Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Reading Pt. II

Tis the season for summer reading lists. And while I’m sure you’ve already filled out your list and may have even gotten underway allow me to whet your appetite for something just slightly off the beaten path.

These books are for those who want to explore the issues of ethnicity in this historic election year. Reading them could give all of us some insight into how and why bible believing African-Americans and white evangelicals view life and politics so differently. Should you take the time to read one or more of them please try to discuss it with a friend of a different ethnicity whose views on politics and ethnic relations differ from yours. Though these kinds of discussions can occur over the internet and within the blogosphere I don’t believe that virtual reality is the most effective way to work through these important issues. And in my view it’s these kinds of discussions that bible believing blacks and evangelical whites must have if we are to present an authentic counter-cultural movement in what is sure to be a most interesting election year summer.

With that said here’s to fruitful reading:

Our first choice is ‘God’s Long Summer’ by Charles Marsh. This book details the thought process and worldview of five individuals involved in the Civil Rights Struggle during the summer of 1964 in Mississippi. . You should pay special attention to the stories of Fannie Lou Hamer (a great woman of God) and Rev. Douglas Hudgins of First Baptist Church of Jackson MS.

The next work is ‘Divided By Faith’: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith. The authors who conducted 2000 phone interviews and 200 face to face interviews argue that evangelicals have a theological world view that makes it difficult for them to perceive systematic injustices in society. The book also contrasts the views of bible believing African-Americans and white evangelicals regarding the issue of ‘racialization’ which is an excellent term the authors use to describe the current socio/ethnic landscape in America.
What’s interesting about this book is the contrast of attitudes between blacks and whites toward ethnic issues that’s eerily similar to that of those held a generation ago.

Two fictional books by a non-evangelical add color (forgive the pun) to our list. I’m adding them because I believe they accurately capture the thinking of many black people regarding the current state of ethnic relations. In ‘And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest For Racial Justice Derek Bell argues that whites have benefited far more than blacks from civil rights reform. Bell makes this charge in a series of metaphorical stories featuring mythical attorney Geneva Crenshaw. Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism is a follow up to And We Are Not Saved. Once more through a series of fictional stories featuring Geneva Crenshaw Bell argues that racism is a permanent feature of American life.

The last two stories add a personal touch to the issues of ethnicity. ’Waking From The Dream’ chronicles Sam Fulwood's growing disillusionment with integration. Fulwood was born into a middle class black family at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement and along with others of his generation truly believed that they would be the first to be judged on the content of their character. According to Fulwood however that was not the case. I suggest this because most black I know strongly resonate with Sam’s experience.

A companion of Sam’s book (though I’m sure it wasn’t intentional) Clarence Shuler’s ‘Winning The Race to Unity: Is Racial Reconciliation Really Working’ is his account of ethnicity while serving among various evangelical organizations. What’s interesting about Clarence’s book is how he and Sam Fulwood faced similar challenges and came to similar conclusions, one within the secular realm the other within evangelicalism.

Of course there are many others that are worth reading. I suggest these because of the insight I’ve gained from them and for the realistic way in which they tackle the issue of ethnic division.
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to read all of them please take the time to work through at least one or two and then set aside some time to talk with a friend about it.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer Reading

Well I’m back… sort of. I’m not returning to full post strength due to a week long speaking engagement coming up soon.
But have no fear because Crossway is here and they’ve brought the noise with three new books for your summer reading pleasure.

The first is 'Experiencing Truth' by our brother Anthony ’ATL’ Carter with contributions by ‘Iron’ Mike Leach and ‘Papa Bear’ Ken Jones.
ET presents the biblical basis for choosing and attending a church and even offers helpful wisdom on sermon preparation, a sermon outline and sample orders of worship. You can check it out as well as order by going here.

The next is ‘What Is A Healthy Church Member’ by our fellow elder Thabiti ‘Mix-Master’ Anyabwile. This is a sequel or companion to Mark Dever’s What Is a Healthy Church. Like its title this book will outline what a healthy church member is. Drop by here for more info.

Last, but most def not least our brother Eric ‘the veep’ Redmond asks and answers ‘Where Are All The Brothers' - Straight Answers to Men’s Questions about the Church. This work dives right into the reasons for why many African-American men don’t bother to darken the doors of our churches. More info is available here.

As you can see all of these crucial works touch on the God’s will and work through His church. And all will be of great help to those who love our Lord, His gospel and the church for whom He died. Praise the Lord that Crossway has partnered with these good and faithful men to address the needs and issues so important in today’s church and cultural context.

