Unrelated nonsense

I am an amazing mom, Part I

I heard a few little dings on my phone this morning, alerting me to new messages from my daughters’ preschool.

I ignored them. I was focused, writing a blog post to save the world. It wasn’t the time for cute pictures, and fall preschool registration could wait until later.

When I finally glanced at my phone, I answered the most recent preschool message because it was short, indicating the bare-bones of essential information and none of this Earth Day chitchat.

I was kinda proud for answering the peanut butter question so quickly. #SuperMom #ItsSunbutter #LeanIn

Back to writing!

Then I got a text from my husband:

Look, my kid hates shoes. The moment I’ve buckled her into the carseat and closed the door, she’s already removed all footwear and chucked it into the back row of the minivan. It’s a pain to scavenge for shoes while keeping two small children from escaping to run wild (and barefoot) through the parking lot. Somehow the socks and shoes end up in four completely different places that are all hard to reach, and one of them generally lands in something disgusting, like a discarded applesauce pouch. I suppose the bright side is that I get a little cleaning done.

On days when I’m running late (so, always), I skip this annoying little routine and put shoes in a bag along with her lunch.

It’s a reasonable solution so long as you PUT THE SHOES IN THE RIGHT BAG!

Here ya go! Enjoy the full context of my sunbutter supermom moment:

Do you also detect hint of panic in this message? “She’s out of clothes and doesn’t have any shoes…”

And my response to the whole desperate situation is just: Sunbuyter

Even if there is a perfectly good explanation (AND THERE IS!), there’s no coming back from dropping your kid off at preschool without shoes and clothes (or extra clothes, anyways, I demand some credit for not dropping her off naked, which is also harder than it sounds).

Back to my husband’s text messages:

It’s sweet, really. I bring my two-year old to preschool with no clothes or shoes, and my husband gallantly shifts the blame onto the toddler. The barefoot toddler. Who is “figuring out life in the wild.”

That’s love.

Unrelated nonsense

How I Made My Kid Cry Over Broccoli–In a Good Way!

I knew that any kid of mine would be sort of weird…but this wasn’t what I expected. I’m cutting up broccoli for dinner, step away for a minute, and next thing you know my kid has taken a bite out of EVERY little piece.

Did I shrug and just toss them back in the bowl? You bet, I did! Would I do that if I had guests coming for dinner? Nope, absolutely not, no way, of course not!

Last week my husband saw a few stray pieces of broccoli on the kitchen counter and popped them in his mouth to tidy up. 

Little J’s eyes glistened.  “Dada.  That was my broccoli!”

Calamity.  She ran to her room, weeping like an old-school Disney princess.

Somehow I’ve gotten my daughter to love vegetables.  Really love them.  And I didn’t have to grow my own freaking garden.  Just a little benign manipulation and imaginary play–and, BOOM!  I’ve got the weird kid who cries over broccoli.  It could be a fluke, because I have utterly failed to achieve this level of veggie-love with my one-year old…but who knows?

Maybe it will work for you, too.

  1. Don’t pressure your child.  The surest way to build resistance is by initiating a power struggle, and that can damage your child’s relationship with food in the long-term.  Say, “It’s okay!  You don’t have to try it–only if you want to!”  And you have to mean it.  Your kid will sense if you’re internally begging them to eat that green bean, and your anxiety will transfer to them.  So relax and trust that your kid will try a new vegetable with time.
  1. “Play bunnies” or “ horses” or “mice” or whatever veggie-eating animal grabs your kid’s interest.  Read some library books, and pretend you’re little bunnies digging a burrow and hopping through a meadow.  Then pull out the spinach and carrots and munch like a rabbit.  Let your kid arrange the leaves for you and carry a bowl into your “burrow,” where you can munch them appreciatively.

This may take a while.  I played like this every once in a while for two or three months with no obvious results.  Then one day at dinner, J asked me for a “baby spinach leaf” so she could be a bunny.  Little Bunny J proceeded to eat an entire family-sized salad in one sitting.  

  1. Read books with vegetable protagonists Veggie Tales might work, but I’ve had more success with books about vegetables simply being vegetables.  And sometimes it’s okay to just get through lunch and tackle eternal mysteries later.  

