Repost: This post was originally posted on Facebook on January 30, 2017.
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34
Christians, let us be honest about refugees. And by Christians, I don’t mean people who just use the Bible when it suits their political agendas. I mean the people who have devoted their lives to the historical Jesus Christ.
Jesus would have taken in the refugees. Jesus would have received them with open arms, independent of their race, nationality, gender, or social status. Absolutely.
Jesus would have given His life for them. In fact, He has. When Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this: to lay his life down for his friends.”
Further yet, “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus, without a hint a doubt or hesitance called and still calls us to lay down our lives for our friends, to love our neighbors no matter who they may be or what they believe, and also to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us in the good faith that His love will triumph over their hate.
So in reality, from a Godly and biblical perspective, if you hold the Bible as the very words of God, we ought to love and protect all men and women from oppressors when the chance is given. Hospitality should be our highest esteem and merit so that the world may look to Christians everywhere and say, “Even though we disagree in every fundamental thing, that Christian has treated me like royalty and family.”
Christ died on the cross for us and that revelation ought to transform us.
And that truth cost Him His life. Jesus, though loving was no spineless or chest-less man. He bench-pressed time and existence into being and set a new eternal bench-press record for all the cosmos.
He would state, with love that others were wrong within their erroneous presumptions. While doing such, He showed them love and fed them not just physical for for their much need nourishment but also spiritual food, revitalizing their souls.
So if it comes to pass that refugees fleeing war-torn nations beg to reside next to you, work with you, attend the same events as you, love them. Befriend and pray for them. Discuss life, love, conflict, sadness, reality and listen to what they may say in return. Be ready also, at all times to give a response as to what you believe and how it can and will remedy the world of its fundamental crisis of the heart.
Jesus would have us, through the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the good news of His redemptive work through the cross and His resurrection. If we will not leave our fox holes to cross into enemy lines where imminent danger is everywhere, He will send the enemy, whether in the physical or ideological stance, into our communities, events, schools, etc. He will use every method and avenue available so that perhaps one of the millions may be saved.
So in regards to the refugees, let them come in. If our faith is weak, it will perish. But if our faith in Him is strong, as it ought to be, we will not only lead the world in the forms of love and hospitality towards those in need, but we will also lead countless neighbors from around the world to a relationship with Christ Jesus, their everlasting Creator.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Words of desperation uttered in a moment of resolute despair and distress, spoken from the deepest well of depression, disrepair, and dissolution toward whoever could hear them.
Job’s wife is left unnamed by scripture, therefore, I will give her a name: Samira.
Several women are named throughout the Bible. Some are listed as triumphant generals, warriors, prophetesses, and rulers. On the other side of the coin, many are mentioned as social failures, religious tyrants, murderers, and more.
But for some reason, we are not given the name of this woman who we know only as Job’s wife.
We must consider how we read and view scripture and the people mentioned in it. Their names, their placement in history, their ecological circumstances, whether war ravaged their neighboring towns, whether famine, pestilence, and drought sifted life in their communities or not. We must inquire, if possible, about their diets, their muscle mass, and body fat percentage, or if they were emaciated pescatarians who drank beer and wine daily.
When tackling the book of Job, or rather, the story of Job’s redemption, we focus primarily on Job, if not singularly, on Job. We read of the heavenly wager for Job’s religious integrity. We read of the successive disasters that fall upon Job’s family, his industry, and eventually upon his health.
Our focus is directed toward Job’s calamities which arrive all on the same day or around the same time, without a pause in between each. Job, is left nearly speechless. Four calamitous scenes take place in chapter one which, if we rush through them, we miss the gravity of loss and ensuing panic that must have taken Job and his contemporaries by storm.
“One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
“While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
“While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
We dare not dismiss the resounding wave of grief experienced at the news of the first scene.
Imagine the presence of marauders in a neighboring town. You hear of the violent crusades, of men razing buildings to the ground, killing men, and kidnapping women and children. Collecting whatever booty and spoil they manage to find. Leaving behind nothing but burnt huts and tents, blood-drained corpses, and empty fields. Now, these same raiders visit your family member. This isn’t just news disaster in a far-off country, some misfortunate that overtook an unnamed people or a faceless family. No. They’re attacking a family member’s home. They raid the place, taking with them oxen and donkeys, which, to today’s estimates, would be equivalent to semi-trucks and pickup trucks. Crucial elements of our industrialized society, without which, we’d be catapulted back to the stone age within months.
Their family members’ workers, their faithful employees, and servants, people whom they loved and came to trust, we all murdered but one.
And while news of this calamity burns through Job and Samira’s ears, another servant rushes in testifying to the fact that lightning (fire from heaven) rained down on their livestock and servants, killing both. Their apparel and textile industry burnt to a crisp in the middle of the field. The smell of burnt flesh, that of men and beasts, rises from the distance attracting mountain lions and other savage beasts of the field to their next meal.
Job and Samira’s family business, their collective agreement between local systems of economics has just been shot in the foot. Oxen, donkeys, sheep, and servants, have all perished in a matter of moments at the hands of marauders and now of nature.
As they attempt to take in the gravity of this situation, the loss of resources, the loss of income, of winter provisions, and the loss of life, another lucky or unlucky bearer of bad news arrives at their door to deliver more calamity upon their calamity.
The Chaldeans, another ethnic group has encroached upon Job and Samira’s land and stolen their camels, their means of transportation, and killed every servant managing them, save one, the messenger.
Job and Samira are down oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and servants.
This cannot possibly happen to a man whose entire existence is devoted to moral aptitude before God and men. Whose character and conduct is so widely known that once news of his calamity spreads through the region, friends, from distant lands travel through war-torn cities and towns to sit at his side to help him grieve.
Yet, their nightmare is far from over because as these three survivors of war, these refugees, possibly tired, dusty, injured and bleeding, or possibly maimed and carried to Job and Samira’s footsteps with the help of another servant, arrives to deliver the death knell to this financially secure and religiously minded family.
“While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, ‘your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
Words cannot explain just how much pain Job and Samira must have felt at this moment.
Losing oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels is financially ruinous. It may take years to recover from such a disaster. Family members may endure times of famine due to a lack of supplies and goods.
Losing servants is almost like losing family members. People you commune with every day, assisting with oxen; pushing donkeys; fleecing sheep; and traversing long stretches of desert lands together while seated on camelbacks. These are relationships and friendships developed with those we work with. Connections that become inseparable over time. The hurt of losing these friends and workers must have cut through them like when we lose our best friends to car accidents or drug overdose.
The disaster was ripe and they had bitten from its fruit.
But nothing compares to the loss of family members. Nothing compares to the loss of your children!
We can imagine Job taking this in, Samira by his side, while both of them fell to their knees, perhaps, seeking to better understand, better comprehend, rationalize, or give existential meaning to why this would happen to them, of all families in the region.
Had Job not informed his children of the high wind speeds, the tornadoes, the chinook winds, and thunderstorms? Had he not informed his children of the questionability of the establishment they would dine within? Had he not mentioned that they ought to celebrate, dine, and party, elsewhere? Did Job know that wind speeds, at such speeds, could topple edifices made of stone, nonetheless those made of wood and cloth, held down by rope?
Whether the structure was sound and nature was not; whether nature was sound but the structure was compromised it mattered not in the end.
What happened to Job and Samira was a cluster bomb of pain, loss, and death. Each explosive violently falls over their perfectly stable life, incinerating everything before their eyes.
Parents aren’t meant to bury their children, you know. Yet, here, this lovely and God-fearing couple would have to bear the brunt of locating, carrying, and burying the carcasses of servants, friends, and children.
They might have done all these things on their own; their servants fearing for their lives might have fled, thinking that the couple was cursed. Who would want to spend another minute beside a man and a woman whose investments went up in flames within minutes, whose servants were murdered, and whose children suffered calamity at the hands of nature, all, on the same day?
Here, at this moment, we hear Job speak for the first time in this story.
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’”
To rip one’s robes, shave one’s head, and mingle with dirt was culturally accepted as a sign of utter repentance and humility before God and man. Like a book coming undone at the spine, glue and paper detaching from one another, was Job at this moment before anyone left around to watch his demise.
We can imagine Samira, who was moments ago standing next to her husband, watching and wailing. This act of humiliation she never thought she would see her husband perform is now a sight she wishes she could forget.
The man she married was righteous. She knew that he offered sacrifices for himself and their family, just in case they had sinned. He went out of his way to place himself as a priest and mediator between his family and God. Their wealth had given them financial protection and peace; their leadership had provided them with expansion and diplomatic leverage; their marriage had granted them love, security, companionship, and children.
They had everything to be envied by others yet here, before her eyes, she saw not a man but what was left of a man when life was kicked from under him. She saw tears, snot, weakness, uncertainty, poverty, depression, and survivor’s guilt.
She saw Vilomah, which is what we call a parent who has lost a child or their children. The word is new to our vocabulary and not entirely known nor used very often because we rather not describe a person who has lost a child. We call parentless children, orphans. Husbands or wives who have lost their spouse, widowers, or widows. But what then do we call parents who have lost their offspring?
She saw it and perhaps did not recognize the man she loved so dearly because this new person was sapped of everything she had once known and loved.
What was there for him to repent from? What sin could he have committed that would cost them their livelihood and their children? What unholy alliance had he made with the devil that cost them this much? What could he have done to anger God to this extent?
Perhaps she had sinned, too. Maybe it was her fault because she had not fulfilled a vow, perhaps not honored a rite, not followed a ritual, dismissed a tradition, abandoned a commitment between her and God. Perhaps. But she knew not. She did not recognize her husband and in this moment of complete existential implosion, she may not have recognized herself either.
Was there hatred present in her heart? Was she experiencing that which Holocaust survivors speak of? The moment where, in the presence of gas chambers, mass graves, and of industrial furnaces where bodies are turned to ash; in the presence of heinous evil, an unspeakable crime against humanity and reason that goes unpunished, unmentioned, and unchallenged, the person then gives up on the possibility, on the believability of God.
Had she given up on Divine Providence since Divinity had purportedly taken everything from her except this man who now sits in the dirt, destitute and outcast? And if Divinity did not sift her treasures, namely, her children, then surely God did nothing to protect them from their disastrous end.
Was she embittered? Embittered people become so because of perceived injustices they have endured and have yet to find a resolution for. No finish line in sight for their redemption. No one to petition restitution for their cause. No friends. No understanding shoulder to cry on.
The heart grows cold. Worse. It boils and spills over, day after day, draining the heart of its substance and killing its owner, one bitter beat at a time.
Where was her heart?
We know not the answer to these questions but we know what her first and final words were in this sad story.
The serpent of old returns to Job’s life after he, the devil, fails to convince Job to abandon his faith and curse God. This time, however, God allows the serpent to take even more from Job, save his life and that of his wife. And take the devil does. It’s the only thing he’s good at. Giving you fruit in one hand whilst removing the ground from under you so that you fall into depravity, sunken, and hopeless were it not for the grace of God to deliver you from his schemes.
And so, we get the rest of Job’s calamitous story:
“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!’
He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job is now left disfigured by a skin disease. His health is gone, his upstanding stature reduced to that of a street wanderer, a vagabond with skin fissures and sores, whose only consolation is scraps of clay which he uses to scrape at his lesions. He sat, no one knows how long or how often, in a pile of ash, yet another cultural sign of repentance for wrongdoing, although the book of Job does not give us, the readers, any reason or sin Job must have committed to deserve such a fate. Yet, there he sat, bubbling at the mouth, praying, perhaps, tirelessly weeping without tears, suffering the cuts of grief time and again at the memory of laughter, jokes, running children, and a noisome home.
Hope, at times, is a man’s worst enemy.
“Are you still maintaining your integrity?”
When clouded by depression and grief, the last thing we want to see is joy and gladness in others. When angered, what angers us further is the sound of laughter. When burdened by worry and stress, what complicates our circumstances further is the sight of people enjoying peaceful and worry-free lives. Debt-free lives.
It would be foolish of us to look upon Job and think of him enjoying anything or celebrating anything.
But Samira might’ve seen something in Job she might have lost or was in the throes of losing in herself.
Her inner spiritual integrity and love for God might have been waning.
And how can we judge her sentiment? She had been faithful in all aspects until calamity of apocalyptic proportions reached her door. She had prayed, sacrificed, humbled herself, worshipped, followed rituals and traditions, burned her offerings, and tithed unto God. Yet in all of this, she still lost everything.
In a moment like this, we might assume she connected her faith to her calamity or vice versa. It is not rare of us to do such a thing as well. If that which we value most ends of being connected to that which brings us most grief, we might end up finding that item loathsome. Reprehensible!
