Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

God hears the prayers of the oppressed

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The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
Psalm 103:6

God is moving in the United States of America. As Christians, have we discerned where the Holy Spirit is taking us? Are we aligning ourselves with the redemptive plan of God?

In an article published this week, Robert Jones, CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, wrote that white Christians are consistently more likely to deny systemic racism than religiously unaffiliated white Americans. “Our fellow African American citizens, and indeed the entire country, are waiting to see whether we white Christians can finally find the humility and courage and love to face the truth.”

I have heard white Christians suggest that the upheaval in the United States today is because as a nation, we have turned away from God and have removed prayer from schools and society. We need Jesus, they say. This sentiment reminds me of the prophet Jeremiah’s words, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). There is no peace without justice. Justice and righteousness are central to the heart of God.

What we are seeing today is the cumulative effect of centuries of oppression and discrimination. Dressing the wound of racism with platitudes of returning to God is a misdiagnosis of the root of the upheaval. A misdiagnosis can be fatal when the illness is terminal.

For Black Christians, the fragile flicker of hope in a just, equitable life in the U.S. has been rekindled. In a gorgeous essay written two days before his death, Rep. John Lewis wrote, “While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.”

The centuries of prayers for God’s intervention to end their oppression have been heard. America has not turned from Christianity – America was never Christian because it has always been marred by the ugliness of racial oppression. God’s wrath burns against racism and God’s heart is with the oppressed.

God is truly healing our land, and it is painful but necessary to cut deep in order to remove the cancer of racism from our marrow. Our culture is embedded with racism, and we have believed the lies of the enemy that have dehumanized and dishonored the Black community.

Jesus’ heart is broken by the discrimination and violence perpetrated against BIPOC, who bear God’s image and are endued with the holy calling of dominion and care that all of God’s children are called to. The time is NOW to follow the Holy Spirit in the work of dismantling white supremacy and redeeming American society to be equitable for all.

It is wrong for white Christians to cast themselves as the persecuted minority here in America. Beginning with the Catholic Church’s “Doctrine of Discovery” that baptized global colonization and its’ accompanying atrocities, to the American church’s sanctification of chattel slavery and advocacy for segregation, up to this day’s white Evangelical racial resentment, we have much to lament. In reading the biblical narrative, white Christians ought to identify ourselves with the powerful Egyptian empire, Babylonian empire, or Roman empire, rather than the captive Israelites. We have been the oppressors, not the oppressed.

The Bible is clear where God’s heart lies on the issue of justice for racial oppression.

Isaiah’s prophecy described the agenda the Messiah would champion:

Isaiah 42:1-4
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
“He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
“He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

When Jesus became flesh and dwelt with us, he announced his earthly ministry with this mission statement:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to
proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18-19

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus shared the values of his kingdom with these declarations:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to desire justice for those who have been wronged. The Bible exhorts us to seek justice throughout its pages (this is a small sample of examples):

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” (Psalm 106:3)

“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

These are my thoughts today as we continue to reckon with the centuries-long history of racial oppression in our country. Our God is our Redeemer, the great Physician who is healing us and bringing us closer and closer to the time when our Prince of Peace will rule with justice and mercy. God hears the prayers of the oppressed, God’s heart is for the brokenhearted, and God is always healing his beloved Creation. Be encouraged. We have no reason to fear and all reason to hope. God is good, all the time.


Here are a couple more excellent links I encountered recently:

Climbing the Mountain of Injustice – sermon by Austin Channing Brown (I ugly cried listening to this – SO powerful!)
Justice Too Long Delayed – by Christianity Today editor Timothy Dalrymple

And I linked to these articles above but want to make sure you don’t miss them:

Racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious – Robert Jones
Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation – Rep. John Lewis
Racial resentment varies widely among religious groups – Ryan Burge

White Christianity has been complicit in the subjugation of our Black brothers and sisters. We must lament our racial sins and demonstrate true repentance.

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Voices of Protest

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As a Christian, it is my conviction that Black Lives Matter is a pro-life issue. Public executions of unarmed, uncharged, untried citizens is obviously a travesty of justice. But that is just the tip of the iceberg of injustices that Black Americans have faced in a centuries long history of oppression and inequality. The U.S. has never dug out the cancer of racism from our society, and peace will never come until we do.

