Archive for the ‘ Justice ’ Category

Commentary: Ground Zero Mosque

I am sure most everyone has heard about the potential “mosque” near ground zero – in reality it is an islamic-based community center open to all peoples. Newt Gingrich and other primarily politically and socially conservative public figures have becoming increasingly outspoken about their disdain for this idea and claim that it is offensive and un-American – ignoring that 10 percent of those who died in the attacks were Muslim and that the American quilt consist of Muslims. Some have lighter opposition and simply do not want the mosque close to 9-11.

To speak truth, 9-11 was the result of a terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims. The tragedy is terrorism not Islam. Yes, they were influenced by passages in the Koran, but it is kin to Christian slave owners proliferating modern slavery in colonial and early America. These Christians were inspired by and utilized the Bible as their defense. Slavery, not Christianity, was the issue. Now I am not making a plea for the theological correctness of Islam and I am not an unitarian. Arguments towards such ends are mere strawmen. I believe that the Christian faith, towards which I am unwaveringly committed by the redemption that is in Christ, is concerned with hospitality, even towards those who are quite different. Christianity is concerned with love, even towards – if not especially – towards those who do not know the love of Christ. Christianity is concerned with reconciliation. This reconciliation is perhaps the most potent of points. The terrorists want us to be like them, evil in its simplest, wants to beget more evil. Unjust war begets unjust war. Hatred begets hatred. oppression begets oppression. This is the cycle of sin of transgression. This is the reason why the Father God sent the Christ incarnate; to reconcile us to take us out of the cycle and put us back into right relationship with God. Allowing . . . welcoming, the Islamic center, is a picture of that reconciliation. It is not the full reconciliatory process which we receive through Christ  – to suggest that is blasphemous -,but it is a mirror of that ultimate reconciliation and a means for Christians to be Christ-like and to show the world who the Christ is and what the Christ has done for and offered us all.

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Thoghts about pop-culture, ethics, morality and value ispired from a conversation on facebook.

Although we have moved away from overtly signing songs and telling folk tales or myths as ways to convey ethics, values and meaning in our culture, popular culture has become the town square, campfire and village gathering that the contemporary person covertly learns societal values through. The tragedy is not the vehicle of information. The tragedy is that the stories and songs are no longer mediated by elders seeking to guide the community they are mediated by some guys trying to make a buck.

Vince Campbell

Here are three youtube clips of great commentary on the early church – specifically the divisions that emerged from different cultural perspectives and cultural philosophies.  The video is from a workshop he and Soong Chan Rah led at this year’s CCDA (which I was unfortunately unable to attend).

Vince is currently a PhD student at Catholic University, studying the early African church.

Thoughts?

How White is your resume?

It is often joked that minorities are more likely to be hired because institutions want/need diversity, but the reality is research still shows that a White male with the same qualifications as a Black male is more likely to be hired for the same job. This bias specifically applies to resumes. “Ethnic” names and connections with Ethnic organizations (Latino United Fund, NAACP, HBCUs etc.) are seen as damaging for non-White applicants in corporate America. Thus, many Black candidates have chosen to remove or change information in order to “Whiten” their resume.

I cannot help but think of my own life experiences when I have felt as if it is necessary to assimilate to fit in and be accepted with White people in my school, college, neighborhoods and churches. Even if I did not assimilate, I let inconsiderate racial (and often political) comments go because I did not want to be the angry Black person that disagreed with everything. What is more dangerous is that I did not feel comfortable expressing my racial point of view, be it religious, social, political etc. (not all points of view are based on race, but race often mediates points of view).  I knew that the only way to be “in” with the majority and the folks in power was to not rock the boat and to be as much like them that I could – even if I was not honest to them or myself.

This is not solely an ethnic-minority issue.  Folks with Southern accents (notice the plural, there are a variety of Southern accents) are perceived as dumb or slow and females have their own set of roadblocks to overcome. The issue is one of culture. In this case, the acceptance of racial difference and the culture of those differences.

To a degree, it is understood that applicants must adapt to a professional culture. An applicant cannot interview in baggy jeans and a South Pole sweater (and one’s boss should view their employee or applicant differently if he or she sees them in the store with baggy jeans and a South Pole sweater), but when individuals feel as if they must augment or hide their legal name, educational background and ethnic identity we must classify this as ethnocentric and racist.

Nevertheless, even those who make it and are hired are often stuck. NPR  also posted a story on Blacks not advancing to high positions within corporations. Even institutions that “celebrate diversity” and have a diverse staff often fail to mentor ethnic-minorities and women into places of senior leadership. Although U.S. companies of various ilks may appear diverse, their leadership is generally ethnically homogeneous.

We have gone far, but we still have a long way to go.

Why the Olympics Shouldn’t be in Chicago

This whole Olympic prospective is stirring. My wife and I have family in Chicago and Chicago-land as well as a great number of friends in the city. On the exterior, having the Olympics in Chicago would be my obvious desire, but there is perhaps something more.

