Archive for the ‘race relations’ Category

I want to join the ranks of the unchurched!

A lot has been written and said about unchurched people over the last 10-15 years, but there may be something significant to being “unchurched.” The technical definition of “unchurched” is someone who has not participated in a worship service in 6 months or more. I’ve never spent 6 days away from a church, and it’s been both a blessing and a curse — mostly blessing. However, there are simply some things about the way I was churched that I would like to undo. In these ways, I’d like to be unchurched. So here’s my new definition of what it means to be unchurched.

Unchurched – a person who has not allowed someone else’s airtight, locked-down, unquestionable convictions regarding age old and often irrelevant conclusions about systematic theology to drain their zeal to seek and search for an unsytemitizable God and explore the mystery of faith.

Unchurched – a person who chooses to live the radical reconciliation and love of Jesus, and does not allow that pursuit to be lessoned by the fact that more people in the church care more about domination than reconciliation.

Unchurched – a person who knows that true worship is serving the widow, orphan and stranger, not singing songs you like, while hanging out with people you like and listening to the preacher you like.

Unchurched – a person who knows that Bible studies are about humbly searching for God, not lying about your Bible reading and prayer life to impress other people who are also lying about Bible reading and prayer.

Unchurched – a person who leads spiritually by the Spirit of God not the latest budget report or head count.

Unchurched – a person who realizes that the people are more important than the church because the church IS the people, and how we treat one person reflects how we will treat all persons. 

Unchurched – a person who honors ALL people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or anything else, because all people are made in the image of God–even Muslims.

Unchurched – a person who knows that the point of church is not to get more people in the church building, but to get more of the people in the church building OUT of the church building and into the community.

Unchurched – a person who walks, talks, votes and seeks justice and life for all people, in all forms, at all times, even when it means personal sacrifice.

Unchurched – a person who will not baptize any decision made by their community, state, or nation that does not align with  Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God just because the decision was made by their community, state, or nation.

Unchurched – a person who realizes that Jesus did not come to earth and die on a cross so that everything would be “family-friendly.”

These are a few of the ways I want to become unchurched. A better way to say it may be de-churched. Please join me in the ranks of the unchurched.

I believe deeply in our democratic process and the need we, as Americans, have to participate in our electoral process. I’ve written about this current presidential more than most. This, I think, is the most important election of my relatively brief life (34-years). That’s why I thought what Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) said Sunday morning on Meet The Press was both beautifully articulate and powerful.  Please note, Gen. Powell is endorsing a candidate, but I am not. What I’m interested in is what he says about the American Experiment. Embedded in his words are the hopes and dreams of our founders. He rejects narrow politics, racism and heralds inclusion and conversation. I continue to find Colin Powell a singular man, worthy of respect from all.

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I heard Powell tell the story of the young Muslim man who was killed serving this country, my country. It was simply beautiful, stirring in me the deepest aspirations, and love for what we can be as a country. It was clear — in these days of sound-bite politics, robocalls, negative campaigning and slanderous accusations — that Gen. Powell is a focused, thoughtful and deliberate man, whether you like and agree with what he says or not. What he says, and the way he said it, indeed says a lot about him.

Of course, folks like Rush Limbaugh fired off their belief that Powell endorsed Obama merely out of racial considerations. Limbaugh wrote, “Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race. OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I’ll let you know what I come up with.”  With all respect to Mr. Limbaugh, are we really expected to believe that Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is incapable of seeing past his own race? Are we supposed to believe that a man of his stature makes decisions based on one factor? Do you sincerely believe that black people align with other black people simply because of our shared race. If so, you are wrong. And I urge you to spent 5 minutes in your local African-American barbershop. Mr. Limbaugh, you are surely insane. You are insane if for no other reason than if Colin Powell was that desperate to see a black President, then he could have already. It could have been him! Sadly (and I do mean sadly), I’m listening to Pat Buchannon say much of the same things Limbaugh says. Is this what white Americans thinks about black Americans? Race is ALL that we are capable of considering. I fear that is the case. I can’t tell you how many people have assumed that since I’m black I am voting for Obama.  Apparently — to some people — I am little more than a skin color.

To Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Buchannon, I say this: If you think that black people are incapable of voting for a black person for reasons other than race, then that says more about you — and your views about race — than ours.

It’s been a while since I’ve done an “Authentically Black” commentary, but today and this week deserve it. It deserves it because of the 45th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, not the Democratic National Convention.


It was said of Jackie Robinson, “Everyone knew Jackie Robinson could hit, but he could never hit back.” As Robinson integrated baseball, there were certain things he simply was not allowed to do. His wife, even now, speaks about the torment Jackie experienced, feeling that he had to do everything perfectly. As he faced death threats and verbal abuse from the dominant culture, Robinson had to commit himself completely to both excellence on the baseball field and non-violence and graciousness off it, regardless of the abuse he took. When he excelled on the field, people said, “Of course, blacks are stupid, but they can do sports,” but when he did not perform well, they said, “Sorry, nigger.”

This was the case for Jackie Robinson and it remains the case for blacks in America.

As I watched the Democratic National Convention last night, I was amazed — and somewhat sickened — by what I heard. According to the pundits, Michelle Obama’s task Monday night was to humanize herself and tell her narrative about growing up poor. And she did. She spoke about her father’s MS and growing up poor on the south side of Chicago. Apparently, it is a problem for some that she and Barack are Columbia, Princeton and Harvard educated. Elections in America now are like some of my old college conversations were we try to “out-poor” one another.

Are you serious?

I’m not telling anyone who to vote for, but we are a nation deserving of ignorant and under-performing government if we want to punish people for excellence or have a president who we would enjoy having a beer with. (By the way, the president is not having a beer with you!)

My father and mother taught me that success was about playing by the rules, working hard, getting the best education you can, serving your fellow man and giving to others. They also told me that whatever the standard was for others, as a black man, I needed to be twice as good. Apparently, my parents were wrong. When black people do what America ask, when they work hard, get a good education, play by the rules and love their neighbor, they are “elitist” and “arrogant” (which is the new way of saying uppity). I was shocked earlier this year when someone told me that because I was college and post-graduate educated, I was an “elite.”

Like Barack and Michelle, I have been accused of being “too black, not black enough, too smart, and arrogant.” I can think of a number of job opportunities in my life that were refused me because people were concerned about whether I could “relate” or I was “too intellectual.” One church told me, as if it were a bad thing, “Your resume is intimidating!” People ask me why I believe in Affirmative Action and the answer is simple: My career is in a field where Affirmative-Action doesn’t exist and I’ve seen how opportunities for qualified (and over qualified) African-Americans don’t exist when they don’t have to.

Like Jackie Robinson, many African-Americans are trapped in a no-win situation. When you under-perform, people ask why you don’t speak properly or call you lazy. When you excel, you’re arrogant, um, excuse me…you’re uppity!

It all makes me wonder: What does America want from African-Americans? This country certainly doesn’t want us to be a permanent underclass. That co$t too much — which is the ONLY concern in some people’s political equation. But apparently, they don’t want us to be successful either.

You may have noticed in the news today that the U.S. House of Representatives issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against us and our ancestors  who were oppressed and enslaved under slavery and the Jim Crow. Interestingly, the resolution was introduced by Steve Cohen, the only white representative from a predominantly black congressional district.

I have to admit, I think the apology is long overdue, and the House was nicely able to side-step reparations while issuing the apology. To the U.S. House, I say: “Apology accepted!” But the apology should also look forward.

Just today a report entitled, “Left Behind! Black America: A Neglected Priority in the Global AIDS Epidemic,” chronicles the fact that while America rightfully provides AIDS  and HIV relief and education around the world, our efforts among blacks in the U.S. falls woefully short. For other countries, the U.S. mandates a national AIDS plan, while America has no such plan. If blacks in the U.S. were their own country, we would rank as the 16th nation in the world concerning the AIDS epidemic. Plus, AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women ages 35-44. I don’t want to say more than I mean, but I wonder if our response — or lack thereof — would be the same if it where another race of young women dying?

