Category Archives: Words

Race, The Cross, & Christianity

This afternoon, my wife and I watched the moving The Help staring Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, and Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma_Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. When she arrives home, she finds that her nanny and family’s maid Constantine Jefferson (played by Cicely Tyson) is gone. Skeeter sees the chance of writing a book about the relationship of the black maids with the Southern society for an editor from New York. First, she convinces Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to open her heart to her; then Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is unfairly fired by the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a leader in the racist high society, and Minny decides to tell her stories after finding a job with the outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). Soon eleven other maids accept to be interviewed by Skeeter that also tells the truth about Constantine. When the book “The Help” is released, Jackson’s high society will never be the same.

Barak Obama, in his new preface to his older book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, quotes William Faulkner to show that history is never dead. He describes the difference between the time the book was written and the time he was writing the new preface.

The book was published in 1995, “against a backdrop of Silicon Valley and a booming stock market; the collapse of the Berlin Wall; Mandela – in slow, sturdy steps – emerging from prison to lead a country, the signing of peace accords in Oslo.” He observed that there was a rising global optimism as writers announced the end of our fractured history, “the ascendance of free markets, and liberal democracy, the replacement of old hatreds and wars between nations with virtual communities and battles for market shares.”

“And then,” he says, “on September 11, 2001, the world fractures.”

“History returned that day with a vengeance; … in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches our own.”

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War. Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animosity have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.

In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism, prejudice, and discrimination keeps being repeated.

The Bible has much to say on racial intolerance in both testaments. The good Samaritan story of Luke 10:25-27 was an attempt by Jesus to expose the wrongful attitude of racial intolerance that existed between the Jews & Samaritans during the time of Jesus. In Matt 28:19 Jesus told his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and this would include all people groups. Jesus never said to only make disciples of some people groups, he said Òall nations. Also, Paul in Galatians 3:28 condemned racial intolerance in the church. Racial discrimination should not be a part of the true regenerated Christian.

The first thing to understand is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to stop and repent. “13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. Some consider the “curse of Ham” to be an excuse to hate those of African descent. Others insist that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and deserve our ridicule. Both views are patently false. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

A new year will be upon us soon. What will it take to put our racism, prejudices, and discrimination aside and unite as ONE in Christ Jesus?

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I Resolve to Believe You

“But you LOOK good” “You just want attention”
“But you don’t LOOK sick”

resolve-to-believe-sherri-connellAnother year is about to dawn and of course I need to make at least one resolution. The good news is that I know I can keep this one. I resolve to believe you! I resolve to listen and acknowledge the pain and illness you live with daily even though your symptoms might be invisible.

For me, the opposite of believing is prejudice. Prejudice defined by Dictionary.com is “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” How many times have we been frustrated and impatient as we wait for the person in the cross walk at the store? They seem to walk so slow and we are in a hurry. Why can’t they speed it up? Maybe they are in chronic pain or have a myriad of other illnesses or injuries that we cannot see. I say that we sure err on the side of caution and belief first, not be suspicious and prejudice.

Or maybe we have seen the person park in a designated Accessible Parking Spot and they exit their car and proceed to the shop or office without using a cane or wheelchair and with no noticeable signs of injury or disability. Many of us have seen the notes left on windshields of people just like this person. The notes are full of anger and mistrust. One example is in the article by Phil Mutz. “A Disabled Veteran Responds to a Nasty Note Left on His Windshield.” Here is another story with the same subject “Note shames mother for using disability parking spot,” by Victoria Sanchez of KUSA. And one more example was written by Parker Lee of the Independent Journal Someone Left a ‘Faker’ Note by Her Handicapped Tag. Here’s What They Didn’t Know About Her.”

People would question, stare and scream at my wife, Donna, for parking in “Handicap” parking spaces. Even though she has lived with overwhelming pain, fatigue and neurological symptoms of Ankylosing spondylitis and since the symptoms are not noticeable, people tend to jump to judging her first. Because of her struggles with people understanding her disabilities, Donna thought the phrase, “invisible disabilities” aptly described the debilitating illness, pain and injury she battles along with millions of others around the world.

