Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Final Reflections on Responding to Ferguson


As I have discussed this issue with others, and as I have considered it more, I have become more and more convinced that I have been witnessing a subversive form of racism at work (and I'm not referring primarily to white racists), as well an indifference to pastors allowed to set aside their role as elders and teachers for that of an activist. One will ask, can I NOT be a pastor and a political activist?  I suppose it’s possible. But, can you do it without compromising?  As I reviewed recent conversations with a well known pastor via Twitter, I realized several things.


One, while I understand that rants can get out of hand via social media, it seems that big brand pastors are too easily allowed to say what they want without repercussion. We’ve seen it with Driscoll.  Now I’ve seen it with others I’ve respected in the past. These are the dangers of Twitter for all of us, especially for those who are called as pastors and teachers. However, there are times it feels like I’m reading the Left Behind series, where an evil man performs a vicious act in front of a room of people, and then he states to everyone what actually just happened; they believe it like zombies.  Every analogy has faults, and I’m obviously not comparing these ministers of the gospel to wicked men.  However, if you are going to present yourself as a teacher via a blog, books, audio, and tweets--to people even outside your church--my hope would be that you would also allow yourself to listen to them as well.  Sadly, as a pastor recently made clear to me, many don’t care what those reading them think.


Two, this has been of opportunity of presenting the gospel to all around us.  I have likely failed in this as well.  This has been a chance to give truth to a nation in uproar, to tell them of Christ and the only answer to divisions of every kind. Sadly, only a few pastors, it would seem, laid hold to that.  Most took the opportunity to show how racially sensitive they are to those struggling with “white supremacy” in this culture.  Sadly, Dr. Robert Jeffress, a man who may not even be as theologically solid as other pastors I look to, has been the only one I’ve seen to give a biblical response:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/08/22/what-pastors-should-be-saying-about-ferguson-and-racial-unrest/ .  Others took the opportunity to rant on their walls about the brutality of police and the plight of the black man (a la Thabiti Anyabwile). Sadly, on this specific wall, a police officer was condemned before facts or a trial, protesting encouraged, and black brothers appeared on this wall to tell other Christian “white brothers” what they don’t understand. These pastors are creating racial divides in their own territory, when they should be encouraging unity in Christ.


Three, big coalitions or other names are quick to pop up on the scene, almost like a hazmat cleanup crew (sorry, like I said, I work for a trucking company), telling people what to think and what certain authors “actually” said or believe. If you read my first post about this issue, Thabiti’s position--which he subsequently denied, as I unfortunately predicted--is painfully clear.  Outrage and anger fill his wall. After this, other pastors begin posting about racial divides and how we should empathize with our brothers, or they post black authors who are Christians but “cry foul” about the Michael Brown shooting.  Sure, he obviously at least tried to beat up a cop; sure, he clearly at least disregarded and disobeyed an officer of the law at some point; sure, he nearly mugged a store owner; sure, he rapped about shooting people filled with various profanity, as well as using the COPS “Whatcha Gonna Do” with changed and vicious lyrics; sure, the cop hasn’t been given a fair trial, but blacks “know exactly what happened” (Thabiti said more than once on his wall that he did). But, those things don’t matter. The white guy shot the black guy! That seems to be all that matters. Have we lost our ability to think?

 
Four, clearly there is much hypocrisy and even pragmatism going on here. Pastor Thabiti clearly encouraged a spirit of protest, and, as I predicted, he is slowly getting quieter and acting as if he never encouraged this attitude. This is the attitude of pastors today.  Say what you want.  Don’t worry about saying sorry. I watch nations roar with resurgent protesting and mobs; I see anarchists on YouTube saying “f*** the police” and trying to exploit them at every turn; any time there’s a cop, there’s a camera, because someone wants the next big “mean cop” YouTube hit.  And how do our pastors respond?  With the exhortations of 1 Peter 2:13-20, Romans 13:1-8, or Titus 3:1-11?  No.  They encourage protest and cry “Justice!”, the same thing the blacks burning the streets are chanting. Clearly, this is not every black or white Christian, as I’m sure many blacks are as ashamed as I am of these kind of pastoral attitudes. Pastor Thabiti continues to do this via his wall.  What I’m finding is that his wall is the most racist, maddening, and divisive thing I have read in a long time.  As for pragmatism, Pastor Thabiti also posted this article from Rachel Held Evans on his wall, August 22nd: http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/08/21/not-helpless-we-think-3-ways-stand-solidarity-ferguson  This would make me ask any solid theologian and shepherding pastor who supports this behavior… have you lost your grip on reality? Posting Rachel Held Evans to support your cause is sinful.  Pastor Thabiti, it is sinful. Do you not recall a mother’s concern, the daughter of James White, when she wrote this open letter to Rachel? http://summerspinch.blogspot.com/2014/04/dear-rachel-held-evans.html  And yet you will post this pseudo-Christian for your cause?  This is not okay, and this is not a case of “differing perspectives.”


