Someone needs to hear this: God is love and God loves you.
Some of you were taught otherwise and it shows. The myopic view of God as a spiteful, rage-filled deity has discouraged many from seeking God.
Many of us grew up in faith communities that spoke bounteously about God’s punitive justice (abatement of evil) and sparingly about God’s reparative justice (restoration of good(s) lost in the sinful state).
And God’s justice is not punitive alone as many of you have been taught to believe. (Hellfire and brimstone preaching, anyone?)
Here is Timothy Keller on Herman Bavinck’s interpretation of divine justice:
“In his magisterial work on God’s attributes, Herman Bavinck argues that in the Bible, God’s justice is both retributive and reparative. It not only punishes evildoing, but it restores those who are victims of injustice. Yet interestingly, “God’s remunerative [restorative] justice is far more prominent in Scripture than his retributive justice.” God stands against “perverting the justice due the poor… slaying the innocent and righteous… accepting bribes…. oppressing the alien, the widow, and the orphan…” God “raises them to a position of honor and well-being… Doing justice with an eye to the needy becomes an act [also] of grace and mercy.” And therefore, God’s restorative justice “is not, like his anger, opposed to his steadfast love but is closely akin and synonymous with it.” His justice is “simultaneously the manifestation of his grace (Psalm 97:11-12; 112:3-6; 116:5; 118:15-19).”
One of the reasons why some of us hold hostile notions toward organized religion and suspicious sentiments toward communities of faith is because our understanding of God’s love and justice was twisted by nescient individuals within these institutions whose goal was to enslave us, not liberate us with the gospel message.
Our receptivity of God’s love for us is either amplified by a healthy understanding of God and His word or crushed by men (and women) who improperly use that same word to control people.
God reassures us that justice is a great thing. Especially when that justice is meted out to thwart and abate evil. God’s justice is also reparative in the sense that it is necessary to restore dilapidated souls, relationships, families, and communities.
God is not only in the business of neutralizing evil in the human heart. It is just of Him to stop evil. We need God to stop evil ‘out there’ in the world, physical and metaphysical, and, His grace allowing, ‘in here’ in reference to our community and also to the human heart.
God is love and this love demands that justice must exist and that it must be effective in a fallen world. We’re taught that sin breeds evil and that sin is entrenched in every heart thus postulating that every person has the propensity for evil.
Justice demands that sin be excised and abolished because its ramifications if left unchecked, spreads in the heart of the individual and in his community thus producing sinful structures.
Sin is destructive to the self and it creates systemic evils.
God’s punitive justice demands the sin in us be abolished but that sin is so engraved in our nature that to destroy sin God would have to destroy us. That’s normally what many of us know about the gospel and about redemption. Outside of the substitution of the cross, we are left on this earth as the receptacles of the full weight of God’s punitive justice; deservedly so.
That’s all some of us know. That’s all some of us were ever taught.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Learning about God must entail we learn as much as has been made available to us about God, meaning, learning more about divine justice being both retributive and reparative.
Meaning, God’s justice is set in motion not only to confront evil, which is actually an amazing thing, but also to restore that which was lost, stolen, hijacked, kidnapped, and ruined in us by sin.
Imagine a court is set in motion to hold criminals accountable for their crimes, which is a necessary aspect of a civilized society. But we must also remember that the judicial system exists to restore that which was stolen, pay back that which was sifted, repair that which was broken, remunerate where and when possible in accordance with the law.
Our earthly courts have demonstrated just how problematic it can be to only exhibit one form of justice whilst ignoring the other.
Take, for example, an innocent man wrongly convicted and forced to serve a twenty-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. Someone falsely accused him of something, his public defender was too over-encumbered with other cases to take him seriously, he was offered a plea deal to lighten the time spent behind bars, evidence was falsified against him by law enforcement, and the jury was biased against him because of the color of his skin.
Imagine fifteen years into his sentence he is exonerated. His name is cleared by his initial accuser, who still walks about free. The court does not apologize for its missteps. His public defender abandoned him years earlier. The police officers who falsified his confession have since retired with hearty pensions, without consequence. And this exonerated soul is set free into a different world from the one he left once he was incarcerated and he has no money or land to his name.
The courts did right by punishing evil (or at least it thought it did by punishing someone for a crime) but it failed to restore and repair that which was broken once the truth came out.
Justice must punish wrongdoing and at the same time, it must repair the breach the initial wrong caused.
Divine Justice is equally retributive and reparative.
What would make this case end on a brighter note is to imagine the man exonerated, his accusers jailed and tried for falsifying evidence, statements, perjury, and fraud. And also, that the court apologizes for its initial mistake and then repays the man the millions and millions of dollars owed to him for the harms he suffered behind bars all those years and as a means by which he can restart his life with something rather than nothing to his name.
The police officers involved must then lose their pensions for falsifying evidence. This seems extreme but perjury is a crime that deserves a consequence.
Justice is set in motion to hold wrongdoing accountable and deliver the victim of these wrongs into a place, a state of being, an identification of being restored by the systems set in place to restore righteousness to the land.
Justice is righteous, you know.
The cross is where punitive and reparative justice intersects to benefit us spiritually and physically.
Christ is punished for our sins and Christ is also the avenue by which we are restored not only to God but also to one another.
“Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelations 21:5 is not indicative of just the new heavens and the new earth, but of a new people, transformed into the likeness of Jesus, living, breathing, operating, and working to live as He did on earth.
So, in light of this renewal, this indwelling, this transformative Person guiding us through life, we must walk as He did, restoring, repairing, and restituting wherever possible.
This is hope-inspiring for victims of abuse, mistreatment, violence, terror, and all categories of wrongs. It is refreshing to know that God is bent toward justice and He seeks not only to obstruct evil but also the infrastructure created by sin on which evil travels.
God’s justice abates evil and repairs brokenness.
If you are a victim, a destitute soul who has been harmed by a sinful world, seek God’s justice, not just in this life but the next.
To rectify wrongs and heal wounds.
Thank God we can seek both.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
What am I to you, World, but a passing stranger? A vagabond hitchhiking through your darkest corridors, going about shining the light of my Master. What have I to offer you World? A corpse. That’s all. Have I brought gifts; absolutely. Invitations really, to the greatest of all festivities, the grandest of all banquets; yes, even the largest supper you’ve ever witnessed, dear World. But, the truth is you will not accept this invitation from above, no, you will willingly crumble under the sins of past and present; oh yes, even the sins yet to be committed. Tell you what, soon to be destroyed World, the Lord is gracious and has promised to make you new as well. Did you really think the Creator would only focus on us humans? Absolutely not! Yes, your hopes are up even though you endure intense pains. Despair not World, for as a flower is crushed a perfume is made. With your death and destruction, a new place will be made and you will be new just like in the beginning. I cannot wait to meet you then and enjoy your beauty.
I launched this blog one year ago today. It began as a medium by which to better understand a craft, understand how I think and how those thoughts come out on paper (or on-screen), to better develop my prose, and practice just enough to the point where I don’t feel miserable when writing my first book.
By the way, I’m almost halfway through that first book. More to come about that in the future.
Looking back I am so happy that I started this page. It helps me think and perhaps it confuses me even more. Tackling history, church history, theology, faith, and relationships often lead the inquirer to more questions than answers.
And from time to time, that’s okay.
We were never to have all the answers all to ourselves. We learn best in a community and we grow better in a healthy community. And this blog is one of many communities.
I hope to improve my craft not only for myself but for you, dear reader, as well. Stories shape us. Great stories encourage and inspire us. I hope to inspire not just you but my girls. So that one day, when they decide to read their dad’s shenanigans they can understand the man I am, the man I was, and the man I aspire to be, through my writings.
108 posts down. Here are some of my favorite ones since Olivet Theory officially launched one year ago today!
The “Gospel+” Movement: Why Simplicity Matters
“The simpler the gospel becomes the closer we are to it. Whenever we add an idea, belief systems, a depraved ideology or rules by which to attain that which Christ has already accomplished we are lightyears away from the truth.”
MTD vs Christianity Proper
“MTD isn’t a religion, like Islam or Judaism. It is more of a disintegration of one particular faith, namely Christianity, that melts into ideals that have been spiritualized and inculcated into American religious circles.”
Marital Advice for the Uninitiated
“Far too many problems arise in marriage because people want so much to live like, behave like, be empowered by, attain the same level of status like, promote a sense of stability like and be unimaginatively in love like power couples they see on social media or in their community.”
How “Policy Over Character” Destroys Our Christian Witness
“White evangelicals within the United States have lost their witness to the world by voting for a vile and abusive bully who paid a porn star hush money to keep his affair a secret.”
Avoiding Extremes: A Word of Caution From a Former Fundamentalist
“Therefore, an extreme effort was undertaken by the male-led authoritarian ministers’ caste to shame, denounce, vilify, and destroy people into submission to modes and methods to separate the church from the world.”
Giftedness vs Fruitfulness: The Hidden Dangers of Following Gifted Church Leaders
“Check and see if what you seek, who you follow, and what you promote is reflective of the biblical Christ or if it is but a dim and dreary shadow of our savior poorly illustrated by gifted leaders.”
My Top Ten Rules for Girl Dads
“Love, be patient, listen, play, and yes, mess up from time to time so that she can see that dad is human and that dad knows how to humble himself enough and apologize for his mistakes.”
“We cannot allow truth to die in darkness for fear of losing influence and money. That was lost the day we decided to trust in the influence and giftedness of man over the eternally restorative and transformative power of Christ.”
A Painful Rediscovery: A Look Into Where My Heart & Mind Are Today
“Mumbling some sort of prayer up to God, not sure if I asked for forgiveness for my feelings, my words, my rage, or if what I felt was a fear of these words making their way on to the screens of the very people who had hurt me. In my fear I wanted to avoid offending them, for having offended me.”
The Burden of History & The Curse of Heritage
“It is easier to remove a commandment from the law of God than it is to distance Southern Baptists from their southern heritage of racism, hate, and evil.”
Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice Series: Chapter 3 – How to Talk About Race and Racism
“Disregard those notions. Go ahead and say what you have to say however you want to say it. Interrupt their conversation and speak as loud as possible. Do it all without the slightest urge to listen to anything they might have to add to this discussion.”
I Am A Neo-Evangelical
“I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.”
Here Is Why We Left Mill Creek Christian Assembly
“t would be foolish to think that racism was the sole reason behind my family leaving a white church. It was a lack of compassion that led me to an irrevocable decision. A decision that brought me angst.”
Here’s to another year of blogging, story-telling, craft-development, book reviewing, and trouble-making!
Note: 408 days have passed since we left Mill Creek Christian Assembly. Our last day as members of that community was July 26, 2020, I first wrote this post on February 7, 2021, and I am publishing it today. It grew like a balloon in my heart, swelling with time, and today is the day I set it free.
Why write about it if it ain’t pretty?
One: It’s the truth. We left in haste and without a word so as not to tarnish a fragile structure. Many wondered why, some assumed, others spread rumors, all, in ignorance, of course. The Truth sets us free and the truth with a lower case ‘t’ helps clear the air. So get your stories straight.
Two: Racism is still a big problem in the Church. Racism is still a problem at the MCCA church. If racism is not confronted and excised from a Christian community it tarnishes that community’s Christian witness. Now that the issue of racism has been raised it is my hope that this community will venture to rectify that which went wrong. Not with me but with its own history.
Three: Start more conversations about history. Not just white-washed history that you learned in grammar school but comprehensive history. Especially the history of how the Church helped destroy so much, kill so many, enslave so many more, and has now decided to remain silent about its participation in the horrors of the past. If we cannot discuss these issues with love, empathy, and lament in the church, then they will be discussed without love, empathy, and lament, outside the church.
We cherish the MCCA community. We love its youth community which we helped rebuild and reform by God’s grace. And please understand that we harbor no grudge against this community and its members; not even toward the ones whose behaviors and comments persuaded us to leave in the first place. This is why I have redacted snippets of information from this post to protect their identity and their safety.
Curiosity, Masked Suspicion, and Possible Animosity
It would be foolish to think that racism was the sole reason behind my family leaving a white church. It was a lack of compassion that led me to an irrevocable decision. A decision that brought me angst.
“We have the privilege of having a dark handsome brother with us today.”
Those were words the assistant pastor said from the pulpit my first time in attendance.
Oh my God! Did he single me out because of the color of my skin? In front of everyone?
I did what any black person in the same situation would have in a moment of unimaginable shame, I laughed it off. I mean, it’s funny to identify your visitors by the color of their skin, isn’t it? If they’re offended by this amicable jest then they’re snowflakes.
Service came to an end, we were glad to be on our way out when the same assistant pastor greeted us at the exit.
“It’s so nice to finally have some color in this church. We’re happy to have you here.”
He was so enthused by my presence that I couldn’t help but reciprocate the same energy. I’ve never met a white brother who seemed so excited to meet a black man.
What I presumed to be an anomaly turned out to be a precedent of dated buffoonery worthy of contempt. I would endure an intermittent barrage of racially insensitive comments and gestures like these for the next three and a half years.
I sparked up a conversation with a member of the praise and worship team about race, politics, and life in Canada. Here we discussed the brokenness of the world we lived in. We unraveled the polarizing effect social media has on the masses. I shared a harmful experience from my past with him. A horrible situation where a county clerk told me to return to my country. The reason for my visit to the DMV that day was to inquire about why my driver’s license was taking so long to arrive. She advised me that it was better to wait for my documents while living in the United States of America. Or I could complain from the comfort of whatever country I was from.
This gentleman’s response to this event was as ignorant as they come.
“Well, I have friends of color who haven’t experienced any form of racism in Canada.”
His deflection from the topic we were discussing was so evident I blurred out his next few sentences. It’s as if the absence of racial injustice in one part thus erases its existence elsewhere.
Lazy. Dirty. Leeches.
“They’re lazy, dirty people who love to leech off of white people.”
Those were the words out of the mouth of another brother who had returned from the Bahamas. He was none too bothered by the comment. There was an air of pride under his statement. I wanted only to greet him, ask about his trip to the tropics, and welcome him back to the fold. My curiosity about his trip was innocent and hopeful. I’ve yet to have the privilege of visiting this Caribbean paradise so I wanted to hear from him, first hand, about it.
“It was good. We got a tan. Now I almost look like you.” Nervous laughter. These belittling comments were a customary form of conversation with this particular brother. I asked him about the locals, their warm and receptive character to which he replies.
“They’re lazy, dirty people who love to leech off of white people.”
This happened right after a Sunday morning service. We were waiting in line for complimentary snacks.
George Floyd’s lynching rekindled the fight against police brutality. Later that same year, Breonna Taylor’s murder accentuated this first cause. It was impossible to avoid public demonstrations that took root around the world. Conversations about racial injustice were unavoidable. I took the initiative to share several links on my personal social media account. Links about police reform. Stories of racial profiling. Black history through the lens of black Americans. History stemming from 1619 through to 2020. These posts allowed for restorative conversations with friends across the world. We understood each other’s pain and vowed to honor this cause.
These interactions were all helpful. Refreshing. Discussing race and injustice with friends was so therapeutic. And then June 5th hit and I checked my Facebook messages.
“I’m pretty sure that black people would have treated white people the same way as white(s) treated black (people) had they been in a position to do so.” Said one church brother who I respected.
“I’ve always thought that in Canada racism is not that much of an issue.” He continued. “At least I’ve never encountered one (issue of racism) myself.”
“I’ve been enjoying your ministry in our predominantly white church.” At which point I knew where these comments had come from. “I’ve never heard once of a single issue with racism in our church in [redacted] years I’ve been there. I guess you have brought this race-based division to us now.”
Being one of two black attendees of that church I wasn’t shocked. And I was a member of this ministry whereas the other POC was comfortable as a recurring guest. The race issue had taken a backseat in monochromatic churches for centuries. For our church, it was never a topic because it hadn’t been integrated. But here we were. Two colored persons attending a “predominantly white” church and we have race-based division.
But none of this prepared me for the statement that would come next. Sentiments that brewed underneath the surface of this church community for decades went on seemingly untouched. Unmentioned. Words that I read again, again, and again with mouth agape. Unwilling to accept that I had survived so long within a body of believers that saw my people in such a dim light.
“As to [the] hair incident or other negative emotional encounters you’ve described, knowing [the] East European culture, I can hardly see them as manifestations of racism but rather a lack of manners and insensitivity. What if I walked in a predominantly black church? Wouldn’t people stare at me with curiosity, masked suspicion, and possible animosity?”
It is convenient to reduce my hurtful experiences to a lack of manners and insensitivity. To know that the elder who pawed my hair twice was being insensitive. How a brother told me that brown people migrating into Europe would be the end of European society. When asked to elaborate he walked away. How another brother told me Obama and Muslims are what’s wrong with the United States of America. When asked for his source of information he said, “Fox News, where else?” That Bahamians are lazy, dirty, and love to leech off of white people is but lack of manners?
His concluding thought was revelatory. I’ve been a member of diverse church communities for decades. Black, white, brown, yellow, and red. I’ve been a part of well-integrated communities from birth. I’ve never looked at a person from another race with ‘curiosity, masked suspicion, and possible animosity.’ I can speak for my many communities. Confidently so. His perspective of colored people was detrimental to my well-being. It shattered my peace within this community.
Another brother contacted me in hopes of broadening my perspective.
“Police have a lot less reason to profile you here [Canada] for the same reasons why police in the USA [has] a higher legitimate reason to profile you there.”
Reassuring for sure.
I watched as another brother interacted with a popular social media activist. He was responding to a public Instagram post.
“Disappointed with all the famous Christians, pastors and worship leaders who have no idea who #BlackLivesMatter is!”
And his response.
“I’ve traveled to [redacted African nation] [a] few months ago, to love, serve, help and pray for black people…. But not falling for this insanity today. Thank you for speaking up!!!”
