Hands-on Mental Health

You may have seen the story on your social media feed: “Schoolboys grabbed suicidal man and refused to let him jump” blared the UK Daily Mail. That headline accompanied a picture of a serious Shawn Young, Davonte Cafferkey, and Sammy Farah, ages 12, 13, and 14 respectively, at the time.

The boys had been “loitering” on the way home from school, recalled Young’s mother, and as they were about to cross an overpass in Hertfordshire—about 30 miles North of London—a passing adult told them to go another way because a disturbed man was on the bridge.

Their sense of mischief and curiosity aroused, they proceeded across anyway. There they found a distraught 21-year old man with a rope. His face was red and he was crying quietly, but sweating and breathing heavily. He tied the rope around part of the bridge, tossed his keys and phone to the boys and told them not to answer if anyone called. He put the rope around his neck and climbed over the railing.

This pressed the boys into smart and aggressive “textbook” action,” said Carol Young. Cafferkey and Farah clutched the man for dear life while Shawn ran for help. The young man became dead weight there on top of that bridge, over the busy highway. He slipped in and out of consciousness while the boys yelled at him: “Don’t do this! Think of your family! You’re too young to die!”

Grateful Family

Ultimately, two other passerby assisted the boys in bringing the man to safety and averting the loss of life.

“A few weeks after,” Shawn told Message recently, “he came to Devontae’s house to meet us. He brought us flowers and cards. He said he was grateful; he wasn’t really thinking properly.”

The kernel of truth buried in this story with a happy ending is what support for people living with mental illness is all about. That’s because when you rewind, you realize that it was an adult who told the boys to avoid crossing the bridge where a “crazy man” was up there doing some strange things. Instead, like the Bible’s “Good Samaritan” who risked his life to come to the aid of a person in need—all while other, qualified and seemingly spiritual people passed by—the boys stepped in anyway.

“Shawn was brought up as a child to attend church. His belief is there. He’s had training,” said his mother who took her children to work in the community “religiously,” and taught them to look after people who need looking after.

Wholistic Health

As a Seventh-day Adventist, for whom belief in the wholistic health message of the Bible is critical, I was taught early to “Trust in Divine Power,” a helpful, hopeful approach to well-being that most certainly includes mental wellness.

“Trust in divine power boosts positive emotions and helps neutralize negative emotions, serving both to enhance life and increase coping skills as negative life events are put into proper context,” writes Lillian Kent, in an article “The Adventist “Health Message” Unpacked, www.ministrymagazine.org. “Individuals with these beliefs have greater well-being, happiness, hope, optimism, and gratefulness and are less likely to experience depression, suicide, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, delinquency, crime, and marital instability.”

Yet, traditionally communities of faith and the faithful struggle with incorporating psychological and psychiatric support with religious or spiritual belief and practice. Longstanding suspicions widened the gulf between science and faith. That left many to struggle alone in stigma, or in anonymity, or in abuse.

“Most services of worship are silent about the mental and emotional problems among those present,” according to an article by Clark Aist, Ph.D, a former director of Chaplain Services and Rehabilitation Services Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education, for Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. “They are not lifted in prayer or sermons, nor mentioned in social hour conversations. This conspiracy of silence serves to perpetuate the stigma associated with mental health conditions.”

With mental illness affecting “tens of millions” of people in the United States, and only an estimated half of the people affected getting treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is room for more discussion, education, and intervention. In our houses of worship, cited Aist, it is estimated that one in four families has someone living with a mental illness. At that rate, we can no longer afford to stigmatize mental illness, or simply pray it away, but actually use a hands-on effort to look after people who need looking after.


This article is part of our 2019 March / April Issue
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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

Artistic License

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.

Ethiopian Eunuch and Philip.

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

Simone of Cyrene (in Libya). What was it that enabled generations of artists to acknowledge his color?

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.

 

 

 

 




I Am a Friend of God

In 2018 Alabamians voted decisively to change their state Constitution to allow for the display of the Bible’s Ten Commandments in its schools and courthouses. Not since their Constitution was put in place in 1901, has there been this kind of push for something that seems so, unconstitutional.

“Displaying the Ten Commandments on public property, like Christmas Nativity Scenes, is constitutional when it has a secular context only and/or when it is joined in a display of secular patriotic symbols or objects,” says Greg Hamilton, President of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association. “But it is not constitutional as a stand-alone display or symbol on public property.”