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a favorite in our household, and we make our peas act out the adventures of Mama Pea, Papa Pea, and Little Pea.  Goodnight, Veggies and Baby Food will also recast vegetables as familiar and engaging friends.  Friends you eat.

Avoid books about children who hate vegetables. Even if the protagonist learns to like brussels sprouts by the end of the story, guess which parts of the book your kid will quote and mimic?  I tried not to normalize or even introduce the narrative that kids dislike vegetables, and treat it as an obvious and universal fact that vegetables are great.

  1. Have your kid “help” prepare dinner.  I cut up vegetables and have my kids put them in the bowl.  Sometimes J wants to cut the potatoes, too, and achieves marginal success with a butterknife or these fancy, kid-safe knives.  If I’m not in a hurry, I let J play with the vegetables (arrange them in shapes, separate big and small pieces, etc.).  My theory is that whatever she plays with eventually ends up in her mouth.
  1. Don’t ask–just put veggies in front of them.  My two-year old loves to say no.  So I shouldn’t be surprised by the inevitable response to, “Do you want some beans?”  I’ve learned to never, ever ask.  Instead I put a plate in front of her and say, “Here are some beans!”  I respect her refusals, but at least I’ve gotten them on the table.  Physical proximity to salad is a start, right?

Whether she says “yes” or “no,” I happily munch a plate of vegetables in front of her.  Some parents try to generate interest by pretending they don’t want to share.  Either way, your kid will want to be like you!  No pressure.

  1. Find the “baby broccoli, the mama broccoli, the grandma broccoli,” etc.  

Relationships are (hopefully) the biggest force in kids’ lives, so they look for these patterns in the world around them.  Before you take a bite, identify your piece as a “little girl sweet potato” or “the daddy sweet potato.”

Parenting is hard.  Good luck out there, and I hope this helps!

What's the big deal?

We Are Pontius Pilate

One of the defining characteristics of a modern-day Pharisee is that you don’t know you are one.  You’re self-righteous, power-hungry, and merciless—but too hard-hearted to ever realize it. 

Pontius Pilate, on the other hand, was a little more self-aware.  His problem was passivity and cowardice, not willful ignorance. 

At the moment, I think I’m more like Pontius Pilate.  Many of us white evangelical Christians are like Pontius Pilate.

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The Roman governor knew Jesus’ execution was unjust.  He even said so–he spoke up and said that Jesus had done nothing wrong.  When he authorized Jesus’ execution, Pilate symbolically washed his hands of Jesus’ blood–just like Christians posting a heartfelt Instagram message after yet another Black or Asian life is taken.  Pontius Pilate hoped that his emotional anguish and public denunciation of Jesus’ death would somehow make him less complicit.  It didn’t. 

Do you believe that the Holy Spirit’s power is real, able to work and move and make an impact in our world?  Does the Holy Spirit live in you?  If so, your responsibility is even greater than Pontius Pilate’s, for you have been given heavenly power and authority. 

Jesus’ Way Isn’t “Safe”

Put your hope in politics and you will quickly fall into despair–or worse, you’ll be consumed and corrupted.  But neither can we disengage and opt out of politics.  Passivity may seem like the safer option, but it makes us the same as Pontius Pilate when he surrendered Jesus to the will of the crowd.  As usual, Jesus points His followers to a third way.  We must remember that our ultimate hope is heavenly, and stand up for justice and love on earth. 

Evangelical Christians have tremendous political, cultural, and financial influence.  We do not hesitate to wield our power when it comes to religious freedom or abortion.  What stops us from attacking personal and systemic racism with everything we’ve got?  We could organize, strategize, and become a formidable anti-racism force.

At an individual level, the Holy Spirit will use us if we open our hearts.  Each of us has different gifts!  Preachers can speak honestly and clearly about anti-racism from the pulpit.  Teachers can help others identify and understand their racial biases and moderate discussions about structural racism.  Anyone who can put together a Mother’s Day Luncheon can organize a Christian anti-racism seminar!  Anyone who can survive a weekend Youth Group retreat can handle a phone call campaign to demand prison reform.

