Almost seven months after the fateful, fatal encounter between Michael Brown and former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, Attorney General Eric Holder officially announced a truth he had been holding close for months – that the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" mantra that had been used since August was based on a lie. The lie was widely embraced by the media, public officials, and some with celebrity status. We witnessed not only protesters in the streets, but Rams players, members of Congress, and CNN 'journalists' in 'hands up' poses.
The lie of 'hands up, don't shoot' concealed deeper truths, truths all too common in America – that Michael Brown was yet another young black male engaged in serious crime and who invited a deadly encounter with a police officer who was merely doing his job. The vastly disproportionate involvement of young men of color as both victims of crime and as offenders had yet again materialized as a deadly specter, opening the door to the harder conversation on race and policing that the superficial 'hands up' chant did nothing to resolve.
As some commentators questioned use of the mantra while facts of the fatal encounter were yet unknown to the media and public, a few protesters recognized the risks of the lie being exposed and by late fall the phrase, "Black lives matter," found its way into the protesters' messaging. Their assertion begins with an assumption, of course, that law enforcement, or worse, the public at large, don't believe they do. more >>
A black pastor who dared to be different by challenging racially stereotypical church models to become a leader in a white church in Louisville, Kentucky, explained at The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention's leadership summit Friday that he did it in pursuit of the unity of the faith.
Kevin Smith, assistant professor of preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and who is also teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, explained at the summit themed, "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation," that becoming a pastor in the predominantly white church was something he had to challenge himself to achieve and maintain because of the cultural differences between the white church culture he transitioned into and the black church culture in which he was raised.
"Blackness can be weighted and graded in a way that whiteness just isn't. You got the look, you got the look," he said of being white at the summit held in Nashville, Tennessee. "A matter of fact, it's so superficial at the look level that throughout American history, some people from other ethnicities have been able to pass. So it's not really about content it's just about the look." more >>
Afshin Ziafat, a former Muslim who's now a Christian pastor, said at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Leadership Summit on racial reconciliation that Christians must reach out to others with love, even when society is expected to hate them.
"Racial reconciliation is not just a good idea because racial equality is a politically correct idea, but it's because the message of the Gospel is at stake. The name of Jesus is at stake. And so the Gospel tells us that it's by grace alone that we can be restored to God," Ziafat, the pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, said on Friday.
The pastor shared his personal story of how he came to faith in Christ during the summit, which took place on March 26-27 in Nashville, Tennessee. He said that his story reflects the call for Christians to get out of their comfort zones and reach out to others. more >>
In his final remarks during a Thursday panel discussing racial reconciliation in America and the importance of urban ministry, African-American pastor, author and syndicated radio broadcaster Tony Evans boldly stated that many of the issues surrounding race in America stem from the social irresponsibility of those within the African-American community.
Speaking at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Leadership Summit in Nashville, Tennessee, Evans asserted that although the responsibility to alleviate the racial divide also lies with the church and other racial classes who must hold government accountable to change an unjust justice system, black Americans cannot use the existence of racial tensions to justify careless or irresponsible actions.
"There is another side here that needs to be brought to bear and that is black accountability. Because while we want to have the sensibility that we are talking about, and we must have it, we cannot use the reality of race to condone irresponsibility," Evans explained. "Much that goes under the name of race has to do with black irresponsibility." more >>
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the policy entity of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is currently hosting its annual Leadership Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. Reportedly, over 500 Southern Baptist pastors and church leaders are gathered to discuss what the gospel means for racial reconciliation.
Critics and spectators may have been caught off guard by remarks made during the opening session. Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC, began his keynote address by the acknowledging "the complicity of the SBC in the wicked sin of slavery and the relative silence of the SBC against the wicked sin of segregation in this country."
Dr. Moore's also noted this year marks the 20th anniversary of the SBC's 1994 resolution denouncing its contribution to slavery and segregation. "I can't help but notice that sitting here is the driving force behind that resolution, my predecessor, Dr. Richard Land," said Dr. Moore as he encouraged the audience to applaud Dr. Richard Land's courage in the face of hostility. He continued, "[In 1994] it took a lot of courage when there was a trustee on the board of the entity that I now lead who was a segregationist. And this president stood up to all of that and said we need to remember the gospel of Jesus Christ." more >>
Someone recently asked me how I answer critics of the Open Letter to Franklin Graham that I co-authored last week. The points of particular interest were these:
1. In the spirit of Matthew 18, how do you justify writing an open letter to Graham without first going to him and speaking with him in private? 2. Your letter seems to advocate disobedience to the police. Is that what you're saying?
Great questions! They're especially relevant as we close the season of Lent and look forward toward Holy Week. For it is Holy Week when Jesus himself had the most interaction with the earthly authorities of his day. more >>