Monday, April 03, 2006

La Cosa Nostra "This Thing of Ours"

As you can see from my profile, one of my favorite movies is The Godfather. The mafia has long affectionately referred to their organization of crime as La Cosa Nostra, in English meaning "This Thing of Ours." Or as we like to say it, "Our Thang." As I have been seeking to communicate the need for the Reformed Black community to establish itself distinct though not entirely independent from the broader predominantly reformed white community, I say it affectionately and hopefully effectively, we need "Our Own Thang."

When I went to seminary at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando FL, all of my theological heroes were white. All of my pastoral and preaching heroes were white. As I entered seminary I consciously on one level, and subconsciously at another level, believed that if I was going to be reformed and articulate a theology that was reminiscent of the theology of my heroes then I would inevitably have to be like them. I would have to write like them (as much as possible). I would have to preach like them (as much as possible). I would have to seek to emulate them in word and deed. And I was prepared to pursue that course until God providential gave me a conversation with a wise and gifted (though sometimes over the top :-) professor, who told me straightforwardly that God wanted me to be me. God wanted me to hold the theology that I hold, but to use the experiences He has given me and to use the personality that He has developed in me to speak His truth in my context. In the professor's words, "God uses our experiences to make us more capable theologians." For me, that conversation was not only eye-opening, but epochal in my development as a Reformed thinker and preacher. That conversation, and others with him, planted the seeds, not only for my book On Being Black and Reformed, but the seeds for my coming to say without hesitation that we need "our own thang".
To have our own thang is to do what I am doing with this blog and what we are doing with Cyrene Ministries. It is doing what guys like Reformed Blacks of America, Black Puritan, Joshua Parker and others are doing on the internet. We are all in one sense or another seeking to bring a Reformed worldview to bear upon our cultural context. We are seeking to be used by God according to our gifts and insights for the furtherance of truth to our people. Yet the internet is just the first, indeed baby steps in our being all we should be. We must write books, even have the vision to print and publish these books, that speak with our unique voices and address our unique concerns and the concerns of the broader Christian community. We must not simply write on socio-economic issues or race and racism, but we must also write on theology, worship, biblical manhood and womanhood, the person and nature of Christ, etc. Though when we write it may sound like those voices that have so well trained us (and well it should since we are not reinventing the theological wheel), and yet it won't be their voices or experiences, but our voices and experiences that make our theology real to those who read and listen.
Also, we must have a vision for more of our own conferences on the Bible and theology. We must plan to attend conferences like New Life Bible Conference in Chicago and Miami Pastor's Conference at Glendale Baptist Church. While we admire and even look to conferences like Ligonier, Piper's Bethlehem Pastors, MacArthur's Shepherd, Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, and even the Together for the Gospel (which I highly anticipate), we must find ourselves more eager and more excited about developing and sustaining our "own thang". We must not only plan to attend these conferences, but we must also desire and indeed develop more of these conferences - conferences and seminars where there is more of us than there is of them; where we are the majority platform speakers and they are the guests. (to be continued...)


14 comments:

Ra McLaughlin said...

I'm a little worried about this. Ultimately, we need to integrate everythang. Right now, integration isn't all it could be since all the power players are white. And you shouldn't have to act like you're white in order to fit in with 'em.

And it's probably true that to expand the black Reformed movement you've got to set up a primarily black environment. Why should black pentecostals trust conservative white presbyterians? Well, in some sense, they shouldn't, given recent history.

But if all the blacks leave the predominantly white churches, we're moving backwards, in a sense. Maybe that's okay, so long as we're moving backwards in order to move forwards, like backing up to get around a road block. But you know how movements go -- you've got push really hard to keep them on track, because many people prefer where they are to what's on the other side of the road block.

Besides, if all we have are white and black churches, what happens to the rest of us? Do I go to one church, send my wife to another, and ours kids to a third? If we all go to one church, and it's not integrated, someone's gonna stick out like you-know-what.

In short, have you got a plan for how to do "your thang" without bustin up "our thang"?

ajcarter said...

Hey Ra Mac,
Hearing from you is such an encouragement. I continue to be deeply appreciative of you work and faithfulness.

