When Christians Fall Short: Singing Louder or Being Silent

Christians fall short

Christians fall shortHow Christians fall short

It matters not what we think we believe or what we say we believe. What matters is what we do. What we do or refuse to do says what we truly believe. Sometimes our lack of action or our overzealousness tells the world what we really believe.

There are times we are simply ignorant, and other times we refuse to learn. Sometimes we have no idea what is going on, and other times we know, but choose to turn our heads.  When we refuse to acknowledge that we have much to learn, or when we deliberately turn our heads, those are the times we as Christians fall short.

Two Sides of the Ocean

World War II was about a prejudice and hate toward the Jewish people. Adolf Hitler wanted to annihilate everyone of Jewish descent. He wanted to have the perfect race which did not include any Jewish blood.  There were Christian people who helped Jews escape to safety; some hid them in their homes and took care of their property while they were gone.  Yet others ignored the problem and refused to speak out because they were afraid.

At the same time, on the other side of the ocean, a battle for supremacy among white people was waged against people of color. Many Christians bought into this logic even though Scripture declares we are all made in the image of God and the ground is level at the Cross of Jesus Christ.

No matter which side of the ocean we are on, there is spiritual warfare. When we give in to untruths, Christians fall short of God’s plan for them.

World War II and the holocaust

Penny Lee, a pro-life activist, met a man from the WWII era. He shared a story with her. Now an old man, he still remembered what his church did in a country church somewhere in Germany. His people heard about the atrocities happening not far from them in Auschwitz, but it was too difficult to comprehend. Besides, what could they do about it?!

A train track ran behind their church, and week after week they heard the whistle and clacking of the train wheels as it passed. The windows of the church were open to bring in fresh air from the stifling heat, and they grew accustomed to the sound of the train. Then, one morning, they heard noise coming from the train. The church folks were shocked when they realized there were people in those box cars, wailing and moaning.  These people were being taken to their death and the Christians in the church fell short.

Week after week that train whistle blew and the sound of Jews crying out was heard as the train passed by the church. It was so disturbing that they devised a plan. They changed the order of their service so the song service took place at the time the train came by. Singing as loudly as they could, they tried to drown out the cries. If perchance the cries became louder, the congregation just sang louder to drown out the cries.

He said,” I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive me! God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.”1

Racism and the Civil Rights Era

John M. Perkins tells his story in the book Let Justice Roll Down. If you have not read this book, you should. It took me a long time to read through this book. Sometimes I had to set it aside for a while because reading the horror of white people’s hate punched my gut so hard I could not keep reading. Perkins reckons with prejudice on both side of the tracks. While many of us had nothing to do with the racial attacks in the south, and some of us were not even born during that time, the fact remains that forgiveness does not come without repentance. Refusing to acknowledge the atrocities that happened then (and some which continue today) is hiding our face in the sand and denying that we must acknowledge that in these times, Christians fall short.

Mr. Perkins tells the story of one time he was “beaten severely by Sheriff Edwards and Sheriff Edwards’ son and two Highway Patrolmen I didn’t know the names of . . . “2

He said, “They were like savages – like some horror out of the night. And I can’t forget their faces, so twisted with hate . . . I couldn’t hate back. When I saw what hate had done to them, I couldn’t hate back. I could only pity them.”3

No one doing the beatings, he said, was ever punished. There was no vindication, no justice.4

Not one person who speaks out

What Mr. Perkins says about Christians in the south saddens me. He recognizes that many white people helped with Freedom Marches. Some of them came from states north of the Mason Dixon line. Some lost their lives and some were beaten mercilessly along with the black people for whom they were marching.

Yet, Mr. Perkins says this: “I had lived in the South. I had drunk at separate drinking fountains. I had ridden in the back of buses. And never in the South had I heard one white Christian speak out against the way whites treated blacks as second-class citizens.5

Mr. Perkins got around. Yet he never heard one white person speak out. I am dropping my head in shame.

