Losing That Salty Taste

31 07 2006

The Rise and Fall of Ralph Reed


My New Hero

31 07 2006

Greg Boyd preaching to his congregationMy wife sent me a New York Time’s article about a pastor named Greg Boyd from St. Paul,  Minnesota. He has both preached and written against the Christian Right and their insistence on politicizing our faith to the degree that we have alienated and demonized gays, people who support abortion, and everyone who is on the left side of things politically in this country. Frankly, I have been fed up for quite of how some Christian  leaders have demagogued on these issues.

What I like about Greg, is that he clearly is not “for” homosexuality and abortion, he just does not think politics is the best way to confront these issues. I wholeheartedly agree. I have said for a long time that we should find other ways to confront issues like abortion and homosexuality outside of politics. Our conversations on these important issues should certainly be public and out in the open, but not tinged by politics. I really think that the approach of Dobson, Falwell, Robertson, Bauer, et.al, is wrongheaded and has only caused the people we want to engage with the gospel of Jesus Christ to distance themselves from us because they think that we are their enemies.  Well, I don’t want a gay man seeing me as a homophobic bigot. I want him to see me as a follower of Jesus and fellow sinner who loves him right where he is, even if he never comes out of homosexuality or accepts Jesus.

The African Presence in the Bible

20 07 2006

The following is an outline of a talk I give to black college and university students:


I wish that there was never a need for something like a Black History Month. I kind of agree with Morgan Freeman. I wish race did not matter, that everyone would understand that Black History is really American history. Can you explain to me why I am ashamed of slavery when it was not my fault? And please tell me why I am always relieved when I find out that the person who committed some sort of heinous crime is not black? Further, why do I always cringe when I hear an inarticulate black person on TV, and why is it always the brothers and sisters that Jay Leno picks on in his “Jay Walk” segments on the Tonight Show?

I wish that there was no need to give a talk like this.
But here I am, and there you are.

Let me take you back to where we were: Hear this quote from Genovese’s, Roll Jordan Roll

“Massa, may I ask, you something?”
“Ask what you please.”
“Can you ‘splain how it happened in the fust place, that the white folks got the start of the black folks, so as to make dem slaves and do all de work?”
The younger helper, fearing the white man’s wrath, broke in:
“Uncle Pete, it’s no use talking. ‘It’s fo ‘ordained. The Bible tells you that. The Lord fo’ordained the Nigger to work, and the white man to boss.”
“Dat’s so. Dat’s. so. But if dat’s so, then God’s no fair man!

Is God no fair man, as Uncle Pete suggests? Were black people foreordained to work and to be slaves, and white people to be their masters? Is that so? Does the Bible confirm that black people were to be nothing more than slaves? Where does this argument come from and is it actually true?

I. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10. Three sons of Noah, Japheth, Ham, and Shem. Japheth is traditionally known as the progenitor of European people; Ham of African people, and Shem of Middle Eastern and Asiatic people.
II. “The Land of Ham.” 1Chron. 4:40; Psa 105:23; 27; 106:22
III. How do we know that these people were black? The meaning of Ham = “hot”, or “burnt” and Cush.”black”

Genesis 10:6-20 (New International Version)

6 The sons of Ham:
Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan.

7 The sons of Cush:
Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteca.
The sons of Raamah:
Sheba and Dedan.

8 Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

13 Mizraim was the father of
the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 14 Pathrusites, Casluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.

15 Canaan was the father of
Sidon his firstborn, [f] and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.
Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.

20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.
IV. Sons of Ham: Havilah and Cush in Gen. 10:6 & 7 and the possible connection to Gen. 2:10-13: A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.. Was Adam an African, and hence Noah and his family African too? No one argues that humanity has its genesis, pun intended, in Africa, so it is quite probable that Adam was African, and by extension, so was Noah and his family.
V. The Curse of Ham/Canaan Gen. 9:18-27. First, the curse is not on Ham, it is on Canaan. Second, Ham had other sons (we will look at this in a moment), and they did not participate in the curse. Third, Canaan was the progenitor of the land of Canaan, also known as the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey. This was the land that the Israelites eventually took over after leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea and wandering around the desert for 40 years. Surely the curse of Canaan has to see its fulfillment with the children of Israel conquering Canaan. Further, the Greeks were seen as descendants of the Canaanites by the Jews. (interview with Hillel Rabbi at Oberlin College)
VI. The first civilizations, Gen 10:8-12 (Cush); 13-14 (Egypt); 15-20 (Canaan).
VII. It is from Nimrod, son of Cush, who founded the land of Babel, the same Babel where a tower was built (Gen. 11:1-9) to reach “the heavens”. The scripture reads that God eventually comes down, confounds their language and scatters them over the face of the earth so that they will not be one, and hence, be able to do anything they wish (I will come back to this).
VIII. Moses’ Cushite wife. Was Zipporah the same woman? Num. 12:1; Ex 2:16-21
IX. David & Bathsheba Bath = daughter Sheba = Descendant of Ham, Solomon was the son of both of them.
X. Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. According to Yamauchi’s Africa and the Bible Sheba was most certainly located in Southwest Arabia, but this does not necessarily render the descendants as non-black. Ethiopic tradition has the Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia, but this does not square with recent scholarship.
XI. Solomon’s wives and concubines (700 wives and 300 concubines). Many were of Canaanite heritage, and one wife was the daughter of a pharaoh.

