Remembering Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for president of the United States, one who was “unbought” and “unbossed,” and believed she belonged at the table.
Shirley Anita Saint Hill was born to immigrants from Barbados. Shirley Chisholm (her married name) was an educator and advocate for children and the poor. Eventually she entered the arena of politics and became the first black woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968 and represented the 12th District of New York until 1983. In 1972, she became the first Black woman to run for President of the U.S.
Throughout her political career, Chisholm saw herself as “the people’s politician.” She was determined to be Unbought and Unbossed (the title of her autobiography) and that was one of the reasons much of the Democratic power structure tried to deny her a seat at the table during her presidential run. Other reasons, of course, were that most didn’t believe an African American or a woman could become president—let alone someone who was both!
Whether running for office or pushing legislation, Chisholm often had to work outside the party apparatus and gather support as she blazed her way along the “Chisholm Trail.” She was as quick to challenge Democrats as well as Republicans when it came to representing the have-nots. As you’ll see below, she also didn’t shy away from challenging the church to see people as “integrated wholes” and to act upon that belief. The following excerpts from “The Relationship Between Religion and Today’s Social Issues”[i] provide a glimpse into her heart:
“It is exceedingly difficult to explain one’s inner feelings and motivations especially when it seems that one’s actions defy current policy and standards… Philosophically I remain involved because it is the only way in which I can express my love toward a different America, an America that does not yet exist in time and space…
“In 1st John 3:18 we find the following word: ‘My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth’
“Quite often the church gives the distinct impression that it is concerned exclusively with its own self-preservation, but the clergy must assume a strong role in preparing young men and women to function meaningfully as religiously oriented citizens who are able to cope with the economic, social, religious and political problems of the day. The church can no longer be mute and expect the young to be satisfied. The Bible touches upon every phase of life and our lives are supposed to be integrated wholes, for unless religion is all of life, it is none of life. The rights and wrongs of political issues cannot be sidestepped…
“There are those who claim that the gospel is opposed to the changing of priorities I have described and they stress the inner, individualistic, formalistic aspects of religion and obedience to authority and tradition. But I believe that we must reconcile those who are oppressed, alienated, rebellious not by conditional handouts which perpetuate servile dependency but by giving to them access to the reins of decision making and to the resources needed for growth in freedom and maturity…
“Remember that biblical faith is oriented towards a new future not a static past. When Israel’s faith faltered, Christ came to free a new community to carry on God’s work in history…
“Are we ready to learn to deal with others as God has dealt with us? God gave us life at the risk of our rebellion and paid for reconciliation at the price of the cross.”
As the preachers used to say, “The doors of the church are open.”
[i] Quoted from Religious Education LXIX/2 (March-April 1975): 117-123, by Marcia Y. Riggs (editor) in Can I Get a Witness? Prophetic Religious Voices of African American Women, 183-7.
Mis-Education of the Church
Dr. Carter G. Woodson insisted that the contribution of “the Negro” be recognized year-round. What about the contribution of people of African descent as seen in the Bible?
Dr. Carter G. Woodson birthed the first Negro History Week on February 7, 1926. Why February? Because of his admiration for Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in February. So whether you call it Black History or African American History Month, it wasn’t bestowed upon us by another race. Nor does the length of the month have anything to do with its designation.
The Harvard educated history professor never intended Black History to be confined to one month a year. Its study was to be a liberating force throughout one’s life that helps elevate all aspects of society. To get started, why not peruse a few passages from his most famous work, The Mis-Education of the Negro? The pagination for the following quotes are based on the 2016 edition by Watchmaker Publishing.
Sampling of Woodson’s Observations
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” Mis-Education, 9
“The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples.” Mis-Eduction, 9
“The conditions of today have been determined by what has taken place in the past, and in a very careful study of this history we may see more clearly the great theatre of events in which the Negro has played a part.” Mis-Education, 15
“In the teaching of fine arts these instructors usually started with Greece . . . but they omitted the African influence which scientists now regard as significant and dominant in early Hellas. They failed to teach the student the Mediterranean Melting Pot with the Negroes from Africa bringing their wares, their ideas, and the blood therein to influence the history of Greece, Carthage, and Rome.” Mis-Education, 20
“In medical schools Negroes were likewise convinced of their inferiority in being reminded of their role as germ carriers… Little emphasis was placed upon the immunity of the Negro from diseases like yellow fever and influenza which are so disastrous to whites. Yet, the whites were not considered inferior because of the differential resistance to these plagues.” Mis-Education, 21
“Taught from books of the same bias, trained by Caucasians of the same prejudices or by Negroes of enslaved minds, one generation of Negro teachers after another have served for no higher purpose than to do what they are told to do. In other words, a Negro teacher instructing Negro children is in many respects white teacher thus engaged, for the program in each case is about the same.” Mis-Education, 22
“Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.” Mis-Education, 25
“The education of any people should begin with the people themselves, but Negroes… have been dreaming about the ancients of Europe and about those who have tried to imitate them.” Mis-Education, 27
So called “biblical” perpetuated this mental enslavement. According to the Bible, Moses and Paul looked like Egyptians (Exodus 2:19 and Acts 21:38). Yet, strangely, we see them portrayed as if they were Norwegians. We know then, someone is trying to place unbiblical, unhistorical, un-geographical shackles on your mind.
How is it, on the other hand that the artists always seem to depict the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8:27 and Simon of Cyrene of Mark 21:15 as black? Any map will show that Libya (home to Cyrene) is on one side of Egypt and Ethiopia is on the other side of Egypt. Why depict these people so differently?
From a racist and sexist standpoint, the Ethiopian eunuch is an emasculated servant. He would be accountable to a woman—so there’s nothing exemplary about him. Although he’s literate, he doesn’t understand what he is reading until Philip (always depicted as white) is sent to enlighten this lost soul from the “dark continent.”
The Romans singled out Simon of Cyrene to fill his divinely mandated role as a burden-bearer. Both men have been consistently depicted in this manner because such artwork is a tool of mis-education. Again, ask yourself why the Ethiopian and Libyan are depicted as dark-skinned Africans, while Moses and Paul are mistaken for Egyptians yet portrayed as white?
Supremacy That Seeped in
Moses was the premier freedom-fighter, law-giver, and prophet of the Old Testament. He is credited with writing the first five books of the Bible and setting the tone for the rest of the
Bible. Even in the Gospels, Jesus’ critics use the writings of Moses to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing. Paul is the premier apostle of the New Testament. He was highly educated, multilingual, a persuasive speaker, a leader’s leader, and proficient writer of approximately half of the New Testament. To be consistent in their artwork of Africans by portraying these men according to their biblical description would have undermined the white supremacy inherent in the colonization and enslavement of Africans.