When Christians fall short

We fail, as Christians, when we believe the lies of our enemy. Instead of researching what the Word tells us, we listen to others. We get caught up in emotions and events without taking time to consider what God has to say.  We allow those emotions to rule us, dictating our actions, our words, and our prejudices. That is when Christians fall short.

Today, there are other issues we face. The temptation to remain silent is always present. The thought of just singing louder to drown the cries enters our heads. It matters not what we think we believe or what we say we believe. What matters is what we do and how we live.

When we know there is a wrong, we must speak for the cause of Christ. When we fail to speak or sing loudly to cover up the noise, we fall short. God forbid we are like the white Christians in the south where John Perkins lived, who today never once speak out against wrong.

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Charles Harris, Hope For Livingston.org blog

John M. Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down, Regal Books, 1976, p. 156

Ibid. p. 158

Ibid. p. 185

Ibid. p. 156

Sources:  Drowning Out the Cries Sing a Little Louder

Ahmaud Arbery – and Systemic Racism

racism

racismThe wrong place

I will be the first to admit  that many times, the choices we make put us in the wrong places at the right time. Consensual sex turns to “rape” after the fact, and boys get jailed for it. If the young men had not been having sex with a girl who was not their spouse, and if they had thought about her age and what might happen if they continued in their sex orgy and she or her father decided to press charges, they would not have gone to jail. Sometimes we do stupid things and get caught. Other times we get by with it. When we run with the wrong crowd, it ought not surprise us when bad things happen.

I also admit that there are times folks have been shot because they did not respond to authority as they should have. An officer acts in self-defense or thinks the offender is armed when he isn’t. When I haven’t walked a mile in his footsteps, it’s hard to say what I would do (except that I don’t know how to shoot a gun and don’t have a reason to learn).

We told our kids that if they got into the wrong place at the right time because of their choices, they’d have to suffer the consequences. There are places we ought not go, words we ought not say, and things we ought not do just for the simple reason to be safe. Don’t put yourself into a situation where others can say, “If only he had not . . . ”

The wrong color of skin

In Ahmaud Arbery’s case, he was not guilty of any of these. Except, there was the color of his skin. He was jogging in his own neighborhood, minding his own business on February 23, 2020 when he was shot and killed.  The man who filmed the death, William Bryan, 50, was arrested two weeks later and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. No other arrests were made until May 7 when Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were charged with the murder and aggravated assault in the killing of Mr. Arbery. The state said Travis McMichael fired the fatal shots.

The reason for the killing? The color of his skin and systemic racism. One needs only to read about this event and the people behind it to recognize that systemic racism is real today.

We can talk all we want about racism not being real, and that systemic racism is a thing of the past, but just because we think it and say it does not mean it’s true or that we are correct. When something is systemic, it invades the entire body or system.  A systemic infection courses through the blood and all organs in a body. It affects the entire body – or country.

The county in which I live is 55% non-white. There are folks who recognize that racism is real in our county. Others deny its existence. Prejudice runs both ways and no matter which side you are on, it’s wrong. Tit for tat is wrong, and two wrongs never make a right.

Racism denial

Just this past week, I listened in on a zoom meeting in our county. The head of the organization spoke and I listened in horror to what he said.

He said, “I’m tired of people talking about systemic racism around here. We just don’t have it here.”

You know what I know? I know that when his child was in elementary school he did not allow her to attend a birthday party in the home of one of her classmates. The reason? The birthday girl was black. Don’t tell me systemic racism isn’t real, and don’t deny it when you’re guilty of the same.

The right heart

You know what else I know? When we hear someone talk about racism and the hair on the back of our necks start standing up, it’s time to take stock of what’s really in our hearts.

As long as sin is in the world, there will be racism because Satan knows what havoc brings to our weary world. Yet, we should not be a part of that racism. Be honest. Admit it when it’s there. That’s the only way to combat this unfairness.

Rather than declare we are not guilty, perhaps we should ask God to nudge us if we’re guilty. Maybe we should take stock of the places we will not go or the folks we won’t mingle with – and why. Perhaps it’s time to ask God to search our hearts and clean us out, whether we have racism, prejudice, or hatred directing our thoughts and actions.