We have reasons to stay out of it.  Pontius Pilate had his reasons, too.  It was complicated.  Jesus was innocent of political rebellion, but if Pontius Pilate stood side by side with this radical, things could spiral and he’d be a part of the whole mess.  It was safer to stick with the established powers at play (i.e. the Pharisees).  It was safer to preserve peace at that moment, even if it cost a life.

Anti-racist activists are not Jesus, so the comparison is imperfect, just as anti-racist activists are imperfect.  Yet the similarities are clear—white, evangelical Christians are afraid to join anti-racist actions for fear that that something will go wrong.  We’re afraid to work with people we don’t share views with.  We’re afraid to wade into the giant mess of it all.

It’s risky. 

It’s safer keep things as they are.  It’s safer not to get involved when an innocent man dies (or when many Black, Latino, and Asian people die).  It’s safer to label it a random misfortune when police mace a nine-year old Black girl.  It’s safer not to question the system that brings a six-year old Black boy to court for picking a tulip.  And as Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?”  How do we know what really happened between the police officer and that little girl as she cried for her daddy?

Faith Without Works is Dead

Jesus wasn’t too pleased with thoughts and prayers unaccompanied by action.  Love without action hurts people.  A parent can feel love for their child and still neglect them. 

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells His last, precious stories before the events of the crucifiction unfold. 

He tells us that one day He’ll separate the “sheep” from the “goats,” and He won’t sort us by our intentions or how sad we felt about injustice.  He’ll sort us by what we’ve done—and says when we fail to act on behalf of the vulnerable, He’s the one we’re neglecting. 

As a child and young adult, I felt scared and guilty when I read Jesus’ description of separating the sheep and the goats.  But I don’t think that’s what Jesus intended!  Wallowing in guilt just makes me self-involved.  Niether do I love people well when I’m acting out of fear.

I think Jesus was trying to say, “Wake up!  Look around!  Stir your stumps!”

When I don’t offer anything to the homeless guy on the corner, that’s Jesus I’m passing by.  When I don’t care for sick people by wearing a mask, I’m endangering Jesus.  When I fail to welcome strangers, I’m shutting out Jesus.  Wake up!  Look around!  Stir your stumps!

And in the video of George Floyd’s death, that’s Jesus on the pavement gasping, “I can’t breath!” 

Heartbreak and prayers are appropriate.  But it is not enough.  The evangelical Christian community is not an active presence in the fight against racism.  We claim innocence, we choose passivity.  We would prefer justice, but won’t put our necks out to make it happen.  We are Pontius Pilate.

What's the big deal?

Christians’ Urgent Opportunity: But Are We Afraid to Offend?

We evangelical Christians maintain an unspoken belief that we’re “the good guys” and we’ve always been “the good guys.”  When it comes to the sin of racism, we point to Quaker abolitionists and quote MLK Jr. as proof that Christians always supported truth and justice.

We’re reassured.  If Christians were on the right side in the past, surely believers are on the right side today!  We pray and follow the Bible, and God gives us moral clarity.  We just need to listen to God’s voice like Christians in the past…right?

The “Good Guys?”

Unfortunately, history shows that Christians can sin with the best (or rather, the worst).  Even a superficial study of slavery shows that only some Christians stood up to the evil of their time.  The horrible truth is that slavery and Jim Crow couldn’t have persisted without the acceptance and support of evangelical Christians. 

George Whitefield was one of the most influential preachers of the “Great Awakening.” He led thousands of Americans to seek a personal relationship with Jesus.

At the same time, Whitefield owned slaves, justified slavery with Scripture and became active in pro-slavery politics. Slave plantations funded his dearest missions, including an orphanage for white children. In other words, he condoned ripping apart Black families if it meant more funds to take care of white children. He did this in God’s name, with praise and thanksgiving.

This was common. Jonathon Edwards was one of America’s most celebrated theologians, and he owned slaves, too.

Some Christians in the 1700’s disliked slavery, but agreed to support it if slave-owners let them preach the Gospel to slaves. They certainly made a deal with the devil–and carefully emphasized that both physical chains and spiritual freedom were God’s will.