My words are inadequate on this issue; I would prefer to amplify the voices of BIPOC here on The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors. They are the true leaders in this battle, the ones with the deepest knowledge and understanding of the way forward. Let us listen and learn, and do the work to bring God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

Here are some Voices of Protest I’ve been following:

Bernice King – American minister and daughter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Rev. Dr. William Barber II – of #MoralMondays & The Poor People’s Campaign


Lisa Sharon Harper – Pres. of Freedom Road US & author of The Very Good Gospel

Please, please take the time to watch this video analyzing the intersection of racism and gender. Lisa is one of my all-time favorite human beings, and she is so knowledgeable on the history of race laws in the US and her conversation with Jen Hatmaker makes it abundantly clear how white women have weaponized their power against black people, and how we can participate in this work of dismantling racism.

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Order Lisa’s book here.

Jemar Tisby – Pres. The Witness Foundation, author The Color of Compromise

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Purchase Jemar’s book here.

Austin Channing Brown – author I’m Still Here – Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

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Purchase Austin’s book here.

Rich Villodas – Pastor of New Life Fellowship in NYC

Latasha Morrison – Be The Bridge founder

Tasha links to sobering data showing racial resentment is highest among churchgoing white evangelicals. Lord have mercy. This should not be.

Timothy Isaac Cho – Assoc. Editor of Faithfully Magazine

Kyle Howard – Christian theologian & trauma counselor

Thabiti Anyabwile – Pastor of Anacostia River Church

Dr. Esau McCaulley – New Testament prof at Wheaton College

 

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This is not an exhaustive list. This is a place to start. Please point me in the direction of your favorite leaders on the road to racial reconciliation in the comments. It is time to start listening to our BIPOC brothers and sisters and follow their lead. No justice, no peace!

Listen. Learn. Do the work. God is making all things new.


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Top image credit: Made by @zanscandycane (Twitter) with art from @sacree_frangine (Instagram)

On New Beginnings and Old Battles

IMG_3252Long time, no blog!  The Perrys have made it through another busy summer in touristy coastal Maine, and a month ago today, we pulled out of our driveway and headed south to central Virginia where my husband has taken a pastor position at New Beginnings Ministry. Big changes!  Although saying goodbye to our friends and church in Maine broke my heart, I am excited for the adventure of a new hometown, new friends, a year of homeschooling, new ministry opportunities, and getting back to Kingdom work here on the blog!

After so many busy months, my tank is on empty.  I am refueling with some good, nourishing books.  First, I read Jen Hatmaker’s book, Of Mess and Moxie, whose essays go from deep and convicting to belly-laugh-inducing.  Such a worthwhile buy, and I would highly recommend her podcast, if you’re into those. Second, I was thrilled to get my copy of Brené Brown’s newest book, Braving the Wilderness, a week after arriving in our new home. The timing couldn’t have been better, as I feel a bit like I’m living in the wilderness in this in-between phase of saying goodbye and not really feeling at home here yet, and also feeling the worry of being my authentic self as a pastor’s wife.  I was a pastor’s kid growing up, so the church has always been my second family, a deep love of mine, and also the source of much of my deepest pain.  I sat reading Braving the Wilderness in the bleachers while watching my sons’ football games that Saturday, shamelessly public-crying at multiple points throughout the book, as Dr. Brown demonstrates her findings on true belonging through touching and often heart-wrenching stories.

A section that has been on my mind over the past couple weeks, with the controversy over whether or not NFL players should kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and a criminal justice system that is rigged against people of color, was when Dr. Brown discussed the dehumanization process that is necessary for oppressive systems to subjugate others.  She describes the process as beginning with our language and escalating from there, and warns us to be vigilant against using demeaning, derogatory language towards others.  Quoting from the book:

An important example is the debate around Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and All Lives Matter.  Can you believe that black lives matter and also care deeply about the well-being of police officers?  Of course.  Can you care about the well-being of police officers and at the same time be concerned about abuses of power and systemic racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system?  Yes.  I have relatives who are police officers—I can’t tell you how deeply I care about their safety and well-being.  I do almost all of my pro bono work with the military and public servants like the police—I care.  And when we care, we should all want just systems that reflect the honor and dignity of the people who serve in those systems.

But then, if it’s the case that we can care about citizens and the police, shouldn’t the rallying cry just be All Lives Matter?  No.  Because the humanity wasn’t stripped from all lives the way it was stripped from the lives of black citizens.  In order for slavery to work, in order for us to buy, sell, beat, and trade people like animals, Americans had to completely dehumanize slaves.  And whether we directly participated in that or were simply a member of a culture that at one time normalized that behavior, it shaped us.  We can’t undo that level of dehumanizing in one or two generations.  I believe Black Lives Matter is a movement to rehumanize black citizens.  All lives matter, but not all lives need to be pulled back into moral inclusion.  Not all people were subjected to the psychological process of demonizing and being made less than human so we could justify the inhumane practice of slavery. (Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness, pp. 76-77

I love the term rehumanizing.  It sounds like a synonym for redemption, or restoration.  A biblical vision for healing and shalom.  Beautiful Kingdom Warriors have been waging an age-old spiritual battle for the rehumanization of those who have been disenfranchised, abused, subordinated and made powerless to restore to them their God-given dignity and authority as humans made in the imago Dei.  It is extraordinary that we can be partners with God in this great work of redemption!