When Cain killed Abel, it wasn’t because Abel did something wrong. It was because Abel did what was right. Cain didn’t like the blessing Abel received from God when he could have had the same. Only thing is, Cain refused to do what was right. It was a form of racism.

Racism is not here because of education lack, poverty, or demographics. We cannot legislate morality. The only way to change what happened to Abery, Till, and Turner is to change our hearts.

There’s only one place to do that, and that is to journey to the Cross, where the ground for all is level. When God changes our hearts, He changes our lives, our homes, our community, our country, and our world. While we are not responsible for others, what we do today will influence others, either for indifference or for good.

pinterest racism

Photo credit: iStock photos

What Happened to Emmett Till

Emmett Till

Emmett TillFrom Chicago to Mississippi

Born in 1941, Emmett was fourteen years old when he visited family in Money, Mississippi, staying with a great-uncle, Moses Wright. Emmett planned to spend the summer and help with share-cropping cotton. This was 1955, and segregation was part of its culture and mindset.

Emmett was from Chicago and no doubt did not understand the racially-charged Mississippi culture, even though his mother, reportedly, tried to warn him before he headed south. The story line tells us he visited a store where he (depending on which account one reads) flirted with, whistled at, made comments to, OR propositioned Carolyn Bryant (Donhan), a 21-year-old white clerk. She, in turn, reported his behavior to her then husband Roy Bryant who, along with his half-brother Milam, kidnapped him three days later. They beat Till, gouged out his eyes, shot him, and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River on August 28, 1955. Several days later, his body was found, so disfigured it could not be recognized save for the ring he was wearing. [If you don’t believe me, go to the link at the end of this article and look at the documentary of photos.]

Showing the world

The horror of what happened to her son caused his mother to let the world see. She insisted on an open casket so there was no speculation as to what was done to her son. His face was so disfigured it could hardly be recognized.

This past August, it was sixty-five years. The case has been brought to trial and re-opened several times. Even though Ms. Bryant later recanted her version of what happened, the family of Emmett never felt justice for the wrongful death of the teenager.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

While it’s quite possible Emmett Till did flirt with the young woman, and while it’s possible he wolf-whistled her, the torture he received was unjustified and unwarranted. How many women today can deny ever being gawked at, wolf-whistled at, or even had attempts at flirtation? Sexual harassments suits have been brought – and many won- for indecent behavior.

When we are treated as property or a thing for a fling, it’s insulting and degrading. Sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it is frightening. When these things happen, it is wrong.

Yet, can we admit that what Till’s teen behavior might have been at worst  did not justify the lynching at the hands of two men in the Mississippi community? Indeed, both men later admitted to the crime, after being acquitted by an all-white jury.

Some sources state Donham later recanted her story. She is quoted as saying, “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”

So what am I to do with this story today? How much of it is true, and how much is twisted (by either side)?

Facts must be included in history

The fact remains that a young boy was tortured and murdered by two men who chose to “take the law” into their own hands. They committed a crime, and the reason was most likely more about the color of skin than about a flirtation. In all accounts, they were wrong.

I cannot imagine the pain this boy’s mama experienced. Can you imagine what it is like to view the body of your murdered son and see the atrocities done to him? Can you feel the pain of not being able to recognize your own son?

Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to relinquish her seat in the colored section to a white person as ordered by the bus driver, credits the death of Emmett Till for her reason to not give in. Happening that December day just four months after the murder of Till, Rosa Parks stood her ground. Horrible as his death was, it helped start the Civil Rights Movement.

I’m telling this story about Emmett Till because it was new to me.  We learned about Rosa Parks in school, but where was I when history class told this story – or was it never told? How did I miss this story, or was it dismissed as insignificant at best and embarrassing at worst?!

Looking Back

This story is part of America’s past. We cannot change the past, and truly, we can only go forward. Yet going forward involves recognizing and claiming (as painful as it is) the past.

Emmett Till’s mama did something with her pain. She caused the entire world to see what was so wrong. His mama had a purpose and she turned her pain into good. She could not change what happened and though she never forgot, she forged ahead with purpose.