Late to Repentance, Afraid to Offend

In 1793, the Baptist General Committee of Virginia officially voted that slavery was a government matter and inappropriate to debate in church.  Slavery was too divisive.  Churches across the North and South followed suit and settled into silence.  Some white evangelical preachers condemned slavery, but not enough. 

Dwight L. Moody and Charles Finney were abolitionists, but they reluctantly enabled segregation after the Civil War for fear of offending white southerners. White supremacists now had an easy defense: “Segregation isn’t evil, not if the famous abolitionist preacher Dwight L. Moody does it!” Moody repented and grieved for his mistake before he died, but the damage was done.

Charles Finney said that his focus was winning souls for heaven, and he wouldn’t let himself be distracted by a “hobby” like the abolition cause.

Evangelicals rarely led during the 1960’s civil rights movement.  We supported redlining in the North and Jim Crow in the South.  Some committed hate crimes in Jesus’ name.  Some preached that segregation follows God’s “natural laws.”  Pastors fretted that civil rights activists were Marxists, or argued that integration violated our rights. 

Most simply remained passive. I love Billy Graham–but he was careful not to alienate white southerners by speaking too forcefully against segregation.  Towards the end of his life, he confessed, repented, and asked for forgiveness from John M. Perkins and other Christian civil rights leaders.  His passivity in the face of racial injustice was one of his greatest regrets. 

History Repeating Itself

I’m not holding American Christians responsible for the sins of our ancestors. I’m saying that it’s foolish to think our past doesn’t affect us, and prideful to think that we no longer have anything to learn from our predecessors’ mistakes.

Evangelical culture and priorities are influenced by our leaders, past and present. When we don’t examine our history, we aren’t forced to confront similarities between evangelicals in the 1960’s and evangelicals today. Or similarities between evangelicals in the 1860’s and today.

Our excuses for not getting involved in racial justice haven’t changed in 400 years.  Christians who refused to resist slavery used the same phrases Christians use today to explain why we mustn’t involve ourselves with racial justice work.  The similarities are chilling:

  • We must prioritize the salvation of souls, and racial justice efforts would interfere with that. (This is a false choice!)
  • We shouldn’t talk about racism—too divisive.  Focus on stuff we agree on. 
  • We can’t “get political.” 
  • Troublemakers/Marxists invent or exaggerate the problem to take away our rights. 
  • We can’t align ourselves with heretics or violent savages/thugs. 
  • We aren’t doing anything wrong.

Fear of Striking a Match

We aren’t the light of the world. We’re too afraid to strike a match.

Influential Christian pastors in Minneapolis prayed for justice and healing after George Floyd’s death–but didn’t join protests to insist that such a death never happens again. They didn’t use their platforms to keep demonstrations peaceful.  With the world watching, they missed their chance to speak up and lead our nation to repentance.

We claim that racism is bad and offer prayers for our nation’s unity and healing.  Yet when it comes to taking action on one of the most pressing issues of our time, we’re not the light of the world.  We’re too afraid to strike a match

In the present moment of reckoning, the evangelical church is mostly silent.   At best we choose passivity, as we have for hundreds of years.  Even grimmer, white Christians are more likely to have racist attitudes and beliefs than white people who aren’t religious. 

Good Trouble

No one stirred up “good trouble” like Jesus.  We evangelical Christians need to follow Jesus and start making “good trouble” in our own churches. 

Friends, it’s time to use every ounce of our influence to push our beloved churches to repentance.  

Perfect love casts out fear. Pray that God fills your heart with so much love for our Black brothers and sisters that you’re no longer afraid of offending! We need to be heard, like the persistent widow with the corrupt judge.  Keep talking about racism even when your friends roll their eyes.  Push for Bible studies on racial reconciliation even when no one seems interested.  The evangelical church has an opportunity.  If we don’t act now, we will miss it–again. 

Further Reading:

“Miles to Go Before We Sleep: American Evangelicals and Racial and Ethnic Sin” by Douglas A. Sweeney

What's the big deal?

Christ is calling us to unity–Amen!