We must be honest, AIDS is a behavioral disease (something we can’t do much about). At the same time, though, it is a disease borne of ignorance and lack of both education and opportunity (something we can do something about). But as a person who wants to give his life for the sake of the lives of others. And as someone who desires to serve and forgive those who don’t deserve it as Jesus does, I think it might be within our grasp to care for people suffering people right here at home. And for the times we don’t, I apologize.

I’ve always had a romantic view of the 60’s. The stories my father taught me about courageous men and women protesting for equal rights as citizens and others who voiced opposition against the Vietnam War always seemed heroic to me. Part of me has always wished I could have lived then. I, unfortunately, grew up in the pitiful pit of 80’s greed and the messy mire of the Clinton and Gingrich sex scandals of the 1990’s. It didn’t seem nearly as exciting as the 60’s did. Worse still, it was as if no one in public life in the 80’s and 90’s had a core or center that guided him or her in any way.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so interested in what will happen this summer. 40 years ago was the long, hot summer of 1968. It was the summer when Robert Kennedy – immediately after winning the Californian primary – was shot in a hotel kitchen. Yet before he was shot, Kennedy penned a Op-Ed noting that race relations in the United States were moving so quickly that he could envision a black man being president in, yup, you guessed it, 40 years.

At the same time that Bobby Kennedy was forecasting America’s future concerning race relations, brave men like Dwain Evans (a mentor and member of my congregation), Walter Burch, Roosevelt Wells, and others were mightily attempting to bring about racial change and harmony within my non-denominational denomination. Sadly, their heroic efforts remain less fulfilled than Kennedy’s.

This summer as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination on the 45th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, I will still be one of three adults of African-American descent in my congregation. And I will be such with full knowledge that there are black churches and white churches across my non-denom-denom where there are NO people outside the majority race. What’s more, the majority race – whether white or black – will be sending overt and subtle messages that they want to keep it that way.

40 years later, the kingdom of God is better reflected racially and culturally at political rallies and sporting events than it is in the church!

40 years later people in churches are still saying that it is “Okay” because of “cultural” differences for there to be two (and perhaps three, four or five) different churches!

40 years later we are closer to “I Have A Dream” than John 17.

So, perhaps I’ve been wrong. I don’t have to fantasize about living in 1968. I’m living in 1968…but only when I look at the church.


P.S. Today is Loving Day, the day we celebrate the Supreme Court granting equal rights and protection for interracial couples. Click HERE for more information.

I was away teaching and enjoying the Pepperdine Bible Lectures last week, so I am remiss that I missed a special occasion. Last Friday, Mildred Loving, 68, passed away. Mildred Loving, born Mildred Jeter, began dating her husband, Richard Loving, when she was just 11 years old and Richard was 17. In the early years of their marriage, Mildred and Richard were arrested several times together. The reason? Mildred was black and Richard was white. And in 1958 it was illegal for them to be married in the state of Virginia. Apparently, Virginia has not always been for lovers.

Threatened with years of imprisonment, the Loving’s changed history when they challenged the Constitutionality of Virginia’s marriage laws and in 1967 won the day when the Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. From that day forward, every state, including those in the south which had laws forbidding it, were required to recognize interracial marriage.

Mildred has lived a quiet life since Richard’s death in a car wreck in 1975. Not one for the spotlight, Mildred said of her life, “I never wanted to be a hero, just a bride. It wasn’t my doing, it was God’s work.”

Each June 12th, couples across America celebrate “Loving Day” which celebrates the legalization of interracial marriage.

So for marriages like mine and kids with mocha colored skin and long, curly hair I say to Mildred and Richard, “Thank you for Loving.”


National Props

Posted: April 25, 2008 in race relations, sports

An e-mail I sent concerning Barry Bonds and race to the Jim Rome Show, has been posted as today’s “Huge E-mail of the Day.” Please pardon the type-o’s. But of course, you’re all used to that by now. See the e-mail here.