Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak… James 1:19
Last night I got to take another step in a lifelong journey that started the first time I listened to a John Piper sermon on race and realized I was in the depths of my heart a racist. I would further be confronted by my coming to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where I still remember the first time I saw an “interracial” couple in a Christian setting (I’m from Mississippi…). That moment (not immediately) was the end of racism for me. At least of an active willful kind. Then there was Russell Moore and all the things he said to play my heart strings because he knew where I was coming from. Everything from his theological approach to adoption to his resounding, “Black and White and Red all over” at The Gospel Coalition a few years ago have had me hanging on every word Dr. Moore has been willing to spill ink over on this and other topics.
So last night I went to a faith and culture forum led by two African American rappers (not only of course. Propaganda and Sho Baraka are image bearers, artists, faithful teachers, winsome articulate communicators – I’m just painting the picture in contrast to my white nerdiness and my inability to rap). All I knew for certain I had in common with these guys was our understanding of the Gospel. In anticipation, I expected to be uncomfortable, humbled, and wanted to listen and learn. Frankly I was only uncomfortable twice. In the first couple of minutes there was a piece played by a comedian in which white people were the butt of the joke (my being uncomfortable came in that I wasn’t sure where it was going). I finally started laughing. I also needed to relieve myself of a shot of Cuban coffee, which I opted to do during a song so I didn’t miss any dialogue. Other than those moments, I felt as if we were in a family discussion that was graciously and fearlessly pursued (this framework was very well laid out and followed by the artists). The earlier video would be woven in to the tapestry of the night populated by intense and poetic dialogue, humor, poignant and pointed videos, powerful illustrations, and engagement. Topics ranged from partisan politics to Black Lives Matter to family dynamics to the church (just to name a few).
I did not learn anything new necessarily but I did learn nuances that are building blocks of a sure foundation in understanding, namely the articulation of interlocking systems of injustice and of compassion (not power) as the necessary and proper vehicle of a forward moving culture.As to this way forward, Christ permeates this. It’s gospel. It’s gold.
I now want to gush out all sorts of thoughts and review what I think I’ve learned, but that is part of the problem. We really were part of a family discussion last night and that is how these issues and systemic poisons are addressed. Frankly (this is my opinion and wasn’t said last night but possibly inferred) blogs and social media have often done a grave disservice to this conversation that needs to be had face to face.
In conclusion, I’m aware it would be naive to say, “now we’ve got it!” but it would be perilous to say, “we’ll never get it.” Something must be done and the drivers must be listening, compassion, and constructive gospel drenched action.
As a thirty something white southern baptist who is young and restless about many things, I’m certain when it comes to racial reconciliation it is not something that can be accomplished in an annual sermon or a convention vote – it’s something that has to be lived and voiced, as we pick up our crosses daily. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to start walking. I’m grateful for Prop and Sho. Thanks be to God.