Realistic biblical artwork would force some cultural and historical introspection among Europeans. European people and places aren’t referred to in the Bible until the book of Daniel. That is when Greece overcame Medo-Persia. Europeans don’t actually interact with the biblical narratives until the four Gospels discuss Roman census and taxes, a handful of Greeks visiting Jesus, and a centurion that seeks Jesus’ healing power. The vast majority of the Bible takes place at the junction of Africa and Asia, with the main players being Africans and Asians.
Read the Bible for yourself and free your mind from religious mis-education.
God’s New Year Resolution
Listen Up “Caterpillars”: What God has done for the butterfly is only a hint of what He wants to do for us.
Ropes of Sand?
According to a YouGov poll, only about 26% of Americans plan to make any New Year’s resolutions. Those most likely to do so are between 18-34 years-old (33%). The likelihood of resolution-making decreases with age, with 30% of 35-54 year-olds likely to make resolutions, and only 17% of those 55+ likely to do so.
Why do so few engage in this tradition and why is there less participation as people age? Don’t we usually think of older people as being the ones attached to tradition, especially when it comes to the holidays?
Could it be a track record of broken resolutions that jades people against even planning to accomplish anything new, exciting, empowering, and uplifting? Have the yearly reruns of unused gym memberships, expanding waistlines, unfulfilling jobs, and increasing debts pulled the plug on idealistic initiatives? Has it become less painful to surrender to apathy than to overcome inertia?
Teaching old caterpillars new tricks
Have we been going about change and growth in the wrong way, the wrong order? Perhaps we need to focus more on being than doing? I’ve heard it said, “If you want to do what you’ve never done, you must become what you’ve never been.” We can see a powerful, down-to-earth, example of this truth in the life of the caterpillar.
Caterpillars can’t fly. They don’t have the wings or the shape. Caterpillars can’t sip. They don’t have the equipment nor discernment to delicately extract nectar from the interior of a flower blossom without destroying it. Caterpillars commence their destructive appetites (from a farmer’s point of view) by devouring the eggshells they hatch from. The only time they pause from eating is to molt (shed their skin), so they can eat and grow some more. After molting, many caterpillars resume their frenzy by eating their old skin!
To soar and sip, caterpillars must undergo a transformation—a metamorphosis. They must acquire new tastes and new tools. They have to become new creatures. In order for that to happen, they have to stop chomping, cease the persistent pursuit of more green, and halt compulsive consumption.
Caterpillar soup, anyone?
To become butterflies, caterpillars have to make a clean break from the past by literally going out on a limb. They must position themselves for the miracle of metamorphosis by sealing themselves away from the world for a while. They are vulnerable and appear unproductive, but the stillness of the chrysalis is God’s means of unlocking their potential.
Caterpillars bring no building supplies inside their silken construction tarps. This isn’t a DIY project. Only God can transform sideways-munching jaws into straws (yeah, I know, it’s called a proboscis) and bring wings out of seemingly nowhere. This is a messy process, as Scientific American describes, “First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out.” Later, that “protein-rich soup” will “fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, antennae, legs, eyes, genitals and all the other features of an adult butterfly.”
Once the transformation is complete, the butterfly can see things with their compound eyes that are impossible for caterpillars to envision with their simple eyes. They flutter through the air instead of fumble around on the ground. Butterflies have active appetites, but disseminate life from one flower to another as they dine. The self-indulgent search and destroy missions of their former lives are forever behind them.
God’s New You Resolution
What God has done for the butterfly is only a hint of what He wants to do for us. God’s resolution is to provide newness of life for each of us (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17). He wants to give us a new song (Isaiah 42:10; Revelations 14:3), show us new things (Isaiah 43:19; 48:6), give us a new heart along with new names (Ezekiel 36:26; Isaiah 62:2; Revelations. 2:17), and bring us into the new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter. 3:13; Revelations 21:1). It all begins with us renewing our minds:
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2, KJV).
3 R’s to a New You
God has a three-step process for us to enter this newness.
Recognize that we have an either-or proposition from which to choose: be conformed or be transformed.
There are people, customs, and other forces in the world seeking to mold us, shape us—conform us to their image. However, there is also a path available for personal transformation that resists being defined by anyone or anything outside of God. Either we choose to be transformed or we will be conformed by default.
One tricky fact about this choice is that both actions in Romans 12:2a are passive, meaning that we’re not in charge of the processes of being conformed or transformed. What can we do about the situation?
“What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but…You can give Him your will” (Steps to Christ, p. 47).
Remember that being transformed isn’t a once and done decision.
Romans 12:2b says we must undergo continual renewal of the mind for our transformation to stick. Just look at the word: RE-NEW-ING. The prefix “re-” has “the meaning of… ‘again and again’ to indicate repetition.”Adding the suffix “-ing” to renew “indicates continuing action, something going on now” and “can suggest that an action is going to happen in the future, especially with verbs that convey…movement from one…condition to another.”
The point is that the Bible writer has realistic expectations. He is encouraging us on a course of continual progress, not instantaneous perfection. There’s no need to give up on ourselves, our high ideals, or God. Keep praying. Keep getting acquainted with God’s promises. Keep positioning ourselves for the miracle of metamorphosis. Keep yielding ourselves to the One who began the good work in us, because He has made Himself responsible for completing it (Philippians 1:6). This may sound corny, but remember, “Big shots are only little shots who keep shooting.”
Rejoice that you’re not alone in your efforts.
Romans 12:2c affirms that your transformation is His will, His resolution. It’s God’s good and perfect will for you and me to be what we’ve never been and do what we’ve never done. It’s His good and perfect will for us to see things from a newer and higher vantage point than possible before (Ephesians 2:6). It is God working in you and me to bring about the lasting transformation that so easily eludes us (Philippians 2:13). In the words of Darwin Hobbs:
God is able to do just what he said he would do
He’s gonna fulfill every promise to you
Don’t give up on God, cause he won’t give up on you!
What to Do With This Stuff: Lessons from Lil Jon’s Crunk Christmas
I’m telling you right now, whenever I get bored during the Christmas season, I’m clicking on “All I Really Want for Christmas!” Overplayed traditional songs are dumped down the drain as Lil Jon empties the eggnog in the sink and replaces it with Kool-Aid. His “carol” is energetic. It’s hilarious. It’s got kids dancing and laughing. It’s got gifts galore and an overflowing buffet. Kool-Aid Man and DJ Santa throwing a party with Lil Jon in someone else’s house!
Most of all, it’s got honesty.