The battle, some say, will recommence upon the display of such Biblical content by itself. When that happens, supporters hope the chain reaction of litigation will lead to the nation’s highest court where they hope for a more expansive interpretation of their religious freedom. http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/gov-Alabama-Ten-Commandment-constitutional-amendment.html

What Kind of Follower Are You?

Don’t misunderstand me. I still believe in the Word of God. I still believe in His commandments. In His law, is the way of life (see Proverbs 6:23, and compare with Romans 8:2 and Galatians 3:21). But, with this vote, the damage has already been done.

Dean Young, a long-time supporter of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy E. Moore, and recalcitrant advocate of the Ten Commandments display, was the single highest donor for the Ten Commandments Amendment. Young contributed $27,000 to continue the fight. He, though, erroneously implicated the conscience on two fronts.

First, he characterized the addition of the Constitutional Amendment as a vote for God, and by implication and conversely, a vote against this amendment as a vote against God.

“Do we want to acknowledge the God that our nation was founded upon? Alabamians will vote. They will reckon on that day with God how they vote on this. That’s how serious this is. Either we stand for God or we won’t.” http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/gov-Alabama-Ten-Commandment-constitutional-amendment.html

Second, Young also mischaracterized the very people who fight to preserve religious freedom.

“The bad guys are coming: Southern Poverty Law Center, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU,” Moore said in a video advertisement released last spring before the vote. “Fake teachers, fake preachers, because they don’t want our children being taught that there is a right and there is a wrong. They don’t want our children being taught that the 10 Commandments were given to us by God, the creator, the same God that’s acknowledged four times in our Declaration of Independence.”

Will our records in heaven reflect our support of this issue? What is the balance required of our consciences, while allowing others who may believe differently to do the same?

Get straight. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men[.]” Isaiah 29:13.

God’s word is so on point: 1. Follow Him more than just with words. Let your dedication be seen in your life according to His word. 2. Mere humans don’t prescribe what it means to honor God. He does. If you believe in His commandments, follow them. All of them, including the seventh-day Sabbath, the only commandment humans substituted out.

As Democratic Representative Berry Forte told Al.com, “It’s not important to display the Ten Commandments, but to live by them. The devil can display the Ten Commandments.”

Give Caesar what is his, and to God what belongs to Him. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? The religious teachers sought to define the parameters between church and state in Jesus’ day. Unfortunately, their inquiry was not for information sake, but to set a trap for Jesus. Three of the gospels capture the moment in which Jesus skillfully neutralizes them. His answer still stands. Decide: is this a heart and mind area reserved for God’s direction, or is this an area of life, governed by the laws of the land? Is there a conflict between the two? How will you resolve it? (Acts 5:29)

Are you helping God by using methods in contravention of His will?

The Bible tracks the stories of two people who thought they could help God. Uzzah tried to catch the ark of the covenant as it almost tumbled to the ground. For that, he was summarily killed. Harsh? God allowed no one to touch the ark of the covenant. Judas thought he would advance the kingdom of God by selling out Jesus. Why didn’t the three years of Jesus’ teaching arrest his own ambitions?

Religious freedom will be a central issue in the hearts and consciences of God’s people before the Second Advent. Take your stand now, and always, by being and reaching.


This article is part of our 2019 January/February
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A Choice in the Matter

When comedian Bill Cosby went away for three years media played up the meal for his first night in the Collegeville, Pennsylvania SCI Phoenix. With great interest we learned that the man America once considered its favorite dad was served mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, meatballs and rice for dinner. Make no mistake. One of the richest and celebrated men in the world, didn’t order from a menu. He had no choice.

The Cos taught us so much about family, responsibility, success and achievement. Yet he apparently missed the transcendent value and moral absolute of choice. For that, a stint in a place with no choices, is more than appropriate.

The overarching and underpinning critical value of personal choice, and the ability to determine one’s destiny is a spiritual non-negotiable. God respects our choices. Why shouldn’t we?

As painful as it was to watch and hear, respect for personal choice is why now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s background and experience had to be examined. No family name, prep school access, or stellar performance should cancel out disrespect for personal choice.

This is why a 30 year-old accusation of attempted and unwanted sexual contact was relevant. Any credible account would place him at fatal odds with claims of loyalty and adherence to the moral law. It even goes against the American value of self-determination that cries defiantly “Don’t tread on me!”

This would provide an attack on “a woman’s choice” in more ways than one.

