Category Archives: Where Are All The Brothers?

Repost: Brothers in the Local Church: Serving or Throwing Stones?

05/20/2014 

I am grateful to the brothers at The Front Porch for posting this interview.

In this interview, Thabiti Anyabwile chops it up with Dr. Eric Redmond, executive pastoral assistant and bible scholar in residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington D.C. The brothers discuss what makes a good senior and assistant pastor, how to transition from the former to the latter, and focus on Eric’s book: “Where Are All The Brothers?” How do you speak to men who are skeptics about the church in a loving, winsome way? How do you correct theirs errors and encourage them to lovingly engage accurate perceptions they have about the church — even if they’re negative?  Pull up a chair and join Eric and Thabiti up on the porch as these brothers discuss how black men can taken from A to Z in the life of the local church.

 

Reblog: Racists Can’t Own An NBA Team But They Can Go To Heaven

By Jarvis Williams

The recent racist rant of LA Clippers’ owner, Mr. Donald Sterling, caused an enormous outrage throughout the NBA and beyond. Virtually every major news and entertainment source, from ESPN to late night talk shows, applauded the NBA’s decision to ban Mr. Sterling from any association with the team that he owns or with the NBA. In essence, both the league and most major media sources have categorically stated that Mr. Sterling has forfeited his right to be part of the LA Clippers’ organization, although he purchased it with his own money, because he is a racist. Now that much of the controversy has ended, I think it’s time for an African-American Christian to provide his perspective on Mr. Sterling’s racism and to provide his perspective on what the gospel says about the eternal destiny of racists. In my view, the Christian gospel promises that Mr. Sterling and all racists can go to heaven.

As an African-American Christian, I think Mr. Sterling’s comments were both a sinful offense to God and hateful racist speech toward African-Americans. His comments violated Jesus’ basic commandment of loving God above all and loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Luke 11:27). But if Mr. Sterling confesses his sins to God, turns from them, and gives his life to Jesus Christ by faith, the Christian gospel promises that God will forgive him of his sins (1 John 1:9), even his gross sin of racism, even if the NBA will not.

The NBA and the media have focused on the content of Mr. Sterling’s words toward African-Americans, and many African-Americans were rightly disgusted, hurt, and angered by his explicit racist comments. But the Christian gospel says that we should be more concerned with why Mr. Sterling perceives of African-Americans in the precise ways that he expressed in his private conversation with his girlfriend. The Christian gospel emphatically states that Mr. Sterling expressed racist comments and embraces a racist worldview because of the dominating power of sin in his life.

Genesis 1-3, for example, states that God created human beings; human beings sinned by disobeying his command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and God cursed the entire creation as a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Consequently, as Romans 5:12 states, sin and death entered the world through Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, and his sin transmitted sin to the entire creation so that all human beings are conceived in sin (Psalm 51). According to Genesis 3:8, after Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God. This reflects that their relationship with him was broken because of sin. According to Genesis 4, shortly after the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin likewise severed humanity’s relationship with one another. Cain murdered his very own brother, Abel. Thus, it is evident from the narrative of Genesis 3-4 that sin shattered humanity’s relationship with God and with one another (see also the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9).

However, the New Testament states on numerous occasions that Jesus died on the cross and resurrected from the dead to save all sinners from their sins. He even died for the sin of racism and he even died to save racists! He died to restore both humanity’s broken relationship with God (1 Peter 3:18) and humanity’s broken relationship with one another (Ephesians 2:11-22). For example, John 3:16 states that God gave his son to the world to die on the cross to save anyone who believes in him. Romans 1:16 states the gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s power unto salvation, and by means of the gospel God will save anyone from any race who believes. Romans 3:21-30 states that Jesus died on the cross to satisfy God’s wrath against all sins and all sinners so that they would be justified by faith. Romans 4:7-8 states that God counts the sins of sinners against Jesus on the cross and that he counts Jesus’ righteousness on behalf of the sinner who has faith in Jesus so that the sinner can be saved from his sin and from God’s wrath. Romans 5:8-9 states that God demonstrated his love for sinners by offering his son to die for their sins in order to save them by faith and to reconcile them to God.

