Prayer Vigil For 9 Martyrs

Standard

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us. –John 17:21

This week, I was going to process through some thoughts on anger that I’m pondering.  However, that was before a young man brought a gun into a church and gunned down 9 people.

I’m still wrestling with my own ‘white privilege,’ racism in America, ‘black lives matter’, how we can still be struggling for equality in the 21st century, and how far we still have to go in looking past people’s skin tones as a judgement on their character.  

For this post, I simply want to give some space for solidarity, unity, and lamenting.  On Friday night, I attended a prayer vigil at a local AME church.  Several leaders from the community, other congregations, other faith traditions spoke about how Sunday morning continues to be the most segregated time of the week in America.  How every Sunday should look like that gathering–men and women leading, black and white intermingling, all being welcomed.

The joy and fervency of the AME congregation, as well as the other ‘black’ congregations represented, expressed conviction that they (the black Christian community) would rise victorious because they ‘had been here before.’  People spoke of Selma, Juneteenth, Ferguson, and more recent events.  My eyes began to flood.  They spoke of forgiveness, of needing the white people to act, of wanting true equality–not separate equality–in their lifetimes.  My eyes could no longer hold the tears.

Others spoke.  A Jewish rabbi.  A Baha’i leader.  A Buddhist leader.  An Anglican priest.  A Baptist preacher.  The head of the local NAACP.  Another Jewish leader.  Men.  Women.  Black.  White.  All united in wanting our world to be better.  More tears.

Then came the roll call of the 9 people who died.  ‘It Is Well With My Soul’ sung in a hushed hum.

(‘When peace, like a river, attendeth my way)

Clementa Pinckney

(‘When sorrows like sea billows roll’)

Tywanza Sanders

(‘Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say’)

DePayne Middleton-Doctor

(‘It is well, it is well with my soul’)

Cynthia Hurd

(‘It is well’)

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

(‘With my soul’)

Susie Jackson

(‘It is well’)

Ethel Lance

(‘It is well’)

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr.

(‘With my soul’)

Myra Thompson

Then, in resounding and swelling volume, we all sang in unison the chorus again.  I felt the Holy Spirit in that gathering.  It felt like how ‘church’ is supposed to be.  And the call that we can’t let this be a one-off event.  We need more gatherings like this one.  I believe other churches are planning on having gatherings like this once a month in my area.  I plan on attending those efforts.

I left with a bittersweet feeling.  I couldn’t shake the sulphuric taste in my soul that it took the martyrdom of 9 people to get us to integrate a congregation for one night.  We can’t wait for other martyrs to continue integrating.  We just can’t!  The time was 150 years ago.  The time was 50 years ago. The time is NOW!  Will we continue to pass on this separation to future generations? Or will we finally say, “ENOUGH ALREADY,” and actually do something to change our corner of the world?

What can we do?  Well, glad you asked:

  1. We can intentionally attend a church or meeting of people who are not our skin color.
  2. We can ask our pastors and leaders to work with congregations and organizations of people who are not our skin color–and support those efforts with our presence, money, time.
  3. We can support community events that celebrate all our skin colors.
  4. We can have conversations over coffee, over lunch, at our dinner tables about racial injustice in our own nation.
  5. We can admit to our own prejudices (not necessarily racial), discomforts, fears, and hopes publicly and privately.
  6. We can vote for candidates that have a track record of taking injustices (not just racial) seriously and have pledged to use their influence to enact change in our country.
  7. We can get to know our neighbors, of any color, and build community again in our towns.
  8. We can support Emanuel AME church with donations, or find a church or organization in our communities who struggle because they are made up of minorities and don’t have the resources that more privileged organizations enjoy.

I’m sure there are many other ideas.  Please share them with me!  Because I don’t want to go to bed another night weeping because more lives have been lost due to hate or in the name of ‘purity.’

We don’t have the luxury of getting tired of these conversations and ignoring the Facebook posts and news articles.  Lives are at stake.  Our country is at stake.  Our humanity is at stake.  Our souls are at stake.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

A Wake-Up Call … In No Uncertain Terms

Standard

The word of the Eternal came to me with a message for Israel’s leaders … Meanwhile you don’t take care of the sheep at all. You have not sought to nurse the weak. You have not gone out to tend to the sick. You have not bandaged the injured. You don’t bring back the strays or look for the lost. You have led them with neglect, ruled them with harshness, shepherded them with cruelty! They had no real shepherd, so they have scattered; the entire flock was prey for wild beasts. My sheep drifted aimlessly through all the mountains and up and down every hill. My flock was scattered all over the world, scattered like the stars in the night sky, and not a single shepherd went looking for them.” –Ezekiel 34:1, 3-6 (The Voice)

I’m in the middle of a month-long course called Walking Wounded.  The on-line forum is designed to share stories of church and life experiences with others who have been deeply wounded by churches and Christians.  Each week, we have exercises to complete to help us understand the traumas and (hopefully) help us process through them with the goal of healing.  We have journeyed through all the stages of grief.  This week dealt with anger.  So, this post exposes some of the things that make me angry–because it’s healthy to express anger when things are unjust.

I’ve never really legitimized anger in my life.  Judging by the class and interactions with people throughout my life, I don’t think I’m alone.  We deal better with denial, fear, sadness than we do with anger.  I need another week to process through some of the things I began to learn this week; but for this post, I want to expose some of the inconsistencies I see in the churches that I’ve been a part of, and validate that we should be angry over them. 

My last post encouraged women and men to not accept the status quo of power.  I get a little irritated when I hear women accept the power-system and not realize just how much power we wield.  If we choose not to insist on being treated with respect and honor, we have no one to blame.  Because we have the majority numbers in churches and could actually change things, if we want to stop complaining.

Part of my angst over the male/female power struggle is that there are true minority groups in churches that do not have the numbers to command much power.  A pastor once said to me that he didn’t understand why I was so passionate about a particular issue in the church because others didn’t get so emotional about it.  Why should I, who was not affected by the policy, get so worked up about something that the majority didn’t feel was that important?  Frankly, people who see the injustices and don’t get passionate about them should concern us.  Lack of empathy from the people who have a trump card concerns me deeply.  If we don’t stand up for those who cannot change the system, what does that say about us?

That we are entitled, spoiled hypocrites who put the ‘anti’ in ‘anti-Christ.’

Yeah, I know, ‘Them’s fightin’ words…’

Well, then, since I’m on a roll, let me give you a few more strong words.  But notice that I include myself in all these statements. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone from a self-righteous stance. It’s a ‘we’ problem:

  • Shame on us, church, for pandering to white/Western/consumerism.
  • Shame on us, church, for growing fat off the poverty of others.
  • Shame on us, church, for letting others drift away instead of running after them and showing them how valuable they are to God.
  • Shame on us, church, for closing the doors on some because they make us uncomfortable, and we don’t want God to look like them.
  • Shame on us, church, for so piously giving a token amount of money so that we don’t have to actually see or touch someone in desperate need.
  • Shame on us, church, for elevating theology over people and relationships, and for using the Bible as an excuse for our prejudices.
  • Shame on us, church, for protecting a system and a building and salaries over the people our system, buildings, and salaries have destroyed.
  • Shame on us, church, for not acting like the Body of Christ.

I know it’s harsh.  I also know it’s true. And I know it doesn’t have to be this way.  We really can do better.  But we have to look at the problems in all their ugliness.  We have to admit the ugliness without caveat that ‘But, there are so many good things we’re doing too.’  The good things cannot whitewash the ugly beliefs and systems we keep perpetuating.

We have to admit our guilt … dare I say it? … Our sin … against God and those created in God’s image.  In humility, we have to ask forgiveness from those we’ve offended and repent–make a hard 90° turn.  We have to admit that we don’t have to look to the future for THE Anti-Christ.  We are the anti-Christ.  Complete with an agenda for a one-world government and belief system. 

But more on that in a few weeks…

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

The Trump Card

Standard

We Are we back to page one? Do we need to gather some recommendations to prove our validity to you? Or do we need to take your letter of commendation to others to gain credibility? –2 Corinthians 3:1 (The Voice)

My parents instilled a great gift in me.  The gift of equality.  My dad, in particular, treated men and women as equal.  No small fete since he was a professor and department chair of Industrial Engineering.  From the early 1960s-the late 1990s.  Not exactly a woman-friendly era or subject.  But he judged people based on their competency and integrity.  So when the first woman came to the department in the early 1970s, my dad was one of the few that showed her tremendous respect.

Because of that upbringing, it’s always confused me how many churches will let women do all the ‘dirty’ work, but not have any real power or ‘permission’ to preach from the pulpit or anywhere that men are present.  I’ve had all the scriptures tossed up at me whenever discussions get to the point where my perspective is ‘winning.’

In the game of church, there are two decks. One for men, one for women. The decks are mostly the same with the exception of one card. The men have it in their deck, and it can be played at any time and as often as needed. It never runs out.

Usually, the card is thrown in a declaration, “Oh, yeah, well the Bible says that ‘women are to keep silent in church.'” Or, “Oh, yeah, well Paul said ‘I don’t permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man,’ so you need to back down.”  And most recently, “You may have a point, but can you submit to my authority.”

There’s really no answer to it.  It’s designed to put a woman in her place and secure the established order.  All under the guise that it’s what God has declared, so we can’t question it.

The trump card has been played.  And women have lost the game.

Frankly, I’ve wondered why women get married, if all we have to look forward to is a life of submission to our husbands and our pastors.  Why would a woman want to follow Jesus, if that’s the message?

Okay, so this post could go to an ugly place of soapboxes and ‘My sisters in Christ ARISE.’  But what good comes of that type of ranting?  Instead, let’s look at solutions.

Women:  

  • We need to stop accepting this treatment.  Seriously, if we stop volunteering or going to church, eventually the establishment has to listen to us.  We comprise more than 50% of church attenders.  We comprise 75% or more of the volunteer force.  We can throw our own trump card which carries greater weight than the ‘submission/authority’ trump card.  And we can in good conscience play our non-compliance card.  Shadrach, Meshach and Adbednego were in full submission to the king when they refused to bow down to the idol.  We have bowed down to the male-dominance idol long enough.  
  • We have to value ourselves, our voice, and think about the future generations of women us who deserve the treatment that Jesus gave women.

What we give or don’t give (financial and time) can make a church flourish or fail.  Am I suggesting blackmail? Maybe?  But haven’t we been held hostage long enough.  I am suggesting how to pay-off the ransom and negotiate freedom.

Men:

  • We need you and your support!  It starts with how you treat the women in your life.  And how you value what we offer.  Do you believe that women are equal (not the same) to men?  Do you believe that God speaks to women at the same level and with the same authority that God speaks to men?  Do you believe that God is only masculine? Because I can give you a plethora of scriptures to refute that thinking.  We have to see ourselves as ‘one’ and not as opposing sides.
  • If you are a man in leadership:
  1. Look for opportunities to encourage women to use their giftings.
  2. Hire an equal number of women to men–and have at least one woman in a senior-level leadership position (pastor, co-pastor, assistant/associate pastor, etc.).
  3. Listen to their ideas, thoughts, interpretations … and act on some of them.
  4. Back them with resources and your mentorship to give them a shot at succeeding.  This way may require you to sacrifice a little of your time spent on other church matters, but the rewards will be great.
  5. If there is opposition to women having more power in the church, stand with us and be willing to fight for us!  Do your research in the Bible and use your sermons to validate women in the Gospel story.
  • If you are not in leadership:
  1. Use your credible voice with the leaders.  Male leaders will listen to another man, because you have greater access to relationship with them.
  2. Have coffee with them and talk about how to make room for more women to teach, preach, lead.
  3. Share how women have shaped your life and that without women’s instruction, presence, leadership, perspective you would not be whole.
  4. Explain that the Body of Christ needs us all.
  5. Offer to look at Bible passages and various interpretations with them.
  6. You also can withhold money and volunteer time. Again, without those resources, churches will have to change their policies to conform more to the teachings of Jesus and the biblical attitude of God toward women.

It will take time–more than one coffee meeting.  And it will be hard.  But worth it when you think of how your mother, sister, aunt, daughter, granddaughter, female friends have been or will be treated in the name of Christ.

We have been led to believe that we don’t have much power.  We have compromised our own value and bought into the lie that ‘God doesn’t allow women to lead if men are involved.’  Both men and women have suffered from this lie.  Isn’t it time we ‘trump’ the trump card?

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page