Tag Archives: racism

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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Holy Post – Race in America

Please watch and share this video, made “for such a time as this.”

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Phil Vischer, author, speaker and the creator of Veggie Tales and What’s in the Bible?, has made a must-see video covering 100 years of U.S. history post-slavery. With engaging visuals and concise precision, this is 17 minutes that make it very clear why racial tensions are running so high today.
In the description notes, Phil writes,

We need to talk about race. Why are people angry? Why so upset? Didn’t we elect a black president? Pass civil rights laws? Isn’t racism illegal now? Three years ago my brother Rob and I co-taught a class that discussed issues of racial injustice. That class turned into a popular podcast episode, which we’ve now turned into this video. Why are people still angry? Let’s take a look at race in America…


My notes/imperfect transcription:

  • Average black household has 60% of the income of average white households, but only 1/10th of the household wealth (helps send kids to school, start small businesses, stabilizes loss of income, helps with catastrophes like death, divorce). How did that happen? What happened after slavery?
  • After slavery, 9 states instated vagrancy laws (making it illegal to not have a job) and 8 of those states allowed those prisoners to be hired out to plantation owners. Other laws against “mischief” and “offhand gestures” created a huge market for convict leasing. Caused worse conditions than slavery because the plantation owner leasing the black prisoner had no long-term interest in his well-being.
  • By turn of the 20th century, every state in the south had mandated racial segregation by law, “Jim Crow” Laws which supported the social ostracism of blacks applying to schools, churches, housing, jobs, restrooms, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, prisons, funeral homes, morgues, and cemeteries. White politicians competed with each other to be more strict and specific about segregation (e.g. interracial chess playing)
  • In 1896 the Supreme Court ruled the Jim Crow legal because they “reflected customs and traditions” and “preserved public peace and good order.”
  • The Jim Crow Laws and the concept of “separate but equal” was finally struck down in 1954 in the ruling on Brown v Board of Education.
  • In 1956, The Southern Manifesto was signed by 101 out of 128 congress members from the south, pledging to uphold Jim Crow Laws by any means necessary. 50 new Jim Crow Laws came into existence after 1954. Private whites-only schools dubbed “Segregation Academies” popped up all around the south, many of them Christian.
  • Now widespread civil rights protests combined with anti-war protests that sometimes became violent inspired the political rise of Law & Order rhetoric, with Richard Nixon being the first to campaign specifically on Law & Order.In 1968, 81% of Americans believed that “Law and order has broken down in this country,” and the majority blamed Communists and “Negroes who start riots.”
  • Going back to household wealth – why do black households only have 1/10th of the wealth of white households? Because the number one source of inter-generational wealth is home ownership, and from the 1930’s until the 1960’s, the federal government enacted policies to actively encourage white families to own homes, and actively discourage black families to do the same.
  • In 1934, the FHA created a risk rating system to determine which neighborhoods were safe investments for federally backed mortgages. Black neighborhoods were deemed too risky, marked off in maps with red ink (redlining).
  • After WWII, a boom of suburban houses were built all around the country, much of it restricted by deed to “whites only.” So blacks couldn’t live in white neighborhoods and couldn’t get federally-backed loans for black neighborhoods.
  • Until 1950, the Realtors Code of Ethics specifically prohibited selling a house in a white neighborhood to a black family.
  • In the 1930’s, the FHA’s  underwriting manual said, “Incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.” The FHA went on to recommend that highways would be a great way to separate white and black communities. The FHA funded huge white only suburban housing developments, leaving blacks behind in inner cities.
  • After WWII, the GI Bill provided subsidized mortgages for millions of men returning from the war. While technically eligible for the GI Bill, the way it was administered left over one million black veterans on the outside looking in. In New York and New Jersey, the GI Bill ensured more than 67,000 new mortgages, with less than one hundred going to non-whites. In Mississippi in 1947, over 3200 mortgages were provided, with only 2 going to black veterans.
  • As a result, white families after the war were able to build home equity, growing wealth for retirement, inheritance, and school for their kids. One historian has said there was “…no greater instrument for widening an already huge racial gap in postwar America than the GI Bill.”
  • And then came the war on drugs. Inner city blacks were extremely vulnerable economically. The overwhelming majority of African Americans in 1970 lacked a college degree, and had grown up in fully segregated schools.
  •  In the second half of the 20th century, factories and manufacturing jobs moved to the suburbs. Black workers struggled to follow the jobs. They couldn’t live in many of the suburban developments. As late as 1970, only 28% of black fathers had access to a car.
  • In 1951, when a white man in Cicero, IL, sublet an apartment to a black family, the white community rioted, setting fire to the apartment building and smashing windows until the National Guard had to intervene.
  • The result of all of this is that in 1970, 70% of black men had blue collar jobs, by 1987 only 28% did.
  • As unemployment sky-rocketed in African American communities, so did drug use. As drug use increased, so did crime. A dynamic you see playing out in white rural communities hit hard by unemployment.
  • Throughout the 1970’s, white America became increasingly concerned by images of black violence shown on TV and in magazines. Drugs were the problem. Drug dealers and drug users were the enemy. So we decided to treat the drug crisis not as a health crisis but as a crisis of criminality, and we militarized our response.
  • During the Reagan/Bush years from 1981-1991, how we invested money in anti-drug allocation completely changed. The Anti-Drug Budget in the Dept of Defense went from $33M in 1981 to $1.04B in 1991. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s budget to fight criminality in drug use went from $86M in 1981 to $1.03B in 1991.
