Jun 17, 2020
Five Phrases of a Man Who Opposes Racism
Life in Context
Context is important. Here’s mine. My Grandpa Ramos was second-generation Portuguese, the only surviving male out of nine children. English wasn’t spoken in his home. He learned it elsewhere. After his older brother Manuel died in a fire, he dropped out of 8th grade to support his elderly parents. At twenty-something, he met my Grandma who had a similar experience in her Italian immigrant home. They eloped when the families would not allow “mixed” marriages.
My Grandpa on my mothers’ side flew fighter plane in World War II and returned an alcoholic from battle stress. He died an alcoholic, an unrecorded causality of war. My roots go to a Minute Man in the Revolutionary War, World War I, plus being blood-related to Abraham Lincoln. More recently my father-in-law fought and bled and earned a Purple Heart for his service in Viet Nam.
I drive a four-wheel drive, fly the American flag in the yard, hang a Gadsden Flag in my garage, and last week I picked up a roadkill deer (legal in Oregon) where I skinned, butchered, and packaged it. My parents divorced on my 13th birthday, and I worked through high school. I earned a football scholarship to a private University, which is a good thing since it was that or the military. I vote Pro-Life and am proud of my heritage.
A Man on Mission. Derwin Gray
If you haven’t, subscribe to the Men in the Arena Podcast and listen to our latest interview with Derwin Gray. Derwin is a black man, the founding Pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Gray met his Caucasian wife, at Brigham Young University, and played professional football in the National Football League for five years. He is the author of several books including his new release, The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness.
He “Had to Go”
Let’s face facts, horrible racial injustices have been around since the beginning. They always will. At times, I don’t know how this could be, but the Church was the greatest abuser of human life. Listen to John’s racial disdain in John 4:4, “Now he (Jesus) had to go through Samaria.”
Back then Jews, God’s “chosen” people despised the Samaritans and would travel to the eastern border of Israel, cross the Jordan River, and proceed north in Gentile lands just to avoid Samaria and the way to Galilee.
Jesus always leaned into racial tension and confronted injustice, which is why he “had to go.”
As I look at our country through my West Coast, masculine, educated, Christian lenses I struggle to understand. True, I’m not black, Hispanic, or an unborn. You might say I’m, “Birth privileged!” I’ve competed with, coached, and ministered with people color all my life and considered myself colorblind. In my ignorance, however, I confess that I didn’t move beyond, “I’m not a racist” to something deeper, more Christocentric.
Philippians 2:3-5 says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Derwin Gray writes, “Humility is not something that originates in us. It originates in God as he drenches us with grace…Humility provides the supernatural ability to turn a foe into a friend, and enemy into family. In God’s economy, great people are humble enough to become great servants.”
We must approach all injustices with an attitude of humility willing to see beyond our cultural lenses, civil religion, and political biases to the heart of Jesus. It is from a position of humility that I am finally seeing why our black brothers and sisters are so angry.
Systematic Racism and the American Dream
Derwin’s, The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness, is a teaching through the Beatitudes of Jesus, where we read, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
In my opinion, there is no one better qualified to talk about racial reconciliation than him. He writes, “For more than two thousand years, the Church has had a biblical theology that all people are bearers of God’s image and that all humans deserve justice. Sadly, that has not often been lived out. In America, many white evangelical Christians sat silently on the sidelines as black Americans and their black Christian brothers and sisters went through police dog attacks, church bombings, lynching, murder, and other forms of terrorism. Others stood in opposition to black people—often their black brothers and sisters in Christ—who attempted to gain basic American freedoms that the Constitution promised them.”
Passively sitting in the bleachers while injustice runs rampant saying, “I not a racist” isn’t good enough.
Followers of Jesus oppose racism as Derwin so bluntly stated in our interview, “You are your brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9).
Why Black Lives and Broken Ankles Matter
Just as “white privilege” is an ignorant statement so is our understanding of the phrase “black lives matter”. My son James recently broke his ankle wakeboarding and required reconstructive surgery. I took the day off, bought him groceries, and drove an hour to his place to watch over him. Do my other sons matter? Yes. Do I love them equally? Yes. But my oldest was injured and needed my immediate attention.
All lives, whether born or in the womb, matter to God. But right now, our black brothers and sisters are hurting and need our prayers, love, and appropriate response. I love what Derwin wrote: “A divided church along ethnic lines loses credibility to a watching world. This segregation diminishes the beauty of the bride of Christ…As followers of Jesus, when we isolate ourselves in bubbles of homogeneity, we will stay trapped in echo chambers of ignorance. We are sanctified faster in the context of ethnic and social differences. God the Holy Spirit uses our differences to make us more Christlike.”
Five New Phrases in My Vocabulary to Oppose Racism
1. Non-Racist Versus Anti-Racism. At mid-life I’m finally getting it. I hope you get it much younger than I did, which is why Men in the Arena exists. I’m finally growing beyond passively saying, “I’m not a racist” while doing nothing.
2. Walk a Mile in their Shoes. Talk to people of color. Let them tell you their story. I have heard horror stories of racial profiling, priests telling college girls not to date black athletes, being called an Uncle Tom or Oreo, and other atrocities that, frankly, it pisses me off. I would have never known unless I asked. Walk a mile in their shoes.
3. Knowledge is Power. Right now, I’m reading, Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington and Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler to educate myself beyond media biases, cultural limits, and civil religion. Ignorance is no excuse when you are a man of any age. Educate yourself.
4. What the Spirit is saying. Revelation 2:7 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Look around you. What is God doing through COVID-19, racial tension and the likes. You would have to be dead to miss the signs of the times. Clearly, God is up to something and I want to be involved in anything God is doing even if it looks like a bad situation.
5. Where Can I Help? It’s not good enough to rant, “I’m not a racist.” If we are not willing to do something when we see injustice, we slowly fade to worse than a racist. Oppose racism and anything that diminished from human life or strops the dignity form another human being. James the brother of Jesus wrote, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). You are your brother’s keeper!
Boots on the Ground
I’ve had several responses to my videos on this topic lately asking, “What can I do?” I’ve given you five things. Pick one and let me know how it goes. Read Derwin’s book. Listen to our interview with him. God bless you and you choose to remove your light from under the cover, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15).