Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beginning in West Virginia

Ever since my first pastorate (1970-71) in the coal fields of Southern West Virginia, I realized that Christianity and justice belong together, that Christianity has the wherewithal to deal with economic questions and the power to challenge the powers-that-be.

Yet, I also learned, that American Christianity, under the Reformation notion of "salvation for eternal life," has been used to quiet people's unrest in the present order by offering them a sop for some future joy.

For those who lived in the powerful regions of the nation, with large homes and shiny cars, enjoying fine choirs and eloquent preachers, this was a convenient kind of Christianity. They, too, would be going to heaven, but, in the meantime, they were at liberty to enjoy the fruits of their labors - that such fruit was plucked out of the mouths of babes and out of the hands of sweat-drenched workers was of no account to them. Perhaps this is what God ordained.

These experience and observations have been the energy of my theology and sociology throughout my ministry. A Christianity that has the power to do something and chooses not to, opting for some sort of "inner peace with eternal hope" is no Christianity at all. And it's no wonder that most of the Western World, where this kind of Christianity has had the greatest influence, is rejecting it. And it can't happen soon enough.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Exposing the Demon

Perhaps I'm unusual, as many have said, or just plain odd, or slightly out of kilter, or full of myself and taken with my own nonsense.

But I find myself profoundly disturbed by the old demon of racism. It still floats around in my life, in spite of my conversion many years ago while at Calvin College, when this little white-bread boy suddenly had the Spirit of God break into my disheveled world to reveal the heart of darkness plaguing me - a heart inherited from family and culture and a religion that did nothing about it. Blacks in America didn't exist for me, except as stranger and threat, and in the church, existed only as "natives" in missionary churches across the seas.

Racism is as America as apple pie and motherhood - it shapes our gut reactions in ways we can hardly discern.

A less-than-perceptive-soul suggested that I was feeling white guilt. No, just honesty about the way I was reared, and the journey away from it.

I thank God for two of my professors who opened windows of understanding for me, and throughout the years, so many good people who have opened up the deeps of faith for me.

Maybe I'm nuts ... could be ... but my heart breaks for this nation, and right now, given the sensible and faithful who strive for a better world, and the horrible reactions of the far-right, i don't know the outcome.

While I might hope and pray for something better, history doesn't offer a great deal of hope for nations drunk on the wine of Empire - Revelation 18 says it well. Yet there are miracles, and things happen. Britain ended the slave trade and American ended slavery and women got the vote. But it's the soul that counts, and in some places of this nation, the values of the Old South remain intact, firmly rooted in culture and religion. The Southern Strategy of the GOP is all about distraction and obstruction. If they can't their way, they'll at least see to it that no one else can get anything either.

The demon of racism is alive and well in our culture ... and why wouldn't it be? It's been our traveling companion since the first white folk step ashore and claimed this land as their own. Denial only gives it strength and adds to the delusion.

Repentance and prayer weaken it ... honest reflection and historical knowledge expose it.

We can confront the monster; it'll never fully go away, but we can seriously weaken it, with resolve and a personal promise to confront it within our own lives.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Other Guy's Racism

Millions of White Americas continue to deny the reality of their own racism, quickly turning to the fact that "blacks are racist, too." No one disputes that. Racism is inherent in human DNA - original tribal loyalties, and all that.

The question here is bigger and more serious - that of power. Where's the power? And it's always been with the White Establishment. It's not directly about racism, although it is, but about the power, and who has it, and who doesn't.

African-Americans have lived for centuries with limited social power - the city of Detroit, how it redlined neighborhoods, made it impossible for Blacks to secure loans; the post office routinely aided whites to secure jobs and made it virtually impossible for Blacks; and then rammed freeways through Black Neighborhoods. Is there a Black Family anywhere in the South who doesn't have a lynching in their family story?

When Whites get preachy about "the other guy's racism," and that "the media isn't fair," then I know, absolutely, that I'm reading a racist.