The Invisible Disabilities Association was launched 20 years ago, in 1996. One of their first pamphlets was Don’t Judge by Appearances , addressing the issue of misunderstandings surrounding disabled parking. The last few sentences in the pamphlet are crucial “Therefore, if a person is displaying a license to park in an accessible parking space, try offering a hand, instead of a visual judgment. After all…the people you are graciously intending to defend, may be standing right in front of you!”

Yet disabled parking is only one example of the disbelief people have of those living with illness and pain. Oftentimes the person living with illness and pain is misjudged because of their appearance. Sherri Connell (picture above) was a model, actress and pageant winner before she became sick. She still looks stunning and people tend to disregard when she tells them about the bone crushing pain, fatigue and brain fog she deals with daily. Her and her husband, Wayne Connell, wrote the book, But You LOOK Good: How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain because people for some reason think their loved ones who look good can’t possibly be sick or at least not as sick as they contend they are.

Creator of the Spoon Theory, well known author and blogger Christine Miserandino has dealt with this issue as well.  The following is from her website, ButYouDontLookSick.com. “From the age of fifteen, Christine Miserandino has been diagnosed with a myriad of illnesses from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to Epstein Barr, and finally, many years later to a determination of Lupus. As though battling a shopping list of symptoms, Christine has consistently been told, by both well-wishers and doctors alike, But you don’t look sick.” as if that was some kind of compensation for being chronically ill. Many times, being pretty or not sickly looking, made it harder to validate an illness you cannot see.”

Even super model and actress, Yolanda Foster has encountered the mistrust of not only strangers, but friends and co-workers as well in regards to her diagnosis of Lyme Disease. The following is from the article “’Is this even real?’ Lisa Rinna suggests Yolanda Foster may be faking Lyme disease on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” in the DailyMail.com.

“Yolanda Foster has been suffering from Lyme disease, but Lisa Rinna on Tuesday’s episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills showed her skepticism.

Lisa, 52, suggested to Kyle Richards and Lisa Vanderpump that the former model might be faking the symptoms for attention.

The former Days of Our Lives actress grew sniffy about Yolanda’s social media output.

‘I feel that Yolanda’s posts on Instagram can be confusing, because one minute she’s in a hospital bed with needles in her arm and the next she’s on a yacht looking like she’s having a great time,’ said Lisa.

The Melrose Place actress then read a description of Munchausen syndrome or ‘factitious disorder’ – where people feign illness to gain attention or sympathy.”

The belief that people living daily with illness and pain really just “want attention” is not the truth in most cases. The problem is that disability and pain usually brings abandonment and isolation, not attention. If someone was seeking attention, having an illness or injury would not be the best way to go about it. The loneliness of illness and pain is very real.

I think of IDA Ambassador and award winning, singer songwriter Mandy Harvey. Even though Mandy is profoundly deaf, her voice is clear and beautiful. As a singer, she is often mistrusted because of her deafness. Some people can’t believe that she can sing so incredibly well and not hear what she is singing herself. Wayne Connell has been on radio interviews with Mandy and can understand why people think the way they do. How can she respond to the interviewer so quickly, she must hear something? Actually, Mandy uses a very cool piece of technology on her phone called Clear Captions. Anytime she is on her phone, the words spoken by the caller are typed on her screen by an individual with Clear Captions and Mandy then responds to the caption. Actually, it is quite exhausting for her to read and respond verbally so quickly. Mandy also reads lips very well.

Just because we may not understand an illness or disability, doesn’t mean we need to disbelieve people living with them. Kara O’Daniel is also someone who has felt the sting of misunderstandings regarding her disability.  Kara’s brother Kyle writes the following about her.

“My twin sister, Kara, hasn’t had the easiest go at things over the last 24 years. She has gone through a lot and handled it all with patience and grace. Through all her struggles she has always found a way to be there for others and help as many people as she can.

Her most recent endeavor is a result of this selfless habit; she is starting a career as a motivational speaker, sharing her story with those who need to hear it the most. What is this story, you ask? Well.

