Monday, December 29, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Like any territory blessed with fertile farm land, eastern NC has a rich, and inevitably tainted history of sharecropping, an enterprise that earned the reputation of being a new and improved slavery for the twentieth century. Because of its important role in the era of sharecropping, the eastern half of my beloved homeland has made certain that it will, save for an act of God, always be two things: diverse and divided. Despite its inherent indignities, sharecropping was for many black folks the only viable option in a land still searching for its post-slavery identity. The small community that I preached in yesterday is 85% black. Respectable white folk want to know; where in the @#$% did all these black people come from?! They came from wherever their assistance was not required, or at least not desired. And they came here because working Mr. Johnson's back forty for minimal pay was their only means of feeding their family. Of course, diversity is not bad. What is bad, I believe, is the division amid the diversity. The lack of interaction is unfortunate, but the lack of friendships is tragic. Division of races is a catalyst to injustice and oppression. Here are some questions I'm still struggling with........ -If every street were integrated, wouldn't much of our diversity be lost? -How do you reach across racial lines without violating the culture that makes each race special? - Why does every race, and not just the white majority seem to favor division over unity?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I stumbled upon this revelation quite by accident. We thought that it would be a good idea to invite our neighbors over for a cookout. Understand that Laura and I literally live on the line that separates white from black in our town. It wasn't a big fiasco. There were no clowns, dunking booths, or door prizes. There was essentially nothing more than an over sized pig cooker, a cooler full of Grapette, and a milk-jug full of homemade barbecue sauce. The good Lord saw fit to bless us with one of those idyllic fall days that are only possible in North Carolina. To round out the day, we had as our cook a reformed racist who comes complete with a sleeve of tattoos and a skoal can. In no time, we had Hands Across America taking place right there in our front yard. Young black girls played with my little white daughter, while an elderly black lady made a blatant pass on my young white brother-in-law. It was magical. In light of these events, I am left with no other recourse than to conclude that the smokey sweetness of marinated poultry is greater than the fear that separates us. Indeed, barbecue sauce, with the precise balance of vinegar and spices, does cover a multitude of transgressions.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Because Laura and I are often classified as missionaries, these are things I think about. As much as I hate it, and as much of a throwback as I like to consider myself, I am a part this current generation. And ours is a generation obsessed with accommodating those God calls us to. We like incarnational ministry. We like relational evangelism. We like to focus on the questions, and pretend as if there are no definite answers. We like our preaching to be conversational, and we'd rather not speculate on who may or may not be going to hell. This, combined with our insatiable appetite for social justice makes us more comfortable with the mantle of a social worker over that of a missionary.
With all of that in mind, ladies and gentleman, here's my advice to myself and anyone who shares my struggle.......Stop whatever you're doing, and remember your calling. Put aside whatever author you happen to be reading. Do not be swayed by the intoxicating glare emanating from his retro lenses. Pick up the Bible and read the book of Acts. See that along with sharing all things together, and caring for the poor, the early church was emphatic that submission to Christ was the only option for salvation. Then, go read the history of the social gospel. See how its proponents sought to replace the supernatural grace of God with the vanity of human effort. After you're done, go pray for somebody's soul. Don't change any of the other things you're doing. Keep feeding people. Keep speaking out against sweat shop labor. All of these thing are vital, seeing as how we are called to reach the whole person, and to promote life wherever we can. But never forget that a persons greatest need is that they submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Missionaries may have been wrong on some issues, but they were right in their insistence that it's ultimately all about a relationship with Christ. In our postmodern world of communal living, human rights, and environmentalism, that's still what it's all about.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Those are just a few of the highlights from our summer. Oh yeah, and Anna Grace learned how to walk.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Sadly, there is another side of the argument. This side is best told by the expression on the freshly slapped face of our young fondler, whom we'll call Johnny. It wasn't so much an expression of shock on Johnny's face as it was an expression of betrayal. Everyday, girls his age and older crank up 102 Jams and proceed to give their innocence to whatever inanimate object they deem fit. So you can understand why Johnny looks like he just got bit by the friendliest looking dog in the neighborhood. What's the solution? I have no idea. But as long as the boys keep grabbing, I'm gonna tell the girls to keep slapping. That's what I would tell my daughter. But I would also tell her that when the hand that slaps is attached to the arm of a chaste young women who is above reproach, it produces a much louder echo.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
As you can tell, I'm an RFK fan. I plead guilty to idealizing his legacy, and to looking at his career and character through rose colored glasses. Sue me. But whatever your opinion may be of the Kennedy's, or of the current candidates, you can't deny the obvious. Barack Obama is Bobby Kennedy after he fell asleep in the tanning bed while listening to "I have a dream" on his ipod. Not only do these two share a common rock star status, and an enduring message of optimism and hope, but they are even running on identical platforms. The goad that pushed Bobby into the race some forty years ago was his outrage over Vietnam. He couldn't understand why America was wasting so many lives and so much money perpetuating an unjust war, while millions at home were financially destitute. Are we not hearing the same rhetoric from Obama?
I understand why Obama scares some conservatives. He carries the mystique of a revolutionary, and promotes ideals that are almost socialistic. But in reality, Bobby was far more radical. His clean-cut image, and impeccable pedigree served as the perfect disguise. He had uprising in his veins, and possessed an inner compulsion to challenge the establishment. So, in honer of Bobby, but mostly in honor of my own curiosity, I plan on voting for Barack Obama. To those who would remind me of his liberal stance on issues such as abortion and the sanctity of marriage, I say two things. First, I would never let him be my pastor, but I will let him be my president. Second, it's impossible in a two party system for any candidate to meet the Christian standard. The key for us is to keep the ship as balanced as possible until Jesus comes back and makes it right.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
So, we've established that to influence a persons core beliefs, we must plunge to the depths of their identity. But don't forget, we're paralyzed, and therefore rendered incapable of saving ourselves or each other. We must pray. Only God can penetrate the many lies that have taken root in the soil of our self-understanding. We must pray fervently and with determination. Our prayer should be like that of the father in Mark 9; " I do believe, help my unbelief!" Could any prayer be more appropriate for our current predicament?
Second, we must reverently, and fearfully drive scripture into the heart of our existence. Be careful, the Word of God is alive and active. It is not applied science. Once it is implanted into your mind, it takes on a life of its own. There is no way to determine what kind of radical rearrangements it may make once it moves in. Again, it's not enough to know God's Word. What matters is whether or not we believe it. Think of God's command to Joshua. He did not tell Israel's new leader to read the Word. He told him to meditate on it. As unromantic as it may seem, there simply is no replacement for memorizing scripture and silently repeating it through the monotony of daily life. Earnest prayer and a humble, yet radical commitment to God's Word are the only means by which our crippled limbs can be rejuvenated.
So rise up Church! You have a message that brings injustice crashing to its knees. A message that breaks the chains of sin, and demolishes the walls that hold souls in isolation. The world is desperate for us to take a dose of our own medicine.
Friday, May 9, 2008
To answer our first question, we need look no further than our own childhood. Some of us in the Bible-belt may have heard the Good News at an early age. Yet we had, at that point, already come to believe other things. The world is full of direct and indirect messages about our worth, or lack there of. Since day one, we've been absorbing false messages that have convinced us to trust no one, and to be discontent with our true identities.
There is actually a science behind all of this. At the very base of the human brain, there's a tiny region known as the limbic system. This area has nothing to do with rational thought, but instead deals with emotion, motivation, and instinct. It only makes sense that those things that we've believed the longest are the things that would be buried the deepest in our brain. Essentially, our intellect can believe in God, while the deeper areas of our brain are sold on an entirely different set of ideas. Ultimately, it's those things that we believe down deep that steer us.
Those of us who were raised in Sunday School are well versed on the Word of God. We know the basic plot, and can fill-in much of the details. Unfortunately, what makes a good Bible Trivia player doesn't always make a good disciple. Again, our problem is not what we know. Our problem is what we believe. Put simply, we have ourselves a problem that bypasses our intellect, transcends our analytical capacities, and strikes at the very root of who we are . As common sense would tell us, a deep problem calls for an even deeper solution. We'll get to that next time.
Friday, April 25, 2008
I was stunned. The more I think about it, the more stunned I become. I had heard that the church was lazy, self-centered, irrelevant, and even ineffective. This message however, painted a much more perilous picture. You see, you can choose to be lazy, and you can choose to be self-centered, but you can't choose to be paralyzed. Lazy people don't move because they don't want to. Paralyzed people don't move because they can't. That means, that unless Mrs. Moore got her lines crossed, the church is in a predicament that she cannot remedy. Her disease runs too deep to answer to will-power.
And what is it that has robbed us of our freedom to act? Unbelief. The very thing that kept the Israelites out of the promised land, has us flat on our back on a gurney of works-righteousness. In the span of history, humans have had no greater problem than unbelief. In many ways, we have had no other problem. Every temptation that we have yielded to has been nothing more than the fruit of an unbelieving heart. Of course we believe in God on some level. We've read much of the Bible, and we can comprehend most of what we hear in sermons. The problem, is that we believe other things more deeply.
-Well that's enough ranting for now. I plan to have more on this subject next week. Hopefully I'll get a word from the Lord between now and then.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Poverty affords depravity no hiding place. No two-car garage to mask the depths of your discontent. No picket fence to fancy up your hatred. No garden to soften the edge of your existential anger. Poverty is stingy with her standards, and unflinching in her demands. She forces you to come clean about your dirt. She stirs you up to speak the truth without the trappings of political correctness. And so, poverty's people walk around inside-out, their broken souls on public display. Fallenness and corruption would never play hide-and-seek in the projects.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
All of that aside, it was a great opportunity to interact with the community. One of the questions that was posed to the panel was whether or not we as a society were any closer to the realization of Dr. King's dream. It wasn't until later that I thought of a really good answer to that question. Don't you hate when that happens? At first glance, the obvious answer to that question is yes. We've got more blacks in positions of power, and we've even got a brother in serious contention for the presidency. It's easier now for a black youth to get a college degree, and the days of seperate water fountains seem like ancient history. We seem to be closer to equality now than in days gone by. Yet in truth, King's dream wasn't about equality. It was about unity. When the people join together, equal rights is no longer an issue. Meanwhile history has consistently proven that seperate but equal is a myth. Unless both the population and the power is split 50/50, there will never be equality. And even if their was somehow equal power, the equality would be empty, because we would still be a people divided. King's dream wasn't about two parellel nations experiencing the same quality of life, it was about one nation sharing the same struggles and triumphs as a single, unbreakable entity. So, as long as there is a black side of town and a white side of town we are still an eternity away from realizing the beloved community that Dr. King envisioned. To say that we have arrived when we are clearly still separate is to make a mockery of his martyrdom.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
In my efforts to lay the groundwork for future ministry within this community, I've had to come to grips with an uncomfortable truth: There is an epidemic in black America. I realize that this may seem like a politically incorrect assessment coming from a non black, but this is no time to start being polite. I see the proof of the epidemic most every afternoon at the Boys and Girls Club, where the kids can't understand how my wife and I have the same last name. And where anger and hostility are always percolating just beneath the surface. The question is not whether there's a problem, because there clearly is. The question is, " who's to blame?"
Who's to blame for the rampant poverty, drug use, violence, and broken homes? Who's to blame for the pervasive sense of frustration, disillusionment, and lack of ambition? The answer, as far as I can tell is this: People. Black people, white people, all people. As resentful, fearful, and angry as the situation may make us, we must resist the temptation to label this a totally black problem. The projects didn't make themselves. It may infuriate you to drive through the projects and see a twenty year-old mom with more kids than she can handle, and nary-a-one of them fully clothed. But save a little anger for the white collar suburbanites who decided that it would be a good idea to provide monetary rewards for moms who stay single and procreate at break-neck speed. The ideals of welfare, affirmative action, and racial profiling were not birthed in the ghetto. They were birthed out of a corrupt, corporate system that would rather pacify than mobilize. Centuries of irresponsibility on the part of white America has left deep scars on the psyche of black and white alike. When one human views another as inferior, they are both gravely wounded.
I realize that whites are not alone in this. The black population has its share of the blame as well, and they gain nothing from our guilt-ridden pity. But the next time you're driving through the side of town your mama told you to stay away from, remember, you're not looking at the disease, you're looking at the symptom. Instead of cursing the symptom, why not focus more on curing the disease?