Racism in America is a white person's sin issue that can only be resolved by white America.
Sometimes when we are led to pray for others, we tend to forget that we are not exempt from those prayers ourselves. On Memorial Day, I joined a group of leaders and pastors to pray against racism and social injustice. Each of us was given a topic to cover in prayer. My prayer focus was for God to heal those who experienced injustice and for the Lord to grant them beauty for ashes according to Isaiah 61:3. Little did I realize that this moment would begin a journey I did not plan to take.
A few days after the prayer event, the prayer request that I had made to the Lord for others still pressed upon my heart. This time the Holy Spirit led me to reflect on myself. His words to me were, “You are not exempt from those who need to be healed. You have experienced injustice too.” At that moment, a 21-year-old secret surfaced.
On June 14, 1999, my parents received a call that changed our lives forever. My oldest brother was dead—shot and killed by the Baltimore police. Unlike many innocent black men and women shot by the police, my brother wasn't doing the right thing and was rightly to be arrested. Yet he resisted arrest and led the police on a high-speed chase until his vehicle crashed. At the crash site, a police officer approached his vehicle and reported that he thought my brother was reaching for a gun and fired as many as 10 shots into my brother’s body. As a result, the officer was placed on paid administrative leave.
During a private investigation, the original police report was found to be falsified. Instead of one officer being involved in my brother’s killing, there were three officers. The death certificate read “shot numerous times” and revealed more than 10 bullet wounds ...
Millennials are here and they are starting to take over in leadership roles today.
The Millennials are the most studied, talked about, and dissected group in history. They've been praised as the next great generation and, in some evangelical circles, the missionary generation.
I’m not going to address everything— or even many things— about Millennials here. My focus has been how generations work together and I am giving a very high-end look at generations for the interested observer.
In general, they’re better educated – a factor tied to employment and financial well-being – but there is a sharp divide between the economic fortunes of those who have a college education and those who don’t.
Millennials have brought more racial and ethnic diversity to American society. And Millennial women, like Generation X women, are more likely to participate in the nation’s workforce than prior generations.
Compared with previous generations, Millennials – those ages 22 to 37 in 2018 – are delaying or foregoing marriage and have been somewhat slower in forming their own households. They are also more likely to be living at home with their parents, and for longer stretches.
Here’s a few points for context.
Whatever your view is of Millennials, good or bad, they are adults (in their 20s and 30s!), and they are starting to take over in leadership roles today. That’s a key part of our discussion today.
Perhaps some historical references might provide a bit more context.
Like earlier generations, there are things that helped to shape Millennials. Terrorism has become a defining issue. It's worth noting that since 9/11, America's fear of terrorism has actually manifested ...
Looking at Marxism and Critical Race Theory in light of the problem of racism in America.
During the weeks following the death of George Floyd, I have been following the news with an increasing sense of sadness and concern for the problems facing the United States regarding race and racism.
I’ve been unsure how to respond as I’ve scrolled through social media and watched increasingly polarized rhetoric on both sides of the political aisle—except to listen to the voices of Black friends and neighbors who are hurting and to pray for justice.
I’ve tried to apply the biblical principle of being “slow to speak” (James 1:19), but I’ve been convicted recently about joining a particular thread of the (inter)national conversation taking place among those who share my faith in Jesus Christ and want to support truth and justice without compromising on principles peculiar and integral to our faith—principles that they are afraid might be stealthily replaced by rhetoric from other, incompatible frameworks of thinking.
Two frameworks I’ve been hearing about increasingly often are familiar to me from my own field: Critical Race Theory and Marxism. Because I have some expertise in these areas, I want to offer some thoughts and, hopefully, clarification to the conversation.
I’ll begin by giving some credentials, not to ask for accolades but to indicate why I want to address these areas of the cultural conversation in particular. I have two English degrees (B.A. and M.A.) from a Christian university and a Ph.D. in literature and criticism from a state university.
In my field, Marxism is one of the most commonly studied and most influential perspectives, and Critical Race Theory is also a significant force and gaining momentum. As a result, I’ve studied these theories ...
The writer and activist measures them against the promises of Scripture and finds them wanting.
As D. L. Mayfield understands it, the American Dream offers a simple formula: “Anyone can make something of themselves if only they try hard enough.”
In one sense, I can’t argue with this formula because it’s been the story of my life. I’ve worked hard, and to a large degree I’ve built the life I want. Yet in another sense, I know it’s fanciful to believe I’m a purely self-made woman. My skin color, my family, my place of birth, my education, and my personal connections are just a few of the advantages I’ve enjoyed.
In her latest book, The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety, and Power, Mayfield calls upon Christians to reject the “work hard and achieve your dreams” formula as both false and dangerous. For some, she argues, trusting in the American Dream is a recipe for disappointment. (After all, plenty of hard-working people see their ambitions thwarted by misfortune, injustice, or structural barriers.) For others, the ones who do seem to succeed, the greater danger is self-satisfied complacency. Overlooking their privileges, they fail to ask why others can’t follow the same path.