This person was a prominent member of our church. A board member of our church. It’s sad that traveling across the world to love, serve, help, and pray for black people was enough to appease his conscience. Enough to discredit hundreds of years of injustice on a local, national, and global scale. Enough to dismiss the calls for racial equality. Enough to discredit our cause. Enough to silence the only two persons of color within his community who dared speak about racial injustice.
His response to this statement was in keeping with how our church thought. I would find this out the following week.
Board Meeting and Final Decision
Our province dealt with the Coronavirus pandemic in an adequate manner. We experienced shutdowns, closures, and canceled services like everyone else. Restrictions had prohibited indoor gatherings in March but were eased in mid-June. Our church leadership and board scheduled a meeting to discuss our safe return to church initiative. We were to discuss safety measures, attendance numbers, sanitation, and other health-related topics. I was not a member of the board but my pastor invited me to take part because I was the youth leader. Our meetings would return to normal as well so I thought it would be prudent to attend.
Our pastor began the meeting with prayer and went into his introduction.
“Brothers, thank you for being here. Before we start I want to advise our church members who are posting about Black Lives Matter on social media to desist. There are brothers complaining about it and we want to avoid unrest. Thank you. Now let’s discuss our return to church packet.”
You can imagine my shock. One of two black people in the church. The only black person in that meeting. The only person who was discussing racial justice on social media. And personally invited to take part in this board meeting. This was how the meeting began? These were the first words out of my leader’s mouth? Now?
This meeting is about how coronavirus has affected our church gatherings. It is about how we can protect our church members who opt for in-person services. A meeting to proactively protect our vulnerable and elderly members. How to best follow provincial and federal guidelines.
But the meeting becomes a point from which our church denounces Black Lives Matter. A podium from which we halt any discussion about race on our personal social media platforms. An institution that silences the only two black voices it has left. George Floyd’s death? Silence. Breonna Taylor’s murder? Silence. The cries of my fellow colored brothers and sisters? A leftist liberal plot to take over the world.
My mind was a blur for the next thirty minutes. I felt sick to my stomach. The way the meeting started to have an effect on the members of the board. Eyes hovered my way and sat over my presence. I cannot recall what was said about safety, cleaning, limited attendance, and other topics. I cannot recall what happened next. But for thirty minutes I sat and simmered.
I have to leave this place. I no longer feel welcome here. My peace is gone.
I excused myself, got up from my chair, and walked out. That day it was decided for me that I no longer belonged there. I agreed.
A month after this meeting I had the opportunity to preach, which I did, with all my heart. After service, I handed my pastor my letter of leave. I handed a similar letter to my fellow youth leaders. I hugged them goodbye and left.
My pastor then invited me for a sit-down where we discussed these interactions, private discussions, and his meeting opener. He was sad that my family decided to leave. Sad that we felt the way we did. He didn’t believe race was the issue. He even invited me to come back and hold an open forum on race which I declined.
“Pastor, the other black member of our church is a trained professional who knows how to discuss these issues professionally. Invite him to speak and teach the church.”
He shrugged. He didn’t believe the church would listen to that individual. Mind you, that individual is a university professor, holds a doctorate in sociology, and is a published author.
When I pressed him again about how our church had a race problem he again distanced himself from the idea. That the gospel should be the focus of our efforts, not social issues.
We finished our coffee. My mind was made. He again pressed for me to stay, “What about the youth?”
I knew tactics like these were used to guilt people into staying in environments where they continue to suffer abuse.
“Christ began the work. Christ will complete the work, pastor.”
I’ve witnessed four of the fifteen youth members I served walk down the waters of baptism. Two before my leave. Two after I left. Christ will guide their faith. I believe this to be so.
Once news of us leaving the church became public I received another Facebook message.
“News broke that you are leaving MCCA. I hope the reason you’re leaving is not rooted in the theme of our above conversation. Whatever it might be, it is always sad to see a member of [the] church leave, especially a valuable one. It’s been nice to have. Your ministry has been a blessing to my family and myself. May God bless you on your spiritual journey!”
This being the same brother I respect who also said:
“The biggest enemy of [the] black community is their victim mentality and bitterness, which does breed the culture of violence. […] In my opinion, the more you raise in [a] judgemental manner the topic of racism, the more ruin, and division you’ll bring to our community. It is as offensive to us, white people, to be branded racists, as for black people to be called slaves. People will go into defensive mode, they’ll become more distant and hostile. […] When you think we mistreat you in MCCA, think about the fact [of] how quickly you rose to [a] position of respect and leadership. You preach on Sundays, you lead and teach our youth, the doors of P&W [praise and worship] group are wide open to you too. Isn’t that the manifestation of the highest degree of trust and respect our predominantly white church has shown to you? Man, I’ve been in our congregation for [REDACTED] years and I haven’t achieved half of your success.”
Seven months have passed since this last meeting. My family has found a new church family that understands the wrongs of the world around it. It doesn’t distance itself from pain. It doesn’t hide behind the Bible. Behind gospel-onlyism. It confronts individual and collective sin. It loves expository preaching. It loves social efforts. It lives for Christ.
The other person of color within the church, the professor, had a conversation with the pastor. He was more than willing to start an open forum on race. He was willing to lead this restorative discussion in hopes of mending the racial gap within the church. He was then dismissed by the leadership. His efforts were not accepted. His intellectual expertise on the subject was dismissed. A professor, nonetheless, dismissed.
He phoned me after to share with me his many run-ins with members who suffer from a lack of manners and insensitivity. Members who suffer from diarrhea of the mouth. His words. We mourned. We felt ashamed. Pain. He said he would never set foot in that place again.
I don’t blame him.
“This church is struggling with a hardness [of heart] that might stem from past trauma. National trauma that was left unresolved. It has made it hard for them to empathize with our pain.”
To which I agreed, wholeheartedly. The world struggled with the coronavirus pandemic. Our church struggled with the endemic evil of racism. An evil ignored.
I feel like I can breathe, again. As if I can be myself, again. I no longer have to repress emotions because someone reaches for my hair. No one reaches for my hair anymore. We don’t have nativist sentiments. We don’t harbor a hidden hatred for immigrants. Especially those of brown skin. We don’t harbor hatred for Muslims. Or anyone of a different faith.
My wife isn’t approached by church members inquiring about when she got pregnant. When we got married. Members who are surprised that she and I share the same faith. She isn’t approached by church members who feign shock at how dark my girls look.
My wife is white. She was born in Germany. Yes, that white. My girls are mixed. To no one’s surprise wife is more comfortable in our new diverse church community than this previous one. She is a sister in Christ. Not a lab specimen. Where her private life is subject to scrutiny because she married a black man.
Here we see people. We acknowledge their trauma. We feel their pain. We walk with them to restore that which was taken. That which was lost. We are living the way Christ called us to live again. Preaching and living the gospel.
Whoever visits our new church; no matter their skin color or walk of life, will not be a victim of curiosity, masked suspicion, and possible animosity.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Growing up in a Brazilian offshoot of the Assemblies of God taught me so much about the Bible, Biblical characters, faith, prayer, church community, developed in me a fervency for social reform, the temperance movement (anti-alcohol consumption), the holiness movement (high ethical standards and separation from what is deemed sacrilegious), the pentecostal movement (continuationist belief of spiritual gifts such as, speaking in tongues [glossolalia], new revelation [prophecies], interpretation of tongues, healings, miracles, signs, wonders, gift of discernment and etc.).
I grew up in a church of diverse people groups, both wealthy and impoverished, white and black, mixed, even. Former drug and alcohol abusers and users. Former sex trafficking victims. Former wife beaters. Former battered wives. Abuse survivors, really. Former drug kingpins and cartel leaders (some from within my family). I grew up listening to the story of one of my family members exchanging gunfire with police officers, surviving the firefight, although not unscathed as some of them would show me bullet wounds. One family member still has bullets lodged in his body, deemed non removable by surgeons lest they risk his life mid-operation.
Many of the drug users and criminals within my family became laypeople. Some went on to become clergy, holding pastoral roles after kicking the drugs and crime, the life of substance abuse and homicide (probably), to become emancipators and heralds of the gospel. Reaching their impoverished and crime-ridden communities for Christ. Feeding the poor and preaching a message of holiness, hope, and societal change.
I witnessed various transformations in my family and it was a sure reminder that what we believed was what everyone believed. Or at least what everyone else should have believed. Who wouldn’t want drug addicts to kick drugs after attending Christian para-ministry-funded halfway homes and rehabilitation centers? Who wouldn’t want criminals to ditch the life of drug peddling and then take on honest work to support their families? Who wouldn’t want to see a community focused on caring for the poor, gifting children with toys, homes with food, and families with sustenance?
We were part of a movement that promoted pastors into politics and politicians to the pulpit. There was no divide. Pastor so-and-so would preach at our church on Sunday and after the sermon, we would give him an offering to help his political campaign. Next Sunday we would host a politician who had a Christian bark but an adulterous bite. Men who wanted votes would sweat on stage to deliver barely substantive Christian messages of hope, love, and political party lines, for the sake of political dominance in our municipality.
Honestly, it felt as if we had monopolized morality, politics, and social work. In a way, we had. At least in my mind, we had. We looked down at Baptist denominations as spiritually dead churches. We thought of the ‘Four Square’ denominations as culturally errant because they did not dress as modest as we did. We thought Presbyterians were theologically compromised because they sipped whiskey, drank beer by the barrel, and smoked Cuban cigars or any make of cigars they could get their hands on. Little mention was made of Methodist/Wesleyan and Episcopalian denominations because our beef was primarily with interdenominational Pentecostals and majority protestant groups, namely, Baptists and Presbies. Baptists because they called us heretics for speaking in tongues and beef with Presbies because they also called us heretics for speaking in tongues but they were drunk when they did so.
We chided Catholics, priests, and nuns as non-Christians because they hailed Mary, worshipped saints, and shunned the Holy Spirit’s spiritual gifts. Not just that, but because they were Catholic and were by definition a morally depraved collective for following every beck and call of the Pope and allowing the Papacy to exist for as long as it did.
We were at war with a culture that perhaps didn’t even know the church, our church, had declared war against it in the first place. Brazil at that time was predominantly religious, most adherents attributing their faith to Catholicism and later Pentecostalism, primarily to the Assemblies of God.
Hate was never named from the pulpit but it was definitely disseminated to anyone who failed to fall in line with our perception of Christianity and holiness standards.
Granted, what the Assemblies of God had in doctrinal prowess and social reform it lacked in clarity of theological thought, compassion, and common sense. I thank this denomination for existing and evangelizing Brazil at the start of the 1900s. White men coming from the North to preach Jesus to Catholics and disenfranchised addicts and impoverished blacks in the Americas. What could go wrong with a Eurocentric theology in a predominantly colored South America?
Anywho, the Assemblies of God espoused love for God, doctrine, holiness standards, and literature. Well, as long as the literature in question was not antithetical to the Bible. Our ministry, as part of the Assemblies of God, was called Assembleia de Deus, Ministerio Belém. Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry.
This is where I spent most of my church life. Where I studied scripture, I met pastors who wore the robes of politicians and politicians who covered themselves in sheeps wool to pass as pastors. This is where I developed a love for theology, unaware of what kind of theology it was I was falling in love with, but, nevertheless, a love for God. Here is where I met church friends who made up most if not all of my social circles for years to come.
‘Murica – We Ventured North
Once we immigrated to the United States and settled in Florida, we began to attend church six nights a week. It was community forming and community building. People helping each other out. We spoke Portuguese only because the community was made up of Brazilians with a few scattered Latinos and the rare white American soul who ventured into the building. These Anglophonic individuals came either out of curiosity produced from the loud music we played or because they were dating one of our church members.
Either way, Brazilians in America were opening up churches and ministries for Brazilians. And, the same assiduity that was so fervent in Brazil for doctrinal purity, denominational clarity, focus on spiritual gifts of glossolalia and prophecy, and holiness standards were present in the Brazilian Assemblies of God in the United States.
The small and budding community of the Brazilian Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry teams were spreading like wildfire in Florida, Massachusetts, California, and beyond. (As of today, there are Bethlehem Ministry churches in Dallas, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Pittsburg, Columbus, and more spread throughout the United States of America. In the Pacific, there are churches in Honolulu, Kanalui, Wahiawa, Christchurch, Queenstown, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Rockhampton. In the European continent they can be found in Madrid, Almeria, Barcelona, Paris, Orleans, Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Zurich, Basel, Munich, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Rome, Bristol, Cardiff, and London. Just to name a few spots. And in the African continent, Mozambique.) Wherever Brazilian immigrants or tourists land, there, in that city, we would open a church and rotate ministers through them so as not to develop independent churches. But the pastor rotation rodeo situation a whole different post.
But in America, (North America), we did not see as many disenfranchised souls as we did in Brazil. In the US., everyone was hyper-individualistic, unlike the community-centric vibe found in the motherland. We could not see the impoverished because we rarely ventured out of the church to evangelize and minister to our communities. And ‘evangelism’ in America simply meant reaching Brazilians in America. Not white Americans. That wasn’t our focus just yet. We wanted nothing more than to grow the Bethlehem Ministry brand by finding and dragging (nicely) as many Brazilians in Orlando, Ft. Myers, Miami, Lighthouse Point, Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano, Vero Beach, Sarasota, Kissimmee, and beyond into our churches as possible.
And we did.
Churches blossomed and swelled from ten to twenty adherents in some parts and in the hundreds and hundreds of members, yes, not just attendees and participants, but members in other parts.
My family first moved to Orlando from Campinas, São Paulo. Well, my dad first moved to Boston with a pastor/politician guy to help the ministry start a church there. When the call to restart a ministry in Orlando, Florida was made, this pastor/politician fellow decided to take my multi-talented instrumentalist dad down to Florida with him. And it is here where we are to arrive to meet up with my dad. In Orlando, we partook in a ministry that grew well and because the ministry was fond of rotating pastors from one church to another they then opened another church in Naples, Florida and that’s where we went next.
The pastor/politician fella didn’t last long in this ministry and was later moved to another church, for reasons unknown or unmentioned, I don’t know because much of it was hush-hush, as is the status quo in churches these days. But my family settled in delightful old Naples, Florida and it is there where we spent most of our time in the US.
Again, evangelistic outreach was an attempt to reach Brazilians in America (North America) for Christ. English-speaking Americans were handed little pamphlets outside of bars, clubs, and large buffets where they would later use them to wipe their nose or just throw them away. We weren’t sure what to do with English speakers other than inviting them to sit through simultaneously translated sermons. Not many members of our church community were able to wield the English language well enough to bring English speakers into our community so we didn’t focus on them that much or at all. This would change but not yet. They would show up, hang out, watch our singers sing, then our worship bands worship, in Portuguese, of course. And towards the end of the service, they would sit through a poorly translated sermon where the minister half-spoke in tongues and half-ministered about hellfire and brimstone. After service, we would have our comes e bebes (coffee, tea, food, and treats; it was a fraternization period) where English speakers were adored, welcomed, and greeted, but few were the church members who actually spent time with them or time getting to know them because we barely spoke their language and they didn’t know a lick of Portuguese. There are Americans we’re talking about here. They barely spoke English well enough.
And remember, this was initially a Brazilian pentecostal ministry in America (North America) with the sole focus of evangelizing unchurched Brazilians and heresy plagued Brazilians who had run off to worship God in pagan centers like Baptist churches.
We wanted nothing but Brazilians and that’s what we got.
Again, in Brazil, evangelism was primarily focused on the poor, disenfranchised, destitute, addicts, and socially oppressed but in North America, we saw abundance, wealth, and lucre. Of course, impoverished families were everywhere but not as visibly so as in Brazil so we had to change our strategies.
As we adapted our youth (myself included) to the culture, assimilating and learning the language, the ministry began to build up new leaders to lead and pastor bilingual church services.
Our initial success paled in comparison with this second wave of evangelistic outreach as our predominantly Brazilian-led services took on Colombian, Venezuelan, Mexican, Argentine, Bolivian, Honduran, Costa Rican, Puerto Rican clergy to lead services in both Spanish and in Portuguese. Because we lived in Florida you can imagine how our Latin American ministry blew up.
The more we integrated with the surrounding culture the more people we managed to bring into the church.
But nowhere was there a higher shift in our evangelistic outreach and ministerial identity than when we focused on the American culture surrounding our churches.
It was here that the fundamentalist aspect of our ministry peaked its head high and above the rest.
You see, American Evangelicalism, in its matured stage in the 1990s and early 2000s had become hyper-political with the rise and prominence of the Moral Majority and the religious Right. Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Bob Jones University, Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University, Fox News, and a plethora of conservative white evangelicals led us to believe that as we reached out to English-speaking North Americans we ought also to join in the culture wars of the land.
Mind you, we were already involved in political power struggles in Brazil, hosting and supporting political candidates from the pulpit. But in the US, in the land of the American Dream, culture wars were nefarious, dangerously close, impending doom was imminent, and the end of our Christian witness and religious liberty was on assault on the daily, causing us to battle Leftist Liberals and theological liberalism anywhere we could.
We weren’t just attacking Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, drunk Presbies, and backsliding Pentecostals. No. Now were bent on explaining to our churches (which consisted of undocumented immigrants with lapsed visas, living in the country illegally, or having entered and remained in the country illegally) that we should fight the culture wars of America.
I can recall seeing three to four flags flailing from our pulpits every single Sunday. The star-spangled banner flag was almost always center stage. Some pastors joked that if immigration officers burst through the back doors with deportation orders in hand and saw our predominantly illegal immigrant group praising the American flag then they’d turn away and leave us alone. Besides that flag, we would have the evangelical flag-waving about freely. I would later see January 6 insurrectionists bull-rushing the US Capitol waving this same flag. Little did I know, that flag was more about Christian Nationalist ideals than Christian virtues and ethics. Either way, we also carried the flag of Israel with the star of David in the middle. Being a fundamentalist meant you loved everything about Israel and hated everything Arab or Muslim. And lastly, we had the Brazilian flag. We were a Brazilian ministry in the United States of America.
