Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Few Thoughtz: The Heart of Racial Justice, pt. 2

Peace and blessings,

Let me first apologize for just now posting this. In this second part of my response to McNeil and Richardson’s “The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change,” I want to highlight what I think are some of the book’s main points. As mentioned in the previous post, the book emphasizes the cultural, ethnic, and social nature of the bible, and our call as Christians to avoid perpetuating differences but work towards reconciling relationships between people and groups. To do this, they urge us to view any tool of injustice and division (e.g. institutional, economic, racial/ethnic, cultural) as a product or representative of sin itself. By identifying this sin, we will be in a better position to spiritually equip ourselves through prayer, forgiveness, scripture, and reconciliation to take claim of the victory over sin, which Christ solidified through his death and resurrection.

One of my favorite chapters of the book is chapter seven, where the authors discuss the role of receiving forgiveness for the sins we’ve committed against others (and thus God), and extending forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. The chapter discusses a time in Richardson’s (who is white) past when he and his brother were attacked by some African American youth. Realizing that the stereotypes he formed regarding African Americans based on this incident was and would continue to hinder his ministry, he decided to confront and eliminate the stereotype once and for all. During his prayer, he asked Jesus to enter into his memory and into that incident. Recalling the incident with Jesus being fully involved, he was able to see Jesus’ love and restorative power, as Jesus broke up the attack and spoke words of healing into the situation. This example spoke to me immensely because until reading this I never thought about inviting Jesus into my hurtful, past experiences that have shaped how I view people, the world, and ultimately myself.

The other chapter that I really enjoyed was chapter eight, which shifts the focus on the human problem to the sin problem. It’s not the person or group per se that is the source of conflict, strife, and injustice, but the spiritual forces influencing them. The chapter is best summarized by the following quote:

“How can one close one’s eyes at the fact that the demons themselves have taken over rule of the world, that it is the powers of darkness who have here made an awful conspiracy?”

- Deitrich Bonhoeffer, cited in McNeil & Richardson, pg. 113

These words, spoken by a Lutheran Minister who actively opposed Nazi Germany, highlights not only the source of our world’s problems, but also the responsibility (personal and collective) we have to address problems once we are aware of their source. In one of the most powerful scenes in the first “Matrix”(1999) movie, once Neo is “unplugged” from the matrix, he notices that his eyes are bothering him. Once he tells Morpheus that his eyes are bothering him, Morpheus replies by saying that it is because he “never used them before.” Similarly, I think that as we as Christians work towards progressing in our personal, social, and cultural walk in Christ, we are going to experience constant phases of learning-unlearning-relearning because we are constantly experiencing new ways to view ourselves, others, and the world through our newly acquired, ever-evolving spiritual eyes.

To conclude the book, the authors leave us with the following challenge:

“This is a new season for leadership in the church. No longer will we be defined by a few charismatic superstar leaders at the center of all Christian activity. We are moving into a corporate model of leadership in this day. The new models of leadership that are emerging will be much more accountable to the communities they serve. In order to accomplish this, God is moving people forward into places of authority and responsibility. We must be ready to take a stand.”

McNeil & Richardson, pg. 155

No comment here, as the challenge is pretty self-explanatory. What do you think? About inviting Jesus into our hurtful memories and experiences? About getting used to using our spiritual eyes? About the role of Christians in reconciling people, groups, and nations of the world? Until next time, be encouraged, share your thoughts, and speekonit…

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Few Thoughtz: The Heart of Racial Justice, pt. 1

Peace and blessings,

Before I begin, I would like to preface this introduction by saying that I am more of a humanities and social sciences person than a hard sciences person, therefore I apologize if my description of this medical instrument does not do the instrument justice, lol.

When people are unable to take care of themselves, they often need something to assist them in initiating and facilitating internal bodily processes such as eating and blood flow. A major medical instrument that provides this assistance is an IV. A person who is seriously ill, for instance, may need to use an IV to pump blood in his or her body. Without this IV, his or her condition will get worse. Under more severe circumstances, the presence or absence of an IV can mean the difference between life and death.

Prior to starting my first semester at a major university, I knew that one of the most important things I needed to do was build upon my relationship with God. For me, that meant that I needed to find a church home. The first day of new student move –ins, I was greeted by a member of Black Campus Ministries (BCM), who invited me to bible study. While attending the bible studies, I found out that BCM was only one part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), a campus ministry organization that serves students of all ethnicities. For example, like BCM, there are ethnic-specific ministries for Chicano/Latino students, and Asian/Pacific Islander/Philippino students.

Despite being aware of and around this diversity, I primarily viewed BCM and Intervarsity as a ministry to help me in my individual, highly personal walk with God. After reading B. McNeil and R. Richardson’s “The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change,” however, I realized that Intervarsity was about much more. In addition to providing me with spiritual resources to strengthen my personal walk with Christ, Intervarsity also provided opportunities and spiritual resources to acknowledge, appreciate, and strengthen my cultural and social walk with Jesus.