Question authority when you find that your choice, your choices, are curtailed in the name of morality and goodness.

Closer to home, we read, with great disappointment of a loved and trusted church school teacher, who made a devastating choice to start a sexual relationship with his teenaged student. In his case, what appeared as a consensual (albeit ill-advised and adulterous) liaison will be forbidden by law. That’s called statutory rape. The law provides protection for people, who can’t really choose. Whether because of a mental disability, or because of youth, the overmastering influence of a teacher, a priest, or a family friend (as examples), would be too much to resist. We, therefore, deem them unable to give consent. They cannot, by law, make that choice.

While it is not my intent to create a treatise entry here for the concept of consent and choice, I do want to highlight a spiritual dimension we should examine. Bible believers remember that God thought so much of choice, that even in the face of devastation, He made provision for it.

The Eden account shows an Omniscient God creating perfection, harmony, beauty and communion with Him. Yet, this same Omniscient God, left the window open, the back door ajar. Humanity could, and did, walk right through it (Genesis 3:2-6). We’ve had to pay the price ever since.

Since, Jesus died on the cross that is. But, read how Jesus honored choice in His death. “One of you is going to betray Me,” He said while dining with His closest companions. Some were introspective. One, Judas, determined to make his choice anyway, and was left to his own devices (Matthew 26:25).

Then, look at what Jesus did while hanging upon the cross. He, who was at the fulcrum of faith and destiny, in the crosshairs of Satan’s devising, when offered the comfort of a sip of sour wine, small as it was, refused it (Matthew 27:34). His capacity to choose and His ultimate destiny could not be compromised.

Knowing that He endured this torture, with a clear head, to make a way for me to choose Him and choose life makes my heart beat. It sends a life-syncing probe into the richness of His supply where I am filled with His love and security. That is my choice.

Red flags have to go up when people minimize personal consent, or such violations because of one’s record, standing, or religious orientation. We didn’t do it for Cosby. It won’t happen for that church school teacher. When a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll reported that forty-eight percent of the white evangelical Christians polled thought that Kavanaugh should be confirmed, even if the allegations against him were true, we remembered another interest at play, however. The longstanding desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the ability of a woman to choose an abortion, tipped the scale. Kavanaugh would presumably vote to do so. How much were we willing to compromise? Ironically, many would be willing to negate the critical value of personal consent to overturn “choice.” It’s consistent, at least.

We challenge believers to critically examine their positions of morality. Question authority when you find that your choice, your choices, are curtailed in the name of morality and goodness. Seems to me, to choose is Divine, and a place with no choice is hell.


This article is part of our 2018 November/December
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When They Come for the Children

When the Trump Administration enforced a zero-tolerance policy for all undocumented crossings at the United States’ southern border this past spring, we faced a moral crisis. The immigration policy—not law—had the effect of separating parents from their children so that the adults could be detained for prosecution.

Of the approximately 2,500 children seized and placed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services custody since April 2018, most have been reunited with their families according to The Washington Post fact-checkers. Approximately one quarter of the children, remain in shelters or with foster families at the time of this writing. (Washington Post, August 10, 2018)

Breaching, Not Preaching the Word of God

What made zero-tolerance, the high rate of child detentions, and the heartbreak of the families worse, was the invocation of the Word of God as cover for the humanitarian crisis created. 

“Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution” said United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”

What would happen if my time with my children got cut short?

We’ve Been Here Before

I’m reminded that this is not the first time that our government has permitted the creation of an orphaned people through involuntary separation. American slave trade permitted that all the time.

Henry “Skip” Gates has investigated hundreds of documents detailing the state of families under the slave trade in America. One such story is told of wealthy Charleston, South Carolina plantation owner and human trader Elias Bell. Bell’s records indicated a penchant for investing in “young negroes”—ages 10, 11, 12. He purchased six of them from the slave ship Hare in 1756.

“If any of the children had parents on board, they never saw them again,” wrote Gates in The African Americans (Gates, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The African Americans Many Rivers to Cross, Smiley Books, 2013).

Of course, scripture tracks some of its most prominent personalities in similar scenarios. The baby Moses escaped ethnic cleansing in a home-made basket, only to be picked up by Pharaoh’s family, yet providentially nursed by his own mother. Joseph’s brothers sold him into bondage, and he was trafficked into Egypt, never to see his mother again. Young men such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego became symbols of conquest in the hands of haughty rulers, away from their homeland, family and childhood religious practices. Samuel, though voluntarily surrendered to the Lord’s service by his mother Hannah, was just a mere tot.