Our evangelistic outreach moved from the disenfranchised people groups to political culture wars.
My evangelical development began as a neo-fundamentalist evangelical. And I was oblivious to it.
You must understand that these religious movements operate in complete invisibility to their adherents and work in frameworks that make everything outside of them or opposed to them satanic, devilish, godless, pagan, spiritually oppressive, occultic, evil, and more. This mindset in its fundamentalist rage would later help elect Donald J. Trump to office in the United States of America because he promised evangelicals religious liberty and freedom, the destruction of abortion rights, exclusive privilege in the White House, and favor toward the nation of Israel against Arab nations and Palestine. He told them he loved and served God. It was near orgasmic for North American evangelicals when Trump actually won. And also a reason for suicidal ideations when he lost. Some still think he won the 2020 election.
This same neo-fundamentalist segment of our church mentality helped the far-right Trump of the tropics, Jair Bolsonario, become the president of Brazil. He ran on the same ticket as did Trump. Hate for left and left-leaning Brazilians, he loved evangelicals and even prayed in public, attended church services. His vitriol against political opponents was unhinged in parts, making Trump sound domesticated. The man was a military lifer turned politician turned religious right hero turned president of a 211 million inhabitants nation. His downfall came through his misogynistic tropes, his islamophobia in equating Arabs with ISIS, and his disdain for liberal politics, his vitriol, and yes, just as with Trump, Covid-19. Jair Bolsonario questioned the validity of vaccines and thought they altered human DNA/mRNA thus postponing Brazil’s access to life-saving vaccines. Now that Brazil has reached well over 400,000 covid complications-related deaths, his popularity, as did Trumps, has faltered.
But how did I come to understand that I was once part of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism?
We spent a great deal of time with the Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry, but once we received a recalcitrant, malcontent failed former lawyer turned pastor as a pastor of our member bleeding church, something clicked and then broke in me when the man would not stop bashing other pastors from our very denomination. Remember, bashing outsiders and apostates was acceptable but our own? It was too much even for my pharisaical heart. He had a knack for calling them monges (monks) because monks, according to him, were religious hypocrites.
He did this so often that during one of his diatribes at one of our weeknight bible studies I stopped him mid-sentence to ask him to desist from such nonsense.
I don’t believe a man of his stature and prominence had ever been confronted by a church member before. Less so a black one who was not clergy but mere laity and part-time voluntary treasurer for the ministry.
The man lambasted me for being ignorant, young, foolish, and a dunce. This all happened in front of the church. I then called him morally corrupt, immature, disqualified from ministry until he could seek reparation and reconciliation with the people he hated.
His son was present and his son said his father, the then pastor, had trouble controlling his words and tone. This poor man, the pastor’s son, even admitted that he tried time and again to correct his father’s problematic ways for years but to no avail.
This waltz of verbal assault and abuse between me and this pastor went back and forth for weeks. Every interaction we had, in front of anyone and everyone, he would call me a pejorative name and I would reciprocate. Never. Never had I had more disdain for a religious leader than I had for that man. Not because of his conduct which is normal for an unrepentant and impenitent man, but for a pastor of a holiness movement, holiness standard church to behave that way was way off for me.
Eventually, my family decided to leave the Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry we helped found, build, and advance in Naples, Florida.
We then joined the Assembly of God, The Vine Ministry, just a few hundred meters down the road.
Our leaving that ministry went without issue. The pastor in question and I shook hands, hugged, and said our pleasantries before parting. Whether he saw me as just another monk or not I do not know but that’s not the case here. We left as Christian brothers who knew we could not serve God in the same building anymore.
After that, none of the ministers and leaders from the Bethlehem Ministry that we had come to love, adore, and they love us and adore us ever reached out to us again.
We simply disappeared from their radar. It took nearly ten years for some of us to visit my parents place and some of them had also left the ministry.
What you have to understand is that it’s just a natural thing within the neo-fundamentalist evangelical circle to ostracize anyone who abandons not Christianity or Pentecostalism, but those who dare leave our particular ministry. Outsiders and backsliders who venture out of this Bethlehem Ministry.
So outside of this, we met new friends with The Vine Ministry, rebuilt lost or broken friendships with other Brazilian friends who had also fled the Bethlehem Ministry years earlier. People who had been traumatized by our authoritarian structure and fled for their lives. They escaped years of spiritual abuse. God bless them.
It was great to worship God and serve one another at The Vine Ministry but then my wife and I moved to Canada in search of financial stability and a future for our family.
Canada – Land of Apologies and Snow
In Canada, we joined a Slavic-Canadian pentecostal church that was stuck between modernity and early 1900s Communist Ukraine.
Having recently joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada the church had to shift its services from their regular hybrid of Ukrainian-Russian speaking services to English-speaking services only. This was great because I wanted to understand what in the world they were singing about in their songs.
This church, being outside of the Brazilian paradigm of poverty and social issues and outside of North American hyper-capitalist, hyper-individualistic, and culture wars framework was primarily focused on religious consistency and discipleship, more than anything else. Minor struggles and disagreements surrounded what style of worship songs we should sing, whether we should stick to hymns or play to the tune of Hillsong, Planetshakers, Jesus Culture, or Elevation music. Some members dawned jeans and t-shirts while others, the Slavic grandmas in particular, dawned head coverings and skirts from their motherland.
Evangelism here was inner-centric. More about preaching Jesus to former communists and people who had survived communism as Christians but still struggled with legalist understanding of the gospel.
We wanted to teach the bad Christianity out of ignorant Christians. And it was working. Our community grew. Our youth group developed from a bunch of kids who were at first scared to ask tough questions to a group of Christianized hooligans willing to think for themselves. They went on to lead worship and lead services, participate in plays, mission trips (not on my part but still, awesome incentive on their part), pursue baptism, get married, and more.
Because this Slavic community was so removed from the neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism I was raised within in Brazil and in America (North America) I was able to see my faith a little clearer.
But before we proceed on how I went from neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism to neo-evangelicalism I must define and categorize evangelicalism as understood through the North American perspective. And because I’m not a scholar I will allow a scholar named Michael Graham, a writer for As In Heaven and the executive pastor at Orlando Grace Church to explain these categories for you.
In writing for Mere Orthodoxy, Graham states that there are six iterations or rather categories of evangelicalism so far. Here is Graham:
“The 6 Categories
As I have surveyed the evangelical landscape and discussed with pastors all around the country, evangelicalism seems to be fracturing into at least 6 different subgroups. Three of those groups (#s1-3) still have at least some connectivity to evangelicalism and the other three have cut ties (#s 4-6):
Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelical– Neo-fundamentalists are those who have deep concerns about both political and theological liberalism. There is some overlap and co-belligerency with Christian Nationalism (a syncretism of right wing nationalism and Christianity) but neo-fundamentalists do so with more theological vocabulary and rationality. Concerning threats within the church, they have deep worries with the church’s drift towards liberalism and the ways secular ideologies are finding homes in the church. Outside the church, they are concerned by the culture’s increasing hostility to Christianity, most prominently from mass media, social media, and the government.
Mainstream Evangelical – Historically this term has been Protestants who hold to the Bebbington Quadrilateral of conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism. The emphasis for this group is on the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Concerning threats within the church, they share some concern for the secular right’s influence on Christinaity, including the destructive pull of Christian Nationalism, but are far more concerned by the secular left’s influence and the desire to assimilate since the world still remains so hostile. Outside the church, they are likely uncomfortable with the rhetoric Trump and other conservatives use but view this direction as the lesser of two evils.
Neo-Evangelical – People who would see themselves as “global evangelicals” and are doctrinally “Evangelicals” (w/ some philosophy of ministry differences) but no longer use the term “evangelical” in some circumstances in the American context as the term as an identifier has evolved to be more political than theological. Within the church, they are highly concerned by conservative Christianity’s acceptance of Trump and failure to engage on topics of race and sexuality in helpful ways, but they have not totally abandoned evangelical identification and likely still labor in churches with the broadest spectrum of these groups. Outside of the church, this group feels largely homeless in today’s world. There is equal concern, or slightly more either way depending on the person, at the threat the left and the right pose to Christians seeking to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness.
Post-Evangelical – People who have fully left evangelicalism from a self-identification standpoint and reject the “evangelical” label yet are still churched and likely still agree with the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. They are more deconstructed than neo-evangelicals and they are more vocal in their critiques of 1s and 2s than 3s would be. Some remain firmly in Protestant circles and others have crossed over to mainline, catholic, or orthodox traditions while still holding to the basic creeds. Concerning threats within the church, they are focused on abuse, corruption, hypocrisy, Christian nationalism, and the secular right. Outside the church, they are primarily concerned with the matters of injustice, inequity, the secular right, and to a lesser extent the radical secular left. Many 4s are 4s also because their experiences with predominantly white evangelicalism have been so difficult and strained that physical distance seemed to be the only conclusion.
Note – there is likely a halfway point between 4 and 5 known as ex-vangelicals that don’t neatly fit either 4 or 5. This group is difficult to parse as the meaning that this group has taken on has evolved even this year. We did not want to exclude the group from this typology but given the evolving nature were hesitant to pin it down too precisely at this juncture. Some of these folks have actually dechurched, some have deconverted, yet some remain in the faith but are quite vocal on their critiques of the movement. In time this category might evolve and/or swallow up category 5 below or it might fizzle like other labels.
Dechurched (but with some Jesus) – People who have left the church but still hold to at least some orthodox Christian beliefs.
Dechurched and Deconverted – People who have left the church and are completely deconverted with no vestigial Christian beliefs.”
I transitioned out of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism in Brazil and later in the United States of America thanks to distance but I moved away from mainline evangelicalism in this Slavic community due to racism and anti-intellectualism. What do I mean? The racism I experienced in this church setting was new to me, because, remember, the Brazilian church was very racially diverse. It was ethnically one but racially, we had white ministers, black ministers, ministers with Japanese ancestry, and Latino ministers, ministers from the African continent, and so on. Racism wasn’t acceptable in our racially diverse neo-fundamentalist evangelical churches.
But racism in this mainline evangelical Slavic church? Well, what did you think would happen when a black man walked into a Euro-centric church ministry that operated in Canada… of all places?
Anywho. The racism part I am still writing about and discovering as I am still dealing with it to this day. My experiences with racism in America came from outside the church. My experience with racism in Canada came from within the church. But I’ll write more about that later.
But the anti-intellectual aspect here, and by anti-intellectual I refer to historian Mark A. Noll’s work, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind delves into a group that is hyper-aware of intellectual works concerning construction and other vocational works but when it comes to Christian intellectual works they are limited. Quite limited. The exploration of theology, expositional preaching, exegesis, Christian church history, doctrinal history, and social issues were all lacking. Knowledge surrounding biology, archeology, anthropology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, philosophy, psychiatry, and science, in general, was lacking. No wonder there is a hyper-resistance toward vaccines and virology in the Slavic-Germanic mainline evangelical community here in Canada. Much love for God and holiness standards but a hell of a lot of ignorance surrounding the world around them. The very world God created.
During my last few weeks in membership with this mainline evangelical church, I witnessed an uptick in members spewing their support for Donald Trump. I mean, we’re in Canada, people. Canadians are too nice to support an orange man like Donald Trump. But our Slavic community tossed all brain and heart out the window and promoted pro-Trump rhetoric against immigrants, racial justice, and any issues pertaining to brown people. The irony was there but the masks had come off. I saw some of them for what they were. Racist Christians. The Christian part of their identity was debatable but their racism consumed the air around them. Around me.
It was no wonder that whenever the Black Lives Matter movement took shape in the political sphere and some accused it of Marxist ideologies our Slavic church shut its doors down on the topic. Period. There was no talking about race, racism, or harms done against black people and people of color because the unresolved trauma of Marxism was looming high and mightily in their repressed subconscious. If BLM was Marxist then everything they talked about or fought for was atheistic and diabolic. They were unwilling to consider that the fight for black equity spanned back hundreds of years. But fear triumphs over reason and they capitulated their witness on the altar of ignorance.
And short of my exit I picked up this book by professor Noll and devoured it. Strange thing is that I pulled this book from the church’s library, which no one ever frequented. I could have stolen the book and I don’t believe anyone would have noticed. But I read it, made notes, made connections between the idiocy in evangelical history to the idiocy I witnessed in my church, yes, my church because I was part of it too. And I was broken. I left not long after when the racism became too painful to deal with and far too many higher-ups from the church were spewing it for me to confront it alone.
Being one of two black people in the church stymies one’s aspirations for change, you know.
A short conversation with the pastor, an honest one, revealed just how intellectually and socially limited this environment had become or perhaps had always been.
We left and what was left behind was in fact my mainline evangelical faith.
I was comfortable there until I realized that racism and religious-political syncretism was still very much alive and well there, just not as angry as that within the neo-fundamentalist evangelical circle of my earlier years but it was still there.
I’ve since progressed to a neo-evangelical landmark. I’ve reached the precipice of evangelicalism. Behind me is a horrid trail of trauma and a history of evangelical evils and issues. And before me lies a pit of tenebrous open-theistic worldviews that have robbed Christ of His Deity.
I’m comfortable as a neo-evangelical because I’ve realized that my faith supersedes denominational lines. I can learn so much more about different philosophies without being guilted into thinking I’m a heretic for simply studying different thinkers. I appreciate the social ramifications of liberation theology and I love the fine-tuned nature of big-God/near-God orthodox theology. I love my transcendent Lord but He is also an eminent God. He strengthens my heart out of religiosity that damns the intellect and He pushes me into a wholesome religion that loves God and neighbor. I’m hostile to the idea of marrying religion and political ideologies. I hate poor theology but I love and am patient with people who are ignorant of good theology. They’re teachable you know. My most biting words are reserved for my friends who are still stuck in neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism. I’m patient with my friends who are on the wall between mainline and fundamentalist evangelicalism. You shout too loud and they’ll become extremists and if you whisper too much they’ll forever stagnate in mainline circles.
I’m comfortable being labeled a ‘global evangelical’ as I worship and serve Christ wherever I go. I’m not limited to national superpowers like the United States of America or Israel. Today I’m comfortable condemning Israeli terrorism against Palestinians. Before I would have spat at the mention of these poor souls. Today I favor a democratic society that espouses a higher ethic that values the civil rights of all people, not just Christians.
My views about abortion are the same. I’m pro-life through and through, not just pro-birth. But even there, I fall and lean on pastor Skye Jethani’s idea, preferring a world where abortion is legal but morally wrong and unwanted than a world where we repress laws and allow for the fruition of back-alley abortions to persist. A world where people risk death to seek out an abortion because birthing the child will be the end of their lives and that of the baby.
I prefer to look to the root causes in society leading women to believe they need an abortion. What leads them to that state of mind? We’re so focused on the clinical procedure, which is horrific and barbaric, but seldom do we focus on the social, financial, and mental issues that precede this decision. I’m in favor of leading a whole nation to destroy the structures that make women think they have to end their pregnancies to work, pay rent, buy groceries, be financially stable, get a job and keep it, graduate from school, apply for school, and have medical care.
Like… why aren’t pro-lifers, mainly pro-birthers from neo-fundamentalist evangelicals tackling those issues as well? They’re more in favor of a big military instead of big health care. I’ve figured that it’s because the left and left-leaning churches and groups are focusing on these issues, therefore, by affiliation, these things are wrong to even consider.
As a neo-evangelical, I still believe in the Bebbington Quadrilateral definition of evangelicalism, namely, biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionsim, and activism by which to spread the first three.
But in my biblicism, I am no longer a biblical literalist. I read the Bible with wisdom, with new tools by which to help me investigate the text, the author’s meaning, his intent, his audience, the culture it was written within, the principles, laws, and religious rules and laws of the time of writing. I consider the geo-political struggles of the time of writing, surrounding nations and their writers and philosophers. I understand metaphors, historical narrative, prophetic literature, poetic literature, wisdom literature, apocalyptic or eschatological writings, pastoral epistles, and the gospels. I rely on the Holy Spirit for clarity and trust Him when I’m told to use the many tools of study available to me. Outside of these tools, I would be a literalist and an idiot. Like the idiot I was in neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism thinking America was at the top of the world and everything around us was the Mark of the Beast and the antichrist. Putin, Hussein, Osama, North Korean dictators, and whatnot. One of them was bound to be the antichrist, I guessed.
I cursed homosexuals and chided Muslims. I damned atheists to hell and mocked them. I understood little of the difference between theistic satanism and atheistic satanism and thought they were both one and the same. This ignorance and arrogance stunted my approachability.
I’ve condemned friends to hell. I’ve ostracized friends by referencing dreams of them wallowing in hell-fire and their immediate need to convert otherwise they would be doomed for eternity. This is how conversations about faith, Jesus, and the Bible went between teenage me and my teenage friends.
I was relentless in assuming everyone’s eternal condition after five minutes of debating them online or in person. Why would I leave any room for doubt when I knew more about them than God did?
Either way, the extremist ways of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism destroyed my intellect, heightened my fear of non-Assembly of God Bethlehem Ministry Pentecostals, and ruined so many of my friendships thus tarnishing my witness of Christ.
Mainline evangelicalism taught me that so many believers can worship Jesus with their hearts, accept Him into their soul, worship Him and pray to Him in their quiet place, and then live morally duplicitous racist lives in the church and outside the church. Even the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke against moderate mainline believers who spoke so highly of Christ but turned a blind eye to Christ’s creation, namely, black people during the Civil Rights era.
But in neo-evangelicalism, I can seek Christ, preach about the cross, about death, about resurrection, about sin and redemption, and the next advent of my Lord. And in neo-evangelicalism, I can confront the plight of my neighbor, assist them in their troubles, challenge structures and systems that have been set up to oppress instead of emancipate. I can challenge local bodies, both religious and secular entities, to work together, ecumenically, to help everyone everywhere.
But if you think I’m naturally progressing through Graham’s stages of evangelicalism toward post-evangelicalism or apostasy, be assured, I am not.