  • Then we came to the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which carried Mandatory Minimum Sentences, much harsher for the distribution crack cocaine associated with blacks than the powder cocaine associated with whites. Mandated Evictions from public housing for any tenant who permitted drug-related activity to occur on or near premises. It eliminated many government benefits, including student loans, for anyone convicted of a drug crime.
  • The 1988 revision set a 5 Year Minimum Sentence for anyone possessing crack cocaine, even if there was no intent to distribute, replacing the 1 Year Maximum sentence for any drug found without the intent to distribute.
  • During Clinton’s presidency, the funding for public housing was cut by -$17B, and the funding for prisons increased by $19B.
  • The number of those imprisoned for drug crimes exploded. In 1980, there 41,000 in prison for drug crimes. Today, there are 500,000+, more than the entire 1980 prison population. Most arrests are for possession. In 2005, 80% of arrests were for possessing drugs, not selling drugs.
  • At the same time, we militarized our police forces. Between 1997-1999, the Pentagon handled 3.4 million orders of military equipment, from more than 11,000 police agencies, including 253 Aircraft, 7856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8131 bulletproof helmets, 1161 night-vision goggles.
  • We also changed policing tactics. A no-knock entry is when a SWAT team literally breaks down your door or smashes through your windows.
  • In Minneapolis in 1986, police performed “No Knock” entries 35 times. In 1996, it was 700 times. 2 every day!
  •  There were financial incentives to arresting drug users. Federal grants to local police stations were tied to the number of drug arrests. Research suggests that the increase in drug arrests was due to budget incentives rather than to an increase in drug use.
  • What was the result? An explosion of our prison population. In 1980, it was 350,000. In 2005, it was 2.3 million. The U.S. now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We imprison a higher percentage of our black population than South Africa ever did during Apartheid.
  • Data shows that the increased prison population was driven primarily by changes in sentencing policy. There was no visible connection between higher incarceration rates and higher violent crime rates.
  • If you are a drug felon, you are barred from public housing. You are ineligible for food stamps. You are forced to check the box on employment applications marking yourself as a convicted felon. A criminal record has been shown to reduce the likelihood of a call back or job offer by as much as 50%, and twice as large for a black applicant than a white applicant.
  • In 2006, 1 in 106 white men was behind bars. For black men, it was 1 in 14. For men between the age of 20-35, it was 1 in 9.
  • Overall, black Americans and white Americans use drugs at the same rate. But the imprisonment rate of blacks is 6x that of whites.
  • It may be true that there isn’t explicit racism in our justice system anymore, but is doesn’t mean that justice is blind. A study: a law in Georgia permitted a prosecutor to seek life imprisonment for a second drug offense. Over he period of the study, this law was used against 1% of white second-time offenders, and 16% of black second-time offenders. 98% of prisoners serving life sentences under this law were black.
  • Study: African American youth in this country make up 16% of all youth, but 28% of all juvenile arrests, 35% of youth sent to adult court rather than youth court, and 58% of youth admitted to adult state prison.
  • Study: Blacks on the NJ Turnpike make up 15% of all drivers, but 42% of all stops, and 73% of all arrests. Of all drivers stopped, white drivers were 2x more likely to be carrying drugs.
  • Study: Volusio County, FL. 5% of drivers were black or Latino, but 80% of drivers stopped were black or Latino.
  • Study: Oakland, CA. Black drivers were twice as likely to be stopped and 3x more likely to be searched.
  • In Minneapolis, Philando Castile had been pulled over 49 times in 13 years, mostly for minor infractions. The 49th time, he was shot by the officer while sitting inside his car. He’d been pulled over for a broken tail light.
  • Chuck Colson’s organization Prison Fellowship recently organized a Manifesto that was signed by evangelical leaders, asserting that “Our over-reliance on incarceration fails to make us safe or restore the people and communities who have been harmed.”
  • Unconscious bias seeps into schools too, as white teachers often assume black students are less intelligent than they are. A gifted student needs to be recommended by a teacher to move to a gifted track. When a teacher is black, an equally gifted white and black student have equal chances of being recommended. When a teacher is white, the black student’s odds are cut in half. Are white teachers racist? No. Are they affected by bias? Yes.

In Summary. The average black household has 1/10th the wealth of white families – not by accident, but by policy. We, the majority culture, told them where they could live and where they couldn’t. Then we moved most of the jobs to where we told them they couldn’t live. When the predictable explosion of unemployment and poverty led to a predictable increase in drug use and crime, we criminalized the problem. We built $19B in new jails and sold grenade launchers to the police. As a result, a white boy born in America today has a 1 in 23 chance of going to prison in his lifetime. For a black boy, it’s 1 in 4.

And that is why people are angry. I don’t know the solutions, I am only asking you to do one thing: CARE.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
Plead the case of the widow.

– Isaiah 1:17

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

– Fred Rogers

“Let my heart be broken by the things that break God’s heart.”

– Bob Pierce

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Thank you for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors. This blog and Facebook Page aim at dismantling hierarchical Christianity that gives inordinate authority and power to some while ignoring others. We are all “very good” creations made in the image of God and given dominion as co-regents on earth. God’s redemption work is on-going and it is our honor to be his hands, feet and voice to those around us. May we encourage one another on to love and good deeds. The harvest is great but the workers are few.

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)