Category: Church
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I walked out of church in the middle of service. I grew up in church; my stepfather of 15 years is a pastor; as recently as 2009, I led a ministry team at one of Atlanta’s Baptist megachurches. Thus, my choice to get up and walk out while the pastor was speaking defied every notion of decorum I have ever been taught.

But when he stood to express his unequivocal support for Atlanta megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar who was arrested late last week for committing simple battery and cruelty to a child on his fifteen year old daughter, I had to go.

I have struggled in recent years to reconcile my long-standing faith, to my relatively more recent feminist commitments. And it is precisely because of the Black Church’s continued willingness to advocate problematic, violent, hierarchical stances against women and gay people that I continue to struggle.

According to the police report, Dollar told his daughter she couldn’t go to a party due to bad grades. From there the situation got real ugly. His daughter left the room, went into the kitchen and started crying. Dollar followed her, asked why she was crying, and when she indicated that she didn’t want to talk to him, she says that he “then charged her, put his hands around her throat and began to choke her, slammed her to the ground and began to punch her, and took off his shoe and started whooping her with it.” The victim’s 19 year old sister, who witnessed the altercation, backed up her sister’s story. Dollar, himself, admitted only to using a shoe.

In classic fashion, Dollar denied everything yesterday, as he entered his sanctuary to a standing ovation. “She was not choked. She was not punched….I should never have been arrested.” Elsewhere he said, “All is well in the Dollar household.”

Apparently, his daughters are bald-faced liars. Both of them. And apparently, they resent him so much that they would concoct this magnificently violent tale in order to have him arrested. If he thinks all is well, clearly he isn’t well.

So now let’s entertain the notion that his daughters are telling the truth or at least some truth.

What would it look like for our faith communities to be places where Black girls could testify about the violence they experience from the men in our communities and be believed?

What would it look like for Black women, the primary attendants and financial supporters of the Black Church, to demand accountability from the overwhelmingly male leadership in our pulpits?

The most troubling thing about Creflo’s statement was the overwhelming amount of support from his female parishioners. I can’t help but notice the admixture of fear and disappointment on the fifteen year old girls face in the above video (1:19) as her mother actively sides with Creflo for the cameras.

What would it mean for us to recognize that when we refuse to believe the testimony of other Black women and girls, it makes our own witness “for the Lord,” before the law, and before anyone else we need to believe us less credible?

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Posted on: 03/21/12:

A Lament for Trayvon Martin

Category: Black
Posted by: AWilkes
On Sunday, February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man, argues that he was acting in self-defense. Incredibly, Mr. Zimmerman has not yet been arrested. However, due to the organizing efforts of his parents, civil rights groups, MSNBC shows, and concerned citizens, the latest racialized miscarriage of our criminal justice system is now getting the widespread attention that it deserves. On Monday, March 20th, it was announced that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are embarking upon an independent investigation into the causes and circumstances of Mr. Martin’s death. Many important commentaries have been written on the death of Trayvon Martin: in particular, Mark Jefferson’s piece on the Urban Cusp merits special attention.

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Category: Culture
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian – A Review
by Brian Bantum

Bloodlines is a curious book. In it John Piper, a prominent white pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, steps out to speak about the problem of race in the American church. Where many prominent white clergy have remained silent, Piper turns his attention to one of the silent tragedies of American Christianity, the perpetual racial and ethnic division of its congregational life.
In so doing, Piper seems to be saying what many who are concerned with racial and ethnic division within the church have been hoping white Christians could say in these conversations. Piper first admits his own history of racism and bigotry (ch. 1), attending not only to the question of personal responsibility but also to the structural aspects of racism in the United States. Then, after highlighting Christ’s own groundbreaking life—the ways in which his ministry continually broke through the racial and ethnic boundaries of his own time (ch. 7 and 8)—Piper concludes by calling Christians to mutual sacrifice at the cross of Christ, to never quit in our response to Christ’s love and power, and to always seek harmony (ch. 16 and “Conclusion”).

But Bloodlines is a curious book because lodged within these important contributions are approaches that seem to undercut the very aims Piper strives to articulate. For instance, Piper draws upon the work of such African American intellectuals as Michael Eric Dyson and Henry Louis Gates Jr. to highlight the realities of structural racism, but he compresses these conversations into three brief pages, whereas his discussion of racism and personal responsibility, leaning upon the work of such conservative African American intellectuals as Juan Williams, Shelby Steele, and Dinesh D’Souza, is much longer, is given more sympathetic treatment, and is drawn upon in various ways throughout the rest of the book. Piper claims to not take sides (85), and yet he leaves behind the insights of Dyson and Gates when it gets to the work of describing what “Christ-exalting” diversity looks like.