Finally, please do not fall for the liberal media bias we are watching, reading, and hearing every day.  I’m not proclaiming Wilson’s innocence. But, I will say, regardless, he has already been tried and he is marked for life. If he comes out innocent, Pastor Anyabwile and others still will have marked him the guilty, racist, criminal that will cause many to seek him out for blood, even if he was just doing his job. Isn’t media psychology amazing?  On the one hand, we see articles like this about Michael Brown: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2014/08/25/michael-browns-hip-hop-dreams-had-nothing-to-do-with-his-death/ We are told to disregard his evil hip hop lyrics about killing people and hating cops. Here is a line from this article: “This could have been a story about a boy whose artistic interests were proof that his soul was sensitive, rather than coarse, whatever words rolled off his tongue.” Then there’s the video taped robbery or, at the very least, bullying. The family and others were in a rage about this, since it was character defamation (Hint: yes, that is the idea and the suggestion; character matters in any case). But, if we look at his life, his wicked lyrics, or his “thugishness”, we are racist. Instead, we should only post pictures of happy Brown, like so many articles have done. 

 

 
Does anyone notice the hypocrisy here?  It’s okay to use Wilson’s circumstances to determine his character to determine his guilt; however, we’re not allowed to discuss Brown’s character, because that’s unrelated.  Is there anything in the two articles about Wilson that are actually about Wilson?  Read them.  And ask yourself that question.


Pastors and Christians are supporting this liberal hypocrisy.  And I find it nauseating.  We are told by Pastor Thabiti via his wall, even now, that we cannot “be silent”, unless of course we’re possibly suggesting Wilson may be innocent, or that we should be encouraging support of law enforcement, even if Wilson is guilty here. Then silence is wisdom.  Does anyone see the hypocrisy here, as well?


Conclusion:


I don’t care what big name pastors will condemn this article as “divisive” and not “the mind of Christ”. I don’t care if they have a coalition or have authored fifty books.  You see, I care about the truth.  And, I care about pastors acting as pastors should act.  I am a sinful man dying in a sinful world, and what I need are men of God to watch.  If a pastor does not understand submission to his government and does not engender such a mindset, as all of Scripture does, I will not watch him. I cannot trust him. You say I’m hypocritical because I don’t understand submission to pastors? I’ve accused myself of that. However, we can choose the church and the men who are over us, men who truly teach God’s Word rightly. Our government, though to some degree chosen by Americans in our system, is ultimately given to us by the Lord. They are there.  We submit to them. They rule over us and they bear the sword. If a pastor cannot respect that, I question his theological correctness.


Racism does need to stop, from blacks and whites alike. But, we don’t need pastors using this situation in Ferguson as their political launching pad from the pulpit. We need pastors to keep preaching the gospel and encouraging blacks and whites alike to not only love one another but also to submit to their governing authorities. We need pastors to show discernment in how they present injustices, with clarity, truth, and love.

 
A gentle answer turns away wrath.  Right now, an internal civil war is brewing because pastors are saying the wrong thing, and we’re all encouraging them to do it.