Evil is very real and very present in our world.  Our current age is marked by conflict.  “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus taught us (Mt. 5:9).  What a challenge in our day!  In order to be a peacemaker, I believe we must be good listeners, to strive to understand the perspectives of conflicting sides in order to facilitate reconciliation and peace.  Being a peacemaker involves restoring justice and shalom for all.

However, as social beings, we instinctively gravitate into tribes, and in our sinful nature, we instinctively consider our tribes to be better than others and to draw lines of inclusion and exclusion.  Yet we all belong to one race, the human race, we all bear God’s image, we are all equally loved by our Savior.  As Christians, our deepest place of belonging and identity should be in the Kingdom of God, as God’s beloved children.  We should not be so tied to a church denomination, political party, race, nation, etc. that we fail to love our neighbors (Mt. 22:39) and consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).

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Google these names, bear witness to their stories, imagine how you would respond if these were your loved ones.

Additionally, we are told by the Apostle Paul to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). I cannot help but grieve with my black brothers and sisters when men and women and children are murdered through police brutality.  Blood cries out from the ground for justice, and God hears those cries.  We should be angry about the injustice black men and women face in our criminal justice system.  We should lament our nation’s history of dehumanizing the lives of people of color in order to become “great.”  We should fight racism and white nationalism for the evil that it truly is.  One of my favorite quotes is from the founder of Samaritan’s Purse, Bob Pierce, who prayed, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”  Racism surely grieves the heart of God.

The Church that I love so much has wolves in sheep’s clothing, abusers preying on the vulnerable.  On a weekly basis, I read a story of a pastor caught molesting children, or a deacon who has murdered his family.  I sometimes post these stories to TBKW Facebook page.  Some of the highest rates of domestic violence by career are in the clergy, military and police.

An example of “bad apples” in the Church from my own life is that during a three year time-frame while my family served with New Tribes Mission, three men were dismissed for sexually abusing children.  Three out of only dozens of missionaries in those contexts.  And they were dismissed, not reported for their crimes, and surely went on to harm more victims.  Injustice that grieves the heart of God.

If the Church is not immune to evil, why do we think our police force is?  There should be reform and training and consequences for abuses of position in our police force.  Yet white Evangelical Christians statistically get caught in the either/or tribes of being pro-police or pro-patriotism rather than the Kingdom vision for justice and shalom for all.  We can want what is best and safest for our police as well as for private citizens.  We can have a more nuanced position than the options that are presented to us.

I don’t really know much about Kaepernick.  But I agree that Black Lives Matter, and I protest injustice and the dehumanization of black people in our criminal justice system.

As Beautiful Kingdom Warriors, we are partnering with God in the work of restoration and healing of this broken, fallen world.  The most powerful way that we accomplish this mission is in loving God and loving our neighbors, and that extends beyond our tribes.  I am thankful to Dr. Brené Brown for the language of rehumanizing those who have been diminished by injustice.

I think this Beautiful Kingdom Warrior and American patriot has the right idea in joining the #takeaknee movement, explaining his support as “wanting to be like Jesus”:

“The world is broken. But God is not done yet.  God’s work of restoration is not yet finished.  This is our hope.  God is our hope.”  – Pastor Eugene Cho

Amen.


I am so happy to have you here!  Please leave a comment with your own thoughts on loving our neighbors and being peacemakers in this broken, conflict-ridden world.  I’ll approve if you’re respectful.

I have written about racial reconciliation before here.  I pray that white Evangelicals will begin to listen well to their black brothers and sisters.  I would encourage you to follow black theologians and authors, listen to their podcasts, read their articles and books; for instance, this year I have read Lisa Sharon Harper’s “The Very Good Gospel” and have listened to the podcast Truth’s Table, “Midwives of culture for grace and truth” with Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson, and Ekemini Uwan.

And “Like” us on Facebook!  I may not always blog, but I have a daily stream of articles from around the web that I have found to be interesting, helpful, or important for raising awareness of gender issues in the Church.

God bless and come again!