Photo by Markus Spiske on

Sometimes we argue and take sides over non-essentials. For example, the older I get, the less I care about immersion vs. sprinkling baptisms. I’m just trying to be a decent person on mornings when I’ve run out of coffee, so I really don’t care how much water is involved at your baptism. It wouldn’t be wise to split a church or fight with a friend over that. Better to shut up and drink my miserably inadequate cup of tea.

On the other hand, you’re not necessarily sowing division when you disagree, even when you disagree fiercely, loudly and publicly. 

Paul didn’t hesitate to call out Peter in front of “all the others” in Antioch as described in Galatians 2:11-14.

Paul did not hold back with the Galatians, either. When some church members demanded that Gentile Christians convert to Judaism and be circumcised, Paul wished they would “go the whole way” and castrate themselves. That’s some strong language!

He wasn’t creating division.  Paul was identifying harmful divisions that already existed, and calling for true unity. 

Jewish Christians didn’t think that they were sinning when they insisted on circumcision. They thought they were standing up for God’s ways even if it was unpopular. It didn’t occur to them that their opinions and perspectives were biased. For them, circumcision and Judaism were the norm, a given, obvious.

I don’t know how they reacted when they got Paul’s letter. I bet they weren’t particularly happy. I bet that some got angry and offended, at least at first. It must have been humbling.  I wonder if some laughed over the castration quip. 

Unity during the 1960’s?

Sometime in the 1960’s, my grandma invited a Black congregation to her church for a prayer meeting. This made lots of people in her church very, very angry. If she wanted to pray with a Black church, that was her choice, but she shouldn’t force it onto everybody else.  People showed up to pray, not make a statement about integration, which was a hot button political issue at the time.

Church members insisted that they “believed in equality,” but this was something else. This was controversy and politics, and a distraction from the holy work of prayer.

My grandma hadn’t expected to offend anybody.  She was inviting her church to take the first steps towards meaningful unity with a Black church—and it made people uncomfortable. They said it created trouble, when in fact, it exposed the trouble that had been hiding in church members’ hearts all along.

Afterwards, my grandma encountered so much hostility that she left to attend a different church.

Around that same time, Martin Luther King Jr wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” He lamented the passivity of white pastors who were afraid to engage in the civil rights movement. He wished that they would stand with their Black brothers and sisters.  In saying this, MLK wasn’t creating division. He was calling it out.

For centuries now, Black Christians have asked white Christians to join them in true fellowship and solidarity. They cried out for unity, for in fact, their lives often depended on it. “Hey Christians, people are burning our churches and throwing bricks in our windows. Our loved ones are dying.  Help us out!”

Most white Christians responded with some variation of, “It’s your own fault.  Lay low and quit stirring up trouble. It’s divisive.”  That’s what many Black and white Christians told Martin Luther King Jr.

They preferred the familiar, sinister disunity that was already in place over the loud, upsetting work of calling people to something better. 

Martin Luther King Jr. listened, prayed, and chose to march anyways.

Silence is Not Unity

Jesus’ last recorded prayer before the cross was for unity among believers. Unity is a precious, serious calling.  

Real unity is hard. It takes work (just ask any couple who has been married for more than six months).

Lately I’ve seen people use “unity” as a way to silence those who are calling for repentance and racial justice. Silence is false unity. 

Unity does not mean we dodge hard conversations—in fact, it’s the opposite! 

Christ-centered unity requires greater engagement when we disagree, not less. We must listen before we speak, but we must speak.  We must forgive and ask forgiveness, and give each other the benefit of the doubt. The only way to achieve unity is to dive into Spirit-led conversations and sometimes, admonishments. We must repent and call others to repent.

If we avoid talk about racial justice in our churches, we’ll avoid offending our friends. We’ll have a fun time putting together Operation Christmas boxes.  We’ll happily, easily enjoy our church picnics, worship services, and prayer meetings. 

But we won’t be living in unity with the overwhelming majority of our brothers and sisters of color. 

Unity Today?

Has the majority of the American Church ever once acted in unity with Black Christians?  Some white Christians were incredible allies in abolition and the civil rights movement, but they were exceptions.  Passivity and silence were far more common, and white Christians have always been among the most formidable opponents to racial justice.

Christians who talk about racism today aren’t creating disunity. The disunity is already there. Sunday is still one of the most segregated days of the week. Anti-racist Christians are starting a conversation about this division, and insisting that we address it. They’re trying to do what Paul did with the Galatians.