You say you are "a little worried." Well, let not your heart be troubled my friend. I am under no delusion that my words will spark a mass exodus of the Black Christians from predominantly white reformed churches. Though I will admit that it would be interesting to see and hear the conversation and dialogue that would come from such an event, don't you think :-)? Nevertheless, I am not calling for nor do I or you anticipate such an action.

I do not believe, however, what I am calling for is a step back, but rather is a progressive step forward. What I am calling for is for Reformed Black Americans to do what Reformed White Americans have been doing for a long time - speaking for and addressing the theological concerns of their communities. Surely that is not a step back. Could not the broader reformed community learn from us even as we have and continue to enthusiastically learn from them (and I from you personally :-). Besides, for example, how is having a reformed conference on the Bible or Theology where the platform is predominantly black a bad thing, or a step back? - especially when you consider the lack of minority attendees at the larger Reformed conferences already established. Brother, I am simply calling for Reformed Blacks to more actively seek to make our unique contributions and use our gifts in the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, sometimes these gifts and contributions are suppressed or unrealized within a dominant cultural setting. Though the suppression is not purposeful or malicious it is real nonetheless. I believe the realization of these gifts and contributions is a benefit to us all and a glory to God.

Also, my brother, your question about your family, in particular, is a curious one. You see, I would count you as particularly blessed. You could find a home in either setting. I am sure you feel more than welcomed at the predominantly white reformed church you are currently attending. Likewise, I am confident that you would be more than welcomed at a predominantly black reformed church as well. Therefore, I say affectionately, concern yourself not so much with your own blessed situation, but rather concern yourself more with your brothers and sisters who feel not so welcomed.

Thanks again for checking in. As I continue to pray through this vision, I hope you will pray with me. I don't speak as one who has all the answers, only as one who has quite a few questions. Maybe I'll visit thirdmill.org and see what their answerman has to say. I often find his answers insightful and compelling :-). Peace.

Ra McLaughlin said...

That eases my mind greatly. :-) Sounds like a great idea. Reading your blog, I wasn't sure if you were just calling for conferences, or if you were envisioning something more like a black Reformed denomination. I think I would see a black denomination as step back, but what you're talking about would be a great leap forward.

"Brother, I am simply calling for Reformed Blacks to more actively seek to make our unique contributions and use our gifts in the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, sometimes these gifts and contributions are suppressed or unrealized within a dominant cultural setting. Though the suppression is not purposeful or malicious it is real nonetheless. I believe the realization of these gifts and contributions is a benefit to us all and a glory to God."

Amen! You're preaching to the choir! ;-)

On the family issue, I do count myself blessed. And I suppose I might feel comfortable in many different churches right now. But I have to tell you that I was really creeped out the one time Ronda and I visited Orangewood (a PCA church with a couple thousand members). Besides Ronda, there was only one black face in the sea of white (Joel Miller -- do you remember him from RTS? His is another "blessed" family). I felt nervous, like something wasn't right, and that feeling wasn't helped by the fact that only a couple of those thousand faces acknowledged our presence. It was just plain weird.

I had a completely different experience in a black Pentacostal church in New York when I went to Randy Oliver's funeral. There were about 4 of us lighter hued guys there, and I kind of felt like people were tiptoeing around us a bit, not sure what to make of us. Fortunately, there was a blowout rendition of Amazing Grace with Joel Pelsue (one of our pigmentally challenged crowd) on sax and a local organist, and that pretty much broke down all the walls and melted all the ice. We had a great time and felt like family. We still keep in contact with Randy's mom Novella. We were far more welcomed and at home in there than at Orangewood, even though Orangewood is a sister church in our own denomination.

Anyway, I clearly misunderstood your intent. I feel much better now. Thanks for setting me straight. :-)

RBA Founder Xavier Pickett said...

Ra,

If you don't mind, I am curious to know why you would think a Black Reformed denomination would be a step back?

Ra McLaughlin said...

Xavier,

Well, at the moment, we have many Reformed denominations that have at least begun to integrate. If people pulled out of those to join a black denomination, then we would be even less integrated than we are now. The kingdom of God in heaven is now integrated, and the kingdom of God on the new earth will be integrated, too. That ought to be the goal for the present state of the kingdom of God on earth, as well.