There’s no pretense of spirituality. There’s no allusion to the birth of Jesus. Not a hint of contentment, gratitude, or humility. There’s nothing suggestive of it being more blessed to give than to receive. Instead, there’s the contagious chorus:
All I really want, really want for Christmas
All I really want, really want for Christmas
All I really want, really want for Christmas
Is everything on my list, baby, yeah!
Bearing Gifts, We’ve Traveled So Far
Lil Jon freely admits that he’s been planting seeds all year about what people should buy him. Something about that is religiously refreshing, even if detrimental. To be shamelessly selfish isn’t a virtue. However, to cloak our selfishness in spiritual garb is a much more dangerous vice. Just ask King Hezekiah (you can read about him in 2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32; Isaiah 36-39).
Hezekiah wasn’t one of the many bad kings of Judah. He was one of the few good ones! He cut down idols, refurbished God’s temple, brought reformation to the priesthood, restored people’s faith in the “church” of his day, and his prayer for Judah’s protection was answered with the swift, supernatural defeat of an enemy army. Hezekiah was doing so well, until…
Hezekiah became deathly ill. After humbly praying for healing, the prophet Isaiah promised that God would restore the king’s health and lengthen his life by 15 years. The king asked for a heavenly sign to confirm the prediction would come true. The sign God sent was to move back time—to turn back the sun (2 Kings 20:8-11).
Neighbors Who Notice
A prince in the neighboring kingdom of Babylon heard about Hezekiah’s sickness and healing (2 Kings 20:12). Since Babylonians were known for studying the stars (Dan. 2:2), the timing of the healing and the seemingly backward movement of the sun got Berodach-baladan’s attention. He sent messengers with gifts and a letter in order to find out if there was a link between Hezekiah’s new lease on life and the disruption of heavenly bodies.
It was at this moment, God did a strange thing: “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31). Did God abandon the king? No, he just allowed him space without the intervention of prophets or voices from heaven to specifically guide his thoughts and actions. God wanted to know how deeply His grace in Hezekiah’s life had penetrated the king’s heart. How would Hezekiah respond when the Babylonians came from the East to Jerusalem after seeing a sign from the heavens?
From Showrooms to Stocking Stuffers
Hezekiah got caught up in the moment. Pride blinded him from seeing the opportunity to share his faith. Instead, he showed off his stuff—all his stuff (Isaiah 39:2-4). He turned their minds from the supernatural to the natural. Isaiah announced that the king’s mistake of showing off his riches would lead to the Babylonians returning to plunder those riches and march his people into captivity. The Babylonians were shown someone’s house that seemed to have everything on their carnal Christmas list.
These visitors already had material riches, but thought Hezekiah’s spiritual riches exceeded theirs. It wasn’t Babylonian gods that moved the heavens to save their king, it was the God whose temple was in Jerusalem. They left spiritually unimpressed. Rather than learning more about God, they learned where they could get more gold. How might history have been different if Hezekiah had emphasized the things of God during that show and tell tour?
Greatest Gift of All
Fast forward a few hundred years. A couple with a baby played show and tell when some astrologers from the East came to Jerusalem after seeing a unique movement in the heavens. This sign was a mysterious light that was neither a fixed star, nor a planet. It seemed to urge them to play follow the leader, until they ended up in Bethlehem. The show and tell Mary and Joseph played was a humble game. There were no palaces to tour or delicacies to sample. There was only one main attraction: a baby wrapped in very plain blankets.
God chose where His Son would be born and ordained that there would be nothing about the surroundings that would overshadow His glory. When they saw Jesus, the wise men showed their wisdom by offering their earthly treasures at the feet of the heavenly treasure. For as one author wrote, “In giving up His Son, He [God the Father] has poured out to us all heaven in one gift” (E.G. White, Our Father Cares, 65). The wisdom of the wise men was that they recognized their stuff was nothing compared to Jesus.
Jesus’ parents were regular working class folks without the means to jump up and move to another country to start a new life. However, God richly rewarded them when they shared the one thing on their visitors’ that couldn’t be bought or sold. The material gifts from the Magi of the East enabled Jesus and his parents to seek asylum in Egypt, thus escaping Herod’s murderous rampage (Matthew 2:11-18).
Good Gifts All from God
The lessons from Lil Jon’s Crunk Christmas remind me that it’s easy, whether a rapper or a biblical king like Hezekiah, to lose focus on what’s important. Stuff can crowd Christ out of Christmas. Yet, stuff can be a blessing—depending on how we use it and share it. And we will share it more readily when we remember our stuff really isn’t ours. Just like the house Lil Jon, Kool-Aid Man, and DJ Santa were partying in wasn’t theirs, we have to remember that every good and perfect gift we receive comes from our Father above.
Reframe Your Pain: Six Lessons On Loss
How can I see hope and purpose beyond my circumstances? How can I live a functional life with so much dysfunction around me? How can I get through this crisis, since I can’t seem to get out of it? How can I use this situation to grow?
Asking “How?” questions can spark the creativity necessary for reframing how we view our painful experiences. The biblical account of Job provides some big pictures to help us reset, rewire, reframe, our thought processes for dealing with stress, suffering, and sorrow. In quick succession, Job lost his children, his wealth, and his health—yet he held onto hope.
His story can help us “gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason.” Here are six ways to reframe your pain.
One: Know There’s a Battle in the Background (Job 1:6-11)
The same enemy that brought pain to Job long ago and pains us today, began by being a pain in the atmosphere. Revelation 12:7-12 tells how an angel earned the nickname Satan, which means “the accuser.” He got his name from what he does non-stop, as Job 1 and Zechariah 3:1-2 reveal. He seeks to hurt God by hurting us, to condemn God by condemning us. His additional goal is to make us desert God and join his losing team. If it seems the world is getting crazier, it’s because the intensity of Satan’s attacks is directly related to the imminence of his demise.
Since God won the war in heaven, we have confidence that He will win the battle in the background that’s currently spilling into our lives, and
Since we can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes, we shouldn’t presume to know the cause of an individual’s suffering.
Two: God is Bigger Than Your Outbursts (Job 3)
Have you ever heard of someone described as having the patience of Job? The picture of a patient Job is developed when we don’t pay attention past chapter 2. Beginning in chapter 3, and for much of the remainder of the book, we see the impatience of Job. He even recognized his own impatience: “Oh, if only my grief could be weighed, and my misfortune laid on the scales too! But because it is heavier than the sand of the sea, that is why my words have been wild” (Job 6:2-3, NET, emphasis added). Though Job implores God to strike him down, God isn’t tempted for a moment to do so (Job 6:8-9).
God can handle the wildness of our words toward Him, but people can’t. Cast your cares on Jesus and avoid emotionally overtaxing others.
