Tag Archives: respect

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

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Charles Ramsey – A Real American Hero?

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“I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway. Dead giveaway. Dead giveaway. Either she homeless, or she got problems. That’s the only reason she run to a black man.” And with those words Charles Ramsey is thrust into stardom. From the tube to YouTube is colored with Charles Ramsey candor. His rugged charm is inescapable. Thoughts – unvarnished. Feelings – unfiltered.  Charles Ramsey is raw to the bone. I think this is one of the appeals of Charles Ramsey.

Without diminishing the fact that 3 women who were rescued from 10 years of hell in a home dungeon, out of the grips of a ‘mad man’, Ariel Castro, I want to focus on Charles Ramsey’s claim to fame. It is not that he sought fame, but it is more conferred on. We the viewers claim him as our knight in shining armour who performed this heroic feat. He is the people’s knight – unassuming and unabashed. Far from the mythic character that we usually see of our heroes, this “Dark Knight” does not come to us as a heralded doctor, shrewd lawyer, or courageous firefighter. He comes as simply the guy next door – the guy or gal that we always want to be but feel ashamed to be outside our home.

The pressure to live up to be someone who you are not can be very deflating – no doubt imprisoning. Where all the images you see in the media are people with the million-dollar smile, suave hair do, and picturesque career of an entertainer, the allure builds to take on the mythic persona: beautiful, strong and flawless. Unfortunately, beauty is fleeting; strength is taxing; and flawlessness is elusive. Nevertheless we pursue these elusive qualities, and the bars within are strengthened. The inner imprisonment is lengthened.  Charles Ramsey is our momentary breath of fresh air from a regular hero. He is our hero, akin to John Hancock, to help release us.

You remember the 2008 film Hancock where Will Smith starred as a bumbling superhero? We may have chuckled a bit when hearing that term: a bumbling superhero. It seems so oxymoronic. Superheroes are supposed to be perfect, sober and virtuous. In a word: godlike. They meet Plato’s idea of the Ideal. Hancock is definitely not, and so is ours.

Charles Ramsey is a figure that runs and flies against our contemporary norms. Unconsciously, this is what we are seeking, and maybe Charles Ramsey is a valve to let us release this pressure – a pressure to perform to an unattainable standard. Thus, we are drawn to Charles hearty laugh, folksy persona and Black jargon. We are drawn to his frankness. Yes, we are drawn to him. We finally find a hero, our GI Joe who says what is on his mind; who bears his chest; and who could care less what others may think of him. He is not a devolved Neanderthal but an involved human who saw an opportunity to love beyond his comfort zone and help those resilient women out of the Castro house of horrors. So he speaks. We listen. This is what we yearn to be, but many of us are imprisoned and would like to be set free. Free to be…free to be like Charles Ramsey – our American hero!

~ Denley W. McIntosh

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

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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

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