 
This article is my final thought on Ferguson. I hope I can keep growing in my understanding of the Lord, and I pray I continue to love my black, white, yellow, or green brother (not sure if a brother can be pink, though). I pray Thabiti will lead well, and that perhaps I could learn to trust him again.  I pray that I will learn to submit myself to pastors and shepherds and endear respect for them just as Pastor Thabiti should be encouraging respect to our government.  I pray we all will in fact grow into the mind of Christ, loving and cherishing Him far above everything else in this life. In the end, all that matters is that.  Fear God, and keep His commands.  Cast your cares upon Him. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who Is the Racist?


For days now, I’ve been keeping up with the ongoing saga of a certain pastor’s Twitter rants. First, let me say this. I’m a 28 year old guy who has mostly been staying away from blogging, allowing the Lord to work on my heart in this much needed period of life. I’m a guy with a Bible degree that loves the church, music, and theology, and realizes that without Christ all of these things are useless. For the most part, I’ve been a fan of The Gospel Coalition. My former pastor used to highly advocate books written by pastors such as Thabiti Anyabwile. I do not consider myself especially esteemed, godly, or deserving of all the good graces I have in my life. But, like many others, when I write, I write with clarity and I say what I think. Undoubtedly, the tidal waves of, “Have you checked your heart on this matter?” will come in response to truth tellers. Or, perhaps, the dreaded pastor worship--though I used to get angry at people for using this term--will kick in and people will affirm a man no matter what he does. But, after reading Thabiti Anyabwile’s wall for days now, I think it’s fair to say that enough is enough, and to ask a pastor to show both humility and respectability in his position.

 
For months now, I’ve seen a growing YouTube trend to exploit the police. Multiple videos of cops “ruthlessly attacking” “helpless victims” abound, usually to the demise of authority and the praise of anarchy.  And, really, haven’t we seen this internationally? Countless mobs marching against their own governments, all in the name of some great cause? Does Romans 13:1 have meaning any more? I am under no illusions concerning the goodness of governments. Nero wasn’t the greatest, was he? Yet, Paul wrote this.  He didn’t tell Christians to “rise up”.  He wrote Romans 13. Peter wrote this:

 

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

--1 Peter 2:13-20

 

Recently, a black man (not a helpless little kid) was shot by a police officer in the line of duty. Countless news articles popped up, looking something like this: “Helpless Victim Shot by Officer” or “Unarmed Black Teen Shot to Death by Police”. In truth, this was a some 6’4” 300 lbs black male who had just bullied a store owner and possibly stole cigarettes or related items. Movements came up, which Thabiti also hashtagged at least once, like “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”, rally cries against police brutality; of course, Brown’s medical examiner never said this was the case, merely that his hands were possibly in the upward position during part of the shooting. So, perhaps this officer, having a clean record and serving his community well for years before this incident, did shoot a random kid in cold blood, just for kicks; and maybe this huge black male, who had just shoved around a small a store owner, was raising his hands like an innocent child in humble obedience. Or, maybe he rushed the officer, as recent reports of the officer’s swollen face would suggest, and maybe when fired upon he raised his arms while charging. That would put a new spin on “Hands up don’t shoot!”, wouldn’t it? 


Rather than a thoughtful response and waiting, as other black pastors have done, Thabiti’s response was to post comments like the following:

 

If not for liberals Xs on twitter, I wouldn't know police killed @ unarmed AA man and a SWAT team stares down machine guns at protesters. (Aug 13th)

 

"Your right to assemble is not being denied.  It is, however, being supervised by several tripod-mounted sniper rifles.  Just saying." (Retweet Aug 13th)

 

All my "conservative" tweeps are talking about... well... EVERYTHING else. What's wrong with that picture? (Aug 13th)

 

"The relationship between black men and police forces is, in fact, the main thing keeping America from becoming "post-racial" in any sense." (Aug 14th)

 

Proud of our young men, sad this continues to be an issue. #Ferguson #HandsUp #DontShoot #oursons #Menofmorehouse (Retweet Aug 15th)

 

Man walks with cane for #MikeBrown in #Ferguson. (Retweet Aug 16th)

 

Youngest member of the group holding her hands up in memory of #MichaelBrown (Retweet Aug 16th)

 

RT #Ferguson residents & allies rally. Proclaim #HandsUpDontShoot. Justice 4 #MikeBrown #livefree @LiveFreeUS (Retweet Aug 16th)