On a cultural level, Intervarsity is grounded in the belief that racial/ethnic unification and reconciliation are not just worthy goals to achieve in themselves: the call to achieve these goals is evident throughout the Old and New Testament. To illustrate the importance of these goals, McNeil and Richardson cite various scriptures, including God’s spreading out of cultures via different languages for the people of Babel and Paul’s emphasis on eliminating cultural barriers to show that Christ’s love extends to Gentiles as well as Jews, to name a few. On a social level, Intervarsity helped me realize that any form of injustice is a sin. Therefore for Christians, having a heart for and actively engaging in a relationship with Christ means doing the same for the oppressed and marginalized. Using Paul’s declaration in Ephesians 6:12 that the battle is not with people per se, but with (spiritual) powers and principalities as a framework, McNeil and Richardson urges us to denounce and oppose sins of racism and all forms of discrimination and oppression. Through Christ, we not only have the spiritual power to denounce and oppose these powers and principalities: we also have the victory over these things through our faith in and obedience to Christ.

So in a nutshell, McNeil and Richardson’s “The Heart of Racial Justice” has given me a newfound appreciation for the ministry Intervarsity provides to college students through their focus on personal, cultural, and social growth in Christ. What does this have to do with the example you gave in the opening paragraph? Here’s the connection: Just as an IV in the medical sense is used to preserve and save lives, my view of what it meant to be a Christian prior to getting involved with Intervarsity was limited thus was suffering. Like the physical lives of people who cannot do for themselves, my spiritual life was in need of an IV to “feed” me some different, more encompassing ways of viewing my relationship with Christ and His kingdom, and through the grace of God I was introduced to these new and diverse perspectives through Intervarsity, my spiritual IV.

What do you think? If you have been or are currently a part of Intervarsity, what have you learned since your involvement that you were unaware of prior? If you are not familiar with Intervarsity or have not been involved with the organization, any general thoughts/reactions to this piece? Take care and speekonit…

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

An Interesting Way to Look at Intercession

"Father, I'm praying for a friend, he and I are really close/and out of all my friends, for this one i'm concerned the most/he say he reading daily, but he ain't really learnin'/he be in church but say that he ain't moved by any sermon/his face (is) weak, he ain't prayed in a week/he wake up and just weep/with his face in the sink/Lord, you gotta help my man/I'm praying for him daily/he ain't sin but it just seem as if he's going crazy/ ...but is it done for him?/ Lord don't let it be/if he don't want to talk to You then Father hear from me"

Peace and blessings,

These words come from the opening verse of "Praying for You," a song off of Lecrae's "After the Music Stops." In this song, Lecrae is having a conversation with God on behalf of one of his friends, whose spiritual welfare Lecrae is deeply concerned with. When I first heard this opening verse, I immediately thought that this song was about the importance of us interceding on behalf of, or praying for others. Once I heard the second verse, however, I realized that my immediate thoughts about the song were only partly accurate. While the song is about intercession, it is about a type of intercession that I personally never thought about until hearing this song. At the end of the second verse, Lecrae "reveals" to God (we can't really reveal anything to the One who is all-knowing) that the friend he is interceding for is none other than himself. Now at first I was taken back and extremely confused. How could he be talking to God, when in the song he said that his "friend" (i.e. himself) has not been talking to God? How can a person go to God and intercede on behalf of him or herself?

The more I wrestled with this idea, the more I began to "break out" of my limited view of intercession and view the term in a broader, more encompassing sense. Moreover, as I reflected on the sacrifice Jesus made for us, and the various things we experience in our Christian walk, the type of intercession Lecrae was talking about started to make more and more sense. Despite our sinful and rebellious behavior in the Old Testament, God continued to show compassion, sending prophets to warn them to turn away from those things that are not of God, and to turn back to those things that are of God. For those of who repented and turned back to God, He not only provided for them, but in many cases He elevated them in ways never imagined. In the New Testament, Jesus, despite our sinful and rebellious behavior towards each other and also towards Him, gave His life so that we can be in good standing with God, granted we follow and believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

Reflecting on Lecrae's song, and on how God deals with us in the Bible, I began to ask the question: Even though God's love for us is unconditional, is there anything about us, that God sees in us, that could also serve as motivation to love and care for us despite our shortcomings, sins, and rebellion? Now by "about us" i'm not referring to things that we do, because there is nothing we can physically do to give us salvation. It only comes through believing and following the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By "about us" I am referring to some inherently spiritual aspect of our being, that God considers worth preserving and nurturing. I have come to realization that there must be an inherently spiritual part of us that not only longs to connect with God, but that also "intercedes" with God on our behalf when our mental, physical, or emotional being is trying to distance ourselves from Him. That would help explain why even when we feel like we are at our worse and are disconnected from God, He does something, or sends someone in our lives to remind us that He's right there by our side. We don't just intercede for others during their time of need; there's also a part of us that intercedes on our behalf during our own time of need.

This idea is something I have just recently started seriously thinking about, so I am really interested in hearing what others think. Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...