Three: Sometimes Friends and Family Make Miserable Comforters (Job 16:1-5)
Even with the best of intentions, your loved ones will let you down. Job and his wife were both hurting, but processed their pain in very different ways. The fruit of Mrs. Job’s 10 years of childbearing was destroyed in one windstorm. Then some of the family’s wealth went up in smoke, while the rest was plundered by ruthless marauders. Now her husband’s physical condition rendered her home remedies useless. In Job 2:9, her solution was for Job to verbally curse God—thinking that would ensure a swift end to his agony. Mrs. Job’s intended comfort was offensive to Job. As the adage goes: Hurt people hurt people. Unfortunately, it is those closest to us who can hurt us the worst.
If you accept that friends and family will fail your expectations, you’ll reduce your emotional burdens. Expecting more than others can deliver frustrates everyone.
Four: God Has No Grandchildren—Only Children (Job 19:25-27)
When we aren’t able to lean on anyone else for strength or solace, our individual relationship with God becomes imperative. If Job would’ve relied on his wife’s relationship with God to get him through, he would have cursed God to hasten the rest of death. If Job would’ve relied on his friends’ relationship with God, he would’ve confessed to something he wasn’t guilty of in order to be released from punishment. Job had cultivated a connection with God over his lifetime; therefore, he knew he didn’t need to settle for their recommendations. Job’s certainty was, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and…he will stand upon the earth…after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God…my own eyes will behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27, NET).
It’s OK to know the God of your grandparents, as long as you get to know Him for yourself.
God doubled Job’s prosperity after Job prayed for his friends. God commanded him to intercede for people that had multiplied his misery. They had been trying to persuade Job that he was getting what he deserved, but now they must rely on his prayers to prevent them from getting what they deserve. When Job prayed for his errant friends, he foreshadowed the work of Jesus. After being afflicted with unearned suffering, he brought sinners into harmony with the heart of God. Instead of getting Job to abandon God, Satan’s attacks resulted in Job reflecting His maker’s image clearer than ever before.
God blesses us the most when are conduits, rather than consumers, of His blessings.
Six: Empower the Vulnerable (Job 42:13-15)
Job felt what it’s like to be powerless over your circumstances and even your own body. He had been wounded by self-righteous friends kicking him while he was down. He learned to distrust societal norms to protect his children’s well-being, especially his daughters. That’s why Job’s daughters are named, but not his sons (Job 42:13-14). Usually it was the sons whose names were publicized, while the daughters would be largely anonymous. Instead, Job made sure Jemimah, Cassia, and Keren Happuch, were recognized as individuals with names and personality.
Job further liberated his daughters from dependence upon the patriarchal system of his day by giving them an inheritance (Job 42:15). Usually, young ladies would be dependent upon and controlled by their fathers until they’re handed off to a husband. When their husbands died, the inheritance would be passed onto the sons. Widows would then be dependent upon their sons. Job’s move turned that construct upside-down…or perhaps, right-side-up.
Don’t waste painful experiences. Suffering should deepen our capacity for empathy. Draw from that reservoir to anticipate and meet the needs of others. Doing so will replace sorrow with joy, and loss with fulfillment.
Five Reasons Jesus Wept
Five Reasons to Love Him All Over Again
When I was little, the verse “Jesus wept” was a favorite verse because it was the easiest to memorize. Now John 11:35 claims its place in my heart as one of my favorites, because it carries concentrated meaning. It’s like the little capsules that power out the dirt from a large load of laundry.
Over the years, I’ve learned five transformative lessons and one piercing question from the shortest verse of the Bible.
Weeping not a sign of weakness
Jesus had a commanding presence. He single-handedly flipped over the money-changers’ tables, opened their money bags and cast their currency to the ground, ran off the animal traders’ livestock, and made these men feel so lucky to get away alive that none of them stopped to pick up their money (see John 2:13–17; Mark 11:15–17). This scene, among many others, refutes the notion of a teddy-bear Messiah that’s sometimes promoted.
If we add other bold men of the Bible, we end up with quite a list of tough guys who shed tears. David, the giant-killing warrior-king, wept. Joseph, who was strong enough to resist sexual temptation during a lonely time of life and had the power to forgive his brothers’ betrayal, wept. Nehemiah, skillful and strong enough to use carpenter tools in one hand and wield a sword in the other, wept. If you’ve ever succumbed to weeping, you’re in strong company.
Weeping is not a denial of faith
Jesus told the twelve disciples that He was going to wake Lazarus. His relaxed tone led the disciples to believe Lazarus was on the mend, not in the grave (John 11:11-15). Jesus was fully aware of His identity, position, mission, and power. He knew that as the author of life He had authority over death; and yet He wept (John 6:39-40 & 10:17-18). Christ’s public prayer at the grave of Lazarus served as an announcement that the Father had already answered His private prayer; and yet He wept (John 11:41-42).
Since Jesus wept while constantly confirming His foreknowledge and abilities, it is impossible for weeping to signify a lack of faith. If Mary and Martha affirmed their faith in the Savior’s power while choking back tears, then we can weep while being faithful (John 11:21-32). Now that we know Christians have liberty to lament, the question still lingers: If weeping isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of faith, then why did Jesus weep?
Jesus wept with His followers
The apostle John encapsulated God’s craving for closeness with His creation when he wrote, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, KJV). The word translated “dwelt” comes from the word for “tabernacle,” or “tent of meeting.” Moses’ tent of meeting was made of things like badger skins, but in Christ, God tabernacled with us in a tent of human flesh.
Emmanuel, “God with us,” could finally feel firsthand what we experience in this world. He rejoiced with those who rejoice when He turned water into wine at a wedding party (John 2). Now He weeps with those who weep on the way to Lazarus’ tomb.
One day, those sleeping in Jesus will be reunited with those alive in Christ as they rise to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). When God wipes away all our tears and death has died, Christ won’t have anyone to cry with anymore (Revelation 21:4; 20:14). But as long as “people are destined to die once” (Hebrews 9:27), Jesus will dwell with the grieving and weep with those who weep.
Jesus wept for His followers
Jesus wept for His disciples because He could see ahead to the garden, when their self-sufficiency had them sleeping instead of praying (Mark 14:37–40). He wept for them because they didn’t believe His warnings of how seriously their faith would be shaken (see Luke 22:31; Matthew 26:31). Jesus wept for them because He knew that Judas’ conspiracy with the priests was the final stroke that would cut him off from grace. How He wept for the shame His most vocal spokesman would feel after denying Him three times (Matthew 26:69–75).
In raising Lazarus after he’d been dead four days, Jesus inspired the disciples’ faith, so that they would anticipate Christ’s resurrection on the third day. If they had learned from this miracle, they wouldn’t have been terrified after He was crucified. They wouldn’t have doubted the reports of His resurrection. His heart ached for them, yearning to overcome their skepticism and spare them unnecessary anguish.
