Tag Archives: justice

Healing Our Racial Division with the Fiery Passion of Pentecostal Love

As our American friends are in the midst of their 2016 presidential election, politicians are on the campaign trail explaining the reason to be voted as a president. The country is divided in many ways where activists ranging from race, to gender, to class and to religion are all crying out to be heard. When it comes to race, the division is much more sharp and piercing. Both Democratic and Republic politicians are professing to be the glue to unify their nation and mend the divide between Black, White, and Brown people.

Canadians may laugh at the made-for-t.v., political circus and comic show down South. Yet there are challenges of division with racism as deals with Afro-Canadians/Caribbean and First Nations and its offshoot religious racism with Muslims/Syrians/Middle East migrants and residents. It seems that both nations are having a difficult time closing the divide and opening our hearts. Americans are more blatant in their vitriol whereas Canadians are subtler. Either way – both are dehumanizing! I believe the Pentecostal Church could provide a road map for unity and reconciliation where both countries could learn from.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic Church is the fastest growing church in the world and approaching the size of the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Church family. The phenomenal growth and size is not by fluke. It is intentionally based on an open door and outreach position for diverse cultures and nations to embrace the message of Gospel love. Where did this attitude of passion fiery love come from for Pentecostals/Charismatics to reach out to Russians, Brazilians, Filipinos, Nigerians, Chinese etc.?

On April 1906, in a rundown church in Los Angeles, a passionate Black preacher William Seymour with a loyal group of Black Christians who prayed for racial unity and Christian unity. What made this prayer and fervor unique was in the midst of Jim Crow laws that these brave Christians were extending themselves to hug racist White Christians. God rewarded their desires by a phenomenal event where those Black Christians miraculously spoke in a different language never taught to them. This documented event echoed biblical times just after Jesus’ death and resurrection where the Early Church spoke miraculously through God’s Spirit in a different language to share the good news of Jesus to a diverse yet divided crowd in Jerusalem. What happened in Los Angeles 1900 years later known as the Azusa Street Revival had the similar effective power where it drew different races. Many of them experienced this miracle of speaking in a different language (called tongues speaking) and other miracles like healing. But the biggest miracle was the beginning to heal the divide of racism (and sexism) between people and their segregated churches. The reason being the experience was bigger than any race or culture (or gender). This Déjà vu moment was God pouring his love on all people, which humanized and humbled racist and sexist people to see each other with dignity and equality.

Although the Pentecostal Church is a human organization, not perfect and still struggles with racism and sexism like other organizations, but they have learned principles and practices to overcome the sin by God’s love. And the people are their fruit. This compassionate experience plus a compelling story is what our respective countries need to hear – especially our politicians. And quite possibly, they can feel the fire of unity that these men and women felt at Azusa Street. We can only pray in tongues for that miracle to happen.

~ Denley W. McIntosh

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mandela: Through Eyes of Faith

These last couple weeks have been a month of reflection for the world as we think about Nelson Mandela’s life.  There has been a plethora of coverage on Mandela’s passing. You cannot seem to turn somewhere whether on television or social media and not run into some biography, video montage or reflection. Many Black pastors are chiming in during their worship services to say their peace in ad nauseam about Mandela. Understandably, this has made some Christians anxious and uneasy. There are some sincere Christians who may be saying “Aren’t we idolizing Nelson Mandela? Why are we talking about him in a church setting? I came to church to hear Jesus not a man!” Questions like these require pastors to demonstrate that their speech and action is grounded in Scriptures. They must prove their rhetoric coheres with the narrative and teachings of Christ and the Apostles. What does the Bible have to say about this concern? If Pastors are not familiar enough with Scripture to give a sound reason, then what else should sincere Christians do – but worry. I hope to allay some of those fears with this short thought for you to build on.