I have escaped neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism and walked out of mainline evangelicalism, by God’s grace, but I am nowhere close nor am I attracted to post-evangelicalism.
I follow websites and threads written by exvangelicals, post-evangelicals, and former Christians, and depending on their motivation to deconstruct evangelicalism I have found that their results are bleak. They end up destroying their faith instead of deconstructing the cultural colonization of their Christianity. It’s sad to watch people punch holes in the boat that’ll carry them across the lake. They ought to fix their sails, not tear them to shreds. Their faith compass needs recalibration but many of them are shutting their airs and trusting fate to guide them to safer shores. Some have jumped ship altogether, having lost faith in the boat’s ability to keep them above water. And this without a safety vest.
At times I have found more people leaving evangelicalism out of hurt and trauma and in other instances because they prefer to live within an antinomian framework. A framework sapped of moral attitudes and ethics. They want Christ as God of the world but not as Lord of their lives. Meaning, everything goes as far as sinful patterns inasmuch as they can read their bibles to conform it to their momentary pleasures.
In that case, I’d say some of them have moved from monotheism in Christianity to therapeutic moralistic deism. It feels good, must be right, and God or gods is out there, in the ether, somewhere, maybe watching.
Post-evangelicalism can work if one deconstructs not from faith and Christ but from cultural Christianity. Namely, Brazilian-centric or United States of America-centric Christianity. White Christianity. Euro-centric Christianity. Pan-African Christianity. Etcetera.
But if you’re moving away from biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionsim, and activism, then what are you moving towards? I ask myself that same question from time to time. If I abandon the word, the cross, regeneration, and the work that goes into disseminating this message, then what am I moving into? What have I moved away from?
Is this not the gospel? Does the gospel supersede the Bebbington Quadrilateral of evangelicalism?
But does the gospel have to be post-evangelical? It can be. It was before the term was even coined and its meaning as we understand it today solidified.
But I am comfortable utilizing my brain, my soul, God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, the beauty and horror of the cross, and my giving up of myself for my family and my community.
And listen, that community is not and does not have to be a believing community.
Loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and my neighbor as myself does not mean that my neighbor needs to be a conservative Right-leaning Christian for me to love, serve, and possibly even die in service for them.
I Am A…
I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.
I am not out of the clear until I reach heaven and that’s why from time to time I converse with my pastor, interacting with him about ideas, what comes next for evangelicals, what ideas, good or bad, will be sucked into the vacuum created by the absence of evangelicalism in our cultural sphere.
What happens when we remove Eurocentric theology from our schools and vernacular? What happens when we burn slave-holding Christian theology to ash? What happens when we begin to listen to the voices that have taken a backseat in literature and theology for the last five hundred years? Who are these voices? Are they white, male, wealthy, and western? Are they French, German, English, Swedish, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, or Swiss?
Are these voices evangelical at all?
These thoughts and questions plague my mind every time I venture to read scripture for my personal development and the development of my church community.
I am comforted by the continual presence of this voice of inquiry because it was absent for most of my life. I thank God for the inquisitive pull in my heart. Not the cynic and skeptic. My faith is firm and sound on the Rock of Christ but the in-betweens that have dimmed my understanding for so long are still to be discovered and challenged.
I need these thoughts and questions to dominate my headspace otherwise I’ll recrudesce to fundamentalist fearmongering and that’ll be the death of my intellect.
This cannot happen.
I am too conservative for my liberal friends and too liberal for my conservative friends. I’m politically homeless. A political vagabond moving from one political railroad car to the next, exploring the goods, acknowledging them, sharing them, and then leaving it for the next. Wherever I find errors and wrongs I attempt to address them with Christic love and when that fails I’m booted forward or backward into another car. Whither this train travels I know not but that it travels forward is without question.
The final station is of less importance to me because no matter where this train of political ideology stops it is still flawed and filled with holes, carrying broken people from one place to another, ever full and ever empty.
I love my Lord, I love my wife, I love our girls, and I love the Church of Christ. The Catholic (universal) Church of Jesus is not held nor constrained by walls and windows and doors. Nor denominational lines.
Are you not sure where you fall on this spectrum and you want to take a quick quiz to find out, hit this link. Towards the end of the page you will find the Evangelical Assessment Tool. Share your findings!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Because I’m in a relationship where love abounds. Now, don’t misunderstand me when I say that love abounds and nothing else. What I mean is that in this environment of love, kindness, care, appreciation, communication, and compromise, we also experience challenges induced by fatigue, lack of sleep, poor sleep, busyness, miscommunication on things as simple as: is this plate clean or where is the soundbar remote?
These trivialities are abundant within a healthy relationship. A couple that does not disagree or perhaps does not experience friction does not spend time together at all.
I am loved where I live and where I live I give love. Love can be demonstrated in various ways. It can be received and understood in many others. From gifts to affectionate gestures, time spent together, romantic or eros, philo and friendlike, paying attention to your spouse and whatnot. Too many ways and far more ways into which these methods intertwine and intersect.
Therefore, in expressing love and giving love, you must give it in as many ways as possible and be in sync with your spouse on how you best receive it. Also, how they would like to be loved.
Living in an environment where love is absent but commitment is present is a delicate and painful compromise.
What do I mean?
There are couples, married couples, who have lived together for ten, twenty, possibly, thirty years together in holy matrimony, with multiple kids (or no kids) and careers well behind them, friendships developed around them, and a community of known-ness between them and all who know them.
But… these couples lack love. What do I mean? Is not the longevity of their marriage a sign of lovingkindness and affectionate endurance?
No. But yes. But no. (Canadian expression).
It can be, but it isn’t always.
Longevity can be accomplished by simply enduring and repeating something without much thought given to it.
Also, a marriage that subsists in this environment does so out of duty. Consider religious cultures where shame rules their community and to divorce a spouse you do not love or are not compatible with is a sure sign that you will be ostracized by that community.
Shame culture is real and it is an ugly reality. If you live and move within a shame-based culture, please, for the love of your sanity, your spouse, your children, and your friends, leave it.
But people who endure their marriage, they perform certain aspects of it out of a sense of duty, almost, honorific duty so as to gloat or find pride in their suffering through this relationship.
Sorry, not a relationship, this exchange of bodily property for (x) number of years.
But living in this environment of duty and honor instead of an environment of love, commitment, and compromise can be destructive to a person’s well-being and emotional development.
The sensual aspect of this relationship is there. Granted. It doesn’t take much for a person to merely ‘enjoy’ an activity. The enjoyment is there. But the fruition from it, the connection and chemistry developed, not just on a physical level but an interpersonal and emotional level is tantamount to a healthy love-filled relationship. Couples who simply bond over this act to exchange pleasantries rather than continually build their relational affections are engaging in business matters rather than life matters.
It’s merely transactional behavior.
What I’m trying to say is that love is not a required factor for a couple to enjoy sex.
There are plenty of miserable couples out there that have better sexual encounters than we can surmise but their interpersonal connectivity and relational development are as poor as the glass cup from which Donald Trump had to use two hands to drink.
I know. It’s sad.
So, if you’re in a loveless relationship, be in a serious one that might lead to marriage or in a marriage that has sailed away from the docks of single-dome years ago, understand that you are not without hope.
It all starts with communication. First, communicate to yourself that you do not feel loved. Two, discover why you cannot give love. Three, you need to share these sentiments freely and fearlessly with your significant other.
If you’re afraid of being open with your significant other then by all means understand that there are more issues surrounding this love loss than anything else.
Ask yourself when it was that your love for them faded. Was there a stressful situation at work, home, in your social sphere that halted your emotional development? Are you overwhelmed by responsibilities or depressed by your unfulfilled dreams? Open up about these things. Journal about them so your thoughts are on paper and clear, clearer to you.
Ask yourself when it was that your loved one stopped or slowed in expressing their love to you. What happened in that season. Before that season. You’re not to blame unless you know 100% that you are responsible for something. Namely, cheating, gambling family funds away, cheating emotionally, lying, being emotionally repressive or oppressive, voting for Donald J. Trump, gaslighting, abuse; physical, verbal, emotional, and spiritual. But if the blame isn’t yours, don’t allow your brain to trick you into thinking it is because then you’ll both be stuck in an emotional stalemate. Discuss these things with your partner and allow them to open up to you gradually, understanding that they may not entirely understand their own feelings yet. And even if they do understand them they might have a tough time verbalizing them. So listen up to what IS said but pay attention to what is left UNSAID.
Think About It
If you are in a loveless relationship you do not have to stay in it.
But here’s the catch. I do not mean that you have to leave it either.
What I mean is that both of you can work together to make it a love-filled relationship again.
Make Relationships Love-Filled Again!
Maybe we should throw that on a hat and make it our war cry.
That won’t work.
But you get what I mean.
To leave a loveless relationship does not mean you leave your partner. In fact, you both leave the loveless environment together and explore what it means to love and be loved, together, again.
This post is not meant for individuals who are in abusive relationships. If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help immediately, for your safety and the safety of those in your household.
GoodTherapy. Hit that link. Click other links. Then delete your browsing history.
If your spouse or partner is abusive, contact law enforcement as soon as possible.
You are loved by a community you do not even yet know. You are more than your abuse and your hurt and your pain. You might only understand this once you leave and are free to heal, feel, and yes, be loved and love, again.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
I cannot emphasize this enough therefore I will allow the words of the King to re-emphasize it for me: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Fox News opinion casters have been re-demonizing Muslims and Christians from Afghanistan because there’s an unfounded theory that undocumented brown refugees will begin to flood into the United States of America because of this Taliban crisis.
Most of the people who watch Fox News adhere to some form of a Christian or Judeo-Christian moral framework where they believe that God exists, Jesus walked this earth, that we should live by high ethical standards, sexual standards, and respect our neighbors.
Something like that.
But at the same time, these same viewers will swallow a building-sized gnat of hatred that Fox News spews against, you named it, immigrants.
And the darker their complexion the spicier the vitriol gets.
I don’t care if you watch Fox News to further numb the dead or dying heart inside of you. I don’t mind if your soul is so dark that the only thing that brings you warmth is watching millionaires discuss their hatred for the disenfranchised, poor, colored, and immigrants but if that’s the case I hope you’re not at the same time ascribing to a worldview that espouses love, kindness, redemption, and holiness.
The crisis in Afghanistan is so complicated and the United States of America’s participation in the formation and the financial backing of the Taliban in previous proxy wars has only made things worse. The United States does not walk out of this situation with clean hands.
I understand that this crisis is more complicated than we dare admit, collectively speaking. Some of us will blame Muslims for the bloodshed. Others will blame Russia. Others yet will blame Americans. And Americans will blame the Afghani people for not developing quickly enough to defend themselves against an insurgency like the Taliban.
The blame game works itself into a wheel spin that is hard to slow down once it’s in full steam. I’m concerned with the catalysts, yes, I’m concerned about the agencies that led this nation and its surrounding communities to such dire straits. Insurgents only become insurgents because every other way of life has been taken from them by bombs dropped by other insurgencies or government agencies.
American ones included.
It’s perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed by not knowing what to do or how to do what needs to be done in a situation as problematic as this.
We’re all on the same boat when it comes to this stalemate, this uncertainty surrounding Afghani lives still in Afghanistan, who, at any moment, might be massacred for whatever reason by Taliban foot soldiers.
We’re in agreement there! We’re all worried about these vulnerable people.
But what disturbs me greatly is the ever virulent diatribe that ebbs and flows from Fox News and like-minded news stations about these unfortunate souls.
If 30 million (the actual number is somewhere around 2.5 million) Americans watch Fox News every day and they believe half of the stuff that spews out of that channel then we have 30 million Americans who have little to no compassion for immigrants seeking refuge in America, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and so on.
We begin to see people as animals and from there we then view them as insects. It isn’t far fetched to then believe that their decimation and massacre at the hands of Taliban terrorists is equal to that of cockroaches under our boots.
The rhetoric surrounding immigrants, especially brown immigrants coming out of Fox News, Newsmax and One America News pundits or whatever other hyper-nationalist news stations are is a rhetoric of hate.
Hate the immigrant. Say you’re sorry for their demise. Tell them they’re not welcome in your country and then smack their backside as they move on to another humanitarian crisis camp that you will call dirty, filthy, and deserving of the people who settle there.
And then go on about your life telling everyone how much your country needs Jesus because Jesus is love, kind, just, merciful, and holy.
People, for the love of God, love one another.
Love the men who are fleeing for their lives so they don’t fall under gunfire or the sword. Love the women fleeing for their lives so they do not become breeders for a terrorist organization and their sex-deprived lunatic foot soldiers. Pray for the children, boys, and girls, who are petrified and will possibly be traumatized for life because of it.
Love them. Love them because they are people.
Instead of complaining about immigrants coming into your country to take your jobs look at them, not through them, as extended family members who need rescue and help.
Canada is a nation large enough to possibly fit the population of the planet in it twice over. Just don’t send people to the North West Territories because there’s nothing up there but land, bears, moose, and the occasional horror story stalker.
But fill Canada with people who need help. The United States of America, too.
Why we’ve come to think of them as undeserving of our resources because they were not born here is insane and cruel. I understand nations have national sovereignty and borders but we’re all on the same planet, sharing the same air, eating the same foods, and drinking the same water, albeit, cleaner water in some places than others.
We’re all one race stemming from one place. People with an intrinsic value whose worth supersedes international and national borders and laws.
We need to love our neighbors and help them in their time of need. Not because one day we’ll need them; because we might, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We cannot settle for news stations whose personas non grata proclaim faith, liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, humanity, love, and yes, supposedly, a Christian faith, but then say and report everything contrary to it.
Love your neighbor.
Be on the side of compassion and empathy. Gun powder and sword are great at making soldiers of children but love and compassion are better at making people of character, principle, and morals.
If we want to see fewer insurgencies then we might try and start by extending a friendly hand to our neighbors.
Even when that love isn’t reciprocated, we love them. We love them well.
I’ve placed a few photos of Afghanistan in this post. Bucolic settings, breathing taking ones, just to remind the reader that there’s more to a land when it is not constantly bombarded with terror attacks. More to it when it isn’t portrayed as a forgotten wasteland occupied by dirty brown immigrants who worship a different god. (I’m talking about you, Fox News).
Afghanistan is an extension of our land and our land an extension of theirs. Same planet, beautifully full and fully beautiful in all of its parts.
An argument can be made that there is an unhealthy level of hypocrisy in the pro-life movement concerning its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Now, to our western mind the portmanteau pro-life means that the person values life from conception all the way through to the grave. Conception through birth, through life, and so on.
And there’s disagreement on why some of the most adamant pro-lifers fail to appreciate life as much once the person is struggling to pay bills, find lodging, facing eviction notices, in need of healthcare, education, unemployment assistance, and whatnot.
That’s not my argument here. That hypocrisy is evident in these areas and more before all. I needn’t argue the case there.
My beef is with pro-life American and Canadian Christians who use their faith and their freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote a lifestyle that is antithetical to a God and neighbor honoring ethic. They use their faith and rights to promote unwise habits which lead to the death of others.
“The Christian motive for hygiene and sanitation does not arise in self-preservation but in an ethic of service to our neighbor. We wish to care for the afflicted, which first and foremost means not infecting the healthy. Early Christians created the first hospitals in Europe as hygienic places to provide care during times of plague, on the understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.”
Again, in his words, understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.
I am shocked by every news article or tabloid post that informs the general public that another Covid denier, Anti-Vaxxer, and anti-establishment extremist with a Bible in one hand and the American constitution or the Canadian charter in the other has passed away from Covid related complications.
Stone, again, reminds us of just how far Christians and their Christ-centric ethics have come through the years whenever faced with moral or natural evil:
“During plague periods in the Roman Empire, Christians made a name for themselves. Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, led to the spread of Christianity, as Christians cared for the sick and offered an spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God.
But the more famous epidemic is the Plague of Cyprian, named for a bishop who gave a colorful account of this disease in his sermons. Probably a disease related to Ebola, the Plague of Cyprian helped set off the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman world. But it did something else, too: It triggered the explosive growth of Christianity. Cyprian’s sermons told Christians not to grieve for plague victims (who live in heaven), but to redouble efforts to care for the living. His fellow bishop Dionysius described how Christians, “Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.”
Christians have often been at the forefront of disaster without the push from government entities, without the assistance of political agencies, without funds from wealthy corporations and yet they ventured past the green zone and into the circle of death to assist those most vulnerable, motivated by nothing more than love of God and neighbor.
The history of altruism found within Christian communities is so imitable. Their love for the destitute, the sick, the broken, the diseased, without much care for their own well-being was quite the example to follow. This nonpareil altruistic movement is what attracted so many, to the faith to begin with.
The difference, however, is that something has shifted our Christian witness. We have gone from petitioning for the sanctity of life to petitioning for the rights and freedoms of selfish living, which, in turn, and as a direct consequence of, has caused the spread of the coronavirus in so many communities that could have gone without it if we had been more Christ-like to begin with.
In ancient Israel, in the book of Leviticus in particular, the Jews required anyone with an infectious disease to quarantine away from the camp for seven days or more. Some, having a very infectious disease, would live outside the camp indefinitely so as to preserve the wellbeing and life of both parties.
And somehow, somewhere along with the development of the western Christian mind, this altruistic selflessness has gone out the window, and with it, compassion and empathy for neighbors.
Modern medicine has shown us how diseases work, how they spread, how they affect the body, disrupt certain bodily functions, and from there, how some of them can lead to death. We now know chemists can develop antibodies in the form of a vaccine to counteract the spread of diseases or the damage these pathogens wreak on society.
And one of the mechanisms we have developed over time and learned how to use better is the victimless tool of quarantine; which helps reduce the rate a pathogen transfers from one person to another by isolating and caring for the sick. On top of that, we have been blessed with access to masks, which have also proven to reduce the transmissibility of infectious diseases.
Social distancing and masks.
These are the two crosses we have been asked to bear by our society and even these have become steps on which we tread to cause the death of others.
