How to put your faith to work in response to today’s violence

How to put your faith to work in response to today’s violence

Last week’s violence in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas left two unarmed civilians and five police officers dead. Media coverage continues to dominate our airwaves as outrage grows across the United States. Everyone from our neighbors to some of the world’s biggest celebrities continue to emphasize that “Black Lives Matter” at the Espy Awards and all over social media. But the truth is only a few feel that our cries are truly being heard.

No one can deny that our nation is angry, hurt and frustrated due to the senseless violence that continues to plague us; however, the way we address today’s issues is absolutely critical, particularly for us as Christians. Here are a few suggestions on how we can respond to the violence and outrage through active faith instead of irrational retaliation:

Local Victim Remembered at Orlando Massacre Vigil in Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaPray in unity.

Now, more than ever, the church is commanded to pray in unity. In Matthew 18, Jesus emphasizes the importance of collective spirituality by saying, “If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Yes, times are tough and you may find it difficult, but praying together not only obeys these words of Christ, but also serves as a powerful tool of encouragement and reminds us that we are not alone in the struggle. Besides, Christianity is a communal faith, and historically, many African and African-influenced cultures have always valued collective spirituality. Most importantly, we must remember that we serve a God who answers prayer, not always in the ways we expect, but always effective according to His will!

Educate yourself and others.

Hosea 4:6 declares, “For my people perish for lack of knowledge.” In order to actively address today’s issues, it is absolutely critical that we are prepared, both spiritually and intellectually. Take the time to educate yourself on the laws, procedures and government systems that affect both you and your family. However, it is just as important to equip yourself with Scriptures that will assist you in learning strategies that respect government while actively advocating against injustice. Throughout the Bible, Jesus teaches us the importance of knowing your rights as both citizens of your home country and citizens of God’s kingdom. (Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 4:38-53, Mark 3:1-6) It is imperative that you know your rights in order to prevent them from being violated.

Be persistent and hopeful in seeking justice.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable that is not often shared among members of the Church. It is a parable about a persistent woman who goes to a judge to receive justice. Although he is not righteous, the judge gives the woman justice because of her persistence. As Christians, will we have enough faith to be persistent and seek God, even when dealing with an unjust and unrighteous government?

The call to action here is clear. Keep seeking justice, even in an unjust system, because the persistence will eventually bring about change.

Love your neighbor.

In the midst of all that is going on, this is the key. We have to choose to love our neighbors the way God loves (Matthew 22:38-39). We must love because we have been shown love, even when it is uncomfortable and inconvenient. Showing acts of love to our neighbors, particularly to those who historically have not always shown love in return, will begin to build the bridges across the ravines of fear that divide our nation and lead to the violence in the first place.

It is important to see here that love covers a multitude of sins, the sins that separate us from one another and God. Fear drives a lot of the sin of violence in this nation. The fear of being killed is the burden of proof that police officers use to justify their use of deadly force. The fear of being killed is the reason why many Black people have bad relationships with the police today. It is the fear that we will keep killing one another, fear that things will not change, fear between races, and fear within communities. However, it is perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

 

Share your thoughts on the recent violence and your plan of action as a Christian in today’s society below.

Why Jesse Williams’ Speech Demands an Active Faith

Why Jesse Williams’ Speech Demands an Active Faith

Before Sunday night, you might have recognized actor and social activist Jesse Williams, 34, for his role on ABC’S “Grey’s Anatomy,” or perhaps you’ve come across news coverage on his active participation in recent protests that began shortly after the death of Michael Brown. However, it was the speech Williams gave while accepting the Humanitarian Award during Sunday’s BET Awards that catapulted him to a new level and shed light on his genuine passion as a social activist.

The brilliance of Williams’ speech is that it simultaneously inspired, convicted, encouraged, and indicted his mostly black audience. His overall demeanor and diction created a didactic environment that impacted all who were listening, including some of the biggest entertainers in the world, the media, and the thousands of viewers who tuned in Sunday night. No matter who you were, on Sunday night we received a treat when Williams took the stage to deliver such a powerful message.

Although Williams took the time to address a number of things that were long overdue, it was the below points that created opportunity for some serious reflection on how faith has been misused in the black community and how we can use that same faith to actively gain the freedom we were given by God and promised by the American enterprise.

Many of us have been praying for the wrong things.

BondageAll of us in here getting money—that alone isn’t going to stop this… Now, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back. [We] put someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid with brands for our bodies. —Jesse Williams

This point was directed particularly towards the celebrities in the room, but it applies to everyone in our culture that makes the concept of “celebrity” something to strive for, the measure of success. In just three sentences, Williams highlights the complex relationship between black people’s enduring faith in the midst of slavery and the travesty of so many of our people twisting the American dream today. They have taken advantage of the freedom that the slaves prayed for in exchange for socioeconomic slavery. This new-age slavery comes in the form of corporate branding and the dollars that are attached as a measure of success.

How many people do you know that are praying from an impoverished, prosperity theology? Perhaps you also know a few people who measure their success and “favor” by material wealth, selling themselves for money, attention from “the right people,” and likes on social media.

Williams’ statement reminds us that the success we should be praying for and working toward is measured by the freedom of self-determination and liberty for our communities, not dollars in our bank accounts and designers on our bodies.

We can’t just wait to die and go to Heaven to be free.

Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter but, you know what, though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.—Jesse Williams

Jesus prayed for the Kingdom of God to come and the will of God to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). Then, Jesus took action everywhere; He went to correct the earthly things that were at odds with Heaven, from sickness to disease, to demonic attacks. He addressed everything from the exploitation of the poor to self-righteousness, to pride, and all of the impacts of sin that separates us from the power of God’s presence in our lives.

Jesus did not die only for us to focus on the afterlife. Instead, He promised the disciples that those who follow Him would receive back what they have left to follow him (family and land) in both this life and the life to come (Mark 10:29-31). Indeed, whom the Son has set free is free indeed!

Williams’ speech reminds us that we must have an active faith in order to see God’s work through us in our communities. Praying for individual success without praying for collective liberation is not a true reflection of God’s kingdom as followers of Christ.

Waiting for freedom to just be given to us by those who oppress us is not the answer and neither is putting it off until the afterlife. Jesus taught us to believe in the ultimate justice of God and pray for God’s will to be done on the earth. Then, we are to ask God to use us as his vessels to show love and justice as Christians here on Earth. Jesse Williams reminds us that faith without works is dead, so let’s heed the call and get to work in our faith for freedom.

 

Check out Jesse Williams’ entire speech below:

 

Share your thoughts on Jesse Williams’ call-to-action during Sunday night’s “BET Awards” below.

My Sisters Will Not Be Silenced

My Sisters Will Not Be Silenced

Over the past year, there has been a public outcry and protests on college campuses across the nation due to the handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases filed by students with their respective institutions.

The most recent survey by the Association of American Universities found that more than 11 percent of college students have experienced nonconsensual sexual contact in their college careers. The same report found that less than half the women surveyed did not even report their sexual assault. The picture is clear, women are survivors of nonconsensual sexual contact at alarming rates on college campuses (and everywhere else), yet do not report or the incidents and do not receive the help and support they deserve.

Recent examples of confronting this system of sexual injustice include the protests on the campus of Howard University in March. I, myself, am a Howard alumnus and was proud of my fellow Bison as current students stood in solidarity with a survivor of sexual assault. This was a result of what was perceived as an unsatisfactory response by university administration in dealing with the real issues.

Yes, it is true that the university must follow due process because of the possibility of false accusations, which also happens. But with the number of cases that are, in fact, valid, it is good to see students speaking out against these issues and standing in solidarity against the institutional and cultural dynamics that have not yet dismantled our rape culture in the United States, especially on college campuses.

Like many of my peers, I also have personal stake in fighting against rape culture. I, personally, know too many women who have been victims of sexual harassment, assault, and rape.

One particular case is etched in my mind as I remember the fury I felt when I learned that one of my close friends at Howard had been raped. “How could a man do something like that?” I asked myself. My friend felt guilty that it happened. There was a sense of guilt for putting herself in that position, defiled and sinful for something that was never her fault.

It is never a survivor’s fault that they are assaulted. She didn’t report it because she didn’t think it was “worth it” and didn’t want to “be responsible for another black man in prison.

There are several scriptures that address sexual violence in the Bible, but the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 captures these emotions and their aftermath best in my view. The lust, misogyny, anger, denial, guilt, depression, lack of fulfillment, and self-hatred and shame of the rapist, the stigma, the sorrow of the survivor, Tamar, are all found in scripture.

The anger of the aftermath and how it impacts people so far beyond the parties directly involved are also found there in those verses. It is illuminating that the aggressor, the victim, and their families experience psychological, social, and spiritual pain from the event, even in scripture.

Jesus stood on the side of those who were survivors of oppression, violence, and sexual devaluation. So, it is also safe to say that He would stand against rape as well.

As men, we must stand with our sisters against patriarchal, oppressive structures and influences. We must stand with them in the midst of the pain. We must, as Christians, stand and speak against sexual violence in all of its forms, against men and women.

We must stand for God’s Kingdom Culture influenced by love and justice against the rape culture that covers our country. We saw a step toward that on Howard’s campus in March and on other campuses nationwide last year. We have to keep walking toward justice and true love. We must break the silence about sexual violence.

Watch for more details on the Howard University protests below:

What are your thoughts on the recent protests? Share them below.

We’re Still Doing Easter?

We’re Still Doing Easter?

Is it time for Easter again? It doesn’t feel like Easter season. Easter (or Resurrection Sunday for the purists) is around the corner, and yet many Millennials feel little reason to celebrate. When I think of Easter, I think of special sermons, church presentations, fancy outfits, and big dinners. I also think of bunnies, eggs, and baskets thanks to corporate marketing. Ironically, what I don’t think about immediately is the Resurrection. But isn’t that the reason for the season?

Selective Memory

Easter FamilyFor the past few years, social media campaigns have tried to remind people that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. It has become so commercialized that people come out of the woodwork you didn’t even know were Christian. They remind everyone following them that Jesus is the reason for the season, that Jesus is the best gift we could get in the season, that Jesus wants us to give in this season, and that we should be content whether we get other gifts or not.

But Easter doesn’t have gift-giving traditions. Were it not for multi-colored chocolate eggs, most of us would not even think about what we receive on that holiday. But Easter is supposed to be the center of the Christian faith. Jesus goes to the Cross, dies for our sins, and resurrects with power, giving hope of salvation to all the earth.

Perhaps one of the reasons why Easter doesn’t immediately remind us of resurrection is because resurrection hope seems so far removed from our current situation. Current events in our world—from politics to protests, global warming to global injustice, doubt in our lives and doubt in our faith—have caused many to lose hope.

The Sweet By-and-By

It is hard to think about the hope of resurrection when we are surrounded by so much death. But that is exactly why we as Christians need to remember the Resurrection. What greater hope is there in the midst of a death culture than the revelation that death is not the end of the story? That our God loved us enough to take death on Himself and then overcame death itself?

Resurrection is not just about “the sweet-by and-by” either. We have to hold on to the promise of life after this life, but resurrection also comes when we hear the testimonies of those who are still living, still striving, still fighting, still hopeful despite facing ridiculous obstacles and even threats to their very lives.

Jesus gives new hope to a woman with an issue of blood who was treated as dead by society, and He not only wasn’t afraid of a man with a legion of demons, He set the man free and made him a missionary. Jesus is hope for resurrection in a world that needs new life.

Time to Remember

CalvaryIt could be because of Saint Patrick’s Day that takes place around the same time, so people are focused on Irish beer and clovers. It could be because we feel like we’ve heard the Easter sermon before, so we’ll catch it on livestream. It could be that you didn’t know Mardi Gras, Carnival, and Lent had anything to do with Easter, so it just isn’t in your mind.

It could be because no one you know buys Easter clothes, or because there will be no big dinner, or because you’ve got so many other things going on that you just forgot. But whatever the reason we weren’t thinking about the Resurrection yet for Easter, we should take time to remember it now.

It is the story of our salvation. It is the “right now” power of God. It is what we need to face today together.