Tuesday, January 16, 2018

THE SOCIAL GOSPEL SLANDER

Every once in a while someone decides to smear those who advocate social righteousness in the practice of both the church as congregation, and the church as members, as the “Social Gospel.”

   It is perfectly fine with me to have brothers and sisters debate the extent or parameters of local churches, or the denomination, to deal with social injustices, oppression, and social moral evils.  However, with both positive and negative words and actions, public and social sinfulness needs to be confronted by somebody.  Certainly we know this is part of the role of government as mentioned in Romans 13, where we are taught that those in authority are to commend those who do right, but hold terror for those who do wrong.

   How is the government supposed to know what that is exactly , i.e., what is the difference between those two things, what is good and what is wrong?  Do we leave this for “common grace,” that we should assume any and all people who might end up in politics and government know the difference?  Do we as believers feel any responsibility to be a moral and ethical voice to secular government, based on Biblical and godly values?  Do we feel that the realm of government is none of our business?  Do we leave this for those Christians who get into government to carry that burden, if they are indeed trying to be “Christian” in their role as politicians and governors?  Do we assume that partisan ideologies are the same as justice and moral righteousness?  (God help you if you believe that.)

   Some of the “smearing” or labeling against those of us who call for the church, and its members, to live out justice and morality in society is due to a misunderstanding (ignorance) of historical theology in regard to the Social Gospel movement.  Some of the labeling I suspect comes down to which social issues are being discussed.  Conservatives tend to have their favorite social issues, which to them are seen as legitimate moral issues so they tend not to describe them as social gospel liberalism.  These issues are abortion, human trafficking, homosexuality and the gay rights agenda, and alcoholism (though we don’t hear so much about temperance these days).

    On a side note it is interesting to me to observe how “Fundamentalist” moral issues have been superseded by secular activists in realms of anti-smoking (public health), sobriety (AA and the recovery “industry”), and sexual constraint (the “me too” movement).  These public movements have probably brought more public “buy in” to concern about behavior than the legalism of fundamentalism.  This would probably make for some good research in a doctoral program.

   Debating the role of the local church versus the involvement of its members is one thing, but to confuse a call for the social application of justice and moral righteousness to society’s ills with a theology that abandoned the need for personal redemption and conversion and replaced it with a passion for societal reform, is to call fellow believers who are members by confession and vows of an orthodox religion -heretics.  It is a lie, it is a slander, and frankly seems  intended to avoid social responsibility as an obedient follower of Jesus Christ.

   People need to be saved, by the blood of Christ, who died for sinners.  The cross was a legal and redemptive transaction within the Trinity to satisfy the wrath and righteousness of God.  People need to believe in Jesus, and He transforms them.  Inner and personal transformation is a necessity for a relationship to God, and that can only happen by grace.  At the same time there is a Kingdom of God, and it is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.   We are saved unto good works, and those good works are for the good of human beings.  God, the God of the Bible, is a God of justice, who hates wickedness, and oppression.

    Preachers have to preach, teach, and model good works.  Not as a means to salvation or as a substitute for it, but as the end of it.  Any preacher who takes his stand that the local church should not be involved in works of mercy, or should stand against local, national, or international injustice, better be preaching, stimulating, and even commanding his people to do good works; or he is simply an obstacle to the Kingdom of God, if not its enemy.  The preaching of grace does not nullify the teaching or practicing of good works but empowers them, with liberty and joy.

    Most of the time teaching that the local church shouldn’t do anything in terms of social mercy or justice is a luxury of the wealthy, middle and upper class church.  Those people have the money, the education and the social networks to deal with their problems.  When the church is among the poor then widows often have to be fed by the church itself, and not given over to their own retirement funds.  One’s wealth perspective often deprives us of an adequate view not only of reality, but of Biblical application.

   There was a theological movement of the early twentieth century, led by men such as Walter Rauschenbusch, who looked upon the need for personal redemption as a mistaken view of the teachings of Jesus.  While advocating some of the teaching of Jesus he separated Jesus from his saving work to focus on a social application of love and peace. 

  Obviously those are worthy things, but not good enough for those who wish to be holistically obedient.  Men need personal salvation and redemption, they need their characters changed in order to be able to deal with both their own sins and their own eternity, and to prevent them from sinning against others.  Love can only really and radically come from the God who is love within us, and not some moral sentiment.

   We need social activists who rise up within and from the church who are saved and blood washed by Jesus, and who become advocates for love, goodness, and peace within the world.  We need activists who preach the cross, while they feed the hungry, and stand against evil.


END.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

ARROGANCE

THIS TOWER HAS MY NAME ON IT
“All who walk in pride He is able to humble,”
Says Nebuchadnezzar.
A proud king, if there was ever
And ever was there a tree
Quite as tall as me?
As large, as strong
So high
Whose top can touch the sky?
Where beasts find a bed
And by its fruit the birds are fed?

“All who walk in pride He is able to humble,”
Says Nebuchadnezzar,
Who called for Belteshazzer,
A wise man, clever
To discern dreams and mysteries.

What does it mean, this dream that was sent,
About whom or why and what was meant
When the messenger said, “cut it down
And let it be stripped?”

What does it mean, “live with the animals?
Imprisoned in an animals mind?”
I’m not a beast
But of the kingly kind!

“All who walk in pride He is able to humble,”
Says Nebuchadnezzar.
“Here is my tower, here is my wall
My name in gold letters
Triumphant and all.
Has there ever been such glory to see,
Is this not my kingdom, the name I have built?
This was by my doing,
An empire of me!

“All who walk in pride He is able to humble,”
Says Nebuchadnezzar.
He who makes kings eat grass like kind
Nebuchadnezzar knew,
For God took his mind.

The King of Heaven does as He pleases
Regarding the boastful,
Their claims as a tease.
Takes note of neglect
Those who will not respect
Nor acknowledge
The Most High as Sovereign.

He can give or take knowledge,
Sanity, wealth, life, and power
To the one whom he pleases.
Assigns them their hour,
And tombs,
Which remain their houses forever,
Even their dwelling place for generations;
Though they had named lands after themselves.

Randy Nabors
January, 2018



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

UGLY RELATIVES

   I have been watching the unfolding Evangelical internecine squabble, the civil war of social/theological embarrassment.  I have been listening to the racial/cultural commentary of the “woke,’ the sometimes arrogant, condescending, and despising rhetoric from those seeking distance from the uncool part of Jesus followers.  I too have been embarrassed by my so-called brethren excusing racial, sexual, and materialistic misbehavior in the name of political moral achievement.  I was glad for the Christmas break, as people seemed to take some time off from bashing each other, separating, excluding, mocking, or excusing.

   I am looking for a cooler tribe.  I am seeking authentic, true, and reliable branding; at least until hypocrisy appears in my new self-identified group.  In the end I suppose I shall have to run away from myself, sin just seems to keep showing up in this lonely group of one known as me.

   Some of the old songs give me tags, though we have the ability to make hash out of them.  “Lord I want to be a Christian in my heart,” and “I have decided to follow Jesus!”   “I’m gonna treat everybody right!”  Right.

   Well, how can I tell you that I believe in Jesus, which means I believe the Bible to be true, but I am educated and intelligent (self-assessment confessed)  and really like science, and I really want to follow Jesus by loving people, and think he wants me to pursue justice, and mercy, and love?  Part of following Jesus means (for me) to not practice being a racist, and I see that as a very human condition of ethno-centrism but gets aggravated and complicated when we have power and privilege.  Following Jesus means for me to actually hate evil, which puts me in conflict with those who think love means having no boundaries, standards, or penalties, but only tolerance except for those who think God draws lines.  I mean, doesn’t he somewhere, eventually?

   Following Jesus for me means that I believe that the God of the Bible is big, Sovereign, King, Lord, boss, planner and disposer and as such I call myself Reformed and think that God can use even delusional, paranoid, and narcissistic presidents for his own purposes but has the ability to make kings eat grass and be diseased in their legs when they take to themselves the idea that they are a god. 

    So, I’m not afraid, but I’m also a pragmatic American and a believer that the controlling God of destiny looks for someone to stand in the gap and make a difference.  So, I’m an activist and want to struggle and fight for life, righteousness and social righteousness in the practice of equitable justice, and peace.

   I want to live my life as if the future depends on how I live it, but with enough equanimity and humility so I can enjoy my life built on the assurance that God will work things out no matter if I fail, or others fail me, or you, or all of us.  I also would like to be patient, not think so much of myself and be kind – at least on a personal level.  I keep wishing others were teachable, so I suppose I need to have that for myself. 

    I suppose all of us have relatives that don’t know how to dress, or even if dressed we can’t take them anywhere because they don’t know how to act.  It is so much fun to despise them.  I am struggling with just how much distance I can put between myself and them before one of us loses the family name.  I suppose I can always change the name, it is just the genetics I’m stuck with, and no matter my superiority to ugly relatives someone unrelated is still sure to claim there is a family resemblance.  I just wish we all looked a lot more like Jesus.


