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By Blaine Crawford Humanizing Work” was the theme of the Center for Faith & Work’s annual conference this year [2014]. During the opening session, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was mentio…

Source: Does faith at work work for the poor?

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Henry Sylvester Bobo is my late paternal grandfather.  To say, I adored and respected this man would be a gross understatement. I miss this man. When I think of him, and that’s often, I smile. He taught me much (and he still teaches me posthumously).  I observed him up close and personal and from a far (we stayed in Kansas City, MO; he and my grandmother lived in Kansas City, KS). I am people watcher. I am an observer (credit my engineering training and laboratory days). Watching and observing grandpa was a joy to me and a preoccupation of mine. What did I observe and/or learn from this honorable and illustrious man?

First, he taught me that it’s okay to have an imagination. My granddad was wildly creative.  His imagination manifested itself in the beautiful works he did with bricks, concrete and stone. He built fireplaces, patios, and walls.  He was an entrepreneur: a self-employed brickmason! And he was good. His imagination was evident with his “home made shoes.” Long story, but those shoes, they were a sight to behold!

Second, he was a tender, affectionate and gentle man. He was the first African-American man to say to me, “I love you.” The first man. Although I struggle to say those three words, I still remember my dear grandpa saying those words to me; I was a teenager I believe.

Third, he showed me husbandry.  He was not a perfect man (I am certain his kids would attest to that); however, from what I observed, he was a good husband to the late Willa Mae, his dear love and the former high kicking majorette at Sumner High School.  Theirs was the true Camelot marriage in my mind. I vividly remember my grandpa, the doting husband, would respond to Willa Mae’s inquiries by saying “yes, baby.” When she became a vulnerable and ‘weak lamb’ – when she grew ill and struggled with dementia – she would ask the same question repeatedly and yet, he would respond patiently, “yes, baby.”  When she was hospitalized, he stayed in the hospital room with her by sleeping on an uncomfortable couch. He loved his wife, Willa Mae.  When Willa Mae died, they had been married 67 years – yes, count them, 67 years!

Fourth, he was a man of few words. In a world where so many are talking and making unintelligible ‘blah, blah, blah’ noise, for him to be a man of few words was/is refreshing to me.

Fifth, he was not a TV watcher (or I don’t remember him being a TV watcher); he loved to ‘pittle’ in the yard.  I am not sure what he was always doing in the backyard, but he would be doing something; he would be pittling. Maybe that’s where I get my restlessness and my tendency to pittle.  Let’s just say that he was industrious and that his work ethnic was quite remarkable.

Sixth, he and my late grandmother, loved ‘fancy’ cars (at least they were fancy to me).  They loved the Ford Thunderbird, for example.  Once upon a time they had a convertible Thunderbird. Today, I have a convertible Ford Mustang. Yes, they influenced me with their flare for fashion and their taste, their eclecticism, their class and dignity and their adventure for cars.

Seventh, he served in WWII aboard a Navy Ship and while he did not talk about it, I am certain he suffered many indignities from his fellow white ship men.  He suffered indignities state side too as he lived during the overtly racist and insidious Jim Crow days. Yet, when I saw him, his head was proudly and confidently held up…he did not walk around like someone beat down.

Eighth, he was a brilliant man.  He invented several contractions (I regret not helping him getting some of these things patented).  He was truly a scholar-athlete in high school – lettering in football and basketball. Unbeknownst to me was his nickname in high school – ‘Betty Boop’; ironically, my daughter Briana, her nickname was ‘Betty Boop’.

Ninth, even as he got older, he was still fit…maybe because he pittled, maybe because of his work ethic.  He had a ‘six pack’ for all the years I known him.

Tenth, he was a Christian man. He taught Sunday School and sometimes he would walk to church (maybe another reason why he was fit); while we, my brother and grandmother and me, were typically and fashionably tardy. And as we came into Stranger’s Rest Baptist Church through the side door and took our normal spot, grandpa would smile and shake his head not in a condemning way but admirably toward his Willa Mae. You can tell he admired his beautiful and always fashionably stylish wife.

What a fine specimen of a man was Henry Sylvester Bobo!

The Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” are so life giving and refreshing! This verse can be rendered “there is no death-sentence for those who are in Christ Jesus.” To condemn is to not only pronounce guilt but the adjudication of punishment. For Christians, there is now no condemnation because the righteous and fair Judge, God, arranged it so that Christ took upon Himself my (our) condemnation (1 John 2:2); He became sin that I (we) might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s all fine and good but…

Some colleagues that live in Kansas City, MO told me that a certain church was preaching through the Book of Matthew.  One advantage of preaching through an entire book includes seeing how individual units fit within the context of the entire book.  One ‘disadvantage’ is that you cannot pick your text; each week you take the next text in succession. A few weeks ago, the pastor, of this certain church, stopped and parked at Matthew 19:1-9: the passage on divorce. A colleague went on to tell me that as soon as the topic was introduced from the pulpit, a woman stood up and left the church (this is before the pastor really got into his sermon).

This action by this lady is very telling. Could it communicate that her wounds were fresh? Perhaps.  Could her actions communicate something else? Yes. Maybe her action is a ‘both-and’ or it could be an ‘either-or’; nevertheless, I believe it communicates that something is awry; something is severely broken in the church. Have we, those who are married, ‘condemned’ those who are divorced by our words and our non-verbal words? I think so.  These are some ways I think we have nullified Paul’s words in Romans 8:1 and subconsciously (or consciously) condemned those who have endured divorce.  Here are a few ways I think we, members of the church and those in the ‘married only club’, condemn those who are going through a divorce or have already suffered through the painful, treacherous and arduous journey of divorce:

  1. When we cluster ourselves into affinity groups.  You know the routine: married couples congregate with married couples. Married couples with kids congregate with other married couples with kids. What does such congregating communicate to singles? To singles with kids? To those who are divorced? To those going through the process of divorce? Churches need to be very aware that their culture might communicate, “we are a church of people that have it all together and one of the prerequisites for having it all together is being married with ‘awesome’ kids.” In other words, a church can pit one group against another.
  2. When we inquire about a person’s single or marital status.  It’s okay to inquire but I wonder how we react when we learn a person has went through a divorce.  Do we lament with them? Or do we say, “Oh” in a contemptible tone that communicates, “you are one of them”? Remember it is not what you say but how you say it. And while we think we might be genuine with our verbal words, our facial expressions or non-verbal words don’t lie.  Our non-verbal words are often more honest and truthful than our verbal words!
  3. When a couple is going through the process of divorce, we abandon the family as though they are a pariah or as though they have an incurable and contagious disease.  This actually happened to a close friend; her parents were going through a divorce and the church family was AWOL. News Flash: This is the time where families going through this “painful amputation” needs the church the most. And post-divorce, ex-spouses and kids are still picking up the pieces, splinters, fragments, etc.; we need to be there to serve as a ballast. And we must be mindful that journeying with such folks will take time and much patience.
  4. When a couple is going through the process of divorce, we overly punish them as though this infraction is more heinous, than say, over drinking or peeking at pornography. I know of a church that unfairly and overly punished a couple undergoing a divorce and it was very public and thus, quite embarrassing. So, we might say that their punishment was exacerbated.

In case you did not know, the church has an image problem: we are often viewed as being judgmental (for a stark reminder of this, see Phillip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” p. 11, 1997 ). The church also can inadvertently condemn others verbally and non-verbally. I encourage us all to be gracious, winsome, generous and hospitable toward those who are hurting; especially those who have suffered through a divorce and those currently taking the steps toward a divorce. Divorce is never a ‘clean break’ – it can jack up a family – ex-spouses, kids, in-laws, etc. (For those who say, “the kids are resilient, they will survive…just don’t know!) Those who are divorced or going through a divorce inherit a stigma. May we practice the ministry of presence and be there for these dear people to lessen the sting of this stigma.  Better yet, may we love these dear people (‘our neighbors’) as we love ourselves. May we live out the implications “no longer any condemnation” in our local communities. Maybe then ladies like the one above will not get up and leave the church no matter how fresh or old her wounds are.