Madrid and Tokyo are disqualified in my mind. Tokyo already hosted the Olympic games in 1964 and Spain got its turn with Barcelona in 1992. Neither Japan nor Spain really needs to host the Olympics again – at least not yet.  Chicago is a GREAT city. Hosting the Olympics would expose the world to the beauty of the Chi and boost Chicago economically – though I wonder if the needy will actually receive much.  However, didn’t the U.S. just host the Olympics in 1996? Now we are not like Spain, our country is considerable larger in size and in population, but still do we as Americans need to host the games again, so soon? I ask why can’t we share the honor of having the Olympics?

I personally, favor Rio. The Olympics have never been in Brazil and have never been hosted in South America. Beyond that Rio is beautiful – it is on the list of “places I wish to go, but probably won’t”.  I can’t imagine a nicer climate, nicer scenery etc. Plus, the culture of Rio is incredibly rich.

As far as capability, Rio recently hosted the Pan American Games and in 2016 Rio will be coming off an experience being one of the host cities for the World Cup.

But perhaps my biggest reason for wanting Rio to get the nod – beyond the fact South America hasn’t hosted and all the other countries in the final four have hosted – is that Rio is a dichotomous place. There is great difference between the rich and the poor in Rio. As a result there is a high crime rate – especially violent crime. As you read this, you would think that these are reasons NOT to host the Olympics, but perhaps three things will happen.

First, the government of Rio will realize it needs to clean up some neighborhoods and take care of the poor in order to be a proper host.

Second, the increased revenue from the Olympics will be a financial opportunity for some lower class folks – construction, vending, hosting, hotels, etc.

Third, the poverty and injustice of Rio will be greater exposed to the world – specifically to Christians – and we will begin to do something about it.

I am not going to complain if Chicago gets the Olympics.  Honestly, I will probably buy tickets to various events – especially if we end up living in Chicago or in Chicagoland.  But thinking justly; Rio should host.

But I am not making decisions, that will happen in a couple hours . . . who will it be?

Are We There Yet?

Urban Faith recently published my article on Christianity Today International’s newest short-term missions curriculum, Round Trip.

Excerpt

Round Trip includes the typical information that likely can be found in a variety of training manuals for short-term mission candidates. But unlike many of those programs, this documentary and handbook bring an intimate, real-life narrative to the exciting but often uncomfortable experience of traveling to another country to share the gospel. [read more]

Beautiful Togetherness

Sf Gate

The Rev. George Cummings looked out over his congregation in the Laurel District of Oakland and saw white faces sitting next to black ones. Piedmonters sat next to Oaklanders.One of the most intractable racial divides in America – the self-segregation of churches – was being bridged before his eyes.

“The God who calls us to be together, calls us to oneness,” said Cummings, pastor of Imani Community Church.

“Amen,” said someone in the crowd.

“We are not always there yet, but we are on our way,” said Cummings, who is black.

“That’s right,” said another voice from the pews.

Cummings’ church and Piedmont Community Church decided that they would come together as one people. They will worship together periodically. They’ve started to mix into each others’ Bible studies. Their choirs sing together. Their children have gone on a mission trip together to Tijuana. On Sunday, May 3 and May 17, they had ceremonies affirming their covenant with each other.

Piedmont Community Church is predominantly white, as much as Imani is black. They are only 10 minutes apart by car, yet before this relationship began, neither pastor had been to the neighborhood of the other’s church. All sides see bridging the divide as bearing fruit. Read More

My heart was blessed by this article. Seeing the Kingdom of God uniting and overcoming racial/ethnic barriers is satisfying to my soul. What is wonderful about this situation is the fact that churches are literally 10 minutes from one another, thus the potential for collaboration and eventually integration is there. I am sure that if they decided to integrate permanently there will be culture collisions, but those tensions would be growth pangs that lead one another towards Godliness.

Shallow differences of style and preference often get in the way of us being true community together.

One of the congregation members made a wonderful comment to bookend this article.

Jan Hunter, an Imani member, said doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable. A few years ago, the Imani congregation christened the child of a lesbian couple. It was a first for many in the congregation.

“I don’t know what we thought was going to happen,” said Hunter, 54, who is black. “Everyone was happy. Lightning did not strike.”

She said it was probably uncomfortable for some to worship with people they’d had prejudices about – in both directions. But, she said, “You have to start somewhere.”

“Doing the right thing sometimes means feeling uncomfortable”; simple and profound. We are a comfort seeking culture one of the ways this is manifested is the continued racial and socioeconomic segregation of our churches (and neighborhoods).

One of the most important elements of this article is that these are old churches. They aren’t church plants by young folks who see the need for multi-cultural congregations. While new plants are beneficial, there is something rich in reconciliation when churches change directions and acknowledge the ills of their separation. These two churches have histories, they existed for years. The fact that they are willing to understand the biblical call for unity, acknowledge the social rift between ethnicities and humble themselves is simply incredible.

I am encouraging my church to participate in this type of relationship. We live approximately 30 minutes from any church that is not predominately white,  so whatever relationship we form will not be one that leads to one integrated local church. But, racial reconciliation between Christians can most definitely be done . Churches can learn to worship and serve with those “different from them”, understand the needs of different communities and become a larger body of Christ.

Huntington, Indiana has a dark racial history and although things have changed there are mutual negative perceptions between he minority communities in Fort Wayne , Marion, and Huntington.  If something can occur it will not only mend the brokenness with the church, but within our communities.