Distance and face coverings are too heavy a burden for us to carry.
How does that make any sense?
In the onset of Christian monasticism, in the era in which Christian converts would disappear into the desert to seek God, and once there they would form communities that would open their doors to assist and house outcasts. It was there that many relinquished so many rights and privileges just to help their neighbor.
They would give up wealth, give up status, give up work, and yes, even safety to wander through the unknown for days and nights to reach a place where trauma existed, where abused and bruised souls needed refuge, a place where so many had lost family and friends and found a new family and new friends.
Christians for years upon years had given so much from their lives and personal comfort even if it helped someone else just a little.
However, the tides have shifted and today we’re trying to take as much for ourselves and even the little that would have gone to our neighbor and their stability in life as possible.
Had we been asked to give blood, relinquish the rights to our bank accounts, leave our jobs, turn in our citizenship and residency, face deportation and exile for the sake of Christ and the betterment of life of our neighbor we would.
But a vaccine shot, social distancing, and masks are too many steps too far.
Our pro-life stance is only pro-life when it deals with the rights of the unborn but let us not be challenged to protect the life and well-being of our neighbors who are already here.
Apostle Paul asked the first-century church in Galatia a question that I ask of our generation today:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? […]” Galatians 3:1 NRSV
He confronted a church that began with the salvific gospel and ended up with traditional legalism. Paul was curious about where and who tricked them out of the gospel and seduced them into a religion of works.
I, too, ask the same question of our fellow western Christian minds today.
“You foolish Americans! You foolish Canadians! Who has bewitched you?”
Who has sapped your Christianity of empathy? Who has taught you to reduce your neighbor to a number on a board? Who has asked you to see dollar signs instead of the elderly? Who has robbed you of love for your neighbor and taught you to believe that minor inconveniences like social distancing and mask-wearing are persecutory aspects of a democratic society?
You’re living with a persecution complex in a hedonist society. You’re more in love with and entrapped by comfort and rights than you are with Christ’s character of selflessness.
If you’re asked to carry your brother’s burdens you not only refuse to lend him a hand but you castigate your brother for being in the predicament they’re in, to begin with. And, at times, you’re the direct cause of their troubles.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NRSV
We see so many people pass away from Covid and much of that spread is due to our gross negligence of brotherly and sisterly love.
Christianity has thrived through thousands of years of strife, persecution, famine, war, social ostracism, pestilence, and plagues and we have shown outsiders time and again just how much love God has placed in our hearts as we care for our neighbors.
But something happened. Something went wrong somewhere and we’re too unbothered or too preoccupied or too distracted to stop and think about what and why went wrong.
Stone compares our gross negligence in spreading a pathogen we could have helped combat and stop a year ago, saving countless lives in the process, as gross negligence equal to murder!
And I agree!
There are pro-lifers committing murder. Either as direct agents of death or co-conspirators with it.
When we fail to help our world through a time like this… through a pandemic like this one… we help kill it.
Racism is the new ‘black magic’ and social media has become the arena on which we burn our new witches. If someone braves the allegation of perpetrating a racist act, they’re doomed. Without evidence or a proper trial, ostracization is the only outcome. We condemn the innocent without their having a proper trial. They merit a disgraceful punishment on the chair of public cancellation without redemption. We crucify the accused without a shred of evidence. We then bathe ourselves in the sea of their damnation. All this to appease our conscience. An improper term, hostile gesture, or an unwise choice of hairstyling is all it takes. Innocuous behaviors merit individuals an unwarranted spot on the wall of racist infamy. There they will hang and rot with the likes of Hitler, Goebbels, Wallace, and Jefferson.
Racist Americans are fearful that their cantankerous woke grandchildren will oust them. They presume we have become too unforgiving a generation. A generation that is too quick to judge and too quick to condemn. One that is slow to listen, to understand, and to forgive.
The questions begin to flood the social sphere.
Where can a racist person live out their racist sentiments without the fear of public reprisal and invective? Where can a citizen of the free world express his most heartfelt sentiments? Ideas about outsiders and immigrants? Concerns about national purity without sugarcoating their statements through partisan talking points?
If you are an unfortunate soul struggling with these questions, then you have come to the right place.
James Baldwin was a renowned erudite, poet, author, and activist of yesteryear. He once stated that what gives racism its grip and hold over society is not color alone but power. Here is one of his quotes on power and racism published in The New Yorker on November 9, 1962.
“In any case, white people, who had robbed black people of their liberty and who profited by this theft every hour that they lived, had no moral ground on which to stand. They had the judges, the juries, the shotguns, the law—in a word, power. But it was a criminal power, to be feared but not respected, and to be outwitted in any way whatsoever. And those virtues preached but not practiced by the white world were another means of holding Negroes in subjection.”
He speaks on the factor that makes racism more nefarious than other evils in the world: power. Without power, racism is but a feeling. It shrieks and shouts in a room that has no ears to hear it roar. It echoes into the nether. It becomes a fork without a handle or a spoon with a hole in the middle of it. Without power racism is ineffective.
Without power, racism is not racist. It is offensive only. I want to instruct my racist reader(s) on where he or she may disseminate his or her racist sentiments. Offer them a place where their ideas can flourish without fears of repercussion.
So, then, where can you be racist or where is it ever acceptable for you to be a racist man or a racist woman?
Before I answer these and other questions you must understand something very important. There are many places where you CANNOT express, live, and move as a racist human being.
Let us explore these minefields together first.
Law Enforcement and Military
You cannot join the police department and/or police academy if you harbor racist sentiments. Nor should you join the military if racism festers in your heart.
These institutions grant you an overwhelming level of authority and power. Remember, racism is most nefarious when it has the power to drive hate forward and wield it over people. No other institution on earth grants you as much immediate access to power as does a badge or a uniform.
You cannot be racist and responsible for protecting and serving a diverse community. You cannot hold racist sentiments while helping diverse communities abroad either.
The power you have under that badge or that uniform can help or tarnish your reputation. Your racism soils the entity you represent. It can further reinforce the idea that institutions are corrupt. This conundrum subsists because you are perverting the badge or uniform without consequence.
Law enforcement and the military do not mix with racism.
Your racist sentiments cannot exist in any of the above-mentioned positions. Your racist sentiments will infect your professional sphere and seep into your work. It will influence your decisions. This is not conducive to the well-being and social health of a diverse society.
Should your racist sentiments come to light, ostracism is your reward.
These positions can create systems, laws, policies, and structures that exploit people. In your hands, they will exploit the vulnerable even further.
Your position has the authority to control law enforcement and military forces. These institutions can then commit all sorts of wrongs under your command.
That does not help you in the long run.
If you want to be a lawyer or a judge while espousing racist sentiments, you will fail. These antiquated prejudices will get you nowhere but a seat on the stage of public scrutiny. The higher the rank within the government you find the higher the risk. If you’re ever ousted, an expedited flight to Switzerland is your only saving grace.
It might be safe to assume you’re a wealthy racist individual. But please avoid this sphere of influence. The greater your influence the hotter the human-sized boiler gets. This new generation has an irrational dislike of high-ranking government officials. Imagine the riot should they find out that you’re a racist government official. A rich one at that! It’s too great a risk.
Please, for your safety, refuse every opportunity to work within this industry.
President, Prime Minister, or Chancellor
Now you’re wondering, is it impossible for a racist man or woman like myself to ever become a leader of the free world? No, it is not. 2016 happened in the United States of America and that end with an insurrection. Exactly. The last racist chancellor who waltzed into the chancellory role managed to cause a world war. We estimate that well over sixty million people lost their lives as a result.
Racism is an unpalatable fashion (fascist) statement for presidents, prime ministers, and chancellors. Racist presidents of yesteryear would celebrate Klan terror. Woodrow Willson selected The Birth of a Nation as the first film to ever play in the White House. This film celebrated Klansmen’s terrorism in the South. The plot surrounded the protection of white female purity from ‘marauding blacks.’ The only black people in the film were white men in ‘black face.’
Again, every time we have a racist national leader we can see a spike in exploitative policies. The people whom they hold the harshest ideas about end up suffering the most. They perish in concentration camps, pogroms, or death camps. They’re relocated to reservations, residential schools, or internment camps. Forced to migrate through the transatlantic slave trade or racist deportation cycles. Experiencing the pains of colonization, cultural genocide, lynching trees, and more.
You wouldn’t want the deaths of thousands of innocent souls on your conscience, would you? Exactly. So please, for everyone’s sake, avoid these positions of power at all costs.
Are you a Christian? If the answer is yes, then, by all holy writ you are not allowed to be racist and a Christian. The two do not mix. I mean, Jesus is a dark-skinned Jew from Israel-Palestine.
Now, if your answer is ‘no’ to that question then this complicates things. You’re now stuck with the conundrum of differing worldviews. Religious systems that may or may not challenge your racist sentiments.
As a Christian, I follow Jesus’s advice on these issues. I am comfortable discussing Christian ethics and values. Time spent studying the life and purpose of Jesus has helped mold my moral worldview. Christianity points a person away from an individualistic lifestyle toward love-centered altruism. Racism cannot exist within a regenerated conscience. Racist sentiments are at odds with the commands of Jesus.
I’m comfortable condemning racism because I’m comfortable with Christ’s love ethic. There’s no room for racism in Christianity. If one is racist they are not Christian. They’re racist-ians.
Now, to dispel racism with Islam you need to converse with an imam or a caliph. If you want to inquire about racism in Buddhism you must speak with a monk. Condemnation of racism in Judaism comes from the Torah. If you’re struggling with racist sentiments as a Sikh you must sit with a guru for advice. In Taoism, you’re at the intellectual mercy of an abbot or a provost. For moral clarity or confusion in atheism, you sit at the feet of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, or Hitchens. I’m not sure any of these blokes can offer a succinct refutation of racism. In a world where social Darwinism is king then some races succeed and others perish.
I’m being crass but at least I’m not a jerk. Yes, I’m talking to you, Dawkins.
Now, back to racism, Christianity, and clergy.
If you identify as a racist individual you cannot, under any circumstance, lead a church. Are you evaluating people by the color of their skin? Listening to the cries of one race over another? Are you willing to segregate your congregation based on race? Do you use pejorative terms when referring to immigrants? Have you recently renewed your subscription to the Klan? The White League? The Knights of the White Camellia? The Knights of the Golden Circle? Was that tattoo you got a year ago a swastika? Does your YouTube video history consist of people attacking refuge migrants?
Congratulations! You’re a racist person.
And still, you’re disqualified from church leadership.
But don’t fret, this is a great thing. A benevolent act of God on your behalf.
What do I mean?
Christianity condemns ethnocentrism; which boasts of cultural or ethnic superiority. It shuns xenocentrism; which wallows in cultural or ethnic inferiority. This faith denounces classism, sexism, and yes, racism. The examples of these misfortunes you witness in history are deviations. Perversions of divine literature, obfuscations of love, truth, hope, faithfulness, and altruism. Abuse of power and the abuse of people made in the image of God, Imago Dei, is damnable.
So, if you don a cassock, stand behind a lectern, and recite a homily whilst racist at heart, you’re a fool. Your only accomplishment is redressing hate with tulips and roses. You’re upgrading your trip to hell from economy to first-class. This is not to your benefit, my dear racist reader.
A healthy hermeneutic and a racist heart are incongruent with the Christian faith. Your theological orthodoxy is rotten if racism sits comfortably in your sermon notes. Your faith tradition is moldy, sick, and broken if racists live unconvicted of their sin while in your church. And in spreading racism to children you’re better off tying one end of a rope around your neck and the other around a heavy stone and jumping off the side of a bridge. Because what else would kids learn from your Sunday school programs? About Jesus? In part, yes. A racialized Jesus, a deity used to promote one race and diminish the worth of others. Grab the noose, minister. Your gospel is poison.
Racism and the pulpit produce structures that denigrate and devastate. From chattel slavery to Jim Crow. Segregation to race-based insurrections. Evil committed in the name of Jesus with the blood of innocent people on your hands.
It is reflective of no one but the devil.
Racism and the church don’t mix.
Management, Professorship, Teaching, and Parenting
Now, this last category is broad. I want to drive home the point that there are far more places where racism is not allowed than places where it is. Fox News is a prime example of where it is not only allowed but where it becomes quite a lucrative endeavor. Fox News is not covered under this category. Fox News is its own category of horrors and filth. But I’ll leave that for another post another day.
Let’s return to our pressing issues.
Are you qualified to supervise a construction workforce? Have you graduated with honors and are now eligible to teach university students? Do you love teaching children about geography, social studies, and biology? Do you hope to someday rear a child into this world?
If your answer was yes to any of those questions you cannot, as a racist, do any of them.
Your racism disqualifies you from them.
What do I mean?
Each of those positions affords you unchallenged power. Unchallenged for some time, I mean. It may take years before your racist antics face repudiation. By then, your ideas may have influenced colleagues, students, and children for decades. Who, unbeknownst to them, believed that racism was normal. That covert racism was okay. That racism was acceptable in the workplace, in school, and at home.
Research shows that racism and power afford us nothing but disaster and death. If you infuse racism into management you’re left with lawsuits and litigations. Racism in higher learning creates incomplete intellectuals. Racism at home breeds hatred and trauma. Cognitive dissonance becomes the method by which your children cope with reality. In the face of overwhelming evidence, they turn to darkness for comfort. You are that darkness and the comfort you give is poison.
You’re sapping your workspace of diversity. You’re corrupting our academic circles. And you’re killing your kids.
Consider the lifestyle of the surviving children of Nazi war criminals. Examine their shame. See how much love they have lost for their parents. Appreciate their courage in denouncing their parents’ racism. See how much trauma they have endured, the extent some of them went to never procreate.
Consider the damage your racism will cause the next generation.
Your children need a healthy environment in which to grow. A racist parent is not conducive to a healthy environment at home.
If you’re granted power in any of these categories then our world has failed you. You will only lend a hand in further indoctrinating and brainwashing our society.
In other terms, you make more disciples of yourself. Devils, in short.
Coworkers may challenge your behaviors but will be unable to confront you because you’re the boss. You’re the HR personnel. You’re the managing supervisor. You’re the CEO! Who’s ever going to question you? So, this category is too risky for your racist sentiments.
And if you think about it, you’re racist because your parents were racist as well. Otherwise, you learned your racism from Fox News.
Kids do not have the know-how to decipher whether mom or dad are full of evil in their hearts. They trust you with their entire existence so what you tell them is ‘Bible.’
And racism, come to think of it, is evil. So if you want to be a good parent you cannot be a racist parent, so, you shouldn’t become one.
So you’re left wondering: Where can I be racist and free? I don’t hate so-and-so but I dislike them in my country. Where can I go to be myself? To be racist without consequence?
No. Not the Republican party, as tempting as it sounds. There’s plenty of that already there but we’re trying to divest that system of its venomous racism.
The answer, however, is crystal clear. You can espouse racism freely as long as you are not in a position of power, influence, authority, or control.
If you have power, influence, authority, or the ability to control anyone, even Mr. Wrinkles; that ugly swastika patterned collar sock-wearing dog of yours, you have failed this test.
You cannot be racist and integrated into society. You will in one way or another influence your workforce. Disrupt your community. Indoctrinate your family. Brainwash your social (media) sphere thus further disseminating your racist nonsense.
The only place left for you, Mr. or Mrs. Racist is that lazy boy in your basement. That place where rats once occupied. The place where hopes and dreams go to die. Where mold grows on the walls and trash is left uncollected. Where rusty pipes are days away from bursting. Where an imminent flood is due. Where no light can reach, where depression festers, and where darkness lurks.
That’s your safe haven. There you can find your sanctuary. Worship your dead racist heroes in that pit of sorrows.
You’re free to lock yourself down there. Free to salute the images of dead dictators ad nauseam. Paint the walls red and black. Pink, even. I hear that’s the new thing now with the Boogaloo crowd.
You can do your ten push-ups in hopes of joining some sort of failed insurgency. Plaster your flags of defeated armies on the wall, because every racist nation ends up losing. It’s history.
And there, from the lowest point of your life, you can be as free a racist as you want to be.
The day you grow tired of blabbering about scientific racism you can come out. When you’re tired of rekindling the flame of Lost Causes, you can leave that dungeon. Once you’re done throwing a racist tantrum you can come out of time out. Rejoin society. Our diverse society.
But remember, you cannot, for fear of public repudiation, live out your racism in public.
The moment you do the fires are burning and the witch hunters are hunting for more wood for their fires.
You are the wood for their fires and you will disintegrate into social oblivion.
If you think they are harsh then consider racism’s legacy.
Do you see the blood? The devastation? Good. Never forget it.
Social ostracization as your only punishment is merciful.
So, if you want to be racist, go back to your basement.
And take your racist leader, Donald Trump, with you.
Christ is a nigger, Beaten and black: Oh, bare your back!
Mary is His mother: Mammy of the South, Silence your mouth.
God is His father: White Master above, Grant Him your love.
Most holy bastard Of the bleeding mouth. Nigger Christ On the cross of the South.
An interesting fact about Contempo’s 1931 article is that it references the Scottsboro Eight. This random group of African American boys, two of them as young as thirteen, had boarded a train from Tennessee to Alabama and beyond in search of work. Somewhere along this train ride, the locomotive machine was stopped by police and the eight African American boys present were arrested and accused of rape. Mind you, there were dozens of white vagabonds on the same train cars but only the black teens were taken by local law enforcement officers.
These young men served a combined 130 years behind bars on trumped-up and false charges. The jury was ambivalent on one thing only, should these teens receive life imprisonment as the harshest punitive measure or should they be executed by the state by means of an electric chair.
They were all convicted and years later released.
Some of the teens fled to other states once paroled. Others remained behind bars until they were set free and declared not guilty, their innocence restored. One wrote to governor George Wallace while in hiding in New York State, asking if he was still a wanted man by the state of Alabama. The governor in question was a staunch segregationist who later changed his views and adapted to the new social norm, favoring integration only to remain in office. He hesitantly relented and later granted the falsely accused soul his innocence and pardon.
