When One Hurts…We All Hurt…#Charleston

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I have just woke up after returning from a trip traversing Uganda. While there, I caught a breaking news report concerning the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston South Carolina. It was a depressing and disturbing feeling watching the news report about more Black Americans being shot in the U.S.

My heart broke. “This is too much.”

As an obvious white American in a room of Ugandans, I thought,  “I wonder if he is a racist too?”

As of this moment I have not had to endure all the spin from the Left and the Right as you have. I have not had to wade through the polarizing news reports. It has been apparent that racism and a hatred of black people was the root of the problem.

I have prayed; repented for our nation; confessed my own “isms.” I have struggled with the moral temperature of our nation; I have tried to enter the pain of my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ in a very insufficient way as I will never fully understand the pain they experience.

As a follower of Jesus, I am spiritually and soul-ularly connected to every other follower of Jesus regardless of race, gender, color of skin, ideology, social status etc.

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to stand in the gap for my brothers and sisters who are hurting, suffering, and have lost their voice.

As a follower of Jesus, I -do- feel the pain and enter into the journey of suffering with those who suffer.

Paul the Apostle said is this way:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26

So I weep those who weep…I grieve with those who grieve…I cry with those who cry.

But, as a follower of Christ I also denounce the violence in our country that continues to be directed towards the Black community. I am amazed that we are actually arguing  whether or not the Confederate flag (a symbol of racism) should be allowed to fly. I wonder (not really) if Germany would argue similarly about reviving the Nazi Swastika; I’m sure (or I would hope) it would be rejected out of hand.

Until we recognize and deal with our national racism the violence will continue.

The lives represented by the list of victims matters:

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
Rev. DePayne Doctor, 49
Sharonda Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Ethel Lance, 70
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Jackson, 87 

The problem with lists and statistics is that they don’t cry. Each name represents a significant larger story. Each person matters. Each life was intended by God.

If you are a white Christian in the U.S you need to begin reading the stories and articles that are pouring out from the black community. Enter into their pain and feel their faith. It is no longer sufficient to say, “Well I didn’t cause this.” or “Things are way better than they used to be.” or “It’s not my problem.”

While this generation may not have caused the problem, we have inherited it and are called to do something about any and all injustice that we encounter.

While things are better than they once were, there are still miles to go until we reach true equality.

And this is all our problem…

It is time to get off the bench and into the game.

It is time to stand up against any and all forms of violence.

It is time to stand in solidarity with the Black community.

It is time to put people first above ideologies.

Choosing to disengage from the reality of violence in our midst is to join the side of the violence…no one is neutral when it comes to events that affect our nation.

Charleston, my heart and prayers are with you. May the grace and peace of God saturate you hearts and community.

 

 

NEXT

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Here we are again…

Another inciting incident.
Opinions flow like a river at flood stage.

“You don’t know the facts?” “You missed the point” “You’re ignorant”

As our nation labors under the weight of serious systemic issues  we choose to herald our cyber-bullhorns, which are more about shouting than listening and resolving.

Broad-brushed soundbites of polarized rhetoric.

And then…

NEXT

We saunter off to the next thing showing that we really don’t care at a deep level about the current thing, it’s just the popular outrage. Sure, it seems important enough to flame and shout out loudly what we think (as if we have perfect-objective reality firmly in our grasp), but not important enough to get off the couch and actually DO Something…DO justice.

It amazes me that so many of us think a perfectly worded tweet is the final word on an incident that results in lost lives, lost income, lost values and even lost humanity.

“Surely my Facebook rebuttal is enough to end generations of racism”

“Surely my #hashtag is enough to end corporate greed”

“Surely my instagram picture will be enough to prove a 911 conspiracy”

and then…NEXT…

Have we become the NEXT generation? Have we become a NEXT culture?

In other words, is our current outrage more about entertainment and consumerism than it is about the actual tragedy or incident?

I think they way we respond and then quickly disengage moving onto the NEXT thing reveals an apathy and a narcissism that perpetuates systemic issues.

We live at the surface, and the problems we face are much deeper than the “facts.” And I know someone will more than likely cry out against that last statement.

Courts have to deal with facts, we as a society must deal with truths that lead to justice acknowledging the facts.

Today, consider how fast you move onto the NEXT thing.

Today consider how fast you move on from the LAST thing.

Today consider whether or not an incident will incite you to use your bullhorn only, or actually get off the couch and enter into the pain and brokeness as a healer and helper.

A closing thought to ponder from Martin Luther King Jr.:

“The Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.”

In light of the current #ferguson battlefield, consider the deeper conversation that is needed before you go NEXT.