When They Come for Mine

What would happen if my time with my children got cut short? How would any child discern the loving concern of a Heavenly Father in the midst of the chaos and cruelty performed in the name of His righteousness?

Prolific and inspired writer Ellen G. White often examined the role of parents in what she viewed as momentous and sobering times. Daily deposits of parental love, she said, and godly counsel secure children in crisis, even in the absence of their parents.

Joseph learned from his father: “The early impressions made upon his mind garrisoned his heart in the hour of fierce temptations and led him to exclaim, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (White, Ellen, G. Child Guidance, Southern Publishing Association, 1954, p. 197.)

Moses learned from his mother: “Knowing that her child must soon pass beyond her care, to the guardianship of those who knew not God, she the more earnestly endeavored to link his soul with heaven. She sought to implant in his heart love and loyalty to God. And faithfully was the work accomplished. Those principles of truth that were the burden of his mother’s teaching and the lesson of her life, no after influence could induce Moses to renounce.” (White, Ellen G. Education, 1903)

Our mission, as parents is to prepare our children: “Have you taught your children from their babyhood to keep the commandments of God?…You are to teach them to form characters after the divine similitude, that Christ may reveal Himself to them. He is willing to reveal Himself to children.” (Child Guidance 489.6)

 




Not Normal

sinister side-effect of sexual assault is the corruption of an individual’s very essence. Their soul, their core, their being. I’m not being theological with the terms here. I’m reaching for the words that describe what it means to be a human being at our crux. That’s where the wounds of sexual violence fester, and the prospect of complete waste and devastation hardens.

Last year’s self-reported, sexual abuse declaration of survival, #MeToo, spread around the globe with lightning speed. One study sought to measure the “me toos” and discovered the rates of even sexual harassment were breathtaking. The rates of unwanted sexual contact are so pervasive, one could argue it is normal. It is in and out of churches, affects men and women and children, seniors, and at a shocking rate—the disabled—people who are vulnerable to caregivers, people who have little voice, and people for whom society at large pays little attention. 

According to Vox.com, Stop Street Harassment’s survey released in February 2018, disclosed that 81% of women have been sexually harassed, while 43% of men report being sexually harassed at some point in their lives. Gay and bisexual men report higher rates of sexual harassment than straight men.

Further “normalizing” the problem is the heterogeneous nature of the perpetrators. Rarely, strangers, they are often trusted family members or friends. They are seemingly well-adjusted, fully functioning members of society who find it normal, and simply rationalize their violent behaviors away. According to the University of Michigan, Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, the risks come at any time of the day, and the perpetrators are operating under any number of rape myths, erroneous ideas about sexual roles, beliefs, or they are operating under the sanction of all-male peer groups, or they are operating under an often correct assumption that they will not face sanctions. Normal.

“[M]ost men who violate women’s spaces, rights and bodies sexually would not meet clinical diagnostic criteria as either sociopaths or sexual deviants,” wrote Noam Shpancer, Ph.D., author of the novel The Good Psychologist in a Psychology Today blog. “Most violence against women is committed by normative people—around campus, at work, or on the base. This raises the possibility that the violence they perpetrate appears, in context, normative to them.”

Balance that “normative violation” with the spectrum of effects for victims. The anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the enduring sense of worthlessness and self-blame cling to the inner core of each sufferer. Of interest to us, moreover, is the spiritual distortion taught and indelibly received by the sexual invasion.

Most of all, their question is, who is God, and where was He when this happened to me?

The spiritual dimension is very much affected, according to Sue Mcgrath, author of Healing the Ravaged Soul: Tending the Spiritual Wound of Child Sexual Abuse. During her 14 year counseling and then subsequent spiritual guidance career, Mcgrath’s clients who suffered sexual abuse questioned everything from their own personhood, their capacity to be saved, and the availability of God’s grace, faith, goodness and holiness. They wondered, “where is the justice in the world?” “Where are the consequences in this world?” Most of all, their question is, who is God, and where was He when this happened to me?

This is where we can step in, to answer questions and model God’s attentiveness. Not to take matters into our own hands, things are too far gone for trying to mete out mob justice or adopt some system of honor violence. After all, today’s predator very likely may have been yesterday’s prey. Today’s evil perpetrator, may have been yesterday’s innocent sufferer. And, ironically, honor violence can target the one who was violated.

No, we must start at the point of education. Educate families, churches, schools, neighborhoods, said Houston based marriage and family counselor Wilma Kirk Lee. Make sure the bathrooms at church are stocked with abuse hotline numbers, she said. Then make sure we encourage the “victims” to seek therapeutic intervention. “Our churches, the black community [in general, doesn’t] do therapists because we’re not crazy,” said Kirk Lee. “Spiritual people will tell you, ‘all you need to do is pray,’ but not so. You need some help. You need to know it’s not your fault. You can’t learn that on your own.”

I hope that in the process—we can reintroduce to people a God who understands their context, knows how to—and will indeed—mete out lasting justice, and indeed, His heart is wrapped up in theirs.




The Romans 13 Challenge, Part 1

They Quote It, But Do They Believe It?

Because imperialists have used it to crush dissent ever since Constantine baptized the Church into Romanism and militarism; and now Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, and some Evangelical preachers are reviving the use of it; and because it is a serpentine slander of the life and teachings of Jesus; we cannot let their use of it disappear beneath the latest deluge of distractions.

Immigrant Border Crisis: We should not let the latest misapplication of Romans 13 disappear in the distractions.

What is it? It is the misapplication or the “scriptorture” of Romans 13:1-4, most recently used to rationalize the separation of families of immigrants and asylum seekers. It has been a reliable tool of “Christian” colonizers for the last 500 years. They used it to justify unjustly wresting two continents from their indigenous peoples, and then worked the newly acquired land with enslaved Africans.

Belief in a Higher Power

Want to know what’s amazing about it? While wool-covered wolves (see Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29) misrepresent this passage’s alleged command for compliance, they don’t actually believe or practice it themselves. Look at the evidence of resistance:

  1. Independence Day—American preachers of Romans 13’s supposed principle of subservience will be celebrating 4th of July fireworks today, glorifying the bloody revolt of British colonists against their God-ordained British government, because they felt oppressed.
  2. The Civil War—While Southerners were mentally whipping their slaves with Romans 13, they started the bloodiest war of U.S. history when Abraham Lincoln was duly elected president. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, along with the Confederacy’s first general, P. G. T. Beauregard raised arms and an enemy flag against the nation whose military and congress they used to serve. Many of the states that rebelled against their national authorities still have official state flags with patterns based on rebel flags to show that Romans 13 doesn’t apply to them.
  3. The Civil Rights Era—Soon after the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and other Civil Rights advances, Southern states began flying the Stars and Bars at their government buildings in defiance of the very same government they now say is God-ordained.
  4. President Barack Obama—Many of the same right wing religious leaders and politicians quoting Romans 13 today became “The Party of No” to anything President Obama recommended:
  • No to increased health care access, in spite of how underserved their constituents might be
  • No to criminal justice reform, which should interest all those concerned about a militarized police state
  • No to environmental protections, in spite of the water crises many rural, as well as urban, residents are suffering from
  • No to fuel efficiency standards, despite their arguments that we should be less dependent on foreign oil
  • No to consumer protections, in spite of how many vulnerable people are hurt
  • And definitely no to his judicial appointments, because we don’t want activist judges—except to overturn stuff we are against!

Ministers of God?

Wool-covered wolves misrepresent  Romans 13’s alleged command for compliance, and they don’t actually believe or practice it themselves.

When leaders have been voted into office by their supporters, it becomes their turn to manipulate the law according to their ideology. As the power shifts from one party to another and policies swing from one side of the pendulum to the other, that’s politics as usual.

When the party in charge, however, tells opponents that they’re carrying out God’s will as God’s ordained agents, then they’ve gone from politics to hermeneutics. They’re proclaiming to do more than just speak for the people who elected them; they’re pretending to speak for God.

What is the basis of their pretense to speak for God? They say Romans 13 claims they’re ordained by God by virtue of being government leaders. If God hadn’t ordained them, they say, then they wouldn’t be in power. Them being in power is offered as evidence that God is speaking and working through them. Expanding from this, it is then argued that only ungodly people would dare to resist and therefore deserve whatever punishment comes to them.

Problem With Inconsistent Biblical Application

As shown above and repeated many times throughout history, politicians only preach Romans 13 when they are in power and have things going their way. When they don’t like what’s going on, they quickly find a different text.

