Ahmaud Arbery died for the indefensible principle of white control

Ahmaud Arbery died for the indefensible principle of white control

Video Courtesy of NowThis News


In Genesis 4, Cain kills his brother Abel out of anger and jealousy. He lured his sibling out into a field and murdered him. Then God confronts Cain and asks him where his brother is. Cain indignantly answers with a question that reverberates down through the millennia, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

In our day in Brunswick, Georgia, two white men saw a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, out for a jog and thought the worst. They waited for him, confronted him and killed him, proving what many know and what many try to deny: white people don’t serve as their brother’s keeper but, often, as their brother’s controller.

The Hebrew word for “keeper”(שׁמר) can mean to guard or protect. To “keep” one’s brother, or more broadly, one’s neighbor, means to look out for their well-being. It means to stand alongside them as an advocate when they face difficulties and dehumanization. It means to express tangible solidarity as a sign that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

The system of white supremacy corrupts the relationship between white people and people of color. Instead of keeping their black brothers or sisters, white people seek to control them. It is a short journey from controlling black bodies to killing them.

The alleged murder happened Feb. 23 when Arbery ran past two white men, a father-son duo named Gregory and Travis McMichael, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, a small town near the Georgia coast. They reflexively assumed that Arbery was the man responsible for a string of burglaries in the area even though no such crimes had been reported in weeks. One grabbed a shotgun, another picked up a pistol, and they pursued.

Ahmaud Arbery, in an undated family photo. Courtesy photo

The video shows Arbery jogging down the street as a white pickup truck blocks his path. The younger McMichael stands outside the truck with his shotgun. As Arbery approaches, shouts are heard, and an altercation occurs. Three shotgun blasts later, Arbery collapses to the ground.

The video emerged on May 5 and immediately sparked outrage. Within two days, the McMichaels had been arrested, after walking around free for more than two months.

What would make two ordinary citizens think they needed to take it upon themselves to get guns and pursue a black person out for a jog? If they suspected a crime had occurred, why not let law enforcement handle the situation? What role did race play in the entire scenario?

These questions all have echoes in the past. When it comes to controlling and policing black bodies, the history is as long as the nation itself.

In an article for Black Perspectives, historian Keri Leigh Merritt details the origins of professional policing in America. Prior to the Civil War, few towns had standing police forces. After the Civil War and emancipation, however, the white owner class still wanted cheap labor. They and many others wanted to re-entrench white supremacy.

White authorities devised vagrancy laws to ensnare black people in the criminal justice system. A black person could be arrested simply for not having proof of employment. Even more sinister, one did not have to be a police officer to enforce these rules.

As Merritt explained in her article, “the (vagrancy) statute deemed it lawful for ‘any person to arrest said vagrants,’ effectively giving all whites legal authority over blacks.”

This photo combo of images taken Thursday, May 7, 2020, and provided by the Glynn County Detention Center, in Georgia, show Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. The two have been charged with murder in the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, whom they had pursued in a truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)

Laws crafted to entrap black people in the penal system simultaneously fostered a culture of suspicion and surveillance of black bodies. White people took it as their duty and right to regulate the movement of black bodies. They claimed all spaces as “white” spaces by default, and any person of color, especially a black person, had to justify their presence.

The same dynamics were at play when, eight years ago, George Zimmerman took it upon himself to pick up a gun and pursue a black 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin. This surveillance dynamic was at work when the manager of a Starbucks in Philadelphia called the police to remove Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson while they waited for an acquaintance to arrive for a meeting.

The culture of policing black bodies was at work when a white student called the police on Lolade Siyonbola, a graduate student at Yale who had fallen asleep in her dorm’s common room. The idea that black people must be controlled in most spaces is behind a neighbor calling the police on 12-year old Reggie Fields for mowing a portion of the wrong lawn.

White supremacy has perverted God’s command in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis that human beings should “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Instead of ruling over the animals and plants as God directed, white supremacy leads people to try to rule over black people who are fellow image-bearers of God.

