Racial Reconciliation is for the ENTIRE body of Christ so I’m Redefining What It Means

12 08 2015

I’m in a place of psychological shift. The way I think is being altered, and I’m happy for it. I hope that as I get older, I get wiser and I learn how to constructively question things I have believed in order to enter into new and truer forms of belief. I don’t want to believe blindly, but I want to build belief based on how I build and live my life.

For me, I believe in racial reconciliation in the church. It is something that entered my mind ten years ago and has never left. It is something that has entered my mission six years ago and has revealed itself as a true demonstration of church.

But I may be a rare being. I am a black woman highly aware of racial, gender, sexual and class dynamics. I spent a portion of my childhood, teens and early twenties in black churches (which I am sure holds its own degrees and rankings of how “black church” I am). But that has been my experience. Have I always fit into said black churches? I would argue that I never have. As a Nigerian, it is hard not to remain an outlier or to become the link back to Africa so many are desperate for they don’t realize they’re limiting what my connection with them could be because of it. So I have always been either outsider or a means to the inside, back to Africa. Neither way have I been particularly useful to or connected to the history of the black church in the United States.

But my story took an odd turn in my mid-twenties. I joined a white church in hopes to be part of the nearly impossible mission of the church to be reconciled to one another. And the area I am most interested in doing so is through race and ethnicity.

Ephesians 2:12-16 is a key text in reconciling work, but many miss its great power. It demonstrates the power of God to bend time – many overlook this and skip to Jew-Gentile relations (we’ll leave that conversation for another post). This movement is too quick if it overlooks what time is doing and meaning for the church.

Eph. 2 talks about the reconciling work that Christ has already done that we are living into in the present – though it has already been done. We are currently trying to live into the past and future in the present. We are thus trying to figure out how to live into the reality Christ has already set before us – we are trying to make what has been will be. Reconciliation is about transcending time, moving beyond the past while requiring it, living into the future all the while not knowing it that well. We need a more complex understanding of racial reconciliation – at the bare minimum to honor how time is working in our conceptualizing of it. But we stick with our simple strategies of what some (mainly white) people have guessed it should be. The emphasis on what time means to reconciliation should place our attention of what the “we” means as well.

We (majority and minority churches alike) often fail to understand how we’ve constrained racial reconciliation to moments of white solution-creating if we think (or buy into the notion, yes, even through rejecting it, that) racial reconciliation means minorities entering into white church spaces. It seems a bit offensive to reduce Christ’s redemptive work to the project of white churches assuaging its guilt of having no intention of not remaining white churches.

So this brings me to my question: If racial reconciliation is not neo-missions or neo-colonial in it being created by, conducted within and made for white churches, what is it? If all churches minority and majority became involved in constructing the articulation of its being (as it constitutes what being church even means), can racial reconciliation look different than what white churches have believed it to be which has forced many minority churches to avoid it? What if racial reconciliation is not based on a relationality of “white to everyone” else, but of “everyone else to everyone else” (Gentile to Gentile)?

Shouldn’t racial reconciliation then be steeped in the social, religious and political? If we follow a religious Lord whose purpose was to exist in a political world and overcome it and a social Lord whose purpose was to exist in a religious world and overcome it and a political Lord whose purpose was to exist in a social world and overcome it – how should we be?

Redefining Racial Reconciliation

Shouldn’t racial reconciliation, in its true form, in its only form declare, “Black Lives Matter”? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches make living wage and economic equality its top agenda? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches have at its forefront the issues of its women – as we are all one body? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches take into account that political, social life and religious institutions can create balance or imbalance between races and ethnicities (in its denominationalism, polities, and practices) – and move to dismantle the oppressive mechanics of this? Racial reconciliation in church should influence voting, social causes, our relationship to wealth and security. Shouldn’t it challenge all of us to our cores? Shouldn’t it be a means of discipleship?

I am advocating that the notion of racial reconciliation be stripped from white churches as their project and be claimed by all churches as church mission and make up. Racial reconciliation should look more like the Civil Rights Movement (which the earliest black advocates and creators of the focus of Racial Reconciliation in churches were pushing for) rather than “Unity Day” at church. Racial reconciliation in church is precisely that force of good that lives primarily outside of liturgy and spills into the street, into the education system, into court rooms, into businesses and political offices. It engages any and everything that affects race – and friends, everything affects race. Thus, I want to submit my own definition of racial reconciliation.

Racial reconciliation is a movement of justice, love and community generated within but not limited to the Christian church seeking to really live into the redemptive work of Christ on social, political, economic, gendered, sexual and ethnic and racial levels (as racial includes notions of marginality). It aims to live into the new creation on earth that the work of Christ has already established, by attending to these areas that need catching up, in tangible ways towards equal and loving relationship with each other. Some could designate it as movement towards the reality of living into the Kingdom of God. In its most basic form, it is the work of beholding others in awe and majesty as the Lord does us.

Thus, to be clear: all churches should be engaging in racial reconciliation or reconciliation in general as it is discipleship. This means that some already are; but they are not the church bodies who claim it in their words. They claim it in their living. May white churches let go of their desire to have the power to name and may the entire body of Christ open its eyes to the parts of its body who have spent their lives learning how to master the art of life abundantly.

If we all don’t have a hand in what racial reconciliation means in the church, we are not the church.





On Holy Week and Strange Feelings

25 04 2011

Today has been a weird day. Let me qualify that, last week was a weird week, and it has continued to haunt me.

Not just today, but the whole week has reeked of a strange, odd, putrid cacophony of holy, disrupting, and human, high frequency, spiritually strange occurrences.

I’ve been severely disturbed. By myself and by my Savior. Not once did I feel at ease this past week. It’s odd, or maybe not so at all, because Holy Week just passed, Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday. This timeframe commemorates the time when Jesus, well-received by his people, moved quickly from someone celebrated to someone abhorred. His status disintegrated from beloved to belittled.

On a Friday, He was brutally murdered. Mocked and spit upon, His flesh was stretched to the tearing point. His wrists did tear as nail spikes were driven through them. The tendons in his feet were punctured as more nail spikes were driven through them. And all this ripping, and mailing and tearing happened so that Jesus would remain, so that Jesus would not move, so that His stretched, beaten, bloody body could not get down from, or away from a fateful death intent on suffocating the life out of Him slowly, and out of His body. Out of His Body.

A tortuous death.

In a strange way, I feel like I’ve been dying too. It being a “death” is the only way it is remotely similar to Jesus’. Other than that, it has just been emotional, and dare I say it, a type of spiritual discomfort.

Last Sunday, it all began with a funny mood. Since Palm Sunday, I do not know how to explain how I have been feeling outside of “weird”. Nothing felt normal. Still, nothing feels normal.

Maybe it’s because I knew that it was not a normal week. Maybe I knew that many years ago, something happened to someone else’s body that was not normal. So my body responded, and reacted, and refused to feel normal too.

Maybe, for the first time in my twenty-five years on earth, I was starting to learn what it would mean to feel, experience something strange happening so that something new can happen to and through it.

I pray that my body and spirit are experiencing a post-mortis affect of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

I don’t know. I still feel strange.

Maybe it’s supposed to be this way. At least I pray it’s supposed to be this way. I pray ease and comfort are rarities and that my spirit and soul continue to co-existence in a resurrected reality.





Why I Hate Preaching

6 08 2010

I hate preaching because it involves writing sermons which involves seeking the One higher than myself which I honestly don’t do extremely well.

There, I said it.

Sermon writing is hard because it puts me in such a vulnerable place that it’s beyond uncomfortable –  not solely concerning content, but presentation – it’s just plain hard, unnecessarily hard if you ask me because it implies none of me and all of God. And I’m not used to not putting myself in things. Or waiting. And writing a sermon requires waiting.   

I absolutely hate having to wait on God, more often than not, until the morning of, at some crazy hour like 3 or 4 am. Sitting at a desk. Until it’s finished. The thoughts and then the construction of these thoughts into a cohesive sermon.  

I hate that.

But maybe that’s my problem. All those “I’s”.

I’ve kind of made sermon writing and subsequent preaching about me. There goes that “I” again!

I’m so concerned with saving face, with producing such an amazing sermon sermon that I forget the spiritual practice and discipline it takes to hear from God. Since I don’t want to give a me-induced sermon, I need to get off of my schedule and get on God’s.

And learn that hearing from God is something I need to work on. And that I may need to change something in my day to day, like including time with God in a good portion of it, in order to hear from Him at some other point other than the morning of.

This leads me to the sad conclusion that perhaps my sermon writing could be indicative of something deeper, and more vulnerable than I want to admit.

Maybe my hatred of sermon writing rooted in fear of a late-message, is rooted in my inconsistent communication with God, study of Jesus’ life and legacy and room for the Holy Spirit to speak to me.