Since they don’t believe it, don’t you buy it!

Stay tuned for part 2.

 




Jesus Loves the Little Children, (Some of) the Children of the World

 

They seemed surprised, as though they didn’t see this coming. Who is they? The 60% of white Catholics and 81% of white Evangelicals who embraced President 45’s message. What is it they didn’t see coming? Children being herded like cattle into chain-link fenced warehouses, reports of nursing infants being pried away from their mothers, and government officials abusing scripture to support severing family ties.

As a candidate in 2015, the President of the 81% voiced his admiration of and intention to reproduce Operation Wetback (yes, they really called it that) of 1954:

“Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president, people liked him. ‘I Like Ike’, right? The expression. I like Ike. Moved a million 1/2 illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again, beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don’t get nicer, you don’t get friendlier. They moved a million 1/2 people out. We have no choice.”

Clear Choice

They didn’t see it coming? The “Two Corinthians” president wasted little time pardoning the racial profiling, tent city architect, Joe Arpaio. Why not pardon a man who shares the same contempt of the courts? Doesn’t it follow that the President would pardon a man who pioneered, on a local scale, what he promised to implement nationally?

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Heart-breaking Images

Why don’t they see the recent images and soundbites as the logical products of their values votes at work?

What did the defenders of family values think it was going to look and sound like when law enforcement exercises “zero tolerance” on people characterized as rapists, drug dealers, thugs, and bad hombres? Didn’t we already have photos of Arizona’s tent cities? Didn’t we already have the courts demanding a halt to the racial profiling that kept those tents full?

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Haven’t many of these MAGA-church members raised funds for overseas missions after seeing heartbreaking videos of scared, lonely, grieving, hungry, parentless children? And, haven’t they read about children who have been separated from family because of natural disasters, civil unrest, disease, crime, and war?  So, why didn’t they see that those images would be reproduced in our land if we implemented the political rhetoric of the last few years?

Ask about Indian boarding schools. While you are at it, ask about Japanese internment camps. Ask about the Children’s Crusade of Birmingham.  The “melanated” masses know what violence against children looks and sounds like. Why don’t the Christians who supported the candidate and now the President on these issues?

What happened to their Bibles?

What happened to “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness. You are Christ’s body and each of you is an individual part of it” (1 Cor. 12:26-27, God’s Word)? Why don’t the majority of “non-melanated” evangelicals empathize with the suffering that Christians of color articulate?

What happened to “He [God] makes sure orphans and widows receive justice. He loves foreigners and gives them food and clothes. So you should love foreigners, because you were foreigners living in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, God’s Word)?

What happened to “’Whoever deprives foreigners, orphans, or widows of justice will be cursed.’ Then all the people will say amen” (Deuteronomy 27:19, God’s Word)?

What happened to “The LORD protects foreigners. The LORD gives relief to orphans and widows” (Psalm 146:9, God’s Word)?

What happened to “This is what the Lord Almighty says: Judge fairly and honestly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and poor people” (Zechariah 7:9-10, New Living Translation)?

And What About What it Says About the Little Ones?

What happened to “Beware that you don’t despise a single one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10, New Living Translation)?

What happened to “And he [Jesus] will answer, ‘I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me’” (Matt. 25:45, NLT)?

What happened to “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9, NKJV)?

What happened to “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10, New King James Version)?

If Jesus loves all the children of the world, why don’t His followers?




Inadvertent Oversights and the End of Time

stood at the check-out line on Easter, or as I prefer to call it: Resurrection Sunday. It was in that Spirit that I noticed the woman behind me in line. She was petite, a senior, and white. Her faded print dress once was rich with hues in blues, greens and purples. Her crocheted turquoise shrug and matching fingerless gloves, let me know she had been somewhere special.

“Did you have a good day today?” I asked her, smiling. “Yes, I went to church this morning. I’m an usher, and usually have to wear black, but today we could wear anything we wanted.”

Her keys were on a tattered “US Army” lanyard around her wrist. My eyes flitted over the items she placed on the conveyor belt—a stalk of broccoli, a couple of lemons and tomatoes, a package of chocolate meal replacement drinks, and a Red Bull.

“That’s my one sin,” she said, pointing to the energy drink.

“Wooo, don’t hurt yourself,” I said jokingly. She laughed with me, and it was time for us to move on. Just then, she put her hand on my shoulder and told the cashier, “My granddaughter here is going to pay for mine.”