This culture of controlling black bodies means that just as the blood of Abel cries out from the ground for justice, so does the blood of Ahmaud cry out from Brunswick, Georgia. The blood of all the black people lynched to appease the idol of white supremacy cries out from the ground.

White people must learn, perhaps for the first time, what it means to “keep” rather than “control” their black brothers and sisters. No racial or ethnic group should have the power of life and death over another. Black bodies have been created in the likeness of God, yet our simple presence is deemed a threat to be controlled rather than a neighbor to be loved.

Only when white people learn that they are their brother and sister’s keeper rather than their controller will those cries finally be satisfied and at peace.

(Jemar Tisby is the president of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective and co-host of the Pass The Mic podcast. He is the author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism.)

The Whispers of Revival

The Whispers of Revival

Video Courtesy of R. York Moore


There is a new movement of God in America.  It has come in whispers and rumors but now is beginning to manifest in powerful ways.  I first heard the whisper in 2015, while running a nationwide anti-trafficking campaign called the Price of Life.  The campaign mobilized hundreds of thousands to fight trafficking, including Fortune 100 companies, US Representatives, and several State Attorney General Offices.  I was not looking for a change and felt my ministry was in its prime.  However, that year, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, ‘revival is coming.’  I knew this whisper meant I needed to stop what I was doing and focus my energy on revival.

My friend Nick Hall, founder and president of the Pulse Movement, and a number of other leaders heard the very same whisper. Nick began to dream and plan for a Gen Z one-day revival on the Washington Mall called Together ‘16, which eventually drew over 300,000 people in June 2016.  I joined Nick in this vision, spending nearly a year assisting the development of Together.  I was honored to speak about revival, joining the likes of Francis Chan, Lecrae, Kirk Franklin, Ravi Zacharias, Andy Mineo, and Jo Saxton. I was excited to preach on revival in our time — a new normal of spiritual fervency.  I was passionate about telling the crowd about a coming breakthrough that would impact not only the lives of Christians but the social structures and institutions of America.  It was a dream come true. But then, when I was only eight feet from the podium, I was told I would not go on because Together ‘16 was being canceled due to above-90 degree heat and a potential tornado warning. Nick and the team disbursed the audience with great sorrow. It broke my heart.

I needed to go on a prayer walk to get a fresh word from the Spirit.  Immediately, I felt drawn powerfully to a man sitting alone.  As we spoke, it was obvious why the Spirit drew us together.  He had my same title in Cru and was asking the Holy Spirit to guide him for his next steps as well.  Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) and InterVarsity USA are two of the largest campus ministries in the world but have never been in partnership in their organizational histories. I flew down immediately to meet with Cru leaders with one burning question, ‘What is the one thing we can do together that we could never do apart?’  We prayed on this question for seven months, meeting in various places throughout the country until we all heard the whisper together. Sitting in a hotel in Pennsylvania, after a time of prayer, Bible reading, and listening, we heard the Spirit say, “You need to partner together for the sake of revival.” It was the genesis of what has now become EveryCampus, a massive coalition of over 100 organizations.



The movement that started from a rumor and a whisper is now strong and vibrant. Organizations in EveryCampus are sharing data, creating resources, joining together on platforms at events, wearing each other’s branded shirts, and literally paying for each other’s expenses.  It is like nothing I’ve seen in my 25 years of ministry.  We worked with a data analytics company called Gloo to create a never-before-possible digital platform to connect these organizations in new and creative ways.  And we are working with Barna Research on the largest research project in Barna’s history — the State of the Church, which will include the State of the Campus.  EveryCampus has played a key role in helping to gather many organizations together for revival in a time of great disruption.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were hoping the whisper of revival was coming true, but now we are certain of it.  Revival often comes during times of great societal upheaval and disruption.  There is no doubt that we are living in one of the most disruptive times in human history. Never in the history of humanity has the entire globe been on pause at the same time. Pandemics have always occurred, but in our time, the world is connected as one and suffering as one. Gen Z will play the most important role in what comes of the world post-COVID-19.  College ministry has always been important, but now, it is even more important than ever before. We need revival in the Church and awakening on our campuses,  and the EveryCampus movement, I believe, will play a pivotal role in helping to make that happen. God has prepared unity amongst rivals for such a time as this. Disruption is an opportunity for revival and the ground has been prepared. Through a massive prayer campaign, unprecedented technological coordination, true unity, and collaboration, EveryCampus has created a new normal that can help facilitate the whispers of revival.

