Color of Compromise

“Churches remain racially segregated and are largely ineffective in addressing complex racial challenges. In The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby takes us back to the root of this injustice in the American church, highlighting the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about progress between black and white people.”

“This book provides an in-depth diagnosis for a racially divided American church and suggests ways to foster a more equitable and inclusive environment among God’s people.” Read more here.

Jemar Tisby’s book & video series on the history of racism in and around the American church has become a bestseller. He is speaking to the moment we are in right now.

Who: Christians who are concerned about racism and ready to learn.

What: The Color of Compromise Video Study

When: Wednesdays, Sept. 15 – Nov. 10, 6:30-7:45 p.m.

Where: Bethel Lutheran Church, 5110 Grand Ave., Gurnee

Why: The church needs to be honest about her complicity with racism and actively work against it.

How: At each session we will watch a video (usually 20-25 minutes) together then discuss in small groups. There is no required reading.

Please register by completing this simple Google form. Please register by Friday, Sept. 11

On the U.S. Prison System and the Church

You tell me Jesus forgives me, how come your church never does?

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.

Matthew 25

[This is the 3rd post in a series highlighting portions of The Truth About 13th.]

Throughout the hour-long discussion, the LRJ panel reflects on the experience of people who are in prison and their families. In the clip above, Rev. Blake tells a story about a friend who was formerly incarcerated asking him: “You tell me Jesus forgives me. How come your church never does?”

It’s a startling question. What would it mean for us, as a church, to express forgiveness of people who have been in prison? I’ve not thought of it much until seeing this, but surely it would involve actively welcoming them into the life of our congregations and seeking the well-being of their families.

Chaplain Schwarz advises that, “you don’t just incarcerate an individual, you incarcerate a family.” (I’m not sure it’s mentioned in the video, but in the live chat several people recommended supporting Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree ministry as a tangible way to love families with a parent who is incarcerated.)

Later, Rev. Lattimore reflects on the difference between punitive justice and restorative justice. Our criminal justice system is focused on punishment but as Christians our life’s work is to seek restoration.

I have not specifically highlighted a section where Jacq Wilson speaks, but hearing him tell about his brother’s time in prison and the feeling of helplessness in the face of the criminal justice system is powerful. He calls it dehumanizing. He talks about the risk of becoming hopeless. He testifies to the power of faith in Christ to keep hope alive even in that overwhelming circumstance.

Please take time to watch part or all of this discussion. It is worth your time.

On Critical Race Theory

Should we be afraid of critical race theory?

“In the church when we talk about any issues around race or criminal justice it brings up the question of should we be afraid of Critical Race Theory? Could you give us a working definition and talk about that idea?”

I had never heard of critical race theory (CRT), and then suddenly I heard it and now it seems to be everywhere. As the question quoted above reflects, sometimes Christians express fear of critical race theory, believing, I think, that it draws people away from the gospel. CRT is a way of describing how racism works in the United States, how deeply embedded it is in many systems. It was first developed by legal scholars and now informs scholarship in many areas.

The Southern Baptist Convention has been in a relatively high profile debate over CRT. President Trump issued an executive order banning diversity training rooted in CRT.

Every Christian social justice leader I follow has addressed critical race theory in about the same way: “I’d never heard of CRT until someone ‘accused’ me of using it. Then I looked into it and realized, hey, this describes what I’ve been seeing!”

I appreciated how the LRJ panel addressed this topic. Dr. Koehlinger and Rev. Lattimore both address the question from their different perspectives – academic and theological.

When Rev. Bolling picks up the discussion later, he addresses the connection between a theory (like critical race theory) and a concrete experience (like the criminal justice system, which disproportionately punishes people of color). He compares it to the theory of gravity and a child’s ice cream falling on the floor. Whether or not you are willing to discuss the theory of gravity, the effect of gravity happens: ice cream on the floor, inedible. We can refuse to discuss CRT, but it is just describing an actual experience people are having in the world. With or without the theory, the experience remains.

The panel’s discussion here met a need for me and I am thankful for it.

Coming next: On the U.S. prison system and the church

Why study history?

For Christians who advocate for racial justice, understanding a Biblical perspective on justice is essential. It’s also complicated, and ongoing, and sometimes controversial.

So I was intrigued when Lutherans for Racial Justice hosted a panel discussion in response to the Netflix documentary 13th in early December. The panel discussed several issues related to criminal justice and racial justice from their perspective as Lutheran Christians.

The discussion is over an hour long, so over three days this week I’m going to post a short description of one portion of the discussion I found helpful. Each post will have a link to the video that starts at the relevant point. (The video above will start from the beginning of the discussion.)

  • Today: On the value of learning history
  • Wednesday: On Critical Race Theory
  • Friday: On the U.S. prison system and the church

On the value of learning history

What do you know about Black history in America? What do you know about the role of the church during Civil Rights? For most of us the answer is, “Not much.” Does that matter?

Why is understanding the history and experience of Black Americans important?

Our denomination is predominantly White, and we need to make a concerted effort to learn Black history. Rev. Lattimore shows us that this is a need that was identified by our church body more than 50 years ago. In 1968, seminary president J.A.O. Preus wrote that, “the white majority in our Lutheran Churches needs to listen very carefully to what [our Lutheran negro clergymen are saying]… because we need to give to the black man in our churches a position of dignity and equality, which he feels (and probably rightly) that he has not heretofore enjoyed.” (The Springfielder, Summer, 1968)

Dr. Koehlinger talks about the church’s role in the Civil Rights movement and points out that, although we prefer to remember the ways the church supported freedom and dignity, our history is more complicated: for abolition AND for slavery; supporting racial integration AND supporting Jim Crow laws.

Taking an honest account of the church’s role in the struggle for racial justice is essential to moving forward as agents of true hope. God can’t use us to bring healing if we do not acknowledge our complicity with sin. A study of The Color of Compromise, beginning January 11, is one way to do that. Registration is open until Friday, January 8. Find the details here.

LRJ Panel members – Rev. Kyle Blake, Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling, Dr. Amy Koehlinger, Rev. Warren Lattimore, Chaplain Lorinda Schwarz, and attorney Jacq Wilson.

Coming Wednesday: LRJ Panel On Critical Race Theory

Echo Welcome to Our Neighbors

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Jesus

“We welcome people of all races, cultures, and ethnicities into our churches, neighborhoods, homes and communities.” – 30+ Lake County churches in a joint statement

“No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” – You & me

I am sure we all try to live out this welcome in our lives. We strive to treat everyone we meet with respect and kindness that shines the light of Christ. Individual kindness is essential but not sufficient. We also need to announce it in public.

We need to find our megaphones and announce welcome to our neighborhoods and communities, to proclaim it loudly and invite others to join their voices.

The whisper of kindness in our individual relationships grows into a loud voice proclaiming welcome when we echo each other.

These yard signs are showing up in communities around the country. I plan to put one up in my yard. Some people might notice it. Some people might read it. Lots of people probably will not notice it.

 

 

 

 

 

But what if, on the next block, someone echoes it…

And a neighborhood over, it echoes again…

The welcome gets louder. The echoed message makes our neighborhood a more welcoming community, just as we have promised.

*******

Do you want to echo welcome to our neighbors? Drop me a note and we’ll connect!  I’ll order signs. The cost is $15 each. You can find my e-mail address is on the About page.

Silence is Not Neutral

After the the white nationalist march, counter protest, and deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va. last month, dozens of churches in our area issued this statement together-

I didn’t grow up thinking much about race. Part of my racial identity as a white woman is that I don’t have to think about my race. The world doesn’t remind me that I’m white; it just receives me as an individual.

The freedom to ignore racism is a related privilege. Racism is evil but it doesn’t seem to affect my daily life.

Majority white churches have a habit of silence in the face of racism. Silence is not neutral, it’s not ok. After Charlottesville, Michael Eric Dyson wrote in the New York Times, “If such heinous behavior is met by white silence, it will only cement the perception that as long as most white folk are not immediately at risk, then all is relatively well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could more clearly declare the moral bankruptcy of our country.”

This time we are not silent. This time, dozens of churches in Lake County, including several majority white congregations, spoke out together against racism.

We lament the insidious cancer of racism in the United States today….

I am so relieved to see this word, lament, in our joint statement. Lament is a prayer arising out of need. In our pain, we call out to God, trusting that he will respond to our suffering. This lament expresses the fact that we are one body, and when one suffers we all suffer.

We are grateful for the diversity of God’s world and we have much to learn from each other.

Living like people who are grateful for diversity is hard. It demands humility, that we value others as much as ourselves. It is also essential to our communities and to our growing in Christ.

Let’s continue to work together, to speak together, to pray together against oppression.

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!

Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.

Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 44)

In the News: The Church at Work in Chicago

high-fives-at-oglesby“The children entered the school to cheers and salutes. Every stairwell and entrance was flanked by men, from the basement to the third floor. The men cheered and high-fived students, and before the day was over more than 100 men agreed to volunteer monthly for a literacy program called Real Men Read and to be mentors at Oglesby.”

In this commentary for the Chicago Tribune, Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, tells how 300 men showed up on the first day of school at an elementary school on the south side to cheer for and encourage students.

300! Men! To cheer for them!

This is the church at work, the body of Christ at work in the world to love the children.

Several people came together, doing the work God set before them, for this to happen.

The principal of Oglesby had a vision of how her school could be. She prayed about it. She told her pastor about it. She asked for help.

The pastor supported the principal, recognized her vision, and shared it with the church. The pastor invested himself and invited the church to join him. “I called for men… to join me at Oglesby on the morning of Sept. 6,” he writes.

The church and the community responded. “Almost 300 men, most from Trinity United Church of Christ on the Far South Side, stood with members of the Black Star Project, Nation of Islam and teachers from Oglesby Elementary School in the Auburn Gresham community.”

God bless it. How can our churches work together in our community to be the body of Christ in the world?

Four Steps to Helping Your Community

Do you ever wonder what you can do to make a difference in your community? As in, what action can you take that will create positive change?

Step 1: Hang around some people.

People spending time together is the core of an essential resource for healthy communities. Sociologists call it social capital. Most people call it being involved, hanging out, serving, attending, joining.

community-working-togetherAny kind of activity people do together builds social connections. Having friends for dinner, going to church, voting, attending public meetings, chatting with neighbors.

Strong social capital in a community is connected with better life for everyone in that community. If lots of other people go to school board meetings and speak up for the needs of families, everyone in the community benefits from better schools — whether they attend meetings or not. Continue reading “Four Steps to Helping Your Community”

Churches Have More to Share Than Jesus and Our Money

In my (limited) experience, church people work together to connect with the world mainly in two ways: to tell about Jesus, and to share our money. Mostly, we give our money to other groups working to tell about Jesus or fight poverty.

Sharing Jesus and sharing money are good things to do. If you are doing these things, I support you.

But I think we are overlooking something important. Continue reading “Churches Have More to Share Than Jesus and Our Money”