END.

Monday, December 18, 2017

JUSTICE IS COMING!

Is justice inevitable?  Is it true, as Theodore Parker (a Unitarian minister) first said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice!”  One sees a touch of realism in that statement, that to get to justice we will have to wait quite a while.  There is also a touch of optimistic idealism, or even fatalism, that the force of morality is heading in a positive direction.

   Idealism is a slander used against Christianity, usually by Marxists and certainly non-believers.  Christians affirm that we are idealists, but only in the sense that we think prophecy and Scripture, via the revelation of God himself, is not chance or luck, but certainty.  The Reverend Parker’s statement however seems to be an echo of Christianity, almost there, but not quite.  He has its optimism, without its certainty.  Maybe he has its hope, but based on what?

    In the Christmas season we sometimes hear this passage from Isaiah 42…
“Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.  [There it is!]  he will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.  [There it is again!] He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coast lands wait for his law.” (verses 1-4).

   If this is true, then Jesus, the one about whom this passage promises, “will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth…”  Now that is a reason for optimism, and hope, and endurance.  I take it that this means Jesus will not stop till His work is done.  So, how is he going to do that exactly?   Is this solely the work of his Second Coming?  Is this a passage about trusting in the power of God to finally, completely, and inevitably bring about justice in the earth, by his power and intervention?

    And does that mean that the only thing we need is the faith to believe it?  That in spite of the centuries of war, of invasions, oppression, slavery, racism, colonialism, genocide, and the rape, pillaging, execution, and dehumanizing of one’s person, family, people, clan, ethnicity, and nation by other human beings we are simply to wait in constant faith?  Is this supposed to give us contentment, peace, and some kind of consolation as we bury the bodies?

   The Reverend Parker was an abolitionist.  This means he was an activist of sort, not someone who was content to simply wait for that “institution” to outlive its  usefulness.  He wanted to be an agent of justice, to be an agent of bending that moral arc toward the correct inclination.  

   As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, as a believer that we are the body of Christ on earth, as a believer that as God is a God of justice so also his people are to be people of justice, that as the Church of Jesus Christ we are to proclaim the Kingdom of God throughout the earth, and that we are to make disciples of every ethnic group, and that as the Church we are to teach these disciples “everything that I have commanded you,” then the task of Jesus in pursuing and completing justice in the earth is also our task.

    We do this with a certain hard faced realism about that task, its difficulty, its horrendous price of martyrdom, its discouraging and frustrating delay, but also with a faith beyond our abilities, determination, and patience.  Our trust in the triumph of justice is because we rest in the triumph of Christ.  Our energy is found in confidence that he will accomplish some of that work through us.  As Isaiah puts it, “he will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth.”   “The earth,” the place where we live, in the place that needs justice so desperately, the Lord Jesus is on campaign.  It is a place where we do grow faint, fall apart, panic, throw up our hands, and curse the world and others.  Yet Jesus does not, and therefore as he lives in us, we will not.

   I just want to encourage you.  The work of Jesus is the work of justice, and it is going to happen no matter what anybody’s army says about it.  We need to be about his work, preaching the Gospel, making disciples, speaking truth, living the Kingdom, until the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth like the waters cover the sea.  It is going to take time; that is what that little word “till” means.  That word also means that there will be a definite conclusion to the matter, and that is when the world is finally healed from its sorrow, turmoil, and pain.  
END.


   

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

THE PATHETIC PREPARATION OF PASTORS FOR PRACTICAL PERFORMANCE


   So what does the average seminarian actually know how to do when he enters the ministry?  Notice, I didn’t ask how much he knows.  He probably knows more than he will ever actually make use of in ministry to real people, or even in ministry to himself.  Depending on the Presbytery that examines him he will probably be pressed to know a great many facts and details about all kinds of things theological, historical, and hermeneutical. 

    The candidate for ordination will be force fed with knowledge, and then squeezed like a lemon, so that the committee can examine him to the point of dripping out of him everything they can, up to the limits of his knowledge.  They will take him to the edge of his learning, and God help him if that edge is too far from the expectations of the committee.  The gulf between expectations and his deficiencies will not be easily tolerated, let alone any shaky, suspicious opinions, or convictions.  If found wanting he will be sent back for more study, and possibly for a few persuasion sessions.

    Studying is in fact what he knows how to do, and what the members of the Examining Committee know how to do.  This is what he will do to his disciples, and to any potential new officers; he will make them study.   And when it comes to any kind of hands on work of ministry, he will endeavor to study that as well on his way to actually avoiding it.  It is hard to learn from pastors these days, unless one has time for more study.  If one wanted to be mentored by a pastor, to catch some ministry skills he might be modelling, well, one would have to sit quietly while he reads, or uses some kind of software study material, or as he listens to a sermon series by a prominent scholar; that is if the student wanted to emulate the skills of his pastor.

    If one were to ask a seminary where the practical training comes in they might answer that they are in fact not a Bible College or Institute that teaches “ministry.”  Or they might say that is what internships are for, where they send recent graduates to learn from recent graduates who have no practical experience either, except in preaching on Sunday morning.  It is hard to learn ministry skills from pastors who are still learning theirs on the job, or have settled for a new definition of the job that has conveniently left off the skills of evangelism, home visitation, hospital visitation, prison preaching, doing acts of mercy and good works, and even counseling or conflict resolution.

   If such pastors are planting churches and asked to train new Elders and Deacons they repeat for them what they learned how to do in seminary.  Yes, they challenge them to study.  They give them as much theology, doctrine, apologetics, Catechism, and Book of Church Order material as these lay people can absorb.   They don’t necessarily teach them how to pray, or how to have a good argument in a meeting without getting mad and quitting the church, or how to handle a divorce case, or how to go on a mercy visit, or how to mobilize the laity to do ministry in the community, or how to design and organize various outreach kinds of ministry, or how to handle the pressure of marriage and child raising while feeling obligated to keep ordination vows and serve the church.

    Internships are not for a student to become a gopher for the church staff, or to be saddled with a particular ministry (such as nursery or Jr. High) that everyone else seems to be avoiding.  It is specifically to rotate him through essential skills; how to evangelize and share his faith actively and on purpose with strangers, how to visit widows, the elderly, the sick, and those in prison, how to prepare and execute a worship service, wedding, and funeral, how to moderate and help make effective a leader’s meeting, how to problem solve and deal with conflict on every level (other staff, Elders, Deacons, members and attenders), and how to cast vision for ministry.  He needs to do these things with and in the company of the Senior pastor and other leaders so he can hear their reflections and see their reactions in ministry context.

    Internships are to help a potential pastor realize if he has a work ethic or not, if he knows how to set boundaries for himself and his family as he does ministry, and if he has the capacity and willingness to sacrifice himself and his boundaries for the sake of the Gospel.   Internships should set up new pastors for the reality that one will often need more people, more money, and more time to get the simplest programs off the ground.  This reality will help new pastors learn the joy of frustration and anxiety, and be tempted to reach the heights of resentment and despair as no one seems to give a rip about his new idea.   Where will the volunteers come from, and where will the resources come from?   Oh yes, this is where interns learn the practical realities of faith and prayer, and that God makes things happen out of resources that aren’t yet seen.

    Without practical training experiences pastors will continue to be woefully unprepared to really train their members for ministry, and they will continue to avoid those experiences because it means risk, and time, which could be better spent in ….study.  Without passing practical skills to the people of the church then those church members will have no way of showing the love of God to the people of the world, or of learning how to get to those people and communicate the Gospel to them.

May the Lord raise up among us great training pastors, who take potential leaders into practical ministry and teach them skills by doing, reflection, and re-doing!

END.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

THE POWER OF SEX

  Let’s talk about sex baby!  It kind of seems that is all anyone is talking about these days, and maybe that is really good.  It is also sad.  It is certainly needed but at the same time it is a bit disturbing.  Surely no one of any mature years can be shocked that sex causes us so much trouble.  We are in a period of calling out old sins, old sexual assaults and harassment, even old rapes.  We are always (always) in a period of current sexual exploitation, brokenness, confusion, aggression, and need.

   We live in a media atmosphere where, on the same day, we hear about someone guilty of rape that was never reported and a man who just spent 45 years in prison for a rape he didn’t do, but has now been exonerated.  Given the right context and circumstance, (especially of race and income) we have brought the hammer down hard on suspected rapists but let other rapists go free; usually because they were rich and powerful. 

  We have lived in an age of sexual hedonism where Hugh Hefner gave an apologetic for how free, frequent, and multiple partner sex means freedom from a puritanical life of constraint and up-tightness.  We live in an age of feminism whereby women want control of their own bodies, to have sex when and with whom they wish, to dispose of pregnancies when and how they wish, to dress how they wish, to drink and drug when they wish, and yet seem to expect men to act with restraint and take control of their own impulses.  Yes, they should, but men are as stupid as women when it comes to sex, and along with their stupidity often have the power to take what they want and cause great and lasting harm.

   We live in an age where people seem to think it is okay to grope other people, whether it be on the street where women grope attractive men who might be total strangers to them (and vice versa), to the office or studio where male supervisors and bosses think it is okay to grope employees.  We live in an age where teachers sleep with their students and pregnancy results either by them or in them.  We live in an age where female teachers go to jail for child sexual abuse of their teen-age boy toys.

  I am sure I don’t have to tell anyone the law, or what is right, or what God demands but can I say simply…Keep your hands off of other people’s bodies if they haven’t given you permission, and especially if they don’t belong to you in marriage!  Do not make sexual advances, remarks, innuendo, gestures, or remarks to anyone to whom you are not married!  Does that sound limiting? It ought to, and it will keep you out of trouble.

   We live in an age of open homosexuality and yet live in an age of denial about how behavior might be connected to HIV/AIDS and STDs.  Education and protection and advances in medications are the answer but not morality, not self-control, and certainly not censure for behavior.   We condemn human trafficking and indulge the porn industry.  What the hell is going on here?

    There is hypocrisy everywhere; in religious leaders who get found out as child sex abusers or as excuse-rs of the abusers and in politicians who call for legislation regarding various sex or gender related issues and then are found out to have skeletons in their own closets.  We live in an age of media “gotcha” for every celebrity, politician, priest, or leader whose failure may be a moment of indiscretion, a circumstantial and stress caused illicit relationship, or a hidden life of a stalker looking for prey.

    There are victims; they never asked for the abuse, they were never seducers, and they never thought it might happen to them.  Some of these of course were children or teens, some fearful about their livelihoods, some afraid of a closed door for advancement, some afraid of a counter-attack of reprisal, some physically afraid, and some just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Some of these vulnerable folk live with a scarred and damaged psychology for the rest of their lives, a damaged view of their own sexuality, a perverted view of how to relate to members of the opposite sex, and some live on to recycle the abuse.

    Who among us can be pure?  Who among us has the right to speak?  If I am a sexual being can I reflect on these issues without admitting to my own desires, my own fantasies, my own failures, my own frustrations, my own recklessness to fulfill my own pleasure and exploit others?  No, not if I am honest.  I know how I have thought about women, my objectifying of them, my secret plans for using them, and I know how worse I would have been without the restraints of my own conscience, the reality of criminal prosecution, the reality of social and community condemnation and abhorrence.  I blame God for my not being worse than I’ve been.  The restraint of grace is what I count on the most.

   We are not pure, but we must speak.  Even if we have all failed, we must speak.  We must seek to protect our children, our neighbors, our spouse, our community, the vulnerable, and our future.  Sex is a great gift, but oh how twisted it has become.  Sex is a great need, and how powerful its desires are within us.  Sex is such a great comfort, a witness to confidence, an intimacy of love.  It is so damn dangerous.

   The attempt to attack either gender, alone, for sexual abuse or sin is both disingenuous and delusional.  The tendency to attack institutions, such as the church, either as institution or religious theology, is simplistic and a little too easy.  Of course there are failures in churches, in church leadership, in how they have dealt with abusers, in how they have sheltered them, in how they have failed victims.  This is true in every social institution where there are sexual beings.  The church however should have done better, and it must do better, and when caught in its failure ought to be called out. 

   Yet, again, wherever there are institutions made up of people, and those people are sexual beings, there will be sexual trouble.  The military which counts on professionalism to inhibit sexual misbehavior, finds out again and again that professionalism in and of itself cannot do it. The news media, which is the mouthpiece of this very story, finds corruption in its own ranks.  Every industry and business, educational institutions, and the arts, all have sordid stories.

   There are lines which must not be crossed, for those are the things which protect and enable society to function.  Yet, we are all in need of compassion. We all have to have some sane understanding of the temptation in many of us to cross those lines. This has always been hard for societies, how do we draw clear lines of safe and right conduct without producing self-righteousness, self-deception, and hypocrisy?  Which value system will win in how we live our sexual lives with one another in this world because it is a value system that decides where the lines will be drawn? Without those lines, those borders of decency, we produce a license for predation and with that the fear and determination to protect and revenge our own, and that leads to violence. 

   How do we deal with people’s shame, both of the abused and the abuser?  How do we deal with people’s guilt?  How do we deal with the reality of sexual passion without denying that we all pretty much have it and, for many of us, go through times, periods, years, and a lifetime of not quite knowing what to do with it?

    I come back to grace.  The powerful mercy of God, the grace of Jesus who died for sinners, the mercy of God to forgive the failures, the power of God to heal the victims, the power of God to change an evil heart, the merciful power of God to deliver the addicted and sexually imprisoned, the free adoption of God to make those who feel like orphans realize they have an identity as sons and daughters of a God who loves them.  We dare not “put a cork in it” because we were not made to simply suppress it, but we dare not fail to surrender its passions to a loving and gracious God who knows how to help us use it for his glory, and our joy.


END.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

FIGHTING NEGRO SUPREMACY


    Every time African Americans seem to ask for their rights, or protest against injustice, or gain some political, educational, or economic footing there are those who see their gain as a loss for white people.  There is such a hysterical fear among some whites that any gain for African Americans is seen not simply as an achieving of their rights as full citizens but as a “win” over white people, as a step toward actual  “Negro” supremacy.

   I am reading (listening) to a great biography of Ulysses S. Grant by Ron Chernow.  Surely this must be a book that revisionist historians of the Civil War and Reconstruction are going to hate.  One of the things that jumped out to me in the book was the citing of historic quotes from those who opposed the implementation of the 14th & 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

    Some folks actually used the phrase “Negro Supremacy” to describe what was happening in the country during Reconstruction.  This is the time when 4 million freed slaves went from being counted as 3/5 of a human being for Congressional representation to being counted as full citizens.  Black people were to be given the full protection of the law, they were allowed the right to vote, and to run for office.  Those Confederates who would not admit defeat attempted to do everything they could to prevent black people making use of their rights.  The origins of the Klu Klux Klan came from this time and it was a time of terrorism, violence, and intimidation.

   It is interesting that the Southern states were allowed to increase their Congressional representation by counting black folks as full persons (they gained 40 extra seats) but did not intend for black folks to be treated as equals.  This was a perverse outcome of Reconstruction and made it harder for the Republicans (the party of the North and abolitionists) to continue the reforms of Reconstruction.  Virulent racism kept resisting any substantive change to the status of black folk (except as legal slaves) by wailing over “carpet-baggers” and injury to State Rights and racial fear of what free black men might do to white women.  White Republicans were assassinated, black men were slaughtered, schools that Northern missionaries had come down to build for freed black people were burned.  A reign of terror took hold until President Grant could break it through a targeted prosecution of Klan leaders. 

   The reelection of President Grant in 1872 was the freest election for black voters, something they would not enjoy and not to be repeated again until 1968.  So powerful was racism that it resisted and finally broke the hold of the former abolitionists and Northern Republicans on the reforming and integrating of the South toward a real living out of the Bill of Rights.  One hundred years of racial darkness enveloped the South, and a system of Jim Crow segregation was allowed to deny black folks their full rights as American citizens.

   One of the things that comes to light in Chernow’s book is that even some abolitionists gave way to racism.  They had advocated and fought for emancipation but were ready to throw away the human rights of people of color and were not ready to count them as equals.  This fear of black ascendancy is irrational but it is based on real emotional passion.  Most of it is simple fear and pure anger, expressed and practiced as hate. It is a zero sum game way of thinking that if “they” gain “we” must lose.  This is as tribal a rivalry as one can find in the world.  We are not immune from it today, not in thinking, relating to one another, or in politics.

   Full rights, full protection, and full integration into the life of society and the country doesn’t mean anyone has to lose, except in someone’s preconceived ideas of what a society or country should look like.  This fear of “Negro Supremacy” continues to prevent white folks putting themselves into the shoes of people of color when they are profiled, treated unjustly by authorities, treated differently in schools, courts, or employment opportunities.  Racism prevents empathy and without empathy we can’t achieve unity. With unity our whole country prospers.

    For too long children have been lied to about the time of Reconstruction, lied to about campaigns of racial violence, lied to about the mechanization's of racist politicians to dismantle the achievements of the Civil War, and about the sacrifice of both white and black people who lived and came down to the South to realize those achievements.  Many of them were wonderful Christians who took their lives into the hands, and gave up their lives, for the glory of Christ and for the freedom of men. We all need to resist “zero-sum-game” thinking when it comes to treating people with dignity and standing for their rights.

END.