Jesus wept for His opponents
Jesus wept and continues to weep for those who reject Him no matter what He says or does. Some who witnessed Lazarus walk out of the tomb hated His influence so much that they would plot to kill Lazarus, the beneficiary of His power (John 12:9–11). They recognized His genuine miracle, but refused every merciful call to repentance and eternal life.
The reasons for the people’s rejection of Christ were as numerous as the voices that would soon be shouting, “Crucify Him!” Leaders saw Him as a threat to the social order and the political ties they had formed with corrupt Roman leaders. Hypocrites sought revenge for the embarrassment suffered when He exposed their sins. Some people were disgusted by His humility in mingling with the poor and untouchables. Others faulted Him for not being radical enough and leading an armed rebellion to overthrow their oppressors.
Whatever their reasons were, they were effectively arguing for their release from His protective custody. ” ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused!’ ” (Luke 13:34, WEB).
Is He weeping with or for us today?
Weeping with us was part of the desire that led our High Priest to dwell with us.
He wept bitterly as He interceded for us on earth and continues to intercede for us in heaven (Hebrews 4:15; 5:7–9; Romans 8:34). Because He has walked in our sandals, the Father has committed all judgment to Jesus (John 5:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Weeping for us grieves the Judge who seeks to pardon, not punish. If anyone is lost, it’s not because the Judge isn’t sympathetic to our situation.
Jesus wept then and weeps now, but won’t weep forever. The question is: What kind of tears is He shedding? Is He weeping with you as your High Priest? Or weeping for you as your Judge?
The Samaritan’s Second Coming
The Good Samaritan is so popular that he’s crossed over from the Good Book to medical and legal books:
“Good Samaritan laws generally provide basic legal protection for those who assist a person who is injured or in danger. In essence, these laws protect the ‘Good Samaritan’ from liability if unintended consequences result from their assistance. All 50 [U.S.] states and the District of Columbia have some type of Good Samaritan law.” (Emphasis supplied)
Not only are protections offered to Good Samaritans, but in some cases, there might be legal consequences for people that don’t offer help:
“A person is not obligated by law to do first aid in most [U.S.] states. . . However, some states will consider it an act of negligence though, if a person doesn’t at least call for help.”
Who was the original Good Samaritan that inspired so many modern laws?
Let’s read about him for ourselves
Luke 10:30-36, God’s Word:
Jesus replied, “A man went from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way robbers stripped him, beat him, and left him for dead.
“By chance, a priest was traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he went around him and continued on his way. Then a Levite came to that place. When he saw the man, he, too, went around him and continued on his way.
“But a Samaritan, as he was traveling along, came across the man. When the Samaritan saw him, he felt sorry for the man, went to him, and cleaned and bandaged his wounds. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day the Samaritan took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. He told the innkeeper, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than that, I’ll pay you on my return trip.’
“Of these three men, who do you think was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by robbers?”
The expert said, “The one who was kind enough to help him.”
“It is not enough to aid a wounded man on the Jericho road; it is also necessary to change the conditions which make robbery possible. Philanthropy is marvelous, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the need for working to remove the circumstances of economic injustice which make the work of philanthropy necessary.”
“One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. . . It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
Was King right? Did Jesus’ model neighbor have a deficient, one-sided approach? Or have we overlooked some aspects of the Samaritan’s plan?
The Samaritan’s Wholistic Plan
The Samaritan Promised to Return
“Take care of him. If you spend more than that, I’ll pay you on my return trip.” The Samaritan didn’t tell the innkeeper the day or the hour of his return, but promised to come back. This hotel owner was given an assignment to house and heal a penniless stranger for an unlimited period of time. How will this affect his business plan? What will the other customers think? How much personal and professional time would this take? What if the thugs who beat this man up come looking for more? Most importantly, can the innkeeper trust the Samaritan to return?
The Samaritan Promised to Repay
“Take care of him. If you spend more than that, I’ll pay you on my return trip.” The Samaritan gave a broad command, with no spending limit in sight. Did the hotel owner have confidence the Samaritan had the ability and the integrity to repay? If he really trusts the Samaritan to repay any expenses, will he seek to create a profit margin by cutting corners in caring for his guest? If he truly believes the Samaritan’s promises, then is the innkeeper actually sacrificing anything for coming out of pocket? Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his good deed.”
The Samaritan Prompted Rehabilitation
The Samaritan wasn’t merely a philanthropist. He became an advocate by calling upon the innkeeper to dedicate his time and resources to help relieve the suffering. He entrusted the innkeeper with the ultimate stewardship – a human life. The well-being of this roadside casualty was now in the hands of the hotel owner.
The Samaritan’s promise to return and repay provoked an expectation. The innkeeper was a man of influence, who surely had conversations with other influencers about his mission to restore his new friend to wholeness. He probably appealed to his peers in government and business about the need to eliminate the repetitious episodes of roadside robberies. When they asked, “Why should we be concerned?” He responded, “Because the Samaritan is concerned.” When they argued, “We can’t afford it!” He confidently replied, “Don’t worry. The Samaritan can.”
Doesn’t this Samaritan sound familiar?
Jesus put himself in this parable to identify with the marginalized. Critics sought to insult Him by calling him a Samaritan – basically equating being a Samaritan with being demon-possessed (John 8:48). Instead of seeking to save his reputation by distancing himself from the disinherited, Jesus embraced their slur and transformed it. He proved that we can break the molds others press us into and promote new perspectives for our own lives.
By becoming the Samaritan in the parable, Jesus humbles his critics. They’re called to honor “the other” if they seek to be honored by God. By putting Himself in a story showing what a true neighbor looks like, He also shows what a true follower of His looks like. True followers of Jesus, future citizens of His kingdom, aren’t determined by nationality, race, social status, mistakes, or misfortune.
Rebuilding Jericho Road
Following His example, Christ’s true followers are willing to take on demeaning labels as they help people in need and advocate on their behalf. They – we – I, must remember that when we spend ourselves for others, our efforts will be repaid when He returns. We must also be mindful that the Jericho roads of this world won’t be permanently and perfectly torn down and built anew until the Samaritan’s Second Coming.
Why Memorial Day is Bigger Than the Barbecue
Drill down on the grill out, to find the true meaning of a righteous Memorial Day.
Grills are centers of gravity that pull family and friends together. And as Oakland showed us recently, diffusers of charcoal can be transformed into weapons of resistance.[i] Barbecue and the cook-out has been a part of celebrating freedom since the original Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day.