These teenagers turned men turned beasts and monsters by jailers who beat them blue and black, coercing and torturing false confessions out of them; enduring years of hell in Alabama state penitentiaries, alone, desolate, crazed, raped, bruised, stabbed, horrified by daily beatings at the hands of black Americans gone mad by their state dejected existence and by white Americans who knew nothing else but hatred for blacks. Many served their time on death row, often abandoned by guards and left to rot with their innocence intact and insanity ramped up.
It would have been an easier road to the afterlife if these teens had been lynched by one of the thousands of lynch mobs in the South. The fires, the castration, the noose, the buckshot to the chest, the kicks to the kidney and stomach, the bowie knife swallowed by the neck, and ropes tied around one’s ankles and later dragged by a horse, a carriage, a car, or a truck. The police siren blasting in the distance not in hopes of rescue but as a signal that the lynching has begun so gather your kin and come watch. The public spectacle, the journalists, the pamphlets gone out inviting neighboring communities to come and participate, because there will be souvenirs, you know. There’s always something you can take home. A finger, a toe, perhaps. Maybe someone will take home the genitals of the lynched negro, dry it out in the sun, tie it to a lamppost or let it hang from the porch to welcome visitors. A souvenir indeed. Pictures of a hanged corpse, slumped by its own weight, bloodless, are sent to distant family members the same way we send our family members pictures of our trip to Disney World, Universal Studios, or the Eiffel Tower. Look here uncle Bob, another lynched nigger in the books! I hope the kids are doing well. Give them and your wife, Lisa, our warmest regards.
This miserable sight seems more merciful than decades of imprisonment in an Alabama state prison during the terror of the Jim Crow South.
“That thing they had here on May Day what good did it do. Not any at all. I’m still locked up in the cell. Instead of the I.L.D. trying to make it better for me here in jail they are making it harder for me by trying to demand the people to do things. Listen, send me some money. Send me three dollars like I told you in my first letter.” Olen Montgomery, 17 years old at the time of arrest, Letter to his mother after a May Day rally. May 3, 1934.
“My name is Clarence Norris, one of the Scottsboro Boys. I was arrested in Alabama in 1931 and sentenced to the electric chair three times. The governor commuted my sentence to life in prison. I was released on parole twice, once in 1944, and I broke my parole and went back to prison until I got out in 1946. I broke my parole again and I have been free ever since. I want to know if Alabama still wants me.” Clarence Norris, 19 years old at the time of arrest, explaining the reason for his call to Alabama Governor George Wallace, 1973.
“I’d rather die than spend another day in jail for something I didn’t do.” Haywood Patterson, 18 years old at the time of arrest, after getting 75 years, rather than the requested death sentence, January 24, 1936.
“I just got to say I think I am doing well to keep the mind I got now. These people make wise cracks talking about somebody in Alabama to defend us, say I would get out better. They won’t let the New York people come around.” Willie Robertson, 16 years old at the time of arrest, [he said] to a visitor to jail, 1937.
“Please tell all the young mens to try hard and not to go to prison for my sakes.” Charles Weems, 28 years old at the time of his arrest. April 1944.
“Sorry about my last letter — hope it didn’t make you angry. Didn’t mean any harm whatever. only telling you how I felt towards you and what’s more I could not help it.” Eugene Williams, 13 at the time of his arrest. Letter to the International Labor Defense apologizing for a frustrated outburst, December 1936.
“They whipped me and it seemed like they was going to kill me. All the time they kept saying, “now will you tell?” and finally it seemed like I couldn’t stand no more and I said yes. Then I went back into the courtroom and they put me up on the chair in front of the judge and began asking a lot of questions, and I said I had seen Charlie Weems and Clarence Norris with the white girls.” Leroy “Roy” Wright, 13 at the time of his arrest. Roy Wright, to New York Times reporter Raymond Daniell, March 10, 1933.
Conditions Behind Bars for the Scottsboro Eight
Blinded by Fate
“Extremely myopic, and with a cataract in one eye, Montgomery could not see well at all. He was en route to Memphis, looking for work to buy some new eyeglasses, when he was taken from the train and arrested in 1931, at the age of 17. The pair of glasses he had was broken on the day of the arrest and he went for two years without a new pair.”
Of Dreams and Nightmares
“In jail, much of his time was spent on death row, and he was haunted by the executions he could hear from his cell, and began dreaming of his own death.”
The Power of a Pencil and a Bible
“While in prison, Patterson found he regretted skipping out on school. “I held a pencil in my hand, but I couldn’t tap the power that was in it.” But he taught himself to read using a dictionary and a Bible. Patterson was not particularly well liked, by the other Scottsboro defendants ( Clarence Norris swore he would kill Patterson if he had a chance), by other prisoners, or by the guards that ran the prisons. In Atmore Prison, he had to keep perpetually vigilant against physical and sexual assaults. To avoid the latter, Patterson himself became a sexual predator, and kept a “gal-boy.” He lost faith in all things but one: ‘I had faith in my knife. It had saved me many times.’
In February 1941, a guard paid one of Patterson’s friends to kill him. This “friend” stabbed him twenty times, puncturing a lung and sending him to the brink of death. Amazingly, he recovered.”
Shot in the Head
“Patterson was tried and convicted again in January of 1936. Following the swift group conviction days after the incident, Ozie Powell had been imprisoned without a retrial for five years. While being transported from Patterson’s trial back to the Birmingham Jail, he pulled out a pocketknife and slashed Deputy Edgar Blalock in the throat. Sheriff J. Street Sandlin stopped the car, pulled out his gun and shot Powell in the head. Blalock was out of the hospital the same day with ten stitches. Remarkably, Powell also survived.
His mother visited him in the hospital while Powell recovered. ‘I done give up,’ he told her. When asked why, he replied, “Cause I feel like everybody in Alabama is down on me and is mad with me.” He suffered permanent brain damage from the shooting.”
An IQ of 64 and Syphilitic
“Although he made it through to seventh grade in Atlanta, a doctor later measured Roberson’s IQ to be about 64, and his mental age at nine. He could not read or write and had difficulty speaking, and was the butt of many courtroom spectators’ jokes.
Roberson had boarded the Southern Railroad headed to Memphis in search of free medical care for his syphilis and gonorrhea. He was in pain and lying in a car near the back of the train when he was arrested along with the 8 other African American teenagers accused of rape. The cane he used to walk with was thrown away on orders of the deputy that took him into custody.
This painful, syphilitic condition was evidence to defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz that Roberson could not have committed this crime. Judge James Horton agreed that it was unlikely that Roberson could have jumped from car to car as Victoria Price claimed. However, when it was revealed that Ruby Bates had been treated for syphilis herself, Roberson’s venereal disease was cited as evidence of his guilt. Horribly, he was not treated for his condition until 1933.”
Gassed and Airless
“While in prison, Weems was tear gassed in his cell for reading International Labor Defense literature, and he asked his correspondents not to mention any labor actions in Birmingham, Alabama. In October 1937, after some of his fellow defendants were released, Weems was in the prison hospital for tuberculosis. In March of the next year, in a case of mistaken identity, he was stabbed with a knife by the prison mill foreman.
He was paroled in November 1943, and was offered a job in a laundry in Atlanta. He married and settled down into obscurity, keeping his job and his health, although his eyes would persist in bothering him from the tear gas a decade earlier.”
Just Another Black Bastard
“In 1937 Andy Wright was sentenced to 99 years in jail for rape. He wrote a letter to the Scottsboro Defense Committee expressing concern that he and four of the other defendants had had their freedom traded for the four released that year. In Kilby Prison in Montgomery, Alabama, he was assaulted by both guards and prisoners, and spent time in the prison hospital. His continually poor health made it difficult for him to work in the prison industries and further antagonized his tormentors. Wright narrowly escaped an attack when Charley Weems took his shift at the prison mill and received knife wounds intended for Andy.
As bad as the physical punishment was, the psychic punishment may have been worse. By independent accounts, Wright was a good-natured prisoner, but he wrote: ‘A colored convict’s very best behavior is not good enough for these officials here. Every time they open their mouths it is [‘]you black bastard.[‘] When we think we are doing right we be cursed at and kick around and beat like dogs.’
In 1939 he wrote: ‘I am trying all that in my power to be brave but you understand a person can be brave for a certain length of time and then he is a coward down. That the way it is.’ When advised to ‘snap out’ of his depressed state, he wrote: ‘What do you think I am a iron man[?] You all is out there w[h]ere you can do for yourself and get things done and then have a nerve to write and tell me to cheer up.’”
Eleven to One
“At the initial trial, Roy testified that he had seen some of the other defendants rape the two girls, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. Later, he claimed that that testimony had been coerced. His own trial ended in a hung jury, with 11 jurors seeking a death sentence and one voting for life imprisonment.”
It is in this environment in which Langston Hughes pens this didactic poem, comparing the Christ of Calvary with the black man in Alabama.
Langston was aware that should Christ have walked the streets of Alabama, had Christ been on that train that day, crossing from one side of the state to the other, in hopes of healing some and preaching to others, He would have been apprehended and torn to pieces by loaded billy clubs and filled with buckshot.
Christ would have been a nigger in Alabama. Lightskinned, a mulatto, a colored man whose lynching would have been praised by bloodthirsty locals with Bibles in arms. No different than the lynching He suffered in the outskirts of Jerusalem two millennia ago.
Langston decries the hypocrisy of Southern Christianized peoples who worshipped a brown savior but thought him white man. Thought the Jewish rabbi from Palestine was a white man whose sole purpose in existence was to preserve the sanctity and dominance of white supremacy on the North American plains of Turtle Island.
But in Alabama, of all places, Christ was just another nigger.
Southern Christians were more distressed by the color of their Christ than by the presence of the strange fruits hanging from their trees.
I dedicate my one-hundredth blog post to my lovely wife, Irma.
One hundred blog posts, hundreds of hours of research, and near the same amount of time dedicated to writing and possibly double that in editing alone all pale in comparison to the time spent with my wife.
Every word I dedicate to public knowledge, every thought I manage to scribble onto paper or type into a computer in hopes of producing something intelligible and worth sharing is because my wife has supported me in this effort.
The effort? To clear my mind through journaling, albeit public and communal journaling on things surrounding life, love, theology, and history. It’s my catharsis.
Her intellect has been a point of reference as I grow with every conversation we have on the topics I research.
Thomas Merton once said, “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”
It is disadvantageous to the writer, myself included in that category albeit in the nascent stages of writing, to presume that fame, prestige, and legendary status be the utmost goal in life.
I have found love in this true destiny of which the initial and end goal is love itself.
I have found it thanks to my wife.
Thank you, my love, for being so amazing and encouraging.
Other desires and aspirations, again, pale in comparison.
I have my love, my girls, and my books.
One day, I’ll write my own book or several. Until then I will continue to express that which is stuck and pressing in my heart and mind on here.
And, of course, I have my Christ and He has me. It all works out just fine in the end no matter how it ends.
This gives me comfort.
On to post #101! On to the many things I will cover and we will discuss together.
Thank you for reading these stories, ideas, and thoughts. Thank you for visiting the innermost thoughts and sentiments of a capricious writer.
There are many things the polyglot can learn from the German people but one of them is best left untouched and that is their unnecessarily strident effort to produce unpronounceable multisyllabic words that torture us none German-speaking people.
If you were to attempt to pronounce vergangenheitsaufarbeitung correctly while vacationing in Berlin without being affluent in German you’d most likely end up in the back of a pub, pants missing, and unsure of what day of the week or weekend it is.
The term, laughable as it might be, means to work off the past. It’s a term post World War II Germans developed to confront the demons of the Third Reich. The endeavor, first in a communal and later in a philosophical effort to grapple with the reality that the Wehrmacht was a willing participant in war crimes, not just the SS or the SA or the Gestapo, was too much for some German citizens to grasp. Their fathers, brothers, and sons had participated in war crimes against minorities and other Germans who dared resist the Reich’s ascent to power.
What was more compelling was that many if not most Germans saw themselves as victims of Russian Bolshevism to the east and American hyper-Capitalism to the west. Having capitulated in both wars, endured the humiliation that came with the Treaty of Versaille, and now the global rage at their participation in electing the world’s most dejected autocrat, Adolf Hitler, caused German minds to resist guilt and blame.
As Nazi masterminds fled the country for safer havens in Argentina, Brazil, and Washington D.C., German citizens were abandoned by their leaders to face the shame of their national wrongs alone. The allied forces made sure of it by forcing citizens to visit concentration camps where Nazi leaders and soldiers exterminated millions. Those who could not make the trip were forced to sit through hours of footage of German POWs digging up mass graves under the rifle of Russian or American soldiers.
German citizens could not believe that they had elected a government into power that could commit such atrocities and when their one thousand year reign came to smoldering ruins in a short tumultuous twelve years of horror, they were too ashamed, if not entirely shocked, that their good intentions were now considered war crimes and crimes against humanity.
So you can imagine the sudden humiliation so many of them must have felt and how much outrage they must have expelled at the thought that they were equal perpetrators of these crimes alongside Goebbels, Himmler, Eichmann, Goering, and Hitler.
It was easier for some of them to take such an escapist approach because so many of the concentration camps and extermination camps were well outside of city limits. They voted for the removal of the Jews, did nothing to protect them once the pogroms and deportations began, and so, to their knowledge, the Jews simply left Germany to live in the outreaches of the lands belonging to the Untermenschen.
Few actually understood that the ash falling over their homes was that of men, women, and children having been shoved into ovens and burned to crisp.
Millions of German citizens refused to take any blame for these war crimes because they claimed that they had never pulled a lever, sealed a door shut, or pulled a trigger to kill a single Jew or resister.
The unwillingness to admit any fault, feel any guilt or remorse, or apologize was culturally, historically, and nationally endemic to the German mind.
That is why, for years and years after the war many philosophers, sociologists, professors, and other unmentioned entities ventured into Germany, into the schools, the churches, the academic halls, the sciences, the farms, hospitals, and homes to better understand and also educate the German people that they must work out their past.
They must work out of it the reality of their participation in order to progress as a nation. Progress without amnesia.
Certain focus groups were put together where Germans, both members of the former Reich, and their children were sat in rooms to discuss the goods, bads, and neutrals of Nazi Germany. Participants could not understand why they were seen as such vile people. How could the world hate them so much when they had never so much as launched a rock at a Jew. Though many felt Jews were inferior they did not exhibit the animosity that SS, SA, and Gestapo militants enacted on innocent people.
One old lady, as recounted by Susan Neiman in her book,Learning from the Germans, used religious language to understand the ramifications of vergangenheitsaufarbeitung:
“Only a single participant in the Group Experiment expressed the kind of moral reflection you might expect. She was an older Catholic woman, one of the few subjects to use religious language. ‘I take my being bombed out as atonement for the great guilt we incurred toward the innocent. The Americans are right that we murdered more Jews than they murder Negroes in a year. That is the truth. I was bombed out three times. I haven’t done enough wrong in my life to justify that, but I would not ask God ‘What have you done to me?’ There was so much guilt to atone for that a part of the nation must atone for it on earth. Even if our children must atone for it again.’”
How humbling an approach from the old and wise Catholic woman whose willingness to confront the evil of her contemporaries, herself included, condemning it and receiving in that condemnation punishment for it actually set her free to the truth of reality.
This working out the past, as Susan states, is never final and never finished. Not in the sense that one lives with the guilt of their forefathers but that they live and are proud to carry the responsibility of making sure it never happens again.
Germany has since accomplished one of the most exemplary multicultural societies in the world. This was previously an unimaginable feat considering the legacy of the Third Reich.
How did it happen? How has Germany advanced so much after two of the most humiliating military losses of all time?
Yes, yes, the nuances are many and we know they had help, financial help from the outside.
That’s a given.
But what is so enamoring about post-war Germany is that with time, decades even, they came to admit their participation in the war and their guilt as perpetrators and co-conspirators of the Nazi regime. Without that initial introspective adventure, I don’t believe Germany would have been able to progress out from Hitler’s shadow. But now they pride themselves on being responsible for the truth so that they never have to sink back to that level of complicity and apathy that got them into the war in the first place.
The truth is that the Germany of old, the Third Reich, was made up of average day-to-day Germans who wanted nothing more than to make their nation better for Germans, no matter the cost.
The price they were willing to pay ended up burning their nation to the ground but we mustn’t forget that from those ashes rose a hope-filled nation. Not hope from dismissing the truth of what happened but of confronting and accepting it.
The reason why Susan Neiman’s book is called Learning from the Germans is that she is a Jewish woman born in Atlanta, Georgia. She was raised in the American Deep South in a time where white Americans would lynch black Americans for sport, out in the open, in front of authorities and judges, who at times would participate in the crime.
Susan makes the claim that the United States of America never experienced this vergangenheitsaufarbeitung because there was no one around to point out to them that hate and racism is wrong.
After the American Civil War, Confederate soldiers returned home as losers. Confederate prisoners of war were released in mass if they simply signed a piece of paper certifying that the Union army was right to wage war against them for owning slaves and that they would now work together to make the country one again.
Easy out, if you ask me.
The same disgruntled soldiers made it home, humiliated, and now broke because their main source of income, slavery, was now outlawed and their former slaves had gone free or runaway while their owners were out in war. These same men launched terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, and the White League, and continued to murder black Americans for the better part of the next one hundred years.
The Civil Rights movement took the scene in the late 1950s and 60s, and even then, Southern Americans refused to confront the narrative that their cause in the war was evil and that their loss was the best possible outcome for the betterment of the nation.
Americans in the South had not faced their past but had reconstructed their cause as a movement to be proud of. The petition to retain the right to own black people had become a war for states’ rights.
The American Deep South never faced international humiliation that forced them to reconsider the racism in society that spawned the need, or, rather, the want of race-based chattel slavery in the first place. Nor were they pressed from within, by the North, the Union Army to reconsider their literature, their ideas, their social and cultural understanding of prejudice and descrimination so there was no desire nor pressure to confront their wrongs.