Now, if there were a black denomination that did not dilute the existing integration, or that hindered it in order to advance future integration, then I would not see that as a step back. I think the goal ought to be to produce an integrated Reformed denomination, and I'm not opposed to a momentary delay of that goal if it is for a higher good. But I am opposed to segregation as a goal.

That being said, there may be compelling ministerial reasons to have a black denomination of which I'm unaware. It is possible that the good done by such an organization would outweigh the harm to integration. But since I believe the Bible teaches us to value integration and not segregation, then all else being equal, I don't think a black denomination is a good idea.

And to be sure I'm clear, here, it's not so much the denominations I'm thinking about as the churches within the denominations. I don't like the idea of white and black churches within one denomination. I can understand why the Korean PCA churches do their own thing -- it's a language barrier. But you and I, we don't have that problem. Insofar as it is reasonably possible, I want my whole Christian family worshiping with me on Sunday, and I think God does too.

And I want that family to see color and culture for what it is, not as the primary defining aspects of our redeemed selves, but as circumstantial and temporary. I don't want my kids to have an identity crisis because they can't figure out if they belong in a black or white church, or if they themselves are white are black, or grey, or yellow, or striped. And I don't want to train them through my example to assess human beings by color, and to restrict their associations on that basis.

I want reconciliation of the greatest degree. I want your gifts to minister to me, and mine to you. I want your perspectives to look me in the eye every week, not just when we happen to go to a conference together.

I understand that the black community has some different needs, and a different social context, than many in the white community. But these should be secondary to the goals of the gospel.

What I'm asking for is that the black community not repeat the errors of the white community, that you learn from our mistakes. We messed up badly. Please be better men that we were -- turn the other cheek, put aside your desire to have as much comfort and familiarity as possible, sacrifice your freedom to gather in black churches for the sake of the blessings you can bring to your weaker brothers. We need you, even if many of us don't know it yet. We are members of one another, and we can't live without you. Please don't abandon us!

In Christ,

Ra

LouLove said...

Brother Ra:
In your response to Xavier you asked many things of Reformed African Americans that have in the past and are presently being done i.e.
"turn the other cheek, put aside your desire to have as much comfort and familiarity as possible, sacrifice your freedom to gather in black churches for the sake of the blessings you can bring to your weaker brothers."

I agree with Carter concerning "doing our own thang", for I have a some real worries also. My worry is that we are spending too much time and energy trying to correct the mistakes of many of our white brothers at the expense of reaching African Americans with the truths of the reformation. I am not opposed to racial harmony, I just do not see it as a priority over extending the Gospel to those who have not heard, which in this case is an expression of racial harmony. It is quite apparent that if Reformed Theology is going to make serious inroads into the African American community, African Americans are going to have to do it.
I appreciate all the comments and

I do not wish to be unkind, however, having to explain and often times justify a burden for reaching African Americans with the truth is really becoming nauseating. We need no justification for taking the gospel to China, South America etc. But when someone mentions a strategy for reaching African Americans that does not include whites, a host of worries and concerns arise. And by the way why is it that no one questions the Korean Church that holds English speaking services for Koreans who prefer to worship in English?

I agree Carter, the time is now, we must begin to publish theological works from our Brothers. I want to hear what Reformed African Americans have to say about the Attributes of God, the primacy of Preaching, Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Worship etc. I need to hear issues addressed at conferences such as Women preachers, Music in Worship, and the impact of the Propserity message. Or get this; how about an apologetic response to the "new world order" nonsense that's taking our communities by storm? You see these issues share equal if not more importance to us (Reformed African American pastors)as post-modernism, the emergent church, Open Theism, and the new perspective on Paul. Yes let's do our own thang, not to the total exclusion of anyone, but with a heart for reaching those who others are not going after and addressing Church issues that others are not concerned about.

By the way make your plans now to attend the New Life Fellowship Church's Summer Conference and you will hear the Brothers break it down.
I know Burns that I said I did not have time to blog, but a Brother has to tell lt like it tis every now and then. And also Carter, keep the gloves off and I look forward to discussing more of this in Louisville.

ra mclaughlin said...