When dealing with these kinds of issues of respect versus reverence, we always run the risk of going from one extreme to another: idolizing Mandela on one hand to ignoring Mandela on the other. Is there a middle ground? I will suggest there is: interpreting Mandela. More accurately – rightly interpreting in light of Scriptures… The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:8, has given us something to consider when dealing with these issues. “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” The key terms are honorable and worthy of praise. Both terms in the original Greek of the New Testament carry the similar sense of esteemed, noble and well-respected. St. Paul has encouraged the Philippian church during the 1st Century to think and reflect on these things. Notice that Paul has not qualified his statement by saying the admirable thing, action or person has to come from a Christian. It just has to be right and good. Christians can agree with non-Christians when something is esteemed, noble and well respected. Christians can celebrate non-religiously with non-Christians with the understanding that God has orchestrated this achievement. Whatever that achievement is, if it is honorable and worthy of praise, we can celebrate it. However, to balance our praise, the Apostle Peter reminds us as well to “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Considering that fear or better said reverence is a stronger word than respect for esteeming someone, it is clear from St. Peter on whom we should concentrate our praise on – the Lord Jesus. Whether Nelson Mandela was a Follower of Christ or not is not the issue. We can praise the actions of someone if it reflects the Kingdom – the way that God intended society to be fair and just. The Scriptures in Romans 13:1-5  and 1st Timothy 2:1-3 tells us that God appoints leaders (i.e. presidents, prime ministers, kings etc.) to help bring order and peace in the society we live in. This order includes the removal of apartheid and the commencement of reconciliation between Black South Africans and White South Africans. Therefore, we should have no problem saying that God used Nelson Mandela to that providential end. We can rejoice not just for Mandela but the God of justice, peace and reconciliation who made this happen ultimately.

God shows us the embodiment and standard of these virtues through Jesus Christ whom Mandela patterned. By celebrating the work of Mandela, we uphold the Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:8.  This means we do not ignore. By thanking God for Mandela’s work, we equally uphold Scripture’s teachings. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior…” (1st Timothy 2:1-3 NLT) This means we do not idolize. Now we are just left to interpret rightly and appropriately.

I encourage us as Followers of Christ to use Nelson Mandela’s actions toward justice, peace and reconciliation as a springboard to the Good News. An opportunity to share our faith! If one man can bring powerful leaders, friends and enemies alike into one palace, in unity with guns and weaponry laid at the altar so to speak, how much more Christ? How much more should we long the day when Christ will be the centre of the world’s attention like Mandela’s memorial service? The day Jesus brings men and women, rich and poor, rulers and commoners, Black and White alike to worship him in speech and song forever within the new world! Let’s use Nelson Mandela’s life as a reminder to us and especially others that Jesus, the Messiah will create a world of justice, peace and reconciliation. The way the world ought to be. So let’s do our part as Mandela did his.

~Denley W. McIntosh

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Judges in High Chairs: Assessing Our Critique of the Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman Altercation

Image

I was sitting at the kitchen table feeding my 9-month old son some yummy homemade apple-pear sauce, as he sat in his high chair.  Prior, we had an entertaining food fight with the squash I fed him that he promptly spat on me when he decided he had had enough of the stuff in the green bowl.  He started to get restless, voicing his democratic right to reject the food that was painstakingly prepared for him. As he played out his version of the Hunger Games, I recognized this war of food was not going to get me anywhere, so I replaced his squash with apple-pear sauce in his green bowl. As I started to feed him the apple-sauce, which he usually enjoys, he contorted and dodged the spoon with his desert. With much tactical precision, I finally cajoled him to take his desert. While I was feeding him with a mixture relief and agitation, I pondered why he rejected the food he loved so much. Then, it donned on me. He saw the green bowl and jumped to judgment that I was coming back to feed him some more squash.  My son was making a snap judgment on the basis of seeing the bowl instead trusting his all-wise dad.

 My son is not the only one who make snap judgments, but many well educated adults take posture of my son sitting in his high chair, making critical, unwise judgments and spitting ‘squash’ on the accused. We act in many times as a judge in a high chair.  

The simple (and amusing) scenario with my son communicates a very profound truth. When we make snap judgments, we show our immaturity and yes, childishness in not getting essential facts. We act like judges in high chairs. We see the color of the bowl and jump to an erroneous conclusion. The color of the bowl is not a metaphor on race but it includes it. The color of the bowl represents the fact that our perception can be skewed on the content of the situation.  Just because we have ‘seen it before’, it does not mean we have seen it before. I think that is one of the lessons that are emerging for us analyzing and critiquing the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman deadly altercation. Many of us are not checking our Mr. and Ms. False Perception before they walk in the door with their baggage of lies. The typical outcome is that we clothe ourselves with these lies and maltreat people accordingly to match the wardrobe of the day.