 

 

Waking Up

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“These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness.” ~ Anthony de Mello

I wonder if we are waking up.

I wonder if we will finally look beyond our biases.

I wonder if we will grow beyond cycloptic vision.

Donald Sterling made the news this week for the uncloaking of his racism. Writers, talk show hosts and Facebook news feeds began circulating opinions. I heard, read and saw many of them. I heard concepts such as: freedom of speech is being attacked; the free market system would do its job punishing him; He deserved his fines and repurcussions from the NBA; this is a Nazi which hunt…

However, even though I heard much of the expected polarized rhetoric, I also heard an increasing number of voices looking at a larger picture.

Sterling’s actions have a context, as do all actions.

His past racist brushes seem to be even worse than his present, in fact he was fined 3 million dollars over discriminatory practices.

Some voices are calling out our culture on her sound-bite-issue-of-the-nano-second outrage. This makes me wonder if we are waking up.

Generally, people get outraged and fired-up when the media presents the inciting incident…but then, as quickly as fireworks launch, they are forgotten and the masses have jumped to the next thing. But today, there were voices challenging our right to get angry because of our inconsistencies.

“Why are you mad today, when this person has a track record that is even worse?” Some asked perplexed.

“Where was the outrage then?”  Words that unmask our inconsistencies.

When more and more voices put a mirror before us which reveals how inconsistent we are on most issues, I have hope that we are waking up.

Kareem Abdul Jabar spoke a revelatory word in response to the Sterling news:

“So, if we’re all going to be outraged,” the former NBA star wrapped up, “let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”(1)

I think he just exposed our pop culture world.

When we award people for their lack of moral integrity by giving them book deals and TV shows it becomes apparent that in our morality the emperor is wearing no clothes.

Get angry about racism…it’s wrong.

Get angry about injustice…it’s wrong.

Get angry about the erosion of privacy rights…it’s wrong.

I’ll know that we are waking up when we get angry and speak out that something is wrong when we first encounter it, not just when our preferred tribe decides it’s wrong. I’ll also know we are waking up when we apply our outrage in a consistent manner and are willing to point the finger at ourselves for selective voicings.

Are we waking up? I hope so, the world needs resurrection.

 __________________________

(1) http://toprightnews.com/?p=2777

The Power of A Life

Nelson Mandela on Day After ReleaseToday the world lost a leader. A man who stood up and suffered for his beliefs. At 95, Nelson Mandela breathed his last breath, and left a legacy the displays the power that a single life can have.

He was definitely a hard man to figure out. Was he non-violent or militant? He has been called Marxist, Socialist, Nationalist, Hero, Prisoner, Politician, Activist and President. Many words, many offices for a very unique man.

When political tensions rise and mix with economic conditions and racial injustice, one person can become a tipping point that brings about change and a shift in consciousness and morality. Mandela is a powerful example of this as apartheid collapsed in South Africa, racism was dealt a lethal blow as he became the President of South Africa having been voted in by a fully represented, multiracial electorate.

“What can I do, I am only one person?” “The problem is too big, I can’t do anything about it.” Thoughts like these are spoken daily, and most of us have articulated them ourselves.

The problem with deciding to make a difference, to invest our life for something bigger than ourselves, is that it is costly. When you finally take the faith step to do something that is selfless and beyond your current experience of spiritual growth or level of spiritual consciousness, there is always a cost.

Jesus warned that anyone who would follow Him needed to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33). As we grow through deepening stages of spirituality, it is a birthing process each time, and the birthing process is generally surrounded with fear.

Fear of the unknown…
Fear found in the swirling questions of “what if?…
Fear of who you will become…
Fear of ________…

I often dream what the world would look like if an ever-increasing number of people crossed the line from apathy to activist.

I wonder how many lives, countries and populations would experience love, hope, and provision.

We love the movies where the hero crosses the line, rises up and risks for the greater good, but we rarely wonder why when it comes to a personal sacrifice of our own we stay as far away from the line as possible.

I wonder why we expect so much of others, but so little from ourselves. I wonder why we spend so much time monitoring our energy expenditures and deciding not to get involved, or help or serve. I wonder what it would take to heal the world of narcissism and create a culture of compassion.

To be a planet-changer is honorable, important and risky. “Prison, pain, loss of friends, loss of income, misinformation, slander and hatred could be experienced, but so could transformation, healing, love, compassion, joy, forgiveness, purpose, passion and an abundant life.

With the passing of Mandela I wonder who will be the next person who will cross the line in a way that changes the world…

It could be you.