LouLove,

You wrote:

"In your response to Xavier you asked many things of Reformed African Americans that have in the past and are presently being done i.e. 'turn the other cheek, put aside your desire to have as much comfort and familiarity as possible, sacrifice your freedom to gather in black churches for the sake of the blessings you can bring to your weaker brothers.'"

I Agree. I'm not talking about something new. I'm talking about continuing what has already been started.

"My worry is that we are spending too much time and energy trying to correct the mistakes of many of our white brothers at the expense of reaching African Americans with the truths of the reformation."

If that's the case, then perhaps the greater good is done by abandoning us. I think you're wrong, but you don't answer to me.

"I am not opposed to racial harmony, I just do not see it as a priority over extending the Gospel to those who have not heard."

It's not. If the best way to spread to the gospel is to keep the whole church black, then maybe it should be tried for a season. But the gospel is about reconciliation in many forms, and racial reconcilation was a big issue in the NT. If you don't eventually work to include that aspect, then something important is missing from the gospel you're extending. The mere fact that we're having this conversation, and that it's bugging you, is a good indication of how far we still have to go.

"I do not wish to be unkind, however, having to explain and often times justify a burden for reaching African Americans with the truth is really becoming nauseating... But when someone mentions a strategy for reaching African Americans that does not include whites, a host of worries and concerns arise."

I think you misread me. I didn't say anything like that. I'm not asking you to include us in your outreach, or to retain us as your counsel to make sure you do it right. I'm asking you to continue to include us in your fellowship, and to continue building that fellowship. And in a sense, I'm asking you to stop thinking in terms of "us and them."

Yes, we've been racially divided in the past, so that's part of our context. But as Reformed Christians we're called to transform that context. We're called to be like a Jew when among the Jews, but be like a Gentile when among the Gentiles. And all the while, we're to remember that we aren't really either of them (1 Cor. 9). So, we work within the context we're given, but we also work to change that context.

"And by the way why is it that no one questions the Korean Church that holds English speaking services for Koreans who prefer to worship in English?"

Again, I think you misread me. I did question it. In fact, I said I didn't like it. If it's not a language issue but simply a preference, I don't like it.

In Christ,

Ra

RBA Founder Xavier Pickett said...

Ra,

Thanks for responding, especially since these are sensitive matters and it is easy to mistake the other person’s intention and meaning. So I will try to be sensitive to this as I respond, but I also must do so with all honesty. We wouldn't have it any other way, right? :-)

-----
Integration:

“Well, at the moment, we have many Reformed denominations that have at least begun to integrate. If people pulled out of those to join a black denomination, then we would be even less integrated than we are now. The kingdom of God in heaven is now integrated, and the kingdom of God on the new earth will be integrated, too. That ought to be the goal for the present state of the kingdom of God on earth, as well.”

I’m glad you brought this up because this has been something I’ve been meaning to address more directly for some time now over at RBA. However, I guess I will start doing a little bit of that over here on Anthony’s blog. J

To begin, I don’t think our current definition of integration is truly biblical for a number of reasons. Let me work my way into this. I still think what often passes as integration is a sprinkling of Blacks and other minorities among White folks. In other words, I do not believe we have gotten pass the Anglo cultural trappings of what integration really is.

Also I’m not too sure whether our primary goal should be integration. I don’t know what kind of priority you ascribe to the goal of integration, but I can say this, I do not see this as being primary from my reading of Scripture, especially in the way integration is normally understood in our culture. This is not to say that I see Scripture advocating complete separation, but rather the “racial reconciliation, integration, multiculturalism, etc” talk is more of an implied biblical-theological point as we look at the flow of redemptive-history, which I do not believe is a strong enough argument to make the issue of integration necessarily primary. Moreover, “separation” of some sorts is not necessarily at odds with the kingdom of heaven. Heaven does not in the least minimize our differences, but rather maintains them actually. (I will return to this point.) To illustrate, I would suggest that we would not share every single thing in heaven with one another in the exact same way. If so, this would seem to universalize heaven and make meaningless God’s unique interaction with us individually. There is more to be said on this, but I can’t say it all here.