We might love visiting a particular ice cream parlor on a particular street with our loved ones but should we suffer some traumatic harm at this location that ends up taking the lives of our loved ones, that location and its previous meaning will cease to exist as a place of good memories. It will become a place we avoid at all costs for fear of reliving our greatest sadness again.
I cannot assume she found God loathsome but I may presume that the desire to seek Him became muddled in her pain therefore she thought of nothing more than to stop seeking God for fear of reliving her trauma. Maintaining spiritual integrity in a faith system that wrought calamity and grief, seems Nietzschian, at best.
What was the point?
I see her question and ensuing suggestion less as accusatory and more as a desperate plea for meaning in all of her pain.
Because if we can derive meaning from our pain it makes the process of dealing with pain more bearable, nobler, and worthy. But enduring pain with no end in sight nor ultimate goal is hell on earth.
If being on God’s side got them into this situation, perhaps, she thought, walking away from Him would help them recoup all that was lost and also break the unseen curse hanging over their heads.
Samira sought answers for their calamitous situation in a man whereas Job sought meaning and purpose in God.
Samira wanted back the blessings God had initially given them whereas Job had graduated from a benefits-focused relationship between him and God and found refuge in the character of God more than in the things God could give.
“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
The New International Translation of this verse inputs an exclamation mark at the end of her suggestion, perhaps with the idea that Samira might have been spiteful or angered. But perhaps she was exasperated and drained. Completely drained of her willpower and drive; her drive to live.
And in this moment of existential lapse, she beckoned Job to join her in her desperation to walk away from a God she believed would take everything from them. And after committing Deicide, they could join hands and walk into the afterlife together to see their children once again.
We are so quick to judge Samira, stating that her faith was in the wrong place or perhaps it was not as strong and mature as that of Job’s faith.
But truth dictates that most of us would have committed Deicide at the first mention of oxen and donkeys gone missing and workers being lynched.
Not many of us have a character as noble as that of Samira.
Samira was herself a valiant righteous woman who Job fell in love with. He married a friend and a person with whom he could worship God, raise a family, and lead a business. She was a Proverbs 31 woman and beyond that because scholars believe the book of Job, this narrative, precedes the writings of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
And so, Samira reaching a breaking point might not have been as an egregious act as that of Judas Iscariot or likened to Korah’s rebellion against Moses in the desert.
Samira was at this moment rending her heart to Job, God, and us, displaying a vulnerability easily found within many of King David’s pain-riddled psalms.
God is not afraid nor is He shocked at the sight and sound of the midnight of the soul.
He not only sees it, but He also welcomes it. He also allows such inquiries to reach His throne daily. He isn’t shy of difficult questions and inquiries. He isn’t afraid of insults launched hailed at Him in moments of fear and anger. He isn’t surprised by anything or anyone.
I value this book so much because Job and Samira were blessed, abundantly so at the end of this story. A testament, less so of Job’s moral and spiritual aptitude and more so about God’s redemptive and restorative disposition.
“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.”
This book, this tale of loss and reward, of wagers and bets, of disease and death, of conversations about behemoths and whirlwinds, of resurrection, of broken and restored friendships and relationships, of one man and his God, can be lost in the hum buzz of cultural blindness.
We see God. We shun the devil. We sympathize with Job. We scold his wife. We chide his friends.
But let us not forget that Samira, the woman whose select few words were added to this story to be told time and again for thousands of years to come after its happening, was equally blessed by God even though initially, it seemed as if she would have been cursed and damned for eternity.
She may have advised Job to abandon his integral character, but Job did not. It would be daring of us to suggest that she had lost her integrity through it all.
Job did not curse God. We know he did die but long after this incident. So it is equally wrong of us to suspect that Samira had cursed God and died because they went on to have many more children together later in life.
I am sure the bible would have referenced her demise as it has mentioned Jezebel’s fall and the ensuing sustenance her corpse provided to the beasts of the field.
The bible is seldom shy of describing someone’s demise. Especially when that someone challenges God, curses Him, stands against Him and His people, only to face a catastrophic end.
But there is no mention of Samira suffering some supposedly deserved retribution at the hands of an angry God. No hint that she would have been the target of divine anathema. Not even a mention that God allowed the devil to touch her life after her problematic admonition.
I believe that Job, a man of integrity, stood by his wife, Samira, a woman of equal integrity, although human and subject to failure, as we all are, until the very end.
And I believe that God blessed them both, equally.
With more oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels.
More servants and workers and friends.
And yes, God restituted to them children, posterity, which, at that time, as it is today, worth more than all the world’s treasures.
Samira was me. Samira was you.
In a moment of extreme deprivation of joy and overwhelming grief she did what any of us would have done; she was transparent.
Thankfully, Samira did not curse God and die.
Samira was blessed by a God she came to better understand and love through pain and suffering. A God who wasn’t God based on the number of blessings He dispersed over curses.
A God who supersedes gifts and blessings.
A God who walks amongst us. Feels what we feel. A God raises the dead.
A God who saw Samira as she was and loved her still.
Samira blessed God.
Follow in Samira’s steps, as you also follow in those of Job.
In the midnight hour of your soul, do not be afraid to approach God with your heart and your hurt laid bare before His feet.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
That’s what my coworker said. “We should stop talking about it.”
The subject of his disdain? The mistreatment of colored people in the Americas.
How we got talking about this topic in the first place is the fact that this particular coworker and I always meet up to discuss history, current events, social shifts, and whatnot. And when we get talking about history, I generally like to mention the formation of the Americas, its peoples, its languages, and norms, however odd. He likes to talk about an ancient ‘sea people’ who destroyed an Egyptian empire and ancient Norman peoples who dominated most of western Europe.
This coworker of mine is categorized in my headspace as a part-conspiracy theorist, part-erudite extraordinaire. A temperament that bounces between hyper-awareness and hyper-vigilance when asked to answer something about himself.
He reigns from a remote town in the middle of nowhere British Columbia and whenever we get to talking about First Nations peoples he makes an ignominious comment, “Well, let’s not forget. Where I’m from, we weren’t very nice to them. You know. To those people.”
I’m never sure what it is I’m to do with that bit of information. If it is an incomplete confession or virtue by distance, meaning, he is glad that he is far from the place that treated First Nations people poorly.
I don’t recall him ever using the word ‘racists’ or ‘bigots’ but he always refers to his native town as people who ‘weren’t very nice to them.’
Either way, this coworker of mine prides himself in being able to trace his family line back four hundred years. There was never more information passed on other than the fact that he can trace his family back that far. Whether they were slave owners, slave traders, abolitionists, or refugees seeking refuge from persecution in Europe, I may never know. But that he prides himself in the longevity of his family name and how far he can trace it all back to, that goes without saying.
But he is greatly offended when we’re on the topic of First Nations peoples because he just doesn’t know what to call them.
“Are they First Nations people? Aboriginal? Native Americans or Native Canadians? Native Indians? What do they want me to call them!”
In my mind, I answer his question with, “Just call them by their name.” Or, “Just ask them.”
But I’m very suspicious of people who get angry about what other people decide to call themselves. If one group prefers First Nations peoples, then we’ll call them that. If another prefers Cree, Metis, or Muscogee, then so be it. My ignorance of people should not lead to my being angry at not knowing what to call them. This should lead my curious mind to the fount of knowledge, Google, to better educate myself on who is what and where and why.
But I rest my case.
Willful Amnesiacs by Benefit
The pulp of today’s article surrounds a small but resilient group of people who I will call willful amnesiacs by benefit.
WABs, as I shall call them, are individuals who benefit from dismissing or outright condemning conversations about how colonial and later imperial peoples mistreated First Nations peoples and Black people. And this all along the Americas. I am not limiting my conversation of this issue to North America alone. We all know, well, everyone other than WABs, that colonial rule ravaged the peoples of what we know as Canada down to what we now call Argentina.
WABs like to dismiss history for various reasons. Either it didn’t happen the way we’re discussing it, perhaps we don’t have all the information, it happened a long time ago, the victims and perpetrators are long dead, or no one is innocent of wrongdoing in history so we shouldn’t look to what our ancestors did in the past as wrong.
These denouncements seem innocuous at first but they’re dated tactics WABs use to avoid conversing about the painful history that gives them the social capital they now wield with prejudice, willfully avoiding all conversations that make them uncomfortable.
Having the power to control what is talked about and when and how much is a form of capital not everyone can afford.
So, first, I want to tackle each assertion WABs make to avoid discussing history.
It didn’t happen the way you think it did.
I seldom entertain this line of thinking because this person falls under the category of Holocaust Denier. No matter how much evidence is produced, no matter how many anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and other professionals are consulted regarding this topic, the person will not budge.
You can offer them a corpse with the coroner’s report, case, and conclusions and the person would still say that the documents in front of them have been forged.
These types are unwilling to accept that their ancestors, immediate or distant, were responsible for any kind of wrongdoing.
The consequence they’re afraid of most is being associated with someone or some group that committed mass murder, genocide, or anything like it. Because, to them, to admit that their family or countrymen were part of some kind of criminal activity, tarnishes their view of their heroes. It is one thing to love your great-grandfather. It’s another to find out he was a high-ranking member of the Nazi party and an even higher ranking member of the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo.
All those previous conversations you sat through where grandpa chided and degraded immigrants, blacks, and Jews all make sense now, don’t they?
Imagine spending hundreds of dollars on gene studies acquainting yourself with your family history and attaining their beautiful coat of arms only to find out that three hundred years ago your family partook in the genocide of several tribes in the same area you now live in with your family. The land you believed simply passed down from one generation to the next cost the lives of innocent and nonbelligerent First Nations peoples.
This is too costly a reality to accept if all you love is your family, your land, and your nation. If your identity is solely based on these things then anything that is revealed about it in a different or negative light will affect your understanding of the pride you hold so dear and near to your heart.
When someone claims that the razing of villages and their villagers along with them did not happen, it is because this person is too unwilling to confront the demons of their past, some who they called pa, grand-dad, or some reputable family member whose pictures hang on their walls or letters sit in an air-sealed pack in their office desk.
Their only salvation is removing their identity from that past and placing it on something or someone transcendent, which then gives them the courage to tackle history without unraveling their current self.
We don’t have all the information.
Limited Informationists want to convince people that somehow what we know about what colonialists did is not all that happened. Namely, that the taking of lands, the contracts signed, the letters penned, the constitution documents ratified, armies designated, slaves numbered, ships dispatched, hay bales and anchors of brandy measured and sold, whigs purchased, criminals sentenced, admirals honored, buildings erected, fields purchased and then re-purchased, state lines lined, and a plethora of other things on top of these, were not enough to help us formulate an idea of what happened back then.
“I will stand hand in mouth claiming, through frothy spit and drool, that the information we have was derived from Marxist revolutionaries who hate America or North America, for that fact, and want nothing more than to see the collapse of the white race…. of capitalism so that communism or strong socialism takes its place.”
Some people do not want the truth, they want comfort.
The only solution for individuals stuck in this time loop of intellectual cowardice is to ask them how much information would be enough and then ask them if their life story has the same level of information required to believe their own story.
If a person’s arguments cannot be applied to their own life, say, if they do not live by the same line of reasoning, then they’re unwilling to confront the truth.
It happened a long time ago so what gives?
I find that people who distance themselves from the atrocities of the past are the same ones who hound family members and friends for the money they’re owed from months, if not, years ago. Embittered and purple with anger about not having received back the dollars they lent out, well aware that time does not solve all things. Time does not heal all wounds. Something must be done to rectify this loss of money and wasting of time. Broken trust.
The WAB disciple will go the distance to claim that what happened so many years ago, dozens, they will say, hundreds, they offer, of years ago are matters no longer worth considering.
They dismiss the whippings because those whips have since disintegrated. They’ll disregard the ink on paper that sold people into lifelong bondage because both the ink and the paper have since disappeared, even though the contrary is true; check the archives and you’ll find that I am right. They will dismiss the conditions within the ships, the tight quarters, the stench of feces, urine, disease, and death. They will go as far as to dismiss even the scent of fear, hopelessness, and misery.
They claim those things are difficult to confront because they happened far too long ago.
What of those things? Why consider them when we cannot do anything about them?
Ah. We cannot?
Why then do we solve cold cases as if they were at one time warm, lukewarm, perhaps? We presume we’ll be able to clear the name or names of innocent men incarcerated by mistake, determine where a body went missing and that we might lay it to rest, and finally, hopefully, prayerfully and lawfully, time allowing, apprehend the perpetrator of the murder, of the homicide, the patricide, the matricide, the femicide, infanticide, the killer, the serial-sequence killer, the murderer whose hands and conscience is topped with blood and guilt, is finally tried and convicted for the crime.