In the end, however, it is all about the Church.  The vision of EveryCampus is that we are conspiring together to instigate revival by catalyzing prayer and gospel movements on every campus in America.  The way EveryCampus seeks to do this is through the Church.  EveryCampus is NOT about campus parachurch organizations just doing more of the same. Of the 4,200 campuses in America, only about half have a gospel movement on them.  Most of these movements are EveryCampus partners like Chi Alpha, Young Life, Circuit Riders, InterVarsity, Cru, the CCO, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, and others.  The same roughly 2,000 campuses have been reached and re-reached for decades, but what about the other half?  Down the block from the unreached campuses of America stands a Church of God in Christ local congregation, a Baptist church, an independent church — the hope of revival is in these congregations.  Some are small and some are large, but they are already the outposts for a mighty move of God on our college campuses and EveryCampus exists to serve these outposts!

Through our resourcing, coaching, and data, EveryCampus has everything a local congregation needs to reach students by starting new movements on unreached campuses.  We’ve painstakingly mapped each and every campus in America, bathing it in prayer for revival and then making it visible on EveryCampus.  Churches now can run data reports, see who is doing what and register their work on the site.  We don’t know where revival will break out in force in America, but I believe it will come through churches reaching unreached Gen Z students locally.  This is the hope of EveryCampus and how we need it!

Pre-COVID-19, we were seeing young people walking away from the Church in unprecedented numbers.  The conversion of Kanye West created a moment of wonder and intrigue, however.  It seemed like God was doing something new, but we need more than the conversion of a megastar for revival.  Even in our Black and Latino communities, where the Church has historically been a bedrock, Gen Z is challenging that role, and the authority church leaders and traditions have in their lives.  This time of economic, political, racial, and now health crisis has put on pause a mass exodus from the Church.  Gen Z is looking for answers, and many are returning to Jesus.  Young people are willing to listen again, but the time to act is now!  During COVID-19, we are seeing a surge of interest in online gatherings of young people.  By the thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, young people in America are gathering for online religious events.  InterVarsity USA has seen a record number of conversions to Christ in the last few years as well.  The signs of hope in reaching Gen Z are all around us, and revival almost always comes during times of disruption.  We believe we are living in a new normal in many ways, and the Spirit is at work in these days in power.  When the Spirit whispers ‘revival,’ it comes in unexpected ways and produces unexpected results.

About R. York Moore

R. York Moore is an artistically gifted speaker, a revivalist, and an abolitionist. He serves as Executive Director/Catalytic Partnerships and as National Evangelist for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. R. York is the co-founder of the EveryCampus coalition, a coalition of over 100 organizations, denominations and church networks joined together to seek God for revival on the college campuses of America. He is the author of several books, including “Do Something Beautiful: The Story of Everything and a Guide to Finding Your Place in It,” (Moody Publishers). R. York Moore became a Christian from Atheism while studying philosophy at the University of Michigan. R. York Moore has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Michigan and an MA in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. He lives in Michigan with his wife and three children. For more information about R. York Moore, visit TellTheStory.net and follow him on social media channels @yorkmoore.

The Mother of All Gifts

The Mother of All Gifts

The Mother of All Gifts for Urban FaithFlowers, candy, and cards are nice, but for moms, the best Mother’s Day gifts of all are the people who make us mothers.

Usually, when Mother’s Day comes, we think of the women in our lives who nurture, teach, rear and comfort us. We think of blood mothers and other mothers who love us with an unselfish love that is its own brand of insanity. And a grandmother’s love is quintessential radical love. However, Mother’s Day is also a day to consider the gift of love that our children are to us.