XII. Africa and Prophets: Isaiah 18:1-2; Is. 20:5; Nah.3:9; Zeph. 3:10
XIII. Psalm 68:31 Envoys will come from Egypt: Cush will submit herself to God.

Part Two. The New Testament Witness

I. Is Jesus a Black Man? Rev. 1:12-1512I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,”[b]dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

II. The Genealogy of Jesus: Rahab, Boaz, Bathsheba, Solomon in Mark 1 and Luke 3
III. Simeon from Cyrene, the bearer of the Cross of Christ: Mt 27:32; Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

IV. Acts 2: 10, Africans at the founding of the church.
V. Acts 8:27-39. The first Gentile convert, the Ethiopian Eunuch.
Acts 11: 20 & Acts 13; Acts 11:26 The first “Christ Ones”, and the Beloved Community. The Tower of Babel reversed.

The Church in Antioch
19Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

25 The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.


Acts 2: A New Unity and a Redeemed Humanity

I mentioned above how in Genesis 11 God knocked down the Tower of Babel (probably a “Ziggurat” a sort of temple that wss probably used for astrological and astronomical purposes by the ancient Chaldeans) and scattered humanity and confounded their language. Here in Acts 2, we see the reverse of this curse. Humanity is now coming back together from all the known parts of the world. They were Jews and Jewish proselytes from Europe, Africa, and Asia. The “tongues of fire” more than likely represent a common language that all people everywhere can understand.

Racism is the worst kind of sin because it runs directly counter of God’s vision for humanity. We are to be a reconciled, Christ-centered people, who find our identity in the one who hung on a tree on a ugly hill two millenia ago.

We should be able to celebrate diversity, because God does, and He made us different and diverse, because He is too big to be contained by just one kind of race, ethnicity, gender, or nation.

Jubilee & Juneteenth

6 07 2006

Okay, I am a month late with this, but bear with me:
On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln that slaves in all slaveholding states that were at war with the union would be set free on January 1, 1863. Freedmen (i.e., free blacks, usually in the northern states) in the North went to their churches in droves on December 31, 1862 to have WatchNight services, where they would “watch” for freedom.

However, the message of freedom did not reach the slaves in Galveston, Texas until June 19, 1863. To this date, the sons and daughters of former slaves in this country celebrate “Juneteenth” (as the freed slaves in Galveston came to call that special day) on annual basis. It is a huge deal here in humble Oberlin, Ohio, the center of abolitionism back in the day.

The watch words on the mouths of the freedmen in the north when they first heard the rumor that the slaves would be set free, as well as the slaves finally hearing about the Proclamation, was, “This is the Year of Jubilee!”. They were referring to a passage in Leviticus 25 that spoke of debts being canceled and slaves going free. This was exciting indeed but based on poor exegesis, because verses 44-46 has God saying that it is okay for His covenant people to own slaves, but not of their fellow Hebrews, but only from amongst the gentiles. A fellow Hebrew could only be a bond servant, but would have to be set free during the Year of Jubilee.

However, this all flip flops in the New Testament where Jesus develops a new community and new people whom He calls His Church. Now, all of us who claim Jesus as Master are part of the covenant community.  This means that God’s original intention for Jubilee is to set everything right for everyone. There are not to be any slaves at all, and God wants all of His people to be heirs of the Kingdom, not debtors or slaves to the State.

Jubilee then is about a new kind of community based on right relationships and justice. So those former slaves actually had it right.

In a deeper sense, Jubilee is about reconciliation between God and us, and with one another. It is the dropping of barriers between Jew and Gentile, black and white, male and  female, illegal immigrant and citizen. Jubile is really about the Kingdom and Jesus’ Reign. This is why Jesus died, to bring us to God and to one another.

I really believe that for us to truly understand the meaning of the Kingdom and the purpose behind the very idea of Church, we must lean into what Jubilee and Pentecost are really about. If we are not reconciled in every sense of that word then we are not really being the Church that we are called to be.