It’s a story of 39 surgeries, endless struggles with Spina Bifida, and countless inspiration for all those who are fortunate enough to have Kara as part of their lives.

HER goal is to share her story and advice with those who are in similar situations; to those like her who have struggled through so many times.”

Kara also shared with Wayne Connell her journey with Spina Bifida and how it has been difficult because of the misunderstandings surrounding it. Kara is able to walk because of numerous surgeries and therefore people often don’t believe her. They think that all people with Spina Bifida must be in a wheel chair. This same misunderstanding impacts people with MS. Being in a wheelchair is not always indicative of someone’s disability or even the severity of their disability. Using a wheel chair is because someone is unable to walk, maybe for the moment or maybe all of the time.

I resolve to believe you this year. Let’s believe people first. Let’s not play armchair doctor and think we know. Let’s listen and acknowledge and learn from the people who know best, those who live daily with pain and illness and disability. They are the true experts. Let’s not judge people by how they appear or don’t appear. I love the quote from IDA Advisory Board Member, Peter Strople: “When in Doubt, Love.” Let’s love and encourage and believe people living with illness and pain. Life is struggle enough for them. Let’s not make it worse by our words and prejudice.

Join me this year and every year to resolve TO BELIEVE. Let’s all envision a world where people living with illness, pain and disability will be Invisible No More!

Let’s Rise to Love Those Left in Fear

This particular post I can’t and won’t take credit for. It was written by: Anthony Bushnell (@anthonybushnell) is an attorney in Minneapolis and board member for the Christian Legal Society. He and his wife have three children and are members at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

But as you read it, you will see God’s truths speaking to you loud and clear!

 Let’s Rise to Love Those Left in Fear

These days have become an important litmus test for white evangelicals in America. How worldly are we? How desensitized have we become, not only to sexual immorality, but to ethnocentrism, partiality, and pride? Has the love of Christ shaped our souls deeply enough that we “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4)? Do we have the mind of Christ to truly care for and extend love to those who are different from us?

We have neighbors and coworkers — even friends and family — who are not just disappointed or sorrowful over the presidential-election results, but also genuinely afraid. I don’t mean just the abstract, unrealistic fear of the candidate on the other side of the spectrum from you. No, this is anxiety born directly from specific comments that singled out race or gender. It is personal.

Personally Vulnerable

Muslims remember the president-elect’s declaration a year ago that they should be made to carry identification cards. They remember when his campaign said they should be given a religious test to enter the United States. They remember sitting with a growing sense of isolation and rejection as he and his campaign pressed repeatedly on the threat they pose to America.

Women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted, or abused see a man who has joked about these things now elevated higher in power despite it all. Women who have struggled all their lives for respect in their professions and communities have seen large segments of the nation embrace, applaud, and elect a man who treats women as mere objects and mistresses.

As Christians, we love and care for our neighbors despite our differences. Let’s give hope to the fearful today.

Disabled, sick, and suffering people who have found themselves depending on the Affordable Care Act to avoid losing health coverage know that one of the new president’s first acts will be to repeal that coverage. Many have found the new system to be a financial strain or a headache, but many Americans have also found it provided vital health care they weren’t able to obtain before (or prevented them from losing their coverage). The idea of stripping healthcare away wholesale (whether that’s realistic or not) is terrifying to someone who is seriously ill or handicapped.

Jews and African Americans have felt subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle finger-pointing from the president-elect and his campaign. They have seen hate groups opposed to their very existence come out of the woodwork and latch onto his campaign — mostly without any public discouragement or rebuke from him. They have seen him and his campaign repeat in tweets and ads echoes and hints of conspiracy theories long used to blame them for the ills of our society, theories that have fueled violent racism and abuse toward them in the past.

Some of us may think that the connections between some of these incidents aren’t that serious or plausible. But we aren’t the ones the arrow is pointing at. It feels different when everything seems stacked up against you. That’s what those who don’t feel personally threatened urgently need to understand. Whether you believe the president-elect’s reckless and careless words and associations really reveal a racist intention or not, your neighbors in all of these groups are reasonably fearful that they do. I have friends in all of these groups who have shared their fear and dread, asking for support, in the past 24 hours.

