Links are provided at the end to reduce distractions.
"When people deal with color, class or culture in a negative way, that's racism. But the answer is not to ignore these as if they don't matter. Instead, we can look at color, class, and culture in a positive way. That's gracism" - Pastor David Anderson, an excerpt from the book, Gracism - The Art of Inclusion.
In Dr. Anderson's book, he offers a Christian alternative to colorblindness, he teaches that gracism is an opportunity to extend God's grace to people of all backgrounds.
God's grace to people of all backgrounds is also captured in a beautiful literary tapestry in the book, An Unbroken Circle: Linking Ancient African Christianity To The African American Experience. This statement alone invites each reader to know more deeply the hiSTORY of the ancient movements of a united faith:
"At a time when some feel that there are no spiritual solutions, lecture after lecture drew from the rivers of ancient Christianity and from the witness and wisdom of the slaves to give direction to the dilemmas of our present age. These spiritual rivers, which nourished the early church were flowing in and out of Africa...
The African Church led the way in preserving the vitality of the faith passed on from the martyrs when Christianity was legally tolerated after 313 A.D. As more and more Christians in the cities began to compromise politically, morally and economically, still others went to the deserts of Egypt and Ethiopia to repent and purify themselves."
Acts 2 Theophany Is Rooted in Exodus 19 & 20
Today, as we choose the path of purifying our hearts and minds, we approach the ancient threshold of counting the 49 days of the Omer, it's the eve of Shavuot, Pentecost. The feast of Shavuot is a harvest festival that also commemorated the giving of the covenant on Mount Sinai. Before I learned how the biblical feast of Pentecost was fulfilled, the events of Acts 2 mystified me. Pentecost, or Shavuot, is one of the three major festivals which required attendance in the Temple.
At nine in the morning, they would have been gathered along with the crowds of Jews from every country who had come to the feast. So the Temple was filled with a sound of a mighty rushing wind, and the vision of tongues resting on them took place in front of thousands of other people.
On Shavuot of this important year, God poured out his Spirit as part of his New Covenant—His new body comprised of humanity. It's no strange thing that the Holy Spirit filled them with the ability to publicly proclaim and praise God in every language.
This Holy Spirit entered the believers’ hearts to guide, convict, correct, give wisdom and enable them to live earnestly connected to Abba's shalom, while highly advocating for the shalom of others.
Shalom Isn't Just A Greeting
Shalom is more than a greeting of peace in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom (שׁלום) is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness.
Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace. In the Bible, the majority of passages on the subject of peace are concerned with family or communal life, that is, with internal peace among the people.
Shalom is physical peace—well-being and abundance.
Shalom is also relational peace—the removal of oppression, the establishment of justice and health-giving relationships between people and nations.
Shalom is also ethical peace—straightforwardness, freedom from deceit and hypocrisy, living with integrity.
The Scriptures use shalom to describe salvation, justice, and peace [see Perry Yoder’s Shalom, the Bible’s Word for Salvation, Justice, and Peace (Evangel Press)].
Unquestionably, the pursuit and presence of shalom is the priority and obligation of the Body of Christ— personally and collectively.
Shalom & Gracism
It is Abba's heart that we create space that's inclusive of time and space that people need to commit to the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19).
When we notice and respond to any prejudice and injustice from within and without with the principle and viewpoint of gracism: God's radical inclusion for all, we will experience the profoundly deep blessings of being a gracist: people who earnestly extend God's grace.
Shalom & Racism
Luke 4:18–19 persuades me that Jesus is not only concerned about people’s spiritual birth and growth, but He’s also concerned about how we experience life after we're physically born. His redemption is about bringing wholeness where there is brokenness. And not merely wholeness, but also something unmistakably new!
It's extremely helpful to understand that in the Bible the English word "race" is translated from the Hebrew word "zera" and the equivalent Greek word "genos" both relate to offspring or seed. In other words, descendants.