The problem with racists and with Mr. Sterling’s comments is not fundamentally that they are racist. But the fundamental problem with racists and with Mr. Sterling’s comments is that racists and racist comments reveal the spiritual deadness of humanity’s spiritual heart and the need for God through Christ and by his Spirit to resurrect one’s spiritual heart from the dead (Eph 2:1-10). The solution to Mr. Sterling’s racism is not banishment from the NBA, which will neither change the way he feels toward African-Americans nor the fact that he’s a racist. But the solution to his racism is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If he trusts in and follows by faith Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and resurrected from the dead for all types of sins and for all types, races, and kinds of sinners, then Mr. Sterling can be liberated from racism. If Mr. Sterling chooses to become a Christian, the Christian gospel promises that he will go to heaven, a place filled with many sinful Christ-followers—even liberated racist Christ-followers. The NBA has decided that a certain kind of sinner (a racist) can’t own an NBA team, but this African-American Christian believes that racists can go to heaven by faith in Jesus Christ. May God give the church of Jesus Christ the grace to seek to win all lost people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, even racists!

 

Jarvis J. Williams serves as Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary. He is the author of Maccabean Martyr Traditions in Paul’s Theology of Atonement: Did Martyr Theology Shape Paul’s Conception of Jesus’s Death?One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology, and For Whom Did Christ Die? The Extent of the Atonement in Paul’s Theology.

From the SBTS Souther Seminary Blog: http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2014/05/19/racists-cant-own-an-nba-team-but-they-can-go-to-heaven-an-african-american-christians-perspective-of-racism-in-the-nba/

President Obama’s Less Visible Faith

altCHURCH-popupIn considering Ashley Parker’s, “As the Obamas Celebrate Christmas, Rituals of Faith Become Less Visible,” (NYT, December 28, 2013), I really can’t say that I’m surprised about President Obama’s meager public expression of a Christian faith.  Yes, his job is different from any other job in the country. But let’s not be disingenuous: A daily “devotional” reading, an annual prayer call, and the infrequent paraphrasing of one Old Testament verse (or even a few verses) are not reflective of any depth of faith at all, especially when such a devotion (to God?) only leads one to corporate worship 18 times in five years, and when given a choice, college basketball (on TV, no less!) is a more attractive option. Saying that the President’s practical piety and Sunday church attendance mirror a trend in the country is to say that the President is no different from your average religious, American sinner. It is a backhanded way of saying he is not a man of Christian faith.

Harold Dean Trulear: “Young black men are created in the image of God, too”

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In following as much as I can on the nation’s reactions to the Zimmerman trial verdict, I missed this opinion piece by Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, professor at Howard University School of Divinity. Trulear writes,

In addition to the calls for a conversation on race, there must be a parallel public discussion of the meaning of justice. Each of us must turn to our religious traditions for definitions of justice which reflect our sacred texts and belief systems. We cannot afford to engage serious issues of public justice solely based on popular, uncritical definitions, regardless of the side which they emerge. And there exist other religious resources in our traditions which need to be applied.

One critical tenet for me is the “image of God.”

Read the full opinion here.

 

Women in Combat and the Undoing of Civilization

From Denny Burk. Perfectly said. Ponder his cartoon. Thank you, Burk.

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012313_2107_WomeninComb131Our civilization just took a gigantic leap backward today, though I’m wondering if anyone will notice. Today Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed a rule that restricts women from serving in the front lines of combat. The U. S. military already has women serving in various roles in forward areas, but this latest move crosses another line. Here is the report from the Associated Press:

Leon Panetta is removing the military’s ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta’s decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.

I understand that we are living in times of tremendous social change. Americans have by and large cast aside the “quaint” view that men and women are different and that they ought to have roles and responsibilities that correspond to those differences. So for many people, I’m sure this news merely appears as the next stage of progress toward equality in our society. I have a different view.