Years ago, I helped organize a conference entitled, ‘Behind Closed Doors’ at Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis, MO).  It was a conference about domestic abuse. There was one statement I have remembered: one of the speakers said, “clergy are some of the main perpetrators of domestic violence.”  I also remember a story.  One of the speakers recounted this horrific story.  A woman who was battered repeatedly by her husband had enough so she defended herself and killed him.  When asked why did she do it? Instead of answering, this imago Dei bearer simply raised her skirt — her pelvic area was black and blue.  Her husband had hit her in this area with a two by four! Yes, a piece of wood. Domestic violence is an insidious evil.  Domestic violence is committed by people who are sick and cowards.

My dear friend, sister and high school classmate, Rachelle Law, has given us a front row seat into the domestic violence she experienced “behind closed doors” almost three decades ago. To see Rachelle today you would say incredulously, “this could not have happened to you…come on.” She is beautiful, illustrious, industrious and gregarious. Yet, I encourage you to read about her harrowing experience and ongoing recovery in her latest book, “You Are Beautiful: The Hidden Consequences of Domestic Violence That Linger” (2016). I say “ongoing” because as Rachelle states in her book, the consequences of domestic abuse create a ripple effect – they linger.

Of late, athletes, in general, and football players, in particular, who have been accused of perpetuating violence against women have been in the news. For example, football players Johnny Manziel and Jonathan Dwyer have been in the news recently and who can forget Ray Rice.  However, this book brings domestic violence close to home because I walked the same majestic halls at Southeast High School (Kansas City, MO) as Rachelle did. I watched Rachelle as a cheerleader. As Rachelle says in her book, the person in the cubicle next to yours may be a victim of domestic abuse; the person sitting next to you in the pew might be a victim of domestic abuse. Sufferers of domestic abuse are good actors and actresses.  However, may we see them.  And once we really see them, let’s come to their aid. May we use our capacity, fueled by compassion, and rescue them from this grave injustice or living hell.

It takes incredible courage to open your closet for all to see your skeletons. Rachelle does just that. May reading this book help us to truly notice and see sufferers of domestic abuse.  May reading this book help us to see sufferers as human beings with incredible worth and value.  May reading this book help us to see all victims of domestic abuse as truly beautiful.

 

Introduction

Like most Christians (or maybe not), I was taken aback by President Obama’s edict that forces public schools across our country to allow those who self-identify as transgender to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.  Before attempting a response – what does it mean to “self-identify” as transgender?

Self-Identifying

“People who identify as transgender or transsexual are usually people who are born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as though they’ve been born into the “wrong body.” For example, a person who identifies as transgender or transsexual may have typical female anatomy but feel like a male and seek to become male by taking hormones or electing to have sex reassignment surgeries” (see http://www.isna.org/faq/transgender).

How might a Christian respond?

First, we must treat those who self-identify as transgender with dignity and respect as they too are imago Dei bearers (Genesis 1:26-28).  This means among other things to take time to listen to their stories, to show them hospitality, to serve them, to advocate for them, etc. For example, we must teach our kids to stand up to bullies of those who self-identify as transgender.

Second, we dare not abandon those who self-identify as transgender.  The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, if we don’t associate with swindlers, the sexual immoral or those who self-identify as transgender, then “board a space ship” and leave this world.  (Of course, Paul does not say “board a space ship” but you get the point.) This is not the time to retreat, erect walls and throw “condemning grenades” over the wall at these precious people.

Third, we dare not condemn those who self-identify as transgender.  No one has that right except God alone.  Even Jesus did not come to condemn (John 3:16-17). So, to condemn others would be usurping God’s role as final judge.

Fourth, we must know the difference and not be fooled.  Many in the LGBT community are playing the anti-discrimination card. True, we should not deny these dear people the rights and privileges and access to public restrooms as any other American but this is not the same as denying Black Americans their rights and privileges – all of which had the ugly and insidious precursor or precedence of US Slavery.   To equate the discrimination that those who self-identify as transgender face with the discrimination that blacks faced in this country is to be fooled and it sadly makes light of the many beautiful dark skinned imago Dei bearers who died and/or who suffered gross inhumane indignities in and during US Slavery (and Jim Crow).