Please take the time to purchase, read and discuss these with your pastor, church members and especially with those you know of who’ve check out of church.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor lance

Monday, June 09, 2008

Out of Touch

Hey all,

Recently I've been saddled with with a sick computer (I've been told it's the dreaded motherboard) and now with a trip to the PCA's annual general assembly I'll be out of touch for the next week or so. Lord willing I'll finish up the 'Between Three Worlds' series by the end of June. Until then stay cool... (I mean that... literally. . . drink lots of water, keep movement to a minimum, use the a/c and make sure you check on the older saints.

To Him Who Loves Us...
pastor lance

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

This Changes Everything

A few years ago Dodge ran a series of commercials touting their new huge Ram truck with the tagline ‘This changes everything’. That may be how many Americans felt last night as Senator Barack Obama became the presumed presidential nominee of the Democratic party. There are a whole host of issues raised by his historic candidacy that I’m sure others will muse on until the cows come home. For starters I like what our fellow elder has done in tracing a brief historical timeline of Africans in America from the 1600’s until now.

For most this is an unprecedented historical occasion. A little more than forty years ago a man who looked exactly like Senator Obama wouldn’t have even been allowed to vote in many parts of this country let alone run for public office. Now as one who benefited from those who fought that injustice he stands on the brink of gaining the nation’s highest office.

Here are just a few thoughts on some of the potentially lasting changes that spring from Senator’s Obama’s historic run.

They begin with the country’s socio/ethnic landscape. There’s no doubt that Senator Obama’s run uncovered the lingering racism still present in America. However, the locus of that racism wasn’t found among those who identify themselves as politically conservative. Towards the end of the primary season white, working class democrats weren’t afraid to openly say that they would not vote for a black man simply on the basis that he is a black man. Yet, they might now be in the minority within the democratic party. Senator Obama has drawn many younger, well educated whites into the process and these whites are just as enthusiastic (if not more so) for Barack than his African-American supporters. And if you got a chance to watch his speech in Minneapolis last night I’m sure you noticed the authentic diversity of the crowd. Should he win in November and then subsequently in 2012 Senator Obama presidency could the most significant event in American ethnic history. I say this because Obama’s presidency could begin a process of bringing together a stronger and more lasting coalition of African-Americans and whites.

Another potential long-term change that could be effected by Senator Obama is his affect on young, white evangelicals. Unlike their parents or even older siblings it appears that young, white evangelicals could see themselves voting for this liberal democrat. The reasons for that are many, but just last night as I spoke with my son about these events he mentioned one of his school friends who comes from a solid evangelical home (his father is a pastor in a conservative evangelical denomination) is straight up for Obama.

A third change is related to the first. Most of you know that when Senator Obama began his campaign he received a less than eager response from many African-Americans. The black Civil rights establishment was solidly behind Senator Clinton and many black folks wondered out loud if Barack was black enough. It was only after his strong win in Iowa that his stock went up within the black community. And its in Obama that many African-Americans see the possibility that they, their sons and their daughters might finally feel welcome in America. For most black people this is a big deal and a subject that warrants a full discussion of its own. Suffice it to say that since the Civil Rights movement African-Americans for the most part have felt that though we were admitted we still weren’t welcome in America. Now, true integration which only recently seemed only to be a pipe dream to most black folks might appear to be a reality worth pursuing.

Finally (for now) Senator Obama’s candidacy could present some unique challenges for white evangelicals and black bible believing Christians. And trust me, if you thought (though didn’t understand) that African-American believers loved the Clintons (true, not anymore) you have no idea of the deep emotional connection they feel towards Barack Obama. My guess is that the overwhelming majority of black believers will vote for and support him with relish. However, their support will be contrasted with the disdain that many evangelicals have for him. And thus while an Obama administration might actually work toward bringing white and black non-believers into a closer more integrated relationship it might actually do the opposite for white and black believers. How can we prevent this from happening?

We can do so by remembering that ultimately our citizenship is in heaven and we serve and submit to a glorious, eternal king and not a temporary president. We can remember that despite our differences we are still one Father’s children bound to love, worship with, pray for and serve each other. We can keep in mind that many of our white evangelical brothers and sisters have grave concerns over the direction of the country and while they may not have anything personal against Senator Obama they do fear what his administration might mean for America. That said we must also keep in view that many black bible believing Christians look at Senator Obama, then look at their children and communities and see the possibility of a world different than the one they came of age in.

Dearly loved ones in Christ, before we get into the heat of a campaign in which things are said about candidates and those who support them that are unkind, unwise and ungodly let’s take a deep breath, and remember that God, not the republicans or democrats control history, this country and our destiny. His will, will be done, His kingdom will roll on and His King our living Lord Jesus Christ will reign to the very ends of the universe for the praise of His glory and His glory alone.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance