וְלֹא שִׁקַּע צָרֵינוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ שִׁקַּע צָרֵינוּ בְּתוֹכוֹ וְלֹא סִפֵּק צָרְכֵנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ סִפֵּק צָרְכֵנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה וְלֹא הֶאֱכִילָנוּ אֶת הַמָּן דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הֶאֱכִילָנוּ אֶת הַמָּן וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת וְלֹא קֵרְבָנוּ לִפְנֵי הַר סִינַי דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ קֵרְבָנוּ לִפְנֵי הַר סִינַי וְלֹא נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַתּוֹרָה דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ נָתַן לָנוּ אֶת הַתּוֹרָה וְלֹא הִכְנִיסָנוּ לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל דַּיֵּנוּ
If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Beit Habechirah (Chosen House; the Beit Hamikdash) Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!אִלּוּ הִכְנִיסָנוּ לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא בָנָה לָנוּ אֶת בֵּית הַבְּחִירָה דַּיֵּנוּ
from chabad.org

Dayenu helps me remember that God is good even when things are not going my way or the way I planned.

Dayenu helps me remember that God has given me so much, even if He hasn’t given me that ‘one thing’ that is making me bitter or resentful because I don’t have it.

Dayenu helps me remember that God has given me all that I need to find joy, peace, and love in this life. There is nothing I lack…It’s already in me!

This Passover May you know that God sees you, hears your cries, knows your struggle, and sits in the quarantine with you and will lead you out in due time.

This too shall pass.