In fact, the South never saw their cause as inglorious or pitiful. Theirs was a cause of American ideals and constitutional right to land and property (property being black slaves). No wonder there’s such a chasm of mercy and love in the American Deep South because right after the Civil War a vacuum of power was created as the Union Army dissolved back to the North which allowed for Klan terrorist activity to dominate the Southern plain for the next one hundred years.
A great part of the United States has yet to experience their vergangenheitsaufarbeitung and it shows. It shows by the continual appearance of Confederate flags flowing freely from government buildings. It shows by the various statues dedicated to Confederate leaders, soldiers, and generals still visible from predominantly black communities. It shows when the prevalent idea of the Lost Cause has revised the way Southerners view themselves as victims of an encroaching North instead of perpetrators of kidnapping, murder, and crimes against humanity. Throw terrorism in there as well.
It shows how on January 6, 2021, madmen stormed the United States Capitol building wielding the Confederate flag in the process, as if to say, the South will rise again but what these poor souls fail to understand is that the South never went away to begin with.
No one has ever worked off their past in the United States and much of it simmers to the top when discussions surround reparations or racial equality and reconciliation. The diatribe and visceral vitriol that spews from right-wing echo chambers and the darkweb are just another signifier that the racist sentiments of old are still very much alive.
Is it too late to ask the United States to vergangenheitsaufarbeitung? No. It’s never too late. The better question is who would force it to do this work?
Germany was forced to look at their own blunders, their national sins by the Americans, the Brits, the French and the Russians.
But what nation is powerful enough to turn America’s gaze away from the Orient and toward itself?
Perhaps that strength will not come from without but from within. Maybe this generation has only begun the planting of ideas and the next will water them. Perhaps we’re a generation too soon in considering a revisitation of our past.
I know for a fact we’re far behind Germany in working off our past.
Had America ventured into vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, had they worked off their past shortly after the Civil War, perhaps we would never have heard of Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, James H. Cone, or Martin Luther King Jr.
In fact, perhaps these precious souls would not have been assassinated during the Civil Rights era:
Martin Luther King Jr.
Nor thousands of innocent black Americans have perished under the rage of white lynch mobs.
Germany has accepted its past. It has accepted the fact that regular day-to-day citizens enabled the Nazi regime to take control of the country and enact the horrors it did. It accepted that its once proud and strong army, the Wehrmacht, was just another murderous instrument of the Reich. It accepted that the German culture and intellectual academies of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s had created the racist Autobahn necessary to catapult the Third Reich into power.
Hitler could have lived and died a miserable life and we would have never heard of the man had it not been for the overwhelming support he had received from the German people. But their desire for land, prestige, racial superiority, wealth, and dominance had clouded their moral compass…. Or had it?
But Germany has come out of that era. The new Germany, or perhaps the same, just sober now, is better. It is brighter and more aware of the venom of racism and ethnocentrism that still brews and festers within its subculture and in certain political circles. This new Germany denounces and condemns the resurgence of every nationalist entity that dares show its face. It has even criminalized Nazi rhetoric and memorabilia.
But in the US, however, whenever white supremacist resurge with rage the president asks them to stand back and stand-by thus dog whistling to the undertones of an unresolved past that, hey, at least here in America, this is still okay.
The resounding issue with the American mind is that triumph has clouded its moral memory. This great nation has won too many skirmishes, battles, wars, and revolutions thus allowing it to believe that these various wins thus makes them morally right. This line of reasoning is dangerous. It makes the 1776 American Revolutionary War as morally defensible as the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Just remember that very few, if any Americans were ever held accountable for the My Lai massacre the same way numerous German SS, SA, Gestapo, and Wehrmacht soldiers were tried, sentenced, and executed after World War II.
This refusal to revisit the past or perhaps confront our national complicity in these various atrocities committed by American citizens keeps us comfortably isolated in willful ignorance. We’re too proud to admit fault and too embarrassingly proud about questionable victories.
Hermann Goering, a German World War 1 veteran pilot, then Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (high commander of Nazi Germany’s Air Force) and the sixteenth president of the Reichstag demonstrated just how ridiculous it can be to evade the reality of our national crimes when confronted with them. While under trial in Nuremberg for crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the peace, and conspiracy to commit various other crimes, Goering viewed himself and the Reich’s cause as triumphant in the face of victors’ justice and revenge in Nuremberg.
“In fifty years you’ll be building monuments to us.” Goering states, superciliously so, at one point during his trial.
Goering would later be sentenced to death by hanging but managed to escape the merciful fate by ingesting cyanide in his cell. The highest level living commander of the Reich had succumbed to chemical compounds of potassium cyanide in a cold cell.
Suicide was his last self-righteous act.
Goering’s prophecy never came true, thankfully. Not in Germany anyway.
But it did come true, in other ways, and in more prevalent ways, in the United States of America as statues and monuments erected in honor of Confederate dissidents peaked over the Southern horizon by the hundreds not many years after the Civil War came to a close and there they stand to this day.
Because the United States has yet to work off its sinful national past.
And Other Things
I’m old. I’m much more of a cantankerous old man today than I was yesterday. My health is depreciating quickly and my mind even quicker. My ability to retain information has lessened by half if not more these last few years and it troubles me greatly.
But, in hindsight, there’s much I rather not remember, perhaps much more I prefer to forget. At times, I find myself eerily content with the content that has discontentedly dislodged itself from my mind.
I’m happy with my wife and happy, sorry, I am overjoyed with the beautiful family that I’ve been blessed with.
Should all my memories fade away, and they will eventually, I will be content in knowing that my last thought is that I love them and I am loved by them.
And then all things will gray away and return to black… and then the Light.
Until then I’ll be here picking fights with no one other than my ignorant self and whoever else dares to join the fight.
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Why is Langston Hughes’s poetic prowess in this rhetorical quest to decipher the end of poorly developed or intentionally hampered dreams so enticing?
Were we not aware then as we are now that a dream deferred, a dream ignored, a dream erased, and a dream transformed into a nightmare subsists and barely exists as anxieties under which we are ruled?
Are these not the new authorities that guide our steps and our emotions to the penitentiary of destitution of all hope? Is not a dream deferred the equal of a meal misplaced, a payment deviated from our account, love rejected?
Is not a dream deferred the culmination of anxiety and depression, the twin sisters of misery, playing a dirty, dirty trick on us? Incarnate now in the frontal lobe and later in the metaphysical center of the soul?
Do dreams dry up? Of course.
Can they fester? As does gangrene.
Whence do they run? Away from us, assuredly, as quickly as they can, with or without legs.
Are they as odoriferous as rotten meat? Dreams have no scent as we understand the term but if a deferred dream were to release an odor I am sure it would reek of death. Dreams die too, you know. And deaths stinks.
Can it crust over with sweet enrichment, delivering to the dashed dreamer a pleasant sense of freedom from the responsibility of accomplishing this said dream? No. God no. It is bitter, without the slightest tinge of sweetness.
Will it sag with time, gravity working it below our feet, the feet of the grave, below that yet, under the feet of our planet and slip out on the other side of our spherical abode into the nether world?
Yes, yes. A dream deferred slips into the abyss never to be found again. A deferred dream once dead has less hope of recovery than souls trapped in the mythical purgatory.
Does a deferred dream explode?
Lest we fall back into ignorance we must admit, yes, it does, not as a renewed hope or aspirations from which we derive existential fulfillment but as deprivation of all joy and avaricious which consumes all hope.
A deferred dream is found in the life of the day-to-day moribund worker whose sole purpose is to work and make money and vacation and work again than in the man or woman whose improvised explosive device is close to razing a building to the ground.
A terrorist is a terrorist not because of a dream deferred but because of a malicious dream. Nightmares insatiably malignant transformed in the mind of a dreamer turned killer by sheer indoctrination.
But the standard person whose dream is deferred, delayed, paused or made stagnant by whatever causal ill is more dangerous than the terror of fire, gun powder, and time.
This is because the standard soul who lives dreamless or with a dream unfulfilled believes that this realm of loss of hope is acceptable and normative.
When dreamless souls accept this reality then our world becomes a place where dreams are born only to die shortly after their first breath.
Does it explode?
Yes, yes, it does, but the explosion is moderate, genteel, working its way out of the heart and into the mind, erasing all passion and drive. Ebbing the coolness of hopelessness from one wealth of life, the heart, to another treasure of life, the mind, destroying not with fire but with deference, the future of the soul.
And to the rhetorical questions asked by Langston Hudges, we must admit that one of them, perhaps, intentionally or unintentionally we do not know, is left unasked: what happened to my dream?
This question is one we dare not ask nor do we venture on spending enough time digesting it to muster an answer for it.
For it is more pleasurable to delve into the abstract deferred dreams of others than to confront the concretized reality of our prorogued aspirations.
Styron received plenty of heat for his novel on the cryptic phantom of the black Spartacus, Nat Turner.
I advise the reader to pick up the 25th Anniversary Edition where Styron expresses his sentiments on the backlash the book received from disenfranchised black groups who had made a god of Turner whereas Styron had made him a man, who as expected, struggled with rage, lust, and the other mundane things a man of that era might have struggled with. Styron adds almost fifty pages on his understanding of the critique, the analytical part yes, but admits a resolute head-scratching at the mindless distaste for his work from people who never read it.
I had not known that Styron had hosted James Baldwin at his home and even received advice and blessings from Baldwin to venture into this first-person narrative of Nat Turner’s life.
Styron admits the liberty he took in recreating the antebellum world so we could understand the multifaceted grievances Turner might have had against the slave trade.
In reality, we don’t need many reasons to understand why. Nat Turner and a group of seventeen slaves set off to kill fifty-five white people in the antebellum south. Their position in life was the only precursor necessary for their vengeance upon their slave masters.
It is, however, impossible to develop a most accurate understanding of Nat Turner’s life when his confession was undersigned by a white lawyer who had been appointed to him by a court that saw him as nothing more than ‘property gone rogue’ and property worthy of hanging, quartering, and burning.
Either way, it’s an expressive work of art and demonstrably true of the horrors of American history, which, retrospectively, was all deserving of Nat Turner’s insurrection.
Sadly, his bid for freedom is seen and described as an insurrection instead of a revolution. Why? You ask. It’s because Nat Turner failed. Unlike his predecessor George Washington, who fought with the same fervency and won, Nat has been relocated to the forgotten and dismissed recesses of American history where he remains a negro terrorist instead of the black Moses he was for his time.
One cannot help but wonder… what if Nat Turner had succeeded?
Nat Turner’s original confession can be found and read in its entirety here. One must remember that Turner’s confession was transcribed and sealed by a white lawyer appointed to him by the court. We cannot rely on the accuracy of this confession because the court and his legal representative were, culturally, societally, and legally structured to work against him. We can only assume that some of what is undersigned and sealed about Turner’s undertaking are true, but how much, and exactly how accurate, we may never know. In 1831 a slave had little to no value other than the work he or she provided their masters and absolutely no rights or freedoms. We must, unfortunately, take T. R. Gray’s account down with us in history, hesitantly so, as it is the only account of this story recorded in history. We needn’t venture far to wonder why Turner’s insurrection was not as well recorded and disseminated through the Americas as was the stories and triumphs of George Washington. Some insurrections were acceptable while others were worthy of the highest levels of contempt and erasure. A military assault coordinated by negro slaves was the most horrifying news any slave owning and slavery favoring antebellum American could ever conceive of. Their worst nightmare came true in the enigmatic phantom of the black Spartacus, Nat Turner.
So it has come to my attention that I have been accused of presentist sentiments in my analysis of history. This accusation arose from none other than my cantankerous second personality, Mr. Critique. And this perturbs me greatly because I did not know, nor was I ever taught what presentism means. This is a result of my being quite the unschooled pupil. I was not aware that presentism is even a thing.
Mind you, outside of the terms many uses I did not even think such a thing existed. On a philosophical level or say, a metaphilosophical level, presentism argues that everything that exists only exists now. The past is gone. The future doesn’t matter because it isn’t present, therefore, it isn’t real, and therefore, even the present that we ascribe to now will become the past by the time we acknowledge it exists thus making that present the past.
It is a cyclical think-hole that I am way too young to comprehend and way too old to study. Maybe not, but not my niche at the moment.
But the presentism I refer to isn’t one that delves between the philosophical aspects of time and reality, of ontological and epistemological arguments, of which, if I am to be honest, I’m not the most interested in at the moment. This is not to say that I think these ideas and thoughts are of little import, I believe they are of great import, and at times boring, but they’re just not things I’m grappling with in the year 2021.
I will in due time. As it stands, as my mind stands today, I’m focusing on the formation of the Christian church, how the church became complicit in one of the most dastardly trades of all time, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. How the church promoted, participated, and benefited from the social construct of race and colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy in the west.
I’m looking into important figures and events.
Later, when I’m wiser, and yes, more humble, it may take some time, I’ll sit patiently and long enough to understand their epistemological arguments for said behaviors.
For now, I’ll recount these events to the best of my abilities through the lens afforded me.
And this is where I run into this new (to me) conundrum of historical presentism.
This changes the understanding or rather the application of the term where it removes it from the abstract philosophical approach and becomes an applicable tool by which the interpreter of an event infuses his or her present moral judgments into past events.
Historians pejoratively call this historical presentism.
Usually, this negative connotation is ascribed to people who venture into an event as horrific as slavery.
Now, we all know that slavery is evil and our historians will even venture, feebly so, hesitantly so, to condemn slavery as evil. But historians hesitate to attribute a moral decision on the ills of slavery when they look at it or retell its presence in society former because they do not want to project modern moral standards onto previous generations who ascribed to a different set of moral standards; so they think.
Meaning, because race-based slavery was such a widespread phenomenon in the formation of western society (slavery was a widespread phenomenon in the formation of many societies and kingdoms, not just western) historians want to bring our attention to the reality that it was inconceivable for the western mind to see it as anything other than commerce and trade.
Jus’ ‘nother day ‘n slave ownin’ country is all!
Historians will promote the idea that for the 17th and 18th-century western mind, the ownership of a negro man, woman, and their children was as common then as us owning a VW Beetle, Ford Escape, or a Cadillac Escalade today. They will pull our attention to how people viewed and understood these systems and metrics then instead of allowing us to transport our nascent and more advanced moral standards to a time before us.
This is quite a complicated process and to an extent, I will even promote this particular idea. But only to an extent.
We must understand people within their time. I agree, to an extent.
But… what historians fail to do or willingly omit from their work is that many individuals who partook in the formation of western society and civilization despised slavery as an institution and despised it even more so as a racialized institution. Previously, long before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade began, slaves were comprised of every ethnic group imaginable. Blacks would enslave whites. Whites the not so whites. The lower whites would enslave the yellows. The reds enslave reds. And whatnot.
I’m generalizing here for the sake of brevity.
Because before European scientists ventured to categorize people and classify them by the color of their skin and physical characteristics like hair color, eye color, nose symmetry, and whatnot, everyone was up for grabs on the possibility of becoming someone else’s slave. And even then, slavery had its limits as indentured servants would work under contract for some time and then be graced by the possibility of manumission. Some slaves were paid, albeit not much, for their labor. Others were delivered from slavery unto family inheritances and so on.
Slavery in the former world was brutal and at times humane. Depending on the area of inquiry you will find benevolence or outright disregard for human dignity. None of it, however, was based on race.
Somewhere along the line, a select group of immoral scientists decided not only to invent race, as it is a social construct but also to dignify some races while denigrating others. And, as history has shown, you can see which groups have benefited and which have been exploited on the basis of race over the years.
What I want to bring to our attention is that there is a class of reputable historians who want us to shy away from condemning previous societies for enslaving and owning slaves and also mistreating the same because by doing so we can fall into the all-too cyclical and dishonest loop of presentist historical analysis.
I counter this argument with the fact that many, hundreds, and later thousands, and even later-er than that, millions upon millions of western minds fought in the social, then religious, then political, and finally on the battlefield to eradicate not only slavery but also race-based slavery in the west and in the world.
Being a man of faith; not a good one, and having ascribed to the principles and worldview of Christianity, I have greater reasons to detest the pejorative moniker, ‘presentist’ because I believe morality to be universal and objective and not subjective and mutable.
Meaning, the same Bible that was used by my patristic church fathers in Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and beyond, is the same bible that slave overseers used when they set off to whip the skin and fat off the back of black people in the field.
The same Bible and divine literature that instructed its adherents to love one another, not creating division on the basis of ethnicity, class, sex, geography, language, and etc, in the first century also instructed its adherents in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and now the 21st century to do the same.
Approaching morality from the metaphysical and universal, I can conclusively condemn the acts of slavery as it is presented in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and later in the American Deep South without the slightest hesitance!
Again, I believe that historical presentism is only possible if the historian approaching time in question has a subjective moral framework.
However, condemning the ills of society former on the constant revelation of universal morals is not presentist but truest to the morality I ascribe to, which, to my limited understanding, is coherent with reality as reality is understood to us as a collective.
So, even though I fight against anachronistic tropes and philosophical presentism (contrasted with eternalism or actualism) I am comfortable committing to historical presentism as an agency for good because the basis on which I condemn slave owners, slave traders, and slave murderers are on the same moral book they used to govern their life hundreds of years ago.
Their failure to properly understand that same book is not a fault of mine nor is it a responsibility on my part to excuse their ignorance on the beauties of scripture when it calls us to love one another. In fact, I will go even further to accuse them of not only illiteracy, ignorance, and moral corruption through avarice and pride, but also condemn them of perverting the holy writ and abusing their fellow man, which, our Divine Christ, commands us to die for.
Therefore, I will continue to learn about historical presentism, I will struggle with this idea, and I will also ask myself and the historians who accuse me and others like me of being ‘presentists,’ WHO is it that benefits from this avoidance? Who benefits when we fail to condemn the ills of society former? Who benefits when we’re amoral on something as universally evil as kidnapping, murder, rape, genocide, and land theft?