It’s sure unpleasant. It requires a lot of humility to change. We’re saying, “yeah, what we’re doing isn’t working anymore, or maybe it was wrong all along.” 

It doesn’t feel good to be singled out, for someone to look you right in the eyes and say, “that’s sin!”  Ancient Israel hated it so much that they usually stoned the prophets who called them to repentance.

But the person correcting us isn’t the one splitting the church. Our sin is the problem, not the fact that they’re naming it.

We’ll only achieve unity in the American Church if we talk about racism openly and often. We must prioritize learning how to stand in unity with our Black brothers and sisters–and it will be uncomfortable. We must lovingly call out our friends’ and church members’ mistakes, just as Paul did with Peter. We must live in grace!

One of the most important things you can do immediately is start reading and listening to Black Christians. Re-read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone is a tough but compelling read.  Next, talk with your family and friends about what you’re learning–even when it’s uncomfortable.

Jesus prayed for “complete unity” so that “the world will know that You sent Me.” What a testament to God’s power if Christians across the country become a driving force for healing, reconciliation, and unity today!

Read more:

Click to read Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Order The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone. Or check the library!

What's the big deal?

Why Prayer Isn’t Enough

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While discussing Black Lives Matter protests, several beloved Christian friends tell me, “Protests won’t change people’s hearts.  Laws and policy can’t fix the sin of racism.  We just need to tell people about Jesus and pray—we need Him to change us!”

         I understand where my friends are coming from.  But I think racism requires action, not just prayer.

         When my 2-year-old throws a spectacular punch at her older sister, the deep, underlying truth is that my child needs Jesus.  But I’d be an irresponsible mom if I prayed, read some Bible stories, and waited for Jesus to transform her heart.  There is a lot I need to do to bring Jesus’ justice and love into my home!  Even though my responses are flawed, I need to stop the toddler blood-bath.

         This analogy is imperfect—white Christians fighting for racial justice definitely shouldn’t think of themselves as parents swooping in to take charge.  My point is that prayer, sermons, and evangelism alone aren’t solutions to brokenness here on earth, and we are commanded to do more.  

Jesus cares about every part of our lives, not just “spiritual stuff.”  He fed the hungry, healed bodies, and condemned exploitation in the Temple.  In Matthew 25, He tells us to care for the sick and visit prisoners.  It’s not a question of whether to care about eternal life or people’s lives on earth–it’s both.  As Christians, we must share the Gospel and fight for justice now. 

Yes, we need to tell people about Jesus.  But because we are sinful, we need laws and systemic changes, too.  Here’s why:

Justice is good, in and of itself.  God loves justice!  The 13th Amendment probably didn’t change the hearts of anyone who owned slaves.  But ending slavery was still a good thing. Would you tell an enslaved person that being freed wouldn’t “solve the sin problem,” and to wait until slave-owners are convicted of their sin?  Addressing systemic injustice won’t end all racism, but would be fundamentally good.

Christians have hard hearts, too.  George Whitefield and Jonathon Edwards were two of the most incredible Christian preachers ever, and they owned slaves.  When I read their sermons, I’m convinced that they loved Jesus deeply–but they still hardened their hearts towards Black people.  Robert E. Lee was a devout Christian and particularly vicious to his slaves.  

Some Christians believe that slave-owners weren’t really “saved,” but I think it’s more complicated than that.  Christians can quench the Holy Spirit.  My own life is proof that someone can love Jesus and still be a pretty messed-up sinner (or total idiot, depending on who you ask).  Therefore, increased evangelism is good–but it won’t end racism.  We need to oppose racist systems, structures and norms so that justice doesn’t depend on how well Christians are following Jesus that particular day.

Just laws can change hearts over time.  In 1967, my mom’s 10th grade social studies class discussed interracial marriage.  Out of 30 students, only 3 of them were in favor of legalized interracial marriages: my mom, her best friend, and a boy who had a crush on her.  And this was a class full of church-goers in the relatively progressive state of Minnesota!