My eyes must have glazed over. Did this woman in Huntsville, Alabama just call me her granddaughter? Funny. Wow, I thought. I laughed and walked away.

Missed Opportunities and Shirked Responsibilities

The Spirit pricked my conscience ever so slightly. But, I sadly confess, I was too preoccupied, too selfish, and too disconnected to pay for her. It certainly wasn’t too much for me. I just wasn’t plugged in, and my natural inclination was to keep walking. The fact that I did not recognize the opportunity to extend a little grace, was a substantial mistake. It was not willful, but inadvertent. And, that is what haunts.

Well done?

In an extensive discourse about the end times Jesus tried to explain to His disciples, the signs of the end, in Matthew 24. He discussed the preparation needed to make it through this life  (Matthew 25), in which the “wise virgins” prepared by having enough oil to last the night—the oil being interpreted to mean the Holy Spirit to guide us through to the end.

Then, in His parable of the talents, Jesus taught His people to work until He returns, using whatever means and ability they had. He ended by painting a word picture of the judgment.

To the right, He motioned for His blessed people. “Come with me, because when I was hungry, and poor and was in prison, you fed me, clothed me, and visited Me.”

“Oh?” the blessed must smile in surprise, “we didn’t know that was You, Jesus! That’s just what we do!”

“Because you did that to the least of these, you did it to Me. Enter!”

Their pattern had been ingrained; it was the substance of their characters, and by then, an unnatural tendency in a world so selfishly inclined. (See Matthew 25:34-40 instead of my personal paraphrase.)

But, it is with the same sense of surprise that the wicked, the ones bound for destruction, wonder, “Where were You, Jesus? Certainly, our oversight was inadvertent.”

“I was right there, the person you didn’t help, didn’t feed, didn’t love on, didn’t visit, didn’t care for, the one you cursed, and disrespected. You didn’t help them; thus, you didn’t help Me” (See Matthew 25:41-46 ).

Reflexive and Automatic

We draw closer to that day. We have the witness of God’s Word to remind us, and the prophetic voices behind us. During the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, we celebrated the life of one who advocated the recognition of personhood for everyone. How much of our lifestyle and collective practice comport with our reflexive and automatic, selfish inclinations?

I think we can find the answers as we examine everything from immigration, taxation, militarization and nationalism, to mass incarceration, and church participation.

We may revisit Memphis and that fateful day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took a bullet for the oppressed and disrespected, but this Golden Anniversary must not overshadow the golden opportunity to change.




The Starbucks Moment: Take a Second Look

May I offer you a puzzle that I would like you to experience?  Please take a moment and identify the confusion in the following story:

A father and his son, while driving cross country, end up in a terrible car accident. The father dies at the scene and the son, bloody and badly injured, is rushed to the hospital.  In the operating room, the surgeon looks at the boy and shouts, “I can’t operate on this boy. He is my son.”  Fifty to 75% of people have stumbled in finding the solution.   The solution, recounted in Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (Delacorte, 2013), is this: the surgeon is the boy’s mother.

Snap Judgement

Blind spots, or implicit bias, or hidden bias is the tendency to make hair-trigger associations.  Our unconscious takes over, and from among those thousands of mental artifacts and images housed in our brain, we come to a snap judgment or evaluation of a different person. We are left wondering in a conscious moment, “Now why did I think that?” 

In the story above, the very word surgeon was associated with a male by the majority of readers.  This is because of the history of gender-association in the medical profession.  We could change just one word in the story. “The nurse looks at the boy and shouts, ‘I can’t operate on the boy, he’s my son!’” Then the dilemma would have been easily solved—but not for the right reason!

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Real-Time Application

Now, I offer you a second, more recent story—except this time it is altogether true.  On Tuesday, May 29, Starbucks closed more than 8,000 stores to educate its employees in the science of implicit bias. They explored those unconscious attitudes, perspectives, and assumptions often triggered when encountering the “other.” 

Bias is caused by overriding the sub-surface differences in favor of superficial, stereotypical evaluations. African American boys and African American college students and job applicants suffer explicit consequences due to implicit bias.

This decision by the Starbucks’ CEO arose from the April 12, 2018 arrest of two African-American men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson. The two men had been sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks awaiting a visitor who was a part of a real-estate transaction.  The Starbucks’ employee assumed that two black men “hanging out” in the store, and not ordering a product, must be up to something nefarious.  Video of the arrest of the two gentlemen, filmed by another customer, and taking place over the protests of a white customer, triggered a worldwide conversation about race, prejudice, and of course, implicit bias.