Maybe I don’t want to admit that God doesn’t wait until the last moment to speak, but that I wait until the last minute to put my preconceived notions, guard, over-active, wanna-be-super-creative mind down at the altar and slaughter it completely so that there is no trace of me in it. There is no me alive in my reception of the sermon. But me is sacrificed to God. This is what is required in sermon-preparation: slaughtering, slaughtering that God asks for.

Once I do what God has asked, no matter how hard it is for me, maybe I’ll be able to re-utter what He has said.

But that requires a ton of humility. I may have able half a ton right now, which isn’t enough. So “the-night-before-I-preach” moments of panic will have to do until I get into the rhythm of sacrifice and silence.

Sacrifice and silence.

For I don’t want this sermon to be about me; sacrifice and silence is what it will take to mediate to the people, something from God.

Until I preach out of the book of Tomi. Which will never happen.

As long as I call what I love to hate to do, preaching.





What happens if the table made before your enemy is prepared before…you?

5 07 2010

 

What happens if the table made before your enemy is prepared before…you?

What if you are your own enemy?

In the black church tradition, what I often hear is the same story, which frankly I get tired of hearing sometimes. The enemy this, the enemy that. Lord deliver me from my enemies. But what if we don’t know what we’re asking? What if we’re asking God to deliver us from ourselves and in the process of correcting and cleansing us, since we find it painful, we cry out even louder for the Lord to deliver us from the pain and pressure to change or do something different falsely thinking that everything that happens to us that we don’t like or appreciate is Satan? (whew!)

Satan’s busy but not in the way we think. Maybe Satan is busy feeding us the wrong information. Maybe Satan is busy feeding us the lie that the pain we’re feeling is bad and we need to demand God to rid us of it. And if God doesn’t, perhaps that opens the door for doubt to creep into our faith or for us to go to more extreme measures paying off pastors and ministers for that “come-to-the-altar-and-sow-your-seed-of-one-hundred-dollars” breakthrough. Maybe Satan is busy but we open the door for Satan to be so busy in our lives by imagining that every hard thing in life is not from God.

Maybe we don’t understand that we are the cause of a lot of things that happen in our lives including God’s graceful correction.

Correction isn’t easy.

In fact it hurts. A lot. It feels, smells and tastes a lot like “enemy” but it isn’t. It’s us. Or if we’re so pressed to stick with “enemy” language let’s be real, honest and upfront and name ourselves as our own enemy.

And let’s not get offended that when we ask God to deliver us from ourselves, our selfishness, our being inconsistent and unreliable friends to people, being workers but not worshippers in the church, gossips in and outside of the church, being picky ministers, saying it’s not about the little things one moment but then saying the little things are showing excellence towards God etc.

I’m actually very tired of it. And like all my posts, I’m tired of it because I have lived and experienced it myself.

Prayer-life is important, but I think we need to make ourselves the subject from which we must be delivered rather than the object of deliverance. We’re not that great. But we’re not that bad. But we must remember, we’re not that great. No one is a victim 99% of the time, nor 50% of the time, nor 25% of the time…

My challenge especially goes to the black community. Yes, oppression still has its grasp around the throat of our peoples, but what about the oppression, murder, and pain we commit on ourselves? We have to be honest before God and with ourselves. Sometimes, it ain’t white people’s faults!

This Psalm-23-load-of-crap prayer isn’t okay, especially when we know that we are our own problem, or if we don’t know, we don’t stop to look at ourselves to see where we fit into our own troubled equation. Maybe I’m single because I’m not an easy person to get along with or I always talk about myself and my problems. Maybe I don’t have friends because I’m too churchy and they’re not feeling that. Maybe I’m not doing well academically because I ask God to bless my overnighter instead rationing out an hour a week to get a large assignment done over a long period of time. Maybe I don’t get invited to things because I’m always mean-mugging. Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe I brag too much. Maybe I’m not a good steward over my finances and resources. Maybe there are plenty of things I need to be delivered from within my own self before God can take me to a new place.

It’s difficult but maybe I’m wack and God’s been trying to tell me that. Maybe my breakthrough is “Work on your self-centeredness and ego”. Maybe I won’t die a millionaire but a quality person building up the Kingdom of God via my transformation. Maybe I have to see my table set up from afar before I am invited to partake in it. Maybe God can me from wolf to sheep.

__________________________________________________________________________________________ 

I’m not posting this blog to be mean; I just love to write about what most of us don’t want to talk about. It is so necessary and since people only want to mention it in sermons and not do anything with it, I propose we do something with it. I propose we confess that this is where we are, seek accountability among people we trust not only with our hearts (and venting) but with our secrets and we actively work day by day to be better people.