The men who admitted to this crime? One of them did not want it mentioned. Even when he moved for a time to get out of Mississippi, it followed him there.

Roy Bryant said, “Emmett Till is dead. I wish he would stay dead.”

For the remainder of their lives, they lived with what they did because of their hatred. Like a haunting shadow waiting to pounce, the horror of a crime known to the world danced around them their entire lives. Click To TweetNeither Bryant nor Milam could ever escape its presence. What a way to live – and die.

Moving forward

No matter where we go, people do us wrong. This we know: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

This I also know:

  • bitterness enslaves us
  • untruthfulness paralyzes us
  • moving forward happens when we acknowledge the past
  • forgiveness releases those who harbor bitterness
  • the ground is level at the Cross, where there is enough blood for us all.

Pinterest Emmett Till

You can click on the following links to read more about the story. You can also Google and find many more articles about this event.

Britannica 

Daily Journal

The News Observer

Timothy Tyson

Wikipedia.

Documentary. This is an 8:27 minute documentary with original photos of this story’s coverage. If you do nothing else after reading this post, watch this documentary.

 

 

 

What I Think about White Privilege

white privilege
white privilege
photo by Soufiene Goucha/Pixabay

White and Unprivileged

I am white. Do I have white privilege? There is no black blood in me. I checked through Ancestry.com, and there’s none there. Would I mind if there were black blood in me? Not at all, yet I can only claim Germanic Europe, England and northwestern Europe, France, Norway, Scotland, and Ireland as my ancestry.

I grew up poor by today’s standards. We were poor, but we had enough. Compared to some people, anyhow. I paid my own way through college and received no farm, land, or estate from my parents.

Dave’s story is the same. From a financial standpoint, his family was also poor. The size of his family and where he was in line with so many younger siblings still at home benefitted him when he went to college. His grades in high school helped, too. So much so that he had a full ride to Virginia Tech (to the chagrin of some of his siblings). Dave doesn’t expect an inheritance from his parents’ estate. If there even were an inheritance, by the time it is divided among eight siblings, there’d not be much for taking, anyhow. What he has is what he obtained through hard work, perspiration, integrity, and due diligence.

After college, both of us found jobs that suited our education and interests. We did not have to go through extra loop-holes to obtain the jobs we had. You could say we were self-made. What we had, we earned fair and square through hard work and diligence. No one handed us a silver platter with or without a spoon.

I never concerned myself with white privilege, because I certainly didn’t have it. Dave wasn’t concerned, either. He certainly didn’t experience it. Or so we thought. What we had was earned fair and square. No white privilege for us!

Why white privilege is a bone of contention

Then, with the advent of summer 2020, my eyes have been opened. Because our church has taken decisive action to learn about racism in our community, our county, and our country, we’ve been on a learning curve. I’ll be the first to say that rioting, looting, cursing and swearing gets us nowhere. It doesn’t right the wrongs of the past, and it certainly does not endear oneself to others.

Yet, as one of my black friends told me, “Coming to the table hasn’t gotten us anywhere, so that’s why they’re rattling the cages.” She should know, because she’s seen white privilege and experienced its effects. I’m sad to say that some of it happened right under my nose where we worked together from 2004 until about four years ago.

white privilegeWhat I’m doing about white privilege

For starters, I’ve had to wrap my mind around the truth that abolition of slavery did not make black people free. They’re still enslaved, partly because of white man’s doings and partly because we’re never free until we move forward in forgiveness for the past. For the white race, not admitting what was so wrong imprisons us as well. The problem is that today, black people still suffer from white privilege. I’ve been given examples by black people in my community whose lack of promotions or loopholes to obtain a job were based solely on their skin color. Even in acquiring land, loans, or banking, the skin color made the difference. A well known father of eight in our county with good social standing shared with us his personal experiences that were due solely on the color of his skin. I’m sure the stories he told barely scratched the surface of his experiences, but he told us enough to make us aware that white privilege still exists where I live.