Are the fortunes of women in our country really enhanced by sending them to be ground up in the discipline of a combat unit and possibly to be killed or maimed in war? Is there a father in America who would under any circumstance risk having his daughter shot or killed in battle? Is there a single husband in this country who thinks it okay for his wife to risk being captured by our enemies? To risk becoming a prisoner of war? Is this the kind of people we want to be? Perhaps this is the kind of people we already are. I would sooner cut off my arm than allow such a thing with my own wife and daughters. Why would I ever support allowing someone else’s to do the same? Why would anyone?

What kind of a society puts its women on the front lines to risk what only men should be called on to risk? In countries ravaged by war, we consider it a tragedy when the battle comes to the backyards of women and children. Why would we thrust our own wives and daughters into that horror? My own instinct is to keep them as far from it as possible. Perhaps this move makes sense with an all volunteer force, but what if the draft is ever reinstituted? Are we really going to be the kind of people whopress our wives and daughters to fight in combat?

I cannot improve upon John Piper‘s 2007 article for World magazine in which he writes:

If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.

Everyone in America ought to be scandalized by this news, but I’m wondering if it will even register on the radar of anyone’s conscience. To the extent that it doesn’t, we reveal just how far gone we are as a people. God help us.

Posts Related to African American Culture for my Friends at Covenant College

This week I had the joy of speaking on, “The Advancing Gospel and Cultural Conflicts,” for Covenant College’s Global Gospel Advancement Week. Covenant is an outstanding school. I am grateful for their invitation, hospitality, and an overall gracious visit.

The links below are to some blog posts and other articles reflective of my attempts to interact with culture – African American culture in particular – as a Christian, as I mentioned before my Friday morning talk. For members of the Covenant community who are looking for my book that makes an attempt at cultural apologetics and evangelism toward the skepticisms of African American men, please click on the book cover in the right margin, or the “Where Are All the Brothers?” tab at the top of the page. Also, my social media contact links are listed.

Covenant, may your tribe increase! Thank you for a great week.

On Culture

No Rights on Maryland Question 6

Julian Bond is Wrong on Same Sex Marriage

Atheism Behind the Black Church Veil

Reaching Men: Culture, Church, and the Gospel

Obama, Gay Marriage, and the Black Church Vote

The President’s Church Dilemma

The Gray Matter of African American Syncretism: Giving Honor to the King of Pop

How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table

Living Soli Deo Gloria Under Obama

Review of John: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Reformation Trust), by R. C. Sproul, Themelios 35.2:302-304 (See the last two paragraphs.)

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Atheism Behind the Veil

The Gospel Coalition graciously posted my article on the growth of atheism within the African American community. The original title was “Atheism Behind the Veil,” of which you might recognize the reference to The Souls of Black Folk. The published title was an editorial choice.

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ERIC REDMOND|10:00 PM CT

Atheists Behind the Black Church Veil

Statistics on the religious beliefs of African Americans are part of Western cultural literacy. Many are familiar with the findings that reveal African Americans to be among the most religious ethnic group in America, largely holding a particular Christian expression of belief. In 2009, the Barna Group found that “blacks were the group most likely to be born again Christians (59 percent, compared to a national average of 46 percent) and were the ethnic segment most likely to consider themselves to be Christian (92 percent did so, versus 85 percent nationally).”

Mark Hatcher at an anniversary event for African Americans for Humanism in Washington.

Similarly, in 2011, Barna examined 15 years of religious beliefs among Americans and found that African Americans are “the segment that possesses beliefs most likely to align with those taught in the Bible.” Specifically, African Americans were more likely than other segments to say that they believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today,” and were the most likely to engage in church-centric activities, and to read the Bible other than at church events during a typical week. According to Barna’s research, African Americans are only half as likely as either whites or Hispanics to be unchurched. Therefore, the announcement of the report justifiably noted, “From the earliest days of America’s history, a deep-rooted spirituality has been one of the hallmarks of the black population in the country. . . [and] the passage of time has not diminished the importance of faith in the lives of African Americans.