The way in which Piper navigates these various interlocutors suggests that within the vision of diversity that Piper imagines, the fundamental concerns of those contrary voices have only been faintly heard. Although he highlights Steele’s exhortation that “What black and white Americans fear are the sacrifices and risks that true harmony demands” (233), Piper seems somewhat unwilling to allow conversation partners such as Dyson much say in his own vision of the world.

As Piper moves from a consideration of the social context of race to a consideration of how a Christian should understand these issues, he embarks upon an extended exegesis of Scripture, highlighting the ways in which Christ’s life and work on the cross overcame ethnic division and provided a definitive answer to any notion of racial superiority. Piper’s Christology, which is drawn from a neo-Reformed view, is aimed at showing that “not only did our ethnic distinctives contribute nothing to our election, and nothing to our ransom on the cross, but our ethnic distinctives also contributed nothing to the rise of our faith and the emergence of our repentance. We are all equally dependent on irresistible grace to be called and to believe and to be saved” (167).

Although few would argue that a Christocentric view isn’t crucial to the church’s wrestling with the question of race, Piper’s emphasis on Christ’s work and reconciliation transcends race and ethnicity in such a way that tends to erase Christ’s personhood as a Jew. He undercuts his message of reconciliation and racial harmony by excising ethnic particularity from both our condition of unfaithfulness and our communion with God in heaven. Piper writes, “The seriousness of our sin is determined not mainly by the nature of our deed but the nature of the one we dishonor. A sin against an infinitely worthy God is an infinite sin. Color and ethnicity will count for nothing in the court of heaven. One thing will count: the perfection of Jesus Christ” (68). If this is the case, what is racial and ethnic difference at all? Is Christ no longer a Jew, and what does this mean for the lineage—or in Piper’s words, the “bloodline”—of Israel? By making such claims, Piper strips away the significance of Christ’s particular ethnic life and of our own racial, ethnic, and national lives. At best this fundamentally ignores Christ’s participation in the liturgical and cultural life of Israel; at worst, it leans toward Gnosticism; and either way, by obscuring the particular characteristics of people, this kind of racial blindness runs counter to Piper’s overarching goal of racial harmony.
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Posted on: 09/28/11:

The Troy Davis Dilemma

Category: Social
Posted by: AWilkes
The State of Georgia executed Troy Davis on September 21st at 11:08pm. Twitter activity subsequently mushroomed, yielding three Davis related trends — #RIPTROYDAVIS, #DearGeorgia, and #JusticeSystem. This post from Nightline anchor Terry Moran was frequently re-tweeted:

Questions abound. If we begin with a common political science definition of government as the monopoly of legitimate coercion — and our general acceptance of police, taxes, and the like suggest that we do — we might further ask: Under what circumstances can coercion be legitimately exercised? Is capital punishment a legitimate exercise of force?

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Category: Black
Posted by: KHarrell
In a world filled with problems and difficult situations that demand our attention, I have found one situation that dominates my thinking. The problem is the dilemma which faces the Black Christian intellectual in America. Intellectuals, those strange creatures who choose to live a life of the mind, are an unappreciated group throughout the world. In a world that has come to think of education solely in terms of its utilitarian function of producing useful employees for the marketplace rather than exposing people to the market place of ideas, the stubborn intellectual is a stranger and alienated.

Of course, some societies value their intellectuals more than others. In this regard, Western Europe comes to mind. The United States of America has long been criticized for its anti-intellectual atmosphere and I am convinced that this critique rings true. For all of our advancements in the economic arena and technology, American society has a profound distrust of intellectuals and intellectualism. As a result of this distrust, Americans are reluctant to create environments in which intellectuals can flourish. This includes our colleges and universities which have long surrendered themselves to the pressure of producing viable employees for capital markets. This reality has had a devastating effect on all intellectually inclined persons but has even more negatively impacted the Black American intellectuals who have few infrastructures outside of academic ones to hone their craft.

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Category: Black
Posted by: LDawson
This essay was originally published in Reformed Theological Seminary - Orlando's Semper Informanda: Prolegomenon Volume V Issue XX.

On January 17, 2011, we as a nation observed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Since 1986, this has been established as a U.S. federal holiday. Every year when this holiday comes around it reminds people of the civil rights movement. This movement, prominent during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, is arguably one of the darkest times in American history and church history.

Dr. King is most notably remembered for his leadership during the civil rights movement. He labored endlessly to make visible what was invisible in American society, which was racial equality and justice for black Americans. His mission was to make “justice a reality for all of God’s children.”[1]

Dr. King labored tirelessly to make the crooked areas (racial segregation, discrimination, and injustice) of American society straight. Some examples of his tireless efforts include when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and the march on Washington, D.C., in 1963. As a Baptist minister, the bible was instrumental in his life. It guided and governed his leadership of the civil right movement, and it was the Word of God that framed his worldview. He saw that the Scriptures teach that all human beings are created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity as image bearers of God, regardless of race, gender, or age.

King saw this belief reflected in our nation’s Declaration of Independence, in the familiar words that “all men are created equal.” All the evidence confirmed his convictions, but these truths were not visible in American society or, for that matter, in the American church. Instead of racial equality Dr. King saw that the life of blacks was “sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”[2] Black Americans were targets of systemic injustice, police brutality, and they were forced to live in poverty in the midst of a prosperous nation. They experienced hatred instead of love, even in the Christian church where congregations were taught to love their neighbors as themselves. The black community, Christians and non-Christians alike, experienced rejection from white Christians.

Seeing that his reality was not matching up with what he read in Scripture, Dr. King sought to do something about it. He gave all his energy and strength to the cause of social justice. In the spirit of William Wilberforce, he was passionate about seeking to implement legislation that would give blacks their citizenship rights.

Truth that travels is an excellent way to summarize the life and times of Dr. King. He knew the truth, he acted on it, and he opened the eyes of others to see that truth. He put his life on the line for the biblical cause of human dignity and justice. His sacrifice is marked by stark statistics: in the span of about 13 years he was arrested 30 times, his home was fire-bombed, and on one occasion he nearly died from stab wounds—all in the pursuit of justice.

Ultimately, Dr. King gave his life in order to make “justice a reality for all of God’s children,”[3] which sadly ended at the young age of 39 when he was shot in Memphis, Tenn. His life and determination is a great example of a person living in accordance with biblical truth. His life is by far one of “the greatest demonstrations for freedom in the history of our nation.”[4]

Lloyd Dawson
A RBA African American Imagination and Theological Project scholar

1. Martin Luther King, “I Have A Dream,” available from; Internet; accessed 16 February 2011.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.

Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
My brief (slightly fuller) reflection on the significance of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. published in The Center for Public Justice's Capital Commentary.

In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Where Do We Go from Here?”, his last address as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he diagnosed the fundamental problem that beset the U.S. in 1967:
One night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn't get bogged down in the kind of isolated approach of what he shouldn't do. Jesus didn't say, "Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, now you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively." He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic - that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down in one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."

He said, in other words, "Your whole structure must be changed."…What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"
Instead of proscribing a set of prohibitions that would not be sufficient for genuine change, King’s diagnosis of America draws us to the very precondition for national transformation – the rebirth of its citizens. His Jesus-inflected call for America to be reborn is not merely to a spiritual reawakening. Its message pushes beyond the obfuscating mantras of eternal damnation being rehearsed “while we create a hell for the poor” on earth. Rather, it is a moral vision that is inaugurated when we as citizens die to our indifference to injustice in order to be resurrected with a deeper hope in humanity and love for the least of these. In short, King is attempting to unleash a recreated moral citizen into our fragile American democracy that refuses to be arrested by arrogance, chained by cowardliness, and held hostage to hatred.

Xavier Pickett
Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
My brief political commentary on the new book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, published in The Center for Public Justice's Capital Commentary:
Will the Next Christians Bear Fruit?

It is quite possible that the end of Christian America may be, in part, due to the gospel rhetoric of Christian America no longer being able to carry the weight of our political reality. This then points to the ways in which Lyon’s book could impact political discourse in our pluralistic society. Lyon argues, “Unconcerned with outcomes, Christ’s followers must get back to the heart of their faith—recovering, relearning, and rebuilding from the core first, and then out.”

In a complex political climate where issues ranges from Wall Street Reform to the record high poverty figures of 2009 to the “take back my country” Tea Party movement, we should be suspicious of any group of citizens who are “unconcerned with outcomes.” If we as ordinary democratic citizens are to take seriously the Christian vision that Lyon offers, can we really afford to turn our cheek to the outcomes of his vision? Every Christian vision must be held accountable to the type of fruit (or the lack thereof) that it bears.

The fact of being any type of Christian does not guarantee prudent or productive political payoffs for all Americans. What this political moment needs is fewer Christians focusing on settling matters of theological dogma. Instead, our country needs more ordinary (Christian) citizens courageously testing the claims that we all make in public in order to determine whether they bear good fruit.
Xavier Pickett
Category: General
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Getting in Front of Jesus: The Politics of Progressive Christianity (Part II)
By Brad R. Braxton

How can progressive Christians "get in front" of Jesus by using the gospel forward to address pressing social dilemmas? In response to this question, I will discuss two moments from Jesus' story and "remix" them. A remix occurs when fresh elements are introduced into an old framework, thereby creating a new story.

The Birth of Jesus: A Progressive Remix

According to the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was born in a social context where a cruel king worked on behalf of Rome to ensure Caesar's sovereignty. After learning of Jesus' birth, King Herod plots to kill Jesus. An angel warns Joseph of Herod's wicked intentions. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus become immigrants, fleeing the harsh conditions of their homeland to secure safety and a better future in Egypt. Unable to locate Jesus, Herod sends a decree to murder all children in and around Bethlehem who are two years old and under.

Every Christmas, Christians look back to the birth of Jesus. We even replicate the sentimental parts of the story with pageants and live nativity scenes. My progressive remix focuses on the more tragic elements of the story. Instead of looking back and adoring the "sweet little Jesus boy" in the manger, the story can be a launching pad for prophetic discipleship and twenty-first-century social justice activism.

Here is the remix: let progressive Christian communities insist that President Obama and Congress enact just and humane immigration reform. The story of Jesus might have been different if Joseph and Mary had been sent back to Israel from Egypt because they were considered "undocumented workers," or worse, "illegal aliens." There are many Latino, African, and Asian "Marys" and "Josephs" who are returned to deathly contexts because of U.S. immigration laws. U.S. immigration laws should protect and preserve families, especially those already victimized by economic and social oppression resulting from policies benefiting the United States.

Furthermore, progressive Christian communities should insist that our nation become serious about reducing youth violence. How can we read about the innocent children slaughtered in Bethlehem and not immediately think about the innocent children being slaughtered in our cities? In the ancient world, Jesus escaped death as a child because he had resourceful parents with a "holy hookup." But what about those parents in Bethlehem who lacked resources to escape? And what about the countless contemporary parents who lack the means and influence to live in well-policed neighborhoods with safe schools?

In Chicago, hundreds of young people are constant victims of gun violence. How can the United States posture as a leader of peace when we can't even ensure the safety of children in our schools and neighborhoods? If we can raise money and public interest in a failed attempt to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago, we can raise money and public interest to fund serious violence prevention measures in Chicago and across the country.

Additionally, in order to prevent the further massacre of young people, progressive Christians must persuade President Obama and Congress to stop the deluge of automatic weapons that floods the streets of our country. We send brave men and women to fight Al Qaeda thousands of miles away but are scared to take on the National Rifle Association right across the Potomac River. By going beyond the story of Jesus' birth, we faithfully follow Jesus into areas of social engagement concerning immigration, violence prevention, and gun reform.

The Death of Jesus: A Progressive Remix

Jesus, a young, innocent African-Asiatic Jew, was sent to the Roman death chamber on trumped-up charges. A brown brother in his thirties wrongly executed by the state -- which century are we talking about, the first or the twenty-first? Indeed, twenty centuries after Jesus' execution, injustices abound and continue to sentence other young, innocent people to death, whether by lethal injection or suffocating poverty. In the name of a just God, this must stop.
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Category: Politics
Posted by: RBAFounderX
Same-Sex "Marriage" Is Not a Civil Right
by James W. Skillen

A gay-marriage advocate in Boston explained to a radio reporter that marriage is a civil matter, not a church affair. Those who want church weddings can have them, but marriage is a matter of civil law. And since it is unconstitutional to deny equal civil rights to citizens, it is unconstitutional to deny to homosexual couples the right to marry.

At this important moment in the U.S. debate over same-sex "marriage" and the likelihood of a long campaign to try to add a marriage amendment to the Constitution, it is important to evaluate the grounds of the arguments. In particular, we need to be clear about what constitutes a civil right.

It is certainly true that the contention over marriage is about civil law. Marriage law has long been a state matter, and in the United States that has meant, literally, a state rather than a federal matter. In any case, the law has until now taken for granted that marriage is an institutional bond between a man and a woman. Moreover, marriage is something people of all faiths and no faith engage in. Churches, synagogues, and mosques may bless marriages but they do not create the institution. In that sense the question of marriage is not first of all a religious matter in the sense in which most people use the word "religion."

However, to insist that the question of marriage is a matter of civil law and not first of all a religious matter does not take us very far. After all, the argument is about what government ought to do about keeping or changing the legal definition of marriage. The debate is not between husbands and wives within the bond of traditional marriage—like a court case over divorce and child custody. No, this debate is about whether the law that now defines marriage is itself good or bad, right or wrong. And to join that debate one must appeal, by moral argument, to grounds that transcend the law as it now exists. In that regard, the question of marriage is not about a civil right at all. It is about the nature of reality and interpretations of reality that precede the law.

Those who now argue that same-sex couples should be included, as a matter of civil right, within the legal definition of marriage are appealing to the constitutional principles of equal protection and equal treatment. But this is entirely inappropriate for making the case for same-sex "marriage." To argue that the Constitution guarantees equal treatment to all citizens, both men and women, does not say anything about what constitutes marriage, or a family, or a business enterprise, or a university, or a friendship. An appeal for equal treatment would certainly not lead a court to require that a small business enterprise be called a marriage just because two business partners prefer to think of their business that way. Nor would equal treatment of citizens before the law require a court to conclude that those of us who pray before the start of auto races should be allowed to redefine our auto clubs as churches.

The simple fact is that the civil right of equal treatment cannot constitute social reality by declaration. Civil rights protections function simply to assure every citizen equal treatment under the law depending on what the material dispute in law is all about. Law that is just must begin by properly recognizing and distinguishing identities and differences in reality in order to be able to give each its legal due.

One kind of social relationship that government recognizes, for example, is a free contract by which two or more parties agree to carry out a transaction or engage in some kind of activity. Let's say you contract with me to paint your house. The law of contract does not define ahead of time what might be contracted; it simply clarifies the legal obligations of the contracting parties and the consequences if the contract is broken. Governments and lawyers and the law do not create the people, the house, the paint, and my desire to paint your house for a price that you want to pay. The point is that even in contract law, the law plays only a limited role in the relationship. The law encompasses the relationship only in a legal way.

If someone wants to argue that two people who have not in the past been recognized as marriage partners should now be recognized as marriage partners, one must demonstrate that marriage law (not civil rights law) has overlooked or misidentified something that it should not have overlooked or misidentified. For thousands of years, marriage law has concerned itself with a particular kind of enduring bond between a man and a woman that includes sexual intercourse—the kind of act that can (but does not always) lead to the woman's pregnancy. A homosexual relationship, regardless of how enduring it is as a bond of loving commitment, does not and cannot include sexual intercourse leading to pregnancy. Thus it is not marriage.

The much disputed question of whether same-sex relationships are morally good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, is beside the point at this stage of legal consideration. The first question is about identity and difference. This is the material legal matter of properly recognizing and identifying what exists and distinguishing between marriages and auto clubs, between schools and banks, between friendships and multinational corporations. It has nothing to do with civil rights.

To recognize in law the distinct character of a marriage relationship, which entails sexual intercourse, involves no discrimination of a civil rights kind against those whose bonds do not include sexual intercourse. Those who choose to live together in life-long homosexual relationships; or brothers and sisters who live together and take care of one another; or two friends of the same sex who are not sexually involved but share life together in the same home—all of these may be free to live as they do, and they suffer no civil rights discrimination by not being identified as marriages. There is no civil rights discrimination against an eight-year-old youngster who is denied the right to enter into marriage. There is no civil rights discrimination being practiced against a youngster who is not allowed the identity of a college student because she is not qualified to enter college. There is no civil-rights discrimination involved when the law refuses to recognize my auto club as a church. A marriage and a homosexual relationship are two different kinds of relationships and it is a misuse of civil rights law to use that law to try to blot out the difference between two different kinds of things.
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