Fifth (and finally, for now), we must allow businesses – both Christian and non-Christian owned and operated – to struggle with how to accommodate those who self-identify as transgender.  Most public businesses offer a service to the general public and they cannot be partial to one group over another (and this includes schools too).  This is why I believe it is okay for a photographer, who is a Christian, to photograph a wedding between two people of the same sex.  Some Christians would quickly object, “this is condoning a sinful lifestyle.” If we follow that logic, then supporting a restaurant where the owners are not Christians is condoning their non-Christian worldview and accompanying lifestyle.  Many professional athletes are paid exorbitant salaries; when I pay for a ticket to see these athletes in person, then I must be condoning this greed and/or excess.  Jesus invited Himself to a known crook’s home, a crook who became rich from his fraudulent practices; following our logic, then, would suggest that Jesus condoned Zacchaeus’ sinful behavior. To serve others whose lifestyles are in stark contrast to ours is not condoning their lifestyles; rather, to serve others whose lifestyles are in stark contrast to ours is being a conduit of common grace (Matthew 5:43-45).  It appears Christian have forgotten this vital teaching on common grace.

(Note: if the photographer is not okay or his conscience does not permit him to, that’s his prerogative.)

To say that this issue is complex is an understatement; however, God promises to give the Christian believer wisdom and wisdom generously if we simply ask for it (James 1).

My list is by no means exhaustive of course; again, because this is a complex issue and there is not a neat and tidy how-to-list.

Society vs. Biology

There is one matter worth commenting on and one I struggle with: this whole notion of ‘self-identifying’ as male or female. For millennia, one’s gender at birth was determined by one’s biology; it was not a matter of my choosing or my parents choosing.  Even today expectant mothers and daddies want to know the sex of their unborn child.  And technology allows that; this technology can pinpoint the biology, and thus, the gender of the nascent infant in utero.  Most applications for work, etc. still only have two boxes for gender: male or female.  Male and female have been the binary distinctions of the human race since the beginning of time and this binary distinction transcends time and culture. This is because of natural law.  C. S. Lewis refers to this natural law as the “Tao” in his book The Abolition of Man.  In the appendix of the book, he shows how many natural laws regardless of one’s ethnicity or culture (civilized or not), have been recognized for millennia.  How can we, as a society, change what has been “naturally” binding for years and years and years?

To be continued…

During a recent stay at a hotel in the Midwest, I peeked out my window and I noticed a car trunk was open.  (The car was a very nice Black Cadillac). I thought nothing of it and resumed typing again on my laptop computer.  I took a short break and noticed that same car trunk was still open.  So, wanting to be a “good neighbor,” I called down to the front desk to alert someone but the line was busy; I retried calling the front desk after a few minutes but to no avail. Not to be deterred and denied being a good neighbor, I grabbed my plastic hotel door key and took the elevator from the third floor to the lobby to alert the clerk.  When I got to the front desk, there were two African-American men laughing it up with the white male hotel clerk (apparently they knew each other).  I told the clerk about the car trunk being open and because it was cloudy outside this could be trouble if the trunk was not closed.  One of the African-American men quickly said, “we can’t do that anymore.” He spoke in hidden code but I knew exactly what he meant.  This hotel was in a predominantly white area and an affluent area at that.  Translating this hidden code for those who don’t get it, this African-American brother was saying this, “I am not going to take a risk and close the car trunk because of where we are.”  You see he did not want to be seen closing a car trunk to a car that did not belong to him because if anything came up missing…do you get it, I get it.  I painfully get it. It is hard being a ‘good neighbor’ in a racialized society.

Postscript. Someone closed the car trunk and it did not rain.

I like KU Men’s Basketball.  That makes sense as I am a proud alumnus; I graduated from KU in December 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.  Something happened earlier this week involving Brannen Greene in a game between KU and their in state revival, K-State (Kansas State University). Greene dunks the basketball with 2 seconds left in the game. Clearly, this was unsportsman-like and un-classy as the score was already 75 to 59 (Greene’s dunk made the final score 77 to 59 in KU’s favor).  That was a knuckleheaded mistake by a guy who has committed other ill-advised decisions while at KU.  Earlier in the season, Greene was suspended for several games for some offense (I don’t know the details).  Coach Bill Self apologized to the K-State faithful during the post-game interview on behalf of Greene.  Now, that’s a classy move on behalf of Self who has led the Jayhawks to eleven straight Big 12 regular season championships, 2 NCAA Final Four appearances, and the 2008 NCAA championship during his 13 seasons as head coach.