It is our duty, even if a body is never found, and even if the perpetrator is long gone, rotting in some known or unknown location, to bring about, if not for the victims then for our benefit, the conclusion of the case.
Is it not our responsibility? Should we give up on the dead because time, this convoluted concept has moved its invisible hand over the face of the earth?
What is the acceptable number? When should we give up on homicide cases? When does a trail grow cold? Detectives will say forty-eight hours. They even have a show about this window of opportunity to apprehend offenders before their leads, and their case with them vanishes.
Is three weeks the appropriate time to give up and shut the doors of hope for justice? How about five years? Should we stop looking for a killer then? Say, twenty-five years? The killer might as well be dead. If alive, they might be in prison, serving time for another crime. Perhaps they’ve had a change of heart and took up a new identity and remarried, moved to Oregon, and now manage bike shops or some other inane business to avoid suspicion.
What then is the appropriate length of time that must pass for us to go from caring to not caring anymore. And when we cross over the threshold of focus and pursuit, at which point do we have a change of heart? At midnight? How about 2 P.M. the next day over a cup of tea. Do we spend the night before weeping for our long lost dead, wallowing in misery, tears, snot, and blubber as we pounce from wall to floor to bed, praying for a miracle only to lift ourselves up from the scene, fix our trousers and straighten our wrinkled shirts to then go on about our day, suddenly changed by the times and also by the social necessity of being fine in light of the opposite?
What of closure? What of justice? What of righting wrongs no matter the cost?
Nonsense. Time has passed and we ought to let bygones be bygones. Who cares for the shrieks of pain heard in the black of night as women and children suffered the ravaging of their bodies at the hands of so-called Christians.
Who cares? Not time. It only passes and everything left behind loses its value.
WABs will celebrate the glories of their ancestors a thousand years, if but to avoid the discomfort of the horrors they committed, even for a few minutes.
Every victim and perpetrator is dead so why bother?
This is an excuse, not an argument, really, because to them the dead have no value, therefore, deserve no argument, so that what is produced is a mere desire to produce fluff to avoid the subject altogether.
Again, this excuse is used by the one whose heart has grown callous in the sight of evil. In our case, it is not the sight of evil that thrusts the hearts of men and women from caring to absolutely disrepair and cold, it is merely the thought of it.
You see, when faced with evil, the evil in front of us, we are paralyzed if we’re not prepared nor trained for such an occasion that we have no choice but to look upon that which happens before our eyes.
It is difficult to turn one’s gaze away from the man whose body swings from the noose, from the head that rolls like an unripe pumpkin as it creates distance between itself and the guillotine, where its owner’s body rests. It is nearly impossible to avert one’s gaze from men jumping from bridges or men jumping from towers that stand ablaze after planes fly like missiles through the skyscraper.
It is difficult to look away from evil when evil is so attractive and repulsive. But when it happens before you, when the violence is laid bare before the innocent eyes of a child, neither they, in horror, turn away.
But the mention of it, the mere discussion of decapitated women, babes burned at the stake, men hung by their privates from a bridge, and of stock markets plummeting and with them, family men from building windows, cause too great distress even for the most traveled soul.
The revisiting of evils, namely, for the purpose of this article, and for what it seems, the purpose of my life, is to bring back to memory that just because the dead are long gone it does not mean their voices have stopped crying out to God from the ground.
Their blood speaks from the African plains, from the Guinea coast, from the depths of the Atlantic, and the shores of the Carolinas.
Their blood speaks from Brazil up to Barbados and Hispanola and then North America.
It is not fear nor pleasure that compels one to look at evil and from then on discover ways to combat it. It is disbelief, unquenched doubt, and absolute apostasy from reason to believe that we treat one another with whips, chains, spear, noose, and bullets. We cannot, within our sane minds look upon such horror and take it as is. That is why we are visited time and again at night by visions and ghosts of glass-eyed faces, speaking to us words that we are forbidden from hearing.
Look and see what has been done to me.
But the distance we are afforded at the mention of the same horrors allows us a luxury of dismissal.
We shall not talk about that. We will not discuss these things. I demand you shut your mouth!
We, too, are in disbelief but we haven’t seen the horror, only heard of it, therefore, we want to believe that we are better, more civilized, more capable of love and duty and honor, because, just look at how far we’ve come.
There is no possible way we could have ever developed into such an advanced society had we come from brutes, rapists, and murderers could we?
As the living, we must, at all costs, redeem the memory of these poor souls who perished, and at the same time, in the same breath, without hesitation, we must condemn every act of evil committed by the perpetrators involved.
Evil is evil, even when evil becomes the norm. They were not merely men of their times. They were evil men in desperate times.
Everyone did something wrong so why bother?
This position is the most disastrous one to take and it is the one my coworker took. It is this position, this mindset, this particular reasoning that allows, under the right conditions and circumstances, to lead ordinary men to commit unspeakable and unimaginable horrors.
Men who postulate that evil is something we have all done, as if the evil that was dashed out upon unsuspecting and undeserving peoples was just a consequence of the time then and should it happen again, then it will be simply a consequence of the time again.
Evil then, evil now, what gives?
If everyone was involved in evil, then, why challenge anyone? If everyone raped, why condemn the evil act? If everyone pillaged, why not take a few jewels for yourself? If everyone stole land, why not go out and take land now? An acre or two would do.
If everyone does it, if everyone is guilty, or was, then no one is guilty. Right?
This shifts the conversations from battling evil with good to battling greater evil with a lesser evil or not battling evil at all.
The men and women who shy away from condemning evil wherever it is found are the ones most dangerous to the sustainability of peace. The reason why is that their ambivalence and hesitance are the very fuel that lights the fire of genocide. What I mean is that when soldiers march the streets, dragging innocent people by horse or vehicle behind them, it is the silent and complicit bystanders who are just as responsible for the crime and whose cowardice allows evil to flourish.
When neighbors stand idly by, as a woman is battered by her husband or boyfriend, they are equally complicit in the beating. When she screams from the top of her lungs for help, begging for her life, and is then silenced by a kitchen knife to the stomach or a bullet wound to the chest, it is the neighbors who held the blade in hand and fired the shot.
Their willful silence, their hesitance, their cowardice or callousness is what leads people to believe that the evils they’re committing are an accepted behavior that will go unchallenged because no one will challenge them publicly.
Too often we have come to believe, and this because evil victors have been writing our stories, is that we must, under all circumstances, always pick the lesser of two evils as if there were no other option.
No other choice at all, other than the only two we are made to think we have.
Be wary of men who push the idea that there are two evils and you must pick the one most convenient for your survival.
They are well versed on the types of evils and which ones are best for you but speak very little, if at all, of the goods still out there in the world that are left undiscovered and unsought.
Everyone did NOT do evil or wrong. And wrongs committed are not acts deserving of genocide.
So we must look back and weep.
The people most hostile to the past are the ones most likely to partake in the same evils should circumstances allow… again.
When I look into the eyes of people who avert their gaze when dismissing the horrors of yesteryear… the horrors of yesterday… I know they are the same ones who will avert their gaze were it to be me being carted away by some nefarious agent, to my public execution.
But I know that at least while I am up there, several feet above the ground, hanging from the noose, eyes red and bulbous, I will see them looking at me, looking past me, to my ghost, which haunts to their last breath…
Look and see what has been done to me. Look and see.
Will you believe now? Will you believe now?
Will you be silent?
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Regarding my views on the sanctity of life, one thing remains and one has changed.
The first is that I continue to believe that when we determine when life begins or when life has value, we must then struggle with who determines which and when.
In this scenario, the person or society in power to make such a decision must then struggle with why they have come to such a conclusion and who they deem fit to live or not live.
I find this reprehensible. If humanity determines its worth and value then these ideals are subjective. Our value to society today is worth nothing tomorrow depending on who’s in power.
Following this train of thought, namely, that we cannot add nor remove the value of life, I must say that what has changed in me is this: if life is truly inherently valuable, that means I can no longer support capital punishment.
I cannot support the death penalty, the noose, the firing squad, the gas chamber, or lethal injections well knowing that every life is intrinsically valuable.
This was an argument I previously supported and later discovered that it stood on a slippery slope of morals and ethics, bending more so on me determining when someone’s life mattered or not. I used to think that when someone took a life they then forfeited their life and must then suffer the same consequence. This idea, to me, forfeited my conviction of intrinsic value.
Because then ‘I’ become the ultimate determinant of whose life is valuable and when it ceases to be valuable.
In this case, my idea is contradictory and it cannot stand on its own two broken legs.
To Live Is The Answer
In conclusion, I find that abortion is the holocaust of my generation, perhaps the unseen holocaust of the 20th and 21st centuries. A blight in human history the next generation or two will possibly study and scratch their heads over for centuries to come. Following this thought, I have now come to accept that capital punishment is no longer a necessary nor logical form of punishment. It is unnecessary considering how we have better means of detaining criminals and deterring violent offenders from entering society. What I mean is that if the system in place does keep the criminal in question incarcerated.
If you agree, disagree, or would like to add to this process of thought of mine, feel free to interact with me below.
Discussion helps us grow. Debate helps us think. Uncivility tears us apart. Let us interact.
These thoughts were originally posted to Facebook on December 02, 2019. Minor edits were made for clarity.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
When people begin to ignore human dignity, it will not be long before they begin to ignore human rights. – G. K. Chesterton
Intrinsic value differs from extrinsic value in the sense that your intrinsic value is present and unsullied, independent of whether you continue to have societal worth or not. What many of us tend to exhibit and promote, and this outside of our conscience sphere of daily operations is a mode of living and a value system based on merits alone. If someone performs a service then that service and that person as a consequence of that service is worth something.
Let’s elaborate. And by ‘us’ I mean you, dear reader because I’m not writing and communicating with myself here. This is a mutual avenue of communal growth. Therefore, understand that we must work together to better understand the harmful effects of a society that functions within a paradigm of extrinsic values while believing that people have intrinsic value and losing their minds when people begin to live out a lifestyle that devalues life altogether.
While in conversation with a co-worker about this conundrum, she mentioned a study, which, I couldn’t find, where researchers found that we determine someone’s financial potential or their intellectual prowess based solely on a short conversation. Whether our perception of the person is true or not is crucial because we tend to believe our preconceived notions about someone without truly knowing them and attributing to them certain stereotypes, usually harmful ones, that aren’t true at all.
Normally, when we meet someone at a venue, a social networking event, or at a dance hall, you name it, we interact with them to get to know them. We tend to force ourselves to ask such dishonest and uninteresting questions because we want to one, connect with that person; two, see if they’re relatable; and three, see if they add value to our social circle.
We ask things like, what do you do for a living? Where do you work? Where did you go to school? What did you study while there? Are you married? How many kids do you have? And questions like these or similar ones help us determine if the person we’re talking to is worth something or if their value matches or supersedes our own. If their answers are satisfactory enough we then add them to an invisible group of people we would like to add or have the potential of adding to our friend’s list.
Example A – Satisfactory Sample Answers To The Questions Asked Above:
“I’m a psychology magazine editor and I spend my time selecting which mental health-related articles and interviews my company will publish to our network of two million magazine subscribers. I earned my clinical psychology degree from Harvard. I’ve been married for twelve years now, have three kids; two boys and one girl, and we own a house in town by the river and a beach house in Miami, Florida/cabin in Boulder, Colorado, which we visit thrice a year.”
You will assume this individual earns well over six figures a year, is highly educated, has a stable income, and has an enviable autonomous lifestyle. You also assume their intellect is equal or superior to yours therefore you’re further enamored by or made jealous of their academic success. Your posture toward them is one of reverence, honor, respect, or simply amicable. You’re more open to discussing other things with this person because they, according to our extrinsic value-centric society, are worth something or are deemed a valuable individual worth adding to our social circle.
Now, consider you meet the same individual at the same function, everyone is dressed business-casual and you bee-line to the cash bar for another therapeutic beverage or, if you’re at church, you bee-line to the coffee station (megachurch scenario) and once there you meet this person. The person is dressed in casual style, their hair is well kept but you can tell it has been a few weeks since the person last got a trim, or, if the person is a woman, you can tell her hair is greasy. (I’m speaking from ignorance here. I’m not sure what greasy or non-greasy hair looks or feels like and if it’s even a bad thing so please, pardon my ignorance). And you introduce yourself to avoid the awkward silence that exists between adults when they notice each other but intentionally avoid one another without cause.