How pervasive is implicit bias?  According to experts in research on implicit bias, implicit bias is resident in every person they tested but in varying degrees.  In-field testing shows that real-time bias continues, and is widespread. For instance, white job applicants get about 50 percent more call-backs than blacks holding the same qualifications. College professors are 26 percent more likely to respond to a student’s email when it is signed by Brad rather than Jaquan.  And, physicians recommend less pain medication for black patients than for white patients with the same injury was what we learned from the 2004 Institute of Medicine’s healthcare disparities research. 

How Martin Luther King, Jr. Addressed Bias

But implicit bias is not new.  One of the classic exposures of implicit bias came from the civil rights era.  Dr. Martin Luther King insightfully attacked implicit bias in his Letter from Birmingham Jail.   King was responding on April 16, 1963 to the “Christians-should-model-law-and-order” criticisms of southern white clergy against the Civil Rights Movement.  We did not have the language, then, but the indictment of bias is central to what he wrote:   

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham.  But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.   I am sure that none of you want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.  It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro Community with no alternative.” [Emphasis supplied]

King skillfully called out the implicit bias of his colleagues by appealing to reason and justice.

Self-Check

How can we become aware of the implicit bias in each of us?  We can first begin the process by assessing personal attitudes and biases using the Harvard Implicit Associations Test at https://implicit.harvard.edu/.

Second, can we honestly acknowledge that all of us are prone to make snap decisions on surface appearances?  Please indulge my premise—each of us reflects implicit bias in varying degrees—whether gender bias, or racial bias, or class bias, or nationalistic bias, or cultural bias, or numerous others.  These biases are triggered by overriding the sub-surface differences among us, and losing individuality to a stereotypical association. Let me illustrate.

I shall never forget my first trip to Africa 30 years ago.  It was the trip of a lifetime.  I had desired to visit what we warm-heartedly called “the motherland.”  Accordingly, I was steeping myself in the art, culture, and writers of the continent.  I landed in Lagos, Nigeria but my clothes were mistakenly sent to Cairo, Egypt.  My host, seeing my challenging condition, arranged for me to receive some beautiful and colorful Nigerian garments to wear.  Then my host said to me, “Dr. Pollard, let’s go to town center in Lagos so that you can see the city.”  Dressed like the exquisite Nigerian, that’s exactly what we did.

Sub-Surface

While strolling downtown, a little Nigerian street child of no more than six or seven years-old, and his little brother (I assume) approached me. With his upturned palm he began speaking in Yoruba (a tribal language of western Nigeria).  I played along by nodding as if I understood his attempts to get me to give him a donation.  After about two minutes of entertaining his best and most animated appeals, I finally said to him, “I am so sorry, but I don’t understand a word you are saying.”  Then the strangest thing happened.  At the sound of my American accent, a smile crawled across his face as he turned to his little companion and began speaking in perfect English. Giggling, he said to his little companion, “Hurry, hurry!  Come over here and meet the black white man.”

I expected that I would be welcomed as a son of the soil, and of course, I was accepted during my three-week stay.  However, in that moment, the assumptions of my African-ness were restructured by the reality of a small boy’s insight. My little visitor’s quick and comical analysis revealed a profound insight. Surface appearances can trigger responses that confuse situations.  People may look alike, but subsurface differences make the difference. 

Can we honestly acknowledge that all of us are prone to make snap decisions on surface appearances?

See Me

And that’s the third point—let’s do the critical second look at our assumptions about others. Let us view them through critical lenses of their individual story and experiences.  That requires that we get to know them and to dialogue with them. And to “see” them.

So, let’s go back to Starbucks.  The tendency to associate a black male with “trouble,” “criminality,” and/or “social deviance” is unfortunate, but all too common in our society.  In fact, from their earliest years, black boys suffer from implicit bias. According to an April 5, 2018 article by Valerie Strauss published in The Washington Post, “Implicit racial bias causes black boys to be disciplined at school more than whites, federal report finds.”  As early as kindergarten, black boys suffer disproportionately from bias.  So it’s no surprise that Nelson and Robinson were singled out on that April day.  What is surprising is the comprehensiveness of Starbucks response. My prayer is for this Starbucks moment to be transforming for our society!