Malformed judgments were not something new. I was reminded when Jesus of Nazareth encountered many judgmental people who jumped on every opportunity to disrespect and condemn flawed people for their errors and/or crimes. Irrespective of circumstances, including racial disputes, Jesus spoke out and warned judgmental people need to temper their attitude even if they had “all the facts.” They must not set themselves up as a judge but a friend of humanity.  Was Jesus overlooking crime or injustice? No! We ought to pursue justice, not as avengers – but as peacemakers as He would exhort. This role viewed and still views justice as a means to bring peace, as best possible, to all parties, which includes victim and victimizer. (The victim’s family stands in the place of the victim if they are deceased.)

 It appears that peacemaking seems to be a far cry to the commentaries (and commentators) that we hear and see on the various forms of media. Why? Because we have the tendency to “call it the way it is” based on our own opinions absent facts. Who does not want to play the role of Judge Judy or Joe Brown? In all honesty, it is fun capitalizing on human frailty in others and exercising it in ourselves.

So how do we avoid judging or drawing poor conclusions about others? I acknowledge that it is hard but if I will offer an acronym to help us in this matter. The acronym is J.U.D.G.E.  Something that I wish Piers Morgan and Touré were able to consider in averting the messy verbal tussle on air via Piers Morgan Tonight.1  

JJump back. Whenever we hear a case, we should be aware that our tendency is to form an opinion as a reflex. We should restrain ourselves from doing so and take a mental jump back from false conclusions. This is the first and critical step. If this is not done, there is no way that we will make it to the last of letter/step in J.U.D.G.E. dealing with the right behavior.

UUnderstand. This implies searching for the facts and listening with an open mind. Many people were calling Mr. Zimmerman a racist, which may not be so. One can demonstrate racist behavior or prejudice but does not mean one’s a racist. We should endeavor to understand the situation as completely as possible.

DDeliberate. A sincere intent to reason and reflect on the facts to discover truth is crucial. This reasoning cannot be done in a vacuum but through informed dialogue and reading credible sources. As we reason through the facts and arrive at cul-de-sac in our thinking, we can let our biases fill in the gaps or become the bridge toward an end, which is only a dead end.  Indeed, our biases are usually a ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’

G – Guard against. This reminds us that our opinions are not gospel and subject to change. Also, we recognize that we cannot demean people who are clearly in the wrong.  We must recognize hatred, bitterness, and malice seeps out and shows the world our toxicity and ugliness, which ‘make-up’ cannot cover. We must guard against the attitude of condemnation for no one wins.

 E – Express respectfully. After all the inner wrestling to determine wheat from chaff, truth from fiction, we are communicating our conclusions in a fair and courteous manner especially to those who disagree with our views. We do this always with a posture of a student who is willing to still listen and learn at the feet of truth. We desire to express our best side and not the ugly within. Our behavior leads to justice and peace as the transcendent goal.  

Saying all this, am I negating the possibility of discrimination or everyday racism? Nope, it was clear listening to the 911 tape of Mr. Zimmerman speaking that bias was present. Am I denying there was a possibility institutional or organizational racism? Nope, it was clear that the Sanford Police force has a track record for unjust treatment of Black offenders compared to other races. Am I tempted to label and malign George Zimmerman as such a vile human being? Yep, the urge is there. However, I was reminded that what goes around comes around. Or as Jesus would put it, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 2 Thus, I am compelled to restrain my rabid tongue and malignant attitude toward him as best as I can for the Lord’s sake.

There may be some who feel that I am not supporting Trayvon Martin. I hope my readers are not ‘jumping’ to that conclusion. Like many other Black men, I have experienced racial profiling. Saying that, if we are going to be a judge, let us J.U.D.G.E. properly and accurately, unlike my baby boy. We can at least advance the cause for social change in a meaningful and open way – without the high chair.

~ Denley W. McIntosh

 

Sources:

  1. Piers Morgan & Toure Debate – http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/headlines/video-piers-morgan-toure-argue-trayvon-martin-killing
  2. Gospel of St. Matthew 7:2

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized