Recently, I shared a picture on Facebook, which suggested the correct Christian response to different people depending on their gender, sexual orientation, beliefs, whether or not they had a substance abuse problem, etc. The correct Christian response for each was to love them.
One person responded with the old saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” to which another person replied that this is too often just an excuse to hate the sinner.
From my days running for office and working in social media, I’ve started trying to focus on Psalm 19:14 whenever I speak
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
I’m normally one to avoid confrontation, but I’m balancing this out with the confession:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
What about the sin of being the bystander that doesn’t speak up, sinning against God for words left unsaid?
One of my Facebook friends posted a link to a rant about Dukes of Hazzard being canceled from TV Land. I don’t have any opinion about Dukes of Hazzard. I think I saw part of an episode once, many years ago, and found it about as interesting as all the other stuff I chose not to watch on television. In my mind, it seemed like a financial decision. Airing Dukes of Hazzard creates an image of TVLand that they may not want, and that may not be helpful in attracting advertising revenue.
Yet my facebook friend who shared the post, lumped the issues around the Confederate flag in with this. He applauded a friend of his who is flying a Confederate Flag in East Haven.
What is the right response in a situation like this? Do I simply walk away, perhaps unfriending him? Do I say something? If I do, how do I say it in a way that he will hear, that loves the sinner, and hates the sin?
I ended up thanking him for sharing let everyone know his opinions and suggested that I, and others, would keep it in mind if we ever needed services from his company. From the stuff he posts, I didn’t suspect he was a Christian, so I thought responding with free speech and Adam Smith’s invisible hand would be more effective.
He unfriended me. However, his friend, who posted about flying a confederate flag in East Haven, changed his avatar from that of a confederate flag, to something less offensive.
Did my comments contribute to him rethinking how he presents himself? Were my words acceptable in the sight of my Lord?
I don’t know. It is a hard thing to work out. Yet it seems important to speak up against the sin of racism, especially when the sinner is not aware of their own racism.
I wonder how many European Finance Minister’s said The Lord’s Prayer on Sunday
Forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
I wonder how many went to churches sharing a common lectionary, where the New Testament Lesson was 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich…
For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has-- not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
"The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little."
As I think about these, I think about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry
Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been raised. As was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. When he stood up to read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord[p] is upon me;
he has anointed me to tell
the good news to the poor.
He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set oppressed people free,
and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. While the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him, he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled, as you’ve heard it read aloud.”
Various friends have been sharing the link to the article, Black America should stop forgiving white racists, with its tag line, “Quick absolution does not lead to justice.”
Since I’m not black, I haven’t felt it was my place to comment on this, until I saw a friend share the link yesterday after President Obama’s Eulogy of the Rev. Pinkney, the same Eulogy where President Obama sings Amazing Grace to the chagrin of his detractors.
After watching parts of the Eulogy, especially where President Obama spoke about the forgiveness shown in Charleston, I added this comment to one of those posts:
Perhaps it comes from my white privilege, but I'd like to believe it comes from my deep abiding belief in God, that I have a very different view of forgiveness. The author writes,
"Yet, the almost reflexive demand of forgiveness, especially for those dealing with death by racism, is about protecting whiteness, and America as a whole. This is yet another burden for black America."
I do not believe this. I doesn't seem like President Obama believed this in his eulogy for Rev. Pinkney. For me, and I believe for many of my devout Christian black brothers and sisters, forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools, not of protecting whiteness, but of challenging it.
If the viral videos of Charleston after the murders had been of rioting instead of family members offering forgiveness, I don't believe we would have seen outcomes we have.
So, to the viral video of forgiveness, watch President Obama speak about this forgiveness:
Over the past few months, there have been a few things that have captured a large amount of my attention, the #Rhizo15 cMOOC, the Love Bade Me Welcome poetry workshop at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the discussions about race, from Rachel Dolezal to the shooting in Charleston.
How do these fit together? I’m not sure, but perhaps the wanderings of my mind can help bring a little focus. I started off this evening, looking at online theological education online. One of my first stops was The Top 20 Online Theology Master’s Degree Programs. There is a lot more out there than I thought there was. So, I started looking for theological MOOCs, but I didn’t find so much there. The little bit that I did find was more on the level of Introduction to the New Testament. From there, I started looking for philosophy MOOCs and other esoteric MOOCs. Anyone up for a Lacan MOOC?
This led me back to the #RHIZO15 group. Even though the MOOC is officially over, the community lives on and recently, one of the posts was to a Google Doc, Charleston Syllabus (by and for Philosophers). It looks like some interesting material. One link was to Why is my curriculum white? In this video there was lots of talk about colonialism and empire.
This reminded me of a book someone had mentioned on Facebook, In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance
It brought me full circle me thoughts about theological education. To what extent is theology education today white? Or, if not white, Laodicean?
As I, a bedraggled looking old white man
ran my errands
in a predominantly black part of town.
I saw two people,
an older black man in a nice suit
and a plainly dressed black woman
standing next to
the tract rack that read
“What the Bible Really Says”.
I thought of my friend,
a black minister
putting on her shirt and collar,
the belt of truth
and the breastplate of righteousness
and pausing to think
of the martyrs
past and present.
“What the Bible Really Says”
I thought about how God loves me
more than I can understand
How God loves this couple
more than I can understand.
I thought of the commandment
Love your neighbor as yourself,
no matter what their skin color
no matter how different they are from you.
So I looked around
to make sure there wasn’t a pickup truck
with a Confederate flag
and I walked over to them,
shook their hands,
thanked them for bearing witness,
and told them what they already knew.
God loves them, loves all of us,
more than we can understand.