It’s true that my skin color has never denied me funding, land, education, or a job. That’s white privilege. Don't ask your white friends about white privilege. Ask your black friends. Click To Tweet And if you have no black friends, get some. Then learn from them.

Listening and Learning

I have read historical accounts (ones I’ve never heard before) that turned my stomach so badly I had to quit reading. The horror of things that truly happened burn in my mind today. Later, I went back and finished the stories. I’m still reading and learning. Why were we not taught these things as part of American history?! Is it because white people wrote the stories without input from black people? Or is it because white people aren’t ready to put it out there for people to see – the things that really happened to people of color who were innocent but judged to be guilty only because of their skin color? We’d think it horrible if Germany ignored the atrocities of Hitler, yet our country is guilty of trying to do the same.

I’ve listened. It’s one thing to listen with an intent to have a come back or to excuse what has happened. It’s another thing to listen to understand and care about the pain. I’m still learning how to listen. There are so many podcasts we can listen to that can enlighten us. But what really hits a person to the core is sitting down with a black friend. I wanted to learn  what it’s like to grow up in this county as a black person. It’s something else to ask them about white privilege and then listen to their stories. I’ve done that.

Growing and tuning

I’ve grown, but I still have more growth to do. I do not think I needed to go from prejudiced to unprejudiced, nor do I consider myself a racist. However, I’ve been blind to injustices that have taken place in my community. When it didn’t affect me or my kids, I didn’t know it was there, nor did I try to make my world a better place by staying tuned to this issue. For that, I’m sorry. There were times I could have – and should have – spoken up, but didn’t because I didn’t pay attention. If I could do it over, I’d pay more attention, and I’d speak up and ask questions of those showing prejudice.

I’m more in tune. I lunched with a realtor friend to ask her if redlining exists in this community. It is illegal, but there are still people in our county who try to instruct her not to sell property in their neighborhood to people of color. They don’t want black neighbors. She’s furious, and she keeps right on selling property no matter the neighborhood or skin color. My friend is on the same path I am – talking to people of color to learn about white privilege and trying to educate white folks who are so ignorant. She’s also asking questions of black friends.

Asking my black friends about privilege

I’ve come to wonder why it is more difficult for me to distinguish between a “good” or a “bad” person if their skin color is black, than it is to distinguish between a “good” or “bad” person if their skin color is white. Does that make me racist?

That’s why I have chatted with black friends and listened to black people share their stories. One afternoon I sat down with a friend – a former co-worker – who is black. (There are many more whose stories I plan to hear). I asked my friend about white privilege. She gave me instances of things that happened to her – in our high school in the early 2000s, at our place of work, and where she is working nowbecause of her color. I  didn’t know her in high school and I don’t work where she does now, so I can only take her word for it (which I do).

But the place we worked together for ten years? It happened. Oh, it was subtle, but it was there. I should have spoken up. I should have asked questions, but I didn’t, because I wasn’t really aware. It wasn’t on my radar, and I’m sorry. The instances she spoke of? Though I vaguely remember, I didn’t connect the dots. It didn’t affect me, and I was oblivious. That’s no excuse. I should have paid attention. I’m sorry.

white privilegeThe bottom line

We need to celebrate our differences and recognize color because God made us so. We must also recognize that every one of us, no matter our ethnicity, needs to find forgiveness for our own personal sins. Our blood runs the same types and the same color because we are truly one blood.

There is only one way to find restitution. That is through Jesus Christ. His blood covers our sins when we repent. His power breaks down walls and sets us free. If white and black people will come together at the cross, we will find that truly, the ground is level there. Reconciliation begins at the cross, where blood flows freely, bringing redemption for every single soul.

Because when we claim Jesus Christ as Savior, each one of us becomes a privileged child of God. The ground truly is level at the Cross.

pinterest white privilege

I’d love to hear what you are doing in your corner of the world to make a difference and bring healing to your community. Email me at mywindowsill6@gmail.com

If you’d like to know more about the disparity of homeowners in the US, you should read this article here.   [This site was added to this blog post on 11.03.2021.]