Hurt with the Hurting

“Evangelical Christians” are being “credited” with being a large part of the support that got him elected. How we treat the people that are anxious and afraid over this new presidency will reveal how much like Jesus we really are.

One of the central teachings of Christianity is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–40). The Bible exhorts us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15); it doesn’t lead with telling us to “judge whether they should be weeping,” says pastor H.B. Charles, Jr. The same is true for those in fear. We don’t have to agree with the intensity of their fear in order to empathize with them. Compassion doesn’t require us to be convinced another person is entirely correct. It requires us to care about how he is feeling. Even if you think the danger won’t come to pass, the fear is certainly real.

My daughter was sobbing Tuesday night as the election results came in because she was scared for her Muslim friend. I have heard from other friends who had similar experiences with their kids the morning after. More than likely, nobody taught these kids directly to be afraid of the president-elect. They’ve simply heard what he’s said and seen how it affects their friends. They are drawing intuitive, logical conclusions. Sometimes kids are afraid of things that we think they don’t need to be afraid of, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact that they are afraid. This is real, and this is serious.

Share the Load

It should break our hearts that the election of this man is making our fellow citizens and our children fear for their safety. If we understand that we must weep and empathize with someone in depression, even when they appear to have nothing specific to be depressed about, we should get that we need to mourn with those in fear even if we don’t fully share their fears.

If we see a dear friend struggling and staggering with a heavy load of groceries out of the back of his car, is our first instinct to say, “That isn’t a load you should be carrying”? Hopefully not. Let’s hope that our first response is to run over and grab part of the load to help lighten the burden.

And so it should be with emotional care for a friend. Our first reaction should be to try to come beside them, to lift up our friend, to help bear the burden of their fear or grief. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Perhaps a time will come later to discuss some of the underlying assumptions, and possibly grow together in our perspectives. Or maybe time will show that their worry did not become reality. Or perhaps time will tell that our own lack of fear was naïve. But for now, what is needed is sensitivity, listening, tenderness, compassion, and a demonstration of love and genuine Sconcern.

Reinforce Your Support

Let’s reassure our neighbors that we will stand with them. Right now it is vital for people in any of these affected groups to hear this. Especially from Christians, who (like it or not) are portrayed as having been instrumental in the president-elect’s rise to power.

Our neighbors need to know that, using whatever influence we do have, we are going to be sure to use it to see that they are protected and treated fairly and equally. They need to know we aren’t against them, and we won’t forget about them or turn on them. People need to see firsthand that the true people of God care for them and love them, just as Christ loved them and gave himself for them.

Pray for Them

And finally, pray for them. Pray for their comfort and peace. Pray for reconciliation and harmony between all of us. Pray that God will direct the president-elect so that he does not reflect the words and fears above, but instead serves all Americans alike. Let us not leave the spiritual state of his presidency up for grabs. Instead, let’s seek its transformation in prayer. To this God has called us:

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1–4)

Words

Soft and gentle without a cause,
running towards a light that moves
Where to go after a pain like this and what to do.

It’s hard to say the right thing at the right time
when all you want to do is express who you are.

Pain, sorrow and anger is all words create sometimes.
How do you know when to say a word or keep your mouth shut?

Kind words are less spoken in these times and
more and more people are hurt by it than actions
It dries a heart that was ones filled with love for others
and now where does it lead –
To dust and dust alone;

Caring has been put aside and
anger and deceit has risen instead
why does this occur in such a violent way
It opens doors that should have been kept shut
and closes doors that should be open;

One brick at a time they say
In the end the wall around you will be finished
and you’ll be safe from the world outside
Now the choice is, who to let in and who to keep out
So many people so little trust;

Open eyes closed mouth.
All you see is a fading life,
from color to grey and grey to black
Slowly but surely life will seize to exist and
home is where I’m headed and
no one can stop it;

What is words if there is no meaning?
Words from the heart is better said
than words without a heart;