When my son and daughter were still children and old enough to cook some basic things, they served me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day: sliced hot dogs in scrambled eggs with fresh fruit on the side. When our dog was a puppy, he tried his best to get into bed with me and share my breakfast. But mother did not play that. No doggie in my bed. On Mother’s Day morning, my bed became our breakfast table.

After breakfast we got ready for church while listening to Mother’s Day music on the radio — Bill Withers singing “Grandma’s Hands” and Dianne Reeves singing “Better Days.” The songs reminded us of mother wisdom that counsels patience. “You can’t get to better days unless you make it through the night.” My Aunt Sarah usually came to church with us, since we lived in Philadelphia and my mother lived in East St. Louis. After church we went to dinner. The day became a treasure, a precious memory gem that a mother hides in her heart.

The Bible speaks of such a moment when Jesus’ parents find him in the Temple in conversation with the teachers. He tells his parents that he is compelled to be in his Father’s house, to be about his Father’s business. The Bible tells us: “His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

We watch our children grow and they amaze us. Through laughter and tears, through achievement and disappointment, we watch them grow as Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and humanity. Even those episodes that make us think they are creatures from another planet beamed down to Earth by some evil genius with a singular mission to pluck our last nerve become a part of the mix of events that is accumulated wealth, no matter the amount of money we have in the bank.

Our children are the reason we get up every day to work to earn a living and work for social justice and for peace. We want them to live in a more beautiful, sensible, and happy world. We work to demonstrate the praise of the glory of God, because it is through what they see us do that they will know their own moral responsibility to Creation.

God shows his love to us in a multitude of ways. God’s presence in our lives is present in uncomplicated gestures, simple and pure. God’s love loves us through our children. It is a blessing for which I am truly grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Related Article: Calling All Moms.

10 Two-Minute Podcast Shorts on Prayer

10 Two-Minute Podcast Shorts on Prayer

It’s hard to relax. We’re in an uncomfortable place right now. The future is unclear. Our leaders are not all stable. And the world economy is in flux. But God. He’s our anchor. His love never changes and we know that when we pray, it helps calm our heavy hearts and anxiety about the uncertainty of it all.  Below you’ll find a compilation of two-minute podcast shorts by Dr. Melvin E. Banks, founder of UMI, on prayer. We’ve pulled them from Dr. Banks’ daily radio program called Daily Direction, which covers a variety of issues and topics. So, turn the ringer off on your phone, find a quiet place, be still, and listen.


More on Prayer



Video Courtesy of THE BEAT by Allen Parr

Developing a God-Shaped Mind to Work With Purpose

Developing a God-Shaped Mind to Work With Purpose

Video Courtesy of Nakaiya Turk


Most likely you’ve viewed numerous commercials advising the need to start retirement planning as early as possible so that you can live comfortably or to care for your needs in the golden years. It’s an attractive prospect for aging millennials. No more long commutes to work. No more hassles dealing with uncooperative people or someone else telling you what to do all the time. No more reminding subordinates of approaching deadlines. It means you can finally do nothing but kick back and enjoy life and live it up. However, there’s something the advertisers don’t tell you — God designed you to work before sin entered the world and to find meaning in work throughout eternity. And, contrary to what some believe, work is not a curse but a gift to us. Granted most, if not all of us, will lose vitality as we age in this fallen world or lose our health altogether. But if God designed us for work before the fall, he must have wanted us to find meaning in it. So, what should my attitude be regarding career and retirement?

Spiritual Attitude Regarding Work & Retirement

Authors Jinkook Lee and James P. Smith (2009) address the subject of retirement in an article entitled Work, Retirement, and Depression. Their research indicates that retirement is not always what it appears. In some instances, retirees experience a sense of depression because they no longer interact with their former peers in the workplace. And because employers look for younger employees with newer skills and smaller salaries, it often becomes challenging for these older workers to maintain a presence in the workforce. This is, however, in contrast to older workers who find satisfaction in a hobby or alternate line of work suitable for their age. Some continue working in a company beyond retirement years due to the nature of the job, such as being an insurance salesman or educator.