The same questions are asked and these are the responses you get back from this new face in town.
Example B – Socially Unsatisfactory Sample Answers:
“I’m currently between jobs but I’ve been looking for the next best thing. It’s a tough job market at the moment but I’m giving up. I dropped out of college halfway through due to financial instability and emotional stress. I didn’t get far enough to determine what it was I wanted to be. I’m still not sure. I’m separated from my spouse, with no intention of restitution there. And no kids. I decided early in life I didn’t want any. I’m between places as well. Living on a friend’s couch and hoping to get a better paying job soon to then get my own apartment.”
Many of us would sympathize with this second person and hope to generate a connection that extends beyond the material value of the first person. But the problem is many of us don’t. We see the first person as emotionally healthy, financially stable, an academic erudite, a family man or woman, a father or mother, and worth having around because of their stability and social capital which extends beyond financial capital alone.
Too often, we find ourselves degrading someone who just so happens to be in a less fortunate situation because, in a society that operates with a social metric based on extrinsic values, your worth is measured and determined by what you have to offer the world, not by the fact that you’re on this world.
Meaning, what you do and what you can give us is more valuable than who you are as a person independent of all those other things.
This extends into the medical-social sphere as well when we begin to discuss human values concerning the right to life and the right to death, namely, euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
I’m extending my reach here but hear me out.
We use terms like “die with dignity” as if someone loses their dignity from being ill, or terminally ill. We presume that it is okay to end one’s life if one is in pain – as if pain or pleasure is the only sentiment by which we determine if life is worth living. Under that idea, we’re hedonists (the pursuit of pleasure is the meaning of life) more so than we are idealists and it shows.
And allow me to interrupt my thought process here to say that I am not in a position to fully understand the many challenges someone in this predicament faces. Especially when they’re close to death, dealing with cancer or whichever disease that cripples the body with pain, diminishes the will of the heart, and destroys the mind of the individual dealing with it. These things are beyond my purview of experience because I am relatively healthy and I write these words from a place of comfort and health. I can sympathize with someone who is in that state of mind, seeking to ease their dis-ease because no one likes to live in or with pain and no one should. I’m not arguing or promoting an idea that dismisses the final wishes of a dying soul when all they know is horror and pain.
What I am calling or attempting to call to our attention is how we can so easily shift our ethics to remove someone’s dignity because of the pain they’re in or because they deem themselves no longer worthy of living due to depression or some other mental health complication.
As if human worth and intrinsic value are things we can inject or reject on a whim or after years of scientific extrapolation to determine that one can simply refuse to live because they have deemed their life unlivable.
I firmly believe, and my belief is irrelevant here, but I believe and independent of my belief, I know and am convinced that human beings have intrinsic value.
Meaning, they have a value imbued to them by someone or something outside of them that grants them this sacrosanct value from inception to death, that cannot be degraded, substituted, added to, or subtracted from them because their value is not theirs to tamper with.
This someone or something outside of us in my worldview is God. I believe God implanted every single one of us with His Image, meaning, our humanity, our worth, our value are inviolable. And alongside that, certain aspects about us are inviolable because they are sacred and have been imputed with a worth so great that to tarnish or tamper with them is considered sacrilegious and a crime against humanity.
These include but are not limited to life, autonomy, personhood, safety, and more.
You can consider any human rights charter or document in the world and you will find that they have added to the list of things I mentioned above but please understand that human rights charters can vary based upon which entity is in power and is writing those codes into law.
We needn’t go too far back in history to decipher which laws were objectively emblematic of human dignity and which ones were subjective and morally corrupt. We consider Nazi Germany’s 1930s and 1940s Nuremberg Race Laws which legally prohibited Jews from mingling with and marrying German citizens because Jews were considered subhuman to the German culture. They were later denied the right to German citizenship and later yet, considered rats worthy of extermination. Laws were created to elevate the humanity of some while diminishing the humanity; and value, of others.
We also consider Jim Crow laws and policies which extended beyond the reach of law and ebbed into cultural and social norms of North American life. Black Americans weren’t allowed to vote, to ambulate freely within certain cities and towns, were given curfews otherwise they were arrested and beaten by police officers and later imprisoned without cause. Some were lynched for simply talking back to a white person or looking at them the wrong way. Police officers, lawyers, and judges were seen to participate in lynchings while others looked on, giving their consent to the crime. White Americans of English, Dutch, French, and German descent in power were valued above Chinese Americans, Native Americans, Black Americans, Mexicans Americans, and Irish Americans. Anyone who did not fit into this racial hegemony lost their worth in the eyes of the law, economics, mortgage approvals, military service, citizenship, loan applications and approvals, higher incarceration rates for the same crimes their racially superior counterparts committed, and more.
When we have laws, rules, ethics, and standards that are created and promoted by humans and are derived from a horizontal humanistic foundation then it is easy to shift their meaning and purpose depending on who’s in power and control at the time.
When inalienable rights such as value, worth, dignity, and life are determined by finite beings then intrinsic value, worth, dignity, and life are all subjective whims subject to change within a generation or two.
Intrinsic value is universal and supersedes temporal law and social norms.
Some may argue that the universal aspect of this idea does not require a God and to them, I say that if God does not exist and the universe is impersonal or without intellect then following universal laws without universal consequences leads a person to functional nihilism.
We then determine our purpose, worth, value, and dignity because there is nothing above us by which to determine whether up is up and if theft is still theft. After all, it is theft today but tomorrow it’s Peppa Pig.
Things will only have meaning if we determine their meaning based upon cultural and societal consensus.
If that is how we determine value then most definitely we will live in a society that prizes extrinsic values and nothing else.
The homeless, the poor, the broken, the uneducated, the lower classes, the racially disadvantaged, women, women of color, and disabled people will be worth little to nothing at all.
We will call a custodian who works well at their job an ‘entry-level employee’ who isn’t motivated enough to succeed by getting a better job. We will then devalue their work, thus devaluing their social status because custodians are all at the bottom of the social scale are they not? Once that person loses their job because of economic woes, the person loses their capital value, thus, losing their ultimate value since they have nothing else to offer us or their immediate circle of extrinsic friends now that they’re unemployed. Because worth is connected to a degree and a high-paying job, marital status, progeny, and more, once all those are gone or they’re not as socially acceptable as what we deem socially acceptable, the person loses their value to society.
A person’s worth is quite independent of their usefulness to society. – Kjell Magne Bondevik
We will call a sick man a man who ought to end his life because there is no dignity in defecating in one’s pants as an adult. We will tell them it would be better if they would just die because caring for them is too great a burden and we would like them to die sooner so that we can go back to not dealing with someone else’s pain and misery. Their worth is connected to their dignity and their dignity is connected to their health and once that goes, all else goes with it.
If our worth is not connected to something outside of us, something universally larger than the universe itself, because if the universe is finite then our worth is finite as well. And it’s only a matter of time before we are worth nothing at all. If the universe is infinite but impersonal then our worth is subjective because it means much today but tomorrow, it may mean something else altogether; for better or for worse. An impersonal universe cares little for our value.
Lastly, if the universe is finite but there is something outside of it that transcends time, space, matter, and whatnot, and that thing is a person that transcends all matter, then that means we have a universal constant or a universal foundation by which to determine what is good or bad, valuable or invaluable.
That is why I resort again to the conviction that we have intrinsic value that is inviolable because our value was imbued in us, it was gifted to us, transferred to us, and implanted into our very being by God.
So, what I want to say is you have intrinsic value.
You are valuable not because of your career, your intellect, your academic history, your worth to your workspace or your worth in your marriage, to your kids, or your singleness with or without kids. You are valuable when you are housed or homeless. You are valuable when you are emotionally healthy or emotionally broken. You are valuable in wealth and poverty, in health and sickness.
You are valuable, you have intrinsic value because you were made in the image of God.
God has granted you and me with an inviolable value.
It does not come from your boss, your spouse, your social group, your community, your education, or wherever it is you tend to seek validation.
It comes from God, whether you accept this gift or not, it was yours from birth. It will not diminish with time. You cannot get rid of it. No one can distort your worth with laws or policies. No one can rob you of your universal God-given value because no one can take anything away from God.
So we must confront and push back against the notion that our society thrives within a system of extrinsic value. It is detrimental to our well-being, our mental health, and induces anxiety we can go without.
Our social media sphere has promoted this harmful understanding of value (extrinsic value) by showcasing and advertising lifestyles of wealth, health (beach-bod/pro-anorexia), greed, exorbitant luxury, affluence without accountability, infamous influence, and power as means by which we’re judged and counted as worthy or unworthy.
Our world disintegrates a little more every time we promote extrinsic values. We kill one another. We commit mass genocide. We pulverize entire cities with atomic bombs when we live by this metric. Our anxiety goes through the roof and our neighbors become strangerd. “Othering” becomes the norm as we see ourselves as superior to “them”; whoever “they” may be and we eat ourselves until all that is left of us is a venesected blob of carmine mush, plus chance, plus time, plus matter.
You have intrinsic value and no one can take that gift away from you.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. – Psalm 139:4
Christian Hip Hop artist IMRSQD (I’m rescued) starts his chill-hop track ‘Hymn 42’ with a beautiful refrain.
I know with You I could run a thousand miles
When I hit the dirt, You ransom my soul
I will live eternally when I go
When I go
For the believer, the person whose inner disposition has been bent toward God and whose outer behaviors have been refined by the character of Christ, there is no such thing as an end to life. For us, life does not end, it merely hiccups as we sidestep over this strange bridge of transition, which, once across, we’re embraced by our Savior. From the moment we shut our eyes, the very moment our lungs cease to expand, our heart pulsates its final cycle, and our brain’s electrical network comes to a halt, we are but transported from one state of being to a final state of holy perpetuity. This second state seems inconceivable from a perishable standpoint but we must find comfort in knowing that the imperishable will one day overwhelm this temporal vase and induce in us a transformative power so great that the corruptible shivers and shrivels at the sight of our new self.
I know with You I could run a thousand miles
A sure reminder that no distance is too great for one whose eternal lodging is still ahead. What river can we not cross? What desert can we not traverse? Is there a forest too dense for one whose compass is Creator God? What broken bridge is too broken that He cannot repair? What relationship is too shattered for One whose love granted mortals the right to immortality?
The miracle here lies not in our knowledge, nor is it in our ability to walk, run, crawl or prance about like wild beasts. The distance itself is of little import, of trivial worth since the cornerstone of this line, and more so of our existence, is in Him.
God’s eternality grants us more joy than anything we can ever accomplish. This Creator is personal and proximal. Capable and willing to relate and commune with His creation; this communion takes place not from galaxies away, hidden behind a star or a moon. No. This Creator is near to us now, nearer yet, within, without, surrounding us as the omnipresent Lord of all hope, ushering us forth in life, irrespective of distance for we have already arrived at the place of fruition and transformation thanks be to His efficacious act of unconditional love on the hill of skulls.
When I hit the dirt, You ransom my soul
How many have crossed over the threshold of awareness to hyperawareness only to be met with darkness, loneliness, and disappointment? How many souls have paid their weight in Bitcoin (figurative) to cross over the river of the afterlife to find rest and repose in the fields of peace and redemption, only to be met with the poverty of soul, without hope, a future, or expectation of rescue? This is the end of all who sought to hit the dirt with wealth, glory, and fame as the ultimate end to all their means. Possessions, status, enshrined busts of their chiseled faces erected throughout city halls and universities, their hunger for fame and prestige, to rise above the echelon of elites, only to hit the dirt and rot. The worm is their best friend and the cockroach their neighbor,
But how blessed is the soul whose confidence is in none other than in He whose words of assurance are “I am the resurrection.” We remain confident, ya, we remain steadfast on the foundation of immortality, well knowing that even though He stops our lives on a day of His choosing, He and He alone is able to start it all again.
And thankfully he abandons us not.
He waits for us as soon as the heart comes to a stop, as soon as the brain shuts down for the night, as the lungs ease into their final rest, and as the soul exits the temporal to return to its origin in the nether and beyond, it is there that we meet Him. In fact, He shuttles us there. His call is for us and He knows our name.
I will live eternally when I go
Another undeserved mercy and unmerited grace. Kindness is extended when judgment is deserved and a gift is given without it first being earned.
Eternity can only be enjoyed and fulfilled if the parties involved share the same desire to meet there. Thankfully, our aspiration as believers is greatest when our hearts are wrapped with the imminent advent of the Eternal One. Should this return tarry and our body succumb to its natural disposition, we fret not because nothing in this measured sphere compares to the immeasurable and innumerable, uncontainable and unfathomable ever-existent glory that awaits us in Heaven.
