Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Racial Divide: Where Do We Begin? Part 2



Yesterday my heart was so grieved over the tumultuous events throughout the week, that I felt I had to share my heart here. So I posted The Racial Divide: Where Do We Begin? yesterday, hoping to encourage us as Brothers and Sisters in Christ to love one another well during these times.

Love digs deep. Love is costly. Love calls us to live not only for our own benefit and welfare, but for the benefit and welfare of others.

Yesterday I felt called to call us all to LOVE one another during these times. It's what I believe our Father expects of us, now more than ever.

Today, I feel called to inspire us to do one more thing. This is perhaps the most important thing we can do right now. This is perhaps the real starting point. I believe I took it for granted that God's people were already doing this. I took for granted that it didn't need to be said.

Then I read a Facebook post from a man I call my "Big Bro". His words were poignant and powerful. His words reminded me that these are times when nothing can be taken for granted. All truth must be said and shared - LOVE.

Here... His thoughts:

"I have read the news articles and posts here in response to the news of recent days. I have read of suggestions for protests, marches, recalling our legislators, add and modify legislations, calls for "dialogue", sensitivity training, additional training, body cameras, youth centers, prison reform... whew... NONE OF THESE WILL EFFECT A LASTING AND POSITIVE RESULT. To my friends who believe in Jesus Christ, the ONLY solution is prayer. The Bible says "and the government shall be upon His shoulders...", not the other way around. As much as I love and respect social justice as a ministry I believe that this country, and down to our community are in need of a focus that has not been experienced in quite some time. Therefore I am asking my preacher friends to point out to their congregations scripture that will (1) get us through this period and (2) offer solutions based on prayer and supplication. I no longer have faith in our government... to effect change in our quality of life. 'MY faith is built on nothing less...'"

As my Brother has said, we must run to the Father, His Word and Prayer like never before.

HE is the answer.

Today.

And always.

Amen and Amen.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The US Racial Divide - Where do we Begin?



This week was one of the most discouraging in our country in some time.

Sure we've lived through deadlier weeks - soldiers falling while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, 9/11, the Boston Marathon Massacre...

And yet there's something that darkens the heart and minds of Americans when we witness fellow citizens - especially our young African American males - gunned down in the street and during routine traffic stops. 



There's something that oppresses the human psyche when we witness police officers, charged with the oath to protect and serve, gunned down and murdered by a gunman motivated by hatred and racism. (And as a military veteran that served in Afghanistan, possibly out of mental illness and PTSD.)



There's something hugely wrong about weeks like this...

And yet we are a resilient people. We have persevered through many difficult times. We have stood together and marched together, hand-in-hand, in solidarity of heart and mind.

We can make it through these challenging times as well. We can rise up from these ashes - better, stronger, more unified even.

How, you ask?

Well I don't have all the answers or every single step, but I believe our rise begins with one word.

Empathy.

As we examine the cultural-transforming power of the US Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's, it is impossible to miss the varying hues of people that actively participated in mass marches, freedom rides and sit-ins at "whites-only" lunch counters. African Americans were joined by Caucasian and Jewish brothers and sisters that lent their presence and their voices. They were joined by politicians that fought bigotry and status-quo mentality to lobby for and sign legislation that afforded African Americans the freedoms we experience today.

America will rise or fall as one. We are inseparable in respect to our fate as a country. We will self-destruct if we continue to fight one another. White vs. Black. Police officer vs. civilian. Republican vs. Democrat. 

One way to empathize? We should all respect and support the Black Lives Matter Movement. Doing so does not negate that "All Lives Matter". It only confirms that fact.

We must march together, hand-in-hand in solidarity of heart and mind. We must use our voices to speak against the disparity of our penal system that lands a larger percentage of African American men in jail than any other race.* We must speak against a culture where a person is viewed as a threat simply because of his dark skin. We must speak against a social system that dictates a child's destiny largely because of the color of her skin or the strength of his parents' bank account, assets and financial portfolio.

We must admit that there is such a thing as "White Privilege". Can we just start there?

And in the words of that great philosopher Forrest Gump... "That's all I have to say about that."

This week, I was encouraged by so many of my brothers and sisters of a lighter hue, men and women that spoke out against the violence and injustice of this week. I'd like to share a powerful Facebook post written by a dear sister-friend of mine who "gets it" (and happens to be Caucasian).
"I am shocked and deeply disturbed at the assassinations caught on video of two African American men by white police officers over the past few days. I have no doubt that if they had been white, they would be alive. I can't really describe my disgust accurately with words. Then, the premeditated assassination of 5 white police officers. Horrible. What can we do if we are white? Pray for insight and for courage to speak up for our brothers and sisters of color. Become educated about the reality of the often covert and unrecognized racial oppression in our country. White privilege is invisible to us because it's all we know. I actually had a white, blond haired, blue eyed man deny to me that white privilege exists as recently as 3 months ago. Get educated! And LOVE others like never before. Praying for change and peace in our country." 
I will end this post with my sister's words. We must ALL get educated. We must speak up when others around us are oppressed or denied basic liberties. And we must LOVE others like never before.

Amen and amen.





* According to the NAACP's "Criminal Justice Fact Sheet", African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of their Caucasian counterparts. Click the above link to see even more eye-opening stats like these.




Sunday, July 3, 2016

Farewell Elie Wiesel - Your Words Still Speak


My heart broke at the news yesterday...

Elie Wiesel, writer, professor and human rights activist, passed away yesterday, at the age of 87.

I don't remember when I was first introduced to Elie, but I do remember seeing him interviewed on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I also remember watching footage of his tour of the concentration camp he had endured and survived at the young age of 15. I still remember the pain in his eyes.

I also remember reading his book Night for the first time.



I wept every night as I turned the pages of Elie's retelling of his young life as a young Jewish boy. His sister and mother were killed upon arrival to Auschwitz concentration camp. After being transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp alongside his father, Elie watched his captors beat his father mercilessly. He also watched his father die before his eyes, his spirit nearly destroyed by the helplessness and shame he felt.

His father died only weeks before Buchenwald was liberated.

Night ruined me. I couldn't fathom the horrors that so many faced during that period in history. I couldn't understand how human beings could mistreat other human beings so. I wanted justice for the bodies and souls lost during the Holocaust. I was furious.

And then I read the rest of the story...

After Elie survived the concentration camps and the horrors and pain that accompanied them, after he survived the deaths of his mother, father and sister, after he survived being orphaned following the Holocaust, with no parents or living relatives to care for him -- he made a conscious choice.

He chose to live.

Elie Wiesel chose to tell his story. He chose to teach others. He chose to forgive. He chose to love.

And he chose to fight for justice for other people around the world. He became a voice for those who had no voice.

So much so, that in 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for raising his voice against violence, repression and racism.

When awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Elie shared some powerful and memorable words. In this excerpt, he speaks of the teenage boy that he was, the boy that emerged from the pain of those concentration camps:
"I remember: he asked his father: 'Can this be true?' This is the 20th Century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent? And now the boy is turning to me: 'Tell me,' he asks. 'What have you done with my future? What have you done with your life?' And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent."
He went on to say...
"And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."
Many years ago, Elie Wiesel encouraged me to take sides. To interfere. To make the place where other people are being persecuted or forgotten - to make that place, right then, the center of the universe.

What side should I take today? Where should I interfere? Where should I go to aid the persecuted and forgotten?

This is a question I ask myself today, in honor and memory of my hero and friend, Elie Wiesel.