Monthly Archives: July 2013

It’s Because I’m Black Isn’t It?

It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged. So this morning’s post is a catch-up for the last few weeks.

I was blessed last week to be part of a youth mission week at our church. Youth and young adults from three churches worked, lived, and relaxed together for a week. It was great.

Early on the first day of the week, one of the young men (who is African-American) said very loudly “It’s because I’m black isn’t it?” It was jarring I’ll admit – then I realized that this was a long-running joke between this black young adult and his white pastor and church friends. He said it more than a few times as the week progressed.

I love where we live and where I pastor. We are surrounded by people of various races (white, Asian, African, Hispanic, mixes of the three and others), a variety of generations, and a wide swath of socioeconomic groups. It’s the most diverse place I have ever lived and I love it – as do our children. God’s marvelous variety of human beings is a nice backdrop against which to live and work.

This young man’s comment stuck in my mind all week and even after. I realized behind it was a pain, a tension, a grappling with what it means to be black in a white world. To be born as God intended and has blessed you and yet to be born into a world where being black means a whole variety of pressures, tensions, prejudices, and realities of which I haven’t the slightest experience or appreciation.

It’s not just being black – it’s being Hispanic in our nation that grapples with immigration. It’s being of Arabic descent (worse yet if you are also a follower of Islam) in a post- 9/11 world. At our best as a church, as a nation, as human beings these things don’t matter. But the truth is they do.

I don’t get it. I have no idea what it means to be blessed with a race and ethnicity that also is a burden in the context in which we live. What I do get is that I think I need to figure it out, or at least find a way to understand better.

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

(Paul – Acts 17:26-28 ESV)

 

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Freedom… A Progressive Science

Two days ago we celebrated Independence Day (sadly this year was mostly filled with rain rather than fireworks or outdoors enjoyment for us), the Fourth of July. 237 years ago the Continental Congress declared that the American colonies were now a sovereign nation, a people free from the political bonds of Great Britain.

As you may know, it was not as simple as that. It took years more of war to secure the bold proclamation of that day. To be sure the words and the moment mattered – it’s why we celebrate them still. But there was work to be done to earn that freedom, to make sure in deed what was written and proclaimed.

There’s a lesson there about our personal and spiritual freedom. My faith proclaims a freedom – a freedom from the fear and power of death, a freedom from living in guilt, fear, shame. “Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again” (Galatians 5:1 CEB) Freedom is something into which we have to live, to grow.

It’s not enough to say we are free of our past, of our mistakes, of the wrongs we have done and that have been done to us, of our griefs. It takes time and effort and will to live in that freedom. And not unlike the Founding Fathers, we have to – I have to – live into and work into that freedom. Thomas Merton once wrote —

“It is not that someone else is preventing you from living happily; you yourself do not know what you want. Rather than admit this [and ask for God’s help], you pretend that someone else is keeping you from exercising your liberty. Who is this? It is you yourself.”

May you and I live into our freedom with God’s help and blessing on this long holiday weekend… and beyond.

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