Interracial marriages became increasinlgy common after the 1967 Supreme Court ruling, and our hearts (and churches) have gradually changed for the better as a result.  Just policies today would likewise push hearts in the right direction.

Christians fought for justice in the past.  Throughout history, Christians didn’t just pray for justice–they did something achieve it.  Some examples are William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela.  Their stories should inspire us to take action today.

Jesus commands us to take action.  Guided by the Spirit, we are Jesus’ hands and feet on earth–and we should not be idle in the fight against racism.  What can you do right now?  Start a weekly Bible study to read and discuss Jemar Tisby’s How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice.  His first book is also a great place to start: The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism.

What's the big deal?

Go ahead, Call me racist!

I’m one of those people who takes the Bible seriously. Every word. I believe that I’m made of flesh and bone and sin, saved and redeemed by grace through faith.

When I attended a racial reconciliation forum in college, I wasn’t offended when Black students talked about white people’s racial bias.  I was confused, because I hadn’t noticed any racism on campus, and I certainly believed that all people should be treated equally.  But I didn’t argue my innocence, either, even internally.

That’s me on the left during my sophomore year of college with my amazing friend, Leslie. Hi, Leslie!

Apparently racism is like every other sin—sneakier and more prevalent than I’d thought!  From what I understood about sin, I was probably guilty one way or another.  

I’d never even kissed a boy, but lust makes me an adulterer.  It doesn’t make me like an adulterer–Jesus says it actually makes me guilty of adultery.  I’d never punched anyone (little brothers obviously don’t count), but my anger and spite make me a murderer.  

Some people think this is too extreme and will tell me to go to therapy.  But it’s actually pretty freeing–my identity in Christ doesn’t falter in the face of my worst imperfections.

Anyways, if I’m already a murderer and adulterer, being racist isn’t much of a stretch.  In fact, it fits perfectly with what I already know about my sinful self.  “The heart is deceitful above all things,” so it was a safe bet that I was missing something.  More importantly, a lot of my Black classmates were hurting, and I wanted to love them better.  So I got to work.  

A lifetime of Sunday school lessons, sermons, and Bible studies gave me a head-start on prayer, sexual purity, and the perils of secular worldviews.  But I couldn’t remember a single sermon or study focused on racial reconciliation.  (Vague allusions to loving and respecting all people weren’t specific enough to be helpful).  I had to start with the basics.  

To learn about godly dating, I listened to older Christian women and read a few books.  To learn about racial justice, I listen to Black people (and others who are committed to racial reconciliation!) and read lots of articles and books.  There are so many resources!  Tons of Christian pastors are  at the forefront of racial justice teaching and organizing.  In fact, the entire concept of “racial reconciliation” is unapologetically centered on Christ.

Learning about racism is hard and uncomfortable, but it gets easier the more you do it.  And good theology is very practical here.  I won’t be hurt or angry if someone calls me “racist,” because what am I defending?  My own self-righteousness?  

Since Christ smashed my shame into smithereens, I’m not afraid of “saying the wrong thing” and making people angry at me.  I know I’m going to “say the wrong thing” eventually, but I’m accustomed to asking for forgiveness and repenting.  After all, I’m a Christian–I do that everyday already!  I apologize, listen, and lean into my identity in Christ.  I throw off shame and try to honor and learn from Black friends, writers, and speakers.

Do you believe Jesus’ assessment of your heart?  Do you really believe you’re a sinner?  If so, why do you think you’re completely free of racial bias?  Racial reconciliation is love and justice–are you perfect in both?  

Start listening, reading and studying, as you would with other sins and harmful cultural norms.  Combatting racism and pursuing reconciliation is lifelong work–just like every other spiritual battle.

Pastors, Bible study leaders, parents–why aren’t you studying racial reconciliation with the souls entrusted to your care?  I know from experience that the n-word is whispered in the halls of local Christian schools as students of color walk by.  Racism is in our communities.  Nobody likes talking plainly about greed, lust, or selfishness, either–but we do it.  If we love people, we must talk about racism and how to turn towards love and justice together.  Obedience to Christ requires it.

Ready to get started? Order Beyond Racial Gridlock by George A. Yancy and read the online article “The Sin of Racism” by Tim Keller.