Dancing around the Charelston
A few thoughts on the events of the last few days:
First, a bit of background about myself. My Father was brought up in a Southern farm family in Alabama, my mother Jewish in Baltimore. Somehow, my Father ended up in Jewish missionary work, and was a professor at a small college in Memphis TN. While he was never a wealthy man, he was always a godly man, and he lived what he preached. When I was ten years old and Martin Luther King was marching in Memphis, my father took me several times to an African American church, Pastored by the Rev Jonathan Rogers. I will never forget those times, that music, and those services.
One time my father invited Pastor Rogers to our church, a local Southern Baptist church for our missionary conference. I was actually sitting with them and my mom (my dad was in the choir) when an asst. pastor told them that they “were welcome to stay but he preferred they sit in the back”. My dad was furious when he found out later and shortly thereafter we left that church. One of the earliest memories that is vividly etched in my mind was going to a prayer meeting at Pastor Rogers church for a day of prayer in Memphis for heeling of the racial divide and turning around because the city had issued a curfew. Dr King had just been shot.
Thought Number One:
To me one of the most heinous truths of the church in America today is that Sunday morning is still of the most segregated times in America. Living in Detroit a community which still has some of the most racially divided suburbs in the country it is probably even more exaggerated. And in some ways as our churches become more demographic specific in their targeting the problem has worsened. Making cool bearded white men with flannel shirts feel comfortable in our services may add to the size of our churches but I’m not sure I see it as a biblical imperative.
Here’s a few suggestions for changing it:
1) Reach across cultural lines in Worship. I realize that culture effects worship. I suspect that the worship in a church in Sweden is probably different than a church in South Africa. But that is no excuse for being so narrow culturally in music, drama, and presentation that people living a few miles away can’t relate. If every worship tune sounds like a Coldplay or U2 and every drama an episode of the Office, I suspect your not going to feel very welcoming to the local African American Community.
2) Develop relationships with African American churches in your area. One of the things that bothers me about many churches today is they are so into building their own thing instead of meeting the needs of the community that even the thought of sharing a meeting or a pulpit with a nearby local church is antithetical to their priorities. And Pastors, develop relationships with other local pastors in your community. You should be meeting together regularly and bouncing ideas off them. You might learn something and it might increase your accountability.
I remember back in the day being a part of three local churches that use to meet together once every three months in “one in the spirit” meetings. Many of the relationships developed then are relationships I still maintain today some thirty years later. In short the civil rights movement started in churches it should end in churches.
Thought Number Two:
What happened in Charleston was not a political event. And shouldn’t be used to score political points. The reality is while I applaud the removal of the Confederate Flag, it will not change the hearts of the haters among us. And both parties have to answer for this one. And sadly our President needs to remember this too. 49% of the people didn’t vote for him, and we don’t need a condescending sermon every-time the country shows it’s bad side.
Racism is not unique to the US, and while it is still inexcusable in any form, the US had attempted to assimilate people from other backgrounds at a rate that is remarkable when compared to other nations. France has had a large Arab population for years, How many Arab Prime ministers have they had? Serious Candidates? For the fact of the matter for all of the “Racism in our DNA” the US has been on of the most successful countries at integration on the planet.
The reality is the solutions the President proposed before the blood on the AME church had dried on the floors, would not have prevented the massacre. Dylan Roof would have passed a background check when he was given his firearm as a gift. And the magazine limits the President proposes were tried for ten years and had no effect on the gun crime rate. In fact gun crime fell faster after it was lifted. To me it was vile and divisive for the President to blame law abiding gun owners, many of whom marched in solidarity with the victims a few days latter for the actions of deluded terrorist. This is especially true from a President who goes out of his way to not blame Islam for Islamic terrorism.
A vast majority of White Americans are not racist and were appalled by the actions of Dylan Roff. Let’s bring the country together at times like these instead of dividing it Mr. President.