 

NY Times reporting independent autopsy of #MikeBrown  shows he was shot 4 times in the arm and 2 times in the head. (Aug 17th)

 

@JasonMKates if the injustice comes from the hands of authorities meant to PROTECT you, then what means are left? (Aug 18th)

 

@JasonMKates Your question assumes the machinery of local justice is working. But at every point it has proven broken, rigged by authority. (Aug 18th)

 

@JasonMKates For that reason, "staying home" is to comply with your oppressors in your oppression.(Aug 18th)

 

@JasonMKates Would we even be talking about #Ferguson if people decided to "stay home"? How then would justice be served? (Aug 18th)

 

@JasonMKates It's past time for those who say they care about peace to direct their questions to those destroying peace: #Ferguson police. (Aug 18th)

 

@JasonMKates Seem a poor solution compared to WHAT? Your rec they sleep it off? You should 1st get a "great answer." Then criticize them.(Aug 18th)

 

@JasonMKates @mindworcsMike That is nonsense. We know exactly what happened. An UNARMED teen was shot 6xs, 2xs in the head and is dead. (Aug 18th)

 

@JasonMKates @mindworcsMike Whatever other facts or counter-facts come out, we KNOW this was a disproportionate response & a child is dead. (Aug 18th)

 

Handcuffs Up! 90-yr-old Holocaust survivor arrested in Ferguson protest  http://wapo.st/1n3BeIa  via @washingtonpost (Retweet Aug 18th)

 

Read the Scriptures above, my friends. Read them carefully. I think we can reasonably ask ourselves the following: Do Thabiti’s comments line up with what God commands, especially in light of the fact that we in fact do not know what all happened on the day of the shooting? You see, it’s very possible an innocent cop doing his job to protect Ferguson citizens is now in hiding because pastors like Thabiti became an Al Sharpton instead of a shepherd, and encouraged protesting instead of peace. And, if the cop did shoot the teen in cold blood, Thabiti is still in the wrong, because he is not waiting for the facts and he is not speaking peaceably. When I told Thabiti via Twitter that he had tried the officer in his heart, trial or not, and sounded like Al Sharpton, his response was the following:


Really??? You're going to call that a "Fact"? That tweet judges me far more than I judge Wilson. Wow. Thx 4 prayers. Bless you.

 

When I said again that all one has to do is read his wall, he responded:

 

Love believes all things... like when I tell you my honest perspective and that you're wrong about my thoughts. #ListenInLove

 
Now, friends, I ask you again to read Pastor Anyabwile’s comments above. And, pastor, if you in fact you read this, I would ask you to do the same. Is your response to me flat out deceitful, or are you just confused in a heat of passion? Can you not look at the comments where you explicitly stated that “we know exactly what happened”? I even had a friend ask me why I was being so “mean” to you. I believe this is where pastor idolatry and pastor tweets being favorited needs to stop, and pastoral accountability needs to begin.  In fact, I tried to finally say something peaceable to Thabiti and end it, and I stated the following:

 
@ThabitiAnyabwil @caressedionne But. I desist. I respect you much. Just don't agree with your response. Oh well, right? :) Facts will come.(Aug 18th)

 

I received this twisted response to my attempt at peace, which I believe was even retweeted at one point by someone else:

 

@Berean313 @caressedionne Facts will come and won't allay everyone's concerns, won't even always be "facts." Fine to disagree. But… a person is dead and "oh well" will never suffice. Grace and peace to you.

 

Pastor Thabiti went on to vilify me via his social media, telling me to prove my disregard of life--I suppose--untrue by “mourning with those who mourn”.

 
Let me be clear. I work at a trucking company.  You develop pretty thick skin working there. I don’t lose sleep or cry over Thabiti’s opinion over me. I’m not asking him to grovel at my feet personally for repentance. I get it. He interpreted this event as black hate and went on a rampage. It’s understandable. But, I’m more concerned for those who “follow” him. The Gospel Coalition will post often how we need to be “humble” and stop tweeting back and forth, but they only seem to post these kinds of things when their authors cause division via the internet. My soul is accountable to Christ, as is the soul of everyone else. Overall, I support The Gospel Coalition and believe they have done much for the kingdom. Much more than my sinful soul. But, the question remains, will you call Pastor Thabiti to show more humility and caution in his approach? To Pastor Thabiti, whether or not this officer is acquitted (but, yes, especially if he is), will your ask forgiveness of your followers for encouraging protests and hatred in their hearts, long before facts had come out?  Will you ask forgiveness for your white racism, which has bled through all of your tweets, even if it's not generally true of you?