Elizabeth White, author of “55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal: Your Guide to a Better Life”


Video Courtesy of Rodney Brooks


Now you may be thinking, “Okay! That’s well and good. But what does that have to do with me? I’m putting away for retirement. What else is there?” I’m glad you asked. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that because we are made in God’s image our lives have meaning and purpose when we walk in His will. Scripture says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). My question is have you and I considered work plans that involve being fully engaged in some form of work beyond retirement? In other words, are you developing a Christo-centric mindset that allows you to develop the right spiritual attitude to make satisfying and essential career transitions?

Why is this significant? A few things come to mind. You may have noticed the world continues to change at a torrid pace, which means those skills you acquired through all of your hard work is at risk of becoming obsolete very fast. And so your journey to retirement may be significantly challenged due to resource drain from acquiring new skills. This, in turn, may require you to work longer than expected and most likely have to adapt to newer and more expensive realities. It appears that the challenge facing a new generation of Christians is can they maintain an eternal perspective regarding work, adapt to a changing society, and develop adequate retirement funds without hoarding.

Doing Lifelong Purposeful Work

I grew up in a struggling African American neighborhood in Little Rock, AR, watching men and women of color working as janitors, cooks, handymen, and bus drivers. No one talked to me about my career aspirations in a significant way. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I just knew I wanted to be an artist or a photographer. It was nothing for me to lose myself for hours in a drawing project; however, I could never muster up enough money to pursue the photography dream.

When I became a Christian, my dreams and pursuits took a detour as I yearned to find a purpose in what I was doing. I took up engineering and architectural drafting in high school and then a year in college. I was surprised when I landed a job with a small architectural and engineering firm. The experience was rewarding, but it didn’t fulfill my drive for meaning and purpose. After a year-long battle with cancer, my mother went home to be with the Lord.

I left the firm and decided to attend Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, MO in hopes of finding answers to what God wanted me to do. For five years, I trained as a pastor and radio broadcaster. My “purpose” didn’t reveal itself until I was appointed news director of a small radio station in Atlanta for Moody Radio. The station was part of a larger network of several around the U.S., and I discovered my love for urban outreach. It was the purpose I had been searching for. Through years of trials and challenges, I earned an MBA and a Doctor of Business Administration.

Looking back on my life and calling in Christ, I feel this deep sense of loss and regret that I discovered a deeper purpose later in life. I sense that growing up in a single parent household without the exposure to academic mentors and professionals prevented me from awakening from pursuing amazing opportunities and reaching my God-given potential earlier. Yet, all along the way, I have maintained an embedded desire to do something significant and purposeful. In a very real sense, the Lord has graciously granted me my childhood dream by transforming me into an artist and photographer with a different kind of canvas in which I utilize graphics, communication, and business research/analysis to illustrate the path to a better way of life for others.

Spiritual & Psychological Impact of Working Purposefully

In my estimation, God is the supreme master craftsman who has designed and wired humanity to live with purpose. A team of educational psychology researchers at the University of Louisville, KY — Kosine, Steger, and Duncan — seem to have a pretty good handle on the subject from a scientific perspective. In their research, The Purpose-Centered Career Development: A Strengths-Based Approach to Finding Meaning in Careers, the authors found that people who view work as meaningful are more satisfied and more committed employees. Their findings seem to dovetail what the Word of God talks about regarding the principle of living with purpose.

Essentially, developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose is usually a work in progress that takes effort and intentionality. It means we become followers of Christ who creatively exercise our minds to filter career and life plans through our relationship with Christ. It means we need to take into account our natural bent and allow the Lord to shape and mold what we’ve come to know and understand about ourselves. It’s not easy letting go and letting Him rearrange things in our lives. Developing a God-shaped mind to work with purpose means we adopt principles of design thinking, which is simply making sure our career passions and goals align with all that He is and all that we are in Him. Even though you may feel a sense of regret for missed opportunities like I sometimes do, I’ve come to realize that so many are insignificant and I am what I am today because of the Lord was busy shaping and molding me through my circumstances.