I do not know Bill Self personally – however, I have heard Bill Self speak on several occasions and I have taken a picture with Self. (See picture here: http://tinyurl.com/z4zsujx.). Self seems like a really nice dude. Yet, what was not nice or classy was Self’s comments about Greene during the post-game interview. According to this link, http://deadspin.com/bill-self-calls-out-his-player-for-dick-move-a-dunk-1757049897, Self calls out Greene for making a “dick move” (referring to Greene’s ill-advised, unsportsman-like dunk with 2 seconds remaining in the game). A “dick move” – are you kidding me?!

Sure, Greene is still maturing; however, rules are rules.  And rules are a good thing; otherwise there would be chaos and pandemonium. Self is right to correct Greene as correction facilitates the maturation process.  However, for Self to refer to Greene’s indiscretion as a “dick move” on national TV is immature and unclassy.  We all say things that we regret – because to do so is human. However, should Self offer another apology for his inappropriate comments? Or do people like Self get a pass because of his impressive resume as the KU Basketball Coach? Or maybe because of our moral relativistic culture, maybe what Self said was not objectionable to many? Perhaps, I am the only one with the hang up?

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 670 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Tamir Rice, a 12 year old little African-American boy, was shot and killed by an overzealous police officer in Ohio.  Rice was playing in the park with a pellet gun but when the officers arrived, protocol apparently was not followed (see http://tinyurl.com/h42y2ud). That is, he was not told to drop his weapon or get on the ground, etc.  Rather, within seconds of arriving on the scene an officer shot Rice in his abdomen. Young Rice, along with his dreams and along with his contributions to our society, died the next day.  The Grand Jury did not indict the overzealous police officer who killed this precious imago dei bearer.  However, I have great hopes for the church in America because after all God has ordained three human institutions for the sake of human flourishing: the human family, the civil government and the church.

As 2016 approaches my hopes for the bride of Christ in the upcoming new year are quite simple: 1) I hope there will be no more deaths like Rice in 2016; 2) I hope that the church in general and the white church in particular will wake up and see incidents like Rice not as a “racial issue but rather as a human issue” as friend and brother, Bryan Berry put it (we all share a common humanity with the likes of Rice); 3) I hope that the church will wake up and lead reform of the criminal justice system and actively, civilly and loudly speak out when injustices occur; and 4) I hope those in the church with privileges – which includes all of us – will use those privileges for the common good or for the sake of human flourishing for all.

Caitlyn Jenner has been named by Barbara Walters as the ‘Most Fascinating Person of 2015.’  Months ago, Ms. Jenner took home the coveted Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY awards ceremony.  Caityln Jenner was (is?) the famed Olympian Bruce Jenner until her sex/gender change. Jenner has been hailed as a hero in the transgender community. While this was going on, Ms. Rachel Dolezal was parading as an African-American person and had infiltrated the NAACP, a historically black organization.  Remember Rachel? Rachel is white; Caucasian by birth.

Both Dolezal and Jenner underwent a transformation to become something they were originally not.  Dolezal was not born Black; but became Black.  Jenner was born a man; but became a woman.  Dolezal’s transformation was more temporary; Jenner’s transformation is presumably more permanent. Speaking of Dolezal, she has gone into hiding after being vilified and lampooned for being complicit.  I haven’t heard a peep about her or from her since all that stuff hit the fan. Jenner, on the other hand, remains in the public eye and continues to get praise or attention.

Dolezal and Jenner raise a lot of questions in mind: 1) why did Dolezal feel compelled to ‘become Black’ to work at the NAACP – would she not have been hired if she were white? 2) presumably Dolezal did a lot of good for the NAACP as the head of the Spokane Chapter – so didn’t she deserve recognition for that good work – at least as much as Jenner? 3) which person really did the courageous act? and 4) don’t both persons have questionable integrity?

I am confused about our standards in America!