 
I could post more about growing up in Texas. I hate racism. I do.  Hate it. We despised my grandmother talking about that “nigger” down the street, and my mother often told her to stop it. My sister was told once to never marry a black man.  Guess what? She married a Mexican. Ironically, I often find black people funnier and easier to get along with than white people. But, let me be clear, I grew up in Texas, where blacks, whites, and Mexicans were all together. I was bullied more than once by a black kid (this was before “bullying” became an excuse for psychological disorder). I was once ran off a court by a group of black kids, one of whom walked up to me, smacked the ball out of my hand, and basically told me to get lost. But, you see, I can’t talk about that, because my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother wasn’t a slave.

 
Sadly, racism exists on both lines.  But, Thabiti’s article on “fears” of moving to America was a bit much for me.  Blacks have prominent positions in America, many are even officers. And, yes, many of them are great men, inside and out. But, in contrast to Thabiti's idea of America, I actually fear walking down the east side of my own town, because that’s where blacks are shooting others nearly every other day in the news.  Yes, whites are criminals, too.  But, often the crime on the east side here is largely in the black communities. So, largely, I don’t go there. It's not a statement of skin color, but of how kids are often raised in these places.


The point is this, we are called to live together, to live in peace, to honor God, and obey the governing authorities. Instead of taking this moment to encourage black brothers to live in harmony with the authorities and conquer racial evils with love, you have encouraged a spirit or protest and disorder--even after these protests turned violent on the news--and have gone against your calling as a pastor. Ironically, the “scary” picture you used in your anti-American article is a picture of Ferguson being burned by a group of angry blacks, is it not?  You would use this to say you’re afraid of white racism?

 
I pray the best for Thabiti. I hope he is sincere and will repent of his rants and tirades. Or, he will do what is more popular these days, and use the Driscoll method to cover his tracks, acting like nothing ever happened or tearing down those who approach him in love.

 
Is Pastor Thabiti the godly man I think he is?  Or, has he simply been another Al Sharpton biding his time, waiting for a white crime news event to pop up so he could spew his racial propaganda?  Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know much about the man. I think and I hope it’s the first.

 
Please, Christians, read Peter’s epistle, read Romans 13, and read how Old Testament followers reacted in the face of evil rulers.  Understand that Scripture does not call us to violence, and, even if it allows for protesting, let’s be honest:  it’s not in there, is it?  Paul did call up his rights as a Roman citizen once (Acts 22:28). But he didn’t go on the streets and tell his followers to protest. We see the opposite treatment of authority in Scripture, even authority that is corrupt.

 
Although I stand against the jerks that do exist within the police force, I hate more and more the anti-police anarchism that I see rising up in the waters of America every day.  Pastors should not be encouraging this mindset, but teaching whites and blacks alike to submit to governing authorities in peace, to pray for them, and to count it all joy when they take your possessions, knowing that you are given an opportunity to give the gospel of grace. First Timothy 3:3 encourages overseers to be “peaceable”.  

 
Pastor Thabiti, please do those who listen to you a favor, and obey these Scriptural commands.  Please, please do not become another political activist, using your pastoral position as a launching pad. Remain the pastor of God’s Word that blacks and whites both need to hear, the voice of integrity and reason we have loved and trusted for years, even those of us who don’t know much about you personally. We can speak for justice, but we can do it in a way that glorifies the gospel of Christ, not the color of our skin. This article has been forward, not because I consider myself greater or authorized, but because I’ve seen very few others speaking up.  

 
Please continue to lead us well, take a step back, and proclaim God’s Word and the gospel, the one thing we all agree is the answer to the world’s sickness.

 
Relying On Grace,

Adam Cummings

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

--Titus 3:1-7