No matter the struggles from here to there, how heavy the cross we bear, or how far the distance, it will all pale in comparison. I will live eternally is more important than the ‘when’ we are dispatched from this life to the next. Whether we go tonight, tomorrow, or in fifteen years is irrelevant. The fact that we’re going is all that matters.
When I go
We are ready. We are bound by the hope of rapture, be it the apocalyptic event or the quiet and cool end of life on a bed surrounded by family and friends. We are ready.
I am ready for your return, Lord.
Should it tarry, I worry not for no matter the circumstance I know you have my soul in hand and my eternity is safely stored in Your presence.
Tonight, tomorrow, or in fifteen years, I know I will go.
I know with You I could run a thousand miles
When I hit the dirt, You ransom my soul
I will live eternally when I go
When I go
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
I’ve had the privilege of meeting, befriending, wooing, dating, and later being engaged to and finally marrying the love of my life.
Her name is Irma. No one knows how to pronounce her name, and honestly, the way she pronounces it is probably wrong too.
We met on social media, namely, Instagram, then Facebook, then Skype, and finally in person. She wasn’t a serial killer so I survived our initial meet and the second time we met up I asked her to marry me. We met in February of 2014, got engaged in June, were married in court on September 29, and celebrated that marriage with friends and family on October 18 of the same year.
That was seven years ago!
We’ve lived in Florida, vacationed in Brazil, visited Toronto together, and now live in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Our first little girl was born in Naples, Florida, the next two in Edmonton, and the fourth is slated to be born here as well if we don’t just so happen to move to Japan in the next week or two.
My heart is full. Everything I dreamed of and wished for in a partner I can gladly celebrate in my wife. The humor, the chemistry, the beauty, the proactive maturity, the effort, and the awareness of all things.
She’s my friend, my best friend and I’m glad we’ve made it this far but it’s not far enough since I hope to spend the rest of my life with her before I end up on a Cold Case file somewhere.
Anywho… what can I share with you from seven years of marriage?
Through thick and thin, ups and downs, wealth and almost sure poverty, health and sickness, life and well, abundant life?
What can I impart to you, my dear friend?
Nothing that concerns you anyway.
My marriage is none of your business therefore you can go out there and marry the love of your life and you’ll realize that it’s more important to spend time with them than it is to write about it for others.
So go live your life. Enjoy the ice cream and wine. And by ice cream and wine I mean sex.
Enjoy it and thrive in it.
Happy Anniversary, my love. You are my waking dreams and when you don’t salt the rice well enough, you become my waking nightmare. But that’s okay. Love suffers all things. Especially unsalted rice.
I cherish you, I praise your wisdom and intellect, I value our conversations about ideas, concepts, systems, structures, peoples, theology, eschatology, soteriology, race, childrearing, and yes, 90 Day Fiancé on TLC.
Distance dating was our story but that seems like a distant memory now because I cannot imagine life without you now.
I could not have found a better friend, a better partner, a better wife, nor a fellow conspiracy to commit… well, you know what than I have found in you.
To ice cream and wine.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Last Sunday, Freedom Life Church pastor and bible teacher, Rohan Samuels covered the Lord’s Prayer. This was the second installment of FLC’s Teach Me How To Pray series where we study whether prayer is efficacious or not.
Some of us spend time on our knees doing nothing but mumbling unintelligible things to God and falling asleep where we are without realizing what happened until we wake up snoring and drooling all over the place.
Prayer sleep is some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten and hey, listen, taking a nap before God is a great thing if that’s what we went there for. But if our initial pursuit was to seek God’s providential will for our lives in this humbling medium of communication and the result was our brain slipping into a catatonic state then something went wrong somewhere.
Prayer involves communication, not just monologues where we dispense our righteous anger, relay our seasonal depression to God, divulge our momentary anxieties and then wipe our tears, stand up or lay down from our one-sided FaceTime session with God and off we go with our lives or into oblivion to dream about other things.
Prayer is more than one-sided monologues and information dumpster fires we drop at God’s feet. If we’re not making time to stand or kneel or time to just ‘be’ in the presence of the All-Mighty then we’ll find it harder and harder to receive Guidance and Perspective from Someone we seldom stop and sit long enough to listen to and understands our destiny.
Dr. Derwin L. Gray, pastor at Transformation Church, Indian Land, South Carolina, defines prayer this way:
“Prayer is more than talking to God. Prayer is a sacred journey of becoming who you were meant to be.”
Pastor Rohan with the Lord’s Prayer in mind deciphers a better way for us to communicate with God and at the same time dispels the harmful ideas we’ve come to make tradition and doctrine over time regarding prayer that is not true and eventually turns out to be not biblical as well.
Here are just a few ideas from Last Sunday’s message I managed to jot down to add to my prayer life.
“Prayer is not about us even though it requires our participation.”
This is true. Biblically speaking, prayer is truly about us being conformed to the will of God.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Prayer is not just a means through which we communicate with God but also a place, an act, an action, a state of being in which we are molded into the person God has created us to be and also where we align our will to His will, which, thankfully, is always good for us. [Romans 8:28]
“You are not entitled to what you pray for.”
This point is critically important but emotionally damaging if our goal in prayer is to gain everything we want from God without knowing for sure if what we want is within His will.
When we bow a knee (which isn’t necessary) to pray we are again called by God to commune with Him and walk with Him. This intimate act calls for us to subjugate our will, which isn’t always in the right place, to His direction.
Us asking for that multi-million dollar residence in Texas, the three Mercedes -Benz Brabus rockets, and a multi-million dollar business to run without ever having taken a business management course, not knowing how to properly administer funds, and never having taken driving lessons, acquiring a driver’s license, having no auto insurance will only place us in a legally and financially compromising situation.
God sees the future as if it were the past. We must trust that when we ask for things or blessings we must first adhere our hearts and aspirations to the will of God and trust His best for our lives otherwise we’ll end up getting everything we want and not knowing how or what to do with these things.
Imagine someone asking for kids and once they’re blessed with them their kids are neglected, abused, and dismissed. We need to be in a state of peace and contentment with God over the things we get from God.
“Everyone should enter the school of prayer but no one graduates from the school of prayer.”
This is a given. No one is a prayer warrior as if there were a school somewhere where men and women go to train like samurai of yesteryear to kneel and stand for hours on end. Where they practice crying, on and off, and raising hands to strengthen their shoulders for lengthy intercessory prayer sessions. Where they carry on hours-long standing sessions to demonstrate their ability to withstand twelve-hour vigils. There isn’t a place where men and women go to train their speaking voice and then their praying voice.
Prayer is a lifelong commitment to communicating with and listening to God. Understand also that God listens to you.
You won’t graduate from a prayer program the same way one graduates from a Ninja Warrior class on how to climb walls and free-run across the surface of a building.
Humility in the life of a believer is demonstrated in this way: he or she is always willing to seek God for guidance in all things instead of relying on their history, wisdom, know-how, etc.
We are all here to learn from God and learn more about how He guides us through His word and His Holy Spirit. The moment we step away from these and onto our wisdom, we have damned ourselves to our folly.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“Way to pray not the words to pray.”
Pastor Rohan recites the Lord’s Prayer, the one easily found in the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
The beautiful message Jesus portrays in this passage is that we needn’t get caught up in the religiosity of prayer where performance and eloquence are the goals.
Jesus relays to his disciples then and us today the simplicity of prayer: we acknowledge our Creator and are also acknowledged by Him by the grace of being heard.
We are blessed with the grace of His will, which reminds us that we are not alone in this journey without a guide or direction.
We are blessed with the grace of honesty in our moment of need. When we lack or when sustenance is something we rely on, which we do, we can gladly ask of it of God. Pastor Rohan alludes to the reality of how a first-century Jew would read this prayer, one who did not have the convenience of supermarkets and logistics we do today to get food and bread. Back then, if harvest went sour or if war swept the land, there was a very high chance you or your neighbor would die from starvation and malnutrition. So understand that sometimes we go through thirst or hunger of sorts, which may or may not pertain to physical hunger, where we desperately need to present this need to the Lord.
It is comforting to know that God accepts these petitions and hears them.
Our relationship with God is measured also by our relationship with our neighbors. Vertical only faith is no faith at all. When we place an emphasis on relationships we need to be aware that we are earthly beings with heavenly blessings, meaning, we need to care for both. Meaning, we need to properly administer both.
We must not only forgive others, but we must also love them as well. Displaying a forgiving character toward all, as hard as it may be.
We are graced with the ability to seek refuge in our Heavenly Father from spiritual uncleanliness and filth. We seek refuge and protection from spiritually impure and tenebrous spirits whose sole purpose is to disrupt our relationship with our Divine Creator.
God listens to us. And because He listens to our heart and our words, we ought to then communicate our innermost workings with Him more freely.
There is nothing that you can say that’ll surprise Him nor anything you can say that will hurt Him.
This is liberating news.
So you don’t have to pray this exact prayer as if it is holier, brighter, better, more effective, and somehow a talisman against evil itself, because it is a way for us to pray, not THE WORDS we ought to pray.
Jesus set forth a foundation for us to approach God our Father, but you are free to express your heart before Him your way, without using someone else’s words.
Give it a go!
Praise Him. Trust Him. Walk with Him.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
If you know me well or if you’ve spent time on my blog, you’re aware that I spend a great deal of time dealing with and discussing reparations for black people in the Americas. Mind you, lest that introductory sentence seems vague and misleading, black people in the Americas have yet to receive reparations from their former enslavers, states, and the federal governing bodies that helped perpetuate this crime for hundreds of years.
The harm done to black people in general by the transatlantic slave trade to discriminatory laws and practices late on are at this point innumerable. But that is not an excuse that prevents us from quantifying or attempting to remunerate or recompense immediate victims of these horrors or their descendants who have experienced detriment as a result of them.
Typically, the excuses that are made about what happened, namely, slavery, happened so long ago that there are no slavers left to imprison and punish and no slaves left to redeem from bondage and assist with land, financial assistance, and social programs.
This argument is used by individuals who would rather see the Third Reich resurrected than witness minorities rise from poverty to find affordable housing in their racially homogenous communities.
Let’s Talk About Generational Wealth
The truth is that wealth is passed down from generation to generation. If you live in a house that was built in 1980, chances are your family has lived there since then or purchased it sometime after it was built. You grew up in that same neighborhood, your parents paid the house off by the time you were in college, perhaps, and now that you’ve graduated from school your parents can either sell their house to move to a smaller place; and bank on that resale, or pass the house title, which is already paid off, down to you. And this relieves you of the burden of having to apply for a mortgage for which you will be responsible come the next quarter of a century.
You are already financially ahead of many people in the country and your children are born into a home where mom and dad are both college graduates, they don’t have monthly mortgage payments deducted from their checking account. Trips to Florida, New York, California, and take place once every two to three years; and trips to Europe, are possible just as often as well. Your kids will have a college fund set up for them so that by the time they’re 18 or 19 years old, mom and dad have already saved up for them to go to school debt-free or with a very light financial burden to carry around.
Disposable income is a customary word in this home. Harley-Davidson motorcycles, boats, lifted trucks, hunting adventures with powerful and expensive bolt-action rifles take place once or twice every year. Fishing trips out of town, perhaps out of state are normal. Joining sports clubs is without a doubt a necessity because mom and dad have the disposable income to buy thousands of dollars worth of equipment for the two or three different sports each kid will join every year.
Field trips are accessible and asking for extra cash for the trip is never an embarrassment because mom and dad hand you a credit card and ask you to be mindful of your spending while abroad.
Holiday dinners are bountiful, never without a hefty turkey or ham. Your table seats eight comfortably and the room you dine in can accommodate even more people should that be the case because the family is, well, well to do, you know.
There’s never an incident of financial hiccups because the level of financial peace was passed down from one generation to the next. The ability for mom and dad to enjoy their lives is present and possible because they don’t have a mortgage to pay. Just property tax, once a year.
And the kids can focus on their schooling because they’re well fed, well entertained, well cared for, unbothered by financial disasters, their sporting events are financially covered, their field trip expenses are covered, and their every need is met by mom and dad without a bother or bump on the road.
This is just two to three generations of financial stability.
Now, consider the opposite.
Let’s Talk About Generational Poverty
Mom and dad attempt to purchase a home but they’re denied the opportunity of living in a particular community because that community does not accept certain groups of people so mom and dad have to live elsewhere, further from work.
Mom and dad are now stuck with paying for rent, which, as is always the case, is much higher than a mortgage. Mom and dad both apply for work closer to their apartment buildings but are given lower-paying jobs because the good jobs require higher education and a certain lighter complexion to qualify for. This isn’t in the job requisite write-up but the hiring manager and company president express it in conversation once mom or dad leaves the room.
So now mom and dad have to find work as administrators, custodians, handymen, or cleaners.
Once employed, mom and dad both work to support their family but their income is so low, inflation keeps rising, as does their rent every year, that they get behind on bills. This becomes a snowball effect and mom and dad end up having to get a second job, a part-time one, to supplement their full-time job income.
Mom and dad don’t have time with their kids now because mom and dad are working twelve-hour days. By the time they’re home the best they can do is purchase the simplest burger from the nearest burger joint for $5 just so their kids can eat at night.
Mom and dad do this because buy rice, beans, meat, and treats is too great a cost for them at this stage in their life.
This becomes their pattern of life for the next twenty to thirty years.
Their kids cannot participate in sporting events because the equipment necessary is too costly. The school they attend does not have the best possible educational programs because the school is underfunded because what subsidizes this school are the communities that surround it. Affluent communities invest in their schools and subsidize private and charter schools but poverty-stricken communities go neglected for decades. Teachers are few, underpaid, overworked, with too many students in their class, who, for lack of time with parents and lack of a proper meal and a financially stable home, cannot muster the energy to learn new things.
So mom and dad apply for loans and lines of credit with stratospheric interest rates just to cover a few more bills, get their kids a proper meal every day, sporting equipment for their sport of choice, and a new pair of shoes here or there for each kid.
The loan payments come around, bills accumulate, some bills are missed, loan repayments are missed, interest rates rise, and late-bill payment notices arrive with interest charges on them but mom and dad keep going.
Mom and dad’s boss, at each of their jobs, informed them that a raise is out of the question because of inflation and the salary cap on their position within the company cannot be adjusted. The boss, under a supercilious scowl, suggests they go back to school to earn a degree or a diploma by which they will earn better living wage and salary.
What the boss doesn’t know is that mom and dad have applied time and again for the opportunity to take technical classes at the nearest technical institute and also applied to college over the years but have been unable to fulfill the financial demands of these institutions and the demands of family time because they both work two jobs. Mind you, the scholastic institutions have continually raised their class fees over the years without explanation making it financially unfeasible to attend school.
The kids wrestle with aspirations of going to college but end up staying home and picking up summer jobs that transition into full-time jobs by the time they graduate school. Very low-paying jobs.
The kids are unable to get into school because their student loans would only pay for their classes but not their board. they would drive to school but they do not own a car. Mom and dad use the only car the family owns between them.
And also, mom and dad would love to drive them to college every day but mom and dad’s car just broke down and now they need to apply for another cash advance, payday loan just to fix their car, whilst being behind on bills, rent, loan repayments, and more.
Generational wealth versus generational struggle, poverty, and debt.
What we fail to realize or perhaps what we don’t want to admit is that the first family in this made-up scenario is white and comes from a line of wealth that dates back at least two-to-three generations.
The second family is black or a different minority and they inherited nothing from their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents because not only was material wealth and financial stability passed on to the first family but the only thing passed down to the second family was adversity to stall and halt their progress through life.
The truth of the western society we seldom think about is that white people have had generations of wealth, stability, education, and social capital over black, indigenous, Latino, and other minority groups. And this is not accidental as if white westerners just so happened upon an unclaimed body of land with treasures all about before anyone else. What happened is that the treasure belonged to someone else, it was taken, plundered, and exploited. And anyone who attempted to take it back was destroyed and later depicted as primitive savages in history books.
The truth is that western society has historically benefited one racial group whilst exploiting another.
As we have seen in the pseudo-albeit highly relatable and credible stories above is that poverty gets passed down the same way wealth does.
And much of the wealth America has accumulated over time has settled with a predominantly homogenous group; white or rather, Caucasian Americans of European descent.
What brings me back to this article is another article written by Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University.
In this article, she states that the reason why Japanese Americans were better suited to receive reparations or more likely to be repaid for crimes committed against them by their government was based on a tier system of qualifications created by the offending party, the United States government, and not the offended party, Japanese Americans.
“It is much easier to obtain reparations under the following conditions:
The number of victims is relatively small.
The victims are easily identifiable.
Many of the direct victims are still alive.
The injustice took place during a relatively short time period.
The perpetrator is known.
The injustice is easily identifiable.
The injustice offends values of equality, personal safety and/or the right to own property.
There is a symbolic victim around whom advocates for reparations can rally.
The amount of reparations asked for is not so large that the public will find it unreasonable.”
And I agree that it is much easier to quantify and calculate the immediate financial and property damage done to Japanese Americans because these crimes happened in 1945 whereas slavery as it occurred in what we now know as the United States of America began as early as 1619.
We have video footage of Japanese Americans being forcefully removed from their homes and bussed into internment camps. We have documentation of how many were moved, how many were displaced, how many lost their mode of income, job security, and livelihoods. We know these things and it makes for a case to repair the damages done because what was done was empirically wrong and evil; and quantifiable.
But Professor Rhoda lists these nine conditions by which to evaluate if one is deserving or not of reparations but she does not stop there on just how problematic these conditions can be to other victims who do not fall under this system.
“Slavery was abolished in 1865, but many injustices were perpetrated during the post-1865 Jim Crow period and beyond. These included continued violations of bodily safety, such as lynchings and police shootings. Segregation and discrimination violated the principle of equality. And even when African-Americans earn the same incomes as their white contemporaries, they own much less wealth because they do not inherit from generations of property owners.”
Japanese Americans perished in internment camps under American rule and this was enough to qualify them for reparations. Why then, is the same government so lazy and flaccid in repairing the hurt and damages done to black Americans for the last three centuries?
Mind you, the harm Japanese Americans suffered at the hands of racist and unnecessarily suspicious white Americans happened between 1942 and 1945. The second world war forced American racial exceptionalism to the limelight once again even though Japanese American citizens were willing to die for their fellow American countrymen were they to be asked.
But black Americans have been at the losing end of this war for centuries and they have been belittled, beaten, spit on, surveilled by the federal government agencies without cause, searched without a warrant, arrested without having committed a crime, deemed guilty by a biased jury, incarcerated albeit innocent of wrongdoing, and executed in gas chambers, electric chairs, or the noose, while still being innocent.
Black Americans have been lynched for hundreds of years. More so after the American Civil war when black Americans were granted their freedom from bondage, granted the right to American citizenship, and yes, the right to vote. But even then, they were terrorized by local governing bodies and policing divisions whilst the federal government turned a blind eye to it all.
Emmitt Till was lynched in 1955 for God’s sake.
Till was lynched nine years after the last Japanese American internment camp was shut down in March of 1946 and the Civil Liberties Act afforded Japanese Americans $20,000 as reparations for wrongs done to them.
Emmitt Till was murdered, his body brutalized and thrown into the Tallahatchie River and his assailants were set free after a speedy and biased trial.
Only nine years after Japanese Americans were granted their freedom from bondage in horrid internment camps and paid for being unlawfully imprisoned in their own country was Emmitt Till brutally lynched.
How long will it be before black Americans are recognized in the same light? Before they’re treated with the same decency and respect?
“No one is a slave anymore.” Was used immediately after the war.
What of their descendants who inherited their poverty? The ones who inherited generations of shame and displacement? The ones who are born into poverty-stricken neighborhoods that only exist because they were prevented from living elsewhere by white Americans of yesteryear.
Are we still under the intellectually vacuous mindset that the neighborhoods that exist today in say, Detroit, Brooklyn, Mobile, Beverly Hills, or Naples, Florida, just so happened to spring up the way are today? That affluence just naturally and gradually flowed to white Americans, over time?
Because white Americans just worked harder for what they have?
That black Americans are lazy? Consumed by a poor work ethic? That they’re unwilling to better themselves?
Perhaps I am asking more rhetorical questions than you are willing to accept the answers for but what I am getting at is that black Americans have and continue to experience injustices on the basis of race and have yet to receive a single dime for these injustices.
And this isn’t just about money. Listen, reparations supersede and transcend monetary recompense alone.
Reparations also include acknowledgment and change, cultural and societal change where power, authority, and influence are spread across the board and not relegated, maintained, controlled, and regulated by white hegemony.
Those Confederate symbols need to come down once and for all, all across the country, and the fetishized Confederate paraphernalia needs to be banned from federal and state properties and institutions immediately. Germany was able to outlaw Nazi symbols whilst preserving its history but America struggles to outlaw the symbols of a treasonous Confederate state.
We’ve taken many steps forward but for a nation whose wealth blossomed and bloomed because of the slave trade and whose wealth is only possible because of that initial sin, it is sad that it has yet to repay the descendants of its blessings for the curses it has passed down to others.
Professor Rhoda adds to this dilemma:
“It is easy to identify the perpetrators of these injustices. But there are so many that it might be difficult to persuade any one perpetrator willing to pay reparations. At minimum, perpetrators include the U.S. federal government and the governments of every state that ever permitted enslavement of African-Americans. More broadly, they include municipal governments, private businesses, educational institutions and churches.”
We know who benefited from these wrongs but they have yet to one, fully acknowledge the extent of their benefit from the slave trade, and two, repay the immediate victims of their descendants what is rightfully theirs.
The enlightened professor Rhoda concludes her informative article with a hopeful and yet dreadful thought.
“Some people who advocate for reparations also ask for such a large amount that the public would probably find it unreasonable. For example, in his 2004 debate with me, Rodney Coates asked for $12-15 trillion, which is 60 to 75 per cent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product of $20.5 trillion in 2018.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for the movement for reparations to African-Americans to succeed. A social movement for businesses, universities and churches to acknowledge their roles in slavery and the Jim Crow era has already started. Georgetown University in Washington, for example, has offered reparations in the form of preferential admissions to the 4,000 descendants of the 272 slaves it sold in 1838.
There have also been reparations for some injustices during the Jim Crow period. In 1923, about 120 African-Americans were burned out of their homes in Rosewood, Fla., and several were murdered. In 2002, victims and victims’ descendants were awarded $2 million in compensation.
Thus, attaining reparations to African-Americans is not an impossible dream. But it is, and will continue to be, much harder than it was for Japanese-Americans.”
My final curiosity is this: are black Americans not American enough? Were Japanese Americans considered high class, or more racially pure, or socially clean and acceptable to receive and properly redistribute and use their funds than say black Americans?
I believe we know the answer but we are too afraid to say it out loud.
Hate for the black skin has been and continues to be an empirically undeniable aspect of American history and current society.
Professor Anthea Butler, Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social Thought, and chair of the department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America when speaking about racism in the formation of American religious thought, specifically within white evangelical circles she said,
“Racism is a feature, not a bug, of American evangelicalism.”
If Professor Butler will allow, I will add that racism is a feature, not a bug, of the United States of America as it has routinely funneled money into international proxy wars, international ventures, middle-eastern governments, namely the formation of the state of Israel, it has accepted Nazi war criminals and Nazi high ranking scientists into its military and scientific research divisions to further promulgate worldwide white supremacy but it has yet to take steps to redeem itself in a national scale by repairing the wrongs it has committed against black Americans of yesteryear and yesterday.
The United States government will cross seas and venture into space but it continues to ignore the detriment it has caused and continues to cause to the black American community.
If someone wants to know why reparations have yet to be meted out on a federal scale to black Americans it is because racism continues to operate as the standard metric by which America blesses some and curses others. Japanese Americans endured three years of hard labor, discrimination, and internment camps and were liberated and remunerated for the injustices they suffered under white American oppression. Thank God they were treated well and cared for shortly after their release.
Their only crime was their ancestry.
But Black Americans endured centuries, yes, not just three years of harsh internment camps but centuries of brutal savagery at the hands of the American government and its many private partners and corporations, and have yet to see as resolutory a conclusion to their plight.
Racism is alive and well when it comes to who gets reparations or not and it shows.
Same old racism, new clothes, I guess.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Professor Wade Mullen, Ph.D., wrote a book on deciphering the veiled tactics abusers and abusive institutions use to maintain power and deceive victims into submission and silence. This book opened my eyes to the sketchy behaviors corporations and their ilk of lawyers and suits use to deviate blame, shift shame, and avoid guilt at all costs, all while saving face in the face of evidence, wrongdoing, malpractice, and abuse.
“Abusers and abusive organizations may concede the basic reality of the wrong—“Yes, this happened”—but quickly add statements that either soften their responsibility or promote their integrity: “We value all people and only want what is best for everyone involved.” If these concessions do their job, the accused will stay in power, stay in favor with the community, and stay far from the shame their actions deserve.”
There’s always that ‘but’ in our apologies, is there not? I believe it’s a defensive mechanism to protect our ego from one, being exposed for what it is, two, admitting wrong, and three, having to deal with the consequences of that initial or sequential wrongdoing we’re responsible for.
I’m guilty of this as well. Many times over.
I’ve apologized to others with the intent of protecting my image for the sake of my ego. No one wants to be destroyed in the public sphere or the public marketplace. Nowadays, being denied social capital is at times worse than actual capital because of ostracism from people on social media which, if left unchallenged, can last years, if not decades; or a lifetime.
“I’m sorry I did that to you but you kind of asked for it.”
“I’m sorry you felt that way but that wasn’t my intention.”
“I’m sorry this happened, it did, and I’ll put it behind me. You do have to forgive me, you know.”
These are just a few of the facades and barriers we create and put up to defang the brunt of our consequences. We’re not only afraid of the ramifications of our wrongs but we’re resistant to any form of discipline, especially if that discipline is meted out by the victim of our wrongs.
They pinpoint 23 identifiable traits abusive leaders can exhibit which, after a closer look, are patterns and behaviors we see in our own lives as well. I mean, I see a few of these in mine. It’s daunting.
Take a look:
Doublespeak—Language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts or reverses the meaning of
words using euphemisms, inflated language, jargon, or just plain nonsense
Unteachable Spirit—Claims to want to hear people’s opinions, yet talks down to and/or argue with the people who share them; pretends to listen, agree, and learn, yet makes no significant change
Corrective Theology—Use meetings or written messages to correct things that were said by others
Semantics—Distort and distract from what they and others say and/or mean by parsing every word
others say while refusing to allow their own language to be dissected
Blame-shifting—Refusal to take real responsibility; often directly blames other people and/or use
statements such as, “They just don’t understand my heart,” or “You are not listening”
Demand Loyalty/Respect/Trust—Often remind others of all the good they have done even as they
demand unconditional and blind loyalty/respect/trust
Sabotage—Ministries are secretly undone, content they can’t control is criticized, relationships are
Distorted Relationships—Heavy demands may be put on relationships, relationships tend not to be
reciprocal, they may speak well of you in-person while talking badly of you when you are not present
Demand Unity—Sincere sounding calls for unity turn out to be demands for conformity to the leader’s beliefs, ideas, and preferences
Gaslighting—Specific forms of manipulation intended to cause others to question their perception; may take the form of “remembering things differently,” withholding information, denying having said or done something, and/or lying
Credential Flashing—Degrees, position, titles used frequently to establish an air of authority
Paranoia—Concern that others are undermining their authority, talking behind their backs, or leaving them out
Image Obsession—Inflated concern about how others perceive them; often takes the form of public
name-dropping (though in private they may berate the very names they drop) and building a façade as a godly and/or deeply religious person
Blackmail—If challenged will used whatever he/she thinks he has on the challenger to quash the
challenge; may take the form of forcing a resignation, tying severance to NDAs
Public Admiration of Others—Publicly make highly positive comments about others (often fellow
leaders/co-workers) while privately tearing them down
Entitlement—Claim the right to the highest-ranking positions without having to do the actual work to achieve the position
Absence of Conflict Resolution—When approached about conflict swiftly and deftly to turn the conflict into the other person’s problem entirely
Distress is Highly Distressing—Often unable to handle the difficult emotions of others and will shut them down swiftly
Purposely Provocative—Will intentionally provoke distressing situations/emotions for/in others to
accomplish their own ends
Multiple Personas—Who they are in public, private, and specific ministry situations changes as if they are chameleons; when confronted about this lack of authenticity they will deny having multiple personas
Persistent—Above all, abusive leaders persist, don’t take no for an answer, overtly or covertly, passively or aggressively pressing themselves and their agendas on others
Best & Brightest—While not necessarily the best and brightest by training or ability, abusive leaders
work to be seen as the best and brightest in every room they enter
False Vulnerability—self-disclosures about past sin, attempts to evoke tears and emotionality in others
Now you may have noticed that the descriptions above reflect an array of leadership abuse traits within any structure but the authors focus primarily on leadership structures within faith communities. Namely, Christian church environments.
I believe it is critical to be aware of these deviations and character malformations because in the church we tend to value leaders based on their gifts instead of their character. If their performance and the results of their theatrics bring people to faith or balloons the attendance within our church circles, then, by all means, let us ignore their shouting bouts behind closed doors. It’s okay if the leader manipulates the board into giving him or her more executive and financial power without boundaries or accountability. It’s alright for the leader to exhibit multiple personas inasmuch as they visit the elderly, the imprisoned, and the orphan. It’s seen as a minor moral scruple when they sabotage relationships in the church, are obsessed with corrective theology; namely, his perspective of the ancient book is the only correct one, as long as the church stays full and tithes keep rolling in for years.
I mean, just look at the new church building we purchased! Isn’t just grand?
That is why it is so important to confront leadership abuse and abusers in every facet of society but more so within religious circles because leaders in this sphere are seen as intermediaries between us and God.
They’ve been given the keys to privileged access to the Divine. When they pray for guidance, Providence listens. When they preach the Word it seems as if the very Creator is present to reemphasize the gravity of the truth within the homiletical utterances of the minister behind the pulpit. When they counsel it is not the counsel of man but the very words of God.
And this isn’t a divinely ordained calling. These are positions, attitudes, and authority structures we create and honor and place men or women in the center of because we want palpable identifications of God here on earth.
Because our reliance on the supernatural is only efficacious if we can find a man or a woman of God to corroborate our faith. When that happens we then elevate them above the rest and call them Men of God or Prophetesses of God.
The problem with this spiritual sucking-up, if you will, is that the nefarious agents, namely, abusers who are talented, gifted, and amazing liars and chameleons of every form of good abuse their power every chance they get. They shape-shift their way through social tests of affirmation and acceptance, end up finding a way to lead the flock just by being performative.
Their results speak for them and in a results-driven society, they tend to rise to the top. Every. Single. Time.
It always ends up this way because church people are too gullible, conflict-avoiding, and kind-hearted to confront one another on these issues.
“Let us maintain the peace, please, brothers, let us have peace.”
And I am not innocent here. I have exhibited quite a few of these traits as a leader.
From unapologetic arrogance in being the corrective theologian in the room to being obsessed with how others viewed me in the church or para-church ministries. I’ve had my fair share of cringe-worthy public admiration of others moments, theologians and apologists I had never even met, who I would glorify and elevate to near-divine status. I avoided conflict because I didn’t want to confront the issues in me and less so in others, therefore so many issues would go without resolution in my circles.
I was only an authority over them as a teacher or youth leader but what the hell was I supposed to do about their personal lives? I’m not a guru!
The host and co-host of this podcast asked the authors of this list if these traits are mistakenly attributed to abusers alone because they have exhibited them from time to time as well.
The authors of the list stated that we humans tend to dip our fingers into selfish or self-preservative behaviors from time to time but these are just regular human mistakes we tend to make.
What they depict in this list of twenty-plus leadership character flaws are red flags that are persistent aspects of a person’s nature and how they deal with life and people on a daily basis.
The abusive traits we exhibit from time to time ought to be contradictory to our character, not complementary to it. There’s a difference.
In a moment of weakness or stress, we may lean on a certain practice because of a weakness or stress. We’re not naturally prone to sabotaging relationships, yelling at people who disagree with us, obsessed with correcting someone else’s theology, obsessive double-speak behaviors depending on the group we’re with. We’re not known for having multiple personas, one at home, one with a secretary, one with the board, one with the preaching team, one with this and that group. We’re one and the same all the time, just more professional in one sphere and more relaxed in another.
Our morality doesn’t change depending on who we’re with or around.
We’re not given to moral virtue signaling in front of the church in the morning and then off to rob banks, abuse kids, and cheat on our spouse in the afternoon.
We are all guilty of exhibiting one or more of these traits but out of a moment or a sequence of character weakness. We can find redemption from this by desisting from them immediately, confessing the wrongs, and rebounding within the community.
We’re here to restore people to fellowship, not power, remember that.
But if you find you are exhibiting these traits on a daily basis, that you are wholly reliant on them to control the narrative in your life and that of others, perhaps it is time to admit that you are an abusive leader. Or that you are obsessed or controlled by abusive traits.
And in that admittance, in that openness, it is time to seek help.
You can be helped but you must want it.
Again, we’re here to restore broken people to fellowship, not power. Fellowship helps build the individual. Power destroys the individual and their community.
So seek professional counseling today. Be it in the church or outside of it. Seek help to get your life and your character, back on track.
Because if you wait any longer your victim count will only increase with time. Eventually, you will lose the people you love and you will also lose yourself on this journey of life and faith.
Today marks five years since my wife and I (and our little Maya) moved to Canada. Who were we five years ago? What motivated the move? Do we regret leaving the sunshine state of Florida for the blizzardy winters and smoky summers of the far north?
So, we were broke five years ago. Not that we’re rich now but back then we were living with family, working two jobs, and barely making enough to pay our car and auto insurance every month. We struggled to have enough for diapers and formula. Yes. We saved a ton of cash by living with family but the alternative was to live in our spot, in abject poverty, under a bridge somewhere in the second wealthiest water-side city in the country.
Life was great in one sense. We lived no more than twenty minutes from the Naples Pier. Fifteen minutes from Coastland Center Mall. Twenty-five minutes away from Mercato and Waterside Shoppes.
We lived in the most beautiful city in all of Florida. Yes. My bias is kicking in here and I loved that city. We loved it. My wife still dreams about it too and would love to have a summer home there, just to escape the distasteful winters here, not that she’d move back though. But you know, have a place to go back to visit once in Naples. She loved it while it lasted. She has a thing for luxury. I mean, look at me.
My most prized friendships were formed in this city. Some of my most prized memories are from there as well.
But with such a life and city comes the cost of living there and we could live comfortably there. The industry I worked in, which didn’t pay me very well; and my wife not having the documentation to work in the US, would have eventually led us into poverty, without a doubt.
So we decided to move to the great white north to see if life could be more prosperous outside of the false American dream narrative.
Let me add, as a family of faith, we believed in following God’s voice to make this move when the opportunity presented itself. Long story short, as I received a prophetic word on two separate occasions to have my bags packed and be ready. We had peace amidst all the unknowns when the opportunity presented itself with the great family trip to Brazil, to make our move.
We spent a few weeks in Brazil after we left the US. We left nothing behind but a few furniture pieces and a ton of books that I miss dearly, but other than that we had no other earthly possessions to take with us. Our car loan was taken over by someone else. Like, we had nothing to our names so it was easy to leave. This was a bittersweet realization.
And, while in Brazil we applied for my visa to go to Canada. We left the US without knowing for sure if I would be granted access to Canada, to begin with. We could have been living in Brazil right now, for all we know. Maybe Germany, if Canada had not granted me access.
Once I left the Canadian consulate in Sao Paulo I was both ecstatic and uncaring about the future. Never before had my life been in such uncertain circumstances and for some reason, I felt at peace. Granted, being a person of faith you must understand my ease of trust in God through these times of utmost anxiety and stress and I had no other alternative. I trusted God and well, whether we got into Canada or not, I knew God would keep watch over us.
The visa didn’t take long to arrive and I used its arrival as a way to scare my mom into thinking I got denied and that my wife, my daughter, and I would stay in Brazil. This idea frightened the life out of her. Thankfully, however, it was a prank.
My parents helped purchase our tickets from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Toronto, Canada and we left Brazil. My uncle and aunt drove us to Sao Paulo from my hometown of Campinas and dropped us off at the airport. We hugged everyone. Thanked everyone for their help, their care, their hospitality, their food, and love. All without charge. It was so good to be with family, surrounded by people who spoke the language you grew up with and a culture you had come to love so much.
It was great but we had to go. We were somehow divinely ushered into these next steps.
Once we arrived in Canada, after my wife got into a verbal skirmish with a customs officer about her permanent residency status and whatnot; I was scared something was going to kick off and we were going to get deported before we even left Toronto. But we were granted access into Canada once in Toronto. We left that lovely and massive airport and flew to Calgary, Alberta.
And for you to understand just how delicate a situation we were in just check this out.
Once there, I realized it was very cold out. I didn’t like this because I left Brazil, in October, and it was warm out. We arrived in Calgary, in October, and it was cold. Ha. I hated it already.
But returning to the delicacy of our move. We set off to rent a car to drive from Calgary to Edmonton, where we would stay with my in-laws.