Growing Atheism

It might seem anomalous to turn from the pages of that report to find that there is a growing atheistic movement within the African American community. Local chapters of organized African American atheistic groups are appearing in major American cities. There are vocal activists for this atheism, including comedians and journalists. Rice University professor of humanities and religious studies Anthony Pinn and Harvard University professor of African and African American studies and of philosophy Tommie Shelby also lend their intellectual muscle to the movement through their writings.

Although equal to its white counterpart in its denial of the possibility of and need for a Divine Being, African American atheism differs in its object of attack from “The New Atheism.” Whereas Richard Dawkins positions science against Christian belief and the late Christopher Hitchens attacked Christians’ claim of God being “good,” African American atheism directs its “no-Creator” tirade at the character of the black church and history of African Americans.

The popular discussion has two primary foci. The first is to suggest that many within the African American community have participated in the Christian faith because “going to church” is a cultural expression of this community. To go against this expression in ages past would have brought the sort of ostracism previously experienced by African American homosexuals. African American atheists tend to employ the “coming out of the closet” language when speaking of sharing their humanist conversion experiences with their family members.

The second focus is the black church itself—or its iniquities. While the church plays a prominent role in the lives of African Americans, the community shows signs of disaster in almost all other social indicators, including education, wealth and poverty, unemployment, marriage, and crime. Thus, the evangelists of African American atheism can point to an apparent absence of divine power among the black church’s ardent followers, and thus an absence of a deity.

In contrast, the academic discussion attacks long-held scholarly and popular consensus concerning the place of the church in the success of the African American community. Accurately, the African American atheists demonstrate that many people of prominence in the African American community (from its inception in antebellum period to the present) gave deference to the church for utilitarian purposes—for the sake of the liberation and empowerment of a people given to religion. The images we have of the civil rights movement anchoring itself in fiery worship services and community gatherings in churches local to the nearest protest march mask the quiet internal compromises many of the non-religious made for the sake of uniting with the massive cause for justice.

Pefect Conditions

Just as many discover this anti-Christian organism, it already has evolved into a fully grown system fighting for its place alongside of the church in the lives of African Americans and American society. Observably, a few factors within the African American community have created the perfect conditions for its appearance. Heterosexual marriage is on the decline; as Joy Jones recognized, some African Americans even view marriage as a white institution.  Single African American women are asking whether the church is contributing to their singleness and loneliness, due to the church’s high standards for sexual purity and low numbers of single African American men. Following the majority culture, homosexuality is accepted as a family member within the African American community, with many church leaders acting as advocates. Finally, the internet gives African American atheism a powerful communication tool for unifying the movement and preaching its platform.

The non-believers behind W. E. B. Du Bois’s veil are correct on one part of their historical analysis: Atheistic tares have grown in the fields home to the Negro spirituals and gospel music, the SCLC, the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and the founding of many historically black colleges and universities. Yet the inference they draw from this reality is incorrect. The historical presence of atheists of color does not invalidate the black church’s role as the uniting force in the survival of the African American community.

While some sought the resources of the church for political gain or “the greater good” of an oppressed people, this is not true for the majority. Many members of today’s black church attend because their parents, who introduced them to Christ and the church, are believers—believers themselves who are the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of slaves and freedmen who went to church because they believed in a God who would free them from slavery just as he freed the children of Israel from Egypt. My grandfather, great-grandfathers, and great-great grandfathers, all humble, land-owning (but not well-to-do) farmers, had no ambitions or motives for being churchgoers other than to please Christ, their faithful Lord. The same could be said for the faith of millions of African Americans who preached, prayed, sang, and gave their monies so that their children might follow in the faith as free members in the land of the free.

The African American community, at large, however, still presents a huge mission field ripe for the gospel. The statistics on attendance can be misleading: Attendance should not be equated with conversion, spiritual maturity, biblical literacy, or theological knowledge. Believers should pray for God’s mercy upon unbelievers inside and outside of the black church’s pews. If the Lord is merciful to us, maybe the atheists, too, will be converted.

 

Eric C. Redmond is the author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About the Church (Crossway). He is executive pastoral assistant and Bible professor in residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC.