Culture

A few weeks ago, my wife Neva surprised me with what we thought could be a great opportunity. Neva is from Southern California, and she now has some friends who work in Hollywood. She told me that one of her friends, who is now a producer, was putting out a request for any White individuals who might be interested in having a conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi about his newest book, How to Be an Antiracist.

Neva knew that I had read his previous book, Stamped from the Beginning, and that I had just started reading How to Be an Antiracist. She wanted to know if I might be interested in having a conversation with Dr. Kendi. Of course I was! Neva gave my contact information to her friend and we set up a phone call for the next day.

I interviewed with the producer for roughly 20 minutes. She asked me about my own history in coming to terms with racism in our culture. I was also asked to elaborate on what drew me to Dr. Kendi’s work and how it has impacted me. When she learned that I was an “evangelical” pastor, we discussed some of the challenges of being a community leader in an environment where not everyone approaches issues of race and racism in the same way.

When the call was over, I was still under the impression that this was an interview for a conversation with Dr. Kendi alone. I assumed it would be the kind of Zoom conversation that might be broadcast over social media with several other individuals asking him questions. Later that night, I received an email with the following opening sentence:

We’d love it if you would join us for our How to Be An Antiracist conversation with Oprah and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi on Friday! Continue Reading

I recently had the amazing and surprising privilege of being a guest panelist in a conversation hosted by Oprah Winfrey with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and four other panelists (more on this in a later post). The purpose of this conversation was to hear from each of the five panelists as we have been grappling with racism in our own lives and in the world around us. Specifically, we discussed how some of Dr. Kendi’s ideas in his latest book, How to Be an Antiracist, have shaped our understanding of racism and what we will do about racism moving forward. I was intentionally chosen for the panel because I am a White, male, “evangelical” pastor.

The purpose of this article is not to talk about this conversation I had with Oprah, Dr. Kendi, and the other panelists. Instead, I want to use this space to address what I have found helpful in Dr. Kendi’s ideas, as well as what I disagree with and must ultimately reject from his ideas. Continue Reading

One of my favorite parts of the weekly worship service is what is commonly known as the passing of the peace. This is the part of the service where many of us regress inwardly to the spiritual state of a 3-year-old, groaning inside with an attitude of, “Awww, do I have to?” But second to the coming to the Lord’s Table together, this portion of the worship service serves as a deep comfort to my soul. Why? Because it is a physical act which is based on a deeply spiritual reality: Christians have been definitively reconciled to each other through Christ.

Whenever I have the privilege of leading this portion of the worship service, I will often say something along the lines of, “God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and he has also reconciled us to one another. So, let’s take a moment to greet one another with the peace of Christ…” Some weeks those words feel hollow, and I’m sure they can feel fake to those who hear them. After all, while we might know intellectually that we are supposed to be reconciled to one another, our lived experience is often entirely different. Marriages and friendships within the church are strained; the challenges of the week cause us to distance ourselves from other church members; despite attending a church with others for years, we’ve hardly put forth the effort to get to know them.

Reconciled? Yeah right. How is this bitter, distant, conflicted group of people reconciled? Continue Reading

Today is May 6th. If I’m keeping track of time correctly, we are currently in our 7th week in the United States since federal and state authorities began making restrictions for citizens in light of COVID-19. There is no doubt that we are all being affected in deep ways – not just physically or economically, but socially, relationally, and emotionally. It’s hard to fight against emotional fatigue and apathy when you’re not even sure what day it is anymore.

Call me naïve, but I was really hoping that this pandemic would be an enemy that would unite the American people. The divisive rhetoric of our culture, driven almost entirely by political and racial divides, has become too wearisome for me to bear. But as days have become weeks, the pandemic has become another source of contentious divide. I am especially saddened when I see God-fearing Christians using divisive language, promoting politically biased information, or even lashing out at those who disagree with them on what is best for our country.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. These behaviors have become the mold that our culture has made for us. It is far easier to settle into a familiar way of doing things (even if that involves unhelpful or sinful behaviors) than it is to pursue the difficult paths of humility, grace, and kindness.

This cultural mold has given us patterns of convenience. In the history of God’s people, it is not uncommon for us to choose the complacent path of convenience rather than the difficult path of obedience. The Israelites early conquest of the land of Canaan is a great example of this pattern that is worth our time to consider. Continue Reading