The car rental company accepted my payment for the car and whatnot but because I was using an American debit card and not a Canadian credit card they requested I place a damage deposit of something around 400 Canadian dollars or something.
I didn’t have that. I had little to no money left. No dollars to my name to buy my wife and my daughter a juice box, a sandwich, or a gumball. I had nothing to my name.
I walked outside as light snow began to fall. Tears welled up in my eyes as we were well over 200 kilometers away from our new home with my in-laws and there was a chance we would not be able to make it out of Calgary nor have a place to stay in that night because we were broke.
America has this sad mesmerizing power of making people very rich but the truth is that the American dream makes a lot of people rich but in the meantime, it makes millions more very very poor. We left America and charted north in a delicate financial situation.
I pulled my phone out and reached out to a friend to explain to him the delicacy of our situation, the cold, the snow, and the inability to rent the car. This friend, a gentle soul, wired me the money without question and suggested I never pay him back.
Through tears, I thanked him and promised to pay him back, well knowing I had nothing left to my name to honor this statement. With time, however, I did pay him back.
We rented the car and then drove north through the cold Albertan plain.
We arrived at our in-laws, hugged each other, ate a hearty meal, rested, and then lived for a time, without worry. Like, a day or two, because my wife had to find work because our work situation had flipped.
In the US I could work but she could not. In Canada, she could but I couldn’t. We needed money to apply for my papers (work permit and permanent residency). So she applied in one place and then another. Applied here and then there. And she finally got a job at a car dealership. A fancy one at that.
Problem is that we didn’t live in Edmonton just yet. Well, my in-laws didn’t live in Edmonton. They lived in a country area 70 kilometers south of Edmonton. And her new job was on the northwest side of Edmonton which meant she would drive about 80 kilometers to get to work and then 80 kilometers to get back home. We borrowed enough money to buy a car, cash, off of some wealthy guy in town, and by this point, it had begun to snow outside.
I would wake up around 5 am, drive this dusty and rusty old Hyundai Sonata through the snow for ten to fifteen minutes and then come back so that once my wife got into the car, the engine was warm enough and the heat was blowing hot in it. And off to work, she went. And she would get home very late at night because her job was so far away.
Eventually, this car would break down. I kept hearing creaks and cranks, metal bending and twisting, and I would tell my wife about the noise, how the car would veer to one side more than the other, and how it would groan when we turned this way or that way. She said it was nothing to worry about because Edmonton roads are just full of holes and whatnot.
They were. They are. Roads up here are horrible.
And one day, while driving nearby her work, caring for chores and whatnot, the car began to make louder sounds and my wife suggested we pull into the nearest Canadian Tire car shop for an inspection. Once there, I pulled into the parking lot and when I put the transmission in reverse, the front end of the car dropped to the floor and the car would not budge.
My wife saw the car drop and saw the panicked and desperate look in my eyes, as she stood outside trying to help me with reverse parking it slowly and she began to laugh a kind of laugh I hadn’t heard before. Whether it was stress or panic or fear or just pure comedy, I don’t know, but she laughed so much. She could not control herself. It’s the kind of laugh that happens when you sit in church and something embarrassing happens and you know you shouldn’t be laughing, but you can’t help it and it bursts out. But times 10 in this case.
This happened late in the day and it was so cold out. I kept the car on so that Maya, our little one, could stay warm in the car. Our gas was running low and we didn’t have money for a cab back to Wetaskiwin, where we lived with our in-laws. We were in a rut. We were stuck. Literally. It was snowing out. There was ice on the sidewalks. Ice. That’s the strangest thing ever. You could die if you slipped on that stuff.
Anyways, my father-in-law, that gentle soul, who also worked in Edmonton was on his way home to Wetaskiwin when we called him to rescue us in Edmonton. He turned his car around and drove toward us, picked us up, and well, we went home.
That car experienced so many issues. We borrowed money from family and paid to have it towed from Canadian Tire to Wetaskiwin and then somewhere else and finally to a Hyundai dealership. We dropped it off at the Hyundai repair shop because a buddy of mine from Lehigh Acres diagnosed the issue after a brief conversation and determined the issue was a recall which placed the fault of the malfunction on the manufacturer. The repairs cost us nothing. The tow truck costs were eventually covered by Hyundai. The car was repaired. It broke down again and again but Hyundai covered those costs as well. At that point, we were allowed to trade that old junk in and get a newer car, which, we did on the spot.
We ended up getting a tiny Hyundai Elantra that suited our family needs just fine… had we not been living in a polar vortex. Driving a tiny front-wheel-drive car in flat sun-scorched Florida is an amazing experience. But driving that four-cylinder baby up a hill through a blizzard is one of the most devilish things one can attempt. Many a time I thought the car would stall mid-climb and we would slide down an icy road to a wintery death in the Edmonton Saskatchewan River.
Thankfully that never happened. We got close, but never.
We eventually saved enough of my wife’s recent earnings, to the last penny, to move into Edmonton so that we could be closer to my wife’s work. We looked into one apartment after another and we found one where the owner was understanding of our delicate situation.
I mean I wasn’t working. My wife was and we barely made enough to cover our costs but he saw that we were honest folk struggling to get by. His life story in moving from India to Canada, he would later tell us once he invited us to his home for tea and cookies, was similar to ours. His heart in all this was a heart of gold.
We got the apartment, my wife was pregnant, and wait, yes, my wife got pregnant again. How? I don’t exactly know but here we were in Canada, newly moved into the country, a newer car, added costs, it’s winter, and while we moved from Wetaskiwin to Edmonton a blizzard descended upon our vehicles thus proclaiming to us that to get to Edmonton we would have to sacrifice our firstborn.
We didn’t, of course.
We moved into our two-bedroom apartment, without a bed frame, just a mattress. No table, just, linens, sheets, a couple of plates, and cutting utensils. No TV, no cable, no internet. My mother-in-law was kind enough to take my wife and Maya to the store to purchase our new home essentials for us. From towels to dishes and pots and whatnot.
We had barely enough food in the fridge because, again, we had borrowed so much cash just to cover things, borrowed money to apply for my residency and work permit, borrowed money for a damage deposit on the apartment, but only paid the owner half and promised him the other half in two weeks when my wife got paid. We couldn’t afford it and so we were behind on a lot of things. We survived on the graces and food of our in-laws and the random acts of kindness from a select few church people we had met along the way.
My wife revealed to her employer that she was pregnant and within two weeks they had dissolved her position in that company.
My wife comes home after that depressing revelation, jobless and pregnant with our second child. I was home with Maya, jobless and unable to work. Bills were looming over us. Stress. Hunger. Stress. Worry. And so on.
My mind was not in the best of places.
Anywho, a few days later, miraculously, my work permit arrived in the mail and the very next day I set off to apply for work everywhere. I set up a new bank account, updated all of my info to reflect my residency in Canada. And I applied everywhere. I applied in so many places that I lost count.
One place was willing to hire me on the spot and at another firm, the finance guy who would oversee my work wanted to have a sit-down and chat.
I was exasperated for work and this dude sees me and wants to just chat. Like… I don’t have other places to be, dude.
That guy would hire me the following week and would also become one of my friends.
We worked at this construction association for just short of two years before this same guy helped me get a better paying job within a better work environment in a different company.
At this point, we had met a faith community that welcomed us in (we would later leave this community for many reasons) and we had made so many friends that we cherish to this very day.
As we worked, earned, paid back some people, borrowed here, lent there, helped here, were helped there, we moved to a bigger place, got a better car, and a better job, we kind of just kept moving forward.
Five years in and we’ve added three girls to our family. Four girls under our belt!
We’re not rich. Not even close. We’re not wealthy. Not even close either.
But compared to our life in sunny Naples, Florida, (aka, paradise) we are lightyears ahead in life. Like seriously, I’m not putting the US down but life and lifestyle up here are a thousand times better because, by God’s grace, we managed to accomplish in five short years in Canada what would have taken us ten-to-twenty years in Florida.
Life was a struggle there but it was an embarrassing life because all you saw around you was exuberant wealth.
Here, even though we struggled at first, and continue to do so (we are able to actually support ourselves and live in our own place now), we see that everyone is pushing and growing through something of their own. It feels more normal to work and strive and push and grow through things up here knowing that everyone is in the same boat.
Except for the Chinese-Canadians. They’re on another level of affluence that is equal to or greater than the wealth of Naples folk.
We still lend money to friends. Friends return the favor. Debts are canceled. People are helped. And whatnot.
That part of our lives is still a work in progress we hope to one day overcome.
But what I love about living up here is that the dream of actually making it is still very much possible and attainable. And I don’t mean Bezos or Musk kind of making it. I don’t mean Gates or Jobs either.
My wife keeps assuring me that we will make it one day, whatever that means. She has that Naples mindset.
No, what I mean is the opportunity at a normal life is attainable in Canada without sacrificing life and limb.
Plus, should that be the case, I can just rush to the nearest hospital or clinic where I will be attended to and cared for at no added cost because my taxes pay for my healthcare.
That’s unheard of in the US.
My kids visit their pediatrician and there’s no co-pay involved. Nothing like that. They go, get their check-up, get prescriptions for whatever, we pay cents on the dollar for their drugs because my work benefits… work.
I can get eye exams and dental check-ups for free. To an extent. New glasses and frames, covered.
I can fracture my knee into ten places and go in for surgery and come out without a single bill.
In Naples, when Maya was born, we spent three days in the hospital. Once we got back home we receive two bills from the hospital totaling up to $30K.
How…. how could we ever pay that off? We didn’t. We wouldn’t. We couldn’t. We never will. Trust me on that one.
We’ve had two babies here in Canada and the only bill we had to pay was the parking spot for our car at the hospital parking lot.
A third baby is on her way to be born here and we’re not worried about $30K bills coming in the mail.
Life is different up here. I’m not saying life is better for everyone but it has been better for us. We have struggled and we will continue to struggle and strive for sustainability so we can give our girls a better opportunity at life up here, the same way my family moved to the US to give us a better opportunity at life.
Every generation makes a sacrifice for their kids and not the other way around.
I thank my parents for going through what we went through but for decades when they moved from Brazil to the US. I can’t count the many jobs they worked, cleaning offices, laboratories, clinics, on top of their day jobs just to provide for us. Kept us in school and well-nourished, fed, loved, and cared for.
But when we, my wife and I, set off to start a life for ourselves, the US just wasn’t as profitable or as conducive a place for our wellbeing as Canada has been so far. I’m generalizing the US, and for that, I apologize, but the wealthiest country in the world also produces a hell of a lot of homeless people too.
Something’s wrong there.
Either way, Canada has been good to us in the sense that the opportunities promised to us by a meritocracy like the USA were only attainable and fulfilled outside of the USA.
I don’t know how many struggles we’ll face in the near future but we’re somewhat a bit more prepared, maybe, to tackle them now.
I’m older now. My wife got younger in the face but older in the heart because of my antics. We’re wiser. Four kids in. Fourth in the womb but still with us.
If someone were to ask us if we’re ready to leave Canada we’d say, no.
If someone were to ask if we’d be willing to move, say, to Germany. I mean, I love the place and I’ve never been. I’d say I would visit, first, and, this depending upon my immediate disdain or unabashed love for the country, I would pray about it.
I am not averse to the idea of moving to Europe someday or anywhere else.
It’s just I feel we’re not done doing what we’re meant to do here.
I don’t have that same agitation in my heart as I did when we were beckoned to leave Florida.
That utterance that pushed us enough to consider leaving the US.
My heart is at peace here.
And I’ve also played in a band!
Anywho, do pay us a visit. Don’t just show up because we won’t open the door. Visit Jasper, Banff, Calgary, Edmonton, and well… yeah, that’s about it for Alberta. Ha. Visit Vancouver, Whistler (winter, preferably), and Toronto.
Canadians aren’t all nice, you know. Some of them have a nasty temper. They’re just like you and me with the exception of the moose riding fetish thing. It’s a cultural thing. Don’t try to understand it.
Other than that, give the Canadian way of life a chance. We did and it worked out… so far.
Side note from my wife; if anything, this season only strengthened and grew her faith and trust in God. You’d think a life filled with struggles, month after month would make a person bound to give up, to doubt. However, she reiterates, indeed it proves rather how every time we were close to breaking God came through. She sees his hand in everything. I mean the times we’d see no food in the fridge and $0.04 in the bank account and the confidence she would have by saying “God’s going to provide” and He sure did. Somehow, someway we saw him working where obstacles and struggles came yet He made a way for us to be here, right now.
Welp, that’s five years in Canada for us. Let’s see what happens in the next five!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
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.