Who benefits from the Doctrine of Discovery? From Manifest Destiny? From the Monroe Doctrine?
Could it be that the sentiment leading these same historians to hesitate on condemning these previous figures is the same sentiment that forced slave drivers to whip blacks without the slightest provocation on whether whipping people is right or wrong in the first place?
We’ve yet to truly understand the reach and grip of White Supremacy in our society and I would not be surprised, although there is evidence yet to be compiled in its entirety if this cancer has not already infected the way we look at history.
I presume the virus of white supremacy has infected the academia as we find resistance there anytime we venture onto subjects as tenebrous as slavery in the west.
Especially how we look at ourselves as the triumphant peoples of the Americas, continually so, and rarely, if ever, look at ourselves as the brutes we were. As the children of monsters.
Anywho, go on about your business and I will get back to my research, where, upon my liberties, I will condemn the behaviors of the men and women who sought to enslave and eradicate my people, and by my people I mean humanity, not just black people. In enslaving blacks on the basis of race, little did they know that they had in fact enslaved themselves to the manacles of immorality.
Welcome to Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice series where I, Mr. Theory, give you the worst advice imaginable on just about anything. I’ll cover topics surrounding your family life, parenting, romance, money management, faith, and social interactions. Advice that is so appalling that you’ll have no choice but to do the exact opposite of what is mentioned here.
How to talk about race and racism…
Now you’re probably wondering, Mr. Theory, why would you venture onto a topic as divisive and controversial as racism? And why do it so early into the ‘Bad Advice’ series? Why not discuss, say, the most practical way for men to eat bananas in public, or, the top 10 steps to follow when taking cold showers? Why racism?
Well, if you’re one of the three people I know who might ask such asinine questions then you can go take a cold shower without my top 10 steps to follow when taking cold showers and you can eat a banana while in there. Okay? This is my medium of bad advice and I’ll choose which subject to ill advise my readers on.
On Qualifying Statements and Denials
Have you recently been in a situation where the subject of race or say, racism was broached by a person of color and you felt embarrassed to interact for fear that you might be misunderstood or misconstrued?
Disregard those notions. Go ahead and say what you have to say however you want to say it. Interrupt their conversation and speak as loud as possible. Do it all without the slightest urge to listen to anything they might have to add to this discussion.
Also, no matter what, no matter how many times you have this conversation always start with the standard qualifying statement: I don’t mean to sound racist but…
This will help your audience understand where your sentiments, ideas, and concerns are coming from. It helps them understand you as an individual and just how much you know about the topic so far.
Your audience does not know that you’re not a racist even if what you’re saying sounds racist, so, be sure to let them know that the very racist things you’re about to say will not, by default, make you a racist person.
This qualifying statement is great for other controversial scenarios as well. Try it whenever you get the chance!
Not to sound Islamophobic but….
Not to sound sexist but….
No homo but…
Not to sound like a fascist nationalist but…
And 2020’s #1 Qualifying Statement and Denial:
Stop the steal…. But that’s not me on Capitol grounds. That photo was doctored.
Always start your conversations on race and racism with a qualifying statement and immediately reject the accusation of being what it is your statement or opinion portrays you of being. This works better the sooner you deny whatever it is you’re being accused of, and in this mindset, it’s racist. Deny. Deny. Deny. But speak your mind.
Scenario #1: Qualifying Statement and Denial
Junia: My black friend got pulled over by the cops for driving through an affluent community. When she asked the officer, ‘Why did you pull me over?’ He informed her that she looked like a suspect who had broken into several homes in that same community earlier that day. Can you believe it?
You: Okay, not to sound racist but what was she doing in that affluent community, to begin with?
Junia: She lives there! She was on her way to Uni!
You: Black people earn enough to live up there?
Junia: That’s racist.
You: No. It’s not.
Junia: Yes, it is.
You: No, it’s not because I’m not racist.
And walk away. That’s how you can successfully navigate a conversation about race with an emphasis on your non-racism whilst saying something, that, according to everyone else, is racist. But you know it’s not and that’s all you need to know. Great job!
Your integrity lies in how confident you sound about this topic not in how accurate or inaccurate your statements sounds.
Tokens and Tolkien
Have you been accused of being a racist? Has your race-but-not-racist private Reddit, Parler, and Gab accounts come to light? Are you facing the brunt of social justice warriors because the racist content you’ve created and disseminated on these platforms has now become public knowledge? Have hackers broken into your hard drive and disseminated pictures of you wielding confederate flags, saluting friends with Sig Heils, dawning the ominous Hitler mustache, and wearing white robes with crosses on fire in the background?
Fret not, my dear non-racist friend. You have the ignoble the privilege and access to a superpower unlike anything other on this planet. Use it whenever all elsewhere fails! It’s Tokens and Tolkien!
If you’re ever caught red-handed, your innermost sentiments about people who look different from you are made bare and everyone sees you for who you really are, just pull the Token card.
Mention to adherents that you follow several people of color who share the same ideas you do. They are literate, successful, and wealthy blacks who believe the world is the best it could ever be and that you listen to their enlightened opinions as if they were Bible.
Tokenism is key to your survival. You must always keep a select few prominent minority figures on conversational speed-dial and ready for use in case your debased intentions are ever brought up.
And if anyone ever accuses you of using minorities who share in your supremacist ideas by the use of Token minorities just sit back, smile, chuckle a bit, and let them know you love Tolkien’s work as much as anyone else.
If you get yelled at for being ignorant just laugh louder and attempt to discuss the Lord of the Rings series. Never admit to using Token voices. This is a no-no. But share your thoughts on Tolkien to avoid a public and viral beating.
Scenario #2: Tokens and Tolkien
Devonte: Hey man, your opinions on black people being intellectually inferior to whites is extremely racist. That’s considered scientific racism that began in the 1600s with a Swedish scientist named…
You: What? No, no. I’m not racist. Look <opens YouTube> here’s <fill in token black person> who agrees with the science behind black people being intellectually challenged because they’re generally lazy, prone to violence, and criminal behavior. I know it sounds racist but it’s not. It’s science.
Devonte: Dude, that’s racist. That’s straight up Tokenism 101. How many hundreds if not thousands of black voices did you have to scroll past to find that one voice that you agreed with?
You: I’m not racist. <Smile> And Tolkien? I love Tolkien’s work! Did you know that Arwen and Aragon are cousins?
Devonte: What? Why are you referencing Lord of the Rings? I said tokenism. You know, when you use the voice of one minority to reinforce a false narrative by a white majority to dismiss the thousands, if not millions of voices from the black community? You sought out one black person that agreed with you and you think that one person speaks for all of us. That’s tokenism.
You: Did you know four horses died in the filming of the LOTR trilogy? I know, insane!
See how it works? Perfect! Now try this highly effective technique at weddings, social gatherings, barbecue parties, sporting venues, and to increase your chances of overcoming societal ostracization, keep a beer in hand. Always, if possible, half full.
If all else fails, claim the ‘I had too much to drink that day/night’ or the just as effective ‘my blood sugar was off’ coupon and your societal pardon is not far behind.
Statisticians and Data Analysts
Are you a numbers-minded person who views minorities as problematic to the fiber of society? Are you looking for more ways to degrade people of color without publicly admitting to the fact that it’s what you’re doing? Look no further, I have found the best avenue for you to broach and conquer discussions on race and racism. You, my friend, are a non-racist statistician.
Any time someone discusses racial disparities and inequities in minority circles you are more than ready to jump in to inform those who listen that numbers don’t lie and that anyone who is unwilling to submit to the data you just produced is truly unwilling to tackle disparities and inequities.
Scenario #3: Statisticians and Data Analysts
Taylor: My God. Cops killed another unarmed black man and it’s all on video. When will this end?
You: <Checks phone> You know, there’s data that supports the fact that more white people are killed by the police than black people.
Taylor: Yes, because there are tens of millions more white people in this country than black people. And you’re okay with that?
You: Did you know that black people are less than 40% of the population but they commit more crimes than 154% of the planet? Plus, not to sound racist, but black people are better at committing crimes they’re just bad at getting away with them.
Taylor: What? That’s asinine and not true.
You: <Hides phone> Also, did you know that fewer than twenty unarmed black people are killed by cops every year. So that narrative the media is painting is false.
Taylor: So how many unarmed black or white people need to be killed by the police for you to care? For you to call for changes in policing methods?
You: <Checks phone again> Did you know black people have a higher college dropout rate than any other race group? Also, they have the highest rate of fatherless homes which makes them more prone to commit crimes.
Taylor: That’s appallingly false and you ought to know better. Those numbers have been distorted to promote a narrative that black people are responsible for systemic issues, police brutality, being shot by police while unarmed and not a threat, and also being given harsher sentences for petty crimes.
You: Well, it’s data…
Taylor: It’s wrong data.
You: And if you disagree with the data then you’re unwilling to better the black community.
This works like a charm every single time. It’ll shut down social media threads, increase the probability of canceled outings, and you’ll fewer and fewer people of color in your proximal community circles. This in turn reduces the chances of a conversation surrounding race and racism taking place.
Do you like to use the N-word when barking along to a DMX track? Has a coworker overheard you shouting the N-word at black clients? Has a video of you surfaced recently where you shout the N-word at passerby’s who, according to Divine Providence, just so happen to be black?
You have come to the Holy Grail of all racist-but-not-racist terminologists, the Black Friend coupon.
Let me explain.
So you’ve been caught red-handed, again, using racial slurs, again, sharing racist-but-not-racist materials online, with a fresh tattoo of a swastika on your neck, and you were pictured at the latest Unite The Right rally. Now, this ‘getting caught’ or ‘being exposed’ behavior has become a common event in your life since you never face repercussions for your racist-but-not-racist actions and comments. But now you face the possibility of losing social capital as your boss, who was well aware of your extra-vocational activities, is now under fire because local and national media has discovered that you’re employed. You see, your boss is okay with what you do just as long as no one else finds about it. But now millions of negative comments plague your company profile, reporters are amassing outside your workplace, and your boss wants to keep on making money so he advises you to resign because he can’t fire you for being racist. No. He can fire you for being lazy but racist? Never. That goes against your constitutional or charter rights. You have the right to be, or sorry, not to be racist, while only saying things that can be misconstrued as racist.
So while you’re typing up your resignation letter your HR team also advises you not to speak with reporters on your way out of the building as you’re not trained to speak publicly and they don’t want you saying anything that could connect the company to your peculiar activities, even though your boss and this HR persona has attended several rallies with you. Those pictures have yet to surface, but they will in due time.
You’re done typing that letter. You hand it over to your boss and HR personnel. You’re compensated for your early leave. Handsomely so. A severance package hearty enough to keep you out of work with bills paid for the next six months. Horrific. I know. Because you asked for twelve months got six instead. Your belongs are all stuffed into a banker box and you’re out the front door where you’re berated by a hive of fake news promoters who ask you the reason behind your continued racist-but-not-racist sentiments.
Your response here is crucial and you have to understand how powerful this message will be to the surrounding audience. Whether it be true is not the issue but that you must, at all cost, speak it public is for your own safety and continued dominance as a cultural and societal majority.
Always, as a last resort, as your most powerful and useful weapon to engage, navigate, and champion conversations about race, racism, and to dispel any accusations of racism use this card:
“I understand my comments were hurtful. I now know the history behind them and I meant no harm. Those of you who know me know that I love everyone.” Of course, this is untrue, but you mustn’t stop there. “And what is irrefutable is that I have a black friend. A good one, too. The good kind. And I wouldn’t dare hurt their feelings with these words, images, rally attendances, and dissemination of racist-but-not-racist materials if I knew just how bad they were. I’m a good person!”
We all understand just how many ways there are for you to conquer conversations on race and racism, and listen, I’m here to help. Today, we covered four different tactics you can use to overwhelm liberal snowflakes, social justice warriors, and trained university professors, with coordinated and well-landed blows to their false narratives about race and racism.
We have yet to cover the more covert tactics but we will someday. The more people talking about race, the more chances you’ll have to deflect, project, displace, erase, censure, and mock because there’s nothing more painful in the world than to admit that you are racist.
And if all else fails, I mean, if the qualifiers and denials fail; if the Token and Tolkien strategy falters; if the data is proved wrong with accurate, peer-reviewed, professionally published statistics from trusted and neutral sources; if the imaginary black friend coupon falls dead on its head you have one option left.
It’s the nuclear weapon in your arsenal that works every time.
Snot dripping, cherry red-faced, unkempt hair, open mouth, knee hugging, curled into a ball crying.
The greater your exasperation the higher the chances your accusers will fold their arms and the remaining complicit audience will come to your rescue.
Your racist-but-not-racist tears will always save you.
So try these tactics out and let us know how things turn out! We can’t wait to hear just how successful your future conversations about race and racism will be.
And remember, no matter how bad things get for you, they will always be worse for them. By them I mean minorities.
Thank you, once again, for reading another edition of Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice series. Now go and do the exact opposite, or don’t.
I’m only 28 pages into William Styron’s 25th-Anniversary Edition award-winning book, The Confessions of Nat Turner and my emotions are everywhere.
For those of you who don’t know, or perhaps, better stated, for those of you who were never taught about Nat Turner I must advise that this is no children’s tale. This here, the story of the largest revolt of enslaved persons in the United States of America is not a replicable Hollywood stunt, nor is it something you toss onto a playwright’s lap in hopes that she’ll hire a batch of actors talented enough to emulate such a feat. No. Nat Turner’s story surrounds the life of a spellbinding man who was born into slavery, raised up as a prophet, a dream decipherer, a reverend, an insurrectionist, a hero, and ultimately, the most hated man, sorry, property in America.
In short, Nat Turner led a revolt, a company of some fifty or sixty enslaved men to bring upon their masters and family members the same level of indecency they had endured from birth. They massacred will over fifty men, women, and children, indiscriminately killing them from the darkest hour of the night until the sun was high in the sky.
They killed. Stabbed. Chopped. Shot. Hacked. Strangled. Decapitated. Beat with clubs, weapons, and fists, every white slave owner they could find in their vicinity until their insurrection was stamped out by a local militia.
Nat, the last surviving member of this revolt was eventually apprehended, tried as a terrorist (a neologism yet unknown then but the meaning is clear), and killed by the state.
Turner was coerced by the court, and later, some believe, impressed upon by God to confess, not his sins of a violent revolt because to Turner this was not a sinful act but an act of deliverance and immediate emancipation.
Turner confessed to the step-by-step process he took in eliminating every single slave owner he knew and could find that day.
This document was presented to the court as Bible against Turner and his story spread through the American plains, from the racist abolitionist North to the slave-trading South.
Nat was the Osama Bin Laden of his day.
The problem, however, as there are many problems with retelling or the accurate telling of history is that Turner committed the crime of wanting his freedom at all costs, just as American founding fathers had ventured to liberate themselves from the grips of an imperialist Britain, so Turner sought to wring himself free from bondage.
His insurrection initiated slave patrols in the south. Slave dogs began to roam plantation fields. Negroes were from there on forbidden from learning how to read, write, and also to congregate in numbers larger than three or four, at a time.
Because if one negro can plan and execute an insurrection, what then, might other negroes do?
Had Nat Turner successfully revolted against his masters, mustered hundreds, possibly, thousands of other negroes, and whites, unto his cause, to rid all black men, women, and children from the bondage of slavery, perhaps we would know him as a triumphant liberator instead of an insurrectionist.
The same way we see Washington, we would see Turner.
But Turner was black. A black slave. Turner was property.
There’s a higher chance you’ve heard of William Wallace, the freedom fighter turned martyr whose story or legend was adapted into a big-budget movie where Mel Gibson brought Scottish knight to the silver screen.
At the end of this violent film, we watch as Wallace, played by Gibson, is stretched over a table whilst in entrails are removed from him as he suffers the gruesome death at the hands of the State. He manages to ring out a shout for freedom just before his life is taken from him with force. This heroic depiction of William Wallace, the enemy of the English state, is etched into our memories as a man who fought to protect his people, his land, and their dignity in the face of an encroaching king.
But Nat Turner was tortured, hanged, and quartered. His shout for freedom came by the same means as that of Wallace but the difference is that Wallace, a marauder, and criminal, an enemy of the state, an insurrectionist murderer was martyred whereas Turner was captured and treated like a dog.
But to the American mind, he was equal to a dog. A dog that turned on its owner and with the help of other dogs managed to kill several dog owners. He was hunted down, captured, humiliated, enchained, violently wrestled from doghood down to vermin-hood, where, as less than human, less than property, less than a dog, he was ripped to pieces and those pieces burned and what was leftover discarded in some undiscoverable place.
The difference between Wallace, George Washington, and Turner is that the first two were white men whose criminal acts have gone down in history as heroism in the face of tyranny.
Turner, having lost his physical battle and the ensuing cultural bone as well, was a devil in the eyes of every white person in America, except, say, William Lloyd Garrison:
“Washington, who with our fathers purchased our freedom by blood and violence, are lauded as patterns of patriotism and Christianity. Nat Turner, and his associates, who endeavored to work out their own salvation from an oppression incomparably more grievous and unjust than our fathers endured, were treated as rebels, and murderous assassins, and were ruthlessly hung, or shot like wolves, and their memory is corrupt.” (February 13, 1836)
Anywho, I’m angry when reading about Nat’s failed revolt. I’m angrier yet at the circumstances that existed that forced Nat to revolt in the first place.
Note: This post is the transcription of a sermon I delivered to a Brazilian congregation circa May 2014 (I was 23 years old then, a child, really). It is more of an essay or, rather, a pensées on the life and legacy of Job, the Old Testament character who endured some of the more painful losses in all of biblical literature. My focus in this sermonette was on the importance of preaching to the self as Job did in his moments of utter hopelessness. Too often we can speak these words of truth to others whilst not believing a lick of it ourselves. That is the focus of this message.
The Ever Preaching Heart
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I sha