In 1966, Capitol Hill and the Whitehouse officially recognized Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace of Memorial Day. That’s because on May 5, 1866, the town shut down business in order to honor fallen Civil War soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and wreaths. It was a solemn day of prayer and remembrance. Because of the emphasis on decorating the soldiers’ graves, these yearly commemorations were known as Decoration Day. Eventually the day became known as Memorial Day.
Martyrs of the Race Course
However, a year before Waterloo had their city-wide observance, there was a massive gathering in Charleston, SC, for essentially the same purpose. The site of the commemoration was a former horse race track that had been used as an outdoor prison camp by the Confederates. Prior to being driven out by the U.S. Army, the champions of slavery buried over 250 dead union troops in a mass grave on the property. After the area had been pried from the Southern traitors, formerly enslaved men unearthed the ingloriously dumped bodies and gave them honorable, patriotic burials. They built a fence around the new graveyard and whitewashed it. Then, on the archway of the entrance, they inscribed, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
On May 1, 1865, approximately 10,000 recently freed African Americans gathered to honor union troops at what is now known as Hampton Park.[ii] They prayed, read from the Bible, sang songs like “John Brown’s Body” and “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” made speeches, decorated the graves with flowers, infantrymen did marching drills, and yes – they had a cook-out.[iii]
Most people don’t know this part of Memorial Day’s history because the place where Memorial Day began by honoring dead Union troops is named after Wade Hampton. The Martyrs of the Race Course were displaced in favor of a plantation-owning, U.S. general. Hampton defected to wage war against the U.S. to protect his “state’s rights” to own other human beings.
Alternate Memorials – Just a pile of rocks aren’t they?
In Joshua chapter 4, Moses’ successor had the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel pick up large stones from the bottom of the Jordan River. Gathering them was made possible by God’s providence in parting the waters of the Jordan so the Israelites could cross on dry land. This miracle was a memorial in itself. It reminded a whole new generation of what God had done 40 years ago by parting the Red Sea when Moses led the multitude out of Egypt.
Once everyone crossed the Jordan and the men gathered their 12 stones, they stacked them up to form a monument. It was a stone memorial to remember the day that God parted the waters. The stones gathered from the bottom were physical evidence of this feat. It wasn’t expensive or ornate, but it accomplished a purpose.
When children saw their parents visiting and rejoicing at the sight of a simple pile of rocks, it prompted questions. What do these stones mean to you? Then parents provided their own documentaries to the next generation. Do you have some simple crafts that you can pass down through the generations to serve as conversation starters?
Alternate Memorials – Are you trying to poison me or what?
While Moses was still alive, God had given the people some other memorials. The yearly Passover meal was a memorial of how God’s angel killed the first born of the Egyptians in order to force pharaoh to finally release the Hebrews. Instead of a cook-out, this feast was a cook-in. Even so, people stood up while they ate. This was a reminder that when God gives the signal you have to be ready to move.
The seasoning was a little strange, though. The meat was purposely marinated in bitter herbs. Why? Exactly. When people (especially the youth) partook of the meal, it prompted the question, “Why is this meat so bitter?” That provided a teaching moment that would be permanently etched into their taste buds. They would have a gustatory (taste perception) trigger to remind them of how bitter the chastening rod had been. The repulsive prompt was meant to renew their vow of “Never Again.”
A similar principle is at work with God’s list of clean and unclean meats in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Don’t worry. No bitter herbs this time. God normally wants us to spice up our lives and enjoy tasty meals, except for times like Passover or fasting for one purpose or another. However, sometimes we act as though we’re being deprived when things are withheld for our own benefit. Although the food is fine, we get bitter and ask why we can’t eat certain things. There’s two short answers for this: 1) Trust Him in this area, since He’s proven Himself in other ways, and 2) Look at the longevity and quality of life of those who follow His plan.
Alternate Memorials – What Can I do?
God also commanded Moses to teach the people to rest every seventh day. The weekly Sabbath rest wasn’t something brand new. God established it in Genesis 2, to cap off creation week. However, just as many African American family trees have been separated from their roots, the Hebrews had been estranged from the concept of rest. In Exodus 20:8-11, the reason for rest is to remember our value comes from being created in the image of God. As we
contemplate His forethought in designing all the interdependent ecosystems of the world, it should develop mindfulness for how we treat each other and our environment.
In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the same command is given for a different reason. This time the reference point for the Sabbath is emancipation from slavery. The application is to extend the liberation that God has blessed you with by doing one simple thing: Give the people in your sphere of influence the day off.
The challenge most children have is when their parents tell them all the stuff they can’t do on the Sabbath, they want to know what they can do. You can help the sick, the injured, the hungry, the lonely, to experience rest by relieving their suffering. Your compassion might be all someone needs to experience to believe there is a God who loves them. Once you get your focus off of your own concerns, you’ll be surprised at how fast the sun goes down and signals the end of another Sabbath.
The Confederates didn’t like the fact that Memorial Day seemed to be geared toward Union soldiers who died in the Civil War and neglected their genteel warriors. Therefore, many Southern states renewed their rebellion by establishing their own Confederate Memorial Days and continue to do so in one form or another.
There are also some counterfeits we have substituted for the Biblical memorials mentioned above. Instead of simple decorations that draw attention to how God has blessed us collectively and wants to do even more to elevate humanity as a whole, we chase after trinkets to display our individual status. How can we witness about a selfless God while exhibiting self-indulgence?
Instead of clean foods recommended by our Lord of liberation, we indulge in some of the most disgusting parts of the most disgusting animals. Sometimes we even say we do this to honor Him. How do you honor the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world by eating the guts of animals that gulp down the refuse of the world?
Instead of accepting the weekly reservation set by God to commune with Him, we change the date and time. How do we get the nerve to tell Him to rendezvous with us after standing Him up the day before?
May we enjoy our food, family, and friends, while we remember that there are bigger things than barbecue on holidays like Memorial Day.
Why the Justin Timberlake Prince Tribute and Sing-Along Bothered Us
It would probably have bothered Prince too. Why, though?
The clapback began twenty years before Super Bowl LII when Prince tried to preempt anyone from doing a virtual performance with him. The following exchange with Serge Simonart of Guitar World Magazine shows how emphatic Prince was about the subject:
“[Simonart speaking] With digital editing, it is now possible to create a situation where you could jam with any artist from the past. Would you ever consider doing something like that?” Prince answered, “Certainly not. That’s the most demonic thing imaginable. Everything is as it is, and it should be. If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age. That whole virtual reality thing… it really is demonic. And I am not a demon. Also, what they did with that Beatles song [“Free As a Bird”], manipulating John Lennon’s voice to have him singing from across the grave… that’ll never happen to me. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.”
Because of this, many Prince fans were indignant (best I can describe it in a religious magazine) with Justin Timberlake’s performance. Even if it were done well (a hologram of Apollo’s Sandman shudda jumped out and taken care of business), the sheet-flapping, hologramish, sing along, half-time stunt was disqualified from being a tribute.