To expose the insufficiency of the American Dream, Mayfield measures it against the prophecy found in Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus used to inaugurate his public ministry in Luke 4:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favor. (Luke 4:18–19)
Instead of orienting our lives around the false ideals of affluence, autonomy, safety, ...
In the midst of trying to do the right thing, it’s easy to forget to do it in the right way.
Outside a US congressman’s office, Christians holding homemade protest signs and clergy dressed in their robes and collars attend a march to challenge the separation of families seeking asylum at the US–Mexico border. They join in impassioned chants of “Keep the kids, deport the racists!” and “Lock them up!” referring to those who work for the US Border Patrol. In protesting the dehumanizing ugliness of children being separated from their parents they dehumanize others in return, calling for their rights to be taken away and their freedoms restricted.
Inside the offices of a Christian nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to immigrants, volunteers from a local church assist young immigrants with their DACA applications. These young men and women came to the US with their families when they were children and now find themselves undocumented, unable to live, work, or attend college in the US without the threat of deportation. The volunteers chat with the eager immigrants over donuts and coffee as they navigate the complex paperwork that will allow them to legally remain in their communities.
While the Christians in both these scenarios may believe very similar things about immigration, they have chosen to live out their convictions in dramatically different ways. But what makes us immediately recognize them as distinct from one another? I would suggest that the Christians in the second example are reflecting God’s beauty in the way they live out their beliefs about immigration. I believe that while God expects the content of our beliefs to be righteous, he also wants the form of our faith to be beautiful. Today, I’m using immigration as an example of how we can ...
Four practical ways teachers can keep impacting their students as they teach through a screen.
For millions of Americans, the school year has already ended—good news for Zoom-weary students, parents, and educators alike. But even as families are figuring out how to entertain their children all summer long, teachers will have to regroup and figure out what distance learning might look like at the start of the school year. After all, choosing when to reopen schools isn’t a simple process. While some governors have said that schools will reopen this fall, last month, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the US Senate that remote learning is likely to continue into the next school year. While the CDC provided recommendations for reopening schools, there is doubt from both parents and members of Congress alike. As an educator and parent, I share these concerns.
Although we’re in the middle of the summer, teachers must begin to prepare for delivering academic instruction. While teachers can look to their districts and colleagues for resources and support, educators of faith have an additional source of wisdom: Jesus.
Yes, much of Jesus’ teaching came in person. Though he sometimes addressed people from hundreds of feet away—from a boat while they stayed on land, for example—many of the stories found in the gospels portray a person who enjoyed being close to others. Yet despite the incarnational nature of Christ’s ministry, there were moments when Christ ministered through lessons and healing at a distance.
Here are four Christ-inspired techniques critical for Christian teachers, and all educators, to add to their teaching toolbelt for the fall:
1. Identify ways to be a blessing for students at a distance.
With her husband Arlin, she rejected secular education and pioneered an alternative that started with student discipline.
Beka Horton, the “Beka” of A Beka Book and the cofounder of Pensacola Christian Academy and Pensacola Christian College, died on June 27 at the age of 90. Over the course of 50 years, Horton and her husband, Arlin, translated conservative Baptist beliefs about authority, discipline, sin, and salvation into a pedagogical package they promoted as traditional, biblical education. Their work shaped much of the Christian school and homeschool movements.
When Horton retired in 2012, her curriculum company brought in annual revenue of about $2 million, publishing the textbooks and readers used in 10,000 Christian schools and by more than 100,000 homeschool students, according to internal estimates. Rebranded as Abeka in 2017, the company, along with Bob Jones University, is one of the two major producers of Christian school curricula.
The couple never planned on building an education empire, according to Horton. They were only trying to reject what they saw as the secular and anti-Christian influences on mainstream educational philosophy and stay true to their commitment to be separate from the world.
“Our business is to be faithful. This is God’s work, not ours,” she said. “We didn’t want to live in disobedience, so we’d have to do what God wanted us to do.”
Horton was born in East Tennessee in 1929 and became a Christian as a teenager at a local Baptist church. Her newfound faith soon put her in conflict with her mother, as the young Beka Hall struggled with submission to authority. Her mother forbade her from going to Sunday night youth group, because she’d have to return home after dark on a bus, and it didn’t seem safe.
The social media saga involving Aimee Byrd and Genevan Commons calls for discipline, justice, and restoration beyond “cancel culture.”
In an era when swift social media reactions and public repudiations offer an instantaneous form of rebuke and discipline, what role does the church have in holding its leaders and members accountable for online speech?
Aimee Byrd has found herself at the center of this question. The author of Why Can’t We Be Friends?, Byrd has come under fire from some within her Reformed theological tradition for her latest book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
The fight has largely played out on blogs and in private online discussions, but also has Byrd and her critics each calling for Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) sessions (church elders) to take action.
Two weeks ago, screenshots from a private Facebook group called Genevan Commons were posted on an anonymous website that describes itself as an “archive of reviling, cyberbullying, harassment, sexism, and racism among church officers and laypeople.”
Byrd’s supporters have challenged the harsh comments within the Facebook group’s threads, including remarks that address her motives,appearance, and relationship with her husband. They’ve asked whether the leaders responsible will be held accountable for the remarks.
“We are greatly concerned that officers of the church, who have sworn to be accountable to ‘their brethren in the Lord’ would attempt to hide behind a group that pledges itself to secrecy, as if ‘locker room talk’ could somehow be exempted from the accountability of the church on the basis of an alleged right to privacy,” read a statement signed by several dozen OPC pastors and elders.
Byrd was well known for blogging as “The Housewife Theologian” at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals ...
My interview with John C. Richards Jr. on how we are doing with race and justice today.
Ed: Tell us a bit about what you are up to in fighting for racial justice.
John: I'm from Brunswick, Georgia. My hometown is there, born and raised there 18 years, spent 18 years of my life in Brunswick. This is where the Ahmaud Arbery murder happened in February. Folks from my hometown reached out to me and wanted to talk about what they could do to get the case on the national radar. The McMichaels had been not arrested for at least 60 days around that time. A lot of folks locally were asking a lot of questions.
In my background as a lawyer, I gave them some peaceful action steps. I am an advocate of nonviolent demonstration. One of the things that you can do is advocate for victims when they don't have voices. One of the things I asked them to do was call local authorities to get it on the national radar.
Thirty days later, it became a national story. A lot of people saw the video. That's when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation came in—when local authorities did not arrest them.
As soon as they came to the scene, the third gentlemen had the video and showed it to them. Even based on that evidence, they refused to make an arrest. I've been involved in that since March when we were trying to get this on the national radar. I think one of my good friends put it well when he said, "Brunswick, Georgia was the match and Minneapolis was the gasoline," and we're all seeing that social fire burn right now.
Ed: Why are you concerned about white pastors not speaking up on some of these issues?
John: Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my heroes in the faith in terms of him making and effecting real change. During his time, there was a dichotomy in the black community. You either had the Martin Luther ...
As the hit Broadway musical makes its screen debut in a time of social unrest, its themes of hope and redemption resound all the louder.
If not for the outbreak of COVID-19, the wildly successful Broadway musical Hamilton would embark on its fourth tour this fall. Instead—to the delight of fans and penny-pinching show-goers—a planned film version, featuring the original cast members, will begin streaming this week on Disney+, over a year ahead of its original theater release date. What was once available only with access to an urban center and extra cash is now coming to a screen near you.
Hamilton’s screen debut is also noteworthy in that it comes at a time of elevated social unrest in America. Many people are anxious or angry about racial injustice, police brutality, and hyper-polarized politics. For pastor and church planter Kevin Cloud, the show—with its moral vision and artistic innovations—offers an invaluable lens on both our current moment and our Christian responsibilities within it. Cloud, the author of God and Hamilton: Spiritual Themes from the Life of Alexander Hamilton and the Broadway Musical He Inspired, leads workshops on faith and creativity around the country, drawing on his book. Writer Sarah Arthur corresponded with Cloud about using Hamilton to explore the intersection of faith, the arts, and social change.
Why has this story about a distant historical figure struck such a chord?
I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined how this musical would catapult Alexander Hamilton from a forgotten Founding Father into a cultural icon. A number of different dynamics have worked together, creating a deep resonance within our culture.
First and foremost, Hamilton is an extraordinary work of art. It won 11 Tony Awards in 2016, including best musical, and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. I agree with Michelle Obama, who ...
How congregations in the former Soviet Union are responding to the coronavirus challenge can help the global church think better about buildings, young professionals, and persecution.
For many Western Christians, Eurasia is uncharted territory, and no less so amid this pandemic. In the midst of troubling COVID-19 tallies from the US and Europe, little is heard about what is happening in this strategically important region, situated with Europe to its west, China to its southeast, and the Muslim world to its south.
Yet the way local evangelical churches are responding to coronavirus challenges speaks volumes about their way of life and ministry, as well as their future missions potential.
National church leaders testify that the situation in Russia—with more than 640,000 confirmed cases, the third-worst reported outbreak in the world after the US and Brazil—and other Eurasian nations is alarming. Health systems, economies, transportation, and security systems are on the verge of collapse. Mass testing for COVID-19 is not happening. Governments deny access to reliable information. And all the while the war in Ukraine continues, and restrictions on religious freedom and human rights increase in Russia, Belarus, and Central Asia.
The former Soviet Union is a gray zone where hybrid systems have emerged which imitate the developed world while using talk of democracy, free markets, rule of law, independent media, freedom, and human rights to mask their absence. Given these circumstances, evangelical churches are under constant pressure both from government authorities and wider society, which are dominated by either aggressive Orthodoxy, Islamism, or a secular Soviet mindset.
However, the challenge of the pandemic has lit a spark which casts light on the little-noticed but active and essential role of evangelical churches in this gray zone. Based on my extensive conversations with local leaders, here ...