Another important factor in the understanding of integration (and I hinted at this already) is that it largely implies Blacks and other minorities going almost always to White churches, etc. And if so, I would say that this is not true integration either because this type of integration is still rather paternalistic. Therefore, I do not think true integration is Black folks always participating with what White folks are already doing. In fact, it should actually be the opposite. If many of my White brethren are truly concerned about integration, racial reconciliation, and multiculturalism, then how about joining a Black church or organization instead of Blacks always coming to them? This is a proper step toward true integration! Let me put it more biblically plain, I don’t not see the Bible’s eschatological vision of heaven being one of every people group being a part of or consolidated into another particular people group, that is, Jews or in our case, Anglos, which is just like every other people group made in the image of God. To put it another way, God is making one entirely new man with a variegated body, not one Anglo man with a Black, Hispanic and Asian limbs.

-----
Separation:

“Now, if there were a black denomination that did not dilute the existing integration, or that hindered it in order to advance future integration, then I would not see that as a step back. I think the goal ought to be to produce an integrated Reformed denomination, and I'm not opposed to a momentary delay of that goal if it is for a higher good. But I am opposed to segregation as a goal.

That being said, there may be compelling ministerial reasons to have a black denomination of which I'm unaware. It is possible that the good done by such an organization would outweigh the harm to integration. But since I believe the Bible teaches us to value integration and not segregation, then all else being equal, I don't think a black denomination is a good idea.”

Most of what I said above speaks to your concern here, but let me also say more explicitly that we do not, for the most part, already have true “existing integration” for a Black denomination to “dilute.” And again, I do not see the grounds on which you are able to say that integration is a “higher good” than a Black denomination? Is not the idea of Blacks doing something among themselves a “higher good?” Depending on how one answers the question(s), the issue will be how do you also account for the fact that integration has retarded advancement in certain segments of the Black population?

I also think this point is often overlooked in these discussions: A certain form of separation does not mean utter separation in every respect.

Furthermore, in regards to separation, we really have to be honest with the current landscape because there is already separation in so-called “integrated” settings a part from a Black denomination forming. My point is that true integration does not even exist now where Blacks are in predominately White settings. I’m sure you are not suggesting that Blacks wait around and be dependent until White folks want to truly have integration. Because as I said earlier, if people, mainly Whites, want to be integrated now, then come and hang out with Black folks now. We’ve always been in an Anglo-dominant culture, but not too many Anglos have been truly submerged in the minority cultures of America. This seems like to me the proper step toward integration. Black people know White folks by default, but Whites don’t. Therefore, it seems rather clear who needs to do the integration (i.e. Anglos) and be integrated (i.e. Blacks).

-----
Color:

“And I want that family to see color and culture for what it is, not as the primary defining aspects of our redeemed selves, but as circumstantial and temporary. I don't want my kids to have an identity crisis because they can't figure out if they belong in a black or white church, or if they themselves are white are black, or grey, or yellow, or striped. And I don't want to train them through my example to assess human beings by color, and to restrict their associations on that basis.”

I understand the struggle that your kids may have to go through, which is a difficult struggle no doubt. But interracial marriages does not necessarily mandate “integrated” churches for their sake, even though, you may not have meant that.

I also must disagree with you here because in the dominant culture there is generally always gravitation towards the myth of color blindness, even in Christian circles. Who I am as a Black man is a defining aspect of my redeemed self, as you put it. Right now, I am not an immaterial Christian because that would impossible, if not heretical even. Nor will I cease to be distinct or particular in heaven. Therefore, this is not something that is circumstantial or temporary because diversity and plurality is not circumstantial or temporary in God himself. So I, nor any other person, will be a platonic Christian in heaven. Or let me say it this way, in heaven we will not be “nationless,” “tribeless,” and “languageless” people.

LouLove said...

"If that's the case, then perhaps the greater good is done by abandoning us. I think you're wrong, but you don't answer to me."
Brother Ra:
I did not use the term "abandon" nor was it intimated. My stress was time and energy spent which to me speaks of emphasis. My hope is for us to shift emphasis on what I consider to be the greatest good. My sense is that we MUST begin to spend "some" of that time, energy and may I add "resources" on reaching African Americans with the truths of the reformation which does not seem to be a priority of our white Reformed brothers. No one needs to be "abandoned" in order for us to shift emphasis.

In regards to Korean PCA Churches we really need to be just a little more realistic. My goal is not to pick on Koreans, but let's keep it real. Koreans operate within the English speaking environment everyday in America. My dry cleaners is a Korean and he belongs to a Korean PCA Church. When it comes to explaining to him that I need that Bar B Que sauce removed from my tie he has no problem understanding me and I have no problem understanding him when he tells me the charges for such service. My point is this; take the pressure off of yourself and African Americans, especially when that pressure is not applied no where else and especially in light of Xavier's comments;

"This is not to say that I see Scripture advocating complete separation, but rather the “racial reconciliation, integration, multiculturalism, etc” talk is more of an implied biblical-theological point as we look at the flow of redemptive-history, which I do not believe is a strong enough argument to make the issue of integration necessarily primary."

I really appreciate your comments and willingness to speak on these sensitive issues.

ra mclaughlin said...

RBA wrote:

"Let me work my way into this. I still think what often passes as integration is a sprinkling of Blacks and other minorities among White folks. In other words, I do not believe we have gotten pass the Anglo cultural trappings of what integration really is."

Agreed. I said as much myself somewhere higher on this page.

"I don’t know what kind of priority you ascribe to the goal of integration..."

Fairly high, since Scripture makes it fairly high.

"I do not see this as being primary from my reading of Scripture, especially in the way integration is normally understood in our culture."

Well, my point is not modern American integration but biblical integration. Paul talked extensively about integration between Jew and Gentile in the church. I think his points are applicable to Christians of all races in our modern, polarized world. For the sake of comparison, Paul spent as much time taking about racial matters as he did about justification. That indicates, in my assessment, that it ought to be a high priority. There is much in the NT especially about reconcilation and integration (I know the two are not synonymous) that is stated either directly, or can be inferred from rather short and simple systematic arguments. It is not merely a construct of biblical theology, though I do think BT is another way we can see the same thing.

"If so, this would seem to universalize heaven and make meaningless God’s unique interaction with us individually.

I disagree. God can deal with us corporately, as the whole bride of Christ, yet still deal with us individually as well. The "nation" or "tribe" would be somewhere in the middle. As of now, he deals with us in all three ways, so there is no reason to think that in heaven one way will make any of the others impossible.

"Another important factor in the understanding of integration (and I hinted at this already) is that it largely implies Blacks and other minorities going almost always to White churches, etc. And if so, I would say that this is not true integration either because this type of integration is still rather paternalistic. Therefore, I do not think true integration is Black folks always participating with what White folks are already doing."

You're right, this is not the ideal, and there are better ways. But it is what we have right now, which is at least a starting point. It is better than nothing, which is what we'd have if blacks gave up on it.

"we do not, for the most part, already have true 'existing integration' for a Black denomination to 'dilute.'"

Our existing integration is not perfect, as I have already granted. But it is better than nothing, and it is in some cases working fairly well. The same is true of all of life in the already-not yet. I'm sure we can agree that it is not terribly compelling to argue against something this side of glory on the grounds that we can't do it perfectly. What you seem to be saying is that because our existing integration is not sufficiently pure, it should not be counted as integration at all. By this reasoning, one might argue that we're yet not sufficiently saved to be counted as saved, and therefore that we should give up on the whole salvatin thing.

"I don’t not see the Bible’s eschatological vision of heaven being one of every people group being a part of or consolidated into another particular people group..."

In Christ we are all being consolidated into the Jews. I think the Bible teaches that rather explicitly in many places. We are a holy nation, namely Israel, because we receive the identity of Christ, who himself is the king who sits on David's throne. We are all grafted into his olive tree.

"To put it another way, God is making one entirely new man with a variegated body, not one Anglo man with a Black, Hispanic and Asian limbs."

Yes, this is precisely my point. To maintain separate nations in heaven would be to maintain our old identities, which we are to put behind us (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:16). It would be to have a black arm, a hispanic leg, a white foot. Since we don't seem to agree on this, I'm guessing we understand this biblical imagery in different ways.

"And again, I do not see the grounds on which you are able to say that integration is a 'higher good' than a Black denomination?"

Well, integration is an element of the gospel, it's taught in Scripture. Denominations have no scriptural basis. They are convenient as we seek reconciliation among the fragmented body of Christ, but the goal should be to wipe out denomations just as we wipe out every other consequence of sin. John Frame's as yet unrefuted work Evangelical Reunion does a good job of demonstrating this point.

"Is not the idea of Blacks doing something among themselves a 'higher good?'"

A higher good than goal than manifesting the gospel in all its fullness? No.

"Depending on how one answers the question(s), the issue will be how do you also account for the fact that integration has retarded advancement in certain segments of the Black population?"

The gospel has always retarded the advancement of certain people groups. When it's done right, it frequently retards the advancement of the faithful, such as when Rome fed the Christians to lions. That's one reason we are to lay up our treasures in heaven.

"We’ve always been in an Anglo-dominant culture, but not too many Anglos have been truly submerged in the minority cultures of America. This seems like to me the proper step toward integration. Black people know White folks by default, but Whites don’t. Therefore, it seems rather clear who needs to do the integration (i.e. Anglos) and be integrated (i.e. Blacks)."

As Christians with Christlike attitudes of sacrifice, we need to do both. I have already admitted that white Christians are largely failures in this regard. But this does not justify black Christians choosing to fail as well.

We are to be willing to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16), which implies that we are to be willing to endure the lesser threat of slights and mistreatment as well. This is not just for the benefit of whites, but for the benefit of Christ and the church. There are much bigger issues at stake than American culture and history, or the plight of the black community.

"I also must disagree with you here because in the dominant culture there is generally always gravitation towards the myth of color blindness, even in Christian circles."

I'm not talking about color blindness; I'm talking about recognizing color and assessing its value properly.

"Therefore, this is not something that is circumstantial or temporary because diversity and plurality is not circumstantial or temporary in God himself."

Your blackness is not temporary, but it runs a distant second to who you are in Christ: a free male Jew (Gal. 3:28). Right now, because this world is fallen, our color works to divide us. That's contrary to the gospel. In the redeemed world, it will no longer divide us.

"Or let me say it this way, in heaven we will not be 'nationless,' 'tribeless,' and 'languageless' people."

In heaven, we will all share one nation, one tribe, one language. For example, Revelation 5:9-10 indicates that people from every nation and tongue and tribe will be reconstituted as a single kingdom.

curtlove said...

Brothers in Christ:
Let me pose a question to all of you. That is:
What if as a black community this is our lot in life?

I agree with targeting the black community by way of publishing books, conferences, planting churches, so as to leave a legacy for those who are coming behind us. However when I think about how the majority culture has treated the black community, in regards to slavery, jim crow, even the total genocide of information concerning people such as, Jupiter Hammond, Lemuel Haynes, Francis Grimke etc...People who not only worhsiped the God we love but they wrote about key issues that concerned the black community, not just socially but theologically as well.

Yet here we are today and we are still talking about having our own. I believe in a sense we do, we have our own sufferings, please dont misunderstand what I am saying. Not sufferings that are sepreate from Christ but are seperate from the majority culture.
When we as redeemed black men are discounted, are looked over in reference to theological issues, when our book titles are changed, when we are regulated to obscurity, when our white brothers refuse to sit under our authority in a church setting then these are sufferings we face based on our commitment to Christ. Therfore it has a strenghtning aspect a refining aspect to our lives. The apostle says "when you are insulted for the sake of Christ, then you are blessed, because the spirit of Glory and of God is resting upon you."

Are we as black men ready to face what may come if this treatment we face stops. Could this treatment we face be Gods way of keeping us humble and keeping us focused on the importance of leaving a legacy for our sons and daughters. Could this be an eye opener that at times we find ourselves focused so much on being treated fairly that we become slaves to it. Could this be Gods way of keeping his spirit resting upon us so that we may continue on in our commitment to Christ, saying come what may we will be committed.

A Need to clarify:

I am in no way saying that we ought to pursue, this treatment or that we are not to attempt to make reforms via the gospel in our race.

I am in no way saying that the treatment we receive as a culture is right or justified.

I am in no way saying that God caused his spirit to rest on the black community only.

I am however trying to make sense of this whole idea, and work it out in my mind so that if it becomes clear what ought to be done, I can jump on board.

ra mclaughlin said...

loulove wrote:

"I did not use the term 'abandon' nor was it intimated."