Among many other ironies, Michael Harriott of The Root points out: “…a tribute is defined as ‘an act, statement or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect or admiration,’ so not respecting Prince Rogers Nelson’s wishes is the opposite of a tribute.”
However, there is something missing from most every conversation. Timberlake’s motive has been alternately dissected and defended by his critics and supporters, respectively. But who has addressed what Prince’s motive might have been? It’s harder to imagine using stronger language for expressing your disdain for something than to call it “demonic.”
Many religious people have denounced Prince as demonic for decades, given his extensive playlist of sexually saturated music and videos that frequently blended elements of the sacred and profane. Many don’t know know about his conservative genesis and revelation. Prince Rogers Nelson was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, frequently attending the Glendale Adventist Church in Minneapolis with his grandmother.
Much later, in 2001, he became a Jehovah’s Witness. What, if any, religious convictions did he operate from in the years between those two reference points?
Some see Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) as synonymous and wonder what the distinction is. While there is some common ground, of which one area might explain his “demonic” hologram statement, let’s quickly look at a few contrasts.
SDAs believe Jesus is an eternal, self-existent, co-equal part of the Godhead—along with the Father and Holy Spirit.
JWs see Jesus as a created being.
SDAs believe the Holy Spirit is a co-equal part of the Godhead, whereas JWs say the Spirit is merely an active force (devoid of personality) emanating from God.
SDAs believe in honoring God through resting from secular labor and gathering for worship on the seventh day Sabbath (Saturday).
JWs see this as irrelevant.
SDAs abstain from alcohol as one means of taking care of our body temples, whereas JWs may freely imbibe.
JWs don’t believe in having blood transfusions, but SDAs believe this is in keeping with biblical teaching and helps many people serve the Lord with better quality of life and longevity.
The Dead in Biblical Teaching
The area of common ground that likely led Prince to declare jamming with artists from the past as demonic is in the teaching of what happens when you die. The Bible indicates that when people die, they are really dead and their thoughts die with them.
For example, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 (KJV) says: “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.”
Many others in the Christian world believe that you don’t really die when you die. Instead, some part of you immediately flies up to heaven or descends straight to hell to be eternally tormented. However, Psalm 115:17 (KJV) says that, “The dead praise not the Lord.” If you die and go to heaven, wouldn’t you praise the Lord?
One of Jesus’ closest followers taught that “the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. . . For David did not ascend to heaven” (Acts 2:29, 34, NIV).
Since people don’t immediately die and go to heaven or the hot place, does that mean there is no life after death? No. There will be a resurrection when Jesus returns: “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead” (Isaiah 26:19, NIV).
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NIV).
Why Some Call Foul on the Fantasy
Because we believe that when people die, they are truly dead, we take seriously the commands not to try to communicate with the dead. “There shall not be found among you any one that … useth divination…or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD” (Deut. 18:10-12, KJV).
Necromancy is the practice of allegedly communicating with the dead. Familiar spirits are what the Bible calls evil, deceptive spirits (fallen angels) that imitate the appearance and mannerisms of dead people.
God forbids seeking them out for three basic reasons:
1. He wants us to seek Him for answers and comfort. “Should not a people seek their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living” (Isaiah 8:19, NIV)?
2. He doesn’t want us to open ourselves up to the influence of evil spirits. As stated already, since the deceased have no consciousness and are incapable of communicating, then it is nothing but spiritual imposters that visit those seeking the dead.
3. He wants us to have faith in the resurrection, when we will be reunited face to face with our loved ones who died in Christ.
These biblical principles are probably the reason why Prince didn’t want to be associated with anything that was akin to necromancy. Even though a hologram is an apparition created by technical forces, rather than spiritual forces, it apparently had too close a resemblance to the biblical prohibition for him to consent.
Is There a Word From the Lord?
The biblical story of King Saul, found in 1 Samuel and 1 Kings, comes to mind. Saul had a close friend and counselor, the prophet Samuel. Although Saul appreciated that Samuel was the one who anointed him to be the king, he didn’t always follow the prophet’s guidance. One too many instances of disobeying God’s commands, given through Samuel, resulted in Saul losing God’s blessing.
Samuel lamented as he informed Saul of God’s verdict in 1 Samuel 15:23 (KJV): “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
This utterance wasn’t prophetic just because it predicted that God had already made up his mind who the next king would be. Saul’s rebellious attitude actually led him to seek the assistance from a witch. A witch whom he had driven out of his kingdom while he was still following his conscience and God’s commands.
Now, at the end of his rope, Saul sought a word from the Lord. However, God was silent. Saul had resisted God’s voice for so long that God decided not to waste his breath anymore. The king felt like a dead man walking, with one last hope. Necromancy—he sought advice from his dead friend, Samuel. Saul had disrespected Samuel by disregarding his counsel while alive. Saul now ironically “honors” Samuel by seeking his advice after he’s dead.
It was a demonic tribute answered by a familiar spirit, pretending to be Samuel. The exchange was far from a comforting experience. Samuel’s imposter foretold Saul’s demise. Saul lost his life after seeking the dead on behalf of the living.
Prince wasn’t a prophet. Justin isn’t a king. The sheet glowing with Prince’s likeness wasn’t a literal demon, whether or not he would have viewed it as demonic. Halftime performances and Super Bowls aren’t fraught with eternal consequences. This column isn’t really about Prince, JT, Saul, or Samuel. It’s about how we honor other people and, more importantly, how we honor God.
When it comes to showing respect, honor, tribute, worship, and service to God—it must be on His terms. Anything else is the opposite of those things, in spite of what we say our intentions are. Yes, He knows our hearts. He also judges our deeds.
Kaepernick’s Protest: American As The Boston Tea Party, and the Boston Massacre
Biblical admonition reaches both citizens and authorities who must treat them fairly.
Editor’s Note: This is a repost from the archives, October 11, 2016.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers quarterback takes a knee on the cover of October’s TIME magazine. His peaceful protest of the national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice–particularly in light of the police shootings of unarmed black men–created a ripple effect.
His fans chant “we want Kaep” and some fellow NFL, college and high school football, women’s soccer, and WNBA players adopted the protest. National Basketball Association two-time MVP, Steph Curry, and L.A. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers both support the protest also.
However the growing number of athletes and school bands kneeling, raising fists or staging die-ins during the the national anthem hasn’t stemmed the criticism. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg called the protest “dumb,” and Kaepernick and others have received death threats. Denver Broncos’ Brandon Marshall lost a lucrative endorsement.