The Scriptures never speak of race as we do in our current social construct of designating people into categories by mere appearances or phenotype; rather, the Bible speaks of human lineage, ancestry, tribes, clans, nationality, and ethnicity.
When the Bible speaks about humanity, it speaks of the reality of these distinctions, which allows for the beauty of unity over uniformity without reference to racial hierarchy.
It's helpful to remember that our modern social construct of race divides humanity based on physical peculiarities and pigmentation, which deviates from the way the Scriptures speak about people of common descent. In other words, it's about families who form tribes, clans, and nations—communities. Our English word "race" simply lacks accuracy and scope.
When the Bible refers to humanity, it speaks of us as one of the many kinds of creation, image bearing humankind. It doesn't refer to us as a human race.
Often, I hear people fall into the oversimplified trap of saying, “We are all one race - the human race.” On the surface that statement appears sound, but the Scriptures do not support this. When we attempt to homogenize people, we erroneously dismiss and erase how the Kingdom of Light acknowledges all ethnic groups and preserves them.
It's about family not categories of mere appearances or skin pigmentation. Our differences are meant to show up in the form of blessings to one another—this is a beautiful thing to embrace, not to erase—that's racism.
Thankfully, Pentecost invites us to see and celebrate how Jesus has already plunged us into the ministry of reconciliation of families, ethnic groups, and the heritage of all people. It matters when we talk about people groups from the biblical perspective of image bearers versus what has been historically passed down from power structures, societies, and world views that deviate from God's shalom and heart for the nations and people groups of those nations.
On a personal note, for many years, I've been doing the homework to continue to trace my family tree and to learn of my multifaceted family of origin story. Due to findings which have been researched by other family members and the oral histories which have been passed on by my elders, I'm still discovering the brutal truths of racism within my family, as well as the blessings my ancestors have shared with the world.
Interestingly, I've watched how over the years on the U.S. census that my family has been classified and reclassified in the following "race" designations: Negro, Mulatto, and Black. Yet none of these categories speak of my family lineage.
Why do I bring that up? Because racism, at best, undermines the significance of one's family lineage; and at worst, strips, even erases many of their family identity and ancestral purpose—to uniquely reflect the image of God in the world through our family lineage—gracism restores that. Pentecost celebrates it.
When you sit down and truly consider what we have inherited in the fulfillment of Pentecost, you realize that Jesus gathers in a harvest of people from families who become family members of the divine, yet, never lose their earthly family identity.
I must admit, the closer I approach turning fifty, the deeper I dig into my earthly family's experience and narrative. This deepening will undoubtedly give me new contour for my ongoing healing in my next writing project for the summer of 2019. It's already beginning to help me lean in even more appreciatively to my womanhood and humanity.
As humans, we all have a multifaceted identity. We are not one dimensional beings. Gracism extends to us the gifts of both our earthly and heavenly birthrights. I am a forgiven, beloved, and redeemed soul. I'm also an American descendant of Africans forced into slavery and whose family lineage also includes, Irish, and Indigenous people.
Understandably, there's so much complexity and baggage when it comes to discussing race when we box in each others' ethnicity and heritage, instead of celebrating them.
PAUSE FOR THE CAUSE OF AN AMERICAN HISTORY LESSON (YESTERDAY & TODAY):
Race and race identity gave rise to racism. Race was first officially codified in 15th-Century Spain, as a result of the Spanish Inquisition. In this sense of the word, race was not drawing from the scriptural idea of ancestral lineage and heritage in the Bible.
The counterfeit of social mobility in the social engineering of the 'races' informed attitudes of racism in the British colonies. By the time Africans were introduced in Virginia as slaves, the Spanish had over a century of experience with slavery being used to manipulate and discriminate against Africans both to justify slavery and to enforce and incentivize the system racism required.
The first time the term 'White' rather than Christian or ethnic names—English, Irish, Portuguese and so on—appeared in a public record was seen in a law passed in Virginia in 1691 that prohibited marriage of Europeans with Negroes, Indians, and Mulattos.