I meant no offense. "Abandon" was the word I had used in a prior post in my plea that black Christians not leave our semi-integrated churches. I merely repeated it here.

"My stress was time and energy spent which to me speaks of emphasis... we MUST begin to spend 'some' of that time, energy and may I add 'resources' on reaching African Americans with the truths of the reformation."

I agree entirely.

On the Koreans, I do think we should be working to include them rather than letting them continue perpetually in separate churches. My own church at one point merged with a Chinese church. We tried very hard to communicate, and we were all very patient with one another, but it quickly became clear that the langauge barrier was real and extremely limiting. My hope is that a generation from now we won't have any Chinese or Korean churches because language will no longer be an issue.

On the theology issue, we clearly have a very different understanding of the emphasis Scripture places on this topic, and of the ways it communicates about it. For example, you probably would not agree with me that the main argument in the book of Romans is for the re-integration of Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome, and that the soteriological arguments are offered in order to prove the case for re-integration.

My guess is that for all of us here, if Scripture teaches it we want to do it. Our differences probably result largely from our different assessment of the Bible itself. Necessarily, our application of Scripture to life is going to be different when this is the case.

LouLove said...

ra mclaughlin wrote:

"On the theology issue, we clearly have a very different understanding of the emphasis Scripture places on this topic, and of the ways it communicates about it. For example, you probably would not agree with me that the main argument in the book of Romans is for the re-integration of Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome, and that the soteriological arguments are offered in order to prove the case for re-integration."

If (strong if) the main argument for Romans is the re-integration of Jews and Gentiles in the Church, would you agree that the starting point of re-integration is still the emnbracing of God's plan of salvation i.e. the gospel?

I guess I am still at the starting block with this whole discussion. We cannot speak of integration of the Churches if major players (African Americans)are not being evangelized.

On your point to X:
"You're right, this is not the ideal, and there are better ways. But it is what we have right now, which is at least a starting point. It is better than nothing, which is what we'd have if blacks gave up on it."

If the starting point is weak then we are "standing on shaky ground" (The Temptations) :-)
And perhaps the best thing to do in order to lay a firmer foundation is to jettison what we currently have (at least the philosophy).

By the way, your work at thirdmill.org is on point, I really appreciate it.

ra mclaughlin said...

Thanks for the encouragement on IIIM. :-)

And yes, I agree that the starting point of re-integration is still the embracing of the gospel.

I do think, however, that we can speak of integration even though many people are not yet evangelized. We can even practice it. As I understand the NT, part of the witness of the church is what we do, particularly when it comes to our treatment of other Christians (e.g., John 13:35). That is to say, re-integration is actually a means of evangelism. It cannot replace gospel preaching, but it should be a help rather than a hindrance to the process.

I also think that when it comes to evangelism, it is sometimes justifiable to segregate (again, the metaphor of backing up to get around a road block). Paul had Timothy circumcised so as not to give offense to the Jews. Paul himself became all things to all people so that by all means he might save some. He took extreme efforts to adapt in order to evangelize.

But evangelization has different rules from church building. We do all we can not to give offense in evangelism, in order to bring people to the gospel. But once they are in, they are expected to move beyond the hang-ups that once offended them, to mature in Christ, and to manifest the fullness of the gospel in the world. In the church there must be reconciliation, and in the NT examples reconciliation includes integration.

I don't mind jettisoning the current philosophy, which in the predominantly white churches seems to be a blend of ignorance and apathy. I would prefer to see a biblical model.

I do, however, mind jettisoning the current relationships within our churches. It's those relationships, not the current strategy, that I consider a starting point. Let's not forget those who have done positive things, or fail to respect their efforts and accomplishments.

Did you see Barbershop? There was a good piece in there where Cedric's character starts going off on Rosa Parks. And he makes a good point in that there were a whole lot of people sitting in the "wrong" place before her. Eventually, the dam broke loose. But it wouldn't have if all those nameless people hadn't gone before her. But what would have happened if those nameless people had simply given up on the strategy because it didn't seem to be working? What would have happened if they settled for separate but equal? And what will the future of the Reformed church look like if you settle for that now?

I'm still mulling over curtlove's comments. They remind me of the "first will be last, last will be first" principle...