Former players, turned-sports-analysts such as Trent Dilfer and Rodney Harrison sold Kaepernick out. To summarize Dilfer: focus on becoming the starter (Kaepernick was named starter October 11) so you can entertain us, or just sit down and shut up. To paraphrase Rodney Harrison: Colin’s not black enough to speak out. He should be quiet and write a check to organizations that make a difference.
Problems? What Problems?
Then there’s the thoughtful and articulate, former Chicago Bears coach, Mike Ditka, who offered this commentary:
“I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on. I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunities. Now, if they don’t want to look for them, then you can find problems with anything.”
Few would disagree that there are opportunities awaiting those who diligently search for them. But in what way do these problems indicate people are not looking for opportunities? Wasn’t Sandra Bland about to enjoy a new employment opportunity before meeting Texas State Trooper, Brian Encinia? Wasn’t Dr. Ersula Ore already fulfilling an opportunity? The English professor at Arizona State University was slammed to the ground, arrested, and jailed by campus policeman, Stewart Ferrin, for jaywalking.
Was bikini-clad, 15-year-old Dajerria Becton overlooking her opportunities when she was slammed to the ground and mounted by Officer Eric Casebolt? What about Ramarley Graham, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, and Terence Crutcher?
Kaepernick’s critics echo Ditka’s sentiment as they charge him for being unpatriotic and un-American. They condemn Kaepernick for being disrespectful of the military, in spite of Twitter support at #veteransforkaepernick. One of the veterans of notoriety featured there is former Navy SEAL and former Minnesota governor, Jesse Ventura:
“I served my country, so that you have the freedom to protest,” Ventura wrote. “I salute Colin Kaepernick. I fully support him. . . governments should not mandate patriotism. Governments earn patriotism. You earn that. Who mandated patriotism? The Germans in the 1930s. They mandated patriotism. That’s what we want to be? We want to build walls now and be East Berlin? That’s the direction of the United States today?”
Protest As A Cherished American Tradition
So what direction is America heading and how does it differ from where we came? Interestingly, protesting against police brutality, unreasonable search and seizure, and lack of accountability for law enforcement is an American tradition. One of the events that highlights the tension between the colonists and the police state under which they lived was the Boston Massacre.
On the evening of March 5, 1770, a young man named Edward Garrick accused a British Officer, Captain John Goldfinch of misconduct. Goldfinch didn’t pay his bill at the wig-making shop where Garrick worked, to be specific. While Goldfinch ignored the young man, nearby Private Hugh White did not. He confronted Garrick for insulting an officer and tempers escalated until White struck Garrick’s head with the butt of his musket.
Garrick cried out loudly and crowds started filling the street quickly. As word spread that a soldier had struck a civilian over something so trivial, the already resentful townspeople confronted White, and his backup.
What developed was far from an arm-in-arm singing of “We Shall Overcome.” The protest of these Patriots was as provocative as anything in American history. After the crowd lobbed insults and hurled objects hurled at them for a while, one soldier fired a shot, followed by a volley from his comrades. Five civilians dead. Three wounded.
Identifying With The Oppressed
Although this event occurred before the actual Revolutionary War, the civilians killed that day have been widely regarded as the first martyrs of the war that birthed this nation.
Crispus Attucks, an African American of mixed heritage, was the first to die. He was a runaway slave who experienced the reality that according to society’s accounting, one drop of “black blood” makes you black.
African-Americans fought on the forefront ever since, bravely serving in war after war. Many hoped their valor would be recognized and rewarded by finally becoming partakers of the promises penned in the nation’s founding documents. Unfortunately, the establishment of justice for all proved elusive over the centuries.
Changing Times and Changing Tactics
While fighting for the common defense of the nation, African Americans fought double duty for their own freedom. This, after the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, and numerous Civil Rights Acts beginning in 1866. Learning to fight Slavery By a New Name means continually forming overground railroads to rescue our children from the “School to Prison Pipeline” and “The New Jim Crow.”
Whatever the form of protest, however, deflection and distortion meet it head-on. There is never an acceptable way for black people to protest racial injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr. was hated for advocating non-violent protests for integration. Malcolm X was hated for affirming the right of self-defense and advocating separation.
Although the colonists violently revolted against tyranny, they and their offspring have always demanded peaceful demonstrations for gradual solutions from those they oppressed.
Although the colonists violently revolted against tyranny, they and their offspring have always demanded peaceful demonstrations for gradual solutions from those they oppressed. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were hated for standing up. Rosa Parks and Colin Kaepernick are hated for sitting down. Black Lives Matter activists are even ridiculed when they lie down!
Law And Order Advocated Evenly
King preached peace, but warned America that many, especially younger generations, were becoming disillusioned with the lack of progress. Echoes of “By Any Means Necessary,” “Burn Baby Burn,” and “Black Power,” began to overwhelm his melodious “I Have a Dream” in the ears and hearts of the oppressed.
Thankfully, riots, which Dr. King referred to as “the language of the unheard” have been relatively restrained. This is because most African-Americans desire law and order. Anarchy does not beget accountability, lawlessness doesn’t lead to liberty, or rioting to righteous judgments.
Yet, the cry for law and order must come with justice. That means those who enforce the law should also be subject to the law. If civilians must deescalate conflict or lose their liberties, so should those who “keep the peace.” If lawyers must recuse themselves in certain situations and doctors shouldn’t treat themselves or immediate family members, then maybe police shouldn’t be the primary ones investigating themselves either.
As long as white officers escape meaningful consequences for killing unarmed black men, and beating black women and children, then our nation’s banner doesn’t represent one nation, or liberty, or justice for all. As long as these issues are swept under the flag, there will be those whose conscience objects to saluting the Star Spangled Banner. As the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, stated when on trial in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”
Kaepernick’s demonstration police brutality is as American as the Boston Massacre. If they were considered patriotic in 1770, why are today’s protestors maligned as unpatriotic? Peacefully protesting by refraining from a national ritual is not being anti-police, but anti-police brutality. These protestors are not anti-American, they are advocates of American ideals being upheld for all.
The Christian Tradition Of Protest
If we believe in the infallibility and inspiration of the Word of God, we know when one member of the body of Christ hurts, all hurt. Also consider this: “And the soldiers asked him, ‘And what are we to do?’ ‘Don’t bully people, don’t bring false charges, and be content with your pay,’ he replied” (Luke 3:14, J.B. Philips).
Protesting against police brutality is not just an American tradition, but a Christian one as well. Just as Christian faith instructs one to honor authorities (Romans 13:1-7), it also affirms the right to insist the authorities act justly (Acts 16:35-38; 22:25-29). Finally, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, taught that the Judgment will not be based on how we treat the powerful and privileged, but by how we treat “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40, 45). The poor, the sick, and yes, even those in prison.