Today, in the 21st century, we are harvesting the harm and erosion of racism—we only harvest what we plant. Racism evolves and adapts, it is deeply embedded in our belief systems about one another. Until we begin to go to the roots and dig up what lies underneath, we will inevitably continue to harvest the poisonous fruit of racism—personally and communally.
Even among believers, racism is viewed differently by different people.
A 1992 Washington Post article says that Blacks and other People of Color tend to see racism as an ongoing profound and pervasive condition of American life, while Whites tend to think of racism as individual actions or attitudes of bigotry that are the exception rather than the rule. But racism is not just a matter of what people think, it's also about how a world system operates by indoctrination and perpetuating lies, stereotypes, and myths.
Bringing this topic into the soul care (whole person) and self-care (self-nurture) discussion is meaningful and unavoidable. Meaningful because local churches have been complicit throughout the generations and that complicity has left many devastated and disenfranchised. To address the whole person goes way beyond melanin, it goes into our true multi-faceted identities.
It's unavoidable because our faith is an embodied faith. Racism undermines and dismisses the experience of holy redemption that reconciles connectivity to God and to others—gracism does not.
Gracism allows for God's shalom to liberate us all to see each other in a new and more fully embodied way in light of and not despite our ethnicity, lineage, and ancestry.
Shalom & Sight
What Jesus is bringing is sight, shalom, and redemption and not merely in the sense of personal redemption. There's something far better than having individual redemption and insight.
He’s building a kingdom collective of shalom-makers who operate in such a way that eyes see and ears hear the cries of humanity on this earth through every nation, all tribes, peoples, and languages.
Of course, this is a redemption that influences relationships and structures, but individual choices are also called into account.
Just as Jesus uses us as vessels to demonstrate and speak the Gospel to others, He equips and sends us out into the world to speak shalom and integrate the works of shalom into the structures and systems in our world: politics, economics, law enforcement, education, medicine, genetic research, community development, and myriad others.
And hear me well, racism is not just about noticing the structures working in the background, it is comprised of individual choices, which intentionally or unintentionally reinforce the practices and structures. Racism is not just what is disparagingly said or taken away from one group, it's also what is attributed and given disproportionately to another group.
Shalom-makers are disrupters of practices and structures that do not flow from the heart of the Beloved, in order to open us to Paradise right now and right here on the earth.
As shalom-makers, we strive for total justice and redemption among people, speaking to oppression and deception—not bypassing it.
Simply put, as Yoder says, shalom is making things as they ought to be.
As it relates to being a shalom-maker and bridge builder for the Kingdom of Light, we build upon Jesus, and we must individually and collectively speak grace and truth to deception and oppression in all of its forms and expressions.
No matter our nationality, our ethnicity, or our race, we each must follow Jesus into the rhythms of unity. A unity that causes us to deal with complex issues internally, then externally.
You may be asking, "Does one race or ethnic group have a weightier responsibility when shalom breaks down and life is no longer whole; and needs to be restored. And if so, is it different from anyone else’s?”
In my opinion, the answer is yes and no. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us that we’ve all been given the ministry of reconciliation. It's a WE thing, not a them versus us. It's speaking to all of the races, all of the tribes, and people that comprise a nation.
There is no ethnic designation when Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers (shalom-makers).” The Scriptures tell us to bear each other’s burdens, care for one another, be in one accord, look out for the interests of others and love our neighbors as ourselves.
None of this is limited to a specific ethnic group or culture, it applies to all in the Messiah. It's our ministry of reconciliation birthright and imperative to be shalom-makers.
There are some things that should be unique to an approach when seeking justice, redemption, and dismantling lies that do not flow from the heart of God.
Consider when there was racial and cultural biases, inequality, and injustice addressed by the Jewish spiritual leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 6) with the Grecian and Hebrew widows.
And we see in the record of Acts 15 and Galatians 2:1-10, the role and responsibility assumed by the Jewish spiritual leaders in Jerusalem when they choose to acknowledge and extend hospitality to the Gentiles (those from other nations and ancestry, other than the twelve tribes of Israel).
Shalom-makers are the kind of leaders set on making things as they ought to be; it will require deep reflection, lament, repentance, humility, and repair; it will require Pentecost demonstrative love—an ingathering love.
Shalom, Reconciliation, Repentance, and Renewal
Shalom (wholeness, peace) is the outcome of God's redemptive love, which brings families into God's family through Jesus' ministry of reconciliation. His ministry is a completed and comprehensive work of having restored and reconnected humanity back to the heart of the Father of Lights, as we turn away from our darkness to the light of Jesus in repentance—our response to humbly return home.
When we return home to our heavenly family, any oppressive ideology that exalts itself against Jesus must be confronted, confessed, and brought into submission to Jesus. This is both an individual and a collective responsibility. This is how we spread shalom, which influences and impacts justice, redemption, and our already belonging to one another.
It's essential to realize the frame of reference for justice throughout the Scriptures - justice will always set the stage for shalom, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, and renewal.
When it comes to racism, the fruit of repentance is evident when it is unmasked and submitted to truth. No matter where the truth leads, repentance is enveloped in humility and renewal, and it is Spirit-led and cannot be done without God.
Each one of us must allow the shalom we receive to overflow into our relationships, learning, environments, language, finances, paradigms, and contemplative living. It's important that we see each other through the Beloved. This requires a faith that senses and sees from the new creation viewpoint.
I want you to see all of my lived experiences as a granddaughter of an Arkansas sharecropper. Sharecropping was a fact of life for Black folks and not a pleasant one. For many, sharecropping and chattel slavery were eerily similar circumstances.
So as a minister of the Light, as a brown-skinned embodied woman with predominantly African ancestry—as an American embodied woman—as a joy-filled, lament-acquainted embodied Black woman, I want you to see and hear me speak and move as a truth-teller and shalom-maker.
I want you to see all of what makes me fearfully and wonderfully made—my skin, my culture, my values, my speaking, my devotion to Jesus, my stride, my humor, my writings, my strengths, my weaknesses, my laughter and my creativity. When you allow the presence of my embodied humanity, you also allow yours. The opposite is also true.
You are better off knowing, acknowledging, and celebrating the real depth of the ongoing, holy healing I've had to deal with in racism (and sexism, for that matter) in my own life.
And, I am better off knowing, acknowledging, and celebrating the real depth of your ongoing, holy healing as it pertains to your lived experiences in your personhood—both the good and the not so good.
The gifts of my ongoing story speak of both excellence and suffering. The reality is that I am just a few generations removed from my sharecropping grandparents in Arkansas.
We all have ancestral roots that require us to notice, acknowledge, heal, and resist the structures, practices, patterns, and the learned behaviors of society that undermine and dismiss shalom.
All of who we are from our various cultures, tribes, clans, are gathered together under the nurture of the Prince of Shalom (Peace) from the tribe of Judah. This is the provision and purpose of Pentecost, to harvest many souls from many backgrounds to become one.
When you belong to the Prince of Shalom, He will address race and racism, along with many other sins where our biases, pride, and prejudices oppose Jesus' ministry of reconciliation, just as He did with Peter (Acts 10:1-11:18; Galatians 2:11-21).
There is an ongoing, deep work of Pentecost that continues to unfold for shalom-makers. What lies ahead is an inner work of communion and healing that requires and informs an overflowing outer work of justice, righteousness, and truth. And it cannot be underestimated how this work is significant on a micro level.
Simply put, Jesus leads us to closely examine what is shaping (or misshaping) our kingdom activity and outlook... the books we read, the mentors we have, the friends we have, the racist statements made around us that we do not confront (some we may not even recognize), the music we listen to, the conversations we have with our family members, our buying habits, etc.
Notice the culture, background,
and worldview of these voices.
Ponder how these voices shape your view of shalom, gracism, and racism.