Sometimes I think that is all God needs. I know that’s what others need so let’s seek out the needs of others and not only the desires of self. Life is so much better that way…





Let It Be

24 06 2010

Dear Church:

We need to step up our discernment game. Like seriously. People who make a career and name for themselves by talking stuff they know nothing about is not only extremely annoying but damaging.

Confession: I am only an expert on my own life: what I have felt, experience, seen, discerned | I love people but I can be very greedy and focus on my myself way too much | I love doing ministry but I can be very picky about which ministries I feel called to do | Just because I’m black doesn’t mean that I’m an expert on all things black [just because I can quote someone black doesn’t mean I’m an expert on them either] | I have my racist moments | It’s been slow but I’m beginning to see my color less and less around my Caucasian friends and church family [slow, but not impossible] | Sometimes I’ll start talking about something I know but stop or stumble over my words because I really don’t know what I’m talking about so I struggle pretending like I do | I’ve re-found the bad habit of gossiping and am currently working to change that |  I want to read my Bible, go to ministry, etc badly but convince myself not to because “my heart’s not in it” | I judge more than I love | I keep my options open for ministry because I don’t feel called to anything terribly specific even though I control which ministries I feel called to be a part of | I don’t confess as often as I sin | I let people tell me that it’s okay not to change [repent] because I’m human and am just working through some things, even though I know deep down that it’s not that easy.  

Whew! Now that I’ve completely embarrassed myself and made myself vulnerable not only to your criticism, but also God’s love, I now want to speak with a clear conscience and from a genuine place.

We need to be more honest, especially to ourselves and to people who talk too much stuff. We need to be wary of when we or others we know and love speak of ourselves so well and negate our humanity with “I’m not perfect”, “we all make mistakes” etc. but don’t really mean it. It’s just a disclaimer that is part of the legal jargon of our self-righteous statements. We don’t know it all, we only know in part. But we fall into a dangerous trap of believing without discerning. We listen to people who talk out of no experience of what they’re saying, no education in what they claim to know, arrogance, their  experience in their race [which may not equate to the credentials we think it does], and anger.

And we take this to be as true as God’s word. We don’t question it. If we question it, somehow we’re afraid of doing some spiritual disservice to this “woman of God” or “man of God”. But it doesn’t work that way. If they’re a “woman of God” or “man of God”, where is their fruit? Not people who feed their egos. Not their 2,000 friends on Facebook, 15 who comment on everything and are from their neighborhood or church, but that person who has bettered lives that Facebook doesn’t tell us about? Or their writing or book doesn’t brag about? Or their sermon [in their grandparents’ church] doesn’t state as its spiritual example?

Since when did we accept things without checking out that it’s credible? Since when did their words become God’s words? Since when did we start believing EVERYTHING simply because it’s being said?

I have no solution to this. I have no answer. I’m warning. Double check what people say: they shouldn’t be offended if you can confirm what they say is correct. If they’re offended upon being questioned, it’s probably because they’re busted. But if you love them or care about them, bust them before they get busted elsewhere. Being busted by your friend, brother or sister is definitely hard and embarrassing; but the clean-up is Godly.

I’m also hating. I hate it when people think everything outside of God qualifies them to do ministry. I hate it when people who are not super-star preachers, youth ministers, college ministers are ignored and their souls bleed because they don’t have the platform, advantage, ego-feeding friends and family, money, extroverted personality, go-get-‘em attitude, spiritual gift of “talking out of their butt” etc. like the “heavy-hitters” do. I am hating. I’m hating that God’s church looks like a circus. And that the ring-masters think that they had something to do with those in the Kingdom. And that they think their tricks, and magic and bad risk-taking will mean something there. I hate the fact that they think their ring-master mentality has bore good fruit instead of the maggots that it has brought to good fruit. And if I may be truthful, I often-times hate the fact that God can redeem maggot-ridden, rotten fruit. I don’t want God to, but know God can, because like the eldest son, I don’t want my father to throw a party when my younger sibling returns home repentant. I want my father to tell me I was right all along because my self-esteem wants affirmation at the expense of others. And I know this isn’t right.

I have a lot to learn from my father. And I’m glad that my father is willing to love my sin, for I know it is greater than my younger brother’s. (Luke 15:11-31)

I love that God is a redeemer. And that today, right now, on this earth we all have a chance not only to help redeem others but to be redeemed. And automatically with our being redeemed comes in the inadvertent redeeming of others. No money necessary. No mega-church necessary. No self-made followers necessary. No egotistical Facebook status updates necessary.

If we let it be.  

And I’ll be the first to say. I need to let it be.








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