References

Kosine, N. R., PhD., Steger, M. F., PhD., & Duncan, S., Ph.D. (2008). Purpose-centered career development: A strengths-based approach to finding meaning and purpose in careers. Professional School Counseling, 12(2), 133-136. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/home/pcx

Lee, J., & Smith, J. P. (2009). Work, retirement, and depression. Journal of Population Ageing, 2(1-2), 57-71. doi:10.1007/s12062-010-9018-0

The After Life

The After Life

Last fall, I planted bulbs in the front of our house. Daffodils, lilies, tulips, crocuses, you name it. I went a little crazy because it felt like a junior high science experiment and I wondered if it’d work. If it did, I knew that by spring I’d be seeing petals.

For urban types like me, our gardening experience is limited to a few window boxes from community block parties. So I consider it downright amazing to bury one thing in the ground and have it emerge months later something altogether different. It seems an impossible feat: in spite of concrete, asphalt and broken beer bottles, flowers with colors as bright as any New York taxi can burst forth.

I’m convinced we need the power of nature, of art and color and story, to move beyond existing and enter that place where we live fully, or at least, well. We do need words that spring forth from flowerbeds, that speak of newness and beauty and hope all wrapped up in one. If nothing else, we need the colors and fragrances of a changing season like spring to soften the concrete struggles around us. They keep us going. They inspire.

That’s the nature of resurrection.

To be sure, this undercurrent of the Christian life, this back-story of every story we encounter — death, resurrection, transformation — runs deep in our collective soul. It is the theme of more songs and films, paintings and novels, missions and centers than any other in the history of art (which is the history of humanity). We cheer for the underdog on the screen who conquers each obstacle set in her path; we marvel at the painting that stirs some feeling we’d forgotten we had. We turn the dial, change the channel or visit another creative ministry until we connect to a song or an image that draws us to a new place, a new perspective, a new way to press on.

We’re wired to hope. To look forward, not backward. We want to believe the impossible. Why? My guess is we know there is more to this earthy existence.

Thank God there is.

After Jesus died, he went for walks on the beach. After he spent three days buried in the soil of death, he cooked breakfast for a few friends. He chatted and lingered on sidewalks and in gardens, telling stories, holding hands, eating bread. Sure, he lived well before he died. Admirably. Heroically. Boldly. But after he died — that is, after his lungs collapsed and his heart stopped — he spent the next month and a half strolling through the Middle East; 40 full days of handing back hope to women who’d lost it, reminding men of the truth of scripture, encouraging hundreds of friends that there was indeed more to this world than what they saw each day as the sun came up.

Yes, that was some living.

And those days on earth after his execution were apparently so full, so exciting and rich, that John says he couldn’t record them all in his Gospel account (John 20:30, 31). Maybe the Risen Christ drew pictures in the sand; maybe he sang hymns with his friends. Maybe he picked figs or went fishing or danced jigs. Whatever else he did in his resurrected life — apart from the stories we do have — history testifies to the reality that he gave us plenty to keep reveling in the wonders of living.

To keep planting bulbs and watching for petals.

There are the stories, of course, from the Gospel narratives about his earthly ministry before death. But we should know, too, that there are other stories from the life of our Risen Lord. They are equally true stories and equally reflective of the magic — or miracle — of what happens in the garden of a human heart when the Person of God in Jesus appears.

After Jesus died, he spent what I call “very-much-alive-time” with utterly desperate friends. He walked with them (Luke 24:15), ate with them (Luke 24:41-43), comforted them (Matt. 28:9-10), taught them (Luke 24:27). He spent so much time with them, in fact, that the stories of their lives changed history. His death and resurrection planted in them new life.

And what happened to them also happened to others, and others beyond them. It still does. Miracle stories. Impossible new beginnings. Spring fragrances.

Bright daffodils that once were only hard dull bulbs. A desperate faith that blossoms into hope all because a Holy Presence dug through the soil to make a garden.


Excerpted and adapted from A Desperate Faith: Lessons on Hope from the Resurrection (Baker Books) by Jo Kadlecek. Used by permission.