Tap and Download the Life Voices SOULutions worksheet. List the life voices that primarily inform you...
closest friends, mentors, theologians, authors, music.
Adapted from the self assessment in the book, "White Awake," by Daniel Hill.
A Soul Care Gracism Checkpoint Guide
This checkpoint guide is adapted from many hours of research, pastoral care, and personal application over the years.
1. Awareness / Recognition: Before you have hard conversations, you must commit to a journey of revelation and healing to honestly unpack systematic and unconscious biases. Systemic bias is prejudice, bigotry, or unfairness directed by health, educational, government, judicial, legal, religious, political, financial, media, or cultural institutions towards individuals of an oppressed or marginalized group. Implicit or unconscious bias is prejudice, bigotry, or unfairness directed by someone from a privileged group towards individuals from an oppressed or marginalized group. To put it simply, systemic biases are barriers maintained by institutions while unconscious biases are ones upheld by individuals.
Systemic racism is entrenched and upheld in status, propaganda, economics, and power, which is governed by behavioral norms that support "othering." Racism infects all, it robs us all—the oppressor and the oppressed, it's an evil scheme used as leverage against all humanity by the Father of Lies. By the way, even though there's no monolithic narrative for any people group, there's a collective experience that must cause us to become very aware of the lens with which one interprets. We have all been indoctrinated and we must all reeducate, rediscover, and recover the truth our hearts and minds require to do an ongoing inner healing work to face what triggers us (easier said than done).
2. Listen / Immerse: Open up to the spiritual discipline and art of lament (communal and personal lamenting). Spiritual detachment will not yield much fruit if you avoid facing unresolved emotional issues and the psychological wounds that accompany the trauma of racism. Jesus shows us how to listen without assumptions. I admit that shame can be tempting as you listen and immerse yourself and get in proximity with others who are wounded from the marginalization racism creates. You must be committed to an ongoing work that leaves little room for self-pity. You can easily get lost in the attempt to connect and do the deep work of shalom-healing, but the Jesus way to renewal, restoration, and reconciliation is embedded in the incarnation - we must flesh it out unquestionably.
3. Risk and Relationship: Be aware of the level of your relationship as you walk as a shalom-maker and bridge builder. Remember, Jesus is the bridge, not our personhood or our activity. Don't be in a rush. You must let the relationship develop healthily. It's to be expected to experience hurt and to be hurt (it's unavoidable, we all have biases and blind spots). Learn to circle back in a conversation (if you didn't get it right) without a stance of defensiveness. Assume you have much to learn (because you do). Be slow to speak, slow to anger, and quick to listen - you can minimize unnecessary damage to another when you pace yourself and avoid projecting your lived reality upon another.
4. Risk and Structures: Caring about people (not fixing them) means to try to relate to emotional experience AND the situations they’re in, discern and take action for the sake of Jesus' scepter of righteousness, which expresses itself it terms of truth, justice, and mercy. This is the reality of God's love.
Pentecost is a beautiful picture of the ripening of unity, it's an accumulative reality of justice and reconciliation. This festival of the LORD is a stunning clarion call for what the Kingdom of Light teaches about our communion, inclusion, oneness, and fruitfulness.
2 Corinthians 5:19, sums it up well. Rather than use one Bible version for this passage, I'll provide six different Bible versions.
2 Corinthians 5:19:
ARAMAIC BIBLE IN PLAIN ENGLISH: For God was in The Messiah - he who reconciled the universe with his Majesty, and he has not accounted their sins to them and has placed in us our own message of the reconciliation.
NEW LIVING TRANSLATION: For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION: that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH VERSION: What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace.
THE COMPLETE JEWISH BIBLE: Which is that God in the Messiah was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION: Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
May you be sobered up and enlightened all the more this Pentecost Sunday, as you commit to the ministry of reconciliation personally and collectively.
Tap and download the Omer counting guide to remind your soul of the significance of the
everyday, small harvest. Share it with a friend.
More SOULution Resources For You
Links for further discovery
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